Just Celani

There always comes a time in a man’s life when he must stand up against the masses and overcome a seemingly never-ending barrage of alien encounters in a hostile frozen wasteland. Maybe not always, but it’s certainly in the cards if you play Capcom’s latest game, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. The game’s protagonist, Wayne, finds himself unconscious in the wastelands of E.D.N III, a planet that thrives under its extreme winter conditions. Luckily, he is rescued by a small group of snow pirates, but his problems don’t end there. Wayne has lost his memory with only two things he can recollect: his name and his father’s death by the claws of an Akrid (that barrage of aliens mentioned earlier). Thus begins Wayne’s journey to survive the dangers of this hostile planet and recover his memories to discover the truth. Soon after Wayne is awakened, he begins helping the small band of snow pirates that rescued him. Mission objectives vary between destroying the akrid and fighting a massive group of snow pirates that want Wayne dead. Both human and aliens pose an ever menacing threat to Wayne, and he will have to survive many encounters with both. Thankfully Capcom has provided Wayne with a healthy abundance of weapons and mechs known as Vital Suits with which to combat his foes. As the player, the machine gun is what you’ll find yourself turning to for most of your battles but coming upon a rocket launcher is always satisfying regardless of the small amount of ammunition.

While exploring E.D.N. III, Wayne must monitor his constantly dropping T-ENG, or thermal energy. T-ENG can heal up any damage taken, but using it carries the risk of freezing to death when the meter hits zero. Destroying enemies, blowing up energy tanks, activating data posts, and more all provide him with the life saving energy he needs. While this could have become cumbersome, you’ll find that there is more then enough energy to go around and you’ll happily have it in abundance when you encounter a boss battle. The boss fights in Lost Planet are quite literally a huge endeavor, pitting Wayne against massive creatures that require all of your patience and skills to bring them down.

A key selling point of Lost Planet is the aforementioned Vital Suit, which comes in a number of different varieties. Some of these wonderful robotic toys are very fast and agile, while others are hulking and slow. Each one has its purpose though, and you’ll always be far happier and protected while calling one of these home. When it comes down to dealing with a gigantic akrid, you’ll be thankful for the occasional suit found nearby. Just make sure that once your energy is entirely depleted from your suit that you eject ASAP before Wayne finds himself becoming another frozen body in E.D.N III wasteland.

While surviving in Lost Planet isn’t easy, it’s made more managable by tight, responsive controls. One feature that highlights how well the controls work is the quick turn, mapped to the left and right bumpers. Tapping a bumper will turn Wayne 90 degrees left or right, making turning fast and efficient. Different but effective, the right analog stick is used for reloading (by clicking the button) in addition to aiming. Once the traditional province of the reload button, X is used to fire Wayne’s anchor. This can be fired at almost any ledge. It doesn’t have much in the way of range, but it succeeds in making you feel like Batman, which is an important aspect, especially in the online multiplayer.

Graphically, Lost Planet turns out to be one of the best looking shooters for the 360. While Rainbow Six Vegas did a wonderful job of creating real life environments, and Gears of War had you terrified of the destroyed cities at the hands of the Locust, Lost Planet does the same for its experience: fighting huge aliens and surviving a barren frozen wasteland. Add in an awesome action packed adrenaline-pumping score by Jamie Christopherson, also responsible for Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, and you couldn’t have asked for a better package than Lost Planet provides.

When you’ve finally completed the single player portion of the title, the multiplayer beckons, and Capcom offers four variations from which to choose: Team Elimination, Elimination, Post Grab, and Fugitive. The first two are your basic elimination battles, amounting to shooting everybody that isn’t on your side, either by yourself or as a team. The last two are the more interesting offerings. Post Grab has you running around finding and activating all the energy posts on a mission map. Fugitive mode, on the other hand, has the host becoming the fugitive as the other players hunt them down. While these are different from the normal modes you might expect like capture the flag, these two modes provide something new and altogether entertaining as well. Just like in Halo 2, as you play and do well your experience mounts. Capcom has implemented an on screen statistics HUD that actually appears as you play and will show you how much experience you earn. At the end of the round the experience is added up and your level increases.

There’s a lot of fun to be had with Lost Planet. It has amazing visuals, fun gameplay, and insane boss battles. The multiplayer is remarkably good as well. There are unfortunately a few blemishes that keep this otherwise high quality title from reaching that near perfect plateau. The cutscenes have great presentation but unfortunately over the span of the game, the story comes off as confusing, disjointed, and ultimately unimportant. In addition, which arguably realistic, the characters themselves run painfully slow, sometimes adding to frustrations – especially during multiplayer. Other nagging issues include points where monotony threatens due to a lack of true variety across the missions, as well as lamebrain AI, especially on the part of the snow pirates. However, in spite of missteps, if you can find yourself enjoying what Lost Planet does well (which is a lot), you’re bound to experience one hell of a ride that at times gets close to perfection, but just happens to miss its mark. So strap on your gear, hop in a VS suit and show these Akrid scum what you’re made of.

Metal Slug Anthology

January 8, 2007

SNK has released a definitive Metal Slug compilation for the Wii, but how does this classic arcade action romp hand the console’s unconventional controls?A tough-as-nails brutal bulletfest, Metal Slug is a name that any hardcore side-scrolling shooter fan has heard. Since Metal Slug first debuted on the Neo Geo in 1996, plenty of different versions of the game and its sequels have been released across multiple systems, but they have been primarily arcade games, and the arcade has remained the only format where every Metal Slug game has been available. Well, until now. SNK has decided to change that with the release of Metal Slug Anthology for the Wii, releasing not just one or two games but all seven Metal Slugs on one glorious disc.

The franchise is notable for its sense of humor along with its visual style and its run and gun gameplay, which is best summed up as, A

Rayman Raving Rabbids

December 16, 2006

Rayman has returned! Last seen in 2003’s Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havok, not much was known about Rayman’s next installment. Series creator Michel Ancel began work on the next Rayman title while finishing the game adaptation of King Kong, but the wait is now over, and Rayman: Raving Rabbids is finally on store shelves, but the experience this time around is slightly different than what Rayman followers have come to expect. The plot picks up in traditional wacky Rayman fashion as the Ubisoft mascot is found sitting peacefully amidst a friendly picnic with a group of Globox youths, but it isn’t long before they are all accosted by a group of sinister bunnies. Thrown into a jail cell, Rayman is forced to participate in events that only crazy bunnies could think of in order to win his freedom.

As mentioned, gameplay in Rayman isn’t consistent with the previous entries into the series. Gone is the platforming of yore, replaced by a plethora of minigames that represent the crazed machinations of the Rabbids. Some favorites are the cow tossing, carrot juice stand, and plunger shooting segments. Each day, Rayman has access to three different events that each must be completed before unlocking the day’s fourth minigame trial. Completing each day nabs you a wonderful plunger for all your hard work for which, luckily, Rayman has plans.

It’s immediately evident that in developing Rayman: Raving Rabbids, the team at Ubisoft has worked overtime in devising numerous methods in which to take advantage of the Wii’s unique controller and nunchuck attachment. Some minigames use the remote like a pointer, while others have you rocking the remote back and forth in combination with the nunchuck. Each is unique in its control and the breadth of the collection is thankfully diverse enough to keep the whole experience from becoming stale. While the Wii isn’t the most powerful system out of the current big three, Rayman has been perfectly modeled and the environments and animations shine. Since Ancel and his team are very good at pushing their titles artistically, this title doesn’t suffer visually at all.

And even if this were not the case, entertainment is still the most important common denominator with regards to video games, and Rayman Raving Rabbids is one hell of a fun game. While the idea that the game is simply a collection of minigames might jade some existing Rayman fans, give it time and you’ll find yourself highly enjoying it both for its addictive gameplay as well as its hilarious humor.

It is an unfortunate note that the game doesn’t support progressive scan, that some of the later minigames are either not as fun or simply rehashes of others, and that the ending is rather tame, but these are really minor issues when considering this game’s overall value. Anyone who puts a few minutes with Rayman will have a hard time walking away without having smiled or laughed, and given that the bulk of the gameplay is so incredibly infectious simply adds up to one of the best launch offerings for the Wii.

Score: 84%

Happy Feet

December 11, 2006

As with every other tentpole children’s release that graces the local multiplex, Happy Feet comes to the small screen early in the form of a video game adaptation. Although many gamers have learned to keep a cynical distance from movie-licensed games, it’s a sure bet that kids who were fans of the movie will want to get their hands on it. However, while kids might be begging for this game after leaving the theater, older gamers may be disappointed by how unfulfilling Happy Feet truly is.

In Happy Feet, players take on the role of Mumble, the dancing penguin star of the film, as he races downhill on his belly, swims, and – of course – dances. Unfortunately, though the gameplay sounds varied, the different play styles seem more like uninspired minigames than the actual meat of a game, and as a result, they become tedious quickly and lack replay value. The dancing portions play much like a rhythm game might, pressing the correct button in time with the on-screen cues, and that may be the most enjoyable of the three. Downhill racing and swimming are superficially the same, with each stage requiring Mumble to beat an opponent or simply collect items as he goes. The main difference between the two is the little penguin can jump and do some aerial tricks during the downhill stages.

Gameplay aside, Happy Feet does manage to capture the movie’s aesthetic very capably. The environments are attractive and the color palette in the game is vibrant, perfect for its intended audience. Happy Feet especially manages to remain faithful to the movie’s characters, with the film’s voice actors reprising their roles and the character models themselves looking much like they do on the silver screen. Likewise, the soundtrack enforces and enhances the game’s whimsical feel.

The worst claim that can be leveled against Happy Feet is that it’s mundane and repetitive. Most versions of the game have that in common, but the Wii manages to breathe some life into the game thanks to its control scheme. Players use the remote to steer their character instead of an analog stick or d-pad and, while it may just be novelty talking, it’s more fun. Similarly, the dancing game is much improved with the functionality of the remote – at times, it can seem as though you are conducting in time with the music. However, even the Wii title, sadly, can’t rise above mediocrity, though it’s easily the best among its peers.

Happy Feet is sure to please kids, at least for a while, and in that sense the game is a success. Still, the game is fairly insubstantial and could have benefited from some platforming in between its minigames, a la Rayman: Raving Rabbids. Happy Feet is a simple game that can at times be fun to play, and will at least leave you smiling before it eventually leaves you cold. Especially if you’ve seen and enjoyed the movie, Happy Feet is worth the price of a rental, but doesn’t have the longevity required to justify its cost as a purchase.

Score: 60%

Dead Rising

August 12, 2006

Why do we find the undead so fascinating? From cinema to video games to even breakfast cereal, the living dead have woven their way into our culture. When it comes to video games specifically, few could argue against Capcom’s success at creating titles focused on our obsession with zombies, especially considering the worldwide acclaim that has been afforded to its Biohazard/Resident Evil franchise. Truly Capcom has forgotten more about making games about killing zombies than most companies will ever know, and it is from that experience that it has leveraged its debut release for the Xbox 360, Dead Rising.

Dead Rising casts you in the role of Frank West, a seasoned photojournalist who’s covered his share of wars, but he’s never covered anything quite like what’s going on in the seemingly lazy town of Willamette, Colorado. Following a chopper ride over the city, Frank is dropped off on top of the local mall, and given 72 hours to uncover the truth behind why the town has been quarantined – a truth that he soon finds to be the result of an apparent zombie infestation. Armed with naught but his camera, Frank must pick up anything that isn’t nailed down in order to shoot, chop, bludgeon, and maul his way through the shambling crowd of living dead in order to discover just what’s going on, who or what is behind the zombie menace, and make it back to roof in order to catch his ride home.

Unlike typical horror games, which prefer scare tactics and limited ammunition in order to covey their sense of urgency, Dead Rising instead makes its point with an uncountable number of zombies constantly encroaching on Frank’s position, and a nearly equally uncountable set of improvised weapons with which to do them in. From hedge clippers to park benches, baseball bats to teddy bears, if it can be picked up, it can be used to slam into a zombie in order to keep it at bay.

The game also breaks from typical horror game tradition by presenting a story that is largely optional, offering up a set of cases that make up the game’s core narrative. While these do not necessarily have to be completed, doing so pushes the story forward, and helps unravel the clues behind what is going on in the mall – plus it’s also the only way to see the game’s A