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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Substance Review

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Editor’s Note:  Jam originally wrote this review back in August of 2015 and somehow I missed it for almost six months.  This won’t happen again but I figured we should still show love to a great game and a great review.  Sorry Jam.

Metal Gear Solid 2 was possibly one of my most anticipated video games back in my youth. I eagerly awaited its release in 2002 (a little later than the rest of the world in Europe because game companies hate us). Kojima had been very smart in teasing the hotly anticipated sequel to the PS2 classic with various trailers and that infamous pack in demo with the full retail game Zone of The Enders, which no one played. We just couldn’t wait to play as Snake. On release I’m happy to admit my fan boy goggles were literally set to “Fan-tastic” as I played this game and loved the ever loving hell out of it and not buying in to some of the games criticisms post release. Well I’m older and detestably more mature so its time to return to the title and see how it fairs today. To research for this review I played through the game on the the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on Xbox 360 and PSVita. The game had multiple releases on a lot of consoles but this review pretty much speaks to every version of the game.

mgs2_snakeMetal Gear Solid 2 puts you back into the shoes of the legendary Solid Snake, who has now gone rouge with his new pal Otacon from the first Solid game. They have formed the ultimate bro-mance to travel the world and take down metal gears (those are bipedal tanks if you’re not up to date with the series). Snake ends up on a ship passing through the Hudson River in a scene which is frankly fantastic if you’re a fan of cinema. Snake casually smokes a cig in his rain coat and gradually picks up his pace to then bungee jump off a bridge onto a ship. Re-watching this cinematic is still wonderful and possibly my favourite opening in the series. So you’re all happy playing as your hero Solid Snake. You fight a Russian girl, you take pictures of a metal gear along with sleeping soldiers, and then the game ends. Well, at least your control of Snake ends.  It has become known as the biggest historic bitch slap to the face of gaming history. After playing literally a couple of hours of the game, you are then put into the shoes of the far less interesting character: Raiden. Yeah, Raiden is no Solid Snake.  He has blonde hair, is pretty skinny, and lacks that testosterone appeal that we are used to from the much preferred Solid Snake. So you play as Raiden thinking “no big deal we’ll get back to Snake soon.” Wrong! You continue as Raiden for the rest of the game. So it’s kinda of disappointing but doesn’t completely ruin the gaming, its just not the Metal Gear story we were expecting.

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Written by jamalais

February 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

Retrospective: Saint’s Row

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When Grand Theft Auto III hit the Playstation 2 in 2001 it was unlike anything we had seen before.  Sure, the sandbox concept had been dabbled with from time to time and by the name alone it’s clear that Grand Theft Auto had been an established franchise, car stealing and hooker beating included.  It was GTA III that put everything together and re-established the concept of 3D world building and open variety of player choice.  Despite all the freedom of GTA III – not to mention the fact that most of my friends have explored Liberty City and put tens of hours into the game but never played more than the first handful of missions – it’s a very linear game.  Not only that, but as missions progress the game gets quite difficult and the open alive city is a drawback to completing missions.  That’s where Volition and Saint’s Row step in to attempt the next step: an open world where everything you do from running around to side missions affect the main story.

Saint’s Row began life in 2003 as a PS2 game called Bling Bling.  Senior producer Greg Donovan discussed the genesis of the title at GDC 2014 and the difficulty of pitching the game to THQ, which up to this point had not published anything like it.  Donovan and his team envisioned a game about a free world and all the minutia that make up that open world to recreate the gangster lifestyle.  The actual phrasing from the pitch video was, “Bling Bling is a third person action game about style, music, gangs, and guns.  It is the video game equivalent to a rap music video.”  Donovan and developer interviews since haven’t been too forthcoming with how the game eventually became a sandbox open world game, but given that both GTA III and Vice City were already out when Bling Bling began development it almost makes sense that it would take on the same style.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

Altered Beast Review

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Altered Beast was a game that lived in screenshots.  Like it or not, the arcade System 16 classic was less known for the roller skating rinks, bars, and bowling alleys that it was intended to get popular on and instead became the poster child for early Genesis advertising.  I say this as someone who was under 10 years old at the time it premiered, though, so perhaps it was burning up the arcades, but all I seem to remember was it coming home.  I did get a chance to play the title in coin-op form at my local bowling alley, but after a handful of attempts that never got me further than the second level I gave up on replaying the game.  When it came home, however, I needed it on my Genesis and I replayed it constantly.  In fact, for a game that is not only easy but also quick to complete (probably about 30 minutes), I find myself replaying it more than most other games from my past.  This even more odd given that, sadly, Altered Beast is not a very good game.

altered_beast_arcade_beast_modeThe premise is that of a centurion of Greece brought back by Zeus to save Athena, his daughter, who has been kidnapped.  Upon your resurrection, you now gain the ability to take the form of different animals in a sort of “were-” hybrid (werewolf, weredragon, werebear, etc) that can be accomplished by collecting power-ups in the level.  Beyond that Altered Beast is nothing more than a walk to the right and beat up everything in your path game, often known today as a brawler, but given that it pre-dates most of the Konami licensed brawlers and Capcom’s Final Fight, it was significant for the time.  Levels can vary in length, but if you know the game in the least – and what needs to be done – you’ll clear each one in 5 minutes or less.  Given that there’s only 5 levels, that’s a short time span.  When I refer to knowing what needs to be done, that’s the need to destroy the albino wolves in each level, which contain the power-ups needed to make your character’s strength grow and eventually trigger “beast mode.”  Each level rotation has 3 albino wolves and it takes 3 power-ups to go into beast mode, so you have to do it right the first time through or go through another rotation of the level that is usually harder than the first.  Beast mode refers to your character transforming into the aforementioned were-beasts from earlier and has even crept its way into pop culture as a meme.  While there are new enemies in each level, they all take basically the same amount of hits to defeat and aside form some basic change in behavior, don’t differentiate very much.  That’s still not to say this game didn’t have talent behind it because designer Makoto Uchida would earn some notoriety for his future work on Golden Axe and a personal favorite Dynamite Deka (Die Hard Arcade series).  Co-designer Hirokazu Yasuhara is even more notable with his planning and design on the early Sonic the Hedgehog titles before moving on and being involved in the design of Jak & Daxter titles with Naughty Dog and eventually the first Uncharted.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

Tomb Raider Anniversary Review

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The original Tomb Raider was more than just a 32 bit title that launched a strong Playstation franchise, it was a cultural phenomenon.  For those that have ever played it, especially if you’ve recently gone back, it’s rather difficult to appreciate that game without the amazing strength of nostalgia.  Fortunately when Crystal Dynamics took over for the franchise with Legend the company’s second project was to remake the original.  As the following reviews will attest, it was a good faith effort to not only switch up the mechanics and polish the weaker points of the first game, but ultimately the need to keep many of the levels and designs intact tarnish the experience.  Crystal Dynamics played it safe with how little it tweaked of the original formula and what resulted was a game that feels so updated and tight at some points and so sluggish and archaic at others.

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Written by jamalais

December 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Ongoing Series: Tomb Raider Anniversary

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bii52_7zTE&list=PLlLaoX7aLm9_SQKgn6U4d0WzCuoZi7OQO&index=1]

For the November game club we are playing through Tomb Raider, both the original and anniversary. Fred is tackling Anniversary. By popular request two versions of each video is being uploaded: one with and one without commentary. This has commentary, so if you wish to see the one without simply go here.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

Condemned: Criminal Origins Review

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Condemned Criminal Origins premiers as a console exclusive on the Xbox 360 – it later came to PC – in late 2005 (launch window), but represents a striking change for video games.  Sure, titles like Grand Theft Auto III and Manhunt were garnering attention for brutality, but those were still third person perspective titles that lacked true realism for the average player.  On the other hand Condemned is first person, the weapons are almost solely melee, the audio is in surround sound, and the vibration in the controller combined by the jarring view on screen when you get hit makes the whole experience realistic.  While violence-hating senators and parental groups hardly took notice, looking back it’s a visceral simulation of the brutality of those darker recesses of society we pretend doesn’t exist.

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Written by jamalais

November 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm

The Countdown Horror Obscura – Day 7: Catherine

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Day 7: Catherine

So this is something a bit different, so far on The Countdown Horror Obscura I have covered fantasy horror, gory horror and terrible portable powered horror. Well today I’m going to cover a deep seated horror that concerns the average gamer. I speak of the horror of commitment in a relationship.

Catherine truly is a breath of fresh air in a game. You have a simple premise a man (Vincent) is in a long term relationship with his partner (Katherine) and is conflicted about taking the next big step. Basically all those things that make up an average gamers worst nightmare, such as settling down with the same partner, getting married, having kids. One big plot hole I always questioned in this game was if Vincent was in a relationship with Katherine for as long as he had been, then why on earth was he still not living with her? Instead he lives in an apartment and spends more time with his friends at sushi bars and creepy drinking establishments then actually spending time with Katherine. But this game is Japanese, so maybe its some cultural thing I’m missing. Anyway Vincent has a moment of weakness that all men go through in life where he gazes upon another woman, only Vincent being the dumb Neanderthal man that he is drinks one to many and ends up sleeping with the most blonde just over the limit blonde girl that decided to sit next to him. After this the game plops you in this most disastrous situation you as the player are then given control of how the story progresses. You can take the weight of the situation on your shoulders and try make good with your long term partner or you can just stick with your new love interest as well as make various neutral choices. This control is what most critics and gamers rate as the highlight of the game experience.

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Written by jamalais

October 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Legend of Kay Anniversary Review

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legend_of_kay_ann_logoNote: This review originally appeared on the B-Team Podcast site and has an agreement with the owner of the review, Fred Rojas, to post on Gaming History 101 as well and visa versa.

Typically any game being remade in HD comes with the acceptance that it was already a prominent title, which accounts for the ongoing debate as to whether or not to re-purchase it. That’s why Legend of Kay Anniversary strikes me as such an interesting decision because almost no one played the original on PS2 in 2005 or even the port to DS in 2010. Granted, when you complete the Anniversary edition the phrase “We’ll be back!” is at the end of the credits so I can only guess an upcoming sequel is the reasoning for this beautiful HD remake. Having now played the game to completion I have to admit that Nordic was smart to purchase it from Capcom and this partial Zelda clone does make for a lengthy and impressive campaign. When it originally released, Legend of Kay garnered quite positive reviews and I’m pleased to say that the game is just as great now as it presumably was when it released, only now it has received one hell of a face lift.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Review

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When I heard we were going to do Metal Gear Solid 3 for the game club I came to the sudden realization that I actually owned a ridiculous amount of copies of the game across four systems. So I felt it was an appropriate time to challenge myself as a gamer and begin the month long quest of playing the game through five times across each iteration of the game. What a fascinating journey it’s been. Not only do I now eat snakes for my lunch but I find myself actively camouflaging up and hiding in the spare room from my lady friend. Fortunately, before I completely lost my mind I wrote a review on the game which covers the following five versions of the game: the original PS2 version, Subsistence version on PS2, HD collection edition on Xbox 360, the Vita version, and finally the 3DS version. Be sure to check out my breakdown of which was my favourite of the five and which one I would recommend people track down.

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Written by jamalais

September 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in 3DS, PS2, PS3, Reviews, Vita, Xbox 360

Life is Strange Episode 4 Review

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Please Note: Many reviewers out there seem to think it is appropriate to discuss the events of previous episodes of Life is Strange as if everyone who would read it damn well should have already played the previous episodes.  It has been my experience that if you have held out this long and haven’t already played this episode then you are most likely wondering how the game progresses throughout the season and will decide whether or not to buy when all episodes are out.  This is why each episodic review is spoiler free for the entire season, not just this episode.

Episode 4: Dark Room

life_is_strange_ep4_1We have arrived at episode 4, nearing the end of the season and who knows, perhaps this episode contains the major climax for the arc.  I say this without assurance because episode 3 had such an unexpected cliffhanger that I didn’t think it was possible to get me again.  I was wrong.  That being said I need to come right out and say I was a little unimpressed overall with episode 4, proving that the warning I gave in the first episode’s review may have actually come to fruition.  Whereas episodes 2 and especially three can begin to fork based off of your choices and possibly even suggest that two playthroughs is more of a recommendation rather than an option, episode 4 is forcing you down a corridor.  Granted, it’s a well calculated corridor that presents itself with the illusion of choice, but I’ve seen this trick before in The Walking Dead series from Telltale and without sounding catty, I thought Dontnod was above that.  There’s a decent amount of substance here still, with the story having easily its highest moment yet as the episode closes and again there are some strong emotional scenes that make up a very heavy episode.  One thing I do find a bit troubling is the fact that as certain plots unfold, others are left almost unmentioned, which nets a lot of catch up, wrap up, and resolution required for the fifth and final episode.  I’m just hoping that it remains as interactive as the others have been and doesn’t become the 90 minute ending of Metal Gear Solid 4.  Dontnod has yet to convince me they don’t know how to craft a story and without a doubt they know how to catch my interest, here’s hoping the ending stands as strongly as the jaw-dropping cliffhangers of previous episodes.

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Written by Fred Rojas

August 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

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