Review Roundup: L4D, Skate 2, and much more

Game Review Roundup

If there’s one thing this holiday season proved, it’s that even a recession can’t stop gamers hunger for new ways to play. Here we present (with some help from Seth) a roundup of reviews of games that may have fallen through the cracks, especially during these last two months’ non-stop flow of games.

Guitar Hero World Tour

PS3/Xbox360/Wii

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

Hmmm, this seems oddly familiar… I can’t quite place it… Almost like I’ve played this before… Yes, this game bears more than a passing similarity with its chief competitor, Rock Band, though there are some new things infused. The drum set is bigger and has cymbals now, which is both fun and gives a slightly more realistic experience for wannabe-drummers. There is a song creation mode that allows users to make their own tunes and upload them for play by friends and strangers alike. This is interesting and can be fun with a bit of dedication, but casual gamers won’t really get into it. Song selection is decent and pretty varied, but shares a lot of songs with Rock Band 2; with the year head start on DLC that RB has, though, Guitar Hero has some massive catching up to do. The vocals are insanely difficult; while a decent singer who knows the songs can consistently score in the low nineties, you pretty much can’t get 100% and actually sing the words; for a perfect you have to just sing “ah” constantly at the right pitches. Aside from these small issues, the game is a lot of fun, works great for parties, and keeps a familiar formula strong and fun. Your RB set of instruments will work fine with GHWT on both systems, and vice versa on 360. Unfortunately, the drums from GHWT won’t work on RB1 or 2 on the PS3, something the blame has been passed around for and will hopefully be fixed soon. Still, this is a great party game, and even pretty fun to play on your own.

The grip and pick stylus with the DS

Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades

Nintendo DS

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

Do you love Guitar Hero so much you have trouble pulling yourself away from it? Wish you could just take it with you on the go? Well, that’s what the On Tour series for the Nintendo DS is for. The games (this is the second of the series) come with a guitar grip that plugs into the GBA slot on the DS and DS Lite. Bear that in mind if you plan on getting a DSi when it comes to your country, as the DSi does not have a GBA port any longer. At any rate, if you’ve played any Guitar Hero this will be pretty familiar to you. In this case, you strum on the touch screen with the included guitar pick stylus while pressing the combinations of four buttons on the included grip. This is a great facsimile of the GH experience for when you’re on the go, or if you just don’t want to get out of bed to play. The set list has 28 songs, 10 from the early 2000s and last couple of years, 5 from each of the last 3 decades, plus 3 unlockable extras. Queen, R.E.M., Linkin Park, Journey, and many more are represented in a surprisingly diverse catalog. This is really the perfect traveling experience of GH and worth the buy for any rhythm game fanatic.

Need for Speed Underground

PS3/Xbox360

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

So, I put in the latest Need For Speed, having not played one…zzzzzzzz… Whoops, sorry about that. I started playing the game after a very pretty opening cinematic and got into my first Nissan…zzzzzzzz… OK, flat out, this is the most boring driving game I have played in years. There is a notable lack of sense of speed for a game with the word in the title. The courses were unexciting, there was far too much emphasis on “story” for a racing game, and the controls were perhaps a bit too realistic for my taste. I literally dozed off, not while watching one of the cinematics, but while playing the game. When the absolutely stellar Burnout Paradise, delivered also from EA, is out there at a now discount price of $19.99 with tons of free DLC, there just doesn’t seem to be a reason to play this game, unless you need a good nap.

Tomb Raider Underworld

PS3/Xbox360/PC

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

Well, I can definitely say this was a pleasant surprise. This game plays and feels like a “best of” the previous installments in the franchise. Now, the series is not as dominant in the Adventure/Exploration genre as it once was, thanks to contenders like the Prince of Persia series and the PS3 exclusive Uncharted games. However, this is easily one of Lara’s best adventures since the very beginning. A large portion of the game takes place in caves and water locales, beautifully rendered, especially in HD. Honestly, the sightseeing is almost reason enough to play this game if you have even a passing interest in adventure games. The controls still aren’t perfect, but they’re in good enough shape to get through the game without getting frustrated (likewise with the camera). This is a very fun adventure game, with great ambience and an emphasis on exploration. If you’ve liked any of Lara’s previous journeys, you should love this one.

FarCry 2

Grindin' The rails in Skate 2

Skate 2

PS3/Xbox360

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

This is a more recent game, having just come out this month. The first Skate brought interesting and tight controls, a fun career mode, and some great skating environments to a gaming community that was finding the Tony Hawk franchise a little stale. This game builds upon that, without making too many changes, which was probably the right move for this young franchise.

The two-thumbstick controls are very easy to get used to, and a handy tutorial takes you through all the basics quite nicely. The publicity and rep-based missions are fun, and they’re open enough that if you just want to go skate around the city you can. There are security guards that hassle you sometimes, but pulling off a sweet trick right in front of one then skating away is a nice thrill. Now, I’m prone to mess up and have some pretty serious wipeouts when playing these skating games, and this one actually rewards me for it. When you have a nice, massive, epic FAIL, you get entered into the “Hall of Meat,” and are rewarded for how badly hurt you are. This can become dangerously addictive, as you start looking for ever-higher spots to jump off of, flipping a little too short and crunch. It’s a nice touch, and saves you from getting frustrated during the learning phases.

You can also hop off your board and run to that better rail or higher ledge now. You can even move just about anything that isn’t nailed down to get extra lift or string together your combos for some extra bonus. This makes the entire city skate-able. Add in an extremely detailed character creation system, a great skate park creation system, and solid jump-in/jump-out online play, and you’ve got about as good of a skating game as you can make. This is a true crossover skating game, as it will be fun for both fans of skateboarding and those who would never hop on one of these little four-wheeled death machines. Skate 2 is a ton of fun, and helps cement the series’ position in the lead, waiting on the top of the mountain for the next Tony Hawk.

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