Tag Archives: Horror

The Darkness (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Starbreeze Studios

Publisher(s) – 2K Games

Designer(s) – Jens Andersson

Producer(s) – Lars Johansson

After problems arose with development concerning publishing rights, with Majesco originally owning them before having to sell them amidst financial problems, it would have been very easy to assume at that time The Darkness would suffer as a result, most likely due to creative or artistic differences from the various different parties involved; thankfully, it doesn’t suffer to any great deal, and turned out to be a fairly enjoyable game. A linear first person shooter, it introduces some very interesting gameplay mechanics into the genre, and does pretty well to stand out among many others in turn; this is especially impressive, as at this point, the genre had dominated mainstream gaming

Graphics – 6.5/10

What I enjoyed most about the game’s conceptual design was it’s exceptionally dark tone as the player wanders round back allies and open streets of a very gritty-looking New York City. It all works extremely well to set the tone of the game, and make it highly representative of the dark directions the game’s story is taken in. What I didn’t like about it however, are the dream sequences in which the main character is placed in a World War I environment known as the Otherworld. In these sequences in particular, I found there to be much less textural detail, and ironically, looked considerably less darker than in real world sequences.

Gameplay – 7/10

At first, the game seemingly plays out like a run-of-the-mill first person shooter, with the same kinds and variety of weapons that would typically be found in any instalment of wither Medal of Honour, Battlefield or Call of Duty. As players progress, however, it becomes apparent that this title has a little more going for it than that. The player gains the ability to summon small dog-like demons in order to solve puzzles and attack enemies, as well as a pair of snake-like demons in order to reach otherwise impassable areas and see where enemies are positioned in order to gain a tactical advantage. There is also a couple of side quests involving collectible items, like most first person shooters, which adds a little bit more to it’s longevity, but it all did leave me wanting a little bit more for how much variety there is in combat.

Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I had with the game’s controls is that it can be a little bit awkward to move the snake-like demons whilst trying to move around impassable areas or detect enemy patters and positions. It can also be a little bit needless annoying, as they can only stretch to a certain distance and without warning, they can immediately retract. Otherwise, however, the game plays out like any good first person shooter should. Movement and attacking is straightforward, and it tried something different without messing with the core formula too much.

Lifespan – 6/10

The game lasts about the average length of time for a linear first person shooter to last, which is around six to seven hours. As I alluded to earlier, it would have been nice to see the developers add more things to do within it to in turn add to it’s longevity, making it stand out even further than the average first person shooter than what it already does, and therefore, it would have most definitely been held in much higher regard than what it was. For example, they could have easily expanded on the brief morality mechanics seen throughout the game.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of the game involves a contract killer for the Mafia named Jackie, who becomes an assassination target, along with his girlfriend Jenny, for his uncle Paulie after a failed job, and later on requires a mysterious power known as the darkness, which gains him an edge over his enemies, but has unforeseen consequences, which unfold as the game progresses. Overall, the story is reasonably immersing, and there are elements of tragedy to it, along with the fact that Jackie is portrayed quite well as an anti-hero wrestling with his perceptions of right and wrong. However, one fatal flaw I found with it is that it would have made much more sense if Paulie wasn’t Jackie’s uncle, because I personally found it unbelievable that an uncle would immediately decide to kill his nephew for losing some money, and the way this plot element was portrayed seemed nothing short of tacked on.

Originality – 7/10

I have to commend how well this game stands out amongst a genre that was already destined for commercial success throughout the seventh generation, given the launch and prior success of many other first person series, such as Half-Life, Red Faction, Halo and Call of Duty. Like BioShock, but nowhere near on the same level, it presented players with a new way of playing these kinds of games, and did well to remind them that they don’t have to be anywhere near as generic as a vast majority of FPS franchises either were at that time, or what would later become in the future.

Happii

Happii

Overall, The Darkness is a pretty enjoyable gaming experience, and I would recommend and FPS fan tries it at least once. Though flawed in several different ways in varying degrees, it made for a decent early seventh generation title that still holds up reasonably well.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Silent Hill 2 (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Konami Computer & Entertainment Tokyo

Publisher(s) – Konami

Director – Masashi Tsuboyama

Producer – Akahiro Imamura

After the success of the first Silent Hill game, the sequel did not disappoint overall. It was met with positive reviews and huge sales figures, selling over one million copies worldwide in its first month. I, however, wasn’t overly impressed after playing through it, although I think it is better than a lot of other survival horrors to have come out before it. What I like about it is that it’s a psychological horror game, which differentiates it from most other games in the genre in an extremely positive way.

Graphics – 9/10

Although there is a protagonist, an established antagonist for the franchise and several supporting characters in this game, there’s no doubt in my mind that the town of Silent Hill itself is, in many ways, the star of the show. The atmosphere of the place is absolutely horrific, with most scares in the games coming not from a massive amount of jump scares, bloodstains throughout or a staggeringly high body count, but in its constant build-up of tension and the sense of gritty realism in the settings and lack of light throughout the game. The thought that anything could jump out of either the darkness in the numerous buildings the player has to traverse or from out of the outdoor fog is enough to keep players constantly on edge.

Gameplay – 4.5/10

I find that the gameplay is only fractionally more enjoyable than that of Outlast for exmaple, since there are means of self-defence in addition to a few alternative endings to unlock. But ultimately, it again felt more like I was watching a film than playing a game, as the only objective seemed to simply uncover the story; and the alternative endings and a few unlockable weapons are the only two forms of incentive that come with playing through the game multiple times. Reviewers have commented on how they think that the second game is the highest point in the franchise, and that doesn’t really make me want to try any of the other entries.

Controls – 10/10

Although reviewers have criticized this game for its controls, I didn’t really find any problems with it. The best thing about this game’s control scheme is the excellent use of camera angles, which, in a way, adds more to the atmosphere and overall feel of the game. They were very well done.

Lifespan – 6/10

Depending on how much exploration is done throughout a single playthrough, the game can last up to about twelve hours, which is about the average lifespan of a typical survival horror. This and the scarcely satisfying gameplay just give testament that there is a massive imbalance of focus on both horror and gameplay. It makes me wonder why there are so many developers who can’t seem to get the balance right. Even if this game lasted longer, the gameplay would be drawn out and repetition would definitely be over-emphasized, so there wouldn’t be much point to making it last any longer than it does anyway without further substance in gameplay.

Storyline – 8/10

For what this game lacks in more important aspects, whilst not making up for what it lacks, it certainly delivers in terms of story. A psychological thriller with elements of the supernatural, it will leave players feeling enthralled and emotionally drained throughout, with its coverage of taboo subjects, such as incest and domestic violence, and with the mystery of what is true and not true or what is real and not real. The protagonist, James Sunderland, is drawn to the town of Silent Hill by a message that he recently received from his wife, Maria, saying she was there waiting for him, despite the fact that she’s been dead for three years prior to the start of the game. As James explores further into the town, he enters a battle with his own personal demons and subconscious desires in order to realize a horrifying truth and understand the errors of his ways. So as you may imagine, there are a few twists and turns before the end, which make for an extremely compelling plot. The voice acting can seem a bit laughable at times, but ultimately, the characters in Silent Hill 2 are very well conceived and how they develop throughout the course of the game makes for an excellent tale. Another interesting thing is that whilst the character Pyramid Head steals the shows as the game’s primary antagonist, he’s not even the scariest character the way I see it. By far, that honour would go to Eddie, and I will go further into why I think that later on.

Originality – 7/10

With it relying on tension as the source of it’s horror, and with a story and concepts that defy convention, the Silent Hill genre is particularly unique in its own right; not just the second game. But where it lacks originality is in gameplay. It ultimately plays out like most games in its genre, and it seems as if the developers didn’t event try to defy convention in that respect

Happii

Happii

In summary, Silent Hill 2, whilst it severely lacks in gameplay, has a lot to experience in terms of story, and I suppose it is worth playing through once, because stories that compelling don’t come round often. But the way I see it, whilst certain elements do save it from being a terrible game, even saving it from being an average one, I don’t think it’s one that should be considered a classic.

Score

44.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

Resident Evil 5 (PlayStation 3, PC & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) – Capcom

Director(s) – Kenichi Ueda & Yasuhiro Anpo

Producer – Jun Takeuchi

Released back in 2009 as one of the most highly anticipated titles of the year, the fifth instalment of one of Capcom’s flagship franchises was met with mostly positive reception from critics, and went on to become the highest selling game in the series at that point. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Resident Evil series, and in my opinion, this is the worst entry in it that I’ve played for a number of reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

From a technical standpoint at least, the visuals in the game are top notch. The attention to detail is extremely impressive for the time, and the use of lighting and shadow add to the overall atmosphere of the game beautifully. However, from a conceptual standpoint, I found to be below par compared to anything else I’d seen of the series at that point. I felt that setting such as the mansion and the police station in the original trilogy would better serve to build up tension throughout the course of the game, since places like that would normally be considered safe, and so it would be easier to take players by surprise. It didn’t help matters to see that some of the game is also set in the daytime, which made it even less scarier.

Gameplay – 6/10

To a certain extent, the same logic concerning the sense of isolation could be applied to the game’s style of play. Playing out more or less identically to Resident Evil 4, it is a linear third person shooter with not as many options in terms of exploration as in the original three games, and not a great deal more to offer beyond that. Since the player and his partner stick together for the majority of the game, there’s more of a sense of security to be felt throughout, which is the last thing players would expect to feel whilst playing a survival horror game.

Controls – 5/10

The game’s control scheme is also extremely flawed in my opinion. Though I think my main concern about was added purposely in order to create tension within it, it greatly backfired on the developers. In the game, it is impossible to move and shoot at the same time, which some players may consider adds to either the challenge or the horror aspects of the game, I merely couldn’t help but think of how impractical it is.

Lifespan – 5.5/10

The game can be made to last around 8 hours, which really falls within the average of how long a game of this ilk can be made to last, so to me, it isn’t anything overly impressive. There are a couple of collection side quests to add to the game’s longevity, but it seems to me like an insult that the only option beyond this to make the game last longer is to purchase the DLC. I begrudge games lasting any less than 10 to 15 hours anyway, but when I know that a game could have been made to last with the right amount of content, I can’t help but criticise it.

Storyline – 6/10

The story follows former S.T.A.R.S member Chris Redfield, as he travels to Africa to stop the sale of a deadly virus on the black market, with the help of his new partner Sheva Alomar. The plot later unfolds into a scenario, which plays out more or less identically to the events of the first Resident Evil; it’s the same basic premise, with largely even the same characters, just in a completely different setting. To me, it didn’t add anything to the horror or suspense aspect to learn that I was basically going through the same situation as was portrayed in the original game. It’s even more puzzling why this would have happened, since this game had four writers attached to it, whereas the original game only had two.

Originality – 5/10

In terms of uniqueness, there is hardly anything positive to point out that would differentiate this game from any of the previous four games; the gameplay is identical to that of Resident Evil 4, the plot is more or less the same as the first game, and the setting are nowhere near as imposing or as scary as they ever had been throughout the franchise previously. Shinji Mikami was the man who knew best what to do with the series, and since his departure from Capcom, it has suffered in my opinion.

Angrii

Angrii

In summation Resident Evil 5 is the worst game in the series that I’ve played. It falls far short of the quality of the previous four games, and is one of the worst survival horror experiences of the seventh generation.

Score

34.5/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

Outlast (PC & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Red Barrels

Publisher(s) – Red Barrels

Project Manager – Paul-Andre Renaud

Producer – Louis St Denis

Originally released last year as a digital download for Steam, Outlast this week found it’s way on PlayStation 4. But whilst I think it definitely will provide a very stern test for veteran survival horror fans, for me personally, it did little but to re-emphasize the ongoing reservation I have with survival horror games. Focus seems to be mostly on merely making the game as scary as possible and deviating far too much from gameplay, which is the most important aspect of any game. But in terms of scaring people, this game certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Graphics – 9/10

For an indie game, it is very well polished, and the attention to detail in the environments and scenery certainly makes this game stand out from a graphical point of view at least. But the fact that this game is so well-presented could also be disturbing by others, as the gritty and horrific atmosphere is depicted throughout the course of the game through the presence of disemboweled corpses and pools of blood along the floors and walls. The surviving inmates around Mount Massive asylum, where the game is set, also make for some particularly unnerving sights, along with some of the game’s primary antagonists such as the Dr. Trager and Chris Walker. But even before I entered the asylum at the start of the game, the atmosphere was still extremely frightening, as the game begins on a windy night illuminated by a murky-looking sunset.

Gameplay – 4/10

As much as I enjoyed this game’s atmosphere and horrific settings, the gameplay certainly left a lot to be desired; even for a survival horror. The objective of this game is to simply run and hide, whilst exploring the asylum; often using a night visions camcorder. That’s it. There’s no way in which players can defend themselves at all, as with virtually every other games in the genre. Whenever enemies come into close proximity, players have no choice but to either run or hide from them, which whilst unique in it’s own way, makes this game seem like less of a game and more of a film. To me, it’s not engaging enough to be able to be called a true video game. Apart from this, there’s merely one side quest, involving the collecting of documents scattered across the asylum. Unfortunately, the game’s play is original, but in a very negative way.

Controls – 10/10

A first-person survival horror, there are absolutely no problems with the controls at all. A nice touch that the developers added was the door-opening mechanics that involve slowly opening them. It increases or maintains the constant feeling of tension, which is present throughout the entirety of the game.

Lifespan – 2/10

This game will take no more than five hours to finish, as there is hardly anything to do in it. Again, I find this is particularly bad; even for a survival horror title. In other games of the genre, there is a bit more replay value to be had, as some of them include alternative endings, but there isn’t anything like that in Outlast unfortunately. It’s also particularly annoying given the size of the in-game world, and what could’ve potentially been added to the gameplay in a bid to make it last longer.

Storyline – 7/10

If this game really had to play out as much like a film as it does, then it was imperative that it at least had a decent story; and the story isn’t too bad to be fair. It tells of a freelance journalist named Miles Upshur, who is tipped off by an anonymous source about events happening at Mount Massive Asylum. He decides to go and investigate, but unfortunately, he ends up finding more than what he’d bargained for, and immediately resolves to escape with his life. As far as survival horror stories go, whilst pretty typical, it is particularly scary. The majority of the scares in this game come not from either the copious amount of jump scares or buckets of blood, but from the constant feeling of tension, which has been a device used not only in video games before it, but in top-notch horror films as well as classic literature. I also like the element of players having to discovery the back-story of Mount Massive Asylum for themselves through the documentation found throughout the game. But the game’s story loses marks for its lack of uniqueness. I mean, how many games or films before it have depicted people travelling to reportedly dangerous places and subsequently finding more than what they would’ve liked?

Originality – 4/10

In addition to the game’s overall story probably sounding very familiar to fans of horror in general, the uniqueness found in the game’s play also has an extremely negative impact. I think the only thing this game would probably be good for is testing horror fan’s limits, as it is at least an incredibly scary experience.

Niiutral

Niiutral

To summarize, all this game did for me was perpetuate my constant concern that most games in this particular genre focus too much on scaring people and take focus away from what truly matters; the gameplay. Whilst it does have very decent visuals and a story worthy of fan’s attention, it doesn’t take long for Outlast to outlast its appeal, in my opinion.

Score

37/60

6/10 (Average)

Murdered: Soul Suspect (Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Airtight Games

Publisher(s) – Square Enix

Director – Yosuke Shiokawa

Producer – Eric Studer

Murdered: Soul Suspect is an action-adventure puzzle game, borrowing elements from both LA Noire and Dead Space, whereby investigations must be carried out and ungodly creatures must be subdued in order to advance. But because this game seemed to have these elements borrowed from games the aforementioned, I took an almost immediate dislike to it. Also, for the fact that nothing new or particularly appealing was brought to the table in terms of gameplay.

Graphics – 6/10

The game doesn’t rely greatly on either conceptual design or graphical advancement; indeed I thought it might not even push the graphical boundaries of the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, let alone the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. But I think the most impressive things about the game’s visuals are the use of gritty atmosphere and well-executed shadow and lighting. They add a fair bit of tension to the game, although for the most part, because the game relies so much on the use of gritty atmosphere and lighting, it does seem that tension only builds to a certain level and stops. The game doesn’t get any scarier or suspenseful past a certain point in each gameplay sequence, and it can make the game seem bland most of the time, I find. I think if the developers had perhaps concentrated a bit more on conceptual design and scenery, that would have added some more to the game’s overall atmosphere instead of having it only going so far, and not building to anything.

Gameplay – 4/10

A concern of mine about video games having too much story attached to it is that too much focus can be taken off gameplay, and for the most part, it seems the only objective of the overall game is finding out what happens next. This game is a shining example of that. The gameplay is extremely bland; especially for a semi-open world one. There are side quests, but all they ever involve is collecting things and nothing more. It’s the same with normal gameplay, only there are also a few demons to kill in some instances too. Not enough gameplay variety was added to this title, and consequently, made it play out far too much like a film. The idea of playing a video game as opposed to watching a film is that games immerse people more, and make them feel more like they’re a part of it. This game, however, does little to capture that very feeling of immersion.

Controls – 10/10

There are no issues with the controls, but it couldn’t have been hard to get the formula right. Not only has the third-person adventure genre been long-since worked on prior to this game’s release, but there is less variety in this than other games of its kind, so there wouldn’t have been any excuse not to have the formula done correctly.

Lifespan – 3/10

For even a semi-open world game, that Murdered: Soul Suspect can be completed within five hours is nothing short of unacceptable. Even when I’ve reviewed Child of Light and South Park: The Stick of Truth, I’ve been less than impressed with how little time they’ve lasted; since open world games can be made to last the best part of 100 hours. The fact this game is so short-lived is yet another reason why I believe it plays out too much like a film, since films can be made to last a similar amount of time; especially if it may be a trilogy of films. But its just as well the game is so short-lived, since there’s hardly anything to do in it.

Storyline – 6/10

The story of the game revolves around a recently murdered detective called Ronan O’ Connor, who must solve the mystery of his own murder in Limbo in order to be with his already deceased wife in Heaven. The game’s story isn’t too bad, and it does have a few decent twists and turns throughout, but it’s not considerably impressive, given how much emphasis on gameplay was sacrificed in order to develop it. I would have though that a game that plays out too much like a film would have at least had an exceptional story attached to it, but I was wrong in this instance.

Originality – 2/10

With the small exception of it containing psychological horror as opposed to the kind of horror normally found in video games, there isn’t much else unique about Murdered: Soul Suspect that makes it stand out among many other games; in terms of either graphics, gameplay or story. It’s not the first time a game has played out like this one does, and it will, or should never considered the definitive one by any means at all

Angrii

Angrii

Overall, Murdered: Soul Suspect is an extremely fleeting experience, and nowhere near worth its current asking price, or any asking price beyond maybe a fiver. Too much emphasis was put on the wrong factors, and it suffered because of it. Even the factors that were taken into the most consideration were not properly developed on, in my opinion.

Score

31/60

5/10 (Far Below Average)

Legacy of Kain: Defiance (Xbox, PlayStation 2 & PC)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Nixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer – Rosaura Sandoval

Developed at the back end of the sixth generation of gaming, and the last game in the series to be released pending the full version of Square Enix’s MOBA Nosgoth, Legacy of Kain: Defiance offered a pretty different take on gameplay compared to the rest of the series, whereby the player would assume control of both the central characters of the series as opposed to them being alternated between games. To me, although it is the worst game of the series, that isn’t to say that it’s bad; not by a long shot.

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals are about as extremely varied and as wonderfully disturbing as any other game in the series. Taking place across multiple time frames, like Soul Reaver 2, it portrays the land of Nosgoth from a multitude of different perspectives, from the time before the pillars collapsed to the time before Moebius would revive the Sarafan order and proceed to extinguish the vampires. The game also still maintains the dark and morbid atmosphere associated with the prior four games, as well as a feeling of isolation and helplessness, adding a great deal of tension to the overall experience.

Gameplay – 6/10

Though three of the five games are generally linear in their style of play, Defiance took this to a whole to level; largely to my disappointment. The combat is still quite varied and there exists a very strong puzzle element reminiscent of the other games in the series, but there is considerably less to do than in the likes of the original Blood Omen or Soul Reaver. From a gameplay perspective, it is indeed the least enjoyable in the franchise, but in retrospect, the basic premise does have it’s strong points, and it is certainly worth at least one playthrough.

Controls – 7/10

The biggest problem I had with the game’s control scheme is that the camera angles can make playing the game needlessly complicated in some instances. Often times, I found that the camera can be zoomed out a little bit too much, making hard for players to see what they are doing with the character; this becomes an especially big problem if they are trying to overcome certain platforming sequences that can be found throughout the game.

Lifespan – 7/10

Lasting about as long either Blood Omen 2 or Soul Reaver 2, gamers can clock in around 15 to 20 hours, which whilst isn’t a terrible lifespan, doesn’t go above and beyond anything that had already been released within the series at that point. The developers started off with a game that lasted an exceptionally long time, and the lifespan of each game gradually became less and less, which is an issue I have with the series in general, but Defiance clocks in as the shortest game from my experience.

Storyline – 10/10

A key difference between this game garnishing a 7 instead of a 6 for me, however, it it’s fantastic storyline. Developed in a time when vampires could be considered cool, and before Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart spent five films staring at each other, Legacy of Kain: Defiance presents the latest chapter portraying two vampires worth investing time into; the former ruler of Nosgoth Kain, and his former lieutenant Raziel. Kain is in search of Raziel in order to deliver a warning to him, which will prevent any further catastrophe from happening within the land of Nosgoth, and to fulfil his own destiny as the fabled scion of balance, and Raziel meanwhile escapes from the underworld and his captor, The Elder God, in order to return to the physical world and find answers regarding his own purpose and realize his own free will. My brief synopsis really doesn’t do the story justice in honesty, and it is worth playing the game to simply find out what happens; something that I personally rarely advocate in my reviews.

Originality – 7/10

In terms of it’s narrative, the entire Legacy of Kain series easily has the best story ever told in a video game in my own personal opinion. It went leaps and bounds ahead of any other video game story, and presented players with something reminiscent of classic literature and epic fantasy. From a gameplay perspective however, there have been many different games like this but with even greater variety, and Defiance doesn’t really stand out in that respect. Though it is fairly enjoyable to play through there was most definitely room for improvement as well in terms of gameplay.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Legacy of Kain: Defiance is the worst game in the series, but it is nevertheless a joy to play through; if only for the story. Even so, Issues I encountered with gameplay doesn’t make the title unplayable by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s plenty of addicting combat and puzzle solving to keep players relatively busy throughout.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

The Last of Us (PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Naughty Dog

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director(s) – Bruce Straley & Neil Druckmann

Designer – Jacob Minkoff

Selling millions of copies worldwide and garnishing many perfect scores from reviewers, as well as a near perfect score of 38/40 from Famitsu, The Last of Us is considered one of the defining titles of the PlayStation 3’s library by gamers and critics alike. I, on the other hand…

Graphics – 8/10

One positive to discuss regarding this game, at least, is how good it looks. The game is both conceptually and graphically sound. Aside from representing the pinnacle of what the PlayStation 3 is capable of on a graphical level for the most part, it also presents a very interesting, yet unsettling take on how a post-apocalyptic earth would be governed under marshal law, and how humanity would cope under such circumstances; or how it wouldn’t. There are also few glitches in the game here and there, but nothing overly noticeable. Certainly not on the same level as Aliens: Colonial Marines, which I reviewed last week. It’s interesting to see where Naughty Dog’s influence comes in, as similarities can be drawn with their own Uncharted series. One of the game’s main characters, Joel, also wears similar attire to that of Nathan Drake, the main character of Uncharted.

Gameplay – 3/10

The gameplay, however, is the aspect of which I find most difficult to wax poetic about. Prior to playing, I had heard through bad word of mouth that this game had it’s downsides, such as it’s level of linearity and lack of overall substance, but I initially thought to myself that it surely couldn’t have been as bad as people made out to me. But I actually found it worse than what people made out, unfortunately. I found myself very disappointed with The Last of Us, with the game only encouraging exploration to a very small extent, having players search areas where they think there may be hidden side quest items, but when there is nothing. Though it is common to have areas, which are merely decorative in games, this game takes it to a pretty ridiculous level. It even reminded me of Murdered: Soul Suspect in terms of how repetitive it can get; but in this case, it’s to an even greater extent than that. At least there were side quests in Murdered: Soul Suspect, but in The Last of Us, there are considerably fewer.

Controls – 10/10

There are no issues with the game’s control scheme, but since it plays out very similarly to any game in the Uncharted series, but with a greater emphasis on stealth as a combat option, I don’t think there should have been any issues with the control scheme, really. This control scheme was evolutionary during the time Naughty Dog developed Uncharted, and although the game loses no marks for not having any problems, they certainly didn’t do themselves any favours by not adding anything new to the table.

Lifespan – 5/10

Discounting the DLC package, Left Behind, The Last of Us can take an average time of 12 hours to complete. But whilst that may sound fairly impressive for a game of this kind compared to any game in the Uncharted series, most time will be spent watching the cutscenes and taking in the game’s story as opposed to players actually playing the game. Although it would seem to last twice as long as an Uncharted game, it’s far less enjoyable to play, and by that token can make it seem much more drawn out.

Storyline – 9/10

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing that can be attributed to this game is it’s extremely immersing story. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic Earth following the spread of a deadly advanced strain of the Cordyceps fungus, which turns humans into cannibalistic monsters known as clickers, Joel, a human survivors who lost his daughter twenty years prior to the game’s main events, finds himself escorting a young girl called Ellie across the United States in order to survive and put a stop to the deadly virus once and for all. The narrative told in this game is incredible, with great voice acting, a lot of emphasis on character development and a good few twists and turns throughout. The overall atmosphere of the game alternates from being very intense and very emotional as the relationship between Joel and Ellie progresses throughout the course of the game. Although it is never worth sacrificing good gameplay in favour of immersing story, which to me is become a recurring problem in mainstream titles, the game certainly has a great deal of substance in story nevertheless.

Originality – 3/10

Though it is impossible for me to deny the historical significance of this title for its excellent story, there is hardly anything either original or innovative about the gameplay in the Last of Us, and it’s not as if video games hadn’t had great stories attributed to them prior. There have been much greater narrative told in video games prior to the release of The Last of Us, but have also included greater gameplay.

Niiutral

Niiutral

Overall, whilst having a fantastic and engrossing plot and conceptually and graphically astute visuals, there was definitely room for improvement in terms of both substance and innovation in gameplay. Gameplay is the most important aspect of any video game, and my biggest hope for Naughty Dog now is that they haven’t completely lost sight of that pending the release of Uncharted 4.

Score

38/60

6/10 (Average)

Luigi’s Mansion (GameCube)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Hideki Konno

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto & Takashi Tezuka

Released as a launch title for the GameCube after undergoing an extremely in-depth and long-winded development cycle, Luigi’s Mansion took on a much darker and grittier tone than anything seen in the Super Mario series prior, featuring Mario’s brother Luigi as the main character, as he traverses through a creepy mansion, wielding nothing but a vacuum cleaner to clear the house of a ghost infestation in the style of Ghostbusters. Going on to become the best-selling game of November 2001, and garnishing a great deal of critical acclaim, the game has rightfully earned its place among the best of Nintendo’s repertoire, and is a game I have personally come back to again and again.

Graphics – 8/10

Unlike any other Super Mario game, the title took the scary and dark atmosphere of the many ghost house levels found in the rest of the series, and ran with it. Not only is there a huge haunted house with many twists and turns, but the surrounding area is also extremely morbid and out-of-place, signifying death and the foretelling of death with elements such as crows and dead trees. But of course, it’s inside the mansion where the majority of this game’s chills are housed, featuring not only a wide range of eerie apparitions haunting the place for Luigi to dead with, but extremely effective use of lighting throughout. In areas that have yet to be explored thoroughly, light is limited only to Luigi’s torch, and it does an extremely good job of building tension, which is one of the most popular tropes of horror in general; be that in books or films as well as games.

Gameplay – 9/10

The objective of the game is to clear the mansion of as many ghosts as possible using Luigi’s newly acquired weapon, the Poltergust 3000. There are many hidden areas in the mansion, as well as a fair few side quests in each stage, including tracking down 50 Boos hidden within different parts. The game also has somewhat of an arcade feel to it, with players having to collect as much money and treasure as possible throughout each segment, and thus racking up as impressive a high score as possible. It plays out unlike any other Super Mario game ever developed, or any other Nintendo game ever developed for that matter. It’s extremely satisfying to do everything there is to do, and uncover every secret there is to find.

Controls – 9/10

In terms of controls, the game doesn’t pose too many problems. It can take a little bit of time to get used to how Luigi both moves and aims with the Poltergust 3000, since the c-stick is used to move him around whilst he is using the weapon to collect things like money and treasure throughout each room. But thankfully, this does nothing to hinder the quality of the combat system, as control is then swapped out for the main analogue, making things much easier without the worry of over-complication.

Lifespan – 6.5/10

Disappointingly, the game can only be made to last around 5 to 6 hours. Early in development, there was talk of the inclusion of an RPG element to the game, and I’ve always wondered how that would have worked out. As a fan of the genre, I can’t help but think that the introduction of such mechanics would have drastically improved the game, and made it even more interesting than what it turned out to be, and most definitely adding much more longevity to it.

Storyline – 8/10

The story follows Mario’s brother Luigi, as he wins a mansion in a competition he strangely didn’t even enter. Upon arriving at the mansion, he soon discovers that it is wrought with danger, and he meets a new character to the series, Professor E.Gadd. Gadd trains Luigi to use his invention, the Poltergust 3000 to rid the ghosts inside, and to free his brother, who is trapped somewhere inside the creepy haunted house. Whilst it does ultimately play out in the fashion of a typical Super Mario game, only this time, it’s Mario who’s in danger; it’s the dark and gritty atmosphere that keeps it interesting and unique to every other Super Mario game, and it showed that the series’ creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, was not scared to take risks by taking the normally innocent series into more interesting artistic directions.

Originality – 9.5/10

Aside from standing out from the rest of the Super Mario Bros games that players have been challenged with over the years, this game also offers an extremely unique twist on the survival horror genre, which at the time, was becoming increasingly popular after the advent of both Resident Evil and Silent Hill. The genre would go on to become extremely prominent on the GameCube itself, with the likes of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, as well as a ton of Resident Evil games released for the system. But out of all of them, none had quite the same atmospheric feel as this game did, and consequently, I think it’s the best such experience on the console.

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Happii

Overall, Luigi’s Mansion is not only one of the best Super Mario games released, but also one of the best games to have ever been released by Nintendo. It showed that Luigi didn’t have to constantly live in the shadow of the more commercially successful brother, but instead, he could be made to traverse through shadow in order to rescue him.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Killer is Dead (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Grasshopper Manufacture

Publisher(s) – Deep Silver

Director – Hideyuki Shin

Producer(s) – Yoshimi Yasuda & Shuji Ishikawa

Killer is Dead was launched in the back end of 2013 and was released to mixed reviews in different countries. In Japan, its country of origin, it was released to mostly positive reviews, whilst the western world was far more critical of the game, citing it’s alleged nonsensical story and repetitive gameplay. Ray Carsillo of Electronic Gaming Monthly even went as far to say that Killer is Dead had “the most ridiculous, nonsensical plot yet”. I was torn between reviewing this and Batman: Arkham Origins for the sake of the week’s subject of games influenced by comic book culture. But although there are a few things I pointed out wrong with Arkham Origins, I found that there are many more flaws in Killer is Dead to point out; including in the storyline.

Graphics – 8/10

As with many games I’ve reviewed up to this point in the blog, the best thing about it is how good it looks. There is a great deal of very decent use of cel-shaded graphics in this game. The game’s style is pretty compelling and the settings are exceptional, with many segments of the game transpiring in maze-like houses and even in a mansion on the moon. Although there are a few glitches here and there, they’re barely noticeable. What players will be concentrating on most is the very effective use of lighting. This adds a very prominent sense of grittiness to the overall feel of the game, as the plot has gritty elements to it with plenty of violence to accompany it. Blood sprays out in comic book-like geysers, similar to other cel-shaded games like Madworld and No More Heroes. Some of the characters, including the main character, also have robotic limbs similar to Deus Ex, which make for a few unique character designs too, albeit amidst some fairly generic-looking characters.

Gameplay – 5.5/10

After the first three hours or so, I found myself getting particularly bored of this game. It’s an action hack and slash game very similar to DMC: Devil May Cry, but just a lot more linear with equally unrefined combat. The game is set out in stages requiring players to essentially get from point A to point B with a boss at the end of it. Although some of the boss fights at the end of each stage were pretty well thought out and some of them even fascinatingly disturbing (particularly the boss fight with Alice around the beginning of the game), they weren’t enough to save it overall, in my opinion. There is only one side quest, which involves the main character working as a gigolo and wooing clients into bed by giving them presents and having players taking suggestive snapshots of them. More explicit content is shown with every time a player successfully woos one particular woman into bed, which in my opinion is a particularly cheap way to get people to continue playing the game, as there doesn’t seem to be much more incentive to players other than gaining new weapons. The game for me lacks substance overall. Particularly, in chapter 5, there is not much to do rather than walk around a strange moonlit landscape in slow motion, watch a few cutscenes and kill a boss at the end of it. That chapter was clearly added as filler the way I see it.

Controls – 9.5/10

Apart from the one minor flaw of it sometimes being difficult to hit breakable objects, which hold in-game items, there’s nothing at all else to complain about in terms of controls. Although the combat system is pretty bland and unelaborated on, that’s down to gameplay.

Lifespan – 6/10

If the cutscenes are skipped, which is a good idea given how ridiculous the game’s story indeed truly is, this game can be easily completed within ten hours. For me, the incentive to play through the side quests was far too cheap, and main gameplay can become far too monotonous to keep players engrossed in it for any extended amount of time anyway. There are much better and longer hack and slash games that were released last year, including God of War: Ascension.

Storyline – 3/10

The game’s story centres on an assassin called Mondo Zappa, who carries out assassination missions for the Bryan Execution Firm along with his infinitely annoying and dim-witted assistant, Mika. They’re both tasked by their boss, Bryan Roses, to kill dangerous criminals all around the globe. Like Heart of Darkness, which I reviewed last week, there are certain elements of the story, which make it overall seem very farfetched, and makes it seem like a lot of stuff was randomly put together in order to create a fully cohesive concept, and for me, it fell apart very quickly. It doesn’t help that there is some pretty bad voice acting in it as well. In particular, the character Mika is without a doubt one of the worst characters I’ve ever seen in a video game. She throws tantrums, cries a lot, and becomes far too childishly enthusiastic about her situation for me to be able to take her seriously. I don’t even think the main character Mondo can be taken seriously, as his catchphrase “The job… killer is dead” makes little to no sense.

Originality – 6/10

In terms of conceptual design, this game was always going to be able to stand out visually, as there are some unique settings and character designs, but no uniqueness lies in gameplay, which for me, lessens it way too much for me to be able to call it a decent game. But with no standout personalities and a few fairly good boss fights, the overall feel of the game can get boring after a while.

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Niiutral

To summarize, Killer is Dead is playable, but shouldn’t be considered a classic by any means. There are other games of its kind that I would more highly recommend than this. I may have found a few decent games released in 2013 following my initial scepticism, but I think this is definitely one to steer clear from.

Score

36/60

6/10 (Average)

Half-Life 2 (PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 & Shield Portable)

Developer(s) – Valve

Publisher(s) – Valve & Sierra Entertainment

Following up the immensely successful first-person shooter Half-Life, Half-Life 2 takes Gordon Freeman out of the lab and into the game’s outside world. Filled with more of the same alien-fighting and puzzle-solving action, the way I see it, it is a very worthy sequel to one of the greatest video games of all time in my own personal opinion.

Graphics – 8/10

The most visible improvements made to last time to me, is in the sequel’s increased amount of variety in enemy design, as well as graphical quality. Though the scenery may not be quite as varied as in the first game, that taking place in an alien dimension as well as a vast research facility (indeed both games could be accused of having generic elements), the atmosphere is just as terrifically horrifying and imposing as its predecessor.

Gameplay – 9/10

Like the first game before it, Half-Life 2 is an exceptional first-person shooter, with some new physics added in for good measure. These new gameplay mechanics were revolutionary at the time, and would go on to inspire the creation of Valve’s own Portal among many other future games. The combat sequences are just as challenging and enthralling as in the first game, and in lieu of Valve tradition, there is the element of outside-the-box puzzle-solving that the company has gained a reputation for, spanning almost twenty years.

Controls – 9.5/10

The only minor problem I had with the game’s control scheme was during the boat-riding sequences, whereby Gordon has to ride a speedboat to progress; it can be a little bit unnecessarily tricky to control at times and crashes can become frequent for those unprepared. But otherwise, it plays out just like any exceptional first-person shooter should play out.

Lifespan – 6/10

Lasting about 12 to 15 hours long, it only lasts about half the time as the original game, which to me was somewhat disappointing. It also seemed unusual to me, since how the game was just as satisfying to play as the original, and they could have easily drawn it out at least a little longer than how long it ended up lasting. I would recommend anyone looking to play this game to get The Orange Box available for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, since not only does it contain the original game, but also its sequels; Half-Life 2 Episode One and Half-Life 2 Episode 2 (as well as both Team Fortress 2 and the original Portal game).

Storyline – 8/10

Taking place roughly 20 years after the events of the previous game, Half-Life 2 follows the series’ main protagonist, Dr. Gordon Freeman, now under the employment of the mysterious G-Man. Gordon is brought out of stasis by the G-Man, and led to a dystopian metropolis called City 17. Freeman finds himself helping a resistance faction known as the Black Mesa East to stop a multidimensional empire known as the Combine from harvesting Earth’s resources, including humanity itself. Just like the first game, there are plenty of twists and turns before the end, as well as the omnipresence of the G-man himself, spoon-feeding players just enough information to make them want to find out more about who he is, what he is, and to possibly be able to better see the bigger picture. One major improvement to the game’s story, I found, was the more effective use of voice acting throughout.

Originality – 8/10

Though for the most part, this game can just seem to be a pretty standard first-person shooter, especially to newcomers to the series, the new physics introduced to the game would go on to inspire many different developers to create a plethora of different games, not only within the confines of the genre, but across other genres too. To me, it had a very positive impact on creativity within the gaming industry; especially as the transcendence from the sixth generation to the seventh generation of gaming was just around the corner at the time.

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Happii

To conclude, Half-Life 2 is most definitely a classic game, and one that I would thoroughly recommend to any fan of first-person shooters. Though I personally greatly prefer the original game, Half-Life 2 is an excellent attempt to follow up what Valve did with the first, and is definitely worth playing through at least once.

Score

48.5/50

8/10 (Very Good)