May 2008

Dark Sector

May 28, 2008

Hayden Tenno is sent into the decaying ruins of a Cold War era Eastern bloc country where his mission to destroy a harmful virus becomes a fight for his own life. When he becomes infected, only his weak vaccination stops him from succumbing to the virus and turning into something non-human, but will the powers he gained be enough to reach safety and still accomplish his mission?

Really the plot is a side note to explain the glaive; the entire game centers on the use of this bladed boomerang. From puzzles to fighting, it provides a completely new way to approach the FPS genre; with power-ups and steerable flight, tackling hordes of enemies becomes fun and challenging. Each power-up is well-spaced throughout the story’s progression, giving elemental attacks and different abilities to drive the player to the next addition. Similarly, using the glaive for puzzles was a well-placed addition to the gameplay that almost elevate this FPS to an action-adventure category.

Guns are not completely removed from the equation though; similar to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the third person run and gun, dodge and cover mechanics work well with the off-hand gun and glaive combination. The gun is upgraded throughout the story by finding mostly hidden briefcases and buying the associated weapon specs on the black market, making exploration worth the player’s time. Mastering the game involves balancing use of gun and glaive because of the glaive’s limited raing.

The controls adequately allow either play style, excepting two examples: the SIXAXIS control of the glaive, and close quarter fighting. Early on the glaive is enhanced to direct its path during flight, and this is primarily used to get past puzzles, but can become invaluable during fights, hitting multiple targets or enemies around corners. The problem is that the tilt control is too confined and the glaive shot distance is too short to really make it any fun to use. Similarly, using the glaive can be pretty interesting to use as a melee weapon for close conflict, but finishing moves quickly become repetetive.

One thing the game nails though is ambiance. Providing a solid nod to Resident Evil, the tension, the darkness and the uncertainty of enemies popping out of nowhere is constantly present. Add to that the cinematic grainy quality of the graphics and color palette used and you have a visual experience that is spooky and addictive. The bouncy camera will either be a love or hate addition for some. I loved it, as I thought it added to the atmosphere, giving a blurring sensation as you attempt to run for cover. Others may find it down-right nauseous, almost to the Blair-Witch-In-The-Theatre level. The sound did an adequate job filling in the game but didn’t achieve the scare factor that could be found in similar titles. Voice acting and cut scenes were decent but they didn’t really add much to the overall package. Many times they only served to emphasize the weakness of plot and dialog, and opted for the less-is-more option of trying to get back to the action as soon as possible.

Multiplayer is pretty standard for an FPS with the addition of the glaive as the major addition, and while this mostly works for the better, it doesn’t really separate it from most multiplayer online games. Worth mentioning though are two different modes of online play that use one player as the fully upgraded Hayden, while the rest try to take him out. Similarly, there is a team against team version of this that makes it slightly worth looking at for those die-hard online multiplayers out there.

Like I said earlier, the glaive deserves a game by itself, and Dark Sector delivers this in a fun and interesting forum. While it may not win any awards, it succeeds in creating an ambiance and an action mechanic that are worthy of checking out and playing for a while.

Wild Arms XF

May 28, 2008

The PSP has become the de facto target platform for SRPGs, and as a fan of the genre I couldn’t be happier. The great screen and the familiar PlayStation button layout work exceedingly well for the genre, and being able to put the system to sleep ensure that even long drawn-out battle can be played in quick bursts.

Unfortunately, Wild ARMs XF (pronounced A

Another Tom Clancy game and I’m having difficulty remember which games this is. Let me check the box again. Oh yes: Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

Terrorists are on the loose, and there’s a bad cliffhanger waiting to be resolved. For those few who careA

Recently, we got a chance to try out a preview build of Paradox’s upcoming PC strategy title, Supreme Ruler 2020. Finally we get the answer to the age-old question: if South Carolina went crazy and declared war on the rest of the world, how long would it take to beat them? READ MORE

Target: Terror

May 19, 2008

Target: Terrible.

The This Is Spinal Tap fan in me has always wanted to write a two-word review, and Target: Terror seems to be perfectly suited for that. It’s a miserable cash-in with no real redeeming qualities, and it has a title perfectly suited to manipulation. However, my professional journalism instincts always seem to kick in, and I know I must convey the sense of the game in a more specific way.

The original arcade version of Target: Terror was released in 2004, and was largely a way to capitalize on Americans’ desire to shoot terrorists. Now the title has been ported to the Wii, as all light gun games seem destined to. However, it shows its age in many ways.

Target: Terror supports the Wii Zapper, but only marginally; plugging in a Nunchuk moves the controls for one rarely-used weapon to the C and Z buttons. However, if any enjoyment at all can be had from this title, it has to be the cathartic aspect of eliminating the terrorist threat, and holding a remote to do it just doesn’t work. The game supports two players, and also includes Justice Mode, which allows one player to wield two remotes with just one set of lives.

Graphically, this game looked bad in 2004. It looks marginally better than 1995’s Area 51, but still uses low-resolution pre-rendered sprites to represent targets. Most of the game’s menus and graphics seem like they were created years ago, and seem just too dated by today’s standards, even on the Wii.

The title tries artificial ways to extend the game’s life by inserting unlockable levels and minigames. The levels are set in an airport, the Golden Gate Bridge or a nuclear plant. Some of the minigames mimic classic arcade titles like Whack-a-Mole and Defender, but none are polished or enjoyable enough to play more than once.

If Target: Terror was the only rail shooter on the system, it might have a chance, but it is totally outclassed by Ghost Squad, House of the Dead 2 and 3 Returns and even Link’s Crossbow Training. All three retail for less than this title, so there’s no excuse. Pass on this one.