Xbox 360

Review: Portal 2 - Head and stomach aches

Incredibly annoying and too frequently mentioned internet memes aside, Valve developed a game that will be remembered for its ability to amaze in a mere two short hours. Portal’s signature tool was unseen before, and the game’s structure of blending puzzle elements and an A.I with a spiteful sense of humor wasn’t something any ordinary studio could successfully execute. Portal was a great addition to the Orange Box, so it’s relatively short completion time was not a problem for me, only when it was considered by many as a contender, if not, the game of the year in 2007.

I wasn’t as infatuated with the game as others were; it was difficult to get excited about Portal 2 and its goal to release as a full retail product. I couldn’t imagine what else could be added to the room by room puzzle solving that had a gutless A.I. speaking to you along the way. Of course in typical tight lipped Valve fashion, there is so much more to Portal 2 than shooting blue and orange portals at walls. Portal 2 doesn’t remain in the confined spaces of the white colored test rooms, it lets you go beyond that and explore the grand world that you have only briefly heard of.

Review: Bastion - A story teller

The repetition of hearing the same noises and sounds, or walking through a similar looking environment killing the same enemies can be annoying to a point where it can eliminate any desire to continue forward. Bastion’s differentiating feature was the narrator, and to my initial understanding, he would describe every movement my character made. I imagined the narrator spewing lines of worthless dialog like “He swung his hammer, hit the enemy hard, and sent it back to where it came from. He continues walking and walking until he arrives at a door”. Looking back that may have been an exaggeration on my part; I couldn’t help but imagine that it wouldn’t be annoying when it was often described as “Someone narrates everything you do”. However, it’s a rather unfair representation as the narrator is more of a story teller sharing his grand story to whoever was listening. Bastion is not just a game with a narrator; it’s an experience that starts with a simple approach to combat, character progression and art style, and again ends with a simple yet self-reflecting story.      

Review: Dead Space 2 - Clean pants

Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge were part of EA’s new strategy to bring new IPs to the forefront, instead of just making numerous unwanted sequels to a lot of their tired franchises. Both were great games with new experiences or ideas, but Dead Space proved to be the most successful and well received amongst the two (I enjoyed Mirror’s Edge a lot more but that’s just me). It didn’t reinvent the story telling in video games, it provided a story with a beginning, middle and end, enough to give a justifiable reason to dismember Necromorphs and upgrade your equipment. But because Dead Space had a generally conclusive ending, the reveal of a sequel was as questionable as when BioShock 2 was first announced a few years ago. It was a complete experience with no game breaking glitches or ridiculous plot twist like your wife was your arm, it was – is good enough to be a standalone game. Visceral’s first attempt at making a survival-horror game was a very well executed one at that, so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that Dead Space 2 isn’t a far departure from its predecessor, even if it could easily pass as an expansion pack.

Review: L.A. Noire - Uncovering the Truth

Instead of developers relying on hardware strength to produce higher fidelity graphics, they are finding ways to optimize their game engines, to then use these new found tricks to replicate something that would require advanced hardware. Team Bondi has recently developed this new technology that would allow them to capture little movements of the human face, similar to the concept of full body motion capture. This significant improvement of facial animation plays such an important role in Team Bondi’s and Rockstar’s detective story, that it’s unfair to dismiss this technological leap, even though it would have been better served as the supplement, not the core.

Review: Dragon Age 2

“Dragon Age Origins” provided an experience that originated on PC, so the complaint of the combat feeling shoehorned onto the console versions is understandable. I didn’t see anything wrong with the pause feature that interrupted the flow of play, and I couldn’t think of anything to add or fix to the combat or radial menu, that would result in making it “better”. I thought it was implemented just fine and rewarded those who took the time to understand the proper positioning of characters, and the most effective combination of Tactics. A lot of reviewers will say the combat has much improved in this sequel, when it actually hasn’t changed at all; they have just mistaken the improvements for the lack any challenge. Two years is a long time, and the shorter but common development time spent on this sequel is not a sufficient excuse for why it is an excruciatingly dull, story driven game.  

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