Saturday, June 14, 2008

PS3 - Haze

Haze by Ubisoft

Type: First Person Shooter
Save Style: Checkpoint (not enough of them)

Haze is an FPS that, at first, starts you off on what you think is to be 'the good team'. You're in a squad and you roam the levels in teams of 4. You're in a suit, but it basically has no armor. The trick is that you have this stuff called 'Nectar' that flows into your body (a type of drug). It allegedly keeps the soldiers better able to focus. You can inject more Nectar at times of battle to fortify your ability to fight. So, by injecting more, you get the ability to see life signs more clearly.

Later in the game, your carryall crashes and Merino (a guy you were supposed to capture) ends up capturing you. You come to find that Nectar is really a way to mind control the troops, or so you're told by Merino. Anyway, you end up out of the suit fighting for the 'other side' to eliminate the drugs.


The controls work well enough. It's not really the controls that are the problem for once, it's the way the game is built. Although, there is one control mapping that I find strange. Instead of placing the 'fire' button on the bigger R2 button, they place it on the smaller R1 (bumper) button. So, I'm forever pressing the R2 button thinking it's the fire button. I didn't bother to try to remap it. The R2 button is mapped to a melee attack. This really should have been reversed.


You can hold up to 4 different types of guns. You roam the levels and you kill or blow things up. There's no side roaming at all. So, the game is extremely linear. As you progress, you get to roam on foot and in some vehicles. There is no enemy heads up display. However, there is a health meter, but because you have no shields or armor (and can't pick any up along the way), Carpenter (your character) dies way too easily.

The ridiculousness of the Nectar is obvious. First, it's a gimick. Second, you're almost constantly injecting yourself with it because it lasts about 15 seconds. Ok, so who would make a drug that last 15 seconds? Worse, the body doesn't work that way. If you inject something into the body, it will last for at least an hour, not seconds. The reality of the Nectar is ridiculous, at best, and stupid at the worst. Ignoring all that, though, constantly injecting the Nectar gets in the way of the gameplay. Thankfully, you don't play the entire game in the suit. Read on.

The levels are strange in the beginning. The suit is malfunctioning at times, so the ability to use the Nectar comes and goes randomly. There's no real explanation for this other than it kind of leads into the Merino levels. Anyway, you roam around look for the 'enemy' and kill them. Sometimes the levels are set up with a goal and other times you just have to fumble through it. In some of the levels, it isn't always easy to determine what to do next. So, you end up redoing the entire checkpoint over and over.

The lack of free roaming side quests really makes this game a drag to play.


There was so much potential wasted in this game. In the beginning when you're with the squads, you really can do nothing as a squad. So your squadmates just die one-by-one. You can't do anything as a team. They're just there. So, having the squad is basically pointless. You're really off on your own. The team members occasionally chime and and make remarks, but they're not even particularly humorous.


This game uses checkpoints as the save mechanism. Even though you can save from the menu, saving your game simply allows you to restart from the last saved checkpoint. Worse, when the checkpoint saves, it doesn't save you fully stocked up with ammo. You end up having to re-roam the level time and time again to restock your ammo. Because there are so few checkpoints, this is the biggest flaw of this game. This is also what makes the game frustrating to play and difficult to get through the levels.

It's not that the levels are difficult, it's that you have to start over from the beginning of each level (sometimes 5-15 minutes of play is lost starting over at a checkpoint). This is a complete waste of time.

Merino levels

Once you lose the suit and have to play the game without it, the designers compensated for not having the Nectar by replacing it with the ability to play dead. Ok, the Nectar I can kind of see. But, the playing dead thing is entirely ridiculous. Having been a suited trooper, you and your comrades can't 'see' dead people on the Nectar. So, when you play dead, the suited troops ignore you. I'm sorry, but this mechanism is completely stupid. If the Nectar shows 'living' creatures, then even playing dead they'd be able to see you. By this time, the game's premise was so far fetched that I'm not sure where the story is going.


About what you would expect by this genre of game. The jungle maps are rendered reasonably well. The plants don't hold up at close distance, though. Overall, this game has more in common with Dark Sector and Time Splitters than it does Halo 3 or Gears of War. The graphics are reasonable, but not outstanding. Note that this game runs in 720p (as do most PS3 games).


The voice overs are fair. Sometimes they're humorous, but for the wrong reasons. The music works, but doesn't stand out enough.


This shooter is basically, been there done that. If you've played Doom or even Wolfenstein, then you've played this. The only reason you might want to play this game is, maybe, for the story. The gameplay itself is unoriginal and not even overly exciting. There's nothing new and groundbreaking in this game and parts of the story are completely far-fetched and ridiculous. The graphics are average, the sound is average, the levels are average and the save system is average. The only reason why this game is challenging at all is due to the (lack of) checkpoints.


  • Gameplay: 6/10 (mostly due to the ridiculous story)
  • Audio: 7/10 (voiceovers kinda strange)
  • Graphics: 8.5/10
  • Story: 5/10 (not compelling enough, kind of ridiculous)
  • Bang-2-Buck: 2/10 (buy only if less than $10)
  • Replay: 1/10 (I won't replay this)
  • Overall: 5/10 (Average shooter with an average score)

Xbox 360 - Ironman

Ironman by Sega

Normally, I don't buy into games based off of a film franchise (with the exception of Harry Potter). I decided to take a chance on Ironman. Well, it's absolute trash to say the least. That is, unless you like games that are repetitive, uninspired, are rip-offs of previous games and overall get way too tough too fast, but at the same time manage to be extremely boring.


You play as Tony Stark. It kind of follows the progression of the movie, but gives a different view of that same universe. The idea is the same and what you do is the same. Unfortunately, these games tend to try to be too much of a movie and not enough of a quality game. So, you're basically flying around in the Ironman suit (first the old one, then the new one) locating the 'bad guys' and taking them out. You take out men on the ground, you take out choppers in the air, you take out tanks, you take out... you get the idea. Anyway, there are a few goals in order to get to the end of a level, but overall, B O R I N G.


You fly around and blow things up. That about sums it up.


The controls are odd. It takes too long for Tony/Ironman to get into various flying positions. So, instead of flying around, you're dawdling getting into position. It's difficult to actually try to target things while flying around (the markers are way too small).


What you would expect from this game. Reasonable sounding. Probably the best thing about this game.


Reasonably decent, but not the quality of Halo 3 or even Oblivion for that matter.


An uninspired flying shooter that's difficult to control at times. It's based on a movie and that should sum up everything about this title. As a side note, every game I've ever played based a movie has been trash (with the exception of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). The Harry Potter game actually managed to have a decent free roaming style gaming that came close to being an RPG. Ironman doesn't manage this at all. In fact, this game so closely resembles a Superman game that was released several years back, I could swear they just stole the code and updated the graphics for Ironman.


  • Graphics: 7/10 (uninspired)
  • Sound: 9/10
  • Controls: 5/10 (sluggish and difficult to control)
  • Bang-2-Buck: 3/10 (buy it on clearance or don't buy it at all)
  • Replay value: 1/10 (Definitely won't play it again)
  • Overall: 4/10 (poor, uninspired)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Xbox 360 - Turok

Turok by Touchstone

A long time ago, well not really that long, but for technology it's a long time... I played Turok on N64. That game was superb (at the time). Note, I'd write a review on it here, but it's kind of not relevent. I digress. Anyway, I was anxious to see a new Turok for the Xbox 360 and preordered it. I picked it up the day it was released, but I hadn't had time to sit down and actually review it until now. Better late...

Style: First person shooter
Online Capabilities: Untested


Turok (and company) are stranded on a planet with Dinosaurs (and bad guys). So, it's pretty obvious what you need to do. The subtext is that you get stranded there because the ship crashes. So, you must look for survivors and things from the crash while avoiding the dinosaurs and bad guys. There's plenty of in-game cinematics to explain what's going on. The gaming problem, though, is that it just seems to take forever to get from point A to point B (lots of subchapters to get there). The story, overall, was contrived, trite and already been done before. You really didn't care about the characters and the bosses were just thrown in, not as a story element that actually makes any sense, but because they could. The game was overly hard, but without any real reason to be.


The one thing I will say about this game is that the graphics are amazing. They are equally as amazing as Halo 3 or Uncharted (PS3). But, as with many games, sometimes the fluid and excellent high res graphics are about the extent of it. Not so much in Turok.

The environments are lush, the jungles are teaming with plants (probably too many actually). The interiors are as equally well done. Turok's animated movements are quite well done as well. The only real problem is the skin tone, skin surface maps and skin colorings. They seem a bit too video gamey. I would have prefered a more realistic approach to the skin textures. However, I can overlook this if the gameplay works well.


The Gameplay in Turok is reasonably well done, but... (and there's always a but), the controls sometimes lack. Switching between weapons has a lag time that's entirely unbearable. So, if you're in a crunch and you need your knife now, you end up fumbling trying to get to it. So, Turok ends up dying and you restart the level. Picking up weapons is equally annoying. When you walk over a weapon that you want, it pops up a graphic asking which slot you want the weapon in (using the X or Y button). This means you need to remember which weapon is in which slot or you have to review your weapon slots first. I guess they were trying to be flexible, but again, in a crunch you really can't worry about what's what.


Unfortunately, the game creators chose to use checkpoints as saving places. The problem, however, isn't that it has checkpoints, it that the game doesn't have nearly enough of them. So, you end up restarting levels over and over and over. This is extremely frustrating. I've been trying to get through this game as a result, but I just have to keep putting it down because it's so frustrating I want to throw the controller (not a good thing).

Weapon Fumbling

The other issue I have with the weapons is that you'll see an icon that tells you to press the right trigger. You press it and nothing happens. This is what I mean by sluggish. Like, for example, when you get close enough to a dinosaur, this icon will appear and, if the game accepts your input, you'll do a fatality move on the dinosaur. Unfortunately, when this icon appears, it's hit or miss (mostly miss). So, you press the right trigger and you don't do the move and the dinosaur hammers you and Turok falls down or, worse, dies.


The lack of a scanner or some kind of enemy heads up display is extremely frustrating. So, you have no idea what direction a dinosaur or bad guy might come. There are times later into the game that I know the game generates one or more dinosaurs immediately behind you for the purpose of making the game hard. Assuming, however, they were living in a time where they had a craft capable of space travel, then they would damn well have life sign scanners.

Life display

The game designers chose not to give a life meter. Instead, you get this red halo around the screen which turns blurry. Well, unfortunately, while it might be a cool little effect, it's rather unrealistic. If you were simply knocked down, your eyes wouldn't turn blurry with a red halo. You might pass out or get the wind knocked out, but your eyes wouldn't be blurry in that way. The blur only serves to make the game even harder. Worse, when the blur appears, the game won't allow you to focus on or aim at the creatures around you. So, it just ends up a field day for them. Basically, Turok is going to die unless you can manage to get far enough away to get Turok's health back. Turok regenerates health over time, but it takes a few seconds to start. As with most other FPS games, I'd much rather have to go search for health packs than deal with this Turok system. Unfortunately, there are no health pickups or anything you can carry with you. You just have to wait it out for Turok's health to regenerate.


As Turok progresses, he can get more and more types of weapons to use. I have personally found that the most effective weapon against the dinosaurs (when it works) is the knife. It can kill them with one move versus the guns that eat up much ammo. For the bad guys, the guns are really the only way unless you can sneak up on them. The sniper rifle is especially handy for long distance shots. It works well on dinosaurs too, but they move around too much and it's hard to take aim.


The audio and music of this game are well done. The musical themes are very cinematic and were very much in keeping with the mood being presented. I just found that the music was a bit repetitive in places. They could have varied the scores a bit more to keep it from repeating too much.

Game Design

The designers were not thinking of the gamer when they designed this game. Because of the checkpoint system and the lack of save points, you are forever starting over levels. Basically, this is the style of game where you progress a little at a time, but the main character dies over and over until you finally figure out the trick to the level.

Note to game designers, you should use Turok as the prime example of what not to do when creating a game. The when Turok dies, it takes up to 15-30 seconds for the level to reload. This is absolutely ridiculous. The level is already in memory, so they should just need rewind and restart it. This should take about 3 seconds at most. Taking 30 seconds or so is just a time waster. It interrupts the playing and it interrupts your train of strategy.

Also note that as the game progresses, the absurdity of the level difficulty increases. For example, in order to blow the generator (trite story element, BTW), you have avoid being spit acid on by flying bugs. I mean, come on. Why would there be flying bugs right at this moment in time? Also, these bugs have absolutely perfect aim. There is just no way that these stupid flying dinosaurish bugs have this perfect of acid spray aim. This is the absurdity that makes this game not anything like Turok on the N64. The N64 had room puzzles combined with dinosaur hunting. There was more to it than just being hunted continuously.


I enjoyed playing this game for the story (to a point), but it was nowhere near as fun as the N64 version. I wish they had attempted to recapture the fun of the N64 version with an updated play style, but with more puzzles. This game didn't capture that element and the lack of checkpoints made the game far too frustrating. If you like games containing few checkpoints (you find that challenging), then you might want to check out Turok. Otherwise, skip it. There are far better first person shooters available.


  • Graphics: 9/10 (only because nothing is perfect)
  • Sound: 9/10
  • Controls: 5/10 (sluggish, difficult to change weapons)
  • Bang-2-Buck: 7/10 (it'll keep you playing for a while, but frustrating because of lack of checkpoints)
  • Replay value: 1/10 (Definitely won't play it again)
  • Overall: 6/10 (good, but could be better, loading times unbearable, not enough checkpoints)