Monday, October 26, 2009

Xbox 360 - Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 by Activision

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is the sequel to Ultimate Alliance. In this game, you get to play as most of the major Marvel characters including Spiderman, Deadpool, Capt. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, Human Torch, The Thing, Iceman, Wolverine, Ironman, Captain America and several others.


In this game, the mutants are being forced to register themselves and their real identity with the government. Captain America takes offense to this act and goes rebel to keep the freedom. Others side with the government. From this division comes an enemy who takes control over many of the superheroes with nano technology and forces them to try to kill both humans and mutants. As the alliance, you must stop this from happening and clean it all up.


This game is pretty much the same as the first one with the exception that you could change out characters even when they were knocked out in the first game. In this version, that was taken out of the game which leaves your team weakened when one of your heroes is knocked out. Although, you can revive them if you get the right pickup.


The controls are easy and reasonably simple. It is a combo based game, though, so be prepared to press lots of buttons to get the right power out of the individual hero.


I liked the game about as much as the first game. I was hoping for more in this one, but didn't really get very much in that department. The story was reasonably engaging. Moreso than the first game, I'd say. Overall, I liked the game, but it would be preferable to rent it over buying it. It's not a keeper and it doesn't warrant a second play through.

  • Sound: 8/10
  • Graphics: 8/10
  • Gameplay: 8/10
  • Story: 9/10
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 9/10
  • Bang-to-buck: 3/10
  • Play Value: $15 (rent or buy)
  • Overall: 8.5/10

PS3 - Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves by Sony / NaughtyDog

Style: Third Person Shooter

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the sequel to Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. This game is similar to Lara Croft's Tomb Raiders series of games in story, but gameplay is a third person free roaming shooter. You are an Indiana Jones kind of character seeking fortune through antiquities.


The game is similar to Drake's Fortune, but they've done away with the timed button press maneuvering system (at least so far). Otherwise, the system is pretty much standard for a shooter. You can move through the various weapons you carry. It is a free form questing kind of system, so you can roam the levels looking for Easter Eggs. Unfortunately, there really aren't enough Easter Eggs to make wandering the levels terribly productive. So, you find yourself not really looking very hard after a while.


The story is that you are seeking a treasure that could lead you to Shangri La / Shambala. So, that's where you are heading. Along the way you run into various people who help or hinder you in that process. Ultimately, everyone needs you because of your knowledge. So, you end up tagging along with everyone even if they don't want you there.


The game is reasonably long, so the Bang-to-Buck is reasonably high here. Unfortunately, I don't find this game as enthralling as the original game. The character models also don't look as good as I remember from Drake's Fortune. So, it looks like they may have cut some corners to get this one out the door.

The game is reasonably well done, but it's definitely not a must-have game. If you want to play it, buy it. But, I felt that the first Uncharted was better than this one because it was new. This one didn't really improve on Uncharted in any substantial way, so it feels like more of the same.

  • Sound: 8/10 (better than average)
  • Graphics: 8/10 (characters could have been better)
  • Gameplay: 8/10 (same as Drake's fortune)
  • Story: 8/10 (good, but not perfect)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 9/10
  • Bang-to-buck: 6/10 (reasonably long play value)
  • Play Value: $15 (rent or buy, probably not a keeper)
  • Overall: 8/10 (I expected more from this sequel)

Xbox 360 - Clone Wars Republic Heroes

Clone Wars - Republic Heroes by LucasArts

Family Friendly: Yes

LucasArts games are hit-and-miss lately. Republic Heroes is a miss. It fails to understand what Star Wars is about. I understand they were trying to make this game feel like the new 3D comic, but it fails to accomplish this well enough.


This is basically a level based game like Super Mario Sunshine or Sonic 3D. It has a stylistic comic look. It attempts to look like the new Star Wars Clone Wars comics. While it mostly succeeds with this, the gameplay mostly fails.

You play as Anakin with his padawan. The padawan follows you around. You crawl the levels with the light saber killing lots of droids over and over. It becomes pretty repetitive relatively quickly. Like Sonic's Rings or Mario's coins, Anakin has blue orbs to pick up. So, as you run around the levels, this what you will need to pick up throughout.

Later on, you get to switch up and play as a Clone trooper for some unknown reason. The gameplay is identical to playing with Anakin, so there's nothing special here.


You can get a lot of achievements fairly rapidly with this one. So, if you're looking for easy achievements, this game has them.


The game is intended for a young audience who's attention span is reasonably short. I found the game extremely repetitive and underwhelming. The story was mostly not there and the graphics were simply mediocre. There's not much depth to this game, so it's mostly about getting the blue orbs.

  • Sound: 7/10 (better than average)
  • Graphics: 6/10 (could be much better)
  • Gameplay: 5/10 (far too linear, no depth)
  • Story: 5/10 (fair)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 9/10 (best part of the game)
  • Bang-to-buck: 1/10 (expensive, not enough to do)
  • Play Value: $5 (rent it)
  • Overall: 5/10 (could have been much better)

Xbox 360 - Borderlands

Borderlands by 2K games / Gearbox

Borderlands tries to be a semi-comic based roll playing / questing game. It uses an outline 3D model that makes the game look like a cartoon. Combing this with a cartoon image map on the models, it feels like a comic. Unfortunately, while it feels like a comic, I don't like this graphic style as it always feels cheap and unfinished. If they're going to work in a 3D world, then just do the 3D like 3D. Halo 3 is one game that uses a full 3D approach, but still takes a stylistic approach to the 3D models that keeps it from appearing 'realistic'.


You get to pick from four different characters to play. Each of the four characters has their own abilities. I won't spoil that here in case you want to play, but you'll get to see the characters and their abilities within five minutes of beginning the game.

The weapon button system is a bit confusing. So, it will take me a little bit of time to get used to where they are. The movement system is reasonably standard, though. So, getting around the environment is easy. The enemies in the game are all over the place, so you'll have to constantly deal with killing them.

Questing system

In order to level up, you will need to complete quests for various people. As you complete the quests, you get paid back with experience points. The trouble with this game, though, is that I don't see any real benefit to the experience points. I probably haven't played enough through the entire game yet to know if they matter, but it should really be apparent within the first few quests of playing.


There is a map, but it's not that helpful (doesn't show enemies). So, you're pretty much on your own when you need to locate things.


As I said above, the weapon controls are a bit confusing so I have to reprogram myself into this game. I prefer games that choose to mimic a popular game's button system rather than creating their own. When they choose to create their own system, it takes time for the gamer to learn the system.


The game is reasonably well done. But, the quests are silly and the game itself doesn't seem to take itself seriously enough either. So, it all seems very tongue-in-cheek. While that can work, I'd prefer they didn't do this here. Questing / Roleplaying games usually suffer from tongue-in-cheek storytelling and this game is no exception.

This game is not a Fallout 3 or Oblivion by any stretch. For a role playing and questing game, it's a good first attempt. However, it needs a lot more work to get near the caliber of Fallout 3 or Oblivion. I'm hoping that 2k / Gearbox can figure this out for a sequel (assuming it does well enough for that).

  • Sound: 6/10 (better than average)
  • Graphics: 7/10 (low res)
  • Gameplay: 7.5/10 (it's hard to like a rail shooter)
  • Story: 6/10 (not engaging enough)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 6.5/10 (learning curve)
  • Bang-to-buck: 1/10 (not worth replaying)
  • Play Value: $10 (rent it)
  • Overall: 6/10 (doesn't grow on you)

Xbox 360 - Halo 3 ODST

Halo 3 ODST by Bungie / Microsoft

ODST stands for Orbital Drop Shock Troops (or Troopers). These troops were part of the elite guard just behind the Spartans (Master Chief from Halo 3). The ODST are deployed in other parts of the fight separately from the Spartans. Spartans are deployed to work on mission critical operations (usually alone).

Therefore, Halo 3 ODST is a side-by-side sequel to Halo 3. This means that what's going on in ODST happens at the same time as the stories from Master Chief in Halo 3.

Campaign Story

Your character is deployed as an ODST. As you progress through the game, you will play as several different characters in the game. As an ODST, your armor is not nearly as strong as a Spartan. But, it's reasonably strong and recovers fast from gun fire.

The story is told after-the-fact with your character finding artifacts that trigger flashbacks. As the flashbacks occur, you get to play as other ODST from their perspective of what happened. After the flashback is over, you're back in the present holding the object you examined that triggered the flashback.

While this storytelling technique is good for cinema (because of the fast pacing), inside a video game this storytelling technique gets jumbled and is a bit disconcerting. The pace the game plays also leads to issues with these flashbacks. Personally, if I had been designing this game I would have done it as a straight forward first person shooter without all the cinematic gimmickry. Needless to say, once you understand the perspective and the flashback system, you get used to it and understand what it is and where the story is going.


The game plays pretty much identically to Halo 3 with the exception that your ODST armor is far weaker than a Spartan. To make up for this, there are a reasonably generous supply of Optican health pickups on most levels. You can also regenerate your armor by ducking behind something. Although, I remember hearing long before release that there wouldn't be any shields at all, but I guess Bungie changed that idea or the rumor was incorrect. As for controls, if you're familiar with Halo 3, you'll fall right into ODST's controls.

Audio / Music

The music is serene and calming. The designers choose to use orchestral and synth mixes that are light, simple and dramatic. A lot of games like to throw heavy metal at you in charged scenes, the Halo 3 franchise has never done this.. including ODST. I wouldn't say that music is cinematic, but it works for the environments.

Packaging / Extras

The game ships with two disks. Unlike Halo 3 which contained both the multiplayer and the campaign game on one disk, Halo 3 ODST has split this up into two disks. The first disk is campaign mode. The second disk is multiplayer mode. The first disk also contains the 'firefight' mode which is effectively your character against AI monsters in a multi-player type level. You get points for each enemy you kill and you have a limited number of lives in which to do this. So, this gaming mode is primarily for high score points.


I am not a big fan of multiplayer level portions of most games. ODST is no exception. So, I rarely get into this part of the game. Mostly the reason I avoid this is that I don't enjoy being constantly shot by some kid who feels the need to target one person over and over. While I understand the reasoning behind putting this game portion onto the second disk, I don't generally play or review these sections as they get boring really fast. Mostly the reason I don't review them is that they are pretty much all the same. Pick a level and then play one of several games: Capture the Flag, Bomb the Base or free-for-all kill fest (death match). Once you've played these types of levels, you've pretty much played them all. So, it's very difficult to review this in an objective way multiple times. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy this part of the game, it's here.


The game progresses in the present with your character wandering through a mostly deserted area looking for anything important and trying to get out of there. As flashbacks, you are an ODST who just dropped. So, the game plays off of the early part of the drop against the last part of the drop.

I found the game reasonably easy. Easier than I expected and easier than Halo 3. It is reasonably well done, but I think it felt a little too familiar and safe. I wish that Bungie had done something more daring with this game to give it something unique.

Overall, I was disappointed with the end result of the campaign level, However, it was close to as much fun as Halo 3. Although, there doesn't appear to be any skulls to be found in Campaign mode (at least not on the Normal hardness). I was hoping for a more unique experience. That didn't pan out. I also felt the levels seemed a bit too small overall. I liked the more expansive qualities of Halo 3's levels.

  • Sound: 9/10 (better than average)
  • Graphics: 8.5/10 (good, but a bit too much bloom)
  • Gameplay: 9/10 (like Halo 3)
  • Story: 7/10 (original, but not perfect)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 9/10 (average for the Wii)
  • Bang-to-buck: 7/10
  • Play Value: $35 (rent it or buy it used)
  • Overall: 8/10

Wii - Dead Space Extraction

Dead Space Extraction by EA games

Parental Advisory: This game contains graphic violence and mature
themes. Parental guidance is suggested.

Style: First Person Rail Shooter

This one will be short and sweet. EA has converted the Dead Space Shooter on the Xbox 360 from a first person shooter to a rail shooter. That conversion doesn't help this game at all. Frankly, I don't like rail shooters to begin with (other than certain arcade style games). When it comes to a first person (or even third person) Doom style game, I prefer free roaming to constrained gaming... hands down. For this game to become constrained to a rail shooter fails this game miserably. It would have worked far better as a straight TPS or FPS game.


The game is basically the same game as Dead Space on the 360. However, now that it's a rail shooter, they have added more people who tag along with you. Unfortunately, the tag-alongs don't help you at all. Once the shooting begins, your 'helpers' disappear and do nothing to help you. Thankfully, EA didn't require you to protect them while shooting the enemy. Thank goodness for small favors. But, even as small a favor as that is, this game fails on so many other levels.


This is the first failure. This game harkens back to 320x240 shooter days. Most of this is because of the Wii's limited 3D abilities. But, it doesn't do this game any favors. The levels look ok, but the people look horrible. This is only made up for in the motion capture which works reasonably well.


Fair, but nothing to write home about. Average for today's games.


This game lacks in being original because it steals so much from Dead Space. If they had made this a follow-up or a new story with new sets, I'd have been more impressed. Unfortunately, they've stolen most of the level environments directly from Dead Space and inserted them into this game and that doesn't make this game original at all.

Worse, they even steal much of Dead Space's story and pacing and put it in Extraction making this game even more unoriginal.

Checkpoint saves

The game uses the end of each level as a checkpoint. So, you have to work through the entire level before it actually saves your play position if you want to turn off the game and start up later. However, whenever the player character dies, the game starts back up at the current play position. Thanks again for small favors.


This game is, as I've said, unoriginal. Because it's a rail shooter, you have no control over where the character looks or goes (except at random limited points in the game). When you do have the ability to look around, you only have a few seconds (frustrating). Most times when they give you the ability to look around, there's nothing to look around to find (wasted opportunity). You can also occasionally choose a direction to go, but that's also wasted.

This game isn't the worst game I've played, but it is definitely mediocre at best. If you are desperate to play something, then this might suffice. However, I'd suggest renting the game first. Say no to rail shooters and don't buy this. If you must play it, rent it.

  • Sound: 8/10 (better than average)
  • Graphics: 5/10 (low res)
  • Gameplay: 5/10 (it's hard to like a rail shooter)
  • Story: 5/10 (unoriginal)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 7/10 (average for the Wii)
  • Bang-to-buck: 2/10 (expensive for what it is)
  • Play Value: $10 (rent it)
  • Overall: 5/10 (say no to rail shooters)