Xbox 360 Review: Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts

NEVER the thing you want to be that close to.

NEVER the thing you want to be that close to.

By: Jeff Cater

Cabela’s, the store, was often a place of wonderment for me to visit as a child with giant displays of great bears and wolves, and even a huge fish tank. Cabela’s has also now been pumping out games for a number of years to hardcore hunters and casual gamers alike, but does their latest release, Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts, hit the mark?

CONTROLS (3/5)

The controls are easily the best feature of the game, being immediately familiar due to the game’s first-person nature. If you’ve walked around in any game and aimed down the sight of a rifle at the same time you’ll be perfectly comfortable here. Gadgets and “Hunter stance” are bound to the directional and face buttons, respectively.

Unfortunately, the aim sensitivity of the right stick never feels right, as it always seems to go a few inches to the left or right from where you’d like to shoot; it never fails. Pro Hunts also uses the pressure sensitive triggers to get that perfect trigger pull, which is a touch weird at first.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (2.5/5)

Pro Hunts is a pretty decent thing to look at while you’re holding still or just surveying your surroundings, but everything gets pretty ugly while moving around thanks to a low frame rate that frequently dips.

With everything jerking around and stuttering across your screen it’s hard to admire how the trees sway in the wind, or how the bushes… sway in the wind. The various wildlife are animated pretty well but also fall victim to the frame rate issue, so deer seem to sometimes gallop erratically rather than prance around as deer actually do.

The frame rate issues also take away from the actual quality of the wildlife models used. Every animal is modeled and textured very well, indicating that this is actually a damn decent looking title that’s severely marred by technical difficulties.

On the audio front, Pro Hunts is filled with sounds seemingly pulled right from nature or one of those sleepy-time relaxation CDs, whereas the menus and cinematic sequences are bedded with country rock music. That’s right, cinematic sequences.

Guns sound true to form and powerful, and rustling through bushes sounds quite good. Stealth is a large part of the game, to which hearing even the smallest noise is tantamount to the positioning of your character.

GAMEPLAY (3/5)

In this edition of Cabela’s Big Game Hunter, you’re able to hunt all over America after qualifying in different regions. This can be done by completing various “mission” hunts — for example, sack a boar between 350 and 600 pounds, or 10-point buck minimum. Side missions include shooting arrows through foxes and other similar activities.

The game is incredibly difficult to please, however. If you whiff on a shot or don’t take down your target with a single round, you might still complete the session but be penalized for not being a proficient hunter. Penalties come in the form of the straight-up robbery of your hard earned in-game currency, so it almost feels like a deer hunting version of Dark Souls that constantly makes you dig your own hole.

Pro Hunts does give you the tools to succeed, but due to the frame rate issues and the accuracy of the controller it’s MUCH harder to place a kill shot than it should be.

If you practice and exercise extreme patience, however, you’ll find getting that perfect heart or double-lung shot to be most satisfying; even more so because the game treats you to an X-Ray depiction of bullet flight and entry (ala Sniper Elite v2), complete with details of velocity and power behind your shot.

OVERALL (2.75/5)

With a little more effort devoted to evening out the frame rate and control issues, Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts could be a fantastic hunting game. In its current state, however, it is hard to recommend outside of diehard series fans.

Categories: Reviews

Throwback Thursday: Win Enslaved Premium Edition on PS3!

April 17, 2014 52 comments

EnslavedAfter being sidelined last week by getting sick, Throwback Thursday is back, and this time we’re digging deep in the vault for one of the most overlooked titles of the last generation in Bandai-Namco’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. This is the Premium Edition, too, which means it includes the excellent DLC, Pigsy’s Perfect 10. If you missed this one when it came out, trust me, you wanna play it.

HOW TO ENTER

To enter simply let us know what one of your favorite “overlooked” games is in the comments section below. If you’re on Twitter please include your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Wednesday, April 23rd. All entries must be submitted by 8 PM EDT/5 PM PDT on Wednesday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.

Good luck!

Categories: Contests

PC Review: Deus Ex: The Fall

2027 is all about Crips vs. Golds. Bloods are so 1980s.

2027 is all about Crips vs. Golds. Bloods are so 1980s.

By: Casey Curran

Every now and then a sequel or spin-off comes along that is little more than a watered down version of a past game in the series. Sometimes it loses what made that game special and ends up feeling bland. Other times, however, it proves just how good the source material is, providing a fun experience despite not being on par with past entrants. Deus Ex: The Fall is the latter, providing something not quite as deep as Human Revolution, but a fun game nonetheless.

CONTROLS (4/5)

Anyone familiar with Human Revolution’s PC interface will feel right at home with The Fall. While the level of polish is not quite up to par with the 2011 hit, they otherwise control largely the same, offering far better controls than the iPhone version. The only difference is that due to being a port of an iPhone game, the contextual cues can often be unclear on what button to press, as these initially only required a tap on the touch screen.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3/5)

As with the controls, The Fall is basically a less polished version of Human Revolution graphically. It retains the stylized, gold-heavy color palette, which helps it stand out from the other shooters on the market, though not quite as impressively as HR. The areas do feel a little more copy and paste than that title as well, particularly later on, which hurts the visuals.

The story, however, is a hollow shell of Human Revolution’s. It centers around two agents hiding from the Illuminati trying to obtain any drugs to fight their bodies rejecting their augmentations. It does not cover augmentation with the same intelligence or depth that HR did, providing a story that neither helps nor hurts the game. Voice acting in this is decent, but none of it stands out.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

What caught me by surprise the most about The Fall was how it does not overly focus on the shooting, as, like Human Revolution, stealth is balanced to be an equally viable option. Neither one has a clear cut advantage over the other, each limited by its own unique resources as well as imposing their own dangers. In stealth, getting discovered presents a major problem as you can be caught in a completely unfavorable position. Meanwhile, going the shooter route requires you to constantly be in firefights, which, thanks to a low amount of health, means you need to make a much smarter use of cover than your average shooter.

Exploration remains intact as well. While the areas are not nearly as exciting as in Human Revolution, The Fall holds its own secrets that make going off the beaten path exciting. While the world building secrets do not quite add enough to make finding a document or journal entry a huge reward, tracking down money, experience, and ammo is still satisfying.

The one area where the game does falter is leveling. It feels a little too stripped down to the bare bones, lacking the amount of options from Human Revolution. It does not make up for it by having these feel significant, the same way they felt in Mass Effect 2, either. While there were a few handy upgrades, particularly in the hacking department, most did not make a noticeable enough difference in the gameplay to make leveling up feel particularly compelling.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

If you have yet to play a Deus Ex title, I have a hard time recommending The Fall over Human Revolution or the original. If, however, you spent a significant time with the series and are hungry for more, then The Fall will satisfy that desire.

Categories: Reviews

PS3 Review: Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends

This time, this little gal is sweeping the guys off their feet.

This time, this little gal is sweeping the guys off their feet.

By: Uma Smith

It appears that the Dynasty Warriors series continues to survive with its recent eighth title. For the past couple of years, these games are usually accompanied by a DLC, labeled Xtreme Legends, several weeks later. This time, however, if you have delayed purchasing their recent title, then you have your own patience (or perhaps indifference) to thank as Tecmo-Koei has released Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends for PS3 — there’s also a Complete Edition for PS4 and Vita owners.So what should one expect from such a package as this?

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

If you’ve ever gotten your hands on a Dynasty Warriors game, then you should be expecting the controls to be absolutely simple with just movement and attack commands to keep track off. In this case, though, it’s even better since your character now has the ability to carry two weapons at once.

Considering how you have to play out your strategy by matching the right type of weapon depending on the enemy you encounter, this isn’t exactly a completely mindless button-mashing affair. On the contrary, getting the grasp of this concept will be greatly beneficial as you can execute special Storm Rush combos as well as pull off counter moves.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.75/5)

Although I must admit Dynasty Warriors 8 has the best graphics in comparison to its predecessors, I should point out the imperfect environmental presentation and low-resolution textures making their appearances on screen. Still, the characters are well designed with a high degree of detail.

Audio wise, it manages to keep the adrenaline going with the hacking and slashing sounds occupying the overall gameplay experience. And when you have exciting and dynamic music playing in the background, it’s easy to be taken away by this high-octane atmosphere.

GAMEPLAY (4.25/5)

For those that are unaware, Dynasty Warriors takes place during the Chinese Three Kingdoms era where the gameplay will have you basically hacking and slashing against a bunch of enemies while, at the same time, leading your own army. As its name suggests, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends comes packed with even more content than the original DW8. There is an additional storyline included along with an “Ultimate” difficulty option and five new characters added to the roster.

As you jump into the main story mode, you’ll be playing for territorial supremacy while controlling the various Wei, Shuand Wuclans. There’s also the Lu Bu’scampaign, where an extra several hours are added in this edition of the game. Playing as Lu Bu himself is quite satisfying and helps to extend one’s enjoyment level with the Dynasty Warriors series. That is, as long as you can look beyond the constant button-mashing affair and incorporate some strategy into the mix.

Having 82 characters to choose from can be an absolute delight as it adds diversity to the gameplay. On the other hand, it can leave beginners confused and indecisive with the vast number of fighters, each of whom has their own unique styles. Nonetheless, there is no one character that you have to avoid using. Everyone has their special skills that will provide an edge to the whole battle system. In addition, you’ll be able to direct your clan to engage in the fight as per your commands.

What really elevates Dynasty Warriors 8 is the new battle systems being implemented. As mentioned earlier, each character can hold two weapons, thus affording them the capability to execute a second special attack. On top of that, you can combine weapons to produce better attributes and effects, including elemental damages to enemies and healing factors.

Of course, you’ll need to collect gems in order to utilize this feature as every modification will have a cost. By having this type of weapon-fusion system in place, it makes the game more engaging and addicting. It can potentially get players obsessed with discovering particular effects from their choices.

Still, Dynasty Warriors 8 does suffer the curse of being a superficially simple hack n’ slash game, regardless of how much depth there is to it. And because of that, certain players may find this monotonous from the get-go no matter the number of additional modes available. Hopefully, the ability to play with a friend either locally or online can remedy part of this curse. At the end of the day, the fun factor highly depends on one’s appreciation for these types of games.

OVERALL (4/5)

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends is by far the best in its series in terms of content and presentation. However, this non-stop action is an acquired taste that can be viewed as repetitive by those looking for more complexity and involvement. Nevertheless, players who consider this series to be quality gaming will definitely find this“xtremely” satisfying.

Categories: Reviews

XBLA/PSN Review: The Wolf Among Us: A Crooked Mile

Is this some kind of bust?

Is this some kind of bust?

By: Mike Chen

Note: The Wolf Among Us series looks, sounds, and plays the same from episode to episode. For an examination of those series characteristics, please see our Episode 1: Faith review. This review will only provide an overall score for Episode 3: A Crooked Mile.

A murdered prostitute. A suspect on the run. One angry wolf. The Wolf Among Us’ second episode left us with a major revelation at a grizzly murder scene. Throughout that second episode, gameplay shifted towards interrogation and investigation. The third episode, A Crooked Mile, changes things once again, but this time it just feels like there’s much less of everything to work with.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

While the previous two episodes showcased different styles of interaction with the Fables world, A Crooked Mile emphasizes storytelling over gameplay. Each of these episodes clocked in around two hours, and A Crooked Mile feels about 30 minutes shorter than previous episodes, and the interactive elements feel streamlined and less involved.

Long stretches of interactive dialogue aren’t new for these types of Telltale Games, but A Crooked Mile really pushes this style further into more of a Choose Your Own Adventure story rather than a video game. Gameplay segments, when they actually show up, require very little thinking or puzzle-solving intuition — just click on the three or four highlighted areas and talk with whoever happens to be hanging around and you’re done. This does keep the story momentum rolling but ultimately felt like a missed opportunity.

The major gameplay decision comes about halfway through the episode, where you’re presented with three destinations against a deadline — it’s clear that you won’t be able to visit all of them. Perhaps that was Telltale’s decision with this episode, to add tension from time rather than mystery. Unfortunately, it strips the actual game out of gameplay.

I sound like I’m being pretty harsh on A Crooked Mile, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. The fantastic art style, strong voice acting, and bold story still work extremely well (though I could stand for fewer f-bombs, which lose their power when they’re so arbitrarily thrown in). It’s a streamlined 90 minutes, more so than any other Telltale episode. While this may appeal to a certain segment, I hope Telltale doesn’t let The Walking Dead‘s success overly influence things to a point where their adventure game roots disappear.

Categories: Reviews

PS3 Review: BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma

“Oh, yes brother! You look so gorgeous when you're angry.” What...

“Oh, yes brother! You look so gorgeous when you’re angry.” What…

By: Matthew Striplen

As a licensed full-time nerd, I love me some video games. I also love some anime, but sometimes two mediums should not be mixed. BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma combines perhaps one of the most intensive 2D fighting games with what is essentially an anime miniseries. Fighting games traditionally don’t need a story to be compelling, and sticking a full blown show in the middle of that is sadly the first of many aspects that don’t make sense.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

For the fighter portion, BlazBlue does many things right. Tight, responsive controls paired with flashy combos make for a rewarding experience. BlazBlue features two different control schemes: one called Stylish for beginners and an advanced mode called Technical.

Stylish is super simple, allowing players to unleash devastating attacks by merely button mashing. Technical mode, however, requires tons of practice and ninja-like reflexes. Like most 2D fighters, each character’s move set takes time to memorize, not to mention the sheer amount of unique abilities that prolong this process. Some characters even have move sets that deviate from the system used by most others, so be prepared for tons of practice. Despite the massive amounts of memorization, I like the variety and differences in how each character handles.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (2.75/5)

Overall, BlazBlue is a pretty good looking game. Each character is extremely detailed, as well as the backdrops. Also, the story mode makes use of a more cartoonish animation style to better convey tongue-in-cheek comedy. I have absolutely no complaints about the character or environment design.

I do, however, have some beef with how the characters move, or rather, how they don’t. This is only an issue in the story modes. Instead of fully animating the scenes, which are quite extensive, the animators only animate the mouths or eyes to express speech and blinking. To simulate emotion or other movements, each character still will either be suddenly switched out with a new one, or have the image bounce along the ground to convey walking. This looks incredibly cheap, especially since such a huge amount of time is devoted to the story sections.

The soundtrack is pretty typical J-Pop and J-Rock, so if you like those genres, you’ll enjoy the music. The player has the option to choose between Japanese and English voice actors, which is a pleasant surprise. Both casts do a nice job, with the notable exception of the English Rachel Alucard‘s companion Gii and Taokaka. They can be pretty obnoxious.

GAMEPLAY (3/5)

Since BlazBlue is essentially two games in one, I’ll address them one at a time. Let’s start with the fighting game.

BlazBlue splits up its game modes into several folders, the first being Practice. The game starts you out with an extensive tutorial, which covers everything from basic maneuvers to competitive level tactics. One of the problems that pervades the entire game is how the storyline obscures what is actually happening.

That may sound strange, but the characters are so crazy and distracting that they make learning everything more complicated than it would be if I were merely reading a manual. Next comes training, which is standard for most 2D fighters, followed by a challenge mode. This enables players to further polish their skills. I found this to be the most useful for learning for two reasons. First, the wacky characters are absent, so you won’t get side tracked. And second, the player is now free to learn any character, instead of only the main protagonist Ragna the Bloodedge.

Most of the player’s time will be spent in the Battle folder. The arcade mode follows an individual’s storyline, while VS mode provides duels without the story context. Score Attack is pretty self explanatory, but the final two single-player battle modes, Abyss and Unlimited Mars, are more unusual.

Abyss forces the player to fight a huge stream of single-round matches. Your damage is carried over, so be careful. The most unique function is the inclusion of RPG-like stat boosts that become available after winning enough rounds. Unlimited Mars is by far the hardest mode. The player fights a tournament against the hardest opponents the computer can throw at you. Even after several hours of practice, I was slaughtered in mere seconds by the first enemy.

The online multiplayer mode is very standard for modern games. Ranked and unranked matches are available, including leaderboards. BlazBlue also provides a lobby where players worldwide can meet, chat and battle while being represented as their avatar.

For as hardcore and awesome as the fighting portion is, the story mode makes just as large of an impression, except in the opposite direction. Two extensive modes are available: the standard story mode and a review session called “Teach me more, Miss Litchi!” Since I was unfamiliar with the BlazBlue universe, I started with the review.

The sessions are dramatized by the characters trying to re-teach a particularly stupid individual, Taokaka, the history of their land. As with the tutorial, the information provided by the review is obscured to the point of being incomprehensible by the actions of the characters. I was left more bewildered than when I began.

The game even encourages the player not to bother watching the review and simply play the previous titles. Not to mention, there is an extremely uncomfortable encounter in the second review segment involving Ragna’s brother, Jin. He’s obsessed with Ragna, even to the point of sexually pursuing him, quite aggressively. Real quote: “Brother, when you act like that, I get so excited.” Or how about, “Brother, do you like them younger than you? Well, I’m younger than you, so it works out.” I could go on for quite a while. It’s awkward, distracting and unfunny, especially in a segment designed to educate the player on franchise lore.

The main story fares little better. Characters still manage to obscure the most of the main points. Again, many comedic elements are in poor taste or are simply not funny. Additionally, all story segments require the player’s input. After each line is delivered, the player must signal the game to deliver the next line. I would have rather just watched a show instead of having to scroll through the story myself. This, coupled with the nearly still images of the characters, made me lose interest pretty fast.

OVERALL (3/5)

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma should really be divided into two parts: a fighter and an anime. A fully fleshed out anime already exists, which leaves me puzzled as to why the developers would leave such an unpolished story portion in the game.

For all the weaknesses of the story, I was greatly impressed by the actual fighting. The intricate yet obtainable controls and attacks make for innumerable possibilities. Plus, the different game modes and unique move sets ensure tons of replay value. If you enjoy 2D fighters, BlazBlue is definitely a good choice; just don’t bother with the story sections.

Categories: Reviews

PS4 Review: Fez

Gomez has a nice collection of serapes.

Gomez has a nice collection of serapes.

Few indie titles have been more anticipated or celebrated than Fez, which was due in no small part to creator Phil Fish being featured in the documentary, Indie Game: The Movie. A lot has happened since the game hit Xbox Live Arcade in April of 2012, including most significantly Fish’s departure from the gaming industry (and cancellation of Fez 2) following an online feud. What hasn’t changed is the game itself, and that’s a good thing for PlayStation loyalists.

CONTROLS (5/5)

Built as a 3D world that exists on a 2D plane, Fez allows you to turn the world itself by utilizing the left and right triggers (or bumpers). It handles flawlessly, working in conjunction with your jump ability to create some truly unique platforming. There are a handful of other functions — you can pick up certain objects, tapping the touchpad brings up the map, etc. — but jumping and rotating the levels constitutes about 99 percent of what you’ll be doing.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.5/5)

Tons of games aim squarely for that retro vibe. Not many pull it off as ably as Fez, however, as the game takes simple, blocky graphics and imbues them with style and charm. There’s a tremendous amount of variety in the environments, and it’s quite amazing how much personality a white blob wearing a tiny red fez can have. Despite not having any flashy visuals, Fez succeeds so thoroughly at what it tries to create that you cannot help but be drawn into its world.

Musically, Fez is excellent. It never feels at all limited by its 8-bit inspiration, and the music and sound effects heap layer upon layer of charm onto the already delightful visuals. And nowhere does everything come together better than when you collect one of the full-sized cubes and Gomez (that’s you) floats into the air triumphantly with a wide-mouthed smile. It’s tremendously endearing.

GAMEPLAY (4.5/5)

As mentioned, you control Gomez, a small, marshmallow-like creature that seems perfectly happy living among his people in a 2D world… until he receives a magical fez, of course, which grants him the power to change this 2D realm into one with three dimensions. From that concept springs forth a surprisingly deep array of gameplay, which focuses on platforming and puzzle solving.

There’s also a large number of diverse levels to visit that creates a sprawling 3D map with each node informing you (generally) of what can be found in the corresponding area — you’ll know you’ve found everything when the outline turns gold. While there are potentially several items to find in a given area, the single biggest thing you’ll be doing is collecting cubes and/or cube bits, eight of which combine to form a full-sized cube.

These cubes emit a pulsing beacon, alerting you to their presence and location. To reach them you’ll need to rotate the levels, which are 3D worlds projected onto a 2D space. What this means is that climbable paths will be created by the actual spinning as the 3D world flattens. Changing perspective turns huge gaps into easily accessible walkways, and the longer you play the more manipulation you’ll need to do as levels become more complex and additional hazards are introduced.

Level design is the high point of Fez, and it allows the game to stretch a fairly straightforward gameplay mechanic for the duration without it ever feeling like you’re playing reskinned versions of areas you’ve already visited. It’s also worth noting that, even as things get tougher, Fez never punishes you for failing as after each death you’re simply whisked back to the last point you were on solid ground. As such, it’s the falls that don’t kill you that turn out to be the most annoying.

Beyond the quest to assemble and collect cubes, there’s a lot more to do in Fez. The game is filled with interesting puzzles, many of which hide goodies like anti-cubes, treasure maps and artifacts. Some of these can be solved by careful study of the surroundings, but odds are you’ll stumble into seemingly purposeless rooms with no clue as to how to trigger their secrets. If you plan on trying to work through all these on your own, I wish you good luck; for those with less patience, the fact that the game launched roughly two years ago means YouTube has you covered.

As someone that played the game when it first launched, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed coming back to it. A puzzle here or a level there were familiar, but enough time had passed that it was almost like playing it for the first time. That being said, for most once through will be enough, and as such the lack of replay value might hurt its appeal, though hopefully it won’t dissuade would-be purchasers.

OVERALL (4.5/5)

Ingeniously simple in some ways and deceptively complex in others, Fez is a tremendous game that’s worth your time if you’ve got any love for puzzlers, platformers or retro titles. Don’t let the somewhat bizarre story behind the game keep you from experiencing it.

Categories: Reviews
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