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Backbreaker Review


[rokbox title=”Backbreaker Review” thumb=”http://www.geeksofgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/backbreaker.jpg” size=”854 505″ ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63JBaKrUbuU&hd=1&autoplay=1[/rokbox]

Football games are a tough subject now that EA owns the license for the NFL, there hasn’t been a decent alternative to the Madden Series since ESPN NFL 2k5. Many have tried their hand at attempting to grab the football gauntlet without the license, but all of them have failed miserably at making a game interesting without actual NFL players. Can Backbreaker break this trend of unlicensed games, or will it be just another would be contender?

Backbreaker was developed by Natural Motion, the team behind the amazing Euphoria engine used in Grand Theft Auto IV. This is their first attempt at making a video game with their own engine, and for the most part they do it fairly well in that regard. With the runs having that added locomotion needed, and the hits being purely brutal and realistic. The game reacts to how many players you’ve been hit by, where you’ve been hit, and how hard you’ve been hit. This makes for some fantastic instant replays, and makes you feel sorry for the players out on the field.

However the issue with the system is that it can be too wonky at times, with your player running into the back of your own teammate and flopping to the ground only to get tackled. Or narrowly escaping the grip of a linebacker, only for him to somehow have wrapped you up just by touching you with his fingertips. These types of things happened to me since I started playing the game, and I always noticed them even after playing several different games. But it’s not a major issue that would stop the game from being fun or realistic, it is just a bit of an annoyance that can sometimes make or break a play.

Control wise most things are done with the right analog stick, ranging from passes, tackling, and using jukes during a run play. You can use the Right trigger to go into aggressive mode, which is basically the sprint button in Backbreaker. The Left Trigger is used as a focus button, so you can hold it down to keep your focus on whoever you’re targeting at the time. So as the Quarterback you can switch between receivers, and on the field to focus on a player you want to guard or tackle. It’s all fairly easy to pick up except certain instances during passing or running.

In my time playing the game I noticed that it was incredibly hard to do a lob pass. Mostly because the game asks you to do a half-circle like you’re playing Street Fighter. What you actually end up doing is randomly switching between all of your receivers before being sacked, or throwing the ball off on accident. I found this to be really annoying since throwing a lob pass in real life is as simple as arching your arm up more.

Another problem I had with the controls is the automation of things, like as a Defensive back if you want to get an interception. You have to line up with the ball and hope that your guy jumps up at the right time to try to catch it. The same thing happens when you attempt to throw a pass to a receiver. Whenever I actually wanted to throw the ball straight in front of a guy, the passes would always go about 10 feet out of range from where my receiver is running. Like the Quarterback didn’t understand that the Wide Receiver isn’t the Sonic the Hedgehog. In my opinion the passing could have been a bit easier to get into, especially seeing as they chose a lowered third person view camera.

Now while we’re on the subject of the graphics, I’d say that Backbreaker could use some work in this regard. The models are bland and barely textured and let’s just face it… they all look exactly the same. They all have the same padding, gloves, and helmets. If they didn’t have different skin tones, and weight classes, I could almost be sure they were the same person under those goggles. The stadiums on the other hand are done pretty well, the only real bad side would be the crowds. It probably would have been better if they had not even included them, they look like something off of the playstation 2. It’s just ugly… but luckily you don’t see much of them due to the presentation.

You get an intro of your team walking onto the field, it’s the same for every team and never changes. After plays you get to see different teams walking to the huddle, then you get a replay of the last tackle or touchdown made. There isn’t any commentary to speak of at all, and you don’t even get an interesting soundtrack in place of it. Instead you get to hear the same song every time you punt or receive the ball on a kick.
Right after that you see your players back in the huddle and you choose your play again. The only time you’ll see something different is if a fumble occurs on the field, then you’re treated to a cinematic with players reacting to each other on the field. To top things off is that every time you kick the ball off, you’re going to hear the same music every single time.

Let’s get into the modes for this game, and it is a pretty sparse offering when you get down to it. There is a tutorial mode so that you can learn the ins and outs of the game. Then you have the standard Exhibition mode to get into a game as fast as possible. Then there are the two league modes, with Season mode giving the player the ability to create his season from scratch, and include the teams you want to play throughout the season. The most you can do is change plays, scout, and check your stats from previous games.

Then you have the “Road to Backbreaker” which is basically a franchise mode that uses your created team. It’s pretty much the season mode across a longer time span, no real management goes on besides picking up a few free agents. Then we have quite possibly the most interesting mode in the game, which is simply named Tackle Alley. It’s an arcade mode where you rack up combo score by avoiding tackles in the best way possible. When you run out of combo points the game is over and you’re presented with a score that’s tallied to the Leaderboards.

Players can also go online with Xbox live, but only with Exhibition and Tackle Alley. Then finally there is the custom teams mode. This is where you can create your teams home and away colors, logo for the field and uniforms, and create your teams name and abilities. The uniforms cannot be switched around at all so do not expect that, but you can change the color for every piece you’re wearing. The Logo creator is acceptable in that it lets you use layers to create a specific logo. Then there is the player section where you can choose your starting lineup. That’s about all there is to this mode this mode, unlike what you’d expect from a game without a licensed roster. You have no ability to create a player of your own at all, just a team with pre-assigned names and positions.

So with that said… Backbreaker is more like a tech demo for Natural Motions engine than a robust gaming experience. Sure it has some extremely hard hitting and excellent tackling animations, but the gameplay is not as solid as you would expect from a football game. That and they didn’t really take any liberties with being an unlicensed game, there is no story to be thought of here about your up and coming rise through the league. Not even little choices scattered through a season mode just to make you feel like you’re doing something important as a football star. You get the most basic of modes and one song through the entirety of the game, to go along with a shoddy passing game and a sometimes awkward control scheme. While this is a good jump off point for possible later iterations in the series, this version warrants a D+ grade from me. I suggest staying away with this and sticking with the Madden series for now.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review


[rokbox title=”Trauma Team Review” thumb=”http://www.geeksofgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/smg2.jpg” size=”854 505″ ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCcZjWHZSPU&hd=1&autoplay=1[/rokbox]

Mario has long since become a household name, and he’s gone through many different changes in his life. He’s risen up from a simple head squashing plumber, to becoming something out of this world. Mario is second to none for Nintendo, even Link would bow down to this small Italian man. Mario is the king of his throne, but will he continue to watch out for his subjects… or is it finally time for him to be usurped?

The game starts with Mario off to meet Peach for a bit of cake and stargazing. On the way Mario runs into a star named Master Luma who can only speak in playstationese. In Exchange for hiding under his hat he teaches Mario to spin through objects. While this may have seemed like a gift on any other day, unfortunately this is the Mushroom kingdom and things always go terribly wrong. Bowser is back again to kidnap the Princess for love, cake, who knows anymore? He spouts off some nonsense about needing a place to fit his ego, and blasts off into space with the princess in the palm of his hands.

Mario meets up with the rest of the Luma stars who are eager to help him blast off into space and take down Bowser. Of course there is a tiny little catch, they need Mario to collect power stars to fuel their ship. With no other choice but to accept, they turn the ship into a flying Mario portrait and set off to rescue the Princess. That’s about all there is to the story, if you want more… well you’re out of luck cause that’s all Mario needs to save a princess. Duh!
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is an extremely active game, you’ll be waving, shaking, and swinging your Wii remote everywhere.

It is also very responsive for a genre that usually makes you work for it, and if this is your first time playing a Mario Galaxy game. It doesn’t take long before you’re using the remote like an expert. The control scheme starts off simple with “A” being the jump button, Z being crouch button, B being the action button. Aka you can use this to fire off stars as Mario, or eat anything in your path as Yoshi. The Wii remote plays into this considerably, as the cursor on the screen is used to target items, enemies, and pick up stars scattered about.

But as you get farther in the game and start to pick up items and costumes, Mario will have much more flexibility in his repertoire. With options to drill through a planets crust, use a vine to swing across the planet, or simply throwing a fireball into the face of an unsuspecting Goomba. Mario Galaxy just throws tons of interesting play styles in your face, and one after another you’ll be happy it did.

Now let’s get to the level design of this game, and all I have to say to that is “WOWWWWW”. It’s not just in the graphics either, it’s the way that each planet introduces something new and intriguing to the game mechanics. From simple stuff like avoiding saws cutting holes in your path, to more challenging instances like spinning in the air to create a walkway. Need I say more about this? That’s not even mentioning the look of the planets , which show nothing but the utmost creativity. This includes gravity shifting 2d levels, swimming levels that transform into ice skating levels, and so much more!
It’s astonishing how diverse this game really is, it packs the creativity of at least 10 different games into one. I’m completely blown away at how every level has something different for Mario to do, it’s like dying and going to gamer heaven. Nintendo really did a bang up job with Super Mario Galaxy 2, and it doesn’t just end at the game play either. The soundtrack is epic, with orchestrated pieces to remixed classics. There are songs that channel Smash Brothers, Earthbound, and even the Legend of Zelda. You’ll never get tired of hearing these tunes during your quest for Power Stars.

To sum all of this up, even if you don’t own a Wii, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a must have for your collection. Even if you’re just going to put the box on your table and stare at it longingly… it’ll be worth it. It’s a game that’s brimming with content, but doesn’t force you into playing it for long periods of time. So Super Mario Galaxy 2… receives an A+ for being a creative, challenging, and just an outright fun game. Now let us bow before Mario, because he is still a king worthy of our admiration.

Trauma Team Review


[rokbox title=”Trauma Team Review” thumb=”http://www.geeksofgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/trauma_team1.jpg” size=”854 505″ ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3fcWGAq-oY&hd=1&autoplay=1[/rokbox]

The Trauma Center series is the king of all things that have to do with medical practice for video games, there are a couple of copycats but nothing comes close to what has been achieved here. Now it looks like they have upped the ante with Trauma Team. The first in the series that allows you to play multiple roles in the doctor field. Yet has Atlus made enough changes to the tried and true formula to make this more than a repackaged expansion?

In Trauma Team there are a variety of people to play as, so that means you get a different storyline point of view from each one. There isn’t really a main character here that I can see, the first character being simply named CR-S01, who is a surgeon so dangerous he has to have his face covered like the man in the iron mask. The Buxom and wild Maria Torres, who serves as the games Emergency Response technician. She is a very harsh woman to deal with, and she apparently has the ability to see ghosts. Next on the list is Hank Freebird, who on top of being an amazing orthopedic surgeon, moonlights as a superhero named Captain Eagle.

Next up is Tomoe Tachibana, she’s the Endoscopy surgeon in the game. She has some daddy issues after leaving Japan, but her personality quirk is all about being honorable. Then we have Gabriel Cunningham the diagnostics expert in the hospital. He’s been having issues with his wife and son, probably due to the fact that all he seems to care about is saving lives. Finally we have Naomi Kimishima, she’s the games Forensics Analyst. Naomi is Trauma Team’s Horatio Caine… and if you don’t know who that is. Her role in this game is to be a Crime Scene Investigator. She has a troubled past and can apparently hear people being murdered by listening to their cell phones.

Now if all of that sounds a little weird, that’s because this is an Atlus game. So pretty much everything you see here is charged with Anime fueled plotlines. If you look at anime and your stomach starts to bubble in disgust, you probably shouldn’t invest too much in Trauma Team. But for those of you that can tolerate a wacky Japanese infused storyline, you’re in for a pretty good treat here. The only problem I can see here is having no Japanese voice track, but the English cast is passable in their roles but don’t expect anything beyond that.

With the story being told from so many different perspectives, it would hopefully be the same for the game-play elements too, right? Well if that’s what you were hoping for, you’re in luck with Trauma Team. Atlus has added a lot more variety this time, with only the Surgery profession being even remotely the same. Now there are six different fields of medicine to practice, with each adding its own little twist. The First Responder is exactly what it sounds like, you have to stabilize injured people and get them back to the hospital. It’s the only portion of the game that makes you switch between multiple patients. You basically set bones, treat and bandage wounds so the doctors can look at them later.

Orthopedics might be one of the most fun out of all the professions, with the player tracing wounds to remove tumors, setting and piecing together bones, to the screwing and pinning of those missing fragments back together. Don’t let the first mission dissuade you from continuing down the path of Orthopedics.
But Endoscopy could give it a run for its money. You direct a tube down into the body of a patient by thrusting the Wii Remote forward. You can use the Nunchuk’s analog stick to control the direction of the tube. There are various tools used with endoscopy, like forceps that the player can use to seal hemorrhaging areas, and a syringe for injecting medicine into problem areas. It’s also the only one that uses the C button to open the toolbar, and that can take a bit of getting used to.

The fifth medical field is Diagnostics, this is where you can channel your inner House. It’s also one of the two very different areas of the game that don’t really have you digging inside of peoples bodies. Diagnosing a patient starts off simple, with minor checkup procedures like asking a few questions or using your stethoscope to access the symptoms. After that you head into your office and match symptoms to a series of diseases, before moving on to the examination room to start tests.

This is where the CT Scan, MRI, Scintigraphy, and Diagnostic Tests come into play. The scans are fairly easy to manage, with the player only having to point out the problem area. While the Diagnostic Tests force you to think about the causes of the diseases and select the problematic values. When you’ve finally finished all of this, you return to your office and link together a full diagnostic.Which finally we make it to the last medical field, Forensics. This is where the power of investigation comes into play, and this is quite possibly the most involving of the fields. You’ll do a fair amount of matching evidence, listening to witness accounts, searching bodies and items for clues, sending evidence off to be analyzed, and investigating a crime scene. Not to mention that when you discover something new, you’ll be quizzed on how it relates to the case. So you’ll be using a good amount of your logistic skills to solve these murder cases.

Best thing about all of these different types of fields, is that Atlus has separated them into chapters. So if you don’t like a particular field, you don’t have to jump through hoops to try to get to the one you like. Of course you won’t see what happens in that characters story arch, but that doesn’t necessarily break the game for everyone. For those that are just in it for the game play mechanics of their choice, you can just go ahead and do those mission types without worrying about it.

The thing that makes Trauma team all the more inviting is the music. It seems like Atlus is always making interesting music in their games, and this one is no exception to the fact. It’s a mixture of music that doesn’t really ever hurt your ears to hear, especially during the adventure themed portion of the games. Where players could easily get tired of hearing the same music over and over again during a long investigation. That is not the case in this matter, a good majority of the music grows on and you end up bobbing your head to the jazzy beat.

The thing that makes Trauma team all the more inviting is the sound. It seems like Atlus is always making interesting music in their games, and this one is no exception to the fact. It’s a mixture of music that doesn’t really ever hurt your ears to listen to. The only thing that keeps this game down is the lack of animations. The cut-scenes consists of still frames zooming in and out when necessary. And the graphics during game play won’t win any accolades, but if you’ve played the Trauma Center games before you know that they work just fine. The only really saddening thing is that even the Diagnostic and Forensic sections get this treatment. Which consists of you staring at a mostly still patient to figure out a diagnosis, or staring at the face of Naomi’s still gaze while she talks about her cases. It’s too similar to something you’d see on the Nintendo DS, heck I’ve even seen Playstation 2 games with more animation.

Luckily for Atlus the reduced price makes up for the graphical downsides, that and this game makes plenty of additions over the previous series. I will gladly say that this game gets a B- from me, mostly because I’m a sucker for off the wall games like the Harvest Moon series, The Persona games, and everything Ace Attorney. And the inclusion of much more medical fields really blows this game past the Trauma Center games. This is one of those games where you can pick it up and put it down just as easily. The splitting of the chapters allows you to play the portions of the game that you like, when you want, and how you want. So that is perfect for gamers of any type, so I recommend this game as a buy if you’re into Anime, Investigations, and saving lives without getting blood on you. Ewwww.

Alan Wake Review

In reality I thought I would never see Alan Wake make it to the public, it had an incredibly long development cycle akin to something Blizzard would do. Luckily the folks at Remedy finally finished the project, a completely different type of game in comparison to Max Payne. At first glance it looks like a combination of a mixture of horror games, ranging from Silent Hill to Resident Evil. Yet the real question to ask is whether or not this game reinvigorates the horror genre, and lives up to years of hype that it has created.

Alan Wake is a famous writer with a 2 year case of writers block, he decides to get away from it all and goes on a vacation with his wife to a town named Bright Falls. His Vacation quickly turns into a nightmare, with fans nipping at his heels before he even settles in. To top things off his wife tries to use their vacation together to give him a fresh start on his writing. Things only get worse when his wife is taken from their cabin and he wakes up in a completely different area without a clue as to where he is. Now Alan must try desperately to find his wife without dying a horrible death to the hordes of monsters called The Taken.

Instead of using levels to open up the game, everything is told in episodes that leave you with a cliffhanger for the next one. The presentation is magnificent in this regard, with an opening movie and ending sequence with an ending theme song. When you start the next level the game will recap what happened in the previous level, it’s a cool addition to the game and it never really gets old.
The best thing about Alan wake is that it is more like a horror series than an actual horror movie.

If you’re a fan of twin peaks, x-files, supernatural, etcetera. You’ll feel right at home with the mix of drama and campiness thrown into the storyline. At one point you’ll be running away from a bunch of evil shadow dudes, and then at another juncture you’ll be listening to a corny joke thrown by Alan or one of his companions. It’s especially hard to take things seriously when it sounds like a good amount of the voice acting is purposely bad. It’s basically a love it or hate it relationship with Alan Wake, it’s like going to see Planet Terror and expecting a serious horror film.

There are also avid tidbits of similar additions from the Max Payne games included in this game, the first noticeable thing will be Alan Wake’s inner monologue. The second most noticeable thing would be the in-game TV flashes of shows and visions that randomly appear to Wake. The third thing would be the way the bosses mutter random things loudly, this was something that was done in the original Max Payne.

Alan Wake uses an unconventional method of defeating enemies, where the analogy of light against dark comes up a lot, Alan Wake actually puts those methods to use. When light is focused on the creatures it begins to wear down the shadow around them, this can be boosted by using the left trigger on the controller to make things go considerably faster. After the shadow is cast off by the light, you’re free to empty as many bullets into the remaining human to finally defeat it. It’s a nice twist on the standard “Guns work on everything” model.

That and light is really much more powerful than guns in this game, like the flare which is used to back creatures off when Alan is cornered. Or the flashbang which can act as a light grenade and decimate whatever it comes into contact with, and the Flare gun which is single-handedly the most powerful weapon in the game. It’s pretty much a one hit kill on an entire surrounding area of bad guys and objects, and what do I mean by objects you say? Well, later on in the game Alan will start being attacked by flying pipes, cars, carts, you name it. So I’m pretty sure you’ve guessed that using guns on these metallic objects won’t actually come in handy. This is pretty much where all your high powered weapons of light come in to play.

That’s not to say that the taken aren’t hard to fight, in fact they can be the hardest and most annoying to fight. Mostly because Alan can’t really melee at all, so he ends up doing a big dodging animation to try to get out of the way. It’s all well in good until you’re surrounded by a bunch of bad guys, and it is really easy to get surrounded due to how close the camera is behind you. There will be countless times where Alan will be hit multiple times from out of his view, and when it happens with bigger enemies you can expect death to follow. So saving those flares and flashbangs are a necessity if things get hairy, you’ll need those more than the bullets you’ll end up hoarding.

I will say this though, this game is a pretty linear experience. There isn’t really that much freedom to look around the areas, or branch off onto another path to get where you need to go. You simply walk in a straight line, which is most of the time on a straight road, and fire on anything that gets in your way. The scenery also gets repetitive very early on in the game, you’ll stop looking around at what is going on in the background because most of the time it looks the same. There is little variety here beyond stumbling on a place of interest, and you’ll spend a large majority of the game shooting people in all too similar forests and cabins.

The difficulty spikes as you progress through the game, and taking on various different types of enemies at the same time can be rough at times. Mostly because of how stiff Alan Wake actually moves, it’s hard to get him to move out of the way of that sickle coming for his throat when he needs to. It’s proven that he cannot do more than one thing at a time, so if he’s trying to boost his flashlight and dodge in unison… something has to give. Most of the time it’s the dodging part as he takes an axe to the face. That and he’s kind of a wuss when it comes to running, he easily tires out after barely running half a block. Which would probably be a good majority of people, but when you have insane monsters trying to tear your flesh from your bones… I think being tired is the least of your worries.

Now let’s take a moment to bask in the spooky atmosphere that Alan Wake creates for us, it’s a graphical feast for any horror enthused fan out there. The way the fog creeps through the forest as Alan walks through it, to the way the light bounces off the shadows when hit. The way the wind blows through the trees and leaves branches tumbling in its wake. The way the environment looks at night when compared to the daytime sequences. It almost makes you wonder if they are even in the same place. I don’t know how the people of Bright Falls live in a place like this, they even have a lake area that Jason Vorhees would gladly call home.

The only real issues I found were in some of the cut-scenes, I don’t know if it was my Xbox or not but a majority of the voiceovers weren’t in sync. That goes the same with the Television sequences for the show “Night Springs”, it seemed like the voices were at least two seconds out of sync on some of the early movies. That and the animations outside of the cut-scenes are pretty limited, it’s pretty obvious when you’re standing in the Sheriff’s office for the first time and she’s looping a hand gesture. It’s almost too similar to the old Max Payne games, which at least had an excuse for being released 10 years ago. As opposed to Alan Wake which had plenty of time to do whatever it pleased with its graphics for 2010.

Make no mistake though, Alan Wake is a thrilling game for those of us who don’t mind a little campiness to our stories. The only thing that would really hold Alan Wake back is a feeling of familiarity, once you’ve seen your 20th tree fall in the forest. You may start to get the sinking feeling that the game isn’t going to open up much, and to tell you the truth that’s the best observation you can have. Alan Wake may not have lived up to the hype wagon that it has driven for years, but it’s worthy of a C+ grade for being what Alone in the Dark should have been. And seeing as there are only 6 episodes, people who don’t have a lot of time to play games could easily stay entertained long enough to beat it. While hardcore gamers will probably smash it out in a day or two, and there is mention of DLC so that puts more longevity on this game. Now when is Remedy going to get back to making my Max Payne games?

Red Dead Redemption Review


The Wild West Genre used to be something very popular in the 60’s and 70’s, but in the 2000’s the wild west seems to have completely gone out of style. In comes Rockstar, the creators of the Grand Theft Auto series, who’ve tried their hand at the Wild West Genre back in 2004 with Read Dead Revolver. Unlike the Grand Theft Auto series, the Red Dead Revolver game met mixed reviews instead of high praise. Six years later the sequel to Red Dead Revolver appears, and it looks like the Wild West genre has been single-handedly rejuvenated.

In Red Dead Redemption you play a bandit gone straight named John Marsden, he’s been contracted by the government against his will to track down his old gang buddies. It doesn’t take long for Marsden to track down Bill Williamson and attempt to talk it out, unfortunately for Marsden the nice guy approach doesn’t work and he’s shot and left for dead. He’s soon discovered by a charismatic rancher named Bonnie Macfarlane, she patches John up and sets him up with a place to stay. This is where the game and the storyline elements open up for the player, with quest setups similar to Grand Theft Auto the player can continue along with the story or complete various side missions.

But do not get me wrong this is by no means Grand Theft Auto with a western paint job, there are tons of fundamental improvements over the tried and true free-roaming game-play formula. Mainly the way that side-quests and bonus activities are scattered through the game. The way things work players can easily be overwhelmed and distracted from the main story. There are bounties scattered about to be captured or killed. You can also hunt, skin, and trade animal pieces for challenge awards or just cash. You can become a scavenger by picking up random plants, or a sharpshooter by picking off birds and various animals. Or take a midnight stroll with a dog to protect a ranch, or save someone being attacked by Coyotes. Save a woman from being eaten by a cannibal, save a town from a bunch of rampaging bandits… or try to give a guy a ride on your horse only to have him steal it.

I think you get what I’m trying to say here, there are just tons of possible things that can happen in Red Dead Redemption. You can wrangle cattle, lasso a horse for a new ride, spend time in a Saloon playing blackjack or poker, play a game of five finger flint, sit around a camp fire and listen to stories, there are just a bunch of things that can happen in this game that will have you coming back for more. You can be as much of a savior as you want to be or as much of a treacherous yellowbelly scoundrel you can muster. And none of this goes unnoticed in the world, you gain fame and honor based on your actions.
So if you’re being a lawful man and bringing in bounties and saving people on the roadside, you’ll gain honor fast. However if you’re robbing people of horses, and shooting people dead in the streets for no reason. You’ll lose honor fast and people will change their reactions to you based on that alone. Yet this all becomes more obvious as you gain fame. With little to no fame most people will acknowledge you normally, but as you gain in fame you will start to receive challenges to duels, and outright people asking for more help or avoiding you.

Along with all of that great content, Rockstar seems to have outdone themselves when it comes to the quest variety. The way they’ve implemented quests beyond just shoot and fetch quests, is something that I hope more games will catch on to. Certain things like using tricks to help a swindler sell his tonic, or helping round up some stray cattle during a storm. Seeing this type of objective variety is refreshing, especially for someone who was just looking for a re-hash of the way that Grand Theft Auto’s system works. It’s not all murder in the world of Red Dead Redemption, and taking a look into the various way people live in this fictional west is impressive.

On top of that the Multi-player component is just fun and easy to get into. There are tons of unlockable characters to choose from, while you can’t edit them the way you want to. There are over 50 of them, so you shouldn’t have a problem choosing someone of interest. The real big draw to all this is that the Multi-player is basically like a console Multi-Massive Online Game, you hop online you get into a group with people and you can roam the world leveling up on bad guys and quests. And that’s not even mentioning the normal modes included in the game, ranging from capture the flag to standard death matches. When we add this together with the high volume things to do in single-player, it’s pretty certain that you won’t be putting this one down for months.

To top all of it off we have the astonishing visuals that Rockstar is now known for, I mean this game is absolutely gorgeous all around. The way the shadows pick up off of plant life in the daytime, or the way the sheriff badges glint when the sun hits them, to the droplets of rain as they come crashing down on the dusty desert. It’s an amazing sight to behold, they have pieced this game together brilliantly in an extremely large world. The way dust of the desert blows through the plains, or simply staring into the distance and watching the sunset. Not to mention the atmosphere of the city and the way people seem to live their lives in a believable manner.

If you sit about and watch people in town, they will go about their business completing everyday tasks like it is nothing. When you first hear shooting out in the plains and think it’s some kind of killing spree, and aim your gun only to find out that one of the men was hunting a coyote, you will start to watch where you aim your pistol, because these people are doing things similar to you. In fact they do everything that you can do in the game, they’ll commit crimes or attempt to stop them. They will lasso horses and hunt wildlife. Hell, there are even certain things they can do that you cannot. Like the first time I saw a man hop off his horse near a graveyard, run over to the front of it and begin to urinate in the bushes. I was shocked at the fact that he decided to desecrate graves, but also the fact that he had to use the restroom.

Yet you cannot mention the art and animation without stating how amazing the horses look, the way their muscles contort when they run, the way their mane moves fluidly during high speeds, to how they bounce with grace while trotting across the plains. It is quite a sight to see when an animal looks so organic in a video game. What makes things even better is the sound direction, with the way that horses hooves hit the ground while moving never gets old. To the simple sound of crickets at night, and the whizz of bullets that sound like they came straight out of the Good the Bad and the Ugly. It is hard not to pay attention to everything this game offers, and that’s not even mentioning the superb voice acting that accompanies the main characters and insignificant ones.

Of course everything is not all roses, but most of these things are minor problems that plague most free roaming game. Like shadows and textures popping in from the distance, or animations repeating constantly , certain sounds turn on and off, and the occasional frame-rate drop. You will see 3 out of 4 of these things occur while you’re playing Red Dead Redemption, but you will not see them happen often and you won’t care when you do. It’s just that kind of game really, the good totally outweighs whatever bad you think you see.

I could go on for hours talking about this game, in fact I had so much more to say. But this is supposed to be a half-ass review and that would be overdoing it. So in closing… this is the epitome of a casual to hardcore players dream. Which means that this is perfect for anyone that can’t finish long games, because even if you couldn’t finish Red Dead Redemption. You’d still find something that could preoccupy your time for months. If you haven’t gone out and bought it by now, you should probably stop watching this and go get it. That’s right… Red Dead Redemption is a definitive “A+” from me. Now before I close this review, I’m going to answer the question that some may be asking. Is this a Grand Theft Auto killer in anyway? The answer to that is a resounding “No”.

Red Dead Redemption is like a serious movie, whereas Grand Theft Auto is a light hearted action film. By this I mean that they both have their niche in storytelling. When you kill someone in GTA you don’t care and you go on a murdering spree, because the whole world told you that this is pretty much a joke. The TV shows, the magazines, the shows, even the people are all a bunch of quirky unrealistic personalities. That is not the case after playing Red Dead Redemption, the longer you play the more you realize these character are living these lives. When you see a prostitute about to get knifed by a thug, you may find yourself compelled to help out. Not cause you’ll get a lot of honor from it, but because you feel it’s the right thing to do. That’s the difference between the two games, but they are in no way better than each other. With that… off to start playing Alan Wake.

Skate 3 Review


[rokbox title=”Skate 3 Review” thumb=”http://www.geeksofgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/skate3.jpg” size=”854 505″ ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2qusv6FI7s&hd=1&autoplay=1[/rokbox]

Skate 3 opens up with one of the strangest intros I’ve seen in a long time, which goes somewhere from shooting bigfoot, workshop, video advertisements, and eating glue. It’s typical of the Skate games to come up with some highly imaginative way of making a skateboard for your character to ride. The entire cast of skaters and actors during this open cinematic, sets the tone for your character to do some incredibly stupid stunt that could have killed him. Oddly enough you somehow survived all of this to wake up to your buddy’s epiphany that you two should start your own skateboard company .Yeah… I’m guessing we’re not going to be taking the story seriously for this one.

Once you actually get into the game, you start off by naming your team and choosing a logo that suits you. Then you get to customize a skater with only a few options for actually making your character look the way you wish. However on the upside when it comes to the clothing, there are tons of options to choose from here. So even if you can’t make your guy an exact replica, you can at least make him look like a skate god in time. Only problem I saw with the logo selector was the fact that if you choose a logo, there isn’t anything you can really do with it besides scale it or rotate it.

When you finally get into the game, you’re greeted by the eccentric “Coach Frank” played by Jason Lee of My Name is Earl fame. He pretty much opens you up to the world of Skate 3, with a quick tutorial course before you are set out into the city with your buddy, Reda. This is pretty much where the storyline begins in this game, it’s very clear that it doesn’t take itself seriously either. It’s a zany world and you get to skate in it, and that’s pretty much the gist of the story. You’re thrown into a free city to complete challenges to sell boards and recruit team members. These can be done either offline or online depending on how you wish to become involved in the game.

If you couldn’t already tell from the intro movie, this cut-scene will solidify the fact. (Watch video)
When it comes down to the actual game play, not many things have changed since the original skate. Though not much was actually broken with the formula either, you use the right analog stick to jump, grind, and perform tricks. The face buttons are used to accelerate, brake, and jump on and off the board at anytime. Basically nothing has really changed here if you’ve played the previous Skate games. It’s all up to your dexterous fingers to keep up with the skateboarder on the screen, like I said though if you’ve played Skate or Skate 2… you’ll pretty much be at home here. If you haven’t played any of the previous Skate games, you pretty much get all of them in Skate 3.

When it comes down to the graphics, not many things have changed from Skate 2 or even the original Skate. The areas are still vibrant and colorful with plenty going on in the background, with the only noticeable frame hitches occurring during customization. Yet the overall models of the skaters are done well, and most of the environments and animations are fluent and very believable. The models aren’t phenomenal by any means, and they haven’t changed much from Skate 2… but they still work well for a yearly update. That’s fine because most of the problems are just insignificant and don’t get in the way of game play, but if you’re expecting an overhaul on the third game… don’t get your hopes up.

There are tons of features to mess around with in this game, and most people will spend their time doing the challenges of their choice. Like my personal favorite is the hall of meat challenges, doing head plants into the ground just brings a tear of joy to my eye. While others will have much heartfelt time spent in the skate park editor, create a player editor, or just free-skating around to nail a great trick to upload using the replay editor. Others will go online with their friends and skate around the park, or just harass other players by knocking them off their skateboards. There is plenty to do here in Skate 3, this game can keep you occupied with almost anything.

All in all you’ve got plenty to choose from in this game, it’s not much of a variation from the last game with only a few small changes. Meaning that this year you get a more Madden style approach to the Skate series, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re into the games to begin with. It doesn’t add much but it does not deviate from the formula that has recently made it more interesting than the Tony Hawk games. There are plenty of tricks and bails here to keep you interested for months, and the addition of a new city with all kinds of areas to mark and nail tricks keeps things interesting. However if the next Skate doesn’t push the limits a bit more with additions and actual co-operative play, we may start to lose interest and stick to our previous year Skates.

Dead to Rights: Retribution Review


[rokbox title=”Dead to Rights: Retribution Review” thumb=”http://www.geeksofgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/deadtorsights.jpg” size=”854 505″ ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jR-G_r7x4E&hd=1&autoplay=1[/rokbox]

Originally the Dead to Rights games were just used to pass the time while we waited for a new Max Payne. Unfortunately for this Dead to Rights game, it seems it wants to have its own identity nowadays. With a brawling system, cover system, slow motion, and instant kills… this could ultimately be this games undoing. Before I start this review in full, I’m going to say that I have nothing but negative things to say about this game. That and this will officially be my first real Half-Ass review, seeing as this is the first game where I’ve reached the middle point and said… why am I still playing this?

Let’s start with the graphics which could make a lot of people pick up a bucket immediately heave. Let’s look at our calendars and make sure that we realize what year it is, I’m pretty sure this isn’t 2005 and my games should not have dirt covered over them, with a side of dung, and the visual effect of stink lines coming out of them. Too bad that’s what this game offers me, just looking at it can make a person turn it off, take it out of the system, open the door, and throw it down the street. And it’s not that it doesn’t look like it shouldn’t be on the Xbox 360, it’s the fact that it just looks like… like… Crap! I mean you’re looking at right now… well if you don’t have your head in that bucket already.

If you’re still paying attention to this after that fiasco called the graphics, you’re probably one of those unique people that know graphics aren’t everything. Too bad that’s not the case with this game; It’s like going to a restaurant and ordering a $60 meal, only to get a hearty serving of crap soup. We get to sit here and listen to Jack reminiscing about the ass kicking he got over the weekend. This involves police officers watching a woman plummet to her death from a building while they sit outside casually watch. Jack however is a real cop and decides to go in and take out the whole damn building alone, while the rest of the police officers sit outside eating donuts. Too bad for Jack that the guy who was behind it all escapes on some kind of futuristic jet. Mwahahahaha, take that LAWBRINGER.

Right after that he gets chewed out by the coward Captain or something, but you know he’s a badass so he was talking trash the whole time. Get fired? PFFT! NOT JACK SLATE! Some other guy comes in and chews the coward out too, and pulls Jack out of the fire only to come onto him immediately afterwards. Jack brushes it off like the manly man he is and his dad walks up with a congratulations. This is where the game starts to get interesting… and by interesting I mean predictable as hell. I mean most games are a bit more subtle then to suddenly have friendly boxing match with dad out of nowhere. Then we’re walking and talking through the Police department. Oh what’s this… Dad is going to go out with you tonight into the hive of scum and villainy!

Not only that but they both go in without guns and any type of bullet-proof vests. I mean nothing could possibly go wrong in the hidden hideout of at least 100 guys… right? So the send the dog in to the get the keys, they beat the crap out of a bunch of henchmen, they find the evidence they need to get the bad guy, they have a big shootout when the swat team arrives, and finally they chase after the bad guy only to get spotted and let him run off without doing anything. The best part about all of this is that Dad chases after Mr. Bad Ass alone, while you go after this clown looking guy who might have some information! I WONDER WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO DAD! Anyway… this turns into a sloppy story about vengeance really quickly.

*Heavy sigh* What else is just staggering about this game is the controls, I just finished a review about Splinter Cell: Conviction. Where most every move was fluent out of cover, you’d get in a guys face and you could take him down without an issue. You will not see that in this game at all, there are many moments where Jack is running at a bad guy. You’re pressing the button to take his gun out of his hand, but why the hell is targeting the guy wayyyyyy in the background? Then you have to wait for him to unlock from that target, which takes 3 seconds too long to register. Only to turn towards the guy who’s been pointing his gun at you for 3 seconds… yes I did say pointing his gun. Line up properly in front of the guy so you can get the prompt to take his weapon out of his hand.

Which at this point he’ll do some shifty animation where he points his gun at the guy, and then you have perfect bead on this guy’s head to fire… and apparently you’ve shot him in the chest somehow. *Heavy groan* So you stand there baffled at how a headshot has not felled this baddie, and then you start shooting at him again as he punches and kicks past your bullets. Now you’re forced to do the terrible brawling game mechanic, that is super fast paced but you can’t properly target anybody. Once you’re fighting one guy… you’ll do some canned animations where you punch him in the stomach or in the face. Oh… but don’t get surrounded by a bunch of dudes and try to fight all of them off. You’ll not only be fighting the controls to try to keep locked on who you want to fight, but the camera will do its best to obstruct the entire fight from you.

Plus the bad guys really don’t offer much in the way of interesting combat, they run head long at you or just run back and forth in cover waiting for you to come punch them. I mean it’s bad… when you’ve defeated your 40th Chinese version of Lenny Kravitz with the same 3 insta-kill animations. Or notice the chugging while doing regular things like shooting a guy in slow motion. Orrrrrr… the 20th time you’re introduced to a named regular baddie who has no real reason for being introduced. It’s like why am I even being shown this guy, when he can take a million bullets like all the rest of these emo clowns running around. OH LOOK! HE’S GOT A MOHAWK AND A ROCKET LAUNCHER, HE’S A SPECIAL GUY! *BANG* OH NO… HE DIED TO ONE HEADSHOT! I GUESS HE WASN’T THAT SPECIAL AFTER ALL!

Not to mention that these guys are just wearing clothes most of the time, but if you don’t get a head shot you will be emptying entire clips into these enemies. And even when you do they’ll still bum rush you like they were the terminator. In fact even the armored enemies didn’t seem that special to me. I mean a couple more shots to the head or just unload on their feet isn’t really that much different compared to a regular guy. The main problem with the armored enemies comes up when you fight one of them toe to toe, you’ll mostly end up getting your ass opened up like a piñata. Which means you’ll probably just end up running after a gun, or telling Shadow to take a chunk out of them.

I mean seriously… there are just things in this game that just… ugh… Do not buy this game unless you are a glutton for punishment. In fact I wouldn’t even recommend this as a rent, even you are a fan the previous games, this one takes out elements from those and adds nothing you’ve never seen done better. I mean playing as a dog… Zelda! Take cover behind stuff and shooting… Damn near every shooting game now. I get to turn into the ultimate punch jockey when I don’t have a gun! Uncharted! Go play those other games, or something else that isn’t Dead to Rights: Retribution. Please… don’t look at this game anymore… run!

Splinter Cell: Conviction Review


[rokbox title=”Splinter Cell: Conviction Review” thumb=”http://www.geeksofgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/splintercell.jpg” size=”854 505″ ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcfBnGLl7KA&hd=1&autoplay=1[/rokbox]

The original game design for Splinter Cell: Conviction, was to have Sam Fisher running around looking like a bum. He didn’t have to hide anymore, his rugged beard and don’t tell me what to do hair was all he needed. This concept came with the that fact that he’d just throw people and tables everywhere, somehow living on the streets made him as strong as 20 hulks. Unfortunately, for Sam… this game design didn’t cut it in the 2010 era of video game design. So allow me to introduce you to the new… Sam Fisher.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Sam Fisher is back to being his bad ass self. He’s left Third Echelon after his issues in Double Agent, and apparently his daughter has been murdered. At least that’s the way the story starts off, but it quickly spirals into government conspiracy mechanisms. A lot of this stuff involves flashing memories on the walls, or push B to beat the crap out of a guy for more story elements. We’ve all seen this kind of stuff before, and there isn’t anything especially new here in the story department.

The real winner here is Sam Fisher kicking ass in his tight knit sweater, shooting people in the chest, breaking necks, Mass Hysteria… *Clear throat* pardon me. Sam Fisher has become James Bond and Jason Bourne rolled all up into one. Now before I get into what has changed in the series, I’m going to go ahead and state what hasn’t changed. Sam Fisher even after a long sabbatical has basically the same repertoire from previous games. He can only have two weapons at a time, he climbs poles upside down, he can hang over the side of walls, and he even crouches the same. Now that may sound as nitpicky as they come, but hey there isn’t a lot of bad things to say about this game.

Now for the new additions to Sam’s arsenal of “I’m Gone Kill yo ass”. First is the way the new cover system works, it’s a combination of the Rainbow Six Vegas cover and Gears of War movement. Except it is much more fluid in animation, Sam can easily jump from cover to cover without getting stuck on cover. That and he can easily dispatch an enemy that gets close to him, with his new takedown skills that are usually pretty brutal. However, the most entertaining of all would have to be the Mark and Execute move. Now Sam can mark a series of targets that he sees and execute them in one fluid John Woo moment.

Sam can also use some pretty impressive gadgets, like an emp blast that can blind and stun targets. Sam also has a gadget to see under doors and mark opponents, or he can use a sticky cam to mark, distract, or simply blow up enemies. Not to mention that every weapon in the game is upgradeable in some way, so you can always bring your favorite weapons to the slaughter. This may not be as fleshed out as it could be, but you take what you can get.

On the graphics side of things, well… Splinter Cell looks like a game that should have released in 2007. It doesn’t stack up with most games nowadays, and it definitely isn’t a Uncharted 2 or God of War 3 killer. Most of the character models look like glossy putty monsters, with an exception to Sam but that’s not to say he couldn’t do with a couple more textures. There are a few interesting environments in the game though, but nothing that will make or break things. This proves that graphics do not always determine what makes an impressive game.

When it comes to the AI, the enemies become increasingly more attentive to killing Sam as levels go by. At first you’ll steadily fight a bunch of inept guards who have no business fighting Sam Fisher, they’ll walk into every trap you spring for them like a dufus. But later on the enemies start to refuse to go into dark areas, and will become more resilient to gunfire, and attempt to flank more. Sam even runs into a few surprising enemies that force him to fight. That’s not to say there aren’t some downsides, but it isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen in a stealth game before. The fast paced nature of the combat outweighs the small issues.

Being my first Half-assed review, I think this is an excellent game to start off with. If you’re a casual player this game will probably run you 8 to 10 hours tops, but if you’re a hardcore player you can probably slip through it in 5 to 6 hours in a sitting. While I didn’t get a chance to test out the Co-op in this review, I can easily say that I will be playing the single-player again. With much incentive to go back and complete the in-game achievements. With that… I give Splinter Cell: Conviction’s single player… 4 half asses out of 5.