14 November, 2010


I found my first review I ever wrote for a 360 game today :) It was for Bioshock! I thought I would relay it here for your perusal! It's quite unnecessarily long, I do think, but it's interesting to see how I used to write, compared to how I write now.

Nov 23, 2008

Bioshock spent a while in the making and I followed it from when I first heard it was in development. When it was released for Steam I grabbed it up. Playing it on the PC was great, and I must say that the graphics and game play blew me away. Of course I went into it thinking, " hey I know it's a creepy game, but I've played my share in my day and I can handle it." And so, I played it in the dark without a light on... and it freaked me the hell out. Most of what I could say for the PC version though, was eclipsed when I got it for the 360, and that's what I'll talk about here. I must say for all it's glory on the PC, the 360 version is much better. Maybe it was just me, but I noticed better graphic quality, sound quality, and game play over all. There is also a version for the PS3, but as I never played it, I don't feel I can review the qualities and flaws of that version here. Crashing into the water, at the beginning of the game, looked more realistic and gripping when the water hits your screen. Because water plays such a massive role in Bioshock, it had to be the best feature of the game, and it really excelled. Everywhere you find water it really feels like it's trying to invade the city and trying to submerge you. As you move through Rapture there is a constant aquatic presence and moving through it is beautiful. The splash effects are luminous and even when you run through a small puddle, you see it splash and ripple in other puddles and the ground. Plasmids are especially beautiful as well.

For instance there is a plasmid called Winter Blast which creates ice and cold, and freezes your enemy. When you have Winter Blast readied as your active plasmid, your hand becomes chilled and spikes of ice and frost surround your hand, coating it in ice. All very nice, right? Well the graphics are such that as the ice spikes emerge from your hand constantly, you can see little droplets and rings of blood on your hand every time this happens. It brings another quality to the play in that you can see this is probably a painful plasmid to have, it's continuously tearing through your skin,
causing damage. A price you pay for plasmids. Fire also plays an important role in Bioshock. Rapture is a city in ruin; a revolutionary society gone awry through war and torment, drugs and conflict. The city is in fire and destroyed from the inside out; the ocean is claiming it back, and destruction reigns. Fires can be seen everywhere, including through your scorched and bloody hand by using Incinerate ( a fire based direct damage and damage over time plasmid ). Through-out the city there are destroyed clusters of fires and ruin. The way the fire moves is incredibly beautiful. When you get close, heat is obvious and you see a wavering of space. Damage done to you through fire looks realistic and when you cause damage to the Splicers, it's a fantastic effect. The Splicers in general are done very nicely as well. Their costumes and attacks are surprising and creepy; all with a surreal context to them. Wandering through Rapture you see many kinds of Splicers along with Big Daddies and Little Sisters.

Big Daddies come in four types with two models which are quite beautiful in a surreal sort of way. Rosie's have several lights on their face and Bouncer's have a porthole. The best thing concerning them graphically is their aggression monitor. When a Big Daddy is passive it's face ports will be green, if it's suspicious of you or your motives, it will change to yellow, and when it will attack you, it's red. This is a useful way to determine threat, and doesn't ruin the immersion of the game. Little Sisters are only present with a Big Daddy for the most part. Their unhealthy greenish pallor and glowing yellow eyes are as unsettling as they are lovely to witness. The way they stab at angel's with their ADAM syringes is creepy to say the least. Over all the graphics are the best I've seen in a game, and I've played a lot of games
in my time. Everything meshes together in a unique way and fits the way the world of Bioshock works. The next big aspect is the music and sound of this game. I was highly impressed when the first song played as I entered the lighthouse. The game is filled with both instrumental pieces by Garry Schyman and old 1950's music. But here is the beauty of the 1950's music they play... it sounds like actual 1950's music. OK, let me step back for a moment. Usually when you hear music these days by artists such as the Andrew Sisters, Bing Crosby or Perry Como they are re-mastered tracks. They are digitally improved versions of the songs, which I personally hate. It makes then sound wrong, disturbed, and I feel somewhat betrayed. In Bioshock, none of this re-mastered crap happens to the music. You hear the sounds of the vinyl discs or tape recordings. It SOUNDS like it would if you heard it in the 1950's. A little distorted and tinny because the setting of the game is actually in the 1950's. They wouldn't have access to the technology to make the music better, and in that, it makes the game. Hearing the music as people in that time would have heard it, makes me forget a little that it's 2008 and we're in a time of CD's and DVD's and re-mastering. I love this so much. The music quality makes the game that little bit more disturbing.

There is a part in the game where you come across a jukebox and when you hit it, you hear How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? by Pattie Page start to play. As this is playing and you move around the room, you find a switch to open a secret room that you enter and open a safe and upgrade your weapon, but as this music is still playing, you turn around from upgrading your weapon and this plaster encased Splicer is standing there in this ballerina position briefly then starts wailing on you with a pair of scythes. This surreal moment, when I first encountered it, left me momentarily stunned and confused. I'm sure this was the effect the creators had in mind... the light hearted music which plays around the game sort of lulls you into this awkward sense of comfort while the ravaged reality of this broken city sticks a claw hammer in your skull. Conflicting emotions and responses are a common part of it. The instrumental music by Garry Schyman sets in slowly in some parts, you aren't really aware that its there, but then you become aware of it and a chill sweeps down your back. It's beautiful and haunting in composition and equals the world
around it, really setting the scene. Sound effects are very well done in the game and the sound you get from hitting different objects or enemies really shows. When you hit a Splicer, you hear a gooey flesh type hit and it makes a big difference from when you smack a shaft of wood or a door. The twirling sound of a grenade heading your way or a Splicer talking to them self in the next room are very noticeable and sometimes where they're coming from is not immediately discernible, which makes the already creepy atmosphere all the more unsettling. Your plasmids also have their own unique sounds to them, and using them is a great experience. As you walk, you hear footsteps, and you can hear the footsteps of your enemies as well. Depending on which enemy is around, their footsteps sound different. It's a great set up and was very enjoyable.

Controls on the 360 work out very well in Bioshock. I think the controller was utilized very well and everything is easily accessible. Of course switching between weapons and plasmids is easier on the PC if you believe binding each to a key is easier, which for some it will be. After I first got my few weapons and plasmids on the 360, switching between them was hardly a noticeable action. I knew where everything was, and in the blink of an eye I could navigate to my desired plasmid or weapon. It didn't become a problem at all for me. Interacting with the environment was, in a few places, touchy for a small part, but mostly due to the fact that in some places it was too dark to see where I was going and so I chose the wrong actions and move incorrectly the first time through. Turning the contrast up in this game is highly recommended. Getting around and what to look for became second nature very quickly, it really felt like I was having
to adapt to survive, which I was highly pleased with. Immersion in a game is a big must for me. You get a choice in the game to be a good person or a bad person, and the choices you make have, all in all, a very little effect on the overall game play. I would have hoped for more of a game impact with the choices you make, but for the most part, all these choices affect is the very short ending sequence. You end up being able to access more Gene Tonics and Plasmids if you're and evil child eating psychopath than if you're a cuddly Father Christmas teddy bear man. And yes, the difference is really that extreme. There is no in-between here. You either end up consuming the lands of all their milk and honey, and unleashing atomic war on the world, or you become Mother Teresa and create life for these children by giving them all the things they missed by being genetically manipulated in an under ocean laboratory. For the 360, one has to mention the achievements you can acquire through-out Bioshock. There are quite a few and you will need at least two play-through's to get them. The first play-through can be done on Easy and I HIGHLY recommend you go through it first on easy to do this. I would also recommend not harvesting the Little Sister's on your first time through because in all honesty, easy is very easy. The way I would rate the difficulties is in this manner: Easy - You beating up someone in the school yard. Normal - You getting beat up in the school yard. Hard - You have 10 seconds to escape Chernobyl before the reactor blows.

Yes, this is an extreme jump between Normal and Hard and it's a very, very accurate jump. Hard mode eviscerates your friends who just happen to be watching you play. There are two achievements for the 360 which must be done in hard mode, and I have not completed them yet, but am slowly making my way through Hard mode to get them. One involves turning off all the Vita Chambers in the game so you cannot be instantly revived at one if you are to die. Vita Chambers are pretty much useless throughout the game if I'm honest. In easy and normal mode, I left them on... why not? But I didn't die at all in either difficulty setting, so their effectiveness was rather lost. In hard mode however, that's where they would be most useful and yet, the achievement decides you cut your eyes out at every turn. I hear there is another difficulty for the PS3 which is beyond hard, but the sheer terror this thought inflicts upon me has yet
to be formed into human words. Leading to the other Hard mode achievement: Brass Balls. Beating the game on hard mode. Some tips I learned for hard mode? Hack everything you can, every camera you see, every turret, every security bot.. they WILL come in handy have no doubt. Enrage, Target Dummy, and Security Bullseye are your dear friends. You will not survive long without them. Always hack first aid units, they will poison a Splicer if they try to use the and you've hacked it. Telekinesis is a great tool for Nitro splicers and Rosie's. Choose your ammo wisely... if you fight Splicers or such use those anti personal rounds and for armoured enemies make sure you have armour piercing rounds. Electro bucks are always nice too. Your grenade launcher has some nice bombs in it, figure out when best to use them... don't underestimate proximity mines. SAVE OFTEN. Because you can't use Vita Chambers in Hard mode, if you want the achievement, you will rely on saves you make to return you when you die... and you WILL die. I saved after each Splicer battle, after finding first aid kits, after hacking. It may seem an inconvenience, but it is vital to your game, and after a bit, it doesn't take long to quickly save at all. The vital and imminent death in Hard mode really changes the game. Even if you've played it 20 times on easy or normal, the threat of death takes on a whole new meaning. Corridors are darker, enemies seem tougher ( and of course they are tougher... a lot tougher ).

I could go on for hours about this game, but I'll stop here for now. Overall, Bioshock is great. Besides what I've mentioned, I honestly can't think of any other flaws the game has. It is a near perfect game with incredible replay. As an FPS game, many people are turned off by it, saying it's not for them, and it's true, it might not be. But it's not your average FPS game. A few of my own friends who do not enjoy an FPS game have played it and felt they enjoyed it quite a lot. With game play, graphics, and sound as I have stated, it really has a unique way of pulling you in and holding you. I recommend this game with all my heart for the 360, and if you don't have a 360, have a go at the PC version. It's great as well.

05 November, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas

Coming back to the world of Fallout was an incredible experience. Being an avid fan of Fallout 3 & all the associated DLC, I was ecstatic when I heard about Fallout: New Vegas. With hundreds of hours & all of the many achievements for Fallout 3 under my belt, I felt confidant that I could experience Fallout: New Vegas with a full story of the Wastelands. A lot of people have been saying, in a most complaining form, that New Vegas is too much like 3 was. Too much the same & more like an expansion than a new game. Have you guys even played the game yet? Yea, it's very much the same in graphics & play, but the story is different, it's set several years past Fallout 3's story, & has so many new quests & areas to explore. Not to mention it's on the other side of the continent. It's definitely not expansion material. It deserved being it's own game & I think it works very well like that. In that it's so much like Fallout 3... I don't see a problem with this? My obsessive love for Fallout 3 has already been touched upon; another game in that vein cannot fail. That being said, there were some little things about the game which punched me in the stomach, but, thankfully, nowhere near as many as some people have reported. The game would freeze up a little, but I didn't experience this until I was something like 25 hours into the game? And one time I fell into a tree & couldn't get out, so I had to keep reloading & jumping as the game reloaded to get out of the tree... it worked eventually. OK then, I spent about 48 hours on my first play-through. This isn't being the actual main storyline is 48 hours long. I think a friend of mine finished it in 20-something hours, but he concentrated mainly on the primary storyline. For my first play-through I did everything I could the first time through. And though hundreds of quests, almost all the companions, over 100 locations discovered... I didn't even get through 75% of the content. So there's more out there. I have a rule that I never check achievements or guides the first time through a game unless I have been stuck on one particular thing for over three hours. I do this to preserve natural game-play for me. Surprises, exploration, game-play.

My first play-through was a Normal mode game, not using Hardcore as I wanted to get to know the game before I went through it in a more realistic way. The graphics in FO NV were very much the same as FO3... not bad at all, but not the best in the world. Regardless of that, they are very enjoyable. I love seeing all the weapons, armour, & terrains. They are, perhaps, better than I have said, even, due to that we are used to graphics making everything gorgeous & lovely, but the world of Fallout is not a gorgeous or lovely place. It's a murky, desolate, ruined world & the graphics do a very good job of portraying that. Things look genuinely grimy & grim. I would have liked better character creation, though. Sound & voice acting was wow.The world of Fallout has given us so many great Voice Acting that it demands it. There were some quite big names grappled for this game. Personal favourites like Liam O'Brien, Michael Dorn, Yuri Lowenthal, Fred Tatasciore, Wil Wheaton, Sam Riegel & Ron Perlman as well as more flashy favourites like Matthew Perry, Wayne Newton, Kris Kristofferson, Felicia Day, Jason Spisak, & James Marsden. The whole cast list can be found HERE. It was epic to say the least! The radio music is always great; I love those old 20-60's old time music so it's fantastic to hear those getting 'play' again. Aside from that, the actual ambient musics, which are hearable when the radio isn't on, are so nice. I had the radio off about half the time, just to hear the ambient music in different areas.

Combat is the same as FO3. You are in first person, unless for some god-awful reason you switch to 3rd, & you have melee or range weapons which you hack away at your enemies with. VATS is back & wonderful as ever, but it seems to act a little quicker this time. I found myself going in & out of VATS better & choosing which portion of my enemy to shoot off first was a little smoother. You can have two companions at any one time who help you out with some combat... on hardcore mode, though, if that companion dies, you're fucked as there is no way to bring them back. However, in a normal style game, your companions will just get up when all other enemies are eradicated. I ended up favouring Rex & Cass... How I got Cass is a funny tale actually, but that's another story, full of spoilers. I found that either fist weapons as melee or a Anti-Material gun were my favourites. Melee is so devastating! Just run at your enemies & bam, one or two shots to the kidneys. Woo.

I had such a great time playing FO NV & I am going to play it again as well. Not just for Hardcore mode, but I want to finish all things possible in the game, as I did with FO3. I finished my first play with 24/50 achievements knocked out. When looking through all the achievements, it's a nice bit, almost half. Most of the achievements are for doing 10k damage with certain weapons or finishing specific quest lines, so I will have a good time kicking those around in another play-through When I finished & checked out what the actual achievements were, I was a little surprised at them as they weren't so diverse as in FO3, but it's fine.

These achievements aren't BAD, but they could have been better I think. It's a great game & to be honest, even if you didn't play FO3 for some reason, give it a go! Buy it even, there's so much to do & so much time to put into it. I wholly recommend this game for those who enjoy FPS & RPG's as it combines a little of both. I do have a few friends who dislike FPS games who didn't get into it, & that's fine. I guess it does cater to a specific audience, but I do think those people will enjoy it a lot.