stealth

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Full Review

Deus ex Human Revolution Banner

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.

Dishonored

First Hour Review

Dishonored CoverDishonored, the new property published by Bethesda (The Elder Scrolls; Fallout) and developed by Arkane Studios (Dark Mesiah; Bioshock 2), is a brave and original story looking to enter into a decaying console cycle – the time when the sequel and spinoff reign supreme. It has to be said, the sights are firm and the course is true; Dishonored is looking to contend for Game of the Year status – and so it should. Arkane Studios has talent from across the globe, and a laundry list of prior experience. From Bioshock to Half-Life 2 to Deus Ex, and many more, Arkane’s capability holds great repute.

Dishonored sets off to be the spiritual successor to the very franchises that inspired it and you would be hard-pressed to find a reason why it does not fit the bill. At its core, Dishonored is a first-person stealth action game. You are able to sneak around quietly, hit confrontation head-on, or some other combination of the two. The level of freedom here is something that would make any long-time Deus Ex fan smile. It’s not just about the gameplay, though – the level of presentation on display is top notch.

Before getting into the review-proper, I want to touch on the design and visual presentation; its uniqueness begs prying eyes to observe. Dunwall, the city setting in Dishonored, is designed by the very same man who imagined City 17 in Half-Life 2. Visually, I get the sensation that Arkane started with something relatively gritty, and then moved the entire art-style in the direction of pastel and caricature. It’s just utterly dripping with style and brave design choices. The character design in particular is especially reminiscent of old political cartoon artwork, with all the exaggerated features necessary to convey a character without words.

Now, it’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to the presentation. There are elements of the game that feel somewhat dated. While the character design is a pure joy of originality, the animations leave something to be desired. I’m never left with the sensation that these are alive, even for a moment. There’s also not much in the way of post-effects being leveraged. You have god-rays, dynamic shadows, and that’s about it. And while the artwork is incredibly balanced and fitting to itself, I found myself reaching for my video card’s anti-aliasing controls in short order just to get everything to sit better with the art style. Neither the MLAA or FXAA solutions quite cut it – the jaggies on display just detracted from the pastel effect.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

First Hour Review

Metal Gear Solid 4 CoverI’ve always enjoyed the crazy and convoluted stories of the Metal Gear Solid series, even when the controls seem to be fighting against me instead of cooperating. I’ve played the series on the PS1, PS2, GameCube, and Xbox, and with every release both the story and controls become more complex. So in some ways I’m very excited to finally be able to play Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but at the same time I’m leery that it’s going to be a mess of bad aiming and Snake behaving badly.

Released over four years ago(!), Metal Gear Solid 4 puts us back in Solid Snake’s shoes in a war-torn future where armies for hire are the norm. It’s a disturbing vision, but if anyone can sell it, it’s Hideo Kojima and his team at Konami.

The game has sold very well and was a major critical darling. Heck, one of our very own writers gave it a 10/10 a few years back. Needless to say, this has been on my to-play list for many years. Here’s hoping the first hour lives up to my hype.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Full Review

Batman Arkham Asylum CoverA year ago I played the first hour of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The conclusion was that I would keep playing “for a while,” and much of that decision rested on what percentage of the game would the stealth gameplay take up. I had to give the game back to who I was borrowing it from, however, and Arkham Asylum started burning a hole in my brain. I began to really want to play it again, but the opportunity never came up the rest of the year. When Christmas rolled around I said I wanted one game, and one game only: Batman.

I received the game but forced myself to beat Fable II before I moved on to something bigger and better (if I play more than one game at a time I’m bound to never play one of them again). The moment after I saved Albion again I switched over to Arkham Asylum and went to town.

Released in mid-2009, Arkham Asylum seemed to spring out of nowhere from absolute nobody Rocksteady Studios. Why and how these guys received the criminally under performing Batman license and then went out and made one of the best games of the year is a bit mind boggling, but a story for another day.

Here’s my full review of Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Full Review

Metal Gear Solid 4 CoverMetal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the final chapter of the Metal Gear saga (kind of).  It seeks to wrap up the complicated plots from the previous three games, which up to this point seem to be fairly divergent.  It also seeks to perfect the gameplay and presentation for which Kojima-san and his Metal Gear Solid games have become famous.

It is also the first game in the series on the PlayStation 3, and it uses this hardware to be one of the best looking games ever.  The MGS series has always used the in-game graphics engine to render its cutscenes to prevent a jarring disconnect between graphic styles, and this is the first time it works perfectly.  The in-game character models look good enough that you can't complain a bit.  The facial animations and lip-syncing is increbible.  The game is, in a word, stunning.

So we know the game looks good, we can tell that from screenshots and trailers  Is it good?  Is it fun?  Is it worth buying?  For those of you with short attention spans, the answer is yes.  For everyone else, read on.

Hitman: Blood Money

Full Review
Hitman Blood Money Cover

Hitman: Blood Money is a stealth action game for the Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Windows. It's the fourth game in the Hitman series and the last to come out. I will admit, I was influenced in playing this game after seeing the movie. I think that is probably the first time a film adaptation has done that, pretty special considering that's one of their main reasons for existence. I had never played a Hitman game before, and I will admit, I really enjoyed it. It's almost a sandbox game considering everything you can do, and no two gamers will play it the same way. What's nice about Blood Money is that someone without any experience with the series can come in and enjoy it. So maybe this review will convince you to check out the game like the movie did for me.

I wrote up a first hour review of the game a few weeks ago, check it out if you're interested.

Hitman: Blood Money

First Hour Review
Hitman Blood Money Cover

Hitman: Blood Money is a stealth, action game for the Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and Windows. It was released in 2006 and is the fourth game in the Hitman series. I was actually convinced to buy this game after watching the Hitman movie a few months ago. Yes, video game movies are good for something, I guess. While the movie was okay, the concept of playing an open-ended assassination game more focused than something like Assassin's Creed seemed incredibly intriguing. By a recommendation from a friend, I decided to jump to the latest game in the series. Might as well exercise my Xbox 360.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

First Hour Review

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater CoverMetal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a third-person stealth action game for the PlayStation 2. Though it is the third game in the Solid series, Snake Eater serves as the prequel to the entire Metal Gear series. Released in 2004, the game drops the original Snake in the middle of a dense Soviet Union jungle during the height of the Cold War. Political tensions are high and the game holds nothing back in terms of cut scenes. Heck, the version I own includes a disc with over three hours of cut scenes edited together to make the Metal Gear Solid 3 movie. This is a common complaint thrown against the series, though many fans enjoy their dramatic and over-the-top directing. But how will they affect the game's first hour? Now that is a question we are about to answer.

I'll be playing the Subsistence version of the game, a re-released enhanced version of Snake Eater. The only difference that I know of that will affect this first hour is the much improved camera. Let's get to the first hour of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Subsistence).

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