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Dishonored

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I spent a fair amount of time playing Dishonored, and I have to say that I was surprisingly pleased with the game. I've historically always been a fan of the "stealth genre" of games; absolutely loving games like the Thief, Hitman, and Deus Ex series. I had become somewhat cynical and jaded to the stealth genre in recent years, due to so many games losing their way. Splinter Cell 1 & 2 were excellent, and then that franchise went downhill fast...likewise games like Assassins Creed tout themselves as stealth, but fall flat when compared to true stealth games. However, Dishonored proclaimed that it had all of the elements that I craved; and the official reviews seemed to back up the developer's claims, so I decided to give the game a shot! I'm very glad that I did. Dishonored combines stealth with several other factors that make playing it an enjoyable experience. The ability to advance/improve special abilities, as you desire, was a welcome addition to the genre! The open-level design made it truly enjoyable to play...I didn't feel like like my game play experience was "on rails" at all. In fact many times I found myself wandering throughout the level to check out all of my options, for avenues of approach, before I committed to one; and I loved that aspect of exploration. The game isn't "perfect" (but then again, really, what game ever truly is?)...and there were some areas that could be improved as a result. I wasn't a tremendous fan of the Chaos system's implementation. While the developers stated that it's not meant to be a barometer for "morality", or scale of "good vs. evil"...but, when you get right down to it, it really is that. If you want the "good ending" then you have to go for Low Chaos, and minimize the amount of killing you do. The other aspect that I didn't particularly care for was the fact that if you are going for a stealth/non-lethal play-through; you miss out on the opportunity to use several abilities and most of the gear (wall mines, grenades, crossbows, pistols, etc.) in the game! While I was pretty satisfied with my selection of abilities, I do wish there had been more non-lethal gear at least. I felt somewhat cheated by the fact that most of the "fun gadgets" were lethal. All in all, I thought this was an excellent game; and definitely one that I would recommend to fans of stealth-oriented games. The amount, and quality, of content was good; and was an enjoyable experience. It was a pleasure to find a game that was actually innovating; instead of the dried-out cookie cutter sequels that are all too prevalent, and flooding the market, these days!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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Well, despite my last two Blog entries being negative and ranting about games that I have played (and been greatly disappointed in); it is a welcome change of pace for me to actually be able to write and give a game a positive review for a change!

Over this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I had ventured into my friendly neighborhood GameStop store to peruse the Used Game shelf to see if I could find some quality entertainment for myself to whittle away the hours.

I had just, the week before, finished up playing Dishonored; and was reasonably satisfied with that game. I had forgotten how much I thoroughly enjoy the "stealth" game genre...as it's been a long time since I played the "Thief" series of games, and I had also really liked the original & first sequel of "Splinter Cell"...that was before the Splinter Cell franchise went down the tubes and stopped being about stealth and instead became more like single-player Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six. But anyways...I digress.

As I was saying, I had been happy with Dishonored; and was looking for other games that were along those same lines, and fit the same type of game play. As I was searching online for other games of a similar style, I kept getting results back for a game called Deus Ex; and people seemed to be raving about how good it is/was.

To be honest, most people were raving about the "original" Deus Ex (not Deus Ex: Human Revolution)...but that was for PC and much older; so I decided to give the newer Deus Ex: Human Revolution for Xbox 360 a try instead, as that also had good reviews as well.

*****WARNING - There will be spoilers below********

As this is a blog entry, and not an official "review" in the respective Review Section, I am going to just talk about my experience with the game, as a whole, and therefore the remainder of this Blog Entry does contain some spoilers. If you truly wish to enjoy the game, I'd recommend not reading further.

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I put the game in and went through the obligatory introduction cut-scenes and intro walkabout; eagerly waiting the action to start happening....and once it did I was immediately impressed with the game!

Now, don't get me wrong...the game isn't "perfect"; but then again, really, what game ever is absolutely perfect (where there is not a single, solitary thing you wouldn't change)? I've never played a game that I was thought perfect, but some have come close, and this is one of those that falls into my short list of games that I thoroughly enjoyed!!

The game's highlights were the somewhat "open level" style of play. I won't call it "open world" as you cannot truly wander anywhere you want within the game world; you do have to play within the boundaries of the "level" or "chapter" that you are playing; but the level design is such that they are very open in respect to allowing the player to choose the path that they want to take in tackling their objectives.

Many missions require infiltration of locations, and/or bypassing soldiers & guards. Players can tackle the task in a wide variety of ways! For example Players may find access to roof tops, or if no access is available you can stack boxes on top of one another to make your own access. Or perhaps you can find access to the location you seek by traveling through the sewers to come in through the basement of the building. There are even some destructable walls that you can bust through if you have the right augmentations (upgrades) to your character. That's still not the end of the freedom players are given! Players can scurry through ventilation shafts, hack through security doors, disable security cameras, etc. All in an effort to build yourself a path to your objective. The game encourages creative thinking in how you approach your goals!

And if stealth isn't your thing....fret not...you can also run & gun...and take the "Rambo approach" to the levels if that is more fun to you.

The game does have a few "low points" to it though. Like I said, I have yet to play "the perfect game"....

The "boss fights" in the game are extremely annoying. The game largely encourages "stealthy" game play; sneaking around opponents and largely avoiding all out open combat/conflict. However in the boss fights that all changes...as in every one of the fights you are essentially locked into a medium size room with the baddie, and forced to fight it out with them. It's like the game decided to suddenly switch from a stealth-based game, and suddenly become a game of Deathmatch like in Unreal Tournament or Quake 3. It's you, and the boss, one on one. No chance for subterfuge or being creative any longer...it's just a slugfest, with you running away most of the time; to hide behind whatever cover you can find.

Fortunately, once the boss fight is done...it's back to being a fun stealth game again for quite awhile longer, before the next boss fight comes up.

I can't recall for certain how many boss fights there were to annoy me; I think it was about 3-4 of them all together. They were really annoying; but thankfully they didnt' happen often, and I could instead enjoy the other 95% of the game for the pleasant experience that it was!

The game's other little "schizophrenic" moment was in the last level...where suddenly the game decided to essentially turn into the stereotypical Zombie Game. Now granted, you aren't actually fighting zombies...but really, you might as well be! The game was still fun, don't get me wrong, but all I could think to myself was "Oh no...not another developer that fell victim to having to have zombies in their game (well, the equivalent of zombies in this case).

Aside from the game's schizophrenic moments with boss fights & the final level....the game was awesome.

The game allowed me to pick my fights; fighting when I wanted to, and avoiding conflict through the use of stealth and being patient & creative. I truly felt like I was being rewarded by the game, when I out-thought opponents patrols or tactics. Additionally there is a fair degree of customization that you can do to your character in respect to your character's abilities. Though, there could have been a few more abilities to pick from...as by the end of the game I was just slapping upgrade points wherever I had room for them, as I'd already gotten all the abilities that I really wanted...and I really didn't care about the abilities that I didn't have points in.

Definitely worth playing if you like games like Thief, the way Splinter Cell started out!! I also played a lot of Fallout 3 with a lot of points in "stealth" type skills. So if you enjoy similar games and styles of play, I highly recommend you give Deus Ex: Human Revolution a try!!

Call of Duty: Black Ops

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Call of Duty: Black Ops I picked up my copy of "Call of Duty: Black Ops" last week and have spent the last week playing through it so I could write my review of it on the blog here at GameSpot. I am a huge fan of FPS (First Person Shooter) games. I had read several previews/reviews of the game prior to purchasing it, and I became excited about getting the game based on the feedback from critics for this title. Unfortunately, I have to say the critics that raved about this game should find another line of work, and leave the world of video game reviews behind. Either that, or they have short attention spans and are easily amused by the most simple & mundane things in life and don't crave any substance. So let's continue this review by calling the game by its more appropriate name: "Call of Doodie: Crap Ops ".... Before I dissect the games flaws, let me admit that Call of Doodie: Crap Ops is not completely without any merit what-so-ever. The game is visually very attractive, and I did enjoy the multiple locales that the game brought the player to. It was nice to periodically change up the scenery with a fresh location to fight within. Unfortunately, the old adage "Looks aren't everything" is apparently not in the vocabulary of the developers over at Treyarch. While the game has visual style, everything else is mediocre (at best). The first thing to mention about "Call of Doodie: Crap Ops" is that Treyarch apparently couldn't decide whether they were making a video game, or a CGI movie. I can't even count the number of times that I was in the middle of a mission and then *poof* there action would stop and I'd have to sit through a cut-scene. Then I would be able to play again for a few minutes, and *BAM* another cut-scene. In at least one case, I specifically recall that I sat through yet another boring, repetitive, cut-scene; and was finally able to resume playing the game...when literally, in under 1 minute, I was greeted with another &%%^#! cut-scene. Needless to say, I was getting extremely annoyed with the game at this point, just solely from the stupid cut-scenes that happen FAR too often. You can get the same entertainment value out of buying a CGI movie, and save $45. Not only to the cut-scenes happen far too often, but they are extremely repetitive and do absolutely nothing to further the plot or storyline of the game. Instead of using their annoying break from the action to provide insight into the gaming experience, the player is subjected to watching the character tied to a chair, saying "no, no, no" over and over again, along with some blah blah blah about some stupid numbers, that the game never explains anyways. You can figure out what the numbers are for, but really, for these "numbers" to be the sole catalyst for the story, you'd think that Treyarch would at least attempt to reveal the secret to demonstrate their "brilliant plot" creation skills...but instead they just gloss over them with no meaningful explanation. Way to go Treyarch...good going on demonstrating your mastery of literary skills or creation of plot devices!! *cough*. As I previously stated, the game does have a nice variety of locales; but Treyarch even found a way to screw up that nicety. Instead of developing a nice coherent plot, they took the approach of a schizophrenic that overdosed on Red Bull. The plot jumps around more than a 10 year old on a pogo stick. I appreciate that the "jumping around" is to simulate the mental trauma of the main character..however...I don't play video games to experience mock-ups of mental issues. I don't recall purchasing "Call of Duty: Mental Trauma Simulator". I buy games to be entertained, imagine that! Who'd have though it?! I figured perhaps the multiplayer would be worth the purchase of the game. *BUZZ* Wrong again. The multiplayer of "Call of Doodie: Crap Ops" is poorly designed. At first I thought it would be great because there were weapon/equipment upgrades which provide a reason to continue playing online matches; but they aren't enough to make up for the game's multiplayer deficiencies. I enjoy multiplayer FPS games that promote teamwork and strategy. The maps in Crap Ops have too many paths for the number of players on the map, which makes it impossible to stick together unless you are playing with personal friends and communicating via microphone. Don't expect any coordination with fellow players that are strangers, it won't happen. The maps promote too much of a "run & gun" style of FPS multiplayer (which some people I'm sure enjoy). It is suited to lone-wolf players that care little about teamwork and just want to play "Free-for-All" type multiplayer matches. Crap Ops just doesn't compare to the better multiplayer FPS games like Battlefield: Bad Company. The "classes" in Battlefield at least provide some sort of direction, teamwork, and substantial differentiation between players. There's also "Zombie Mode", which is a completely pointless "mini-game" which serves absolutely no purpose at all. Maybe that's why the rest of the game sucks so much; because the developers were working on this completely pointless mini-game. I can say I truly feel ripped off by this title. I would honestly say it's not worth even $20. Save your money. It's too bad so many people (including myself) were sold on the hype; and the OVERLY generous critic reviews. I say it's "too bad" because as long as developers continue to make large profits off of substandard games, the entire gaming community will suffer as these developers continue to publish trash in the effort to make a quick buck.

Far Cry 2

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Far Cry 2: First of all, let me begin by stating that I love the concept of "sandbox" styled games. To me, the freedom of being able to move around, when & where I want, is what an entertaining video game experience is all about. I can't stand games that funnel you through the game on a virtual conveyor belt, spoon-feeding you experiences through gratuitous use of scripted events. I want an immersive world, one that I can feel like I am taking part in. Where I can explore freely, and stumble across discoveries and feel like I am truly exploring. Therefore, I thought I would really enjoy the experience of Far Cry 2. Unfortunately the game was largely a disappointment to me. The game does have the free-form roamable sandbox world that I enjoy. However the developers really dropped the ball when it came to developing the enemy A.I. and the gameplay experience. Enemies are able to spot you from extreme distances, with no justification provided for their eagle-eye vision. I found myself regularly under attack, from seemingly invisible foes....only to find out that the enemies were half a mile away, and able to routinely hit my character with sniper-like precision (even with pistols and shotguns). Needless to say, the game balance and overall experience is horrible as a result of the game's imbalances. I purchased the game based on the overall "review scores" posted on a number of sites. Unfortunately most people granting ratings appear to hand out high ratings on a willy-nilly basis without actually holding the game developers to any sort of standard. In the end, these fans are doing the entire industry a disservice, as they "reward" shoddy games with high scores. Giving games high ratings, despite poor development/programming, weakens the industry overall as game developers don't feel that they need to adequately test and fine-tune their products. Far Cry 2 is a 5.0 or 6.0 game (at best). Graphically, the game is decent. The sandbox element is a nice touch. But the game play is ruined by the poorly programmed A.I. and the omniscient enemies. Don't waste your money.