This game is so tawdry that after reviewing it I had to take a shower. While not truly X-rated (more like an R rating), it pushes the boundaries of bad taste with its pimps, prostitutes, crude humor, nudity, and profanity. At its core, BMX XXX is a marginal dirt bike game with maze-like stages loaded with ramps and icons. In addition to performing Tony Hawk-style stunts, you'll need to gather certain items in a limited time, or locate hidden objects.
The controls are abysmal. The A button is used to accelerate but releasing it "hops", so you end up hopping all over the place. The steering controls are responsive, but since the poorly designed stages are heavily constrained you often find yourself bouncing around like a pinball! Stage locations include the Bronx, Vegas, a Dam, and Area 51, but they're all terrible. The audio effects are truly obnoxious, both in terms of their volume and quality. Expect a lot of vagrants shouting obscenities like "get the [expletive] outta here!"
The only thing XXX has anything going for it is its uptempo soundtrack, which even includes a track from Green Day. The juvenile humor is cringe-worthy, the graphics are riddled with glitches, and the whole package is sloppy in general. If you select a female rider, the characters still address you as if you were a guy. Clearing stages rewards you with short videos of topless dancers, and while the girls look good (duh!), the dark, grainy videos are not worth investing hours to unlock. If you want to know how bad BMX XXX is, keep in mind that parents didn't even bother to complain about it! That's saying something! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The outstanding graphics should please Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) fans, complete with monsters taken straight from the D&D Monster Manual. The townships and dungeons are meticulously detailed and realistically lighted. Even clichéd environments like the sewers look terrific thanks to some of the best water effects I've ever seen. The characters are significantly larger than Diablo, allowing for a greater level of detail and control.
The blood flies as you swing your sword, and each kill is satisfying because the bad guys don't continually regenerate like they do in some other games. Tiny kobolds flee in fear, skeletons shoot arrows from afar, huge gelatinous cubes slide around, ghosts walk through walls, and headless zombies wander aimlessly. There are loads of items to collect during your journey, and you're constantly upgrading your weapons and armor. While at first you'll want to pick up every item you find, eventually the weight limit kicks in, forcing you to be more selective. The well-designed control scheme gives you the ability to heal yourself on the fly, although switching weapons can be somewhat awkward.
Interacting with characters conveys an interesting storyline, and the voice acting is not bad at all. Ominous music and crystal clear sound effects like creaking doors complete the immersive experience. There are ample save points and a two-player mode to boot. Some may find the action a little repetitive, but there's really not much to fault with this game. If you have a mind for adventure, you can't go wrong with Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The basic gameplay involves eavesdropping on thugs, freaking them out by triggering "accidents", and interrogating those you sneak up on. Keeping a low profile is advisable, since causing a ruckus results in thugs pouring out of the woodwork. The fighting action is simple and satisfying, with Batman performing a variety of stylish martial arts maneuvers on his foes. Despite its strong Metal Gear influence, Batman Begins never feels frustrating or tedious. The stages are very linear, and the game always keeps you headed in the right direction. At one point I even asked myself, "Am I playing this game, or is it playing me?" I decided it doesn’t really matter as long as I'm having a good time. This is one stealth game even a casual player can enjoy, although some hardcore gamers may object to the constant "handholding".
Batman Begins is nicely paced, and I didn't even mind the early training level (those are usually so annoying). Spicing up the action are gadgets like an optic wire (to see through doors), lock-picking mini-games, and lengthy Burnout-style driving stages. Grenades and Batarangs are useful weapons, but these are only available at specific times, which can be frustrating. There are ample checkpoints, so you won't need to repeat the same areas too often. The storyline differs somewhat from the film but the cut scenes feature a generous helping of movie footage. An ominous orchestrated musical score adds dramatic flair, and it's reminiscent of Psycho at times. Despite being a bit shallow, Batman Begins has all the necessary ingredients of a good superhero game. Numerous unlockables include cast interviews, movie footage, alternate batman costumes, and mini-games. Fans of the Caped Crusader are in for a treat. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
When you start a new game Batman is pitted against waves of thugs wearing animal masks and armed with machine guns. Besides kick and punch attacks, you can deploy gadgets from your utility belt like bat-a-rangs, smoke bombs, night vision goggles, and grapples. Dark Tomorrow has considerable depth but it's not very playable. Swinging between rooftops with the bat-cable is clumsy, and one accidental slip sends the Dark Knight plunging to his death.
The designers tried to incorporate stealth, but Batman creeps so slowly in "sneak mode" that it's unbearable. The combat is ruined by the fact that you must apply bat-cuffs to all the bad guys you beat down. Otherwise they just get back up! Applying the cuffs is time-consuming, and the cuffing animation is unintentionally hilarious because Batman doesn't appear to know what the hell he's doing (where do these things go?). It's frustrating when you're messing around with the cuffs while all the bad guys are pumping lead into you. It just goes to show: just because an idea is original doesn't mean it's good.
The controls suck in general. Sometimes Batman will grab onto a ladder and sometimes he won't. You cannot aim upward with your bat-a-rang, leaving you defenseless against thugs on ledges. But by far the worst aspect of the game is the camera. Your view abruptly changes so often that it's hard to tell which way you're facing. You'll need to depend on your radar display to ensure you're not backtracking.
And if you think the camerawork is disorienting in the streets, wait until you enter a building. On a positive note, the load screens are short and you can save your progress at any time. When Batman loses his life, he makes one final attempt to stand before collapsing from exhaustion. After trying to play this train wreck I felt the same way. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
For one thing, since the camera is tilted overhead, there's little if any eye candy to be seen. In fact, the only visible scenery is concrete streets and marble flooring. The thugs take far too many hits to defeat, even when you employ special moves! The controls are very much geared toward button-mashing, evident by the fact that many moves require tapping the same button in rapid succession.
You can assume the role of Batman, Robin, Batgirl, or Nightwing. I like how you can fight alongside a friend, but that doesn't make the action any less repetitive. The thugs come in several varieties, but they all behave pretty much the same. One type likes to unleash gas bombs which makes the screen very wavy. While this effect seems impressive at first, it's so overused that I found myself getting nauseous from it!
Between stages you can save your progress and use the points you earn to purchase additional moves. The graphics mimic the style of the cartoon series, but tend to be a little bland. Rise of Sin Tzu is pretty dull in the early going, but while I expected it to become more interesting as I progressed, that never happened. I suspect even Batman fans will find Rise of Sin Tzu more taxing than it should have been. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Unlike Mech Assault where you can only hover momentarily, in Battle Engine Aquila you'll spend half of the time in the air. Although flying is pretty easy, you have to be careful not to land in water because your mech can't swim. Unfortunately, the first person view sometimes makes it hard to determine if you're over water as you come in for a landing. Some missions take place almost completely over water, so you'll have to land on a ship to restore your energy, which can be tricky.
In contrast to Mech Assault which is basically a bunch of small skirmishes in confined areas, Aquila puts you in the middle of a huge war, with an expansive battleground loaded with other vehicles engaged in battle. To help tell the good guys from the bad, your allies are rendered in shades of blue, and the bad guys are all red. I enjoyed Battle Engine Aquila a lot, and found the two-player cooperative mode especially addicting. I don't think this game got a lot of attention when it was released, but it's very worthwhile. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Weapons include chain guns, torpedoes, mines, and rockets. An addictive story mode takes you on a series of exciting missions, most involving blowing ships out of the water and destroying structures on the shoreline. There are also some exciting four-player death matches and team modes included.
The boats and the water are graphically impressive. Minutely detailed, the ships look properly aged and weathered. The shimmering water looks beautiful, and it varies in roughness. Enemy boats explode convincingly before slowing sinking into the depths. While the action is always silky smooth, slowdown does occur, especially if your ship goes airborne.
The controls could have been better designed. Using the left "steering" joystick to thrust and reverse is awkward, and you often shift into reverse when trying to make a tight turn. Still, Blood Wake is quite satisfying overall, and fans of vehicular combat games will certainly approve. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Sporting a new haircut, Rayne has a few new moves up her sleeve, including the ability to grind rails, wield blood-powered guns, and use a harpoon to fling bad guys into fans, fireplaces, and trash compactors. A bizarre control scheme is used to swing from bars, but once you get used to it, it's pretty decent. You'll encounter some hideous monstrosities, but the bulk of your time is spent fighting a steady stream of generic thugs.
At any time you can toggle between various play modes using the directional pad, including "aura vision" (reveal clues), "blood rage" (increased offense), and "dilated perception" (the obligatory slow-down mode). This dilated perception (aka "bullet-time") mode is not only a really tired concept, but it often belies the action on the screen as you see Rayne's blades pass harmlessly through the bodies of her enemies. It's similar to the light saber issue in Star Wars games - one swing really should finish off any foe.
Bloodrayne 2 offers plenty of splattering blood, but it can be hard to tell who's doing the hurting during the mayhem. The environments are detailed and highly destructible, but they're often reused, which is lame. The audio is solid, and I especially like the Prodigy-style music that kicks in during major fight sequences. The difficulty level is about right but the checkpoint spacing is woefully uneven. At one point the game completely locked up on me - a cardinal sin for any console game. Bloodrayne 2 isn't the worst sequel I've played, but I don't think many gamers will be begging for a follow-up. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Quest of the Dragon might have been a fair game if the developers would have incorporated some interesting storylines or characters from Bruce Lee's movies. But all you get here is an incoherent plot and a parade of generic thugs! Dialogue like "Let's teach him a lesson!" doesn't help matters. In each stage, you methodically beat up each gang, collect coins, and purchase more moves between levels.
The instruction manual is loaded with hundreds of moves, but in fact, little technique is required. This game is a button-masher's dream. Sure it's fun to watch Bruce go postal and dispatch dozens of thugs at first. The action is fast, but there are frequent "hiccups" in the frame rate. The targeting system sucks, and you'll often find yourself facing some off-screen guy instead of the two thugs that are punching you on-screen.
The game is strictly linear, although it's still hard to tell where to go next thanks to the awful camera system. The environments are not interactive at all - they just provide new scenery for the same monotonous fights. The graphics are below average. The characters aren't very detailed, and with the exception of the bosses, they all look the same. The scenery varies from a fishing village, to a restaurant, to the streets of Hong Kong, but it's nothing special. Even the lives/continue system is confusing. All in all, Quest is an uninspired game that won't hold your interest for long. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Although the look of the game is similar to Halo, Brute Force is played from a third-person perspective. You can switch control between characters on the fly, and the other team members behave according to your orders. These orders include "move to", "fire at will", "cover me", and "stand ground". The system for issuing orders is confusing at first, but it's necessary to learn. A novice may be tempted to overlook the "team" aspect of the game, but a Rambo mentality won't get you far in most missions.
Brute Force includes all the standard weapons you would expect, such as machine guns, rocket launchers, a sniper rifle, and various types of grenades. The scenery isn't noteworthy, but I like the variety of enemies, including marauding reptilian men, savage zombies, and teleporting wizards. Unlike SOCOM (PS2), which included a series of complex objectives with each mission, Brute Force only asks you to wipe out all of your enemies in each stage.
The single-player mode is enjoyable enough, but the split-screen multiplayer mode is confusing, and my friends quickly grew impatient with it. If you really want to play multiplayer, I'd advise trying the on-line options (I myself did not). Brute Force is a respectable action title. It's not one of my favorites, but at $20 it's a reasonable purchase. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
As a kung-fu hottie of the highest magnitude, Buffy beats down vampires, hellhounds, spiders, shambling zombies, and assorted other supernatural minions. The spiders look pretty gross, and the decomposed zombies keep coming back - even after losing a few limbs. The impressive fighting engine dishes out fluid and surprisingly elaborate attack combinations. Sometimes Buffy can dispose of a foe with a single, well-timed backhanded stab, and it's satisfying to watch a vampire disintegrate into dust.
There's no shortage of weapons, including crossbows, flamethrowers, holy water, shovels, and even baseball bats. It's easy to throw enemies, and chances are, there's a sharp piece of wood sticking out somewhere closeby! Tossing vampires in front of moving trains is another enjoyable pastime. Certain locations are inspired by the show, including the high school and the Bronze nightclub. Realistic moonlight, fog, and flame effects convey an eerie atmosphere, and there are some genuinely frightening sights, like a contorted body crammed into a locker. Equally unnerving is the otherworldly music and disturbing sound effects like creaks, growls, and giggles.
Locations like the mausoleum border on photo-realistic, but the cemetery feels too maze-like and the industrial areas are downright boring. Fortunately, none of the stages are particularly long. Another issue is the monotonous battles caused by too much monster respawning. She only killed like one or two in each show, yet she plows through them by the dozen here! Through it all Buffy tosses out some great lines like "You want a piece of me?! I'll give you the whole damned pie!" You go girl!!
The characters are dead-ringers for the real actors, and their lips even match the dialogue. The controls are simple and responsive, although switching between weapons is a bit of a hassle. The fact that Buffy runs and climbs quickly allows the game to progress at a brisk pace. There's a nifty auto-save mechanism as well. All in all, this is a very well constructed game that I'm sure will become a collector's item, considering the show's cult status. Feel free to bump up the grade by one letter if you're a fan of the show! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Well, those bat-faced vampires look pretty ugly, and the giant spiders are extra-crispy this time around. There's also an appearance by that creepy ventriloquist dummy (*shudder*). Chaos Bleeds is playable, but it lacks the polish of the first game, and its stages vary drastically in terms of duration and difficulty. Switching weapons is a constant hassle, and I hate how you have to be unarmed in order to perform a throw or use an item. Vampires and zombies respawn continuously, artificially lengthening the game.
Buffy has plenty of martial-arts moves, but too often she misses her target and continues out her string of moves at thin air. The repetitive fighting is tiresome, and the puzzles are unimaginative. When I had to locate a handle to close a steam value in a sewer, I asked myself "Didn't I do this in the last game? What's next, a fuse box puzzle?" Sure enough, there was a missing fuse right around the next corner! The camera angles are glitchy, and at one point I could not exit the first-person crossbow view (until I died). Several of the show's actors lent their voices, but not Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) or Alyson Hannigan (Willow). Buffy's replacement is dead-on, but Willow's seems to be overacting.
The dialogue lacks the wit and irony of the show, and comes off more like dialogue that's trying to sound like the show. A two-player mode is included, but these games are pathetic! Whether you're collecting bunnies or fighting zombies, random events cause both players to switch characters or worse yet - switch scores. Fans of the Buffster can bump up the grade by a letter, but only because of the fun unlockable videos which include outtakes and interviews with the cast. Note: An astute reader pointed out that this was a cross-platform game that was likely watered down by the PS2. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
In terms of gameplay, Burnout 2 is sensational. As you weave through traffic at high speeds and drift around corners, you'll experience an adrenaline rush few other video games can match. And unlike titles like Gran Turismo with their multitudes of license requirements, Burnout 2 provides a refreshing degree of instant gratification. The single-player mode offers a series of increasingly difficult races through scenic locations, and there are even a few police-chase stages to spice things up. My one complaint is that this mode is a little too easy, and it takes a while to build up to the real challenge.
Burnout 2 also includes a fantastic "crash mode" which in of itself is worth the price of the game. As you and your friends take turns plowing into busy intersections, you'll want to strategically aim your collision to initiate the most destructive chain reactions. Burnout 2 is one of the best arcade-style racers I've played in years. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
In general, Burnout 3's races are chaotic and there's too much of everything. Even basic maneuvers net you crazy points and cause gaudy graphics to flash across the screen. It's too easy to take out other cars - simply rubbing against them can send them tumbling end-over-end. Points are awarded for everything - even crashing! Since the series is known for its high-impact wrecks, EA incorporated a new mechanism that lets you "guide" your crash into other cars while in slow motion. That's fun for about five minutes, but I prefer to get back into the race immediately.
Winning any race in the single-player mode rewards you with a laundry list of new items and unlocked stages. It's really too much to keep track of, and the sense of reward is diminished as a result. There's also an excessive amount of turbo available, so you can use it for practically an entire race! Burnout 3's "crash mode" now includes a two-player split-screen contest, but it's less fun than I expected. You can't tell what the hell's going on, and players' scores are inexplicably "switched" on occasion for no good reason. EA has also incorporated a few of their "signature" features, like the annoyingly hip DJ "Striker" and plenty of grinding guitar music.
I've been pretty critical so far, but there's no denying Burnout 3's relentless, arcade-style gameplay. The sense of speed is palpable as you grind guardrails and weave through traffic. I love the "whooshing" sound effect when you narrowly avoid a collision. The "watch-only" tutorial is great, and the game's replay value is above reproach. An impressive number of tracks from around the globe are included, and the scenery looks terrific. Overall, Burnout 3 is certainly a solid title, but in some ways it's too much of a good thing. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, GameSpot, Xbox Addict, Playstation.com, Moby Games, Lutris