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Nintendo's E3 Press Conference

Some of the biggest announcements of the Nintendo press conference are listed below: Pokedex: This is a new...

It is Time Again

This is it everybody. It is that time of year again. Next week is Christmas for us gamers. It is time for E3...

Microsoft E3 2011 Press Conference

Today is the first day of E3. The Microsoft team started off the day with their press conference. To start out the event, Microsoft showed off...

Sony's E3 Press Conference

Next up at the E3 press conference is Sony. Hopefully, Sony can give us some announcements that can make up for last months PSN outage. The first part of Sony’s press conference was...

E3 Update

Here are some of the major events that have happened at E3 over the past couple of days. The biggest event was the announcement of...

About two years ago, Rocksteady taught the gaming industry a lesson. Before Batman: Arkham Island, it was generally believed that to make a game about a superhero that had a deep and involving plot as well as fun gameplay would be nearly impossible. The problem was the characters. They had already been created, and evolving a character would anger his or her fans and destroy the credibility of the game. A good example is Spiderman 2 for the Game Cube. It was generally fun to play, as the movement was extremely flowing and fast. However, the characters were flat and boring (not to mention the voice acting sounded like Christopher Walken with a lobotomy) because there was nothing the writers could do to change and evolve the characters. This problem should have been double for Batman. All he really does is punch things and hit them with Bat-[insert name of gadget here]. But Rocksteady destroyed those notions, by making not just Batman, but every character extremely deep. I’ll go into what made the first Batman game so great throughout this review. Also, in order to make my reviews more organized, I’m going to split them into five (four for this one, as there is no multiplayer) sections instead of just writing until I run out of ideas.

Visuals: Damn, this game looks good. It’s not just the realistic graphics or awesome (more or less) character animations, though. It’s the look of the city. The buildings are dark, sporadically place, and there is junk and clutter everywhere. No matter how many times I play it, when I stop on a high perch and look out, it always amazes me at the detail of everything. There is the destroyed highway that used to connect the buildings that now without it makes the city look like Venice, the fact that some buildings are tilted or just generally in ruin, and there’s even one building that’s on fire on the inside. It has nothing to do with anything, it’s just on burning up on the inside. Well, I thought it was cool.

One thing is for sure, the people do not look as good as the city. There’s still that weird moment after a fight where the last enemy grips his head or body and writhes for a little bit before passing out. This was in the first game too, and it was weird seeing a guy who just got kicked in the head by Batman not get knocked out instantly. Also from the first game, there’s that creepy bug-eyed thing where some people have humongous eyes while they talk to you. Granted, my eyes would be pretty wide at the sight of the freakin’ Batman, but it’s just creepy how abnormally huge they are. It’s a small complaint, but I was hoping for it to be fixed. However, in the end, the sick Joker, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and everyone else all look great. That’s not just a graphics compliment though. The actual design of the characters is original without betraying its roots (what makes this series so awesome).    

Performance: Playing this on the 360, I experienced nearly no problems with the gameplay, which is surprising for a sandbox. Even when I thought I’d get stuck on a dead tree or antennae the game just shot me out of it without breaking the flow of my motion. There isn’t much else to say here, so here’s a picture of some guys about to have their day ruined:
  

Plot: As mentioned before, this is what makes these Batman games truly stand out. The actual plot is a little bit different to what usually happens in Batman movies/games/etc. This time, instead of the inmates taking over the Asylum, the inmates are just simply set free inside of a bigger Asylum. Hugo Strange has managed to section off a piece of Gotham City (luckily containing every major landmark from the Batman Mythos) to make a large super prison where everyone from Blackgate Prison and Arkham Asylum are simply set loose to have some fun. Then Bruce Wayne (along with other political prisoners) is thrown in, where he quickly puts his underwear on the outside and starts breaking other people’s bones (he actually does that last part before he’s in his costume). The overall plot does seem a little bit of a stretch. It just doesn’t seem possible for this sort of unusual system to happen anywhere in America (that’s what Cuba is for). However, the interactions with each super criminal (Joker, Penguin, etc) are really well thought out. Batman seems to have a special relationship with each, and he treats no two villains the same. This was the same in the first game, and it adds to that point I mentioned about each character being really deep and 3-D. Even the side missions help to expand Batman’s character, exposing more of the Man and less of the Bat (listen, I know that sounds stupid, but that’s the only way I can say what I’m thinking, so I don’t care what you think about it).

Gameplay: This is why you should buy this game. Never before has stealth and fist-fighting combat been so perfectly balanced. It never feels like a string of samey, old “Yeah, hide in the rafters and swoop down” or “Punch these guys until they stop moving.” Every encounter is different. Up until the last scripted stealth section or fight, new content gets added to make it fresh and exciting. This was more or less true for the first game, but Arkham City expanded and showed it’s true potential. If you don’t already know, the game controls excellently. Combat is generally just one button for each function, and now those functions have been combined in ways that make each fight a new challenge. Towards the end, it became downright difficult, yet it is just on the line of “challenging fun” and never crossing over into “needlessly impossible to make the game longer than it really is.” Strangely enough, not a lot of drastically new abilities or gadgets have been added to Batman’s belt. Most have been reserved for the enemies, adding to the feeling that you’re adapting to the enemies advances, not the other way around (which would just be strait up unfair, I mean, did you see that picture?).

However, the biggest change comes with the new setting. Arkham City is, as expected, much larger than the old Asylum. Here’s my biggest complaint: It doesn’t feel big. You could access every square inch of Arkham Island. Each building had secrets hidden in the walls and extra rooms with details that made the small island seem like a small part of a bigger entity. Now, in Arkham City, you have access to the same amount of buildings as the first game; however, in Arkham Island, those were all the buildings there. Now that there are a hundred buildings, I feel like I’m missing out on so much. Granted, the buildings you are granted access to have the same appeal as the first game, but I can’t shake the feeling I’m missing something. However, the city itself is still extremely fun to explore, especially with the new and improved Riddler Challenges. Now Batman has to use his gadgets and skills not to beat the environment around the trophy (as in the first game) but specific challenges set up by the little green brat himself. It adds to a feeling of accomplishment, as you feel like your beating the Riddler himself. And finally, the improved gliding mechanics (the ability to dive and swoop back up and to grapple boost to gain more height) make the city much easier to explore and move around in.

Finally, the actual encounters with the super-villains! The boss fights have been tremendously improved since the last game. In Arkham Island, there was one boss: a big, buff dude that you had to doge while he runs into a wall. Now, the level of variation from boss fight to boss fight is amazing. There’s the (spoiler alert?) mind bending Ra’s a Guhl battle, the stealth based Mr. Freeze showdown, and the incredible all out brawl that Joker presents you with. In the end, it adds a fantastic finish to an already amazing game.

In Conclusion: get this game. Seriously. If you like sandboxes, action, adventure, exploration, or Batman, you seriously need to check out this game (although this review is so late you probably already have.) It is an amazing improvement on its predecessor, a game I easily pick as my Game of the Year. Arkham City may even take that title for me this year as well (although I haven’t got a chance to play Skyrim yet).

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Visuals: 9.7 (great looking graphics and overall design that truly gave that Batman feel)
Performance: 9.5 (as with literally every game on the 360, it had texture pop-ins)
Plot: 9.7 (not truly original for a Batman plot, but amazed the gaming world with the evolution of its characters)
Gameplay: 9.6 (incredible balanced and flowing, but the fights can seem repetitive)
Multiplayer: n/a
Overall: 9.6 (a true classic)

Batman: Arkham City
Visuals: 9.7 (almost identical to the original)
Performance: 9.7 (much less problems than I expected from a sandbox game)
Plot: 9.8 (more original for Batman with all new characters that are still 3-D)
Gameplay: 9.9 (vastly improved on its predecessor with more variation and abilities) oHoweveer
Multiplayer: n/a
Overall: 9.8 (It’s truly incredible. Why? Because it’s Batman.)

A couple months ago I heard about Rockstar’s latest game, and being a fan of GTA and Red Dead Redemption, I hopped on board. I hoped for it to combine the best parts of the two worlds, and with the promise of original core gameplay, I had high hopes. Did it satisfy these hopes and expectations, well…

            In L.A. Noire you play Cole Phelps, a veteran of WWII returning to his job as a police officer. The plot is like any other Rockstar game, escape your past and climb to the top; however, you play a cop. Not even a, take off the badge and beat the crap out of the suspect cop, but just a real by-the-book professional. Phelps is even called out on this a couple of times. Anyway, you guide Phelps through the four major departments of detective work (traffic, arson, vice, and homicide), all the while being shown flashbacks of Cole’s time in the war. At first there isn’t really an over-arcing plot; however, towards the end a conspiracy is discovered that was actually quite interesting. But, the way it is presented and the overall complexity of the conspiracy makes it hard to follow.

            The characters in the game are sub-par, especially for Rockstar. Cole himself suffers from a bit of the Issac Clarke syndrome. As I said he’s extremely professional, so when he does anything slightly human, such as reciting Shakespeare, it seems really out of place, like Kratos stopping to giggle at a silly hat he saw on the decapitated head on one of his victims. Unlike the characters, the setting was done well. The music, cars, dress, and overall feel of the game was 1940’s, and it didn’t feel as forced as Red Dead Redemption’s “Look! It’s the final days of the west, here read this paper and see, watch this movie, look he’s driving a car, that must mean it’s the end of the old wild west! See?”  

            However, the biggest disappointment comes with the ending (if you can’t already tell, this is a MAJOR SPOILER ALERT, so skip this paragraph if you feel the need to). If you’ve played the game, you know that towards the end Cole manages to get a fellow veteran of the war (also working as an investigator for an insurance company) to investigate the aforementioned conspiracy. The thing is, Jack Kelso, the investigator, is a much better character, and I felt completely alienated from Cole. This made Cole’s death at the end pointless, as I didn’t even care about him at that point. However, the worst part is, the last words spoken in the game at Cole’s funeral are said by a crooked cop who betrayed Cole. The point of the last few investigations was to expose him and his accomplices, so I hope you don’t want justice while you play the cop-game.

            But the lackluster plot and characters shouldn’t distract from the main reason one should check the game out, the gameplay. While there is plenty of third-person cover-based shooting, car chases, and fist fights to go around, the main focus is on solving crimes with wit and intelligence.

            First I’ll talk about the exciting stuff. I was hoping for a game with GTA’s incredible car driving and fast paced action and Red Dead Redemption’s fantastic gunplay. Unfortunately, both have been cut down a bit. While I wasn’t expecting Dead Eye to return, the gunplay is still satisfying, just not as good as RDR’s. The driving is also harder, with the cars being much more reactive than GTA’s hyper-realistic driving physics, so it will take some time to get used to. However, I have to say that exclusion of the ability to shoot while drive made the car chases more fun. After mastering that skill in GTA most of the missions became a game of “Put the Tires in the Center of the Screen.” Now you have to get your partner close enough to shoot out the tires, or you have to slam into them until they re-enact the car-flipping scene from Casino Royale. The fist fighting is also less sticky than GTA and RDR, and it controls much better. However, for me the most exciting part were the foot chases. You held down one button to run after a suspect, automatically vaulting or climbing up obstacles, and these segments control fantastically, although they can be a little easy.  

            Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your taste, that isn’t just what the game is. Obviously one has to investigate crime scenes and interrogate suspects to be a true detective (not really, if you mess up these you just have tail a suspect or do something more fun, but don’t tell anyone I told you that). Investigating is alright. Clearly you can’t have everything in a crime scene interactable, so certain objects help you and certain objects are useless. You walk around a crime scene waiting for your controller to vibrate, then you press A or X (depending on the console) to bend down and pick up the item of interest. Although must say inspecting a body is unnecessarily gruesome, as turning the head to inspect it makes the neck crack (honestly who decided that at a think tank, “Oh hey, let’s make the victim’s bones crack as you hold them!” Rockstar is full of some sick people, although GTA should have taught us that).

            Next is interrogating. As you’ve probably heard, Rockstar used new technology to more realistically depict the faces of the characters, and let me tell you, it worked. The thing is, graphics in Rockstar games have never been incredible, so the realistic faces can seem somewhat disturbing at times. Anyway, to interrogate you ask a suspect a question, watch them as they answer, and depending on their body language, you can select from truth, doubt, or lie. However, while truth is strait forward, the other two are not. If you choose lie, you have to be able to prove that that they are in fact lying (although if you back out of a “lie” accusation, Cole looks seriously stupid taking back his words). “Doubt” just means that you think they are lying, you just can’t prove it. The whole investigate/interrogate aspect is held together by Cole’s notebook. You can view the notebook to see all the clues, people of interest, and locations for the case, and it actually works very well.

            In the end, LA Noire is original, and that may be all it has going for it. If there was a huge market for crime scene investigating games, it would be unmentionably average. Hardcore fans of Rockstar should check it out and probably already have, but if you haven’t played Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto IV, check those out instead.

Visuals: 8.7 (nothing special overall, but extra points are given for the incredible face animation)
Performance: 8.3 (less bugs and glitches than most Rockstar games)
Story: 7.5 (hard to follow with average characters, disappointing for a Rockstar game)
Gameplay: 8.8 (well done for an original concept, and the other elements are also done well)
Multiplayer: n/a
Overall: 8.3

I might as well start this with a sweeping generality. Get this game. I seriously recommend it to everyone. I think any type of gamer should check this out, as it really is a cooling refresher from all the mindless violence in most games (not that there is anything wrong with violence in games).

Portal 2 has one hole (ha ha, get it?) in the plot. This is kind of a spoiler for the first game, so for those who haven’t played it yet, uh… eye muffs? Anyway, at the end of Portal, you escape the facility. Portal 2 picks up with you being in a sort of long-term hibernation chamber inside the wrecked, overgrown facility, but the game never explains how you get back inside. Besides that the plot is really good. Its more in-your-face than the original (meaning there are large portions of the game dedicated only to the plot, not the puzzle), but it twists unexpectedly multiple times and is hilarious. The characters are also fantastic. You (Chell) and Glados, the evil computer controlling the facility, are back, but they added a new robot helper, Wheately (one of my favorite characters in any game). You are also introduced to Cave Johnson, the late CEO of aperture laboratories (the facility you are trapped in), although he is only heard of through pre-recorded messages. All the characters are, well, characterized through dialogue. The only human, Cave, is never seen, and Chell never does anything. This calls for the need for great writing, and as usual, Valve delivers. Obviously it is funny, yet it does seem to be a slightly unfamiliar sense of humor, perhaps changed to appeal to the massive audience Portal attracted. 

As everyone knows, the gameplay in Portal 2 is centered on the Portal Gun. The gun allows you to shoot a blue and orange portal, and going through one puts you out the other with the same speed and direction you went in with. However, this is a puzzle game, so there are many other elements. Veterans will know the classic ones, such as turrets that lock onto you and cubes (sometimes friendly) that you place on buttons to activate things. There plenty of new ones as well, such as light bridges, tractor beams, lasers and cubes that re-direct them, and gels that propel or repel you. Valve has shown to be quite capable at putting puzzles together, as they never feel too hard, yet still challenging enough to be fun and create a sense of achievement. The later ones get a bit difficult, but most of them are really easy, sometimes too much so. However, a large portion of Portal 2 is spent wandering around large areas (mind-you, they look fantastic), occasionally having to use the Portal Gun to get somewhere. It’s not really a puzzle, and when the plot isn’t getting developed while one of these sections is occurring, they can seriously drag on. It just seemed like an unnecessary tactic for elongating the game. A final, general, complaint: puzzle games have little to no replay value, as there is no more challenge or sense of achievement left after beating them (unless it’s been a long time since the last play-through).   

But my biggest gameplay complaint comes with the @#!$% load times. Excuse my un-holy (ha, I did it again!) language, but there are just too many! They aren’t even that long (20-30 seconds) but there are just so many. After every single test chamber (or puzzle) you have to sit through another. It’s just so horribly pace-breaking, especially at two times. One is during the easier, tutorial-like levels (even though most of the Portal games is tutorial). Sometimes the load time was longer than the puzzle itself.  The second is during some of the plot/walking around sections. One of them involves a long fall (about a minute long) and before you reach the bottom the game fades out into a loading screen. It’s just extremely frustrating when you just want to get to the next puzzle or simply find out what happens next. 

However, one of the better aspects of Portal 2 was the addition of a co-op mode, and in true Valve tradition (Left 4 Dead anybody?) it is truly “cooperative.” Its plot is focused on two robots that are built by Glados in order to test the Portal Gun, taking place after the end of the single player campaign (I think the time is true, as it drops hints to the fact that it may be happening either at the same time as the single player campaign or after.) I used to think of Chell as a robot for showing no emotion, but I have to drop that because the robots in the co-op are awesome. Just through actions and mannerisms, they are characterized as being very different, yet they begin to bond as you and your real-life friend begin to get good at the puzzles.

The controls are also great, allowing for good communication and teamwork, such as being able to count down or mark where you think a portal should be put. But the true highlight of the interactivity comes with the silly, friendly gestures that you and your partner can do, such as waving, dancing, or playfully beating the crap out of each other. Everything is just so happy and friendly (even the deaths made me and my brother laugh), it suits all ages (assuming that they can handle the challenge). The puzzles are also much more complex than the single-player’s, yet they too never seem just plain impossible. Towards the end I simply became blown away by the tasks the game was asking of me and my partner, and even more so when we did it.  However, my original complaint about re-play still stands for the co-op as well (even more so).

Portal 2 is one of the best games this year, if not the best. However, it seems a little dragged out at times, and the long load times seriously break the pace. Portal (the original) didn’t waste anything. It was always business (testing Portal Guns business) all the time, with no wandering around parts. Portal 2 may be longer and have more stuff, but it can seem a little stretched out.

Portal
Visuals: 9.8 (really well done, with great aesthetics to match any changes in tone)
Performance: 10 (although I can’t say for the PC)
Story: 10 (introduced one hell of a bad guy, and was actually bigger than it seemed with
subtle Half Life tie-ins)
Gameplay: 10 (a purely original experience)
Multiplayer: n/a
Overall: 9.9

Portal 2
Visuals: 9.8 (source engine is still holding its own after all these years)
Performance: 10 (but yet again I can’t say for the PC)
Story: 10 (twisting, intriguing, with some hilarious characters)
Gameplay: 9 (no points for originality, but still fun and challenging, also load times!)
Multiplayer: 10 (promotes teamwork regardless of verbal limitations, and has the best silent characters I’ve ever seen in a game)
Overall: 9.8

I had an idea recently. See, I was going to write a top-ten list for PS2 games, but I realized that those are just based off taste. Without a lot of people’s input, it’s just a list of games one person likes. So I made a different list, a sort of homework-assignment. Check out these games, and tell us, Red Platoon, what you think of them. Chances are you may still own or have heard of them, so now’s a time to voice your opinion about them. I won’t say much or nothing at all about the games on this list, that’s for you to tell us. These are in no order, I just named them as they came to my head.  

             Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
           
             Okami

             We  Katamari

 Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando- I chose this one in the series because it’s sort of the middle child (guess who else is).

 Kingdom Hearts

 Silent Hill 2 (or any of the games 2-4)

 ICO

 Sly 2: Band of Thieves

Final Fantasy X- never played it, but I think I’m legally obligated to put it on this list

Shadow of the Colossus- I just wanted ICO on the list, but the pure greatness of this game overruled that decision

So tell us what you think about those games. You can tell us your opinion from memory of the game, or if you are an over-achiever, (I’m not forcing you to do this, so I don’t want any lawsuits about how I kept you from being able to pay the rent because you bought 10 PS2 games) rent or even buy these games if you still have your old PS2 sitting around.  Post what you think in a comment if it’s short, or shoot me an email at kalphabet111@gmail.com if it’s longer. If you don’t like a game on this list or think that one is missing one, tell us why. Don’t be afraid to be critical. 

I am so sorry about this extremely long lull in our publications on this site. I understand that we just stopped posting after E3, and it's not because we stopped writing (well, it's because of that too), but we didn't know how to properly post articles on the new design. Not to mention the person who designed it didn't help us with it (it's really not his fault). I will try very hard to get much new and better content up after exams this winter (two weeks from now). I also started another blog (that's me AK) called Prosy Camoca. It's really new, but I like it, so if you want it's at www.prosycamoca.blogspot.com. Once again, I am so sorry. Here are some old articles we never posted. Once again, new stuff will go up in tow weeks.

From everyone at Red Platoon (that is me and Sam),
Sorry!