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Dead Space 2
Dead Space 2
Offered by Insane Web Deals...Simply the Best Deals on the Web!
Price: $15.60
193 used & new from $2.95

26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In space, everyone can hear you scream!, January 26, 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dead Space 2 (Video Game)
I am a huge fan of the original Dead Space, it being the first game I bought for the Xbox 360 and the one I have gone back to constantly, and my hopes were suitably high for the sequel. The first game was a chilling at atmospheric game that was part Aliens and part Resident Evil, and Dead Space 2 retains the looks and feel while providing some marked improvements that fans of the original will love.

Set three years after the events of the first Dead Space, the main protagonist Isaac is confined to the mental ward of a hospital, suffering from dementia and haunting visions of his dead girlfriend, who comes to him in creepy flashbacks and cut scenes early in the game. The first acts of the game are rather hazy, as Isaac is suddenly freed from the hospital during an invasion of the Necromorphs from the first game, and when he escapes with his life and begins to make his way through the chaos that surrounds him. After being eased into the game through some expository dialogue, you don the space suit and obtain the weapons and then the real fun starts. The first thing that is noticeable from the start is that Isaac is more fleshed out as a character, having full dialogue and an intriguing back story. The secondary characters, some looking to help and others looking to harm him, are equally compelling and add a depth to the story that felt absent in the first game. The frightening Necromorphs are more aggressive than ever in Dead Space 2, and you will spend a good part of the game fighting them off along with a host of other nightmarish creatures. The key to survival is aiming at their limbs, and this leads to some tense firefights where you are surrounded by enemies and aiming becomes a frantic and sometimes frustrating endeavor. The weapons we know and love form the first game have also returned, including the Plasma Cutter, the Pulse Rifle, and my favorite, the Line Gun.

Dead Space 2 is every bit as creepy and atmospheric as the first game, but you will immediately notice that they have increased the gore and the frequency of the "jump" moments. Like any good horror movie, you will find yourself walking into a dark and eerily silent room, knowing that something is going to jump out at you. The graphics and sound of the first game set a gold standard for survival horror games and they are equally stellar here. Adding to the atmosphere are more varied locales, including hospital rooms, a concourse and, most creepy of all, children's bedrooms with bloody handprints on the wall. This adds up to an experience that feels fresher than the original Dead Space and you get less bored of travelling through space station areas that all look the same after a while. The gameplay is as tight as the original, with responsive controls and meaty weapons are are a pleasure to eviscerate enemies with. That I have noticed an improvement on are the controls in the Zero-Gravity areas, which were cumbersome in the first game but feel better here. Returning are your abilities with Stasis, which allows you to slow down enemies and grab far away objects. Using this skill is a life-saver, especially in the more hectic fights later in the game.

The other notable improvement is the online multiplayer, which consists of two teams of four people, one side being the soldiers and the other being the creatures found in the single-player campaign. The leveling up works like most other competitive online games; you earn points by getting as many kills, as few deaths, and assisting your teammates when they are overpowered. The points from levelling up allow you to upgrade equipment, armour and abilities and it works well for the most part. The only drawbacks are the high learning curve, especially when playing as a creature, and the lackluster performance of your weapons and stasis in the beginning. Some of my friends have complained about the connection issues with the servers and horrible lag, but I have yet to experience this myself. It's fast, frantic, and yes, a little frustrating. However, I look at the multiplayer as a bonus since I bought this for the campaign.

Overall, Dead Space 2 is a sequel that keeps the strengths of the original game while making some improvements that will please fans who are looking for something new. The single-player campaign is very solid and will keep you busy for 10 to 12 hours, depending on the difficulty chosen, and the multiplayer should satisfy your competitive streak once you get past the learning curve. I purchased the Xbox 360 version of the game, but the Playstation 3 version comes with Dead Space: Extraction, an on-rails shooters previously exclusive to the Wii, but I own this already so it didn't make a difference to me. Whatever version you choose, Dead Space 2 is a winner and is one of the first great games of 2011.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2011 7:29 AM PST


The Human Centipede (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]
The Human Centipede (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Ashley C. Williams
Offered by westcoastmedia
Price: $13.96
37 used & new from $7.47

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A watchable horror oddity and future cult classic, November 28, 2010
There are two kinds of horror movies nowadays; gorefest flicks that go right for the throat and give you a healthy dose of blood and guts, and more psychological horror films that leave a lasting impression and prove that what is implied is sometimes more shocking than what is shown. "The Human Centipede" falls somewhere in the middle, delivering some enough viscera to appease the splatter fans while providing a truly horrifying premise to really make you squirm in your seat. It's not a great film by any stretch, but it offers a level of originality that is not often seen in horror films today. Part horror, part twisted fetish movie, this is unlikely to be a movie you'll forget anytime soon.

The center of the movie is Dr. Heiter,a reclusive former doctor who was once a respected surgeon who specialized in the separation of Siamese twins but now devotes his time to his obsession - combining animal to make one cohesive body. As luck would have it, two American tourists happen upon his house one rainy night and he decides to keep them for his experiment. Add in a Japanese tourist he kidnaps and he's ready to unveil his masterplan: to create a human centipede. How he achieves this is really the most horrifying aspect of the movie; he plans for them to all share one digestive tract, with the person in the front eating, passing waste through the middle person and finally out the end of the back person. This requires two of the people to be surgically grafted, rectum to mouth, and their knee ligaments are severed so that the cannot stand up. The bulk of the movie is the surgical procedure, with the rest being devoted to the mad doctor "training" his human centipede and their hopes to escape.

As horror movies go, this is one of the more interesting ones that works on some levels and doesn't on others. The production is above average for it's type, especially considering that oddities like this are typically low-budget European or Asian exploitation or Arthouse films, so it obviously has a bigger budget than most. The acting by the three "pieces" of the centipede is patchy at best, especially the Japanese male who has been given some incredibly bad dialogue and who spends the bulk of the movie screaming and shouting nonsensical banter. The best performance of the movie comes from German stage actor Dieter Laser, who plays an effectively creepy villain akin to a more unhinged Hannibal Lecter. He is an imposing presence and his facial expressions and manner of speaking really add to the level of discomfort the movie gives off. While the graphic violence is enough to make you cringe at times, the real horror comes from the scenario that the three victims find themselves in. The mad doctor explains to them, in detail, what he is going to do, and then he does it. Trying to imagine yourself in such an ordeal is really where this film hits the mark, and it will definitely leave an impression on you long after you've seen the film.

For all it's strengths and faults, I enjoyed "The Human Centipede" and I can see it becoming a cult classic 10 years from now. With a sequel being made already, it is likely to have a good following among fans and draw the ire of film critics and parents for years to come. The originality of the plot and the shock value are enough to make this an easy recommendation for horror fans who are looking for something a little different.


Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Offered by MOST WANTED
Price: $12.46
238 used & new from $1.99

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome trip back into the Animus, November 19, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Like many people, I enjoyed the first Assassin's Creed for what it was but felt that it was lackluster in it's mission variety and repetitive in nature. Assassin's Creed was leaps and bounds ahead of the original, and the good news is that Brotherhood is a continuation of that winning formula. Coming out a year after the previous game might make this seem like a glorified expansion at first glance, but Brotherhood is anything but that.

The story shifts back and forth between Ezio, returning home to find that war has broken out and his arch nemesis does some nasty things that warrants Ezio's motive for revenge and overthrowing him, and to Desmond in 2012 as he and the rogue scientists attempt to unravel the past in order to escape the murderous templars in the present. The plot is not overly engrossing, however it's the characters that bring everything to life and Brotherhood really excels in this area. Ezio is a compelling character a always, and the game is filled with a rich cast of colorful characters that are both new to the series and returning from the previous game. The difference in this game is that you are not supposed to run through the story on your own; you are expected to recruit assassin's to assist you througout the game and they are yours to summon whenever needed. Sadly, the AI is not spot-on and sometimes they are not as useful as you would hope, but they do come in handy when you are getting slaughtered in battle. A character in and of itself, the city of Rome is vibrant and bustling with interesting and sometimes amusing people. Beggars line the streets, prostitutes beckon you to hire them and groups of vigilantes gather in the public squares, all adding to a sense of realism that made the previous game so endearing. The bulk of the game is spent in Rome, which may feel like a step back from Assassin's Creed II, where you would travel between cities, but Rome is so vast and populous that you'll easily overlook this. The story missions are well paced and full of intense action, and the platforming segments in the shrines are fantastic as well.

The gameplay is largely unchanged from Assassin's Creed II and the free-running mechanic works as well here as it did before, so anyone familiar with the game can dive right in. Rome is a huge city with plenty of rooftops, so it's sometimes fun to just run around and take in all the sights. In addition to the story missions, there are various things you can do around town to earn money. Like Assassin's Creed II, there is an economy system here in which you purchase shops and they add to your treasury balance, which is essential for upgrading your weapons and armour. A new addition that's a nice touch are the areas of the city that are under the tyrannical rule of Borgia and his armies, and you can liberate these areas by destroying their towers and killing the captains. This adds some of the most intense and exhilarating moments in the game, since these tasks ramp up in difficulty fast. Graphically, this game is a sight to behold and it is easily on par with Assassin's Creed II. The character animation, cutscene quality and design of the city are all well done and, despite some noticeable pop-in, it provides a wonderful sense of immersion.

Like all video games, Brotherhood is not perfect and it does have it's share of flaws. The free-running mechanic is tight and responsive for the most part, but it is not always accurate. There have been several occasions where I meant to jump in one direction and I ended up going the other way, sometimes falling to my death or losing valuable seconds in some of the time-based objectives. This even happens when you are clearly facing a place where you can jump. Additionally, there is some glitchiness with your AI controlled assassins and even some of the friends you need to interact with. For example, they would get stuck in walls, stand there doing nothing or simply teleport to another area. It's not a huge problem, but it does pose some annoyances when you really need things to run smoothly. Thrown in to add a level of challenge, you can now achieve full synchronization by completing missions a certain way. For example, if you complete a mission in under a certain number of minutes, avoid losing health, or killing someone in a particular manner, you will achieve full synchronization and this will add up to achievement points/trophies. Unfortunately, some of the sequences are lengthy and it's disheartening to know that you've failed this so early into the missions. This does add some frustration, but it's hardly a deal-breaker and some might actually view this as a strength.

The last thing I'll touch upon is the multiplayer, which is something very interesting and unique. You are thrown into a large area with other players, given a person to assassinate, and likewise someone is after you. The objective is to kill your target before you get killed, and the style in which you do it will determine how well you do. For example, if you run up and knife someone in the back, you've achieved your objective and move on. But if you do it with style and stealth, you earn more points. This is a refreshing change from all of these online shooters that mainly focus on kill streaks, so being a hardcore online player doesn't ensure that you'll do well here. It's definitely something different. On the other hand, the pace will definitely feel slower to those who prefer the breakneck pace of online shooters, so this is an acquired taste. If you don't like multiplayer, you don't lose out because the single player campaign is 20+ hours long and there is plenty to keep you busy.

The speed at which this game was released certainly attracted some sceptics, however I am happy to say that Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is every bit as fun, challenging and beautifully done as the previous game. Those expecting an entirely new game with a new plot and cast of characters might be disappointed, but anyone who loved Assassin's Creed II is really missing the boat if they don't pick this up as well. Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2010 9:54 AM PST


Call of Duty: Black Ops - Xbox 360
Call of Duty: Black Ops - Xbox 360
Offered by Storm Unity Games
Price: $19.95
317 used & new from $7.79

258 of 351 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The COD gravy train of hype churns on, but I'm glad to be along for the ride, November 9, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Ah, another year, another Call of Duty game. It seems like the annual release of the next installment in the iconic first-person shooter series should be a national holiday, given how many people attend the midnight launches for the game and no doubt skipped work or school the next day (myself included). Having hit the apex of popularity with Modern Warfare 2, the big question is how Black Ops will compare. I don't live and die by COD games as some people do, but I can say that Black Ops is one of the most satisfying and intense shooters I've ever played, with the best campaign out of all the games in the series and a multiplayer aspect that I can finally enjoy.

Perhaps I'm the odd one, but I mainly buy these games for the single-player campaign as I am not the best at online shooters. The campaign in Black Ops is easily the best out of the series, with more cohesive storytelling and a more satisfying conclusion than the previous entries. Set in the Cold War era (early to late 1960's), you fight your way through diverse terrain in Russia, Cuba, and Vietnam, among other locations. As with other games in the series, you play as two main characters and you go back and forth between their missions. Without giving too much away, the story is pretty stock, but the manner in which it's told and presented is a big step forward for the COD series, which has lately felt like a batch of multiplayer games with a brief single-player campaign tacked on. Black Ops gives players a better experience in this regard, and despite being brief (7 hours roughly), it doesn't feel too short or seem to end as abruptly as the Modern Warfare games. The difficulty settings are standard for the series, and for achievement/trophy hunters, the biggest rewards come when playing on "Veteran" difficulty.

The style of gameplay, the weapons and the linear design is all par for the course, but Treyarch has done a wonderful job at bringing this era and the surroundings to life. The cinematic quality that made Modern Warfare 2 such a hit is still intact here, and the graphics and sound are as amazing as you would expect. What I've always enjoyed about the COD games are the tight controls, and Black Ops will fit like a glove for any FPS fan. The multiplayer, undoubtedly the biggest day of Black Ops, is surprisingly accessible for people like me who typically get owned when going online. The focus is on class creating and experience points, and while I've only played a couple of hours, everything seems to run smoothly and without lag. My only fear is that the usual frustrations, such as campers and rude teenagers acting like idiots, will eventually creep in, but I'll be optimistic and see how things play out.

I don't believe in gushing over games and hailing them as the "Best Game EVAR!", so I'll avoid hyperbole and simply say that Black Ops one of the better FPS games that I've played. If I have any negative feedback, it surrounds some of the difficulty spikes and the dumb-as-bricks AI of your teammates (and some enemies), but that was the same case with Modern Warfare 2 and especially World at War. Black Ops is not a perfect game graphically and it doesn't reinvent the wheel for FPS games, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying experience that I don't regret investing the time or money into.
Comment Comments (25) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2012 7:49 PM PDT


Vanquish - Xbox 360
Vanquish - Xbox 360
30 used & new from $10.98

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget the big budget releases; this is the shooter you need to play., November 7, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Vanquish - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
If you're like me, you're getting a little tired of the same old shooters coming out year after year, each one almost identical but with little tweaks that reel gamers in. Vanquish is something completely different; a brilliant single player arcade-style shooter that focuses more on fast-paced action and high scores as opposed to online multiplayer and a brief single player campaign that feels tacked on.

The story of the game is the standard United States vs. another country, in this case Russia, fighting for control over a repleting resource that both countries need. The story takes place in the distant future and the stakes are especially high, since those pesky Russians will annihilate a major US city if they aren't defeated. Along for the ride is a host of gravely-voiced generals and meathead soldiers, and the enemies range from your standard armored bullet fodder and amazingly detailed and rather difficult to defeat robots. As stories go, Vanquish brings nothing new or remarkable to the table, and none of the characters are particularly engaging, however the action and tight gameplay more than makes up for this.

The thing that's instantly striking about Vanquish is the style and pacing of the game. The game looks amazing, especially in 1080p high definition, with the detailed futuristic environments and the remarkable character animation. You're character's suit, the enemies and especially the bosses are intricately detailed and remarkably animated. The pace of the game is fast and frantic, but it's not exactly the duck-and-cover style of Gears of War. You can duck behind cover to recover your health, but the environment is destructible and you can't just hide there and pick off your enemies. You need to keep moving and you have a "power slide" ability which allows you to move around at a breakneck pace until your suit overheats, and this provides some of the best action in the game. For a game like this, tight controls are a must and fortunately there is a minimal learning curve. Despite the sheer amount of things going on at the same time, the game never lags, freezer or bugs out, which ensures a smooth gameplay experience from beginning to end.

The two most common complaints you'll hear from critics and gamers are that the campaign is too short and the obligatory "Dude, where's the multiplayer". The campaign is roughly 8 to 10 hours depending on the difficulty you select, which I think is perfect for these types of games. The quality of the campaign is way more important than the quantity of hours in my opinion, and many great games (including Enslaved and Uncharted) are roughly the same length as Vanquish. The campaign may not be overlong, but it is intense and the pursuit of a better high score will have you playing the same levels over and over again. This is a throwback to the classic arcade style of gaming, where playing short levels endlessly to get that high score kept you engaged for many hours. As for the lack of multiplayer, I don't think every game requires this and I applaud Sega for giving us a good single player experience. Too many games focus on online multiplayer, which I find very frustrating since my experiences online have been instant kills by campers and rude teenagers acting tough and using a variety of colorful expressions to point out how badly I am playing. If you're the kind og gamer that absolutely needs multiplayer, this game is not for you and you should look elsewhere.

Vanquish is a fantastic game that is probably coming out at the worst time, with big name titles like Fable III, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood soon to be dominating the market and most definitely pushing this game under the radar. This is a shame because it's a real gem and easily one of the best games of the year, so you owe it to yourself to check this game out. If you enjoy shooters or action games in general, Vanquish is a safe purchase.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2012 1:30 AM PDT


Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection
Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection
Offered by MOST WANTED
Price: $18.46
78 used & new from $6.49

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best bang for your retro gaming buck!, November 3, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
There are plenty of other retro game compilations available, including both classic arcade titles and games from the Genesis era, but the majority of them are full of filler with a few choice games thrown in to justify the price. I've never gone for these personally because the value is just not there, but Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection has totally bucked the trend by delivering 40 Genesis games, many of them classic and highly regarded titles, and a host of other features for just $20. This is something that you need to own if you consider yourself a retro gamer of any description.

I never owned a Genesis back in the day (I was a Nintendo boy all the way back then), so this is my first time playing the majority of the games in the collection. All of the Sonic the Hedgehog games are included, even the classic Sonic & Knuckles and the less-than-classic Sonic Spinball. Mixed in with the landmark franchise titles are several of the best games the Genesis ever saw, including Streets of Rage, Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Shining Force and the excellent Phantasy Star series. Mixed in with these titles are some lesser-known games like Fatal Labyrinth, Beyond Oasis, Ristar and the stylish Comix Zone. The only real disappointment is the first two Shinobi games are not included (only Shinobi III) and the classic titles that were cross-platform with the SNES are also not here. But you are getting an excellent collection of Genesis exclusives that will keep you busy for hours, so it's easy to forgive the omissions.

Also included in the game is a lot of unlockables, including video interviews with the game designers and other goodies, as well as arcade games like Zaxxon that completely floored me. Zaxxon was my favorite arcade game as well as the reason I had a Colecovison back in the 80's, so my nostalgia meter was definitely kicked into overdrive. The last thing I'll touch upon is the benefits of this game for achievement hunters. Several of the games support achievements and the majority of them are easy to obtain, such as 45 points for reaching level 11 in Vectorman 2, something you can do by entering a cheat code to get there instantly. Other games have simple objectives, such as survive a level without dying or reaching a certain number of points within a limited period of time. If achievements are your thing, this game is definitely worth picking up (not that the games aren't incentive enough).

Many of you reading this will belong to two different camps: those who experienced the Genesis back in the day and those who are too young but are curious about retro gaming. To both, this collection is an easy recommendation. These games come from a time when story, challenge and sheer fun were the main draw of a game, so don't let the primitive graphics and lack of modern tweaks discourage you. This collection is, simply put, a must-have.


Fable III - Xbox 360
Fable III - Xbox 360
Price: $10.00
488 used & new from $0.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the trip back to Albion, October 31, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Fable III - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
Fable II is a game that took me by surprise and it remains one of the very few current-gen RPGs that I have played through more than once. Needless to say, the wait for Fable 3 to hit the shelves was agonizing, but I am happy to say that the game has arrived with most of my expectations met despite a few disappointments. Set 50 years after the events of the last game, you play as a well-meaning prince wants to overthrow King Logan, his older brother, who has become mad and tyrannical with power. The meat of the game is performing various good deeds in order to gain followers who will join you in overthrowing the king in a coup d'état of sorts. Side quests, buying property, working menial jobs and getting married and starting a family all serve to flesh out the game and give the world striking personality. Below are the pros and cons of the game based on my having played 13 hours and beaten the game.

Pros:

- Graphics and Sound. It's been said countless times already, but Fable 3 is a gorgeous game in which the living, breathing world of Albion is the main draw. The scenery is vibrant and well detailed, as well as being varied enough to minimize monotony. The voice acting is also top notch, with a stellar cast including John Cleese, Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg and Ben Kingsley and they, along with the voices of the townspeople and peripheral characters, all do a stellar job at bringing their characters to life. As with the other Fable games, the score is fantastic and it effectively sets the mood for each part of the game.

- Intuitive combat controls. Fable 3 feels more combat-heavy than it's predecessor and the controls have been streamlined to make combat more enjoyable. The three-button system (melee weapons, range weapons and magic) is very accessible, but the enemies this time around are a lot faster and smarter, so dodging and aiming will yield better results than simply button-mashing your way through.

- Good inventory management system. I was skeptical about how I would like the revamped menu system, and by revamped I mean almost non-existent. The menus are totally gone, expunged from the game in favor of an interactive "hub" you can drop in and out of at any time. There is a main room with a world map, which is excellent for pin-pointing quests and fast traveling to certain areas, to a wardrobe, trophy and weapons room. At first I thought this would break up gameplay in a bad way, but after playing it I feel it works very well. The lack of menus is a big departure from the standard RPG formula, but it works for this game.

- Varied quests. While most missions involve fetching items and killing characters, the setting and style of each mission is varied enough to prevent the game from getting repetitive. The people you meet in the town also give you missions in order to win their friendship, and these are rather fun despite being mostly garden-variety fetch quests.

- The economy system is back and it allows you to buy and rent property, which is handy for earning money. You can also get married and start a family, though the game is more story-driven and the incentive to do this is less in this game than it was in part 2.

Cons:

- Bugs. Common for these types of games, the game world is full of bugs that range from minor blemishes to mission-stopping crashes. I am not concerned about things like texture pop-in, screen tearing or cosmetic imperfections, but I found the constant slowdown to be rather annoying. When walking into a new area, and sometimes before and after the "Save" icon appears, the graphics slow down and stutter briefly and it gets especially choppy during the really crowded fights. There are also instances where the camera zooms away from the action, the dog gets stuck and other oddities occur that disrupt the flow of the game.

- Lack of emotional connection. Fable 2 was not a perfect game but it provided a strong emotional connection with the player, especially with the dog and the family you build. This time around, this connection feels flat. You don't spend much time building your dogs character, so he functions as little more than a treasure sniffer. Additionally, you have far less variety of responses and gestures that you can use on people, so there is little fun in forming attachments to others.

- False flexibility. As an open-world game, you do have the freedom to explore and carve your own path, but the game feels more restrictive and linear than Fable 2. The story is rigid in what you have to do, and the "moral choices" have less impact. In each situation, you need to select a "good" or "bad" choice that will impact the attitudes of others around you. However, the choices are very black and white and you need to be good in order to gain followers, so I had no incentive to play as a bad guy. While the world in Fable 2 grew with you and your actions affected how the town looked and even how you looked, the decisions you make don't have nearly the same impact in part 3. This false sense of flexibility does drag the game down somewhat.

- The ending. Others have mentioned that the ending is unsatisfying and I have to agree. Without giving anything specific away, the ending involves a moral choice that you need to make, and it provides the only real gray area in the game, since both choices involve some kind of unsatisfactory outcome. Think that good actions always lead to positive outcomes? Think again.

I could go on for hours about Fable 3, all the good and bad points, but the game overall is a great action RPG with some forgivable imperfections. I loved Fable 2 and I can't help but compare these two games, so Fable 3 feels somewhat inferior due to it's lack of emotional impact and some bugs and glitches that give me pause. But I can forgive these as I enjoyed my time with this game, and I think this is a good choice for series fans and RPG fans in general.


Mafia II
Mafia II
Price: $13.49
121 used & new from $0.18

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An underrated game that lives in GTA IV's shadow, October 27, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Mafia II (Video Game)
It's almost impossible to mention Mafia II without the GTA IV comparison coming up, so to get this out of the way, I'll say that I'm not a fan of GTA IV and one would think that this cancels out Mafia II altogether. Not quite. I've just played through the game and I can say that it's a fun, albeit short and linear game that throws every mob movie cliche at you.

Set first in the 1940's and 1950's, you play as Vito Scalleta, a decorated war hero who returns to Empire City (a fictional take on New York) and decides the life of organized crime is for him. The story takes the predictable turns where the character starts small and works his way up the mob ladder, with a few bumps along the way. The story reminded me a lot of Goodfellas, though these mob movies all start to feel the same after a while. The characters are the colorful Italian stereotypes you would expect, but some of their dialogue is downright hilarious, riddled with Italian slang and plenty of four letter words to keep you amused. There are few surprised and even fewer dramatic twists, so don't go into this game expecting a deep story. But within the context of the game, the story works and keeps you entertained until the end. Gameplay follows the standard GTA formula; drive somewhere, do something/kill someone and then drive back. You make money from doing jobs for various bosses, which can be used to upgrade your cars and acquire new clothes. Some missions are harder than others, while some are timed and require you to be a good driver. The combat is broken down into melee and shooting, though the selection of guns is limited. Melee combat is rather on the simple side, with three buttons doing the work and a limited number of combos and finishing moves you can perform. The driving and combat controls are standard for sandbox action games, so those familiar with other titles can jump right in.

The 40's and 50's look of the game is surprisingly effective, with period cars all over the place and licensed music from that era playing on the radio. Mixed with the music are news broadcasts which sound distinctly from their era. For example, you hear news broadcasts about the war overseas during the 40's portion of the game. Graphically, the city looks fantastic and is a joy to drive through, and while the character animation and facial capture animation is rough around the edges, this title is on part with other games of it's type. The missions also tend to be on the easy side, but I didn't find them to be boring thanks to the voice acting and some hilarious dialogue between the characters.

The negative points of Mafia II are mainly due to some missed potential. I've always complained that GTA-style games have TOO MUCH to do, with an abundance of pointless side-objectives that drag the game out. But in Mafia II, there is a total dearth of anything to do outside of the missions. You can sell stolen cars, buy clothes, eat and drink in bars and restaurants and buy upgrades for your car. That's it - no side missions to speak of. With a city as big as Empire City, you'd think there would be more to do. The game also has it's fair share of glitches and bugs, ranging from small graphical hiccups to getting stuck and having to restart from my last checkpoint.

It's easier to think of Mafia II as a story-driven action game instead of a sandbox title, since it offers little outside the short single-player campaign. Having said that, I had a lot of fun with this title and I think you will too, provided that you can move past the GTA IV comparisons and appreciate the game on it's own merits.


Enslaved: Odyssey To The West - Xbox 360
Enslaved: Odyssey To The West - Xbox 360
Offered by X-Button Games
Price: $21.99
75 used & new from $5.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the biggest surprises of the year!, October 27, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
I have now played through and beaten Enslaved, and I can confidently recommend this title to fans of platformers and third-person action games in general, since it combines the best elements of both genre. The game plays like a cross between Ratchet & Clank and Uncharted, with an engaging story and colorful characters that breathe life into a game that would otherwise be a standard objective-based action game.

As the main character in the game, you step into the shoes of Monkey, an escapee from a slave ship who finds himself enslaved by Trip, a teenage girl who needs Monkey's help to get home and to survive in the post-apocalyptic terrain that was once New York. Monkey is reluctant to help her at first, however she has him under her control courtesy of a headband that will harm or even kill him if he disobeys, so he has no choice but to accompany her and protect her from the hordes of mechs that litter the landscape. Over the course of the game, a bond develops between them and this is the real meat of the story. The game is separated into 14 chapters, which consist of linear levels that you must navigate and fight through. The usual boss battles and switch-based puzzles are here, but neither provides a daunting challenge. Likewise, the enemies are not incredibly varied and you will find yourself fighting the same mechs over and over again. At your disposal, you have a staff that can act both as a melee weapon and a gun of sorts, in that it fires stun and blast ammo. These can be upgraded as the game progresses, as can your health, shield, and fighting combos. Fighting is consistently engaging because it requires you to use a combination of button combos, dodging, and use of cover. It may seem like a button-masher at first, but the fighting gets more intense as the waves of enemies get bigger, so more strategy is required. Overall, it's a satisfying mix of platforming and fighting that makes this game highly playable and thus highly enjoyable.

The strength of the game is largely in the presentation. The lush scenery and overgrown terrain of New York looks gorgeous and is a welcome change from the bleak settings of other post-apocalyptic games like Fallout 3 and Metro 2033. The platforming elements will draw many comparisons to Uncharted, and like that game, it is incredibly linear. I know that gamers grip about not having freedom, but I would gladly trade that for the frustrating deaths that happen when you misjudge a jump or fall into oblivion. You can't die from the platforming here, since Monkey can't jump off a cliff even if you try to make him. I see this as a strength, as it allows me to enjoy the visuals and the story without getting overly frustrated. The addition of the Cloud, which is essentially a hover-board that allows you to zip across water, is fantastic as it provides some of the best action in the game.

The weaknesses of the game are not crippling but rather serve as an annoyance at times. The camera is very quick to zoom in on Monkey during the fight segments, which sometimes leaves you open to cheap hits when surrounded by enemies. This is especially problematic if you run into a corner, since the enemies will often be off-screen. The other problem is the touchy and sometimes unresponsive platforming controls. I have often tried to jump across a platform or climb up or down, and Monkey would instead jump or roll forward in place. The linearity of the platforming is not a weakness per se, but the lack of exploration during the levels leaves something to be desired. The only collectibles are tech orbs and masks which are found throughout the levels, but you don't need to wander far to find them. More variety there would have been nice. Outside of that, some glitches and slowdowns do occur, but they are infrequent and not likely to cause frustrations.

In the end, Enslaved is a fun adventure game with an above-average story and lush visuals. Once the 8 hour single-player campaign is beaten, there is not much replay value due to the lack of multiplayer and the current (at the time of this writing) lack of DLC, but it's still fun and engaging, and definitely worth checking out.


Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Offered by Galactics
Price: $12.95
166 used & new from $4.90

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your old school Castlevania, October 6, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
As an old-school gamer who grew up playing the Castlevania games on the NES and SNES, I have had a love-hate relationship with the games released after the 16-bit era. For every masterpiece like Symphony of the Night, there is a turkey like Castlevania 64. The games have not transitioned well into the 3D realm, so I met the release of Lords of Shadow with some indifference. That is until I saw some gameplay footage and read some reviews, all of which convinced me to give the series another chance. So far, I have not been disappointed.

To appreciate this game, it's best not to think of it as a Castlevania title. Outside of the character being named Belmont, there is little here that references the glory days of the series or resembles any of the earlier games. Many consider this a weakness, and to be honest, I would have love a classic Castlevania experience. But taken on it's own merits, this is a fantastic game that provides a mix of exciting gameplay and challenging puzzles and boss battles. Some of the negative reviews have point out that this game is derivative of better games, such as God of War and Shadow of the Colossus. This is definitely true, but you might as well copy the best and this game does it to great effect. The combat is tight, the puzzles are challenging, and the boss battles will definitely make you break sweat. Gameplay is a mix of platforming, hack n' slash combat and puzzle-solving. It would be easy to dismiss this as a button-masher, but you'll find yourself dying a lot if you don't employ some ducking and dodging strategy, especially duting the boss fights. Outside of your cross, which doubles as a whip when platforming, you have weapons and combos that you can upgrade that will aid you throughout the game. And this is a long game, with several levels consisting of several stages each, you can easily put in 20 hours and still have plenty to do.

In the audio/visual department, this game is simply fantastic. The environments are lush and detailed, the animation is fantastic and it all runs smoothly and lag-free. Some have claimed that there is slowdown and screen tearing during the more frantic battles, but I have yet to see this. The music is the usual mix of gothic and orchestral, which suits the mood of the game beautifully. None of the music stands out as memorable, but it works well to set the mood of the each level. The voice acting is also top notch, including the work of Robert Carlyle (Begbie from Trainspotting as a Belmont?) and Patrick Stewart acting as the narrator.

The game does have a few drawbacks that might turn some off, but this totally depends on what you are looking for in the game. For starters, the stages are totally linear and they offer little to no option to explore. This is a downside for people who enjoyed the backtracking and exploration of the 2D games on the DS. The camera is also fixed, as it was in Dante's Inferno, and this brings about a few problems when fighting in tights areas. But it's not as big a problem here as it is in other games, so it's tolerable. The biggest weakness for me are some of the puzzles, which border on frustrating. I love a challenge, but I don't want to spend an hour struggling with one puzzle.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with Castleva: Lords of Shadow and I think that people can enjoy it if they put aside their expectations for a "return to form" for the series. In truth, this is an entirely new game that provides plenty of great gameplay moments to justify the purchase. With a 20 hour story mode and plenty of challenging battles and puzzles, this game will keep you busy for a while.


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