Xillia boasts two unique storylines (Jude or Milla), each of which take about 75 hours to beat. I recommend tackling Jude's story first since most of the cutscenes happen from his perspective. That said, the storyline was so good I didn't mind playing it twice to experience Milla's side, scant as it is. A strong story compensates for some decidedly average gameplay. While the towns look and feel alive with wandering pedestrians and shouting merchants, the paths you take to get from one to the other are less interesting. Canyon walls keep you from exploring too far, and the environments and monsters tend to be color-swapped variations.
The fighting however is a breath of fresh air. Played in real time, you move your character left and right in a 3D arena, holding the thumbstick in different directions to perform attacks. It feels like you're playing a fighting game - something no other RPG has done. Too bad the difficulty is so low. Even on the hardest setting enemies are pushovers, and the only way you'll ever die is if you deliberately go looking for monsters several levels above you. If you favor pure action and adventure Xillia may be a tough sell. But if you're someone who can get invested in a compelling story, sit back and enjoy the ride. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
The real-time combat employs the same enjoyable fighting-game style. You've only got one character to control, and Ludger can switch between a pair of swords, dual pistols, and a giant hammer on the fly. The difficulty has been ramped up however, so bosses require more strategy and less button mashing. Some of the newer gameplay elements feel ill-conceived. Like a weird offshoot of Animal Crossing (GameCube, 2002), Ludger has to take out a huge loan from a bank early on and spend the rest of the game paying it off. Tales of Xillia 2 effectively holds you hostage - forcing you to complete side quests just to continue playing! This is exacerbated by the annoying hyperactive girl who constantly harasses you for money. Since payments can take over an hour to collect they make the game last twice as long as it should be.
Another change is the leveling up system, which has become so complicated I didn't know what I was doing. The packaging boasts how you have "the power of choice", yet the dialog choices don't seem to affect the game in any meaningful way. Once again it's the captivating story that holds the whole thing together. The developers might have been lazy with everything else, but I was hooked to the narrative from the very start. If you appreciate a good story then give Tales of Xillia 2 a try. Fans of the first game however should prepare themselves for a serious case of deja vu. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
The hero is a grizzled survivor bearing a strong resemblance to Josh Brolin. He's sworn to protect a crafty 14-year-old girl who looks like Ellen Page. The scenery is stunning as you trudge through crumbling hotels, restaurants, and schools. The degree of detail is all the more impressive once you start to realize just how sprawling this adventure really is. The city is a convincing vision of overgrown decay, and the scenes in the countryside rekindled fond memories of Alan Wake (Xbox 360, 2010) and Silent Hill (PS1, 2000). I love how all four seasons are rendered with tranquil beauty.
Most of the action takes during daylight hours, yet the game maintains a high level of intensity. Infected people run toward you screaming once they catch sight of you. Even worse are the "clickers" which look like people with cauliflower growing out of their faces. These grotesque creatures are totally blind but sensitive to noise, so you have to creep carefully around them. Being grabbed by one is an alarming experience as you frantically tap buttons to push them away. The violence is brutal and the profanity is extreme. In addition to zombies you'll engage in shootouts with local militia. A stealth approach is paramount, but it helps that you can use your hearing senses to locate enemies through walls. Many puzzles involve positioning planks or ladders, which is another unique element.
Unlike many modern games, you won't waste time collecting worthless junk. I didn't even mind collecting ingredients to construct items like nail bombs, smoke bombs, and Molotov cocktails. I love how there's no limit to the amount of items and weapons you can carry. The auto-save system is terrific, so you never have to retread very far. The lack of a manual is disappointing, considering I forgot how to switch weapons, throw a grenade, and turn on my flashlight.
Otherwise The Last of Us is so good, it makes other games look bad. It does hold your hand at times to propel the narrative, not unlike Heavy Rain (PS3, 2010). And like any good horror flick, every time you think the game's over it takes another dramatic turn. A lot of games try to convey a cinematic experience, but The Last of Us actually delivers with a pulse-pounding epic you'll want to see through to the end. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The Shoot is about as generic as its name would imply. Stage themes include the Wild West, robots, gangsters, and a haunted house. At first it feels like you're in an amusement park as the game automatically whisks you around elaborate set pieces. I really like the big band music and retro-futuristic style of the Mob stage. The targets shatter nicely and the explosions are satisfying, but some stages are too long and repetitive. When targets appear in the same patterns and linger like sitting ducks, it feels like you're just going through the motions. Targets always appear in the same order, so you can memorize the stages.
One interesting aspect of The Shoot is how there is no reloading and unlimited ammo. How do they get away with that? Well, earning bonuses and power-ups are the result of consecutive hits, so if you shoot with reckless abandon you're probably not going to fare so well. The aiming controls are probably the most accurate I've seen in a Move title. In the cowboy stage you can actually shoot the shackles off the wrist of a damsel in distress!
The game does ask you to perform some awkward things, like spinning around to initiate a power-up, or employ a "quick draw" to finish off a boss. You're often prompted to dodge incoming missiles by moving the controller from side to side, but this can be frustratingly ineffective. A director provides corny (and non-stop) commentary like "I'm getting the tingles - don't let up!" and "This is the dawning of awesome!" The five stages are a challenge to unlock, and a score attack mode lets you play each for high score. The Shoot will put your Move controllers to good use, and it's not a bad buy if you can pick it up cheap. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
That might not seem so bad until you're in the middle of the third hole and the game suddenly freaks out because the normal controller has timed out. The Move controls are generally accurate, but there were times when my swing wouldn't register at all (guess you can't swing too hard). The career mode prompts you to complete a form before you get started which is about as fun as a trip to the DMV. Once you finally begin it becomes apparent that it takes longer to load a hole than to actually play the thing.
And there's no reason these holes should take so long considering the detail. The control scheme is needlessly confusing but once you get the hang of it the game isn't hard to play. Unfortunately there's something about the visuals that makes me feel nauseous after a while. Uninspired and sometimes sickening, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 will make you want to play an older golf game instead. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The career mode makes it easy to create a player if you go with the defaults. For the name I'd suggest the standard "Deez Nutz". The training isn't very helpful, thrusting you into some "Bingo Bango Bongo" game without explanation. I had to figure out the less-than-intuitive controls on my own. EA has come a long way since the old days of moving the right analog stick to swing. Now we use the left analog stick to swing. Problem is, that's the same stick used to preview your shot, so sometimes you accidentally swing when you really want to zoom.
I do like the easy-going swing motion and the solid smack of the ball being hit. The camera takes an overhead view of the ball in flight, which is exciting when you're trying to clear a sand trap or skirt the coastline. The interface is uncluttered, and once you get a feel for the controls you can go into a zenlike state. The difficulty is fair and you can save your progress at any hole. The pacing is acceptable provided you shut off the animations and auto-replays. Pleasant scenery includes the constant chirping of exotic birds. The commentators strike the right tone, the music is relaxing, and I like how the crowd groans when my approach shot rolls off of the green.
Unfortunately the career mode's sense of progression is confusing. I somehow permanently locked myself out of the US Open due to a poorly phrased prompt. And why is the Pebble Beach event called Web.com Tour Q-School? So EA could squeeze in another sponsor? Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is a surprisingly playable golf game despite EA's best efforts. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Time Crisis has never been known for its cutting edge graphics, but the degree of detail here seems more on par with a PS2 game. The storyline is a real snore-fest, replete with two cocky, spiky-haired heroes spouting hackneyed dialogue like "Let's do this!" Like previous Time Crisis games, your character moves automatically as you shoot enemies that come out of the woodwork. Just take care not to shoot your partner in the back of his head - that's really inconsiderate.
I find it amusing how two or three terrorists will suddenly pop up right in your face, pausing just long enough for you to blow them away. Ducking for cover lets you avoid incoming projectiles, switch weapons, regain health, and automatically reload. The highlight of TC4 is a high-speed helicopter chase through a city. Not only is it a wild ride as you swerve between skyscrapers, but you fire a gatling gun non-stop at trucks and other helicopters, leaving massive devastation in your wake.
A Guncon 3 controller is included with the game, but it requires you to run two sensors along the top of your TV - a real pain in the ass if your PS3 is not close by (I had to use a USB extension cable). The gun's accuracy is decent, but it feels cheap with its wonky thumbsticks and poorly-labeled buttons. Time Crisis 4 would have been respectable had it stuck to the original recipe, but the developers had to get fancy. As a result, you'll spend an inordinate amount of time blasting swarms of "Terror Bite" beetles (a la The Mummy). Ugh! Who in their right mind came up with this stupid idea?!
In addition, certain stages force you to fight enemies on multiple fronts, aiming off-screen to "swing around". Not only are these sequences unresponsive control-wise, but they are just irritating and pointless. In addition to the standard arcade mode, there's a new story mode that plays like a first-person shooter (FPS) - from hell. Lacking both the raw thrills of a light-gun game and the fine control of a FPS, it's a complete disaster. Time Crisis 4 offers a two-player mode, but each player gets his own small screen, which is lame. I don't ask much from my light gun games, but Time Crisis 4 failed to meet even my modest expectations. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The headliner, Time Crisis: Razing Storm, is pure adrenaline pumping action from start to finish. You and your squad have been dropped into an urban warzone in the Middle East where you're attacked by enemy soldiers backed up by some menacing mechanical monstrosities. The "Kraken" is an enormous metal octopus outfitted with missile launchers, and the "Raptors" look like something out of Robocop.
This game is a little crazy. Instead of watching enemies slowly filter in, the camera will swing around to reveal 20 terrorists in your face about to pull the trigger. The destruction quotient is off the charts, and it's often necessary to level nearby buildings in order to reveal hidden enemies. The machine gun is your primary weapon, and while you can spray bullets liberally, you'll want to give priority to the big red circles which indicate someone is about to fire. Like most light gun games, you're not in control of your movements, so you can just sit back and blast away. In addition to machine guns, the game will put other weapons in your hands at strategic moments, including a missile launcher, cluster gun, and sniper rifle.
Razing Storm offers solid arcade action but Namco managed to totally ruin it. First, there's the business of unlimited continues. Since you can't adjust these, there's no challenge. Playing for score would have been a viable option, but there are no local rankings, so your scores are not saved. You need to be on-line to access the bulk of the features, which is preposterous for a light gun title. The story mode lets you move freely instead of "on rails", but like the one in Time Crisis 4, it's an uncontrollable mess.
What saves the entire package is the inclusion of Deadstorm Pirates, which puts you in the role of a pirate at sea armed with magical golden pistols that fire like machine guns. It's like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Rambo! The exhilarating stages let you fight off skeletons boarding your ship, blast your way through caves stocked with gunpowder, careen down wild river rapids, and fight a Kraken in a whirlpool. The tropical scenery is gorgeous and the brisk pacing makes the game feel like a high-speed thrill ride. It's also the only game of the bunch to feature limited continues (not adjustable though) and local high scores.
Razing Storm is a hard package to grade. Each game is a first-rate shooter at its core, but Namco mishandled them badly by limiting your options and shamelessly forcing the on-line issue. Whether by laziness or incompetence, Namco really dropped the ball. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
That exciting sequence is followed by a high-speed train ride where you defeat aliens by throwing toy balls at them. It's top-notch entertainment while it lasts, but then you're dropped into a "toy box" mode which brings the momentum (and fun) to a screeching halt. For the first time in a Toy Story game, you have an "open world" you can customize to your heart's content. Big freakin' deal. This miniature western town has loads of characters to converse with, hidden secrets to unlock, and endless errands to run. It's easy to make progress, but there's no pay-off and it all feels like a pointless exercise.
After a while I realized I could select other stages from "world map", but none were very compelling. The cooperative stages are well designed but marred by erratic controls, like when you hit a button to release an army man from his parachute and it doesn't respond. The Buzz Lightyear shooting stage is an absolute mess as you fly through a windy canyon while blasting floating rocks. Constantly pressing the right trigger to fire is tiresome, and it's hard to judge your proximity to the walls.
Looking on the bright side, Toy Story 3's superb visuals are comparable to the films, and the cut-scenes are very humorous and worth watching. This is an uneven effort - the kind of game that gets you excited at the outset but fails to hold your attention for long. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
The jungle scenery would have been more impressive if I hadn't already played Halo 3 (Xbox 360, 2007), but the lush, organic setting is still pretty awesome. The high, rustling weeds offer plenty of places to hide, yet convey a paranoid feeling that you're being stalked. Turok must not only contend with soldiers who offer a tactical challenge, but dinosaurs who prefer to go for the throat. If you're lucky, dinosaurs will wreak havoc on an enemy camp, or better yet turn on each other.
Naturally, the T-Rex steals the show, and from the first glimpse, you know it's only a matter of time before you'll have to face him one-on-one. The dinosaur animation is completely convincing, and the texture of their skin is amazing. The first-person shooting action is typical, employing stealth attacks, sniping, grenades, and dual weapons. But instead of a health meter, your vitality is reflected by redness that creeps in from the edge of the screen as you take damage. Taking cover allows you to heal - a concept lifted straight from Halo (I won't even bring up the "spider tank". Whoops.)
Turok's primary weapon is his bow which reflects his American Indian heritage. The longer to pull back, the harder the shot, and it's really satisfying to pin a soldier against a crate! One glaring issue is the touchy aiming. The analog stick of the PS3 controller is sensitive enough as it is, but moving, firing a weapon, or taking a hit throws your aim way off. As a result, during intense firefights you just tend to spray bullets and hope for the best.
Turok deserves to be applauded for its violence and gore. The splattering of blood against walls is spectacular, and special knife attacks (presented in third-person view) are Mortal Kombat-worthy. The audio is also exceptional, with an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack and expertly recorded voiceovers. Turok is a linear game, but does a wonderful job of hiding it, as you never feel like you're being led around. An auto-save feature kicks in regularly, except in really hard areas, where it seems nowhere to be found! It's bad enough to replay long stretches, but reloading the last checkpoint is slow (thanks a lot Blu Ray!)
Turok's multiplayer mode supports up to 16 players on-line. It took a while for this game to grow on me, but my friends were crazy about Turok from the start. No doubt I'll be getting a lot of flak for not giving this game an A. I don't think it's quite as fun as Halo, but Turok is consistently intense and exciting, and shooter fans will have a hard time putting down their controller. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Its sprawling, high-definition stages span the stormy suburbs, run-down industrial areas, and an amusement park complete with a haunted house. There's a snowy Christmas-themed city stage and a trap-laden arena that's constantly changing in configuration. You can race through the storefronts of many buildings, shattering windows and plowing through furniture. All your favorite vehicles are back and now you can even pilot a helicopter named Talon.
Twisted Metals's gameplay is finely tuned, and I love how you can load up on weapons. When you get an enemy in your sights, you can unleash hell by tapping the lower triggers. The ensuing chaos is dazzling, and I love the flying numbers to indicate damage. This, my friends, is some quality violence! You even get the old "special moves" like freeze and shield. The single-player story mode features computer enhanced live-action (!) scenes which are gory, disturbing, and a heck of a lot of fun to watch!
A wide variety of challenges include "battle races", "moving cage" battles, bosses, and endurance matches. You can even play co-op with a friend! A fully-configuration split-screen mode supports up to four players. There's the obligatory on-line mode and a challenge mode that lets a single player go up against an army of bots. The musical score is dead-on with appropriately abrasive tunes like "I Can't Drive 55", "Heavy Metal", "Dragula", and even "Straight Outta Compton". I can't get over how much fun this new Twisted Metal is. This is so good, I'm afraid they might not have to make another one! © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.