Average User Score: 7.1Nov 17, 2013Looking back at ODST after years of industry stagnation and bland AAA releases, it's easy to overlook the finer details of this game. BungieLooking back at ODST after years of industry stagnation and bland AAA releases, it's easy to overlook the finer details of this game. Bungie set out to build a small expansion for Halo 3. In typical Bungie fashion, the project snowballed into what can basically be considered a full game. Built in just one year, ODST manages to deliver a solid single player experience with great world building, art direction, and a nice retouch of the classic Halo formula to distinguish it from other Halo titles.
The story focuses on a squad of ODSTs, who are basically top-of-the-line soldiers bested only by Spartans, in a military campaign gone awry. In game you play as a mute ODST called the Rookie. Separated from your squad, you're tasked with exploring the pivotal city of New Mombassa to search for clues which might lead you to the rest of your squad. Recovering clues triggers flashback missions in the context of the clue, in which you fill the boots of ODSTs who are part of the Rookie's squad. They're characterized fairly well, and the story has its moments, though it's just a part of what makes the world of ODST truly memorable. Where ODST really shines is through its world building; audio logs, character dialogue, and great art direction, which when combined really sell the setting and ground it firmly in the expansive Halo universe. In a casual playthrough it's so very easy to miss all of the tiny pieces of information scattered about the games' world. Look for them, and you'll be grounded firmly in a very unique and richly atmospheric setting. And what about the music? Martin O'Donnell truly outdoes himself here, delivering a moody original score that delivers on an emotional level, matching the themes of isolation, desperation, tension, and mass exodus that might accompany the sudden occupation of such a large city, and the Rookie's lone journey through a soup of alien combatants.
As for playing as the ODSTs themselves, their gear and some tweaked combat mechanics really help differentiate these soldiers from Spartans. They can take less damage, and have a two stage health system requiring the player to scout for medpacks if their health bar is low. Dual wielding is gone, though players can still wield any weapon the come across. Vehicle handling has been tweaked and tightened to improve handling characteristics on the streets of Mombassa and still remains a staple of the combat throughout. Enemy AI has also gotten a slight improvement, with groups of enemies acting in squads of many varieties, keeping combat fresh and fun. Though the game is powered by the aging Halo 3 tech and has limited resolution for HD consoles, the art direction is great and like Halo 3 this game stands the test of time in that regard. As expected, theater mode is fully functional in ODSTs single player, and is a novel feature that lets you watch your exploits from any angle and at any speed, good for people like me who enjoy taking in the sights and sounds of the world. Also, easter eggs. They're everywhere, and they will put a smile on your face.
The real meat of Halo games and what keeps people coming back is undoubtedly the multiplayer experience. While ODST doesn't have its own ODST themed PvP multiplayer, it does have firefight, which is a very fun arcadey co-op survival mode that is both fun and challenging due to the chaotic and multi-faceted sandbox design. Firefight maps are well designed, and hours of fun can be had trying to tackle the par-score challenges with your friends for achievements, or just to take a Brute Chopper for a spin and mow down your alien foes. Surviving for longer enables skulls, which are basically difficulty modifiers that change enemy and player traits such as weapon effectiveness per-type, shield regeneration mechanics, enemy AI strength, and more. It really is a great mode that's found its place in the suite of modes Halo has to offer.
ODST also comes with the complete Halo 3 multiplayer experience, packaging all of Halo 3's multiplayer features and maps (including all DLC maps) into a single disc. This is a pretty sweet deal for those who don't have the DLC, especially considering the quality of the DLC maps.
In all, Halo 3: ODST is a great game. The single player campaign is memorable and stands out with just one thorough playthrough, and its other features round out the package nicely. If you take the time to explore all that ODST has to offer, you'll find yourself immersed in a great setting that delivers the great flow of Halo's combat with a few twists.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.6Sep 28, 2013Diablo III for the consoles is basically a port of the latest version of the game as it exists on the PC, with some minor tweaks, the mostDiablo III for the consoles is basically a port of the latest version of the game as it exists on the PC, with some minor tweaks, the most notable of which being the removal of the auction house (in game currency and real cash). This change alone makes Diablo III on console a better experience than the PC version, since the removal of the auction house makes for better all around loot drops, as well as more frequent loot drops for your given class. Other than that, it's practically the same game, so let's go through a quick rundown of how it stacks up on old hardware.
First of all, the story and presentation. It's kind of a mixed bag here. The plot is full of cliches and predictable moments you see coming from a mile away. In game cinematics are laughable and embarassing. Voice acting is similarly hilarious for most characters. As far as visuals, there are some great looking, artistically defined environments, and some terribly bland, cookie cutter environments. Diablo III on the 360 looks good and runs well most of the time, but the framerate can drop in heavy combat, with the effects system culling certain effects to keep the game running somewhat smoothly. Music in this game is for the most part bland and forgettable, with some awful tracks (especially in Act II) here and there. The CG cinematics are basically the only reason to care about the story or plot progression in any way, and there are too few of them. As for in game menus and UI, I liked the organization of the PC menus and interface more. On consoles, cooldowns on skills can be hard to make out, and I don't like the placement of the map. Other than that, controls have been mapped to a controller in a very smart and fluid way.
Now the gameplay. Diablo III feels like it was made for consoles at its outset, and now that I've played it on consoles, I can reaffirm this statement. Diablo III has mostly forgettable classes that don't really evolve in fun ways until you hit level 30. Leveling up entails earning new runes and skills that you can combine to create versatile builds to crush monsters with. The problem is that half of the skills for any given character are flat out useless or don't have a place in later difficulties where long cooldowns or short burst skills can't fill the gaps where monsters are hitting you for three times your health. In order to curb this problem for newer or unfamiliar people, the loot has been scaled significantly. By the time I was partway through inferno, my witch doctor was dealing over 250k DPS with super life steal and movement speed gear, and this is without an auction house to weed out the bad gear. As a result, the game became quite easy for me, even in co-op on Master difficulty Inferno. Bosses died at rates I never thought possible, some of them before they even finished their dialogue at the start of the battle. On the bright side, managing mobs and elites was much more fun, as I had the freedom to use unorthodox builds with my gear to fill the gaps. The supercharged loot drops make crafting weapons and armor practically worthless, even though crafting has been tweaked to give stats relevant to your characters prime attributes. You will simply never craft or buy anything as good as what you can scavenge from the field.
The worst part of diablo is easily the environments. Dungeons are either short and bland, or long and monotonous, with very few variations. Overworld areas have the same layout every time, just with randomly arranged dungeon entrances that are very frustrating to those who commit layouts to memory. Act IV's levels are utterly pathetic, with everything else save for most of Act I and parts of II and III being mostly bland.
The addition of a sub-difficulty setting is a good thing, so when you feel like speedrunning or taking it easy you can simply drop the difficulty for any given mode down. The flipside is that Diablo III on consoles is way too forgiving and ultimately too easy to hold your interest for long. Playing new characters can feel fresh depending on the switch, and the addition of supercharged loot drops as well as sub-difficulties makes leveling feel like less of a grind, but the quality of the base game is so spotty that you'll probably be turned off by the time you've done everything you could for your first character.
In summary, Diablo III on console is a mixed bag. While it's fun to hop on your Xbox and slam some co-op with your buddies, Diablo III is simply an unpolished, unfinished feeling game that probably won't hold your interest for much longer than a couple of weeks. The story is utterly forgettable, the locales and dungeons are poorly designed with few (and frustrating) variations, and the boss fights are entirely pitiful, but this doesn't make the hacking and plundering inbetween any less fun. If you enjoy being rewarded very handsomely for making gibs out of anything and everything with your friends, Diablo III will satiate your desires for a couple of weeks.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.1Sep 25, 2013Now that GTA V has been out for over a week and people have had time to sink their teeth into the real meat of the game, we can finally startNow that GTA V has been out for over a week and people have had time to sink their teeth into the real meat of the game, we can finally start seeing some honest reviews about the experience, from start to finish. It's no surprise that the game is pretty good as reflected by its sales and media buzz, but I feel that all too often the media exaggerates the quality of a game like GTA V and frustrates people that were expecting that kind of quality. GTA V has quite a few problems, actually, and I'm going to bring them to light.
First of all, the visual style of the game is great. Played it on the xbox and was surprised to find some great lighting, a great sense of being in an expansive world, and some stunning looking water with cool displacement physics. Characters, vehicles, and the environment look generally great. It's when you start getting into the countryside that things fall apart. Terrain has gross, tiling textures making up a lot of the landscape with some poorly detailed, sparse vegetation here and there. The desert area simply looks awful. Framerate is at the very least as inconsistent as GTA IV, though the drops are not quite as severe.
The controls are once again a point of issue. On foot and driving controls are generally tighter, but for some reason your ability to free aim has taken a hit, especially in vehicles. Awkward weapon draw times and clunky aiming out of the vehicle makes it impossible to steer and hit your target. The camera doesn't help either. Each character has their own set of skills and abilities that you can upgrade through use of whatever that particular skill requires. Improving these skills didn't seem to have too profound an effect with any character, especially sneaking, which seemed to work brilliantly regardless of how far the skill was progressed. The only real change I may have noticed was weapon reloads becoming slightly faster with shooting upgraded. Big whoop.
Gameplay is solid for a Grand Theft Auto title, but apart from a few cool new setpieces and the more complex structure to heist missions, it's generally the same old drive here shoot this guy sort of deal. Scripted chase scenes are still the absolute worst thing in this game featuring completely invulnerable AI drivers that are always faster than you until some arbitrary point where life is breathed into the husk of the car and you notice the suspension physics taking over. Speaking of heists, they're yet another disappointment. There are only six of them, and all of them have two ways to take your score. Each one has you going around town collecting items and vehicles needed for the gig before actually going for the score. The bad part is that the later heists have you collecting a lot of objects and not doing a whole lot with them in the end. You spend more time preparing than you do actually taking scores! What makes this even more frustrating is the inbetween side missions and activities. Most of the strangers and freaks missions fall prey to boring, formulaic GTA gameplay. Go around searching areas for cars to deliver, or go around searching for something to steal, or just go chase down and kill some dudes, maybe bring something back. Most pay next to nothing, and unless you really enjoy the dialogue in this game so much, there's no real reason to do these. SIde activities bolster stats, but they really just function and that's it.
Notice how I mentioned that getting paid is a problem with side missions? Well, this problem extends to the rest of the game. Outside of missions, there isn't a whole lot you can do to earn cash. Buying property is probably the best way, but to do that you need money to begin with, so until you've done most of the heists (and missions in the game for that matter), you'll probably not really have the money you want to get the things in the game you want. For instance, the very expensive vehicle tuning, which is a luxury you can afford to live without. Then you have the stock market. Other than buying stocks recommended by a character who runs assassination missions and making a little money that way, I stood clear of it.
Now finally, the part everybody loves. The social satire in this game is more often than not hilarious. The only real reason I continued to play this game was because I really got into the writing and the characters. It's not so much that I was doing some of these boring, play-by-numbers missions for the sake of getting through, but so that I could see how the characters would react to whatever crazy thing just happened and what might happen next for this story. Then the game started to progress and I started losing my love for the characters. They really don't undergo any real changes, and sometimes behave in odd, erratic ways that seem like contrivancies to keep the plot moving in a particular direction. Then you have your ye olde Rockstar ending, and I don't have to say anything because it's so obvious what's going to happen. I'll give it a 6/10.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.3Aug 31, 2012Dark Souls is a shining example of a game that was never intended to be ported to the PC, but due to overwhelming demand got the developersDark Souls is a shining example of a game that was never intended to be ported to the PC, but due to overwhelming demand got the developers attention and was made so. Despite problems with the port (and their solutions) that I will be covering near the end of this review, the core game is absolutely fantastic and without a doubt one of my personal favorite games of this entire gen. From its inspired and gritty fantasy setting to its incredibly complex combat and RPG mechanics, Dark Souls has the tools to keep you absolutely immersed - but only if you're willing to submit to its ever present difficulty with patience and the motivation to learn and adapt. It's no surprise to anybody that Dark Souls is known for its punishing difficulty, and some players will tell you that these games are simply cruel, executing you at every turn. From the moment control is given to you, you're thrust into a boss battle, and after that, you're navigating a world with constant dangers outside of the central hub of firelink shrine. Though there is an intended line of progression through the various interconnected environments, especially in the early parts of the game, the game gives you the freedom to go almost anywhere within it - it can be daunting at first, but you will soon figure out which areas you should and should not be progressing to. A very important factor in this game is exploration. You should talk to every NPC and listen closely to what they have to say. If you can purchase items from them using souls, the universal currency, which is also used to level up your character, you should see what they have in stock. Not only are there powerful items, upgrades, and magical abilities to be found, there are also achievements tied to discovering them. Important items are littered throughout the environment in chests and on corpses, on ledges near and far, and you should keep an eye on every single one of them. In fact, you should keep a keen eye to all events in this world. Every enemy poses a challenge to you, and unlike in other RPGs where enemies scale to your level, or you gear yourself to a godlike, almost immortal status, each and every single enemy in this game carries a significant hazard or status ailment that if not evaded will hurt, and hurt a lot. You will die a lot in Dark Souls, and to be fair, some areas can seem unfair, but the truth is that there is always a solution, and if you're good, one that involves taking not a single point of damage. Being in Human form as opposed to soul form, especially in online mode, is the more risky way to play, as you have the chance to be invaded by other human players who are looking to kill you and steal your humanities. Invading and co-operative play are a big part of this game and a strong deterrent to piracy, as other players are more than willing to help you by leaving helpful messages inscribed on the ground that can tip you off to enemies, hidden loot, and sometimes asking for help to defeat a boss, which is made easier in co-op. Another helpful ability you gain in human form is the ability to summon certain NPCs you've met to help you during boss fights, the latter of which are another point of complaint. Marked by a very large health bar and the boss' name above it, these enemies are very intimidating but each have their own strengths and weaknesses. There is a significant learning curve to each one, and you should make it a priority to learn their move sets before you tackle them in head on combat - each of them is possible to beat without taking a single point of damage. There is so much more I would like to say about progression in this game, how you level up your character and their weapons and abilities, how attributes synergize and stack with weapons and items, and so much more. The truth is that there is simply too much information to take in at once, and that's all part of the steep learning curve. Though it doesn't take a korean supergamer to master this game, just remember that if you do, you'll be one of the few who can actually say that they got through Dark Souls without a hitch.
Now, as for the PC version, I would highly recommend installing a very tiny mod that unlocks the internal rendering resolution of the game by means of placing a d3d9 file and its configuration settings file within the DATA folder of the games' installation directory. It is also highly recommended that you play this game with a wired Xbox 360 controller or a wired controller of some kind, because there are simply too many functions and commands for a keyboard control scheme to be viable. This game does not require a very powerful system to run well, but even given my powerful PC with the internal resolution set to 2560x1440 and running at 1920x1080 (I did this to supersample), there was one specific area which caused pockets of noticeable framerate drops from the locked 30Hz cap. 9/10… Expand