Call of Duty: Ghosts
Publisher: Activision (2013)
Rating: Mature (blood, drug reference, intense violence, strong language)
Like past Call of Duty titles, Ghosts delivers realistic first-person shooting with varied missions and action-packed scenarios. What the game fails to deliver is a next-generation playing experience. As with most current cross-platform titles, I might as well be playing this on my Xbox 360. Ghosts does grab your attention in the opening mission set in outer space
where a laser-equipped satellite is being hijacked. If you think the idea of a shootout in space sounds like fun, you would be right. This end-of-your-seat sequence has a cinematic flair similar to the film Gravity. When the laser strikes the earth it leaves cities like Los Angeles in crumbling ruins with buildings standing precariously along gaping chasms. If that's not bad enough, a federation formed in South America is invading the USA. The freshness of the story quickly wears off however as the game settles into familiar Call of Duty territory. You'll defend beaches, creep through foliage, take cover behind barricades, and shoot down helicopters with rocket launchers. The campaign mode is engaging enough, and I like how you're never doing the same thing twice. Unfortunately it's also so linear that you often wonder if you're having any impact or are just along for the ride. The auto-aim makes it easy to pick off enemies, but it's hard to run from grenades, so get used to tossing them back! One new addition is an attack dog named Riley who can be controlled via a mounted camera. Like the drones in Killzone: Shadow Fall
(Playstation 4, 2013), Riley can scout out new areas and maul unsuspecting foes. For such a mature franchise, Ghosts feels undercooked. There's no auto-save during the missions, which I had to learn the hard way. Towards the end of one mission the game went completely belly-up and dumped me back into the Xbox dashboard! My friends and I noticed there are fewer local multiplayer (split-screen) modes than previous Call of Duty titles which doesn't bode well for the future. The campaign has no local coop, and the split-screen modes are limited to two players. A new "extinction mode" lets you fend off increasingly intense waves of aliens. It's supposed to be like the Horde mode in Gears of War 2
(Xbox 360, 2008) but there's one big difference: it absolutely sucks
. Call of Duty: Ghosts has its share of white-knuckle thrills, but I'm beginning to suspect the franchise is in decline. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2013)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, use of alcohol)
In the spirit of the classic George Romero zombie films, Dead Rising 3 conveys that sense of desperation you experience when a zombie epidemic strikes your town. In the unnerving opening sequence you find yourself in a pitch-dark containment facility surrounded by cages bursting at the seams with growling, hissing, screeching undead about to break loose. Eventually you team up with a band of survivors and seek cover in a garage. From there you'll embark on a series of frantic missions with the goal of getting an airplane into working condition. As with previous Dead Rising games, you can use any object as a weapon, from a chainsaw to a guitar to a freakin' watermelon
. Blueprints let you combine items into super weapons like an electrified hammer or a rake of swords. Dismembering and bludgeoning zombies is easy and fun. Yes, as progressive as our society purports to be, zombie bashing remains quite acceptable. Slow and easy to shake off, you can charge into a mob and often emerge no worse for wear. One awesome aspect of the game is the vehicles. Whether you're driving an SUV, motorcycle, or steamroller (!), plowing through the undead hordes is crazy fun. I also like the game's sense of progression. The storyline may be linear but events unfold in an organic way and there are oodles of optional side quests. Dead Rising 3 lacks the suspense like a zombie film but I did jump out of my seat a few times. The town is an interesting place to explore, and I appreciate the diversity of zombies in various states of decay. My main beef is with the controls. When multiple items are close together, it's hard to pick up the right one, and sometimes the buttons feel unresponsive. The mechanism for switching weapons is clumsy, and since it doesn't pause the action you'll take damage while fumbling through your inventory. The camera behaves itself when driving forward, but once you put the gear in reverse, it's all over the place. In addition to occasional autosaves, you can save your progress at latrines. Dead Rising 3 doesn't take itself too seriously, sometimes to its detriment. When I accidentally put on that giant Lego head, I couldn't get it off, and it took me forever to find something a little less ridiculous to replace it with. As you can imagine, that really took the edge off the cut-scenes! I wouldn't regard Dead Rising 3 a must-have game, but it's one of the stronger titles for the Xbox One. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Forza Motorsport 5
Publisher: Microsoft (2013)
Of the dozen games I've played on my Xbox One and Playstation 4, only Forza Motorsport 5 truly qualifies as "next generation". This ultra-realistic racer offers a wide range of exotic cars and world-famous tracks from around the globe. Six different leagues each offer their own class of cars, ranging from vintage to modern. Narrated cut-scenes highlight the unique stylings and characteristics of each automobile. Car aficionados will drool over these lavish video-quality showcases, but casual gamers will wish for a skip option. Forza 5 shoots for realism and hits its mark. The graphics, audio, and controls are top notch. When you initially step into your first car, it looks so real you might as well be watching prerecorded video. The car interior looks fantastic with its polished leather and lifelike hands gripping the wheel. This is the first racing game where I actually prefer
the dashboard view. The way the controller feels
is amazing. Not only does the vibration feedback let you feel the engine, but the triggers actually resist
you, like real anti-lock brakes. The visuals are silky smooth and an arrow guide on the road allows you to handle unfamiliar tracks with ease. The sun flares look so real you will actually squint your eyes! The cars render actual damage on the fly
- one feature the Gran Turismo series has been promising for years!
If you go wide on a turn and end up on the gravel, you can always hold Y to "rewind". It's cheap but habit-forming! My friend Brent is an actual race car driver and he was impressed by the faithful rendering of the tracks (he knew every turn). As an arcade fan however I found these sparse raceways to be a little dry. An "assist" system lets you finely tune the level of difficulty, and excellent surround sound lets you hear other racers creeping up from behind. The orchestrated music is a bit dramatic, but less abrasive than most racing game soundtracks. The only major oversight is the lack of CPU racers in the split-screen mode. It's clear Microsoft put a lot of resources into Forza 5. This should be standard issue for all Xbox One owners, and car fanatics will consider it to be in "A" territory. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Microsoft (2014)
Rating: Teen (blood, mild suggestive themes, violence)
The words "Killer Instinct" elicit fond memories of my SNES days, so I was stoked
about this Xbox One launch title. Imagine my disappointment to learn the new Killer Instinct had been relegated to a download-only online experiment with each character
sold separately. Forget that! Fast forward one year when I walk into a Best Buy and found this game on disc
- and at a bargain price! Yes, this is a fully functional fighting game with a nice selection of characters and all the obligatory modes (arcade, training, survival, versus, on-line, etc). The intro music is just as I remember, only remastered to sound more edgy. The graphics are absolutely phenomenal
with jaw-dropping characters and amazing dynamic backgrounds. The reimagined fighters are awesome. Instead of your everyday skeleton warrior, Spinal is a pirate ghost living in a rainy ship graveyard complete with a kraken. Sabrewolf's castle looks like something from a 1930's-era horror flick - with vintage music to match. Fulgore reminds me of Predator, and I love how his armor clanks as he gets pounded. Nine "season one" characters are included and I also noticed a few "season two" characters have been added since the initial install. Killer Instinct adopts Street Fighter IV's winning formula with 3D graphics and 2D gameplay. The basic controls are responsive and the special moves will feel familiar to fighting fans. The emphasis is on combos, so once you start laying into your opponent, show no mercy! I enjoyed battling my friends in local versus mode, but the single-player modes left me feeling empty. I don't know why they keep score because high scores aren't saved anywhere. Instead the game saves a million statistics like the number of fights, character usages rates, combo breakers, shadow bars gained per match, etc. What's missing is a sense of progression. You can increase the level of each character, but to what end? To unlock concept art and songs? You have to invest a lot
of time to unlock anything
you can buy
the stuff with real money instead. The game constantly badgers you about new content for sale under the guise of "news". This bastardized version of Killer Instinct was clearly designed with one purpose, and that is to milk your wallet
for all it's worth. This is one business model that needs to die in a fire
. One side of me wants to embrace Killer Instinct for its good looks and tight gameplay, but it's hard to enjoy a game that's constantly reminding you how incomplete it is. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Ryse: Son of Rome
Publisher: Microsoft (2014)
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual content, strong language)
This highly-anticipated Xbox One exclusive proves that looks aren't everything. It's been a while since I've played a proper gladiator title, with Shadow of Rome (PS2, 2005) coming to mind. That said, Ryse (which I insist on calling "rinse" for some reason) is pretty much what I expected. It's a linear hack-n-slash adventure with combos, counters, and fatalities. The combat system is almost exactly like Batman: Arkham Asylum
(Xbox 360, 2009), letting you quickly block one foe and strike the next. The storyline follows the life of a Roman centurion played by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers. The detail in the cut-scenes is impressive. The voice acting and facial expressions are so convincing, it's obvious real actors were used. In addition to hand-to-hand combat, you can occasionally command troops using button (or voice) commands to volley arrows or fire catapults. As you accumulate "valor" you can upgrade your abilities, but be careful while navigating the upgrade screens. If you run out of valor you may be dumped into a screen that lets you pay with real money
. If this is how modern games work, remind me to never
give Microsoft my credit card! I love the way Ryse looks with its majestic towers and scenic aqueducts, but it can't match the pure spectacle of God of War 3 (PS3, 2010). The ability to toss spears and move in formation (to block raining arrows) is neat, but most of the game is tedious swordplay. It seems like I was always fighting the fat barbarian who looks like John Goodman. I must have impaled that guy 100 times
for crying out loud! The action becomes painfully repetitive as you face the same band of savages over and over. You finish off every foe with a color-coded fatality, and a little restraint could have made these a lot more satisfying. Despite its state-of-the-art "Cryengine" technology, Ryse is hampered by old-school issues like invisible walls, enemies that get stuck on the scenery, and your inability to strike multiple foes. After a while I felt like I was playing the game just to see the stages, and not because I was having fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
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