FIFA Soccer 11 Review

Posted by Yudik On Saturday, December 4, 2010 0 comments

After a steady rise in quality over the last few years, FIFA 10 added yet more welcome new features and game modes while refining the core gameplay. It's a tough act to follow for FIFA 11, but thanks to more realistic gameplay, new game modes, and more features, this is the best and most comprehensive FIFA game yet. The main improvements are refinements to the gameplay, rather than revolutionary new game modes as we've seen in previous years, but they're significant enough to make EA Sports' latest offering well worth the upgrade.

The changes to this year's game aren't all immediately apparent, but they are welcome and make the game deeper and more realistic. The biggest change is the physicality between players--whether it's a winger holding off a defender, or two players tussling in the box, FIFA 11's players are constantly fighting each other for the ball. This increased tactility has an impact on the gameplay, adding an emphasis on player strength and speed, making player interaction more brutal, and producing some nice touches that add to the realism. For example, if you perform a crunching tackle, the tackler will sportingly tap the downed player on the back as he runs by to collect the ball. There's also much more variation to the passes and shots; you won't see the same shots being taken repeatedly, while positioning, footedness, and environmental factors such as rain all have a real and notable impact. Scoring is also more difficult than before; improved goalies are harder to beat than in FIFA 10, and shots, particularly those lobbed over the keeper, are harder to get in the net.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review

Posted by Yudik On Thursday, December 2, 2010 0 comments

Hot Pursuit is a Need for Speed game in name only. This blisteringly fast racer has more in common with developer Criterion Games' own Burnout series than it does with any previous Need for Speed offering, despite lacking a number of features that are commonly associated with Burnout games. This isn't a game in which you're rewarded for crashing spectacularly or for jumping through billboards, but it is a game that encourages you to drive dangerously and to take down your opponents by any means necessary. The option to play both as illegal racers and as the cops that are chasing them brings some much-needed variety to the action, while spike strips, road blocks, and other satisfying countermeasures ensure that Hot Pursuit doesn't feel quite like any racer that you've played before. Regardless of whether your interest in Hot Pursuit stems from a love of Need for Speed, Burnout, or neither, you won't be disappointed.

If you're familiar with the Burnout series, you'll immediately feel at home with the handling in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Licensed cars from the likes of Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and Porsche can be made to slide around corners with only the briefest of touches on the brake, and you earn nitrous by driving dangerously close to other vehicles and into oncoming traffic. Furthermore, there are plenty of shortcuts available if you stray from the Seacrest County roads, and should you wreck your ride while attempting to take one, you're treated to a glorious slow-motion shot as panels buckle and debris starts to fly. A similar slow-motion treatment is used to alert you when additional cops show up to chase you down and when you successfully take out an opponent, which adds a welcome touch of Hollywood to these high-speed chases. Not that they need it.

F1 2010 Review

Posted by Yudik On Tuesday, November 30, 2010 0 comments

F1 2010 is a fun and faithful re-creation of the most challenging series in motorsports, and while it has some minor issues, it's a good start for Codemasters' new franchise. The racing is appropriately challenging, the sense of speed is impressive, and both the cars and the circuits that they race around are re-created realistically. If you're a fan of Formula One you're sure to get a lot of enjoyment out of the game, and with challenges that include time trials, individual races, and a time-consuming seven-year career mode, you're unlikely to tire of it anytime soon.

All of the cars, teams and tracks of the current Formula One season are represented in F1 2010, and it's hard to find fault with the re-creation of any of them. The way that cloud cover, grandstands, and over-hanging track markers are accurately reflected on the car chassis when playing in the cockpit view serves to heighten the sense of immersion, even if you're too focused on the track to fully appreciate them. The tracks are just as impressively rendered, though ironically it's when things become slightly obscured by rain that the game's graphics start to shine. The visibility changes as cars spray standing water into the air, the racing line starts to dry realistically as a result, and the spatters of rain on the camera mimic what you might see from inside a racing helmet. Details like these really show off F1 2010's visuals at their best, and they have a noticeable impact on gameplay as well. What audio there is also works well; you only have the impressive roar of your engine and a little dialog on the radio to keep you company during races, but given the amount of concentration required to make it around the tracks, this is no bad thing.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Review

Posted by Yudik On Sunday, November 28, 2010 0 comments

In Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, the fate of the world is in the hands of a giant beast with the mind of a 4-year-old child. That beast is Teotl, and he's your constant companion in this charming and somewhat tedious action adventure. Teotl has shrubs growing on his back, cries out "Ouch!" when he falls over, and has difficulty forming full sentences. He's not a likely candidate for the position of "kingdom savior," but his kind ways will put a smile on your face, as will the attractive world he inhabits. The game constructed around this simpleminded guardian isn't as inviting as his broad smile or his sparkling surroundings. Monotonous backtracking and uninspired combat can bring the momentum to a halt, and Teotl's one-note dumb-galoot persona makes it difficult to invest in your relationship with him. But many of the game's environmental puzzles shine, as do the enchanting visuals and twinkling soundtrack. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom isn't likely to capture your imagination, but its bearable lightness of being makes for a refreshing fairy tale.

Teotl is the legendary guardian, a being who is rumored to possess the skill necessary to rid the kingdom of the darkness--a black ooze gradually engulfing the land, as well as spawning goopy guards and demonic dogs. After a short search, you discover the beast, but he has lost all his power and memories. Your goal: to help him restore both; by doing so, you enable him to destroy the source of the darkness. From here, the lumbering lug tails you for the entirety of the adventure, helping you fend off your foes and using his elemental powers to assist you in solving various puzzles. Your relationship with Teotl is central to the story; the two of you spend a dozen hours with each other, so you'd expect to form somewhat of an attachment. Unfortunately, this is only partially the case. On the one hand, Teotl is a good-hearted buddy, and there is some delight in piecing together his memories, which are told in gorgeous two-dimensional cutscenes. On the other hand, Teotl is not intelligent. He speaks in broad, childish language and spouts such exclamations as "It take away my power!" In time, the oafish language stops being charming and just seems forced. The lack of delicacy and wit makes this a shallow friendship.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Posted by Yudik On Tuesday, November 23, 2010 0 comments

The most disappointing thing about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is that it fails to capture the essence of the story it's trying to tell. While the revamped third-person shooter gameplay stays engaging throughout most of the campaign, the context that it's framed around is paper-thin. There is no attempt to tie the onscreen action to the motivation of the hero performing it; nor is there a coherent and engaging narrative to complement the gameplay and inject some sense of purpose. Crude character models, bad voice acting, a fragmented storyline, and a variety of bugs transform the richly detailed and minutely imagined world of Harry Potter into an experience as colorless as one of Professor Snape's lessons.

The final journey facing Harry Potter is not an easy one. Darkness, loss, and death now fill the space once inhabited by classes, Quidditch, and dorm-room chitchat. There are no more schoolyard adventures, traipses through the forest, or twilight romances by the lake. Instead, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must venture past Hogwarts into the cold, wet English countryside, tracking down and destroying the remaining parts of Voldemort's soul. This is the picture painted so clearly and heartbreakingly by J.K. Rowling's final Harry Potter book and so unceremoniously represented here. Not only does the game's story take liberties with the canon (when did Harry, Ron, and Hermione ever venture inside an abandoned factory?), but those elements of the story that are reflected accurately are portrayed through short, fragmented cutscenes that look dire and are completely unconvincing, making the story confusing and unclear for those unfamiliar with the books.

Monopoly Streets Review

Posted by Yudik On 0 comments

For the greater part of a century, Monopoly has done just fine for itself as a game of abstractions, skillfully avoiding any questions of how a thimble and a howitzer can lead to rubbing shoulders with John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Even its Atlantic City locales have long eluded easy recognition in its native country, and key names like Pacific Avenue and Ventnor Avenue regularly conjure images of yellow-and-green cards instead of key streets on New Jersey's Absecon Island. Monopoly Streets boldly backs away from this abstract tradition, allowing up to four contemporary players to see their properties develop in real time on a real city block. It's a logical and welcome step for today's consoles and a somewhat successful one, minus a few unfortunate flaws that spring from pacing, characterization, and a lack of choices among city-based boards.

For the few uninitiated, Monopoly challenges players to build monopolies by acquiring up to three properties of the same color, whether by lucky dice rolls or trades with fellow players. Once you've acquired every property of a certain color, you're free to improve the sites with houses and eventually hotels, forcing players who land on the spots to pay you rent. Eventually, your rent payments climb too high for other players to pay, which forces them into bankruptcy and hopefully leaves you the sole owner of the entire board.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Review

Posted by Yudik On Sunday, November 21, 2010 0 comments

When a franchise consistently delivers massively popular, high-quality games, each new entry in the series comes laden with expectation. Call of Duty: Black Ops has some big shoes to fill, but it does so admirably. The engrossing campaign is chock-full of exciting, varied gameplay and drips with intrigue and intensity. The excellent multiplayer boasts some invigorating new features, and the new combat training mode finally gives novices a way to enjoy the competitive action without suffering the slings and arrows of outrageously skilled veterans. Cooperative zombie killing and video editing tools help make Black Ops the most robustly featured game in the franchise, and though you may have expected it to be the case, this is undoubtedly one of the best shooters of the year.

The single-player campaign is set largely during the 1960s and takes you to Cold War hot spots like Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam. You are an elite covert operative, and your globe-trotting adventures form pieces of a puzzle--a puzzle that your mysterious captors are trying to put together by interrogating you. Each excursion into the field is a memory, and these missions slowly come together to build momentum as each interrogation cutscene puts another piece of the puzzle in place. It's not a very original mechanic, but it gives a coherent context to the action, and a few strong characters and dramatic moments give the story some genuine intrigue. The blurry edges of your consciousness conceal information that must come to light, and the erratic visual effects and eerie audio echoes that accompany your interrogations sometimes bleed into your mission memories, which creates a great tone of uncertainty that plays out in surprising and satisfying ways.

Your interrogation-fueled flashbacks are not beholden to the linear flow of time, allowing your missions cover a wide variety of geography and gameplay. A dramatic breakout from a brutal Soviet prison is one early highlight, and later missions feature frontline conflicts, urban firefights, and mountainous incursions. The environments are richly detailed, and though the campaign is not without a few technical hiccups (like occasionally problematic checkpoint markers and the odd teleporting ally), these moments aren't likely to hinder your enjoyment. In addition to the on-foot action, you use a number of vehicles to achieve your objectives. Some put you in the gunner's seat while others put you behind the wheel, and though the vehicle handling is unremarkable, the thrill of blowing stuff up and speeding through hostile terrain is undeniable. The core running-and-gunning mechanics remain as exciting as ever, and the gameplay variety throughout the campaign keeps the action moving at a great clip.

There are two new modes that help make Black Ops the most fully featured Call of Duty game yet. Combat Training simulates a competitive multiplayer environment with AI opponents and allows you to set the enemy difficulty to match your skill level. You gain experience and unlock gear in the same way, and though this progress only applies within Combat Training, it's a great way to get the excitement and challenge of competitive multiplayer without submitting to the vicious predations of actual humans. The other new mode is the Theater, which lets you view replays of your games, take screenshots, and edit clips to share with the community. You can string together a number of different segements from a given game, and even render a video lasting up to 30 seconds for upload to the web, though the rendering feature is not fully functional at launch. Reliving moments--both glorious and shameful--is a lot of fun, and the community has already started cranking out content for your viewing pleasure. And though it may only apply to a small percentage of the population at this point, you can also play Call of Duty: Black Ops in stereoscopic 3D, providing you have the proper cables, required glasses, and a compatible television. The effect is novel and fairly intriguing, though it takes a significant mental adjustment and may not be comfortable for many players CKNWDYH9FYMF

While it may not take the signature Call of Duty action to dizzying new heights, Black Ops is a thoroughly excellent game. New modes and mechanics give a jolt of energy to the lively competitive multiplayer, and the engrossing new campaign develops into one of the best in the series. Combat training allows anyone to enjoy the thrills of arena combat and the satisfaction of leveling up, and the opportunities for cooperative play, local competition, and community video creation provide even more outlets for entertainment. Call of Duty: Black Ops lives up to the top-notch pedigree that the series has earned, giving players an awesome new shooter to enjoy just in time for the holidays.