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Faery: Legends

Friday, January 21, 2011 | 0 comments

Faery: Legends Of Avalon Review

Cel-Shaded Graphics
Visually, this is one of the prettiest games I’ve ever seen. Although some of the trolls, goblins and other several fantasy characters look butt-ugly, the environments will engage the eyeballs of any gamer once they start playing the game. The lighting effects are extraordinary with beams of sunlight glistening though the leaves of a tree or the light of the moon illuminating down on the night sky. The best looking character models in the entire games are the animals. They are very life-like such as the raccoon sniffing around the forest floor and the seagull chirping with its beak open – you might even be thinking you’ll be watching a show on the Discovery Channel in lieu of playing a game. The cel-shaded graphical style is underrated in the gaming industry in my opinion and I hope more developers will use it in the future as the artwork and graphics in Faery: Legends of Avalon is just simply breathtaking.
Gameplay
The turn-based style of RPG gameplay may deter some gamers that want pure action but the way that it’s done in this game will please long-terms fans of the RPG genre. There are no random battles in this game nor are there huge dungeons for you to explore to level-up for hours on end. Almost every battle you encounter is there for a purpose. If a character tells you there’s some trolls hassling him you’ll go there to intervene. Every fight in this game has a meaning, which is rare in the gaming industry as most games have you shooting or beating up everything in sight. Better still, you can even make choices sometimes whether you can solve your problems in a non-violent way. This varied the gameplay and I applaud Spiders (the game’s developer) for making a game where you can solve your problems without the use of violence.
Unlike in Final Fantasy XIII, talking is the main part of this game and is the only way you can initiate missions. Some gamers might get a little restless talking to NPCs all the time but it’s a refreshing change from other games where the main type of gameplay on offer is shooting or beating up every enemy in sight. There are also several side-quests that you can undertake too if you have already completed all the main missions.
No Frustrating Moments
There may be a few times where I did not know what to do next but overall the game is the least frustrating RPG game I’ve ever played. The game may be a bit shorter than most RPG games but its gameplay improves on most RPG games. Such improvements include the fact that your health replenishes after each battle, there are no random battles, and you don’t have to level-up for hours on end to power-up your characters. Not to mention you can save the game at any time so there’s no need to find a save point like in most other RPG titles.
Music Soundtrack
The music score is pleasant to the ears and reminds me a bit of Lord of the Rings. The orchestral score isn’t too repetitious as it perfectly sets the tone of the game perfectly.

NOT

No voice acting
The game can be a little silent reading numerous text boxes instead of having any voices to any of the characters. There are numerous characters that you will talk to and they would have been more lively had there been a voice behind the characters. Also, reading all the text boxes can get a bit tedious and the text is hard to see if you’re not playing on a HDTV.
Short
For a RPG title, this is a little on the short side. There are only four worlds for you to explore. Although you can undertake several side-quests I wanted more out of the adventure as the game has gorgeous visuals and non-linear gameplay. Having said that, this game is the same, if not longer than the average game out there. It’s just short for by RPG standards.
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Dungeon Hunter II

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 Dungeon Hunter II

http://images.intomobile.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Dungeon-Hunter-II-Trailer.png 
Oh, what a difference a year makes! In November 2009, I played and reviewed my very first iOS RPG, the original Dungeon Hunter. I was impressed by the graphics, had fun with the gameplay – I liked it all. Thirteen months later, I've reviewed about one iOS game per month, and played a lot of other games that don't fit in our coverage. Now, with Gameloft's release of Dungeon Hunter II, I'm back to my iOS reviewing roots. So, how did I feel about this entry as a gamer with more experience on the platform? Well, let me tell you.
http://www.appversity.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/dungeon2.pngStory-wise, Dungeon Hunter II follows its predecessor by a generation or two. As before, you play a prince who is trying to save his kingdom from evil – probably the same evil that you were saving the kingdom from the first time around, although you're not sure at the game's outset. Sadly, the series seems to have taken a few steps backwards in the story department. It's lost its sense of humor, for one thing, which is sad. Perhaps others found the first game's running gags more annoying than I did. Also, there are a few twists and turns along the way to an ending I found both sad and disappointing, but those twists are very predictable. So predictable that I actually said "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal" to my iPod on at least one occasion.
In general, Dungeon Hunter II doesn't mess with the gameplay formula established in the first game. It's a hack & slash RPG (my favorite kind), and in general, you'll find yourself running around, tapping the attack button to kill enemies, and evaluating the bounteous loot they drop to see if it's worth keeping. It's not all the same as in the first game, though: bows have been added, as have subclasses and a multiplayer mode. Bows were too slow and didn't do enough damage for my liking, so I only used one on a few occasions when fighting a boss who was strong at close range but wouldn't move in on me at long range. As your main class, you can still select to be a brute strength-focused warrior, a quick rogue, or a mage, but at a certain point in the game, you'll select one of two subclasses for each main class. Unfortunately, you won't be able to see anything but a brief description of the subclasses before you're forced to pick, http://www.gamedynamo.com/images/galleries/photo/966/dungeon-hunter-2-review-1.jpgand the game autosaves as soon as you do, so you'd better hope you choose well. As per usual in an RPG, you get stat points and a skill point each time you level up, and once you've selected a subclass, you'll have a total of 8 active and 8 passive skills, but I found myself putting most of my skill points into just a few of those skills, mostly passive. As a rogue, most of the skills I could actively use felt either too similar to each other or just plain not strong enough to bother using.
As I said, there's also cooperative multiplayer, and perhaps as a preparation for it, you'll have a companion with you through most of the single-player game. It's a completely ineffectual companion, though; he'll fire at enemies, but he doesn't seem to do any damage, and he doesn't do much to distract enemies, either. Still, he doesn't really get in your way, so at least he's got that going for him. If you want to play with real people, you've got a number of options: Bluetooth, local wi-fi, or online. If you choose online, you can play using GameCenter or Gameloft's own Live service. I tried both, and was unable to get connected using GameCenter. Gameloft Live got me a game, but I didn't find it very entertaining. I found myself in a game with three random strangers and no way to communicate. We just ran around killing whatever there was to kill until I got tired of it and left. Still, aside from not being able to communicate, the service seemed to perform well: there was no lag, I was quickly matched up with other players of a similar level to my own, and the extra players casting spells didn't cause me any framerate issues.
http://www.inovasi-mobiles.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/e8e99b83db236995.jpg.jpgGraphically, Dungeon Hunter II was released on a terrible day – the gorgeous Infinity Blade came out too – but I'll try to be fair to it anyway. This game appears to use an upgraded version of its predecessor's engine, and it's got a lot going for it. The environments are very detailed, as are the characters. I was particularly happy with the animations in some of the in-engine cutscenes. Some of the level designs are less than inspired, but I did really like the semi-ordered insanity of the last level. There's even a minimap, although you have to go into the menu to see it. I only have one visual complaint: many levels have things like trees or pillars that hide your character or your enemies, and the game does nothing to help out. No making things semi-transparent or putting indicators behind objects to show you where you are. This issue very nearly got me killed on multiple occasions.
In terms of sound, this game is essentially identical to its predecessor. Sound effects and music are standard RPG fare. The only voice acting in the game is in the opening cutscene, and it's the normal, slightly-over-the-top movie trailer narrator work. The background songs aren't amazing, but you can listen to your own music while you play using music controls within the game, although your only choices are to play your predefined playlists or shuffle all songs. That was great in the first game, because the OS at the time didn't have the ability to multitask, but now that we're dealing with OS 4, I would have preferred that the game allow me to play my music using the device's standard app, as it has many more options.
Control-wise, you have multiple options, although one works much better than the other. Namely, you can use a virtual joystick, which works pretty well, or you can simply tap the screen where you want to walk, which doesn't work as well. The main issue with the screen-tapping method is the amount of real estate that the attack and skill buttons take up on the screen. When you're using the virtual joystick, the size and placement of those buttons work well, but they really restrict your movement when you're tapping the screen to move.
Regardless of the control scheme you choose, the game has issues with targeting, mostly when it comes to destructible items. When you press the attack button to hit one, the game will sometimes attempt to move you into place, even though you already are, leaving your character bumping up against a barrel over and over. You can try to move away, but it won't let you until a few seconds have passed. I just gave up on barrels after a while: they only give cash and potions, both of which I had plenty of at all times. It wasn't a hardship, but it was an annoying control issue nonetheless.
http://www.fonehome.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/spidey-300x300.jpgWhen I reviewed the first Dungeon Hunter, I said that I was happy with what my $5 bought me. Dungeon Hunter II was $7 when I purchased it, and while I wasn't actually disappointed in it, I wasn't as happy with it as I was with the first game. It's not bad, but it's not great, either. It's prettier than the first game was, but I think that's the only way in which the second game is noticeably improved over its predecessor. On the other hand, there are several ways in which the first was better, at least when you consider its contemporaries. Dungeon Hunter 2 was released in the same timeframe as several other high-profile iOS games, and while it's worth playing, if you're going to wait on one of those games to go on sale before you buy it, this is probably the one to choose.
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Valkyria Chronicles II

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Valkyria Chronicles II Review

http://site.video-game-central.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/site_ValkyriaChronicles_Wallpaper2-HD.jpg008's tremendously under-appreciated SRPG masterpiece Valkyria Chronicles is one of the PS3's best exclusive titles, right up there with Metal Gear Solid 4 and Demon's Souls. When news of a sequel first came in 2009, I was giddy as a schoolgirl at a Jonas Brothers concert, minus the smidgen of disappointment that came from knowing the necessary downgrades a PSP translation would entail. I crossed my fingers and prayed that VC2 could somehow rework the magic of the original for a handheld system.

Well, thanks a bunch, baby Jesus. Unlike on prom night, it seems you were listening to my prayers this time, as VC2 is actually just as sweet as the original. The scale is smaller and the story isn't as good, but thanks to a handful of gameplay improvements and a bodacious multiplayer mode, the Valkyria faithful have no excuse to miss out on the best handheld game of 2010 so far.
War Games
http://site.video-game-central.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/valkyria_chronicles_screenshot.jpgVC2 plays almost identically to the original in the command and battle modes. Expect the same chess-like turn-based battles as you alternate between issuing commands and third-person shooting. Each turn provides you with a set amount of command points, or CP, which can be used to advance individual units and utilize orders, status boosting tactics that are learned gradually outside of combat. Once out of CP, the enemy takes their turn at attempting to gun down your troops, capture bases, and generally screw you over.
The controls are straight-forward and the counter and covering fire auto-attacks keep the difficulty down early in the game, since your team will start off much stronger than opposing forces. VC2's most prominent change due to its shift to PSP is that battles are on a much smaller scale. You now only deploy six units at a time, and maps are usually divided into two or three sections, none of them much larger than a small field or section of forest.
Entirely new this time around is the school-sim portion of gameplay that takes place outside of combat. Taking on the role of Avan Hardins, you are the head of Class-G, the reject group of an elite military academy. Along with customizing your gear and squad, you are able to experience scores of vignettes of school-life in a graphic novel style system that lets you travel all around the school. The events you see are influenced by who you use in combat, so it's easy to ignore hateful characters and leave them undeveloped and unloved as they deserve.
http://www.projectsaber.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/valkyria.jpgTwo other big new features also deserve a paragraph: Multiplayer and new character classes. The latter expands four of the core classes from the original (scout, support, anti-tank, assault) into branches of five unique upgrades per type. Snipers are now an upgrade of the scout class, and there is also a brand new armored melee class that evolves into a warrior with an exploding sword. In total there are a whopping 35 unique classes to explore, and customization and advancement is executed well. Individual soldiers must earn merits based on mission type. Once you have the requisite merits, you can upgrade your class. Mix this with a deeper weapon development system and individual unit equipment management, and you have far more customization than the first game.
The multiplayer is also a welcome addition if not flawless. VC2 allows you to pick a leader and complete missions co-op style with up to four friends. It takes some getting used to if your comrades have different play styles, but it isn't without its merits. The versus mode is really where it's at though, as now you can see who's got the better tactics. Overall, the execution of the multi-player was a bit lacking given some of the restrictions for versus matches. However, the single player compaign is more than strong enough on its own. VC2 offers an immense variety of missions - over 100 if you stop to count - including unlockable bonus missions for every member of your team.
While VC2 has addressed the overpowered orders and class balance issues of the first game, there is still room for improvement in other areas. For one, the difficulty just doesn't hold up. Enemy AI is insultingly stupid, to the point where they ignore obvious opportunities to take the advantage. Half the time they do not even use all of their command points, giving you a drastic advantage. BDSM-obsessed as it may sound, I just wanted to be punished. I wanted to know that I'd been a naughty boy when I carelessly left wounded units in enemy shock troopers' line of fire, or empty bases meters away from opposing scouts. It doesn't help that permanent character death has been removed, an unfortunate consequence of the younger cast and school setting I suspect. The challenge revs up a few notches once the in-game school year hits Fall, but more variability of difficulty would have helped.
Not as gorgeous as the original but then...
http://vampikun.webs.com/valkyria-chronicles.jpgThe first Valkyria Chronicles is one of the PS3's most visually striking games. While VC2 cannot compare with the cell-shaded deliciousness of the original, it holds its own quite well. The portrait artwork used in the school-sim portions is appealing and varied, and the gorgeous animated cutscenes look like snapshots from the recently released Valkyria Chronicles animation.
The design of the fields during combat left something to be desired for me. I would have liked to have seen more variety. Many of the same locations are repeated time and again, and only a handful are attractively designed. Still, there is a good variety of terrain, with tall grasses to crawl through for sneak attacks, and buildings to use for cover.
Character models are also well-detailed, especially given the greater variety of classes. Each unit-type has a unique costume and uniform pattern, and attack animations are solid. VC2's graphics are a notch above what you'd expect from a PSP game, and should disappoint few series fans.
Sakimoto Scores Again
Hitoshi Sakimoto is one of my top three all-time favorite video game composers. He'll never top the masterwork that was the Final Fantasy Tactics soundtrack, but with the first Valkyria Chronicles, he did himself proud. VC2 continues the tradition with a healthy amount of borrowing from the first game's catalog, and a number of strong new tracks. I adored the opening themes – the beautiful horn melody in the opening screen, and the orchestral interludes during school sim scenes. The riveting soundscapes of certain story battles stayed with me long after I put the game down.
The voice acting is also on par with the original. While less of the dialogue is voiced, every character has enough lines to develop their identity fairly well, and the overall quality is high. The protagonists are all portrayed convincingly if stereotypically. Support trooper Pikki was a personal favorite. She seems to have been raised by wolves, and should stand out as a curious challenge for western localization.
Sound effects have also largely been recycled, so there is little to report there. I liked that the onomatopoeia effects have also returned to accompany weapon sounds. It's a groovy little addition.
Fire Flower Jutsu!
VC2 takes place two years after VC1. The Republic of Gallia, fresh off of its victory over the Empire, is now in the midst of a civil war. It seems that a segment of nobles are not too keen on their recently revealed Darscen queen, and they embark on an ethnic cleansing campaign to wipe out ethnic Darscens forever. The military of Gallia, split by the civil war and exhausted from the recent battle with the Empire, is forced to rely on military cadets at the elite Lanseal academy.
http://www.segabits.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/ValkyriaChronicles2characters.jpgYou play as Avan, the leader of G-Class at Lanseal Military Academy. Avan is a recent volunteer, signing up after learning of his brother's mysterious death during a top-secret assignment. Like in the first game, you have a large ensemble cast in your squad. Since G-Class is known as the “special” group, expect some colorful personalities. Most of them fit into standard anime archetypes, however the game gradually reveals their side stories based on how much you use and customize individual team members. Transvestites, gun fetishes, stalkers, lolicon, multiple personality disorder, amazons, nuns, trollops, incestuous step-siblings – whatever your kink, there is a VC2 character to accommodate. Among the crew are Cosette, an aspiring doctor, and Zeri, a brainy Darscen assault trooper. These two are your supporting protagonists.
Avan, Cosette, and Zeri form a Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke style triumvirate, minus the shadow clone jutsu. Avan is the pure-hearted airhead, Zeri is the too-cool-for-school quietly elitist badass, and Cosette is the good-natured pining female in the middle. Avan can be an annoying main character, given his good ol' boy imbecility, but I found that he grows on you with time. He'll remind you of Goku from DBZ or even Ash Ketchum at times. In fact all of the character interactions feel like clips from shonen anime shows, which is both a plus and a minus; the cast is lovable and the writing is often funny, but I did miss the relative seriousness of the original game.
Two other things irked me about the story. Firstly, it stretches the bounds of credibility far more than the last chronicle of Valkyria. Alecia, Welkin, Rosie, and Largo – I get why all of them are tough soldiers, given Alecia's militia leadership, Largo's veteran status from the earlier war, Welkin's heredity and knowledge, and Rosie's general demeanor. However, I never found the circumstances of Valkyria Chronicles 2 as being remotely plausible. How could a bunch of reject teen and twenty-something students, out-gunned and out-classed, defeat a rebel army of professional soldiers? A subplot with a mysterious new Valkyria girl, while maintaining the intrigue of the mysterious ancient clan, also strains credibility given its development. None of it bears a moment's scrutiny, unlike the first game, in which you were a plucky underdog fighting off invaders in much the same way the American revolutionaries defeated the superior military of the British.
Secondly, VC2 lacks the epic feel of the first game. Whereas the humorous interludes supported a solid narrative in the original, this time it seems like the plot is often an afterthought while the school-sim skits take center stage. On the positive side, you get to know your classmates very well as VC2 takes more time to develop the members of your unit. However, all that time spent on wacky sitcom-esque bits weakens what wanted to be a war story. What might have worked for Persona seems absurdly inappropriate in a world supposedly in the throws of civil war. In spite of a few good twists in the later half, I just wasn't as drawn in as last time around.
The Verdict
It's simple really: if you liked the first game, you will like this one. If you never played the first one but like strategy games, this is one of the best ones you will find on a handheld and probably the best you can get on PSP. The story is not as good as the first, though the character development is richer. Even sweeter, a number of VC1 characters are unlockable should you need some extra units. Add strong graphics, great music, co-op, and a versus mode, and you've got another hard-to-pass-up title. I'm crossing my fingers and praying yet again that enough people support this franchise that we get VC3 for PS3 in 2011 with online multiplayer. Don't let me down, J-man.

 

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Kingdom Hearts

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Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Review


Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Review

Welcome to the Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Review by Japanese Game Source. There’s a small change from the last review this time around. From now on, games on Japanese Game Source will be reviewed based on 7 categories; graphics, music or sound, gameplay, growth system or customization, pacing, continuing playability or replayability, and story, though not necessarily in that order. If a particular genre of game doesn’t have one of these elements, something else will be chosen to maintain the total number of 7 categories. Each category gets rated from 0 to 10 with one decimal place. The percentage is then directly calculated from these scores, again, to one decimal place. Also, one final note, the story section will never have any spoilers in it. And, of course, there will always be a separate score for how import friendly a game is. Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, it’s time for the actual review!
 

Graphics

http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/kotaku/2009/10/birthbysleep.jpgConsidering that this is on a handheld console, there are very few faults to be found in the graphics. In many ways, the graphics in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep was practically equal to the graphical quality of the PS2 entries in the series. In fact, it felt as though I was playing a PS2 game visually. The textures were as sharp as they can be given the lower resolution of the console. However, while very few scenes looked at all awkward, there are a small handful of cutscenes in which a polygon or two seems out of place, usually in the shoulder area of one of the characters. Aqua seemed to have this problem most often, but even then, it was 2, maybe 3 times throughout the entire game. This seemed to be the only flaw in the graphics throughout the entire game.
Graphics Score: 9.6

Music

http://www.dealspwn.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/bbs-logo-3.jpgThe quality of the music is superb. Everything sounds crisp and clear, especially through headphones. Even the footsteps of the characters seem to have real presence auditorially. Most of the levels have new music, and most of it is pleasing to the ears. You may personally dislike the music for a world or two, but it is all high quality. However, some points are lost for the lack of originality. The opening theme song is the exact same song as the first Kingdom Hearts. A couple other worlds, namely Olympus Coliseum and Radiant Gardens, have recycled music as well. It makes more sense in those cases since the feel of the world should be consistent between games, but a noticeable tweaking of the music would be more appreciated.
Music Score: 9.3

Story

http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs20/f/2007/280/1/8/Kingdom_Hearts_Birth_By_Sleep_by_arvalis.jpgMuch as the rest of Birth By Sleep, the story is of high quality. There are enough twists and turns to keep you interested, especially since it was split into the individual viewpoints of three individuals instead of a straight story from the perspective of one person or one group. This allowed for several “Aha!” moments throughout the story, which made the story very enjoyable. The normal endings for each of the three characters have their own revelations, making it well worth playing through all three characters. There is no real preferred order of playing through them, either. Any order is good. However, it should be noted that Terra’s story has the biggest revelation between the three of them, so depending on your personality, you might want to play him either first or last.
The biggest revelations for the entire story, however, are found in the secret ending, which is actually playable this time around (as opposed to being just a video). It is well worth the time and effort to unlock the secret ending. Unlocking the secret ending takes more work if you play on an easier setting, and is actually impossible to unlock on the easiest setting, so you may want to take that into account when you pick your difficulty level.
All in all, the story entertains and keeps you engaged in the game. As a standalone game, the story is not that complex. However, when tied to aspects of the other games, the story feels very grand and expansive. This is both good and bad. This means that those who haven’t played the other games won’t be overwhelmed by the story in this one, and those that have are really treated. However, it also means that the story in this particular game isn’t as strong as other entries in the series, which have been known to be fairly grand and expansive all on their own.
Story Score: 9.5

Gameplay

http://www.acparadise.com/cosplayers/62021/62021-32411-1.jpgThis is undoubtedly the highlight of the game. The gameplay is fast, fun, and addictive. It is very reminiscent of the gameplay of Kingdom Hearts II, but with some key (and enjoyable) differences. You equip special attacks called “Deck Commands” that you pick up and create throughout the game. Pressing up and down on the D-pad changes the selected Deck Command, and pressing triangle performs that command. Since you control which commands are equipped, you can change how you fight. Circle does normal attacks and opens chests and the like when applicable. X jumps, and square performs moves like Dodge or Guard. It is extremely easy system to use, and it keeps the fights fresh and exciting all the way through the game.
There are two more aspects to the gameplay, however. The first is “Finishers”. There is a special “Command Gauge” that fills when you successfully hit an opponent. When it fills all the way up, the next attack you perform by hitting circle will be a powerful Finisher attack. The last aspect is “Command Styles”. If you get that Command Gauge to full by using the right Deck Commands, you will change Styles. This is where the fighting can get really exciting. Each character has Styles and Finishers that only they can perform. Ven, for example, is the only one that can use the Command Style “Wing Blade”, as seen below:
This system is fast, easy, fun, exciting, and is always changing. It’s hard to ask for much more from an action RPG.
But, there is one MORE aspect to the gameplay. It doesn’t involve the fighting at all. In fact, it’s completely optional, which is good, because it tends to be a little on the boring side. It’s called the Command Board. Rather than explain the entire thing here, I have a translated video for you to watch. This will serve two purposes, one is showing you the minigame, the other is to show you how boring it is when compared to the much more exciting fighting gameplay. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s actually boring, just boring by comparison… well, just watch:

Growth System

http://realies.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/kh.jpgThis growth system is unlike any other I have seen in many ways, and exactly like others I have seen in many ways. First, the traditional experience to gain levels is in full effect here. Your character gains experience every time he or she kills an Unversed, and enough experience gains that character a level, which increases a series of stats by a predetermined amount based on the level and the character. Very straightforward. However, there is a whole different layer to it. Your individual moves (Deck Commands) can be leveled as well. Yes, they simply gain experience when you defeat an enemy as long as the Deck Command is currently equipped, and a certain amount of experience levels them. But, you can then combine the leveled Deck Commands into entirely new Deck Commands. The result is that you are constantly upgrading your moveset in unique and interesting ways. This is especially good for a handheld, because you can play for 10 or 15 minutes and make significant progress in your growth by leveling a Deck Command in that amount of time (or several, if you’re lucky). You can even level up your Deck Commands, as well as get new ones, by playing the Command Board minigame.
That’s not the only benefit of leveling your Deck Commands, though. When you combine Deck Commands, you have the option of using a special item that will attach an ability to the newly created Deck Command like Combo Up, which increases your max combo for normal attacks, Fire Up, which increases how much damage your fire based attacks do, or Leaf Veil, which makes it so that you can’t be hit in the middle of a Cure. If you then level this new Deck Command to it’s highest level (anywhere from 3 to 5, depending on the command), you can then continue to use that ability without equipping that command. This gives you a lot of reasons to experiment.
And then there’s the icing on the cake. Your Finishers can also be improved. When you have one Finisher equipped, other Finishers, based on a hierarchical Finisher tree, will gain experience from specific actions (usually involving performing Finishers). If you fill up a Finisher’s experience points, that Finisher is unlocked, giving you even more options in battle.
The only flaw in this growth system is that it’s a lot to keep track of. There will be times when you spend 5 or 10 minutes just combining and equipping different Deck Commands to see what you can get, and that process can start to get cumbersome. In the end, though, it is all worth it.
Growth System Score: 9.7

Pacing

The pacing in this game is excellent (you might see a theme here by now). The story moves along at a brisk (but not rushed) pace. You consistently feel like your making progress in the growth system. There’s really not much to fault here. With each character taking between 10 and 15 hours to beat, depending on how much you rush yourself, there never seems to be a completely dull moment. There’s even a good amount of exploration going on, even though it’s all a little faked. The story progression is almost completely linear, and you must “go here” and “do that” to progress through the story, but you don’t always have to do it right away. There are occasionally branching paths (that go out for more than just a few feet) that will allow you to explore. And since they game gives you a pat on the back for finding all of the treasures in the game, there is some incentive to explore as well.
The pacing only feels like it starts to fall apart after you’ve played all the way through with 2 of the characters, and you’re playing through with the third. Since you’ll likely know the Disney stories, and you’ve seen two thirds of those stories in the game already, you’ll be able to guess fairly well what happens with the last character, and it can make the progression feel a little more sluggish. The game counters this by having a number of smaller revelations throughout the game, which helps keep your mind occupied on things like “oh, so while he was there, she was there!” or “so that’s why she said he did that!”. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting pretty close to it.
One other problem that effects the pacing is the loading times. They are rather long (as you can probably see in the opening video on this page). They are not so long that they destroy the game… IF you do a full install. It cuts down the load times a lot, and it is worth it.
Pacing Score: 9.6

Continuing Playability

Is there a reason to continue playing after you’ve beaten the game with all three characters? Yes. To unlock and beat the secret ending, and unlock the final secret video. Depending on the difficulty level you chose and how thorough you were in playing through the game, this could lead to a 50% increase in total gameplay time by itself… or it could be done in a couple of hours. Once you’ve done this, there’s little incentive to go back and continue playing unless you really are just one of those people that has to really complete a game to be satisfied. The unfortunate thing is, completing absolutely everything in the game does nothing more than put a little stamp in your journal under each category to signify that you’ve done everything. The one redeeming factor is that there is a secret boss to beat, and a rather hard one at that. For many people, a real challenge (instead of “collect everything”) is a much better reason to keep playing. This secret boss does give that challenge, and it will take you a significant amount of time to become powerful enough to beat this boss. So, there are little things here and there to keep you playing after the ending(s), but nothing truly extraordinary.
Continuing Playability Score: 8.7

Review Summary:

Graphics Score: 9.6
Music Score: 9.3
Story Score: 9.5
Gameplay Score: 9.9
Growth System Score: 9.7
Pacing Score: 9.6


 

 

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Dragon Ball Z

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Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team

Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team - PSP - feature 2 
There was a time when, if you wanted to play a Dragon Ball Z game, your only choice was to import it from Japan, or play the horrific Dragon Ball GT Final Bout. Nowadays, you can almost tell the seasons by which Dragon Ball Z title has arrived. Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team brings the spiky haired cast to the PSP yet again, for another round of the same old story.
For those unfamiliar with Dragon Ball Z (if that’s even possible) and its outlandish story, there are seven mystical balls that grant any wish when they’re all collected. Obviously, this attracts the most evil of characters and aliens, and it’s up to Goku and his band of Z-Fighters to train and protect the planet and its inhabitants.
After the 50th time playing through the same thing over and over again, it almost makes sitting through the story sequences pointless. I understand the games have no other storylines to follow, since the series has long been finished, but at this point, I can re-tell the entire story from memory, down to every detail.
The main mode, Dragon Walker, lets you re-live all the major battles from the Saiyan Saga all the way to the Buu Saga. You take control of various main characters, shrunk down to tiny size with enlarged heads, and fly across a world map searching for enemies to bump fists with.
Although the game boasts over 70 characters, like past DBZ titles, they are largely made up of multiple forms for one character. For example: Cell has an Imperfect Form, Semi-Perfect Form, Perfect Form, Super Perfect. Other main characters are guilty of this too.
The biggest draw to Tenkaichi Tag Team is that up to four combatants, two to a team, can fight each other on the same battlefield. This mechanic makes the fights more enjoyable and hectic, but definitely in a good way. Although the subtitle “Tag Team” can be a little misleading since you can’t actually switch characters during a battle.
Tag Team uses the 3D Tenkaichi fighting system, like the PS2 Tenkaichi games or the more recent Raging Blast, and seems to be a much better fit for the PSP. For one, the simplified control scheme will ensure that anyone can pick this up and pull off crazy Kamehameha’s and Spirit Bombs with ease. The lock-on feature also ensures you don’t lose track of your enemy, since the battlefields are quite expansive.
All of the 70+ characters look far more impressive than they did in past PSP titles. The harsh, cel-shaded edges are replaced with much softer lines, making the movement more fluid than ever. The same courtesy has been extended to the battlefields, which are more vibrant and reminiscent of the anime.
Aside from the main story mode, you can take on various character combinations in the Battle Selection, or take on your friends in local multiplayer, which begs the question: shouldn’t it be standard nowadays for PSP games to include online multiplayer? It’s been on the market long enough for developers to take advantage of it, yet only a small number of games truly utilize online features.
You will undoubtedly experience a sense of déjà vu from playing previous Dragon Ball Z games, but the 2-on-2 fights and the expansive battlefields make the free-flying fights intense and enjoyable.

 

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God of War

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God of War: Ghost of Sparta

The hardships never seem to end for Kratos, an afflicted Spartan soldier turned god, who must live with the vivid memory of killing his wife and daughter. In all prior God of War titles, revenge has been the driving force, be it against Ares, the gods of Olympus, or anyone who stands in Kratos’ path. Getting on the ghost of Sparta’s bad side is a death sentence.
Ghost of Sparta takes a wildly different turn for the story. Instead of searching for a path to undue his past, Kratos learns from his mother in her dying breath that his aptly named brother, Deimos, is still alive. As usual, the gods attempt to steer Kratos away from his goal, and his unstoppable might proves too much for mortal and god alike.
The previous PSP God of War title from Ready at Dawn Studios, Chains of Olympus, dealt with the complex emotions of Kratos while attempting to save his daughter. Similarly, Ghost of Sparta sends Kratos on a quest to find Deimos, albeit without the emotional impact. Only at the end of the six-hour journey does Deimos even enter into the game, and it ends ten minutes later in the typical God of War way; a mountain of bodies in Kratos’ wake.
The Blades of Athena (i.e. Blades of Chaos) produce the familiarly flamboyant and destructive attacks, including numerous unlockables. A second weapon, the Arms of Sparta, is a spear and shield combo. It isn’t necessary to gameplay, but it is a fun and often useful diversion from the traditional blades. Magic also returns, although no attack is distinctly special or unique in light of former God of War titles.
The short playtime is supplemented by a harder difficulty and several challenge modes. Challenge of the Gods has players complete a variety of objectives, such as not taking any damage when attacked or collecting all treasure chests during combat. Five are achievable immediately after the game’s completion, but an additional eight can only be unlocked after completing the Temple of Zeus; a temple where all of the game’s artwork and unlockable extras are for the taking.
This temple comes at a very high price, requiring several playthroughs to completely unlock. The developers obviously want players to go through the campaign on several levels of difficulty, but it is a ridiculous amount of work. Special magical items, such as infinite magic or 10x money, don’t earn any extra to be used for the Temple of Zeus. It can only be achieved the old fashioned way.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta doesn’t stray far from its roots, which isn’t a bad thing per se. Ghost of Sparta is visually stunning and effectively implements the combat and quick-time events from God of War 3. Although the multiple playthroughs required for acquiring basic unlockables feels like padding to extend the game, the initial six-hour campaign is nevertheless brutally action-packed.

 

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COMMANDO Nintendo

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COMMANDO for Nintendo Wii Review


http://www.coolrom.com/screenshots/snes/Iron%20Commando.gifClassic Game Room reviews Wolf of the Battlefield: COMMANDO for Nintendo Wii from Capcom, a download game from the Wii Shop Channel which is a faithful, playable version of the classic 1985 arcade machine. Commando is a seriously awesome yet amazingly difficult arcade game with “Berzerk” style controls which restrict you to only shooting in the direction that you are running (you can throw grenades towards the top of the screen though at all times). Commando was wildly popular and is available on numerous old school game consoles such as Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. This CGR review of Commando on Nintendo Wii from Capcom has gameplay from Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando on Nintendo Wii from the Wiiware section of Wii Shop Channel on Wii.

 

 

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Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation

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Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! Review

http://cdni.gamezone.com/images/products/Prinny2_box.jpgYou know you're in for a wild ride with Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! just by looking at the title. Like its predecessor, this PSP sequel is a silly, 2D side-scroller featuring the adorable penguin-like mascots from the Disgaea series. Nippon Ichi didn't reinvent the wheel with this sequel, but that doesn't prevent it from being a solid, albeit difficult, action platformer that is a worthy addition to the PSP library.
Prinny 2 takes place in the Disgaea universe, which means you and your companions live in the netherworld. Prinny's boss, Etna, has just found that her panties have been stolen. So it's up to you to lead Operation Panties and go on a journey to retrieve the stolen undergarments. If the plot sounds completely ridiculous that's because it is. But it's hard not to crack a smile while playing the game. There's a charming quality to the characters and the predicament they find themselves in. This includes a fair amount of humor that even non-Disgaea fans should be able to appreciate.
Don't let the game's lighthearted tone deceive you, though. Prinny 2 is an incredibly difficult game in which you will die... a lot. You are presented with 1000 lives at the start of the game, which might seem like more than enough, but after playing for a while those lives begin to disappear quickly. The old-school challenge requires memorizing entire levels and tackling each individual enemy strategically. Stage progressively increase in difficulty, so you're truly put to the test throughout the course of the game.
The extreme difficulty may be off-putting for some but those who overcome it will find a very good side-scrolling action platformer. The fundamentals of the game are fairly simple: you run, jump, and slash your way through each level, which includes a boss at the end. Prinny is equipped with a sword and can perform a few different attacks. As you chain them together you can enter break mode, which increases your attack strength significantly. All of this is rudimentary, but the http://nerdreactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/prinny2_1.jpgbasics in combination with the level design is where the enjoyment factors in. Each stage offers various enemies that require specific tactics to defeat and plenty of deviously small ledges as you traverse your way through the game's various locales.
Unfortunately, the game's controls often get in the way of that solid foundation. More specifically, jumping turns out to be a big problem. The fact that you have absolutely no control of Prinny in midair is a mind-boggling decision considering how hard the game is. Some of the jumps you face require careful precision so don't be surprised if you double jump over entire ledges or come up short. Ultimately this makes the platforming feel like less of a challenge and more of a general frustration.
Even more troublesome is the lack of new content in Prinny 2. "Baby Mode" is introduced, which is essentially an easier difficulty that generously provides you with more health and increases the frequency with which you enter break mode. Other than that there isn't much that Prinny 2 brings to the table, at least not enough to differentiate itself from the first game. Both are quirky, 2D side-scrollers with a high difficulty level, plain and simple.
Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood!In terms of presentation, Prinny 2 is very impressive. The colorful art style really brings the game to life and the disparate environments keep the game from feeling stale. The voice acting is also well done, though it can become grating after a while. But considering the entire premise of the game, that's probably what they were going for. Nothing particularly stands out when it comes to Prinny 2's presentation, but all in all the game delivers in the audiovisual department.
Prinny 2 is aimed mostly at two groups of people: Disgaea fans and those who appreciate old-school difficulty. If you fall into either of those two categories (or both), then Prinny 2 is probably a game for you. It certainly provides a challenge, but the core gameplay is also executed well. Control problems do arise but the biggest concern is its striking similarity to 2009's Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? In the end, Prinny 2 ends up being a good game, but that's not quite enough to recommend it for everyone wholeheartedly. Fans of the first may want to pick up this sequel, but in all honesty, newcomers could go with either of the two games and get essentially the same experience.

 

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Rhythm Zone

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Rhythm Zone Review

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_0ZV1Ntui578/TGgCMsmBctI/AAAAAAAADE0/c3_DicR74rU/s1600/1.jpgWe've seen quite a few titles in the rhythm genre that use your own music as content. Both Audiosurf and Beat Hazard take your tracks and create unique levels. Both games are more about taking your music and forming unique content for its main gameplay; Rhythm Zone aims to use your music to form playable audio tracks within the band-game framework.
While this is a great idea, the game doesn't quite hit its mark. Rhythm Zone is a serviceable music game -- a little indie game that will provide the hardcore rhythm genre fan loads of challenge and great presentation -- but falls short of any meaningful connection with the music you are playing.
Rhythm Zone employs the same note highway gameplay of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, requiring you to hit the buttons as the notes cross the bottom of the track. Rhythm Zone's twist is that you can import your own songs, which the game will identify and label. The game then generates a note track based on your song and a visualizer to go along with it. The visualizer will pulse and move with the song, and the effects are very cool. What starts as simple shapes and colors evolves into space-faring voyages and psychedelic acid trips.
You can either tap your notes on your keyboard or plug in a USB guitar to play. Out of the two control schemes, I found the keyboard to be the better fit. Rhythm Zone is one of the most difficult music games I've ever played, and the faster reaction and use of both hands on a keyboard made it more manageable. When using a guitar you are simply tapping the buttons and the note colors don't follow the same direction as Rock Band or Guitar Hero, so it can be confusing.
What detracts from Rhythm Zone's experience is the note tracks generated vary in quality depending on the music. Certain songs generate tracks that when played, make you feel like you aren't really playing the song. It feels as if you are just tapping buttons while a song plays in the background. I found the more prominent a song's beat, the better the game is at constructing a note track that makes you feel like you are playing that song. Techno and rap fared the best, while alternative rock and heavy metal suffered. A more consistent music recognition system would have been better, making sure every genre of song was covered.
http://www.futureshopforums.ca/t5/image/serverpage/image-id/7792i325AAA6F5D7E6E83/image-size/original?v=mpbl-1&px=-1The game also doesn't have any easy way of importing numerous songs at once. I had to import each song one by one, wishing there was a way to import whole folders. It was time consuming in the end and a chore I didn't want to deal with. When the song was imported, Rhythm Zone used Last.fm to tag the song and it recognized each song I threw at it.
The game also has full Steam support, bringing your profile in and allowing you to level up based on your scores and amount of music imported. You can also send and receive score challenges to other players who have imported the same songs as you.
If you're looking for a challenge or ever wanted to have your own music in a band game, then Rhythm Zone is worth a look. Yet, if you're looking for a game that will allow you to feel like you are playing that same music, Rhythm Zone falls short.

 

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Dead Space 2

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Dead Space 2 Review

http://ui20.gamespot.com/2067/deadspace_2.jpgDead Space 2 is an amazing game. I'm going to write about its scary moments, cool kills, and how much I dig the main character's internal struggle, but Dead Space 2 is about more than this. When I beat it for the first time, I sat on the couch with my heart racing and dissected the journey I had just taken. Then, I started my second playthrough, and when that was done, I jumped into a new game for the third time. Dead Space 2 is just that good.

It's been three years since the events of the first game, but protagonist Isaac Clarke still can't catch a break. At the beginning of Dead Space 2, he wakes on a space station known as the Sprawl and finds the place is overwhelmed by an outbreak of reanimated corpses called Necromorphs. From the very first moment of the game, Isaac's fighting for his life.


This is where you come in. As Isaac, you'll pick up your plasma cutter, don an engineering suit and take the fight to the beasts out to kill you. The overarching goal is to find and destroy the religious idol (known as the Marker) causing all of this, but the story that makes Dead Space 2 great is the internal war Isaac's fighting. Unlike Uncharted's Nathan Drake who can kill a few hundred pirates and never seem worn down by it, Isaac is totally ruined by the events of the original Dead Space. He saw things no man should have to during his time on the spaceship USG Ishimura, but it's the fact that Isaac's girlfriend died on the vessel after he encouraged her to work there that really haunts him.

Isaac's losing his mind in Dead Space 2. The guilt is tearing his very sanity apart. That's heavy stuff and it makes for a really engaging story. Isaac doesn't let anyone else in on the fact that he's coming unglued, so as a player I get to see who he really is and the facade he presents to the other characters. Isaac's internal conversations and hallucinations are among my favorite parts of this game.

http://gamernode.com/upload/manager///Dan%20Crabtree/Previews/dead_space_2%20kid%20necro1277071931.jpgBut I have lots of favorite parts to Dead Space 2. Right behind Isaac's struggle on my list of cool stuff is the combat. It's more satisfying than it was in the original. Isaac's fast and light on his feet. You can stomp crates in a jiff and melee attack bodies for loot, grabbing things with your telekinesis is responsive, and mixing all of this together with the different weapons in the game is a blast. Slowing down a Necromorph, blowing off its arm, and using the severed limb to impale the foe on a wall is a thing of beauty that doesn't get old.

The cast is fleshed out, but Isaac steals the show.
Dead Space 2 is pretty much the best haunted house attraction ever. Visceral stripped out the stuff that slowed down the original game (backtracking, getting disoriented, etc.) and ended up with a fast-paced game that's suspenseful and scary at the same time. You're funneled down these halls and corridors on your way from Point A to Point B, and ghouls pop out for you to blast. I know that "linear" is a bad word in the video game industry, but the package is so well done here that I can't knock Dead Space 2 for taking me on a very specific ride that's marked by awesome moments, environments that range from a cheery schoolhouse to pitch black rooms, and sound that's so well done I'd find myself trying to figure out if it was a monster making its move or my dog rummaging in the living room. Toss in some new disturbing enemies and surprises I won't ruin for you and you have a game that can feel like "the same old thing" at times but becomes much more than that as a whole.

http://www.gameguru.in/images/dead-space-02.jpgI've already said that I've played the game over and over, so it's important to point out that no ride needs to be the same. Dead Space packs returning weapons such as the saw blade-spitting Ripper as well as brand new items like the Detonator and its trip mines. Each of these weapons -- along with your suit, telekinesis and stasis module -- can be upgraded for maximum ass-kicking, and then the progress can be saved and carried over to your next playthrough. These options and rewards are what kept me wanting to come back. There are tons of new suits (with new bonuses) to unlock and I always wanted to see what my next pimped-out weapon could do.

 

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Glory Days

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Glory Days - Tactical Defense Review

http://image.gamespotcdn.net/gamespot/images/2010/312/611785_20101109_640screen001.jpgOdenis Studio is tapping into its past to move into the future. Glory Days - Tactical Defense has arrived in the DSi Shop as the third DSiWare design from the France-based developer, but rather than being an all-new effort it seems to draw on the strengths of two of the company's previous hits.

The first place is in its branding, as the last time we saw the name "Glory Days" was back in 2007 for the well-received but under-recognized Glory Days 2. The fact that Odenis is now bringing back that same attention-deserving brand can only be a good thing.

And the second is in visual presentation. Any DSi owner who was smart enough to download either Pop Island or its follow-up Pop Island - Paperfield knows that Odenis managed to create an incredibly attractive, silky-smooth 3D engine for those two titles. They played games of Capture the Flag with it, but here it's being pressed back into service for tower defense.
So the pedigree is solid, and the visuals are technically sound. Things are looking good, for starters. This new Glory Days loses a bit of its luster, though, with the simplicity of the gameplay you get.

Single missions can last a long, long time.

Anyone who pays even the slightest attention to DSiWare games is already intimately familiar with the tower defense genre, and Tactical Defense here is a pretty by-the-book example of the idea -- you've got wave upon wave of enemy units advancing on your position and it's up to you to build stationary sentry guns, rocket launchers, and the like along their path of attack to destroy them before they make it all the way to your front door. You can upgrade each tower a couple of times, cash them in to get a monetary refund to build something different and fix them up when they get damaged. All the standard stuff.

There are only half a dozen different towers to choose from, though, so it feels like you see almost all the strategic depth available to you after just the first few minutes -- there are anti-aircraft artilleries, ground-targeting guns, and a "nuke 'em all" option called The Big One that blasts friend and foe alike. It works, and I understand the appeal of a streamlined selection in a game like this, but it still feels a bit thin to me.

Placement of the towers ends up becoming much more of a factor than the individual towers themselves, then, and that's handled in a fairly unique way. You're given a transparent cube cursor that bounces and rolls around the battlefield one square at a time -- it's on button control, too, so there's no zooming around and using the stylus to just tap where you want to drop your next line of defense. That's definitely different, and it works well enough. But when things get really fast-paced and frantic and you're trying to cover all of what's happening across an entire map with that one little rolling cube cursor, it can be hard to get it into position quickly and accurately enough.

Last of all, price. You've got to give it to Odenis here, as, like Pop Island - Paperfield last summer, they've sent this latest design into the Shop for just two bucks. That really helps sell the experience overall for me -- I may not be entirely sold on its depth of design or the control style they settled on with it, but for only 200 DSi Points there's no way it's not at least worth a look. It's got three different maps and four difficulty settings, too, so if you end up falling in love with it you'll certainly get your money's worth.

 

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Test Drive Unlimited

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 | 0 comments

Test Drive Unlimited (PC)

Introduction
With the next-generation console war in full swing, it sometimes feels as if PC gamers are left behind, especially when it concerns new innovative ideas. Games like Okami or Guitar Hero II just don’t exist on the PC platform and instead, gamers have to settle for the typical FPS, RTS and RPG genres. While this is far from being a bad thing, I do wish that from time to time, developers would bring some those unique console games over. Thankfully, Atari and Eden Games have heard my cry for innovation, given that they’ve ported Test Drive Unlimited over to the PC. And trust me, no need to complain how this is “just another car game”, because it’s so much more than that.

Test Drive
While the vast majority of the young gamers only know about the Need for Speed series, those of us old enough remember that Test Drive was the real big daddy. Starting in 1987 on DOS, as well as the Atari ST and Commodore 64, Test Drive was the first game to offer exotic sports cars and police chases all in one lovely package. Obviously, the saga didn’t finish there and another thirteen different Test Drive games were released over the years, cumulating into the latest sequel, Test Drive Unlimited. Although it was originally released on the Xbox 360 in September 2006 (and reviewed here by Gaming Heaven), Atari has now ported this critically acclaimed game onto the PC, PS2 and even PSP.
Now, to explain why this isn’t just your typical racing game, I’ll let you try and guess what the following acronym means: M.O.O.R. Any ideas? If not, here’s the answer you seek: Massively Open Online Racing. Sure, sounds interesting but what does this mean for the average gamer? Well, think of Test Drive Unlimited as a World of Warcraft with sports cars and I think you’ll get the gist of things. But before we dive into that, let’s see how this “next-generation” port runs on the PC.

Engine
Seeing as Atari’s M.O.O.R. was originally an Xbox 360 title, I was expecting the game’s minimum requirements to be quite demanding, even for decent rigs and naturally, this was the case:
• Windows 2000 / XP / Vista
• Intel P4 2.4Ghz or AMD Athlon 2800+
• ATI Radeon 9800 256MB or Nvidia 6600 GT 256 MB
• DirectX 9.0 compatible Sound Card
• 512 MB RAM
• 8 GB HDD space
Test Drive Unlimited needs a lot of horsepower to run and I can blame it all on the fact that you simply can’t customize the game’s settings to suit your setup. Even the worst of console ports allow some form of in-depth graphical tweaking but Eden Games’ racer is the exception to the rule, given that you can only choose in between high, medium and low (and there isn’t much difference in between all three modes). This is most certainly because Atari didn’t invest enough time into adapting Test Drive Unlimited for the PC, resulting in a title that looks and feels way too much like a console game, particularly when navigating through the menus.
In addition, I didn’t find the 3D engine all that impressive because anyone who wants to enable High Dynamic Range will firstly, if using the majority of NVIDIA cards, have to sacrifice Anti-Aliasing and most probably, drop a resolution because of the performance hit. Under typical settings, my XFX 7900 GT ran the game perfectly at 1280x960 with 4xAA, averaging at about 50 frames per second but with HDR enabled, I had to drop down to 1024x768 and I still couldn’t get a playable 30 frames per second. And yes, I do know that a performance drop is to be expected but passing from enjoyable to unplayable, even with a lower resolution seems like shoddy coding to me.

Tropical Paradise
Just like its Xbox 360 counterpart, Test Drive Unlimited on the PC is a beautiful game, though six months later, it’s starting to slowly show its age. Yes, the car models are still amazing, allowing you to admire each and every detail from the exterior to the interior and yes, Oahu is still gorgeous, with each and every road from the island meticulously recreated for gamers to explore but unfortunately, the same visual problems that existed on the Xbox 360 version have been brought over to the PC version. Firstly, the characters that you see in the game just don’t seem human since they have strange animations and even stranger alienish faces. Secondly, the random popups that appeared the console version are even worse now on PC, though this might be attributed to the enormous amount of bugs plaguing the ported version. Honestly, after playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. last month, I thought I’d seen the worst of it but Test Drive Unlimited doesn’t fare much better.
But for those few lucky people who don’t have any problems (after browsing the official forums, that number seems quite low at the moment), Test Drive Unlimited is an amazing game graphically, given that the entire island of Oahu is seamless, with no loading times to ever ruin your immersion, even when driving from one end to the other (which can easily end up taking about half an hour, even at full speed in a Ferrari Enzo). To be honest, I’ve lost hours just driving through the superb scenery in my virtual supercars, enjoying the wonderful immersion that this game creates in spades.

Aural Heaven
I love hearing the noise of a car engine revving and thankfully, Eden Games didn’t skimp on the sound department, seeing as most of the engines sound exactly as they should (though a couple sound quite generic, like the McLaren SLR to my dismay). But overall, crank up the volume, slam your virtual foot on the accelerator and allow the wondrous noise of a V12 to fill your room. I never grow tired of doing that in the game and if you love your cars (which you technically should if you’re reading this review), you’ll love it too. The rest of the sound effects, from tire screeches to police sirens all sound great as well, helping the immersion factor of the title. Actually, come to think of it, I played this game for hours without even having any music on, simply enjoying the wail of an engine, followed by sound of tires skidding on tarmac, that’s how good it is.
But for those of you who need music, the game offers several different radio stations to listen to while you cruise along, some of which are pretty catchy but alas, end up repeating themselves way too often. However, Eden Games anticipated this and as a result, you can create six extra radio stations with your own songs, which is always a welcome feature that more developers need to do.

Driving Ecstasy
Even though Test Drive Unlimited looks like a driving simulation thanks to all its 90 licensed sports cars and realistic location, in reality, it’s a careful balance in between arcade and realism. Personally, I found this disappointing since I like my games to be either fun arcade games or rewarding simulations, not a half-bred mix of both. There are several different settings to vary the handling but somehow, I was always left with this feeling that the handling of the various vehicles could have been so much more, especially the motorcycles that don’t feel like anything at all to be frank. Again, this was a serious problem on the Xbox 360 version and it’s sad to see that Eden Games didn’t take the time to fix some of these basic mistakes (the bikes handle like shopping carts). While they did add a “Hardcore Mode” (which also exists on the console version) that makes the gameplay more demanding, this isn’t a true fix since you can’t do any of the singleplayer events in this mode. However, if you overlook this, and own a gamepad or steering wheel, then you’ll see the hours fly by as you explore the vast island at your disposal.
And as I mentioned above, this is not your typical racing game but it’s a M.O.O.R, meaning that from the moment you log on to Test Drive Unlimited with a valid internet account, you’ll be racing and exploring alongside thousands of other players. That famous barrier in between single and multiplayer has finally been completely erased, given that even if you just want to do the singleplayer races, time trails, speed tests or missions, real people will still be driving and racing around you. Simply put, there is nothing else like Test Drive Unlimited, and having this constant connection to thousands of other people whenever you log onto the game is something I really ended up enjoying. To help this sense of community, you can even create racing clubs and challenge other players to whatever you fancy, from competitive races to fun drifting.

Unfortunately, a couple of things might ruin your time on paradise island, mostly in the form of major bugs that crash the game or even worse, corrupt your saved game files. This can really be annoying, especially when you’re about to win a one hour race or were transporting a model from one side of the island to the other. The problem is that Atari seems to have rushed Test Drive Unlimited onto the PC platform without having even tested for bugs, which is disappointing to say the least. In addition, it must be said that after the first few hours, the more casual gamers will find the game a bit repetitive.

Conclusion
I love it when a great console game gets ported onto the PC, especially when they offering something completely different like Test Drive Unlimited. The ability to have a seamless single and multiplayer experience is a brilliant, creating a game that petrolheads will be addicted to for a long time yet (I’ve already clocked over 85 hours and I’m far from bored). Yes, it has faults, such as a buggy 3D engine and the obligatory requirement of a gamepad or steering wheel but overall, Test Drive Unlimited is still just as fun as it was back in September of last year.
Gameplay
16/20
Neither a simulation nor an arcade racer, Test Drive tries to find a good medium that some will love and others will find slightly disappointing. On the plus side, M.O.O.R. rule!
Graphics
15/20
Still a very pretty game, even six months after its initial release. A pity then that the 3D engine is so fragile and ends up ruining both the graphics and stability of the game.
Sound
16/20
Engine noises are decent, as well as the rest of the sound effects. The music, while enjoyable ends up repeating a bit too often but thanks to the ability to create your own playlists, nothing too worrying.
Value
17/20
If you consider yourself a true petrolhead, then this is one game you’ll never let go of. Considering the fact that one can create clubs with other players and roam Oahu with them and reason enough to play it over and over again.
Preference
18/20
Thanks to the amazing immersion the Test Drive Unlimited offers, I’ve already lost over eighty hours of my life playing it, and I don’t think I’m about to stop now. Once you start, you won’t be able to let go.
Overall
82/100
Even though the game has its faults, the port from Xbox 360 to PC hasn’t ruined any of the magic the game originally had. While I definitely can’t recommend someone who already owns it on Xbox 360 to buy it again for their computer, those of you who’ve never yet tried it and love cars, take it for a spin!

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