Ace Combat 5

June 30, 2005

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/acecombat5/cover.jpg[/floatleft]If you have ever played an [i]Ace Combat[/i] game, you should already know what to expect from [i]Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War[/i]. It’s a good simulation-looking flight game with an arcade feel. On top of that, it has absolutely stunning graphics and an interesting storyline.

[i]Ace Combat 5[/i] takes place in an alternate reality, similar to our near future. There is a war brewing between two rival nations. You are Blaze, a rookie pilot who soon becomes the leader of one of the most decorated squadrons in the conflict. The reason behind the war and Blaze’s relationship with his fellow pilots unfold in the heat of battle and in the beautifully crafted cinematics between missions. This actually can make the story hard to follow. The radio chitchat in missions can be both helpful and extremely annoying. A lot of it tells parts of the story, but at inappropriate times. When I am making a bombing run on a heavily fortified complex with projectiles and explosions all around me, I’m not in the mood to hear about how beautiful the bird of peace is. The scripted chatter can also be somewhat confusing. After you have destroyed the enemies in the area, it is weird to hear allies complaining about enemy fire and being shot down. The cut scenes, however, are mostly interesting and worth a watch.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/acecombat5/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The gameplay itself should not disappoint fans of the series. The attention to detail might be intimidating when watching the gameplay, but the game itself is very easy to pick up and play. And if you are nervous about jumping into a mission right away, there is an optional multi-step tutorial mode, which is quite helpful. Like other [i]Ace Combat[/i] games, the core concepts are dogfighting and ground assaults. With the large quantity of heat-seeking rockets each plane carries, most dogfights require you to get behind an enemy, fire off two missiles, and let them do the work. A few missions are actually easier if you conserve ammo, but if you can get into range, enemies aren’t entirely difficult to destroy with your machine gun. Mission objectives aren’t extremely exciting. You have the traditional escort, base assault, base defense, and intercept missions. Then there are the attacks against large enemy vehicles, which strikingly resemble boss fights.

The most innovate gameplay feature in [i]Ace Combat 5[/i] is the implementation of wingmen. Unfortunately, it is a mixed blessing. Your three wingmen add a touch of depth to the story. They are with you in the heat of combat, and their radio chatter does a good job of portraying their personalities. Too bad their personalities are clichA


April 13, 2005

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/killzone/cover.jpg[/floatleft][i]Halo[/i] killer. [i]Halo[/i] killer. [i]Halo[/i] killer. This is the term used many times by Sony reps to describe [i]Killzone[/i]. This is the true error of the game. While on its own, [i]Killzone[/i] is a beautiful game, definitely the best shooter on the PS2, trying to compare it to [i]Halo[/i] is truly its downfall. Let me explain.

[i]Killzone[/i]’s graphics are by far the most beautiful seen on a shooter on the PS2. The war torn streets of the futuristic city and the dirt and dust of the environment capture the atmosphere of a true battleground. And as far as shooters go, it has good pick-up-and-shoot gameplay. However, when you compare a game to [i]Halo[/i], you have to expect large, open levels and clever AI. [i]Killzone[/i] lacks both.

From the very first mission, [i]Killzone[/i] attempts to establish that this is a large-scale war. Based on the first mission alone, it would seem the goal was accomplished. The constant rush of Helghast enemies and the yells of comrades do a convincing job of holding the atmosphere together. This also serves as one of the best “training” levels I have ever encountered. Unfortunately, the intensity of this initial battle does not hold up throughout the game. Quickly, it begins to feel like there is a massive battle going on, but you’re missing it. There is rubble and semi-destroyed buildings all around, yet no visible artillery barrages or masses of troop movement. And the PS2 hardware limits the size of these well-crafted environments to where you will often find routes blocked by rubble. Occasionally, you may stroll across a tank or a squad of troops, but the firefights never build to anything more but a minor skirmish. The environments simply tend to feel lonesome and abandoned. Even with the occasional assaults on Helghast strongholds, it is just not enough to shed the feeling that you are lagging behind the major battles. As someone who enjoys being in the thick of things, this just doesn’t cut it for me.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/killzone/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]In the firefights, the AIA

Men of Valor

April 12, 2005

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/menofvalor/cover.jpg[/floatleft]It is 1965 and the steamy jungles of Vietnam are rife with unrest. You are Dean Shepard, a young African-American Marine stationed in Southeast Asia. It is the beginning of America’s involvement in the conflict between North and South Vietnam, and neither you nor your squad mates know what to expect. Soon, your world will be on fire, and the buddies you played football with will be playing a game of life and death.

At least that is what 2015 want you to think about [i]Men of Valor[/i]. In reality, the game falls far short of the glorified descriptions. From the linear, confined “jungle” maps to the frustratingly dumb A.I., there is much lacking in the gameplay department.

I find it hard to understand how a game based in the jungles of Vietnam can have such confined maps. You will often find yourself running in swallow streams with unclimbable banks. These caused me to suffer horrible flashbacks to the original Crash Bandicoot. Even in the dense jungle areas, the walls encasing the map were blatantly obvious and you can’t even take cover around them. For a game that prides itself in realistically portraying the struggle in Vietnam, this is an unforgivable design flaw. I understand there are limits to the aged [i]Quake III[/i] engine, but that is all the more reason to find another engine for a Vietnam-based shooter.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/menofvalor/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The A.I. in the game is not intelligent by any means. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by games such as [i]Call of Duty[/i], but I was very disappointed by the combat performance of my squad mates. The friendly A.I. is just not capable of determining the nearest threat. When they have chosen a target, they will continue to shoot at it until it is dead. It is not uncommon for another enemy to run right past a squad mate while your “buddy” is busy trying to shoot a fleeing enemy in the distance. And because your friends are horrible shots, you will often have to kill their targets yourself. In situations like this, I prefer to have no squad mates at all. Games like [i]Halo[/i] and [i]Call of Duty[/i] allow you to trust that your buddy will have your back while you are handling your business. This gives you more time to take your shots. [i]Men of Valor[/i], however, does not succeed in allowing you to trust your squad mates. In fact, I found myself getting killed many times simply because I put too much faith in my teammates and expected them to give me some kindA