Tag Archive: war

Darksiders gets a heaping helping of Death

It’s not easy for new franchises to break through in today’s videogame market, but the first Darksiders was able to find an audience by incorporating mature themes with familiar gameplay that hearkened back to classics like Metroid or The Legend of Zelda. So, with such a promising start, you wouldn’t expect a sequel to completely overhaul many major features. Darksiders II does just that, though.

In fact, if you were to put Darksiders and Darksiders II side by side in front of a player, they’d be hard pressed to say they come from the same universe. Yet not only does Darksiders II take place in the same universe, but it expands upon it in numerous ways, along with adding in features and gameplay mechanics from dungeon-crawling RPGs.

Darksiders II takes place at the same time as the original game; while War attempts to figure out who’s set him up for the crime that triggered the Earth’s early demise, Death figures the only way to absolve his brother of his punishment is to rectify the crime and try to restore humanity back to what it once was. To do this, Death travels to strange and foreign lands and meets creatures so fantastic and monstrosities so twisted that his own ghastly visage may have a run for its money.

From the second the story starts, in fact, the art design demands your attention, whether it’s Gothic architecture contorted into mountainous landscapes or massive rivers of lava weaving their way through hollowed-out gorges. And when you combine this with the epic scale—the open world’s four times larger than in the first Darksiders—you can easily get lost in the beauty of this distinct universe.

But Darksiders II isn’t just pretty on the surface. The hack-n-slash combat flows smoothly as you string combos together, the tight free-running controls make it feel like nothing’s unobtainable if you really pay attention to your surroundings, and the new RPG elements mean that your weapons and armor are constantly changing and upgrading due to the thousands of pieces of loot (which also directly affect how Death looks). No two players should have the same Death by the time they finish the game, as you can buff him up to the point where he resembles a traditional tank, make him more of a field general as he taps into his Necromancy abilities and calls forth his own undead army, or find a balance between the two.

My favorite part of being able to collect all the items is that you can actually dispose of trinkets you no longer need in an interesting fashion—massive piles of loot usually lead to inventory problems for many of us natural hoarders, after all! By finding possessed weapons, you can actually feed your junk items to these special treasures to power them up and cause untold levels of havoc. It’s definitely a lot more efficient out in the field than waiting to find a store, that’s for sure.

While many problems from the first game have been fixed—like imparting a more clear-cut feeling of character progression this time around due to the leveling system and a less-linear world outside of the dungeons—several new flaws have replaced the old ones.

The most glaring issue is the low level cap, which was instituted in order to prevent the idea that you might need to grind out levels to advance through certain dungeons—or that, by grinding early on, you’d have an easier time working through the game as a whole. Instead, if you naturally progress through the game, you’ll always be right about the same level as the enemies. But in Darksiders II, many sidequests require constant backtracking, so the low level cap means that the game doesn’t reward you any XP for vanquishing enemies several levels below you.

Despite minor annoyances with the level system and the occasional free-running glitch, Darksiders II is superior to its predecessor in every way. It’s got a larger, deeper world with a wide breadth of characters, a thrilling story that sucks you in and doesn’t let go, and some insane over-the-top combat. All those elements make this a must-have for fans of action-RPGs.

SUMMARY: Darksiders II trumps the first entry in almost every important way, even if a few new minor annoyances crop up in the process.

  • THE GOOD: Massive, beautifully designed open world.
  • THE BAD: RPG system creates a couple of new problems.
  • THE UGLY: Well, the dude’s called “Death” for a reason.

SCORE: 9.0

Darksiders II is available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC, and will be available for Wii U. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Originally Published: December 12, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for the Xbox 360 from EA.

Originally Published: December 11, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Battlefield: Bad Company for the Xbox 360 from EA.

A Great Game in Disguise

Originally Published: June 29, 2010, on Examiner.com, ESPNNewYork.com, and PlayerAffinity.com

For well more than twenty years, Transformers has permeated our pop culture in ways few things have. Several successful cartoon series, a successful movie franchise, and the action figures that started it all still fly off the store shelves. The one place that Transformers has lacked proper representation though has been in video game format. Until now.

Transformers: War for Cybertron is a look back at why the robots in disguise that we all know and love were forced to leave their home planet of Cybertron and take to the stars before their fateful landing on Earth. Starting off as Megatron and his band of evil Decepticons, you are left searching for a weapon to turn the tide of war in your favor in order to rout the Autobots and claim Cybertron for yourself.

Left to grasping at legends, Megatron invades an Autobot space station that was supposed to at one time manufacture an unstable element only known as “Dark Energon”. Megatron feels if the legends are true and he can harness this element, he could strike at Cybertron’s core and take over the planet in one fell swoop. After recruiting former Autobot Starscream into his ranks, Megatron begins claiming the station for himself and soon his plans for global domination are under way.

It’s at this point, with Cybertron completely under siege, that you take over Optimus and his band of Autobots in an attempt to thwart Megatron’s grand plans for dominance. Only by Optimus embracing his destiny and taking the reigns of Autobot leadership can the Autobots overcome Megatron and attempt to save their home planet before this ages old war wipes out both Autobot and Decepticon alike.

The first thing that fans will notice right off the bat is these are not the movie Transformers. These are the cartoon and action figures that we grew up with. Megatron transforms into his classic white and purple tank form, Bumblebee is not a Camaro, and Soundwave comes along with Rumble, Frenzy, and Laserbeak in tow.

You’ll then notice the great control scheme and third-person shooter action. Finding the balance between your vehicle form and your robot form is a fun challenge as both have their positives and negatives and the game forces to you to use both on different occasions and is a brilliant way to build in gameplay variety. And that’s not the only balance you have to find. The Decepticon and Autobot campaigns are so different that you’ll find yourself feeling like you’re playing two different games altogether.

There are some flaws with the gameplay though. The lack of a duck and cover mechanism is the first and most obvious problem. Although there is plenty of cover to hide behind, not being able to hug it and fire around corners or even duck to fit in behind smaller crates makes some of the firefights you get into a lot harder than they need to be.

Another problem is the enemy A.I. Some of the lower enemies you have to face in this game redefine the term “cannon fodder”, but at least the boss battles are epic. In this vein, although the game is compelling and pulls you in, with most enemies having a relatively low A.I., you should be able to blow through this game in about 10 hours, even on hard mode.

These flaws in gameplay though are more than made up for in other areas. The graphics for this game are flawless. From the seamless transformations of each character with their classic cartoon designs to every piece of Cybertron, this game’s look shines like Energon crystals. When you combine this with a spectacular voice cast spearheaded by Peter Cullen returning as Optimus Prime and the peripherals are almost second to none.

Possibly the best feature of this entire game though is the multiplayer. Of course, almost any shooter nowadays has to have a “Horde” style mode a la Gears of War and Transformers: War for Cybertron provides that with its “Escalation” mode. Your typical Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes really steal the show though as they’re done in the Call of Duty style (no surprise being an Activision game; if something isn’t broken don’t fix it) and you just hope the Transformers fans truly appreciate this

Beyond some minor flaws, the game really sparkles while setting a new standard for what a Transformers game should be. Good gameplay coupled with a top-notch multiplayer and some pretty graphics makes this game a must have for Transformers fans old and new alike.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 10.0: This is how I imagined Cybertron would look like. Add in these are the cartoon designs and not the movie ones and the look of this game is flawless.

Audio: 10.0: Perfect voice acting from all those involved including the legendary Peter Cullen leads the charge for a stellar auditory performance. The music is a little generic at times, but it artfully sets the mood and the end credits being set to an old classic makes the audio flawless.

Plot/Plot Development: 10.0: A brilliantly executed story that helps to set up the canon that fans are familiar with while answering some age old questions. It flowed perfectly over the game’s 10 levels and left me wishing they had started even farther back to explain more of the history.

Gameplay: 6.0: Poor enemy A.I., only 10 hours in the story mode, and the lack of duck and cover mechanism left me looking for a little more while I blasted away robot drones.

Replay Value: 7.0: “Escalation” mode was a predictable addition to the basic Call of Duty multiplayer shell this game uses. That doesn’t make it any less fun. A lack of something to bring you back to the story mode does hurt the experience though.

Overall (not an average): 9.0
: Brilliant story, great peripherals, and a proven winner in terms of multiplayer mode and this game is a must buy for any and every Transformers fan.

Transformers: War for Cybertron
is available now on all systems.

-Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: June 29, 2010, on Lundberg,me, NationalLampoon.com, and Sportsrev.TV

This week I reviewed Green Lantern Corps #49 and Transformers: War for Cybertron. My hot chick pick of the week is Jennifer Walcott.

Originally Published: December 31, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com) and Lundberg.me

As the year comes to an end, I think this is an opportune time to take a look forward at the year ahead in gaming. Last year we did this and the nine games we previewed were either awesome as expected (Ghostbusters, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Madworld, and Brutal Legend), pretty good (Punch-Out and Resident Evil 5), or delayed until early 2010 (Bioshock 2, God of War 3, and Dante’s Inferno). The three games delayed until early 2010 are basically shoe-ins for this year’s list as well because all the delays have done is make us salivate more as details leaked out to us. So with no further ado, here are the top 10 games to look forward to in 2010.

1. Bioshock 2: I said it last year and I’ll say it again this year: I will go screaming through the halls here at ESPN the day this comes out from sheer, overwhelming joy. With a lot more revealed in terms of the plot and gameplay, this easily tops my list as my most anticipated game as you return to Rapture and assume the role of a Big Daddy 10 years after the events of the first Bioshock. Along with this new twist from the first Bioshock, there is also a confirmed multiplayer mode and the ability to use your Big Daddy suit to explore the ocean immediately surrounding Rapture, which should allow for all kinds of new and creative ways to explore the once great cultural haven beneath the waves. Barring any last minute setbacks, expect Bioshock 2 to hit store shelves February 9, 2010, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

2. God of War 3: There are few trilogies in video games that are more celebrated than God of War and this is before the third one has even hit store shelves. Inspired by many classic stories from Greek mythology, you play as Kratos once more as you attempt to work out your anger issues with the gods for the last time. I had a chance to play an advanced demo of this (which I will post a special PS3 Q1 Preview video next week where I got to talk with some of the developers of God of War 3) and you will flip just like Kratos’ point of view seamlessly does in several epic boss battles as you should expect to start wrapping up this classic trilogy on your PS3 towards the end of March 2010.

3. Dante’s Inferno: Many are calling this a God of War rip-off, but I’m a firm believer that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this might be even better because it isn’t limited to just the PS3. Inspired by the part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy of the same name, if Kratos has anger management issues, Dante is the ultimate obsessive, smothering boyfriend as he is willing to fight through the nine layers of hell to save his girlfriend’s soul while having a tapestry depicting the holy cross stitched to his chest. Just like God of War, Dante’s Inferno mixes classic plot with tremendous, bloody action (and a little bit of nudity) and amazing, original monsters based on this classic work of literature to get any action/adventure fan’s blood pumping. Just like Bioshock 2, Dante’s Inferno hits store shelves on February 9, 2010, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PSP.

4. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Travis Touchdown returns with his beam katana (it’s a lightsaber, but that whole copyright thing can be such a pain sometimes) as he has gotten lazy and let his number one world assassin ranking drop all the way down to 51 (possibly in honor of game creator Suda 51?). When things get personal though, Travis once again hones his wrestling inspired moves and attempts to move back up the ladder to the number one spot with even more crazy, over the top boss battles that are even better than those from the first game. The sandbox system is gone to help save on time while you hunt down your quarry and travel from location to location by just going to a map menu now and since that was one of the major complaints from the first game, it looks like No More Heroes 2 could be another sleeper hit from the deranged mind of Suda 51 and his Grasshopper Studios. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a Wii exclusive and should hit store shelves January 28, 2010.

5. Dead Rising 2: The first Dead Rising broke new ground in zombie bashing by having an unheard of (for the time) amount of NPCs on screen at one time with no lag. And it was set in a mall allowing you to have a variety of weapons from food court table umbrellas to golf clubs to nerf guns. Dead Rising 2 takes several of the great elements from the first game (regular guy dropped into a zombie invasion) and puts a whole new twist on it that has me chomping at the bit as I count the days until this hits store shelves. Dead Rising 2 assumes you failed to completely contain the zombie virus at Willamette from the first Dead Rising and now there are zombie outbreaks all over the country. These zombie zones have been cordoned off by the government, but with times being tough, leave it to reality TV to step in to offer the masses a chance to risk life and limb for amazing prizes. “Terror is Reality” is one of these reality TV shows that asks people to help control the zombie population in new and inventive ways for the chance at huge piles of cash. Of course, you’re being dropped into these living nightmares with nothing but the clothes on your back, but it wouldn’t be a zombie game if you were given a gatling gun from the get go. Add in what could be the best online multiplayer of the year as Dead Rising 2 pits you against three other players in an American Gladiators meets Resident Evil scenario and sends you all on your merry competitive ways. Zombie bashing will never be the same again on your Xbox 360, PS3, and PC come the end of Q1.

6. DC Universe Online: It is hyped as what could be the greatest MMORPG of all-time as it allows you to interact with the best of the best of the DC Comics Universe with your own original character and with a member of current comic book royalty in Jim Lee serving as the Executive Creative Director, you know you are in good hands. Unfortunately, it has been delayed countless times and is a game on life support to say the least. DCU Online was supposed to come out last summer, but now we are still waiting to rub elbows with the Dark Knight and Man of Steel and take down the likes of Lex Luthor, Mr. Freeze, the Joker, Bizarro, and many, many, many more as a loose Q3 2010 date has been set for this possible PS3 and PC powerhouse. If DCU Online doesn’t come out this year, I think the game will be completely scrapped because it has been in production for far too long for us to wait much longer for it.

7. Mafia 2: Another strong title on the horizon from the folks at 2K (why do they even bother with sports anymore when their shooters and action/adventure games are so awesome?) is Mafia 2. Set in a fictitious mob family in the late 1940s-early 1950s, Mafia 2 combines a GTA-style sandbox experience with a Hollywood-inspired cinematic driven plot as you play as Vito, a small-time hood trying his best to get his piece of the American dream in some less than savory ways. Add in some awesome action sequences and Martin Scorsese couldn’t have done a better job with this. Mafia 2 looks to be the strongest release due out in Q2 when it lands on store shelves May 3, 2010, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

8. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Every major attempt to bring the fabled history of Castlevania into the 3D realm has fallen flat on its face and the only thing keeping the series alive has been a successful run with the classic side scrolling action on handheld systems. Things may change come the next holiday season. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has you cast as the mysterious figure Gabriel as you fight through a massive world in the third person. Mix in some puzzles and some holy (or unholy) artifacts to help power up Gabriel and you have the base for a nice action/adventure game. There aren’t a lot of details out on this one yet in terms of how Gabriel fits in with the Belmont clan or if Dracula is even the main force of darkness here (although I’m sure he is because it wouldn’t be Castlevania if he wasn’t), but from what I’ve seen so far, this could be the best chance to FINALLY bring Castlevania successfully onto modern consoles especially with Hideo Kojima (of the Metal Gear Series) consulting on this project, Patrick Stewart serving as the narrator, and some God of War and Assassin’s Creed style gameplay mechanics shown in the early trailer. Expect Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to emerge from the darkness next holiday season for Xbox 360 and PS3.

9. Super Mario Galaxy 2: Everyone loves Mario, plain and simple. Another game expected to be released in time for the next holiday season, Super Mario Galaxy 2 will be the first direct sequel to another Mario game in a decade (since Super Mario World 2 back for the SNES). Add in that you are definitely going to be riding Yoshi around and I’m sure you’ll see the return of some other classic powers and this is another sure fire hit for Nintendo. Plus, don’t forget that you are sure to see a lot of classic Mario themes, enemies, and puzzles mixed in with the tremendous planetary exploration aspect introduced in the first Super Mario Galaxy and this will be another platforming gem from Nintendo. Super Mario Galaxy 2 should be out in time for next holiday season and is, of course, a Nintendo exclusive.

10. Metroid: Other M: Nintendo has the strongest first party franchises out there and another one confirmed for next holiday season is Metroid: Other M. A lot like seeing Hideo Kojima’s production studio helping out with Castlevania, Team Ninja, best known for the Ninja Gaiden games, has stepped up to help give a bit of an anime style and storytelling flair to this newest Samus Aran adventure. Mixing some classic side-scrolling action and some 3D arena battles as you progress through the game and interchange between the two seamlessly should keep you on your toes and keep you from getting bored. Add in that at least Ridley has been confirmed as one of the boss battles and it should be interesting to see what Team Ninja can do with this beloved Nintendo franchise. Metroid: Other M is another Wii exclusive and should be out in time for the next holiday season.

So there is my top 10 for the coming year and it is one heck of a list. On top of these games, there are also lots of other games that I just could not take the time to go into right now, plus I did not feel they were worthy of the top 10. MAG, Heavy Rain, Bayonetta, Darksiders, Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands (adding a 4th chapter to one of the better trilogies for the last generation of consoles was not necessary and is thus a major reason that Prince of Persia stayed off the list), Mass Effect 2, Just Cause 2, Epic Mickey, Red Steel 2, Mega Man 10, Gran Turismo 5, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and an unnamed Legend of Zelda title for the Wii (not enough info for me to be confident that this will make it in time for a 2010 release, but Nintendo is the best at keeping secrets) all deserve honorable mentions and should be awesome games in 2010, but these are my top 10 and I stand by them. It is going to be another great year for games and I cannot wait. Until then, have a great New Year and my resolution is that I will be sure to try my best to keep you informed over the course of 2010 just as I did over the course of 2009.

-Ray Carsillo

Revolutionary Ravens

Originally Published: September 13, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com), Examiner.com, and Lundberg.me

I always love to see a game company take a risk and try new things, especially in a recession when you see most developers avoid risks and just develop more proven franchises in the hopes of maximizing profits.

Of course, they are called risks for a reason. Sometimes people may not be receptive to the idea or the execution isn’t as tight as it needs to be and sometimes the idea sounds great until you actually see it implemented. I think Raven Squad for the Xbox 360 and PC falls into that latter category.

The setting is the jungles of Brazil a couple of years from now and you play as a group of six mercenaries who are broken into two groups of three for assault and infiltrating purposes.

You are on what is advertised as a standard mission to take down some local drug runners. It is only later you find out you have been dropped into the middle of a Brazilian Civil War. Now, you have to try and navigate the lush Amazon Rainforest as you dodge bullets and maybe restore a little peace along the way, as you and your squad mates try to find an escape route that doesn’t involve your heads on stakes.

The plot may not be the most original, but when executed properly, everyone loves mercenary first-person shooters. The twist with Raven Squad is that it is also a real-time strategy game.

What? A FPS and RTS all in one game? I know, I did a double take myself when I heard that since I can’t remember it being tried on this scale before.

The good news is that the transition between these modes is flawless and makes for interesting strategy development as you control one of your three man squads from the bird’s eye view of a RTS and move your other squad along the ground from the eyes of Paladin, the squad’s leader.

The problem with the RTS mode is that you can see the entire layout of the land and therefore make your FPS strategy according to that. Since you see where all the enemies are, there is almost no point to the FPS mode since it is so much easier to take out your enemies from RTS view while the enemy A.I. stays in a FPS state the entire time. This additional mode also consumes so much disk space that the graphics in FPS mode are poor at best and the music and voice acting is abysmal.

The defense for this is that the developers say they were aiming to play off the cheesiness of the 1980s movies this was based off, but I have a hard time buying that because cheesy would be a compliment to the poor acting performances given in this game.

Another poor aspect of the game is that there is a nice co-op mode with each person being able handle one of the three man groups, but there is no versus mode where this game needed a 12 player total team vs. team versus mode to really make it worth more than a once playthrough.

So an unoriginal plot mixed with bad peripherals, no versus mode, and an interesting concept usually isn’t enough to garner a buy for a game, but if you were as curious as I was when I heard they were mixing RTS and FPS elements, Raven Squad would probably be a very solid rental for you.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 6.0: The graphics are sub-par for a FPS, but pretty solid for an RTS. Since this combines many of both, but the cut scenes look very poor, I can only give a below average score.

Audio: 4.0: The worst voice acting I have ever heard, hands down. The music is alright and the SFX work, but the voice acting is a constant reminder of nails on a chalkboard.

Plot/Plot Development: 7.5: It is hard sometimes to look at the plot objectively since the dialogue drives most of it and the dialogue isn’t bad, just the people delivering it. So when I finally look at the actual plot, I don’t feel bad about giving it an average score. Nothing original about it, but it makes sense and flows well.

Gameplay: 7.0: A few obvious glitches are annoying, but not enough to take away from the overall experience. The smooth transition from RTS to FPS mode and back are nice, but the execution, especially in FPS mode, is average at best.

Replay Value: 4.0: Aside from a co-op multiplayer mode, there really isn’t a lot to bring you back for this game. A versus mode would have been fantastic and no collectibles to speak of really means this game doesn’t offer a lot to bring you back for.

Overall (not an average): 6.0: Like I said at the beginning of the article, I love it when game developers take risks on games with different ideas. Unfortunately not all of them pan out the way they were originally imagined. The concept of a RTS/FPS game is great, but once executed, you see that the game is just too simple as you can use it to basically cheat as the A.I. operates in a FPS mode the entire way through. When you can see the enemy and they can’t see you, it is very easy to win.

Raven Squad is available now for Xbox 360 and PC.

-Ray Carsillo