Monday, April 27, 2009

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl



This review was conducted using Oblivion Lost, a huge modification to the game which restored alot of cut and lost content. If I get something wrong from the vanilla version, then don't blame me.

What happened?

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is another one of those games that just sat in development hell for years, with the developers planning to make a quality product upon it's very, very late release.

Oh, they had a late release alright. But "quality" doesn't fit.


The story of stalker focuses around the "Zone of Alienation", located in Chernobyl. The whole premise is that after the accident happened the place turned into a genuine hell filled with bandits, mutants, wild creatures and deadly pockets of radiation. You play as the "Marked One", a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. That stands for "Scavenger, Trespasser, Adventurer, Loner, Killer, Explorer, Robber". You are one of many, as there's lots of other stalkers in the zone. Not everyone is friendly, some won't mind you, and others will gun you down on sight.

Since the whole premise of the game is focused around a giant nuclear accident, there's plenty of angry mutants which are out for blood. Alot of the designs were very clever; alot of them are genuinely pretty creepy. There's the dwarves, these stumpy little bastards who will blast you away with concentrated bursts of air. Watch for the brown coats and glowing eyes. One that I also liked was the, uh... I never actually caught it's name. It's some sort of invisible monster that appears only as a floating ball of electricity. The creature itself appears to be missing legs and just hovers around on it's awesomeness, throwing stuff at you.

Yeah, that's it.

The gameplay was where everything fell flat on it's face purely because of the difficulty. Seriously, someone had real fun messing the difficulty up.

The game could be considered a very primitive version of fallout 3, considering it's setting and ideas as well as it's style of gameplay. There's a section of stealth elements which are a fairly neat idea but they're a little too tricky to pull of successfully, as everyone just spots you and shoots you in the face. The shootouts are where it picks up a little, as the AI is actually really good. They'll take cover, aim carefully, and even try to flank you. This is a bad thing. Don't get me wrong, it's good that they have a competent AI but adding that to all the other difficulty problems is a serious issue. It really doesn't help that about 10 bullets is enough to kill you, and you'll be facing groups of 6-10 enemies at once.

There's a hunger system.


Every single bullet that hits you causes you to start bleeding which results in you constantly losing health. And it's not just bullets, anything with teeth, claws, or a weapon will cause you to start bleeding. And the bleeding doesn't stop. You have to get bandages for that and FOR CHRIST'S SAKE keep these is good supply! They're far too hard to find.

And then there's the radiation. If you don't have armor with a gasmask you're completely screwed. Gasmask armor also helps with the Anomalies, weird visual distortions that turn out to be vicious. When you put everything together you just don't have fun because of the pure difficulty of keeping everything in check.

On a different note, the sound design wasn't too shabby. The game was seriously lacking in music (no, really. I can't remember any music playing.) which is a bit sad as I always like a good tune while I'm blowing things up. As the game is focused around the whole chernobyl accident, as you can expect, it would be pretty scary. As such, you'll hear a good set of clings, clangs, and clongs to go with the spooky atmosphere. I wouldn't be surprised if a bit of foley was used as there's some fairly good sound effects when you're not exploring underground laboratories infested with angry monsters. The sound design works very well with all the other elements in the game. Except for the gameplay.

Stalker was a bit lacking in the visual department, with some blurry textures and outdated effects. Character models were simplistic and blocky. It's all governed by a somewhat dull physics engine that causes ragdolls to twist, turn, and jump about. The game's also a goddamn resource hog, with some quite ridiculous system requirements. It's pulled a bit of an unreal tournament 3 as the graphics are very configurable, though. That's a plus.

A few parts of the game are told through some pre-rendered cinematics. They don't look too bad, but I've seen better.

It's worth noting that stalker is big. Really big. The Zone is actually a really big area and it's filled with more side quests than I can count. It's mostly just tedious stuff like kill stuff over there, run from point A to point B but it's nice to have a big amount of other stuff to do. I'll be damned if I can figure out what the plot is, though. Apparently, you're supposed to kill the Strelok. Who he is, why you want to kill him is far beyond me.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl definitely didn't reach my expectations. They weren't even all that high. The sheer difficulty steers the game off course and into a ditch.

Design - 7.9 Spooky monsters and a good atmosphere make the game fairly exciting.

Graphics - 7 I've seen better, I've seen worse..

Gameplay - 5.0 The difficulty. Seriously.

Sound - 7.8 Good sound effects keep the game in check, but the lack of music is problematic.

Overall - 6.8

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Resistance: Retribution (PSP)

Go go PSP shooter.

Resistance: Retribution is the third game in a series that started on the PS3 with later 2006's Resistance: Fall of Man, one of the first good titles for the console. It was developed by Insomniac, the creators of the Ratchet and Clank series. This installment takes the shooter series into an over-the-shoulder view with a new character and new console.

Let's get one thing straight - The plot of the resistance series is fantastic. The game takes place in an alternate reality 1950's where WW2 never happened. Instead, a mysterious horde of monsters crawled out of russia and began an assault on britain. The first two games followed the story of Nathan Hale, a soldier who had been infected with a virus from the alien monsters known as Chimaera. The virus gave him newfound strength and hardiness, and was a better then average story for the generic super-soldier. Retribution tells the tale of James Grayson, a soldier who just about lost his mind when the chimaera had infected his brother and were in the process of converting him to their ranks. He went on a personal vendetta and destroyed 26 massive conversion facilities, breaking all military laws in the process. He was sentenced to death. A character from the Marquis - the european resistance movement - steps in to bail him out, with the hope of an assault on france and germany, taking out the conversion centers there.

The gameplay is fast and furious, which is good for a shooter. The controls seem a little clunky at first, but once you get the hang of the auto-targeting system it works great. It's another over-the-shoulder cover based game, and I was surprised at how well it worked on the PSP. Think gears of war portable. There's a good selection of weapons, too - Such as the rocket launcher that can pause it's rockets in mid-air to reposition their aim. You've got the Auger, which shoots through walls, your basic assault rifle with grenade launcher, a chimaeran gun that fires a vorpal blade that homes onto enemies and I'm sure there's a few more. The enemies are also quite memorable, with titanous mechs and, uh... Titans. Go figure.

The graphics are a spectacle for the PSP, as everything looks like late PS2 graphics. That's pretty good, for non-techy terms. Character models are fairly well detailed with minimal blurry textures. A few of the other textures are a little blurry, but that's understandable. Alot of the game is told through pre-rendered cutscenes which are quite frankly the best I've seen on the PSP. A few of the brighter colors are a little funky on my old PSP-1000, but I suppose I should upgrade sometime.

The sound design is great, with a fine selection of growls and roars for the chimaera with some pretty good gun sounds, too. The music is also quite good with a few creepy ambient tracks and some others that give you a feeling of the pure scale of it all.

Like I said earlier the controls keep up quite well once you've got the hang of them. The square, triangle, circle and X buttons act like a second stick with them moving your view about, and the control stick moving. There's a secondary configuration which switches them, which is handy. R button shoots, and holding L then pressing R uses secondary fire options. The D-pad controls everything else, from reloading with left to opening a weapon menu with right. Oh, and down is your use button. I can't seem to remember what up does. Huh.

Retribution is a fine installment for the series taking it onto the PSP as well as keeping the frantic action and plot intact. I would comment on the online multiplayer function but I'm having trouble getting my PSP connected to the internet.

Presentation - 8.7 A fantastic plot and some good characters keep it from feeling flat.

Gameplay - 8.5 Frantic action and entertaining weapons make retribution a Blast.

Controls - 8.1 I was quite surprised at how well they worked.

Sound - 8.0 Good sound effects and some great music liven up the game.

Overall - 8.5

brb, star wars galaxies