Archive for the ‘Impressions’ Category


The wait is finally over for Ubisoft’s I Am Alive.  Six long years and many changes later it is finally available on the Xbox Live Arcade and I wish I could say that I was more enthusiastic about it.  I love post-apocalyptic games like Disaster Report and Raw Danger and I Am Alive is in the vein of those titles, but doesn’t resonate with me the same way and let me tell you why.

I Am Alive places you in the fictional semi-metropolis of Haventon.  You are on a quest to find your wife Julie and your daughter Mary.  An “Event” has rocked the country and even more so in Haventon.  Earthquakes have ravaged Haventon and plumes of killer dust encapsulate the city and while it creates great atmosphere, everything looks overly drab.  The utilization of the Unreal Engine generates some great effects for lighting and shadows, but the environments and character models lack the detail of other Unreal powered games.  The collision detection needed some more polish and that lack of polish really diminished what little visual quality the game had to its credit.  The main character’s animations are stiff which is more troublesome in a game like this where navigation and exploration are integral game components.

Navigating and exploring areas falls short in comparison to the game’s scale.  The areas in the game present multiple potential avenues for moving forward, but the game dictates one single linear path for you to pursue.  The climbing mechanics were supposed to be a staple in this game and prove to be generic and frustrating.  A stamina gauge is placed on the main character in order to create tension for climbing and if your stamina runs down you are going to fall, presumably to your death.  This would have been an awesome mechanic, but it will never happen unless you let it happen.  Stamina reserves in conjunction with a stamina “boost” feature will guarantee success in all your climbing endeavors.  In addition to visual indicators really intense music kicks in when your stamina is low and it gets very annoying very quickly.  This music continued to play after my stamina gauge was low until I used a recovery item to replenish it.  With the world in shambles you might also assume that searching for resources would be important.  I wasn’t looking for a fallout loot fest, but it would have been nice to search containers or abandoned vehicles for supplies.  The environment is littered with both and nothing can be searched which I found it to be particularly aggravating.

The scale is there, just not the depth

The lack of exploration is also met with lack of story development and character interaction.  I understand that the “event” wiped out a large portion of the population, but the encounters with NPCs, showcased some missed opportunities for dialogue, bartering and story progression.  This first NPC interaction involves some old sewer hobo pulling a gun on you and yelling nonsensical banter at you.  “Get away from me” and “Don’t come back ya’hear” could have been replaced with more engaging dialogue options where the main character could have probed for information about what lies ahead or possibly traded goods with the poor sewer dweller.  The only occurrence of such dialogue was when I helped a victim that had been stabbed by curing them with a health pack.  Other than that random stragglers just yell at you.  The options could have been limited and still would have created another layer of immersion that the game is lacking.

The combat in I Am Alive never seemed like a focal point in the design and it shows.  You start with a pistol with no ammo and your enemies are none the wiser.  The aiming of ranged weapons such as the pistol is done in first person and while it doesn’t look bad I think it narrows your focus too much especially when dealing with multiple combatants.  Like I said your enemies are oblivious as to whether your pistol is loaded or not so pointing it at them will intimidate them pending they don’t have a fire arm of their own; in which case they will shoot and kill you.  Assuming you are intimidating an enemy with only a melee weapon you will yell at them to back up and if you are lucky they will back up to an edge where the game will prompt you to send them plunging to their death.  I derived much satisfaction the first time I did this, but can see the process becoming very repetitive.  One caveat about intimidating with your ranged weapon; enemies do not remember that you are packing, so the minute you holster your weapon they will charge you almost immediately.  This is a major design flaw that almost renders the intimidation function useless.  The machete melee combat had promise, but the surprise and struggle kills are slow and boring.  Another hiccup with collision detection is also present and your machete passes through enemies as if they were vapor.

Not as fun as it looks

If I Am Alive didn’t take so long to develop and hit the market it would have been a much more impressive title.  Other disaster games like Raw Danger and Disaster Report may not have been gems, but they had personality and worked better within the context of the genre.  Games like Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia offered great exploration and navigational controls and games like Alan Wake created a more aesthetically dynamic atmosphere.   I Am Alive is unfortunately overshadowed by all of them.  The game proposes some great ideas, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.  I had huge expectations for this game and was let down.  Let us know about your experiences with I Am Alive by sounding off in the comments section.  If you saw something differently than us be sure to tell us, it might get us to view it from a different perspective.  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

*Disclaimer* I have only played the trial version of this game.  It is available on XBLA for 1200 MSP ($15).  The trial version was approximately 40 minutes in length and I played it to completion.  My comments are based on this experience and this experience alone.  If you wish to see further criticism check full reviews.

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The XBLA House Party has kicked off and the first game on the table is none other than Warp.  When I first heard about Warp I am not going to lie it looked like an isometric clone of Portal.  While it shares some similar sentiments in regards to “warping” Warp stands on its own stubby little black legs.

Warp is a crossbreed between a platformer, action and puzzle game and puts you in the role of Zero an alien who unknowingly becomes the victim of a research experiment in a secret underwater facility.  Seeing how I have only played the trial version of this game I do not have much more information about the narrative, but what I can tell you is that this game isn’t one you should pass up.

Zero is initially put through some silly tests which serve as an interactive tutorial for you learning the controls (which are painfully easy).  Then Zero stumbles across what looks like to be a giant magenta booger with honeycombs in it and without the slightest hesitation shoves it down his hole.  I say hole because doesn’t have any discernible mouth or receptacle for nutrition.  Anyways; after Zero eats said giant magenta booger things get interesting real quick because shortly after his snack he becomes reacquainted with a donut shaped octagon that gives him the ability to warp (no way!!).  This event puts the lab into frenzy with alarms and all other manners of security implementations to stop Zero from escaping.  Lucky for you they fail miserably and this is where the trial really kicks off.

From here on out you have rudimentary access to Zero’s powers, but what they highlight in the demo will either turn you into one of two players.  One that will be stealthy and avoid turrets, guards and scientists or the polar opposite and be a blood thirsty alien hell bent on killing everyone and everything (I choose the later).  The way you kill people is what’s most interesting and you can probably deduce what I will say next.  You “warp” into a suspecting or unsuspecting enemy’s body and gyrate the analog stick until the host explodes (done with objects too), spilling entrails and blood everywhere (remember how Neo jumped into Agent Smith and he jiggled around then exploded, nearly identical).  Also that is why this game isn’t cute (just for clarification purposes).  This binary approach also gives you the opportunity to mix it up a little bit if you so choose.  Well you might be wondering about some other details so let me fill you in on those real quick.

Warp has a great visual style utilizing the Unreal Engine so you get a sleek looking game that didn’t glitch or hiccup at all during my time with the trial.  The sound effects were not anything too incredible, but nothing about the audio diminished the experience either, so that’s good right?  The controls like I said earlier were painfully easy to grasp and once you unlock more abilities I don’t see the controls becoming an issue, so another check for Warp in the awesome department.  In addition to the main quest of the trial it gives you a small taste of the challenge rooms that are in the full version.  These are time based objectives that I can only assume will vary from point to point rooms and fragging enemies in an allotted amount of time (the two ones in the trial, I’m sure there is more variety, so don’t fret).  Overall Warp is a solid downloadable experience that for either 800 MSP or $10 will surely keep you entertained until you have gotten your money’s worth.  Warp is available for both XBLA and PSN so give it a spin and let us know what you think about it in the comments section.  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

I played the trial of Warp on XBLA for approximately 35 minutes.  The game is available on XBLA for 800 MSP and the PSN for $10.


Last night I felt the urge to go to GameStop and peruse the store (which happens often), but to my delight they had a PS Vita demo unit out for use.  So what was supposed to just be a short outing turned into me getting my first hands on experience with Sony’s new handheld.  While I didn’t get to fully explore the Vita I feel like I got a pretty good showcase of what the system is capable of so let me share my thoughts with all of you.

The design is very similar to that of the PSP which made it very comfortable to use and even with a security cradle attached to the system it was still very light, which is a plus.  The face and shoulder buttons are once again identical to that of the PSP, but the major additions come in the form of an additional analog stick, front touch screen, rear touch panel and a camera.  Dual analog sticks were something PSP owners wanted out the gate, but even through two system redesigns were never integrated so prospective Vita buyers fear not.  While the dual analog sticks are a great design addition they are very small and depending on how they are integrated into various pieces of software could potentially pose a problem for users with large hands (such as myself).  One other caveat with the analog stick design is that if a game uses the rear touch panel and both sticks it could potentially make the Vita a bit cumbersome to use hypothetically speaking (you would literally be clutching just the outside of the system and would be putting extra pressure on the sticks).  Enough with the design jargon let me tell you about the software I played.

The system had quite a few demos loaded on it, but due to time constraints (i.e. store closing) I only had the opportunity to play Gravity Rush and Uncharted: Golden Abyss.  Both games were a blast to play and it reaffirmed in my mind that dedicated handheld systems still have a place in the video game industry.  Gravity Rush has a great art style with quirky characters and the gameplay mechanics were beyond unique.  If I had the available funds to purchase a Vita at launch Gravity Rush would absolutely be a day one purchase.  Uncharted: Golden Abyss was a treat as well, but it wasn’t anything that players haven’t already experienced in the previous three entries (sans some touch integration).  Nonetheless Golden Abyss is setting the bar really high out the gate for graphics on the Vita and makes me very optimistic about the visual fidelity games will present down the road.  Like I said earlier I wasn’t able to fully explore the other demos available or any of the other features that were on the display unit so I apologize if this seems inconclusive.

The PS Vita is a cool piece of tech that will definitely please those who are purchasing it day one and will be a great device for people to save up for.  I unfortunately fall into the latter category, but it will be a glorious day when I can get my hands on one of my own.  In the meantime many more trips to my local GameStop will be in order until that day arrives.  Also if this article piqued your interest head to your local GameStop to see if yours has a demo unit and give it a spin; if you are a fan of handheld systems I promise you it won’t disappoint.  As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.  If you get a chance to check out the Vita sound off in the comments section and let us know what you think.


The demo for Resident Evil: Revelations just launched today in North American and European Nintendo E-Shops and I have had a couple of hours to play around with it.  Let me tell you that this might be the new reason to own a Nintendo 3DS.  Resident Evil: Revelations is far and away the prettiest handheld game I have ever seen and it handles just like its console counterparts (which is good or bad depending on what you thought of RE 4 and 5).

The demo puts you in control of Jill Valentine on a mysterious cruise ship (which I believe is where the majority of the game takes place) and Jill’s immediate objective is to regroup with her partner Parker.  Based off of the extremely limited exposure to Parker I think he will be a solid addition to the RE cast and I am excited to see how he is intertwined into the narrative.  Navigating the small part of the cruise ship in the demo definitely gives you a feel for how the game is going to make you play, which is smart or die.  Ammo is very scarce and enemies take a beating before going down so choosing your battles will be the name of the game.  This is true fan service because that is how original Resident Evil games operated, which is why Revelations feels really nostalgic and fresh simultaneously.  This game also has great atmosphere (especially with the 3D cranked up).  There is one room where the floor is covered in fog and the 3D makes it pop and you are just waiting for something to jump out at you (I’ll never tell…).  But it is that kind of atmosphere that makes the game already super eerie which I can’t get enough of (even though it scares the crap out of me).

The controls for the game are pretty solid and are highly reminiscent of past Resident Evil titles (i.e. 4, 5, Mercenaries 3D).  The over the shoulder perspective is back for navigating and the first person view from last year’s Mercenaries 3D has returned for aiming.  The ability to sprint or move faster wasn’t present in the demo, but quick turning is still there (also some dodge mechanic that I am still figuring out).  I hope they add an ability to maneuver faster because during combat I was easily attacked because I was simply moving too slow.  I don’t know if that is being done deliberately to make the game feel more claustrophobic like previous RE titles, but like I said I hope that issue is addressed in the final build.  Lastly I don’t have a Circle Pad Pro so I am unable to comment on whether or not that makes the game control better, but the demo does offer the option for those of you who imported one (comment and let us all know how it works).

The inventory system for Revelations is pretty intuitive with weapons, secondary weapons and items being mapped to the d-pad for quick swapping and use.  You can also use green herbs by simply pressing the A face button which is pretty handy when you are getting dominated (happened to me on my first play through).  One of my favorite additions is an item you pick up midway through the demo and that is the Supply Scanner.  This little device operates pretty similarly to the scanner from Metroid Prime in which it lets you scan the room for items and scan enemies either dead (defeated) or alive (trying to kill you).  The Supply Scanner turns up hidden items in the room that Jill was previously unable to pick up and comes up clutch especially near the end of the demo (mad hand grenades, yo).

When the demo concluded I was left really satisfied.  It isn’t terribly long, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect when the game launches on February 7th in North America.  This isn’t some half ass effort from Capcom and it is something that Resident Evil fans should rejoice about.  This game will appeal to longtime fans as well as new ones and will surely move some 3DS units come early February.  Stay tuned for more about Resident Evil Revelations and as always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.


I am about 4 hours into Saints Row: The Third and the Saints once again prove that Prince isn’t the only person who can make the color purple look awesome.  I have been a fan of Saints Row for quite some time now, but this latest iteration has abandoned the identity crisis this franchise was suffering from.  Saints Row wasn’t sure if it wanted to compete with GTA or set a different standard for sandbox games, but The Third clarifies its new direction with charm, unquestionable style and the delivery of an unadulterated over the top experience.  Like I said I am only a few hours in but I’ll break it down for you the best I can.

Graphics

The graphics in this game are far and away the best in the series.  Saints Row has never been a heavy hitter in terms of graphics, but this game has a great art style (especially Genki) that has improved over each entry and that hasn’t changed with The Third.  The game has great effects and puts them into practice quite often.  The opening sequence is indicative of that and if you play it you will catch my drift (sorry about being vague, don’t want to drop any spoilers).  The city of Steelport looks great and has an adequate amount of detail.  The city really looks its best at night when everything is lit up and the city looks like one huge carnival.

Presentation

The game has a great presentation and a crazy amount of customization options.  You can customize your character, your rides, and your gang just to name a few.  The menu systems are intuitive and extremely easy to navigate.  You have your standard menu to save and load your game and you have your cell phone menu that organizes missions, challenges and the game’s GPS features.  The game’s extreme approach to everything also leaks into the mission interface too and when you complete a mission you are met with a bumping dance track and some silly close up; it really gets you pumped for the next mission or just cruising around Steelport.  The story is a continuation from SR2, but newcomers will not be left in the dark if they pick up The Third.  Lastly the game has a really good licensed soundtrack (hard to believe I know) with a variety of music that will please almost every audience.  Not going to lie, I was surprised to hear Between the Buried and Me, but I digress.

Gameplay

The gameplay has improved, but not as dramatically as some might have wanted.  The shooting mechanics are pretty similar to the first two games, but with weapon upgrades the controls will tighten up a bit.  The driving however has seen some major improvements.  The driving controls are extremely polished and driving in this game is a blast.  Also the performance upgrades will enhance your driving experiences greatly.  You won’t be able to turn a jalopy into a Lambo, but you can certainly make it a vehicular homicide machine.  The hand to hand combat has seen some refinements with the addition of quicktime moments that will be triggered during select encounters.  These range from the mundane to the extreme as well; you will usually combine a flurry of punches with either shooting someone in the head and or shoving a grenade in their mouth (only if you have one though).  Still a quality exercise in the extreme nonetheless.  Almost forgot this, but when you are running you can perform a myriad of maneuvers as well such as DDTs (wrestling move), bulldogs (another wrestling move), running dropkicks, thunderous clotheslines and that is just for combat.  Also when running you can tackle enemies that are shooting at you and jump into vehicles via the driver’s window or windshield.  Some neat new additions that really spice up the on foot action.

Sound

The Third has good sound effects, but the sound has the propensity to cut out on occasion.  Whenever gun fights escalate above just a few combatants gunfire and other miscellaneous sound effects drop in and out and it can get annoying.  Or when you are driving around and the car sound effects drop out and the only thing you can hear is the radio.  It hurts the experience when it happens, but it doesn’t happen so often that it is a major flaw to the game, but it is a flaw unfortunately.  Beyond that the voice acting is good and radio ads are as humorous as ever.  Like I mentioned before The Third has a good licensed soundtrack as well (even integrated into a mission, thought that was cool).

Closing Comments

I am still early on, but I can wholeheartedly say that is game is super fun and while it might not be for everyone fans of the series will get their fix.  I have finished 20% of the game in 4 hours so if I do some quick math that puts this game probably in the range of 20-25 hours (factoring in some side missions).  I consider that a pretty good length and I finished Saints Row 2 in about the same amount of time.  You can probably finish it quicker if you just plow through the main missions, but this game has a great deal to offer and I highly suggest checking it out.  I’m not sure if I will get around to doing a full review of this game, but I hope this gives you a good idea of what to expect from Saints Row: The Third if you decide to pick it up.

As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.

I purchased Saints Row: The Third for $60 on Xbox 360.  I have invested 4 hours into the game completing 20% of it.  Saints Row: The Third is available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Forza 4 Impressions

Posted: October 18, 2011 by Tim Utley in Impressions, Reviews
Tags: , , ,

The Collector's Edition...also what I bought

Forza 4 has been out for about a week now, but my vacation imposed on my face time with the new racing simulator from Turn 10.  Let me just say that I am glad my vacation is over.  Turn 10’s latest racing opus is nothing short of spectacular.  Some people will say that is it time for Gran Turismo to move over as the premiere racing simulator, but I will take it one step further and tell it to get off the damn bus and walk home.  Forza is just that good.

I have put about 5 hours into Forza 4 thus far and keep discovering new things around every corner (pun intended).  Everything is expertly designed from the sleek menu interface right down to the game’s presentation (Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson lends some humorous but informational voice work).  Forza 3 was a large game with almost too much stuff to do (which I really dug about it), but Forza 4 has managed to expand the scope of experience even more so.

Newly added features like the Autovista mode just scream out to car enthusiasts who love high-end cars and insanely detailed re-creations of them (I am one of those people).  The online community, which has always been one of Forza’s strongest features, gets fleshed out with even more content such as daily credit bonuses and a more robust Car club system.  Also every event in the event selector has been given a class and performance index restriction, which at first kind of annoyed me because I loved doing a Civic vs. Integra race with a 500 HP 4 wheel drive Integra Type R; now you must tune your car either manually or automatically to fit within those confines, but it makes the races more competitive and interesting overall.  Kinect integration has been added for free play events (I haven’t tried, but will soon).  Lastly the car leveling system has been converted into manufacturer “Affinity” which rewards you for exhibiting brand loyalty (bonus credits and part discounts up to 100% off).  So after “X” amount of races you will no longer pay for car parts for that particular manufacturer (just do E class multi event a bunch of times because you get an 100% affinity bonus).  There are 50 levels of Affinity for each car manufacturer with various bonuses for each level up.  There are so many new additions in Forza, too many to mention at this juncture.

Forza 4 still boasts incredible graphics, an excellent control scheme, and a healthy selection of vehicles (even with the removal of all Porsches, except for one RUF).  Also little things like the newly added in-race grading scheme (similar to Shift 2) of your turns, passes, speed, drifting, and drafting really complement the overall racing experience and actually helps improve your driving technique which in turn produces better race times and results.

I have only scratched the surface of this mammoth racing title, but can’t wait to dig in more and satisfy the gear head in me.  I will not be able to produce a full review of this game because of time constraints, but any additional revelations on Forza 4 will be posted either here or on Twitter @GamersAbstract or on our Facebook page.  So stay tuned for more.

Forza 4 was purchased by me for $79.99 (collectors edition) and I have invested 5 hours into the game and online features.