If you can get through that however, the game really picks up steam as you return to New York to battle in the streets and on rooftops. Later our heroes leave the Earth to visit an old Soviet space station that's now infested by apes. Not only does the space station have a convincingly antiquated, cold war appearance, but the manner in which the apes amble around looks pretty creepy!
Fantastic 4's control scheme maps perfectly to the PS3 controller. The four face buttons provide basic moves, and these are toggled into special moves using R2 or team moves using L2. It's nice how your attack options are displayed with colorful icons on the screen, making it clear which ones are available. It's great fun to experiment, and once you get the hang of the devastating team attacks, you'll be using them at every opportunity. The game only offers two or three different enemy types per stage, but the variety of attacks keeps things fresh.
I especially like how you must utilize a special power of a specific hero to solve each puzzle. For example, the Human Torch can melt walls of ice, and Mr. Fantastic can stretch to reach levers on the ceiling. The camera is controlled with the right thumbstick, and while it's fine with one player, it can be very problematic with multiple players. There are a few Human Torch flying stages that use the motion controls of the PS3 controller, but they're not so hot.
Fantastic 4's graphics are about average - nothing spectacular but sharp and clean. The sound effects are crisp but suffer from uneven volume. You'll want to turn down the sound when you hear the loud crumbling rocks, but then you can't hear the dialogue! Likewise there are some minor graphic and control glitches here and there. Fantastic 4 isn't a groundbreaking title, but if you're in the mood for some superhero action, it's more than respectable. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
More reminiscent of Call of Duty 4 than Morrowind, FF13 might actually be a godsend for those who don't have the time or patience for more meandering adventures. Lightning, a thick-skinned renegade, is joined in her struggle by Sazh, jokester and concerned father; Vanille, wacky Australian narrator with a dark secret; Fang, a short-tempered amazon; Hope, a whiny kid; and Snow, a self-assured loser. The ensemble keeps things interesting but an excess of jargon-laden dialogue is guaranteed to induce yawns. Moments of comic relief include Lightning knocking Snow in his ass when he acts pompous. Did I mention Snow is trying to get with Lightning's sister? Bad idea.
The voice acting and facial animation are top-quality and serve the underlying drama well. The graphics are truly stunning -- six years after the game's initial release I've still never seen anything quite like it. High-quality sound and art direction have always characterized the series, but FF13 takes it to a whole new level. Fans of cutting-edge graphics may want to pick up the PC version, where the added horsepower reveals a world of textural detail that you'll barely see on PS3 or 360.
Gameplay is quick and intuitive but leads you by the hand for a little too long. The game's systems don't start firing on all cylinders until about ten hours in. There's plenty to see although hardcore Final Fantasy fans will come away wishing there had been more to do than march forward, fight a battle, and view a cutscene. You typically start a battle with one fighter, a healer, and a magic user, strategically switching roles as circumstances demand. Boss battles can be furiously difficult if you don't master strategies, upgrade weapons, and level up your team's abilities intelligently.
Unlike most modern big-budget titles, the game was released bug-free at launch, and hasn't received a single update since. Final Fantasy XIII is an RPG that rewards commitment and mastery with beautiful sights and top-notch gameplay, and that's not a bad deal. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Historia Crux is the central hub, connecting all of the places and time periods Serah and Noel can visit. Exploration plays a big role and your choices at story junctions branch into multiple outcomes. The art direction is superb with charming, treasure-laden locations such as beachside villages, dense forests, and a futuristic metropolis.
For battles, the Paradigm Shift system has returned from XIII, whereby your three characters switch battle roles on the fly. The third slot however is now occupied by a tamed monster. Executing a "Feral Link" during battle allows you to recruit monsters and train them up to be formidable allies. Every battle is a spectacle with massive bolts of elemental magic that collide with enemies in terrific explosions. Pulse-pounding bass intermingles with soaring violin melodies to complement the glorious destruction. There are however some annoying spots where you'll grow weary of battles due to high enemy encounter rates or sudden spikes in difficulty.
These issues are exacerbated by the fact that it's far more difficult to evade encounters than it was in XIII. Fortunately fan feedback from XIII led to an easy option that smoothes over these rough patches. There are eight secret "paradox endings" which illustrate the familiar trope of time travel inadvertently wreaking havoc on reality. The "true" ending is fraught with tragedy and leads directly into the final part of the trilogy. Expertly crafted, FFXIII-2 builds upon what was good about the original while taking the series in exciting new directions. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
In many ways, this feels like a sequel to the films. All the memorable locations have been recreated including the converted firehouse, the Sedgewick hotel, and public library. There's a new graveyard stage that looks utterly spectacular. The characters resemble the original actors but are rendered in a stylized manner so they don't look too freaky. The detail in the environments is amazing, and nearly everything is destructible. Destroying furniture and leveling tombstones with your proton pack is a joy. You can upgrade your arsenal with new weapons as you progress, including one that sprays green slime.
Each ghost has its own backstory, and they are so intricately rendered that there were times when I wished I could pause the action and examine them up close. When scouting a new location, you're prompted to equip your Ecto-goggles which provide infrared vision and highlight supernatural activity. Once you've rooted the spooks out, the battle begins as you unleash your proto stream. After wearing the ghosts down, you must wrangle them over an open trap as they slowly get sucked in. It's especially fun and satisfying to see them desperately try to claw their way out. Less fun is hosing down the endless, swarming minions in the form of flying books, floating skulls, and spiders.
You'll fight alongside all the original Ghostbusters including everyone's favorite "the black guy", but in this game you are the "go-to" guy. I like how the characters can revive each other - it adds a nice teamwork element. Ghostbusters is a very linear game that clocks in at around 5-7 hours. That may sound short, but there's a lot less filler than most adventures, and it's one heck of a ride!
What's not to like? Well, the installation process takes so long (a few days I think), I feared that Ghostbuster logo would be permanently burned into my plasma TV. Whenever you fire the game up, prepare to sift through an unprecedented number of animated logos (enough already!). While fighting ghosts, you're often blindsided because the ghouls tend to reappear all over the place. The game is not glitch free, and I actually had to restart it at one point. The game saves frequently, but I never spotted an indicator, which made me extremely nervous about quitting a partway through a level. How hard is it to display "saving" on the screen anyway??
The game has a multi-player mode, but it's on-line only (boo!). I can nitpick, but at its core the game succeeds in fleshing out the Ghostbusters world and immersing you in it. Movie-licensed games don't have the best track record, but Ghostbusters: The Video Game is consistently enjoyable. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
God of War 3 (GoW3) offers a potent mix of combat, puzzles, and exploration. Kratos easily latches onto ledges, grapples on posts, glides on wings, and climbs walls (but not wooden scaffolding for some reason). Once again he swings chains to obliterate mythical beasts that materialize around him, but his new "Cestus" fists are even more destructive. Kratos has a slew of new abilities including the power to flash blinding light, run along walls, shoot blazing arrows, and summon souls to fight for him. He can even climb on the back of a three-headed dog and direct its fire-breathing attacks at other foes.
Consequently, the control scheme is overloaded, employing just about every button combination you can think of. It gets confusing, and you end up wasting a magic attack when you're just trying to open a chest. Some of the puzzles reminded me of Portal, and a particularly ill-conceived music puzzle has "Guitar Hero" written all over it. The flying stages have a Star Wars: The Arcade Game (1983) vibe as you weave around obstacles while traveling at high speeds.
Judged on technical and artistic merits, GoW3 is a monumental achievement. As a video game however, it's less than the sum of its parts. The game's cinematic style proves both an asset and liability. In the opening sequence you battle Poseidon on a colossal rock titan climbing Mount Olympus. The swinging camera angles and dramatic cut scenes are visually compelling, but your interaction is largely limited to quick-button prompts (not unlike Dragon's Lair). I had no idea what was going on half the time, but these scenes are fun and exciting nonetheless.
Throughout the game you're led around with visual cues and deliberate camera angles to keep you on your linear path. I haven't run into so many invisible walls since Crash Bandicoot One. Still, the pacing is good and checkpoints are frequent and well-placed. The level of violence and sexual content push the envelope, and frankly I would have preferred a PG-13 experience. The nipple-rendering technology is clearly state-of-the-art, but the bedroom scenes push the limits of good taste.
Likewise the violence can be downright gruesome. It's good that I don't place much value on story, because this one never made much sense to me. Despite these minor issues, God of War 3 is a wild ride with almost zero filler. Leaving nothing on the table, God of War 3 serves as a fitting conclusion to this extraordinary series. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Kratos' ability to sling his chains has an elemental twist this time, punctuating each slicing attack with ice, fire, and lightning flourishes. There are gory fatalities galore as you punish fiends by ripping open their jaws or beating them with their own limbs. The brisk pacing makes it hard to take in the lush scenery plush with beautiful lighting and excellent water effects. The legions you battle include bug-men, bug-dogs, goat-boys, minotaurs, elephant dudes, and some crazy spider lady.
Occasionally you'll camp out on a monster's head, guiding it to attack other creatures. You'll think it's cool when you're controlling a cyclops, but it's downright monumental when you're commanding a beast the size of a building. There are some truly over-the-top bosses like a lobster coming out of a walrus coming out of a giant hand. I don't even know what the [expletive] I'm looking at. Many boss battles boil down to reacting to button prompts, and it becomes exhausting after a while. When you see "saving..." in the corner you know victory is at hand.
Still, it's very easy to lose track of yourself especially when the camera pulls far out. The smaller bosses tend to be more enjoyable. I like how when fighting the snake-goat-wolf I would first cut off his tail and later rip off his horns, giving the battle a sense of progression. Between battles you'll find yourself manipulating gigantic mechanical contraptions to access hard-to-reach places. Ascension also features ice sliding, a snake-shaped monorail, and Alien-inspired eggs to destroy. It may not be as cohesive as its predecessors but even a second-rate God of War game is a sight to behold. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The game itself has frequent loads, but nothing extreme. Gran Turismo 5 (GT5) is made by car aficionados for car aficionados. Visually it looks exquisite with glossy menu tiles, sexy car images, and smooth screen transitions. Jazzy piano music conveys a sense of sophistication and class. GT5 has so much content you could pretty much play it for the rest of your life. The arcade mode is tempting, but the proper way to enjoy this game is to work your way through GT mode. The menu presents you with a mosaic of panels with options like "A-Spec events", Dealerships, Tuning Shop, Car Maintenance, License Test, etc. You can forgo those tedious "license challenges" (thank goodness), and the beginner-level races aren't bad, offering a diverse set of courses that wind their way through urban and country locations.
The normal tracks are a little boring, but the off road tracks feature gorgeous mountain views and snow-scapes. The curvy tracks demand precision driving, although the "guide line" helps a lot. In addition to conventional races, B-spec challenges let you watch the race while advising a driver with commands. It's not something I would have asked for, but it's kind of interesting.
Like all GT games, half the fun is buying and upgrading cars. Many GT events aren't available unless you have the right type of car, and collecting cars is time consuming. Even my friend Brent who loves this game admits there is some grinding involved. I can appreciate the elegance of Gran Turismo 5, but only car nuts will savor all it has to offer. If cars are your thing feel free to bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Simply exploring the meticulously crafted, bustling world of Liberty City will keep you entertained for hours. Based on New York, the streets look incredible, with varying traffic patterns, pedestrians, planes in the sky, and trash on the sidewalks. Weather conditions change constantly, and when the sun sets the orange skyline looks gorgeous. Even the finer details are impressive. When you plow into a newspaper stand, papers fly all over the place, and crashing into a gas station results in a huge explosion. Carjack victims will sometimes hang onto their doors as you drag them down the street.
When careening down the highway the sense of speed is heightened by effective blurring techniques. Crashes have real impact, and the damage modeling is convincing. Of course, to make progress in the game you'll have to stop goofing off and start completing missions. These often involve driving people around, "sending messages" to deadbeats, or killing people outright. Things rarely go as planned, so most missions end with chaotic police chases. Not all missions are particularly fun, but they're more forgiving that those in previous GTA games, and the controls are better.
In terms of sexual content, there are lap dancing strippers and car-rocking hookers, but the sexual content is not explicit. The language on the other hand is very strong - much like you'd hear in a mob flick like Goodfellas.
This PS3 version is practically identical to the Xbox 360 edition. I've heard people say the PS3 graphics are slightly better, but I don't see it. The graphics are certainly darker in this version, so I had to adjust the brightness via the options menu. The PS3 version has longer load times, but they are still quite reasonable. The control scheme is the same, but when it comes to driving cars, I prefer the 360 triggers over the rounded PS3 shoulder buttons. Either way you really can't lose because GTA4 is one quality title that really gives you your money's worth. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com