Video Game Reviews – June 2008

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Assault Heroes
Sierra Online/Wanako Studios
Xbox 360
Available for download on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, Assault Heroes represents exactly what makes so many of the new arcade-style games so great. A nice combination of destructible environments, challenging enemies and truckloads of action make Assault Heroes an addictive and breezy cruise along the highway of destruction. With the sequel already out by the time you read this, it may be time for you to join up with the super double secret military operation of the Assault Heroes. These unsung and blood drenched alien mowing mega-men know how to have a good time with a machine gun, so hop onboard and get ready to scroll your way to victory.

Much of the game is spent in some kind of super military buggy, which is driven with one thumb while the weapon of choice is fired with the other thumb. What makes this game unique is that your buggy, although fairly versatile, is limited in movement. That is to say that you can’t drive sideways, which is a good thing because it requires the player to actually think ahead about their next move. Nobody wants to try a three-point turn while being attacked by laser wielding robot spiders––every commuter’s nightmare! As you demolish your way through the game, you can pick up weapon improvements and vehicle health to keep your guns a’ blazing against the new enemies you begin to encounter.

Some of the boss battles can be a bear alone, but fear not, for an online co-op feature will let you team up with another player for a destruction-doubling good time. This extra spoonful of goodness will make those tough boss battles a lot less frustrating, while at the same time giving the game a more competitive edge as you try to outscore your partner on the battlefield. Overall, there’s not much to complain about in Assault Heroes. As the title suggests, this is a shallow, but exciting good-time game, which should keep you busy for as long as you can sit behind the wheel.

4 out of 5 angry robot spiders

Diablo II
Blizzard North
Fans of the Diablo series may be wondering why, almost eight years after its launch, I’m finally getting around to writing a review for this mega-classic video game. The reason I thought to include this review this month is my worry that some readers may have never had the pleasure of battling through the unique and treacherous world of Diablo II. Since this game will run on almost any Windows PC on the planet (no $400 video card needed!) and can be bought for a measly $20 while providing dozens of hours of hacking and slashing, I feel it is my duty to urge any SLUG readers who have yet to try Diablo II to pick up a copy and enjoy a slice of gaming perfection.

The game is a surprisingly complex character and battle system wrapped in an incredibly simple game play mechanism. Depending on the type of character you choose, you have a variety of ‘special’ attacks you can develop and utilize as your character gains experience by disposing of the evil residents of Diablo II. Although the fighting is all in real-time, attacking and defending work just like a dice rolling game where a myriad of statistics are crunched with each swing of the sword. As your character develops, so do strength, endurance, magic and all of the other good stuff you expect from your wandering warrior poet type. The view is overhead and most movements and attacks are performed with a simple point and click of the mouse.

The next installment of the Diablo series is one of the most anticipated events in PC gaming today. However, since Blizzard is also the force behind a little game known as World of Warcraft, which keeps them busy counting their billions of dollars, they have little time to fret about dumb stuff like making new games. Diablo II, however, remains extremely popular after all of these years and for good reason. It is still one of the most entertaining games available for your PC, period.

5 out of 5 mutant porcupines

Grand Theft Auto IV
Rockstar North
Xbox 360/PS3
With the arrival of Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA4), there really isn’t much to look forward to as a gamer anymore. The feeling is reminiscent of, as a child, going to sleep on Christmas night and knowing that there wouldn’t be as long to wait for next Christmas until this moment. In fact I’m not even sure what the next big event is, but right now that hardly matters, GTA4 is here at last.

First things first, GTA4 does deliver that magical experience that has made the series such a classic. The feeling of being free inside of a video game is an ironic sensation, but once again, Rockstar has delivered that with an incredible virtual New York for you to roam and harass as you see fit. After getting my feet wet a bit in Liberty City, I began to notice some subtle differences with this new installment. First of all, the action is more realistic. In fact, the entire game has a grittier feeling and delivers kidney punches of harsh reality in both the story and the game’s physics. These improvements make the game a little bit tougher than the last few in the series, but by making the world more realistic the illusion of living in the game is that much more convincing, and thus GTA4 is easily the most compelling installment since GTAIII changed gaming history way back in 2001.

Another new and much touted part of the game is the addition of an online multiplayer. There’s a ton of game types and I have high expectations that as the community evolves the games will become more enjoyable. However, at the time of this writing, the game is only a week old and from what I’ve seen, many of the game’s action feels sloppy and more luck driven than skill rewarding. However, this is a game built upon the single player story, and here GTA4 fires on all cylinders. With classic characters and top notch writing, this is a game that will not only be a hit today, but a classic of tomorrow.

5 out of 5 immigrants who drive like Niko