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My review of Dead Space 3 is a bit late compared to everyone else’s-with good reason. I love the franchise. But Dead Space 3 doesn’t feel like a Dead Space game and it took me awhile to decide whether or not that was a good thing.
Dead Space 3 involves series protagonist Isaac Clarke’s determination to learn the origins of the Marker and how the Necromorphs can be stopped once and for all. Some questions will be answered, while others are left unresolved. Isaac will travel across the galaxy, eventually landing on Tau Volantis, where he faces subzero conditions, some of the biggest Necromorphs he’s ever faced and crazed Unitologist soldiers intent on using the Markers.
Sure-most of what you’ve come to expect in a Dead Space game is here. It’s a third person game, with your health and stasis meter are shown directly on your character. You’ll traverse within some zero gravity segments – my favorite level in the entire game involved one you did in space, outside of a number of half-destroyed ships – and even have to deal with sub-zero temperatures.
You’ll eventually start to feel like you’re playing a Mass Effect game, however. Especially since once you get on the planet of Tau Volantis, you’ll leave behind the cramped, darkened corridors that made previous Dead Space games so scary in the first place. Necromancers just aren’t as scary when I have places to run other than backwards.
Ammo is rarely a problem you need to worry about and I never once came close to running out of room in my inventory. When I did come close to running out of ammo or medkits, I built more at nearby work benches. (More on that in a second.) There were never a commodity and at times, it felt like I was playing an action game as opposed to a horror game. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game-it just means it didn’t feel like a Dead Space game.
Developers also chose to highlight Isaac’s background as an engineer in Dead Space 3. Chief among his new talents is weapon crafting. You can craft new weapons or upgrade your existing ones based on parts you’ll find throughout the levels-in addition to crafting ammo and medkits.
I wound up never getting rid of my two original weapons. Instead, I upgraded them over and over again as I found better spare parts. By the end of the game, my plasma cutter – my go-to weapon in other games – could shoot bullets or acid (originally fire) depending on how I fired it.
I tended to just mess around with the weapons crafting to find what worked best for me, but you can use existing blueprints if you want and don’t feel like experimenting. Depending on what parts you choose, you can decide what your weapon spits out (bullets or fire), the accuracy, the spread or the speed, whether it heals your partner as it’s being fired, damage effectiveness and more.
One of the biggest complaints of fans and critics was the announcement that players could use “micro-transactions” consisting of real-world money to upgrade their weapons or suit. I never once had a desire nor a need in my play-through. Instead, look at that as an option to level up faster, not as a necessity.
Dead Space 3 is also the first in the series to feature drop-in/drop-out co-op. I didn’t get a chance to experience any of it myself, so I rarely saw the co-op character John Carver. But, even in single player, you happily don’t get stuck with a lame AI version of Carver. Instead, if you choose to have a friend play as him, you’ll then see him pop up more in cut scenes and gameplay scenarios.
It’s a smart move on the developers part and I hope to find some time in the near future to experience it-especially since some side missions require a co-op partner and Carver has his own backstory that involves losing a wife and son to the Necromorph infestation.
Kinect is also supported in this game, but I didn’t get a chance to use it. It’s for voice commands and allows you to “find objective,” “find bench,” “reload weapon” and more.
Dead Space 3 is quite a good action game-even if it felt like the game was long for superfluous reasons, mostly in that you had to repeat through old levels just to pick up some new object you suddenly needed. It just may not be the horror game most fans would come to expect from the franchise. But if story answers and taking down Necromancers is all you care about, you’ll likely be quite ok with the changes and overall happy with the resulting game.
Dead Space 3 is out now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.
* Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. *
Photo Credits: Electronic Arts
When I review a game that focuses on story as much as gameplay, I feel strongly that I must finish the game in order to best review it. Unfortunately, I can’t finish Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Two separate bosses took over an hour of my time-and I couldn’t defeat the second one, three missions away from the end. So I gave up.
But games like Revengeance aren’t ones I’m typically interested in-mainly because I’m fairly terrible at them. And while I couldn’t complete the game, and it angered me to no end (just ask my poor Xbox controller that got tossed across the room a few times), I know a good game when I see it, and Revengeance, at times, is quite a good game.
It’s also quite a departure from other Metal Gear games. While I haven’t played one since the second one, it was still a shock to katana my way through enemies as opposed to knocking them out silently.
In Revengeance, you star as Raiden, a child soldier transformed into half-man, half-machine cyborg ninja. You’ll remember him from the second game (where he was mostly hated) and the fourth game (I don’t know how fans felt about him then.)
The game takes place in 2018, three years since the collapse of the Patriots, who controlled the entire world from the shadows. Private military companies (PMCs) are now springing up to bring order and Raiden belongs to a peace-keeping one called Maverick Security. The main antagonists of the game are from a rival PMC called Desperado Enterprises and a particularly nasty operative named Samuel Rodriguez.
The gameplay is action-based and you can cut through nearly anything. Yes, anything. By holding down the right trigger, you can enter into a Ninja Run which lets you easily jump over obstacles or duck under them. You can also run around your enemies cutting them while they struggle to hit you because of your speed-though many later enemies will parry those attacks.
You can use the left trigger to enter Blade Mode where you control the camera with the left stick and the direction of your blade with the right. It takes a bit to get used to (basically, don’t touch the left stick) but it’s incredible useful as you can precisely slash enemies and objects.
For instance, cut off a giants’ arms so he can’t hit you-but he will then start to kick you. Later in the game, you’ll want to cut around an on-screen virtual box located on enemies so you can pull out the energy core to take and heal yourself with. This is called a zan-datsu attack.
You can also use Blade Mode for a certain amount of time before you need to earn more energy to enter it again. More importantly, you can be hit in Blade Mode, even though you’re in a bullet time state, so watch an enemies’ incoming attacks carefully.
Raiden can also carry a variety of “sub-weapons” such as a dagger or rocket launcher. You can even carry cardboard boxes to hide in. They’re scattered throughout the levels and are often easy to spot.
Parrying is very important in this game, and because I was terrible at it, it’s likely why I had difficulty with some of the bosses, including the one that got so impossible I couldn’t proceed. You’ll need to aim the direction of your blade on normal to parry correctly, whereas I’m told on easy by other reviewers, you just need to hit a button.
Like other games of this type, you’ll often need to kill all enemies within a room before proceeding. At the end, you’ll be rewarded with points and graded on your performance. Use these points to buy upgrades such as new equipment, moves or additional health.
While it sounds like there isn’t an option to play this game stealthily like other Metal Gear games, there are certain sections where you can avoid all enemies-which I happily did a few times throughout the game.
The story and gameplay borders on the insane-nothing new for a Metal Gear game. You’ll race along missiles while in Ninja Run or struggle to keep tabs on your “Jack the Ripper” persona. It’s all over the top and yet it’s quite a lot of fun.
How does the storyline pay off? It’ll be news to me when I learn, because as I said, I can’t finish the game. If Revengeance has one unforgivable flaw, it’s not allowing the player to switch difficulty midway through the game.
But if you start the game on Easy, I have a feeling you’re going to have a blast hacking and slashing your way through the world.
* Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. *
Photo Credits: Konami
Sometimes, games can really surprise you in how much you wind up liking them by the time you complete them-Anarchy Reigns is one of those games for me this year.
While it’s designed as an online multiplayer brawler by developer Platinum Games, I found myself sucked into the very short (under seven hours) single-player campaign. The world is set in a post-apocalyptic future and you need to compete a number of missions in an open world structure. It’s also a spiritual successor to a Wii game called MadWorld.
You’ll play four stages consisting of a number of missions two times-one set of stages are known as the side black where you play the character Jack Cayman (from MadWorld), the other is the white side where you play the character Leo Victorion. After you finish both, you’ll do the red side which are just two missions. Once you accomplish them, you complete the game and the story.
As you navigate this open world, you must kill enemies to earn points that unlock two kinds of missions. For instance, you need to kill enough enemies at the beginning of each stage to unlock the first mission of that stage.
One set of missions are known as “free” missions. They help you earn massive points so you can unlock “story” missions, or missions that advance the plot. The “free’ missions are where the game gets interesting-and sometimes a little wacky. A free mission could involve having to kill an enemy before time runs out. Or it could involve you racing around the level on a vehicle. Or putting giant, spherical balls into a goal. It gets awfully wacky awfully fast, but it also turns out to be fun.
All of the missions involve lots of hacking and slashing of enemies, though since both Max and Leo have cybernetically enhanced weapons, it’s not your typical beat them up. Accomplishing over-the-top moves is seamless and can even more fun when you grab items from within the world to use against your enemies. Keep getting beaten over and over by a boss? Grab the nearby stack of tires, throw it on top of them and they’ll be incapacitated for a few seconds that you can use to wail on them.
Both Jack and Leo are after a rogue agent named Maximillian Caxton. The stories overlap a number of times, and while you’ll visit the same stages, they’re presented in unique and fun ways-which is a positive, since you have to eventually play as both Jack and Leo if you want to finish the game.
During a number of the missions, you’ll also need to deal with real-time events like bombing from above or the creation of a black hole where you could get sucked in and spit out somewhere in the level.
I didn’t get a chance to play multiplayer which allows up to 16 players online. But the single player was enough to keep my attention. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a decent action title for someone like me that doesn’t tend to like beat ’em up games-other than DmC Devil May Cry.
Anarchy Reigns is also an easy recommendation because it’s incredibly affordable: when it launched in January, it was only $29.99. February is a busy month for a lot of triple AAA games, but unfortunately, not all of those games are living up to their expectations. I went into Anarchy Reigns with almost no expectations and walked away surprised and happy by how much I enjoyed it-you’ll probably feel the same way.
* Disclosure: A copy of Anarachy Reigns was provided to the reviewer by the publisher, Sega, for the purposes of this review. *
Photo Credits: Sega