Video Game Reviews – July 2009

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Bionic Commando
GRIN
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Available on: Xbox 360 & Playstation 3
Street: 05.19.09
I never played the original, but from what I can gather it’s still considered one of the more difficult video games to date.  Today’s Bionic Commando is difficult too––but with the mass marketing of games these days, I’m sure it’s not as hard as its ancestor, but it’s no small challenge nonetheless.  A third-person action game, Bionic Commando combines two gameplay aspects throughout: swinging around on your bionic arm and shooting/attacking with the arm.  Initially the message boards were aflame with one question: is the swinging mechanic in this game broken, or just tricky? For my money, it’s just tricky, but the learning curve is very steep.  I was one third of the way through before I felt I had the hang of my swinging arm.  All aspects of this game are unforgiving, but if you’re up for the challenge you’ll be rewarded with some awesome fighting sequences and a sense of real accomplishment that some might say is missing from today’s appease-the-masses gaming market.  Some quick gripes: the shockingly short campaign left me wanting way more.  The main character is voice-acted by a no-talent rockstar, and looks like a douchey surfer bro.  The story is immediately forgettable and riddled with cliché. These issues may be enough to bury some other titles, but Bionic Commando’s solid gameplay rises above the mediocrity and offers an undeniably cool and challenging experience. – Jesse Hawlish

Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Atari
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3, Wii, PC
Street: 06.16
Just recently, I was given a DVD that included footage of my Christmas in 1988. As I strutted around in an Alf t-shirt, the jolly fat man had bestowed upon me one of the greatest treasures: an official Kenner proton pack from The Real Ghostbusters! It’s been 21 years since that monumental occasion, yet my dream of capturing the supernatural in an ectoplasmic containment chamber for profit has never died. Now, Atari has made that dream take one giant step closer to reality with the release of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Set two years after the action of Ghostbusters 2, the four original busters (voiced by the entire original cast) are training a new recruit just as a wave of paranormal activity is unleashed across the New York landscape. As the newest member of the team, you have the hazardous task of testing Egon’s latest equipment. What makes this game amazing is that it instantly transports you back to your childhood with Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man encounters. Simply put, it’s a third movie. The visuals are stunning, the storyline paces itself perfectly as a cinematic feature and the variety of battling poltergeists will keep gamers continuously interested.–Jimmy Martin

Killing Floor
Tripwire Interactive
Reviewed On: PC
Street: 05.14
Assuming that you have been playing Left 4 Dead as much as I have, it’s probably a universal feeling that killing zombies seriously kicks ass. Of course, playing the same four levels over and over again gets tiring, and sometimes even the auto-shotty doesn’t pack the punch you’re looking for. While Killing Floor isn’t a permanent replacement, it’s certainly a worthy diversion from L4D, even if just for a few weeks. The story is shallow and tacky if you read into it for more than about seven seconds, but what is important is the whole array of delicious weapons at your disposal: flamethrowers, anti-tank rockets and everything in between. Additionally, you get to choose a specialty and gain levels, granting you bonuses such as decreased recoil and quicker reloads. As you fight through waves of mutants with varying degrees of difficulty, you gain cash that can be spent on better weapons and armor. I really can’t say it beats out L4D in any way though. Sure, the game is only 20 bucks on Steam, but it is really just a glorified Unreal Tournament 2004 mod that has been re-released as a standalone game with a few extras. Ultimately, the graphics are quite dated and the gameplay has been done many times before, but it’s still fun. Ross Solomon

Men of War
Best Way / Digitalmindsoft
Reviewed On: PC
Street: 03.10
Eastern European games such as Silent Storm and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have clearly been labors of love, both from the developer’s perspective as well as for the gamer. After the first hour, it was apparent that this is something I have to take into consideration with Men of War. There are three campaigns where you take control of Russian, German and United States military units. This is one of those rare World War II games which actually allows you to play as the Axis. While this is a strategy game, there are various RPG elements as well, such as picking items off of bodies that litter the battlefield. With many RTS games, you come to have certain expectations out of your various units and you can almost begin to do calculations in your head when pitting X amount of unit A against X amount of unit B. Not so much in Men of War, because the terrain, ballistics and just plain random chaos play a big part in being successful. This isn’t for everyone, but if you are a strategy nerd with patience, don’t let this game slip past you. –Conor Dow

Terminator Salvation
Evolved Games
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Also On: Playstation 3
Street: 05.19
I have yet to see a video game released in conjunction with its theatrical film counterpart stand out on its own and make a lasting impression. Like the film, the Terminator Salvation video game relies too heavily on the franchise’s glorified legacy and lacks in story, creativity and overall substance. The “wow” factor quickly fizzles out and you’re left with a mediocre third-person shooter with only three variations of metal enemies to fight against. The goal of the game is simple … actually too simple. As John Connor (minus Christian Bale’s voice or likeness) you must locate and rescue a group of stranded soldiers in the dilapidated urban jungle of 2016 Los Angeles without the help of the Resistance whose stand-down commands you’ve disobeyed. As the game takes place between the franchise’s third and fourth chapters, the trio must flank, foil, and fuck up machine after identical machine in order to rain ammunition from behind as the war for humanity presses forward. Unless you’re playing split-screen co-op, it’s a lot of hiding behind dismantled automobiles and crumbling walls as your computer counterparts take care of business, which can take quite some time and make for extremely boring battles. The story’s length is a complete disappointment too. The game was over and done with after three short sessions. And I’m not a video game master. With an average price tag of $59.99, you’re better off pissing a portion of your money away on James Cameron’s original masterpieces on Blu-ray and investing the rest in GM stock. – Jimmy Martin

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Uncaged Edition
Raven Software / Activison
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on:  Playstation 3, Wii, PC
Street: 05.01
Origins is a surprisingly solid, highly entertaining brawler. It has a fast, fluid, and hectic battle system with controls that are tight and responsive. As Logan/Jimmy/Wolverine/Hugh, you lunge hundreds of feet from enemy to enemy, mauling away with an impressive set of moves, counters and finishers that all vary with the enemy type. What really moves this game from a passable brawler to a highly enjoyable brawler is the violence. Origins is super fucking gory. You tear people in half regularly––and at all angles. Well-implemented environmental instant-kills are everywhere––you use the blades of an airborne chopper to decapitate its pilot. The blood, it flows like wine. The real-time regeneration is fun too. You’ll be able to see right through Logan’s ribcage to his organs at times. The best word for this game is “visceral.” Every violent mutilation I performed made me cringe in that ‘I-love-it-I-hate-it’ way we gamers can’t get enough of. It’s unforgivably short (five hours or so), but that’s really my only gripe. It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not, and it succeeds at what it’s aiming for: brutal, fluid combat with everyone’s favorite acerbic super hero. Rent it tonight, beat it by tomorrow and be happy.  –Jesse Hawlish