Playstation 3 Reviews A-C

007: Quantum of Solace
Grade: C+
Publisher: Activision (2008)
Reviewed: 2020/5/11
Rating: Teen

screenshotThe film Quantum of Solace never got much respect but I guess it's hard to follow the best Bond film ever (Casino Royale). This first-person shooter is better than I expected. In addition to following the general story of Quantum, it also incorporates scenes from Casino Royale including the chase in Madagascar with the bomb maker.

Frankly the chronology of this game seems all over the place. The adventure begins with Bond kidnapping Mr. White from his mansion. This part was brief in the film, but here it's fleshed out with elaborate shootouts and explosions. James Bond's likeness and voice is clearly Daniel Craig but Mr. White is not the original actor. I guess they didn't have the rights to that guy. Anyway the exciting opening act segues into a classic 007 intro complete with original music and stylized images. I was a little disappointed you don't participate in the car chase that opens the actual film. No, this is strictly a first-person shooter with a few quick-time events thrown in to facilitate dramatic hand-to-hand combat.

I am impressed how action-packed each stage is. You barely have time to catch your breath with all the gunfire, explosions, and collapsing buildings. There are plenty of powerful weapons at your disposal, and gunning down bad guys is satisfying because they tend to hurl themselves off the nearest ledge. This game makes excellent use of audio. During the Italian rooftop chase you don't see the festival below, but the buzz of a crowd conveys a sense of activity. Likewise the Vienna Opera house is empty but the fact that opera music is playing adds a dramatic flair. My favorite stage is set in Miami at night during a raging storm, culminating with a boss encounter with a helicopter.

The game recommends employing a stealth approach but I prefer the bull-in-the-China-shop approach. Hey - it works in the movies! The auto-aim makes it easy to pick off bad guys and there are shiny things lying around that explode when shot. The game feels a little undercooked. Taking cover can be effective, but there were times I felt as if I was stuck to the scenery, unable to pull myself away to avoid a grenade. You're told to hold X to dash but you need to push in the left stick to do that. The objectives are confusing. Once I was told over the radio to jump off the boat and I didn't even know I was on one!

When low on life, that vintage 007 "barrel of a gun" graphic encroaches onto the screen, which is a nice touch. Quantum's multiplayer is online only but if you're a single player campaign type of guy Quantum of Solace will get your blood pumping. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

3D Dot Game Heroes
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atlus (2010)
Reviewed: 2011/7/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDo modern games have you down? Tired of the complicated controls and the huge time investment? Well, I have a game for you. 3D Dot Game Heroes winds back the clock to a time when treasure chests were commonly found in forests, dungeons contained clearly marked switches, one-foot-tall rocks were impassable, and it was socially acceptable to walk into a stranger's house and rifle through his belongings.

Adventure veterans will recognize the time-honored cliches from any number of classic adventures, but this is mostly an homage to Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992). The style, audio, and game structure are practically a carbon copy of that classic. 3D Dot Heroes does offer its own unique visual style, translating the pixelated 2D sprites of yester-year into "pixelated" 3D models. But instead of appearing old-school, the characters look more like something from a Lego game.

To some degree 3D Dot Heroes succeeds in rekindling the charm and sense of wonderment exuded by those early-90's adventures. It's easy to play and fun, but the game has its share of rough spots. The control scheme is easy to grasp but the sword-swinging controls are non-intuitive. The simple stage designs and well-defined boundaries are nice, but I didn't care for the blurring effect used to mask scenery in the distance or foreground. The shimmering water looks amazing - I just want to dive in! The world map is very maze-like, and I became hopelessly stuck in the desert area.

You could argue that 3D Dot Heroes follows the Zelda script too closely. You throw boomerangs to hit switches, push blocks onto switches, and plant bombs to break cracked walls. At what point does a loving tribute become a rip-off? Even the bosses seem awfully familiar. Perhaps that was the whole point, but I was hoping for a little more creativity. The game's attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor falls flat. Some of the subtle visual effects made me smile, but the dialogue is not as clever as it is silly.

Finally, the save system is more complicated than it really should be, so upon reloading a save you may not find yourself where you'd expect to be. Subtle sounds effects will bring back memories, and I love the heroic, Zelda-esque musical score that plays throughout. 3D Dot Game Heroes has its heart in the right place, but more than anything else it makes me want to revisit the real Zelda: Link to the Past. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Aliens: Colonial Marines
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (2013)
Reviewed: 2019/3/8
Rating: Mature

screenshotDespite what you may have heard Aliens: Colonial Marines isn't half bad. I thought the campaign mode was okay and the two-player split-screen coop is a great option. I would hazard a guess that it's the online mode that sucks. Colonial Marines begins with a harrowing escape from a burning freighter.

The game exudes atmosphere with effective use of fog, shadows, and alarming sound effects. Industrial noises, distant thuds, and ominous music totally had me on edge. The animation is silky smooth as you creep through flickering hallways, slimy alien nests, and burning wreckage. The green HUD graphics have that VHS-style low resolution look that I found very charming.

I also like how the game incorporates using a welding tool to open doors and cut people down from alien webs. You're a sitting duck while cutting, which builds the suspense. Teamwork is a critical aspect of the game, as you often have to cover for a fellow soldier. I'm really grateful for my CPU partners, if only because they show me which way to go! You'd expect the iconic motion tracker to play a critical role but I didn't find it very useful.

It takes a while before the first alien to appear, but after that they become fairly ubiquitous, scuttling quickly along walls and ceilings. Normal guns will pick them off and even melee attacks will keep them at bay. As the game progressed however it seemed like I was fighting more humans than aliens. Who the hell are all these people? When the action becomes chaotic it's hard to tell your squad from enemies.

As for glitches in the game, I occasionally would notice an alien get stuck on the edge of some scenery, but no show stoppers. I like the game's arcade flavor, displaying a score after each mission along with level-up bonuses. The split-screen coop is remarkably smooth, and I appreciate how my friends could join my campaign in-progress. Alien: Colonial Marines may not be a standout title, but if you pick it up cheap you're bound to get your money's worth. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

All-Pro Football 2K8
Grade: D+
Publisher: 2K Sports (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/8/7
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen Electronic Arts secured the exclusive license to the NFL a few years back, it effectively killed off the highly acclaimed (and competitively priced) NFL 2K series. By introducing All-Pro Football 2K8, 2K Sports seems to be trying to make the best of a bad situation. The teams, stadiums, and rosters are completely fictitious except for 240 Hall of Fame players, including Johnny Unitas, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, Joe Montana, and Dick Butkus.

All-Pro is saddled with a nightmare of a user interface, making it a confusing mess to simply open menus, select items, and even exit menus! Note to 2K Sports: Moving a thumbstick to open or close a menu is not intuitive! The "Quick Start" mode is anything but, since you need to create teams before they become available! The colorful team names include the Sailors, Sharks, Cobras, Rollers, and Werewolves. What is this, the NFL Europe?? You can't change your name or logo, but you can try to match the color scheme of your favorite NFL team (with much difficulty as my friend Steve discovered). Each team has a personalized stadium with large theatrical props, and it's actually fun to see what surprises each one has in store.

On the field the action is uneven. There's a whole new kicking control scheme, and it sucks (good luck trying to perform an on-side kick). Running the ball is fun, but why does it look like the running back is dropping cocaine all over the field?! The passing icons are awfully tiny, and players seem unable to grasp the tipped passes that fall into their hands every other play. All-Pro's controls are complex, and unfortunately spread out over ten pages of the manual! Players don't automatically pick up loose balls anymore - now you have to hit the triangle button! The more you play the more glitches you discover, including one instance when I was awarded a touchdown despite the fact I was clearly stuffed on the four yard line!

All-Pro Football does deserve credit for refs that actually throw flags (attention Madden). Players react with emotion, perform end-zone celebrations, and even apply late hits. The graphics are just as good as Madden, and the animation is probably better. Up close however the guys look psychotic with their wide, bulging eyes. The fictional player names are cheesy, prompting my friend Eric to wisecrack, "Wow, how did 2K get the rights to Korey Mustard?" All-Pro's two-man commentary is remarkably good, providing both insight and humor. They tend to get cut off however, and sometimes sound disjointed ("Fourth [pause] down and goal to go").

All-Pro's half time and post-game shows are pretty amazing, replaying the highlights of each half with excellent commentary. In terms of music, I hope you like "Tom Sawyer" by Rush, because it's the only song they bothered to license. I was hoping 2K Sports would come back hard after the long lay-off, but this is no substitute for Madden. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 7 players 

Bigs, The
Grade: A
Publisher: 2K Sports (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/7/17
Rating: Everyone


screenshotDo yourself a favor. Take all of the baseball games you've bought over the last ten years and throw them in the [expletive] trashcan. You'll never miss them once you've experienced The Bigs. For years publishers have focused on realism in baseball games, boring us all to tears in the process. But thankfully, the Bigs is everything Major League Baseball is not, with non-stop action, brisk pacing, razzle-dazzle plays, and short, five-inning games. And all without the boring fluff and delays associated with real baseball.

The controls are simple. Do you know how to swing? You hit the mother-[expletive] X button - that's how. Pitching is equally simple, utilizing a single-press meter. Running the bases is automatic, and while it's possible to intervene, the CPU does an excellent job. Each team has a turbo meter, so you can just tap R1 to put some mustard on a swing, pitch, or throw. It's just as fun to play defense as offense, and that's saying something. I actually found myself cheering while playing this game - even when I was alone!

Unlike other "extreme" sports titles, 2K Sports knows where to draw the line, so the Bigs never sinks into the realm of stupidity or bad taste. The players and teams are real, the stadiums look terrific, and the announcer plays it straight (thank goodness). If there's a flaw, it lies in the "power blast" swing power-up, which predictably results in a long home run off the scoreboard or foul pole.

The "Rookie Challenge" offers an addictive season mode, but don't forget to try the "Baseball Pinball" mode as well. It's a trip - letting you knock out lighted billboards in the middle of Times Square! Had this mini-game been developed a bit more, it could almost stand on its own! The Bigs is so good that it makes me want to lower the grades for all of my other baseball games. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Bioshock
Grade: A+
Publisher: 2K Games (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/11/28
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language)

screenshotI'm pretty jaded when it comes to first-person shooters, but last year's Bioshock (Xbox 360) rocked my world. Wickedly original and extraordinarily polished, this game is as exciting and immersive as they come. Artistic, haunting, and emotionally charged, Bioshock takes gaming to a whole new level.

In its dramatic opening sequence, you survive an ocean plane crash and are transported to a fantastic but morally twisted undersea kingdom named Rapture. Imagine the city of New York as it was in the 1950's. Now imagine it submerged on the ocean floor, with watertight windows! As if an underwater concept wasn't compelling enough, the city's uncanny art-deco style and dated music effectively transports you back to a bygone era.

Bioshock's intriguing storyline is dark and violent, but also complex and intelligent. Rapture's masked inhabitants attack on sight, but it's the imposing "Big Daddies", decked out in scary deep-sea diving suits, that will strike fear into your heart. This PS3 edition is practically identical to the 360 version, but offers more online features and a long-ass installation process. You'd think that over ten minutes of installation would eliminate in-game load times, but that's not the case.

I didn't detect any graphical improvements, but the game still looks like a million bucks. The ornate architecture, lavish furniture, clammy walls, vintage ads, and neon lighting all come together in a bizarre but convincing world. The audio features alarming noises and maniacal laughter that will instantly put you on edge. In addition to standard weapons, injectable "plasmids" provide you with superhuman abilities, such as wielding electricity or fire.

You can save your progress at any time, and there's also an auto-save. Bioshock is one of those masterworks that will stand the test of time. Will we see another title as rich and compelling as Bioshock in the current generation of systems? Not likely. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
Grade: C+
Publisher: Ubisoft (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/1/31
Rating: Teen (mild language, violence)

screenshotI enjoy a good dogfighting game as much as the next guy, and Blazing Angels has an appealing arcade style. Piloting your plane is easy enough, and there are no complicated gauges to clutter up the screen. Angels gets off to a slow start with a monotonous training stage that nearly put me to sleep.

The actual missions however are quite exciting, recreating WWII battles over London, Pearl Harbor, and the deserts of North Africa. Each is introduced by a nifty animated sequence using "aged" black and white footage. Once you're thrust into the action, you'll shoot down waves of Nazi/Japanese planes, strafe tanks on the ground, carry out reconnaissance missions (take pictures), and even land on aircraft carriers.

Blazing Angels' gameplay is forgiving, with clear objectives and handy arrows that direct you to your next target. Even after you go down in flames, frequent checkpoints allow you to pick up near where you left off. The directional pad lets you call on other members of your squadron to repair your plane (in mid-air no less!) or divert the attention of enemies. It's important to "shake off" a pursuer when you're taking damage, but you'd be surprised how long your plane can remain airborne while on fire (often long enough to complete your mission).

One thing that bogs down the action is the verbose dialogue of your colleagues, displayed as text between missions. Those boring blabbermouths need to just shut the hell up! The graphics in Blazing Angels are okay I guess, but there were times when I wondered if this could have been a PS2 game. The endless rows of buildings in London look pretty impressive - until you take a closer look. Still, the sheer amount of chaos in the Pearl Harbor stages is certainly worthy of the "next generation", and I love the huge columns of smoke that emanate from destroyed ships.

Most critics wrote off the motion-sensitive controls as a gimmick, but I found them to be a pleasant surprise. It might not make things easier, but it makes the game more immersive, so I adopted it as my default scheme. In addition to the addictive single-player campaign, a number of entertaining two-player split-screen modes are available, both cooperative and competitive.

Blazing Angels does have a few technical flaws, including frequent audio glitches and unsightly "waves" that appear on the screen when things get too crazy. It won't blow you away, but based on its playability and unique controls, I'd say this was a worthwhile title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Blur
Grade: B
Publisher: Activision (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/12/17
Rating: Everyone


screenshotBlur had the unfortunate circumstance of being released around the same time as Split Second, a mind-blowing racer that incorporated destruction on a monumental scale. Blur is far less ambitious, but what it does, it does well.

To be honest, the game doesn't make a great first impression. It's not self-evident what many of the weapons do, and the first few tracks look like ugly, barren wastelands. Not until you put some time into the career mode do you get a true appreciation for this game. Blur's combination of racing and vehicle combat strikes a perfect balance. Some of the weapons are fantastic, like the "shunt" which unleashes a fireball at the car ahead of you, and the "barge" which emits a sonic boom that sends nearby vehicles flying. The "shock" creates three lightning bolts in front of the leaders, and while it's definitely cheap, it's no worse than that purple shell in Mario Kart.

One very cool feature is your ability to collect up to three items/weapons and cycle through them. It adds a lot of strategy and makes a weak item (like "repair") far more appealing since you can hold onto it until it's really needed. Blur's action is super fast and the frame-rate is silky smooth - even on the split screen. The steering is responsive, but instead of using that worthless hand-brake you'll want to tap the normal brake when rounding turns. There are several race variations (destruction, timed) and I enjoyed them all.

The tracks are reasonable in length and so are the load times. The graphics are clean but never spectacular. Even when you progress to the Tokyo and San Francisco locations the scenery looks dull and washed out. The concept of earning "fans" by performing special actions during a race is an unnecessary gimmick that's more distracting than fun. Also, I really hate how the game prompts me to "reconnect with the Internet?" after each race despite the fact that my network connection is purposely disabled. Still, Blur packs a punch and its arcade gameplay is habit-forming. It may not blow you away, but it will win you over. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Burnout Paradise
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/9/27
Rating: Everyone (language, violence)


screenshotSince its debut in 2002, Burnout has been all about reckless driving, blinding speeds, and devastating wrecks. In previous Burnouts you raced on "closed" courses, but Paradise adopts a drive-anywhere approach. Given free reign in a fictional city, you select your own route to the finish line, utilizing strategic ramps and shortcuts as you see fit.

On paper it sounds like a winner, but on the screen it can be a nightmare. When you're fending off marauding SUVs and weaving through traffic at 200 miles per hour, the last thing you want to do is glance at the map to locate your next turn. Taking your eye off the road for even a split-second can cause you to slam into a divider or miss a critical turn. In a few races I was comfortably in the lead, but made a wrong turn near the finish, sending me from first to last. Worse yet, sometimes what looks like a perfectly good "shortcut" can send you heading in the wrong direction.

One cheap but effective strategy is to follow the lead car for most of the race, and then turbo ahead of him when you see the finish line. There's no "restart" option, which is terrible, since finding your way back to the starting point is time-consuming. Sometimes the game would inform me "you've already completed this race with the current license, so this will be a practice run." I would have no problem with that, if there was an abort option.

Despite its blatant design flaws, Paradise does have a few things going for it. The city itself looks really sharp, although gamers who've played GTA4 or Need for Speed Carbon may find the urban landscapes awfully familiar. In addition to standard races there are stunt, "take-down", and survival challenges to mix things up. The difficulty is reasonable, and earning new licenses can be addictive. Taking down cars (making them crash) is a bit too easy though - usually you can just bump them on the side to send them careening out of control. I'm sure the programmers took great pride in the amazing slow-motion crashes, but not being able to skip these things gets irritating after a while.

In terms of control, I wish I had purchased the 360 version of this game, because those rounded PS3 shoulder buttons are the worst. My experience with Burnout Paradise was unwittingly summed up by my buddy George, who tried to defend the game by saying "Dave, this game is great! Do me a favor though - could you navigate for me? Just tell me when to turn." When a critic hears stuff like that, red flags go up in droves. Also glaring is the lack of split-screen modes. I can appreciate how Paradise takes some chances, but this experiment is in danger of turning the world's most exciting racing franchise into a smoldering wreck. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Cabela's Adventure Camp
Grade: D-
Publisher: Activision (2011)
Reviewed: 2017/8/29
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Cabelas brand evokes peaceful images of tracking down adorable furry creatures in their natural habitats and shooting them. With Adventure Camp, Cabelas tries to lighten the mood a bit with a collection of motion-controlled outdoor activities. If you kill anything in this game, you're probably doing it wrong.

There are about ten events you can play individually or in random order. The Move controllers are required despite the fact that conventional controls would probably make more sense. Biking is the best of the bunch, letting you lean the controller from side-to-side to navigate dirt trails while hopping over logs. The rumbling effect of riding down a bumpy path is effective. The kayak event features scenic white water rapids, and it might have been my favorite except it made me queasy after a while. Skeet shooting is a huge disappointment because those clay pigeons move so damn slow! Not only is it hard to miss, but I end up hitting two or three at a time! Archery is so dull I couldn't even sit through the event in its entirety. Fishing really feels contrived, requiring you to catch certain colored fish to progress. There's no realism at all.

The remaining events aren't really worth mentioning, but you should be warned about the dreaded "hogwhacked". This whack-a-mole/Simon hybrid from hell requires you to repeat patterns ad nauseum to Alvin and the Chipmunk voice effects. My friend Brent made a point of playing this event to its conclusion just to push me to the edge of insanity. I enjoy the guitar music in Adventure Camp, and I guess the game is playable head-to-head provided you strictly limit your events. But it's a still a lousy game, and having motion controls grafted on top doesn't help. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

College Hoops 2K8
Grade: C
Publisher: 2K Sports (2007)
Reviewed: 2008/1/20
Rating: Everyone


screenshotFollowing up on 2K's excellent NBA game (NBA 2K8), College Hoops offers realistic, fluid basketball action with plenty of razzle-dazzle. The players move with uncanny grace, and their floorwork is just like the real thing. You really need to employ good ball movement to obtain an open shot. Forcing a shot, driving through a crowd, or carelessly passing usually puts the ball in the opposition's hands. I like how you shoot foul-shots by tilting the controller - it's fun and effortless. Executing in-bound passes are more difficult however, and often terribly frustrating.

Unlike EA's disappointing March Madness 08, Hoops makes a genuine effort to convey the spirit and pageantry of the college game. There are coaches roaming the sidelines, mascots goofing off, and cute cheerleaders jumping about. The arenas look beautiful with their bright logos and shiny wood floors. The new "sixth man" meter lets the crowd play a role by affecting the team's confidence and hustle. At the conclusion of each game, Greg Gumbal provides a professional wrap-up at the sports desk.

Unfortunately, a few of College Hoop's bells and whistles are more distracting than appealing. When Tracy Wolfson gives her sideline report, an oversized graphic bearing her name not only obstructs the action on the screen, but remains on the screen for the duration of her report! Also, that PA announcer really goes overboard with his "Two minutes! Twwwoooooo minutes!" Hey dumb ass, they only announce one minute in college games, so shut the hell up! Although generally polished, College Hoops did lock up on me on one occasion, and the user interface (menu navigation) is absolutely horrible. You wouldn't believe how difficult it was for my friend Steve and I to set up a two-player cooperative tournament.

For those who opt for the 360 edition of College Hoops 2K8, you should know that the animation is slightly smoother but the audio has issues. Specifically, it's hard to hear the commentators, and you can't turn down that annoying PA guy. But no matter what system you own, College Hoops 2K8 is probably the best choice for b-ball fans this season. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 7 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, VG247.com, Moby Games