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GK1981 RSS Feed (Pittsburgh, PA)

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Hunted: The Demon's Forge
Hunted: The Demon's Forge
Offered by NYC Electronics
Price: $19.99
37 used & new from $3.54

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedium to the point of frustration. This title could have been SO much better!, July 3, 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This may come across as a scathing review, but hopefully, the included details will get through to gamers like myself and my brother who were expecting much more from a title like this and were let down considerably. In brief,if you're at all drawn by the medieval setting and prospect of playing a local co-op action RPG (i.e., many fantasy monsters, frequent loot, skill customization, roaming towns, weapon/item shops), you'll be wholly put off by this one-note effort. This is just your typical mindless shooter--if you've ever played the Uncharted games or "Army of 2", where you face off in endless shootouts against scores of uniform enemy soldiers, you've seen this kind of thing before. Just replace the guns with bows and you've basically got "Hunted: Demon's Forge."

Now for the gory details . . .

Yes, there's melee fighting, and it definitely has its moments of adrenaline induced fun. However, attack animations are limited, and you'll always need the archer character to pick off the endless droves of enemy archers you're faced with throughout this plodding title. The focus on shooting and our frustration with it here can't be overstated. The mechanics are fine--I rather enjoyed being an archer at first, but there's simply way too much of it. The levels where my brother and I were encountering an enemy or two standing around the corner were admittedly fun and seemed promising of adventure . . . until we'd inevitably come upon another paintball field setup where we'd be crouching behind logs and barriers in another "gunfight" with bows. And this isn't a complaint about difficulty at all. Unlike other reviewers, we actually did enjoy the limited potions (you can normally only carry one or two) and the fact that you will get DESTROYED if you don't plan your your attack and fight recklessly. A healthy dose of desperate survival can be a good thing, and in that sense, this game delivers.

Unfortunately, this aspect is not enough to offset the game's overall tedium and lack of variety.

Aside from the all too frequent shooter sequences, making the combat even less variable is the extremely simple "skill tree" your character is faced with--rather than having a large variety of strengths/abilities in which to build your character, you're presented with a total of 3 attack and 3 magic "moves," each of which you may invest additional points in to improve damage, reduce mana cost, ect. Adding to this frustration is the fact that the game simply limits you with regard to how many points you may put into any one skill. So, for example, if you want to take the approach of stacking your points into a fire spell, no such luxury as further upgrades aren't available until subsequent chapters. With such limited customization comes limited replayability and more tedium, as you're eventually left with no option but to disperse all of your points across all of the available skills.

But who needs skill trees when you can just go around mashing enemies, collecting loot, and fashioning your character with new arms and armor, right? Games like Diablo and the console Baldur's Gate games were just monotonous click-fests on the surface, but the near endless amount of possibilities in terms of what enemies could drop and the prospect of finding that one awesome piece of gear at the shop always kept things relatively fresh. In this game, however, there are essentially a whopping four weapon types you may find--slow, medium, fast, and special. The "special" weapons simply add some elemental effect, but because this effect is temporary, you're inclined to stay away from these. And armor is few and far between--we may have found 3 or 4 armor pieces throughout the game. Needless to say, looting is not something that adds replayability here, and there's a reasonable chance that you find a weapon on the first level that you keep for the majority of the game. Oh, and there are NO shops from which you may actually use the gold you collect. Gold, thus, is mostly useless (it does give you "points" with which to unlock things in the custom dungeon mode), so there's little satisfaction in finding that hidden section of the cave stocked with treasure.

So, there's little sense that you're ever building your character up with skills or weapons. But hey, skill customization and looting can be nil if there is adventure and excitement in the gameplay. Unfortunately, as with the overall theme of this game, there is virtually NO variety here. Each level is mostly linear, with a set number of aforementioned "secret areas" that you may find, in which case you might stumble upon a few treasure chests that contain useless gold. But perhaps our BIGGEST complaint of of this game is in the enemies you fight. Throughout the game, you will fight "wargar" (orcs, basically), skeletons, and spiders. Wargar and skeletons are the same, existing essentially as humanoid versions of the army troops you would fight over and over in a shooter--some will come at you with melee attacks, while most others will be hiding behind walls trying to pick you off with bows. Spiders were introduced seemingly as a last ditch effort to add some combat variety, as you'll have to fight them with your melee weapon and use your shield a lot. After playing through the first two chapters, you'll begin to realize (unless your brain is comfortably on auto-pilot) that there's NEVER a sense of foreboding when entering a new area--no new enemies (wargar that shoot magic beams instead of arrows do not count), and no real prospect of encountering something new and dangerous. Just waves of soldiers shooting arrows at you with the occasional spider jumping in. Do you love those Uncharted games? You'll probably love this. Shoot, hide, rinse, repeat.

The graphics are fine, and the storyline is bland (your characters just exchange unconcerned witticisms about who killed more bad guys throughout the game). But to me, these things are peripheral--this is purely a COMBAT game, so how is it acceptable to have so few enemies and so few variables (i.e., weapons, status effects, skills)? This game is fun at first, but the idea that the developers figure that such little variety will be lost on consumers is just maddening. I suppose the era of the first-person shooter--which hinges on the notion that gamers consist primarily of teens and young adults who can play Call of Duty and Gears of War for 18 hours straight, killing the same thing over and over again with their mouths agape--played greatly into the development of this game. But even with this bland formula, more weapon and skill customization could have improved the experience immensely!

Utterly disappointing and could have been SO much more! Here's hoping they don't scrap this franchise and instead improve upon its flaws, because despite everything I've said, there are aspects of this game (local co-op, tactical fighting in a medieval atmosphere, and sense of survival) that have a lot of potential.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2011 7:55 AM PDT

Black Gives Way To Blue
Black Gives Way To Blue
Price: $4.99
80 used & new from $1.10

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, September 29, 2009
This review is from: Black Gives Way To Blue (Audio CD)
The reviews are in, and I'm not in the least bit surprised how positive they've been. Like many, I was skeptical about this reunion at first, but it completely delivers. The new AIC manages to pay tribute to the monumentally influential sound they forged in their first albums, mixing the classic psychedelic sludgy stuff with the introspective and unique acoustic melodies. As many reviewers have mentioned, they introduce Duvall in an understated fashion and bring him along nicely. While Staley's raw power and emotion will never be forgotten, Duvall harmonizes beautifully with Cantrell and adds a nice vocal range as well as guitar playing and songwriting chops. I didn't like him at first when they reformed, but after listening to Black Gives Way to Blue, I believe he's a perfect fit.

Definitely worthy of 5 stars. I love Pearl Jam too, and I was severely disappointed in their latest effort, so I calls 'em as I sees 'em. So excited that AIC has picked up right where they left off, and I can't wait to see how they continue to evolve on future albums.

Price: $11.99
32 used & new from $4.41

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, September 25, 2009
This review is from: Backspacer (Audio CD)
I'm a diehard Pearl Jam fan, and I think I've got just about everything they've ever recorded in studio (B-sides, demos, etc.). Such meaningful, socially conscious, intelligent, nuanced, diverse, and GOOD music! When their self-titled album was released several years ago, I was disappointed with the overall garage sound of the recording and found myself playing that album less than anything they'd released previously. Interestingly, though, I can still listen to that album and appreciate its overall progression, peaks and valleys, and gems such as "Inside Job" and "Gone." Even if it wasn't their best, as with most of their material, I found that it could reveal something new with repeated listens.

Not sure I can say the same for Backspacer. The harder stuff on their latest album continues in the vein of punk rock stylings spearheaded with Spin the Black Circle (which I've never liked) that has become more and more of a staple of their sound over the past 10 years. A few interesting chord progressions here and there (Johnny Guitar), but for me, these are rendered unenjoyable by incessant vocals that give the songs a flat, chugger feeling. Vedder's lyrics are always thought-provoking and genuine--and on this album, they're more light-hearted and less political--but sometimes, there are just too many.

Maybe I'm just biased against the new wavish stuff as I enjoy dynamics as opposed to speedy monotone strumming, but someone who shares this preference will probably NOT enjoy this album. Sure, songs like the supposedly "poppy" "The Fixer" are more mid-tempo, but the chugger quality remains--and I honestly fail to see, as so many professional reviewers proclaim, how this song stands as some hugely catchy and accessible pop song that will garner a new host of crossover fans. Maybe among the PJ faithful, but I'd love to play it to 100 people who have never heard a PJ song and get their reaction.

Not much noticeable experimentation here--you won't hear anything like "You Are," "Tremor Christ," "Sleight of Hand," or, "Inside Job." Like these songs or not, they epitomize an adventurous yet melodic sound that gave former PJ albums the sonic peaks and valleys I mentioned earlier. I don't hear anything approaching that level of imagination here, just workman-like punk and acoustic stuff. Speaking of which, there are two solid, albeit unspectacular, acoustic numbers. "Just Breathe" is enjoyable, though the riff hearkens immediately to "Guaranteed" off of Into the Wild (excellent song off of an excellent album!) with a vocal verse that remind me of AIC's "Shame in You." And speaking of Into the Wild, if you enjoy Vedder's rich, rustic, acoustic-y numbers, "The End" is worth a listen or two.

Maybe Backspacer will grow on me, but I've never been less satisfied with a PJ recording. Too much punk, which negates the power of Vedder's vocals, not enough variety, and nothing starkly imaginative. Ironically, Backspacer has been posited by critics as PJ's "fun" album. "State of Love and Trust" is fun--"The Fixer" is not. To each their own, of course.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2015 9:49 AM PDT

Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam
Offered by IMS Distribution
Price: $11.99
137 used & new from $0.88

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An honest review from a long-time PJ fan, September 1, 2006
This review is from: Pearl Jam (Audio CD)
I'm as big a Pearl Jam fan as there is, and out of everything they've ever recorded (all albums and B-sides NOT found on Lost Dogs), this is definitely my least favorite collection of songs save the last track, "Inside Job." Vedder's voice, once on-par with the all-time greats in terms of power, soul, and uniqueness, is now extremely raspy after years of touring and smoking.

But the bigger problem, I'm afraid, lies in the style of song-writing. I suppose it's a matter of taste, though. Ever since "Spin the Black Circle" was released in the Vitalogy era, the band has depended on a punkier, Ramones influenced brand of "hard rock" that features rapidfire vocals and some fast, monotone drumming, and this just style just isn't for me. Granted, they HAVE been able to produce a ton of excellent songs that were more experimental (You Are on Riot Act) and folksy (half of the No Code album)and just plain easy to like (Betterman, Indifference, I Am Mine) that really showcased their versatility and talent as musicians. However, saying that the hard rock songs on this album mark a return to their Ten-era songs (which were darker, edgier, and more inspired by classic rock) would be wholly inaccurate. Go listen to songs like "Breath", "Wash," or "State of Love and Trust" and tell me that they sound ANYTHING like what's on the new self-titled album. And the softer stuff on the new album just doesn't do it for me--songs like "Marker in the Sand" and "Parachutes" seem to chug along without the feeling and creativity of older soft songs like "Who We Are" and "Hard to Imagine."

That being said, a lot of people praise the album, and to each his own. I do think that the PJ culture (the ones who follow the band around and feel proud that they can sing and clap to every song played =))may try a little too hard to like this album or anything they put out perhaps in an endeavor of unconscious loyalty. I'm guilty of the same thing to a degree, but upon repeated listenings, I had to step back and acknowledge that the new album just isn't as good as their previous work.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2010 2:34 PM PST

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