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The Walking Dead BlogNation: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

November 10th, 2012 Angela Posted in Television, Video Games 1 Comment »

In this next installment of all things Walking Dead, we are talking video games.  With the success of the graphic novel and the TV series from AMC, it’s not surprising that a video game franchise would follow.  I enjoy first-person shooter video games and the thought of playing in the prequel to the current world in the TV series is pretty interesting.  Still waiting on more details to emerge about the game, but we do have a summary and the trailer.  Sounds like this game is going to be made of AWESOME!

Product Synopsis:

This first-person action game allows players to assume the role of the crossbow-wielding survivor Daryl Dixon, alongside his brother Merle, on a haunting, unforgiving quest to make their way to the supposed safety of Atlanta.

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct takes the undead and brings them out of the TV show and into console gaming systems in a terrifying way. The iconic walkers will relentlessly hunt down players like their television counterparts, using a combination of sight, sound and smell. As Daryl, players will need to tread carefully throughout each new area they explore. Once discovered, it doesn’t take much to attract an unstoppable horde of undead walkers, so every threat needs to be assessed, and every situation analyzed. Players will have to choose between whether to stay and fight while risking a gruesome death or using stealth to avoid the undead. No place is truly safe for Daryl as he makes his way through the Georgia countryside in this new, post-apocalyptic world.

Release Date: TBA 2013
Genre: First-Person Shooter
PublisherActivision
DeveloperTerminal Reality

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Review: Enslaved ~ Odyssey to the West (Video Game)

December 19th, 2010 Angela Posted in Review, Video Games Comments Off

Published by Namco Bandai Games and developed by Ninja Theory, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West for the PS3 and Xbox 360 is one of 2010’s best action adventure games.  Although it’s a little rough around the edges, it achieves a level of storytelling and character development seldom seen in bigger budget AAA titles.  This is largely due to a great story brought to life by Ninja Theory’s amazing work in the areas of facial animation and motion capture, which was on display in the studio’s previous big release, Heavenly Sword on the PS3.  Enslaved is coauthored by Alex Garland, the novelist and screenplay writer behind The Beach, 28 Days Later and Sunshine.  With storytelling talent like that, it’s no surprise that Enslaved’s strongest assets are its narrative, and its tight pacing.  Loosely based on the 16th century Chinese novel, Journey to the West, Enslaved is set 150 years in the future after an apocalyptic war.  Humanity is decimated, and those who remain are scattered across a world largely reclaimed by nature.  Unfortunately, the weapons of the last war, gun-toting, automata, who, like soldiers stranded on remote islands after World War 2, don’t know the war is over.

In Enslaved’s post apocalyptic world, the remnants of humanity not only have to worry about terminator-like robots that don’t know the war is over, but mysterious slavers swooping down and whisking them away in massive aerial slave ships.  Enslaved begins on just such a ship in the midst of an escape by the mighty, overly muscled Monkey and the technologically talented Trip.   During their escape, Trip fits the unconscious Monkey, with a slaver headband, which causes him excruciating pain if he disobeys, and will kill him should Trip die.  So Monkey becomes Trip’s slave and must escort her through the mech-infested wastelands back to her home.  Along the way, Trip and Monkey’s relationship evolves from obvious antagonism to something more complex and I don’t be surprised when you actually start to care about these two characters.  Enslaved arguably does a better job nailing a cinematic feel than it does on pure gameplay, but for my money I thought it nailed just the right balance between gameplay and storytelling.


While games like Bethesda’s Fallout 3 are hallmarks of nonlinear gameplay, Enslaved is a necessarily linear experience for the sake of its tighter paced, more focused narrative.  Also unlike Fallout 3 and most post apocalyptic game worlds, Enslaved is unusually colorful.  You’ll recognize some familiar sites underneath the rust and overgrown flora, and Ninja Theory deserves a ton of credit for eschewing the ubiquitous bleak color palette of games like Fallout 3 (a great game btw!).  Enslaved isn’t quite as innovative in its gameplay, as most of Enslaved is a combination platformer/brawler.  The gameplay is relatively simple though, so hardcore gamers and newbies alike should be able to make it to the end credits.  Monkey, who is the only playable character in the main quest, can make death defying leaps with a push of the analog stick and a press of the action button.  Combat is a similarly simple affair, but with awesome looking, cinematic results, occasionally marred by a game camera that feels too close to the action leading to some cheap hits by off-screen enemies.  Just when things threaten to become a little monotonous, a boss fight, cinematic chase scene or puzzle changes things up.  At just about 10 hours, Enslaved doesn’t overstay its welcome and has a twist at the end that neatly wraps up the story while leaving room for more stories set in its world.


Enslaved’s focus on story and character development helps it stand out in a crowded field of derivative games, where military shooters and sequels are a much safer bet for publishers than original games.  I picked up Enslaved for $60 on release day and feel I got my money’s worth.  Today you can pick it up new on Amazon for $25, and at that price I shouldn’t have to put a slaver’s head band on you to get you to follow Trip and Monkey on their epic journey to the west.

FTC Advisory: I purchased a copy of this game for the Xbox 360.  In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.


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Review: Dead Rising 2 ~ Case Zero (Video Game)

September 17th, 2010 Angela Posted in Review, Video Games 1 Comment »

I had the pleasure of seeing the Dead Rising 2 panel at San Diego Comic Con and I came away very impressed.  Dead Rising 2 is the sequel to Capcom’s 2006 Xbox 360 release, Dead Rising, a game which I alternately love and loathe.  The first Dead Rising is a great looking game with some awesome mechanics with what might be the worst save system I’ve seen in 10 years.  Capcom restricts the player to a single save slot.  That’s terrible, but something I could have lived with except the game also puts you on a 72 hour clock.  It’s somewhat accelerated—one real world minute is probably worth 5 game minutes.  Your character, freelance photojournalist, Frank West, must be at certain places in the sprawling game world at certain times in order to get his scoops.  If you don’t make it, then the story ends.  Restart.  This is just as crappy as it sounds.  As a consolation prize you get to keep the special moves and rewards earned up to that point.  You can use your foreknowledge to avoid the pitfalls of your previous sessions, or as one reviewer at 1up.com described it, it’s Bill Murray’s Groundhog’s Day with zombies.  There are some other hiccups in the original Dead Rising.  You gain levels by rescuing survivors, but these are the type of survivors who don’t deserve to live because they are irredeemably stupid.  They like to stop and fight zombie hordes and die right before they reach safety and these escort missions run the game clock down until, yup, you’ve missed another scoop.  Restart.


My disdain for some of Dead Rising’s design choices, made me very skeptical of Dead Rising 2, but Capcom has wisely addressed these issues in Dead Rising 2 and offered up Dead Rising 2: Case Zero as proof.  DR2: Case Zero is an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive for 400 Microsoft points.  At the current exchange rate that’s about $5 and it’s well worth it.  Rather than releasing a demo that’s merely a slice of the main game, Capcom has opted to release a prequel to the main game and it stands on its own as a great game play experience.  Levels earned in Case Zero carry over to Dead Rising 2’s main game, with a level cap of 5.  Playing Case Zero will also give you a bit of insight into the new characters in DR2.

The original DR protagonist, Frank West, is nowhere to be seen in Case Zero, but Dead Rising producer, Keiji Inafune, hinted that Frank may make an appearance down the line.  Set three years after the events of Dead Rising, Case Zero introduces us to Chuck Greene, and his daughter Katie.  In the wake of the first major zombie outbreak post Dead Rising, Chuck and Katie are on their way to Fortune City, but Katie has been bitten by one of the walking dead.  All isn’t lost though because Dead Rising 2 introduces us to Zombrex, a zombie suppression drug.  As long as Katie gets her shots, she will stay human.  Two problems though.  First, Zombrex is expensive.  Second, Katie must have her dose every 12 hours, or it’s game over for her.  This is an excellent way to work in the time pressure mechanic, which I didn’t care for in the first game.  The father and child relationship is well written and evokes a little of Cormack McCarthy’s The Road—well as much as one can expect a game about mutilating the undead with chainsaws duct taped to broom handles can evoke an award winning author’s work.  The point is that the DR2: Case Zero is surprisingly well written.


Case Zero improves upon the first game from the jump by offering multiple save slots.  Second, the survivors in Case Zero are Rhodes Scholars compared to those found in the first game.  They are smart enough not to run directly into the zombie hordes and get bitten to death.  It’s a small thing, but having attempted to play the original recently, it greatly reduces frustration.   The moment to moment game play is excellent.  There are hundreds of zombies onscreen, and Inafune has stated that the full game can push as many as 3500 zombies into the same game space!  DR2 is gruesome.  You can put the undead down with assault rifles, but less pedestrian death dealing comes from the ability to combine items.  My favorite is the drill-bucket.  Take some drills, a bucket, add duct tape.  Proceed to put bucket atop zombie heads.  It’s great fun, and any fuddy duddies watching will likely be disgusted and lament the state of the world and decry the ever downward spiral of Western Civilization.  That’s okay though as that is itself a theme of the zombie genre and Dead Rising 2 in particular.

Since Case Zero is a prequel to Dead Rising 2, Chuck Greene obviously survives the events of Case Zero and eventually makes it to Vegas.  There he signs up to participate on the reality TV. show, Terror is Reality and uses his winnings from decimating zombie hordes to pay for Katie’s outrageously expensive Zombrex treatments.  While Chuck is competing on Terror is Reality there is an outbreak in the arena.  Chuck and his fellow contestants escape, but Chuck has been set up (presumably for causing the outbreak).  He has 72 hours to clear his name.   So we can look forward to a bit of Running Man mixed with Dawn of the Dead.  DR: Case Zero kept me up until 2 a.m.  It’s a great game and succeeded in making me want to play the Dead Rising 2.  I’m a little leery of the return of the 72 hour game clock, but the improved saved game system and survivor A.I. seems to address the main criticisms of the original game.  Dead Rising 2 will be released late on September 28 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.  Again Case Zero is an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive.


Bonus Fun Fact about Dead Rising 2 from Keiji Inafune:  Originally, Dead Rising 2 was going to take place in a Disneyland like theme park.  This was very early in development, but thankfully the setting was changed to a Vegas like casino town.  Shortly after that decision Zombie Land was released, and Inafune-san breathed a sigh of relief.  The last thing he wanted was for his game to be known as a Zombie Land rip off even though the game would have been in development for well over a year before Zombie Land’s release.

FTC Advisory: I received a copy of this game from Xbox Live at San Diego Comic Con.  In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.


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Review: Dead Space Extraction (Video Game)

January 26th, 2010 Angela Posted in Review, Video Games Comments Off

In [Dead] Space, no one can hear you scream

Dead Space Extraction is the prequel to 2008′s next generation survival horror game, Dead Space.  For those of you unfamiliar with Dead Space, it’s a sci-fi themed survival horror game reminiscent of “Aliens,” “Event Horizon,” “The Thing,” and the more recent “Pandorum.”  In the original Dead Space you play the part of Isaac Clarke, an engineer responding to a distress call from the USG Ishimura, an interstellar mining ship.  The Ishimura is designed to literally crack open planets and asteroids so it can extract the precious minerals within them.  Planet crackers like the Ishimura have over a thousand crew members and are supposed to be bustling with activity, but by the time Isaac docks with the Ishimura in the original Dead Space the ship appears to be deserted.  Unfortunately, while most of the Ishimura’s human crew seems to be gone, there’s no shortage of deformed monstrosities called necromorphs stalking the decks and ventilation system of the Ishimura.  Necromorphs are scary beyond belief and are exceptionally hard to kill. Unlike the venerable zombies of the 20th century, decapitation necromorph’s serves only to enrage necromorphs, not stop them.  You’ve got to cut off several of their limbs and even then they’ll still wiggle their way towards you.  It’s as gross as it sounds and why Dead Space and its prequel more than earn their mature ratings.  In the original Dead Space Isaac pieces these facts together the hard way–coming across the occasional crewman’s log and dodging necromorphs in his attempts to get the hell off the Ishimura.  Dead Space Extraction takes place 3 weeks before Isaac lands on the ruined and derelict Ishimura and tells the tale of how the Ishimura’s crew met their grizzly fate.

Walking a mile in someone else’s space boots:

Dead Space Extraction spins a wild tale within what’s traditionally been a very limiting gameplay genre–the on rails shooter.  Good examples of traditional on rail shooters are Time Crisis by Namco and House of the Dead by Sega.  The movements of your onscreen avatar are not in your control, but you do control what they shoot.  On rail shooters can be pretty fun, albeit somewhat mindless.  Shoot, reload, repeat.  Dead Space Extraction elevates the genre with some of the highest production values to be found on the Nintendo Wii and certainly the strongest story found in any on rail shooter I’ve ever played.    First, the story of Dead Space Extraction is told from the point of view of multiple characters, ranging from colonial miners early in the game, to scientists, soldiers and security officers later in the game.  Second, the quality of the video and audio presentation compliments the story, with liberal use of a shaky camera effect and creepy sound effects.  You feel like you’re looking through a character’s eyes as much or even more than most first person shooters which give you full control of character movement.  It’s a very immersive effect that’s complimented further by the Wii’s unique motion controls.  In the dark confines of a tunnel?  Shake the Wii remote to activate a flare to light the way.  Alien necromorph trying to chew off your face? Shake the Wii remote to knock it off you.  You’ll pick up audio logs that you can hear by bringing the Wii remote to your ear like a cell phone.  It’s immersive enough to make you forget that you’re on rails most of the time.  At some points in the game you get to pick your path, but oddly those instances served to remind me that I was playing an on rails shooter, breaking the sense of immersion within that story chapter.

Dead Space Extraction is not without flaws, but they are somewhat minor in light of the total quality of the presentation.  One thing you’ll notice about Extraction is the giant targeting reticle.  It’s big enough to obscure some of the action on screen and is at odds with the amazing atmosphere the artists made for the game.  It’s a co-op game, and should you opt to play with a friend, you’ll have to contend with two gigantic targeting reticles, which makes the experience more gamey and consequently less scary.  Similarly, each character through which you view the game seems to be pretty handy with a mining laser or a military issued blaster, which may be par for the course in futuristic mining operations.  But they are all equally adept at using telekinesis to grab objects as well as hitting necromorphs with temporal stasis blasts to slow them down long enough to strategically dismember them.  So, while on the one hand the story is beautifully told through the point of view of several characters, on the other hand these characters all basically play the same.  It would have been nice to have some character specific skills to add a little more variety to the gameplay, but I’m nitpicking.

But is it Scary?

Some reviewers didn’t think Dead Space Extraction was scary.  I don’t think it’s as scary as the original Dead Space, but I definitely found my fair share of tense moments.  I was tense enough that I found myself shooting at shadows and flickering lights.  Extraction’s atmosphere is dark, claustrophobic and always creepy.  You never feel at ease outside of the first few minutes of the game.  Best of all, the story, script and voice acting are all top notch unlike the B movie dialogue found in most other on rails shooters adding to the immersion and the intensity.  Trust me, when characters scream in Extraction, it’s invariably of the blood curdling variety.  The game is co-op, and I definitely found it much less frightening with someone sitting next to me blasting aliens.  So if you’re looking to scare yourself, then you might be best off playing through the story mode solo. It’s a fun co-op experience though, especially if you and you’re partner in crime are into sci-fi fantasy.

Trekking Across the Dead Space Multimedia Universe:

Dead Space Extraction is part of a growing Dead Space universe.  In fact, Dead Space Extraction is not even the first prequel to the original Dead Space.  Dead Space Downfall is a high quality animated feature length film and chronicles the final hours of the Ishimura’s crew.  There’s also the Dead Space 6 issue comic book prequel, which you can find at your local comic shop, or better yet on the Dead Space Extraction game disc.  That’s right, the 6 issue comic is an unlockable bonus on the game disc.  It’s even better than the original comic because EA took the time to add professional voice talent, music and some motion to the comic.  It’s great addition, and puts Dead Space Extraction down as a definite “buy” in my book.  Dead Space Extraction can be found new for $30 at some game outlets, and with the included comic series it’s easily worth the money.  It’s also one of very few adult themed games on the Wii.  There’s nothing wrong with games like Mario Galaxy or movies like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for that matter.  It’s just that sometimes you might be in the mood for “The Shining.”  Dead Space Extraction does a great job of filling that horror niche on the Wii.

Dead Space Extraction is published by Electronic Arts, developed by Visceral Games and rated Mature.  It earns its mature rating, with a lot of cursing.  But wouldn’t you swear if you just saw your friend being eaten by necromorph?

FTC Advisory: I purchased a copy of this game.  In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.

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Review: Darkwatch (Video Game)

January 24th, 2010 Angela Posted in Review, Video Games 3 Comments »

Vampire Weekend

Darkwatch is the simple story of a man, his horse and his journey through the American West.  Well, actually, it’s the story of a vampire, his demon steed and how that vampire unwittingly starts an undead apocalypse.  Darkwatch, developed by High Moon Studios, is a 2005 shooter that scores high points for originality.  It’s a Vampire Western, the only videogame in that genre.  Loading up Darkwatch for the first time you’re greeted by the unmistakable theme from Sergio Leon’s spaghetti western, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”  It’s a fitting way to ring in gaming’s first and, so far, only Vampire Western.

One bad hombre

Darkwatch puts you in the boots of Jericho Cross, the most anti of antiheroes.  Darkwatch’s creator’s seem to have been inspired by Jonah Hex.  Jericho is a thief and all around scoundrel.  Darkwatch starts off with an all too human Jericho pulling off a train heist, but boy, does Jericho ever pick the wrong train.  As fate would have it this train isn’t transporting gold, but a prisoner named Lazarus Malkoth.  If Jericho Cross is the best we can do for “The Good” of our piece, then Lazarus Malkoth is most definitely “The Bad.”  Lazarus is in the custody of the Darkwatch, which is somewhere between the U.S. Marshall Service and the Watcher’s Counsel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  They specialize in policing the undead, which come in several gruesome varieties.  Somehow the Darkwatch managed to imprison Lazarus in a steel vault.  During the course of Jericho’s attempted train robbery, Jericho manages to blow the vault, unwittingly freeing Lazarus, jump starting an undead apocalypse and one of the wildest first-person shooters from the last console generation.

Once freed Lazarus proceeds to kick several shades of shit out of Jericho and for good measure turns our protagonist into a Vampire. Fortunately for Jericho, he runs into a beautiful Darkwatch Regulator named Cassidy Sharp, who helps him adjust to his newfound status as a vampire gunslinger.  Jericho and Cassidy go on the run from a relentless Lazarus. Soon Jericho is deputized as the first vampire member of the Darkwatch.  It seems that it’s going to take a vampire to catch a vampire.  Before the end credits roll Jericho will find romance, double crosses, as well as an opportunity to pull a double cross himself.  Jericho is as much of a hero or villain as the player decides.

“You move like they do.”

First-person shooters are a love/hate affair of mine.  It’s a genre that’s been done to death.  But an FPS Vampire Western is a welcome departure from the glut of World War 2 shooters.  Making the protagonist a vampire offers up some interesting, novel gameplay mechanics.  As a vampire, Jericho can jump farther than any person. You’ll find it takes a little getting used to as a simple touch of the jump button can easily carry Jericho 20 feet into the air.  Double jumping can take him much higher and farther.  Jericho can also shoot an undead gunman right between the eyes from a football field away with his blood vision.  It’s Darkwatch’s version of the zoom function in any other FPS.  Throughout his quest to put a stop to Lazarus, Jericho will earn new abilities.  What kind of abilities depends on how Jericho comports himself as vampire.  At points in the game you have a choice of helping or hurting victims of Lazarus’ apocalypse.  Virtuous choices will grant you powers like silver bullet, which makes your shots much more powerful, or Vindicator, which let’s you unleash chain lightning upon the undead.  Give into temptation and feed upon the living or the souls of the dead and you’ll unlock dark powers like blood frenzy and turn.  Blood frenzy imbues your melee attacks with more power and turn pits your enemies against each other.  Play the game on the fence and you’ll be able to partake of both good and evil powers.

With all the things Jericho can do, the developers risk creating an overpowered tank, but that is greatly offset by a limit imposed by Jericho’s vampirism.  Namely, sunlight, which negates all his powers.  You can and will frequently be killed in the daylight because you can’t recuperate the way you can at night (or in the shade).  Your character is at a distinct disadvantage in daylight, so the light actually becomes something to avoid.  It’s commendable that the developers are able to make the gamer fear the light and feel at ease in the darkness.  Second, the enemies are pretty tough, and many of them can jump even farther than you can and a fair number have uncanny aim.  On higher difficulty levels you might think that Jerciho Cross is the underdog in this fight for the west.

For an FPS, Darkwatch has a fair amount of gameplay variety.  You’ll mostly be blowing the arms, legs and heads off undead riflemen, braves, gunslingers and (very annoying) flying banshees.  But the game also throws in some enjoyable vehicle sections, if you count a horse as a vehicle.  The guns are FPS standards with a few anachronisms thrown in to appease the typical twitch gamer.  I have it on good authority that there were no rocket launchers in the old west, but then again there probably weren’t any vampires named Lazarus Malkoth either.  If one wants realism then perhaps documentary films are a better bet than vampire western themed video games.  With the powers that Jericho gets to use, Darkwatch succeeds in taking many FPS elements and achieving a game that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

One Purdy Picture

Darkwatch is a good looking game.  It was released in 2005 and I played it for this review in 2010.  It obviously can’t stand up to the heavy hitters of this current console generation, but it’s still a good looking game.  The game’s artists are to be commended on the games environments, creature designs and animations.  Darkwatch really excels in its gruesome creature designs and animations. A standard session of Darkwatch will see you shooting the heads or arms off the undead and their reactions are rather lively considering their undead nature.  One of my favorite monster types is the Bandito because it does the best job illustrating the gory hit detection.  You can shoot chunks off this monster and see the model change with each shot.

How the West Was Won

In the end Darkwatch is easy to recommend for those who like Vampires or for those who like Westerns.  If you like both then this game is pure win.  It has fun gameplay elements complemented by a great, original setting. While the enemy types aren’t numerous, what’s there looks really good and moves very well thanks to great use of rag doll physics and gory hit detection.  In addition to excellent art design and very good in-game graphics, the game boasts great cut scenes with professional voice talent.  Darkwatch is not a particularly long game.  On normal difficulty you should be able to complete the story mode in less than ten hours.  I’ve never played it online, and it’s doubtful you’d find a lot of people online still playing it so many years after release.  Looking at Darkwatch strictly in terms of gameplay, it doesn’t set the FPS genre on fire.  The setting is unique enough that it was an easy buy for me.

You should be able to find this game at your local game store used for either the PS2 or the original Xbox for about the same price as a new paperback novel.  The game is also backwards compatible on the Xbox 360.  I reviewed the Xbox box version of the game, and it probably has sharper graphics than the PS2 version.  Finally, if you couldn’t tell from the images in this review, this is NOT a kid friendly game.  There’s a lot of blood, dismemberment, nudity, cussing and even a sex scene.  The sex scene is nothing you couldn’t see on prime time network television, but it’s notable for having occurred in a game that saw wide console release.  In short, Darkwatch earns its mature rating.

FTC Advisory: I purchased a copy of this game.  In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.


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