Back to the Future is about a young Michael J Fox accidentally going back in time to 1955 using a time-travelling DeLorean. While there, he threatens his own existence by altering history, and in trying to save himself gains a greater understanding of his parents, saves his friend Doc Brown from Libyan terrorists, and builds himself a better future. It still holds up today as a wonderfully written adventure film, filled with exciting set-pieces, funny dialogue and plenty of heart.
Near the start of this first chapter of the episodic Back to the Future: The Game, the DeLorean returns to Marty containing only Doc Brown’s dog Einstein, and a shoe. To find out what time period the car has come from, Marty Uses Shoe on Dog, and Einstein leads him to a little old lady’s house. Marty solves the mystery by having a chat, turning a radiator on, and hunting through some old newspapers.
It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Back to the Future is a great film filled with thrilling adventure. Telltale make adventure games. The word ‘adventure’ is right there in the genre name, but Back to the Future is perhaps the least adventurous game I’ve ever played. Over the course of an easy 90-minute borefest you prop open a door, make some barrels roll around, and solve multiple puzzles using a tape recorder.
It’s not Back to the Future in spirit or style. It’s the same formula Telltale have been peddling since their first Sam & Max series, dressed up in a red life-preserver.
If all you’re looking for is nostalgia, maybe that’s enough. The story follows a familiar formula: the DeLorean has appeared back in 1986 because the Doc is in trouble. He’s been missing for months, trapped in prohibition-era Hill Valley and accused of burning down a speakeasy belonging to Kid Tannen, another relative of the original movie’s villain, Biff. You travel to 1931 to rescue him.
Plot aside, there are plenty of winks and nods to the original films, as when the game intro lets you play a twist on the original film’s first time travel experiment. Or when the old lady you meet turns out to be Edna Strickland, a relation to the screaming, bald vice-principal from the original film. Or when you get to Use Marty’s Guitar on Doc’s Giant Amp. If you loved the original films, you’ll play it and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember that,” while wondering when you’re going to get to the exciting skateboard chases and the flying trains.
When the action does pick up the pace in this chapter’s high-speed finale, it serves only to underline why this shouldn’t have been a point-andclick adventure in the first place. There’s an enemy who fires a gun at you repeatedly at near point-blank range and misses every time. Pointand- click is a format that can’t cope with putting you in genuine physical peril, and so any moment of danger deflates instantly.
Those who want more than faint reminders of better entertainment are only going to feel cheated by this game, which is too easy and too rushed. The complexity of the puzzles has been dialled back to aid casual gamers attracted by the licence, the environments feel small and empty, the lip-synching is nonexistent and there are multiple lines of dialogue that are completely missing. It’s a mess.
There are four more episodes of Back to the Future: The Game planned, shifting between the ’30s and an alternate 1986. It still has time to be good. But based on this first episode, your time would be better spent re-watching the movies.
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Of all the open-world roleplaying games of the past decade, Two Worlds was likely the worst. Its titular globes represented an unpolished, badly translated Gothic-clone orbiting an interminable, lifeless Oblivion-clone. Yet this sequel almost completely redeems the series. Its combat is innovative, character choices are meaningful, it’s gorgeous to explore and it’s largely bug-free. Until it peters to a linear, inglorious finale, Two Worlds 2 offers remarkably satisfying open-world adventuring. In two words: much better.
Act like an orc
The original game was little more than an open-world sandbox with a skeletal plot to serve as a navigational aid. NPCs had little to say, and even that dialog was barely coherent. TW2 fleshes out its world with a more substantive storyline and characters who, while still not loquacious, are personable and articulate. The plot remains simple—your haplessly bound and uncomfortably attractive sister needs rescue—but the improved story and colorful NPCs, including some unlikely orc allies, make exploring this world purposeful and rewarding.
The new engine is often stunning, and definitely a graphical leap above recent open-world RPGs. TW2 offers some great hand-crafted environments, including dense forests, imposing swamps and scenic grasslands. They’re inhabited by far more critter types than in similar games, including an abundance of natural wildlife and supernatural beasties. The AI isn’t sophisticated—enemies largely just charge you—but NPCs have schedules and humanoid foes display some organization, breathing life into environments. (To mitigate the hassle of waiting for NPCs to arrive at their jobs, nighttime is accelerated to pass in moments.)
The open-ended skill system eschews classes and gives you an abundance of tactical options to consider. I decided that I was going to be a death-dealing spelunker to solve a chain of labyrinth quests, so I equipped an axe and a torch (a necessity in TW2’s pitch-black dungeons). After acquiring the Fire Strike skill, a portion of the physical damage I inflicted became fire damage, thanks to the equipped torch. Once I gained Shield Pull, I could disarm enemies with my axe. After realizing that undead were more vulnerable to blunt trauma, I nabbed a skill book to unlock a mace-specific feat that stuns opponents. Many undead bones can attest to the usefulness of non-combat skills—whenever I overloaded, I dismantled extra loot into components which I used to substantially improve my equipped gear.
Magic is similarly customizable, and allows you freedom to alter spell effects at any time by substituting collectible modifiers. Only the stealth system feels underdeveloped, although instantly assassinating surprised opponents is hugely satisfying.
TW2 still has plenty of room to grow, though. You can’t fight on horseback, for instance. Many skills are unbalanced—some are of dubious utility while others, such as Alchemy, feel half-baked. The single-player story gets increasingly linear for little payoff; we still get a sizable map out of the deal, but later areas aren’t as fleshed-out since the plot isn’t compelling enough to justify limiting open-world exploration. Multiplayer is improved, but is disappointingly mission-based instead of allowing co-op wandering.
Yet it is such a huge improvement over its dismal predecessor that it’s oh-so-close to being an outstanding RPG. Its design just needs some rationalization and focus to achieve something great.
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You’ve got … way too much time to pore over the Killzone 3 reviews from front to back and between the lines — the game’s not out until February 22. But here’s the secret: The quickest way to an informed opinion is to jump to conclusions, and then just read the comments below them. Got it? Okay … Jump!
- 1UP (B+): “It’s definitely one of the better multiplayer games available on PlayStation 3 and easily one of the best-looking games available to console gamers today.”
- Destructoid (10/10): “Killzone 3 is the shooter to beat.”
- Eurogamer (8/10): “Killzone 3 is a powerful, impressive game that sets an imposing standard for Sony’s 3D, Move-enabled future output; it’s just a shame that in doing so, it’s lost just a little of what made the series stand out in the first place.”
- GameSpot (8.5/10): “Killzone 3 isn’t the game it could have been, but when it comes to capturing the madness of larger-than-life planetside battles, few games do it better.”
- GameTrailers (9.4/10): “Killzone hasn’t forgotten its roots — it’s just improved its fundamentals in every way that matters.”
- IGN (8.5/10): “This may not be the best game on the PS3, but it’s a fantastic option for shooter fans, and the type of title that non-PS3 owners are sure to envy.”
- DETAILS: Call of Duty Black Ops Review
- Berlin Wall: This map takes place at Checkpoint Charlie, straddling the line between West and East Berlin. There’s a lot of gray in this map, and there’s the deadly addition of turrets that will open fire on you if you stray into the neutral zone. There are three safe paths across the zone, and multiple buildings with dual levels that provide plenty of places to run and gun. There’s even a record shop featuring “Musik Bombe!” and “Der Doktortitel and Freunds” on vinyl. Perfect for mid-sized games.
- Discovery: A German research station locked on the edge of polar ice in Antarctica provides the setting for this map, and one of the most striking features is that you can look up into the sky and see the aurora borealis shimmering overhead. Pretty nifty. This is a fairly large map, riddled with deep crevasses that are extremely easy to fall into (you won’t survive that fall, by the way) and modular research buildings in a roughly rectangular playfield. There’s an ice cave you can venture through, as well as a metal gantry that runs the entire length of one side of the map, linking the two starting areas. Snipers, you’ll love this one.
- Kowloon: Set high in the skies like Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back (nerd ref: factor five), Kowloon looms out of the fog and clouds and looks like a shantytown ripped straight out of Blade Runner. The map literally scrapes the sky, with a 747 nearly grazing the level as it comes in for a landing during the loadscreen. There are multiple paths around and through this map, include ziplines that let you quickly move from one part of the map to another. The only trouble being that you’re a sitting target while that’s happening. While this is also a good map for sniping (particularly under the large neon sign with a convenient ladder underneath), the symmetrical gameplay makes it very run and gun friendly as well.
- Stadium: Bringing the fight to the United States, Stadium is set around a minor league hockey team in New York City. It’s a bit incongruous of a level, as there’s an enormous hockey statue behind one starting level, while the rest of the map is bunched up in front of the main entrance to the Stadium itself. Team offices and training rooms ring the outer edge of the map, and there’s a nice sniper’s nest made out of plywood in front of the main entrance to the rink. Of course, being made out of plywood, it doesn’t provide much cover. Sadly, the rink itself is inaccessible, which is a total missed opportunity. Take away some traction and make that rink playable! It’s the smallest of the maps, and plays fast, but if an architect designed this in real life, he’d be fired.
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Breach delivers some excitement, but its generic online first-person shooter action and a number of performance issues prevent it from standing out from the crowd.
Score: 6.5 / fair
EA’s sci-fi horror sequel enters the chart at number one, with launch sales up 70 percent on the original.
Dead Space 2′s thrilling campaign and intense multiplayer make it an excellent game and a worthy follow-up to its superb predecessor.
Score: 8.5 / great
Check out the Gamespot video review for DC Universe Online.
Fun combat and great looks make DC Universe Online entertaining for a while, though various limitations keep it from being a long-term destination.
Score: 7.0 / good
The “Previously, on Dead Space” video is a nice touch, though it reminds me how similar Dead Space 2’s premise and gameplay are to the last one. This time Isaac Clarke awakens on a facility on Saturn’s moon Titan, three years after the rescue-mission-gone-awry on the mining ship Ishimura, and finds a very familiar situation: Titan is overrun with space zombies called Necromorphs that have set about the meticulous dismemberment of everyone in sight—and he’s still having hallucinations of his dead girlfriend.
It also highlights that DS2 is a better sci-fi horror game, in a lot of subtle but important ways. While the plot is similar, the storytelling technique has changed for the better—Isaac has recovered from a bout of Gordon Freeman Syndrome (inexplicable muteness), and the voice performances are excellent. But the real star is the environment: for the entirety of the eight-hour campaign, Visceral does an expert job of making you feel in constant peril, alternating between tingling your spine with unsettling scenery and audio and trying to rip it out of your body by way of horrific monsters.
Fighting a Necro is different from other videogame enemies, in that shooting its head is like shooting a grizzly in the foot—it barely slows it down, and just makes it angrier. Picking off limbs takes them down quicker, requiring multiple accurate shots per target—which makes the smooth controls greatly appreciated.
DS2 has a zoo’s worth of different varieties of spitting, charging, wall-crawling nasties (including evil space-babies), and each puts up a hell of a fight. The first time I was hunted by the new Stalkers was one of the most frightening moments of the game—I caught a shadowy movement behind some crates out of the corner of my eye, but I found nothing there. I heard a chirping noise, and spun around to see a velociraptor-like creature charging toward me. With a scream it smashed me to the floor, then nimbly darted away, intelligently using cover to escape before I could hit its legs. Then, more chirping—and I realized I was surrounded. Clever girl.
Most of the 15 stages have a unique look to them (as unique as possible given that they’re mostly metal corridors), from the wrecked residential areas to the Necro-worshiping Unitologist temple to the EarthGov zone, and they’re punctuated by floaty zero-G areas. You have all the same tools as before—the upgradable Rig suit is equipped with time-slowing and telekinesis powers—but the levels are designed well and don’t overuse any one gimmick. That includes enemies that must be defeated by blasting their glowing yellow bits.
The new multiplayer owes a lot to Left 4 Dead’s example: four human players fight their way through a gauntlet of objectives while four class-based Necro players and AI-controlled backup zombies assail them from all sides. It’s fun, and produces some nail-biting finishes, but aside from making you unlock equipment with experience (which I don’t personally care for), it doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before.
Overall, besides retaining the irritation of having to seek out a save station to avoid losing progress when I want to quit, DS2 is a smartly improved version of the original. It’s not a new experience, but it’s a hair-raiser nonetheless.
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Deathspank is a platform for creating jokes. It uses the framework of a Diablo-alike role-playing game to hang gags from, but that’s what you’re here for. The fact that Monkey Island developer Ron Gilbert’s name is attached to the whole thing is what’s going to make you pay attention, and because of that you expect a certain amount of humour. And it’s there, keeping you on a level of constant amusement that occasionally bubbles over into laughter.
There’s a nonsense story in there about Ancient Evil and Kidnapped Orphans that moves from Demon Mines to Enchanted Sinister Forests, and the look of the game is as much of a facade as the premise; all the buildings are just cardboard cutouts, and it looks like the sky is on a runner, but that’s part of the joke.
All of the genre tropes get whacked. Fetch quests are rife, but they’re accompanied by Deathspank’s assumption that he must do these things, for he is A Hero, and that’s what Heroes do. It’s this brazen, cavalier stupidity that makes it all gel. By the time you’re presented with a retired hero asking you to finish off his ‘Kill Ten Turtles’ quest by killing the remaining seven, because he so desperately wants the experience, you can’t help but chuckle.
The item roster isn’t huge, but each of the items is nevertheless a joke of some kind – ‘Fire Axe 3: Fire’s Revenge’ and ‘The Broadest Sword’, for example. The humour in Deathspank is so pervasive, so unrelenting, that you’re rarely forced to dwell upon the game’s major downpoint: the combat.
Fighting is a mess of desperate clicking and trying to remember how the whole thing works. If you alternate your weapons, you build a combo, which increases both damage and critical chance. Except that requires precise timing, which isn’t something a Diablo-alike lends itself to. There’s blocking, too, although that’s so infrequently necessary that by the time you actually need to use it, you’ve got no idea how. Perfect Block? How on earth do I do that?
Throw in some enemies that need to be taken out from a distance if you don’t want to lose a bunch of health, as well as a criminal lack of useful ranged weapons, and there’s a good deal of frustration to be had. I only hit a slow patch a few times, but it was enough to make booting up the game something I didn’t want to think about all that much. At least until I hit the next joke.
So you’re left with something that’s funny, full of character both visually and verbally, and which has a mildly frustrating combo system piled on top. For the level of amusement I derived from Deathspank, I think I can live with that. There was something about thongs in there too. Thongs are pretty funny.
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