Its been a really long time since my last blog.. lots of stuff going on in my life in the interim - which is a fair excuse. There was a time frame when I actually stopped gaming (yep!) - I got married to my "chosen one" and obviously, the priorities on the demands which could take up my free time were entirely different ;)
To cut to the chase, I did eventually rev up my PC again, though I no longer have marathon play sessions. And before I start forgetting what games I played and if I liked them or not, let me publish these capsule reviews. Please note that these includes all the games I played since my last post.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 : 85 - Yet another strong team co-op based military FPS. Vast arenas and decent AI ensure a thouroughly enjoyable and challenging ride chasing terrorists..
GTA IV - Episodes from Liberty City : 89 - Uses the rich and huge GTA IV Liberty City map to allow the player to follow the story lines of more "criminal" types. The 3 stories intersect at times, rewarding GTA IV fans. Some new activities are also added to keep this interesting.
Battlefield - Bad Company 2 : 89 - Yet another co-op based modern war game, featuring stunning graphics, a decent storyline, great variety of locales and mission types and interesting characters mouthing plausible dialogue which keeps the players immersed in the experience.
The Witcher Enhanced Edition : 89 - A very interesting action/RPG take with the protagonist Geralt making a lot of moral choices across missions requiring dealing with humans and monsters, both friends and foes. A lot of missions are also interlinked, providing more satisfaction when multiple challenges are surmounted.
Stranglehold : 85 - John Woo presents this game and it is everything you can expect from him - superb action, stunning slo-mo and standoff sequences, unique style based kills and lots of pigeons flying around. There is also a simple story which can hold this action "movie" together. The only drawback in this adrenaline filled game is the duration - once the player starts hitting the style straps, the game can be completed in a few hours.
Dead Rising 2 : 86 - A zombie killing game with a difference! Set in a richly detailed Fortune City environment, the protagonist is kept on his toes as he attempts to save multiple survivors and find out who framed him, working against very tight schedules. The only real downer is that the tight mission timelines dont allow for proper exploration of the city itself.. which has its own set of delights and options.
Cryostasis : 79 - Has an interesting premise.. of taking over "dead" people in the past and changing their last actions so that the present is different. This sets up an overall storyline of a frozen ship stuck on a glacier near the North Pole escaping from its grave due to the actions of the player (the beginning and the end are linked this way). Also notable is an innovative health mechanism. But, poor execution of the main concept and clunky, sometimes monotonic game play take away from the fun a bit.
Call of Duty: World at War : 87 - Yet another excellent CoD game. Set during WWII, the game follows the exploits of a US officer (fighting in Japan) and a Russian officer (fighting in Germany). With AI co-op players and a variety of high adrenaline missions, this is one long rush of FPS gaming!
Quantum of Solace : 81 - A competitive play-through of the events of "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" (the Bond movies). The graphics are average, there is not too much going on in game play variety, but still provides a fast-paced FPS game taking the story along.
Just Cause 2 : 91 - Combines the free-flowing 3-dimensional protagonist navigation of Prototype with the wide variety of missions of GTA in an amazingly huge and open sandbox world, leading to hours and hours of exciting and addictive game play. Hats off to the makers of a game which makes almost any far-fetched stunt possible. The main storyline also has a few high-adrenaline and awesome action sequences, which ensure bang for the buck.
James Bond 007 - Blood Stone : 81 - Another upto-the-mark Bond game, this time with an original storyline. Combines some routine shooter action with heavy duty vehicle chases for a fast, but short ride chasing criminals.
Mafia 2 : 85 - Has a seemingly sandbox-style open world, but, like in the first part, the environment is used just as a backdrop to drive the strong story forward. Very good single player campaign. The map is used a bit further in the DLC episodes, but not too much unique is added in them.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent : 89 - In the days of stereotyped big budget games, here comes a little gem! A moody, atmospheric horror/thriller game with absolutely no chance of "fighting" - when enemies show up, the only options are to run or hide. Superb use of environment to create an element of fear right through the game. Story unfolds as the player solves a series of interesting puzzles in order to understand his current predicament. Not too high on production values, but very very good never-the-less.
Borderlands : 92 - Takes the Fallout "huge open-world action-RPG" template, adds some really unique twists in terms of gameplay - with vehicles and innumerable guns, giving hours and hours of superb and entertaining gaming. The DLCs also provide great value, with some of them being almost equivalent to a full FPS by themselves!
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light : 81 - A standard action/puzzle solving console port with a solid collection of things to do and solve. Nothing too unique or exciting though. DLCs add very little value. Game suffers from the usual console camera angles issues. Overall good for one time play through.
Darksiders : 87 - Takes some of the best elements from multiple games (including jump-hooks & portals!) and puts them in a standard action/puzzle-solving platformer. A simple storyline also adds to the effect with the hero "War" on a path of revenge. Good variety of "combos" and "skills" provide enough challenge at each new location.
Machinarium : 83 - A very interesting and different puzzle-solving game built on the Flash platform. Has a simple storyline of a robot escaping from a precarious situation and saving his "girlfriend" robot in the process, but throws up a number of unique and sometimes complex puzzles which makes finding every solution a happy moment.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood : 88 - Yet another excellent entry in the AC franchise.. plays out very similar to AC2, with a few improvements to keep things interesting. The main story arc continues its incredible journey, with another huge twist at the ending to keep gamers waiting in anticipation for the next release.
Call of Duty: Black Ops : 82 - The latest entry to the CoD series. Puts together the now standard "variety of game play mechanics played from different viewpoints" style and is set during the Kennedy-Vietnam time frame. Technically very good and plays out well over its FPS storyline.
Dead Space 2 : 89 - Builds surprisingly well on the first part, which was very imaginative but seemed to lack scope for further enhancements. The same tricks are back, the horror elements are well played out, there is more variety in the game play and the zero-gravity segments are a lot more challenging. There are some interesting storyline elements too, making it a top notch entertainer.
Bulletstorm : 87 - A super-fun return to the good old FPS genre. Game uses "skillshots" to get the players to perform kills in a number of entertaining ways. Anything goes and a combination of factors can be used to gain even more points. Gorgeous graphics and a bare bones storyline make for a superb experience - the very definition of gaming at its fun-est!
The Witcher 2 : 91 - Great follow-up to the first part, which seemed a bit rough around the edges. This sequel offers everything that a action role-playing game should provide - solid action, interesting puzzles, unexpected side-quests and moral decisions affecting proceedings in a variety of ways long after the player forgets making them! The only possible drawback is the playing time.. as the game quickly winds down after an engaging and pace-setting second chapter.
Portal 2 : 91 - Awesome game - always keeps the brain ticking and carries forward (& is better) from where the first part ended. Great dialogues, full-blown sarcasm and yet another awesome ending song make it a memorable experience. I was forced to play the co-op mode by myself (which meant I couldn't complete the last map), but even then it showed off a level of innovation matched by none. Not to be missed!
Crysis 2 : 89 - A great FPS! Uses the "nanosuit" with special powers concept to give an awesome experience. Completely changes the setting to a city under attack, but maintains the very high graphics, music and technical standards of the first part. Very fast pace is maintained and the suit lends itself to tactical gun play and interesting combat situations.
Mass Effect 3 : 91 - A very satisfying "movie-like" ending (though with some glaring loopholes) to a great trilogy. Continues the strengths of the previous 2 versions and provides a robust combination of main and side quests to play-through. As always, interesting in-game comments lend more immersion and interest to the game. The combination of weapons and biotics keeps things dynamic & fresh. Well played Bioware!
F.E.A.R. 3 : 79 - Continues the FPS-horror setup from the first 2 games and takes it to a conclusion "of sorts". The ability to play as "Point Man" & "Fettel" does add some variety to the play-through, though both versions are surprisingly the same (the game developers could have added more variety). A good-old "linear-only" FPS game!
Batman: Arkham City : 92 - A superb follow-up game. Maintains the best from the previous part and also adds enough new challenges and gadgets to keep things very interesting. The free flowing game play (no guns!!) and wide variety of combat/exploration moves make every situation unique. A solid storyline and mind-bending riddler challenges spread across a huge open-world map keep the brain engaged too. Must-play!
Max Payne 3 : 88 - Max Payne of the "bullet-time" fame returns! A much older Max is setup in a much deeper storyline and is aided by cut scenes (a lot of them) and enough spectacular action set-pieces to keep the adrenaline flowing. The only major game play change is the addition of a cover system (which has its positives), but it seems to take out a bit of the pure fun of dodging into a room full of goons and taking them out in bullet-time. However, better graphics, better audio, better storyline, better variety of sequences to play - all make this a great game.
Thats that for now... its a time of great change for the gaming world.. with the PS4 & XBOX720 (or whatever its gonna be called) also moving to the "PC" style architecture. Just goes to show that "PC gaming" will always be the best!
Till next time (which is hopefully not another 3 years).. happy keyboard mashing!