Monday, December 24, 2012

Mycosynth Lattice Deck

I love building decks around cards that affect everyone.  Mycosynth Lattice makes all permanents artifacts.    Some of these cards are a little pricy, so it'll take a while to gather them all together.  Also, Hellkite Tyrant isn't printed yet, it's due to be released as part of Gatecrash in February.

Hellkite Tyrant is:  Card Type: Creature

Creature Type: Dragon

Power/Toughness: 6/5

Casting Cost: 4RR

Card Text: Flying, trample
Whenever Hellkite Tyrant deals combat damage to a player, gain control of all artifacts that player controls.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control twenty or more artifacts, you win the game.
It's a pretty simple combo deck.

Mycosynth Lattice
60-Card Format
Blue, Red

4 Mycosynth Lattice
4 Fabricate
1 Tinker
1 Arcum Dagson
2 Goblin Welder

4 Hellkite Tyrant
4 Hurkyl's Recall
4 Copy Artifact

3 Unwinding Clock
3 Kill Switch

4 Iron Myr
4 Silver Myr
2 Vedalken Engineer


1 Tolarian Academy
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Great Furnace
2 Buried Ruin
9 Multicolor Lands

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Few Games in Brief

These are a few games that I've played recently, but don't feel they merit a full-length review.

Alice: Madness Returns

This action platformer sequel was released about ten years after the first game. Alice is still nuts, and again battles her way through a demented Wonderland. There's really more jumping than battling, but whatever. Madness Returns keeps the same look as the first, but with a graphical facelift (Unreal Engine 3 instead of id Tech 3).

Madness Returns addressed pretty much all of my complaints of the first by looking better and having a more enjoyable combat system. That being said, it's overall an average game. My game snagged on a glitch after I'd played for about five hours, and I couldn't play it anymore without starting from scratch and/or screwing with the game's ini files. Bleck.

Just Cause and Just Cause 2

These games portray themselves as action platformers, where a lone CIA operative is dropped on an island with a mission to overthrow the government. In truth, these are Grand Theft Auto clones. I don't care for GTA, so I didn't play this for very long. It didn't really make sense that I was taking out hits, peddling drugs, and stealing cars, “For the Revolution!”

I bought both Just Cause games at the same time. Just Cause 2 does not support Windows XP, so I can't play it without upgrading.   

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mass Effect 2 Review

Game:  Mass Effect 2
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  BioWare
pub.  EA
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  Shooter, RPG
Viewpoint:  Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 94
My Score:  Satisfying gameplay with zero plot calories!

Price (as of November 27, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $10

Game Time: 30 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

Mass Effect Review:


Mass Effect focused on fighting the robotic Geth and their overlords, The Reapers.  Mass Effect 2 begins with the main character dying and then brought back to life two years later.  Mass Effect 2 has no Reapers, almost no Geth, and a irrelevant story mostly about finding a new crew to save the day.

Can I play the game already?

At about fiteen gigs, this take a while to download.  Then, there's the usual DirectX and C++/Visual Basic minor install.  Then, the game had to convert files to a newer format, which took about forty-five minutes.  Then, I had to sign up for EA Online.  I bought the delluxe edition, which has three product keys.  Steam will normally allow users to copy and paste a product key, but with three, this isn't an option.  I manually entered the key code.  Annoying.

I spent about ten mintures trying to unlock the digital deluxe edition content.  Having just signied up for a EA Online, I was not at all interested in signing up for additional crap (Bioware fan club and Mass Effect 2 social network).

I then spent a bit of time (unsuccessfully) attempting to marry my ending Mass Effect save files with the beginning Mass Effect 2 files.  The idea that decisions made early effect the entire trilogy is a huge selling point, and the failure of this aspect is sloppy and piss-poor example of design.

To sum things up, I downloaded a massive game, and got jerked around for an hour afterwards.  I never accessed the DIgital Deulxe content, or my previous save files, and the experience tainted my ongoing gaming experience..  

Save System

Manual Save?  Yes (when not in combat)
Quck Save?  No
Auto Save?  Yes
     Details: Area Load, Checkpoint


It's still you and two sidekicks, shooting and using powers.  Mass Effect 2 makes greater use of cover, and has streamlined the combat system.  Looting is no longer a thing.

Pretty much everything from hacking and dialogue options to "karma" and mining have returned.  There are some changes laying around, some I liked, some I didn't.  All in all, as enjoyable as the first from a gameplay persepctive.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

The edition I purchased had minor DLC (a few additonal armor and such) that weren't worth the hassle of unlocking).  Mass Effect 3 came out the summer of 2012.  Mass Effect 3 requires a user to install EA Origin (another thing to sign up for) which will not run concurrent with Steam.  Origin has had a lot of complaints, such as having one's account hacked.

Final Thoughts

I feel like this game could have been left out of the triology.  For a variety of reasons touched on already, I have zero interest in Mass Effect 3.  I think of Mass Effect 2 as, "that crappy song by that awesome band ."  OK, but not great.  I recommend the first, but not this one.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Games I Liked: 2012

Games I Enjoyed in 2012

This is the third annual installment of games (new or old) that I first played in the last year and would recommend.  In alphabetical order: 


Bulletstorm is absurdly profane, overly violent, and that's the joy of it.  While the usual length for the genre, the ludicrous humor and interactive combat keep the player entertained.

Dear Esther

There's really nothing else like this one.  It's not a shooter.  Plot-driven, combat-free, and, in the end, just plain mysterious.  Dear Esther is an exceptionally well made experience, with small changes each play.  Beautiful to look at, a solid score, and a wonderfully haunting quality.


A lot of people criticized this one.  The graphics aren't Crysis 2.  There isn't a plot.  This is'nt Fallout 3.  Who cares>  Between the AI variety, racing, and weapon choices, RAGE has a lot to offer.  I have had more fun with the RAGE combat system than most other shooters in recent years.  The 2-player co-op mini-campaigns, and up to four-player racing, combine with the single player mode to make the game two to three times the length of the twelve hour standard   This game also has one of my favorite opening cinema tics.


This one is on the fence.  The single-player mode is not done very well, due to a lack of story and a horrible tutorial.  For a single player, it's not good.  And while all my friends don't agree, I think Sanctum is a nice, alternative, casual game to play with others.  

Serious Sam 3: BFE

Take Duke Nukem 3D, remove the sex, and multiply the number of enemies by 10.  Alone, the game is an incredibly challenging old school shooter, with some memorable funny lines.  With friends, the game offers a variety of co-op and versus game types for up to sixteen players.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Killing Floor Review

Game:  Killing Floor
Year (s):  2009
Company:  dev. Tripwire Interactive
pub.  Tripwire Interactive
Engine:  Unreal Engine 2.5 (modified)
Type:  Survival Horror, Shooter, Multiplayer oriented
Viewpoint:  First-Person
Metacritic Score: 72
My Score:  Mindless killing spree on easy!  Too hard to survive on harder modes.

Price (as of November 11, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $15

Obligatory Trailer:


Zombies (known in this as specimens) are running amok.  Kill 'em all.  There is no campaign mode, no real dialogue, and no story here.

Save System

Manual Save?  No
Quck Save?  No
Auto Save?  No
Checkpoint Save?  No

Either you survive all the waves on a level, or you die and go back to the level selection screen.


There are a handful of character classes, each with their preferred weapon class.  While you can use any weapons you like, if you focus on one you can gain permanent perks that make you better at that class.  Anyone can weld doors shut or heal teammates, but engineers and medics weld and heal the best, respectively.  

While difficulty and number of waves can be adjusted, there is only one game type.  Survive a wave, try to get to the store for better gear (you have only a short time to reach it), and then repeat.  

With 200 achievements, Killing Floor could fill a lot of time for completionist gamers.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

There are a number of DLC that add maps and character skins.  If you like the base game, everything Killing Floor goes on sale fairly regularly.

Final Thoughts

I figured this would be a knock-off of Left 4 Dead, but it's not great.  The perk system is really interesting, but no story and only one game type is tedious.  Easy mode lives up to its name, while anything else is impossible for an un-perked solo play.  This may be one of those games that flops alone but shines with others, but I'm not enough impressed to recommend it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Thing About Red

I haven't written anything about magic in a while, for various reasons.  Figured it was about time to do so.

Red has strong early game and can dominate in many two-player formats.  Unlike other colors, red has few options later in the game and a lack of consistency in multiplayer.  

As far as tribal decks, Goblins are strong early but weak afterward, and can't compete well against multiple targets.  The mountainwalk ability of Goblin King is arguably the worst tribal ability, as red has no way to change land type.  Soldiers, Slivers, Merfolk, and others have an edge over goblins in games with several players.

As to abilities, Red's favorite is haste.  Haste is unique compared to other static abilities.  Haste is potentially useful once per creature, while other abilities can give an ongoing advantage.

Red has decent weenies, but not the best.  Red has big flying dragons, but, except for green, every color has big flyers.  I have had success with dragon-themed decks, when I had mana to cast them.

Red has some neat global enchantments, and I have had fun using Manabarbs, Confusion in the Ranks, Power Surge, Smoke, and Mudslide (often paired with global artifact abilities).  These decks were fun but unreliable.  These types of utility global enchantements aren't seen in red much now.

Red occasionally has a presence in mass destruction.  These usually cost a great deal of mana, and are rarely competitive against alternatives.  While red makes a show of land destruction, black's Sinkhole and white's Armageddon have lower mana costs.

There are a few sets that seemed to specifically shaft red.  The Mirage block gave every color except red a tutor for one mana.  Years later Urza's Saga finally gave red a one-mana tutor (Gamble) requiring a random discard afterward.  Ouch.

Urza's Saga had a legendary land for each color.  Three could generate huge amounts of mana, and are still popular in type one.  The lands for red, and black, were crap by comparison.

I conclude.  Red is good at two things: being fast and dealing direct damage.  Chaos is mostly a thing of the past.  This focus really limits my options for reliably successful mono-red decks in 3-4 free-for-alls, and I wish there was more variety in the color.  As it stands, I almost always pair red with other colors (most often with blue) to build the kind of decks that work for me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Game:  Tom Clancy's Slinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Year (s):  2005
Company:  dev.  Ubisoft
pub.  Ubisoft
Engine:  Modifired Unreal Engine 2.5
Type:  Third-Person Stealth Shooter
Metacritic Score: 94
My Score:  Not my cup of tea.

Price (as of October 9, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $8.50

Obligatory Trailer:


You are Sam Fisher, black-ops agent.  Infiltrate hostile premises, recover intel, and eliminate bad guys.


This one uses a modified Unreal Engine 2.5, so it looks more or less like UT 2K4.  Maybe a little bit better.


This is of the stealth genre.  Nightvision, infrared vision, binoculars, and EMF goggles help greatly to locate hostiles while you crawl around in the dark.  Limited ammunition makes things more difficult.

I have done some sneaky fighting in games, mostly in the RPGs.  Chaos Theory had some design choices that caused me to lose interest almost immediately.  First, you can't run.  You can crawl, or you can walk (the speed difference between the two is negligible).  If you're gun in in your hand, you are immobile.  While that may make some sense as far as aiming, it also makes the player an easy target, and it's not very fun.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

"In 1996 Clancy co-founded the video game developer Red Storm Entertainment..." (Wikipedia).  Red Storm was later acquired by Ubisoft.  Dozens of games have the Tom Clancy name attached, and that's why I bought this one on a sale.  If I liked it, there was a lot more where that came from.

Final Thoughts

There are people that like stealth games, and I'm not one of them.  For me the game was ten minutes of mission briefing, ten minutes of walking obnoxiously slow, using all my bullets to kill a few guys, then mashing buttons trying to change weapons while being riddled with bullets.  I'm glad I didn't pay much for it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Final Doom Review

Game:  Final Doom
Year (s):  1996
Company:  dev.  TeamTNT, Casali brothers, id Software
pub.  many
Engine:  id Tech 1
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Metacritic Score: Not Available
My Score:  ker-BLAM!

Price (as of September 18, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (used, with shipping):  $10-15

Game Time: 15-20 hours on default, cheating whenever things got stupid

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

Doom/Doom 2 Review:

Plot and Engine

Final Doom is comprised of two 32-level episodes, each utilizing monsters, weapons, and textures from Doom 2.  Both have minor plots of, "portals, demons, blah blah blah."  Final Doom was built on the Doom engine (id Tech 1), so there's no surprises in appearance.

Developers and Gameplay

Plutonia Experiment was developed by the Casali brothers, who were chosen to develop half of Final Doom after sending some of their levels to American McGee.  The first half of Plutonia almost exclusivly featured only the hardest enemies, and ranged in difficulty from "challenging" to "possibly impossible."  The latter half of had a more balanced monster selection, and the closest-to-Doom feel of Final Doom.

Evilution was developed by TeamTNT, a group of WAD-making fans that were active on the Doom editing mailing list.  Their contribution was going to be released for free, but the project was acquired by id before that happened.  Evilution favored large numbers of enemies, the majority of which are humans and imps.  Compared to Plutonia, these were easy.  Evilution uses midi files that I hadn't heard before.

Not to be Confused With...

Thy Flesh Consumed was an additional, damn-hard episode added to the edition of Doom entitled, "The Ultimate Doom."

Master Levels for Doom 2 was an expansion pack for Doom 2.  This contained 21 new levels, which were contracted to third-party developers by id.

Maximum Doom, commercially sold, had nearly 3000 levels.  These were mostly a compilation of amateur WADs found on the internet, so quality was not guaranteed.

Final Thoughts

This is very dated.  I would have played it to death when released, but this was my first time playing it.  While I still appreciate it for what it is, I've become spoiled with more recent games, and have little patience for finding, "that damn switch."

Level design was inconsistent, and the programmer's fondness for a select handful of enemies made progression tedious.  All in all, Final Doom is more Doom gameplay with subpar design.  I find nostalgia in the originals and felt that this (which I first played about fifteen years after release) fell flat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Corinne Yu: Someone You Should Know

Corinne Yu: Someone You Should Know

Currently, Yu works for Microsoft as a principal engine programmer for the Halo team. That's pretty great in a field where Lara Croft is the best-known female. But that's not all!

Here's a short game programming resume:
-Lead Engine Programmer for Prey, published by 3D Realms
-Director of Technology for ION Storm, the developers of Deus Ex
-Director of Technology for Gearbox, developers of Borderlands

As you can see, Yu has been at several companies, working with diverse engines and approaches. But that's not all!

Corinne Yu has contributed to the space shuttle program, and has been involved with US particle accelerators. The Department of Energy honored her with a national award for her nuclear physics research. She has also earned accolades from the Game Developers Conference.

But that's not all! On top of all that, she's cute, married, and raising a daughter.

I don't need to say anything else. An amazing individual: Corinne Yu is a name you should know.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tribes: Ascend Reviewed

Tribes: Ascend
Year (s):  2012
Company:  dev.  Hi-Rez Studios
pub.  Hi-Rez Studios
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3 (modified)
Type:  First-Person Multiplayer Shooter
Metacritic Score:  87
My Score:  A solid release for the Skiing/Jetpack genre.

Price (as of September 4, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  Free To Play
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  More Than Free

Game Time:  Ad Nauseum

Obligatory Trailer:


Like most multiplayer-oriented shooters, there is no apparent plot.  There's nothing to say about the engine.  I will have an entry in the next month concerning engines.


Two things attracted me to this.  One, it was free.  Two, I'd heard good things about Tribes games ten years ago and wanted to get a taste.  It didn't taste like much.

This follows the Free To Play ("Freemium") model of sale.  The basics are free, but if you want access to every weapon and character class, you'll either have to cough up some coin or play like it's your job.  Personally, I prefer to pay upfront instead of being nickel and dimed.

The gameplay itself is multiplayer focused, with the usual gametypes.  Instead of having to run, players can quickly ski downhill, and maintain momentum by activating the jetpack at the hill's trough.  Momentum accumulates, so masters of the game zip around like crazy.  I didn't have access to everything, but some classes seemed clearly superior, at least to a casual noob.

Combat resembled children playing soccer.  Two dozen players swarm a spot, flying and skiing and blasting away.  The largess of movement hinders aiming.  After spawning, players try to find that nugget of action on the large, otherwise uneventful, maps.  

Learning the basics is aided by a crazy amount of tutorials.  Unfortunately, these buffer from the internet instead of drawing from the downloaded game file.  Not ideal.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

For this, DLC are content that will be unlocked if purchased.  I don't care to look if there are sequels.

Final Thoughts

I like the skis + jetpack movement, but I felt the game was inept chaps on huge maps, with what seemed like uneven (and sometimes indistinguishable) classes.  Team Fortress 2 is superior for your freemium multiplayer needs.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Darksiders Review

Game:  Darksiders
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  Vigil Games
pub.  THQ
Engine:  Darksiders Engine (no official engine name) using Havok physics
Type:  Third-Person Platformer, Dungeon Crawler
Metacritic Score:  83
My Score:  Hack, slash, hey!  A boomerang!

Price (as of August 29, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $12

Game Time: 38 hours first time, completionist style

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot and Stuff

This is not a shooter, but it's a decent game and there's no reason not to branch out.  More info under gameplay.

War, the Horseman of the Apocalypse, hears the call of the final seal breaking.  He begins the end of the world.  Unfortunately, the last seal is still intact.  The war between angels and demons renders humanity extinct, and everyone is after War, the fall guy.  War sets out not to prove his innocence, but to take vengeance on any that played a part in his frame-up.


Engine looks fine.  Nothing new.  I had a problem with recognition of achievements, but I'm not sure if that was a fault of the engine or a problem with Steam.


Darksiders is, essentially, a Zelda type of game.  In each area, you find an item necessary to progress and continue to the next dungeon.  There are some simple puzzles.

Combat is inspired by God of War.  Three different weapons are present, with a variety of moves for each that can be strung together in combos.  "Wrath" abilities add further means of attack, as do several of the items found in dungeons.

Parts of the game are a huge pain.  You might need to put it aside for a few days at some points.  

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Darksiders 2 came out in August of this year.  The player takes on the role of the horseman Death.

Final Thoughts

If you ever played Zelda anything and though, "I wish this was absurdly violent," then this one is for you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Game:  Tomb Raider Anniversary
Year (s):  2007
Company:  dev.  Crystal Dynamics, Buzz Monkey                                       Software, Nixxes Software
                  pub.  Eidos Interactive
Engine: Crystal Engine
Type:  Third-Person Gymnastics with occasional                        gunplay
Metacritic Score:  83
My Score:  Hey, a remake of an average game!.

Price (as of July 31, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  ~$8

What is It?

Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a re-skinned version of the original Tomb Raider, released ten years afterwards. 

Graphics are superior to the original, but not competitive at release.  They look like something that came out around 2004, not 2007. 

Gameplay is virtually identical to what I remembered, which isn't a good thing.  All the jumping, vaulting, and other acrobatics require clumsy key combinations.  I couldn't get the hang of basic things like dodging. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

There are a number of games in the franchise, along with a few movies.  I can't recommend any of the other games because I haven't played them. 

Final Thoughts

The first Tomb Raider was known perhaps more for having a nude patch that for its merits as a game.  I got this for the nostalgia value, but the messy controls caused me to quickly lose interest.  Pass on this one.    

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Metro 2033 Review

Game:  Metro 2033
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  4A Games
pub.  THQ
Engine:  4A Engine
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Metacritic Score:  81
My Score:  A poorly developed, crappy game.

Price (as of July 20, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $11.50

Game Time: Not Applicable

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Review:


The player takes on the role of Artyom, who was born in Moscow right before nuclear holocaust.  Twenty years later, he remembers nothing of the surface, as the survivors have found refuge in the Moscow Metro tunnels.  Mutant attacks are on the rise, and Artyom must journey to Polis Station for help, braving monsters, bandits, dark tunnels, and the toxic surface along the way.

The plot of Metro 2033 is based on a 2005 novel of the same title by Dmitry Glukhovsky.

Who is 4A?

4A, based in Ukraine, was founded by two former members of GSC Game World a year before the release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.  These two were the main creators of GSC's X-Ray Engine, so the 4A Engine they created for Metro is nearly identical (there has been some contention as to them being seperate engines).  Graphically, it's on the low end of what shooters looked like in 2010.


Ammo is scarce, and stealth is nearly a must.  Other than that, aim and fire.  The tunnels are more difficult because of darkness, and the surface (also dark) is more difficult because the player must wear a gas mask and have adequate filters while avoiding any radioactive water.  You can carry a handful of weapons and medkits.  Health will regenerate, but very slowly.  Checkpoint saving only.

The game is just as bad as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., for a lot of the same reasons.  While you might have your light off in a tunnel so dark you can't see your enemies, they'll headshot you from fifty feet away.  This, along with an amazing assortment of ineffective arms, make for a gaming experience that is much too difficult to enjoy.  If there was a quick save option, it might be bearable (that's the only way I got through S.T.A.L.K.E.R.), but there isn't one.

The game sought immersion with a lack of HUD, but failed to connect the player emotionally to the characters or their situations.  After dying twenty times in a row at the same spot, I decided I had better things to do than bang my head against this game.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Metro: Last Light is scheduled for release in 2013.  This is a direct sequel to Metro 2033.  While author Glukhovsky had some input, the game has no relation to Metro 2034, the second novel.

Final Thoughts

It's a stinker; don't bother.  If you want a fun game set in Russia, Singularity is still the best bet.  If you want a fun post-apocalyptic game, Fallout 3 or RAGE are superior.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BioShock 2 Review

Game:  BioShock 2
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  2K Marin, 2K China
                  pub.  2K Games
Engine:   Unreal Engine 2.5 (modified) using Havok physics
Type:  First-Person Shooter with RPG and Survival Horror elements
Metacritic Score: 88
My Score:  Not Applicable

Price (as of July 17, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $8

Game Time:  Not Applicable

See Also: 

Plot, Engine, Gameplay

The game begins with you, a Big Daddy, forced to kill yourself.  Ten years later, after the events of the first game, you wake up.  Rapture is still a violent mess. 

The game looks identical to the first.  Something to note, the main developer of BioShcok, Irrational Games, was not involved in this sequel. 

Gameplay is very similar to the first, with small changes that are mostly negligible.  The hacking minigame was changed in a fashion that is impossible for the ten percent of males (like me) who are red/green colorblind.  Hacking is, at times, mandatory, so the game became unplayable after about an hour. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

A handful of DLC were developed, split between single- and multi- player content.  Not all of these are available for the PC. 

BioShock Infinite is due out in 2013  This is set in a steampunk floating city, and is being developed solely by Irrational Games.  It is not directly related to the other BioShock games but is set in the same universe.

Final Thoughts

I like BioShock.  I probably would have liked BioShock 2, but the hacking function left me extremely disappointed and unable to recommend this game. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dear Esther Review

Game:  Dear Esther
Year (s):  2012 (finished commercial product)
Company:  dev.  thechineseroom and Robert Briscoe
pub.  Steam
Engine:  Source
Type:  First-Person... Story
Metacritic Score:  77
My Score:  Fantastic, surreal, and unique, but requires a certain mindset.

Price (as of July 4, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  Not Available

Game Time:  2 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot, Gameplay, and Atmosphere

This game is entirely plot-based.  The player explores a deserted island, interacting with nothing.  Certain spots trigger the narrator to speak.  The scenery is beautiful, and the soundtrack is perfect.  The narration isn't the same with each play, and some of it is quite obtuse.  Sometimes narration is contradictory.  In the end, it's a beautiful, trippy game that you have to be in the mood for.  While each play adds details, they don't make any clearer what is going on, so it is left to the player to make their own conclusions.


From Wikipedia:  "The original rendition of Dear Esther was one of several mods developed by thechineseroom while the studio was still a research project at the University of Portsmouth.[9] The project was funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by Dan Pinchbeck, a professor and lecturer at the university."

In 2009 former DICE employee Robert Briscoe led thechineseroom in remaking the original mod, making the environment lusher and remastering the soundtrack.  When the original funds ran out, The Indie Fund stepped in.

Final Thoughts

The Good:  It's achingly well-developed, and astonishingly unique.  The end result is haunting, drawing more plays and more interest.  Cheap, and two hours are more gripping than many games achieve in twelve hours.

The Bad:  There is no final verdict as to the plot, and the lack of gameplay interaction may discourage some players.  You absolutely have to be in the mood for this, and it's best played without break.  It's short.

The Verdict:  I love this game, but I can understand if someone else hates it.  It's brilliant, but everyone won't enjoy it.  It is the best of times, and so on.  I highly recommend it with a grain of salt.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quake 4 Review

Game:  Quake 4
Year (s):  2005
Company:  dev.  Raven Software, under supervision of id Software
pub.  Activision
Engine:  id Tech 4
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Metacritic Score:  81
My Score:  Average, with a side of graphic violence.

Price (as of  June 28, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (unopened, with shipping):  $29.99

Game Time:  the expected 10-14 hours

Obligatory Trailer:


Quake 4 is a direct sequel to Quake II.  Some events of the previous protagonist are mentioned as your squad of space marines jets to the Strogg homeworld.  As before, humanity is in a desperate war to survive against the cybernetic Strogg forces.  Many weapons and enemies return from Quake II, as well as some of the look and sound.

Quake 4 is built using the id Tech 4 engine, and showcases some improvements over Doom 3.  There are outdoor areas, and the flashlight is attached to two of your weapons.  Vehicles have been added, and some degree of cinematic flair.  Stop motion technology was utilized.


Shoot stuff, don't get shot, and push a button occassionally.  At a few points combat is frustratingly hard, but the pace of the game hits pretty solid.  The only downer: no running.  The player is helped by other marines along the way; some expendable, some invincible.  Partway into the game, the player becomes partially Stroggified, increasing max health and armor by 25% and slightly increasing movement speed.

Quake 4 generally substitutes the jump scares and brooding darkness of Doom 3 for straight-up action.  There are still horror elements, and the engine showcases intense gore, violence, and a more realistic-looking (and therefore more disturbing) vision of the Strogg.

Multiplayer is arena style like Quake 3, but regresses by having no bots.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

No news on further Quake to date, but id's convention is still titled QuakeCon.  I am going to blindly guess that after Doom 4 and Rage 2 are done, Quake may be revisited.

I have the Special DVD Edition, which includes promotional material, Quake II, and both Quake II expansions.

Final Thoughts

The Good:  Quake 4 gives a serious facelift to the franchise, while also addressing complaints about Doom 3.

The Bad:  Shorter than Doom 3, and didn't age as well.

The Verdict:  When it was released, Quake 4 was good but not stellar.  Nowadays, there isn't any reason to buy it unless you loved Quake II.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sanctum Review

Game:  Sanctum
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Coffee Stain Studios
pub.  Valve Corp (Steam)
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter Tower Defense
Metacritic Score:  71
My Score:  *yawn*

Price (as of  June 21, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  Not Available

Game Time:  from ten hours to eternity

Obligatory Trailer:


Kill aliens before they reach the core!


Sanctum won two fourth-place awards in the 2009 Make Something Unreal contest.  If I think of it purely as a game mod, it's innovative.  If I actually look at it, it's ugly.  Simple textures, cartoonish characters, and polygonal structures look like Unreal Engine 2, not Unreal Engine 3.


Tower defense is a small genre that I first saw in Warcraft 3 (mostly in custom maps), and more recently in Plants vs. Zombies and Defense Grid.  The premise is simple: waves of enemies are after your core (or other central location), which they will damage.  They typically won't attack anything else.  The player builds towers to attack the enemies and block a straight path to the core.

Sanctum happily satisfies that, providing various grids to arrange your mazes of towers by.  Each tower has a use.  Sanctum adds a first-person shooter aspect to the mix, with a handful of basic weapons.  Both weapons and towers can be upgraded.


The music in the game is a highlight, and is most easily compared to This Will Destroy You.  The music isn't good for all occasions, but has it's moments.  Most game soundtracks aren't even worth mentioning.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

There are a handful of DLC, most of which cost money.  These includes new levels, new weapons, and the official soundtrack in both MP3 and .wav formats.  Including the DLC, there are ten levels.

Final Thoughts

The Bad:  This game looks like crap, and fails to teach the player basic controls and scenarios in which the various towers and weapons excel.  The game also has no plot, and only features a handful of levels without spending more for DLC.

The Good:  Sometimes I like to play something mindless, and there's some achievements for people that are interested.  The game has an alright soundtrack and is pretty cheap.

Verdict:  This feels like there were no objective play testers as part of the development process.  I wouldn't strongly recommend this one.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bulletstorm Review

Game:  Bulletstorm
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  People Can Fly, a division of Epic Games
pub.  Electronic Arts
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3.5
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Metacritic Score:  82
My Score:  So fucking awesome it will fucking murder your dick-tits, you douche-dildo.

Price (as of June 8, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $8.50

Game Time: ~10 hours for the campaign, first time on default

Obligatory Trailer:


Grayson "Gray" Hunt and his team were the premier death squad of General Serrano.  On one mission, they find out their targets were civilians.  Gray then leads his team, over a course of years and alcoholism, in a crusade against Serrano.  This crusade leaves Gray, Serrano, and a few others stranded on what was a tourist planet,now turned savage from radiation.

People Can Fly, and Profanity

People Can Fly was on my shitlist.  Painkiller (by the time I played it) was buggy and dated.  They were bought by Epic afterwards, and have redeemed themselves.  The language in this game is extremely profane.  So profane that it is laughable, and at times, nonsensical.  Part of this is due to the fact that People Can Fly are Polish, and didn't fully understand the impact of the language used.


I'm getting tired of seeing Unreal Engine 3.X, but it's still viable and solid.  I hit only one minor glitch.

Bulletstorm uses Games For Windows Live (GFWL).  I have had problems with this before, but on launch I was logged-in automatically and everything ran fine.  There are GFWL trophies that can be earned, but no achievements on Steam.


Most of the weapons are standard, with a few creative ones thrown in.  They are all fun to use.  Weapons have primary ammo and super-powerful charge shot ammo.  Additionally you can kick enemies or draw them closer with a lasso-like tool.

Points are rewarded by merit.  Standard shots are worth little, but creative death methods are worth more.  Impale a man on a cactus.  Kill someone that's on fire while you're intoxicated.  Go on, earn it.

In the campaign, points are used to buy weapon upgrades and ammo.  In the Echo game type, points are a way to measure skill against other players on the leaderboards.  

Voice Actors

Steve Blum is the main character.  He's a busy man, and you'll recognize him from Rage, Half-Life 2, or any number of other projects.  Jennifer Hale plays Trishka (her voice sounds familiar; she's done a lot of different things).

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Two DLC have been released, neither of which add much.  For PC, these are only available through GFWL Marketplace.

A sequel was planned, but unfortunately cancelled.  Epic stated piracy and a poorer review for the PC version as reasons.  Epic further said that it sold well (over one millions copies) but not amazing, and that People Can Fly has been assigned to a project that is a better fit.

Final Thoughts

The Good:  It's rare that a shooter is this much pure fun, or will make you laugh out loud.

The Bad:  It is what is now the standard length for the genre, with no legacy.  Multiplayer is co-op only.

The Verdict:  This game is hilarious, fast-paced, and chock-full of sheer badassery.  I recommend it.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Medal of Honor Review

Game:  Medal of Honor
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev. Danger Close, DICE (multiplayer only)  
            pub.  Electronic Arts
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3 (singleplayer), Frostbite 1.5 (multiplayer)
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Metacritic Score:  72
My Score:  I just took a shit that leveled a house

Price (as of May 27, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $9.99

Game Time: 5 hours, first time, on default. 

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

Call of Duty 4 Review:


You play the role of a handful of different US soldiers, fighting Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.  Things go boom.  Bullets go zoom.  The Colonel and the General will argue again soon.  Welcome to this half-assed cartoon.


There's nothing new to say about an Unreal engine. 

Frostbite has been used exclusively for Medal of Honor and Battlefield titles, and in one Need for Speed game.  I can't comment further because it was confined to the multiplayer.  Due to what I call a bonehead decision, the multiplayer not only has a different developer and engine, but also requires a separate download and a (non-Steam) player registration.  


You may have noticed the See Also was for a different game; it's because they're twins in gameplay.  They even share most of the weapons.

Your teammates are invincible, and with Wolverine-like healing powers, you are too.  Your teammates yell out enemy positions, so you could be amazing at the game while stoned.  Vehicles segments are poorly presented, and probably the only time you might get killed.  AI is insipid.  With no challenge, there isn't anything for the adults in the room to appreciate. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

I had the Wikipedia page open.  I could have been professional and added that information here, but I didn't.  Medal of Honor is such a Candyland shooter that I choose to believe any of its bastard offspring, and all the developers, were killed in one of the many, many, in-game airstrikes. 

Final Thoughts

The Good:  My favorite part of the game was, by far, the logo for Danger Close during the game initialization load.  The credits were satisfactory.

The Bad:  Everything else.  This game is insultingly short; with no immersion, no challenge, and nothing done particularly well.  If you get this as a gift, donate it to Good Will. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter Review

This blog has been sparse lately.  I've been busy playing Darksiders (it's like a Zelda game) and some old Nintendo stuff.  Also, it's nice out.  Anyway.

Game:  Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Year (s):  2002 (original), 2010 (HD)
Company:  dev.  Crpteam
            pub.  Devolver Digital
Engine:  Serious Engine (original), Serious Engine 3 (HD)
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of May 24, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $4.75

Game Time: 9 hours, first time on easy

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

The First Encounter Review:


Second Encounter starts off with Sam's ship crashing to Earth.  He must travel through time to activate a backup ship, fighting Mental's minions the whole way. 


This continues the style of old-school corridor battles interspersed with huge open areas and an onslaught of enemies.  The environments are more varied for a couple of reasons.  First, the game isn't confined to desert, as parts take place in medieval Europe and the Mayan jungle.  Second, Croteam experimented quite a bit with active area features.  Ice, jump pads, wind, traps... there's even a room that is, basically, a rotating clothes dryer full of death. 

The Second Encounter also featured a few other adjustments.  The game is broken in to three episodes, and a handful of new weapons spice things up (there are new enemies too). 

I played this game one notch lower than default.  It was quick and easy, but some of that may result from the hours spent playing The First Encounter and BFE, or from the better arsenal of weapons. 

Final Thoughts

I prefer this game over the first, but they are both essentially the same Quake 2/Unreal Gold style of gameplay (with more enemies and a touch of humor).  If you're looking to shoot stuff, find keys, hunt for secrets, and not have to think, this one is amusing. 

That being said, the gameplay isn't for everyone, and can border on mindless.  I recommend Serious Sam 3: BFE for anyone new to Serious Sam. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Year In Review: 2004

Year in Review: 2004

Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and Unreal Tournament 2004 were all great, so I thought It'd see what else happened in '04. It turns out I've never heard of most of the games. I'm going to mention titles I'm familiar with, or at least heard of, and ignore the rest.

I used this list as a reference. Dates are the initial release, and may apply to PC, consoles, or both. Alphabetically:

Doom 3

This paired a brand-new graphics engine with horror elements to reboot the Doom series in a fast-paced, visceral bloodbath. A masterpiece.

Far Cry

Far Cry is best known for enourmousenvironments allowing for one of the first open-world experiences. Slick AI and realistic jungle cat-and-mouse gameplay begat one of the most difficult shooters I've ever played. This is the first game from Crytek.

Half-Life 2

The award-winning Half-Life was followed by the award-wining Half-Life 2. The new Source engine had the best graphics of the time, and still looks good eight years later. This game excelled at pacing and level design, and was quite engaging.


Painkiller is one of the few contenders in the sparse old-school shooter market. This first game in the series had some of the largest bosses I've ever seen, along with hordes of monsters. A cult following continues to play and develop Painkiller titles (the most recent from February 2012) using the same engine and gameplay as this. The developer, People Can Fly, was purchased by Epic in 2007.

Star Wars: Battlefront

This game is noteworthy for supporting an unprecedented number of players and/or bots on team assault maps.

Unreal Tournament 2004

UT 2k4 was easy to LAN and had tons of game types and maps (further bolstered by fan-made content) . Balanced level design and solid bot support helped balance teams and allow a single player to rock out. Unreal Engines 2.0/2.5 were ubiquitously licensed by gaming and simulation developers.

Other Games

Here's a short list of '04 titles that I haven't played but sounded familiar: Halo 2, a Call of Duty title, Counter Strike: Source, a Goldeneye 007 game, a Medal of Honor game, Thief: Deadly Shadows (the final release from Ion Storm), and a Tribes game.

The odds and ends aren't all blockbusters, but I still think 2004 was a great year for the genre. There have been few decisions in my life as difficult as, “Should I get Doom 3, or Half-Life 2?”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Max Payne 2 Review

Game:  Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
Year (s):  2003
Company:  dev. Remedy Entertainment
            pub.  Rockstar Games
Engine:  MaxFX 2.0
Type:  Third-Person Shooter

Price (as of April 20, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99 (or $15 the first two Max Payne games)
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $50+

Game Time:  about six hours

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

Max Payne Review:


There's a power struggle going on between nefarious bosses, and Max is set up to take the fall.  Mona Sax is included as a half-ass love interest; other characters also return.  Cutscenes are still done in the form of graphic novels, but there is NONE of the over-the-top similes and metaphors that made the original Max Payne story so entertaining.  I hypothesize a different writer.

Engine and Gameplay

MaxFX 2.0 looks like the original MaxFX.  It was acceptable for 2003, but terrible compared to the engines of 2004. 

Gameplay, and most (perhaps all, it's been a while) of the weapons are the same.  The player is required to play on the easiest setting before doing anything else, so the game goes faster, and the iconic bullet-time mechanic isn't as big a part of the game. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Max Payne 3 is due out in 2012, set in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  It is being developed solely by Rockstar, without the original writer of the series.  The game will use RAGE (Rockstar Advanced Game Engine).  Personally, I think the name of the engine is dastardly slander against id's Tech 5 engine used in RAGE.  Or, at least, confusing. 

Final Thoughts

If you have the Max Payne bundle, this game offers more of the same, but without any humor, or much plot.  While it clearly is not, this comes across as a third-party expansion.  The first Max Payne was pretty sweet, and this is... not much worth the time.  I wouldn't highly recommend this one. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quake 3 Arena Review

Game:  Quake 3 Arena
Year (s):  1999 (original), 2000 (expansion)
Company:  dev.  id Software
            pub.  Activision
Engine:  id Tech 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter, multi-player emphasis

Price (as of April 13, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99 (includes expansion)
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (used, with shipping):  ~$20 for original + expansion

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot... or not, that's ok too.

There is no plot, and the single-player campaign is purely a death-match tournament.  The only continuity to other games are Space Marine characters from Doom, Stogg from Quake 2, and some familiar weapons and scenery.   


id Tech 3 looks a whole lot like id Tech 2 (the Quake and Quake 2 engine) that had been new only a couple years previous.  It's definitely dated, with hard edges and polygonal-based everything.  id released the source code for id Tech 3 in 2005. 


Every map is a death match, and the winner is the first to reach X frags.  Guns are standard out of the Doom/Quake universe; none with secondary fire modes.  Jumping around is a great way to dodge, but otherwise the game is reflex and aim.  Knowing the level is also paramount, as certain weapons, armor, and temporary power-ups (like quad damage, or speed, etc.) can give a player a huge edge. 

Team Arena

Team Arena added a few team-based game types, the most notable being Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.  New power-ups last until you die, and differentiate the team members.  Some of these are Scouts, who move faster, or Guardians, who have full health and armor.  Though the general interface is clumsy, Team Arena allows full bot support, letting a single-player like me kick ass alone.  Note: all bots are not created equal; some seem to be completely superior to others.

Other Neat Stuff

Sonic Mayhem did the music for Quake 3, and Front Line Assembly did the music for Team Arena. 

Quake 3 has been featured in professional gaming tournaments including QuakeCon, Cyberathlete Professional League, Electronic Sports World Cup, and others.

Fantasy author R.A. Salvatore wrote many of the bot chat lines, triggered usually by killing, or being killed by, a bot. 

Final Thoughts

This game was good when it came out, and the multiplayer emphasis was popular.  Everything since Doom has death match, so that component isn't a huge sell nowadays.  Unreal Tournament had more game types (without an expansion), balanced bots, and (via secondary-fire) more weapon diversity.  So, good game, but dated, and Unreal Tournament has more bang for the buck.  No need to rush to buy this one. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 Review

Game:  Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2
Year (s):  2008 (first one), 2009 (second one)
Company:  dev.  Turtle Rock Studios, Valve Corporation
            pub.  Valve Corporation
Engine:  Source
Type:  Cooperative Multiplayer First-Person Shooter

Price (as of April 1, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99 each
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $10-$20

Game Time:  Not Applicable

Obligatory Trailer: 

Left 4 Dead Intro:
Left 4 Dead 2 Intro:


Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are both focused on four gun-toting people (unique characters in each game, though functionally the same) fighting against zombies in the greater New Orleans area.  The four progress from one wave of zombies to the next, with a climactic battle at the end of each chapter, where they hold out until they can escape.

Graphics and Turtle Rock Studios

It's the Source engine, so you know what to expect.  It was top of the line in 2004, and remains surprisingly resilient. 

Turtle Rock Studios developed the first game, and were then acquired by Valve.  Valve closed the doors of Turtle Rock's base, though they retained personnel willing to relocate from California to Washington.  Both companies (or what was left of them) then developed the second game.  For a brief span Turtle Rock Studios was named Valve South. 


You're limited in the number of weapons and items that you can carry.  Some health items are only temporary, and, except for the pistols, weapons have finite ammunition.  These limits give a small degree of survival horror to the game, but only just.  If you run out of health, you are restricted to your pistols and cannot move or use items until a companion helps you up.  If they take too long, you die.  Some enemies also have attacks that leave you helpless until an ally helps.  For these reasons and the sheer number of zombies, the four have to stick together to get anywhere.  Items can be used on, or given to, one another.  The AI is very well done, and I usually find my bots being much better team players than I. 

Left 4 Dead 2 adds a slew of additional multiplayer game types, the option to use melee in place of pistols, more campaign chapters, a few extra items and "special" zombies, and a bunch of new achievements. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

So far, just the two games and nothing in the works.

Final Thoughts

Both titles have some small amusements, like banter between characters, or references to movies.  Each chapter of a campaign, as a load screen, has a mock movie poster, complete with slogan (these can be purchased as actual posters). 

Left 4 Dead is a well-done co-op game, with solid AI to back you up.  Gameplay is identical in each chapter though, so things are pretty redundant if you are playing with bots. 

Left 4 Dead 2 adds quite a bit more to mostly end up with more of the same. 

Don't get me wrong, these are not bad games.  They are, if nothing else, quite well developed.  If my friends also owned these, I think they could be a hard option to beat for co-op gaming.  Playing them with bot companions is, though, mindless. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dead Space 2 Review

Game:  Dead Space 2
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Visceral Games
            pub.  Electronic Arts
Engine:  Visceral Engine
Type:  Third-Person Shooter, Survival-Horror

Price (as of March 23, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $10.99

Game Time:  11 hours, first play, on normal

See Also: 
Dead Space Review

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot and Gameplay

Three years have passed since the events in the first game.  Isaac Clarke wakes up in a straight jacket, with no idea where he is.  Immediately, Necromorphs attack.  Isaac must battle the Necromorph aliens, religious zealots, and people affected by The Marker once again in order to survive and escape.  And in the process, he just might find some peace. 

All of the gameplay elements game return, with a few minor adjustments.  The only new mechanic is hacking, which doesn't come up too often.  There are a few new enemies, and a few new weapons.  The game seems a little easier and a little darker, but every bit a gory as the original. 

Unlike the first installment, Isaac is no longer a faceless, voiceless character.  Dead Space 2 adds multiplayer game types to the franchise.  

Visceral Engine

Dead Space 2 runs on Visceral Engine, where the first Dead Space used The Godfather engine with Havok physics.  All that being said, it looks just like the first game (graphics roughly comparable to id Tech 4). 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

DLC in the form of bonus suits and weapons are a free patch on the PC version.  A map pack, as well as a short single-player campaign, are only available on the console versions.

Dead Space 3 has not been officially announced, but rumors about the setting and story events litter the internet.

Final Thoughts
Dead Space 2 is, for the most part, more of the same.  I like the series well enough, but I feel the first game really stood out in a way this one does not.  I recommend playing Dead Space.  If you like that, you'll enjoy Dead Space 2.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Game:  Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Year (s):  2007
Company:  dev.  Infinity Ward
            pub.  Activisiion
Engine:  IW engine 3.0
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of March 12, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $13

Game Time:  11 hours, first time, on hard

Obligatory Trailer:


The Cold War taught us that Russians are the enemy, and we learned from terrorism that the middle east is full of bad guys, too.  In Call of Duty 4, you alternate  missions between American and British special forces, shooting both Russian and Arab "ultranationalists."  Yee-haw.

Infinity Ward and IW engine

Infinity Ward was started in 2002 by a team of programmers that had been working on a Medal of Honor game.  Everything in the Infinity Ward portfolio is a Call of Duty title. 

The IW engine has been used in multiple Call of Duty titles, as well as James Bond games.  It's built on GtkRadiant (a free map-editor from id, originally used in Quake 3).  IW has been modified for other COD titles; the newest runs on IW engine 4.0.  Graphically, IW is comparable to other games released around 2007.


This may be the franchise that popularized the , "taking cover briefly cures bullet wounds" mechanic.  Unless there is a story-based reason for this mechanic (magic, technology, it doesn't take much) I think it's ridiculous. 

Generally, you crawl from cover to cover.  Haste or exposure lead to a quick death.  Your squad follows you, and they are invincible.  You must keep pushing forward, or the enemies seem to just keep coming.  Parts of the game are on a timer.  When it's not stupid easy, the game is a pain in the ass. 

The player can carry two guns at a time, including one pistol, two identical sniper rifles, and half a dozen very similar automatic rifles.  One level has the player be an aerial gunner, and segments of other levels have turret-based gameplay.  These segments are a nice distraction, but brief, and at no point does the player pilot a vehicle.

This Game Is Popular

Modern Warfare has more than 90% on metacritic, and was highly acclaimed by multiple publications.  Awards include best graphics of E3 2007. best shooter of the year, game of the year, best story, best shooter ever... the critics loved it.

I don't know why.  2007 brought us BioShock, Crysis, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, and Unreal Tournament 3.  These all have lusher environments, actually have plots, and (except for Episode 2) have a longer single-player campaign.  These alternatives offer more diverse and enjoyable gameplay experiences.  Even at their worst points, I prefer them to Call of Duty 4's finest moments..   

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Call of Duty is a big franchise, with lots of titles and expansions (more than I care to list).  This particular game has no expansion content.  

Final Thoughts

So, there's a tank level.  You and a handful of infantry kill lots of Arabs while escorting the weak, defenseless tank.  No, you can't drive the tank.  Wonderful!  And yet, this was the highest-selling game of 2007, and has sold over 13 million copies across all platforms to date.  Lots of people love this game.  I think it's a pretty stupid game, which fails to engage or impress the player to any height of entertainment.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quickflicker Deck

60 Card Format
Green, (Black, Blue, Red, White)

4 Elvish Piper
4 Quicksilver Amulet
4 Defense of the Heart

3 Angel of Despair
2 Woodfall Primus
3 Rune-Scarred Demon
2 Hamletback Goliath
1 Sedris, the Traitor King

4 Mistmeadow Witch
2 Flicker
2 Followed Footsteps

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Utopia Tree
1 Land Grant


Multicolor Lands
2 Safe Haven

WIN METHOD: Damage- Creatures


This is a spin on the Quicksilver Amulet/Elvish Piper + Big Creatures deck, modified to abuse "enters the battlefield" creature effects.  This is the current deck, but it hasn't been played yet.

Monday, February 27, 2012

F.E.A.R. 3 (F.3.A.R.) Review

Game:  F.E.A.R. 3 (AKA F.3.A.R)
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Day 1 Studios
            pub.  WB Interactive Entertainment
Engine:  Despair Engine (modified)
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of February 27, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $39.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $25

Game Time: 

Single-player campaign:  about 15 hours, both characters played through on default

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also:

F.E.A.R. Review:
F.E.A.R. 2 Review:

Plot and Horror

FEAR 3 follows the two brothers from the first game (Point Man and Fettel) as they fight Armacham mercenaries, zombies, and ghosts in an attempt to stop Alma from giving birth.  As far as franchise continuity, FEAR 3 throws it out the window.  Characters that were clearly killed are back, and others behave quite uncharacteristically (the most glaring example is that Alma isn't homicidal).  It's a mess. 

The plot also fails to make sense in and of itself.  You spend half the game trying to rescue a prisoner, and when you finally reach him... you kill him.  Armacham has a Latin-American city under martial law, for some reason.  Et cetera. 

Director John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from LA) was brought on board for this.  His style doesn't convey the prevalent apprehension that was iconic of the first two FEAR titles.  There's a couple of weak jump-scares in FEAR 3, but nothing memorably creepy or scary. 

Day 1 and Despair

Day 1 has developed about ten games that I've never heard of.  This is the only one I've played.  Monolith developed the first FEAR, FEAR 2, and the FEAR 2 expansion.  TimeGate developed the FEAR expansions, which were not considered canon. 

The Despair Engine is graphically comparable to the Monolith's Jupiter EX engine.  The only difference to note is that character faces are now simpler and more cartoony.  Day 1 carried gameplay elements, weapons, fonts, voice actors, sound effects, and I'm pretty sure some textures from FEAR and FEAR 2.  They did a good job of keeping the general look of the series with their own engine. 


You can play as either Point Man or Fettel, by yourself or in two-player co-op.  Point Man was the original protagonist, and utilizes the slow-motion super reflexes that the series is known for.  Point Man was presumed to have died at the end of FEAR (he wasn't in FEAR 2 at all), but apparently did not. 

Fettel was the original antagonist, and may have been a vampire.  He died at the end of FEAR, came back as a ghost in a non-canon expansion, and came back as a possessed Replica soldier in a FEAR 2 expansion.  In FEAR 3 Fettel is clearly a ghost and there are no Replica forces.  Go figure.  He can carry no weapons, but can throw fireballs, possess people, and hold enemies defenseless in the air. 

Characters level up based on points.  Points are gained on a per-level basis by completing challenges, like getting twenty kills with the shotgun. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Currently there is only fan speculation of further FEAR titles.

Final Thoughts

The Good:  FEAR 3 has fun gameplay and looks a lot like the other games.  Having two character options, as well as co-op with a friend, stretches the game out to longer than the typical twelve-hour shooter.

The Bad:  FEAR 3 isn't frightening at all, and I'm really not sure why they went with the guy that directed Big Trouble in Little China.  The plot makes no sense, and the most positive thing I can say is that the game is better than a few games that are worse.

The Verdict:  This is a disappointing continuation of a franchise I rather enjoyed.  I suggest  skipping this one and pretending FEAR 2 was the end of the series.