Paul Bishop

Cole McGrath can’t catch a break. After finishing off Kessler at the end of inFamous, he found out that this villain was just the beginning, and a greater threat called The Beast would be coming to destroy the world. Little did he think The Beast would strike so soon. READ MORE

Tomb Raider Trilogy

April 14, 2011

Just in time for the reboot of Tomb Raider later this year, Crystal Dynamics has re-issued its recent back catalog of titles in high definition. With this PS3 exclusive, players have access to the last three games produced: Legend (2006), Anniversary (2007) and Underworld (2008). Including a story thread that links all three titles, these games are natural to appear on one disc and provide some minor extras to make this a value at $39.99. 

Lara Croft travels the world hunting artifacts, but none are as personal as the sword Excalibur that is somehow linked with her Mother’s disappearance years ago. Told across all three titles, Lara battles enemies old and new to finally close this chapter in her life. Never before has the Tomb Raider series looked so good. All three games look beautiful with Underworld still looking just as good as any current title. 

Included with the games, players will have access to development diaries for all three titles, as well as trailers for the downloadable Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. In addition to the videos, the disc includes PlayStation Home avatar clothing, trophy support and a PS3 theme to tempt fanboys even more. While these are nice to have, they don’t add significantly to the overall value of the title and will only appeal to die-hards. 

The platforming and puzzle solving of Tomb Raider set the bar in the late ’90s, and if you haven’t had a chance to play these titles, then you should consider picking it up for your collection to see the final chapters.

Pros: Great game value for one disc, beautiful updating of graphics

Cons: Extras don’t add much value


Preview: SOCOM 4

April 6, 2011

Editor’s note: writer Paul Bishop took a look at the beta for Zipper Interactive’s SOCOM 4, out April 19th. Here are his impressions.

While the name SOCOM stands for something for a lot of die-hard fans, SOCOM 4 takes the core gameplay and updates it with some Call of Duty mechanics, and throws in a good measure of MAG multiplayer awesomeness. Almost a reimagining of the series, this title hopes to lure in the fanboys and the newbies with a revamped scheme. 16-on-16 battles make for great action, as the PS3 shows its true colors maintaining these complex confrontations without missing a beat. The game is beautifully rendered, and character models are some of the most detailed available for a multiplayer title. Unfortunately, the two beta maps only show a washed-out color scheme. The Port Authority map has a reason to be drab and gray due to the shipyard location, but the Assault and Battery semi-jungle map could be more lush. READ MORE


March 24, 2011

Bulletstorm is the type of game that makes no excuses for itself. It is brash, ballsy and unflinchingly crass, but will its over-the-top action and humor allure an audience or drive it away like a poorly-executed joke? 

Not for the faint of heart, Bulletstorm strives to be a “mature” title by throwing all sorts of adult-themed potty-language at the player. This barrage of obscenity never ceases from the cut-scenes to the gameplay, as you constantly aim to get bigger points with ever more ridiculously-named skill shots that can easily offend the most amiable player. If you can get past this one quirk though, you are in for one of the most fun and fresh shooters to come along in a long time.

Seeing an opportunity to get revenge, Grayson Hunt drunkenly rams his spaceship through the flagship of the Confederate Navy, hoping to kill the commander who betrayed him and his squad years ago. As both ships crash on the former pleasure planet Stygia, Hunt is left with knowing his impudence killed his remaining squadmates and left his best-friend Ishi a cyborg. Swearing to make things right to Ishi, they leave the wreckage to face a hostile planet filled with gangs, murderous vegetation and building-sized monstrosities to find a way off of the rock, even if it means making friends with the enemy.

As trite as the story sounds, it is well-executed to the point that you actually care about the characters by the end of the story. Minor plot twists to introduce the villain into the party worked extremely well if just to hear the brilliantly-sarcastic General Sarrano coddle his former lackeys. Voice acting is superbly done as well, as it walks the fine line between cheesy one-liners and deeper moments when characters show their conflicted nature. All of this is done while maintaining a brisk pace.

This game is all about action. Not content to be a standard shooter, Bulletstorm tries to pull out all the stops for over-the-top kills, giving them names and point values in the way of the Skill Point system. The harder it is to execute a kill, the more Skill Points you receive. Straight shooting an enemy nets no SP, scoring a headshot scores a little SP and shooting an enemy in the crotch then kicking him in the head scores more. With the combinations of leashing and kicking, there are numerous individual unlockable SPs to discover with more and more ridiculous themes.

Skill Points are vitally necessary within Bulletstorm, as they can be used at pods scattered around the game to upgrade weapons or more importantly buy additional ammunition not found elsewhere. It is this reliance on SP that drives you to try bigger and badder combinations of mayhem to feed your minimum existence so that you ultimately crave larger crowds of enemies to get multiplier bonuses. In addition, the environment is extremely versatile, allowing you to kick enemies off cliffs, leashing them into prickly plants or allowing for the random hot-dog cart to be used as an explosive device with awesome results. The game begs you to come up with interesting ways to kill your opponents. Add to that the over-the-top variety of guns and you have a smorgasbord of ridiculous annihilations possible.

Stygia itself is a marvel to behold, from lush green environments to decayed city-scapes to underground tunnels, the fast-paced nature of the game requires you to stop occasionally and look out over the beautifully-rendered landscape. It’s a double sword for the game, because you feel a sense of urgency to get to the next objective, and although the game isn’t short, it makes it feel like the end comes too quickly. To supplement that, developer People Can Fly added “Echo Mode,” which allows you to play certain levels over for time and skill trials. While this was a welcome addition, it feels like a diversion rather than a legitimate timesink. In the same vein, the multiplayer challenges you to get great SP kills against other team members, but lacks map variety.

Despite the shortcomings in additional content, Bulletstorm is a blast to play. The witty humor and solid gameplay make it a breath of fresh air in the first person shooter genre.

Pros: Quirky story, character and mechanics; beautifully executed and fast-paced

Cons: Short campaign, lackluster multiplayer


Dead Space 2

February 10, 2011

Three years have passed since the Necromorph outbreak on the Ishimura and Isaac Clarke is awoken from a drug-induced haze in a psychiatry ward aboard the Sprawl, a city-sized space station built on the remnants of Saturn’s moon Titan. With no knowledge of the past three years Isaac discovers another marker has been built and now the entire city is reduced to rubble as the Necromorphs run rampant. Haunted by debilitating visions of his dead girlfriend Isaac must quickly piece together the source of the new outbreak, who he trusts, and how he can escape unharmed.

Aware that Isaac was a mostly silent protagonist of the first Dead Space, the developers put him front and center with a personal story, taking time to remove his mask for pivotal scenes to create a better bond between player and character. Without this change, the story might have fallen flat as a basic save-the-world endeavor, but with a voice, this mission of survival is more about battling internal demons that pays big dividends as the game progress. Similar to Dead Space’s Ishimura, the Sprawl is a character in itself as a dark haunted labyrinth Isaac must cross.

Dead Space 2 is a horror game in every sense of the phrase as the successful elements of sound, setting and tension return from the first game in an even darker, more disturbing atmosphere. Within the first hour of gameplay alone, you will be spooked by silence, startled by shadows and haunted by sounds in the ventilation shafts. The Sprawl provides the perfect setting as you can look out the windows and see fires in the distance, enter apartment complexes and see the remnants of families who fought to survive. Heightening this experience is the lack of a heads-up display, which immerses you into the experience. All of Isaac’s stats are either located on his back or projected via holographic images immediately in front of him. If that isn’t enough to scare you, then the Necromorphs should finish the job.

Visually disturbing and twisted, the Necromorphs return with a passion. They pop out when you least expect it, packing a few new varieties of enemy types to keep you on your toes. Hunters hide behind objects and wait for a good moment to come sprint at you, necessitating effective use of your stasis to slow them down. Swarms overwhelm you with sheer numbers of child sized necromorphs that require more tact to take down. Regardless, ammo is at a minimum and the action is upped from the original to create suspenseful fight sequences that take place inside and outside of the station.

Fans familiar with the original Dead Space will feel at home with the third-person shooting mechanics as well as loving the new additions this sequel throws at them. The standard weapons like the plasma cutter and the ripper blades return while adding some additional arsenal to Isaac’s repertoire. Of note are the sniper rifle and the proximity mine gun that help change the dynamics of the fight in Isaac’s favor, but a gun is only useful if it has ammunition, and this game heightens the terror by constantly letting you run out. It is vitally necessary to use all of the tools at your disposal to fight the hordes, slowing them down with stasis, using all equipped weapons, blowing out windows to suck enemies into the vacuum, using telekinesis to throw Necromorph limbs back at them, and when all else fails using good-old-fashioned melee attacks to take down the overwhelming odds of enemies. 

The game is difficult, you will most likely die several times in a single section as you attempt to memorize how best to take out your foes, but the autosave function saves this from being overly frustrating by putting you succinctly back in the action. As hard as the game is, it is worth it for the increased action set pieces and the heart-pounding thrill of surviving, although past its puzzles and boss fights, the action becomes rote Necromorph killing and item searching towards the end of the game. 

If the single player begins to get repetitive then you can immerse yourself in the new multiplayer aspect. While nothing exceptional, the multiplayer gives you a chance to play as the Necromorphs themselves trying to stop another team from achieving an objective. These team matches are interesting to a point, as it is pretty fun to play as a Necromorph who has more spawn points allowing you to jump out of almost anywhere at your enemy, but even these matches can only add to the game so much before they get repetitive too.

Dead Space 2 does an admirable job following up the horror and suspense of the original while giving Isaac more of a form. Fans of the genre or of the original should pick this up with no doubt, while others with a squeamish heart should steer clear of the blood and guts.

Pros: Perfect horror atmosphere, better action set pieces than the original

Cons: Repetitive gameplay sections, ho-hum multiplayer