Sunday, April 26, 2009

Xbox 360 - Wanted: Weapons of Fate

Wanted: Weapons of Fate from Grin/Warner/Universal

Game Type: Third Person Shooter
Rated M for Violence, Language

I purchased this game hoping it would be a reasonable shooter. Unfortunately, this game is relatively one tracked, repetitive and hard to control. But, it does have a few redeeming merits.


The story is simple. Your character's mother was killed by an assassin and this has forced your character to become a killer in retaliation. So, now the character is a trained killer. Unfortunately, most of this game feels like a rip-off from Harry Potter. It kind of reminds me of Harry Potter with guns. The character even looks a little like Harry Potter. From Warner Brothers, I can understand why they might want to recapture that success with that formula. So, enter this game: Wanted.


This is where the game fails to work. Basically, you traverse each level by hiding behind cover and killing everything that moves. In between each level, there's a cinematic that tries to tell the simplistic story and then takes you right back into another level where you end up hiding behind cover and shooting everything that moves. As the game progresses, it expands your abilities with the weapons. So, you get to do creative things like curving bullets.

The repetitive nature of the game is really disappointing. You end up doing the same thing over and over. You don't really accomplish much during the level and there's no side quests to speak of. So, it's all one-tracked.

There are also times where you enter into certain situations, like Sniper or Gattling Gun where you can't exit. You must complete this part of the game in order to move on. The problem is, it's difficult because there may be 20 enemies in the play field who all have perfect aim. Bad bad bad!


The cover hiding gimmick is just not enticing. It's far too sticky when it doesn't need to be and you pop out of the stickiness when you least want to. It's difficult to get the game to recognize the next piece of cover so you can move there when you need to. So, I wasn't impressed by this gimmick. Worse, between this and the curving bullets, these are the real gimmicks in this game. Creating gimmicky controls is not the answer to producing an enticing shooter.


This game isn't really worth the money, so I'd recommend renting. I felt that it was way too gimmicky, but not in the way that matters. The curving bullet cinematics are kind of cool, but that's not enough. The game is not really that compelling to play. The characters aren't built up enough to care and overall the story is weak and ripped off.

  • Sound: 6/10 (average)
  • Graphics: 8/10 (textures are done well enough)
  • Gameplay: 6/10 (a bit too gimmicky)
  • Story: 6/10 (too much like Harry Potter)
  • Bugginess: 10/10 (no crashes yet)
  • Controls: 7/10 (game relies too much on hiding behind cover)
  • Bang-to-buck: 2/10 (not enough game)
  • Play Value: $5 (rent it)
  • Overall: 4/10 (needs a lot more work)

Xbox 360 - Chronicles of Riddick - Butcher Bay

Chronicles of Riddick:
Escape From Butcher Bay
from Atari

Game Type: First Person Shooter
Rated for Violence, Language

This game is a re-release of a 2004 original Xbox game that appears on Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. However, Atari decided to redo this game to fully utilize the Xbox 360. So, if you haven't played this game, you are in for a treat. If you have played it before, the graphics, sound and achievements are all updated for the Xbox 360. So, it may be worth a play through again.

I didn't play this game in 2004 even though I owned an Xbox. So, this game is new to me. Because it's included on this game disk and because it's been facelifted for the 360, I am including a review of it here now as I consider it to be a 'new' game.


The game starts with Johns, a merc who's interested in placing Riddick into a high security prison in exchange for money. He drops Riddick off at Butcher Bay (apparently one of the toughest penal colonies out there). Riddick must attempt to escape. The story follows Riddick as he works his way around through this prison talking with all of the inmates and working on a plan to get out.

As the story unfolds, you'll learn of how Riddick gets his 'shined' eyes (the way he sees in the dark). Unfortunately, this story line doesn't really follow with the movies. Pitch Black and even Chronicles of Riddick allude to solitary confinement in the dark for extended period of time that led to this. But, that's not how this game's story tells it.


The gameplay style is, as would be expected, like Dark Athena (on the same disk). I should really say that Dark Athena is like Butcher Bay, because this game came first. This is your basic first person shooter. You are in a prison colony, so you can't really do a whole lot other than wander and ask lots of questions.
In return for helping people, you get rewards including weapons and cigarette packs (extra content).


The controls are reasonably straight forward. There is a weapon wheel that you pull up with the right bumper button (RB). So, you can change your weapons using this wheel. You don't actually get Riddick's 'shined' eyes until later during this game. But, you will get the ability to see in the dark after that happens. Before then, you are limited to needing lights or flares. In one case, getting out of the level is difficult. Of course, this is the level right before you get the 'shined eyes'.


The music score and sound effects are done well. The game relies on swelling sound tracks and ambient noises to set the tone of this game. It does this well. This is a very cinematic sounding experience even when the graphics of the game doesn't lend itself to the musical themes and events.


I liked the story and the idea behind this game a little more than Dark Athena. Butcher Bay gives a lot more back story to the Riddick character than Dark Athena. The revelation of the shined eyes is good, but I was expecting more from the female voice in Dark Athena. The voice that seems to guide Riddick throughout Butcher Bay (and is in the films). I like the idea of a guiding force behind Riddick, but that force never manifested itself in Dark Athena.

  • Sound: 9/10 (cinematic, ambient)
  • Graphics: 9/10 (textures are well done, Riddick could be better)
  • Gameplay: 8/10 (straight forward gameplay)
  • Story: 6/10 (not revealing enough)
  • Bugginess: 5/10 (crashed once)
  • Controls: 8/10 (works well in most places, doesn't work in tight spots)
  • Bang-to-buck: 8/10 (2 games on one disc)
  • Play Value: $25 (worth it, but the game is a bit short)
  • Overall: 8/10 (not an RPG, but definitely an 8 for a shooter)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Xbox 360 - Chronicles of Riddick - Dark Athena

Chronicles of Riddick:
Assault on Dark Athena
from Atari

Game Style: First Person Shooter
Rated for Violence, Language

Dark Athena appears to pick up right after Chronicles of Riddick - Escape from Butcher Bay. There are references in Dark Athena to Riddick's time in Butcher Bay. However, if you haven't played Escape from Butcher Bay, you're in luck. Atari has included both games on this Xbox 360 disc. Even though Butcher Bay was released in 2004 for the older Xbox, Butcher Bay has updated graphics and sound for the 360 (including achievements).

The controls are inherited from the Butcher Bay engine, so both games play identically (with the the exception of a few additions to Dark Athena).


Dark Athena opens with you laying on a beach. You wake to find that you're on a planet and you must wander around trying to find a way out. But wait.... this is a tutorial. Riddick wakes up in a completely different place (on a ship). It's about to be towed in by Revas on the Dark Athena (a big mercenary ship). Once on the ship, you are tasked with finding a way off of the ship, Dark Athena. In that process, you run into a number of people who will give you assignments to help you. Some of the assignments are side quests, some are part of the main story. After you complete all of the required on-ship assignments, Riddick uses an escape capsule to get off the ship and ends up on a planet (much like the tutorial dream sequence), where you have to find your way back to the ship to get off the planet. For whatever reason, Revas has decided to land on the planet. So, this gives Riddick the opportunity to get back onto the ship and finish what was started.

I was disappointed, though, that the 'voice' that guides Riddick and who appears in Butcher Bay (and the films) wasn't present at all in Dark Athena.  I felt that this presence is what guides Riddick in some ultimate outcome.  But, for whatever reason, the game developers felt no need to add her into this game.  To me, this left the story overall feeling a little hollow.


The tutorial on this one is smartly designed. It gets you into the game fast and, at the same time, gets you used to the controls, the guns, running, jumping, etc. You do it without any consequences because it's a dream sequence. It's long enough to get you into the game fast and lets you understand the controls. So, in this way, that's smart. The games that take you through a tutorial on an actual first level don't always work well to achieve the intended goal. In many cases, the pausing of the screen to give you information is enough to get in the way of a gun sequence and actually gets your character killed. In Dark Athena (and Butcher Bay) this didn't happen.


There is not much to say about this game that's overly outstanding for the way the game play system works. It's a fairly standard first person shooter. There are a few exceptions, though, like Riddick's shined eyes (see in the dark) and the mech suits you get to occasionally use. So, you pick up weapons and you can switch between them with a wheel selector. However, I found that the best weapon for this game is the tranqualizer gun. The tranqualizer gun never runs out of ammo and is effectively silent. So, you can shoot it without anyone hearing it or seeing you. It's great for putting out lights and helping you create cover in the areas. It stuns any non-armored people. So, it can help you get close and finish the job... especially when there are three or more people ganged up together.

There were also times where you end up on a level with large mechs. Because the game gives no direction, you don't know if you need to try to kill the mechs or do something else. So, you first run in guns-a-blazin' trying to kill the mechs and waste a lot of time. Instead, you find that you need to do something entirely different. If the game would at least give you some form of direction on what it wants you to do, the gamer can avoid these time wasters.


As with any game, controls can be difficult and tedious at times. But, for the most part, the controls work well. And really, most of the problems stem from the enemy AI than the controls. The main issue with the controls is that you can't change your weapons fast enough. So, when you want to get to a weapon and use it against a specific enemy, the AI for that enemy is so fast and accurate that Riddick ends up dead. So, the controls could be better to help you get to your weapons faster (or at least pause while you do). For most of the game, they are fine. When you're in a tight spot, they fail badly.

As far as the AI goes, the enemies are like most enemies in first person shooters... accurate and fast at any distance.  So, they can see you no matter where you are (including through walls). They can even shoot you through walls at times (bad collision detection).  At one point there are some spider robots that crawl on walls.  These things are 100% accurate no matter the distance and their bullets can kill you with only a few shots (even with a full health bar).  I find this totally ludicrous for these stupid little robots.  Even the heavy armored mechs aren't this accurate or powerful.  To set these annoying little robots up with this level of firepower and accuracy is just stupid.


Dark Athena's music is, for the most part, cineamatic. So, whenever you're encountering an enemy, the music swells to let you know you're close and they are aware of you. The music swells louder and more intense the more the enemy becomes aware of you. So, you can gauge just how aware they are based on the soundtrack. This is actually a very nice feature. In most games, the soundtrack is just a soundtrack. It makes it quite easy to remain hidden (of course, darkness helps... so shoot the lights out often).


The graphics of the environments are very well done (texture maps). The graphics could have been better in places (up close), Riddick's Hands, but even still the game's graphics definitely help the atmosphere. The one thing I would say, though, is that every light should be shootable. Unfortunately, you can only shoot specific lights out. I would have prefer much more realism in this area.

Riddick's character is reasonably well done, but there have been better characters done for older games (Mass Effect and Star Wars: Force Unleashed).


For most of the game, you are stuck inside Dark Athena. So, you're limited to the ship's environment. For the last third of the game, you are on a planet. The planet's environment (ocean and grounds) are done well.


I liked Dark Athena as a whole game. The puzzles were better on the planet than on Dark Athena. I did like that the game does make you think to finish the level. But, in some cases, I felt that it left you hanging on exactly what to do. Every once in a while it would pop up a hint, but I really didn't need that hint. I needed a hint on where to go... not what to do. I can figure out how to manage the physical environment. What I can't always figure out is where the game wants me to go (the actual location). So, I end up wandering around the entire level. In some cases, the game makes you backtrack all the way back. In some cases, you're going forward.

Because of the backtracking (which isn't really a good idea), it can make it difficult to determine where you need to be. So, you're not sure if you need to go forward or backward. If the game had a real map of the level with places you've been that's been uncovered, you'd at least know where you haven't been. That would have helped with moving the game forward.

  • Sound: 8/10 (average)
  • Graphics: 8.5/10 (textures are well done, Riddick could be better)
  • Gameplay: 8/10 (straight forward gameplay)
  • Story: 7/10 (good, but not outstanding)
  • Bugginess: 2/10 (crashed once, couldn't get out of game loop)
  • Controls: 8/10 (works well in most places, doesn't work in tight spots)
  • Bang-to-buck: 8/10 (2 games on one disc)
  • Play Value: $25 (worth it, but the game is a bit short)
  • Overall: 7.5/10 (not an RPG, but definitely an 8 for a shooter)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trouble brewing for the Wii

Here at Gamezelot, there is very little in the way of Wii games that are reviewed or played.  Why is that?  The primary reason is that with the exception of one or two titles, there is really nothing worth playing.  I know, you're saying, "But there are tons of titles".  Yes, there are. However, most of those titles are throw away titles.  By that I mean, games you play through for about 15-20 minutes and never play again.

Throw away

Unfortunately, Nintendo has not been able to entice the proper level of game developers to their system.  Combined with the exceedingly small screen size (and probably underlying system specifications), it's difficult to get a really complex title onto the Wii.  That leaves developers who create small non-engaging titles.  Titles like bowling, tennis and, yes, even Rock Band and Guitar Hero.  These are titles that you play for a while and get tired of rapidly.

Vacuuous games

These are the types of games that leave you feeling like, "And I paid $49 for t-h-i-s?".  Yes, it's that bad.  Because of the lack of quality games that appear on the Wii (and I knew this time would come strictly because of Wii's poor graphics subsystem and smaller 'Gamecube' foot print), the tide is turning for the Wii.

Recently, the Wii has slipped to the number 2 spot in game sales, upstaged by Sony's PS3.  I already knew what analysts are now saying.  But, I didn't expect it to take 3 years in coming.  I expected it perhaps 1-1.5 years after launch, then see the console fizzle out and disappear.

Gamezelot rarely ever plays the Wii.  I've probably turned the system on once in the last 6 months.  The reason was simply to get updates from Nintendo.  I rarely put games in to play simply because I am not compelled.  Of course, this game review site focuses on longer RPG and Shooter style games.  Gamezelot does not focus on titles where you tire of the game in about 15 minutes.  It is not worth $50 to purchase into a 15 minute play value.  So, this explains why there are rare Wii titles reviewed on Gamezelot.

Oh, it's not like I don't regularly stop by the stores and check out Wii titles.  I do.  I just never find anything compelling to play.

Comparable gaming systems

The Xbox 360 and the PS3 have enough similar specifications that it's reasonable to port your game to both platforms.  The Wii is so underpowered compared to these other two systems that it's near impossible to port anything into it.  So, game developers are at a crossroads.  They must choose which systems they want to invest their development time and money into.  If you want the most bang for your buck from the gaming community, you don't invest your time into the Wii.  Especially during this downturn.  So, developers must become discriminating with their development time and money.  Worse, if a smaller developer chooses incorrectly, that could spell the end to that gaming company.  So, there's a lot at stake by choosing to develop for the Wii.

Gaming experience

Clearly, the Wii is the poorest gaming experience out there, hands down.  The Wiimote is a novelty at best.  At worst, it's dangerous.  Dangerous to your body and dangerous to your possessions around where you are flinging it.  The wrist strap is only so good and eventually it will snap.  More than this, I find playing games with the Wiimote to be tedious.  Many games you must play standing up or in a position where your arms hang freely.  Other times, they require you to hold your arms up in the air or in certain uncomfortable positions.  This limits the length of time you can actually spend playing a game.  So, even if the game is engaging, you simply have to put down the Wiimote and end the game long before you really should.

With the PS3 and the Xbox 360, not requiring the sensor system (although, the PS3 tried in some titles) allows the gamer to hold a controller in a comfortable position and continue to play for longer than an hour.  So, the value of the games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 is far improved over the Wii.

Wii is not the platform

These are all issues that developers must consider when choosing a system for their game.  For long involved games, the Wii is not the platform.  For more adult titles, Wii is not the platform.  For games requiring a standard controller, Wii is not the platform.  For the best graphics and sound, Wii is not the platform.  For sheer computing power, Wii is not the platform. 

Frankly, it has surprised me that it's taken 3 years to get to this point, but I knew (and predicted) that this day would come.  I guess it took the global downturn to finally show this issue in the Wii, but here we are.

Can Wii recover?

That's really up to Nintendo.  But, instead of resting on their laurels, it's time for Nintendo to quit the charade that underpowered consoles and novelty controllers are the answer.  It's now time for Nintendo to step up and produce a competing (and compelling) console of the power and size of the PS3 and the Xbox 360.  These two platforms have a lot more computing power, better graphics and better sound.  For Nintendo to release such an underpowered console when they did was amazingly risky.  It was a risk that paid off for 3 years.  But, unfortunately, the sun is now beginning to set for the Wii.  

Nintendo better have a nextgen console in the works at this point or their alleged dominance in the market may come to a close with a wimper.