We're here with a hefty Game Review Roundup, and a strange assortment of games. We have games that are just out this week, games that have been out for awhile, games that are bought in the store, and games that you download right to your console. So check out the reviews and see what's worth your money in this super-packed Fall season of games.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2
Reviewed on: PS3
I have had a personal renaissance with the Star Wars franchise in the last year. I finally dove head first into "The Clone Wars," I attended Star Wars Celebration V, and I even rewatched the second trilogy (Episode 3 is much better after a couple seasons of The Clone Wars, Episode 2 held up worse, but I digress). I enjoyed the first Force Unleashed. I played it through probably 3 or 4 times, plus the DLC. It was a fun game, with a really cool story, and a lot of flaws.
I went into the sequel having played the demo several times. The game starts you off at a much higher power level than the first did, allowing you to be over-the-top with your force abilities from the start. The big addition is of course the second lightsaber, which opens up combat a lot, especially with large groups of enemies. The only new force power is a doozy, and that's mindtrick. Players can now make stormtroopers fight each other, jump off high towers, and run into vaporizing force fields. It's incredibly fun, though it makes the game much easier, and sometimes maybe too easy. Camera issues are nearly non-existent, thank Yoda, since they plagued the first game. All in all, the gameplay here is better than the first by force-leaps and bounds.
So how about one of the best parts of the first game, the story? Well, this one is naturally not going to add up quite as well. There are clones, which is always a strong start… Well, there are some very cool individual moments to this story. The pace is fantastic, as the game never feels like it slows down; however, that rubs the 5 and a half or so hour campaign in your face a bit. One of the highlights of the first game was its weight on the overall Star Wars mythos. This one has one big point to it, but otherwise doesn't hold that strength. The amazing relationships built up in the first game are nearly ignored here. Allegedly, those relationships are the core of this story, but I never felt it, and that's a shame. The other major problem is, this was only half a story, with the clear other half being held for a third game. While I'm glad to play more of these game mechanics, it's difficult to handle in this one. There are, however, some unbelievably well-produced cutscenes; they're more professionally done than a lot of Hollywood CGI sequences, and a couple of them hold some truly "HELL YES" moments for franchise fans. The in-game graphics are spectacular as well, really lighting up a hi-def tv.
Star Wars fans have to buy this game, it's that simple. Every game in the world would be better with dual lightsabers. Every game. Madden? Think what Julius Peppers could do with dual lightsabers. It's incredibly satisfying to mindtrick 6 troopers, then throw both lightsabers, decapitating them all. The story was way more enjoyable while playing than it is when thinking back on it. This is still definitely a game that Star Wars fans will want to play over and over again. The average gamer will probably enjoy it, too, but experienced action gamers need to start off on "hard" difficulty immediately.
I really enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. It fixed nearly every problem I had with the first one. Unfortunately, some new ones in the story and an incredibly short campaign took their place, preventing this from being the masterpiece it should have been.
From: Lionhead Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox 360 (Exclusive)
This game had one of the most boring introductions I've ever experienced. With over 1.5 hours of "intro," Fable 3 almost made me quit before it really began. Lucky for me, I didn't.
This isn't an RPG in the sense of some of the epics that've been released in the last few years. It doesn't match what most people think of when they hear that category, either. There is some leveling, and slight management of your weapons and spells, but the most role-playing element to it is more in the relationships and building of your reputation.
Overall, this game made me feel like I was playing an old Quest for Glory adventure game, and that's high praise. I absolutely loved those games as a kid, throwing countless hours into making my character the best hero he could be. While this game's journey is ultimately about becoming the best king you can, the hero is the part you spend hours with, and the part you want to spend hours with.
The combat is done with a spectacular mix of melee, magic, and gunplay. There isn't a ton of management that needs to be done with your weapons, and if you'd like, you can just play with the same two through the whole game with no real problem. Each combat form can be used nearly alone or all together. You also have your trusty dog, who can be taught to "more effectively tear the throats of your enemies."
Overall, this is a grinder's game, but in a strange way. You're not directly grinding for experience points or farming gold. Instead, you're grinding for relationships, trying to build the largest army possible before taking the fight to your brother the King. Along the way, you forge friendships, buy businesses and homes, get married (more than once if you're daring), have kids, and explore the world. It's an incredibly addictive sequence of events, and hours can pass with little story progression as you try to just get that slightly bigger house.
As for the story itself, it's fairly simplistic and won't likely be eliciting major emotions from you, but it is a classic hero's journey, and that's enough here. It's more about the mix of gameplay and just enough story to keep that going.
Having never played the first two Fable games, this was a really pleasant surprise. Get through that first couple hours, and you will be pleasantly surprised, too.
Sonic 4 Episode 1
Reviewed on: PS3
This IS your daddy's Sonic, nearly literally. Sonic the Hedgehog runs fast, hops and bops, and all in a 100% 2D world. The game starts off really easy, has a huge jump up in difficulty really quickly, and has more rings strewn throughout the levels than you can count. Even the bonus levels are the same old-school turn-and-roll of the past. It's high-speed, it's deathly frustrating platforming, it's spinning through a third of the level thanks to one trusty spring. This is Sonic The Hedgehog, the real deal, for the first time since the Sega Genesis. Keep it coming, SEGA. Here's to Sonic 4 Episode 20.
Sengoku BASARA: Samurai Heroes
Reviewed on: PS3
This is balls-to-the-wall action. While most out here in the Western hemisphere haven't heard of this franchise, it's actually older than the one it will inevitably be compared to, Dynasty Warriors. This game gives you control of one of several wildly editorialized Japanese historical figures, and has you fight hundreds upon hundreds of enemies on your way to one major boss battle. There are ridiculous taglines, terrible jokes, insanely explosive special moves, tons of weapon/move/assist customization, two thousand hit combos (seriously), and about 200 hours of story to play through here, if you want to take every character through every path. This is the best of the "mindless fun" games that I've ever played. It's amusing, it's ridiculous, it's fun to look at, listen to, and play in pretty much every way. For the days when you've been playing those heavy-thinking RPGs too long or you come home from a particularly taxing day of work and just want to punch or slash some generic looking foes into submission, Sengoku BASARA: Samurai Heroes is the absolute best option on the shelves.
Batman The Brave and the Bold
Reviewed on: Wii (home console exclusive)
OUTRAGEOUS! Can a media property ever again be so well translated into a video game? How did they do it? Well, they got the writers and voice actors from the TV show, the animation style and short + long story format, threw classic side-scrolling beat-em-up gameplay on top of it, and made it all co-op. Sitting down and playing this game with a friend is the way to go, as laughing along with the game is half the fun. Fans of all ages will appreciate the cameos by "call-in" characters who fill the screen with a one-liner and insane attack, while Bat-fans have gadgets galore to play with and upgrade. And come on, you can drop green energy anvils and pianos on bad guys' heads! If you have a newer DS & the DS copy of the game, you can also bring Batmite into the mix for a third player to help (or hinder) the other two in their fight. This is likely the best all-ages game out right now, and is easily one of the top reasons to own a Nintendo Wii.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Reviewed on: PS3
It's an ambitious notion to try to essentially make four linear Spider-Man games instead of one big open world one. It's a shame that the first thing that comes to mind when comparing this to the last installment is, "Well, this didn't freeze on me 13 times, so that's automatically a win, right?" And it's true, this is a technically well-made game. It also has a great story by comic writer Dan Slott, that bridges four worlds (plus a little cameo sequence by some others) and four (mostly) unique Spider-Mans into one cohesive unit fighting one combined threat. The combat all works the way it's supposed to, and has some real variety to it. The speed of 2099 stands out from other worlds, while the stealth of Noir is a new way to play as the webslinger. The story is linear; it is so linear that most levels are essentially one long chase scene. Spider-Man chases his foe for the level, beats him up, moves to a different world, repeat ad nauseum. The only real problem here was the inclusion of the Ultimate universe. The main thing that makes the Ultimate universe work so well in the comics is the relationships young Peter Parker has with other folks, young and old, from across Marvel's history. Unfortunately, without that strong backbone, the Ultimate U comes off as a flat, less flashy (yes, even with the symbiote) rip-off of the "Amazing" universe. Each time I had to go back to the Ultimate U it felt like the pace was ground down, and they had to use cheap tricks like the rage mode to keep it moving. That isn't to say 1/4 of the game spoils the whole thing; it doesn't. But it does take it from great to good. Overall, Activision made a lot of new and right moves with their latest Spidey adventure, but still has work to do to prove that he should exist as a marquee video game character.Have you played any of these? What did YOU think?