R-Type Final begins with a bang as you're thrust into a war-torn futuristic world that's as disorienting as it is spectacular. The first sub-boss is a crab creature crawling on the bottom of a sphere, and this battle's viewing angle is unlike anything I've seen in a video game before. The second stage is more conventional, as you fly through a jungle environment with a river below. What's interesting about this stage is that you can submerge your ship under the murky water, which exposes new enemies and provides a whole different point of view. Set over a modern metropolis, the third stage lets you battle huge airships among the skyscrapers. As you blast away while facing the ground, you get an awesome view of the wreckage raining down onto the streets below.
The weapons in R-Type Final are remarkably original. Take for example the innovative yellow electrical bolt that you can "sweep" from side to side, or the blue weapon that strikes the top of the screen and then rains down lightning bolts. Too bad these weapons can't be powered up. R-Type Final is not for the faint of heart, and certain areas can be frustrating. Like Einhander (PS1, 1997), the large objects fill the screen, and you'll often find yourself running short on real estate. The explosions could be better - your ship looks like confetti when it explodes.
R-Type Final is a robust game with five skill levels, a slew of customizable ships, a virtual "museum", and a gallery of fine artwork. The game records high scores not only for each difficulty level but for each stage as well. And I almost overlooked the "AI Mode", a very original and interesting two-player strategy game that's a nice bonus. In this head-to-head contest, you actually program the behavior of your ship and then sit back and watch the ensuing battle unfold.
My one real beef with R-Type Final is the lack of a stage select. In a game like this where the early levels are long and intense, you really shouldn't have to replay all the levels you've conquered. But overall, R-Type Final is still the best pure shooter to come out in years. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Most modern shooters try to throw more objects on the screen than any human could keep track of, but Raiden 3 always offers up a manageable number of foes. Even when faced with waves of projectiles, there's always a clear escape route. Your firepower is substantial from the start, and certain weapons let you "sweep" the screen with a single beam of energy. Raiden also avoids the obtuse control schemes and complex scoring systems that plague many shooters. You have one main weapon (which operates rapid-fire) and a limited supply of bombs that are just as defensive as offensive.
Another thing I love about Raiden 3 is how it's so forgiving. Your firepower is insane, but your enemy's is not, and the game gives you "the benefit of the doubt" during close scrapes. Seven stages are available in the main mode, and you can also play them individually for high score (scores are saved automatically). Stage locales include business districts, harbors, and industrial areas.
The graphics are modest, with static-looking water, flat forests, and pixelated buildings. I tend to overlook graphics in a game like this, but I have to call Raiden 3 on its unimaginative scenery and enemies. I'm not expecting anything revolutionary, but the locations are forgettable, and the bosses are extremely cookie cutter - usually oversized tanks, jets, or boats. Still, the game is relentlessly fun, and the two-player simultaneous mode is a blast. Raiden 3 didn't blow me away with its visuals, but I know a good shooter when I play one. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Fortunately, the control scheme makes enough sense that it only takes a few minutes to get accustomed to driving your boat, casting, and reeling. The triangle button is especially useful, allowing you to quickly "reset" after a bad cast. Once the line is out, you view your lure from a side angle, with your fisherman superimposed in the corner. The murky water and aquatic life look realistic enough, but the camera tends to swing in a disconcerting manner.
It gets even worse when a fish appears, causing the screen to fluctuate between the lure and approaching fish. You really can't tell what's going on until the fish finally bites. The fights are rather conventional as you jerk and reel the line in response to on-screen prompts. When you go for a while without catching anything, the game offers helpful hints, like "try a larger lure". Each lure has an informative description, but the freakin' text scrolls by so damn slowly that it's not even worth reading.
I enjoyed Rapala's sloshing water sound effects, but there's a steady beeping sound that really got on my nerves. The game records your catches (along with a nice picture), and the challenging tournament mode could keep you occupied for weeks as you unlock new lures and locations. Rapala Pro Fishing may appeal to some desperate fishermen, but it seems tame compared to old favorites like Sega Bass Fishing (Dreamcast, 2000). © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
This shooting feature sets the game apart, but otherwise Ratchet and Clank treads on some very familiar territory. Items are hidden in crates that look like they were stolen directly from a Crash Bandicoot game. Heck, there are even exploding crates here. And those flame-throwing thugs gave me a serious case of deja vu from Crash Bandicoot 2 (or was it 3?).
Fortunately, Ratchet's tight control, polished graphics, and clever sense of humor are enough to overcome the game's derivative aspects. Instead of gathering coins, rings, or fruit, you collect nuts and bolts by the hundreds. Since it would be tedious to pick them up individually, they float to you like a magnet when you approach, and I love the clinking and clanking sounds they make as you suck them up. I also love its imaginative weapons like the "suck cannon" and "glove of doom".
Ratchet and Clank has a very aggressive brand of gameplay that's lacking in most platformers. An auto-aim mechanism makes it easy to pick off one robot after the next, although the system doesn't work very well when your adversaries are off-screen. The game has a nifty auto-save feature, although you also have the option to save the game yourself at any time. Ratchet and Clank is one of the best platform games around, and I recommend it highly. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The control scheme is unique in that there's no timed meter. You simply adjust your power, aim your cue, and press X. It doesn't require good reflexes, but it still works fine. Before each shot, you can choose between several viewing angles, but none seem to provide the perfect angle you're looking for. Thus, it's difficult to judge your shot, and the game can be very unforgiving at times. A free roaming camera would have been nice.
I think the best and most innovative aspect of Real Pool is the puzzle mode, which challenges you to sink balls on oddly shaped tables. It's a lot of fun, and would certainly be difficult to duplicate in real life. Crisp sound effects complement the action, and the background music is a light jazz that sounds like Kenny G (yes, you can turn it off). Real Pool is okay, but there's got to be better alternatives out there. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
As a miner working underground on Mars, you join a force of workers in a rebellion against the oppressive Ultor Corporation. Like Halo, the comfortable control scheme lets you move with one analog joystick and aim with the other. You can crawl through vents or scale ladders as easy and you can walk down a hallway.
The dark caves and industrial environments are somewhat bland, but the levels are cleverly designed, and you can destroy (or at least damage) just about everything. When a door is locked, you can literally make your own by blowing a big hole in the wall with a rocket launcher. That's what I love about this game; it gives you massive firepower up front, and you rarely need to worry about conserving ammo. And at any given time, it's easy to tell what you need to do and where you have to go.
The gameplay is pretty standard, but there are a few innovations that make Red Faction unique. You can often preview upcoming areas using video monitors, and an excellent "auto-aiming" feature makes it much easier to pick off bad guys. Also, I really like how the game is NOT broken up into individual missions, but instead feels like one continuous journey.
The audio is first-rate, with pulse-pounding music and official-sounding announcements over the intercoms. Enemy guards call for backup, and beg for mercy when shot. You can save your place at any time. There's a much-ballyhooed multiplayer mode, but I didn't find it to be anything special. Overall, I wouldn't call Red Faction revolutionary, but it's very solid all around. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Red Star gets off to a slow start, beginning with a bland intro explaining how an "alternate" Russia has been overrun with massive technology and futuristic weapons. I couldn't skip through the text fast enough, and the plodding first stage felt every bit like the tedious, extended tutorial it is. Once you hit the second stage however, Red Star starts to gain traction, offering a nice combination of melee combat and rapid-fire shooting. Firing from a distance is generally safer, but your guns are prone to overheating.
The action is viewed from a tilted overhead angle, and there's no need for any sort of camera control. Gameplay is similar to X-Men Legends, but Red Star is better. Each stage puts you up against waves of well-armed soldiers, each of which employ their own distinct tactics. Much of the fighting takes place on elevated platforms, and it's satisfying to knock screaming foes over the edge.
Oversized bosses assume the form of uninspired tanks, planes, cannons, and robots, but none take very long to dispose of. The first boss appears to emerge from a flat video screen, and this amazing effect is the visual highlight of the game. Bosses shower you with a large number of projectiles, but the missiles tend to be large and slow enough to reveal an escape route.
You can play Red Star solo or forge through the game with a friend, and power-ups can be purchased between stages. It may not look like much, but Red Star's gameplay is pretty much on target. Gamers with an appetite for shooting won't be disappointed with this well-crafted budget title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The flimsy backstory is an unlikely tale about someone stealing Umbrella's T-Virus and then hijacking a cruise ship. Having the worst luck in the world, you find yourself onboard this Love Boat of the Dead. Dead Aim is best played with Namco's incredibly accurate Guncon 2 light gun. The control scheme is reasonable, although the directional pad on the back of the gun isn't particularly comfortable. As you wander through the ship, you view the action from behind your character, but once you pull the trigger, the first-person view kicks in.
It's great fun blowing away the shambling zombies, which fall back against blood-smeared walls. The zombies look fairly gruesome and move in a very freaky manner. In time, you'll even battle a shapely metallic "terminatrix"-style boss. Dead Aim has its share of scary moments, especially when you get blindsided, or worse, mobbed by zombies. The game made me feel like a character in a George Romero film, although the cruise ship is hardly an appropriate setting. The 3D graphics are rendered on the fly, and while they hardly compare to the pre-rendered GameCube RE graphics, they serve their purpose well.
The sparse, low-budget-movie audio effects are chilling, but moments of eerie silence are equally unnerving. You control multiple characters as you play through the game, including a Paul Walker wannabe and a hot Asian chick. Unlike other Resident Evil games, you don't get the "door opening" animations between rooms, and the save points are few and far between. Dead Aim is a nice mix of arcade and adventure, and while not particularly scary, the first person view puts you in the game like no other Resident Evil game can. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Outbreak does have a few things going for it. The separate chapters offer diverse environments like a bar, hospital, hotel, and underground lab facility. Like the original Resident Evil titles, Outbreak uses pre-rendered scenery which offers a terrific degree of detail. Unfortunately, the camera angles change abruptly as you walk, which is disconcerting and mucks with the directional controls.
The characters appear extremely lifelike, especially the shapely females (including Jill, described as a "master of unlocking things"). The game generates a genuine sense of desperation as characters become injured and hobble around - just like a real horror movie! Characters have the ability to heal each other, provide cover, or exchange items. The CPU controls your partners in the one-player mode, and while they tend to wander around directionless most of the time, they magically reappear at critical junctures in the story.
Outbreak's promise is dashed by a number of serious issues. I found the controls to be unintuitive and often unresponsive. Just like watching a slasher film, you'll be yelling, "run [expletive] run!" as your character meanders around in a daze, totally out of your control. The item management screens are awkward to navigate, which is especially problematic since the zombies keep coming when you're fiddling with your inventory! The collision detection is lousy (see people walk through each other!), and there's a lot of random, inappropriate dialogue like "What a fool!" and "I don't think so!" A few of the puzzles make no sense to me. Why is it necessary to thaw out a frozen wrench before you can use it?
But by far the worst aspect of Outbreak is its excruciating loading screens that kick in whenever you enter a new room. These screens don't even give you anything to look at! Recognizing this glaring flaw, Capcom gives you the option of installing this game to the PS2 hard disk, in case you're one of the three people who own that thing. Last but not least, Outbreak is also prone to lock-up. I can appreciate Capcom wanting to take the Resident Evil series in a new direction, but this is one chapter in the saga you can safely bypass. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Exploring the zoo is fun, but you're often hounded by annoying insects and zombie pelicans (now there's something you don't see everyday!). Another interesting chapter features a dilapidated abandoned hospital in the middle of a spooky forest, and another takes place in a subway infested with giant vermin. It's possible to play through several of these in parallel. Otherwise the gameplay is the same, which means you'll need to contend with some seriously atrocious loading times. I generally have a high tolerance for load screens, but I've never seen them this long and frequent. It's really unacceptable.
Like the first game, Outbreak 2 allows you to play cooperatively on-line with a bunch of racist 14-year olds. I opted for the solo mode, and I couldn't believe how dumb the CPU-controlled characters are! At one point me and two cohorts safely swam across a pond containing a large crocodile. But while I'm heading for the gate on the other side, what are they doing? Heading back into the water!
I also find it amusing how these guys seem to forget they have weapons until everybody's almost dead. The collision detection is lousy, and once you sustain injury, it's hard to escape from the relentless animals. Fortunately there are a good number of typewriters to save your progress. Resident Evil Outbreak 2 has its moments, but sloppy programming and horrible load times make this one hard to enjoy. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The graphics are sharp and the cars are shiney, but there is noticeable jagginess in the roads and backgrounds. In addition, the two-player split screen mode suffers from terrible fog and embarrassing pop-up (scenery that appears suddenly as you approach it). Actually, the only impressive graphical element is the sexy Asian girl who appears in all the setup screens. There is a cool "spark" special effect when the cars scrape the ground, but this is overused to the max.
The tracks are well designed, but there are not enough of them. Gameplay hasn't changed much over the years, but its arcade style of racing still provides a good time. Like Ridge Racer 4, there are several modes,and endless setup screens to let you select car type, car color, engine type, driver name, team name, etc. The sonic music is adequate, but the announcer is an annoying idiot. Ridge Racer V is fair, but it hardly shows off the capabilities of the system. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
But Road Trip has the added "feature" of driving between cities, each with its own set of tracks. This leaves plenty of room for hidden areas and goodies to be found along the way, but the scenery is far too ho-hum to make it worth the trip. In fact, most of these lengthy "road trips" are incredibly boring. The races themselves feature 24 cars, an impressive number considering Gran Turismo is limited to six.
Some of the tracks are okay, but poor physics and programming glitches are constant companions. Worse yet, these races run in slow motion compared to most modern racers. The music is absolutely nauseating, as is the dialogue between the cars ("Win the Grand Prix and you can be President!"). I was hoping that the wacky array of mini-games might save Road Trip, but poor control and camera problems prevent these from being enjoyable. Even the promising "car soccer" game fell flat. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
A shoulder button allows you to perform tricks like flips and rolls, and well-performed stunts are rewarded with a speed boost. And if you've thought you've seen every racing weapon there is, wait until you see the TORNADO! It's a sight to behold as the sky darkens and a huge funnel appears.
The other weapons (bombs, landslides, shockwaves) are easy to use and look great. There are 36 vehicles and 15 well-designed tracks in all. Rumble Racing won me over in a big way. The only area where it stumbles is the sound department, thanks to an annoying commentator who never shuts up with his idiotic remarks.
There are a nice variety of options and modes, including a two-player split screen mode (sorry, no 4 player), and a fun team mode. Rumble Racing is a game anyone can pick up and enjoy. If you're tired of those tedious "realistic" racers, Rumble Racing will provide relief. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
It's set in an ancient, mythological world of Roman coliseums and Greek temples. It's almost dreamlike, and ruins have never looked so good. One stage in particular (the water stage), features some breathtaking rainbow effects. You know it's good when you actually stop playing just to gawk at the scenery.
The gameplay gradually draws you in and refuses to let go. The main innovation in Rygar is his "diskarmor", which functions as both a shield and throwing weapon. Its uses increase as the game progresses, and it eventually doubles as a grappling hook. Do you like to destroy things? If so, Rygar is your game. Not only can you destroy nearly everything, but the game even encourages you to do so! You'll often inadvertently smash things you didn't even think could be destroyed, which was how I discovered many secret areas.
Your diskarmor is a devastating weapon, slicing through several enemies at once. Rygar is also loaded with secrets and objects to collect. The bosses are a mixed bag, ranging from colossal rock titans to silly floating masks. I found the difficulty to be just about right, with a generous number of save points sprinkled throughout the game. Best of all, falling will not kill you - you'll just get put back where you fell from. How refreshing is that?
While gameplay is excellent in general, I occasionally found myself disoriented on rare occasions by awkward camera angles. I can't forget to mention the lavish classical score ranging from soaring epic compositions to delicate melodies. It gives the game a dramatic tone and a cinematic flair. Likewise the sound effects of rushing water and crumbling rock are uncanny in their realism. Rygar is one of the most addictive platforming games I've ever played on my PS2. Don't miss out on this one. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.