MLB '06: The Show
Publisher: Sony (2006)
I've been down on Major League Baseball in recent years, but The Show managed to arouse that last iota of enthusiasm I have for the sport buried deep within my soul. Whether you're a hardcore fan that relishes the details, or a casual gamer that just wants to whip up on a buddy, The Show delivers. Its TV-style presentation is the best I've seen, and the stadiums are picture perfect. The replays are actually worth watching (!), and after that last out I'm fully expecting a commercial to come on! The Show's player models look uncanny except for their eyes, which don't look quite right. I love the subtle animations like the second baseman double-pumping before throwing to first, a bat shattering towards the pitcher's mound, and batters walking away dejected after a strikeout. The silky smooth action and strong throws make the controls feel crisp and satisfying. My biggest gripe with the game is its pitching, which uses a counter-intuitive meter. My friends and I have probably played every baseball game ever made, yet we could never fully grasp this thing. After a few innings of balls hitting the backstop, we would inevitably switch to the simpler "classic pitching" option. Even then we seemed to experience a lot of dropped and passed balls. The batting controls on the other hand are simple as can be (just press X), and don't require any tedious aiming, thank God. The right analog stick is used to dive (or jump) in the field, and base runners can even "direct" their slides to avoid tags! The icon that helps you gauge fly balls is bizarre; it looks like your fielder is being abducted by a baseball-shaped UFO! I also dislike how fielders will catch the ball while facing the wall. But the game's most ill-advised design decision involves the homeruns. As soon as the contact is made, all you see is the batter breaking into his homerun trot. Where's the drama and excitement in that? It should be treated like a normal fly ball - until it goes over the wall at least! The Show's commentary is very good, and I like how it's never interrupted even when you abort a replay or cut scene. Players all have their own "theme music" when they step to the plate, and the music selections are so stereotypical that it's comical. There are rich option menus, allowing for an unusual degree of customization, including individual CPU abilities, umpire consistency, and even a toggle for ejections. But the most welcome option is "fast play" which eliminates all of lulls associated with "real" baseball and lets you play a quick game in a few minutes. That's probably worth a letter grade in of itself! Additional playing modes include the entertaining King of the Diamond, which is like a homerun derby on steroids. Oh wait, that's right, the homerun derby is already
on steroids! My mistake! In the final analysis, The Show could stand to tighten up a few things, but it's still the most playable baseball game I've encountered in years © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2005)
This year is truly a bumper crop for baseball games. Enjoy it now, because with so many "exclusive sports" deals going down, we may never have a selection this good again. Sega and EA are back with their usual strong offerings, but here's one you may not have seen coming. MLB 2006 represents a comeback of sorts for 989 Sports, a company that's fallen on hard times since their heyday in the late 90's. This baseball game is excellent - one of the few I can play for nine innings without falling asleep. I've seen magazines criticize its "simplistic" gameplay; but in fact, it's a good
thing. MLB 2006 lacks flash but excels in terms of realism and intuitive controls. The pitching meter is the three-press variety (like those in old golf games), adding an element of unpredictability to the location of each pitch. Swinging the bat couldn't be easier - just hit X. Sure there are optional features like "guess the pitch" and a "pitcher/batter match-up screen", but casual gamers needn't be bothered with these. In the field, the player animation is fluid and natural - the best of this year's baseball games. The ballparks look absolutely stunning. I was in awe when I first saw Oriole Park at Camden Yards - it looks just like the real thing! MLB's TV-style presentation includes some neat sights I haven't seen before. The lineups are displayed and discussed before the game by the fine two-man commentator team. Fielders practice tossing around balls before the game, pitchers flinch when screaming liners are hit up the middle, and catchers check with the third base umpires after check swings. When a runner reaches first base, he's greeted by the first base coach -- just like it real life. I also appreciate how MLB 2006 has the most up-to-date rosters of all of this year's games. In addition to the obligatory "franchise mode", the game includes a "career mode" that lets you bring up a young college player through the ranks. I appreciate the "auto base running" option, but it's the "fast play" feature that really won me over. By eliminating cut-scenes and pauses between pitches, it speeds up the game dramatically
. MLB's commentary is solid but so low-key you may not even notice it. The flaws with MLB 2006 are relatively minor. The dugouts and bullpens are empty, and I experienced sporadic bugs with the instant replay and AI. Also, this game violates my "rule" about a bogus year in the titles (2006?! C'mon!). Still, MLB's up-tempo gameplay, awesome visuals, and simple controls makes this baseball title a fine selection for fans and non-fans alike. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2007)
This game comes as a pleasant surprise. What's cool about MLB Power Pros is that it's a total throwback to the NES-era baseball games, with simple graphics, easy controls, and fast pacing. The characters are round cartoon characters with hands and feet that move without the benefit of arms or legs - much like "Miis" on the Wii system. My friends absolutely love this game, and it helps that you don't need to read the manual to figure out how to play. The arcade action is fast and smooth, and the game maintains a light, whimsical tone throughout. There are minimal pauses in the action, so immediately after a strike is called, the pitcher is ready for the next delivery. The commentator and music are upbeat, but some may find them annoying. There a slew
of options, and I love the fact that I can play a quick 10-minute, 3-inning game against a friend. Unfortunately, the sheer number of options is a double-edged sword. Some people will like being able to tune every aspect of the game, but the options are also confusing and overwhelming at times. The 50-page manual also makes Power Pros a heck of a lot more complicated than it should be. The season mode is bogged down with corny dialogue and other fluff which really defeats the arcade-style nature of the game. And why in the hell do pitchers have to toss warm up
pitches? Another major flaw is how certain batters (like Miguel Tejada of the Orioles) hold their bats directly over the plate in the behind-the-batter view, effectively blocking your view of the incoming pitch! But even with its rough edges, Power Pros is one of the most playable baseball games I've picked up in quite a while. It's also the third
baseball game 2K Sports has been involved with this year
! I just wish it came out a little earlier in the year, because baseball season is already over! © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
MLB Slugfest 2003
Publisher: Midway (2002)
In the tradition of NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, and most recently NHL Hitz, MLB Slugfest turns the national pastime on its ear. By speeding up the game, downplaying the boring aspects of baseball, and exaggerating everything else, Slugfest brings out the fun of the game. Outrageous fastballs clock in at 120 MPH. Players burst into flames after they connect on a few hits. Mound brawls, "take-out" slides, and "hard tags" (read: punches) transform the game into a real contact sport. Bean balls now have legitimate strategic value since players lose power when hit. You'll be treated to some classic animations as the players show off, celebrate, and taunt each other relentlessly. Off-the-wall announcers add to the zany mayhem. Like most of Midway's extreme sports games, the graphics are outstanding and actually outshine most "realistic" baseball games. The player models are well defined and the animation is clean and fluid. Beautiful babes populate the loading screens, and the game even features some cool bonus videos, including the most hilarious credits I've ever seen. The controls are responsive and include the all-important turbo button. MLB Slugfest sounds like the ultimate baseball game, so why am I not having fun?? Well for one thing, the loading time is painfully long. The color commentator is horrible, and has absolutely no chemistry with the straight play-by-play man. Although the players look great, the stadiums are not very detailed or accurate. The gameplay tries to straddle the line between arcade and simulation, but it won't please fans of either camp. The game is too long, slow and complex for arcade freaks, and too off-the-wall for purists. Other problems include an excessive number of foul balls and other lulls in the action. There are too many line drives and balls hit in the gaps, and you rarely get a chance to field grounders. Easy hitting means long innings and ridiculous scores, which eliminate much of the drama. When the ball is hit into the outfield, you often have to manually select the nearest fielder yourself, and there's no excuse for that. But worst of all, after I finally
got one of the players to charge the mound (thanks to a few bean balls), the entire freakin' fight happened OFF screen! You could hear them scuffling while the camera stayed fixed on the ground. Ridiculous! In fact, the more I played MLB Slugfest, the less I liked it. It may be better than many "normal" baseball games, but it could have been awesome. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
MVP Baseball 2005
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2005)
Considering the sport sucks, there are some very impressive baseball games out this year. Despite a host of worthy competitors, MVP Baseball 2005 reigns as the most realistic and polished baseball game of 2005. The pitcher/batter screen uses the best pitching meter I've seen, a simple and precise two-press mechanism (similar to those in golf games). The players are so detailed that you can see their faces, which look amazing. The player animation is equally impressive; the fielders move fluidly and react to any situation in a natural manner. During one notable play, I was chasing a fly ball down the foul line. Although I was a bit off-line, my fielder gracefully adjusted and snagged the ball with an impressive backhanded
catch. But my favorite aspect of MVP Baseball is the ingenious "throw meter"; a single-press meter that lets you set the power of the throw. One you get used to it, you'll love it. The right joystick is used to jump and dive, and it works like a charm. In general, MVP's controls are outstanding, although the CPU sometimes inexplicably selects the wrong
outfielder. The base runners react automatically (and intelligently) and balls are fouled with realistic frequency. Pitchers can intentionally hit a batter, and the batter can even charge the mound! Alas - the ensuing fight is not shown, so what's the point?? Nifty bells and whistles include a plethora of "customization" sliders which fine-tune every aspect of fielding, batting, and running. You can even enable "blown calls" by the umpire! There's no "fast play" option, but if you turn off the cut scenes, the game progresses at a reasonable clip. MVP also includes a collection of mini games that are definitely worth checking out. While I initially wrote them off, I would soon come to realize that these diversions are arguably more addictive than the normal game. If MVP has a weakness, it lies in the presentation. Some of the city skylines look dead wrong (Baltimore for example) and the commentary doesn't sound as professional as MLB 2K5. The two-man team is enthusiastic enough, but they tend to mispronounce names, which is annoying. Still, if you're looking for a compelling baseball game with realism and tight control, MVP Baseball is tough to beat. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2000)
The release of this game was surrounded by an enormous amount of hype and fanfare. It's a fun, impressive looking football game that plays much like past Playstation Madden games. Graphically, the game is amazing, and certainly a step above Sega's NFK 2K1. You can see the faces of the players who move their eyes and actually show different expressions. A lot has been made of this, but I wasn't impressed. The players and coaches sport uncharacteristic smiles - it's too bad they couldn't recreate the menacing scowls of their actual "game faces". Players and coaches line the sidelines, but this concept is not fully realized. There aren't enough people there, and the coaches are rarely shown (in contrast to actual NFL telecasts where they are shown between almost every play). The animation is smooth and realistic, but the hits are soft, and there are entirely
too many one-handed catches (c'mon!). The controls let you perform a remarkable variety of moves, including stripping the ball, kneeling, pumping up the crowd, and faking the snap. The offensive controls are good enough, but playing defense is too hard. Trying to penetrate the offensive line or defend the receiver is difficult to say the least, and the computer-controlled players seem faster than your guy. The weak kicking game doesn't require any skill, and for some reason it's really hard to get off a good kick within the 10-yard line. Even the John Madden/Pat Summerall play-by-play is disappointing. Comments include such witticisms like "both of these teams really came to play" and "if you're gonna throw the ball, that's a great guy to throw it to" - hardly the insightful stuff that we want to hear. Since this is an Electronic Arts game, it goes without saying that the loading times are incredibly long. Rap music opens the game and plays during the menu screens, and it is undeniably outstanding. Numerous option screens allow you to tweak every aspect of the game. The replay-ability is extreme, thanks to a load of special features like a Practice Mode, Franchise Mode, create-a-player, and old-school teams with throwback uniforms. "Tokens" are earned by accomplishing certain feats, and these can be used to purchase "Madden Cards" which open even more options. Madden 2001 is hands-down the best-looking football game of its time, but is it really better than NFL 2K1? © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2001)
By fixing minor flaws and adding cool new features to last year's Madden, Electronic Arts has created a fantastic football game. No question about it, no other game offers this degree of realism with such lifelike graphics. At first it may look like last year's game, but you'll soon discover many new animations, including players tip-toeing along the sidelines and teammates congratulating each other. The bugs in last year's game (like all those one-handed grabs) have been fixed. The kicking game has been improved dramatically thanks to a new, sophisticated kicking meter. There are an insane number of options and you can even challenge calls just like in the real NFL! There are cheerleaders on the sidelines and the coaches are more active. Madden's commentary isn't too exciting, but at least it's less repetitive than last year. My only beef is that the hits aren't quite as earth shaking as those in Sega's NFL 2K series. Still, Madden 2002 is awesome, and no die-hard football fan will want to pass it up. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2002)
Building on the previous edition's solid foundation, Madden 2003 has been tweaked to near perfection. The running game is the most improved aspect, with agile runners that squeeze through holes and slide through tackles. Helmets fly, and teammates interact and celebrate with each other. Jaw-dropping instant replays always seem to capture the best angle of the play. The stadiums are incredibly detailed, and now feature animated cheerleaders and a half-time show (finally!). The girls look okay, but "Dead or Alive" they are NOT. The commentary team consists of Al Michael's play-by-play and Madden's color commentary. It's okay, but it's nothing spectacular, and several lines have been recycled from last year's game (notably "he can't catch it if you knock it down."). Madden 2003 also surprised me with its killer lineup of tunes! You get Andrew WK (Party Hard), P.O.D., and Bon Jovi among others (I swear the singer in one of these songs sounds like Billy Squire). The number of features is overwhelming, and new modes include On-line play and Training Camp. I wasn't expecting much from the Training Camp mode, but I found myself hopelessly addicted to it. It takes you through each NFL city where you practice a specific skill such as knocking down passes, moving in the pocket, tackling, or punting into the "coffin corner". Once you pass a drill, you can practice what you've learned in a short game situation. Completing each city becomes an obsession, especially when you start winning Madden Cards. Speaking of which, the concept of virtual Madden cards has finally come into its own. These slick-looking cards feature various players, teams, and even cheerleaders. It's fun to collect them and use them to open new features or cheats. And last but not least, the loading time has improved. Overall, Madden 2003 is a major step up over last year's game. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2003)
The venerable football series that started on the Genesis continues to improve with each passing year. This latest installment has slightly faster gameplay, refined visuals, and some surprising new features. The simplified play-calling screen is very attractive, and cool new animations include sliding catches and drag-down tackles. The physics is remarkable, as tipped balls careen off bodies realistically. The new "playmaker" control allows you to dynamically command a player to change routes or throw blocks using the right joystick. The exciting mini-camp mode from last year has now been incorporated into the season mode, allowing you to wager your player attribute points. You can now save a game in progress
, a feature that's extremely useful and long overdue. And those who live and breathe football will certainly be intrigued by the new "owner mode", which gives you complete
control of your franchise, from hiring/firing coaches, building a new stadium, pricing the concessions, and get this - even relocating your team to another city! It's a game within a game - call it Madden Football Tycoon 2004. While it's admirable that EA tried to capture every
aspect of the game, you've got a lot of time on your hands if you're tinkering with the hot dog prices. One area where Madden continues to be weak is the commentary - it's satisfactory but not nearly as good as EA's NCAA Football 2004 game. I was also surprised by the mediocre quality of the music, which had been so kick-ass in recent years. My last beef concerns the cheerleaders. EA, if you're going to go through the trouble of putting cheerleaders in a game, at LEAST make them LOOK good. These chicks look downright scary! But these are minor quibbles when you consider the wealth of options, realistic gameplay, and pinpoint control Madden offers. Even after all these years, it's still the game to beat. Although Madden is available for all systems, I chose the PS2 version because I think the controller is better suited for sports games. NOTE: The Madden curse lives on! Just ask Madden 2004 coverboy Michael Vick, who broke his leg in preseason! © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2004)
As usual, you can't go wrong with Madden, but this year's version is only a modest step up from last year. I do like the new "hit stick" control that lets you lay a player out (and maybe cause a fumble) with a flick of the right joystick - it's addicting to use. The awesome new kicking system is far more challenging, with a round three-press meter much like those used in old golf games. Visually, the players look fine but unlike ESPN football, they never remove their helmets, even when sitting on the bench. Once you see the scary faces of the cheerleaders and coaches, you'll understand why players keep their helmets on! Face-painted fans can be seen acting wild in the stands, and there's even a "create-a-fan" feature. Although not as flashy as ESPN 2K5, Madden's gameplay is tighter and more responsive, and the teams really do seem to perform like their real-life counterparts. The play-by-play won't win any awards, but at least it features professional commentators John Madden and Al Michaels. The franchise mode now includes the element of player morale, but an unfortunate side effect is that they tend to whine a lot. Between weeks you can read articles from newspapers (local and national) and even listen to a radio talk show. Madden's past domination is being challenged this year by ESPN 2K5, but this venerable series can still hold its own. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2005)
You can hate EA's fat-cat executives for their licensing monopolies and scandalous profiteering (the game was $52 this year!) but you can't dispute the technical prowess of Madden as a football game. This year's edition offers a few new wrinkles to the same rock-solid, ultra-realistic football action you've come to expect. The main new addition is "QB Vision Control", which projects a field of vision "cone" from the quarterback, aimed using the right joystick. The best quarterbacks have a wide cone, and less experienced passers have little more than a sliver. Throwing to a receiver within the cone increases your accuracy, although it's still quite possible to complete passes to other receivers. If you're like me, you'll want to turn this un-asked-for feature off
immediately. Madden 06 also features passing controls that effectively let you "lead" your receivers - a feature the NFL 2K series had years ago. Then there's the "truck stick", which allows power running-backs to plow through defenders by pushing the right stick forward. This same stick is also used for backwards jukes, but side-jukes are still relegated to the shoulder buttons - for no good reason. The new "Superstar mode" is the equivalent to NCAA's Heisman mode, allowing you follow a single NFL player through his career. This includes choosing an agent, being drafted, and working your way through the NFL ranks both on and off the field (including endorsement opportunities). EA got imaginative with this, constructing your player's "DNA" based on fictional parent's hobbies and occupations. Heck, you even get to take an IQ test! Unfortunately, you can't determine which team your player is drafted by, so I ended up falling back on the old "Dynasty" mode. In terms of graphics, I didn't notice much of an upgrade this year. Is it just me, or does NCAA 06 look better? The kicking game is way
too hard - I've never seen so many out-of-bounds kick-offs or missed extra points in my life! Another thing I don't like is how you can't preview your receiver icons without displaying their routes. The right stick is supposed to let you unleash devastating hits on defense, but these look awfully soft to me. Similarly, the "speed burst" move is barely perceptible. Maybe EA should add an "Arcade" mode to spice things up. And where are the cheerleaders, half-time show, chain measurements, and other niceties you'd expect from a mature franchise? Madden plays great but there's still room for improvement. I personally prefer EA's NCAA offering this year. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2006)
While the Xbox 360 version of Madden 07 has a clear visual edge, this PS2 edition offers better control, a wealth of features, and arguably a more satisfying football experience. New additions include more broken tackles, a nice variety of player reactions, "lead blocker" controls (yes, they really work), an "analog" kick meter (ugh), and a nifty "highlight stick" to execute evasive maneuvers. I was especially impressed when I saw a player knock back a punt that was headed for the end zone. In spite of what you may have heard however, the graphics really aren't a huge step down from the 360 version. Yes, the players look slightly rougher around the edges and tend to bunch up more, but the on-field action is basically the same. The controls feel crisper in this PS2 version, and you can execute directed cuts, spins, or stiff-arms with a single press of a button. Features in this that you won't
find on the 360 include commentary by John Madden and Al Michaels, easy-to-read playbooks, an auto-save mechanism, fan close-ups, nets raised behind goal posts, cameras on the sidelines, drive summaries, dejected players on sidelines, and coaches talking after the game. I personally prefer the "Madden Challenge" point system over the 360's new "Gamer Level". On the downside, Madden 07 has some annoyances that are almost unforgivable for such a mature franchise. These include solid black passing symbols that tend to obstruct your field of view, frequent pauses after plays, and a coach's challenge system that seems to be available at random. The play-by-play is decent, but the rest of the audio is pretty horrid. Headache-inducing guitar music blares between plays, and you'll need to use the "main menu music" option to shut it off (yeah - I know it makes no sense). I wouldn't be surprised if the money whores at EA made a deal with some record company to keep the music volume on maximum at all times. Madden 07 is also missing
a lot of nice features that have appeared in previous Maddens over the years, including cheerleaders, half-time shows, penalty flags, and chain measurements. And what's up with the flimsy, cheap-ass manual? Not only is it printed entirely in black and white (including the cover), but the content is absolute crap. And why does it smell like seafood? Did EA save 2 cents per game by using freshly recycled paper? Evidentally, my manual was a fish sandwich wrapper last week. That's what you get when you let a single company monopolize an entire sport. Despite these minor issues however, Madden 07 still offers a solid football game at its core, and you can't beat it when it comes to smack talking with friends. And most surprising of all, this PS2 version is every bit as good as the 360 edition. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Major League Baseball 2K5
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2005)
Major League Baseball 2K5 is my least
favorite of this year's three contenders (the others being Sony's MLB 2006 and EA's MVP 2005). 2K5 does benefit from the sharp ESPN TV-style presentation, with its flashy TV graphics, familiar music, exciting camera angles, and superior voice talent. Before each game, you're treated to some interesting scenes, like the managers meeting at home plate, and fans filing into the stadium. The pitching system is unconventional but easy to learn. After selecting the pitch and its desired location, you "aim" using a horizontal meter, then a vertical one (similar to the foul shooting system used in most basketball games). It's unique but somewhat time consuming; I prefer the simpler meters of the other games. One "feature" I absolutely detest is the "Slam Zone", a slow-motion mode that kicks in when a batter correctly guesses the location of a pitch. A special meter appears, and sheer button mashing determines if the player will go "deep". While intended to add an exciting arcade element, it looks dumb and takes you out of the game. One aspect I do enjoy is how you can watch fly balls hit down each line gradually curl foul -pretty exciting. When a ball is put into play, a glaring weakness of 2K5 becomes apparent; the player movement is stiff and robotic. Not only do these guys run like Forrest Gump, but they often throw like girls! The animation is simply not up to par with the other games. The control scheme is fine, and the right joystick is utilized for dives and jumps. MLB's commentary features two of the biggest names in the business: Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Just hearing their voices make the game feel televised experience; but surprisingly, they make an inordinate amount of mistakes and late calls. For example, after a third out is called, Jon Miller might exclaim, "Here comes the runner to the plate!" Another issue is how the framerate tends to stutter periodically. I also dislike how base runners are indicated in each corner
of the screen - it's confusing. 2K5 still plays well, but lacks polish and seems to "drag" more than the other games. This year it's evident that Sega is falling behind the competition. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Rockstar (2007)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs)
I missed out on the first Manhunt, but apparently it was pretty controversial due to its gratuitous violence. Manhunt 2 continues that proud tradition with a twisted tale of an escaped prison inmate trying to discover his identity. Sound familiar? If so, then for God's sake
, turn yourself in
man! Anyway, Manhunt 2 puts a lot
of emphasis on stealth. We're talking about hiding in the shadows, dragging bodies, and evading security cameras. The easiest way to defeat enemies is to sneak up behind them for an "execution". There are different levels of violence you can inflict, and methods range from suffocating with a grocery bag to decapitation with an axe. These violent sequences are punctuated with disorienting camera angles, crunching sound effects, and crazy lighting that prevents you from getting a good view of the carnage. These executions are largely automatic, in contrast to the Wii version where you need to perform a series of quick movements with the controller. I wholeheartedly endorse these executions, because if you find yourself between two thugs, you're in for a serious beat-down. Seriously dude, if you find yourself going fist-to-cuffs on a regular basis, you're playing this game the hard way
. In addition to stealth action, you'll search for clues and solve a few easy puzzles. Manhunt 2's dark, gritty environments effectively convey life in the underbelly of the city, and a unique graphic effect makes the screen look somewhat fuzzy at all times - like you're watching a closed-circuit TV. Especially in the torture chambers below a sleazy strip club, the neon lights, stone walls, and muffled music will give you a serious case of the creeps. You'll also explore a dilapidated house that reminded me of the one in The Blair Witch Project. The characters look good and move naturally, and the voice acting is pretty convincing too (with liberal use of the F-bomb). The soundtrack is a nicely produced cacophony of scary noises and echoes. Manhunt 2's control scheme is fine, but the responsiveness could be better. There are times when you'll hit the O button to grab a body, but it simply doesn't register. Sloppy programming is evident in other parts of the game as well. When I moved a tire swing in the front yard of a house, it actually remained suspended in mid-air
. Worst yet, in one prison encounter I found myself stuck within
a guard! That's right, I was trapped in his body! Manhunt 2 is rough around the edges, but its engaging storyline, simple gameplay, and short stages make it hard to put down. I found it compelling, and think its violence is overrated. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Ghosts and Goblins was a wildly popular side-scrolling platform game in the 80's, featuring a comical knight hacking his way through endless skeletons, zombies, and legions of other monsters. Its most distinguishing features were its addictive nature and extreme difficulty. Maximo is basically the 3D remake of that classic, and it preserves many aspects of the original game, especially the difficulty. This game has gotten a lot of press, but it's really not much different than other 3D adventures that have been released over the past few years (MediEvil for Playstation comes to mind). What sets Maximo apart is its superior presentation. The graphics are fantastic, featuring lush, detailed graveyards, remarkable fog and fire effects, and humorously animated creatures. The sound effects are stellar, and the background music is a lavishly orchestrated version of the original Ghosts and Goblins theme. While I've heard this game called "old-school", the controls indicate otherwise. Maximo can slash sideways, slash overhead, throw his shield, jump, double-jump, kneel, block, move the camera, and select special moves. Most of the controls are responsive, but the camera placement is often a problem. Unlike the game that inspired Maximo, there is a LOT of emphasis on collecting items. This is where the game veers away from its Ghosts and Goblins heritage and starts to feel more like Donkey Kong 64. Coins are required to purchase items like armor, saves, and continues. While it slows down the action and makes the game feel tedious, it can't be avoided, since you need those coins to pay for your next save or continue. I think players with a lot of patience will appreciate all of the secrets and surprises of Maximo, but many will get fed up with the tough, repetitive gameplay. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Publisher: Konami (2001)
Rating: Mature (Animated blood and violence)
This long-awaited game of tactical espionage, hailed by many magazines as best game of 2001, is a real piece of work. Realistic graphics, first-rate voice acting, and a wild storyline create an atmosphere that really puts you in the game. MGS2 pushes the PS2's graphic capabilities like no other game, but at times it feels more like a movie than a game. The action begins on a huge ship on a rainy night, and the water and lighting effects are nothing short of spectacular. You control a character named Snake, and he is one agile dude. A remarkable variety of moves allows you to sneak around patrolling guards undetected. That's important, because causing a commotion only makes your job harder. Special moves include hanging from a railing, hiding in a locker, choking, dragging, and even sticking up guards. The controls are well thought-out, and only in close quarters did I occasionally need to wrestle with them. The dialogue often borders on silly, but it's never boring, and the game provides clues to help you along the way. The gameplay itself has changed little from its Playstation predecessor, but there are some very difficult puzzles that require using combinations of objects. The designers of this game paid meticulous attention to detail, and there are numerous inside jokes that Metal Gear fans will love. But even die-hard fans will admit to the game's one big downfall: long, drawn-out, cinematic cut-scenes. I can't argue that the cinematography and art direction are absolutely first rate, but I soon realized that I was spending more time watching
the game than actually playing
it. Some of these "intermissions" go on forever! Hey, if I wanted to watch a movie I'd go to Blockbuster. Here's another complaint: could they come up with a less
likeable main character? I don't know what's worse, Snake's cocky attitude, "mullet" haircut, or perpetual scowl. Plus he looks like he's wearing a thong. All jokes aside, this is a quality title, but should have been more of a game. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Publisher: Konami (2004)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes)
I'm convinced famed Metal Gear Solid designer Hideo Kojima is more interested in making movies than video games. Playing the first three hours of Snake Eater, about 75% of my time was spent watching cut scenes, and it pissed me off! Some of these animated sequences seem to go on forever (typically while the wife is calling from the next room). Metal Gear Solid 3 (MGS3) is actually a prequel of sorts, explaining the origin of certain characters and Metal Gear itself. Set in the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, vintage video clips are used to convey its convoluted, historical exposition. These are gratuitous to say the least, resembling something from the History Channel. Although graphically impressive and stylishly executed, I prefer to play my video games (I'm funny that way). The overemphasis on cinemas is surprising, considering how many gamers complained about the relentlessly annoying cut scenes in the previous Metal Gear game, Sons of Liberty. Despite this disturbing trend, Snake Eater is a quality product that eventually won me over. Like previous chapters, the idea is to sneak around guards, snipe from a distance, infiltrate enemy fortresses, and utilize a slew of special gadgets. There's been plenty of hype about the game's "jungle" scenes, which allow you to sport camouflage and crawl through tall grasses undetected. The accompanying first person perspective is awesome, and you can actually watch the blades of grass bend back as you creep forward. MGS3's graphics are terrific in general, with dense jungle foliage and absolutely stunning water effects. The audio effects are also remarkable if you have surround sound. But as refreshing as these jungle environments are, they are surprisingly linear in nature, and the game's antiquated control scheme isn't well suited to them. I often found myself backing up to objects I could barely see, or inexplicably crawling backwards in tight areas. Metal Gear's visuals have evolved beyond its control scheme, which has remained basically unchanged since the first Metal Gear Solid (Playstation 1998). Handling weapons is unintuitive, and transitioning Snake from a prone to standing position is a colossal pain in the ass. Still, you can't question Snake Eater's production values, which are sky high. This is most evident in the elaborate, James Bond-influenced musical intro, featuring a female vocalist belting out a jazzy number as stylized images of skeletal snakes glide over a montage of scenes. It's a feast for the senses and I can watch it over and over. Although non-interactive cut-scenes dominate in the early going, they eventually give way to more standard Metal Gear action, and that's where the game gains traction. I like how there's several ways to approach each scenario, and should you get stuck, you can always radio to Agent Zero for help. Although you're constantly warned how critical it is not to be detected, I blew my cover again and again and still managed to make good progress. Heck, at one point I started to worry if I was playing the game wrong. I also have an issue with the lead character himself. Snake's perpetual scowl, mullet haircut, and cynical attitude are grating enough, but then there's that annoying voice that sounds like it belongs in a car commercial. Hell, Snake isn't even that great of a soldier. One female character tosses him around like a rag doll, and another bails him out of hopeless situations. I like MGS3, but the whole stealth style of play the series pioneered is wearing thin. Snake Eater is definitely overrated, and gamers with short attention spans will hate its lengthy cinematics and slow, deliberate gameplay. Metal Gear faithful, however, will savor every moment of this. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (2005)
Rating: Teen (animated blood, violence)
Metal Slug is a classic arcade shooter where you play a cartoon soldier blasting through stage after stage of side-scrolling mayhem. Its non-stop 2D action, simple controls, stylized violence, and satisfying explosions have never been duplicated. The series earned a cult following on the ultra-expensive Neo Geo system in the mid-90's, but until recently was unknown to most gamers. Both MS4 and MS5 provide terrific shooting action, and they come on separate DVDs so you feel like you're getting your money's worth. If you've ever played a Metal Slug game before, don't expect anything new except for fresh scenery and bosses. Let's face it, these Metal Slug games always have been the same and always will be the same. The controls let you jump, shoot, or toss grenades. Sadly, there's no rapid-fire option, so you'll need to tap the fire button a lot. Also, I wish more weapons allowed for diagonal shooting. The 2D graphics look pixilated compared to the 3D rendered visuals of today, but their old-school appearance has an artistic charm. The hilarious character animations are priceless, and the explosions are immensely satisfying. I love how the hulking mechanical bosses collapse into a spectacular heap when defeated. The scenery features the standard war-torn city streets, although MS4 also features Yeti-infested snowy mountains and spooky haunted houses. MS5's stages seem more Indiana Jones-inspired. There are plenty of surprises, like getting transformed into a vomit-spewing zombie, or temporarily becoming obese from eating too much food. Both games offer difficulty options and stage selects. This should have been the ultimate Metal Slug package, but SNK managed to screw up one thing. Both games feature the dreaded unlimited continues
"feature", and this is not
configurable! Would it have killed SNK to add an option to disable this? Worse yet, when you continue, your score does not reset! The only solution I've come up with is to set the difficulty to easy, crank up the lives to five, but do not
continues (if you want a challenge, that is). I thought this flaw might bring the package down into "B" territory, but then I realized that this is still
twice as good as any other shooter for the PS2. Go get it. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Metal Slug Anthology
Publisher: SNK (2007)
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)
For the benefit of those poor souls who have yet to experience Metal Slug, let me assure you that it is arcade bliss of the highest magnitude. This collection of side-scrolling 2D shooters features stylish visuals, outrageous humor, and explosive gameplay. As a renegade soldier, not only do you raise hell in urban, jungle, and desert military warzones, but you'll also contend with zombies, mummies, and aliens in wacky horror spoofs. The Metal Slug series is also known for its imaginative metallic bosses with their imposing but rickety designs. On the Wii, Metal Slug Anthology was marred by lousy controls and a lack of options, but this PS2 version thankfully addresses those. All controls neatly map to buttons
(imagine that) and are fully configurable. The number of "continues" can be set by increments of 5 (5, 10, 15, 20), which is perfectly reasonable (although zero would have been a nice option). I would highly recommend setting the difficulty to easy and continues to 5 for optimal blasting enjoyment. In my original review I complained about a lag problem, but that turned out to be due to my HDTV - not the game! When I played it on a normal TV, any lag is negligible. You also have the option of shooting side-by-side a friend, although I found that slightly less fun. Offering insane mayhem with simple controls and crazy eye candy, Metal Slug Anthology is 2D shooting action at its finest. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Micro Machines V4
Publisher: Codemasters (2006)
My friends and I have always enjoyed these Micro Machines games. What other racer lets four players go head-to-head without the need for a split-screen? Like previous editions, V4 is pure multiplayer chaos as your toy cars bump into each other, knock each other off of tables, fly off ramps, and attack each other with crazy weapons like a giant hammer mounted to the roof of your car. The wild environments include a kitchen, roof, beach, bathroom, boat, library, and the obligatory pool table. I didn't find the designs to be particularly intriguing, although there is an occasional surprise (like that huge bird hopping along the roof). Micro Machines is at its best with four players, although the CPU racers fill in nicely if you're short on people. Points are scored primarily by obtaining such a large lead that the other racers fall out of view. It's a neat concept, but at times I wish the camera would pull back a bit further to keep the action going longer. Micro Machines V4 doesn't stray far from the original formula, but it's becoming clear that the series peaked on the Nintendo 64. This version incorporates a lot of unnecessary "automatic" sequences, like when you're transported by a fan, or go into one drawer and come out another. Not only are these non-interactive animations boring
, but they bring the action to a grinding halt. The fact that cars can actually be damaged is another lousy "feature". There's nothing worse than wobbling along looking for a health power-up while everybody else is whizzing by you. The multiplayer action is solid, but the single-player tournaments are a letdown. For one thing, they're entirely too difficult, even on the so-called "easy" level. And if it's a tournament, why is it necessary to finish each race in first place
before proceeding to the next track? You're constantly unlocking new vehicles, but they lack detail and generally look like crap
. The interface used to change vehicles is erratic - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. This latest Micro Machines game is worth playing if you can get some people together, but V4 certainly doesn't do much in terms of elevating the series. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Rockstar (2000)
None of the early Playstation 2 games blew me away like Midnight Club. This awesome looking game actually gives you the feeling of cruising through city streets at night. The graphics, which recreate large sections of New York and London, are among the most impressive I've seen to date. The attention to detail, from signs, to traffic patterns, to pedestrians, to "red light districts", create a totally believable environment. You can even adjust the traffic and weather conditions. The rain looks particularly spectacular, with shiny road surfaces and drops reflected in the street lamps. The cities are loaded with secret shortcuts and building entrances. Just cruising around is enough to occupy me for hours, and the gameplay isn't bad either. You race against various streetwise opponents in order to earn more cars. There's a career mode, an arcade mode, and even a split-screen two player mode. The one thing that didn't impress me was the music. The generic techno beats aren't bad, but they should have used something more upbeat to match the adrenaline rush of racing down a city street at 100 mph. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Midway Arcade Treasures
Publisher: Midway (2003)
Rating: Teen (Blood and gore, violence from Smash TV game)
It's astonishing that 24
fun arcade games from the 80's are available in one package for only 20 bucks
! Even if you're not an old school nut, you have to admit this is quite a bargain. Granted, not all of these are classics per se, but the best games here are worth their weight in gold. Spy Hunter, Defender, Joust, Robotron 2084, Smash TV, Bubbles, and Marble Madness are the cream of the crop, and you could be up all night playing any one of these addictive gems. Gauntlet, Defender 2, Rampart, Sinistar, Super Sprint, Klax, Satan's Hollow, Vindicators, and Root Beer Tapper are also fun, even if they don't quite qualify as "classics". Joust 2, Splat, and Blaster are interesting from a historical perspective, but not as fun to play. The remaining games, Rampage, 720 Degrees, Toobin', and Road Blasters, are pretty lame in my opinion, despite having the best graphics of the bunch. 720 Degrees is a go-anywhere skateboarding game, but Tony Hawk it is NOT. I found it's "go anywhere" style of gameplay to be fairly pointless. Klax is a semi-fun Tetris-wannabe where you catch colored pieces before placing them in rows. The click-clacking sound effects are terrific, and I love the dated intro: "It is the 90's, and there is time for Klax". Vindicators is an overhead tank game that reminds me of third-rate Assault (Namco). Root Beer Tapper is an old favorite, but isn't quite the same without the "tap" controller. Satan's Hollow is an odd but engaging shooter that borrows more than a little from Phoenix (Atari). Rampart is a fun little turn-based shooter that simulates a medieval war between castles, with catapults knocking down castle walls. Astute readers may recognize the fact that most of these titles have been available on previous compilations for the Playstation and Dreamcast. Only three are available for the first time: Vindicators, Satan's Hollow, and Rampart. The graphics and sound in all of these games are exactly the same as they were in the arcade - even down to the scratchy voice samples. Each game can be fully customized, and high scores are automatically saved. A few games can even be simultaneously played by three or four players. One major disappointment is lack of "historical" material - it's just the same grainy footage from the previous Playstation compilations. It's a shame Midway couldn't dig up more, because the programmers are fascinating to listen to. For a good laugh, listen to Eugene Jarvis talk about how he plays Robotron - absolutely hilarious! © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Midway Arcade Treasures 2
Publisher: Midway (2004)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence)
Referring to this collection as "treasures" is being awfully loose with the language. The genuine classics are few and far between in this decidedly mediocre hodgepodge of old arcade games. Released between the early 80's and early 90's, most of the 20 titles feature refined 2D graphics but less-than-crystal-clear sound effects. The headliners are Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, two gratuitously bloody one-on-one fighters that stand the test of time. These arcade-perfect versions look much sharper than their console counterparts, although the control feels a little stiff. It's a shame MK1 wasn't included. Next up, APB is an overhead police car racer with crisp graphics but lousy control. Apparently APB's arcade machine had a steering wheel and foot pedal, and they are sorely missed here. Arch Rivals is a fun basketball game that inspired NBA Jam, with no-holds-barred gameplay and cartoonish, fictional players wearing hilariously short shorts. Championship Sprint is the sequel to Super Sprint, an average racer that hardly merited a follow-up. Sprint's analog control is far too sensitive and could seriously benefit from a paddle controller (dream on). Cyberball 2072 is a futuristic football game played by robots. I found it mildly entertaining but lost interest before I could complete an entire 6-period game. Gauntlet 2 is a medieval overhead shooter featuring excellent four-player cooperative action. Resist the temptation to play with the continues on, because it ruins the excitement and intensity of the game. Hard Drivin' is interesting in that it was the first true 3D racer, with polygon graphics and a first-person point of view. But despite tracks with ramps and loops (!), Hard Drivin's lack of speed, poor control, and screeching sound effects will turn gamers off. NARC is a rapid-fire side-scroller that lets two cops blast away at waves of look-alike drug dealers. Pit Fighter was the first video game to use digitized characters, and although its large, well-defined fighters do look impressive, poor animation and shallow gameplay ruins the fun. Primal Rage is yet another one-on-one fighter, and this one features amazing animated dinosaurs and apes. The console versions of Primal Rage were pretty bad, and this edition is proof that the arcade game sucked as well. I've never been a big fan of Rampage, a game that lets you ravage skyscrapers with oversized monsters including a lizard, ape, or wolf. Its gameplay is a chore, but there's no question that this "World Tour" edition looks great, with detailed downtown areas and hilarious animations. The split-screened Spy Hunter 2 brings to the series a 3D perspective, but the illusion is conveyed poorly with scaling sprites, making the game practically unplayable. Timber is a likeable little game in the style of Tapper, where you control a little lumberjack running around a field chopping down trees while avoiding flying objects. I still haven't figured out why the swarm of bees "eats" your clothes though. Total Carnage is a high octane, rapid-fire overhead shooter in the tradition of Smash TV with crazy explosions and flying limbs. I love its gratuitous destruction but I often lost track of my soldier in all the mayhem. Wizard of Wor is the biggest disappointment on the disk. This two-player maze shooter simply moves too fast to control, and I'm convinced it wasn't emulated properly. I've never been a big fan of Xenophobe, a 3-player split-screen alien shooter. It's awkward to constantly crouch and stand up to shoot aliens, but some of my friends maintain it's still a great game. Xybots is a "behind the back" corridor shooter that's playable despite its rough scaling graphics. The control is fair and there are a nice variety of robots to blast, but those generic hallways all look the same after a while. The final two games are Kozmik Krooz'r and Wacko, two whimsical but pointless space shooters that are barely worth mentioning. Each game has its own customizable option screen, but the user interface could have been better designed. Not only do you have to load an option screen just to choose the number of players, but you can only set the continues "None" or "Infinite". Bonus features include background information and videos clips, and some are quite entertaining (particularly the Mortal Kombat videos). There aren't many gems to be found in this collection, but old school gamers will still find Midway Arcade Treasures 2 hard to resist. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Midway Arcade Treasures 3
Publisher: Midway (2005)
Rating: Everyone (cartoon violence)
It doesn't offer as wide a selection as the previous Midway compilations, but Arcade Treasures 3 compensates for its limited range with the inclusion of several blockbusters like Hydro Thunder, San Francisco Rush, and Super Off-Road. Hydro Thunder (A+) alone is worth the price of admission. This arcade-style boat racer has the ideal combination of simple controls, fast action, and fantastic eye candy. Whether you're careening through a jungle river or jumping off Arctic glaciers, the game plays like a roller coaster ride. This looks even better than the impressive Dreamcast version; I noticed monkeys jumping on the bridges in the Lost World stage, and the looming city skyline in Thunder Park looks far more imposing. Off-Road Thunder (B) is basically Hydro Thunder with trucks and mud. It's louder and not nearly as pretty as Hydro, but still provides the same brand of arcade racing enjoyment. I always liked San Francisco Rush (C-); it was one of the first racers to let you perform breathtaking jumps. It shows its age however with its jerky camera angles and touchy controls. Rush 2049 (C+) offers some colorful graphics and a nice four-player mode, but the futuristic scenery is not as interesting as you might expect, and the confusing course layouts feature too many 90-degree turns. Super Off-Road (B+), another old favorite, is one of the best games on the disk. This one features an isometric view as you steer tiny cars around bumpy dirt tracks, providing a nice break from all of the first-person racing. The controls are a little loose, but the gameplay is irresistibly fun, and this version offers a nice three-player mode you won't find in the 16-bit translations. Midway also included the "track pak", providing an additional set of courses. Badlands (B) plays much like an advanced version of Super Off-Road, as you guide your car around run-down industrial areas. I love the factories and broken bridges, but some of the crisscrossing track layouts are hard to follow. The final two titles are relics that haven't aged very well. S.T.U.N. Runner (D) is tunnel-racing shooter which had groundbreaking visuals for its time, but its choppy framerate and annoying sound effects won't endear it to most modern gamers. Race Drivin' (D-) is widely considered the original 3D polygon racer, and it certainly shows in the sparse, box-like graphics. With clumsy controls, zero sense of speed, lousy collision detection, and constantly squealing tires, you probably won't play it more than once. Still, I'll give anyone props who can complete that crazy "stunt" course. Unlike earlier compilations, Arcade Treasures 3 is skimpy on the "extras", which mainly consist of background information and some marketing material. Pretty lame, but this is still a worthy purchase for those who appreciate old-school racing action. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2002)
Rating: Teen (comic mischief, mild violence)
I appreciate a little originality in my video games as much as the next guy, but let's face it people, bad is bad!
In Mister Mosquito you play the role of a cute little mosquito attempting to suck blood from a family in a typical suburban household. Upon pressing Start at the title screen, a woman's voice explains basic facts about mosquitoes and a typical day in their life. Not only does she talk very slowly
, but she goes on and on, and incredibly, you cannot skip this sequence
. That's right - every time you turn this game on, you have to sit through that crap. Thank goodness you can skip the cut-scenes within the game - which take forever to load by the way. The game employs a behind-the-mosquito view as you look for places to bite unsuspecting humans. You'd expect to have your pick of juicy spots, but no, you have to wait for red "targets" to appear on the skin. These aren't always visible and tend to be hard to find when they are. As a result, you'll spend most of your time buzzing around aimlessly. When you do apply a bite, you need to continuously spin the right stick around to draw blood, and it's one of the more uncomfortable maneuvers I've ever been asked to perform with a controller. The steering and camera controls are terrible, and when you touch any object, there's a loud "bang!" as if you hit a brick wall at 100 miles per hour! When a human sees you, you enter an absolutely pointless "battle mode". As the human stomps around the room like Godzilla, you can only calm him or her down by attacking them above their crotch
. Hey, don't look at me - I just review the games! Mister Mosquito tries to convey tongue in cheek humor, but there's little substance here. There are even sexual overtones including scantily dressed women and suggestive dialogue ("How was the first time?"). Playing this game? Awful! When all is said and done, Mister Mosquito is just a novelty item that will look far better on your shelf than in your PS2. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Mobile Light Force 2
Publisher: XS Games (2003)
Rating: Everyone (violence)
Mobile Light Force 2 (MLF2) is a lot of fun - if you're into this sort of thing. Despite its cheesy cover (which looks like an ad for Charlie's Angels), this intense 2D vertical shooter isn't bad. Unlike "classic" vertical shooters, you control a person
who flies around while unleashing fantastic firepower. Each of the six selectable characters has three unique attacks: rapid-fire shooting, a special attack, and a supply of bombs. MLF2 regularly tosses a mind-boggling number of projectiles your way, so be sure to keep an extra bomb on hand to clear those out. One thing that sets this game apart is its bizarre collection of enemies, which include spinning ballerinas, bloody teddy bears, doll heads, gingerbread men, and many other objects I couldn't even identify. The bosses are more conventional, often assuming the forms of dragons, wizards, and mechanical beasts. I personally think MLF2 is a bit too boss-heavy, and I don't like the fact that you sometimes have to face one immediately after another. One interesting feature is the "tension bonus system" which briefly boosts your firepower when you narrowly miss getting hit. This works pretty well, mainly because the collision detection is very forgiving, making it practical to "live on the edge". Destroyed enemies released tons of coins which are fun to scoop up. The first stage is a real eyeful as you fly over a city at night, but subsequent stages are less interesting. The techno soundtrack is respectable, but the garbled voice samples are hard to make out. MLF2 is a relatively short game, but it saves your high scores for each character, giving the replay value some legs. A two-player simultaneous mode is included, along with a gallery of artwork. Mobile Light Force 2 is a quirky title that provides plenty of "twitch" shooting fun. It makes no sense at all, and why should it? I just wish there were more shooters like this for the PS2. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Mortal Kombat Armageddon
Publisher: Midway (2006)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore)
I'm a longtime Mortal Kombat fanatic, but it seems that the series has been treading water since its big come-back in 2002. Billed as the "last Mortal Kombat game of this generation of systems", it's clear that Midway is milking the series for all it's worth. Armageddon's main claim to fame is the fact that it includes every character (60+) that has ever appeared in the Mortal Kombat universe. Almost all are unlocked at the outset, but many are so minor that I've never even heard of them. And let's face it: pitting obscure characters like Chameleon and Ermac against each other is hardly what anyone would call a "dream match-up". A few real oddballs are tossed in as well, like the ping-pong ball covered "Mocap" and the zombie "Meat". Liu Kang has been resurrected as a chain-swinging zombie, which I suppose is better than not having him at all. Considering there are more fighters here than anyone could possibly care about, the inclusion of the "Kreate a fighter" feature almost seems gratuitous. Armageddon's one-on-one fighting action is solid as ever, and largely unchanged from Deadly Alliance (2002) and Deception (2004). You can now toggle between two fighting styles instead of three, which simplifies things a bit. The constant "air juggles" can get old, but it's cool to execute a "breaker" with a well-timed block. The interactive stages are fairly bland, but provide ample opportunity to toss your opponent into a meat grinder or impale him on a spike. The blood flows copiously, but it looks chunky and magically disappears after a few seconds. One thing that truly sucks about Armageddon is the new "buffet style" fatality system. Instead of entering one code to unleash an elaborate execution sequence, you just perform a series of individual moves, like ripping limbs off one by one. This results in some of the most boring, unimaginative fatalities you've ever witnessed. The character "endings" are equally lame, mainly consisting of scrolling text. Armageddon "Konquest" mode serves as a mini-adventure, and while I like its brisk pace and non-stop action, the fights seem oddly disjointed. After dispatching of a dozen look-alike thugs in the jungle, you suddenly find yourself in front of a temple for a one-on-one battle with the "boss". Then suddenly you're back in the jungle again. The graphics are meager, and the scenery lacks detail. When you witness dragons talking without moving their mouths, it becomes clear that Midway didn't put much effort into this. One brand new mode is "Motor Kombat", which plays like a Mario Kart knock-off. You'd think this would be crazy fun, considering the rich set of characters and their distinctive attacks. Instead it feels like a bargain bin title, with wide, uninspired tracks that might as well be interstate highways. After a few laps, I found myself nodding off. Extra features include an arcade-perfect version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and the "Premiere Edition" features an extra disk with an interesting documentary about the history of fatalities. For those who live and die for Mortal Kombat, this edition should tide them over until the next generation, but for most gamers, Armageddon is just more of the same. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge
Publisher: Sony (2009)
the Motorstorm games for the PS3, but when I heard that this "winter" edition had been relegated to the PS2/PSP platforms, I was expecting a watered-down experience. That's not
the case! In fact, in many ways Arctic Edge is even more fun
that its PS3 predecessors! Yes, the graphics are less detailed and the physics is less accurate, but this game has an arcade quality the others lack. The tracks are easier to navigate and the controls are forgiving, minimizing the frustration factor. Your diverse vehicle selection includes buggies, motorbikes, muscle cars, trucks, and even snow plows! The bright courses wind through various Alaskan locations with icy cliffs, muddy valleys, huge banks, and expansive snowy tundra. If you're someone who appreciates games with wintry themes, Arctic Edge is a dream-come-true. The scenery is spectacular but never over-the-top, and realistic wooden structures reflect the native Eskimo culture. The tracks offer a slew of alternate paths, and well-placed ramps let you to catch major air. As with other Motorstorm titles, this one conveys the thrill of driving halfway-out-of-control as you careen down steep hills and weave through shadowy caves. You can apply the turbo liberally and push your vehicle to dangerous speeds. As you ascend the ranks in the "festival" mode, you'll not only participate in wild races but also addictive solo challenges. Motorstorm's graphics are exceptionally good for a PS2 title, and those sun flares look sensational!
The crashes aren't much to look at, but that's not a big loss. The split-screen mode works beautifully, and I love how it lets you toss a few CPU racers into the mix. Vibration feedback is also used to good effect. The guitar-heavy soundtrack can get on your nerves, but you can always turn that down via the options menu. Motorstorm: Arctic Edge is a must-have title for the cold winter months ahead. Highly underrated, this might even edge out its PS3 cousins! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
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