Saturday, November 15, 2014

Games I Liked 2014

Games I liked 2014

This year, I have fewer games to recommend in my annual installment of games I liked that I first played this year (they could have come out at any time).

Gone Home
Gone Home is a non-combat exploration game. You are a college student that comes home late one stormy night to an empty house. Obviously, you have to tear the house apart and snoop through your family's personal items to figure out where everyone is. Gone Home, while short, is a well crafted exploration game that really leaves the player feeling good at the end.

Shadow Warrior
This remake of the late '90's Shadow Warrior is the second game developed by Flying Wild Hog, and I loved it. It's a perfect meeting of new and old, pairing hordes of enemies and groan-worthy jokes with powerful abilities, an out-of-the-box plot, and some of the best controls for a PC game that I have ever played. Also, great job on an in-house engine. Until I looked it up, I assumed this was running on Unreal tech.

Sanctum 2
I liked Sanctum, even if all of my friends didn't really care for it. I like Sanctum 2 even more, even if some of my friends still don't get it. Sanctum 2 has a better learning curve, different character classes, and more tower types. Ideally played with friends.

Noteable Mentions

Payday: The Heist
Payday is a 4-player coop game where you play the part of masked criminals that must work together to take hostages, break into vaults, and kill police. While I'm not thrilled about killing policemen, the gameplay itself is a nice alternatvie to standards like Left 4 Dead. The biggest downside of Payday is that only the first two levels can be played on easy, after that you better know what you're doing.

How about a game set in the West for a change? I wrote a review for this one recently, so I'm not going to go into details in this article. Not a groundbreaking game but something a little different.

Far Cry 3

It's a big open-world game with lots of sidequests that'll give you many hours of gametime. Some action segments are pretty great, but I'm leaving this on as an Noteable Mention because the endings really soured the whole thing for me.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wolfenstein (2009) Review

Game: Wolfenstein
Year (s): 2009
Company: dev. Raven Software, Endrant (multiplayer portion only)
pub. Activision
Engine: modified id Tech 4 with Havok physics
Type: Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 74
My Score: 70! Do I hear 65? 65! Do I hear...

Price (as of November 8, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: Not available
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $21

My Game Time: 18 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

B.J. Blazkowicz returns in a follow-up to Return to Castle Wolfenstein. This time the nazis are using energy from the black sun dimension to create monsters and super weapons. Stop 'em, B.J.!

I got this on a $5 Steam sale, but it's no longer available. Speculation on the Steam forums is that Wolfenstein publishing rights may have been bought back from Activision by Bethesda for Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? Yes
Checkpoint Save? Yes

Combat and Gameplay
Basic shoot-and-crouch gameplay, because health regenerates if you take cover. It's not a mechanic I love, but it's bolstered with a variety of guns (you're not limited to just two or three at a time) and a few abilities. Abilities include a bullet shield, damage amplification, crappy slow motion, and good slow motion. Energy for ailities runs out fast, and can only be recharged at certain spots. So while you have the illusion of being a badass, you're mostly going to be crouching a lot and taking headshots of enemies with really easy A.I.

The exception for this is boss fights, which are generally a pain in the ass compared to the rest of the game. Also annoying are flying enemies that fire a volley of rockets at a time (= you're dead!).

Completing main and side missions earns gold. You can also find gold and intel hidden all over the place. Gold buys upgrades for weapons and abilities.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
2014 saw the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Set in an alternate history, it is not a direct sequel to the 2009 game. Developers of the most recent installment liked Wolfenstein 3D but thought the 2009 game, “was crap.”

Final Thoughts
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was good at the time, and as a sequel, this one feels rather uninspired. The stealth element of Return is gone. Silenced weapons will alert every enemy in the neighborhood. Collecting intel is fine, but looking behind a garbage can to find a bag of gold is pretty comical in 2009. I liked the variety of weapons and the upgrade system, but felt hampered by crappy abilities, easy A.I., and a frequent need to find cover.

If you want a fun new Wolfenstein game, I've heard good things about The New Order. If you want a shooter with cool abilities, I'd opt for Crysis or F.E.A.R. Or even Raven's 2010 game, Singularity. All good games. Pass on Wolfenstein 2009.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

GUN review (video game)

Game: GUN
Year (s): 2005
Company: dev. Neversoft
pub. Activision
Engine: unknown
Type: Shooter with minor RPG elements
Viewpoint: Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 76
My Score: 88

Price (as of November 1, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $31

My Game Time: 10 hours, 90% completion

Obligatory Trailer:


You go on a steamboatt with your father. Indians attack and your father dies. You set out to find out why the boat was attacked, and wind up on seeking to stop an evil man's bloodthirsty path to the lost city of gold.

I couldn't find out what engine this game uses. It's not on Wikipedia, and the generic title of the game makes it impossible to find anything online. As far as 2005 games go, graphics are pretty similar to Unreal Engine 2. I didn't run into any noticeable bugs.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes, usually
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? No
Checkpoint Save? Totally

Combat and Gameplay
Ride horses! Shoot horse thieves! Throw dynamite! If you're hurt, drink some whiskey! I'm surprised there aren't more shooters set in the Wild West (the only others I can think of are Red Dead Redemption and Call of Juarez). Aside from the main mission, the player can collect bounties, hunt trophy game, play poker, and do some odd jobs for the locals. Doing these things give you money, which you can you use to upgrade weapons, horses, equipment, et cetera.

With the exception of a few tricky boss fights, combat stays on the easy side. This is largely due to the, “quick draw,” slow-motion mechanic. Slow motion is always fun, but in the game they include auto-aim with it.

Final Thoughts
I don't know where I heard about this game, but I'm glad I did. While it's not a long game, the action is almost nonstop. The West is a welcome change of scenery from the usual zombies, aliens, demons, nazis, and so on. It even won some awards from gaming magazines. I'm not saying this is the best game ever, but if you can pick it up on sale on Steam it's a fun romp that has aged pretty well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thief Gold and I Am Alive Reviews

Game: I Am Alive
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Darkworks, Ubisoft
pub. Ubisoft
Engine: modified Unreal Engine 2.5 w/ Havok Physics
Type: Survival Climber

The Game
I bought this game with a gift card, largely because it has a great title. It was also post-apocalyptic (earthquakes and sandstorms, in this case) and looked like it might be a shooter of shorts. The playable character has been walking for months to be reunited with his family after taking a business trip across the country.

I didn't get too far into it. Gameplay is mostly climbing on stuff. Combat was basic and always came with prompts to make sure you did it right. Bullets were quite rare, and if you climbed too much at once you'd lose your grip and die. So, it's definetely survival, and somewhat of a crappy shooter.

The plot interested me well enough, but I couldn't find the objective on one of the early levels (climbing up a mall). Maybe they could have made it glow. Maybe I missed a prompt on part of the screen I wasn't looking at. I'll never really know. After spending about 2 hours climbing (and sometimes dying from climbing) around the same area, I gave up. This is not a worthwhile game.

Game: Thief Gold
Year (s): 1999
Company: dev. Looking Glass Studios
pub. Eidos
Engine: Dark Engine
Type: Game: Stealth

The Game
This was one of the many games I bought on the cheap, largely to see why it was so popular at the time. It was one of the first games that utilized stealth. You're a thief, and you're going to steal things. Or you can just kill people. You have the option, at least in the little bit I played.

While the gameplay may have been revolutionary at the time, the controls do not translate well to today's gamers. If you remember Duke Nukem or Hexen, there were buttons all over the keyboard to access inventory, use specific items, et cetera. Controls for Thief Gold are a mangled combination of WADS, mouse, and the aforementioned controls of games of latter years.

There were too many buttons to manage easily, and too many to rebind rationally. This is one of those games that I would have liked when it came out, but now I'd be happier to just play Dishonored.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Contagion Review

Game: Contagion
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Monochrome LLC
pub. Monochrome LLC
Engine: Source
Type: Survival Shooter, Multiplayer, Co-op
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 62
My Score: 62

Price (as of October 4, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay: $11 (Steam key)

Obligatory Trailer:

Zombies! Contagion is a spiritual sequel to Zombie Panic! Source, a game I have never played.


It's the good-ol' reliable Source engine. You know what to expect.

Save System: None

One of Contagions big selling points is that it plays a little differently each time. Locations of weapons, ammo, and necessary items, are not fixed. The path to get from A to B changes. One time a hallway might be blocked so you have to use the stairs. Another time the stairs might be blocked and you have to crawl through ventilation. Level areas are pretty big, so this leaves even a moderately familiar player wandering around not knowing quite where to go. Enemies respawn on a timed basis, but ammo remains scarce.

Combat and Gameplay
There are a few different game types, and I'm going to discuss them one at a time. In Escape, you complete objectives in an effort to be evacuated. The levels are enormous, and they aren't broken into parts as in Left 4 Dead.

Hunted is a survive-as-long-as-you-can game mode in an enclosed area. It is pretty mindless but might be fun with others.

Extraction is the only game type I really enjoyed. Find survivors and escort them to safety, rinse, repeat.

I had two big problems when it came to asking others to try Contagion. First, there are only a few maps for any game type. The randomization concept, which at first sounds like a good idea, is ultimately frustrating in the execution. In some game modes, if you die you come back as a zombie. If you are a zombie, you suck. Even if you manage to shamble up to somebody, you might land a few lame punches and then just get shot in the head. Mostly you just get shot in the head, and have no indication of which direction to go in (if you're a human, your cell phone won't show you a path but will at least point you in the right direction).

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Final Thoughts

I tried Contagion on a free weekend, and played it for several hours to determine if I wanted to pick it up while it was on sale. The answer: no. The maps are very limited, the zombie gameplay is awful, and the randomization premise didn't do it for me. While this looks like a Left 4 Dead knockoff, you're better off just playing that instead.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

God Mode Review

Game: God Mode
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Old School Games
pub. Atlus
Engine: Saber 3D engine v.S4 with Havok physics
Type: Co-Op Arena, Old School gameplay
Viewpoint: Third-person
Metacritic Score: 58
My Score: A game for people that liked Quake, but thought it had too much plot.

Price (as of , 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay: Not Available

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot and Gameplay

“Welcome to Hades! That's Hell in a toga.” You're a descendant of a god, you're dead, and each time you start you hear how you died. Means of death are generally funny acts of stupidity told in a very sarcastic manner. That's it for plot.

There are five, “mazes.” Each one is a level made up of several seperated sections. Finish one area, go to the next. Pick up health, armor, and ammo by running over it.

Five levels? Well, it's not so simple. Each independent part of a maze will have a random Test of Faith. These span a range of modifications that very from silly (all enemies wear hats), to easy (infinite ammo and no reload), to difficult (enemies are larger and tougher).

Gameplay is run and gun, with magical abilities that must be charged by killing monsters. As you progress you gain experience and gold. Experience levels allow you to buy more weapons, abilities, and upgrades, and skins with your gold.


Saber 3D Engine is a new one for me. It looks about as good as anything else, and does a solid job of supporting the large numbers of enemies that will be on-screen at once. That being said, it's not perfect. Every so often the game would fail to launch correctly, and I'd have to exit out and try again. While playing, alone or with others, I would sometimes notice significant lag.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
There is no further content, sequel, or fan-created mazes that I could find. With how prevalent the term God Mode is, and the relatively low popularity of the game, it's difficult to search for information on the internet.

Final Thoughts

God Mode is a pretty great ten dollar game. It's a little silly, and has some mindless repetitive replay value (boosted further by all of the unlockable items you can buy). On any difficulty, the number of monsters is fixed, so playing co-op is a lot more fun and allows the player to do something other than easy mode. All that being said, the biggest downside of this game is that, even with a couple dozen different Tests of Faith, there's only five levels.

So while I like the game in general, and would recommend it if you have a four-player posse for some mindless fun, I wouldn't recommend it for long-term solo action unless you are really, really bored.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Far Cry 3 Review

Game: FarCry 3
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Ubisoft
pub. Ubisoft
Engine: Dunia Engine 2
Type: Open world shooter with some RPG elements
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 88
My Score: 85

Price (as of September 2, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $29.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $11

My Game Time: 45 hours

Obligatory Trailer:


A bunch of twenty-somethings party on a remote island, then get kidnapped by the local pirates. You escape and fight with the natives of the island against the pirates to free your friends.

Dunia Engine 2

This engine looks pretty good, and there isn't any lag while wandering around the enormous landscape. I ran into glitches a few times, but these could be remedied by relaunching the game.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? Yes
Checkpoint Save? Yes

Combat and Gameplay

Far Cry 3 is a shooter in which you rarely are required to use stealth. The sneaking around system in this game is pretty easy to get the hang of. There are lots of weapons you can get, as well as weapon modifications. As you level up, you can choose different perks to enhance your preferred gameplay method (the three trees are tank, stealth, and long range. You are not restricted to one tree).

Hunting is an option that lets the player craft items that will allow them to carry more weapons, ammo, loot, etc.

While there are a few confined areas, most of the game is done in an open world environment, allowing the player to approach encampments from any direction. Jungle cover is plentiful.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
Far Cry 3 has a 2-player Co-Op campaign. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon uses the same engine and a lot of the same mechanics for a great little game that has nothing to do with the rest of the franchise. Far Cry 4 is due out late this year.

The Good
This game can be quite long, and it has some pretty fun moments. At times it's like you're the hero of a movie. Characters are memorable.

The Bad
I did a lot of sidequests and hunting, and this diluted the scarce plot. I didn't like the endings (there are two). I didn't like being forced to sneak at times, and some of the side quests were a huge pain. Stab two bears to death? I already killed six leopards with a bow, give me a break. I bitched quite a bit while playing through this one, and didn't get 100% completion.

The Verdict
I LOVED Blood Dragon. This game is not as distilled. The main storyline, while not the best, had some very enjoyable moments. Gameplay was average, but the abundance of sidequests, hunting, and exploration give this game a lot of game time that sets it above average. I don't consider Far Cry 3 a great game, but I would recommend it for people that love open world shooters with a good amount of hours per dollar.