Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Condemned 2: Bloodshot (360)
There seems to be a fairly new trend of first-person games that are heavier on the narrative than on generic FPS run-and-gun shooter mechanics. In the last year or so, both Prey and The Darkness have featured interesting stories and fantastic atmosphere in a first-person world, and Condemned 2 fits nicely into this genre (while still having some unique tricks up its sleeve). You play as Ethan Thomas, a cop who has apparently taken the dive into full-blown alcoholism. In fact, your aim becomes jittery if you haven't had a drink in a while, so the game actually encourages you to drink liquor you find on the floor of abandoned apartment buildings and alleyways. While there are guns at your disposal, you'll be spending a lot of time relying on melee weapons like 2x4's, pipes, baseball bats, and even prosthetic arms. This seriously heightens the sensation of fear when you're walking around a dark, ominous building with nothing else but a flashlight. Another excellent touch is the forensic sections. You'll have to identify victims, decide what kind of wound is on the victim (as well as whether it's entry or exit), and even analyze blood splatter a la Dexter. Both the audio and visual side of Condemned 2 are done in a perfect manner to create a creepy atmosphere. Condemned 2 is a great take on the horror genre, and is one of those games that are a blast to play late at night with the lights off and the surround sound loud.
The Club (PS3)
While I'm usually a fan of old-school, get-the-high-score throwbacks to the days of arcade gaming, it's necessary to introduce something new or somewhat unique at this point. The Club certainly feels old-school, but it doesn't offer much in the way of gameplay that we haven't seen a million times before. The emphasis is purely on single player run-and-gun action, and your objective is to keep your combo and multiplier going as long as possible in an effort to get a high score. I did enjoy this aspect of the game, as it reminded me of replaying levels of Tony Hawk Pro Skater and SSX Tricky over and over, trying to get the highest score I possibly could. There are a ton of levels to play through, but the actual gameplay falls a bit short. This seems like a perfect rental title, as it's fun for a few days before you tire of it.
Sega Bass Fishing (Wii)
When the controller was revealed for the Wii, everyone started imagining what types of gameplay experiences would be made exponentially better thanks to motion control. Lightsaber fights, baseball games, golf games...they'd all greatly benefit from the Wii controller. One small genre also came to mind - fishing. Why wouldn't a fishing game be great on Nintendo's console? The controller seems custom-made for casting and reeling, so this was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Sega Bass Fishing is not that fantastic fishing experience some had hoped for. Rather, it's almost the exact same game as the Dreamcast and arcade game from the late 90s. It was fun back in the day, but it's shown its age and the motion controls don't exactly breathe new life into the title.
No More Heroes (Wii)
Killer 7 for the Gamecube was the epitome of a "love it or hate it" experience. Casual gamers were likely turned off by the unorthodox gameplay mechanics, while many enjoyed the surreal art style, characters, and narrative. I considered myself in the latter category. Gameplay-wise, it was nothing to write home about. However, it created an incredible atmosphere and had featured a fantastic audio/visual package that almost bordered on art. No More Heroes is from the same possibly-insane creator, Suda 51, and is every bit as original and odd as K7. Your character's name is Travis Touchdown, and you spend most of the game traveling around your city (named Santa Destroy) earning money in an effort to climb the ranks of the world's top assassins. There are countless throwbacks to classic arcade gaming, from old sound effects to pixellated powerups to the "High Score"-esque graphic that displays the Top Assassins. The overall atmosphere is much brighter than Killer 7 and not nearly as ominous and creepy. Many sections of the game are completely free-roaming, as you cruise the streets of Santa Destroy on your far-too-large motorbike of sorts. You'll do odd jobs like mowing lawns or collecting coconuts in an effort to earn money so you can move on to your next kill. These free-roaming sections aren't nearly as polished as they should be, and driving is a chore. Once it gets down to combat, the Wii remote actually functions very well, allowing you to execute a variety of slashes, charged attacks, and even professional wrestling moves. The entire experience is far more fast-paced and gameplay-heavy than Killer 7 was, but the story and atmosphere aren't quite as strong.
Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (360)
If you're the type that finds Call of Duty or Halo to be too arcade-y or casual for your tastes, there's a good chance you'd be in into the more realistic Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon series. R6V2 is certainly not a run-and-gun experience. Rather, you'll be ordering your team into tactical positions, breaching and clearing terrorist-filled rooms with smoke bombs and precise gunfire, rappelling down buildings, checking thermal satellite images, and much more. It's one of those games that's sure to be overwhelming to the casual gamer that just picks it up at Blockbuster because the box looked cool. There's definitely a crowd for this type of gameplay, but I don't consider myself to be one of them. Like the other Tom Clancy games (GRAW, Splinter Cell), this series seems to place its priority more on realism than fun. Sure, you can use advanced tactics that mimic real-world terrorist hunting, but is that really as fun as a fast-paced round of the more casual Call of Duty 4? Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is an impressive technical feat, but ultimately falls short in the fun department.