Review The Last Game You Beat

(Gaming discussion not related to Shenmue)

Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Tuffty » Sun Jun 03, 2012 2:02 pm

Max Payne 3 - 9/10

"I needed a real drink to get away from the electronic music and the robotic people"

It was never going to be easy. Max Payne has been away for years now and the industry has changed a lot since then. An action shooter with obvious tips of the hat to hard-boiled action cinema, crime noir and Norse mythology may have worked a decade ago, it would be hard to tell if the same approach would work in this current day. It could be cheesy, or retreaded old ground that had since long been covered.

But luckily Rockstar was aware of the challenge in inheriting Max Payne from Remedy studios. This isn't quite the same maniacal, gun toting detective we remember. Rather it is a brutal, dark revenge drama in the same sense as Man on Fire while at the same time, still an unmistakably Max Payne adventure. And there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

"I was a dumb American where dumb Americans were less popular than the clap"

We rejoin Max in the beginning of the game in a dark place, aged, tired and a depressive alcoholic pill taker still hurting from the loss he has been through in his life. Lured to Brazil by old friend Raul Passos, Max is now a bodyguard to the decadently rich Branco family. Max, once again voiced brilliantly by James McCaffrey, is forced to rely on his gunplay whilst being pushed to the edge of reason when things quickly go bad from the offset. It's a dark and incredibly grim tale as one should expect from Max Payne, with Rockstar also able to weave in the wry social commentary it's well known for. Max spends enough time hanging with the glitzy, glamourous world of the obscenly rich and the poor, down trodden favelas to show the ugliness under the surfaces of both. As someone who was quick to judge on the early screenshots of a bald Max in sunny Brazil, I was more than happy to eat my words at the strength and quality of it's story.

"I'd been stuck in the past so long I'd forgotten what year it was"

What really shines in Max Payne 3 is the gunplay. As Max Payne's first entry to the current generation, the shooting is more stylish and bloody than ever, in large part thanks to the Euphoria physics engine. The physics make combat in Max Payne 3 simply jaw dropping. Bullets strike enemies with such ferocity that blood spirals in the air with enemies reacting to where they've been hit. It rarely makes any combat scenario feel alike. It's all about forward motion in this game, while other third person shooter would have you focusing on using conservative cover. Max Payne 3 demands you dive in slow motion with gusto or activating bullet time by pressing on the right stick. Max can use cover in certain areas, but I found that depending on it too much will often get you swarmed by enemies. Besides, why hide behind cover when you can literally stylishly dive in slow motion mid air blasting any fools near you? In another nod to modern third person shooters, an auto aim option is also included by default, but take my advice and turn it off. Not only does it add to the challenge, but it also allows you to see the environmental damage you see in the game, making each gun fight seem more 'movie-esque'.

While you feel deadly, Max Payne 3's difficulty is distinctly old school, even on the Normal difficulty setting. Max still relies on popping painkillers to regenerate health but he's still completely fragile. A number of shots can easily put you down unless you're careful, which makes each moment feel gripping. It makes for an interesting risk/reward system that's isn't too dissimilar from Vanquish, perhaps my favourite third person shooter this generation.

"When had I ever needed to invite trouble in? It always found me, no matter where I hid."

For all it's polish, there are some issues I had with Max Payne 3. The sudden shifts from gameplay into cutscenes can at times feel imposing, particularly in quick succession, and some scenarios are occassionaly frustrating. You can battle through a horde of enemies only to die before a lone gunman and be asked to replay the entire lengthy scenario of the game. There's also the same issue that's been true of all Max Payne games, in that there's not much else to do other than move from one room to the next shooting bad guys. In it's defence, Rockstar have allievated this somewhat with the physics engine almost promising something different each time as well as the introduction of set pieces using bullet time and on rail shooting events. A chase and shoot sequence on a harbour towards the end of the first disc was particularly thrilling and you can't help but be caught in the immediacy of the moment.

"I ain’t slippin’ man – I’m slipped."

Multiplayer doesn't only bring the high octane action of the single player into an online arena with much success, but like with Red Dead Redemption, the multiplayer also has a robust player progression system. There are a ton of unlockable weapons, attachments, equipment, perks and customisable gear to unlock. The deathmatch modes are frantic and fun, but it's the Gang Wars mode which puts 16 players in 4 random objective based rounds of play on massive maps that can keep you engaged. However it does have the same issue that RDR had, in that high level players have access to a better arsenal which you don't have. Allowing someone to use the frankly, ridiculously overpowered RPG in deathmatch scenarios is a joke, and it just spoils the fun.

"I had a hole in my second favourite drinking arm"

Ultimately, none of the story beats or polish takes away from the fact that Max Payne 3 is very much a refinement of an old formula, and if you're looking for something revelatory, this isn't it. But what is amazing is that the trademark production values and sublime attention to detail takes the series in a compelling direction. Factor in some engaging story telling, brilliant dialogue with the voice work to back it up and Rockstar's most technically impressive game to date on top of one of the most satisfying shooters to date and you have something which stands above most if not all other offerings of it's kind.
Last edited by Tuffty on Sun Jun 03, 2012 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Henry Spencer » Sun Jun 03, 2012 5:06 pm

Epic review, man.

It was a good game (no qualms with the gameplay), but it honestly felt like the story had more in common with Kane & Lynch or GTA with Max Payne inserted into the middle of it. Not that it's a bad thing, just not Max Payne-like enough for me. Plus it felt a little rushed or weird in parts:
Passos completely disappearing for ages then reappearing then sodding off with his fiance.
That felt a little lazy to me.

If Rockstar do another MP game, I look forward to see what they do next with it, but I do think there's plenty of room for improvement.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby OL » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:32 pm

Yeah, great review. Agreed on pretty much everything.
And may I say, the "second favorite drinking arm" line definitely was one of my favorites in the game. :lol:
And yeah Henry, it did actually feel a little Kane and Lynch-y, now that you mention it. With better dialogue and writing, though.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Tuffty » Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:52 am

Just to add, on the multiplayer side of things, the other things that prevent it from being truly great is the horrible melee system and the inconsistent grenade throws. They're just simply terrible.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Luvly KM » Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:22 am

Tuffty wrote:"I had a hole in my second favourite drinking arm"


superb writing.



perfectly denotes his mindset, his alcoholism founded upon depression
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby OL » Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:33 am

So I beat Gravity Rush, and I run into the game's one major, major flaw... absolutely nothing in the story gets tied up!
The gameplay, art style, music, and everything else about the game is phenomenal. And the story itself is actually extremely likable and fun. The trouble is, it's never actually allowed to go anywhere. It drags its feet through the majority of the game. It almost feels like just as it's finally starting to find its footing, just as it's beginning to lead in to revelations and story twists... the game ends. A threat arises with very little build-up, you pummel them into the ground, then the credits roll without telling you much of anything that happens afterward.
This is seriously a new Shenmue situation.
It's obvious that the devs are aware of these loose ends, so they weren't left that way by accident. It's obvious that they want to lead in to a sequel, turn it into a series.
The problem is, Gravity Rush is by no means guaranteed success. Sony have done a pretty piss poor job of advertising it and getting it out there, so with the exception of people who frequent gaming websites, I get the feeling it's not going to sell a whole lot (being on the Vita doesn't help either). And even if a sequel were released, I'm fearful that it would be stuck as a bit of download-only content...
I don't personally think the future of the series is all that bright. And it breaks my heart, because the game is absolutely fantastic. It deserves an ending. It deserves to have its loose ends tied up. It deserves an expansion on its initial gameplay ideas.
It deserves a sequel, but I'm not even sure if that will ever happen.
Fingers are crossed, but I guess we'll see how much good that does...
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Bluecast » Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:54 am

^ I don't think anyone expected Darksiders II either as it was not pushed much and wasn't a huge seller. de blob was another. Rayman Origins didn't do that great either with little push and we are getting Legends. Sega All Stars Racing wasn't a massive success either.True none of those are Sony but just shows to have some faith.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby OL » Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:59 am

True.
And here I'm usually the optimist. :P
There was just so much in the game that I wanted answers to, but almost literally no answers are provided. Just wish I didn't have to wait to see what all these little details are about.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby south carmain » Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:37 am

OL wrote: (being on the Vita doesn't help either)

the fact that it's on the vita may actually work to it's advantage, vita owners don't have that much choice and are craving for new entries, also that it costs less to develop for a handheld means higher ups are much more likely to take risks

on the other hand the fact that gamespot and desctructoid only gave it a 6.5 and ign a 7.5 even though all other websites gave it between 8-9/10 won't help it, trust the mainstream websites to take something innovating and try and crush it because it thinks people only want shooters and sports games and are too afraid to voice what potentially may be an unpopular opinion, well that and because they weren't payed add money by the developers probably
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Tuffty » Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:40 am

Virtua Fighter 5 : Final Showdown - 9/10

It took long enough. Sega was rather unfortunate in that Virtua Fighter 5 came out before Street Fighter reignited interest back in the fighting genre, but frustratingly kept static when it roared back to life. Final Showdown, a significant update to the original, only ever appeared in Japanese arcades, and now here we are, almost two years later for it to come as a digital download release to the consoles. Despite the wait, there have been enough changes made to the formula which doesn't show any signs of age.

Two new characters join the expansive roster. Taka-arashi, the sumo wrestler from VF3, makes a return and favours with some hard hitting combos. He also has a slight advantage in being a heavier gentleman, so certain combos that are dependent on juggling won't work on him, meaning players will have to rely on other means of piling on the damage. The other new character is Jean, the best half-French, half-Japanese mix since Maria Ozawa (Google it). A practitioner of karate, he's the closest the series has come to a 'charge' character. While his charge moves cost precious seconds to land, it can lead to some devastating combos and quick mix up attacks that are difficult to guard against. In addition to the new faces, the existing crew have been overhauled to the point where familiar tactics have been rendered obsolete. It's not a case of adjusting minor details, but one of going so far as to adding new moves while changing the inputs and properties of old moves too.

The fighting system has also been tweaked. Attacking from the side has been buffed up while hitting evade attempts rewards you with a counter hit, making a higher risk/reward strategy for evading. The end result is that the pace is faster and favours attacking play. It makes Final Showdown look and feel more stylish than the original and easier on the eye for a spectator.

As a digital release only, concessions needed to be made and customisation is the biggest hit. To go under the memory limit, all character items are DLC only, so you can't even so much as see the crazy customisation opponents without purchasing the DLC. It's understandable, but no less frustrating. On the positive side, the core game with all characters, game modes and all are priced at 1200 MS points/£10.00 for PSN. Free if you're a PSN + member. Concessions are also made to the single player, with the addicting quest mode from the original also taken away. License Trials gives the title legs by asking the player to accomplish a number of tasks e.g. throw 6 times, block ten times etc. The training mode isn't as welcoming to new players as VF4:Evo, but is much more helpful than the majority of other fighters released. This even shows raw data like frame data during command inputs, so you can plan which moves are beneficial in which situations. It's fortunate that the the netcode is as stellar as the original. It's strong enough to encourage sustained online play, and the VF community is famously encouraging and welcoming of new players.

One of the main strengths about VF is how everyone has their own style. While you feel almost locked in to play as Ryu or Sagat in a certain way, the expansive moveset makes it possible for no one player to handle characters differently from each other. At the introductory price point it's a no-brainer. A complicated, technical beast of a fighting game and more than ever worth the effort of learning.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby DockeN » Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:57 am

Grandia 3 -- 5.4/10

I went out and bought a PS2 to play this game because I loved Grandia 2 so much. At first I loved it, as the battle system is fun.... I have terrible writing skills unless I'm getting paid, so here is just a list of my pros and cons.

- Pros
- Fun battle system.

- Cons
- A total of ~10 different enemy types
- None of the sweet-looking magic attacks from Grandia 2 for Dreamcast that simultaneously switch to real-time video (don't know what the correct term is... but you know what I mean.
- Generally uninteresting characters, terribly cheesy dialogue, FUCKING DINNER TEXT SCENES THAT YOU CAN'T SKIP


- Overall, during the final few hours, I found myself running past monsters and looking forward to the end of the game, just so I could be done with it...

..and worst of all, I had to mute my TV every time I came to this town:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHUJfEBA76E[/youtube]
...dear god is that awful...


As a point of reference, I would rate Grandia 2 a solid 9.0/10.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Henry Spencer » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:08 am

Tuffty wrote:Virtua Fighter 5 : Final Showdown - 9/10

It took long enough. Sega was rather unfortunate in that Virtua Fighter 5 came out before Street Fighter reignited interest back in the fighting genre, but frustratingly kept static when it roared back to life. Final Showdown, a significant update to the original, only ever appeared in Japanese arcades, and now here we are, almost two years later for it to come as a digital download release to the consoles. Despite the wait, there have been enough changes made to the formula which doesn't show any signs of age.

Two new characters join the expansive roster. Taka-arashi, the sumo wrestler from VF3, makes a return and favours with some hard hitting combos. He also has a slight advantage in being a heavier gentleman, so certain combos that are dependent on juggling won't work on him, meaning players will have to rely on other means of piling on the damage. The other new character is Jean, the best half-French, half-Japanese mix since Maria Ozawa (Google it). A practitioner of karate, he's the closest the series has come to a 'charge' character. While his charge moves cost precious seconds to land, it can lead to some devastating combos and quick mix up attacks that are difficult to guard against. In addition to the new faces, the existing crew have been overhauled to the point where familiar tactics have been rendered obsolete. It's not a case of adjusting minor details, but one of going so far as to adding new moves while changing the inputs and properties of old moves too.

The fighting system has also been tweaked. Attacking from the side has been buffed up while hitting evade attempts rewards you with a counter hit, making a higher risk/reward strategy for evading. The end result is that the pace is faster and favours attacking play. It makes Final Showdown look and feel more stylish than the original and easier on the eye for a spectator.

As a digital release only, concessions needed to be made and customisation is the biggest hit. To go under the memory limit, all character items are DLC only, so you can't even so much as see the crazy customisation opponents without purchasing the DLC. It's understandable, but no less frustrating. On the positive side, the core game with all characters, game modes and all are priced at 1200 MS points/£10.00 for PSN. Free if you're a PSN + member. Concessions are also made to the single player, with the addicting quest mode from the original also taken away. License Trials gives the title legs by asking the player to accomplish a number of tasks e.g. throw 6 times, block ten times etc. The training mode isn't as welcoming to new players as VF4:Evo, but is much more helpful than the majority of other fighters released. This even shows raw data like frame data during command inputs, so you can plan which moves are beneficial in which situations. It's fortunate that the the netcode is as stellar as the original. It's strong enough to encourage sustained online play, and the VF community is famously encouraging and welcoming of new players.

One of the main strengths about VF is how everyone has their own style. While you feel almost locked in to play as Ryu or Sagat in a certain way, the expansive moveset makes it possible for no one player to handle characters differently from each other. At the introductory price point it's a no-brainer. A complicated, technical beast of a fighting game and more than ever worth the effort of learning.


Yeah man, I love this game. It's my first VF since 4 back on the PS2 and it's currently my GOTY for HD consoles. And the best part is I got this game for free (Off PSN+). Pretty funny that my GOTY is free.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Tuffty » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:30 pm

Mass Effect 3 (360) - 6/10

'Controversial' is perhaps the best word to describe Mass Effect 3 since it's release. But there were also signs beforehand that had gave longterm fans reason to be concerned. Trailers emphaised all-out action in favour of intelligent, intriguing conversations. New characters being introduced that wouldn't look out of place in a Gears of War game. Exisisting female characters getting an overt makeover for sex appeal. And, whisper it, multiplayer. All of which are ideas and practices that have been so prevalent from EA releases. Sadly, it is perhaps their guiding hand and relatively quick development cycle which has had an impact on the overall quality of the concluding chapter to a series championed by gamers for it's narrative and ambition.

Mass Effect 3 begins with the Reapers, an alien race the size of spaceships, finally making their attack on the galaxy. Commander Shepherd is under house arrest when the long-awaited and feared attack by the Reapers begins as they attack Earth. It's an attempt to recapture the magic from ME2's fantastic opening, but never quite makes it as it forces the combat system, a longly contentious aspect to begin with, to take a leading role. Mass Effect games have always attempted a blend of RPG tropes with decent third person combat and in this game it's a far more direct and gun-heavy approach than ever before. Popping in and out of cover is encouraged and is more reliant on a player's trigger finger skills than the other two games dared. Flanking, biotic powers, squad commands are still there and encouraged, but combat progression can largely be done by pointing the cursor over a targets head and firing until it's dead. On it's own merits, ME3 is a compotent, if not great, third person shooter. Spurred on with the might of EA behind it, ME does it's best to mimic Gears Of War, with the occassional setpiece thrown in there that mimics something from Call of Duty. Reapers strike with unrelenting prejudice and the natural retort is to respond in kind; it’s an attitude that doesn’t work here. The more traditional shooter deliberately spends an age getting its gunplay down to a tee, and a game as vast and expansive as this just doesn’t have the resources necessary to take on such juggernauts head-to-head.

Sadly, the problem is that there's a lot of it. Like a loooot of combat. Much more so than in any other past ME game. Perhaps it makes sense in the context of the story, but none of it is that engaging to hold your interest for the majority of it. It also comes at the expense of what fans particularly enjoy about the series, the character interaction and player choice. Where before the initial mission setup was vast environmental areas on different worlds where you can talk and gather information on the current situation and the history of the ME universe, in ME3 any sort of downtime is limited to the Normandy (your ship) and the Citadel. The majority of the game is played in linear paths, shooting targets from point A to point B, cutting out exploration entirely. Dialog choices are now drastically cut down to picking between a good choice and bad choice, whereas before there were multiple paths to take. It became tired that towards the end I wasn't even reading what was said, I just knew that selecting the top right option on the dialog wheel was always going to be the 'good' choice and that is how my Shepherd was going to be. In ME3 there are arguments to be made at every juncture. So many of the choices presented are riddled with political or personal ramifications that even the clear ‘right’ course of action could have devastating effects further down the line. It’s a common occurrence to feel completely perplexed as dozens of pros and cons ravage the brain, and the impact of these can go as far as to wipe out those who Shepard considers a friend.

But in the end, it doesn't really matter. Bioware had long promised that ME3 would wildly differ based upon decisions made by players using save data from ME1 and ME2, but it doesn't go fulfilled. Decisions made in ME3 have no dramatic impact on how it ends. Those decisions carried across from ME1&2 show that Bioware has kept it's eye on the proceedings, but the conclusion of these story arcs are often hit and miss and none of them have a huge say in the story Bioware wants to tell and the ending that is force upon you. That ending.....Finishing the trilogy, in the manner that Bioware had always promised, was always a difficult task to take, and perhaps it was too big a task to make in the short development time they had (2 years between ME2 & 3 as opposed to 5 for the first game alone) but there are some genuine frustrations to be had with the final hour of the game, which raises as many questions as answers and almost contradicts and goes against what Mass Effect has been about. I'm not crying over it, I'm not asking for heads to roll, just disappointed.

The short development cycle also has an impact on the structure of the game as a whole. You get the sense that there just wasn't enough time to make the Mass Effect game they wanted as it's had an . As mentioned earlier, the majority of it is linear paths racking up your kill count as you go. But technical hitches have been present in my game and in cases, some bugs were also present, a notable one in particular resulted in me having a broken quest in my log which I couldn't complete because an event didn't fire off at a certain point and there was no way to activate it past that pont. The vast majority of side quests are now reduced to fetch quests, a lot of which just doesn't make sense in the context of the story. Why does Shepherd have to retrieve spark plugs when he already has the burden of saving the galaxy? From there it's travelling out on the galaxy map, scanning nearby planets and hope that they have what you're looking for. The rewards are ultimately worthless, war assets don't contribute to the story at all and credits are effectively pointless considering you pick up weapons and armor along the way in the story missions you undertake. Unlike in the previous games, there are no missions where you explore new environments and perhaps learn something new about your characters along the way. It is all fetch quests and survival horde missions which re-uses multiplayer maps.

Speaking of which, multiplayer has EA's taint all over it. It's a fun, if ultimately pretty shallow horde mode. Character progression, weapons, equipment and even character appearance are all tied with micro-transactions either purchased through in-game credits, which you acquire slowly over time through playing matches, or conveniently, through any MS points you have. Just don't do it. For one the multiplayer isn't deep enough to warrant it and secondly, your credits/points are spent on 'packs' containing random items which you won't know about until you purchase it, so you could almost waste real money on a pack buying something full of items which you ultimately don't want.

ME3 to me, could perhaps be best summed up in one sequence approaching the end of the game. It's the long awaited push back against the Reapers and you finally have some downtime to wonder around and explore. It's the only bit of downtime outside of a long combat sequence beforehand. Shepherd takes the time to contact former squad mates and speak with others. Garrus, your Turian brother in arms, has a touching admission of concern for his Commander and his friend as the end approaches. But then, as you progress forward on a connecting bridge between two buildings, a sudden Reaper attack commences and a turret sequence begins. It lasts for all of two minutes and then it's finished. To me, it's as if Bioware/EA couldn't let the player go for 5 mins without, god forbid, something exploding, or having something to shoot at so they had to throw this sequence in there, towards the end of the game just in case people get bored and turn off the game completely rather than finish the story. It's the focus on action rather than player choice which has led to ME3 being an overall disappointing experience, and not just the last 10 mins of the game. At some point I just grew tired of it and I wanted to finish the game just to say I have. Which is tragic, considering how good ME1 and 2 are. I would still absolutely recommend the series to anyone, they have some really fantastic moments and I will look forward to what happens next in the series still. But in the end, as a game and as an end to an epic trilogy, it's just 'ok'.
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Peter » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:27 pm

I have became a huge fan of Fire Maple Games, after buying their two games The Secrets Of Grizzly Manor, and The Lost City for my smartphone. Point and Click adventure games much like Myst etc, they are both stunningly beautiful, and quite intriguing. The first release, The Secrets Of Grizzly Manor was like by a lot of fans, but given the general criticism as being too short and also a bit too easy. But apart from that, the game still was extremely well designed and also well put together, also sounding great:

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For their next game, The Lost City acted as a spiritual successor to The Secrets Of Grizzly Manor and the developers took on board the gameplay duration criticisms and expanded the size of the product, whilst retaining all of the positives from their first game, including the simplicity of the menu, item options and beautiful screens. Due to the size of the game, a map screen was also included and also a hints book in the options menu. Also added was a seasonal system, where you can change which season the games location is set in. This makes the challenge of completing the game a lot harder too, since only certain items can be used in certain places on the map during certain seasons. I would say it would last 2 hours if you sat from start to finish without a break:

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I love these games, and have replayed through them a few times. Despite knowing where everything goes, and how to solve every puzzle, i still find the visuals and simplicity of the game fantastic, and a fun way to kill some spare time when your bored. I was also stoked to learn that they are releasing a follow up to these, with even better visuals and a story! I have posted more about it in the Indie topic, which you can view HERE
If you have a little bit of spare coins lying around, these games are cheap as anything, and can be bought from the apps store on all devices. Trust me, buy them. You wont be disappointed! :D


The Secrets Of Grizzly Manor - 7/10
The Lost City - 8/10
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Re: Review The Last Game You Beat

Postby Tuffty » Sat Oct 13, 2012 9:20 am

The Witcher 2 : Enhanced Edition (360) - 9/10

"Legends are almost always beautiful. The reality often leaves a lot to be desired."

Showing off it's prowess and receiving glowing praise on the PC, The Witcher 2 came to the 360 in the following year, bringing with it a ton of additional content and features to make the game even more worthy of an instant purchase from console players. Coming out after the disappointment of Mass Effect 3, The Witcher 2 shows how good an RPG can be.

The Witcher games are based off the massively popular (in it's native country at least) series of fantasy novels from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The world is divided into the ever expanding Nilfgardian empire in the south and the Northern kingdoms. It's a world where humans dominate and all other races are deemed second class citizens. It's a world with elves, dwarfs, trolls and wizards, living in fear of monsters and the supernatural.

The protaganist, Geralt, is a Witcher, a monster hunter raised through mutations to be something more than human, capable of faster reflexes and limited magic. Following on from the end of the first game, Geralt serves as the bodyguard of King Foltest, after the failed assassination attempt from another Witcher, who famously stay out of political interests. After accompanying the King on a castle siege, Geralt wasn't as lucky this time as Foltest is assassinated by another Witcher, who escaped just in time to convict Geralt as the assassin. Together with brother in arms Vernon Roche and Triss Merigold, a sorceress and his budding love interest, they set out to find the assassin and clear their names, which obviously means they get brought into conflicts of a wider scale. It's a distinctly adult tale, one that demands close attention in order to keep up with the story. It's one where Geralt's legend is carved out in blood, sweat and semen, in a world where musings of causality and morality sit naturally alongside mucky quips about 'ploughing' 'whoresons' and 'lesbomancy'.

Like most large RPG releases on the market today, The Witcher 2 makes a point of giving the player choices, both minor and major, that shape the plot. Some might be as small and simple as creating a trap that later aids in a boss fight. Others, such as one made in the first chapter, can completely differ the path you go on, affecting relationships that Geralt has with characters, offer different gameplay content in a different setting and extends into having severe end-game consequences. Unlike other titles however these choices feel a bit more personal and direct in terms of action and result, which I enjoyed a lot. No choice is easy either. Every choice is morally grey, which can make some hard decisions. The number of actions to take, together with the possibility of obtaining more information and dialogue options through thorough investigation means that it's a game worthy of repeat playthroughs. With 16 different possible endings, it puts Mass Effect 3 to shame.

What did make it harder was the fact that the game makes so many references to events and characters that happened in the first game that I would have gotten the feeling that I would have appreciated the story a lot more had I played the first game. Geralt clearly has some affection to a character named Yennefer, but her importance is never fully explained in the game. Had it been on the 360, it wouldn't have been an issue, but considering it's a PC exclusive, and the lack of any preamble it's harder for console only players like myself to keep up when the game is clearly building up upon the story set up in the previous game. The in-game glossary is adequate, but for a game that puts such a strong emphasis on story, it doesn’t provide much context for newcomers.

Despite that, The Witcer 2 still tells a strong tale, with strong characters and plenty of reason to continue playing. The main narrative is full of twists and turns and the game itself has some of the best side quests I've ever played which takes common folklore and fairy tales and subvert them to fit into this world, creating surprises and a sense that you never really know what's going to happen. It encouraged me to start reading the novel series as a result. The side quests are also interesting in that the final outcomes can also vary based on your actions, and the rewards for completing them in one way differs from another, but neither reward is bad or worse, just equally as rewarding as each other.

"Why two swords? Does he lose them often?"

The structure of the game is set across 4 chapters, each with it's own hub world in which you run around, gather info for the main quest, gather side quests, purchase items from shops or spend your free time and money on dice games, bareknuckle fighting and uh...brothels. You will have to venture outside of the town area and out into the wilderness which are gorgeously rendered environments that are huge with various paths to go down.

You will more often than not come to blows with daring bounty hunters and vicious monsters and this is where Witcher's combat comes into play. Combat in The Witcher 2 is an exercise in patience, and not especially easy to master. The controls are fine, and while you may want to dive right in and start chopping dudes to pieces, the game demands you play it cautiously, with a focus on defense. Even on the Normal difficulty, each enemy demands your full attention or they will mess you up. It's important to play cautiously as well as there are no healing items to restore health, rather Geralt regenerates health very slowly outside of combat. This all means that blocking and dodging is necessary for survival, or you will see the Game Over screen more times than enough. It's not as hard as Dark Souls, but the first few hours are particularly difficult at first without acquiring some abilities.

It's to this end, that the crafting system is especially important. While other games would have you take potions conservatively, saving them for boss battles, in The Witcher 2, taking potions is simply a necessity to the role of any Witcher and taking them is absolutely crucial if not necessary for every combat scenario. Certain recipies you find in shops or the environment will lead to potions which you can craft at any point in the game, and drinking them will lead to benefits like faster regeneration of mana, while at the expense of losing something as well (decreased health). Crafting components are found all over the environment for you to freely pick up so take my advice and craft all the time, don't be afraid to take potions as there is enough materials in the world for you to craft more.

There are some problems I had with the game, most noticeably some bugs in where certain items or enemies would never spawn where they were supposed to, which broke 2 side quests. Combat isn't perfect and there are some technical hitches here and there, but nonetheless, it is a respectable port.

"Power, sex. Sex, Power. They both come down to one thing - fucking others."

One thing I should mention, before I wrap up the review, is CD Projekt Red's sheer generosity for this port. While developers/publishers would happily shy away content as pre-order exclusives or as DLC, the developers have already added so much to what was already a substantial game. The 360 port includes all of the DLC that the PC version had as well as all new content like the arena based combat mode and additions to the story. That each normal copy of the game also comes with a guide and a soundtrack shows how much the developers care about the title.

And it shows. The Witcher 2 is a brilliant RPG, one that is worthy of your attention. The game’s relationships feel real, the power of Geralt of Rivia is satisfying and your influence on the world is fantastically strong. While the lack of information for console-only players about Geralt’s previous adventure is regrettable, the series’ future is very bright.

Assassins of Kings’ Enhanced Edition is not only a great game, it’s also a great port to consoles. For gamers who love a good story and a fantastical, interesting narrative, you can’t afford to ignore The Witcher
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