What's cool about Half-Life is that instead of using cut-scenes to convey the story, it unfolds through actions you witness and conversations you hear, creating a far more immersive experience. The graphics are fast and smooth, and you can interact with other scientists who explain events and provide help. Half-Life provides a nice variety of weapons ranging from a crowbar to a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The monsters are effectively grotesque, resembling roasted chickens, scientists with octopus heads, and headless dogs.
Expertly designed, Half-Life features many clever puzzles which easily make up for the few annoying jumping sequences. A handy "quick save" function lets you save your place at any time, so if you die you can pick up near where you left off. Just remember that quick save does NOT save your progress to a memory card - you'll need to go to the mid-game menu to do that.
The control scheme feels comfortable and uses both joysticks, just like Red Faction. The graphics are fair but look blurry up close. The crisp sound effects like clanking machinery and unsettling screams are remarkable, and even the voice acting is respectable. New to the PS2 edition of Half-Life is a two-player co-op game in addition to the standard death match.
While the co-op game is playable, I despise the death match mode, and the controls in both are rather touchy. If you've heard about Half-Life and wondered what all the fuss was about, here is your chance to find out. It's a good game, but after playing it for an extended period, I couldn't help but get that feeling that I've done this all too many times before. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The first few scenes showcase cutting-edge silk sheet technology as Fiona dashes around in a flowing sheet that barely contains her curvaceous figure. The funny thing is, when she finally changes into some clothes they are even more revealing! I don't think that skirt could possibly be any shorter. The programmers even went through the trouble of incorporating the all-important boob physics.
The sprawling castle grounds are rendered in muted tones that give them a dreamlike appearance reminiscent of Ico (Sony, 2001). I couldn't help but notice the footstep sound effects were lifted straight from Resident Evil, and they are loud! The camera angles are mostly fixed but there's some zooming in and out for cinematic effect. As you explore the castle you periodically encounter a big scary freak who resembles Sloth from The Goonies. Getting chased by this dude is an alarming predicament. Your only recourse is to hide, and sometime he'll even find you!
Early in the game you befriend a dog named Hewie who responds to your commands. Well, sometimes he does. You really need to coax him and provide positive reinforcement. Haunting Ground is a nice combination of exploration, puzzles, and terror, but it can test your patience. The fixed camera is a liability when you're on the run, making it hard to tell where you're going.
Like the horror movie cliche, Fiona tends to struggle when being chased and takes her sweet time while doing things like opening doors and climbing ladders. The hiding spots are rarely obvious and the game says "coast is clear", don't believe it! Haunting Ground offers plenty of chills and thrills, but expect a heavy dose of aggravation as well. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
You play a cop in a typical terrorist storyline that quickly degenerates into an alien infiltration scenario. A typical stage involves running around a nondescript maze of rooms while collecting items and disposing of an endless parade of thugs. Making matters worse is a schizophrenic camera that's disorienting in the single-player mode, and absolutely bewildering in the two-player mode.
The thug regeneration system is obnoxious to say the least, having the audacity to send goons out of empty rooms you just cleared out. You'd like to flee, but the game creates invisible walls that prevent you from proceeding until you've killed everything. Can you believe that crap?
Technical glitches often cause enemies to become stuck in solid objects. I actually had a shoot-out with a gang of bad guys that were all embedded in a single door! There are plenty of weapons lying around, but the most effective move by far is the "grab and throw" which kills just about anything with one shot.
As bad as it is, Hidden Invasion does a few things right. For one thing, the bad guys go down spraying bullets, which looks pretty cool. I like how you can kick a thug when he's down, and the hand-to-hand combat isn't bad. But the basic gameplay gets dull in a hurry. Hidden Invasion can be found lurking in your local bargain bin - avoid it at all costs. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The presentation might be a little sloppy, but 3DO put the most effort into where it really counts. There aren't any crazy plays or fancy animations, but the baseball action is pure. Pitchers can't find the strike zone when they get tired. Coaches visit the mound. Players get ejected. Third strikes are dropped by catchers. These are the kind of details that real baseball fans notice. The controls are intuitive and responsive, and for your hyperactive friends, you can even set the game speed.
Other nice options include a replay frequency setting and "view stadium" mode, which lets you look around at your leisure. After each game, there's a load of statistics including a full box score and a complete game summary! With awesome control, realistic gameplay, and fast action, High Heat is not a bad bet. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The fifteen "off-the-wall" golfers are less impressive. They tend to be bizarre caricatures, and many are very unappealing. Sure I love the blonde in the tight red dress, but I could have done without the nerds, hillbillies, and other assorted freaks. Need more proof the characters are weird? Marilyn Manson is a hidden character.
Even so, Hots Shots 3 delivers in terms of pure gameplay. You'll be playing this game all day long just to unlock golfers, courses, and other goodies. Each round moves along swiftly and smoothly, with very few lulls in the action. There are only a few minor annoyances worth mentioning. Some of the sound effects, especially people yelling, get on your nerves after a while. The new addition of "caddies" is worthless, and the character reactions tend to repeat a lot. Hot Shots hasn't evolved much over the years, but it's still the best golf game around. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The courses sport lush green fairways, rolling hills, brilliant water effects, and attractive but unobtrusive scenery. The grass is so detailed that you can see individual blades. In the Hot Shots tradition, the golfers are wacky caricatures of people from all walks of life. In the past I've had issues with these goofy characters, but Fore features such a wide selection that it's not hard to find one that you like. Unfortunately,all but two golfers and one course are locked when you first turn the game on. I was also disappointed to see that some of the courses were repeats from Hot Shots 3.
Still, there are some nice new features. Pressing the swing button with just the "right" amount of force rewards you with a better shot, which is the first reasonable use I've seen of the PS2 controller's analog "face" buttons. Some of the caddy characters are very funny, particularly the Sean Connery impersonator with a penchant for show tunes. As usual, the close-ups of putts are fantastic, sometimes placing the camera inside of the cup!
You'll win prizes as you progress through the game, and detailed records are kept on best rounds, longest shots, etc. Hot Shots is now online compatible, and a miniature golf mode is also included. But the best thing about Hot Shots Fore is that its time-tested gameplay has remained intact. This is a safe bet for casual gamers and serious golf fans alike. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The player selection is very limited at first, but unlocking new characters is fun thanks to the addictive challenge mode that lets you scale the ranks through a series of quick matches. A lot of the female characters look really cute!
Unlike other tennis games that try to be realistic (Top Spin 3) or over-the-top (Sega Superstars Tennis), Hot Shots Tennis manages to nail that ever-elusive "sweet spot". The action on the court is fast and fun, and there are only three buttons to worry about: normal shot, slice, and lob.
Despite its whimsical style, Hot Shot's brand of tennis is arguably more realistic than "serious" tennis games. For one thing, it's fairly common to hit the ball out of bounds or into the net if your timing is off. Drop shots and lobs are extremely effective, and overhead smashes are immensely satisfying. You'll develop a good bit of technique as you get comfortable with the game.
Although it's nearly flawless, I hate having to skip those lame player reactions after every single point. Fortunately you can turn off the instant replays from the options menu (what's there to see anyway?) Hot Shots Tennis is easy to overlook, but this throw-away title blows all of the other tennis games out of the water. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The secret lies in the insanely twisted, vertigo-inducing tracks - a few rank as some of the best-designed tracks I've seen. The sense of speed is palpable as you whiz through corkscrews and fly off gigantic ramps, often barely reaching to the other side. Once you master the turbo (hold it and the accelerate button at the same time) and side thrusters (hold L2 or R2 in the direction of the turn) you'll feel in total control. There are no weapons, but your vehicle will explode if you take too much damage by hitting the walls of the course.
The arcade mode is fun, but I especially like the Slalom mode that lets you compete in a series of quick, one-lap races. Majesco even went the extra mile and included an intuitive track editor with a helpful tutorial. Hypersonic Xtreme really impressed me, up until it froze in the middle of one race. That's pretty bad for a PS2 game, and it really ruined an otherwise fun racing experience. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The graphics are breathtaking. Fortress walls rise hundreds of feet above the sea, and the views from some of the higher platforms are enough to make you dizzy. I often had to stop and marvel at the level of detail. The architecture is amazing and the artistic direction is first-rate.
The shadow-like spirits look both creepy and amazing, and the fluid animation is a feast for the eyes. Characters swing from chains, run hand-in-hand, and help pull each other up. Sure, you've seen smooth animation before, but nothing that looks this natural.
The puzzles are interesting and fair, and there are ample save points. The vibration feature of the controller is used extremely effectively. Ico is a quiet game unlike anything else. While the slow gameplay and puzzles may bore action fans, thoughtful players will find Ico to be a very satisfying gaming experience. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Special effects cause the arrows to swerve, freeze momentarily, accelerate, and exhibit other unpredictable movements, thereby spicing up the action. The number of modes and customization options are extensive. A single player can play several songs in a row via the "marathon mode", or try his hand at two mats at once. I favor the "fitness mode" that displays a live counter of the number of calories burned.
So how are the 70+ songs? Pretty good, if you like the bouncy, club style of music. There are no big name musicians, but hell, there aren't very many in DDR either. So if you're into dancing games and need a new fix, don't hesitate to get In The Groove. Note: You'll need to own at least one dance pad to enjoy this game. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The main navigation screen is a virtual pizza parlor, where you move between arcade machines and tables. Each offers a new category of gameplay, including sports, arcade, space, strategy, and kids game. You even get six previously unreleased titles! Although most of these don't qualify as "classics", there are definitely a few gems, including Astrosmash, Utopia, Thunder Castle, B-17 Bomber, Shark Shark, and World Championship Baseball.
Once you select a game, you can view the original instructions, production notes, and a scan of the box before you play. All games have configurable options, and you can even select background music and enable "radical" play modes. These unconventional "modes" generally just distort the screen and are only recommended for hardcore drug users. Another nice feature is how the settings and high scores are automatically saved! Sound too good to be true? Well, don't throw out that old Intellivision console just yet.
Many great Intellivision titles are conspicuous in their absence, including Diner (the Burgertime sequel) and the entire Dungeons and Dragons series. I'm guessing they had problems securing the rights to these games, and that's a shame.
Another problem I should probably mention is that most of these games are unplayable with the PS2 controller! Pressing the select button causes a keypad to appear on the screen (complete with the overlay), but this gets in the way and lets the other player see what you're doing. Intellivision Lives should have been packaged with special controllers, because this fatal flaw ruins an otherwise attractive compilation. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
This isn't the kid-friendly adventure its predecessor was. While it does retain a whimsical side, it also has a dark undertone most evident in the strong language. Hearing words like "damn" and "bitch" in a game like this is a real turn-off. Technically however, Jak II is undeniably impressive. The rich scenery includes a detailed city you can easily cruise around via hovercraft. Tall structures can be seen in the distance, and I love the flooded area with its rickety, wooden plank walkways.
Jak II offers its share of conventional platform jumping, but much of the action takes place in indoor areas, making camera positioning more of an issue. Is it just me, or does the camera swing the wrong way when you adjust it with the thumbstick? In addition to jumping, Jak can now fire powerful weapons, although the camera makes it hard to keep your foes in sight.
The highlight of the game are its hovercraft sequences, which bring to mind those in Star Wars Episode 2, only on a smaller scale. The chases are quite exciting as you swoop around traffic and avoid blasts from soldiers. The game lets you "car jack" vehicles a la Grand Theft Auto, and also incorporates Metal Gear-inspired "vision cones" for the guards that patrol the city. A handy map keeps you moving in the right direction, and I like how doors automatically open as you approach, saving you time as you navigate between areas.
Jak II is huge and there's plenty to see and do, but it's bogged down by some annoying qualities. You can save at any point, but often dying will send you back to the beginning of a lengthy stage, which is aggravating. The characters tend to be extremely unlikable (including Jak), and the idiotic rodent sidekick Daxter fails to provide any worthwhile comic relief. Some of the missions feel like tedious errands. Jak II's production qualities are too high to write the game off completely, but fans of the first may find themselves with mixed feelings about this uneven follow-up. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Jax X offers an unprecedented number of playing modes, and most are a lot of fun. In the action-packed races, missiles fly and explosions abound as the racers jockey for position. Since the leaders are constantly blowing each other up, you're always in the hunt. In Turbo Dash mode, you score points by punching the turbo and maintaining that breakneck speed for about ten seconds at a time.
Freeze Rally challenges you to complete the track in a fixed amount of time, hitting "freeze" icons to stop the clock. In Death Race, you score by blasting dozens of "drones", and in Rush Hour you score by ramming them headfirst. Artifact Races take a page from Smuggler's Run, where racers attempt to collect randomly placed markers on a wide-open field. Likewise, Sport Hunt challenges you to blast wandering robots.
It can be a lot of fun, but Jax X Racing has a laundry list of problems. The control scheme is counterintuitive and can't be reconfigured. The low viewing angle and cluttered scenery makes it hard to anticipate upcoming turns, so you'll really need to memorize the courses for best results. Power slides are tricky and it's easy to lose control of your vehicle. As you might expect, these issues are exacerbated in the split-screen modes.
My friends usually love playing cart games head-to-head, but they were less enthused about this one. The game incorporates Burnout-style "kill cams" which show your enemy wiping out, but while watching these it's possible to lose control of your own car! The single-player cutscenes are not the least bit entertaining, and the little rodent Daxter is more irritating than funny. The guitar-driven soundtrack is pretty mediocre too. This game is best played solo, unlocking vehicles and tracks. If Jak X Combat Racing proves one thing, it's that "more" doesn't always translate to "better". © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Jak is the young adventurer you control, and Daxter is his little furry sidekick who provides ample comic relief. Your goal is to collect power cells on an island, which you discover through exploration or earn by doing favors for the local villagers. Exploring the island is fun, and there are plenty of interesting missions, vehicles, and hidden areas.
The graphics are absolutely stunning! The scenery is lush, beautiful, and often fascinating. The lighting effects are particularly outstanding. The time of day gradually changes as you play, and at night little tiki lamps light your path. Even the enemies are fun and imaginative, and you can dispose of them with your Bandicoot-ish charge or spinning-kick moves.
The control is dead-on, and even hopping between platforms is relatively simple. I only wish that the camera (controlled by the right joystick) was a little more versatile, because this game provides some incredible panoramic views. The gameplay is fun and addicting, and game saves are frequent and transparent. Best of all, there is virtually NO loading time!!
Another innovative aspect is a lack of BOSSES. Believe me, you won't miss them a bit. The game has a fine sense of humor, and if Daxter doesn't make you laugh out loud, you will at least smile. Granted, there are a ton of other 3D adventure games out there, but I'd rather play Jak and Daxter. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
I expected a slow, deliberate spy adventure but From Russia With Love is anything but. The action is pretty much non-stop beginning with the prime minister's daughter (played by singer Natasha Bedingfield) being kidnapped by the "Octopus" crime syndicate. The game's auto-aim absolutely kicks ass as James goes to work picking off bad guys at every turn in an opulent palace.
The graphics are first-rate with realistic lighting and detailed scenery that's faithful to the time period. Next thing you know James is riding a jetpack picking bad guys off Big Ben before shooting down a helicopter. And that's before the opening credits! When that lavish musical intro kicks in you realize EA spared no expense with this one.
From Russia With Love generally follows the film's plot but expands upon it for dramatic effect. The game is played from a third-person view and you can pick up items by running right over them. The controls feel so responsive it's like the game is reading my mind. Naturally 007 is equipped with gadgets like a laser watch, sonic cufflinks, and remote control helicopter.
There are some exciting chase sequences but the driving controls could be better. The touchy steering has me swerving all over the road, and that's before the bad guys start ramming into me! That said, I love the car's "tire-punch" weapon which knocks off any vehicle that dares pull up alongside. The explosions in this game are tremendous.
The orchestrated score gives the film the weight of a motion picture, and it seems as if every stage culminates with a plot twist or epic confrontation. During one scene you're cruising through an underground reservoir, and it feels like being on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride - except you're picking off the pirates with a machine gun! Weapon effectiveness is suspect at times. While I shoot a guy in the face with a rocket launcher, I expect him to do more than flinch!
The stages are just the right length, and you get to choose from three skill levels before entering each. Also included are a series of bonus documentaries, including one about the making of the game. Heck they even threw in a four-player split-screen mode. Clearly the people behind this game had a passion for the franchise and wanted to do it right. As a result this is the most authentic Bond game ever created, and quite possibly the most fun. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The gameplay is fast and challenging. The ultra-long courses careen through all sorts of exotic environments, including submerged ruins, volcanic islands, a desert gorge, and a high-tech city. The steering controls take some getting used to, and the flip and roll tricks are a real pain. All too often you wind up soaring through the air upside down, unable to right yourself. The water effects are mediocre, and occasionally the water looks unnaturally hilly and even blocky from a distance.
Your competitors are wacky stereotypes from various countries, and I found their smart-aleck comments to be pretty irritating. Jet X2O has an addictive world tour mode and a fun two-player split screen mode. It's not the best jet ski game ever, but it was fun enough to keep me occupied for a few hours. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com