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Myst Uru: Complete Chronicles - PC
Myst Uru: Complete Chronicles - PC
Offered by Bargain Buyers Software
Price: $32.49
20 used & new from $8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Nostalgia Trip, Good Game.....Buuuuuuttttttt......., May 14, 2014
I purchased the original back when it first came out and found the first expansion, To D'ni, but never got the second one and eventually lost the CD. So when I decided to get this game on GOG I already knew what to expect for most of it even though most of my memories of the moment to moment gameplay had been eroded by a decade. I still remember first looking at the outside area in Gahreesen on my first playthrough, being blown away by the scenerly. Before everything was enclosed, mechanical and broken. Now I had a view that would take one's breath away.

Unfortunately, what I hadn't remembered so well (until I started playing it this weekend) was the ludicriously long wait for the rotating tower, or how easy it was to miss the jump when it finally was time to do so, thanks to the clunky controls.

Which, to be honest, is a good summation of my experience with the game. I am, have been and always will be a fan of the Myst series, and Uru is probably my favorite game of them all. The Ages are beautifully crafted and original; none of them feel like they were copied and pasted from past games. The lore of the series is rich and powerful. There are little nods to previous entries, especially at the end of Path of the Shell. Yeesha speaks with conviction about the D'ni, compelling the player to help restore the civilization. Yet for all of its strengths, it bumbles through so much. It makes what could be a great experience a good one, and a good experience a fair one.

For example, when I was opening the first 4 ages in Relto in the base game, I saw the link to Eder Gira and thought, "I remember hating this Age. I remember being really, really frustrated with it. I should probably get this one done and out of the way" but I couldn't remember my issue with it.

And a few minutes later I slipped off an edge and linked back to Relto. After doing this a few times in an attempt to get through the Age, my thought was, "I REMEMBER NOW!!!" That, of course, was before I got to the fairy segment - oh, that freaking fairy segment. To call it ludicriously tedious would be an understatement. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was at last over.

But my experience with tedium was far from over. In addition to that experience I had with jumps in Gahreesan I mentioned above, it seems like the devs for the expansion packs got together and said, "Now okay, this won't be a proper Myst game if we don't have at least one segment of busywork for the player." For "To D'Ni" it was finding all those coordinates for the Great Zero Machine, for PotS, it was that freaking Ahnonay Age that required multiple cycles before finally getting to its fourth, final form. Then of course, are at least 3 segments, also in Path of the Shell, where you are required to wait for 15 minutes of real time. Just wait. One of them has a vital clue you need which can only be triggered at the end of the 15 minute wait and if you're not there when it happens, you miss it. 45 minutes of doing nothing is just padding the game artificially. Come on Cyan; you're better than this!

And one other thing: In TD, I didn't really feel like the game was guiding me well. In the base game, the game establishes very early that you're to find the Journey cloths; they're both bookmarks in your current journey/story and you always knew how many you had to find. In TD, i more or less stumbled through what I was trying to do, finally breaking down and consulting a playthrough to figure out what it was the game expected of me. I didn't get that feeling so much in PotS, but there was still less direction than Uru itself (and freaking Ahnonay.....)

Now, for the most part, Uru is definitely a great time and I would most definitely recommend it for fans of the series and fans of point and click adventure games in general. She's a great game who laughs at your jokes, compliments you daily and she'll make you a steak dinner just because. Just understand that underneath the beauty lie a few crippling failings that test your patience with her.

The game is a good one-shot, but once you've played through it once you've seen everything it can offer. A second playthrough will yield no new surprises nor places to explore. I will never give this game up, as it will always have a place in my heart, but it's not the kind of game I would play to kill some time just because I'm bored.

Graphics: Great (both for its time and today)
Sound: Beautiful music, believable FX, draws you in
Controls: Clunky at first, easier to manage in First Person
Gameplay: Solid, if irritating in places. Also difficult to figure out what the game expected of you from time to time.
Replayability: Not much once you've found everything, really.
Overall: A solid effort, highly recommended (with qualifiers)

DuckTales - Remastered 360 - Xbox 360
DuckTales - Remastered 360 - Xbox 360
Offered by Isomergames
Price: $20.85
39 used & new from $11.61

4.0 out of 5 stars A Blast from the Past, All Polished up for the Present, February 10, 2014
Being an 80's/90's kid, the 8 and 16-bit era is one I remember rather fondly, but coming from a lower income home, we weren't able to buy too many video games, much less new ones. It was only through visiting a relative that I first played the original Ducktales video game on the NES. It played rather similarly to the Mario-style platformers that were popular in that time but offered just enough to set it apart from the crowd, chiefly the Ducktales crew from the animated show and Scrooge's Pogo jump, where pressing down while in the air would let him use his cane like a pogo stick (just like in real life!) One thing that it did differently in a world of strictly linear games was that you could visit the levels in any order you chose, although repeating a level you had already cleared was pointless, as return trips would be stripped bare of valuables, regardless of whether you collected them previously or not. It offered a couple of endings, a standard ending for completing the game and a better ending for collecting everything, but this was before the age of memory storage. As such, going through and fastidiously collecting every gem and committing its location to memory was like making an ice sculpture, and completing the game was like throwing that ice sculpture into a raging volcano. All that work was lost the moment the game was done or the power button went off. Nonetheless it was a gem in the eyes of many gamers in the 8-bit era.

Fast forward about two decades and WayForward Games decides that they want to remake the game. But this wouldn't just be another cynical HD remake where a fresh layer of paint is thrown on and off the game goes to be sold, no. Instead, they rebuilt the game from the ground up, filling in the previously empty backgrounds, adding in a simple story that fits in quite well with the TV series and dialogue to match. Just as McDuck proclaims in the game, Alan Young's "still got it!" and the same can be said for the rest of the crew. Even the new actors who voiced Mrs. Beakley, Gyro, Glumgold and Fenton/Gizmoduck sound 100% authentic. I actually had to look up who was still alive to play their parts, the new people did so well. Even though the overall plot isn't any deeper, nor the villians' motivations any more sinister or complex than what they ever were in the old shows, this isn't necessary, either. I love Bioshock, but I want the complex subtlety of Bioshock to stay in Bioshock. For Ducktales: Remastered, I want a light-hearted, comedic adventure, and that's what we get here.

The graphics/animations also make it look like a 90's cartoon, from the way Scrooge wiggles his tail feathers as he prepares to do his patented golf swing, to the way the spiders dangle from the ceiling in anticipation of Scrooge coming close enough to attack, to the irritated way Magica Despell looks when you give her a good Pogojump on the head, it's all there. Every level was rebuilt with care and every secret area you remember from the old game is also filled with treasure. The very few changes only enhance the experience. For example, you don't need to pay that statue in the Amazon level to proceed this time, no instead, just give it a few golf club swings and it'll GIVE YOU the money it wanted to take from you before. The section where Launchpad gives you a hand is from left to right instead of right to left, which is another good thing. Let's see - what el- OH YEAH! You don't need to go to Transylvania again to access the African Mines level! Two very, very, very big thumbs up on this change. (Your next game should be Duckhunt 2: Shooting The Dog, WayForward!)

The music has also been given the 21st century treatment. The melody of the original is the basic template and the composers add in many more instruments to give it a richer sound. Don't worry though, purists, you can still unlock the 8-bit music in the money bin (explained in a moment) and completing the game gives you the option of always playing the 8-bit version. Personally I'm not sure why you'd want the original as the remixes sound so much better, but the option is there if you like it and I'm always in favor of more options.

Controls are as straight forward as they get - left, right,, CROUCH and jump, with the Pogojump kicking in if you press and hold X or B (continuing to press A is not necessary.) For the absolute purist of purists, there is an option to enable the classic Pogojump by needing to hold down on the controller as well, but this is as intuitive a decision as sewing a sixth finger on a glove then filling it with a roll of dimes and refusing to take the glove off.

In addition to the five original maps, there are also two new ones. The game starts with Scrooge's Money Bin under attack and it's up to him to break the siege. After clearing it and the original five levels, the game's last one is Mount Vesuvius. Both the new levels have their own unique looks and music, and in keeping with the "Blast from the past" vibe, the sound team even gave both the new levels their own 8-bit tracks. After the Money Bin level, the vault is the basic hub and from there, Scrooge can select a new level, Pogojump around in his office (you know you will at least once!) dive into his money bin (again, at least once) or unlock the unlockables, such as concept art, the aforementioned music or even stills from the original series. No longer is your progress lost to time when you finish playing - you keep any money earned from cleared levels and all unlocked bonus content even if you restart the game from scratch. There is an "Extreme" mode which does require going through in one sitting (with the classic Pogo controls forced "on") without autosaving, but can only be earned by beating it on "Hard" mode at least once and is optional even then. Completing the game gets the original theme song, complete with vocals as opposed to the instrumental version at the start of the game.

One major criticism I have is the final stretch after the last boss, as it took many tries to finally complete and failure means restarting the last level from the beginning, which caused more than one session to end from frustration. Thanks to the power of Youtube, I no longer have any issues with this last section, but be aware that it will test your nerves if you don't know exactly how to traverse this last part of the game. Replayability is also limited, especially after all the art is unlocked.

For fans of the show, 8-bit gamers and platformer fans in general, this is a no-brainer. For $15 you get a small but satisfying game which shows today's industry how a remake should actually be done. It fixes what was broken in the original without doing anything to sacrifice what made the original a gem in the first place. It has a few flaws but they are more than outweighed by its successes. It does justice to the source material, bringing it into the 21st century without showing the slightest bit of disrespect to it. If anyone wants to make a game studio that specializes in updating old classics, you now have the template on how to go about doing just that - Ducktales: Remastered is it.

XCOM: Enemy Within
XCOM: Enemy Within
Offered by Deal-a-Rama
Price: $20.79
38 used & new from $12.50

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New XCOM formula, same great taste!, December 19, 2013
This review is from: XCOM: Enemy Within (Video Game)
I've already played (and reviewed) what was one of if not my outright favorite game of 2012, the original XCOM: Enemy Unknown to death and have the achievements to prove it, so it was with much anticipation that I bought the addon XCOM: Enemy Within. I purchased it last week for the XBOX 360 and without any regret. XCOM: EU was a huge commercial and critical success, earning many GOTY awards and later graced itself on the Apple iOS platform for mobile gaming. In light of this it's little wonder 2K had Firaxis build this expansion which (thankfully) only marginally ties in the far less worthy semi-related "The Bureau" with a few vague references. The first and most important question: If you already bought the 360/PS3 version, is it worth buying this addon? After all, you may have already paid $60 for it last year, not to mention more money for the DLC that they ended up throwing in here anyway, so would the new content justify another $40? For the most part, yes. There are certainly some rough spots here and there, but by and large, XCOM: EW justifies its purchase with new gameplay mechanics, fixing some of the problems the last game had and helping address some of the concerns purists had, including the lack of a Base Defense.

Anybody who played last year's outing will have no need to relearn the controls or overall gameplay - those aspects remain exactly the same. The previously existing tech tree also remains unchanged, although it has added a few new branches, namely the Gene Mod and Cybernetic Labs. The former will keep your soldiers otherwise the same as they were before but will add special abilities you can swap out later (for a price.) These abilities include (but are certainly not limited to) having aim bonuses after missing a shot (great for Heavies with Bullet Swarm!) being able to leap onto rooftops in a single step and invisibility to name but a few of the ten available. Each soldier can have up to five. The Cybernetic Lab will allow you to build Mechanized Exoskeleton Cybersuits (MECs) which will amputate all four limbs of each soldier you have go through this process. A bit extreme if you ask me, especially since the suits are plenty capable of holding a full human - it seems unnecessary to just cut off four perfectly good limbs, but I digress. MECs have no inventory but gain powerful bonuses and firepower. They are no less vulnerable than the flesh and blood troops, however, plus they cannot use cover. As such, keeping some healthy distance between the MEC and the enemy isn't a bad idea.

Both of these changes come about as a result of a new resource you acquire called "Meld" which, similar to the power nodes in a Bomb Defusal mission in the original game must be approached directly and activated before a timer runs out. Most missions will have two canisters; one placed close to your landing zone and the other further away. This makes for a new playstyle, since most XCOM vets would have pushed slowly and methodically into a map. You can still play this way now, but you will lose out on plenty of Meld if you do so. However, no amount of Meld is worth losing a veteran soldier, so take care of that squad of Muton Elites or that Sectopod before pushing on.

Also new to the game is another enemy faction known as EXALT. EXALT does not work with the aliens but it does want to acquire their technologies to advance its agenda and it views XCOM as the enemy. It will try to disrupt your operations by either stealing money from your reserves (thankfully I only had three credits left when they were first introduced and the game forced an anti-XCOM disruption - which is randomized) raising panic in a nation or disrupting research. You can send operatives after them to disrupt them, eventually sending in the troops to pull the operative out. Doing this gives you information on where their main base is and after receiving at least three hints you can start guessing where they are. A wrong guess will cause a country to instantly pull their funding, so Ironman enthusiasts are encouraged to wait until only one country remains before accusing a country of harboring the traitors. EXALT missions either involve having your agent hack two comm relays then escape to the Skyranger or protecting two assets from being hacked ala King of the Hill. In the first example, the agent must be alive or the mission fails, but eliminating the entire enemy force is NOT necessary. In the second, the agent CAN die without the mission being a critical fail, but all enemies must be killed.

The game also introduces two new enemies, the Seeker and the Mectoid. A Seeker will try to find a lone soldier and start strangling him. The Mectoid is a bit like a fast moving Sectopod who can also get a shield to further increase his health if an accompanying Sectoid mind merges. Killing the Sectoid will remove the shield but not otherwise harm the Mechtoid, killing the Mechtoid first does nothing to harm the Sectoid either. The Mechtoid, especially early game is powerful offensively although concentrated firepower can typically eliminate him in or two turns, especially once plasma weapons are researched and actively used. The Seeker is never really a problem; it's about as much of a threat as a Sectoid, Thin Man or Droid.

Gameplay wise, Firaxis changed a few things. For example, Ghost Armor "only" gives a bonus of 30% to critical chance as opposed to 100%. Being a big fan of Ghost Armor, I was a little annoyed by this choice, but I do understand why they did it and hardly view this as a bad thing. A slightly more baffling design choice, however was to erase our Second Wave progress. I'd played through a game of Impossible mode for XCOM: EU, and only the basic Second Wave options were available for EW. I've finished a game of Classic mode as of today, December 19th 2013, so now those are available. But the Impossible Second Wave options remain locked and considering how I would never use them anyway, not to mention the fact that there are now no achievements (or really any other rewards) for a second Impossible playthrough, it's safe to assume that I will not slog through that again.

- Update: I've since learned that you can use the Hero units and unlock Second Wave, so that's what I did a few months after writing this. So now I have them all once again.

My greatest criticism about the game is also one that plagued the original - you may recall that for XCOM: EU, a lot of players found only the first few months of the game to be significantly harder than the rest - once you've begun the month with worldwide satellite coverage, the game's two biggest weapons - lack of funds and constantly spiraling panic rating - are gone. Firestorms, the upgraded fighter craft, equipped with EMP Cannons will never lose a dogfight regardless of what they face. Plasma weapons for a phalanx of Colonel-ranked troops can easily cut through all but the sturdiest of foes. Speaking of which, Sectopods now take half as much damage as they used to. But even then, the toughest part of the game is the first few months. (March to July of 2015) After that the difficulty levels off considerably. EXALT is never that huge a threat, either. Remember the first time you invaded the alien base? It started off with a sense of wonder and accomplishment - before XCOM was passive and reactionary, now it was taking the fight to the enemy! Only to be a bit of a let down as there wasn't much of a challenge. The base attack mission for EXALT is even shorter and less filling than that. I was hoping for a showdown with the faction's leader, but no such luck.

Maybe this is why they added the achievement "An Army of Four" which requires a Classic playthrough while never buying a squad upgrade. (Ironman mode IS NOT necessary to earn this achievement.) Thankfully that achievement did NOT glitch out when I finished the game and now can have a full roster of six soldiers for subsequent playthroughs. It certainly does ramp up the difficulty throughout the whole game but not to so great a degree you throw the controller at the screen.

Base Defense makes an appearance and while it's little more than the standard "Hold your ground and shoot anything that isn't you with extreme prejudice" it was still rather nail-bitingly tense. Sadly XCOM's security personal, ie nameless redshirts all ended up turned into piles of blood. And yet, not even a mention on the Memorial Wall for their deaths.

Finally, my other really big gripe about this game is that the ending mission, and more importantly the ending itself are identical to Enemy Unknown. This would've been a perfect chance to expand on the ending a bit; see the fallout of XCOM's decisions to make new technologies the world has never seen in how they impact global policy, how dealing with or ignoring EXALT would make things play out, maybe even hint at a sequel! - instead it's still the same stock ending. There are a few other issues like the occasional crash where I had to unplug the 360 to reload my game and how sometimes missions will pop up back to back (had one segment where three showed up a split second after I hit "Scan" each time) but overall a very solid effort. This is how expansion packs should be. I wish I could be compensated for buying both sets of previous DLC for EU, since this has the base game, both those packs, a new DLC package plus the new content but I'm glad that Firaxis gave us this very excellent add on at all. Make no mistake, this is the definitive turn-based strategy game of this generation of gaming. If you like TBSes like me, get this game. It's a largely dying game genre and it won't come back to life from Great Big War Game or any number of Kickstarter campaigns funded by fans of the genre. Still has a few rough spots but overall is a great game.

So the final question would be, "Which should I get?" And the answer depends on the platform. If you have a PS3 or the Xbox 360, then buy this version, as the original is less of an experience. PC gamers, however will want to look before buying, since both the game itself and the extra content, be it the expansion or the DLC, is all separate, so someone who bought Enemy Unknown will not need to do so again. Newcomers, however, will definitely want this edition. Hope this helps. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a planet to go save.

Once Upon A Time: Season 2
Once Upon A Time: Season 2
DVD ~ Jennifer Morrison
Price: $24.96
20 used & new from $20.96

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A frustrating, yet satisfying yarn, September 15, 2013
This review is from: Once Upon A Time: Season 2 (DVD)
Dear creators of the show "Once Upon A Time"

I really like your show. Honestly, I do. You've breathed new life into the old fairy tales we all grew up with while also weaving in a decent modern tale that not only ties together our world with the fairytale world, but also both types of characters - their fairy tale version and modern counterpart.

Sure, you have more than your fair share of baffling plot twists, gaping plot holes you could sail the Jolly Roger through and countless moments where you openly contradict the rules you've created in the story; sometimes in the same episode that the rule was stated. I had to wonder as I watched on Netflix whether there was a conversation that went:

Writer 1: Hey I think we wrote ourselves into a corner on this one, because the protagonists have what they need to go back home; now the villians can't chase them and keep the drama going.

Writer 2: Oh don't worry about it - I've got another McGruffin up my sleeve! Call it a "backup McGruffin!"

1: But didn't we just establish that the villains can't go to Storybrooke without the McGruffin? You know, the one Emma and crew spent the last few episodes tracking down and just barely STOLE BACK from the villains in the nick of time?

2: Yeah; but they're the villains, so they can do that.

1: Ooooohhh, I get it. They're VILLAINS, right!

And there are really only so many times you can reuse "The character who was the hero in the original's really the villain here. Surprise!" trope so many times before it starts to wear a little thin. Case in point: I'm not sure how you thought we wouldn't see who the next Big Bad for season 3 was a freaking mile away. I mean, seriously guys; waiting to mention his name until the last few minutes of the show really wasn't necessary at that point. Not to mention that you already used the "This character died! Nope, not really; here they are - bwahahahaha! Fooled you!" trope in season 1; don't you think reusing it in season 2's a tad premature?

Then of course there's the whole "We're all family" trope that you mashed in there with as many characters as you could possibly get away with. I get that you want to amp up the stakes, but there are really only so many connections you can make before the whole thing starts to buckle under its own weight.

And maybe I'm nitpicking a little here, but when a certain character shot another certain character to make her lose her memories to hurt the shooter's most hated enemy, I found myself taken aback by this after the initial shock wore off. I mean, we're talking about someone who just barely got to the modern world, and he's somehow a good enough shot to hit someone in the dark while wielding a gun one-handed, standing far enough away to not be seen until it's too late. Bullets aren't exactly known for flying perfectly straight, and the human body's got this annoying tendency to have blood vessels all about it, so there aren't really too many places you can shoot someone and it truly be a nonlethal shot.

I suppose this sounds like a negative review of the show, but I would like to reiterate that I do in fact like it. Despite the show's flaws, I've enjoyed seeing the cast all get their own stories alongside the modern plot. Regina and Gold/Rumpelstiltskin are both complex and intriguing characters who show a lot of depth, especially in season 2. The conflict was appropriately escalated in the finale and now with the way things turned out in the end we have something to look forward to with season 3. And it looks as though Storybrooke'll be put on the back burner for at least the first part, so we'll probably see a lot more of the fantasy side of the show, and that's hardly a bad thing. So while I would recommend the show to those who loved those old fairy tale stories and fantasy in general, I would temper my expectations if you go in expecting this to be the next grand accomplishment in television.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2013 2:46 PM PDT

XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Xbox 360
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Xbox 360
Offered by UltimateDiscountsCANADA
Price: $8.99
120 used & new from $3.21

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A taxing, rewarding, stressful, satisfying, punishing and soothing rollercoaster, May 11, 2013
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a bit of a contradiction of a game. Not only is it vastly different than the common games of this current generation, but I stand by my title for this review because it will evoke a vast range of emotions from start to finish. Make no mistake, if you choose to play XCOM:Enemy Unknown the game will not - I repeat, NOT - make things easy on you, nor will it offer much in terms of showing where you went wrong. It's like the ironclad PE teacher who berates you for everything you're doing wrong. Make a single mistake, especially on "Ironman Mode", (which only allows for a single autosave that CONSTANTLY overwrites itself,) and the game will severely punish you. More than once I would play on Ironman on the Classic Difficulty (so called because the 1994 original XCOM was also so difficult), and at first everything seemed to go well, then without warning or time to adjust, the situation would spiral out of control. Suddenly entire continents that seemed okay were in danger of withdrawing from the XCOM project (thus forever losing their monthly funding and support staff they would otherwise contribute) and my soldiers would be woefully unprepared for the missions. Since a lot of what happens is randomized, this further made it difficult to get a good idea of what exactly went wrong and what I could have done to prevent it from happening. When you finally do get a good handle on how the underlying mechanics of the game work and you use them to your advantage and find yourself consistently winning, it is a good feeling, but the road there is long and hard. Again, this is by design. I will let you decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

The controls are intuitive and simple; you will spend very little time learning how to control the curser,but sometimes the camera gets in the way. When lining up a rocket or grenade, you will sometimes have to rotate the camera to get a good angle, for example.

The music is good and sets the tone, especially rght after you discover an enemy; it was designed to send a feeling of adrenaline and a sense of urgency and danger, and it shows. The soldier audio barks when they acknowledge an order, hit or miss an enemy, etc. do get a little repetitive, though.

Gameplay wise, the game is a mixed bag, with the good generally outweighing the bad. Veterans of the 1994 classic will have no issue getting back into the feel of the turn-based strategy game, although newcomers may need to use the admittedly bare bones tutorial and/or a walkthrough to get an idea of how to play the game, and eventually play it well. Choices matter in this game; resources in the early to mid-game are tight, and carefully managing what little you have to invest into getting more of what you need is a critical skill. Knowing how to do that is the difference between winning and losing, especially on the harder difficulties where time is also a precious luxury you never have enough of.

For fans of turn-based strategy games like Advance Wars, Great Big War Game, etc., this is an easy sell. For gamers who complain that today's games are way too easy, this game will chew you up and spit you out. It will make you carefully consider both short and long-term strategy, it will punish you for any mistake, it will even punish you when you're doing everything right, it will test your patience, it will throw everything it has at you. But ultimately, when you've learned to master the beast, the feeling you get is like none other.

The Walking Dead [Online Game Code]
The Walking Dead [Online Game Code]
Price: $24.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So far, so amazing, August 29, 2012
Couldn't find an XBox 360 match, but as it's the same game and all....

Just finished episode 3 of Telltale Games' "The Walking Dead" video game and it is, hands down, one of if not the best XBox Live Arcade titles out there. It takes place in the same universe as the comic books, during the time when Rick Grimes is still in the coma at the beginning of the series' timeline, but despite having a new cast (with a few cameos from familiar faces in the comic series and TV show) it's nothing short of amazing. Telltale puts together a group of believable characters you genuinely care for and get emotionally attached to. You play as Lee Everett, a convicted killer who's going to prison when the outbreak happens. Along the way you meet a little girl named Clementine who doesn't know where her parents are so you promise to look after her until she meets up with them again. The meat of the story is that the game adapts to decisions you make - do you side with one person or the other in a very heated debate? Help one person or the other in the meatlocker (you'll never forget that scene after playing it, period.) At one point, you have four food items but ten hungry people, including yourself. Do you feed the others and let yourself go hungry, or do you hang on to one item for yourself? Most of the big decisions have to be done quickly - the timer's counting down. Inaction will either cause you to fail the game and reload the checkpoint, or everybody will be upset at your indecision. As it resembles the point and click adventure games of yesteryear, it is a bit of a slower pace, (this IS a Telltale game, after all) but given how that slower pace allows for a much deeper connection with the characters and a very solid story line, is that really a bad thing? Didn't think so.

There are a few rough spots, however. There will be times when the hotspot you need to hit while being attacked by a walker (or human in some cases) is difficult to determine, causing instant death. Some of the cutscenes will have a touch of slowdown, and so far, neither "Next time on The Walking Dead" preview trailers have had content that actually showed up in the game. You get the general idea of what to expect, but there's not a single line of dialogue that matches what you see in the preview and what is actually shown in the game, and in the case of the preview for episode 3, even though you eventually get to the building that says "Survivors Inside" the preview has you believing that there are new people in there, fighting walkers. Instead it's abandoned in the actual episode. Now, again, you'll still get a good idea of what to expect; the previews still paint a broad stroke of what you'll find in the next episode, but there are plenty of differences in the details. Finally, one key decision you make in Episode 1, while impacting Episode 2 is basically moot in Episode 3 due to a twist in the first half of said episode. That's not to say it's a bad scene - it's one Ep.3's finest in fact, but you might feel a little cheated especially if you did like me and had two separate save files where you made different decisions.

So if you like an emotionally stirring, well told story with great voice acting that oozes with replayability (since surely you want to see how the other decisions play out, right? Right?) there are PLENTY of worse choices out there. Buy this game.

Mass Effect 3 Collector's Edition -Xbox 360
Mass Effect 3 Collector's Edition -Xbox 360
Offered by extendedplay77
Price: $54.95
80 used & new from $6.78

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent series, June 27, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Minor spoilers ahead. I would only recommend reading my review if you've already played through the series.

I've been a Mass Effect fan since the beginning. I had my preorder of ME 1 secured well before it came out in 2007. I knew from the first time I'd heard about this game that I'd love it - a wide open sci-fi RPG where your decisions would have consequences in the sequels? Yes please.

I'm not sure how many hours of my life were lost to the first game, although I would scoff at anyone who heralds ME1 as some golden, shining light of a bygone era of gaming. The game is nothing less than a masterpiece, but it pales in comparison to its successors, thanks in large part to the bugs that'd allow you to get stuck inside the scenery, the sheer number of "collect a whole ton of this!" sidequests, the lack of marking quests in the systems they're in, the ridiculous amount of traveling in elevators and, of course, the Mako. It's no exaggeration at least 50%, maybe 75% of the game is driving around in the Mako on remote planets in vast expanses of nothing. Sometimes it's a red nothing. Sometimes it's a blue nothing, or a brown nothing. Sometimes it's hilly nothing, or mountainous nothing, but you get the idea. It's boring, and I cheered to the high heavens when I learned that ME2 would not have this awful mechanic. Overall, it played well and was a lot of fun, but those sidequests were a weak link. Another serious flaw is the fact that if you replay the game as a Shepard you previously beat the game with, Bioware did not reset her (yes, I am fully aware that Shepard can be male, too, but there's no point in saying he/she or his/her every time I refer to the protagonist) stats. Whatever you picked, she had, period. Bioware reset everyone else's stats, but not Shepard's, despite the fact that she's the most important character in the story.

Story's the main consideration, however, and in that the game excelled, especially when confronted with the second-to-last major decision. I sat for a bit, wondering which I should choose, as one involves sacrificing a large portion of an army to save the Council, or let them die. The game beats it into your head that a Spectre has to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good, but humanity is already feared by the many other species, so is allowing them to take over by killing the Council the way to allay those fears? The game doesn't give you answers to these questions, and you have no way of knowing the full extent of the consequences of your actions at the time. You only know what your choices are at that moment, and the fallout may not be felt until Mass Effect 2, or in some cases, the choices have little to no bearing in Mass Effect 2 at all but have a significant impact in Mass Effect 3 - an example of this would be the Rachni Queen. Sure, you get a VERY BRIEF discussion with a messenger who relays a thank you from the queen if you spared her in Mass 2, but that's it. Nothing else. The decision to spare or kill her in the first game has a larger impact in the third game, however.

One last thing on the first game - I do remember playing through Virmire and hoping that there'd be a way to save both Ashley and Kaiden. The first time I'd played through my character was a Renegade jerk, so I figured that the reason I'd have to pick one or the other was because I'd burned so many bridges that I was paying for that now. Of course, that didn't turn out to be the case - even killing Wrex doesn't save both your other crew members. It'd have had a bigger impact if I ended up being the reason I had to save one or the other. In the end, I understand why Bioware made the choice they made with Virmire, but it was still disappointing for that reason.

ME2 proved to be a major step forward for the series. Gone were the Mako, the endless hours of exploring barren, empty planets, the elevators, plus, this time you could actually reset Shepard's stats! They also got rid of the original Normandy, and it's sad to see it blow up, but this was the right decision, as its successor, the SR2, is by far a superior ship. After playing through ME2 and ME3, I can't really feel the same about walking through the SR1 again - I just like the SR2 that much. We also got a larger and much more diverse crew. Mordin was quite a treat, especially when talking to him and you ask about his past as a stage performer. While I was sad to not see most of the old crew on the new Normandy, it makes sense from a story telling perspective - Bioware was telling us a new story with ME2. The ending sequence was amazing - this time, your choices very much matter; having the wrong companion do a given task means that someone dies. It's not hard to figure out who to use, however - the game gives VERY STRONG hints about who is right for the task at hand. There was a generous helping of DLC, including the extremely well done Shadow Broker DLC, the good Project Overlord, the okay Kasumi and Zaeed quests, and weaker Hammerhead and Arrival DLC packs. Given the impacts they have on ME3, I do recommend getting them all, but for a DLC first go 'round, I'd recommend saving the Shadow Broker for last. (Just don't wait until after you've finished the main game to do that quest, since benefits for completing the SB are ongoing throughout the game.) The end boss was...odd, but easy to get over. I've seen some people complain about the last mission (seems like there's always SOMETHING to gripe about.) Basically they're upset that it's not only possible, but fairly easy to keep everyone alive. First off, that's not even a legitimate complaint, so be quiet. Second of all, if you want someone killed off, go right ahead - it's extremely easy, easier than getting them all out alive, in fact, to set somebody up to die. If you want a character to get killed off like you're in your own little "Choose your character and your character's death" story, then just search for an ending walkthrough and find out how NOT to choose the right character - I guarantee you, you'll have more empty spaces in the Normandy going out than going you did going in. Your ME 3 experience will suffer for it, by the way, since that character, if alive, will add to the mission you see them in, but hey, YOUR LOSS. If you want to have the touching scene where one of your crew dies so the rest can live, then knock yourself out. Me, I'm keeping my crew alive.

Then ME3 came out, and until the extended endings DLC was released on June 26th, 2012 I had to wonder what Bioware was thinking. Right out the gate there were so many easy-to-find (just play through the game NORMALLY!) bugs, including the oft-mentioned face glitch, some eye-bugging glitches, among others, which were thankfully patched. The Normandy....<sighs> I don't know why but Bioware saw it fit to make the ship dark. Really, really, really dark. In ME2 you could actually see, but in this game, only the bare minimum was spared for lighting. And there's the whole War Asset/Effective Military Strength (EMS) thing... Bioware stated that it would be possible to get the best ending criteria through single player alone. Well, sorry guys, but I'm not seeing it. I'm a completionist, and I ALWAYS scanned every system, got every asset, and I would still be well under the 5000 EMS needed for the best ending unless I hopped onto XBox Live and improved my numbers that way. The multiplayer's fun, but I fail to understand why I should spend hours playing MP to get a better rating for my single player experience, simply because the bar is set so high that I can't hope to reach it on my own, despite playing through all 3 games with the mindset of seeing everything all of them have to offer. And then, of course, there's that ending. Oh, that ending was awful. There are some people who like to patrol Amazon and Youtube for the slightest HINT of criticism of that ending and then immediately get their NOVELS of "Why the ending doesn't suck!" - novels that they've spent hours, days, weeks, even months perfecting - copied and pasted in an attempt to drown out the many cries of justified indignation over what was the most disappointing, broken, meaningless ending in recent history to a series that was about making choices and seeing how those choices would affect the universe as a whole. Simply put, it did the opposite - THE EXACT OPPOSITE - of what an ending is supposed to do. An ending is supposed to resolve the conflict and provide closure, two goals that the stock ending failed to do. You may notice that I'm referring to the stock ending in the singular, and I am. "Oh, but you're wrong!" you might say. "There are endings! Plural!" you might say. No there aren't. There's one ending, and one ending only. The only thing that changes is which color explosions you see - everything else plays out exactly the same with the stock ending. Oh, and don't worry about your War Asset count, either - that makes no difference, either. Yep, whether you did a speed run or carefully got everything, the ending is exactly the same. For some reason, that annoying as hell narrative voice for the primary codices is still back. Want to shut him off? Well TOO BAD, because you can't! He's been annoying us for three games now. I can read - I don't need somebody narrating to me. And he narrates every primary codex. Every. Single. One.

The extended endings DLC isn't perfect (especially since you have to replay the whole Citadel section all over again to see each ending, plus we still don't get to see what happens to Shepard after the "Destroy" option, arrrggghhhh!) but it's free (for now, anyway) and several orders of magnitude better than what came with the game. This time, no matter which of three different endings (yep, with an "s") you choose, that ending is a satisfying and complete ending. Each ending is also completely different. No matter which one you choose, there are very different consequences, both short and long term. Are any of the endings happy endings? Nope. But they are complete, satisfying endings, and everything is resolved. If you wondered why you see Joker at the end doing what he's doing, how your ground team got to be on the Normandy, how the other fleets will get back to their home systems, etc. you'll find that out with the extended endings DLC. Oh yeah, plus the fact that you get a heartfelt thanks from Bioware at the end for playing through the series, and not a "Congrats on playing through the game. Now go out and buy more DLC!" SLAP IN THE FACE is another thumbs up. They even added a fourth ending, although this one is arguably the weakest. It's different, but not as good as the other three. Bioware could've spent a little bit more time working on that ending, or just cut it out entirely. Wasn't really what the fans were looking for here. Believers in the Indoctrination Theory, beware, however - Bioware has made it perfectly clear that they never intended Shepherd's journey to go in this direction; not physically, not mentally, not spiritually, not psychologically or any other -ally you can think of - she did not get indoctrinated, not in Mass 1, not in Mass 2 or in Mass 3. Bioware has taken the clay pot you call the Indoctrination Theory and smashed it on a concrete floor, swept up the pieces, threw them into a landfill and covered them with concrete. You cannot reconcile the Indoctrination Theory with the extended endings in any way, shape or form. I initially had my doubts about the IT when I first heard it, and while it seemed compelling, I was not even remotely surprised that Bioware shot this to pieces. So as interesting and well thought out as it was, it's an incorrect theory, and anybody who tries to work the new endings into the IT would be reaching. And I mean REALLY reaching here. So if you're one of those people who wants to hang onto the Indoctrination Theory, then MAYBE you shouldn't download this, but I would strongly recommend the extended ending DLC for everyone else.

So, thank you Bioware, for proving to us that you do have the artistic integrity we once thought you did by providing this game with a proper ending. Kinda wish you gave us this ending to begin with, but late is definitely better than never.

In the end, the series is one of the strongest series in recent gaming history, and should be owned by any RPG fan.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with Music CD
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with Music CD
Offered by stevevideopa
Price: $58.00
83 used & new from $39.98

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To steal a phrase from a certain video game, better than I'd feared, worse than I'd hoped, March 24, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
So I recently finished Zelda: Skyward Sword. I originally got it for Christmas but didn't really pick it up until recently, what with the Mass Effect 3 face glitch (simply will not play until I can play as my Shepard!) All in all, it's a good game. It's even a good Zelda game. But still far from perfect.

Graphics - I'm not going to get in depth with graphics because as we all know, the Wii uses last gen hardware, and so graphics aren't going to be all that great. They're pretty comparable to Twilight Princess despite the game being 5 years newer than its predecessor. That's all that needs to be said on that. It gets an 8 (average) because it's average in terms of what we expect from a Wii title.


Sound - Sound is very good. I enjoyed most of the music the game had to offer. I didn't think the song playing between the water dragon's cave and the entrance to the second forest temple fit too well in a Zelda game, but hardly brings it down all that much. The song for the end credits was a good homage to the original entries in the Zelda series. For some reason Nintendo still has sounds it delegates to that monotone speaker in the Wiimote controller, though.


Controls - And speaking of controls, this is where the game takes a big black eye. I was hoping that after Twilight Princess, Nintendo would've seen fit to focus less on motion controls. Instead, they made an even heavier emphasis on said motion control. The motion control scheme sounds good on paper - swing your Wiimote to swing your sword, aim your Wiimote at the screen to aim your bow, etc. - but it doesn't prove so good in execution. It proves to be cumbersome, unwieldy, imprecise and in some cases, maddening. At least in TP, you had a fairly small set of moves, each distinguishable from each other. In this game, just with the sword alone, you have horizontal strikes, vertical strikes and diagonal strikes, two of each, in fact, and many enemies where only one set will work, the others fail, and the controller is so hairline sensitive that it's far too easy to do a vertical slash when I needed a diagonal, or a horizontal slash turns into a ham fisted shaking of my sword, or a forward jab results in the enemy laughing at Link's inability to produce the same result. If I'm fighting a boss, I want to do that - fight the boss. I don't want to be fighting both the boss and my controller because it thinks I want to do something completely ineffective. This is especially true when having to manage that awful whip weapon, especially seeing as how both it and the sword rely on the same controls, so using the one when you need the other is far too easy, especially when fighting the boss found in the dungeon where you get the whip. The boss himself isn't hard - it's the fact that you have to fumble around with the controls almost as much as you do fight it. But the most damning of all is the tilt controls. The tilt functions (yes, plural) are found everywhere in the game. You need tilt to free fall, you need tilt to swim, you need tilt to control your free-flight Beetle, you need tilt when flying on your mount (and the tutorial for flying the mount is misleading - tilting up on your Wiimote does not - I repeat - DOES NOT cause your mount to fly up. You need to "flap" the controller to do that, yet this is never mentioned in the tutorial,) so suffice it to say, you're going to be tilting a lot. There's a reason why Sony's Sixaxis was a colossal failure. It's a simple enough question - why use tilt when you have the thumbstick - a much easier, more reliable, more easily reproducable, more fine tuned control system than tilt could ever be? Somebody might respond that Nintendo wanted to take full advantage of the WiiMotion Plus. It's understandable if they want to showcase its capability, but not to the point where that's the one and only consideration at ANY AND ALL COST. That desire has to be tempered and balanced with a consideration towards how well the game will play - if the controls are cumbersome, it's time to make some changes. I've yet to read an unbiased review for this game anywhere that didn't have at least one mention of the control scheme giving issues. Having no option to change the sensitivity hurt this score as well.


Gameplay and Presentation - As controls directly affect gameplay, it is impossible to give a perfect score in this category. But despite that, the game is still fun. Nintendo promised that they were moving away from the Zelda games of old, and... to some extent they succeed. Many of the conventions we expect to see in Zelda games are still intact, but they did throw us a few new curve balls. The second trip to the desert was probably my favorite dungeon, despite having to find an invisible and actively moving target, and what sold me on it was what happened immediately before the actual boss fight begins, as it's not something that a Zelda game's done before. (At least, that I'm aware of.) A common enough convention in other games, sure, but I wasn't expecting what they did with that particular dungeon so I will give them kudos. A certain other boss you have to stop from reaching its destination was another good twist.

On a sidenote with the gameplay, I almost wish I could give Link the t-shirt that says "Let me just drop everything and work on YOUR PROBLEM", as the townsfolk, like always, are needing his help with everything. It's probably a good thing that we can't interject our own personality into the main character, because I'd probably tell them, "Okay, I'm in the middle of trying to find my childhood friend, someone dear to me, who's gone missing and whose life is in serious danger. I'm also trying to stop an evil entity from breaking out of its prison and destroying the entire planet. There's also a magic-wielding sociopath who wants find my childhood friend for his own nefarious schemes and kill me in the process. But SURE, I'll be glad to dust your house/find your (Fill in prized possession here)/go fetch something you could easily get yourself for you, since you don't want to do it! Not like I've got anything important going on, right?"

I do feel the need to bring this up as well the dialogue feels like it's straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. A lot of us have been playing Zelda games since the first one when we were kids, and so I do not know why there's yet to be a Zelda game with dialogue that is on the level. This is especially evident with the first dialogue with Link, Zelda and her father. And I'm not saying there should be the kind of dialogue we have in Dragon Age, Skyrim or Game of Thrones, but is it so much to ask to have a script that isn't cheesier than the state of Wisconsin? Ghirahim is far too much of a clown to be taken seriously. If Nintendo was trying to make a nuanced, sinister, disturbing villain out of him, then they failed at it miserably.

I do like Fi, however.... well, okay, SOMETIMES I like Fi - her emotionally neutral, overly analytical, almost computer-like speech is humorous, especially with how oblivious she remains to just how she sounds. Now if she'd just stop reminding me that my batteries or health are low.... or if she'd stop saying something that's either blatantly obvious, or give away the solution to the puzzle 30 seconds after I've encountered it.... she could at times be more annoying than Navi, and that's saying something.

Nintendo did get both the intro and ending right. Considering those are the two most important elements of the story (especially the later) I will give them credit where credit is due.

And I really hope Skyward Sword is the first and last Zelda game where our mount is a flying bird. This is Zelda, not StarFox.

Upgrading makes its debut, and it's a good addition. Get some supplies from the enemies, upgrade your shield or other item(s.) I do not know why the Slingshot is still a weapon in this series, however. It was obsolete the moment the Beetle was found (longer range and no ammo to collect) and twice obsolete when the bow is collected (why use a sling when you have a bow and arrow?) I didn't bother investing into it, as I had more important things to put my materials into than seed satchels. Arrow quivers, on the other hand, received the full upgrading experience. One related gripe regarding the process - whenever a bug or upgrade treasure is found for the first time in each and every playthrough, the game deems it necessary to pause the game, just stop it dead, and repost the information we've seen thousands of times before before letting us continue. Even if you collect a given bug, go save your game, quit, enter back in five minutes later and collect another of that same bug type, the game will once again pause the game and give its full description of what that bug is. And it does that with each and every type of bug, and each and every type of upgrade treasure you find. I think I've got a good handle on what items do what when the last dungeon in the game is looming on the horizon.

And why, oh why are we limited to selling only 4 types of treasure or bugs at a time? Randomly selected, at that?

Also, why are we over a decade past the turn of the 21st century and there's STILL no voice acting in a Zelda game? Before any ultra-hardcore Zelda purists (read: Raving psychopaths) start breaking their keyboards pounding away their righteous fury at how voice acting would somehow break the "holy sanctity" of the game, or start talking about how that'd turn Zelda into another mass-marketed series that only wants to turn a buck, let me stop you right there. First of all, every video game, regardless of when it was made or the genre it was built for, is a mass-marketed game, intended for a business to make a profit. Second of all, again, note the year we're in. It's time for voice acting, already. Should it be good? Absolutely. But for the last time, start giving voices to the characters. Reading text is boring. Boring is bad. And considering the sheer amount of written dialogue... the sheer amount of BAD dialogue.......

One last thing on the subject - I'm not sure why Nintendo would think we'd need tutorials if we're playing on Hard Mode, given that we have to go through the entire game once to access said mode. I wanted to say "I think I've got a good handle on this, thanks!" more times than I would care to admit.

And that stamina bar? That has to go.


Replayability - There's a Hard Mode after the game's completed once, but like every other Zelda game, Skyward Sword is completely linear in fashion - no branching story lines, no moral choices with long-term consequences that dynamically change the story, nothing like that. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, as it shows evidence that Nintendo has listened to its fans decrying the easy difficulty of its previous Zelda games.


All in all a good experience. I'm not going to say if it's better or worse than Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess, because nostalgia can cloud an otherwise objective point of view. So, it's a good game in and of itself. Hopefully when the next Nintendo console comes out, they'll have given something more responsive and dependable than the motion controls we have to put up with now. While control and general presentation issues do prevent the game from being perfect, or even as close to perfect as games are capable of becoming, it's a solid entry in the Zelda series and one of the best games the Wii has to offer.

Overall: 8/10 (NOT an average of the other scores.)

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 9/10
Controls: 3.5/10
Gameplay/Presentation: 8.5/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Overall score: 8/10

Deus Ex Human Revolution - Augmented Edition -Xbox 360
Deus Ex Human Revolution - Augmented Edition -Xbox 360
Offered by J&T Merchandise
Price: $34.97
31 used & new from $8.20

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wait is finally over..., September 8, 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
So it finally happened. On August 23rd, 2011, the third Deus Ex game, and first in eight years, was finally released. Having been a fan of the franchise for over a decade (click on my review list for a mini review of the first two games) and chomping at the bit to finally play it for well over a year (damn you 2010 E3 trailer!) I had some pretty high hopes for this game. I would finally be able to see, once and for all, if this would be the game that reignited interest in the Deus Ex name, if this would be, unlike the awful Invisible War, worthy of the original's pedigree. So I was pretty pumped when my roommate picked me up from work and already had the game sitting in the passenger seat. We got some Domino's pizza to celebrate, got home and I finally popped the game in.

After playing through it a few times, I can now finally write this review free of any first-play exuberance that might have otherwise clouded my judgment. So, does it measure up to the hype? Is it worthy of truly being called a Deus Ex game? Absolutely to both questions. Does it have flaws, rough edges and frustrations aplenty? See previous answer. In the end, however, while it's got its fair share of blemishes and disappointments, this is the sequel to the original that fans have been waiting for. This is the Deus Ex of the current gaming era, and I sincerely hope that Square Enix ends up earning a mint from this game, because I want more, Eidos.

So, let's get the downsides out of the way. I really wish that Eidos would've given the player the opportunity to delve a little deeper into...a certain batch of e-mails you can convince Sarif to send to you about halfway into the game, given the content. Yeah, there's a sidequest later, but even that doesn't really go into the depth it should have. I also wish that Eidos had made an aug that allowed for more than one battery to passively recharge when depleted. Now, I do understand why they didn't, but that's one aug I'd have gladly invested 2, 4, heck even 6 Praxis points into. The augs for the stealth enhancer and the one that reveals the hack strength of the modules are all worthless. Boss fights are both easy and lack the choice of using anything beyond combat, which is counter-productive to the multi-path, multi-solution dynamic the franchise has established itself upon. A weak link, but not gamebreaking. The character animations are jerky and spasmodic. Finally, I'm not sure why there would be a game released in 2011 that doesn't allow you to delete save files unless you do so from the game system's memory management section. And is it really so much to ask that we be able to reconfigure the controls how we like on a console? Oblivion did this back in 2006, so what's the issue?

And now we get to bugs. I know, I know. I hate discussing them too, especially in a game that I've waited this long for, but the fact is they're there. One of the worst being how the game sometimes handles KO's and deaths. There were many enemies I would knock out using tranquilizer darts or a stun gun, and they'd be knocked out, but later they'd be marked as dead, which forfeited the "Pacifist" achievement (no deaths besides boss battles) despite the fact that I'd have otherwise earned it. I did end up getting this achievement during my second playthrough, but this was only because I knocked out a grand total of one person, and that because there was no avoiding him. (And just so there's no confusion, yes, you DO need to avoid the enemies in the prologue to get this achievement. It is possible to sneak past them.) And there are clipping bugs aplenty...

There's also a glitch in the "Cloak and Daggers" sidequest that, while avoidable if you activate the quest before going to the area in question, isn't avoidable if you don't. Doing the second social battle (hint: morgue) will prevent a player from earning the "Foxiest of the Hounds" achievement. This is because in order to get said achievement, you have to earn the "Smooth Operator" XP bonus in every area that has alarms, and for whatever the reason, doing the social confrontation negates that bonus. So you simply have to use stealth and not bother talking to the person at all. This seems strange to me, because there's another section (hint: Metro Center) where you can also use social, and you DO get this bonus. The largest consumable for restoring bioenergy restores 3 bars, rather than the four it claims.

So why did this game get four stars? Well, that's largely due to what premise or premises it brings to the table - what separates it from the crowd. The Deus Ex name is all about choice, and the 4 pillars of gameplay - combat, stealth, hacking and social (with "Adaptive" as an implied 5th pillar) - are presented as 4 (or 5) different means of getting through a situation. The game gives you the "what" - an objective - and leaves you to figure out the "how". And the game never skimps on the "ors" here. Any side or main quest will let you complete it if you do this. Or if you do that. Or if you do the third thing. Or if you decide to do it one way then another way halfway in, you can do that. In short, the game leaves you to work out the specifics. All that matters is you get the objective done.

That isn't to say that the system isn't flawed. This is a hybrid game, and anytime you get a hybrid, some things are going to be lost. So it doesn't quite go into the kind of detail you'd see with a game that is strictly a stealth game, or strictly a shooter. Part of this has to be by design, however - in order to get more concepts into one game, you have to compromise something that wouldn't be lost if you were making a game that was solely based in one specific type of gameplay. It's like comparing a screwdriver to a Swiss Armyknife, or a standalone GPS device to an Android smartphone's GPS functionality. One can do it all, just not as well as the dedicated unit. Same sort of concept here. So the game's combat pillar isn't exactly Gears of War, its stealth pillar isn't exactly Assassin's Creed, for instance. It's a jack-of-all-trades as far as gameplay goes. I'll go into each pillar separately.

Combat is pretty solid for the most part. Don't expect enemies to have FEAR 2's AI, but for the most part they act reasonably intelligent in a gunfight. It's just that this route is very easy to take - even too easy. Even on the hardest setting, once you have the augs you'd want to have for a long, protracted gunfight, like damage reduction, recoil compensation, aim stabilizer, etc. tearing through the enemy is hardly a difficult exercise. The only real exception is early on in the game, before you get said augs. Of course, anybody who thinks it's too easy can always go through the game using combat tactics and NOT upgrade. The downside is that you sacrifice a lot of potential XP, thus preventing you from getting those upgrades as quickly.

Stealth, while my favorite of the 4 types to play through as, has got to be, hands down, where the game shows many of its flaws. The AI is extremely inconsistent in how it handles your actions and reactions. One of the biggest examples of this is that you can KO an enemy 5 feet from another guy who's got his back turned. The guy will yell out in pain, but his buddy won't turn around. Yet for some reason, the sound of an opening door will ALWAYS garner attention (and there's no way to slowly/silently open a door, by the way.) And it just seems really silly to me (it did playing the original too) that businesses would spend millions in corporate security to keep restricted areas secure; laser trip wires, cameras, bots, you name it, yet somehow no one ever thought it'd be a good idea to secure the vents, which are always conveniently large enough for a 200+ pound man to crawl through, completely silently. Bypassing any number of enemies and/or security measures is oftentimes as simple as looking for the hidden vent. Also, none of these businesses ever turn their heat on. Having (for almost the entire game) done this myself, I know that it is technically possible to get through the game without KO'ing or killing anybody (except bosses) but that's kind of like saying it's possible to get to work by hopping around on one foot. You could do it, but it's difficult and tiring. In the same way, passive stealth, where you simply sneak past enemies, is possible, but it can be a real chore sometimes. Expect many reloads to get that perfect playthrough where you slip past everybody unnoticed.

Hacking is good. I enjoyed hacking - it felt great when I was moments (in at least one instance, 0.1 seconds away) from being detected and hearing "Access granted." The tension's always there, because you know that the computer's security system might activate to try to lock you out. The hacking starts off simple and slowly gets more complex later on. You have to be careful if enemies are nearby, as they won't take too kindly to you trying to break into their stuff (imagine that!)

For Social, there's a single aug for 2 Praxis points. You can get some characters to react differently (and thus finish a quest another way) if you use it, but it's not needed for the social "boss fights", which aren't too tough. Just remember these principles:

Figure out what the other person wants to hear and convince them that by helping you, they're helping themselves. Pay attention to body language. Don't take anything personally. Don't get sidetracked. Be specific. Be kind, but be firm.

And now for the real part of the game - the story. A Deus Ex game is nothing without a good story (are you listening, those of you who made Invisible War????) and this game delivers. The voice acting is.... uneven to say the least (COUGH *young Tracer Tong* COUGH COUGH). Anyway, the story is laced with conspiracy, betrayal, deception, and all other things Deus Ex. Even your allies have secrets and agendas they're reluctant to share with Jenson. You get this sense that you're a pawn in a grand game of chess played by faceless entities and nothing is going to be the same as a result. The game world feels lived in, with clutter, ads, disenchanted people and garbage aplenty. For some reason no one in 2027 owns any pets, but no matter. I loved listening to the Lazarus radio shows to see what he'd have to say, plus the music that'd play would be a track from the original game - nice touch there guys. The first code you get (which is unavoidable, you will get this code, period) is 0451, just like the original game. There's a striking parallel to the first *actual* mission in this game with the first mission in the original as well. Some e-mails are signed by people you interacted with in the original game. Just wait till you find out who was involved in the autopsy reports of the science team, Picus' CEO and the WHO spokesperson are, fans of the original. I was hoping for at least one reference to a skull gun or orange soda, or possibly seeing a younger version of the mechs you met in the original, but no matter. The endings are good, especially if you're patient enough to wait through the credits. Not too crazy about the "Pick A, B, C or D" format, but the endings were good.

EDIT 6.27.12 I finished "The Missing Link" DLC a while ago, but never got around to adding that in. It's not a bad DLC pack, but I do take issue with the "Factory Zero" achievement, as it requires you to play through the mission without weapons, explosives or augs. The whole point of the game is to give the player choices, so why would there be an achievement that LIMITS the choices the player can make? I also really wanted the chance to talk to Gary Savage but to no avail. We do find out why he named his daughter Tiffany, so....that's something? I guess? Maybe? No? Okay. I was hoping to get to know a little more about the Illuminati, and I don't mean through reading e-mails or the newspapers, I mean directly working with, or against, someone who is speaking to Bob Page in the intro of the game, but this was also not done. As far as DLC packs go, it's one of the better ones, and I did enjoy it, but my concerns, especially the 'cheevo related one, seem like issues that should've been addressed during development. The fact that there's been no other DLC (I already had the "Rescue Tong" DLC with my preorder) doesn't help much either.

The game also brings up many social issues, a rare quality found in any video game, and the specific issues are even rarer still; issues like transhumanism, our reliance on technology, what boundaries that technology does or does not have on us (or should/should not have) and nearly if not every viewpoint anybody could have on the topic is represented in at least one conversation - if not one you interact in directly, then in one where two or more extras are discussing things amongst themselves. Personally, I wouldn't mind an eye aug for my left eye so that I could see with both eyes again, and I definitely agree that war vet amputees should be first in line to have replacement limbs/organs/appendages/whatever, should the tech ever officially roll out, although I don't agree with hacking off perfectly good body parts and getting mechanical replacements just for its own sake.

The soundtrack is great - there's no question that this soundtrack is for a Deus Ex game. There's not a single bad track to be found here.

The graphics are stunning - it's amazing to see all of the detail they were able to milk out of the game and still have it run completely smoothly. Character animations when speaking to someone can be a bit stiff (don't expect LA Noire here folks) and there's a guy in the Detroit PD who I would've listed in the credits as "The Table Banging Cop" - you'll know who I'm talking about when you are told to go to the DPD's morgue - but there's little else to complain about.

Controls are intuitive. There were some times I threw a grenade when I was only wanting to throw the box I had, but found that by keeping the Automatic Unlocking Device as my throwable weapon (and then switching to something else when I needed it and back to the AUD after) got around this problem nicely.

The overall gameplay, when taken as a whole is great. Obviously not perfect - there's no such thing as a perfect game - but this is the Deus Ex game we've been waiting over 10 years for.

This game easily earns its four stars and I'd give it 4.5 if I could. Whether you're new to the Deus Ex franchise or played it ever since the original came out, you want to play this game. It cuts a few corners in some areas and could've really improved in others, but this is an exceptional diamond in a flood of unplayable garbage. When you get right down to it, this is the rebound the series needed - like a certain movie franchise about an archeologist who fights Nazis (Amazon is very picky about direct references) the first one was amazing, the second was terrible, and the third is the triumphant KO punch. In short, buy this game.

Deus Ex: Invisible War - PC
Deus Ex: Invisible War - PC
Offered by Filmrolle
Price: $8.99
73 used & new from $0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars The game that nearly killed the franchise, August 17, 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Consider this a dual review; I'm reviewing both the original and the sequel here.

My first experience with Deus Ex was when my brother showed me a few minutes of the gameplay on his PC back in 2000. It wasn't too terribly far into the game but far enough that I had no clue what was going on story wise or what sort of gameplay mechanics it used. That was the seed that began it all, however.

A few months after that I found a jewel case for about $20 in a used PC store. Figuring that I could spend $20 on worse things, I snatched it up and went back to my dorm. Took a bit to tweak the settings to balance visuals with framerate (the computer I owned at the time was ancient even then) but finally worked all of that out.

And it didn't take too long before I realized why my brother liked the game so much.

I'd played a few games that allowed for freedom of choice before, but not to the scale that was offered here, and certainly not one that had as much replay value. I couldn't even begin to imagine how many times I replayed a particular level, or the game from beginning to end, trying something else just to see how it'd play out, and it took many, many playthroughs before I finally could say I saw/heard everything. Even on playthroughs where I already figured I must've seen/heard everything, I still ended up uncovering something new.

The game had a stronger emphasis on the shooter aspect than sneaking/hacking, but the general gaming atmosphere, and the expectations of the gaming audience at the time, were far different than it'd be today, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that shooting through the game was oftentimes the main path. There always was a stealth route available (apparently, even the most secure, heavily defended bases on the planet all have at least one air duct large enough for a man to crawl through - and they can crawl through completely silent at that!) but breaking stealth, accidentally or otherwise usually meant a fight until everything around you gathered flies. The fact that decisions in one level rarely impacted the game in the long term was disappointing, but it was more than fun enough to see everything it had to offer. In the end, the game was easily one of my favorite games and likely always will be.

Then, about a year ago, I stumbled across a copy of the much less well received sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War. By the time it originally came out, I was drifting away from PC gaming as a whole and didn't really bother to check into it before this. I knew that lots of people hated the game, but some enjoyed it, and I finally decided that there was only one way to find out which camp I belonged in.

By then I had a computer that was made several years after DE:IW came out, and was far more powerful than the recommended specs on the box.

Yet, somehow when the game began, I had to spend at least 15 minutes messing with the visual settings before finally having no choice but to scale everything - resolution, textures, the whole nine - down to the lowest levels. If I made one single setting go higher than the absolute lowest, it'd be a slideshow. Didn't matter which one, every single setting had to be at its lowest. Yet somehow everything at the lowest was smooth - there was no in-between. Not a great way to start things off, especially when you already have concerns about the game.

And it only got worse from there.

It's already very hard to ignore the mechanical flaws this game has, such as the horrible voice acting from every major character who wasn't in the first game (and some who were) the clunky gameplay, the annoying side quests that I ended up just ignoring about half way in, the horribly washed out colors, goofy character animations, the tad bit TOO streamlined inventory and magic ammo pool from whence all weapons drew being examples just off the top of my head. These might - just MIGHT - be forgiven if the story and characters themselves are great. But these are also two areas where IW failed to deliver. There were zero - literally, zero - great plot twists. There is a plot twist towards the latter half of the game that changes how you view the factions, but even if the plot twist was mind-blowing and completely unpredictable, (it's not!) it doesn't hold any weight to the game, so replaying the game and knowing the truth doesn't really make a difference. The plot twist in this game doesn't quite hold the same impact as the original KOTOR when you discovered who Darth Revan was, or perhaps Andrew Ryan telling you to stop (and what he says after) in Bioshock, or when Harbinger said what would be his final two words to...somebody who's not Shepherd in Mass Effect 2, despite the fact that it looks like that's what the developers were striving for. It seems like they were trying to wow us with that plot twist, yet it just falls flat.

There's also no real sense of escalating tension between protagonist and antagonist(s) either. In the original, every step forward meant two steps back, as it should be. Here, there were multiple factions going head to head and trying to convince you to take their side, but there's no real reason to care about any one of them, and the fact that you could have actively worked against any one of them the entire game yet still be able to fulfill their agenda was disappointing. In one instance, this can even mean going so far as to kill a key member of the original game in cold blood. You could do that, and still work with that faction, as if nothing was wrong. No real consequence for your actions.

Speaking of factions, did anybody else's hand attach itself to forehead upon finding out that one of the factions is - I'm not making this up - the Templars? Oh, but it gets better! Despite being disbanded over 7 centuries ago, somehow the Templars manage to raise up a formidable army, in a horrible, global recession no less, complete with walking mechs, choppers, tanks, you name it. You also spend the majority of the game sneaking into, killing, destroying, disrupting and otherwise giving anything that is even remotely Templar a headache of titanic proportions. But towards the end of the game, that doesn't matter none! Nope! The grandmaster of the Templar order doesn't seem to care one bit that you've killed countless soldiers and cost him millions in equipment loss. He'll still let you work for him if you're so inclined! And unless I missed something, the game also didn't really explain how Chad went from peaceful protester to megalomaniacal, homicidal dictator who would stop at nothing for total control. He was easily as detestable as the grandmaster of the Templars, if not more so.

The endings do require that you commit to a certain path at the very end (but only the very end) and they divulge largely from each other - they are mutually exclusive. In the original, they're not really so exclusive, a fact that this game takes on, because the canon "ending" the sequel uses is a combination of all of them. That is to say, JC fulfills every ending, and the world is shaped by that. But despite being mutually exclusive and forcing a final commitment, they still disappoint.

The only real improvements this game had over the original are that unlike the first game, you can 1.) Play a male or female operative. 2.) You can't save, get a door code by paying somebody, reload the game and use the code without spending the money - this time, you have to have the code to open the door. 3.) Air ducts are also guarded this time. 4. There's an interactive AI who resembles a major pop star. In one exchange, you can reveal the actual pop star's manager doing a dirty deed and ask her what she'll do. Her response? "Oh, tra la la...I'll probably just fire the b---h!" That got a good laugh. 5.) And the last level in the game was a good choice, as it ties the storyline back to the original game.

But those are it. And those plusses do not even begin to compensate for IW's many and deep flaws. So, in the end, I have no choice but to side with the camp who loved the original but hated the sequel. Fortunately, Human Revolution proved to be just what the series needs to bring it back into the limelight, so hopefully we can all move forward and forget this awful game.

Deus Ex: 9.5/10
Invisible War: 3.75/10 (And I feel that I'm being generous with that score.)
Human Revolution: 8.5/10

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