Michael Land

BloodRayne 2

January 4, 2005

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/bloodrayne2/cover.jpg[/floatleft]The wait is finally over. The time has come to rid the earth of the Dampier offspring of one of the most evil creatures in history. He also happens to be your father who was a vampire working for the Nazi, raping women who then gave birth to half-vampire, half-human children-all with the powers of a vampire, but few of the weaknesses. Your character, Rayne, is one of these vampires and the best-looking one as far as I have found. Your quest is to exterminate all of your half-brothers and sisters. You can use hand-to-hand combat if you wish, but with four-foot retractable blades at your disposal, why would you want to? If you find yourself low on energy, you can find some poor helpless victim, jump on their back, and feed on them. And for all of their help, you can rid them of their head and kick them across the room.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/bloodrayne2/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]This sequel has far better graphics. The character motion is crisper, and clothing movement is much more realistic. There are cut scenes throughout the game that are amazing. The blood in this game far exceeds the amount in the last game. As you finish feeding on a victim, you have a choice of finishing moves. One of them is to use one of your blades, run him through, and raise him over your head. You then experience a blood shower as pint after pint of blood comes pouring out of the now-dead body. The bodies eventually disappear, but the blood always seems to remain. This game is very graphic and is labeled accordingly. I can’t imagine why.

The sound isn’t nearly as impressive as the sound effects. As Rayne runs across different surfaces, you can hear the difference. And the horrifying screams coming from your victims as you chop off an arm or leg are most amusing. Even the squishing sound when you throw an enemy and impale them on a rhino head is so very sweet.

The controls are similar to the first game. You have control over your character as well as the camera. This gives you the ability to view your surroundings without forcing your character to be facing a particular direction. Designers expanded on the abilities of the voluptuous Rayne. Not only can you still climb poles and perform acrobatic moves, but now you can hang upside down and shoot at enemies. You can also slice up people while sliding down wires and railing. There are bosses now and then that you must beat, but you are rewarded with more elaborate kill moves. It’s similar to the original Mortal Kombat where you have to press X,X,X,L,R to perform the move. I especially like the one where you stab them, raise them over your head, and spin them as you use your other blade to chop them into bite size pieces.

The game is not overly difficult. Some the bosses are more difficult than the regular runarounds. At the beginning of a level, the game will do a sort of fly-around showing you where you are supposed to go. If you miss it, you are at a disadvantage and must figure out where to go. There are also some puzzles you must figure out before you can exit a level. Some of them involve you throwing your enemies into or onto certain objects in order to make something else happen. There is not a lot of thought needed to play this game. It is mostly just mindless killing…and what’s wrong with that?

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/bloodrayne2/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]It’s always fun to beat and chop up all enemies while running around as a vampire hottie. There are more interesting characters in the sequel. There is a particular boss that you encounter down in the sewers. It’s a two-story, topless, Jabba the Hut-looking female creature that shoots acid out of her nipples. It’s quite the spectacle. You’ll eventually see one evil girl who has tattoos that change regularly-she also happens to have the biggest chest in the game so far.

[i]BloodRayne 2[/i] is full of gore and full of girls. If you like blood and love chopping up everyone, then this game is a must. If you have a weak stomach…then this game is a must. If you like little fluffy creatures that walk around, talk, and sing little songs…you may not want to buy this game. Just rent it and enjoy.

Madden NFL 2005

October 11, 2004

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/madden05/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Madden 2005 is the latest installment of the long running franchise that bears the name of former coach now commentator John Madden. A few things have been changed, but overall it is about 90% the same game as last year. I guess if it’s not broken don’t try to fix it. There are those that like Madden and there are those that hate Madden, and the main dislike about last year’s game was that the Xbox version was not available for online play. This year it is.

The graphics are better than they were last year. The players are crisper and the animations are more realistic. One new feature is the “create-a-fan” where you can design a crazy fan. There are limitations to what you can do, but characteristics like a painted face, Mohawks and foam fingers are a few of the creative things you can do to your number one fan. Unfortunately you can create only one. They have even added to the realism of the cheerleaders. At halftime a group of them do a little dance routine to entertain the fans and they are much bigger and gigglier than last year.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/madden05/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The sound is the same as it ever was. It still has the rambling commentary of John Madden that, after a few games, starts repeating. Another new feature is the weekly radio show where you can listen to league rumblings such as great games, stats, and defensive trends. Every so often you’ll get some “listener” calling in ranting about a team or a player. The only problem with this feature is that all the comments are pre-recorded and the names are added depending on the situation. It really doesn’t add anything to the game play, but in franchise mode it can give you insight to different teams and players. I usually don’t even bother listening to it because I would rather start another game.

The most drastic changes have been made to the in-game controls. Last year you could only move a whole group of defenders i.e. force all defensive backs into bump and run coverage. This year you have the choice of all or individuals. This adds to the strategy of the game during head to head and online play. You can also assign one of your safeties to double cover a single receiver without tipping off your opponent. EA has also added the “hit stick”. This is a special feature that can turn a game around. If timed right, you can cream an opposing player possibly causing a fumble or dropped pass; miss-time it and your defender is on his back watching the other guy score.

EA has ramped up the awareness of the computer defense. They don’t seem to be as easily burned and running the ball is much more of a challenge. In the settings menu there are different levels of difficulty: rookie, pro, all-pro, and madden. Each harder than the one below, but within each level you can adjust different attributes of that level. If all-pro is too hard you can go in a turn down just the computer’s defense a little making the learning curve a little easier to handle. You still have the ability to play a single exhibition game or you can go into franchise mode and try to take your team to the top. In franchise mode they have expanded the intricacies of teams and players. If you don’t win, players get unhappy. If players are unhappy, the team chemistry suffers. You can reward players that play hard by naming them team captain or if they are not performing up to standards you can trade or release them.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/madden05/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]They have brought back the mini games and madden tokens. Mini games are player drills such as ground attack and precision passing where you can earn cards that can be used during game play. Madden tokens are another way to get these cards. There are dozens of accomplishments that can be earned in a game like sack the quarterback, make an interception, or recover a fumble. Depending on the difficulty level you get a set amount of tokens that then can be used to purchase a pack of ten cards.

This year’s game is for people who like to play head to head against friends for bragging rights or for the franchise guru that only likes to play the computer. I like to play a franchise with one team, build them into a dynasty, win a few Super Bowls, and then change to a different team in the same division. This means that I have to play my original team twice the next year. Another way is to pick the weakest team in the league and see if you can take them to the top. You can do anything you like… you are the ruler of the NFL.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/fullspectrumwarrior/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Let me start by saying that this is a squad based tactical strategy style game and not a first person shooter. If you want up close, zoom in, hands on killing, this is not the game for you. If you like the idea of having to think before you move and decide how to get from point A to point B without getting riddled with large caliber bullets, you should definitely check out Full Spectrum Warrior.

At the beginning, you are thrown into a training exercise to get you familiar with the controls and the tactics you will need to master. You are in control of two, four member teams, Alpha and Bravo. You spend about 30 to 45 minutes learning how to move your teams, position them to out flank the enemy, and even use grenade launchers. After the training you are deployed into some made up Middle Eastern country where your convoy is attacked. If you have seen the movie Black Hawk Down, the city streets of the game resemble those of the movie. From this point you are given different objectives as you move through the game. You have to make your way to rendezvous with some captain, then lead some soldier to some Stinger missiles he has to disarm, and then clear a street of enemies so a convoy can pass. The game tells you where you need to go so you are not just running around in circles.

The graphics are better than most. Not the best I have ever seen, but still well done. When the characters talk, their mouth movements seem to match. Characters walking or running is much more realistic than even motion capture sports games. Programmers apparently spent some time putting in a lot of detail. When your team is up against a wall and your team leader peeks out to see if there are any “tangos” or bad guy, and he starts shooting at you, you can see the shards of rock being blasted from the wall. Also if you do screw up and you do get shot it shows, in slow motion, you getting ripped up as the bullets pass through you.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/fullspectrumwarrior/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The sounds through out the game are good. From tanks rolling by to rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) whizzing past your head, you are pulled right into the action. As the enemy crosses the street to take cover you can even hear him yelling in some Arabic sounding jibber jabber.

The controls take a little time to get used to, but on the back of the instruction book is a cheat sheet for all of the commands. Some of the buttons are multi-use depending if you push or push and hold. Left analog stick is your formation movement control. You use it to position four circles that represent your men, and then press A to initiate the move. The right analog stick is your camera. It takes a little getting used to as well. If you move it around too fast the game will freak out and just keep the camera spinning around your squad. At any point you can press the black button to access your GPS and get enemy locations and objective locations. Overall it’s not that difficult and it only takes a little time to get the hang of it.

There are two levels of difficulty. The lower difficulty is not all that hard as long as you stay behind cover and not just run down an open alley. This is not just a mindless, run-around-and-kill-everything type game. You do have to concentrate and think before you move. There can be an enemy around any corner waiting to put a cap in your a… rear. There are no shields, or energy boosts. Your characters are human. They can be shot, but if it is serious enough they are down for the count, but not always dead. That means that one of the remaining three soldiers has to carry him and now you are down to only two shooters. Also your team moves more slowly due to one having to carry another. As you move deeper into the game the enemy develops better aim and a more accurate shot. If one or more of your men are killed, you have a choice to either restart the level or jump into a replay. This is one of the cooler features of the game. You jump in starting at the last save point and it will replay your every move. At any point you can jump in at take over.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/fullspectrumwarrior/ss11_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Of course it is always fun to kill bad guys. Especially when you get one hiding behind a car and you give the order for a grenade launcher attack. Then BLAMO… the car is six pieces and the enemy is 8 pieces. I have never been that good at the quick aim and shoot type games. In this game you only have to tell your men when to shoot and what direction.

Not everyone will like this game. If you love Halo, you will probably hate this game. If you like Ghost Recon, but was never good about getting those head shots you should love this game. This game has removed the gamers need to control the movement and shooting of each individual character, but has maintained the strategy. Since it is such a different style of gameplay I suggest you rent it first. If you aren’t into the game renting thing then look for a pre-owned copy because if you pay the 50 bones and hate it you are going to be a little angry.

Enter the Matrix is based on the trilogy written by the creators of the Matrix movies, Larry and Andy Wachowski. The story line of the game inter-twines with the story line of the movie Matrix: Reloaded and even has film footage from the movie. You have your choice of characters, Ghost or Niobe. Both appear in the second installment of the Matrix trilogy, Matrix: Reloaded. Each is a human whose mind has been freed from the Matrix. Ghost is described as a A

Robotech: Battlecry

February 24, 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/robotech/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Robotech: Battlecry is based off the late 1980’s animation series. You are Jack Archer, one of the fighter aces in the Robotech Defense Force that has to defend the Earth from alien conquest. If you ever watched the series, the game stays very true to form. You pilot your Veritech fighter through space, canyons, and even city streets trying to fend off the Zentradi threat. Cameo appearances by Roy Fokker, Rick Hunter, and even Minmay are a pleasant surprise. The game covers the first of the three sagas that make up the original series. There are five chapters that include 8-10 missions each. They range from eliminating Zentradi battle pods from the streets of the ravaged Macross City to guarding a group of helicopters rescuing civilians. There is also a head to head mode.

The graphics are similar to most anime shows. The landscaping and buildings are well done with vibrant colors. The entire game is in 3rd person view. There are a few glitches when you reach the boundary limits or get stuck behind something and the camera cannot compensate and you disappear. Overall the graphics are well done, but nothing to die for.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/robotech/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The sound was very realistic. Not that I have ever had missiles and plasma guns shot at my head. Explosions, gunfire and even the sparking sounds heard as a battle pod crumbles to the ground adds to the over all enjoyment of the game. The theme song was kept intact, but there was much to be desired in a few of the levels. The endless loop of drab instrumental music that was in some of the longer levels really got annoying. It was nothing that the volume button on the remote wouldn’t fix. The soundtrack did seem to follow the typical movie soundtrack. Fast, up beat tunes when in a dogfight and spooky music when you were sneaking around. All of the cut scenes that have dialogue are written and spoken. One handy feature is at the beginning of each mission there is a brief description of what is going on, what you are supposed to do, and a hint. When the level is finished loading, there is a cut scene that goes into depth about what is going on and what you are to do.

The controls are fairly easy. The hardest part is mastering the D-pad in regard to your Veritech mode. You have fighter mode, battleoid mode, guardian hover, and guardian fly mode. The worst thing is being in the middle of a firefight in battleoid mode and trying to switch to guardian and end up going into fighter mode. When you hit a building or boundary in fighter mode you automatically switch to battleoid. You have the ability, under the options menu, to change controls between normal or inverted depending on your preference. The “A” button is always speed. The “X” and “B” buttons are guns or missiles depending on mode. The “Y” button, depending on mode is sniper mode toggle, pick up item action, or anti-missile pods. The triggers are bank left and bank right. You can actually do barrel rolls and loopty-loops with different trigger/button combinations.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/robotech/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Some levels are much harder than others. Since you are carrying tracking missiles, as long as you don’t get shot too much you’ll probably pass the level. They gradually get harder as you get further through the story. A few of the levels have an actual time limit or you just need to get somewhere quickly before your buddy dies. Then you have the “bosses”. You have to out-pilot a few commanders and Zentradi aces that have much more powerful weapons than you. The officer’s pods are the hardest by far. Their head mounted weapon can kill you with just a few direct hits.

If you liked the original series this game is a must-have. If you haven’t seen the series, but like flying a futuristic transformer and killing all alien invaders then it is worth a rental. Including the training sessions, you could spend 15 hours to complete all missions. Once you finish the missions you may or may not have gotten all of the awards and medals that open up more fighters or head to head levels. It’s not a “finish it once and into the closet it goes.” Since this stopped at the end of the first saga, they have left the door open for two more games.

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