Video Game Reviews – December 2007

2k Games

BioShock takes everything that makes FPS games fun and refines the genre with perfect execution and some amazing visuals to boot. Gone are the tacked on missions where you have to fly a plane or drive a boat or whatever else some developers will have you doing to break up their boring games and make you feel like you got an extra bonus for giving them your money. BioShock is as pure a shooter as I’ve seen; no boring cut scenes or out of place super-babe characters or second grade scripts here, everything has been written for a discerning and adult audience to enjoy a modern masterpiece of gaming technology. One thing that bothers me about many shooters is their efforts to make thing super-realistic, to the point of decrementing the fun factor by doing things like limiting what you can carry. It’s a game, let’s have some fun and go ahead and carry an arsenal that would make Ted Nugent proud! On top of the many little things that BioShock nails, they really shine in the big category: controls. Movement and aiming is silky smooth and actually a genuine pleasure to experience. Also, the level design here is amazing and the amount of hidden treasures scattered around the map make exploring the world of BioShock as much fun as conquering it. To say that BioShock has great graphics is somewhat of an understatement; they really have to be seen to be believed. Enemies react with intelligence and I was unable to find any bugs in this perfectly polished masterpiece. By borrowing some of the best elements of previous shooters, BioShock is like a ‘best of’ tribute to every shooter from the last decade. If I have any complaint about this game it is that it may be a bit too easy. The games developers have worked to eliminate frustration from being lost or from being unable to conquer any level. This is a minor complaint, there are many challenges in the game and finishing still provides a nice feeling of accomplishment. 5 out of 5 plasmids.

Halo 3
Bungie Software
Halo 3 has been one of the most anticipated video games of all time. With all of the rumors, hype and advertising, I was very curious to find out if the game was worth all of the anticipation. The first thing I noticed about Halo 3 was the graphics. The outdoor environments especially have come a long way and do a great job of making the settings more individual and memorable. New enemies and weapons matched with some familiar sights and sounds keep Halo 3 feeling both new and familiar, which proved to be a nice balance. Bungie probably knew better than to tamper with Halo’s fantastic game play so little has changed here. A few buttons have been remapped, but overall, the feel of navigating the Master Chief is nearly the same as it always has been. One new and particularly useless feature is the ability to carry an extra accessory on your person, which can be anything from a bubble shield to an unfolding automated gun turret. Since only one can be carried at a time, the impact on the game is negligible, which makes me wonder why Bungie bothered with so many strange options here when, clearly, they should have spent some extra time working on the sound in the game. Although the voice acting is on par with the previous games, the weapons sound very weak, which in a shooting game is a huge disappointment. Now these small flaws are only that, small problems in a game that otherwise is another great chapter in one of the greatest video game sagas of all time. The single player campaign is fantastic, with a wide variety of challenges, opponents, vehicles and settings to test the Master Chief to his fullest. Of course Halo wouldn’t be Halo without the online element and Halo 3 shines here as well with the ability to design your own levels and (rumor has it) you’ll be able to complete the campaigns via 4 player online co-op very soon. If you enjoyed the last two, consider this a must-buy title for the fall! 5 out of 5 geeks think Cortana is hot!

Double Fine Productions
As part of my quest to dig up gaming treasures from the past, I am proud to present to my loyal SLUG readers Psychonauts, one of the most enjoyable titles I’ve played on the PS2. At first glance, this appears to be a children’s game, but once I spent a few hours with Psychonauts I realized that the writing and game play here is some of the best I’ve seen in a video game to date. Not only are the interactions between the characters hilarious, but the jokes about adolescence are classic. Psychonauts may not be the most hyped game you play this summer, but if you spend some time with it you’ll find a game with both depth and a great sense of humor. Psychonauts is split between two worlds, the real world and the world within the minds of the characters. As you explore each mind, you add to your repertoire an array of new weapons and tools to help you through your terrifying quest: to get through summer camp and save the world! From the city of Lungfish, where you are a building crushing giant, to the sad mind of a dance queen, each is a unique and memorable gaming experience. So you’re wondering what makes Psychonauts so much fun to play. For starters, once you gain the levitation ability you can have fun just bouncing around to all of the places you were not able to reach the first time through the levels. The controls themselves, without being overly automatic, allow independent character movement and camera control. To make things a little more challenging, several of the special powers require button combinations which require some genuine skills with the controller. Boss battles can be challenging, but this game never really crosses the line into frustrating, which in my opinion is a plus. Sometimes I want to be challenged but still enjoy a game for an hour at a time and not have to replay the same part ten times in a row to get through it. 4.5 out of 5 first kisses.