LittleBigPlanet Karting – yet another kart racer

When I first heard of LittleBigPlanet Karting, I thought “Wait, why is this necessary, PS3’s already got ModNation Racers…” Furthermore, it’s developed by United Front Games, the same guys who did ModNation Racers. So there’d be even less reason to own both. Still, given the LittleBigPlanet brand and the unique things associated with it, I thought that maybe the game could still bring something fresh to the table. I quite like Sackboy and the things his franchise added to gaming. Although, despite the initial announcement being one of the things that have excited me the most in recent gaming history, and LBP being the very first PS3 game I bought (though it must be said that the store where I got my PS3 simply didn’t have Metal Gear Solid 4 in stock…), I haven’t played LittleBigPlanet all that much – it just wasn’t as exciting for someone not willing to invest a lot of time into creating stages. Anyway, I tried the LittleBigPlanet Karting demo. Unfortunately, what I saw in it didn’t convince me that this game was worth my time or money.

LittleBigPlanet Karting Front

Game: LittleBigPlanet Karting
Developer:  United Front Games
Platforms: PlayStation Network
Original release: 2012
Territories: All
Price: $39.99

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Mass Effect 3

Already since the first game, I felt that the Mass Effect series was the grandest undertaking of the current console generation. And now, having finished the trilogy, I am absolutely certain of it. While none of the individual games are perfect, this is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. The vast, detailed universe (actually, that is just the Milky Way galaxy) BioWare have created, with all the different intelligent species, with hundreds of planets, with complex political relationships, is beautiful. Just beautiful. I can only think of a handful of cases in the history of gaming where comparable amounts of effort have been put into crafting a game/series’ universe. And Mass Effect may actually be THE most complex one of all.

Since I first played the game quite a few months after it came out, I couldn’t help expecting a mess of an ending, as that was the almost unanimous opinion among gamers on the internet. However, I can now safely say that those claims are incorrect. Mass Effect 3 provides a very fascinating conclusion, staying true to the principles of the series. It’s natural that there are people who don’t like it, but, given the size of the saga, there is no possible ending that couldn’t have ticked someone off. So fear not, BioWare did NOT mess up with Mass Effect’s ending. It’s a fitting conclusion to the saga.

Mass Effect 3 Cover

Game: Mass Effect 3
Developer: BioWare
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Wii U
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

The third game in the series is another solid entry. Like the second one, it improves on some things in the predecessor, but is then weaker in other aspects. The thrilling struggle against the Reapers and the brilliant finale have Mass Effect easily leapfrog the second game in terms of overall story. Sadly, it doesn’t hold up as far as conversations/development of your teammates goes (even though we are already familiar with a great part of them). Annoying gameplay features from the second game like streamlined stats distribution as opposed to precise, point-by-point growth, and thermal clips (ammo), sadly remain here. Neat things like hacking are completely gone. It was clearly important for BioWare to keep the game tuned for the average gamer and maximise its sales. But those issues still do not detract much from the overall excellence of Mass Effect 3.

Seeing as I played the game on PC, this is another review where I provide my own screenshots.

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – an action game, but with great potential

I’ve been skeptical about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ever since it was first announced. It was clear that it would be a departure from the Metal Gear (Solid) formula, that it would be an action game about Ninja Raiden cutting people up in Ninja Gaiden style, rather than a Metal Gear game that focuses on stealth. They even changed the name itself from Metal Gear Solid: Rising to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – the Solid part disappeared altogether because Kojima wanted to deliver a message to fans – this is NOT a Metal Gear Solid game in anything but the setting and some characters.

After the project was handed over to PlatinumGames, the studio that’s now home to Shinji Mikami, Resident Evil creator, and Hideki Kamiya, director of Devil May Cry and Okami, as well as others from the former Capcom Clover staff, a studio that has already made a name for itself in the action genre (they’re the makers of well-received games like Bayonetta and Vanquish), it was clear that the goal was to create a solid action game in the Metal Gear universe with the new, badass Raiden as the star – nothing more, nothing less.

And, when I received the Zone of the Enders HD collection last week, it was more than clear that the first content I’d tackle would be the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo included on the disc.

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance Title Screen

Game: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Developer: PlatinumGames
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Expected release: February 2013
Territories: All
Price: $59.99

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Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain’s promise of “interactive drama” sure sounded interesting to a gamer like me, who appreciates great story and characters above anything else in a game. I knew that the gameplay would be comprised mostly of quick-time events, a much-hated feature of modern gaming, but I knew they could work well in such a setting. And they do. It’s not a conventional game and should not be expected to be such. It’s mostly about decision-making and quick reactions, but, at the end, the outcome depends fully on your actions, just like any other game. The many different endings available and the fact that any misstep from your part can change things drastically are the main draws of the game. It reminds of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book – or rather, movie.

Heavy Rain Cover

Game: Heavy Rain
Developer: Quantic Dream
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2010
Territories: All

Above all, Heavy Rain is a unique experience – even that fact alone sets it apart from most modern games that tend to borrow from and influence one another heavily. The whole setting and the way events unfold heavily remind of a blockbuster thriller movie, and that is an effect the developers have deliberately aimed for. Despite the fact that there are some details that don’t make much sense, most of the time the suspension of disbelief works fine, and the game often has you at the edge of your seat, anticipating what will happen next. The quick-time events, of course, also contribute to the feeling of pressure and anxiety, which all the more connects you to the characters you control on your screen, as they’re desperately trying to prevent another murder of the Origami Killer, but are running out of time.

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Retro City Rampage – fresh with nostalgia

I occasionally try out demos, mostly on the PlayStation Network. Very rarely has a demo made me buy a game (the awesome early PS3 action-adventure Folklore comes to mind), but they’re a fine addition of the current generation, a real step forward from the years before when we only got demos rarely, through game magazines or the rare inclusions of a highly anticipated game’s demo in a previous game by the same company (think Metal Gear Solid 2’s demo in Zone of the Enders).

With this article, I’m starting a new section of the site, where I’ll share my quick impressions from demos I have found to be notable. And the first one I’ll write about is Retro City Rampage.

Retro City Rampage

Game: Retro City Rampage
Developer: Vblank Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation Network (playable on both PS3 and PS Vita); Coming soon: Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare
Original release: 2012
Territories: All
Price: $14.99

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

The first Uncharted was pretty cool, and the second one was even better. I expected the third game to be as good as its predecessor, but I also knew that there really wasn’t that much room for improvement for the series. Uncharted 2 had pretty much reached a peak, which would be a tremendous challenge for Uncharted 3 to overcome. But credit must go to Naughty Dog – they tried. The third game introduces some new and exciting details that make it seem more polished. It comes even closer to the blockbuster movie feel. But there were also several aspects where it couldn’t live up to the high standard set by Uncharted 2.

Uncharted 3 Cover

Game: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2011
Territories: All

Uncharted 3 is a fun game, definitely a pleasure for the player. There is pretty much never a dull moment, even more so than in the first two. There are exciting new environments like a London pub, a shipyard, a cruise ship, a desert…, further showcasing Naughty Dog’s talent in the graphics department. The relationship between Drake and Sully is further developed, with some most curious episodes. The villain is, unfortunately, rather lame (like in the first game), but Drake’s group of friends gets a pretty cool new member in Charlie Cutter. The story, as a whole, is nothing special, and the lack of a strong villain presence makes it less impressive than the second game that at least had that. Overall, however, the game will impress you with its numerous breathtaking moments.

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Video Game Music of the Week – 20-26.08.2012

This time, I’ve decided to post a song from a much more popular PS2 game – Fumito Ueda’s Shadow of the Colossus. You can also consider it a little way to celebrate the fact that The Last Guardian is actually not cancelled and that it’s still coming to PS3 sooner or later… A lot has been said about Shadow of the Colossus and I won’t make a long speech here, I won’t surprise anybody when I say that I really enjoyed the game and I wish there were more in its spirit. I do enjoy its predecessor, Ico, even more, but the same cannot be said about their respective soundtracks – Ko Otani’s work on the Shadow of the Colossus one is just incredible. These two gems are also available as a remastered-for-HD collection for the PS3, so do give them a shot if you haven’t played them yet.

Composer: Ko Otani
Game: Shadow of the Colossus
Song:  The Farthest Land

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

After beating the first Uncharted, I immediately jumped on the second one. It’s the one widely considered the best in the series, with the highest scores from both fans and critics and all, so my expectations were higher than the ones I had from the first game. Suffice to say, Uncharted 2 delivered. It improves on the first game in many ways, the most obvious one being graphics, while keeping the tight adventure gameplay which, if a bit linear, keeps you on your toes pretty much constantly. Drake’s second adventure is a memorable experience, adding some much appreciated polish to what we saw in the first game.

Uncharted 2 Cover

Game: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2009
Territories: All

Uncharted 2 is a marvellous game, and this is a case where this adjective is used in its full meaning, rather than just thrown in for good measure and in attempt to appear more literary. The PS3’s graphical capabilities are pushed to their limits (even though I’m yet to play Uncharted 3, so who knows…), Naughty Dog proving themselves to be masters in this department once again. There are some clear improvements over the first game, such as an increased amount of different environments and the introduction of stealth attacking. Of course, there are also some things from the first game that are not present in the second, such as aiming grenades or balancing with the Sixaxis, and the brutal combo, which was “replaced” by the dubious counterattacking. There are also no jet ski stages, quite likely a case of fans’ complaints getting through. 🙂 But these are just details – at the end, the overall package is very satisfying.

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

When it comes to gaming, I’m usually behind the times a bit (as you may have already noticed). My backlog is just quite massive and there are few contemporary games that interest me as much as older gems I haven’t played yet. Nevertheless, I recently decided to finally play through Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series – the biggest franchise born on my favourite current-generation console, the PlayStation 3. I went in expecting a fun adventure game with a simple, movie-like story and entertaining gameplay. Something like Tomb Raider (a franchise where I’m actually yet to beat a single game, but that’s another story). The first game largely met my expectations.

Uncharted Cover

Game: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2007
Territories: All

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was one of the early PS3 games, and a huge reason to get one already back then, at the startling launch or near-launch price. I can see why it made the purchase worth it for many people. The game is very cinematic and the graphics are really beautiful, which is particularly impressive, considering it came out so early in the console’s life cycle. Even though they are obviously surpassed by the latter two entries in the franchise, I am sure many people were captivated by them in 2007. Add to that the nice beginning, showing the protagonist Nathan Drake on a boat with the pretty Elena, and the action starting immediately, in the middle of a short conversation between them, and you’ll be able to see why Uncharted was a huge system seller.

The game’s premise is intriguing enough – you are (or at least claim to be) a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, and, after finding an important clue left by your ancestor himself, you set off in search for El Dorado, the legendary City of Gold. It’s really a lot like an adventure movie – those influences are easy to see and are spoken of by the developers themselves in the “Behind the Scenes” videos included on the disc (Tomb Raider is never mentioned, of course :)). The story never pretends to offer any more or less than uncovering the mystery of El Dorado. The gameplay follows suit – it doesn’t try anything complex (mostly 3D platforming and third-person shooting), but does quite well at what it strives to do. An interesting thing to note is that there are no boss fights. Overall, the game is entertaining, it’s standard length for the genre (12-15 hours), and it offers nice challenge without ever becoming too frustrating.

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Journey

The moment Journey came out, it was an instant success, with fans and critics alike singing praises for thatgamecompany’s new creation. Like with their previous hit, Flower, the main qualities pointed out in reviews were the unique art style, the sheer beauty of the scenery, and the minimalistic storytelling. Despite the short length (reviews mentioned 2 hours), people around the world loved it, fans drew pretty art based on the game’s world and characters, and word of mouth contributed greatly to its success. And now, it’s my turn to share my thoughts of one of the 2012 gaming phenomenons with you.

Journey Cover

Game: Journey
Developer: thatgamecompany
Platform: PlayStation Network
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

I got my hands on this game thanks to my girlfriend’s sister who gave her a PSN voucher as a birthday present, with the explicit instruction to buy Journey. The $15 price the game launched, and is still sitting at, didn’t seem justified to me, considering its length. I was going to wait for it to drop to at least $10, but, thanks to the aforementioned circumstances, I was apparently going to play it in the year it actually released. 🙂

In the beginning, I thought that people had praised this game for a good reason. The visuals, while not going into much detail, were really beautiful, much like in Flower. I spent a minute or two to admire the scenery before even starting the game. And this stayed consistent throughout the game – every new environment was as pretty as the previous. The atmospheric music and sound effects also impressed me… And the protagonist, with his strange clothes, long scarf, and Final Fantasy black mage-like face, seemed mysterious and cool. But we gamers know that all these things complement a game, they are the side-dish to the meat…

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