Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified
Publisher: Activision (2012)
Rating: Mature (blood, drug reference, strong language, violence)
Why do gamers like first-person military shooters so much? Maybe because they're awesome?
Declassified is pretty much what I want in a portable version of Black Ops. The missions are short and to-the-point, with fewer cut-scenes and less computer-controlled bull-[expletive]. Declassified puts you in precarious situations in locations that span the globe. You'll infiltrate facilities, rescue hostages, and halt missile launches. You'll travel to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Germany, and Russia. There are plenty of snow scenes, which is always a plus. It's fun to weed out enemies one by one, and the auto-targeting system lets you pick off several in rapid succession. The graphics are comparable to the console version, and I don't mind using the edge of the touch screen to access grenades and other special weapons (less buttons to remember). The commercial for this game highlights its on-line mulitplayer mode, but Declassified packs enough single-player challenges to keep you busy. The campaign only has about 15 missions, but you also get time trials and a "hostiles" mode. Hostiles is like playing on-line, except you fight against wave after wave of CPU-controlled players. High scores and best times are recorded for all modes. If there's one thing I dislike about Declassified, it's the uneven mission difficulty. That second mission is absolute murder!
You need to save groups of analysts being held hostage, and it's really tough to prevent them from getting shot. It must have taken me 100 tries
to get past that one. The key is to use a flash-bang to buy yourself extra time. In the end, Black Ops: Declassified is not the epic experience of the console game, but it doesn't try to be. It's simple yet satisfying shooting action on-the-go. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2011)
Rating: Teen (fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes, use of alcohol)
It's hardly what I was expecting, but I'm pleased with Gravity Rush. This futuristic adventure stars a magical babe in a floating world that's coming apart at the seams. With a black cat as your sidekick, you can manipulate gravity (as it pertains to you) in order to navigate your surroundings. You can temporarily walk on walls and ceilings, or free-fall through the air sideways or upwards. Once you grasp the concept, it's fun to "fall" across town and land on the side of a building, or vault between huge floating chunks of debris. Is it disorienting? Hell yes, but it's also exhilarating to alter your center of gravity at the press of a button. The fact that you don't sustain damage from falling any distance is part of what makes the game fun. You might fall to the ground in a heap but you'll be no worse for wear. As you try to uncover your identity you'll talk to characters around town, battle monsters, and become embroiled in a storyline involving a shape-changing villain. The stylish graphics are anime-style, but there's really not much to see. The controls are a bit touchy (especially when aiming with the right thumbstick) but forgiving - especially during combat. Most of your enemies are black blobs with big red eyes. Guess where their weak spot is! The game moves at a brisk pace and there are frequent auto-saves. A few of the fetch and stealth missions tested my patience, but since they were short, I wasn't deterred. The cut-scenes are presented in comic-book style cels you page through by swiping the touch screen. It's fun to watch the story unfold in these colorful, semi-animated scenes. The makers of Gravity Rush clearly knew what they were doing. This is a very thoughtful and original title that really works. I don't think I've even played anything like this before and that's saying something. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2011)
For those of you who will still be commuting to work in 2048, I have good news and bad. The good news is, your car will be a lot
faster. The bad news is, you're going to be attacked with missiles, and that's no way to start the day. Wipeout 2048 is the latest incarnation of this venerable futuristic racing franchise featuring ships floating over elevated platforms that weave and bank through an urban metropolis. This game brought back memories of playing the original Wipeout (PS1, 1995). Back then just rubbing against a wall could bring you to a complete stop, but here the action is non-stop. Scraping a wall only slows you slightly, and even upon crashing you're immediately returned to the track. The scenery comingles old-fashioned brick buildings and suspension bridges with soaring modern towers and "light bridges" (a la Halo 4). I didn't find any of the tracks particularly interesting though, and some of the more twisty ones will have you bouncing off the rails like a pinball. There are three views to choose from, but each is low to the road. This intensifies the illusion of speed but undermines your ability to anticipate turns. Using the thumbstick to steer feels touchy and I actually prefer the tilt controls. Either way however you'll need to overly rely on the air brakes, and that sucks. The weapons are ineffectual. Even when you unleash a missile right on target, it's hard to tell if it hit, and even when it does, it won't matter much. Wipeout 2048 has tremendous load times. It's becoming clear that the advantages of firmware media are largely offset by the need to constantly uncompress data. From the time you select a track to the time you begin the race, it's well over 30 seconds. And while the electronic music was a major element in previous Wipeout games, it's barely audible over the roar of engines. On the surface Wipeout 2048 looks like a blast, but the more you play the less enthused you become. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com