Video Game Reviews – July 2010

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Dead To Rights: Retribution
Volatile Games
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: Playstation 3
Street: 04.27
DTR: Retribution is fine.  The third-person shooting works fine, the cover system is functional, and the dog does what you want fairly well.  There are plenty of weapons, the storyline is dramatic and the hand-to-hand combat operates correctly.  About the only thing wrong with the game is some painful dialogue.  Well, I mean, unless you want to count the fact that it’s boring.  Goddamn boring as hell.  I swear to god I tried to finish it.  The part of my brain that deals with ethical journalism was simply no match for the part of my brain that didn’t give a fuck about this stupid game.  Take it as an indicator of the thriving state of the gaming industry that a storied third-person shooter with adequately programmed gameplay could seem so aggressively lackluster.  We’re spoiled, is what it amounts to.  I’m no longer willing to settle for “fine,” and I think I’m happy about that. Dead to Rights is not complete crap – I enjoyed the levels where you controlled the dog in stealthy sneak-a-kill fashion. The  hand-to-hand finishing moves are fun to watch, and the number and accuracy of enemies has you relying on your limited bullet-time meter to stay alive.  In fact, the whole experience is quite a challenge, and not in that frustrating, broken-game way.  It even has a certain degree of polish with fluid menus, stylish presentation, and limited load times.  Retribution is only boring by comparison.  Ten or fewer years ago this would’ve been a solid addition to its genre, but these days I’d rather stab myself in the eye than take cover behind another gray box and shoot at enemies taking cover behind their gray boxes.  – Jesse Hawlish

Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar San Diego
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: Playstation 3
Street: 05.18
You probably already know by now that Red Dead Redemption is a must-buy or at least a must-try videogame from Rockstar, the guys who brought you the GTA series (including GTA IV, which reset just about every gaming precedent I can think of).  I’ve always felt that the biggest weak point of Rockstar games in the past has been the third-person shooting and cover mechanics, which were functional, if slow, in GTA IV and a bit cumbersome in San Andreas and Vice City.  Well they figured that one out.  On horseback, stagecoach, mine cart, train or foot, the combat in RDR controls flawlessly and with very satisfying accuracy – especially noticeable on expert targeting mode. The developers toned down the satire from previous efforts, which results in a more serious narrative that is nevertheless populated with the rich, often hilarious cast of supporting characters I’ve come to expect from Rockstar.   John Marston’s story is as powerful as Niko Bellic’s (albeit a bit similar), and it’s made all the more impressive by the world he inhabits.  The sandbox map of 1911 America and Mexico is the real star of RDR.  I never thought I’d say this, but for me the most successful part of this masterpiece of gaming is its topography.  The physical shape of the environment (combined with fantastic textures, animations, etc.) is so incredibly convincing that, honestly, I often got the urge to put the game down and just go outside and play – everything felt so genuine that I yearned for a camping trip.  Despite the sadly frequent but rarely crippling bugs, RDR is a highly polished experience on every front, right down to the multiplayer which could stand as a full-priced game all its own.  You can do absolutely everything you could possibly desire in the Wild West, from helping police round up escaped criminals to shooting fleeing whores in the kneecaps, hogtying them, and placing them on the train tracks.  Giddyup.  –Jesse Hawlish

Skate 3
EA Black Box
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: Playstation 3
Street: 05.11
As soon as the intro track came in (“Put On” by Young Jeezy), I was hyped to get into this game. The story takes place in the skate Mecca of Port Carverton, where your main goal is to sell boards by shooting photos or videos of you or your team, which you also get to create. This gem of a game is a must-have for every skateboarder—not saying that every skater plays video games, but every skater gets injured and Skate 3 will keep you at ease.  After seeing all the trailers and commercials, I knew this game would be awesome, but didn’t know exactly how much until playing it. The control that you have over your character is pretty much as real as it gets, besides a little excessive pop. I say don’t play the game unless you’re in hardcore mode so you can get the extra tight physics. Once you really get to playing this game, it has the capabilities of putting a grin on your face like you just landed something awesome without actually having to go through the pain of learning the trick—and the game isn’t easy to perfect either. I also have to give props to the local homie Mike Plumb aka Lizard King for making it on the roster of this jam-packed skate simulator. EA also added a section of bone-breaking challenges with the Hall of Meat. In these challenges, you leap off buildings and have targets in which you have to land in or hit certain ways. It’s just brutal, but way funny at the same time. I picture this series of games sticking around for a long time due to its ability to satisfy those natural urges to shralp something. I wish I would have had this game at the beginning of winter. Go Skate! –Hehshun