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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Full Review

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It's been a long while since I've written a review, which is pretty commonplace due to my busy schedule. But as my days have cleared up due to seriously inclement weather, I figured I'd write a review. Not just a review, but a review on a game in a series that I am in love with. This is something I had been saving and looking forward to for the right time.

Unfortunately though, this didn't pan out like I had hoped. This is hard for me to write. Not just because of the fact it's a multiplayer experience I'm reviewing, but also because it's a dream of mine being crushed.

As I've mentioned before, I was a pretty avid player of Counter Strike, and much more so, Counter Strike: Source. My father and I played CS: Source from around 2005 until 2007. We were in a clan, competitively. (The name of it was Exemplar Sect, best player was Pug.) Anyway, we loved that game, and I remember upgrading computer parts all of the time to increase framerates, and every weekend was a Mountain Dew fueled weekend of meeting people all over the world and killing them. But then other games became popular (I played Battlefield: Bad Company 2 quite a bit.) and I went over to them, but I always visited CS: Source, and always had a blast.

Borderlands 2 - Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty

Downloadable Content

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I loved Borderlands 1, but was always little cool on its downloadable content. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was a tedious addition with boring enemies, and Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot was just an endless barrage of arena battles, better tuned for testing weapons out than actually having fun. So while I also loved Borderlands 2, I was very leery about its additional content available for purchase.

But Nate treated me to the season pass, and a few weekends ago Steve and I took down the first DLC released, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty (there’s a pun in there somewhere). Turns out this release is a much more traditional release featuring a half dozen new zones, a bunch of new enemies, over 20 new missions, a new vehicle, and at least one raid boss (okay, there’s two, but we couldn’t beat the first one).

There’s honestly a ton of content here for a DLC, it probably took us about five hours to reach the first raid boss and lose to him a couple of times, so you’ll certainly feel like you got your money’s worth. But at the same time, it’s kind of a slog. All the new missions are self contained in the new Oasis zones so there’s a ton of backtracking and retreading ground. The central hub is also kind of out in the middle of nowhere, and if it wasn’t for the new skiff, would be exceedingly obnoxious to get to. This is one of those cases where there just might be too much.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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My writing pace has slowed to a halt the last month. I might have burned myself out a bit at the end of 2012, and the new year has allowed me to erase any kind of guidelines or deadlines I was imposing on myself. With Nate and the other writers’ help, I always tried to publish three times a week, but I’ll be honest and say it’s just not in me like it used to be. Maybe it’s temporary, it probably is, but for now, I don’t mind taking it a bit easier. This is my hobby after all.

And most of that time not spent writing has gone into video games! Yeah, those! (Also reading, a lot of reading.) Maybe I’ll declare 2013 the year of the catch up, even though 80% of the games I beat last year weren’t released last year as it is. But my backlog is huge and the only game I’m really interested in on the near horizon is Bioshock Infinite, so now’s as good as time as any.

As for Deus Ex: Human Revolution? It was a good game, problematic at times, but an experience worth putting at least a few hours into, and at about 24 hours long, probably worth finishing. I’m not sure how much I have to say about it that hasn’t already been said by our own Paul Abbamondi, let alone everyone else, so I’ll keep this short and to the point... starting now.

Borderlands 2 - Mike's Rebuttal

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Borderlands 2 CoverWhat began as a simple reply to my original Borderlands 2 review grew into a full on rebuttal almost as long as the original piece! We wouldn't normally rewrap comments into their own review, but since Mike in Omaha is our resident Borderlands expert and I was eagerly looking forward to his own thoughts on the game, I asked for permission to make a little copy and paste magic behind the scenes. What you see is his original comment to my review with some bonus formatting to highlight his specific points.

Before I hand it off to Mike, I'd like to thank him for transforming my original Borderlands 1 experience from a fun solo experience into an absolute blast of cooperative fun. He gave me guns, helped me fight the final boss together multiple times, and exponentially broadened my knowledge of the game. He's an expert on Borderlands, its biggest fan, and as you'll see below, its biggest critic. He awarded Borderlands 1 a 10/10 and provided first hour reviews for both games.

Here's Mike in Omaha on Borderlands 2 and specifically my review of the game from Monday. Original comment from October 10, 2012 at 2:07 PM.

Borderlands 2

Full Review

Borderlands 2 CoverAs the release date for Borderlands 2 grew closer, I was surprised at how excited I was for the game. I loved the first Borderlands, its challenge, skill progression, and charm had obviously stuck with me, so the sequel was an obvious buy. But I decided to push purchasing it to the first major Steam sale, that couldn’t be too far off, right? Well, thanks to 2K Games coming through and sending me a review copy, I was back in Pandora much sooner than I thought.

Borderlands 2 was released last month on Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. I played the original Borderlands on my Xbox 360, but since then I’ve built a gaming computer and my Xbox Live has expired, it was an easy decision to switch over to the PC. I’ve honestly enjoyed the experience even more on my PC, essentially no loading times certainly help, and the superior graphics don’t hurt either.

I wish I could have gotten this review done sooner, but I just finished the game for the first time and Steam reports I played for 50 hours! I completed every side quest I could find and helped a friend level up a few times, but this is a big game that is worth exploring. 50 hours of one game in a month though for me is pretty crazy. Here’s my review of Borderlands 2.

Borderlands 2

First Hour Review

Borderlands 2 CoverThe original Borderlands was a breakout hit for Gearbox Software in 2009. The cel-shaded mission-driven FPS-meets-Diablo-style super-hyphenated lootfest was a quirky and endearing departure from more serious franchises like Halo, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor. Instead of pushing the same "OMG 40 modes of multiplayer!" angle that had gotten so popular, it chose to design around the concept of 4 player co-op gameplay. And it did so with relish.

With the success of Borderlands, Gearbox was able to move beyond porting other studios games and their now languishing Brothers in Arms property. Instead of working on others titles, they had a verifiable sales behemoth of their own making. But with great power comes great responsibility. Games like Borderlands often struggle because harried gamers don't give them a chance. In a retail sea awash with sequels and spinoffs, new IPs often struggle to gain traction. Because of this, those gamers who do latch onto a new piece of software, often feel entitled. Afterall, they took a chance on an unknown, thus contributing to its success. These types of fans are a double edged sword. They are often some of the most vocal in supporting a game and getting the word out. But they are also frequently among the hardest to please with sequels, as the developers try to thread the needle of offering new and interesting content, while staying true to the experience of earlier games.

This is the environment that Gearbox developed Borderlands in. How does one replicate the success of a game whose popularity was so driven by its quirky uniqueness? In other words, how does one make a game that is the same, but still unique? If I had the answer... if anyone had the answer, they would most likely be very rich. It's a moving target. The question is whether Gearbox is as accurate at hitting that target as some of the guns they designed for the game. And if they are, can they relay that fact to a gamer in the first 60 minutes? Let's take a look at Borderlands 2 and find out.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 CoverI’ve played a fair amount of video games in my life, and I’ve been playing shooters since I was five or six. This isn’t a challenge of “Yeah, well, I started when I was four!” Don’t start, that’s just annoying. My point is, I’ve been around the block a few times. Here’s a list of the shooters I played online regularly in chronological order: Quake, Team Fortress Classic, Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike: Source, America’s Army, Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

That’s really not that much, but it became impossible to keep up with the audiences. You want to play the most popular games (or at least popular games) so you actually have other people to play against, but once there was a new shooter coming out every freakin’ year, I just gave up.

Until one night, when my friend came into town for a visit and explained to me he had another copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and said it was mine if I wanted it. I thanked him and declined at first, but finally caved and accepted the offer. What the hell, it’s a free game, right?

Portal 2 - Co-op

Full Review

Portal 2 CoverA year ago I published my full review of Portal 2. I guess you could say it wasn't exactly complete since I never touched the co-op portion of it, but finding time to sit down and play a video game with another human being for a few hours is pretty difficult for me, so sacrfices had to be made. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve and our gaming PCs for about 10 hours, and time for Portal 2 co-op was finally realized.

Portal 2's co-op is pretty fantastic in that it is a completely different experience than the single player, in every aspect. The story is different, the characters are new, and the puzzles are two-player required. While many games that feature co-op, if they even bother, just toss both players together in the single player campaign, that would have been disastrous with a puzzler like Portal 2. So major props to Valve for developing this campaign, just for us.

This really isn't a proper review, but I wanted to present both Steve and mine opinions about just the cooperative portion of Portal 2. Enjoy, and give it a try if you find a few hours with a friend.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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Deus ex Human Revolution CoverEvidently, I’ve been coddled by stealth-based videogames for far too long. Metal Gear Solid gives players a large radar on their HUD showcasing soldiers’ cones of vision, allowing me to know just how far they saw and when to make my move; it only jammed now and then, leaving Solid Snake feeling clothed yet naked, but otherwise the radar remained a constant and vital companion during the fall of FOXHOUND. The Tenchu franchised handed out safe rooftops like candy. The Sly Cooper games, no matter what locale, always offered a number of places to hide or grapple on or tip-toe across; it also taught me how to pickpocket with a cane. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood had so many ways to hide and blend in with the public that it almost seemed like the point of the game was to be a commoner and not a kick-ass, hidden blade-wielding Casanova—actually, that’s how their online multiplayer does it. Sneaking through the massive cities was never terribly tricky, and if you messed up, there always seemed to be a way to quickly erase your footprints and try again. While certainly some skill is needed, most videogames involving stealth are pretty forgiving.

But then came Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game I tried to play stealthily, but failed miserably, eventually throwing in the towel and just shooting enemies until they breathed no more. The first hour should’ve been a clear indication of what was to come, but I’m stubborn and continued to drop Praxis point after Praxis point into perks like “see through walls” and “hack computers up to level 5.” No points were ever devoted to fixing Jensen’s shooting ability or giving him more backpack space. All I needed—or so I thought—was my tranquilizer rifle, some darts, and the smarts to crack every keypad and computer this side of future Detroit. Turns out, I needed a lot more than that.

Rage [Video]

First Hour Review

Rage CoverI've never played a game developed by id Software. Not Doom, not Quake, not Wolfenstein, not nothing. I didn't play PC games much back when id was more prolific, and I had a prejudice against overly gory shooters. To me, they prioritized shock value over sound game mechanics, kind of like Mortal Kombat. Considering their lasting appeal, that was probably not my most sound judgment.

In my defense, id Software hasn't given me much to work with lately. The developer has only just this week released Rage, its first major game since 2004's Doom 3. Rage had been building up a lot of good press since its announcement back in 2007, earning plenty of "most anticipated" awards from major media outlets (yes, there are awards for such things). All the praise was a bit perplexing to me, though: by all appearances, Rage seems like yet another competent first person shooter with some car combat on the side.

But hey, now I can say I've played an id Software game (or at least an hour of it). Check out an early mission video below to see a short sample of Rage's early goings.

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