system Index M
MLB 07: The Show
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sony (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/6/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI'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 home run is hit, all you see in the player breaking into his home run 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 home run 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 where 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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: MLB 2006 (Playstation 2)
World Series Baseball (Xbox)
MLB 12: The Show (Playstation 3)
MLB '06: The Show (Playstation 2)
Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball (Game Gear)

MLB 08: The Show
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sony (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/4/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt'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). Its 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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: MLB 10: The Show (Playstation 3)
RBI Baseball 18 (Playstation 4)
Major League Baseball (Intellivision)
MLB 07: The Show (Playstation 3)
Major League Baseball 2K8 (Playstation 3)

MLB 09: The Show
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sony (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/5/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen 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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: MLB 12: The Show (Playstation 3)
MLB 10: The Show (Playstation 3)
MLB 08: The Show (Playstation 3)
MLB 14 The Show (Playstation 4)
MLB 11: The Show (Playstation 3)

MLB 10: The Show
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sony (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/4/19

screenshotThe 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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Major League Baseball 2K10 (Xbox 360)
MLB 08: The Show (Playstation 3)
MLB 2006 (Playstation 2)
MLB 07: The Show (Playstation 3)
World Series Baseball 98 (Saturn)

MLB 11: The Show
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sony (2011)
Reviewed: 2011/4/26
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe worst part 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 chit chat 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.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: MLB 12: The Show (Playstation 3)
MLB 2006 (Playstation 2)
Major League Baseball 2K11 (Xbox 360)
MLB 08: The Show (Playstation 3)
MVP Baseball 2005 (Playstation 2)

MLB 12: The Show
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sony (2012)
Reviewed: 2012/8/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI 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 cutscenes. 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 comes 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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: MLB 11: The Show (Playstation 3)
Baseball (NES)
RBI Baseball (NES)
MVP Baseball 2005 (Playstation 2)
MLB The Show 17 (Playstation 4)

Major League Baseball 2K8
Grade: C-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/4/3
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf 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.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200)
Major League Baseball 2K10 (Xbox 360)
RBI Baseball 2 (NES)
MLB 2006 (Playstation 2)
Major League Baseball 2K5 (Playstation 2)

Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest
Grade: F
Publisher: Sony (2011)
Reviewed: 2014/7/13
Rating: Everyone 10+ (fantasy violence)

screenshotThere was a time when gamers fantasized about using motion controls to swing virtual swords. When that finally became reality, it turned out to be surprisingly lame. Deadmund's Quest feels like a title designed solely to justify the existence of the Move controllers. In addition to sword-swinging, you shoot arrows and toss throwing stars at cartoonish skeletons.

Using a first-person perspective you'll forge your way through medieval villages and expansive castles. The torch lighting conveys atmosphere, but in general there's not much to see. The storyline is conveyed through a series of illustrations, and they are so boring you'll be glad you can skip them. The sword control is pretty much 1:1 and a second Move controller can be used to angle your shield. By reaching back behind your head you can "grab an arrow" which can be aimed with precision. The throwing stars are a nice change of pace, and you can deliver them with both power and accuracy.

So why does Medieval Moves suck so much? Well, I had to stand the entire time to play it properly. The game requires almost constant arm waving and action is terribly repetitive. In each area you're forced to shoot dozens of skeletons who respawn from the same locations. Your sword is effective but it's hard to tell when an enemy is within swinging range. Arrows are effective but continuously reaching behind your back gets tiresome. The thrill of the motion controls quickly dissipates and soon starts to feel like a chore. Medieval Moves is one game you won't want to play twice, and probably not even once. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Area 51 (Playstation)
Sports Champions (Playstation 3)
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin (Intellivision)
DK: King of Swing (Game Boy Advance)
Super Spy, The (Neo Geo)

Metal Gear Solid 4
Grade: B-
Publisher: Konami (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/8/28
Rating: Mature (blood, crude humor, strong language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotHave 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.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Playstation 2)
Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)
Twisted Metal 4 (Playstation)
Metal Gear (NES)
Syphon Filter (Playstation)

Midnight Club Los Angeles
Grade: A
Publisher: Rockstar Games (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/11/28
Rating: Teen (mild suggestive themes, mild violence, strong lyrics)

screenshotWhen 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.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Midnight Club Los Angeles (Xbox 360)
Midnight Club: LA Remix (PSP)
Midnight Club 2 (Xbox)
Midnight Club 3 Dub Edition (Xbox)
King of Fighters 96 (CD) (Neo Geo)

Mirror's Edge
Grade: D
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/5/31
Rating: Teen (blood, language, violence)

screenshotCritics 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 of 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.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)
Tomb Raider Underworld (Xbox 360)
Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)
Tomb Raider: Legend (Xbox 360)
Fear Effect (Playstation)

Modnation Racers
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/12/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotLeave it to Sony to take a winning concept like Mario Kart and bastardize the hell 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.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)
Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)
Road Trip (Playstation 2)
Crash Team Racing (Playstation)
Mario Andretti Racing (Genesis)

Grade: B+
Publisher: Sony (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/4/1
Rating: Teen (language, violence)

screenshotI'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.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Motorstorm: Arctic Edge (Playstation 2)
Motorodeo (Atari 2600)
MotorStorm Pacific Rift (Playstation 3)
Surf Rocket Racers (Dreamcast)
4x4 Evo (Dreamcast)

MotorStorm Pacific Rift
Grade: A
Publisher: Sony (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/3/21
Rating: Teen (language, mild suggestive themes, mild violence)

screenshotAs 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 wazoo. 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.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: MotorStorm (Playstation 3)
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge (Playstation 2)
Motorodeo (Atari 2600)
Crash Team Racing (Playstation)
Freekstyle (GameCube)

Motorstorm Apocalypse
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sony (2011)
Reviewed: 2011/8/2
Rating: Teen (crude humor, drug reference, language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotIt'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?"

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.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (Super Nintendo)
Road Trip (Playstation 2)
Virtua Racing (Saturn)
Hot Wheels: All Out (Game Boy Advance)
POD Speedzone (Dreamcast)

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