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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Playstation 3 Reviews U-Z

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Grade: A+
Publisher: Sony (2009)
Posted: 2009/12/20
Rating: Teen (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotMany critics failed to recognize the greatness of the first Uncharted, but now I see they've all jumped on the bandwagon. Better late than never boys! No question about it, Among Thieves is an exotic adventure that hones the Tomb Raider formula to perfection. This time our hero Nathan Drake (hey, isn't that Nick Lachey?) is on the trail of Marco Polo's lost expedition in search of a mythical stone in the Himalayan Mountains. At any given time, you can expect Nathan to have a shapely chick - or two - at his side, and who's complaining?

Uncharted 2 has a substantial initial load time, but once the action kicks in, disk access is undetectable. The game's diverse environments include a war-torn city, a dense jungle, a Turkish museum, icy mountain passages, and a snowy monastery. There are elaborate tombs with immense statues, gears, and pulleys. The scenery is astonishing, and there were many times when I wanted to stop and look around but couldn't due to the breakneck pace of the game! Cleverly-designed stages constrain your movements without having you feel constrained. The city stages offer breathtaking views and realistic details like pigeons that flutter away as you approach. The jaw-dropping "shootout-on-the-train" stage defies description - it's incredible!

Uncharted 2's gameplay offers an ideal combination of stealth, exploration, climbing, puzzles, pulse-pounding chases, and chaotic shootouts. The controls are supremely forgiving. Nathan will automatically grasp ledges while falling and reach out to indicate if the next ledge is close enough to leap to. The ability to fire a gun while hanging from any ledge adds a whole new dimension to shoot-outs. You can save your progress at any time, and frequent checkpoints ensure you'll never have to repeat long stretches.

Among Thieves places a heavy emphasis on the story, with frequent cut-scenes that initially give you the feeling of being strung along. That would be a liability in most games, but Uncharted 2's cinematics are a real treat. Yes, they latch onto every action movie cliche you've ever seen, but it's all in good fun. The likeable characters are rendered with subtle facial expressions, and the voice acting is fantastic. Whoever wrote this dialogue is brilliant! I love it! The characters consistently toss out genuinely funny one-liners, and the profanity is thankfully restrained.

Last but not least, the triumphant orchestrated musical score is momentous - worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. The game clocks in at about 11 hours, and while many adventures pad their playing time with repetitive, time-consuming tasks, Uncharted 2 has zero filler. Among Thieves is so grand and well produced that pointing out minor glitches like awkward camera angles or stuttering animations seems almost petty. When it comes to making a playable video game, the Naughty Dog development team really "gets it", and with Uncharted 2 they've delivered one for the ages. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Grade: A
Publisher: Sony (2011)
Posted: 2011/12/3
Rating: Teen (blood, language, violence)

screenshotThe fact that I couldn't pull myself away from this game is a testament to its tremendous production values, intelligent stage designs, and highly tuned difficulty. Uncharted 3 takes explorer Nathan Drake on an action-packed thrill ride from underground London to a burning French Chateau to a rusty ship yard to an ancient desert city. The pacing is breathless and it seems like every ten minutes Drake finds himself dangling precariously for dear life.

Several friends join him throughout his quest and the game thoughtfully includes a two-player split-screen coop mode. The characters are very likeable with the exception of his love interest Elena who can be a pain in the ass at times. The intriguing storyline borrows heavily from classic action films, and Indiana Jones fans will be rolling their eyes a lot. One of the early chapters offers a flashback to Drake's youth when he was a dead ringer for Michael J. Fox.

For the bulk of the game Drake is on the trail of a lost relic while being pursued by thugs in suits and ties (Oh no! Republicans!!). Drake is one crazy monkey man. He can scale walls, hang by his arms, swing on ropes, and make great leaps over yawning chasms. Climbing in most games is slow and tedious, but here you can traverse treacherous cliffs with ease. The controls seem to work with you - not against you.

The animation is interesting. Typical video game characters look stiff when they run but Drake leans from side-to-side, pushes off of things, and his momentum is a factor. He'll automatically perform special moves like slamming a door on a pursuer, smashing a nearby bottle over a thug's head, or snatching a gun out of the air. The environments are incredibly detailed, beginning with a rainy London at night with its wet streets shimmering under the street lamps. When you get a nice panoramic view of the city it doesn't look static; you can see the movement of cars in the distance.

Uncharted 3's puzzles are extremely inventive and never frustrating. The hand-to-hand combat is amazing at first, but it does tend to fall into predictable patterns over time. The lack of an auto-aim makes the shootouts challenging and exciting, but turning while aiming is slow (what happened to analog control?). There are some adrenaline-pumping chase scenes that are surprisingly long. The voice acting is superb and the dialogue never stoops to the level of forced profanity. Your progress is auto-saved every minute.

Uncharted 3 is highly cinematic and even though it leads you around by the nose it doesn't feel like you're being led around by the nose. Once you start getting tired of a location (like the shipyard), there's an unexpected turn of events which lands you in a completely fresh venue. The set pieces are massive as you survive collapsing ruins, sinking cruise ships, and crashing cargo planes. Even the ending lives up to its promise, bringing Uncharted 3 - and the trilogy - to a proper and satisfying conclusion. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Grade: A
Publisher: Sony (2008)
Posted: 2008/7/6
Rating: Teen (blood, language, mild suggestive themes, use of tobacco, violence)

screenshotWhen I think of summertime activities, I think of going to a ballgame, relaxing on the beach, playing tennis, and raiding ancient ruins for treasure. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is to video games what Indiana Jones is to movies. Gamers should be falling over themselves with unbridled joy over this gorgeous game. Man, we are some spoiled bastards!

Uncharted was developed by Naughty Dog, the good people who refined platform gaming with their PS1 hit Crash Bandicoot (1997). And here they go again with another first-rate jungle adventure! Uncharted is jam-packed with amazing sights, exciting shootouts, and one death-defying stunt after the next. You'll also cruise jungle rivers on a jet ski and embark on a high-speed jeep chase. Uncharted's scenery really steals the show with its dense foliage, partly submerged ruins, crumbling monasteries, and fortresses rising up at the edge of the sea. Jumping between crumbling cliffs is a lot more exciting when you're staring over the top of a magnificent waterfall! I often found myself gawking at the scenery, and with 60 hidden treasures, you'll want to explore every nook and cranny.

The star of the game is a likeable, wisecracking guy named Nate (Nick Lachey?), and he's joined by a blonde reporter (Helen Hunt?). Nate really puts his whole body into his leaps, and it looks amazing. His clothes become visibly soaked when they get wet, and gradually dry. While similar to Tomb Raider, Uncharted's pacing is faster, the puzzles easier, and the controls are practically idiot-proof. This is one of the few games I've completed without once looking at the manual or an FAQ, partly due to an ingenious hint system (hit L2) that prods you along before you get stuck.

Wall climbing and ledge-jumping has never been so effortless, and the shootouts combine a Gears of War-style cover system with simple aim-and-shoot mechanics. Let's face it - in most games auto-targeting is used to compensate for lousy controls, but here they aren't necessary. Granted, enemy thugs can absorb a lot of bullets, but that's okay, because so can you! There's no health meter, but the screen loses color as you take damage, and you reconstitute health by staying out of harms' way.

Uncharted's plot is compelling, and the dialogue features true-to-life lines like "Sweet - that's why I'm talkin' bout!" (after finding an Uzi) and "Where'd all these guys come from?!" (after an ambush) Uncharted's single misstep occurs late in the game when it temporarily becomes a Resident Evil knock-off for no good reason. It's a shame a game this fresh had to fall back on such a tired formula. Even so, Uncharted is a summer blockbuster of a game that had me absolutely riveted from beginning to end. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition
Grade: B
Publisher: Rising Star (2012)
Posted: 2013/2/16
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotShooters of the 2D variety have become an endangered species in recent years, often relegated to download-only status. I was shocked to see Under Defeat for the PS3 - on an actual disc no less! This high-quality vertical shooter first appeared as a Dreamcast import in 2005. Over the years Under Defeat has achieved near-legendary status, partly due to its rarity and partly because it kicks ass.

The action is intense as you pilot a helicopter over photo-realistic scenery that includes lush wooded areas, rocky valleys, and harbors filled with battleships. You can unleash rapid-fire bullets, devastating bombs, and deploy an "option" for additional damage. Your ability to angle your cannon is key, as it lets you destroy towers and turrets while evading their line of fire. It takes cat-like reflexes to reduce military hardware to smoldering rubble while weaving through waves of projectiles. The explosions are outstanding thanks to some amazing smoke effects, and your bombs practically envelop the entire screen in fiery death.

Under Defeat's arcade mode consumes only a narrow portion of your screen, but the "new order" mode presents the game to its full-screen glory. I don't know if it's due to the closer perspective or not, but this game seems a lot harder than the Dreamcast version. I also noticed some substantial slow-down I didn't see on the Dreamcast. It's not a deal-breaker, but you'd expect the PS3 to be able to better handle a game like this. You get three continues and high scores are saved along with your initials. In addition to on-line leaderboards, it saves your local rankings as well! I could have sworn that technology was lost in the late 1980's.

This game could use more control options, such as the ability to adjust your angle via the shoulder buttons. You can use dual-thumbsticks, but it's not as comfortable as you would think. A stage select should have been included as well, considering how lengthy that second stage is. Still, I'm grateful to own this game. Under Defeat HD is a must-have for gamers who want to enjoy real shooting action without all the entanglements of on-line play. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Vampire Resurrection (Japan)
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (2013)
Posted: 2015/7/25

screenshotI'm so glad someone recommended to me this awesome Japanese import! Vampire Resurrection brings two ghoulish 2D fighters back from the dead: Vampire Hunter and Vampire Savior. Popular in the mid-1990's, these were marketed in the States under the Darkstalkers moniker. I purchased this import disc as a collector, but loved it as a gamer. This package really rekindled my enthusiasm for the long-dormant series.

These have been optimized to take full advantage of modern day widescreen televisions. The visuals appear to have been processed via some smoothing algorithm, yet still retain their old-school charm. The aspect ratio is presented as 4:3 but the margins are used to provide updates on achievements in progress. I normally don't pay attention to stuff like that, but this feature stoked my interest.

Both games are a heck of a lot of fun with frantic action and easy-to-grasp controls. I did notice one quirk, which is how you tend to automatically slide back toward your opponent after getting knocked down. What's that all about? The over-the-top, shape-shifting moves are sometimes cheap but usually entertaining and occasionally hilarious. The stages could be more scary, but I love the one where you're fighting on the side of a building (while looking down).

Local high score tables are available for both games. Online play is supported and earning "vampire points" lets you unlock a treasure trove of concept art, movies, and other interesting artifacts. Everything is presented in English with the exception of the character quotes. Vampire Resurrection is a complete package that will thrill 2D fighting enthusiasts and maybe even spawn a few new ones. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Vancouver 2010
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (2010)
Posted: 2010/2/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI was pretty stoked about this new winter Olympics title, but ultimately dismayed by the way Sega handled it. Vancouver 2010 gets off to a rocky start by warning players that certain features are only available on-line, including the ability to view your records. Perhaps "Vancouver Online" would have been more fitting, as the game displays blatant disdain for off-line players.

Before you do anything, be sure to turn off the music from the options menu, because it really doesn't mesh with the Olympic theme. Before competing, each player must select a country and enter his name. That's fair, but the screen that facilitates this is the epitome of poor software design! My friends and I must have accidentally exited to the main menu about six times before getting it right.

Unlike classic Olympic titles like Winter Games (Atari 7800, 1987), Vancouver 2010 feels terribly disjointed. There are no opening or closing ceremonies, and this lack of pageantry detracts from the overall experience. It's a shame, because the events themselves are pretty good! Prior to each you have the option of participating in a brief interactive tutorial. The control scheme is intelligent, the camera angles are optimal, and split-screen is used where applicable.

Downhill skiing is a blast, offering breathtaking views as you careen down the slopes and navigate the winding course with pinpoint control. The sensation of speed is enhanced by blur effects, you can almost feel the wind resistance! The only thing that sucks are those annoying beeps indicating you're running behind the leader (as if I didn't know that!) The slalom events are trickier, mainly because it can be tough to see the flags.

The snowboarding events are very similar to skiing, but incorporate a jumping aspect. The ski jump event has a myriad of gauges that effectively convey the subtle nuances of the sport. The women's speed skating and aerial events have learning curves that limit their fun. You might expect the bobsled, luge, and skeleton to be the most exciting events, but in fact you'll tire of them quickly. Each requires two lengthy runs, and all occur on the same track.

Once all the events are completed, you are unceremoniously kicked back to the main menu. Although Vancouver clearly tracks high scores per profile ("it's a new personal best!"), there's no way to view these records off-line, and that really stinks. Sega's Winter Heat (Saturn 1997) let you view records locally, but I guess Sega lost the technology. A challenge mode offers mini-games like hitting snowmen on a slalom course or reaching a certain speed in bobsled, but it didn't hold my interest. Vancouver 2010 offers some impressive visuals and exciting multiplayer action, but Sega needs to get its act together and focus on making games that are fun for everybody. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Virtua Fighter 5
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (2005)
Posted: 2007/4/1
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotHow the mighty have fallen! Once the reigning champ in the world of one-on-one fighters, this hastily assembled fifth edition drops Virtua Fighter squarely into the realm of mediocrity. Yes, I realize Virtua Fighter 5 (VF5) has received glowing reviews from other sources, but I get the impression that those critics made up their mind before they even played the freakin' game.

The sharp-looking characters are meticulously detailed, but they don't mesh well with the underlying game engine. If anything, the increased resolution just accentuates their stiff movements and lousy collision detection. Most hits feel soft, and some register when clearly no contact was made. In one extreme example, I actually witnessed a guy pick up and throw a chick without even touching her! The skin textures look remarkable, but the rigid, expressionless faces aren't even in sync with the dialogue.

The controls are less responsive than VF4, the characters poorly balanced, and the matches lack the same "flow". Throws are hard to initiate, and side steps are also problematic. There's no shortage of hot babes, but there are no "jiggle" effects, and worst yet, the most revealing outfits are locked from the outset (curses!). And where's the innovation? Couldn't Sega make fighters that model damage, or at least grow tired as their health wears down?

VF5 is also saddled with the most poorly-designed, counter-intuitive data loading system in recent memory. The first time you play, the game prompts you to create some kind of mysterious user data, warning that "the process will take several minutes to complete". What the [expletive]?! After that ordeal, whenever you load the game you'll be interrogated by a series of load prompts, and sometimes it takes forever to reach the title screen. The main menu offers the familiar modes, including arcade, versus, quest, and practice.

In versus, each player needs to create additional data to save his progress, and the interface is horrible. In order to simply enter a name for your data you must exit versus mode, access the options menu, and then traverse a "customization" menu. So when did Sega forget how to design video games? If you forgo the user data, the game doesn't record statistics, and that stinks.

The news isn't all bad for Virtua Fighter fans however. The rounds are ideal in length (read: short), so even the best of seven contests seem reasonable. There are a gazillion moves to choose from, and they're all listed in the manual as well as the pause screen. The waterfall and outdoor party mansion scenes are magnificent, but most stages are far less interesting, and many are boxed in by unsightly fences. There's still some competitive fun to be had, but after ruling the previous generation, I was expecting Virtua Fighter 5 to set a new standard, not play second fiddle to Dead or Alive. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Wonderbook: Book of Potions
Grade: F

screenshotWonderbook titles are odd one-offs that utilize the Playstation Move camera and motion controllers to convey a modest degree of augmented reality. If there's any enjoyment to be had it's typically short-lived. In Book of Potions you see yourself on your TV interacting with virtual items that float around you. I was somewhat curious about Book of Potions because it's by J.K. Rowling - author of Harry Potter!

Brewing potions at Hogwarts sounds like a blast, right? Sadly, an onerous set-up process gets things off on the wrong foot. It's really not that complicated but the endless steps make it feel that way. It really sucks how you need to keep your room super bright for the game to work, which totally kills the atmosphere.

Book of Potions takes a while to get started and never really gains any traction. The "master of potions" narrator tries so hard to muster enthusiasm, but it's hard when the game is just a glorified Cooking Mama (Nintendo DS, 2006). You'll concoct potions to cure boils and shrink things but the gameplay is dull and repetitive. Snip leaves off plants. Slice up vegetables. Stir in pot. Pour in liquids. Adjust temperature. The tedious process is dragged out ad nauseum by verbose dialog, unnecessary text, lengthy pauses, and constant saving.

The game actually became stuck at one point, probably because I was getting ahead of it with my impatient button tapping. Wonderbook: Book of Potions isn't very satisfying and its Harry Potter license feels wasted. It also has a number of unwanted side effects in the form of sleepiness, frustration, and extreme boredom. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Wonderbook: Book of Spells
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sony (2012)
Posted: 2014/7/13
Rating: Everyone 10+ (alcohol reference, crude humor, fantasy violence)

screenshotThis is probably the closest you can get to attending Hogwarts and learning how to cast magical spells (if you're into that kind of thing). Like the Harry Potter novels, Book of Spells is geared toward younger players but will enchant all ages (literally). My first exposure to "augmented reality" was on the 3DS, which used a 3D camera to create the illusion of creatures materializing out of cards. Spellbook takes the concept a lot further, and is easily the most effective use of the Move controller and camera.

The "game" is broken up into a series of lessons that teach how to do cool stuff like levitate objects, conjure birds, unlock chests, and shrink pumpkins. The camera places you in the center of the screen and superimposes the image of a wand in your hand (over the Move controller). A big blue Wonderbook is required and must be positioned directly in front of you. Be sure to follow the instructions on the set-up screens, because if your positioning is off or the lighting is dim, the controls will be unresponsive.

You conjure spells by speaking incantations or drawing simple patterns with your wand. Somehow this game can hear my voice; is there a microphone in the Move controller? The origin of each spell is presented via interactive puppet shows that are kind of fun to watch. Casting spells is an immersive experience thanks to some amazing visual effects. Paper dragons will fly out of the book, objects will catch on fire, and bugs will crawl all over the room. When casting a water spell, you can spray virtual water over the camera lens.

To put your powers to the test, Book of Spells also transports you to mysterious environments like dusty tombs and dark libraries. Each of the five chapters concludes with a test, and one was so intense I almost knocked over my beer! Book of Spells features terrific production values with quality narration, a beautifully orchestrated score, and a highly stylized presentation. There's not much replay value (if any), but the gee-whiz factor makes this worth experiencing at least once. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Wonderbook: Walking with Dinosaurs
Grade: C
Publisher: Sony (2013)
Posted: 2018/5/24
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotThis isn't so much a game as it is a learning exercise, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. When it comes to educational software this may be as good as it gets! Walking with Dinosaurs is well crafted, offering a nice variety of interactive activities while sprinkling in education facts here and there. The narrators have British accents which gives the game an aura of classy sophistication.

As with all titles that require the Move controller, you need to calibrate the camera and make sure the room is well lit. It kind of kills the atmosphere but oh well. I found it interesting how the set-up screen included a little white cartoon cat and my white cat Claire was sitting right next to me. You're supposed to place the required Wonderbook in front of you on the floor but sitting on a chair with the book on a coffee table works fine.

Walking with Dinosaurs uses "augmented reality" to good effect. Often you're projected on the screen in a little hut as dinosaurs stomp around you. Sometimes you'll use your move controller as an excavating tool, and it's fun to sweep away dirt around fossils. Other times it's used as an X-ray to explore the inner workings of a dinosaur. Certain activities require you to search the screen for hidden plants and not-so-hidden dinosaurs. Motion-controls are used to feed dinosaurs or engage in battle movements. There's some mild violence but the camera cuts away when something's about to get chomped.

The mini-games really hold your hand so don't expect much challenge. Still, I found each of the animated scenes to be loaded with fascinating detail. The only activities I didn't like were the ones that prompted me to yell at the screen for some reason or another. The occasional quizzes offers seem tedious at first but they are actually a lot of fun. I can't imagine playing through this again any time soon, but if Walking with Dinosaurs maintained my attention it'll probably enthrall young gamers. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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