Video Game Reviews – August 2008

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
Ubisoft Paris
PC/Xbox 360/PS3
The Ghost Recon game series initially came out in 2001, and only perpetuated my infatuation with tactical military combat. Red Storm Entertainment had already won my heart previously with their fantastic Rainbow Six series, and while the outdoors world of Ghost Recon was a tad more simplistic, it had some unique aspects to it. Unfortunately, this is where the happy story ends for me. I’ve been in a battered-wife relationship with the series ever since. Ubisoft has stepped in and changed things... drastically, and I’m continually pouty about this. Mainly my complaint is that too many console “shooter” games make me feel like I’m being spoon fed information, game tips, and help from the game itself to progress further with little effort on my part. GRAW2 is certainly a culprit of this offense as well, but I can honestly say I’d probably like this game if it didn’t pretend to be part of the game series I initially loved many years ago. You can still choose your team members to join you on missions and issue them orders on the field of battle, but much of it feels automated, and the artificial intelligence takes on certain liberties that, I suppose, one could pass off as “features.” When moving through the linear topography from checkpoint to checkpoint, you don’t really have to watch your own ass, and the only consequence of the game is being forced to start over at an autosave checkpoint. This really destroys any potential long-term strategy and replaces it with canned, on-the-fly motions that a player can go through to achieve the objectives. Perhaps my complaints are convoluted, maybe even frivolous, but my point is that I dislike being lead to believe I’m accomplishing something in a video game when I’m actually just going through the motions and letting the automatic game scripts do their job for me. This isn’t a bad game at its core, in fact, there are spots where it is rather fun. But at the end of the day, it delivers little challenge, reward or replay value. 
2.5 out of 5 infidels. –Conor Dow

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Konami/Kojima Productions
A franchise twenty-one years in the making, MGS has always been one of the most progressive series in gaming. Once again, MGS has changed the face of the medium forever with Kojima’s epic conclusion: Guns of the Patriots. “War is to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th: the pillar that supports the global economy.” Kojima starts off the game with this concept and builds from there. The player takes control of Solid Snake, sent on one last mission to save humanity, but of course things are never that simple.
Still a stealth game at its core, MSG4 introduces two new action element to the series: the Drebin system, and the Psyche meters. Whereas previous games had players collect weapons as the game progressed, the Drebin system allows Snake to purchase and upgrade weapons at any time. While this does allow a certain FPS element, the player will quickly learn that they have to balance stealth and action gameplay. Combat takes its toll on Old Snake, both mind and body. Too much combat, and Snake won’t be able to fight as well. However, spikes can occur when the stress is too much, giving the player combat bonuses and damage reductions, but after the firefight, it can leave the player’s levels looking poor. This brings a new strategic element of combat balance to the game and works brilliantly. The boss battles are epic, introducing a whole new troop of baddies, the B&B corps, and bringing back some old favorites. Fans of the series will have a lot of questions they want answered, and Kojima answers them. If you’ve heard the rumors about hour-long cutscenes, you’ve heard right. Fortunately for you, you probably won’t mind this time around. No boring codec sequences here. Almost the entire story is told through gorgeous, beautifully orchestrated cutscenes. Kojima has made more than a game; he’s made a masterpiece. 
5 out of 5 Microsoft gamers who wish they had PS3s. – Kat Kellermeyer

Rock Band
In the months leading up to Wii’s release, it was revealed that it wouldn’t be in direct competition with Sony and Microsoft’s machines. You may have forgotten this fact, what with Wii selling like it was going out of production tomorrow, but, the fact remains. And if you need a reminder, pick up Rock Band. If you’re unfamiliar with Rock Band, it’s a rhythm game in which you and 3 friends, with the use of the included plastic instruments and microphone, form a (cover) band and dominate the world with your (read: other bands’) badass sounds. This game was probably never meant to be on Wii and the removal of many key features certainly suggests this. But it’s still Rock Band, so it’s still fun, but be warned that it is a terribly gimped version of the game. First off, there is no downloadable content. This means that you’re stuck with the same tracks for good. Or at least until they release the Rock Band Track Pack, a $30 stand-alone disc which will include 20 more songs. But who wants to pay $30 when you really only want 2 or 3 songs? They did include 5 tracks exclusive to this version, as well as a few other songs that appear as DLC on other versions. These are nice features if you are stuck with this version, but there is really no substitute for being able to pick which songs you want to purchase. Also noticeably absent from this version of the game is the ability to create your own character, online multiplayer, and World Tour mode. This version isn’t without its high points, however. The hardware that ships with the Wii version is far superior to the other versions’ hardware. The drums are quieter as well as sturdier, and the guitars are wireless right out of the box. But keep in mind that you will be stuck purchasing another guitar if you want the full experience. Your existing Guitar Hero III guitar for Wii will not work with this game. So, If Wii is your only console, Rock Band will surely be a hit for you. If not, I suggest you grab this one on another, more capable system. –Aaron Day