Average User Score: 7.2Mar 19, 2011I was lucky to be born when I was. The Nintendo Entertainment System was hitting it's stride right as I was becoming fanatical about videoI was lucky to be born when I was. The Nintendo Entertainment System was hitting it's stride right as I was becoming fanatical about video games. Among titles like; Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda and Double Dragon - I had an often overlooked favorite.
After two successful sequels on the NES, it was time for an update on the Super Nintendo in 1992. For years I played Contra 3: The Alien Wars almost religiously - never completing the title due to it's insane level of difficulty.
In 1994 Contra: Hard Corps was released on the Sega Genesis - I never played this one due to it's exclusivity on the Genesis. It featured antagonist Colonel Bahamut, a veteran of the Alien Wars, who has stolen alien technology in order to overthrow the government. Only The Hard Corps can stop him and his plan for global domination.
Contra: Shattered Solider was released for the PS2 in 2002 and featured the same 2D side scrolling action-fest that had become the franchise's trademark. At the time I remember thinking that Shattered Solider was a straightforward remake of Contra 3. However in my research for this article, I learned that it was an all new story featuring the protagonist Billy Rizer from SNES Contra. Many of the levels seemed to mirror stages from previous Contra titles as a sort of homage-paying, nostalgia-inducing classic. Minus the classic.
That brings us to present day.
Hard Corps: Uprising was released on February 16th on XB Live and March 15 on the Playstation Network. As with any Contra title, Uprising follows the exploits of two protagonists Bahamut and Krystal. Bahamut may or may not be Colonel Bahamut, the villain from the Genesis Hard Corp game - you'll have to play to find out.
The year is 2613 and Earth is now ruled by an organization known only as the Commonwealth under the thumb of the evil Tiberius. Led by the ware hero Bahamut, a resistance is born to fight the evil empire and restore peace to Earth. As far as a Contra story, it's pretty tight, although you wont have much time to ponder the significance of it amongst the rain of gunfire and explosions.
Developer Arc System Works choose a different style when it came to the look of Uprising. Gone is the gritty, somewhat realistic graphics that have been a staple of the series since day one. The graphics of Uprising are straight out of a Japanese Manga comic book. I think the change in style is a refreshing change for Contra, although some people may not appreciate the new aesthetic. With all the fast-paced action and never ending waves of enemy forces, Uprising runs very smooth with zero glitches.
At it's core, the gameplay remains the same as previous Contra titles with a few differences. There are two different modes of play; Arcade and Uprising mode. Arcade mode is going to be where most people live with this title. The reason for that is because Uprising is the most difficult Contra game ever made, and Uprising mode gives you a life bar with three chances before loosing a life. In this mode health can be found sporadically throughout each stage, but don't think that this is an 'easy' way to play. It still took me hours to complete the first stage.
Uprising mode is like the "classic" Contra of yesteryear. In this mode you take one shot from the enemy and that's a life spent. With only three lives and three continues, that's only nine chances to clear the entire game. Crazy hard. In this mode I wasn't even able to get half way through the first stage. This mode is only for the hard core of the Hard Corps.
Other than that, the gameplay of Uprising is exactly the same as original Contra.
Playing with someone else has always been a big part of the Contra experience and Uprising maintains that tradition. You can either play with a buddy in your living room or over the internet. However, unless you know someone with the title, finding a match online can be frustrating. I would get the message "No rooms found" and be unable to jump into a round online. Still if you're one of those gamers with actual friends that come over to your house to play video games, two player Uprising rocks.
Hard Corps: Uprising is a great addition to the Contra series - it helps to expand on the universe, adds another dimension to the gameplay and looks amazing. I really liked the updated anime-style graphics, variety of firearms and the classic Contra feel. For 1200 Microsoft points or $15 on the PSN, the challenge will keep you coming back. The only negative is also a positive and that's the level of difficulty - it's a nice reminder that video games of the 80s and 90s were far more challenging than the video games of today.
8 out of 10… Expand
Average User Score: 7.4Mar 7, 2011Generally, I have always been a huge fan of EA licensed sports games. My biggest criticism of them is that there never seems to be enough newGenerally, I have always been a huge fan of EA licensed sports games. My biggest criticism of them is that there never seems to be enough new or original content to justify a new game every year. For example, EA's NHL '11 had no noticeable gameplay improvements over the previous year's NHL title, and Tiger Woods PGA '11 had only minor gameplay refinements over the previous release.
Fight Night: Champion (released March 1 for the XB360 and the PS3) is the newest title in EA's successful boxing franchise known for its realistic boxing physics, tight gameplay and true to life graphics. So, I'm sure you're wondering, "Is Champion just another rehash of Fight Night: Rounds 3 and 4, or is there something more to this year's title?"
There have been several improvements made to Fight Night. Yeah, amazing isn't it? Probably the biggest update is the gameplay itself. Do not adjust your set; Champion plays a lot faster than Round 4 did. The overall pacing of the game and the punch delivery feels much faster and more realistic. I have never boxed a round in my life, but I watch it on TV occasionally, and these guys seem to move pretty quick. These refinements are made possible by the enhanced controls - gone are the days of attempting complicated semi-circles with the right analogue stick to perform punches in the heat of battle. Just flick the right stick in a specific direction to perform all the punches you need. All the same throws you know and love are still here, it's just way easier and more natural to pull them off. No weird semi-circle nonsense.
Champion mode is the all new single player campaign that follows a young boxer by the name of Andre Bishop. You start out in prison, get beat down by some skinheads, then flashback to your early days competing in the Olympics. During the campaign you and Andre go through a lot together, and you witness his evolution from lightweight rookie to heavyweight powerhouse. Champion mode is meant to be an extended tutorial that teaches you everything you need to excel and stay competitive online and off. Fighting in different environments and eras was very interesting.
The graphics are as sharp as ever with no noticeable frame rate issues during gameplay. The material of the boxing shorts and the sweat look photo-realistic. The punishment you inflict on your competitor's face looks great also - split your opponents lip, and the effect is seen on your body and trunks. Fight Night: Champion boasts another EA title first: an M for Mature rating. Sorry kids.
The only downside to the graphics are the cut-scenes. They look good enough, but there are lots of glitches and frame rate problems. I found that the in-game graphics looked better than the cinematics.
Champion features the largest roster of any of the Fight Night titles with 50 boxers over 7 weight divisions. Favorites such as; Muhammad Ali, George Foreman (young and old), Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holifield and Iron Mike Tyson are represented in all their glory.
Legacy mode returns from Round 4 and is by far the least appealing part of Fight Night: Champion. You create a boxer and build him through training to be a professional swing doctor. If only it were that cool - in contrast to Champion mode, it feels slow and sluggish. In my opinion, Champion mode should be the main single player campaign, not Legacy. The plus side of Legacy is the new economy system that allows you to train in better facilities and fund your career with sponsorships earned.
The multiplayer aspect of Champion is great if you prefer battling real people over the clever AI. Online you will start off severely underpowered and have to build yourself from the ground up. The ability to create your own gym and have other players join is a nice touch.
If you're looking for the ultimate boxing experience than look no further than Fight Night: Champion. If you're a fan of the previous games in the series, than you will be pleased with the amount of new content and improved gameplay. All I would like to see next time is an expanded Champion mode that replaces Legacy.
Average User Score: 7.9Mar 4, 2011Killzone 3 drops this Tuesday on Playstation 3, but I have been fortunate enough to have an early review copy thanks to Ashley over atKillzone 3 drops this Tuesday on Playstation 3, but I have been fortunate enough to have an early review copy thanks to Ashley over at Playstation. Not only was yours truly provided with the game - I was also handed the "Sharp Shooter" peripheral, a large plastic machine gun that makes Nintendo's Zapper seem rather inadequate. The Playstation Move motion controller and navigation controller fit snuggly into the device and Killzone 3 can be played entirely this way.
So how does the new "Halo killer" add up? Is the PS Sharp Shooter a massive disappointment, or the dawn of a new era in first person shooting?
Spoiler alert, it's awesome but not totally without fault.
Killzone 3 takes place immediately after the events of part 2 - it seems in these kinds of games, the protagonists never get any down time. No vacations in Mexico, no Disneyland with the kids and no dinner and dancing with that special gal. It's just one war zone after another. But that's what we like, isn't it?
Once again we are put into the shoes of Interplanetary Strategic Alliance soldiers Sev and Rico. In the last game these two were crucial in the assassination of the evil Helghast dictator Visari. In case you are new to the series the Helghast are a race of humanoid-type beings hell-bent on domination and conquest. The death of their dictator has deeply divided the remaining political elite and a power struggle ensues within the Helghast themselves. The story is great - usually with most FPS the story is the one thing that is usually lacking. Not the case with Killzone 3 - I found myself watching and analyzing each cut-scene carefully as to not miss any of the story.
On the downside, I found that the dialogue at times left much to be desired. The voice acting was fine, but I think the script was too full of cliches. It reminded me at times of an 80s era Schwarzenegger movie.
The gameplay of Killzone 3 is really the best part of the experience. After playing recent FPS like, Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops, KZ3 felt like a breath of fresh air. You really need to think strategically and use cover in order to excel. Simply running into the battlefield, guns blazing, is a recipe for failure. The game can also be very challenging, sometimes I wanted to jump off my couch and hurl the controller at the TV - but when you do complete a stage, it's insanely rewarding.
The PS Move coupled with the Sharp Shooter peripheral is another great way to enjoy Killzone 3. You're really able to get into a grove where it feels very intuitive, just take the time during the initial set up to customize the controls. Aiming and turning sensitivity can be adjusted in the options menu based on how touchy you want it to be.
I don't think this will replace the way you play an FPS, the controller still feels the most natural for me - but it does provide an extra challenge and additional replay value. Plus at only $40 you're all set up for rail-shooters like Dead Space: Extraction and Time Crisis. The yet to be released Socom 4 will have Sharp Shooter functionality as well.
Previous Killzone titles have all had great graphics and visuals and number 3 is no exception. Everything from the character models to the environments and explosions are all gorgeously rendered with tons of attention given to detail. There is so much going on the screen all the time, but Killzone 3 runs very smoothly with minimal frame rate issues. The only downside is that at times the game will freeze for a second when entering a new area. Previous Killzone titles were brutal in this respect - it seems like developer Guerrilla Games did a lot of work to correct the problem.
It can't be an FPS without multiplayer and Killzone 3 knocks it out of the park. I really enjoyed the return of 2 player cooperative split-screen local multiplayer (not available in Killzone 2). Player one controls Sev, player two controls Rico - it's a great way to waste a few hours and a few Helghast soldiers.
Online, you have a wide array of different modes to choose from. Some of the best that I played were; "Guerrilla Warfare" classic team 16 player deathmatch, "Warzone" which returns from Killzone 2 and is a mission-based game, and "Botzone" which players can use to fine tune their skills against bots (A.I controlled players). There are way more online modes to explore, so get to it!
Killzone 3 is the quint essential FPS. It has intense action, big guns, huge explosions, stealth gameplay, jetpacks and a story that you'll actually care about. Adding the PS Move Sharp Shooter to the mix adds value and fun, and is actually a worthwhile peripheral. Plus the main antagonist Jorhan Stahl is voiced my Malcolm MacDowell from A Clockwork Orange, how cool is that?
9 out of 10… Expand
Average User Score: 7.6Mar 4, 2011Last Tuesday the good people behind Gears of War released Bulletstorm for XB360 and PS3. Reaction to the game has been mixed to say the least,Last Tuesday the good people behind Gears of War released Bulletstorm for XB360 and PS3. Reaction to the game has been mixed to say the least, with some people praising its original gameplay and others ridiculing its over-the-top action and genital-themed humor. I can see where developer Epic Games was going with Bulletstorm - however, the mark was missed.
Grayson Hunt and Ishi Sato are members of Dead Echo, an "elite" band of space pirates who find themselves betrayed and marooned on a very inhospitable planet. Armed to the teeth, they must blast their way through hordes of mutants and flesh eating gangs to exact revenge on the man who betrayed them. The story itself isn't terrible - what's terrible is the garbage these two are constantly spewing from their mouths. I'm referring to the dialogue, and it has got to be the worst I have ever heard from any video game ever. It's so bad in fact that it pulls you out of the action and the story, and for a moment you think you're watching a bad episode of Jackass.
Thank goodness for the gameplay.
Bulletstorm has some of the most original gameplay I've seen from a first person shooter to date. Early on in the game you acquire the leash - an energy weapon that allows you to pull enemies towards you for punishment or into hazards such as; giant cacti, jagged rebar, spikes and explosive barrels. The leash also grades you on your kills and awards points used to upgrade your abilities and weapons. Skillshots happen when the punishment you inflict on the enemy is creative. For example, kick an explosive barrel into a group of bad guys, leash an enemy off a cliff or just simply shoot them in the throat or buttocks for extra points - it's pretty fun. However by the end of the game, it begins to feel very repetitive due to the lack of variety in the gameplay. I found myself performing the same five or six Skillshots over and over again.
Aside from the leash, there are some cool firearms at your disposal. Those include a shotgun, a machine gun, a grenade launcher and a sniper rifle just to name a few. All of the guns in the game have an alternate fire, which can be upgraded throughout the game and ammunition is plentiful.
Single player campaign aside, there is Echoes Mode. In Echoes you complete short portions of each level, then your score is posted on an online leaderboard. Customize your weapon loadout and "kill with skill" for major points used to unlock more stages and different skins for your character. I find this adds little replay value since all of the stages in Echoes are found during single player play.
If you are expecting a multiplayer experience similar to Call of Duty or Killzone, you will be disappointed. "Anarchy" is a four player cooperative multiplayer mode where players work together to perform team Skillshots as you dispatch the mutant gangs and dominate each map. This sort of cooperative multiplayer is fun, but by itself just isn't enough to satisfy most seasoned FPS veterans.
If you were fortunate enough to have purchased the Epic Edition of the game (exclusive to the XB360) then you will have received a free pass to the Gears of War 3 multiplayer beta. For some people, this was easily worth the game's $60 price tag.
The graphics are the best part of Bulletstorm. This game runs off of the latest Unreal game engine - it looks and plays smoother than any other FPS currently on the market. When the action gets intense, there are no noticeable frame rate issues or freezing. The sprawling vistas of the alien world are very impressive and the character models are spot on.
I was left feeling let down by the Bulletstorm experience and I feel there could have been little improvements that would have made things a lot better. The dialogue - I understand that the developers and EA Games wanted the characters to come off edgy with a comedic flare, but the toilet humor and gratuitous swearing is not the way to do it. The gameplay - vary it a little with some driving or flying sequences. The multiplayer - have an online mode where gamers don't have to JUST work cooperatively.
In the end the original leash dynamic and Skillshot were not enough to save this game from its certain fate at the local Wal-Mart discount bin.
5 out of 10… Expand