Macabre Month of Horror: Review #21 “F.E.A.R 3”

fear 3

fear 3Welcome to the 25th day of our Fourth Annual Macabre Month of Horror. Today’s review is on the video game “F.E.A.R 3”

Please keep in mind these are Horror Movies and the video reviews contain content from the films that may not be appropriate for younger viewers, or those with a weak constitution for that matter.

Remember to visit every day for the latest video review. Or just subscribe to our posts by entering  your email over where it says SUBSCRIBE on the right hand side of the screen and get our posts in your inbox.

Macabre Month of Horror: Movie Review #25 “F.E.A.R 3”

Macabre Month of Horror: Review #20 “F.E.A.R 2”

fear 2

fear 2Welcome to the 24th day of our Fourth Annual Macabre Month of Horror. Today’s review is on the video game “F.E.A.R 2”

Description from Amazon “Confront terrors both known and unknown in a explosive battle for survival with F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin for PS3. This action-packed follow-up to Monolith Productions’s award-winning supernatural shooter F.E.A.R. begins where the previous game left off. This time, you’ll come up against Alma’s powers from the perspective of special forces operator Michael Becket. After an enormous explosion has devastated the city of Auburn, you’ll quickly discover that what seemed like an ordinary mission to retrieve and interrogate Genevieve Aristide is anything but.”

Please keep in mind these are Horror Movies and the video reviews contain content from the films that may not be appropriate for younger viewers, or those with a weak constitution for that matter.

Remember to visit every day for the latest video review. Or just subscribe to our posts by entering  your email over where it says SUBSCRIBE on the right hand side of the screen and get our posts in your inbox.

Macabre Month of Horror: Movie Review #20 “F.E.A.R 2”

Max Payne: A Reason to Live – by Sam Kench

max payne title card

max payne title card

This is a short that I wrote, directed, edited, and did the cinematography on inspired by the Max Payne video game series.

The Max Payne games are fantastic and I highly recommend them, I might get around to an actual review of these games eventually but this is my tribute to the series. It’s not a recreation of the game, but more of a side story revolving around the title character.

We shot this a while ago, over the summer actually, but it got stuck in post production for a long time. Once I got After Effects and learned how to do the VFX I was able to get the muzzle flashes, smoke and blood dones. This is the first video I’ve done VFX, so there was a steep learning curve. Now it’s finally finished and public.

Max Payne is played by Emmett Morrill, I provided the voice for the narration, and Elias Redcloud played Walter Santiago. The goons are played by myself, Andrew Fortier, and Logan Frye. I hope you’ll all check it out and enjoy it and maybe leave some feedback.

Here’s a little background information about the making of the video:

  • This video was shot in one day coming hot off the heels of another larger scale project which I hope to be able to release in the future.
  • Max Payne’s costume was a joint effort by Elias Redcloud and the owner of Green Carbon 2112. The jacket belonged to Eli, and the Max Payne tie was custom made for the video by Amy Lyn.
  • The day before filming I sat down with Emmett Morrill who played Max Payne and we played the game. I had him pay close attention to Max’s mannerisms. The way he walked/ran with/without guns, the way he takes cover, and especially the way he jumps. The trademark of the Max Payne games is the slow motion diving and shooting and this is something that I strove to recreate for the video. It was important to me that we were faithful to the dives and that meant getting serious height and flying backwards into the ground. This is hard to do from a stunt person perspective as it is very hard to stop your body from instinctively putting your hands down and catching yourself. We used a crash mat for Emmett to dive onto to make it a little easier on him.
  • Max Payne’s signature emotion is his trademark hyper frown, it’s not quite a Dredd hyper frown but it’s pretty close. Max is a guy who has no joy in his life so we spent a great deal of time working on Emmett’s frown.
  • The video was filmed downstairs at the Gordon Nash Library in New Hampton New Hampshire which is where we held our film club meetings over the summer.

A sequel video is currently in pre-production but it could be a while before that takes off. The rate at which it happens depends largely on locations and actors as well as the editing, but if enough people are really itching to see the sequel I can make that priority.

 

Macabre Month of Horror #20 F.E.A.R 3

fear 3

fear 3F.E.A.R 3 was a disappointment. It’s not a terrible game but it certainly didn’t live up to the expectations set by the previous games. The other two fear games are much better. They are scarier and just have all around better quality. I was looking forward to the addition of split screen co-op. The co-op is okay. But it isn’t very much fun playing as fettel. Until you take over a body that is, then he is the same as point man, minus the slo-mo.

The first F.E.A.R game was done by Monolith and Sierra. The second F.E.A.R game still had Monolith, but introduced Warner Brothers for some added polish and a higher budget. The third F.E.A.R game is just Warner Brothers. This is where I think the problem comes from. Without Monolith there was no real passion involved in this project. It just feels a bit lazy and lacking genuine effort. Warner Brothers does not understand how to do horror.

The other 2 F.E.A.R games managed to be scary, this 3rd doesn’t even try to be scary. Instead it focuses on being an action game. The game so rarely even attempts to be scary, and when it does, it fails pretty badly. There are a few cool moments, but for the most part the horror is pretty slim pickens.

The action can be fun, but it shouldn’t be the only passable aspect of the game. The shooting is good and can be a good deal of fun, but surprisingly even the shooting feels worse than in F.E.A.R 2. It’s not as finely tuned or polished.

The entire game actually feels unpolished. The graphics have moved a step backwards which there is no excuse for. All the colors look flat and all the textures look terrible. The visual effects are of lower quality as well. It just looks cheap. This game is also far less gory than it’s predecessors. Actually, that’s not quite true. it tries to be just as gory, but again the effect is cheapened and it does not look good at all.fettell

when you die you are immediately given the menu where you can retry from. The problem is, sometimes you randomly die in this game, and the menu pops up before you even realize you’re dead, and you end up hitting quite game, or restart mission like an idiot. it is rage inducing. The menu is way too sensitive. if you just try to select retry, you’ll probably end up bouncing off the selection down to restart. the menu is way too sensitive to the point of being faulty.

The game has this built in challenge system. you get points and level up from meeting these challenges. some of the challenges are: kill a certain # of enemies with a particular gun, kill from cover a few times, use a hell of a lot of slo-mo, kill without getting hurt, etc. etc. at first you might find these challenges cool little things to do, but I think that they take away from the game. when you are so concerned with meeting these challenges you get distracted or do stupid things to try and complete the challenges, leading to much frustration. It takes you out of the experience of the game and is an unnecessary distraction.

There are some really bad checkpoint placements. Dying can send you back incredibly far or actually jump you ahead other times.

The weapons are a weird sort in this game. The shotgun this time around is terrible. It was awesome in the first game, a little worse in the second game and pathetic in the third one. The pistol is better than in the second game, but you still can’t dual wield them which doesn’t make sense since f3ar shotgunyou are now playing as the same character from the first game. The awesome Hammerhead from the second game has been replaced by the much less interesting HV Penetrator. Each game has a different main submachine gun. It’s weird that the weapon selection completely changes from game to another.

The horror element of the game is just not here. It almost seems as though they forgot they were making a fear game. The story in this game is not good. It’s very convoluted and rather stupid. The second game left off with a promising premise for the next game. Alma is now pregnant, ready to have a demon baby. Too bad the 3rd game squanders that premise. The big payoff for her pregnancy is a hilariously lame boss fight at the end of the game that feels like it’s out of a cartoony platformer that just has a bunch of filters over it. Speaking of filters, they get ridiculous in this game. It’s as if the makers thought that if the screen is flashing or changing colors or pulsating than the gamers will be scared, but that is not the case.

in the cutscenes Fettel is completely invincible and just sort of teleports from place to place. Too bad he sucks when you actually play as him and can’t do any of the things from the cutscenes.

There are some strange glitches in the game. They show up more frequently when playing the split screen. Glitches such as your character deciding to walk incredibly slow, or that he doesn’t want to raise his gun, or he just doesn’t feel like climbing a ladder. These glitches are incredibly annoying and some, such as the ladder, glitch were only resolved by restarting the level, only to have the same glitch happen on the next ladder.

F.E.A.R 3 was not a worthy successor to the previous games. It’s not a terrible game but it doesn’t live up to expectations. I would like to the series get another shot though. I think they could bring it back to glory with another shot, if maybe Monolith comes back or we get a new studio involved.

Macabre Month of Horror #19 F.E.A.R 2

fear 2

fear 2 pooster

F.E.A.R 2 begins a short bit before the end of the first F.E.A.R game, however you play as a different character in a different location. Monolith still had a large part with making the game but now there is the addition of Warner Brothers.

Monolith still handles the horror elements which are in top form and Warner Brothers throws in some cash which makes the game much more polished than the first one was. The shooting is more modern and finely tuned. I loved the shooting in the first game after I got used to it, but the shooting is very good in the second game as well, but they are entirely different.

FPS fearThe first game had a lot of cramped corridors and droning offices but there were only a few locations and that meant you were looking at the same decor and art design throughout most of the game. Visually the game got a bit repetitive and stale.

They improved this greatly for the sequel. F.E.A.R 2 has a much higher quantity of settings as well as having more color and stronger more polished visuals which make the presentation of the game much stronger.

The horror works very well. There are some ineffective bits and relies on jump scares a bit too often, but there are still of creative, original, and ingenious scare tactics used to creep out any gamer. Alma is in full creepy mode, and though her transformation in the first game may have been a highlight, her figure in F.E.A.R 2 is creepy in it’s own right.

fear 2

The shooting is a great deal of fun. Once again the shooting takes some of the tension out of the moment and you feel safe from Alma when under fire, so the integration could still be improved upon.

F.E.A.R 2 is even gorier than the first game. You can shoot a guy with a shotgun and watch him completely explode leaving nothing behind save for bloody smears on the walls and ceiling. You can blow a guy in half at the waist and watch his upper half flail around in agony. You can blast a guy’s shoulder off and admire the gruesome ribs sticking out from the side of his chest. It’s a bloody good time. There is a wider variety of guns this time. Some useful and some not so much. The guns range from being awesome and cool, like the hammerhead which can pin people to walls, to being completely lame and not fun to use, like the napalm cannon.

There are some interesting set pieces in F.E.A.R 2. There are segments when you hop inside a battlemech type thing and fire machine guns and rockets. These parts feel out of place like they belong in a different game. At any rate they are not much fun and only manage to take you out of the experience. At times the action overall feels as if it’s on too grand a scale for a horror game, but the shooting is usually fun so I digress.

fear alma

*SPOILERS* The game ends with one of the downright creepiest game plot developments ever. Your character gets strapped to a chair and raped by Alma. That is pretty messed up, and disturbing to be sure, and further more she get’s pregnant, setting a wonderful stage for a sequel. *END SPOILERS*

F.E.A.R. 2 was a great follow up to the first game and furthered the cannon of the series. It was another great game being added to the eventual trilogy. Check back tomorrow to see if the 3rd could complete an entirely worthwhile trilogy.

CLICK HERE to order F.E.A.R. 2

F.E.A.R video game review – Macabre Month of Horror #18

FEAR poster

Welcome to the second video game review of this year’s Macabre Month of Horror.

Currently there are 3 F.E.A.R games. I’ll be reviewing each of them, one a day, so check back the next couple of days to see the other games covered as well.

FEAR poster

The first F.E.A.R game came out on October 18th 2005. This is the 8th anniversary of the game.

F.E.A.R is a first person game and the first person effect is done really well here, better than in most games. You move more realistically and little details such as CorridorAlmayour hands or legs coming into frame at certain points are a nice touch. Since the game is in first person, you have complete control over what you are seeing, and thus the creepy environments and scare moments are made more effective, by the fact that you are controlling it.  

F.E.A.R. is made up of two main parts, shooting, and horror. The main complaint I have with the game is that the two parts are not balanced well. When the shooting segments start the tension and threat of horror leaves quickly. The creepy score and setting can make it a tad more creepy than other fps games but I would like to have seen the two parts integrated better.

The shooting is quite dated. This is not necessarily a bad thing however, just different. It’s a little jarring at first and can take some getting used, but once you get into the swing of things the shooting can be incredibly fun. The shooting hearkens back to old school shooters like Half Life. The game overall has an old school vibe, which really grew on me and I came to appreciate it fully. You cannot use the sights on guns as you can in most modern shooters, other details, such as the hidden pickups, manual use of health packs, and exploration feel reminiscent of older shooters.

fear asdgThe exploration in F.E.A.R. is great. It was a smart move to not give you a mini-map. While it can be confusing where to go and easy to get lost at times, it more frequently works in the game’s favor, to make you feel nervous and frantically searching for an exit. It is also tremendously rewarding at times, figuring out how to progress to the next area.

The graphics definitely look sub-par by today’s standards but they get the job done. There are some nice graphical details and effects, but the game lacks a layer of polish that would’ve made it look great. The level design can get a little repetitive, but that’s not too much of a problem, you get the feeling that you’re trapped in a huge haunted building.

F.E.A.R has one of the most terrifying enemies in any game. The invisible guys. They only show up in a couple of places,but when they do, they are terrifying.invisibler dude

The difficulty ramps up steadily throughout and always remains challenging without becoming overbearing. New enemies or challenges are introduced every once in awhile to keep the game from becoming too repetitive. As you get better at the game, it gets more difficult. By the end of the game you are in a furious rush with a higher quantity and more challenging enemies.

There are some very slow load times. I’m playing this on the PS3 and supposedly load times are not an issue on the xbox 360 and PC versions of the game.

There are some sound balancing issues. Things are off level, such as your characters footsteps being incredibly loud, while important dialogue is very quiet. Things frequently sound as if they are coming from the wrong direction and while this is fine in the horror segments, it can be annoying in the shooting segments.

Aside from the balancing issues the sound design is great. The sound effects are all superb and the horror score is top notch. F.E.A.R also knows how to use a normal droning sound and make it terrifying. Never has a news jingle been as terrifying as it is in F.E.A.R.

The A.I. is great, and has been hailed by many as one of the most innovative and influential A.I. systems ever. It’s kind of ironic that even though most of the enemies you’re fighting are literal clones, they still feel more real and personal than most modern games. The panicked banter between enemies that you overhear on their radios sells their realism.

The lead designer of F.E.A.R said that he wanted the shootouts in the game to have the intensity of the tea-house shootout from Hard Boiled. That’s a great role model to try and live up to, and would explain the inclusion of the slow motion “Reflex Time” and the ability to dual wield handguns. Unfortunately the dual wielding is missing from the sequels.

You also have a few gadgets at your disposal, which again, hearkens back to old Half-Life style games. You have grenades, proximity mines, and remote bombs, which are more useful than they are in most games. All of these elements come feartogether to create a really great FPS experience, once you get used to the style. F.E.A.R can be thought of as an awesome first person shooter, wrapped up in a horror game.

The horror is done really well in F.E.A.R, it’s actually one of the flat out, best horror games. F.E.A.R has effective psychological scares that don’t always need to rely on gore to try and freak you out. F.E.A.R can be in your face sometimes, but it also understands that sometimes it’s scarier when you don’t see or know what’s happening. They understand that it’s sometimes more effective to walk in on the aftermath of a blood strewn room rather than to witness the strewing. It’s really that scary of a game, but it has a really good creepy atmosphere and some great and creative horror set pieces.

The main source of horror in F.E.A.R comes from Alma the antagonist, (Outside of Fettel, the guy you get sent in after). She will always be known as one of the most iconic horror villains.alma

The makers of the game, Monolith Studios, put a lot of time and care into the game, doing their best to make it as fun and scary as possible with their smallish budget. Their devoted team is a big part of the reason why this game works so well. They had a tremendous passion for the project that made it excel. Unfortunately the passion didn’t last throughout the entire series.

F.E.A.R is a fantastic game, one of the best to play in October around Halloween. You buy it by clicking right “HERE” and keep checking back all October long for a new horror review everyday for the entire month of October.

Macabre Month of Horror movie review #16 Manhunt

manhunt Macabre Month of Horror video review

manhuntManhunt came out in 2003 for the PS2. It was a highly controversial game that got banned in a number of countries. The game is considered highly controversial due to its brutally violent style, but the violence is not totally unwarranted. It’s easy to say that the violence is the whole point of the game, but it can also be thought of as a comment on modern society.

The story of the game has a convict, James Earl Cash (which is an awesome name if I’ve ever heard one) who was supposed to be executed, but instead was put into a snuff film directed by the deranged Lionel Starkweather who is expertly voice acted by Brian Cox. Brian Cox played Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter (Manhunt and Manhunter are completely unrelated) so now everytime I play Manhunt I can’t shake the feeling that it’s Hannibal Lecter telling me to kill all these people. Lecter just set up this big elaborate snuff film for a laugh.

Starkweather talks to you throughout the game over an earpiece. He orchestrates the whole ordeal and encourages you to kill people in the most violent way possible for the sake of his snuff film. That says something about society, the fact that there is an audience for these films who are getting off to all the violence. The game is hinting at our own society that we all have a violent nature and just need to unleash it. The executions in the game have 3 tiers. each successive tier being more brutal, bloody, and violent. The higher the tier the harder it is to pull off. Think about it, Players are rewarded with gorier kills, and it’s strangely compelling to get the most violent kill possible. A quick tap of the button results in a quick, not so gory kill, but take your time and charge it up and you get to the gory stuff. The game makes you work for it. There’s something profound to be had there.

manhunt bagLet me just say right now: Violent video games do NOT create violent people. If a guy goes out a kills someone after playing a game, he didn’t do it because of the game (or movie, two sides of the same coin) he would’ve done it anyway. If anything, violent games and movies provide an outlet to let your rage into, possibly acting as a violence impediment. I like to compare Manhunt to the final scene of Scarface. Try watching the end of “Scarface” when you’re angry. Watching Tony Montana go berserk and massacre all those f*cking cockaroaches while screaming and swearing is like watching all your inner rage melt onto the screen. The same idea can be applied to Manhunt. It’s a good stress reliever, if you’re angry go choke out a manhunt character with a plastic bag and break their neck, then you’ll feel all better.

The music is good in Manhunt. It’s subtle but effective. Right from the very opening the music sounds like it could have been composed by John Carpenter or maybe even Clint Mansell (only in the first scene for Mansell).

The game has heavy elements of stealth and some action aspects, but retains it’s grounding in horror. A realistic, dark and dirty, horror. It works because murders like this could actually happen, not on such a scale but I digress. It effectively creates a sense of dread. A fear of what’s ahead. The graphics are dark, dirty, and outdated, but that doesn’t hurt the game, in fact it works to make you perhaps even more uncomfortable. It can be absolutely terrifying getting chased by a baseball bat toting white trash psycho through a junkyard.

The game’s fighting mechanics are intentionally ineffective. If you try to go up against 2 guys you’ll almost certainly die. If you go up against just one guy there’s still a pretty good chance you’re not walking away from it. This forces you to stick to the shadows and stalk your enemies. Getting spottedmanhunt baddie sends you in a mad dash for safety, and sometimes that safety isn’t there. The brilliant banter and raving from the enemies makes for a harrowing experience. Each gang has their own personality and they are well designed and have a lot of detail. The game is made by Rockstar and they always put in a lot of effort.

There are some twisted moments in the story of Manhunt. A particular level has you roaming around a zoo, when you find out that your family has been kidnapped by the psychos and each have been tied to a cross, ready to be executed. If you get spotted, they kill your family. That is a tremendous motivation to do well and *SPOILER ALERT* They die anyway later on. That is dark and twisted and gives you a real reason to hate Starkweather if you didn’t already. *END SPOILER*

You can hide bodies, but I always preferred to leave them out for their buddies to find as an intimidation tactic.

The gameplay is very good. The dark and intense atmosphere is fun to roam through and they change up the locations often enough to stop things from getting stale. The enemies despicable personality makes killing them a treat. It can be real gratifying to bash their heads in, especially the white trash bigots. Caving their heads in with a metal manhunt gunbaseball bat is extremely satisfying. Late in the game guns are introduced. They use a lock on system which is terrible in most games, but it actually works really well in Manhunt.

Towards the end of the game you run into Pigsy: a mentally retarded man in a pig mask who escapes from Starkweathers attic and wreaks havoc with a chainsaw. The build up to you having to fight pigsy is intense. You really dread having to come face to face with him and when you finally do… woah baby

The boss fight against Pigsy is one of the most absolutely terrifying segments in any video games ever made. Top ten at least. Probably top five. It’s intense. Try him on hardcore mode and you’ll be quivering in the dark afraid to move.

You fight pigsy in this apartment type place with the walls all caved in. It creates a labyrinth for you to run around in. You hear his chainsaw approaching and can’t tell which direction it’s coming from, if you do get spotted by Pigsy, it results in a horrifying dash for safety that is very hard to escape from. His terrifying squeal and the putter of his chainsaw chase you down the empty halls, you hope you can outrun him and find a shadow to hide in. This boss fight is incredible. It’s truly terrifying.

Manhunt is a very good game. It’s actually one of my favorites on the PS2. I like it so much that I actually bought the sequel on release day. Manhunt 2 is the only game I have ever purchased on release day.

Manhunt 2 keeps the horror flowing strong. It introduces some new aspects to the horror. There are two major ones. The first being that your character begins the game by escaping from a mental institution in a pretty horrific sequence. Your character being completely insane leads to some interesting moments regarding the pickman project and whatnot. It also leads to a very cliche plot twist, but i thought the story was rather interesting.

The 2nd development is that they have ramped up the sexuality, adding an entirely new dimension to the psychological horror elements. It gets a bit excessive actually. Gone is the social commentary from the first game, which I missed. The second Manhunt was a very good game as well. The locations play a bigger part in the second game.

In the first manhunt the locations aside from a couple served only as a different place for you to slaughter people. The second manhunt integrates the locations in the story better. This creates some stand out and memorable levels, as well as a more diverse level selection. The second manhunt has some rather stupid moments but I still think it is a terrific game.

manhunt 2Manhunt 2 furthers the gameplay mechanics and style of the first game rather than the story. Manhunt 2 was even more controversial and banned in ever more countries.

The first two spoken words in the game are actually “Holy f*ck!” The game was threatened with an AO rating and was almost banned in America which resulted in heavy censorship of the game. Rockstar had to put a bunch of weird filters over the executions, which make them harder to see, but you can still make out what’s happening for the most part. The Wii version was hit the hardest by the censorship.

I hold the Manhunt series close to my heart, I really love these games and I hope that Rockstar will make a Manhunt 3. They didn’t move on it at all during the PS3 age, but maybe for the PS4, some high-def slaughtering maybe?

 

Sleeping Dogs (Game Review)

sleeping dogs

sleeping dogsSleeping Dogs is another Free PS plus game, which is really cool since the game still cost almost $40 on it’s own right now.

Sleeping Dogs was originally developed as a sequel to the True Crime series back on the PS2. After a lot of changes and full on company switch, the project was re-titled Sleeping Dogs and cut it’s ties from the True Crime series, which if you ask me is a good thing.

I played through True Crime Streets of LA and found it quite bad, so Sleeping Dogs distancing itself from its predecessors is okay by me.

The game opens right in the middle of the action and doesn’t really slow down a whole lot throughout the story. The story stays engaging from start to finish.

Story is something that a lot of open world games seem to struggle with. Having a continuous, complex, and engrossing narrative throughout the entire game is not often accomplished, but Sleeping Dogs managed to do it. Their story is not completely fresh, there are plenty of cliches, but it’s done differently. Most of the key characters are wonderfully developed, and you grow attached to them throughout the story, which makes the death of major, and even side characters have an impact.

The characters are written well and a portrayed pretty well by their voice actors. Aside from some NPCs who are just plain awful, all of the voice acting is solid enough to hold the story. All of the important characters are well cast and well executed. There are some recognizable voices to be found in Sleeping Dogs such as Tom Wilkinson, Lucy Liu, and Emma Stone, some of which are actually rather underutilized. Emma Stone is held within just a couple of optional side missions.

Emma Stone, Tom Wilkinson and Lucy Liu voice characters in the Sleeping Dogs video game
Emma Stone, Tom Wilkinson and Lucy Liu voice characters in Sleeping Dogs

The main character, Wei Shen seems a bit flat at first, but as the game progresses he deepens substantially. His struggle between the police and the triad is well crafted, more so than I expected. He is cool character and it’s fun to play as him. He would fit right in, in an old Hong Kong action film. Makes me wonder who would play him in the movie.

In every sandbox driving game the player has the compulsive need to test the police. Piss off the cops and have them chase you. At first the cops in Sleeping Dogs seemed much more adapt at their job than in most games. The cops kill you faster and catch you quicker than most games. This seemed a little strange at first until I realized that half their police force is probably filled with hong kong action stars. John Woo must employ half the force.

United Front, the company that made Sleeping Dogs, had only worked on racing games before doing Sleeping Dogs. So you can figure that the driving is solid, but that leaves you in the dark about the other aspects of the game. Sleeping Dogs set a goal of having the the 3 main aspects of the gameplay be solid enough to carry a game on their own, and in turn work together to create a great gaming experience. The 3 aspects being: Driving, shooting, and fighting.

THE DRIVING: The driving is near perfect. Cars aren’t overly realistic in the way they handle. You have good control over what you’re doing and it’s a lot of fun to do. I would actually say that Sleeping Dogs has the 2nd best driving mechanics in any open world game. 2nd only behind Scarface the World is Your’s on the ps2.

THE SHOOTING: Guns are very rare in sleeping dogs. You can’t go anywhere to buy guns, the only ways to get guns are to have them given to you during a mission or to kill a cop and take his gun. Once you beat the game you get to keep a gun in your apartment, but they are treated more like a privilege rather than a utility. Due to this fact, the few shootouts scattered throughout the story are made more intense and exciting. There are shootouts in some classic locations such as a cemetery and a hospital Hard Boiled style. There are a lot of guns in the game considering how rare they are. there are a few guns that you only get to use once. Shooting is fun and brings to mind classic Hong Kong actions films particularly the films of John Woo. Playing Sleeping Dogs often left me in the mood for a John Woo film. The shooting is fun especially when you add the excellent use of slow-motion. You can also shoot from cars like in most open world games, but this is one of the only open world games that pulls it off well. Aiming while in a car triggers a slow-motion aiming mode, during which the car autopilots down the road. This is the perfect system for shooting out of a car. 2nd place belongs to the Scarface game.

THE FIGHTING: The fighting system is deeper in this game than any other sandbox game I’ve ever played. In most sandbox games the fighting is awful and only implemented as an afterthought. In Sleeping Dogs the fighting is good enough to carry a game of it’s own. You have an excellent arsenal of fighting moves that grows throughout the game. The shooting brings John Woo movie to mind, while the fighting brings martial arts movies to mind, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen all the greats. The fighting uses a batman arkham type system that works perfectly. The fighting is awesome.

Sleeping Dogs also has parkour chases, which are a bit of a let down. The parkour is cool, but the chases never come to fruition. No matter how fast and how flawlessly you do in these chases you can never catch the person you’re chasing. You just follow them until they lead you to a place where you fight.

Sleeping Dogs is full of references to old action movies. the references range from items and places in the game, to costumes that you can wear. There are cool little homages to Hard Boiled, Rumble in the Bronx, Game of Death, Ong Bak, and even Reservoir Dogs. some of these references are really clever and well hidden. They take a knowledgeable mind to find and aren’t shoved in your face. I had a lot of fun seeing all the references in Sleeping Dogs.

The ending of the game is great. Things escalate and take some sharp unexpected turns leading to a string of action packed show stopping set pieces the explodes into a finale akin to Fargo. I was sad to see Sleeping Dogs end. I just wished there were more. Luckily you can still explore the world after you beat the game which allowed me to collect and do everything that hadn’t done or gotten yet.

Sleeping Dogs is only the 2nd sandbox driving game that I have bothered to finish. Usually open world games don’t hold my interest long enough to reach completion, but Sleeping Dogs held it throughout. I don’t count games like L.A. Noire into that retrospective because I feel that the open world is not the focus of the game, so that being said the only other sandbox driving game I’ve played to completion would ironically be True Crime Streets of L.A. which I only finished to unlock Snoop Dog.

Sleeping Dogs is my favorite sandbox driving game I’ve ever played. I highly recommend playing it.

 

Sniper Ghost Warrior (PS3 game review)

sniper ghost warrior poster

sniper poster

Sniper Ghost Warrior

I love sniping. Any game that gives you the option to use a sniper rifle or a slew of other weapons, I always choose the sniper rifle. I tend to find conventional weapons boring, AK47? What else is there? I prefer the strange, one shot one kill type weapons in games, revolvers, shotguns, crossbows, and of course sniper rifles.

So the idea of a game where you’re always using a sniper rifle sounds awesome to the niche demographic that I’m a part of. Hearing of this game got me pretty excited to play it, even though I just got around to it now (There’s already a sequel out).

The setting for this game is the jungle. There are villages, rivers, and temples, but mostly just dense jungle terrain. This isn’t really a problem because the game gives you enough variety in the environment to keep you from growing bored. The environments are well constructed. The areas are aimed towards realism, which when combined with the slow stalking combat and sniper theme, bring the Tom Berenger film “The Sniper” to mind.

The jungle environment made me think of the jungle sections from Metal Gear Solid 3. This might sound weird, but the main reason I’m reminded of it, is the ambient bird sounds. Kind of random, but these two games have really well done ambient bird sounds. A strange compliment to give a game I know, but the sound designers deserve a nod for that. It probably helps that I have a nest of birds right outside my window though. The ambient sound design really added to the environment and made the game more engrossing for it, especially in tense situations.jungle

Most of the other sound is done well. All the guns sound good. Each sniper rifle has its own distinct sound and the silenced pistol, whilst sounding incredibly cheesy, sounds awesome.

The big complaint on the sound department isn’t actually on the effects, it’s on the voice acting. It’s terrible. All of it. Every single voice actor in the game is awful. Some are worse than others, but none of them are good. It doesn’t help that the game has horrible writing, but I’ll come back to that in a moment. The delivery, especially from the main character is bad and comes off as awkward. I feel some of the blame belongs to whoever was directing the voice actors. Sometimes they exaggerate the lines to the point of being hilarious.

The people you are shooting at, are speaking a foreign language, and because of that fact, the game developers thought they could half *ss the enemy dialogue and nobody would care. True I don’t speak the language, but did you honestly think I wouldn’t notice that 87% of all the enemy dialogue is the exact same line of dialogue, read by the same single voice actor? Really? You couldn’t spend a little more time on the voice acting?

Another strange thing I noticed regarding this single line of dialogue is that if you kill the character saying at the wrong moment, he will finish the line from beyond the grave. Thies wasn’t a one time thing, it happened repeatedly throughout the game. The first time it happened I was confused, I thought maybe there was another enemy talking or something. After further investigation I discovered that it was in fact a dead person speaking.

The writing is terrible. It’s almost ridiculous how cliché it is. It’s like they didn’t even try to come up with an original story. All of the characters in the game, lack the most crucial part, “Character”. They have no personalities outside of plot convenience. At one point you get double crossed by a teammate and it has absolutely no impact because his character wasn’t established beforehand. Yeah he’s there in the beginning of the game, but he doesn’t develop. There are no interactions between him and the main character so the double cross loses its effectiveness.

slow mo

The main character is completely flat. He has no real personality, he just does what people tell him. Oh well, at least he has a voice, I hate when they make you silent in games. The main villain, (if you can even call him that, they do nothing to set him apart from the other nameless goons you whack on your way towards him) has no build up. I didn’t even remember his name, he doesn’t even have any dialogue, or a distinct look. He doesn’t really do anything either, he just stands around when it’s time to shoot him. You shoot at this guy twice throughout the game. Once in the very beginning and once at the end. The first time you shoot at him, he get’s away. I got really confused at this point. I shot him in the chest and saw him hit the floor, yet the characters in the game say that the shot missed and that he got away. Was I not supposed to hit him or something? He is the target for the game, which is really just one hit that get’s sidetracked a lot.

The story is full of cliché moments they even have a slow motion walk towards the camera that came out of left field. It’s your character holding his gun in the air and 3 obscure teammates, one of which is holding his gun over his shoulders. Anyway they all swag walk towards the camera, which was hilarious and completely out of character for the game. I guess it was supposed to be cool, but really, it was just surprising. Especially since you were nowhere near these other people before the swag walking started.

sniper scope

The A.I. is completely dreadful. Sometimes they notice you for no reason, and other times they stand there looking stupid. Something I don’t get is the accuracy of the enemies. You play as a sniper, a highly trained agent, with high tech weapons, yet your enemies have perfect aim from any distance with a regular old rifle. That’s kind of stupid if you ask me.

The gameplay is the strong point of the game. They clearly put a lot of effort into making the sniping feel “right”. It’s a more complex system than most games have. Bullet drop, wind, rain, all affect your bullet trajectory.

Sniping is a lot of fun and there is a cool slow motion effect that sometimes triggers when you score a headshot or a double kill with one bullet. The enemy ragdolls and goes flying. It’s fun. You have the option to take an assault rifle from a dead enemy, but I never did, I can’t see why you’d want to. You also get throwing knives, but they aren’t as cool or useful as you’d expect. The back of the game case proclaims that you can use C4 and Claymore mines in the game. I counted the number of times you can use these things. # of times you can use Claymore mines: 1. Yes only once, yet it earned a bullet point on the back of the box. # of times you can use C4: 1. Seriously just once again, they were really stretching for things to put on the back of the case.

There are a couple of segments where you have to use a station machine gun, first let me just say that the sound effect for this gun scared the hell out of me. It’s about 10x as loud as everything else and it very much surprised me. These segments were terribly boring and added nothing to the gameplay. They were most likely added for some variety, but whenever one came up, I just wanted to get back to the sniping.

Moving around is really awkward in this game. You can frequently get stuck on rocks and inclines in the terrain that seem as though you should easily be able to just walk over. The moving becomes further impaired when you crouch or crawl. In that state you can hardly even move side to side, and going up stairs? Forget about it, you’ll just glitch back and forth until you give up and just stand up.

hidin in da bushes

The other big component to the game is stealth. I’m a big fan of stealth games and this game did a different but good job at it. The stealth is not shadow based like splinter cell, or cover based like a game such as Deus Ex, it’s closest to Metal Gear solid again with its camouflage system, and while you never change camouflage in Sniper Ghost Warrior, you can use it to blend into the vegetation spread across the jungle. In the stealth sections, you usually have the option to sneak through or you just kill everyone and stride through like a magnificent BAMF, but don’t go striding off just yet, you can slowly plot your way around, under, or through your enemies like a stealthy and even more magnificent BAMF. The stealth works fairly well, except when the AI decides to just randomly start shooting. You can even use stealth in place of most of the killing sections. Sniper Ghost Warrior teaches you to take the long way around, and too often times disobey the instructions you are given. I don’t think this was intentional, but it is often more rewarding to avoid the preset path and the onscreen prompts and instead take the long way around. The stealth segments can be fun and intense and again reminded me of the movie “Sniper” which I’m guessing was inspiration for this game. Most of the music is just your generic Call of Duty esque military music, but some of the music in the stealth segments is perfectly fitting. It’s intense pulsating score fits perfectly in a stealth environment and sounds like a beating heart. I dig it.

The ending of the game left me in awe., but not because it was good, let me explain. The game goes “Kill this dude” and I was all like “Aight”, so I kill him and the game cuts to black with the text “The End”. then the credits roll with a completely unfitting reggae swing song. I kind of liked the song, but it went against the whole style of the game up until that point. I couldn’t believe how completely anti-climactic the ending was, no build up, no final challenge, the last enemy you kill before this is completely set up, he just stand there facing the wrong way while put a bullet or a knife in the back of his head then it’s just you and the big baddie. It’s not even a difficult shot, yeah it’s far away but I got it on the first try and I figure most people would do so as well, and there’s not even an ending cutscene, no closure, just BOOM the end.

The ending left a bitter taste in my mouth and it was only further soured when I checked my completion to find it at only 4 hours. That is very short. That’s only about half as long as a game needs to be in order to be worth the price in my opinion.

There is multiplayer, but it just feels tacked on and is not very well executed. I feel like this is some serious missed opportunity. I was hoping for some intense person VS person sniper battles like I got in the Farcry 2 multiplayer, but sadly this game did not deliver.

Sniper Ghost Warrior has a great number of problems, but it is still a lot of fun, the stealth and sniper segments can be intense and engrossing, but the rest of the game is so poorly constructed. It’s like having an awesome cake but it’s inside a box that someone dropped in the mud and pissed on. You don’t want to open it do you? It’s just not quite worth it.

Sniper Ghost Warrior is not worth buying at its current price of $19.99. If the price drops to under 10, then I’d say maybe, but only if you’re seriously into sniping and stealth. Right now I’d say just rent it or skip it altogether.

 

Spec Ops: The Line (2012 PS3 game review)

spec ops

spec ops posterSpec Ops: The Line was recently added to the instant game collection for playstation plus users, which is basically a list of downloadable free games. Honestly I only played this because it was free. I knew nothing going into the game.

I was surprised upon starting the game to find that it’s in 3rd person. I had thought that it was going to be in 1st person. I like both 3rd and 1st person games, I was just surprised is all.

With a name like “Spec Ops: The Line” I was expecting a generic war game. I was dead wrong. This game is anything but generic. It’s true that it takes place in a conflict that is now familiar, but it is handled differently. The environments are handled gracefully and certain set pieces and locals are just gorgeous. The graphics are nothing revolutionary but look great all the same. There is however quite a bit of texture popping.

In the game you play as an american soldier. You think your enemy would be locals, terrorists, “bad guys”, no. You are fighting other american soldiers who have gone AWOL and have turned against you. That is a very original twist on an old formula. This is also the focus of the story, and it is a very interesting one at that.

The main character in Spec Ops is voiced by Nolan North. The same guy who voices Nathan Drake, and pretty much every other 3rd person BAMF there is. It’s not surprising at all that he is innolan north so many games. He is probably the greatest voice actor working in video games. The character of Nathan Drake is so memorable and well constructed that for the first bit of Spec Ops I felt like I was playing as a Nathan Drake who made a few different career choices. North does a great job of separating himself from the role. The character comes into his own once the game gets going.

North’s character is really well constructed. He goes through a very slow progression throughout the game (Which you have some control in.) Which adds depth and drama to both the character and to the overall story. The character at the end of the game is almost unrecognizable compared to him at the start of the game. As his character arc unfolds there are some intense moments of exceptional strong voice acting. North is great at conveying strong, genuine emotions through his voice. I’ve heard that all of the voice acting for the game was recorded in chronological order one single day, which if that’s true makes it all the more impressive.

All of the main characters are very well constructed and acted. The performances and writing are solid, so much so that the characters carry great emotional weight. This is how you build characters. Other games should strive for the cinematic quality of Spec Ops.

The story has a very Apocalypse Now feelingapocalypse now

The game play is top notch 3rd person action. The cover system can be a bit finicky at times and the running can be awkward, but other than that, the controls work perfectly. The action is exciting, fun, and does not get repetitive. There are many different weapons that all feel unique and have their own benefits. I’m glad that most current games tend to have worked in brutal melee combat. Spec Ops has a slight difference when it comes to melee. The actual melee is lame. You just knock the guy over, but then you have finishers, which are brutal as hell. There are good amount of these and vary depending on what weapon you are carrying.

A shootout taking place in Dubai seems as though you would get tired of staring at sand for hours. Fortunately the locations are excellently handled. There are deserts, but there are also hotels, aquariums, night clubs, and much more.

It annoys me when games cheap out on gore. When a bomb goes off people explode Goddamn it, not fly through the air intact. Spec Ops does not cheap out in any way and is truly harrowing in key moments in the game.

There are some truly great set pieces such as running through a crumbling building while a helicopter flies after you shooting, while at the same time a man over the radio plays the song Verdi Dies Irae and sings along to it. One of the greatest gameplay and music collaborations since I burnt down a pot field with a flamethrower while listening to hardcore electric reggae in Farcry 3.

The music in the game, both pre-existing and original score are great and fit the tone wonderfully.

The game has multiplayer, but it is really just a side attraction to increase replay-ability. It’s pretty much throwaway.

The gameplay and visuals are good, but the story is the strongest aspect of the game. Which really blew me away considering I thought it would be the weakest. The title makes the game sound spec opslike a generic war shooter. It’s the worst title for a great game. I’d hate for people to not play the game based on the title. This is one case where you definitely should not judge a book by it’s cover. The story from beginning to end (especially end) is superb and is really great emotional ride. You’ll be surprised how engrossed you get in the characters and the choices that they have to make. A true cinematic experience inside of a very fun action shooter. The only major problem really is that the game is very short. Only about 6 hours. I generally think that a game need to be at least 8 hours, but I don’t honestly think it should have really been any longer. They could have inflated the story to accommodate more action, but that would lessen the overall experience.

The game touches upon some very deep ideas and has strong messages of it’s own. Spec Ops: The Line has great writing and voice acting, and makes for a great experience. Definitely worth at least one play through. I hope more games like this will follow in upcoming years.