UFC 2009: Undisputed Review

•June 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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UFC 2009: Undisputed

Playstation 3, Xbox 360

May 19, 2009

Ultimate Fighting is one of the fastest growing phenomenons in the world. It’s growing in fanbase, it’s growing in assets, it’s growing in talent, and it’s growing in entertainment. It’s huge, and it’s going to continue to improve upon itself as time moves forth. An unfortunate trend that comes with popularity, is a videogame to match up with the real life counterpart. UFC is large enough to get that said videogame tie-in, as UFC 2009: Undisputed was released late May 2009. Was getting THQ and Yuke’s to handle this delicate piece of software a unanimous decision, or is it a deadly rear naked choke from which nobody can escape?

I like to get straight to the point in my reviews, so I can basically tell you right off the bat that UFC 2009 does a lot of good things, and it does enough of them to maintain a high level of entertainment throughout. It’s got some issues, as you’d expect, but for the most part, Yuke’s really took the right steps and made the best decisions possible, resulting in an authentic gameplay experience. This is a fun game.

Quite possibly the first thing gamers will notice about this title is how unique the controls are. Strikes are mapped to the face buttons simply enough, with the left shoulder buttons as modifiers for hitting high or low. The striking game is really simple to get a grip on, which is great for beginners, but those who take the time to really understand the game will realize that it’s more of a defensive game than an offensive one. Getting into a complete slugfest will get somebody knocked out extremely quick, possibly within seconds. The best strategy is to wait for an opening, and go for it. The game does a great job of counter-balancing this, giving fighters the ability to catch strikes for submissions of throws. Good timing both offensively and defensively is the key to maintaining a strong striking game.

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When taking things to the ground, or getting into grappling situations, the game opens up even more, showing off its superb depth and authenticity of its gameplay. Depending on your fighter’s fighting styles, you can perform throws or other special moves such as powerbombs and hip tosses. The way that these are performed is utilizing the right analog stick. Very similar to the control scheme in EA’s Skate, you’re meant to rotate the right analog stick in correspondance to your character’s position. For example, to move to a new position on the ground, rotate the right analog stick 90 degrees in the direction you wish to move to, and your fighter will attempt to. Here, it’s another timing game.

First off, your right stick rotations need to be legible, not simply attacking the stick. Then, you need to do it at the right time, when the other fighter is not putting down his weight on you, because assuming you’re not Forrest Griffin, you’re going to stay right where you are.

On the ground, fighters can still strike each other, move around and try to get the best position on their opponent. The Brazillian Jiu Jitsu fighters have the ability to counter their opponent, flipping them over and being in full guard. Some of the most fun I’ve had in UFC 2009 were results of intense ground battles. It’s a very dynamic system that feels good when you’re good at it, but can quickly become frustrating should you be bad at it. This is a game that really requires patience and good timing. To be successful, you need to be efficient, because simply button mashing and flailing your fighter across the screen will result in some embarassing losses.

That’s the beauty of UFC 2009: Undisputed. It’s always a fair game. No matter how badly you are getting your tail handed to you, you’ve always got a shot. You could be getting destroyed late the 3rd round, but if you’re patient enough, you could find a weak spot, or find your opponent getting lazy, and give them a swift kick to the head. Boom. Flash. Knockout. UFC 2009 is one of the most well balanced fighting games ever, if not the single most.

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Submissions are one of the most exhilarating parts of the fighting engine. Clicking down on the right stick while your opponent is vulnerable on the ground, or when you catch a strike for a counter, or when you are clinched while standing, allows you to perform a submission. Depending on your position and fighting technique, the submissions vary in terms of success and type. UFC 2009 features just about every submission you’ve seen in the real life sport, from armbars, to rear naked chokes, to triangle chokes. During submission attempts, the biggest button masher, the fastest stick rotator will most likely be victorious. This can feel very clunky and unprofessional, but it feels appropriate in the fact that it instills urgency to the situation. Of course, you can’t just submit your opponent at the start of a match. This is a balanced game. Stamina, strength, submission offence and defence skills are also taken into account, as well as height and reach. It’s very authentic and it’s easy to appreciate.

The way the game tries its hand at authenticity is rather impressive. All weight classes are present here, with over 80 fighters on the roster. There are 6 distinct fighting techniques: Judo, BJJ, and Wrestling for throws and grappling, and Muay Thai, Kick Boxing, and Boxing for striking. The way fighters need to take advantage as well as adapt to these different techniques really makes the game dynamic. It’s a thinking man’s game, despite how button mashy it may seem to those unfamiliar with the sport.

The theme song from UFC is here as well, as are a few ring girls, Joe Rogan is on commentating, and Herb Dean is among the referees. The game tries its best to deliver a realistic feeling UFC experience, and it gets the job done. The lack of ring entrances are a tad disappointing, but that’s something to expect for next year, right?

It’s a safe bet to call the core gameplay an authentic, well balanced, thrill ride. Really, the game never lets up. Every match is worth seeing through to the end because of just how dynamic the whole system works. It’s amazing.

There is a career mode present in UFC 2009: Undisputed which unfortunately isn’t as good as it could be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly worth playing just for the ultimate reward of winning some hardware, but it ultimately feels too artificial to really be taken seriously.

After creating your very own fighter of surprising detail (you can really shape them into how you want them to look), career mode is essentially a repetitive series of fights. In between each fight, you can either spar to assign attributes to your stats, or automate training. After 2 or 3 training sessions, you fight again. Career mode is disappointingly bareboned. There is nothing to ground it into the universe, and it comes across as an irritating setup of matches.

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What’s worse is just how poor the menu system is. There are short load times almost everytime you select something in the career mode menu. Even simply selecting sponsors to put on your shorts, you need to go through a confusing set of more than half a dozen menus just to be able to select a spot to put on the logo. It’s unnecessarily complex.

Even while it’s really shallow and there’s not a lot to it, career mode is still worth going through, and I’ll tell you why. As you build up your fighters statistics, he constantly gets better, and as you retire from UFC, you can use your fighter in exhibition mode and for online fighting. There’s also something gratifying about seeing your fighter become champion of every single weight division.

While career mode remains an undeniable disappointment, the gameplay itself is the complete saving grace. Yes, career mode isn’t worth much, but just being able to face off against your buddies on the couch, or strangers over Playstation Network and Xbox Live, is worth the price of admission alone. The intensity and competitiveness that comes hand in hand with a title like this is just stunning. It’s easy to lose hours on end just doing fight after fight, trash talking, utilizing strategies, and overall just having an absolute blast. The price point of $69.99 is high, but it’s definitely worth it. If you dig the gameplay, you’re going to lose a lot of time on this game. This is one of those rare cases where a long list of features isn’t needed to make a game worth money, giving the title an old-school aesthetic that’s refreshing to see nowadays.

To anybody skeptical about how the visuals hold up, they can rest easy. UFC 2009 is an impressive looking game. The authenticity shows its face in just about every aspect of Undisputed’s presentation. Fighters not only look near-identical to their real life counterparts, but there are some nice effects added in as well. Cuts and bruises look absolutely painful, shorts will fold and sway upon contact and movement, and the animations are extremely fluid. Even the referees look like their own real life counterparts. It’s a good looking game.

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Still, there are a few qualms to be had. Animations do look very good, but you’ll be seeing the same ones in each fight, and it tends to get a little bit redundant after awhile, losing some of the awe that it initially instills. Also, the hit detection sometimes fails. Everything looks great at 30fps, but once the action slows down during a replay, you can really see just how lazy that Yuke’s got on some of the action. Punches and kicks will go through body parts, or they’ll just miss entirely, despite the fact that it is still counted as a hit. Even so, the hit detection isn’t a large issue, because when the action’s fast, it’s hard to nitpick.

The soundtrack is a large improvement over SvR’s crap, but it’s still no homerun. Face the Pain by Stemm is the highlight there. The commentators do a really good job at telling the action, but much like the impressive animations, they repeat from fight to fight.

Yuke’s has done a very good job at crafting a complex and addictive fighter. The fact that it doesn’t have a lengthy list of features should not keep anybody away from the game. It droops authenticity at the seams and it’s got a generous roster of fighters. It requires thinking as opposed to mindless thrashing. It’s got its fair share of issues, but when if you find yourself playing the demo hundreds of times over and over, then it may be time you drop the cash and make a smart investment. UFC 2009: Undisputed is a well balanced, addictive, and intense fighting game.

8.5 out of 10

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Killzone 2 Review

•March 2, 2009 • 1 Comment

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Killzone 2

Platforms: Playstation 3

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe/ Sony Computer Entertainment America

Developer: Guerilla Games

Release Date: 2.27.09

The hype that surrounded Killzone 2 was out of the ordinary for a sequel to an underwhelming, disappointing Playstation 2 shooter. A pre rendered trailer later, and the whole world goes crazy either claiming the second coming, or calling bluff on Guerilla and Sony. “Does Killzone 2 live up to the hype?” I’m not touching that one with an answer, because that is a ridiculous question. A more reasonable question would be “Is Killzone 2 good?” And my answer to that is a resounding yes. “How good,” you ask? Killzone 2 is not only the best game on Playstation 3, but Killzone 2 is the single greatest, most viscerally enticing experience yet to be had this generation.

It feels good to get that off of my chest. Killzone 2 is a modern masterpiece. There’s a large number of things that make it so exciting. Starting with the visuals, it’s initially breathtaking to put your eyes on Killzone 2 for the first time. The battle raging through my mind while playing (and this still gets me) is if the art was better than the technology on display. That is pure preference. Killzone 2’s textures, lighting, animation, draw distance, and effects are all the best in the business. However, Killzone 2’s art might be the reason it looks so great. There’s something to be said for when you look out on the street on Salamun Market, or when you sprint through the ash in the final battles in Pyrrhus, and you see in the vista, two glowing, staring red eyes, and you realize that they’re looking at you. It’s war, and he is your enemy. The environments themselves are just breathtaking, and the urban, bleek, destructed setting is rich with atmosphere. People have been complaining at the grey color palette, but they too can rest easy. Killzone 2 utlizes colour near perfectly, and you’ll never feel overwhelmed with dark blur. Beginning with the red eyes of the Helghast, or the sandy tone of certain levels, or the tint levels have to them, Killzone 2’s colour palette is diverse and varied. When you take the most technically advanced achievement, and riddle it with one of the most distinct art directions, you get what might just be the best looking game ever made.

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The sound design reaches as high a bar as the visuals. The sound effects of the weapons are perfectly recorded, and you’ll be able to decipher the sound of an SMG from an Assault Rifle in no time. The voice acting from all characters is nicely done, and even the orchestral score is so epic and so fitting, it’s one of the highpoints of the game. When you hear the cries of a fallen enemy, that’s when you’ll fully appreciate the work put into the sound design.

The suffix in Killzone 2 implies that there may have been a Killzone 1. That’s definitely true, which means that the setting and art match up pretty nicely. In the previous games, (Killzone and Killzone: Liberation), the British-Nazi-Alien-like Helghast invaded the planet of Vekta, looking for blood. This time, Vekta and its inhabitants are fed up with the constant flow of attacks, and the ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) finally takes the fight to the Helghast homeland of Helghan. You play as Sev, a sargeant with a nice hairstyle. As part of Alpha squad, your main objective is to capture the Helghast Emperor, Visari. While the setup seems rather cliche and actually quite simple, the overall quality of the narrative is exceedingly high. Whether you look at the excellent voice acting, or the greatly directed cutscenes, it’s all magnificient. The game focuses heavily on the consequence and triumph a war platoon can face. The four men in Alpha squad, Sev, Natko, Rico, and Garza are a brotherhood, and it really shows. The game gets you to truly care for the soldiers and their survival, sucking the player in from the opening cutscene to the end credits.

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So it’s safe to say that the story and presentation are incredible. To be as cliche as possible, it’s the gameplay that counts. Killzone 2 doesn’t have that many new ideas to bring to the table, but what it does, it does at the top of its class.

It’s tough to pick a place to begin describing why Killzone 2 is such an incredible piece of software. The weapons themselves pack a devastating punch, and each of them feel unique. While the controls certainly take a lot of getting used to, due to the heaviness of movement, it doesn’t take too long, and in no time, you’ll learn to love the different feel Killzone 2 has. The combat is incredibly satisfying. This is mainly due to the presentation. Everything just looks and sounds so incredible, that when you mow down an enemy with a machine gun, the blood splatter followed by a non scripted animation, and a gut wrenching scream are more than enough to bring a smile to your face. Perhaps when you hit an enemy with a shotgun, and their head explodes, or when you pour 25 bullets into his torso, ripping him to shreds, that you’ll understand why the gameplay is so rewarding, addictive, and just plain fun.

The weapon design is awesome. There’s your standard set of assault rifles that are fit for just about any situation, there’s your rapid fire sub-machine guns, a sniper rifle that utlizes steady hands to aim properly, but then there are some truly magnificient guns, such as the flamethrower, bolt gun, or the lighting gun. Yes, the names of those weapons describe them perfectly. The stream of fire that comes out of the flamethrower sets enemies on fire to stunning effect, the bolt gun knocks enemies off their feet and then blows them up, and the lightning gun (which you get to use for a long time), obliterates enemies and shocks them.

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While the weapons are incredible fun to use, it’d all be useless without the excellent opponent AI that sets a new benchmark for the FPS genre. For example, say you were having a firefight with a soldier 60 feet away. When he reloads, you run around the corner and get out of his sight. If you listen carefully, you can hear him mention he’s lost you. Now, he’s looking for you. The enemy AI never faulters, and always keeps a great challenge. They will call out your position to their allies, try to flank you, and they’re pretty good with a rifle themselves.

Because of the fantastic AI, Guerilla implemented a cover system in the single player campaign to give you a fighting chance. By snapping down on the L2 button, you can take cover on most of the low objects in the game, always maintaining a first person view. It seems to fit very well with the game, and is absolutely essential to survival. That’s not to say that you can’t kill enemies when not taking cover, but it’s to say that they will kill you should you avoid it.

There are some absolutely incredible set piece battles. In fact, most of the campaign will consist of one after another. The way that the campaign is designed, is that it constantly gets better and better. It stays consistent like that, always having a steady increase in quality, until the final battles at the end of the game, which are honestly the most exhilarating moments that I ever remember playing in a video game. There are a fair number of turret and vehicle moments that fit the bill as well.

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While the campaign is only about 7 hours long, there are several trophies to unlock, as well as stats that it keeps on you, like how many kills you have, how long a certain section took you to complete, and there are hidden collectibles strewn throughout the levels. The menu system is also quite generous in allowing you to revisit any section of the campaign quite easily. While it’s short, the reply value is actually pretty high.

The 32 person multiplayer component in Killzone 2 is actually quite innovative. The way that matches play out is seamlessly merging game modes together into one consistently raging war. There are five game modes, Search and Retrieve (which is a variant on Capture the Flag), Body Count, Assassination (which chooses on player on one team, and is up for assassination), Capture and Hold (which is a variant on Zones), and Search and Destroy (which is similar to Sabotage in Call of Duty 4). Matches where all game modes are featured, scrambles around the game modes in random order. So matches can start out with 5 minutes of Body Count, then quickly shift to Assassination. Since it’s all randomized, it can be a real rush to try to talk things out with your team about where to go and how to carry out the situation depending on the objective. Sometimes an Assasination is called out, and your team has just 20 seconds to figure it all out before the identity of the V.I.P. is revealed to the opposing team. It’s actually quite dynamic, and it keeps every piece of action of every match fresh. Some matches, given the two teams are competitive enough, can last up to an hour long. Now that’s hardcore.

There are 12 ranks in multiplayer, that unlock rewards such as the ability to join a clan, or unlock new weapons, or even new classes. The multiplayer in Killzone 2 is fully class based, with soldier being your only choice when you start out, as you play and rank up, you unlock more classes such as Medic (whom can revive fallen teammates, Scout (whom can go invisible), and many more. It’s an incredibly balanced and rewarding system. On top of the 12 ranks, there are ribbons that reward you with specific abilities such as more grenades or a higher running speed. Ribbons are handed out for performing specific duties on field such as getting 10% of your team’s kills in a game. So with the rank system, as well as the ribbon system, Killzone 2 constantly rewards you for shining light onto its multiplayer.

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If somebody asked me to tell them what Killzone 2’s issues are, I’d mention the 3 or 4 motion control sections that take 4 seconds each. That’s really all about it. Killzone 2 is the best shooter currently available. Its visuals and audio are the best in its class, its combat is viscerally exciting and satisfying, its story is top notch, its campaign is perfectly paced and full of awesome moments, and its multiplayer just keeps on giving. There is absolutely no reason not to play Killzone 2. That being said, should you play Killzone 2, play as much of it as you possibly can.

Story 9.2 out of 10 – Killzone 2’s surprisingly strong narrative heavily explores the consequences and moral effect war can have on a fleet of soldiers, with protagonists that you truly care about, and antagonists you learn to hate.

Presentation 10 out of 10 – While the tech and art clearly some of the best yet to be seen, the sound design doesn’t fall too far behind.

Gameplay 10 out of 10 – From start to finish, the campaign is consistently an intense and viscerally exciting experience, where its multiplayer’s innovative design has epic matches that can last up to an hour.

Value 9.5 out of 10 – The campaign may only be 7 hours, and it may lack cooperative play, the replay value is insanely high. The multiplayer on the other hand outdoes the depth found in Call of Duty.

Overall 9.8 out of 10

Skate 2 Review

•January 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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When Skate was released back in 2007, it revolutionized the skateboarding game genre. With unparalleled realism in its approach, controls that radically changed the way the game is played, and a really awesome intro vid, Skate was awesome, and managed to snag my personal choice for runner up Game of the year 2007. It was fantastic. For anybody who loved the first game as much as I did, or to any newcomers, I’ve got some good news for you: Skate 2 is here, and while it’s not as revolutionary as the first game, it definitely is more refined, more enjoyable, and more kickass than its predecessor.

What really sets skate apart from past skateboarding games, is its unique trick system. Implementing a Fight-Night-esque control scheme in which the right analog controls the way your board flips. There is, of course, no grind button. Using momentum and physics, just jumping on a rail will allow you to grind. It takes some getting used to, but it becomes natural in time. It still works extremely well in Skate 2, and with a few new improvements like the ability to use modifiers for footplants, the whole core is still intact. Liptricks are now possible using the R1 button, and with those previously mentioned modifiers, more extreme moves like inverts are available. The trick system still feels really innovative and fresh, especially if you’ve never played skate before. Certain tricks are hard to differentiate from each other, which can be a large issue for more trick oriented goals in the career mode, and in the competitive game of S.K.A.T.E. (which is like HORSE), but when you’re just cruising the city, looking for lines, it’s a lot of fun and feels intuitive.

There are many more places to get huge air in the New San Van. This opens up a new emphasis on vertical moves, which were in Skate, but you never really had the opportunity to fully use them. That can’t be said about Skate 2. You will get high in the sky.

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In Skate 2, you can create your own skate from scratch using an impressive and deep interface, allowing you to create whoever you want. In terms of the story, you play as the same skater from the first game, and after spending 5 years in prison, you find that San Vanelona has changed. Earthquakes have shifted the land, and the evil MongoCorp has taken over rebuilding the city, making it a not so friendly place to skate. It’s up to you to reclaim the city. It’s best to call this an overall setup for the story, in which case it does a great job.

In Career mode, you skate around the city taking photo sessions to get onto covers of Thrasher and The Skateboard Magazine, which has you jumping over fountains, speeding down mountains, and the like. One issue found in the original, was that too many goals focussed on utilizing the trick system to do a certain trick, which became infuriating because of its difficulty. That’s been remedied completely here. The career mode consists of photo shoots, jumping gaps, gaining high scores, and doing races. The occasional game of SKATE pops up every now and then, but it’s still good fun nonetheless. This isn’t to say the game is completely devoid of difficulty. What Skate did greatly was it captured the essense of trail and error that comes with the real life sport, and that’s in full effect yet again. It’s still tough to nail the perfect line that you want, but when you do, it’s more satisfying than any amount of blood or headshots can bring. It’s exhilarating.

New San Vanelona has really changed and matured into a skating haven. Each locale, from the Rez, to Couger Mountain, Downtown, Old Town, and the Waterfront each have their own unique style. As you may remember, the Rez was the perfect place to hit up for some speed. Couger Mountain is the new spot for this, which then leads into the Rez for some awesome races. Old Town and Downtown resemble Vancouver very well, capturing the city’s urban feel and vibe. The Waterfront has been completely recrafted, feeling like a beautiful and bright plaza perfect for skating. The most fun you’ll have in Skate 2 is just skating around searching for the perfect place to hit up.

The ability to get off your board was oddly gone in the first game, but is now here in Skate 2. The controls suck, your skater is slow, and he turns like an old lady, but hey, it’s better than not being able to do it altogether. You can finally go up a set of stairs! Ah, the beauty of evolution. As seen in Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, you can now move objects around to create your own perfect line, and then upload that spot online for people to try out. There are some costs to this, however, and a few flaws. So that each object could be light enough for your skater to move around, simply bumping into them will move them, throwing off your potential skate video. It’s not a big problem, but it’s very unnecessary.

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Some new game modes made their way into the equation, but Hall of Meat is the true hero of the day. You garner points for bails. Painful. This can honestly become an unhealthy addiction, as it can be played offline with 4 people, or online with 6 friends. There are some undeniably satisfying cliffs and walls to hit, so be on the lookout.

Jumping online reminds me of Burnout Paradise. Hitting the select button brings up the online menu, where you can then jump quickly into a freeskate session and setup your game there. It’s a breeze. Any game modes found in Skate 2 can be done online, with full headset support. There are freeskate challenges, like Burnout, such as 6 skaters on a rail simultaneously. With modes like SKATE, Hall of Meat, the ability to upload your own replays online, full stat collection, (and did I mention Hall of Meat), Skate 2’s online mode is fully robust and will keep you occupied with limitless possibilities.

The graphics engine has been booted up to 60 frames, and the lighting has been contrasted more, giving off a sunset glare most of the time. It’s a good looking game. The physics and animations, as always, are fantastic, and while some of the texture work could be better, the anti aliasing is great, and there is little blur. The camera remains unchanged, sometime getting in the way, but it maintains the rush of adrenaline that comes with going fast and hitting rail. The soundtrack is no slouch, with some really great tunes, and the pro skaters in the game are all voiced by the skaters themselves. It’s very authentic.

I must give my regards to EA Black Box. It’s because of them that Skate and Skate 2 have had this hillarious, light hearted, laid back personality to it. It’s a game about the fun. Hanging with buds online, playing a game of Hall of Meat. The funky soundtrack. The funny situations. Skate may live on, but I fear that the personality aspect and awesome vibe may go with Black Box. A moment of silence for an awesome developer.

Skate 2 isn’t a revolution, but it is a damn fine game. It’s the first must buy of 2009, because Black Box’s swansong project is as good as they come. It didn’t fix all of the series’ issues, as the camera problems remain. However, it’s a big upgrade to an amazing gameplay experience. Skate 2 is recommendable to anybody who doesn’t have a nasty hate for skateboarding.

Gameplay 8.8

Presentation 8.6

Value 8.6

Overall 8.8/10

Fallout 3 Review “Depressing and dark… in a good way.”

•December 4, 2008 • 13 Comments

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Fallout 3. It’s a lot of things. Ever since the game was announced to be in the hands and gentle care of Bethesda, plenty of hype has surrounded it. The game is set in a post apocalyptic era, where mankind is struggling to survive at every corner of the land. The United States (and likely the rest of the world) has been reduced to nothing but a few thousand people trying to do whatever it takes to live. In every last corner, death, disfigurement, and depression plague the area. It’s in this fine setting, that the game puts you in the shoes of a Vault 101 citizen. Vault 101 is a place of refuge, safe from the terrifying and dangerous outside world. It’s here, where one of the greatest adventures of all time begins.

Before the end of the earth began, Vault-Tec issued several vaults throughout the Washington DC area to be opened, allowing people to go there and start a new life, waiting out the horrors of the real world. For hundreds of years, the vault was the only way of life for people of Vault 101. While the other vaults opened up and let their people out into the wilderness, the dictator overseer kept his citizens safe. The tradition continued, up until your 19th birthday, when your father, the man who devoted a large portion of his life towards you, mysteriously disappeared. Apparently, you discover that he has left the vault, and so you go on a trek to track down the man who cared for you all those years, and find out why he left you in the first place.

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The story really begins to take shape from this fantastic opening. The second you step out of that vault, and get a glimpse of the wasteland and all its entirety, you realize just how devastated that the area has become. It’s here that the game places an objective on you: “Locate your father”. This really sums up the open-ended theme of Fallout 3. The story itself is extremely well done, with several different tones placed on top of it, lots of tough choices, unfortunate events, and quite an interesting cast of characters. It’s extremely well told, interesting, and has terrific pacing. The setting places the dominoes, but it’s everything in between that truly knocks them down into something incredible.

The people populating the wasteland are all varied and interesting. There are a lot of generic space fillers you’ll find in every settlement and town, with the name “Megaton Settler”, or “Rivet City Security Guard”, that you don’t have the option to speak to fully, but they still have some pretty helpful or friendly lines. It’s the characters that you can speak to (and there are hundreds of them) that truly set the bar, and create an incredibly deep and immersive RPG experience. Every person you can interact with either has some sort of issue that spawns into a deeper quest, has something that can benefit you, or is crucial to the story.

Fallout 3 has a Mass Effect like speech system that gives you the option to choose what you say to the people of the wasteland. These aren’t just for show, as certain words can make a character shun you, making access to a particular item or quest very difficult. On the flip side of that, if you say something nice, or something polite, or just aren’t a jackass, you’ll have access to a quest, or a special privilege. The Karma system is what weighs all of this down, and it basically brands your character as good or evil.

This system isn’t just window dressing, it’s much deeper and more important than that. Everytime you do something significantly nice such as giving a dying beggar a bottle of purified water, or generally speaking, choosing the good path instead of the evil path, your karma rating goes up. Again, if you decide to blow that beggar’s head off with a plasma rifle, your karma rating would go towards the other side of the spectrum. It’s mainly because of the consequences and rewards of karma (not to mention the sheer immersiveness and fantastic acting) that will have you pondering every decision before you make it, and will have you feeling either very good about yourself or very bad afterwards.

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Visually, Fallout 3 is a genuinely beautiful game, despite its attempt to depress the living hell out of everybody. That just adds to the believability of the game world. The draw distance is near flawless, with only a tad of pop in every now and then. The detailed environments, and the incredible art style really drive home the fact that despite its size, Fallout 3 manages to be a fantastic looking game, that is pretty enough to make stun you.

Animations are much improved from past Bethesda games, but still need a little work, and bugs do exist, but the game is polished enough that nothing becomes a distraction. The title runs smooth, and looks great.

I can’t fully describe how high of quality that the sound design is in Fallout 3. Not only does it sport a rather epic soundtrack that captures the rather epic nature of the game, but it’s the voice acting that raises the bar way above the competition. The number of well delivered lines of dialogue is unprecedented, and is simply astounding. Nearly every single line is delivered right on the money.

Fallout 3 has a really unique personality to it. The setting gives it a really dark tone and feel, but you can’t help but notice the game’s blatant yet under the counter style of humour. It’s clever and often unexpected. When you do see it, it’s never cheap, always well written, and never forced. It’s not just in the one liners, but it’s all over the world. Billboards always have a cheesy 1950’s style of advertising, and several of the locales feel the same way. Fallout 3 manages to be both serious, but light hearted all at once.

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Besides all of those previous goodies that I mentioned, I’m going to be extremely cliche here (which is something Fallout 3 never does) and say that we play games, for the gameplay. Luckily, Fallout 3 is a greatly crafted RPG that is both a refinement of the FPSRPG, and a revolution. The core gameplay seems like a shooter on the surface. You’re given a load of guns, and some pretty resilient enemies. You have the option to aim manually, and it seriously feels like a shooter, and you definitely can play the game that way, and it’s completely functional, and then some. However, it’s the sincerely revolutionary Vault-Tec Auto Targeting System (let’s just call it VATS) that is the coolest, funnest, and most awesome way to play the game.

Depending on your skill while using VATS, you can pause the game and take aim at an enemy, choose from one of their body parts (don’t get any ideas) such as their head, left and right arms, and their legs and torso. If your small guns rating is high, then your chance of actually hitting them is increased. It also depends on any obstructions in the way, your luck rating, and how far away from them that you are. This is controlled by your Action Points, which is a forever refilling meter. If you don’t have enough Action Points, you have to wait to use VATS again. It ensures that you switch between aiming manually, which also has to do with your ratings.

While VATS may seem boring, it certainly is anything but. This is due partially to the fact that it makes leveling up worth it, and that when you shoot an enemy’s head off, a shower of blood and guts goes everywhere, and if you happen to be lucky enough, all of their limbs shoot off. This is kind of like an awesome pinata of gore. It’s awesome.

Leveling up in Oblivion was a tad unpolished. The game felt like an RPG because of its blatant fantasy world full of dungeons and dragons (excuse me), but the level system was severely marred. The amount of attributes was extremely overwhelming, and you could get your guy good simply by sneaking into a wall. In addition to that, enemies leveled up with you, so any progress felt superficial as opposed to something like Final Fantasy, where training actually paid off.

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Where Oblivion fell extremely short, Fallout 3 does the standard RPG system, and yet expands on that. The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system gives you seven main attribute which max at 10. (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck). As a young child, you stumble upon a story book entitled, “You are Special”. The game lets you edit your stats here. The seven attributes really impact the way you play the game, ranging from your encounters with enemies, and citizens alike. Among that, the sub attributes are all up to you to edit as you play the game. Players earn experience for successfully sneaking past enemies, defeating enemies, completing quests, changing their karma rating ,etc. As such, Fallout 3 is an extremely deep and rewarding game experience.

Experienced shooter/RPG fans could find a minimum of 15 hours from the main quest of Fallout 3, however, there are several endings. On top of that, due to the RPG elements, the karma system, and other aspects that change the way each game is played, this is a title that demands replays. Bethesda never makes games without side quests, and Fallout 3 does not disappoint here. Hundreds of people out in the wasteland require your help, and many of these quests are all different from each other, they all have a different context, new opponents, and new corners of the land for you to explore. If you’re an appreciative player, you could easily find up to 60 or 70 hours on your first playthrough. I won’t spoil any details of what’s out in the wasteland, but I guarantee you you’ll want to witness it all, and take it in.

Fallout 3 is a lot of things. It’s beautiful, it’s dark, it’s depressing, it’s engrossing. The RPG elements are to die for, the world is extremely full and polished. There’s a lot to see and do in the wasteland, but most of all: it’s main quest is its strongest point. I always hate reviewing games this good. It’s impossible to explain the game’s complexity and greatness in a couple thousand words. The only thing that I can tell you is that no matter who you are, you should play Fallout 3. Not only is it one of the best games of the year, but it’s in fact one of the best games ever made. It takes elements from 28 Days Later, Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Oblivion. These are four of the greatest popular culture phenomenons of the decade. Now, be prepared to add a 5th to that list. This is not only a game, it’s an experience.

Resistance 2 Review

•November 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

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Two years ago, the Ps3’s top launch title from Insomniac Games, Resistance: Fall of Man introduced us to an alternate history. Mankind’s fate was on the line as the aggressive chimerans overtook all of Europe. The United Kingdom was on the verge of destruction as we looked to one hero. Two years later, that same hero returns. Nathan Hale is back. And Resistance 2 is really, really damn good.

The story picks up precisely where the last game left us, with Hale being taken by a group of soldiers in London. These soldiers are Sentinels, who share the same immunity to the Chimeran disease as Hale. The tale then shoots forward two years to the United States where the entire nation is trembling in the Chimeran wake. The story of course follows Lt. Hale, and his squad of soldiers as they defend their homeland, wreaking havok on looming skyships, in Downtown Chicago, and in your backyard.

The characters aren’t particularly engaging, aside from Hale, but the relationship he shares with a few of them is rather interesting. The lack of a narrator makes you pay attention to what’s happening during the game, trying to understand character motives, and seeing them struggle through their fights. It’s an extremely character driven tale, and it works. Throughout the 10 hour campaign, you discover just what Project Abraham is, how the disease in Hale develops, and a little bit more into why the Chimeran are attacking and how they originated. Maybe it’s not as deep or gripping as something like Halo, but when all is done, you’ll look back and appreciate the effort from the writers.

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The cornerstone of Resistance’s gameplay was its unique weapons. In Resistance 2, this remains intact. Fan favorites such as the Carbine and the Fareye make their return with new looks and a few improvements. New killing machines include the Splicer which is a saw shooting, limb tearer. The Marksman rifle is basically a rip off of the battle rifle from Halo, but I’m not complaining. You can only carry two guns at once, but the game does a fantastic job of allowing you access to most guns at the right situations. This ends up being a good thing, as ammunition becomes more of an issue at times, increasing the intensity of the gigantic fights.

And what epic battles these are. Often, there are dozens of allies and enemies on screen at once, and at times it can be a little overwhelming. The first Resistance rarely had these instances, often throwing you into a dark corridor and throwing six or seven enemies at you. This time around, it’s rare to find those moments. Nearly every single fight involves you with twenty other Sentinel soldiers, not to mention your own squad. The battles take place over massive landscapes, with several enemy types at once, constantly swarming you with something to deal with. And the wars vary and feel different every time, with the help of some great AI.

The game does a good job of getting a lot done in only 10 hours. You’ll be trekking through the forest in North California with a shotgun and four other soldiers, only to have them all killed off and pit you against one seemingly indestructible enemy. In Downtown Chicago, the large battle on the bridge there is the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced in a videogame this year. It was at that moment that I knew Resistance 2 was more than something special.

The levels themselves are vast, while keeping a fairly linear feel. It’s impossible to get lost, even at those moments where you are lacking an objectives arrow. They’re all beautifully detailed, from the sunset lit buildings of flooded Chicago, to the bay of San Francisco. There are still the occasional set of invisible walls, but this is still a world drooping with ambiance and a sense of genocidal warfare.

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The Chimera themselves have seen upgrades from the first game. There are many more types, as opposed to the hybrids. The grim are basically zombies that swarm you in the hundreds, at high speeds. There are a few instances during the game that they will attack you scriptedly, and you need to blast them with all you have to get through the storm. Reapers make their return, as do the damage soaking Auger carriers. The game throws several Titans at you at a time, which are huge cannon wielding creatures that often require some kind of explosives to take down. Drones that make patrols will shoot bullseye fire at you. Each enemy type has a best way to be taken down, the fun is figuring that out and executing on that.

The bosses in Resistance 2 are the star of the show. Each of them are absolutely gigantic, they all look hideous, and what’s more impressive, none of them have a weakness. You’re just thrown in with them, and are told to take them down. It’s unique that despite the size of these bosses, it’s up to you to take them down, not up to the game telling you how to.

And that’s just the single player campaign.

Insomniac has somehow been able to create a multiplayer game that fits 60 players without any significant glitches, server issues or framerate hitches. There are several maps from San Francisco, Orick, and other locations from the single player campaign, with several variations meant for the number of players in a match. There are a few different game modes, the regular Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, Core Control which is essentially capture the flag, and Skirmish Mode which splits the teams up into squads and gives them an everlong list of objectives. The teams always need to communicate with each other and take a very tactical approach, while still keeping it fast paced to win the match.

There are berserks, which are special skills available for the players to use. These can be things like the ability to see other players (including enemies) on radar, taking less damage, or dealing more damage. They’re similar to perks in CoD4, but they can only be used once the berserk meter is full, and they only last for a period of time.

Multiplayer is frantic, no matter the game mode. Every weapon is available to you to use, so you need to figure out your own play style and adjust to it, because playing online is a matter of points and experience, not kills to deaths ratio. The style of game Resistance 2 is, means that you will die a lot, because it’s so intensely fast paced and hectic, but when you do succeed it’s incredibly satisfying. The guns all feel great to use, and if you can get used to the way the game plays, the multiplayer in Resistance 2 is deep enough to have you coming back for more for it will consume your life. It’s not haphazardly slapped together. This is the real deal multiplayer with the rewards, the game modes, and the fun.

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Aside from playing the main campaign split screen with a buddy, there is a fully fleshed out coop mode that supports up to eight players. This doesn’t follow the story from the single player campaign, instead following its own missions. The enemy AI here scales depending on the number of the players and their skill. That means that if four players enter a match, all of them playing their first match, enemies will be a little bit slower, there will be less of them, and they will take more damage. However, if eight highly skilled players in the same clan enter a match, there will be several enemies, they will be tougher to take down, and objectives will be further away. It’s a very dynamic approach and it’s a revolution in the coop genre.

Instead of letting players go into coop matches with their own loadout of weapons, Resistance 2’s coop mode has three classes: Spec Ops, which gives the players a Marksman Rifle, and the ability to give out ammo. Medics have a gun (which is only available here) that sucks the life out of enemies, and then the player can shoot the health to other members of their party. Lastly, Soldiers have a chaingun, a shield, and can soak up the most damage. The three balance each other out, because players need to work together to get through these missions. The only way to heal is through a medic, and the only way to get ammo is from a spec ops. Without Soldiers, the Chimera would advance on the party destroying the mission.

Visually, Resistance 2 does not disappoint. The graphics are extremely sharp and vibrant, and the art style is unlike anything seen outside the series. Textures are detailed magnificently, lighting is excellent, and the game runs at a steady clip. For a game of this size to look as good as it does is amazing, and undoubtedly Resistance 2 is the one of the best looking shooters out there. Every sound effect was done greatly, with some excellent music to boot. The presentation in Resistance 2 screams polish.

Resistance 2 is the kind of game that you will appreciate the most the more time you spend with it. Initially, it seems like just a well put together shooter, but it becomes apparent that it’s much more than that. Resistance 2 is the essential game you need for your Playstation 3 this holiday season. If you enjoyed the first game, there’s no doubt you should buy Resistance 2. If you’re into great first person shooters, then you’re in for a treat. This is the most fun I’ve had in a game in a very long time. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you will be blown away at least once during the campaign, and several times in the other modes. That’s the sign of excellence. When you see something on screen and just think to yourself “Wow.”

For Radio USA, this is Henry Stillman.

Dead Space Review – Help isn’t coming

•October 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Dead Space is being called a “survival” horror game by the game’s developer, EA Redwood Shores (The Simpsons Game). Dino Crisis, Resident Evil, Silent Hill 2. Examples of survival horror at its finest. There is nothing like being given only a handful of bullets and a seemingly unstoppable enemy. That’s what makes these games “survival” horror games. Now, western developers always throw you in with hundreds of pushover enemies, and an RPG with unlimited ammo. Yes, there is a big difference between old school horror games and the new breed of action games with a horror theme thrown in. After spending sme time with Dead Space, I’m shocked at how close Dead Space resembles those old school classics. It is a terrifying experience that you won’t want to put down.

Dead Space follows the story of a small crew dispatched to fix the communications dish on the USG Ishimura, a mining vessel currently drilling a tiny planet. Upon arrival via a fairly hectic crash sequence (which in turn destroys your way off of the godforsaken ship), the several of you realize that something horrific has occured here. You play as Isaac Clarke, the engineer, the one designated to fix the communications dish. However, once you’ve been separated from the group, it quickly turns into a fight for survival. Staying in touch with the remainder of your crew, your new mission is to get the hell off the ship, while discovering what the hell happened to the ship altogether.

The pacing of the story is rather weak. The game starts off extremely fast paced, with all of these terrifying things happening around you, but the middle part of the game involves minimal story advancement. Luckily, when the story comes back to form, you’ll appreciate it much more, and the game ends with a bang.

The acting is fairly hit or miss. Redwood Shores took the Gordon Freeman approach for their protagonist, as he does have a face that you see about twice through the game, but you’d be hard pressed to hear him speak. A few of the other characters in the game have fantastic voice acting, but the animations they follow through with are pretty stiff. The overall story is an interesting one, one that will have you on the edge of your seat. It’s terrifying, it’s creepy, and it’s deep. It’s just the way that it’s presented that holds it back.

Now Dead Space can be called a third person shooter, but if that’s all it was, it would be a poor game. The shooting in Dead Space isn’t bad by any means, but it doesn’t have any flow to it. It feels very clunky. The weapons that you have control of as Isaac aren’t exactly guns. This is in the future, in space, on a mining vessel. That means the weapons you find or purchase throughout the game are highly unconventional. There’s such weapons like saws, or plasma shooters, and yes, even a flamethrower. The guns all have alternate fire methods, as well. None of them are in particular great, but they get the job done when you need to kill something.

In order to efficiently kill an enemy, you need to cut off their limbs. Simply aiming at their chest and blasting away won’t do much damage to them. It’s a different approach to the shooter genre, and it’s appreciated. The shooting action in Dead Space is by no means bad. It’s different, it’s unique, and it’s cool. It just feels a little bit bare boned. None of the weapons are fun to use, and the action can get very repetitive. The inability to change shoulders when aiming is a shame. Because of Isaac’s fatass helmet, you can’t see to your left when aiming, creating a blind spot. This seems like a bad design choice. With games like Uncharted and Rainbow Six Vegas 2, both with the ability to aim using both sides, no TPS should be without some sort of swtich system.

The fact that this resembles old school horror games, means that there are a lot of fetch quests. It starts off annoying, having to go here and get these, so you can go there and get this. It doesn’t stop being annoying, but if it weren’t for these sections, the game would take place in the same room.

The exploration and puzzles make up for the lackluster action. Some of the puzzles involve you using stasis, which allows you to slow down an object. This can be used to slow down your enemies as well, making them easier to kill, or allowing you to sneak by them. There’s also kinesis, which basically is the force grip in Star Wars: TFU. It’s ripped right out of its books. It works like you’d think, just not on live enemies.

Because this is a game set in space, it wouldn’t be complete without zero gravity sections. Isaac’s grav boots allow you to cling to any surface, so you can be on the ceiling blasting away at arms and legs. These are some of the more difficult sections in the game, because your sense of awareness is dampened when you don’t know whether you’re upside down or right side up.

The gameplay in Dead Space is a bit of a mixed bag. using kinesis is a blast, and games with zero gravity are always fun, but the slopped together shooting mechanics don’t leave much of an impression on you. Despite its shortcomings, it’s still a pretty fun game, it’s just that anybody expecting a run n gun space fest will be disappointed.

This game scares me half to death. Everytime I walked down a corridor, I’d expect something to jump out at me. Although this only happens about 3 times throughout the game, I still expected it. That’s a good sign of an immersively scary world. The enemy designs are all hideous, and you won’t want to fight them. You will want to run. Simply the act of fighting them is somewhat terrifying. The aura of the ship and the atmosphere are all noteworthy. This is the first true horror game on the Ps3 or Xbox 360. It’s about 4 times as creepy as F.E.A.R. There’s something to be said about finding an audio recording of the Ishimura’s crew being ripped to shreds. It’s just naturally terrifying.

The fact that there is no HUD keeps you immersed in the experience. Your health bar is represented by a neon tube built into Isaac’s suit. All inventory menus, maps, and objectives lists are all represented in front of Isaac as a hologram. Going into your small inventory and picking out an air can doesn’t pause the game, keeping you looking over your shoulder for bad news. It’s great, and puts you in the game world. As more and more games start to do this, it’s noteworthy to remember that Dead Space is the game that started this phenomenon. In 15 years, we’ll be saying that. At least I will be.

There are light RPG elements to upgrading your suit and equipment. Throughout the ship you’ll find power nodes, which can be used to unlock doors, but are mainly used as upgrade powerups. Much like the spere grid in Final Fantasy X, or the upgrade chart in Ratchet and Clank Future, the upgrade system in Dead Space is set up like a branching chart. You can upgrade everything form weapons accuracy, to your maximum health. Each node is one spot to move on the chart. This is so deep, that it literally requires 3 or 4 playthroughs to max out all of your stuff.

Dead Space is the type of game you’ll hate to play. Not because it is a bad game, it’s the opposite of that. You’ll hate to play it because you’ll be so terrified. This is actually a scary game with a complex story, tons of gore, and lots of creepy aura. You won’t recognize this at first, but when you find yourself running away from enemies, having trouble sleeping, or practically crapping yourself, you’ll know that Dead Space is a special game. Nobody can help you now.

Madden NFL 09 Review – It’s not Madden NFL 08.

•August 14, 2008 • 2 Comments

Madden NFL 09

Electronic Arts, Tiburon

Ps3, Xbox 360

Madden NFL is one of the biggest franchises in video gaming today. It’s one of those rare series that constantly has to clear the bar that it previously set for itself, receiving a bunch of hype that it’s expected to live up to. Madden 08 didn’t. It was a wreck in just about every way that I looked at it. This is the 20th edition of Madden, so Tiburon wanted to make a big deal of it, adding lots of new features, improving previously broken gameplay mechanics, and fixing any nagging flaws that were at large. Now that it’s here, I am absolutely blown away by Madden 09. It returns the series to the highest pedestal, becoming the first true next generation sports game. It’s got immensely impressive graphics, and a killer soundtrack along with authentic voice recording. The gameplay has been smoothed out with a great working animation system. On top of all of that, Madden 09 is one of the only sports games to have enough to do to last until the season is over. Stop reading the review now, and go and pick it up, football fan or not. For those of you that need the details, I’m obliged as a reviewer to get into it’s depth and complexity. So, I’ll get on it.

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Graphics

Madden 09 is a great looking game. This is without exceptions that it’s a sports game. As a game in general, it looks excellent. Everything just looks great. The stadiums aren’t quite as jaggy as we’ve seen them in the past. They are detailed well, and look about as real as you’d expect them to. When compared to their real life counterparts, they match up quite well. Player models are the real star of the show. They all move fluidly with little to no odd transition animations. Players’ faces have all been scanned well, and they look great. When you go into replay mode, and you pause on Eli Manning’s face, you can actually tell that you are looking at Eli Manning. It’s incredible and adds to the authenticity of the title. The grass on the field is no longer just painted on, there’s much more detail put into the fields. When it rains, the mud really shows, as it gets on players’ jerseys and makes them slip. When mud gets on a player, it’s not scripted, it’s all dynamic, meaning that if running back gets flipped and hits his head on the ground , the exact part of his helmet that hit will be dirty.

It’s all the little things that make Madden look great. Players jerseys ripple realistically when they move. They actually move a little in their stances, making them seem less like robots. After plays, nobody simply turns around and goes into the huddle. Players will bend down to catch some air, others will jog over to a teammate and help him up, or get into verbal fights with opponents. Great. Just incredible.

On the opposite side, it’s also the little things that make Madden not look so hot at times. Two problems that have always annoyed me are still looming. Although sidelines are improved, they still aren’t perfect. usually asking for perfect is impossible, but after 20 years, I’d expect EA to finally put as much detail to the players on the sidelines as they do into what goes on the field. Finally, when the ball comes out of a QB’s hand, it looks great in game, but when replayed in a slower frame, the ball actually clips through his hand or shoulder, and warps out of his hand. Eww. However, it’s what’s in gameplay that counts, and Madden 09 looks incredible, on either the 360 or Ps3. It runs at 60, has a ton of detail, and it virtually glitchless.

Madden 09 LOOKS next gen

Sound

We’ve had to suffer through that retarded radio announcer the last few years. He was often inaccurate with what he was saying, along with being slow worded and having an annoying voice spoken at a low volume. Now, he is dead. YAY! In his place, are Chris Collinsworth from NFL Network, Tom Hammond and John Madden. All three of them do a great job. They have actual conversations with each other, and the recorded voices are lengthy with tons of word variations thrown in, and although you’ll often hear the same lines over and over, it’s not as painful as it used to be. They’ve done a good job, and you’ll appreciate it if you’ve ever played Madden 07 or 08.

On the field, sound effects are crushing. Players’ pads hitting each other, the grunts of struggle are strong, the huffing and puffing of out of breath recievers, and the booming cheers of the crowds are great. Trash talk is heavier than ever, and it’s all very realistic, immersive, and funny. The players are depicted as their stylish, rich selves, and it’s really good.

This year’s soundtrack is the best of this generation. There is a variety of different beats, spanning a large range of genres. Everybody will find at least 5 songs that they love. The new theme song orchestrated just for the 20th edition is great, deep and meaningful. It’s no Madden 04, but the tunes here are great, especially Diamond Life by Tyga.

Overall, the sound quality in Madden 09 is rich. The soundtrack kicks ass, announcers aren’t cheesy, and sound effects are immensely realistic.

Expect some trash talking after this play

Gameplay

When you first start up Madden 09, you will be asked if you want to take the Madden Test. This is a series of exercises testing your ability. All the tests take place in a virtual training center, and the visuals at work here are genius. It’s sort of like Rez HD, but it’s Madden Football. You do a few plays passing, rushing, and defending, and you are assessed a Madden IQ. This effects the difficulty that you play on, making every single game a good challenge, that feels just about as realistic as possible. There will never be an unfair match against the computer AI. If your skill changes as you play, you can take the Madden Test whenever you want. The better your stats get, the higher your IQ gets, and vice versa. Every single time you play Madden, the AI adjusts to how good that you are. It’s not only a well working system, but it’s innovative as well.

This year, Madden plays much better. The animation system is no longer jumpy, and everything just looks and feels a lot smoother and organic. The controls seem a lot speedier and more responsive than they ever have been in the past, so the highlight stick whilst running works a lot better. The camera angles are further back, and more dynamic. The formula hasn’t been changed, it’s just been polished. Clipping is kept to a minimum, and the physics at work are brilliant. This helps everything stay realistic. Madden has never been more fun, responsive, and life like in it 20 year history.

Protect that QB

The amount of presnap audibles and adjustments that can be made is very high and flexible. Because of the use of every single button gives you the ability to almost create your own play. You can tell any receiver to do any route, and how long it should be, you can change your formation, tell blockers where to block, and ever create a fake handoff. So, if you don’t like the lineup the defense has, you can change it.

If ever you make a mistake, such as an interception, or allow a sack, Chris Collinsworth and EA BackTrack will help you out. This is an epic slideshow and clipshow after the play, and Collinsworth believably explains to you where a reciever was open, he shows you the opposing team’s play chosen, and he tells you where you went wrong. It’s really authentic, and it feels just like an NFL Network telecast.

The EA Rewind is something that you can set at the beginning of a match, and this is something that lets you redo any play over again. Against another person, it can be a nuisance, say they return a kick, and you choose to rewind that, they would be upset. However, against the AI, it can become something that you come to rely on, if you’re ever cheaped out by the AI, or if you see something that would’ve worked in EA BackTrack.

Something that’s bothered me in Madden 07 and 08, is the slow moving menus and rosters. That has been completely fixed in 09. It seems like such an obvious thing to have, smooth running menus, but even the menus were messed up in previous iterations. What a long way that Tiburon has come. You need to make mistakes to learn, so throw an interception, and watch EA BackTrack. In Tiburon’s case, it’s make slow moving menus, and face the complaints of critics.

Franchise mode hasn’t seen any adjustments to its interface, and the way that it’s setup, but if you choose to actually play your games, then you’ll see the enhancements. It’s to the gameplay, not to the actual franchise. Franchise is still a blast, that will take up a lot of your time. It’s still not perfect, as proper practice is still missing, along with Training Camp. Scouting is still intact, and so is the offseason and player negotiations. You can take any of the 32 teams in the league, and act as the team GM. Ownership and business is kept to a minimum. This mode is all about personnel control, and it’s really fun, it’s just getting a little old.

You can take any Franchise online with up to 31 others. This seemed like a great idea, but the execution just falls short of greatness. Online Franchise seems really dumbed down. There has to be 32 players for the franchise to work, as no AI assisted teams are there. The draft feels a little dull, as you can’t scout properly, and you can’t even select, it’s all automatic.

However, there isn’t any lag online, everything always runs at 60 frames, and the controls are still responsive. Just playing a match online against another is what’s been best about Madden online, and that hasn’t changed.

Superstar mode also hasn’t seen too many changes, other than the fact that menu music plays during practice. This is such a small new feature, but I appreciate it a lot. There’s nothing like some good music to help boring SuperStar practices come alive. In SuperStar mode, you take the career of a rookie in the NFL, or you can generate your own. You play through their NFL career, make different negotiations with teams, become an idol, or a free agent forever. You can sim when you aren’t on the field, or you can watch your teammates play it out. The camera angle is changed to focus on your own player, and it’s a nice effect. Superstar mode is a ton of fun, but it could use a facelift. If we could only take our studs online.

Nothing is better than blizzard games. Nothing.

Value

Online leaderboards, Madden IQs, Franchise mode, and Superstar mode will take your time. And, this year’s game is so much damn fun, that it will undoubtedly last you until next year’s game.

Final Verdict

Madden NFL 09 is an incredible game. It has so much polish, and so many new features, that it raises a few eyebrows. Great visuals, incredible sound design, and smooth gameplay make this the best Madden game this generation, and one of the best sports titles of the year. Get this if you are even remotely into football. If you aren’t into football, you are probably a communist. Buy. This. Game. Right. Now. Mother.