Thursday, May 28, 2009

Upcoming Game Releases for Xbox 360

Here are several games I look forward during 2009. Look for most of these games to be reviewed during 2009.

GameTypeRelease Date
Alpha ProtocolRPG10/06/09
Bioshock 2Shooter10/05/09
Dragon Age OriginsRPG11/03/09
Fallout New VegasRPG06/01/10
Halo 3: ODSTShooter09/01/09
Harry Potter: Half Blood PrinceMovie06/23/09
Mass Effect 2RPG12/31/09
Overlord 2Shooter06/23/09
Star Wars: Republic HeroesShooter09/08/09
Two Worlds 2RPG02/01/10
Witcher: Rise of the White WolfRPG09/15/09

Games with Possibility:

GameTypeRelease Date
Planet 51---11/20/09
Splinter Cell: ConvictionShooter
Rogue Warrior
Aliens vs Predator

Note that dates are subject to change, especially dates scheduled after October. Dates listed on December 31, 2009 can be expected to actually show early in 2010.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Xbox 360 - Ninja Gaiden 2

Ninja Gaiden 2 - by Team Ninja

Rated for Violence, Gore
Game Type: Fighting

Here's a game, like Dead Space, that seems to work well enough for a couple of levels and then completely fails. The graphics on this game are gorgeous, but beyond that, this game is one of the worst games I've played in quite some time. I usually don't get into fighting games, but I'd heard some reasonable things about this title and I picked it up on the cheap... and that's a good thing!


This is a 3D level based third person fighting game. This isn't a two player fighting game like Mortal Kombat. Instead, this is a level game where you run around on platforms or paths, pick up things, buy things and kind of quest. But, the sole purpose of this game is fighting. You fight enemy after enemy just to get to more enemies to fight. Like I said, it's a fighting game. Note, I started out on the Acolyte Level (Easy).

The controls are simple: X short attack (weaker), Y long attack (stronger, less likely to succeed). So, in the first two levels you are running around attacking every other attacker. Some have arrows and shoot you, some have Wolverine-like claws and some have swords. Whatever it is the attacker is using, you can't be complacent. They attack fairly ruthlessly, but they're reasonably easy to defeat once you get the upper hand. As you progress through the game, you learn more and better combos by examining corpses (?). Yeah, I couldn't figure that one out either.

Of course, as with most games of this sort (and since it's level based), you will have to fight a boss at the end of each level. And... here's where the game falls down. At the end of the first level, the boss is moderately hard to beat. There's a health meter that you have to whittle down, so at least you know where you stand. You can do this if you focus on the boss instead of the other attackers. Once you defeat the boss, the level is over.

Game Failure

Unfortunately, here is also where the game fails. While the first boss and all of the level based attackers are reasonably easy to beat, the second boss you find on the second level is pratically impossible to beat. He's got combos far ahead of yours. He's got attacks that will wipe out half your character's (Ryu) health in just one or two moves. You have none of this. Your weapons are weak at best if you can even land a strike. When you land a strike, it takes away a tiny amount of his health. He's so fast at combos and so quick moving that there is almost nothing that works on him. You can spend probably an hour just trying to get past him and still not succeed. The only thing that even works against him is blocking and that only works minimally. He can still land devastating attacks against your character even when blocking.

This level 2 boss is a prime example of game design failure. This game was very clearly NOT play tested. It was not given to an average game player to find out if the game is actually playable. Instead, they just created it and dumped it on the market. And here's exactly the reason why games like this do not make the money they should (and why I was able to buy it as cheaply as I did).


The graphics on this game are quite literally stunning. The buildings, lighting, trees, everything are about as perfect as they come. Even Ryu, your character, has an excellent outfit and is well made. They did a superb job building the environments. It's too bad that Team Ninja failed so badly at putting together a playable game.


The audio is reasonable, but not outstanding. It works for the context of the video game, but there's nothing here that's going to win awards. The sound effects are ok, but a little on the cheesy side.


I wanted to like this game when it began. But, after the major failure of the boss on the second level, I won't be playing this game any farther. Again, like Dead Space, this is a waste of time and I really don't want to get arthritis in my hands just because they make you constantly and repetitively press buttons and combos.

Note, the second level boss is a boss that should probably have been the final boss of the game and not a boss on the second level. If they had actually let you level your character up to be a more even match, I would have appreciated this game a lot more. Unfortunately, Team Ninja completely botched this game design majorly.

  • Sound: 7/10
  • Graphics: 9.5/10 (outstanding)
  • Gameplay: 5/10 (poor boss design)
  • Story: 6/10 (limited story line)
  • Bugginess: 3/10 (1 crash/lockup, several major slowdowns)
  • Controls: 8.5/10 (reasonable, but not the problem)
  • Bang-to-buck: 2/10 (poorly designed fighting game)
  • Play Value: $5 (rent it)
  • Overall: 4/10 (even with the excellent graphics, gameplay is poor)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Xbox 360 - The Godfather II

The Godfather II by EA Games

Rated for Violence, Language and Adult Themes
Game Type: Third Person Shooter / Questing

I saw the commercial for this game and decided it looked a bit like Grand Theft Auto (older versions of it). After playing the game, it is pretty much like Grand Theft Auto and Saint's Row combined. It has all of the gang aspects of Saint's Row combined with the GTA and Godfather themes.


You start as a small time bodyguard in Don Corleone's crew. You progress your way up to Don and then Godfather. You do this by taking over other family businesses and eventually eliminating the rival families.


There are effectively 3 maps/cities separated by an Airport: New York, Florida and Cuba. You start in New York and open up the other maps as you progress. Unfortunately, for this game, there are way too many helpful hints and tips throughout the game (even at the very end) that really get in the way of gameplay. The tips should have stopped after the tutorial level.

This is a standard GTA style shooter. You can change weapons with the left bumber button and selecting the weapon. The weapons don't hold nearly enough ammo. I guess that's made up to you because you can carry so many different weapons each with its own type of ammo rather than pulling from a single pool.

Unfortunately, this game is not nearly as complete as it could have been. For example, the only shops you can visit are the ones that you can take over. But, once that's done, there's nothing else to do at the shop (other than cracking the safe, blowing it up or setting it on fire). You can't shop at all in this game. So, the money's only value is in upgrading your characters. Once that's done, there's nothing else to spend it on (except as multiplayer wagers).

Weapon Upgrades

Weapon upgrades are, again, found and not purchased. So, you have to wander through the entire game's levels to find all of the weapon upgrades. The game implies, at one point, that you can purchase weapons for your 'family members', but that's all done through the menu and not through shops.

Building your Family

As you progress through the game, you build your 'family' (recruit new men with certain talents called 'Made Men'). The talents include safecracking, demolitions, engineer (wire cutter), bruiser and medic. You don't really need all of the talents on your crew, but you will eventually get the chance to pick up men with these talents as you recruit them. Unfortunately, your own player character cannot learn any talents himself (we'll come back to this issue later). The other families also have 'Made Men', but in order to eliminate a rival family's made man, you must do favors for key people (keys appear above their heads). Once you fulfill the favor for the key person, you will receive the kill condition for a specific made man. For example, you may have strangle him or throw a molotov cocktail at him. There are many different conditions under which you must kill them.

Although, I found the activity of killing rival family made men as a waste of time. Instead, I focused taking over the busineses where you earn money. Once you've taken over all of a rival family's businesses, you can attack their compound and blow it up. Once you accomplish this, that family is gone. As long as a rival family continues to exist, they will continue to attack the businesses you control.

Jacking Cars

As with GTA, you can easily jack cars from all over the place. Unfortunately, there's really nothing you can do with the cars once you jack them (you can't sell, store, mod, paint or fix them). The cars are used strictly to get you from point A to point B or as bombs. This is pretty limited.

Characters in the Game

Character interaction doesnt always work properly. If you're standing on the street and people walk by, they push the characters out of the camera frame. The game doesn't really handle this aspect very well.

Taking Over Rival Businesses

In order to take over a rival business, it's pretty simple. You should go in with 3 of your made men and take out all of the guards. If you're careful, you can do this without dying. Make sure you have a medic on your staff to revive you should you fall. What you're looking for is the 'owner' of the business. In order to take over the business, you need to intimidate the owner until his 'intimidation green bar' is between the two red bars and closest to the red flashing bar. Note, however, that the far right red flashing bar eventually disappears. You don't want to over intimidate or kill the owner. If you overintimidate or kill the owner, you will fail in your takeover attempt. If you fail, you have to wait a while before you can try again.

Once you intimidate the owner correctly, he will allow you to become boss and pay you money. So, after you own the business, you can then add guards to the business to prevent takeovers. You will also receive a certain amount of money each day from this business.

Controlling Crime Rings

Some businesses make up crime rings that have 3 or 4 pieces that you must fully control. When you fully control all of the pieces, your family gets a perk (bullet proof vests, incendiary ammo, carry more ammo, access to armored vehicles or cheaper guards). As you take over a place, you must continue to guard the places or rival families will attack them and try to take them back. Unfortunately, this aspect of the game was far too easy. Once you put up at least 4-5 guards at a place and sent a few made men over during an attack, you would never lose a place.

Sending made men to attacked businesses

If you are being attacked in a city where you aren't, you can dispatch your made men to a business that's being attacked. They can aid in protecting the business from takeover. This is fairly easy if you send at least 3-4 made men to the business.

Side Quests

There are side jobs, but these are all started through characters on the street. There are three types of side quests: Key, Bribes/Back Pocket and Money. Each of these quest types does the same thing, but gives different rewards. The basic quests include burglary, arson, bombing, business sabbotage, beat someone up or assassination. As you are assigned the job by the random person, you will get a reward once the job is completed. The target has a symbol over the person or place that tells you what you need to do. If the target is a person, you will see a red symbol over the person's head. If it's a place, you will only see this on the map.

The rewards are simple. A key gives you a kill condition for a made man. A bribe gets you some kind of favor (get out of jail, heal your men, call off the cops). Money quests get you the specified amount of money (between $1500 and $10000). This is the extent of side questing in GF2.


The controls are standard for a GTA-style game. In fact, it's pretty much cloned from GTA, so it's easy to fall into the controller system here.


As with most EA games, the graphics are subpar. The characters look low resolution and the texture maps don't always hold up. The characters tend to move and act stilted in the main game. In cinematics, they move more realistically, but they still look low resolution. When characters are talking, the mouths might as well just be opening and closing. Also, the characters you see on the street are not nearly random enough. There are way too many times where the same two or three characters are standing side-by-side looking like clones.


The audio is reasonable. It sounds like it may have used part of the original Godfather soundtrack. But, I haven't seen that movie and quite some time. So, I'm not sure. Some of the music sounds like something from GTA. So, EA tried very hard to make this game look, feel and sound like GTA.


This is typical for this sort of game. I preferred the multiplayer in Saint's Row 2 where another person can join your game in progress and you can share the play field. You can't do this in Godfather 2. Instead, you must join or create games already in play and they are random playfields that the game has designed. You can expand your made men by getting them higher weapon grades, but why bother? Coming back to the issue of the player character, you cannot even use your player character in the multiplayer levels. Specifically, in the quick matches. You can only use the made men you've recruited. This is highly annoying and stupid. You spend all that time building up your character to Don and you can't even use him in multiplayer mode.


The game works reasonably well. But, there are some issues that need to be addressed. For example, even when you have obtained all of the keys for Made Man Kill Conditions, keys still appear above random people's heads. The game should be able to realize there are no more keys necessary and stop making them appear above random people on the street. If you're not paying attention, it's easy to keep doing the key quests thinking there's more to do and this ends up a waste of time.

  • Sound: 8/10
  • Graphics: 6.5/10 (average)
  • Gameplay: 7.5/10 (limited side questing)
  • Story: 9/10 (cohesive, keeps you playing)
  • Bugginess: 10/10 (no crashes)
  • Controls: 8.5/10 (targeting system works well enough)
  • Bang-to-buck: 4/10 (a big on the short side)
  • Play Value: $25 (recommend renting or buy it cheap)
  • Overall: 8/10 (reasonably well done, some issues, good story)