Game Reviews – December 2008

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Fallout 3
Bethesda
Street: 10.27.08
RPG Shooter
Hear me! I am Dante Stryve, paragon of wasteland morality, head-shooter extraordinaire, and I shall have my vengeance! So . . . I’ve had Fallout 3 for two weeks now and I’ve lost about 48 hours to it, but I feel justified, games like Fallout come along very rarely. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the most engrossing and fully developed titles in the next-gen line up. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s start with the game world.

The Capital Wasteland is epic––it’s bigger than any single play-through could reveal. The scope of destruction and decay around every corner is a harsh and somber backdrop for Fallout’s massive campaign. Anyone can build an open world full of mountains and forests, but when we’re talking about the aftermath of the apocalypse, every block and every city ought to be original and distinct, and this is the case. Fallout’s sandbox world is probably the greatest of the game’s umpteen achievements. As you step out into the wastes for your first time, and your eyes adjust to the bright sun, the sense of possibility is palatable.

The intro to this game is probably the best and most creative character creation sequence I’ve ever seen. Interaction with NPCs is very Oblivion-esque, and while plenty of the voice acting is fine, plenty of it sucks. Not surprising, considering the sheer volume of voice recordings needed to cover every possible reaction and scenario. Probably the worst part of the game is your character’s dialog options. While you don’t actually hear yourself talk, your conversation options are always poorly worded and continually undermine the information you’ve just been given. This may seem nit-picky, but the game is very invested in the dialog, and it’s sad that you can’t be as articulate as you’d like. My only other gripe is with the character models: gestures are sparing and stiff, and (just like in Oblivion) people don’t seem to be touching the ground when they walk, but floating just above it.

However, the new V.A.T.S. combat system is a blast. Sighting an enemy, you pause the game and highlight a body part of theirs you’d like to see removed with speeding molten lead. You cue up a few trigger squeezes with your trusty magnum and the game gives you some cinematic camera angles and filters to watch the carnage you’ve created. Great fun. You can shoot in real-time, too, though it’s mostly a supplement when your AP is down.

Despite the awesome character creation, I feel like Fallout 3 starts pretty slowly, which may deter some gamers. At about 10 hours in the game’s momentum starts to build, so stick with it. By the time you hit level 10 I promise you’ll be bloodshot-drooldrippinghooked. I know I am. –Jesse Hawlish

4.9 super-mutant decapitations out of 5

Dead Space
EA
Street: 10.17.08
Horror Shooter
When I popped Dead Space into my Xbox, I expected a solid horror title––plenty of gore and plenty of twisted demons to slay. It has these things in spades, but Dead Space is far and away a more impressive and polished game experience than I expected.

The basic premise: Resident Evil 4 got together with Half Life 2 and they watched Event Horizon on Blu-ray. In other words, it’s a third-person over-theshoulder shooter that takes place on an enormous space craft where evil goings-on have left the vessel gutted and dangerous. You are Isaac, a member of the repair crew sent to help, and a depressed-looking deep-sea diver as well (you’ll get it when you play it). Isaac’s abilities are shamelessly borrowed from successful shooter concepts over the last few years. He can slow time, use his kinetic suit ala the HL2 gravity gun and upgrade his weapons and armor in a very RE4 fashion. But in the video game world, the only shame in borrowing ideas is doing it unsuccessfully, and there’s none of that here. Save for a few sluggish movement issues, every aspect of the game has been polished to an impressive degree.

You’ll hear it everywhere soon enough, but Dead Space has a menu system that literally steals the show, and needs to be seen to be fully understood. Every menu is built for Isaac, not the player, and exists in the physical space of the game world, some are projected from his suit, others on walls and consoles, and the effect is gorgeous. It’s difficult to describe concisely, but the system really takes immersion and gameplay fluidity forward a big step. The art direction and graphics are as good as we’ve seen on the Xbox to date. Add the top notch sound effects and Dead Space really is a very complete game.

From the opening scene on, Dead Space scares the piss out of you while forcing you to keep a cool head. You have to aim perfectly, develop strategies, and explore every dingy corner if you’d like to keep your head attached to your body. There are basic puzzles here and there to keep things varied, but mostly you’ll be perfectly content going to town on those ungodly creations in a frenzy of sheared limbs and spraying blood. – Jesse Hawlish

4.5 things that are right behind you out of 5

ezGEAR Wii Accessories
ezSHOT Gun
ezGear
Wii
In making a video game accessory (especially a plastic shell with no moving parts) only so many things can go wrong. But I’d bet a shiny nickel that the suits at ezGEAR never even considered to trying their new Wii gun out on a game on an actual Wii. If they had, they’d realize it’s a fantastic piece of shit. It takes me forever to loop all the cords through and get the controller installed in the damn thing. It looks cool assembled, nice weight too. But the cord sticks out all funny and the trigger (Z button) is too high and feels awkward. I pop in RE: Umbrella Chronicles for some field-testing, but wait, I can’t reach the damn thumbstick . . . what the fuck?! Yes, to get to the thumbstick you have to jam your finger in a half-inch hole in the plastic, and the wiimote cord is filling that space already. Who the fuck product-tested this piece of shit? I can’t think of a single point-and-shoot game with no thumbstick controls. These people are idiots. In conclusion, the ezSHOT gun is the most shoddy and pointless of Wii accessories. I’d rather the dubious bat and tennis racket. ––Jesse Hawlish

ezSkin Silicone Sleeves
ezGear
Wii
I’m no CEO or anything, but I’d say the market for silicone sleeves for Wii controllers is pretty saturated. But that’s not stopping the folks at ezGear from unleashing their version of the silicone sleeve (as well as all manner of other crappy products for Wii) upon us. I recently had the pleasure of using a set of their ezSkin silicone sleeves for my Wii remote and nunchuk. The whole sleeve idea for Wii controllers doesn’t quite add up to me, and the ezSkin didn’t change my mind. The skin for the remote makes the buttons nearly flush and, as a result, hard to press. Also, it doesn’t make the remote any more comfortable to hold. I suppose it will provide a negligible amount of protection to loved ones as you flail about uncontrollably during particularly ferocious matches of Mario Party 26, but that’s about where the benefits end. Put simply, it doesn’t help or enhance the gaming experience at all. If anything, it hinders it. If you’re in the market for some sort of cover for your Wii remote, that means your system probably didn’t come with one. In which case, you can get them for free from Nintendo, so why would anyone buy these? –Aaron Day

Wii Boxing Gloves
ezGear
Wii
The life of a boxer must be incredible. Think of all the women and limousines and oversized belts. Who doesn’t want that glory? But then you realize that there’s all that training and running while wearing a pink jumpsuit as your coach rides a bike in front of you and, oh my, the pain. ezGear has the perfect solution for you: Wii boxing gloves. You simply slide the foam inserts out of the Velcro-enclosed compartments, place the Wii remote and nunchuk in them, and if you can get them back in without ripping the gloves (we weren’t able to) you’re ready to pound some virtual fools. True, the control stick on the nunchuk is inevitably not centered, and many of the buttons on the remote are permanently depressed while in the gloves. And while it’s also true that playing effectively with these gloves (in Wii Boxing anyway) means doing a sort of dog paddle with one hand and a kind of reverse karate chop with the other, none of that matters. What matters is that you’ve got real boxing gloves to use while you play a video game. For the cost of these gloves, maybe even less, you should easily be able to find somebody willing to break your hands. I imagine that playing Wii Boxing with broken hands is just about as functional as using these gloves. –Aaron Day