PS3-Exclusive Review Roundup: HEAVY RAIN, MAG, RATCHET

PS3 Review Roundup: HEAVY RAIN, More

We're on the cusp of God of War 3, probably the most anticipated PS3 release yet, releasing. Before that, though, you should know: there are other PS3 exclusives! In fact, 3 such exclusives have been released in just the past few months. Here, we'll take a look at these and let you know why you should be playing your PS3 more, besides that dude Kratos.

Heavy Rain

From: Quantic Dream, Sony Computer Entertainment

Reviewed On: PS3 (Exclusive)

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

Heavy Rain, when I saw it at E3 last year, intrigued me. So much, in fact, that I gave it PS3 Exclusive of the Show, over God of War 3. After playing the full game, it's nice to know I wasn't wrong.

This game is most easily described as everything that I imagine the teams at Sierra and LucasArts wanted to do when they were making their point-and-click adventure games, but couldn't. It's the true successor to those games, bringing in tons of interaction with environment, objects, and other characters, and essentially allowing the game to live inside the lives of 4 individuals. For those unfamiliar with these games of old that I mention, the basics of control are for you to explore an area, examine objects, look for clues, and piece together the story as you do it.

With the modern console, of course, the technology is there to take things much further. The immersion is almost total; with gorgeous graphics, a compelling soundtrack, and smaller things, like being able to hear what your character is thinking at the touch of a button. The controls are an interesting mix of button presses, motion, and directional inputs on the thumbsticks. It takes some getting used to, and some gamers may find it altogether too frustrating initially to move much further. However, it does help along the immersion at most points. Some of the quicktime events (press X, press Square, etc) go on for a bit too long, and are too complicated, preventing you from actually experiencing the action sequences.

The story itself is undoubtedly compelling. Depending on how your four controllable characters fair, there are a huge combination of endings to it all. Some make more sense than others, but the different possibilities do help to increase replayability. It's at times a gritty noir, at others a living nightmare, and others still a slightly science-fiction induced detective story.

Heavy Rain should practically be a mandatory play for current gamers. It's so refreshing to see a developer try something truly unique while playing with some of the same well-established toys of yesteryear.

MAG

From: Zipper Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment of America

Reviewed On: PS3 (Exclusive)

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

While Heavy Rain experimented with what a single player game could accomplish, MAG goes in the exact opposite direction, instead asking what 128 players can do against 128 enemies.

This online-only game is at heart a first person shooter in the vein of many current games. Those familiar with the basic gameplay of other war games will be able to jump in, snipe, grenade, and otherwise kill their peers in no time flat. Where it gets unique is in its structure. When you begin play, you're a member of an 8 person squad. That Squad has a leader, who can issue unique commands to his/her team. Above that is your Platoon, made up of 4 Squads. The Platoon leader, based off experience, can issue larger blanket orders across the squads, and call in more advanced attacks. Above that is your company, which gives the full 128 person team some continuity with each other.

The battlefields for the full-size battles are massive, and have a good variety of hills, valleys, buildings, and vehicles. In smaller battles, like the 64 player skirmishes, the smaller fields of play are noticeable and can actually wind up too small. There tend too often to be one or two main strategic points, and it's merely a foot race at the beginning of the match to see who can get there first. The graphics overall are great but won't offer a ton of wow moments, as those are left to the gameplay itself. While there were some technical glitches early on, with subsequent updates, the game has gotten smoother over the last 6 weeks or so since its release.

This is clearly a game for shooting game fans. It's not designed to bring others into the genre or to offer much, if any, story. The tactical leadership possibilities offer a lot of fun, provided you can get yourself up the ranks high enough to get into a leadership position. Unfortunately, there aren't really "beginner" servers, so you may want to hone your FPS skills elsewhere before jumping in. For advanced players, this is an incredibly fun and very well-structured take on multiplayer shooters. It shows that the technical stats are there for this kind of wide-scale battle to take place on current consoles, and offers up amazing possibilities for future games on these and future generations. FPS fans with a PS3 just plain need to be playing this game; I'll see you on the battlefield.

Ratchet and Clank: Future: A Crack In Time

From: Insomniac Games, Sony Computer Entertainment

Reviewed On: PS3 (Exclusive)

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

This final chapter in the Ratchet and Clank: Future story is an interesting mix of "more of the same" (in the best ways), surprising new gameplay that's very fun, and surprising new gameplay that's abysmally boring. Still, the good far outweighs the bad, and as long as you have the patience for those 10-20 minutes in every few hours of gameplay, you're in for a well-tuned machine.

Getting the bad out of the way (or at least the mixed), there's a large portion of this game where Ratchet and Clank are separated, as seen in the previous installment's ending. Clank's robotic adventures are that special mix. The time-shifting puzzles are excellent. Using a unique recording system, you can actually make simulacrums of yourself to do a task, allowing you to get to the next section, go through a previously-closed door, and so on. It's a great mini-game that really makes you think. Unfortunately, the combat sections with the miniscule motorized man are unbelievably repetitive and boring. That is, of course, until you get to the "zap time anomalies off of planets" mini-game, during which you'll wish the entire game was Clank combat.

Similarly, having Ratchet's abilities limited through a large portion of the game due to the absence of his pal is a little frustrating. The ridiculous weapons are fantastic, and level up much faster than in the last installment, making for more chaos early on. The space missions are also fun and a nice break from platforming. Add in some neat customization for both ground-based weapons and your spaceship, and you have a very well-rounded experience.

This game won't instantly devour you with a need to play more like previous R&Cs did, and that's mostly due to the jarringly dull Clank sections thrown into the middle of the story. That story is also a bit predictable, at least the very end scene shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that's seen any version of the Hero's Journey told in any medium. It's still a fun action-adventure game, and continues to set the bar in many ways for what platformers should be. The graphics and sound are the usual A+ quality, and while the signature humor is dialed down a bit in favor of more tension and heart-string-pulling, it definitely "feels" like a Ratchet and Clank game should throughout. If you're a fan of the series, or even of just ONE of the games in the past, this is well worth the play. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend it be the first R&C you play, after the experience, you won't want it to be the last, either.

Bonus Pellet Review!

God of War Collection (PS3, SCEA): If you're a longtime fan anxiously awaiting next week's release of the third installment, or if you've heard about the greatness of and never played the first two, you really have no excuse for not buying this. It's the first two games, with upscaled graphics and trophies to collect (some of which are quite easy, to pad your stats). A great way to spend the week, a great way to earn some trophies, a great way to get caught back up on Kratos's saga so far, it's that simple: great.

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