Destro's Video Game Review Thread (Ninja Gaiden II)
Hey all. Seems a number of people agree with me that it would be kind of cool if I were to review video games for the masses, or at least those of you who frequent this forum. While I'm nowhere near as witty as Yahtzee nor even half as British I'll do my best regardless, and that brings me to the almost totally unrelated topic of exactly what games I'll be reviewing.
I'm planning on doing mostly PC and Xbox games with the occassional Wii title thrown in because those are the mediums I happen to have access to. PS3 fans, if there are any of you out there, I'm sorry but you'll just have to hope that some of my chosen titles are multi-console games, which given the nature of today's market is very likely. I will also be avoiding any games which would end up bending my poor old single-core processor over the couch and whaling on it with a handy blunt object, for what should be obvious reasons. (Crysis, I'm looking at you)
Today's game is Sins of a Solar Empire, which has very little to do with sinning and quite a lot to do with subjugating virtual empires through military conquest. Admittedly there are other ways to do it, but those are generally much less effective and much more boring. Sins of a Solar Empire, or SoaSE, is a strategy game which gets a giant thumbs up from me for only having one load time per game. It loads the whole galaxy right at the beginning and goes from there, so there's no break in the action while you wait for yet another slightly variated space combat map to load, which was a major minus for Empire at War. There's no ground based combat either, which makes sense in a game where they have a whole ship design entirely devoted to bombing the ever-living s#!t out of any enemy planet you come across, so you don't even have to wait for slightly variated ground based combat maps to load.
Stardock also had the foresight to include a built in way of keeping track of everything in your empire at once, and this has turned out to be amazingly useful so far because I have a penchant for playing massively large maps and an empire starts being hard to keep track of once it's extended beyond a single star system. Of course you can always remove things you no longer care about keeping track of, like that planet you've got buried behind a million billion fortifications and at least one major fleet and only keep active for the purpose of resources and building research stations. What they didn't include was a story mode. This is my major complaint with the game and it isn't even all that much of one because if they had included a single player campaign it would take several months to finish. SoaSE is not a game for people who have a free hour every now and then. It's a game for people who stay up till 6AM because they feel like it. Even playing a small map on fast settings can take a while, because the AI has a nasty tendency to retreat when outnumbered which, while realistic, often (read: always) means that you have to spend ten minutes chasing them back and forth between various celestial phenomena before you can kill all of the bastards.
On the other hand it seems to be fairly well balanced, and the ships don't die if an enemy so much as glances at them, and they gave the computer a decent AI so you don't have to micromanage every last combat, which is nice in the late game when you have lone enemy ships showing up at random and threatening you with planetary destruction. In this game, when that happens you can rest easy knowing that the garrison ships you have stationed there are more than capable of taking it out without you specifically telling them to do so. They've even automated resource gathering to the point that all you have to do is build an extractor on anything you want mined and the game will take it from there. In fact, a large portion of the game can handle itself while you deal with more pressing matters, and while normally that could be a drawback in a game of this scale it's really more of an asset. No-one wants to deal with finding more asteroids to mine if they could be spending the time watching spaceships chasing each other around and blowing up spectacularly when they get destroyed.
Overall, I'd say I quite liked SoaSE, and would certainly recommend it to anyone with a computer capable of meeting the relatively low system requirements. Whether it's the neat mousewheel zoom system that lets you go from meters to light years in under five seconds or the massive superweapons you get to build as your reward for progressing up the tech tree or maybe just my own personal love of science fiction in general, I've certainly enjoyed the hours I've spent playing it. My only warning is to make sure you have a lot of free time. You're going to need it.
Pfft...PS3 doesn't deserve reviews anyway...
Though I wouldn't mind hearing reviews on handheld systems. Especially Nintendo, of course...
Unfortunately I don't have easy access to a DS, or I'd be happy to oblige. And I can't afford to buy one for the sole purpose of writing reviews for games on it, due to having a limited amount of both time and money.
About your review, Destro; I've played the Sins of a Solar Empire demo as of right now.
You are abso-frickin-lutely right about everything.
Now, I'm torn; I have the chance to buy a new game soon, and I'm torn between Sins of a Solar Empire, or the expansion to Command and Conquer 3.
So I am now here, and I have a further review for you. It's a slightly older game, 360 and PC, just to get the Technical stuff out of the way. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a Capcom game, and seems to follow the current trend of giving things in Capcom games a time limit. The limit in this case is a resource called thermal energy, collected from dead enemies, which constantly depletes itself and can also be used to power certain guns. If you run out of it you slowly die. Normally this isn't important, due to the sheer bloody amount of it you find kicking around inside nearly every conceivable breakable object, though the stuff is also used to heal you if you take damage. So try not to get shot, because it'll make your time run out faster.
Timing issues aside, one thing I really didn't like about the game was the enemies. They're aliens, and every single one of them has a giant glowing spot somewhere that practically begs you to shoot it. That's right, every alien in the entire game has an inexplicable glowing weakpoint. Especially the bosses, who quite frequently have more than one. You'd think they'd have evolved to keep the sensitive bits away from the weather conditions, which involve lots of ice, by this point in time. Fortunately for you they haven't, because it is practically impossible to kill them if you shoot at anything else.
The plot is a fairly standard save the world type one, with a bad guy and evil plots and giant robots for some reason. These were originally made to fight the aliens, and they're supposed to be scarce, but with the number of them you find lying around you just know that someone somewhere is mass producing the little buggers. Add that to the fact that the plot moves at light speed due to the shortness of the game and you get people not trusting one another in one cutscene and being all smiles and cuddles in the next. Around halfway through they introduce a new bad guy, who was really there all along except not being seen, and it seems that this persons only joy in life is being a dick to the main character. I'm serious, that's all he does. Every last action he takes was programmed to make the player want to take his smug little smile, cram it so far up his ass that he can taste his brain and then shoot him with his own gun.
Plot stuff out of the way, let's talk controls. They're unintuitive and wonky, and it took me five minutes and a trip through the manual to figure out how to reload. This being a shooting game, you'd think they'd cover that in the tutorial, but it seems that the only thing the tutorial stage is used for is teaching you what parts of the enemies to shoot, as if it wasn't obvious enough. Controls for the giant robots are somewhat better, as they provide a handy pop-up screen telling you what said controls are when you get into one. They still neglect to mention the reload button though.
Another thing I rally hated was that quite a few of the enemy attacks cause knockback. This in itself is not so bad, except that you get back up just in time to be shot again. It's nearly impossible to break this loop, barring you getting knocked out of the line of sight, and you'll frequently find yourself reloading due to some asshole with a rocket launcher.
Don't get me wrong though, I liked the game. The fights were sufficiently action packed, all the robots had their own special ability and the final boss was challenging enough to be hard and easy enough to be fun. In the end though, I'd have to recommend not buying it if you haven't already. You'd be much better off renting it for the few days you'll need to beat it and spending the rest of your money to buy Sins.
In addition, here's the secret bonus thing I promised in the other thread.
The Top Five Reasons this Review Wasn't About GTAIV.
So GTAIV came out recently, and I have to say I won't be buying it. If I was, this review would have been about that instead. But it isn't, and here's why.
5: The plot of all the GTA games seems to be totally unnecessary, and really just gets in the way of killing stuff. I'm a big fan of RPG's for the plot, not mindless violence. The GTA plots tend to be tied into violence at any rate, but I have no doubt I could sum them up with a number of sweeping generalizations like the following one: You play some jerk who goes to a city full of other jerks for some personal reason. Once there you discover that every other jerk in the place is out to get you, so you decide to kill them all.
4: GTA follows the EA strategy of game release. Every GTA game is the previous GTA game, except wrapped in a shiny new plotline with a new main character and prettier graphics.
3: Once you get down to it, the games are really only about killing people and driving around. The missions are annoying and repetetive, and almost always involve going to some point in the city and killing a bunch of random whackos.
2: It's only possible if you cheat. See, normally in shooter games you have an accurate and simple way to move and fire at the same time. I've found that isn't the case with GTA, as if you want to aim you generally have to stand still. And since the enemies are both more plentiful and better armed than you are, seeing as they don't have to run all over the city looking for weapons, you need rather a lot of help to kill them.
And the number one reason I'm not buying GTAIV: SAVE POINTS. I hate save points so much. I harbour a deep resentment towards them, gained from many hours of playing various other games at friends houses which used them. Because you couldn't go save in the middle of a mission, especially if it was timed, you had to hike all the way back to it if you failed, as well as watch the opening cutscene over and over again. This wasn't so bad if the cutscene was skippable, but god help you if it wasn't.
I apologise if my bonus didn't live up to your expectations, or if it made you angry or want to kill me or want to flood my inbox with outraged PM's about the quality of the GTA series as a whole. I'm doing this for free, after all.
So I went to EB the other day and stood around outside for 5 hours waiting for the store to open so I could buy this game. It's not like I expected a line or anything, that's just when I had the time to buy it. I haven't played beyond the first level here, so all you get for now is first impressions.
First of all, the game is relentlessly pretty. Environments are detailed, animation is smooth and you can chop all the enemies limbs off and leave their broken corpses lying there as you turn your blade on the next fool to get in your way. This may cause slight pauses, as the game tries to keep up with the locations of corpses, body parts and blood spatter.
Gameplay hasn't been changed much from the previous incarnation (Ninja Gaiden Black) of the game, with the only noticeable difference so far being that there's a quick menu, you heal some damage automatically after a fight and one of the bumpers is used to open things instead of the A button, which avoids a lot of awkward sequences where you were trying to jump and ended up opening a door instead. The Soul Crushing difficulty persists, much to my infinite joy.
So far, all I can say is this: If you liked the previous game, get this one. It's just as awesome, if not better, and if you didn't like the previous game then there's no talking to you any more.
I've gotten up to the third boss, not counting mini bosses. It has come to my attention that the developers have not toned done on the difficulty one bit. If anything, they have increased it, probably justifying themselves by including minor health regeneration and a weaksauce difficulty for people who can't finish it otherwise.
Let me include on of the highlights of level three. Those familiar with Ninja Gaiden Black will find this to be par for the course in terms of sheer paranormal weirdness.
At one point you find yourself in a subway. The subway has been partially destroyed due to activity of demons. You jump down into this tunnel, and maybe 10 of these things spawn, looking like some sort of unholy cross between bats, men and concentrated ugly. They breathe fireballs, are each twice the size of you, and half of them can fly. The only reason you're able to survive this at all is because once you've got into a bit of a groove you are essentially a walking ninja cuisinart. With a lightsaber.