Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 Holiday Must Have Games

Holiday Must Haves by Gamezelot

If you're like me, there are always several games around the holidays on my must have list. Well, this season is no different. There are a several titles heading to the stores this holiday season and here are the Gamezelot picks (in order of expected lowest to highest ratings).

  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  • Darksiders II
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic (MMO)
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • The Darkness II
  • Bioshock: Infinite
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Gears of War 3
  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Assassin's Creed Revelations
  • The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Of all of the most anticipated games for the 2011 Holiday season, I expect Skyrim to be not only the best game, but may even win Game of the Year. Many of these games are offering special editions, so if you want the extra chachke included, then you'll want to reserve your special editions now.

In addition, here are a few games to watch. These are not here as must-haves, but are simply here in that they are new or revamped franchises and may become sleeper hits.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Rage
  • Tomb Raider
Enjoy and reserve early if you want the special editions.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Xbox 360 - F.3.A.R

F.3.A.R by WBGames / Day 1 Studios

Type: First Person Shooter
Save Type: Checkpoint

Even though this game (and franchise) is named FEAR, there's really nothing very scary in this game. Yes, there are things that occasionally jump out at you. Most of what is 'scary' here is more the gore factor. There's lots of simulated blood, guts and dead bodies. I have found games like The Darkness, Dead Space 1, Dead Space 2, Chronicles of Riddick and Alan Wake to be more creepy and scary than F.3.A.R (especially Dead Space 2).

F.3.A.R (aka. Fear 3) is a first person shooter that's pretty straightforward. Although this game pulls in some things from F.E.A.R. 2, it doesn't really do it quite as well. At least the game isn't coming from EA, which I know would have ruined the franchise. That said, this franchise is really on its last legs anyway. How many times can you pull the let's-chase-Alma-all-over-hell's-half-acre gameplay?


F.3.A.R starts you off as one of two brothers. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that you killed your brother and he's trying to help you get through the game (even in spite of the fact that your character killed him). Yeah, I didn't quite get this part either. While it appears he seems to know what's going on, he doesn't really help you through the game as he only appears during Cinematics and through an occasional voiceover.

You start out roaming each level in search of what's ultimately going on. At first, you're trying to escape a prison. So, you're trying to get out before it explodes and, at the same time, avoid the guards trying to kill you.

Later, you run into various types of zombies that also try to kill you. Some zombies have bombs attached to themselves and they get close and explode, other zombies carry hammers, tire irons or other melee weapons and still others lob projectiles from a distance. Further on, you run into both guards and zombies at the same time.

Finally, there's this creature thing that appears and occasionally sucks you into an alternative reality that shows you things like kids playground rides, baby carriages and other kid related visuals. When the monster presents, you see a halo of black webbing around the edge of the screen. Of course, the game wouldn't be complete without an alternative reality at play. After all, Alma is a ghost.


The gameplay is about standard for a first person shooter. Nothing outstanding or out of the ordinary here. The controller is mapped appropriately (for the most part). The only thing that's troublesome is when you press B for cover. Two problems with cover. First, when you press B to move into cover, the game moves you into a position that can be seen (so you immediately start taking gunfire hits). Second, you can't kneel and be in cover at the same time. Both of these problems reduce the benefits of cover.

Most of the game revolves around protecting yourself from being killed, finding weapons and ammo, finding psychic links on dead bodies, locating Alma dolls and progressing from level to level.


In F.3.A.R, they haven't improved the graphics over F.E.A.R 2. That's not to say the graphics look bad. They look slightly above average for this type of game. But, there's nothing new to add wow factor to this game.


There are some audio issues here. Some of the cinematics volumes are very low requiring you to turn the volume up to hear it. Then, when the game starts up again it just about blasts you out of the room. This may have been in purpose, but it's really a bad bad design.


This game is fairly one-tracked much like F.E.A.R. 2. Although, when you do get to use the power armor, it's a really small trek and there's not much to it. Rather disappointing actually. The small arms weapons are also straightforward. Ammo is reasonably abundant on levels where you don't need it, but becomes kind of scarce when you do need it. There are also several types of grenades.

One of the main problems I have with this game is that enemies have perfect vision and perfect aim. This means that they'll hit you immediately when they 'see' you and, worse, they will sometimes see you when you can't even see them. So, this game could have done with some work here. Overall, there's nothing outstanding in F.3.A.R. It's an average first person shooter with an okay story. The atmosphere in the game works, but the tricks to try and scare you are way too cliche at this point.

  • Sound: 4/10 (sound problems)
  • Graphics: 7/10
  • Gameplay: 6/10 (enemies have perfect vision and perfect aim)
  • Story: 6/10 (been there, done that)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 8/10
  • Bang-to-buck: 1/10
  • Play Value: $4
  • Overall: 5/10 (nothing outstanding, no wow factor, nothing new)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Xbox 360 - The First Templar

The First Templar by Kalypso

Type: Third Person Sword Combat
Save Type: Checkpoint

I've been torn about writing a review for this game. I tend to write reviews based on at least some redeeming quality. Unfortunately, I haven't really been able to find many redeeming qualities in The First Templar. I will say that based on the title, this game may appear related to Assassin's Creed. It has nothing to do with Assassin's Creed in any form at all. That said, here's the review.


Actually, I'm really pretty lost with the story here. Basically, you're two Templar Knights (at least in the beginning) wandering the countryside in search of something. I haven't yet determined what that 'something' is nor am I curious enough to really go find out.

As a story author, you really need to make it clear what your player characters are all about and what their motivations are. Just as any good story, this setup is crucial to making a compelling story and a compelling game. Otherwise, the gamer will simply skip all of the setup just to jump into the gaming (as I did with this game).


You're a team of two. You can switch between the characters at will (bumper button). Each character has his/her own health bar, experience, armor, weapons and power ups. So, you get to level up your characters separately.

The game tries to be a dungeon crawler, but doesn't really do much of this. Most of the game is pointless little diversions. For example, you have to mount a trebuchet and lob rocks at the enemy. You do this several times. In fact, this part gets a little tedious after the third time. It was actually kind of fun the first time. But, not after the third time. Or, you might be tasked to break down doors and rescue the inhabitants from being burned to death.


Mostly, however, this is a fighting game. You just go in with your sword and use combos to kick butt and take names later. The game likes to throw wave after wave of enemy soldiers at you, so you need to make sure to spend those eXPerience points to expand your health capacity and get better combos.

Leveling Up

To level up, you click the back button and this opens up the level up screen. You can level up your player character right from this screen. There is a very large amount of things you can buy to level up your characters. So, there was a fair amount of thought put into this part of the game. Unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn't really support this level up detail. It's rare that a game company can get all of the pieces of a game to work together cohesively. So far, Bethesda is about the only company who has been able to accomplish it with both Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.


The controls are a bit on the overly sensitive side (specifically the camera). However, this doesn't really hamper the game from working once you're used to it. The control mapping is okay, but I would have preferred something a little more standard.


The audio works, but not outstanding. The voiceovers aren't bad, but the facial animation is rather weak. The music works, but isn't enough that I would run out and buy the soundtrack. At times, the music can be a little repetitive.


Average. The designers decided to use in-game rather than pre-rendered cinematics (by moving the camera close to the game characters) for the transition scenes. While this can sometimes work, it doesn't work for this game. And, unfortunately, it doesn't help make this game any better. The oddness here, additionally, is that the designers decided to overuse the left and right sound effects. So, the voices come out almost entirely left or right when the characters are speaking. Again, while this can sometimes work, it's just odd here.

The textures, lighting and environments are mostly underwhelming. The only exception to this are the Templar outfits. They are actually well done and very detailed. Some of the environments look good, but even as good as they look in places there's so few things that you can interact with in-world that it's mostly a waste.


Some of this game can be fun. However, most of it is tedious. After you've done the Trebuchet twice, you're kind of tired of it. So, you really don't relish the thought of doing it again. Yet, you do. This game could have been far better if it had tried to do more with the characters and turned it more into an exploring game rather than a fighting game. Rent this one.

  • Sound: 7/10
  • Graphics: 5/10
  • Gameplay: 5/10
  • Story: 4/10
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 5/10
  • Bang-to-buck: 1/10
  • Play Value: $5
  • Overall: 4.5/10