Every year, there are a number of games that come out and catch the attention of gamers, usually due to massive commercialization or it being an anticipated sequel. Then there are the games that receive so little attention, but turn out to be one of the better games released in the year. [i]Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy[/i] falls into this category. With its unique take on third-person shooter game play and great depth, it’s a shame that many people will miss out on this game that, in truth, may outshine some of the bigger titles being released this year.

When you first play [i]Psi-Ops[/i], you start out with next to nothing, aside from a weak little pistol. One might think at first that [i]Psi-Ops[/i] doesn’t really do anything differently than other third person shooters like [i]007: Everything or Nothing[/i] or [i]kill.switch[/i] do. Don’t worry though, because [i]Psi-Ops[/i] offers up one of the most unique game play functions seen in a third person shooter that really makes the game enjoyable. Like the title suggests, throughout the game you will learn various psychic powers to use at your will.

The game follows the story of Nick Scryer, who possesses a number of different psychic powers. However, in order to infiltrate a powerful terrorist organization with psychic powers, his memory has to be wiped. This memory wipe makes him an average soldier, no psychic powers or anything. As the story progresses, you will regain all of your psychic powers, run into members of the terrorist organization, and remain in the dark for the most part. The game doesn’t have “conspiracy” in its title for nothing. While not as bad as [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i], you really won’t know what’s going on until the very end of the game.

As mentioned, you will slowly regain all of the psychic powers you once possessed. There are a number of different psychic attacks, all of which add to the greatness of the game play. Telekinesis, the first trick you’ll learn, allows you to pick up objects, while remote viewing lets you step through walls into other rooms to survey the surroundings before barging in. Mind drain refills your precious psi energy, while mind control lets you take over the minds of unsuspecting enemy soldiers, and pyrokinesis lights up your enemies with fire. Of course, you can’t just use these powers as you please. Every power (save for mind drain) uses up your blue colored psi energy. Luckily, numerous psi containers lying around levels are there to refill your energy.

All these powers make [i]Psi-Ops[/i] a pretty versatile and open-ended game. You can take out your enemies numerous ways thanks to your powers. For instance, to take out a group of enemies, you can use your telekinesis to throw crates and crush them, or throw a tank of oil at them to blow them into oblivion, or pick them up and throw them from the edge of a platform. Or you could sneak up behind them and mind drain them to pop their head, as well as refill your psi energy. Or you could take over a soldier’s mind and have them do the dirty work for you, or simply walk them into a lethal pool of acid. The point is; you can do almost anything you want in [i]Psi-Ops[/i], and take it the way you want to go.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a third person shooter without the guns. Unfortunately, this is where [i]Psi-Ops[/i] falls short. With all the powers at your disposal, you’ll often find yourself killing enemies with your psychic powers over getting into a firefight. Even then, it doesn’t help that the gun selection is fairly bland. There are only a small handful of different guns, and while the guns aren’t completely useless, it’s just much simpler to take someone out with telekinesis. Even so, this doesn’t hurt the game for the most part, but it may have you question if this is a third person shooter or not.

The enemy A.I. is a little hard to talk about. Enemies are fairly smart and will open fire the second they spot you. Meanwhile, civilian scientists and workers without weapons will strike the alarm button, and go cower in a corner while reinforcements come to deal with you. However, Nick’s powers are so powerful that dealing with one or two, even three soldiers is pretty simple work. Things can become complicated when large groups start to converge on you, such as when the civilians strike an alarm, but even then your powers can deal with them with ease. The game usually provides you with a large number of first aid and psi energy containers, so it shouldn’t be too hard to stay alive unless you are astronomically outnumbered.

The physics in [i]Psi-Ops[/i] look great. They have a sense of real life movement, especially when you pick up a dead body with telekinesis or throw a crate at a soldier. The graphics look fairly good as well. Some of the facial expressions are a little exaggerated, although I suppose that’s to give the character’s face the sense of fear or anger without them seeming too bland. [i]Psi-Ops[/i] looks best on the Xbox, although the Playstation 2 version is only slightly lower in quality. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which system you get it on. Both versions work great.

The sound quality is fairly adequate. Like the character’s face, the dialogue between characters may seem a little exaggerated. Some lines will probably floor you, sounding like they come from an old television program. For the most part though, the dialogue is tolerable, and by no means the worst we’ve ever seen in a game. [i]Psi-Ops[/i] is fairly quiet when you’re not in combat. The music catches up when a firefight starts up, or when you enter a boss fight. Overall though, you probably won’t pay too much attention to the music since it only picks up when you need to concentrate on killing soldiers.

[i]Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy[/i] is quite possibly one of the best games to come out this year. It’s a little on the short side, and there isn’t much else besides the single player storyline, but it can be fun to play through again, and with three different difficulties and the number of psychic powers, it can stay fun for a good while. The guns are slightly downplayed in [i]Psi-Ops[/i], but the mind tricks make up for that in full. It’s just a shame that this will become a sleeper hit, with not as many people knowing about it, because [i]Psi-Ops[/i] is a great game that’s full of action and does something new and unique with the third person shooter genre.


March 5, 2006

[i]Black[/i] is the latest title to be released by the up and coming developer Criterion Games. Since its initial announcement [i]Black[/i] has been hyped to the fullest extent as what was to be an almost revolutionary FPS that focuses on 100% action 100% of the time. The compromise, however, is extremely destructible environments and intense firefights in a single player arena in exchange for good story and any sort of multiplayer options. That is exactly what you get with [i]Black[/i]; whether or not that is a good thing I’m still not sure.

[i]Black[/i] is visually stunning. Everything from the textures, to the lighting, to the dust and smoke effects are absolutely top notch. The environments in [i]Black[/i] are big and full with a good amount of attention to detail everywhere you look. That being said, they look even better when you blow them to pieces. Perhaps the most impressive graphical aspect is that every bullet leaves a mark. When you shoot a wall, you leave a mark in it and that mark actually stays there. When in a firefight your shots will kick up dust and spit debris into the air when they hit dirt or walls which really helps to make things even more hectic.

On par with the visuals of [i]Black[/i] is the audio. The music is very well done by an orchestra that definitely knows what they are doing. If you have a decent surround sound setup you’ll be able to wake up the neighborhood with the explosions throughout this title. The weapons also sound very real and powerful. When you are crouched behind a concrete wall, or what’s left of one, you will actually hear the enemy bullets chipping away at your sides. Of course the baddies will be yelling “grenada” every time you chuck a ‘nade at them and will be shouting out the same handful of phrases at you throughout the game, although I suppose that is to be expected by now.

The gameplay in [i]Black[/i] is precisely what Criterion has promised us all along. The game is all about big explosions, lots of ammo, and blasting wave after wave of enemies. The controls are easy to pick up and play and despite the absolute lack of story [i]Black[/i] has a Hollywood quality presentation. The weapons in [i]Black[/i] are, more than any game I’ve played, very fun to shoot. It’s a feeling somewhat similar to shooting an actual gun; the weapons in [i]Black[/i] feel that powerful. This is a great thing since you will be gunning your way through hundreds of brain dead baddies in every level. The game gets repetitive very quickly which actually makes [i]Black[/i] feel a little bit longer than it really is. A veteran FPS’er will polish this one off in 6-8 hours and probably no more than 10 hours for the less experienced.

While I understand that Criterion was very focused on delivering the single player experience they wanted I can’t help but to wonder why we can’t have the pretty sights and sounds of [i]Black[/i] and have a coherent story and a little more depth in gameplay. As I said the game is short and you won’t be coming back a second time due to the repetitive gameplay and the fact that there are no extras or unlockables save for the harder difficulty. This game is the epitome of a “rent but don’t buy” title. [i]Black[/i] comes out gunning but gets boring real quickly. Beauty is only skin deep and [i]Black[/i] is a busty blonde with no personality.

The last [i]Need for Speed[/i] game that I enjoyed was [i]Hot Pursuit[/i]; God knows when that came out on the PC. Ever since, I barely touched the following games in the series ([i]Undergrounds[/i] and so on). I tried them, and they just reaffirmed my lack of interest in racers. Then [i]Burnout[/i] showed up, and I absolutely loved it. As I was getting back into the racing genre, I became more and more interested in the upcoming [i]Need for Speed[/i] game, so I decided to pick it up once again.

[i]Need for Speed: Most Wanted[/i] takes us back to the days of [i]Hot Pursuit[/i], leaves a bit from [i]Undergrounds[/i] and mixes in something new. What does this recipe equal? Why of course, success and awesomeness. How does it work?

The story isn’t (well, obviously) [i]Metal Gear[/i]. You are racing against a A

From Russia With Love

February 26, 2006

[i]From Russia with Love[/i] takes us back to the beginning of the James Bond franchiseA

Ultimate Spider-Man

February 22, 2006

Ever since I played [i]Spiderman[/i] on the PS1 (which was absolutely amazing) and read and collected the comics, I wanted one thing: to be able to play as Venom. Venom is my favorite villain, and I like him as much as Spiderman, or perhaps even more. Of course, I prefer the [i]Amazing Spiderman[/i] series to the new one, [i]Ultimate[/i], and I would have preferred the first by a mile. This game is not called A