Monday, January 12, 2009

Grand Theft Auto IV Boxshot

The Good

  • Superb character-driven story
  • Liberty City feels alive
  • Multiplayer modes that let 32 players go wild across the entire city
  • Genuinely funny radio and TV shows, comedy acts, and character dialogue
  • Customizable radio station and video editor are great additions for PC.

The Bad

Stepping off a boat in the shoes of illegal immigrant Niko Bellic as he arrives in Liberty City at the start of Grand Theft Auto IV, you can tell immediately that Rockstar North's latest offering is something quite special. Yes, this is another GTA game in which you'll likely spend the bulk of your time stealing cars and gunning down cops and criminals, but it's also much more than that. GTAIV is a game with a compelling and nonlinear storyline, a great protagonist who you can't help but like, and a plethora of online multiplayer features in addition to its lengthy story mode. The PC version adds a customizable radio station and a video editor to the package, and also ups the multiplayer count from 16 to 32 players. It's not all good news, though; the game suffers from some noticeable performance issues even on rigs that far exceed the unreasonably high recommended system specifications, and you need to be signed in to Windows Live to save your progress in the single-player game. This should have been the best GTA game yet, but it's inferior to its console counterparts.

One of the many things that set GTAIV apart from its predecessors is Liberty City, which is more convincing as a living, breathing urban environment than anything you've seen in a game before, and which bears little resemblance to its namesake in 2001's GTAIII. Liberty's diverse population believably attempts to go about its daily business, seemingly unaware that several criminal factions are at war in the city. Niko has no such luck. He's compelled to start working for one of the factions shortly after arriving, when he learns that his cousin Roman has some potentially fatal gambling debts. Niko's military experience makes him a useful freelancer for employers in the business of killing, and though his reluctance to carry out their orders is often apparent, he does whatever is asked of him in the hope that completing missions for other people will ultimately give him the means to complete his own.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Left 4 Dead

Publisher: Valve

Developer: Valve

Category: Action

Release Dates

N Amer - 11/18/2008

Intl - 11/21/2008

Also available on: PC and XBOX 360

It's finally happened. The dead have risen and you and three friends are squarely placed in the middle of it all. In a city completely overrun with zombies and the nasty things some of them have evolved into, its not only good to have friends, but it is the only way you can make it through the game. Someone covering your six while another someone lends you first aid. The Zombie Apocolypse is here, boys and girls, so get ready for some multiplayer fun.

So Left 4 Dead has been on a lot of gamers' radars for quite a while. It's made by Valve, the folks who made one of the biggest game franchises of all time, Half-Life. So yes, the bar was set rather high. So, the first thing I will say is that you need to throw any pre-conceived notions out the door. This is a rocket-fire, high-octane style first-person shooter and it has no real brains about it, like Half-life. But don't let that stop you from playing, this is a phenomenal multiplayer game.

"These vacuum salemen are awfully pushy."

The style of the game is kind of off kilter; instead of a back story, the game provides a mini-movie but the apocalypse has already happened. The movie basically is what they show you on the commercials. There is more to fear than just the zombies; apparently there has been some evolution in the outbreak and the big baddies are a whole other set of problems. Starting with the hulking "Tank," a huge monster that runs through anything (including other zombies) to get to you. These things are incredibly strong and it takes literally everybody shooting at it to take them down. The next is this really mean chick called a "Witch." A Witch makes these sobbing noises which sound like crying, but they're mean and vicious, and will slice you once and put you near death, it's almost easier to quietly move past them then tick them off. Next is a zombie with a bad case of French-kissing addiction. They are called "Smokers" and their tongues have grown large and powerful, often snatching victims and pulling them to their death. The Hunter is a zombie who moves lightning fast and leaps around, dodging gunfire. Lastly, the "Boomer" lumbers on to the scene, and promptly spits a yellow goo at you causing temporary blindness, shooting them causes the yellow goo to soak you and blind you as well. What's worse is this spit causes all other zombies to go into a frenzy and they will only attack you.

"Einhorn University, where the male students outnumber the women students 24 to 1;
ladies, be prepared to say no to a few fellas."

The game has each character start off with a more effective weapon and a handgun. The handgun never runs out of ammo, even though you do reload it after each clip is emptied. The problem is though, the handgun is pretty wimpy when it comes to dispatching the undead. So, each characters' other weapon is clearly more powerful. Combat shotgun, machine gun, Uzi and scores of other bigger, badder guns, including going dual pistols when you pick up an additional handgun. This works pretty good and is a good idea to have when you bigger gun runs out of ammo. But fortunately, there are ammo dumps found as you adventure, you see, the survivors are loosely following an underground railroad if you will, a path that supposedly other survivors made it out taking. Graffiti instructions appear at random and each section ends the game with some vague instructions and some health and ammo. The game has a desperate feel to it which means it has hit the nail on the head.

"Tattoos? Check. Facial hair? Check. Octogenarian psychopath covering my six? Check."

The main characters have scenes throughout the game and their voice work is nothing short of awesome. The game's voice work is spot on when said by the actors. It makes like a "B" movie, but one you actually want to watch. The old codger says some pretty funny things when it comes the situations that befall them. Good use of the in-game Dolby digital. This is one of those games that has multiple layers of sounds going on and if you have a good surround-sound setup then prepared to be put smack dab in the middle of the fight of your life. Killer gunfire effects with screaming, explosions and the creepy wails of the Witch. Some games sound good, this one sounds great.

Gameplay: 9.1
A first-person survival horror game that has you out-running and out-surviving the zombie nightmare. It controls like a dream, isn't overly complicated and has a random generator of where the zombies are each time you start the game over.

Graphics: 9.0
Smart looking, well polished and clearly a game that has had some serious love put into it. Valve shows again why they are an industry leader.

Sound: 9.3
Clever writing, and even better voice actors making things seems almost impossible; hear that crying in the background, time to run, quietly.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard

Concept: 9.6
This has officially made me the happiest zombie-loving geek this side of the moon.

Multiplayer: 9.4
Teamwork has been brought to the next level - a zombie shooter with your buddies.

Overall: 9.2
The holidays is always the best time for games, here's another reason why.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

NPPL Championship Paintball 2009

Publisher: Activision Inc.

Developer: Activision

Category: Action

Release Dates N Amer - 11/24/2008

Also available on:PS2,PS3,WII and XBOX 360

One good thing that can be said about NPPL Championship Paintball 2009, though, is that it does capture the feel of the equipment even with the different brand attachments and extras. The various field setups are also well represented with a number of portable bunkers and cover to use during tournaments. On top of that, the different maps add some diversity in terms of how you will approach an event. You can even rush and dive or slide to cover as the pros do during an intense match. Thankfully, the controls are basic enough that you’ll be able to crouch, reload and sprint.

There are three different game modes in the game that include a quick exhibition match that allows you to set up a one-on-one, three-on-three, five-on-five or a seven-on-seven match. For those that like online matches, there’s even online multiplayer mode..The single-player mode is Career mode and it’s quite a lengthy affair featuring a number of official NPPL paintball champs that have made a mark in this sport. You start by picking your spot in one of five teams such as the Psycho Rivals, Last Silence, Search & Destroy, Dark Illusion or The Coalition. Then you move on to selecting the members of your team and work your way up the ladder by participating in a numerous challenges throughout the United States and even internationally.

eview Scoring Details for NPPL Championship Paintball 2009

Gameplay: 4.5
The controls are rather basic but it’s accurate considering the fact that the equipment works the way it does in real life. Career mode is quite boring and does add very much variety so gamers will quickly get bored with this game.

Graphics: 5.0
Visually unimpressive, especially when it comes to the character models, NPPL Championship Paintball 2009 looks like it would have been a great-looking original Xbox game. The environments look decent enough as well but this game could have looked a lot better.

Sound: 5.5
The soundtrack is filled with heavy rock tunes that might not be everyone’s cup of tea and the sound effects are minimal but effective enough to give the impression that you’re out in the playing field.

Difficulty: Easy
Although you can’t run and gun in this game, you can certainly rush towards your opponent’s flag and bring it back to your home base without so much as firing a paint pellet. The opponent AI knows good cover when they see it but still make some rather boneheaded mistakes.

Concept: 4.5
The rules and setting for an official paintball tournament is present but the feel isn’t so you’re stuck with a main mode that just isn’t very exciting or true to the tournament atmosphere. There are plenty of equipment choices, though, and a nice variety of maps. Online multiplayer is a better alternative to playing solo.

Multiplayer: 5.0
Online multiplayer is the way to go when you want better communication with your team and thus makes this game a lot better than the single-player events. I just wish there were more people online to offer a challenge.

Overall: 4.5
It’s hard to recommend a game like NPPL Championship Paintball 2009 even to actual paintball enthusiasts. Sadly, this is a game that certainly does have the potential of being a worthwhile paintball title but falls short in so many ways that even shooter fans will be greatly disappointed.