Portal 2

By Sean McQuillan

Developer: Valve Corporation

Publisher: Valve Corporation

Distributor: Valve Corporation (Online), Electronic Arts (Retail)

Platform: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Genre: Puzzle-Platform, Science Fiction

Modes: Single-Player, Cooperative

 

Rating:  5/5  First Prize in Potato Science!

 Portal 1’s silent protagonist, Chell,  wakes up to find herself back in the bowels of Aperture Science.  She has been in stasis for many years as the facility has succumbed to encroaching nature without GLaDOS to maintain the facility.  She is greeted by a personality core, Wheatley, and must work to escape the facility together.  Along the way GLaDOS is reawakened, and testing can begin anew.  Chell must escape a new and deadly set of puzzles and obstacles that will take her from the bowels of the facility, to a final showdown with the psychotic intelligence running the tests.

With this second outing into the world of Aperture Science, Valve takes every opportunity to flesh out the world and its characters.  While we had GLaDOS as our main source of interaction in Portal 1, this game introduces us to Wheatley, a bumbling and endearing construct helping you escape. Cave Johnson is also introduced as the eccentric founder of Aperture Science.    The voice acting in Portal 1 by GLaDOS’ voice actress Ellen McLain was beautifully enchanting, and Portal 2 doesn’t disappoint.  Ellen is back as GLaDOS and the turrets, but we also get wonderful performances from Stephen Merchant (Wheatley), and J.K. Simmons (Cave Johnson) who many would know as J. Jonah Jameson from the original Spiderman movies.  While there’s no shortage of amazing lines from all of them through the game, you’ll find yourself wishing there was more.

The wonderful Aesthetic of Portal 1, with the well polished test tracks, and the abandoned industrial areas behind the scenes, gave the game as much characterization as its voice acting.  With Portal 2 we see it really come alive. From the lowest levels where we see Aperture’s humble beginnings to the madcap testing tracks as the facility becomes unstable; we see an organic facility that shapes and molds its story over time.

The platforming sections the coined the phrase “Thinking with Portals” was perfect in Portal 1, it’s hard to think where they could go from there.  The guys at Valve brought in the team from Independent Games Festival-winning DigiPen student project Tag: The Power of Paint to incorporate their game’s paint mechanics into these new gels.  While these 3 new gels are a blast to play with, especially the orange Propulsion gel, the Valve team were no slouches themselves.  Introducing Faith plates, Light bridges, Thermal Discouragement Beams, and the gravity defying Excursion Tunnels, Portal 2 is at no shortage of new and interesting ways to challenge the player.

While the campaign mode is certainly a rich experience, the Co-op play is the perfect complement to it.  With the introduction of the not quite silent protagonists Atlas and P-body, you’ll go through quite a gauntlet of puzzles strictly designed for two people.  It’s an exercise in trust and often good-hearted frustration.  While the puzzles are great, the experience is also related to the main storyline, with the most engaging moments coming when the pair have to go “off the rails” and into the facility’s abandoned areas.  While it can be frustrating to replay this mode with someone who hasn’t solved the puzzles, with the new Authoring Tools you can look forward to new puzzles from the community.

If you are  wondering if Jonathan Coulton, the wonderful Singer/Songwriter behind Portal 1’s “Still Alive”, has a new entry for this outing, the answer is a happy Yes. There’s also another great bonus to be had for those who complete the Story mode.  You’ll just have to beat it and see.

With cake, companion cubes, wonderfully dark humor, and the wonder of picking up your first portal gun, it’s hard for a sequel to catch the same magic as the first Portal game.  Luckily Valve succeeds masterfully and fans of the first game should all love this new chapter in the Aperture Science story.

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Amnesia: The Dark Decemt

by Angie Quidim

I just couldn’t bear it any longer but I had to say something about this game. Amnesia is a PC survival horror that reminded me of the Eternal Darkness and Fatal Frame Series on the PS2. If you don’t know what these titles are i suggest you do some research.
Amnesia is best described as a train wreck. Horrible things happen as you explore, but the stuff you come up with is so graphic you have to play some more.

Here is the teaser trailer to get you started. If you care to demo the game here is the website (www.amnesiagame.com)

GAMERSGATE AND INDIE GAME PUBLISHER ROCKIN ANDROID TEAM UP TO DIGITALLY DISTRIBUTE INDIE TITLES

gamersgateRockinAndroid_link

GamersGate, a leading platform for digitally distributed PC games, today announced a distribution deal with indie videogame publisher Rockin Android.  GamersGate will offer a lineup of localized indie videogame titles officially licensed from Japan. The first title available will be the Japanese fan-favorite hybrid shoot’em up, fighter SUGURI, scheduled for availability at the end of June. Additional titles from Rockin Android will soon follow. I’m thrilled with this partnership, said Rockin Android President Enrique Galvez. The rock solid reputation and wide-reaching, user-friendly platform of GamersGate will tremendously help to expose some of Japan¹s best indie PC games to an even wider global audience. We have always placed a high importance on offering high-quality indie titles, said Theodore Bergquist, CEO of GamersGate.  Rockin Android has made a name for itself by finding some fantastic indie titles and brining them to market.  We’re very pleased to help deliver these titles to the GamersGate community.

About SUGURI:

Experience the rush of battle as you wage intensive aerial duels in the fan-acclaimed SUGURI, one of the most unique hybrid shooter/fighter titles ever created by Japan indie game developer Orange Juice.   Showcasing beautifully rendered designs, innovative weaponry, rapid-fire combat gameplay action and a cool techno-trance soundtrack, SUGURI is a must-have, must-play indie game.

Fear 2 Project Origin – PC Supplement

Fear 2 Project Origin – PC Supplement

By: Mario Garcia

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

Developer: Monolith Productions

System: PC, X Box 360, PS3

Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10

Website: http://www.whatisfear.com/

Project Origin is the followup to the thriller horror FPS FEAR. It continues the stoyr of Alma the creepy Japanese schoolgirl from the original. We have a great writeup of the game by John Burrell Jr.on our console site Press Start and i dont want to just repeat everything he said in his article so please check it out http://pressstarttme.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/fear-2-project-origin/.

I felt the game really delivered on the promise of scares and delivered when it came to the intese atmosphere. I had not played beyone the demo in the first game so this was a very fresh experinse for me. The AI’s ability to adapt to the situations was great allowing the enmies to use cover effectively even pulling down parts of the environment to use. Most of the game I tried to play at night lights low headphones on and sound turned way up. That is truly the best way to experience a game like Fear 2. The creepy factor of all the subtle sound and lighting effects really shone through and i could feel my hear racing when a sudden flash of a ghost or monster would temporarily blur my vision or i would see a ghoslty image creep just around the corner then the action would take off when severaly enemies jumped in from various points . The slow motion “Matrix” effect was fun at first but became a bit of a chore and would even feel a bit out of place at times due to the fact that it would light up the enemies like an old arcade shooting gallery game.

This sequel while great fun there were a few shortcomings.  The lack of a quicksave was very annoying.  PC Gamers are used to being able to save regularly.  Having to repeat the same area over and over because you are sent back to a checkpoint  can really interrupt the flow of the game.  While not a gameplay annoyoance one of the port problems is the checkpoints stop the game and you are treated to a message that says saving game please do not turn off your computer.  That was just a huh moment and i honeslty felt a little bit of hey this is a pc not a console is the game trying to save to a memory card.  Oh well.

Overall though FEAR 2 Project ORIGIN has a great mix of action, storyline and atmosphere.  IT was a great mix of creepy and action. While a few oversights when creating the port from console to PC removed from the immersion a bit i was pretty impressed by the game overall.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Review

Title: Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
By: Anthony Rice (Rice_King)
Developer: Splash Damage
Publisher: Activision
Consoles Available: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Number of Players: 1-32
ESRB Rating: Teen
Review Rating: 8.5
Website: www.enemyterritory.com

Cover

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars was released by id Software in 2007 and is a child of the Free Multiplayer game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (ET) that was released in 2003. It is not so much a sequel to ET because ET was based in WWII. It is mainly an online multiplayer game, but it can also be played offline with bots. The point of the game is to enter into a campaign where there are multiple maps and you either have to defend a main objective or attack the main objective. There are many small objectives – such as building a bridge, or destroying generators – that you must first complete before you even get near the main objective. There are two sides you can choose, GDF (Global Defense Force) or Strogg – the alien invaders. Within both of these sides you have five character types you can choose from. Basically you can choose from an ammunitions supplier/target painter, spy, medic, soldier, or engineer. Many of the objectives can only be completed by a specific class, so the teams have to be balanced with classes in order to succeed. For example if you have to build a bridge or repair a vehicle, only the engineer can do this.

Strogg Lightning Gun

For a game that was released two years ago, the graphics are very clean. The humans are very realistic, while the Strogg, who are abominations of flesh and metal, look quite evil. The game is great in the way that everyone who plays gets to play a part in the success or failure of the team. You can choose your class in-game so you don’t get stuck with the character you chose. You can also gain campaign experience which will give you abilities like faster arming of mines or more clips of ammo. Now it’s not the eternal war between the US and the Nazis, it’s the other eternal war between alien oppressors and humans is just as good when executed correctly.

Strogg Infiltrating

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has a strong Evolution factor because of its strong class based objective game play. The very fact that it forces cooperative game play and you to need to either support the people fulfilling objectives or be the person fulfilling the objectives gives a strong sense of teamwork and community that bring many gamers back for hours of fun. The replay value of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is very high; every campaign you play will bring new and refreshing experiences. Many people still do play this game; I was surprised to see how many servers were full when I first logged on. Now you can find this game for less than ten bucks on Amazon, I definitely recommend spending the cash to get this game.

RATING: 8.5

Evolution Factor: High

Cyclops

Crysis: Warhead

200px-crysis_warhead_boxart

By Mario Garcia

Developer: Crytek

Publisher: EA Games

Review Rating: 8

Website:  http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/

Crysis: Warhead is the Sequel to 2007’s awesome first person shooter Crysis. You are now on the other side of the island playing as Sergeant Michael “Psycho” Sykes. Rather than being a sequel taking place later Crysis Warhead takes place in parallel to the events of the first game.

Crysis: Warhead is visually amazing. The jungle environment is lush and has a very alive feel to it. Watching a flock of quail run across the road was unexpected. The trees and many other objects are destructible and the physics make the gameplay very interesting since you don’t always have to rely on your guns to take out enemies. A large box thrown with super strength or a bunch of logs rolling down a hill work very nicely indeed.

Gameplay in Crysis: Warhead is fast an furious with intense firefights and challenging enemies. The suit powers are nicely implemented and come in handy without being too overpowered or annoying, eg. requiring a split second maneuver that is critical to progressing. The interface is very nice you can use a center mouse click to bring up the power controls as well as being able to use the mouse to modify your weapons. I personally liked adding a sniper scope to the Gauss cannon since it was especially handy at taking out the aliens. The enemies early in the game did feel like they blended into the environment a bit and  occasionally while looking at the radar to find and enemy I ended up stumbling right over them.

factor_high1Overall Crysis: Warhead is a great standalone expansion to Crysis. Fun Gameplay and good storyline .  The cutscenes and in game dialogue really fleshed out the story along with the flashed of backstory.  Using less system resources makes it play very well on a decent system though to really get the pest experience from the game a high end gaming rig is preferred. Also Cryengine 2 takes advantage of DirectX 10 and Multi-core processors so windows vista is the preferred OS on this one.

Left 4 Dead

left4dead_windows_cover2

By Mario Garcia

Developer: Valve Corporation

Publisher: Valve Corporation

Review Rating: 10

Website:  http://www.l4d.com/

Left 4 Dead is a first person shooter zombie survival game. However in my opinion it is more of a zombie movie simulator.  The premise is Four Survivors trying to escape from the relentless hordes of undead infected.  They fight their way across farms, hospitals, subways and city streets.

We have to start with the true stars of the game the Infected. The normal infected are fast moving cannon fodder zombies, not at all tough 1-2 shots puts them down but there are a lot of them and its easy to get overwhelmed. Then there are the specialty infected. The Boomer, a disgusting blob of gelatinous gross. The boomers have 2 attacks one is a vomit attach in which they projectile vomit bile which attracts infected and the second is getting within range and then getting show so the bile spray out all over any survivors in the vicinity. The Smoker is a Gene Simmons wannabe with a tongue that can be used to entangle survivors who then need to be rescued by their teammates. The Hunters are fast and vicious pouncing on any survivor foolish enough to stray from the group and again once pinned you will need your teammates to rescue you. The Tank is a huge hulk that can throw cars and chunks of concrete as well as easily knock survivors across the way or off a rooftop. Finally The Witch who is the toughest of the infected. Luckily she just hides and cries to herself until she is startled by a flashlight or is shot at.

There are four Survivors, Francis the tough biker, Zoey the college student, Louis the working man, and  Bill the grizzled old war veteran.  They are pretty much interchangeable with no special powers or difference in abilities.  They all have access to a good variety of weapons.  The basic pistol has unlimited ammo though the reload time can be your undoing.  A second pistol can be found in places and the characters can dual wield.  Then there are shotguns, hunting rifles , uzi, and machine guns that can be used to dispatch the various infected. The respawns are also interesting since you have to be rescued from a closet by the other teammates rather than just dropping back into the combat that offers a nice extra bit of realism.

There is a hidden character that really makes this game stand out. The AI/Director changes elements in the game dynamically.  The changes can be made to locations of enemies or extra weapons.  The AI calculates the perceived stress levels of each characters and adjusts the difficulty accordingly.  The 2 shambling zombies that were in the subway tunnel last round can this time be a horde of zombies that come charging from the tunnel without warning.  The Director portion changes the music to increase and maintain a great level of tension.  Playing a fast paced soundtrack while fighting waves of zombies and brass hits when attacked by a smoker or hunter and the somber death music when you are taken down and killed and finally the triumphant ending music if you make it to the rescue.

factor_high

Freakin awesome. This game is one of the most fun First Person Shooters i’ve played in a very long time.  It is exciting and fresh and truly a cooperative multi player game.  Zombies shooting is always fun. Playing with friends or a pick up group is a blast, whether you are playing survivors or infected.  I really like the fact that you can play ths game for a quick log in an blow stuff up session or play for a long time with a group of friends and have a good time.  Valve should be releasing the SDK for it soon too so look for mods in the near future.