MLB 07: The Show
Publisher: Sony (2007)
I've been less than thrilled with baseball games in recent years, but MLB 07 won me over with its brisk gameplay and no-nonsense control scheme. The Show's graphics are sharp, and even the crowd is composed of minutely detailed fans. Unlike other sports titles that favor tight camera angles to show off their fancy visuals, The Show keeps the camera pulled way back, giving you an optimal view of the action. Players move and react with the utmost realism, and do a terrific job of emulating their real-life counterparts. Swinging is as simple as pressing a button, and while the pitching meter isn't bad, I prefer the "classic" pitch mode where you just aim and hit a button. Fielding and running controls are extremely responsive, so turning 6-4-3 double plays is a pleasure. The menus are rich with options, but the expertly designed interface makes them a breeze to navigate. An amazing instant replay option allows you to examine tags from merely inches away. For casual players like myself, The Show offers a "fast mode", allowing you to bypass the tedious pauses between pitches and the time consuming instant replays. The problem is, not only does this bypass the boring stuff, but a lot of the good stuff as well, like batters charging the mound or the pageantry of a homerun. And there's a lot to see, including players goofing off in the dugout and outfielders chasing beach balls. Oddly, the fast mode still forces you to sit through long foul balls, which take forever to come down. A worse flaw is the fact that when a homerun is hit, all you see in the player breaking into his homerun trot, totally eliminating the drama of watching the ball sail over the fence! I noticed a few minor visual flaws, like deserted bullpens (which should have pitchers), or the empty Eutaw Street outside of the homerun fence in Baltimore. The Show's two-man commentary isn't bad, but not quite up to professional telecast standards. It's easy to nit-pick, but The Show delivers were it counts, and that's with quality gameplay. This is one of the few sports games that successfully caters to hardcore and casual baseball fans alike. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
MLB 08: The Show
Publisher: Sony (2008)
It's hard for a baseball game to be realistic without being boring, but The Show pulls it off. Much like last year's edition, this game is a pleasure to play. Expect to see everything you'd see in the real game, from base runners reacting emotionally to calls, to broken-bat base hits, to beach balls being batted around in the stands. It's easy to judge incoming pitches, the number of foul balls is reasonable, and hits are distributed uniformly over the entire field. MLB 08's simple control scheme eschews gimmicks for a more traditional approach. To swing, you just hit X - how refreshing is that?
An easy three-press meter is used to pitch - not unlike those used in older golf games (and Hot Shots Golf). Tracking down fly balls and tossing the ball between bases is a breeze. I love how the first baseman will lunge for throws that are off-target. The right stick can be used to perform every type of slide you can think of. Only the controls for diving and stealing bases did I find counter-intuitive. Thanks to vibration support, you can even feel your heart thumping
when batting in crucial situations. Six-Axis motion support provides alternate controls for jumping and diving, but as usual, it's a joke
. The Show is easy for novices to pick up and play, and experts can indulge in advanced features like directional swinging, pitcher/batter analysis, and the never
-popular "guess the pitch". The graphics are excellent, with accurate stadium representations and life-like crowds that reach for foul balls. Player uniforms look stiff, but the shadow effects are amazing - especially on sunny days. The commentators are rock solid yet unobtrusive. Not only do they recognize the various stadiums ("He was swinging for the warehouse that time"), but they even reference previous games ("He had three hits yesterday"). One menu option near and dear to my heart is "fast play", which cuts out those time-consuming animations between plays, keeping the games well under an hour in length. Sadly, fast play also eliminates some of the dramatic animations you want
to see - like home run trots! The Show's menu interface is well designed, so tinkering with options, substituting players, and viewing instant replays is no problem. The game actually saves every
replay, so you can go back and watch any hit or out at any time! After each game the winning team lines up for high-fives, while the losers look dejected in the dugout. The Show plays a great game, but I did notice a few minor glitches during rare plays (like passed ball third strikes). The poorly written manual (which is mostly credits) makes no attempt to explain the myriad of options, and doesn't even explain the basic controls. The Show's initial load times are very long
, but once you get going it's smooth sailing. Whether you're looking for a deep simulation or a quick contest against a friend, The Show has all of its bases covered. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
MLB 09: The Show
Publisher: Sony (2009)
When my friend Steve and I first sat down to play MLB 09, little did we know it was going to be the better part of a half-hour
before we threw our first pitch. What is this, a PC game?
Between the mandatory system updates, game installation, and subsequent load times, anxious gamers will have plenty of free time on your hands. It's a great opportunity to catch up on your reading!
Steve and I were fuming "this had better be damn
good!" Guess what? It is.
MLB 09 The Show is an extremely well-constructed baseball title with extraordinary polish and attention to detail. The "fast play" mode is obviously the way to go, allowing you to bypass all of the boring lulls associated with real baseball. The controls are so intuitive, you hardly need to glance at the manual. Try doing that with other baseball games! The pitching meter is simple to grasp, and swinging the bat is as easy as pressing the X button. Fielding is a piece of cake. When the ball is popped up, a large rotating ball image appears where the ball will land, and it looks a little like a UFO is landing on the field. The Show's gameplay is ultra realistic, with subtle animations like a first-baseman holding the glove up to show the umpire after scooping out a throw in the dirt. There are even appeals to the first-base umpire to see if the batter checked his swing. Although the gameplay is remarkably deep, it's only as complex as you want it to be. There are many "game-within-a-game" features like guess-the-pitch, swing analysis, and a "batter's eye camera", but the game doesn't shove them down your throat. While the field looks unspectacular, the scenery outside the park looks great, and the Philadelphia skyline looks downright amazing
. The audio is crisp, so you hear every smack of the glove, crack of a bat, and even foul tips. The two-man commentary is intelligent and enthusiastic, and each game ends with a nice post-game wrap-up, complete with highlights. My gripes are so minor, I almost feel petty
bringing them up. On a dropped third strike, the commentator will say the catcher tagged the runner, but he clearly never does. Some batters have unorthodox stances that can obscure part of the pitching meter. The six-axis motion control is clumsily implemented as an option for jumping and diving (Good luck with that!
). When the action heats up, the crowd gets so loud you'll need to turn the volume down! But at its core, MLB 09's gameplay is pretty much airtight. I love how the season mode allows you to play seasons as short as 14 games! MLB 09: The Show is painful to install, but once you get that unpleasant business out of the way, sit back and enjoy the best baseball game on the market. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
MLB 10: The Show
Publisher: Sony (2010)
The first time I played MLB 10: The Show, it was a late night but I convinced my friend Steve to stick around for a "quick game". Little did we realize that between the loading, firmware updates, installation, and data configuration processes, it would be a good half hour
before we could throw a single pitch! That
my friends, is why I opt for the 360 version of a game whenever I have the choice. Fortunately this game lived up to its lengthy build-up. The Show is easily the best looking baseball game ever produced. The stadium graphics look absolutely stunning, especially during sunny day games. The manner in which players resemble and behave like their real-life counterparts is uncanny. In stark contrast to Major League Baseball 2K10 (Xbox 360), The Show is easy to play. Pitching employs a three-press meter like those employed in old golf games, and it's easy to grasp and hard to master. The meter behaves erratically later in the game, but that may be by design. The more you use a particular pitch, the larger its "sweet spot" becomes, making it easier to throw. For this reason it's usually a good idea to keep your pitcher in the game as long as possible. One oddity is how it's possible to throw a 90 MPH change-up!
Swinging involves pressing the X button for contact or the square for power. Novices will appreciate the simplicity, but personally I prefer 2K10's analog swing. Likewise, tossing the ball around the bases is less satisfying due to The Show's inferior throw meter. Upon bringing in a reliever, you have the option of eight practice pitches. That's realistic, but unless you enjoy torturing your opponent, you'll bypass them. The Show plays a good all-around game of baseball, and it's possible to play a quick contest thanks to the "fast play" mode. I love how this game sweats the details. Home plates umps check with their counterparts down the lines to verify check-swings. There are broken-bat singles, violent home plate collisions, and batters who grimace in pain after fouling the ball off of their ankle. The camera pulls back for homeruns and long fouls, giving you a nice view of some majestic shots. The two-man commentary team is intelligent and insightful, and in one instance I even heard a commentator correct
himself! In the crowd you'll notice things like people batting beach balls around, and Tampa's stadium has a pool with actual stingrays swimming around in it. The Show's instant replay system is a pleasure to use, and during crucial situations the controller will throb like a heartbeat. The Show is getting some stiff competition from 2K10, but this game remains a winner thanks to its accessible gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and a commendable attention to detail. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
MLB 11: The Show
Publisher: Sony (2011)
The worst part thing about MLB '11 The Show is its mandatory installation process. If you're running low on hard space you'll probably need to clear out 5 GB
of hard disk space. For me, that meant uninstalling The Show 10. After an obligatory system update and a lengthy install process, you'd think the The Show would load in an instant
, but no, it still
takes forever to get a game going. Your patience is eventually rewarded with the most realistic and polished baseball game ever made. The presentation is flawless. From the stadium details, to the weather conditions, to the player models, everything is right on point. Runners on base chitchat with fielders, mascots dance on the dugouts, players complain to umpires, and teammates high-five each other after a great catch. The picture-in-picture runner windows look slick, and the commentators keep up with the action well. The Show has always been looker, but this year the big news is its revamped controls. Its new system is called "Pure Analog Control" but it might as well be called "MLB 2K11 Mode" because it totally rips off 2K's baseball game! The right stick is now used to perform all basic actions with some difficulty
. I think the swinging is broken, because although the instructions state you can simply push forward to swing, I always had to pull back first. It's hard to hit the ball, and unlike 2K, the Show doesn't provide any helpful hints. The analog throwing mechanism is similar to that in 2K, but it isn't nearly
as precise or fun to use. The new vertical pitching meter is anything but intuitive, and would probably be more suitable for a golf game. First you pull back until the meter reaches the "sweet spot", and then you push up quickly while "aiming" for a ball icon. It's a little odd, but it works in spite of itself and is probably easier to grasp than 2K's circular pitching meter. I find it interesting how balls and strikes are not called with 100% accuracy - just like the real thing. Watching a game of The Show 11 is like watching real baseball, which sounds like a good thing but it's not. Most baseball games provide some kind of "fast mode", but the Show 11 attempts to provide more fine-grained control of the game's pace. Options like "fast pitch" and "no batter approach" are good ideas, but you can't disable those boring replays! Also slowing down the action are the non-stop foul balls. Are there that many in real baseball? Despite its polish and attention to detail, I found The Show to be surprisingly tedious. Some will chalk it up to realism, but I call it boring. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
MLB 12: The Show
Publisher: Sony (2012)
I really miss the old days when I could get genuinely excited
about a new baseball game. Today's baseball games are big on realism but seriously lacking in the fun department. Playing a full nine-inning game has become a chore. MLB The Show takes an eternity to install, and you have the option to install either a 5 or 10 GB (!) version. What is this, a PC game?!
The pacing seems reasonable with the 5 GB install, and frankly baseball isn't a fast sport to begin with. The Show has always been a looker, and this year is no exception. The player models are extremely lifelike and their mannerisms in the batter's box and base paths are totally convincing. Sometimes a batter will grimace at a third strike and say a few words to the umpire. Frustrated pitchers throw their gloves in the dugout in frustration. The television-style presentation is polished but a little boring, and you'll find yourself skipping the cut scenes. The commentators are very informative although they can lag behind the more fast-moving plays. The CPU opponent is sharp, and if you hesitate in the field the computer-controlled runners gladly take an extra base. You can watch replays of any play
via the replay vault, the replay controls are easy to grasp. One thing I've always liked about The Show is its simple, pick-up-and-play gameplay. Well, with MLB 12 the developers put an end to that! A tricky new pitching meter features a pulsating circle, and it certainly adds challenge. Trouble is, it's impossible to properly time this spastic meter, and you'll find yourself walking batters even when trying to toss the ball right over the plate. Worse yet, the constant throbbing made me feel queasy. Things don't look much better on the batter side, as you "aim" with what appears to be a pixelated sun ported over from an Atari 2600 space shooter. The fielding is not nearly as satisfying as MLB 2K12, and it's tough to make last-minute adjustments on fly balls. As with most recent games, The Show 12 come with tacked-on motion controls. Swinging the ball works fine, but everything else is a confusing mess, so stick with a regular controller. Overall MLB 12 is fair, but I'm still waiting for a new baseball game that I can get excited about. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Major League Baseball 2K8
Publisher: 2K Sports (2008)
If you want to play baseball but keep the fun and excitement to a minimum, you should try Major League Baseball 2K8. Much like previous iterations, the emphasis is placed on realism, so gamers looking for a fast-paced arcade experience need not apply. After playing MLB 2K8 with a number of friends, I would describe it as 33% brilliant, 33% idiotic, and 33% "what the [expletive]?" As usual, the controls are gratuitously complex, but this year there are some interesting innovations. The ability to throw via the right thumbstick is pure genius. You simply hold the stick in the direction of the appropriate base, releasing when the little throwing meter reaches the desired strength. It's a lot of fun! Equally clever but poorly executed is the new pitching system. Each pitch is delivered using two "motions" of the right stick (think Street Fighter 2) and timing is key. Unfortunately, the circular pitching meter is not
intuitive and has yet to "click" with me (or anyone I played against, for that matter). The fielding is unforgiving, so if your player isn't positioned perfectly, the ball will roll right by without even an attempt
to snag it! There's quite a bit of slow-down during fly balls, but that's usually to your advantage. Swinging the bat is done by pulling and pushing the right stick, but you need to commit awfully early to get the bat around in time. The number of foul balls is reasonable, but there are far too many homers and hits into the gap. Controlling runners is easy thanks to the logical shoulder button controls and a giant superimposed diamond. As usual for a 2K game, navigating the menus is confusing, and you'll find yourself in frustrating situations like not being able to exit the bullpen screen. Likewise, the replay system is so terribly complex that it's not even worth messing with. 2K8's graphics are about average - nothing objectionable but nothing eye-catching either. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan provide excellent play-by-play (as usual), and the crowd noise is so realistic you can practically hear bits and pieces of conversation. Even so, there's precious little pageantry in MLB 2K8 - you don't even get to see home run trots!
The games tend to drag on, with a nine-inning affair lasting an hour and a half or more. You can turn off the cut-scenes and instant replays, but the long pauses between pitches remain. Yeah, you can hit a button to expedite the process, but that gets irritating. And for a game that values realism, the out-of-date rosters and incorrect schedules are disappointing. MLB 2K8's no-nonsense approach will appeal to hardcore baseball fans, but the cumbersome control scheme and steep learning curve will demoralize fun-loving gamers just looking for a good time. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Metal Gear Solid 4
Publisher: Konami (2008)
Rating: Mature (blood, crude humor, strong language, suggestive themes, violence)
Have you ever come home from work, asked your wife how her day was, and had to listen to a half-hour diatribe explaining every trivial detail? Metal Gear Solid 4 (MGS4) is like that - it won't shut up!
Designer Hideo Kojima is clearly living out some kind of movie-director fantasy by overloading this game with never-ending cut-scenes. The self-indulgent dialogue just goes on and on with its non-stop technical jargon and obscure references. It adds little to the experience, but subtracts a great deal. I'm sure there are geeks out there who will actually understand how all of the details tie into the previous three MGS games, but I stopped paying attention sometime during MGS2! In this chapter Snake is afflicted by a disease that makes him look old, although somehow he's retained his buns of steel. His voice is so
gravelly that it's unintentionally hilarious
to hear him grunt and growl through each line. MGS4's graphics are high quality, but frankly, these war-torn environments looked better in Call of Duty 4. Snake is equipped with a nifty new camouflage mechanism, multi-function goggles, and a miniature robot that lets him scout out locations. With so much great technology, why in the hell is his cell phone set to ring?!
The basic Metal Gear gameplay is unchanged, and that's a good thing. As you creep towards each objective, it's best not to attract much attention. There are constant shoot-outs in the streets between rival factions, and since it's hard to tell who's who, it's best to sneak through abandoned buildings and alleyways. You have the option to cut loose with some run-and-gun action, but after getting mowed down a few times you'll appreciate the merits of a cool, calculated approach. It's almost imperative to study the 37 pages of controls
before diving in. There's plenty to master, but the context-sensitive "action" button is clumsy when things heat up, and the aiming mechanism is all over the place. MSG4's clear highlight is its fantastic
cast of original, creepy villains. Each of these twisted creations will toy with your senses and strike fear into your heart. MGS4 has a lengthy installation process, and you'll have to install again
several times over the course of the game. You can save your progress at any time. Metal Gear Solid 4 is very good when you're actually playing it
, but if I couldn't skip the cut-scenes, I wouldn't play this at all
. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Midnight Club Los Angeles
Publisher: Rockstar Games (2008)
Rating: Teen (mild suggestive themes, mild violence, strong lyrics)
When reviewing the same game for both the 360 and PS3, I usually prefer the 360 version due to faster load times and better controls. Thankfully, the PS3 version of Midnight Club Los Angeles (MCLA) has proven to be every bit as good as its 360 cousin. Not only does this game spare you from a lengthy installation process (the norm for PS3 games), but the modest load times aren't any longer than the 360 edition! The controls are another pleasant surprise. Most developers simply mirror the 360's control scheme, but Rockstar was smart enough to realize the PS3 controller is a different beast. Instead of using the right trigger to accelerate, the right stick
is used to accelerate and brake (and turbo, when you press it in). Add in the R1 button for use as the handbrake, and you have a very simple, comfortable control scheme. Whether you're freely cruising around town or barreling through the streets at breakneck speeds, Midnight Club is a joy to play. You're challenged to races during both night and day, although I personally find the night races more exciting. Your path is lit by tall yellow flumes which also feature easy-to-read arrows to indicate turns. The races are ideal in length (a few minutes each), and the game automatically saves your progress. The auto-repair feature is a great idea, and you have to love the handy "restart race" option. A more subtle aspect of the game is its forgiving collision detection, which keeps the head-on collisions (and frustration) to a minimum. When you're not racing, it's fun to see the sights around LA. A cool inside-the-car view is available for maximum realism, but it's not very practical. Unlike most racers which I can pick apart for days, I found it hard to find fault with this. When it comes to realistic racing action, Midnight Club Los Angeles is as good as anything I've played. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2008)
Rating: Teen (blood, language, violence)
Critics have heaped praise upon this title for its bold originality, but as usual, they forgot to take into account if the game is any fun
. Mirror's Edge may be innovative and stylish, but it's also awkward, confusing, and occasionally nauseating
. You play the role of an Asian chick named "Faith" on the run from the law in a futuristic, totalitarian society (not unlike Half Life 2). In her free time Faith enjoys leaping between buildings, infiltrating offices, smashing through glass windows, and subduing generic bad guys. Mirror's Edge tries to convey the frenetic, visceral experience of being on the wrong end of a police chase. The graphics look beautiful! The cell-shaded scenery is extremely clean and well defined, with bright colors used sparingly for effect. Faith performs all the moves you'd expect from a 3D platform game like Tomb Raider - and more!
She leaps, grabs, swings, climbs, rolls, slides, shimmies, and (prepare to roll eyes) runs along walls
. Leaping between ledges at dizzying heights is tough enough from a third person perspective, so imagine what's it like to do them from a first
person viewpoint! Now imagine being shot at by a helicopter
the whole time. Now
how much would you pay?? I'm sorry, but even die-hard FPS fanatics will tell you that first-person and jumping do not
mix! Expect a lot of crazy camera angles and "what's going on moments" as Faith scrambles up walls, dangles from ledges, and tumbles amidst a rain a bullets. That brings me to another fundamental flaw with Mirror's Edge: how can you run non-stop when you don't know where you're going?
The designers use a few techniques to keep you headed in the right direction. Pipes, ramps, doors, and other helpful objects are highlighted in bright red. If that's not enough, you can hold the O button to get oriented in the proper direction. These techniques get the job done, but they make the game feel contrived - like you're being strung along
. The control scheme tries to shoehorn too many functions into the shoulder buttons. L1 alone performs five
functions! And whose bright idea was it to put the "turn 90 degrees" button next to the attack
button? Not cool! The right stick controls the camera, but it stops working at the most inopportune moments. And guess what's used for the tight-rope walking sequences? (Prepare to cringe) Six-axis motion controls!
These motion controls are so hideously terrible that if they couldn't be turned off, they'd drag the game into F
territory. Sony needs to ditch this whole Six-axis thing before any more games get ruined! Mirror's Edge does have its moments of adrenaline rush, and it's amazing how fast you can navigate areas you've already been through.
But this is one of those rare well-executed but ill-conceived titles. As the old adage says, good intentions pave the way to hell. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2010)
Leave it to Sony to take a winning concept like Mario Kart and bastardize
out of it. Apparently the brain trust at Sony is of the opinion that gamers would rather "express themselves" than have fun
. Modnation Racers is replete with customization options that let you tweak everything from your car's tailpipe to your driver's haircut. The kart racing itself seems like an afterthought. The tracks look sharp but the locations (castle, island, marina) lack imagination. The steering controls are touchy and the weapons generally suck
. Most are unsatisfying to use, and getting hit by one often brings you to a screeching halt. Modnation Racers does introduce two interesting control mechanisms. First, you can deploy a shield when you hear the warning beeps of a missile approaching. It's a great idea, but not as effective as you might expect. You also have the ability to ram into opponents using the right stick, and it's definitely satisfying to knock them off the road. Modnation has considerable depth when you take into account the wide variety of items and alternate paths through each track. Catching big air can be fun, especially when you soar past the clock tower in the marina stage. The AI of the single-player mode is suspect however, as you'll cruise through a circuit only to become hopelessly stuck on the championship race. Modnation really pushes the customization options by frequently dropping you into "create station" screens. Personally, I consider these a colossal waste of time. When I'm battling other cars tooth-and-nail, the last thing I'm thinking about is how I'd like to have a cute sticker on my passenger door. The track editor is easy enough to use thanks to the handy "auto-populate" option which adds scenery, but I prefer other people
to design my games. Last but not least, have any other reviewers commented on the excruciating
load times? You'd think that after sitting through 30 minutes of mandatory installs and updates, the game would run pretty fast, but that's not the case at all. It's takes forever to start Modnation up, and the wait time between races is pure torture. This game should be called Load
-nation Racers! I guess it takes time to load all of those customization options Sony thinks we want so much. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2007)
Rating: Teen (language, violence)
I've always thrived on fast-action racers with simple controls (Virtua Racer and Hydro Thunder come to mind), and MotorStorm delivers the same brand of high-octane bliss with absolutely phenomenal
graphics. In the awe-inspiring opening sequence, a camera rises over a huge mesa to reveal a massive carnival-like scene bustling with activity on the other side. And MotorStorm's in-game graphics fully live up to that high standard. The rocky desert scenery is practically photo-realistic
, with fantastic lighting effects that accentuate the soaring cliffs, rocky gorges, and reflective mud puddles. It looks so good that I found myself wondering if the Xbox 360 had finally met its match. The game itself is a series of off-road races with a mix of motorcycles, ATVs, buggies, stock cars, trucks, and even big rigs. The vehicles look slightly less real than the scenery, but the manner in which they attract dirt, model damage, and explode on impact (flying bodies included) is sensational. The eye candy is further enhanced by a silky smooth framerate and realistic physics. You really need to moderate your speed to avoid losing control, although the landings are far more forgiving than they'd be in real life. The eight expansive tracks are loaded with multiple routes, ramps, and breakable barriers. I like how mud temporarily gets kicked onto the screen while tailing opponents, and the sense of immersion would be complete if only the PS3 controller supported vibration. The controller's motion-sensing capabilities can be used to steer, but it doesn't work well. The abrasive, guitar-driven soundtrack is repetitive and irritating at times, but the inclusion of Nirvana pretty much compensates for the lapses in quality. MotorStorm's load times are fairly extreme, especially on the vehicle selection screens. You can race against others online, but my friends were totally bummed out by the lack of a split-screen mode. Had Sony even attempted
some sort of split-screen action, I would have been tempted to slap an "A+" on this bad boy. MotorStorm is an adrenaline-soaked thrill ride from beginning to end. Some critics have called it shallow, but if that's the case, I wish more
games were this shallow. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
MotorStorm Pacific Rift
Publisher: Sony (2008)
Rating: Teen (language, mild suggestive themes, mild violence)
As a gritty off-road racer with photo-realistic graphics, the first MotorStorm (Sony 2007) really blew my mind. But as impressive as it was, it had its share of issues. This sequel effectively addresses those issues by incorporating split-screen modes, shortening the tracks, and alleviating the difficulty. The load times are reasonable and you don't even have to sit through an installation process! Apparently someone
at Sony has figured out how to program a PS3, and it's about [expletive] time! The tracks offer much more variety this time around, with lush jungles, scenic shorelines, high-altitude cliffs, and active volcanoes. There's a hodgepodge of vehicles to choose from, from motorcycles to dump trucks. At first the lack of track markings may leave you confused about where to go, but in fact the tracks are designed
to be wide open, with alternative routes and shortcuts out the whazoo. As long as you're heading in the right general direction, you're doing fine. The rough terrain will have you hugging the edge of harrowing cliffs, soaring off wooden ramps, splashing through water, and navigating dangerous crossroads. At the beginning of the "Riptide" track, all of the racers converge on a single narrow ramp, and the chaos that ensues with crunching metal and flying bodies is the stuff of gamers' dreams. The controls are simple, and the complete lack of tricks is refreshing. You have plenty of turbo power, but you'll want to limit it to straight-aways since it severely limits your ability to turn. Physics is not
your friend, so try to keep four wheels on the ground and orient your ride in mid-air. As with the original game, Pacific Rift delivers an exhilarating, half-way-out-of-control feeling that's both exciting and addictive. The grudge soundtrack is positively headache-inducing, but thank goodness it's drowned out by the engine noise. I have to give Sony credit for including a four-player split screen - that's pretty rare for a non-Wii game! Pacific Rift is probably one of the best summer-themed games I've played, and a perfectly good excuse to finally break down and get a PS3. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2011)
Rating: Teen (crude humor, drug reference, language, suggestive themes, violence)
It's probably the weakest entry in the Motorstorm series, but damn, Apocalypse still packs a punch. This time you find yourself racing through an earthquake-ravaged city with disjointed highways, collapsed bridges, toppled buildings, raging fires, and gaping chasms. It sounds like a riot, yet my friend Chris still
took the game to task, "What about the guns? What kind of apocalypse doesn't have guns?
" Anyway, Motorstorm's sense of speed is excellent, making it extra exciting to squeeze through twisted wreckage while avoiding the onslaught of 15 crazy drivers. The visuals are so detailed so you can practically smell the musk in those damp sewers and feel the heat coming off the walls of flames. Despite that, there are precious few "wow" moments for a game with Apocalypse in its title. In fact, the only sight I would describe as "awesome" was when a massive skyscraper fell in front of me at the start of one race. Occasionally you're prompted to hit the triangle to zoom in on some kind of random destruction, but it's not very dramatic. I think Split Second (Xbox 360, 2010) may have stolen a lot of Motorstorm's thunder. The thing is, these tracks are already
in ruins, so they can't get much worse
. The scenery is such a complete mess that you feel as if you're driving from one junkyard to the next. The clutter also makes it hard to determine where you're supposed to go, and you'll find yourself following
somebody whenever you get a chance. There are plenty of branching paths, but many that appear to be valid routes are dead ends. Fortunately the collision detection is forgiving and your car does not easily roll. After crashing you're placed immediately back on the track - at full speed no less. The control scheme has been tweaked a bit so the ram buttons are now the square and circle. That's great because you can use them without taking your finger off the accelerator. The single-player mode offers a nice variety of tracks, along with vehicles ranging from motorcycles to big rigs. A comic-book style storyline ties the races together, and it's surprisingly easy compared to previous Motorstorms. Selecting the multiplayer option prompts you to go on-line, and initially I feared this would prevent me from accessing the split-screen modes. I was later told that you can configure split-screen races from the Quick Race menu option - for up to four players. I guess you can chalk that one up to a bad user interface. The split-screen is a little hard to play due to the chaotic nature of the tracks, but it's nice to have the option. The audio is a mixed bag. Some of the orchestrated music effectively conveys danger and intrigue, but there are also some generic beats that are just plain obnoxious. The game does not require installation (thankfully) and the load times are tolerable. Motorstorm Apocalypse is a respectable entry to the series, but there's nothing much new or interesting here, leading me to believe the franchise may be running on fumes. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
NBA Street Homecourt
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2007)
Like its critically-acclaimed predecessors, NBA Street Homecourt is a 3-on-3 basketball competition with no fouls, no out-of-bounds, and goaltending that's not only allowed, but recommended! Players have more "ups" than ever before, soaring high over the backboard in anticipation of alley-oop throw-downs. Don't even think
about unleashing a three if there's a defender between you and the basket, because the ball will be swatted away like a fly. You can practically juke defenders out of their shoes, and contested dunks result in some nasty mid-air collisions. It's a good time, but Homecourt's controls are lacking compared to NBA Street V3 (PS2, 2005). There are two "trick" buttons, jumps are performed via the O button, and the right thumbstick doesn't play much of a role. I will admit however that the new "double dunk" move absolutely kicks ass
. When you go up for a dunk, a meter appears, and if you hold down the shot button until the meter is exactly full, your player performs a truly imaginative "double dunk". Hold down the button for too long however, and the ball just clanks off of the iron. That's over-the-top enough, but Homecourt goes off the deep end with its "gamebreaker" sequences, which practically turn the game into a silly break-dancing contest. As if there wasn't enough showboating already, you can kick
the ball off your opponent's face
! Compared to its PS2 cousins, Homecourt's graphics are substantially more realistic with amazing textures and lighting. The NBA players are uncanny models of their real-life counterparts, and the playing surfaces look photo-realistic down to the tiniest cracks. On the downside, the colors look washed-out, and it's often hard to differentiate teammates from opponents. Homecourt's audio is impressive, with constant banter between the players that sounds totally convincing. The only time it lets me down is when someone asks what the score is, and no one answers. If one guy had yelled out the actual score, I would have been tempted to bump this up a grade! Homecourt's multiplayer action is tremendous. This game turns your friends into a bunch of [expletive] [expletive]s, whooping it up and yelling all sorts of trash. You can select not only from NBA teams but also "hometown" squads, including a "B-more" crew stocked with Juan Dixon, Sam Cassell, and Carmelo Anthony. Unfortunately, the single-player Challenge mode forces you to ascend the ranks using a bunch of fictional players like "Carl Archer", "Quincy Teel", and "Junior Santos". It would be far more interesting to bring up a real NBA star like Carmelo Anthony, especially since the game is interspersed with video clips of NBA stars reminiscing about the courts they grew up on. EA really missed the boat on that one. NBA Street Homecourt comes up short on the solo tip, but when you're in a competitive mood with your friends, this game is a slam dunk. Make that a double
slam. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
NCAA March Madness 08
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2007)
Whoa! After playing College Hoop 2K8, this game feels like a shock to the system
. With its sluggish players, choppy animation, and dull, muddy graphics, NCAA 08 March Madness is technically inferior. Judging from the way players slide around the floor, you'd think they were all moon-walking
out there. The camera view is distant by design, trying to hide the fact that this game is so ugly
! Clearly the developers dedicated most of their time on those sexy cheerleaders and zany mascots! The frame-rate is erratic, and the action on the court seems to move in slow motion much of the time. March Madness is still playable however - even exciting at times. It plays a more wide-open game than College Hoops, so it's easier to drive the hoop. But you can't ignore the game's sloppiness, which is infuriating at times. The ball makes no noise at all
when it clanks off the rim - although it does "whoosh" through the net. There are serious glitches in the AI, including players who run out of bounds for no reason, and balls that sometimes rocket into the stratosphere. Fouls are sometimes called without any indication why
. But the most glaring oversight is the fact that there are no coaches
. It looks so dumb
when the players huddle around each other during time-outs. Dick Vitalle provides spirited color commentary (as usual), but Brad Nessler says some really inexplicable things, like "This crowd is about to go silly
!" NCAA 08 would have been a reasonably good college basketball game five years ago, but EA has a lot of nerve to charge $60 for this. Especially considering how smooth and polished their NBA Live 08 is, this is inexcusable. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2007)
The Stanley Cup definitely goes to Electronic Arts this year, delivering a solid hockey experience simple enough to satisfy casual gamers yet rich enough to please hardcore fans. After playing the user-hostile NHL 2K8, NHL 08 feels like an old friend. All of the controls fit nicely on two adjacent pages of the instruction manual, and there are no obscure moves to worry about. The default controls use the right thumbstick to wind up a shot and rocket the puck towards the goal. The right stick is also used to check on defense, but those hits are awfully soft. Personally I'd recommend switching over to the "classic control" scheme, which employs a minimal number of buttons much like the old Genesis NHL games. Not only does it make the game much
easier to play, but you'll find yourself clocking opponents with ferocious body checks. NHL 08 also tends to "flow" better than 2K8, letting you maintain control of the puck on offense and execute pinpoint passes. The CPU is very clever, especially with its unpredictable give-and-go moves on fast-break opportunities. The graphics aren't quite as colorful as 2K8, but far more realistic. The players look impressive close-up, and I love how they hang onto each other and celebrate after a goal. The audio is remarkable as well. When the crowd starts chanting "GO DUCKS" in unison, it sounds amazing
. The commentators are very much in tune with the action, and even admonished me on one occasion for "going back to the well" and using the same ineffective shot over and over. NHL 08's pop music soundtrack is far more appealing than 2K8's head-banging bull-[expletive]. Between periods the game provides a "scouting report" and even offers advice to each player. Unfortunately, the game lacks that televised presentation that sports fans find appealing, and there are few bells and whistles. Even so, with its user-friendly controls and realistic gameplay, NHL 08 is an easy choice for hockey fans this season. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 2K Sports (2007)
2K Sports' hockey games are usually good for some fast-paced arcade action, but this year the franchise has hit a wall. NHL 2K8 still exudes a distinctive arcade style, but its convoluted control scheme absolutely sucks
. What the [expletive] was 2K thinking
? First of all, there are no less than six pages
worth of bewildering controls in the manual, giving NHL 2K8 the dubious distinction of being the Mortal Kombat of hockey games
. I have no idea what some of these moves are even supposed to do! What's a saucer pass or a wrist dump? What the hell does "stick the ice" mean? The instruction book would be a good place to explain stuff like this, but 2K got lazy and didn't even bother! There are special face-off moves, and you can now pin your opponents against the boards, but you'll need to memorize new sets of moves for those too! On offense R1 is used to shoot, and R2 is the speed burst, which is a really, really
bad idea. I mean, c'mon now. The right thumbstick controls the position of your hockey stick, but I didn't find that useful at all. It's difficult to maintain possession of the puck in general, making each contest very chaotic. But despite being clueless about the controls, my friend Steve and I still
managed to score 13 goals
in our very first game! Yes, it's way
too easy to score. A lot of times you'll have your goalie kick the puck out to avoid a time-consuming face-off, and then accidentally score on yourself
! The NHL 2K franchise has also fallen behind in terms of graphics. Everything looks very artificial, and those plastic player faces look downright scary! On the bright side, the two-man commentary is sharp and the games move along at a brisk pace. The action is very physical, and I even saw one player get checked into the bench. The loud, abrasive guitar noise is some of the worst background music I've heard in years. NHL 2K8 is an arcade game cursed with the controls of a tedious simulation. As a result, this isn't likely to appeal to casual gamers or
hardcore hockey fans. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
Publisher: Sony (2012)
Rating: Teen (crude humor, mild language, mild suggestive themes, violence)
This multi-player fighting game is an unholy amalgamation of genres and styles... and it almost
works. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale tries its best to mimic Nintendo's popular Super Smash Bros. franchise. Up to four players can engage in freestyle combat while jumping around platforms. Unlike Nintendo however, Sony does not have the luxury of a stable of family-friendly characters (which may be an indictment of Sony in of itself). For this game Sony was forced to dig deep, exhuming Parappa the Rapper (PS1, 1997) from his grave, borrowing the hulking Big Daddy from 2K Games (Bioshock, 2007), and pretending Fat Princess is a legitimate franchise. The roster is an awkward mishmash of characters that run the gamut from tame children's games to violent mature titles. There are some very innocent characters like Sackboy (Little Big World), Ratch and Clank, Spike (Ape Escape), Jak and Daxter, and Sly Cooper. Some of the scarier ones include Colonel Radec (Killzone 2), Sir Daniel (Medieval), Sweettooth (Twisted Metal), and Kratos (God of War). Rounding out the roster are some really boring guys like Nathan Drake (Uncharted) and Cole (Infamous). Nariko (Heavenly Sword, 2007) provides a good foil for Kratos since they both swing chains, but when they're hacking away at poor Sackboy, it doesn't seem right. It's even weirder when the happy-go-lucky cartoon background transforms into the third dimension of hell. The gameplay isn't bad. The controls are responsive and there are some imaginative attacks, like Fat Princess going on a rampage while riding on a giant chicken. I like having a jump button (instead of pushing up on the controller), and the stages are constrained so you don't need to worry about falling off the screen. Using the right stick to throw didn't win me over, but I like the idea of a one-button special move. The screen zooms in and out as the action unfolds, but the exquisite detail in the characters and backdrops make it really easy to lose track of your character. The solo mode is very easy on the default "legend" difficulty, and the still-image intros and endings are not very satisfying. I thought the four-player mayhem was a mess, but my friends seemed to enjoy the chaos and they defended the game. Playstation All-Stars is a freak show of sorts, but it should attract the attention of Sony fans and fighting game enthusiasts. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: THQ (2007)
Based on the Disney Pixar film, Ratatouille follows the adventures of a culinary-minded rat in Paris by the name of Remy. This was one of the few kid-friendly titles in the first wave of PS3 games, and it's mediocre at best. Ratatouille begins with an obligatory tutorial level that's even more tedious than most. It's like one long obstacle course, and when you finally reach the end, you're informed you need to go back and collect a bunch of "charms" you missed. Ugh! The main game offers selectable stages that are mission-based, timed-based, or chase scenes. Some missions incorporate stealth elements, which makes sense considering you're a rat in a kitchen! Duh!
The difficulty is reasonable, but I didn't find the game to be particularly fun. Most levels seem to have a lot of sticky muck on the floors that slows you down. Running on a ball or flinging yourself across the room with a straw is mildly entertaining, but too many areas require delicate balancing acts. Pole-jumping and tightrope walking require you to use the Six-axis motion controls - a fate worse than death. There's an option to turn these tilt controls off, but without them the game is even harder! Other than Remy's plush coat and the way his slinky body undulates, the graphics aren't very impressive. You'll scurry through plenty of alleys, kitchens, and sewers, but the angular scenery would be more appropriate for a PS2 game. When you see pipes shaped like octagons, you have to wonder how much of the PS3's power is really being used. The camera controls are awkward and the load times are long. I did enjoy jazzy musical score, and the cut-scenes are done with good humor. Fans of the movie can probably bump up the grade by a letter, but for the rest of you, this one bargain bin title you can safely resist. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Publisher: Sony (2007)
I was somewhat apprehensive about this new Ratchet and Clank, expecting the same old platform-shooting hijinks with a fresh coat of paint. To some extent, that is true, as our furry hero (Ratchet) and his robot companion (Clank) leap between floating platforms, smash crates, collect missing parts, grapple between hooks, and deal with familiar hazards like electrified water and timed flames. But Tools of Destruction takes the formula to new heights with astonishing planets and a dazzling array of weapons. The destruction quotient is off the charts, with jarring explosions that release hundreds of collectible "bolts" that gravitate towards you automatically. It's fun to experiment with the imaginative weapons, which include a tornado generator and a disco ball that makes your foes break out into hilarious dance numbers. There are even some exciting space-shooting stages tossed in for good measure. Tools of Destruction has far more depth than previous Ratchet and Clank adventures, evident by the extensive list of moves which consumes about five pages of the instruction manual! And if you think the weapon selection screens are confusing (they are), good luck making sense out of the over-complicated weapon upgrade screens! God bless America! The save system also threw me for a loop, mainly because it doesn't resume your game exactly where you left off (I guess they didn't have the technology
). Even so, Ratchet and Clank Future's learning curve is worth the time investment. Its captivating environments are loaded with breathtaking architecture, and before you can become bored with one place, you're whisked off to a whole new planet. The rainy planet Mukow is a tropical fantasyland, and the gravitationally-challenged space station calls to mind Super Mario Galaxy. This game has a lot of substance, and the difficulty is just about right. But what really won me over was the brilliant dialogue and brief cut-scenes which manage to be genuinely funny without being stupid or juvenile. Expect to hear PA announcements like "This is your last chance. Lay down your weapons so you may receive the aforementioned whooping." In one funny cut-scene enemy guards mistake Clank for a toaster
. This is a very likeable game. Ratchet and Clank Future isn't the most original platform-shooter you've ever played, but it's probably the best. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2008)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)
The first Resistance was an intriguing first-person shooter and one of the few notable PS3 launch titles. My friend Steve and I loved the split-screen cooperative campaign, so we were pretty psyched about playing through Resistance 2 as a team. Imagine our disgust when we discovered the split-screen coop mode had been unceremoniously axed
from this sequel. That's right, the coop mode is on-line only
, meaning Steve would have to go home
if he wanted to play the freakin' game with me! Oh sure there is a split-screen "competitive" mode, but it takes forever to set up and is over in a flash. This bad initial impression caused this game to collect dust on my shelf for years
. I finally got around to playing the Resistance 2 single-player campaign mode, and it's very good - probably as good as the Halo games. It begins with you and a partner crash-landing into a war-torn countryside ravaged by gigantic killing machines. This opening sequence does a great job of introducing the basics while still maintaining a high level of excitement. The surround sound effects make you feel immersed in a chaotic war, and the ominous musical score lends weight to the proceedings. Like the first game, the frame-rate is fluid and controls are silky smooth. Blasting monsters is satisfying, and the weapons are fun to experiment with. Most have primary and alternate firing modes, and learning how to leverage these capabilities is part of the fun. The "bullseye" weapon lets you "lock on" to individual monsters before unleashing a series of homing shots. The marksman weapon can deploy a drone that electrifies nearby enemies. The Auger rifle can deploy a transparent shield not unlike the weapon in Halo 2. Resistance 2 is set in the 1950's, and the quaint Leave-It-To-Beaver scenery provides a nice contrast to the sterile, futuristic alien technology. The game will take you through a sinking sea fortress, a misty forest, and a sprawling alien ship. Locations change often and the pacing is brisk. One minute you'll be creeping through quiet marshland, and the next you're mowing down stampeding zombie hordes in a suburban neighborhood. The monsters are hideous thanks to their multitude of eyes and razor-sharp teeth, and their distinctive roars are alarming. The slimy swimming creatures especially gave me the creeps, elevating my blood pressure whenever I stuck my toe into the water. Certain elements border on cheap, like the zombies who spring out of cocoons, or the semi-invisible Chameleon creatures. Resistance 2's production values are as good as they get, with professional acting, brief cut-scenes, scary music, frequent checkpoints, multiple difficulty levels, and the ability to save at any time. There's even a tongue-in-cheek instruction manual that has fun with its vintage 1950's theme. A split-screen coop would have completed the package, but I can't deny that Resistance 2 is a quality sequel. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Resistance: Fall of Man
Publisher: Sony (2006)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)
An outstanding first-person shooter with a compelling storyline to boot, Resistance is easily the strongest of the Playstation 3 launch titles. The action takes place in a post-World War II Europe, when biological experiments have run amuck and created an invading army of hideous creatures called the "Chimera". You play an American soldier named Nathan Hale helping to defend England from the onslaught. Resistance has a very polished look, with crisp visuals, smooth action, and excellent controls. The Chimera are hideous when viewed up close, with their four eyes, huge Baraka-style teeth, and "cooling hoses" hanging off of their backs. The impressive war-torn city streets reminded me of Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360), but the water in the canals and off of the piers looks awfully fake. The laboratory stages are reminiscent of Doom, and some of my friends have even described the general gameplay as being like Doom. Still, Resistance has a few tricks up its sleeve. Most weapons have multiple functions, and holding down the R2 button gives you a complete run-down of your current weapon's capabilities. The Bullseye gun lets you first "mark" a target, and after that your bullets zero in on their target with deadly precision. One gun doubles as a grenade launcher, and the shotgun gives you the option of unloading one or both barrels at a time. Several grenades are available (including one that releases hundreds of needles) but the ensuing explosions tend to be so weak it's sometimes hard to tell if you threw one or not. Resistance gives you several opportunities to man vehicles (including a tank), and that's always a good time. Some areas are loaded with flammable objects, making it fun to set off chain reactions. When certain creatures latch onto you, you can literally shake the controller
to knock them off. The two-player cooperative mode is superb, and you can even resuscitate your partner after he goes down. The vertical split-screen provides a decent view, but it's not always obvious where you need to go next. I normally couldn't care less about the storyline in a first-person shooter, but the game's cinematics gradually drew me in. I found it especially interesting how the hideous creatures are "manufactured" by putting humans through a "conversion process". Resistance is a terrific game that I can play hours on end. It's a shame it was released at the same time as Gears of War (Xbox 360), which has an edge in terms of both graphics and gameplay. Still, Resistance is the one launch title that makes the PS3 almost seem like a decent purchase. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (2006)
Rating: Everyone (mild language, mild suggestive themes)
I like Ridge Racer 7, but I liked it better last year, when it was called Ridge Racer 6
(Xbox 360, 2005). Yeah, this is a pretty shameless rehash, clearly designed to cash in on that wonderful Playstation 3 launch. Like every Ridge Racer title since 1995, the game has an appealing pick-up-and-play arcade feel, with scenic tracks and an emphasis on power sliding. Unfortunately, Ridge Racer 7 is not only a repackaged version of RR6, but in some regards it's not even as good! The level of graphic detail is the same, but this version is plagued by unsightly jaggy artifacts, most noticeable in fences and lines on the road. The "bleeding" effect of taillights in so overdone that you'll think someone spiked your drink. The reworked menu system provides a less
attractive interface, and you now need to complete preliminary "manufacturer trials" to open cars. It's also worth mentioning that the Xbox 360 controllers are better suited for racing, thanks to their comfortable molded triggers. It's easy to pick on Ridge Racer 7, but let's not get crazy here - the game is still unquestionably fun and madly addictive. Once you get a hang of the drifting, the cars handle like a dream. The scenic tracks range from mountains to airports to seaside resorts. The turbo boost adds subtle strategy, as you need to decide whether to use it early or hold it until the final stretch. The brand new "slip-stream" feature didn't do much for me, and it gives new meaning to the term "rubber-band physics". A few of the techno tunes sound like a broken record, but thankfully the commentary has been spiced up with a woman's voice (in addition to the black dude). Whether you're playing alone, split-screen, or on-line, the game will keep you racing and upgrading for weeks on end. Xevious is available as a nice bonus game. The loading screen situation is the same as the Xbox 360, which is to say, not very good. Ridge Racer 7 should have probably be called Ridge Racer 6.1 (or maybe even 5.9), but if you're look for pure racing satisfaction, this is a no-brainer. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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