Video Game Reviews – August 2009

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Fuel
Asobo Studio / Codemasters
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PS3, PC
Street: 06.02
Drifting away from the typical track racing gameplay with over 5,000 square miles of terrain, Fuel offers gamers a free-roaming world where if they think they can outwit the computer and discover a quicker way to the checkered flag, then by all means do it. The massive selection of vehicles (70 of them including SUVs, trucks, muscle cars, ATVs, bikes and buggies), events, races and extras present a promising experience, but the aftertaste of this off-road escapade is more like dirt … and not that fancy dirt. Fuel reminds me of that overbearing alcoholic sports dad where it’s first place or nothing. Forget the fact that you beat 18 racers out of 20—one beat you, so you get nothing! While the supplemental material is grand in scale, you won’t care after you’ve spent 15 minutes of your life to unlock a new paint job. Whoopty-fuckin-do. The graphics are ordinary at best and the races become completely repetitive after an hour of playing. The concept of the game is its only forward momentum, but its lack in refinement makes Fuel a forgettable experience stocked to the brim with forgettable crap. –Jimmy Martin

Ninja Blade
From Software/Microsoft Studios

Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PC
Street: 04.10
Ninjas killing zombies. For a geek, could things really get any better? Sort of. Ninja Blade isn’t a bad game so much as a game that tripped at the finish line and fell into a puddle of ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean this game is very Japanese. So rather than trying to explain the actual storyline, just be content that you play as a ninja with daddy issues who is part of a government organization created to fight a zombie outbreak and kill creatures in the most unreasonable manner you can think of. Beyond that, don’t think about it too much. Gameplay is hack-and-slash action intermixed with jumping puzzles, not unlike what we’ve seen in Ninja Gaiden. The problem is the controls are often frustrating and unresponsive, and the main combat tends to be repetitive. RE4-esque quick-time events keep you on your toes during cut scenes, and are well-executed. The best parts of this game are easily the boss battles, which tend to be epic in scale and more than challenging enough for most gamers. The hardest task you’ll face is making yourself sit through a level to get to them. –Kat Kellermeyer

Overlord II
Triumph Studios/Codemasters
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Also on: PC, PS3
Street: 06.23
Have you ever wanted to jump into a World of Warcraft game and ruin everyone’s fun? I sure have because I’m completely insufferable and probably a sociopath. Though I did not play the first game in this series, Overlord II really satisfies my desire to ruin everyone’s fun. Even though this is purely a single player game, the core idea here is to run around and make your faithful gremlin-like minions lay waste to everything in your path and be a huge jerk to everyone. Although the game is quite fun, I must admit that there are some frustrating moments as well, usually involving instances where I have no idea where to go next, or somewhat ambiguous instructions that disappear from visibility too quickly. But these are minor complaints, and even though this is a sequel, I feel like I played this without missing too much from the original. The story is written by Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of the revered Terry Pratchett. However, my favorite work is the actual dialogue and voice-acting of the elves, who are effeminate, peace-loving hippies with dreadlocks. –Conor Dow  

Prototype
Radical Entertainment / Activision
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PS3, PC
Street: 06.09
It seems the majority of superhero franchises that develop into games are targeted toward younger audiences, leaving those that crave a good disembowelment in the shadows. Well, dry those teary eyes, you sloppy bitch, because the Activision folks have heard our blubbery cries and have released a title so full of blood, mayhem and apocalyptic destruction you just may have to change your pants … twice. As Alex Mercer, you find yourself on a slab inside the New York City morgue confused about how you got there and why you’re still alive. Intrigued? It gets better! As you stagger the streets, you discover you have the ability to shape-shift and that the city has been infected with a lethal virus turning humans into flesh-craving zombies. Oh, and the government is blaming you for everything. The layout, gameplay, and secondary tasks are incredibly similar to Activision’s 2004 Spider-Man 2, which isn’t a bad thing. Even though the overall experience is entertaining, the abundance of sub-missions becomes overbearing to the point where they become a little tedious. It’s like eating too much candy, right, Tubby? With that said, Prototype is definitely the most original, interesting, adult-oriented game of the year. –Jimmy Martin

Red Faction: Guerrilla
Volition/THQ
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PS3, PC
Street: 06.02
This game came so close to a perfect 10 it’s almost sad.  The story starts pretty strong, but it deflates like an untied balloon and lies flaccid in the corner for most of the game.  Barring the destruction engine, RF:G’s graphics are more or less bland and altogether uninspired.  The music is well implemented, but the voicework and the script are classic video game mediocrity.  With all these shortcomings, why then do I consider RF:G to be almost perfect? Because it’s fun. Remember fun? Volition does, and for all this game does wrong, it’s a continual balls out blast throughout the deliciously long campaign.  As soon as the credits rolled, I flipped to some multiplayer and found – lo, and behold! – fun that was even more fun.  Thanks to tight controls, brilliant physics and destruction engines and innovative guerrilla combat, RF:G is a gameplay experience like no other.  It’ll make you think, challenge your pants off, and have you giggling like an over-stimulated schoolgirl.  With three DLC’s set to drop soon, this bastard is definitely worth your purchase. –Jesse Hawlish