Empire: Total War Review: Throwing Down Like George Washington

March 11, 2009

Empire: Total War

The “Total War” series has always labeled itself as one of the more serious strategy games. Unlike most strategy games, where you were limited to small number of troops that rarely go past the three digit mark, “Total War” allows you to command an army of thousands. It was also one of the few strategy games that places emphasis on terrain, fatigue, morale, and formations rather than simply how fast you can you pump units from your base. “Empire: Total War” is the latest in this behemoth franchise, and it has taken it in a direction not many strategy players experienced before: The 18th Century.

There are many elements that make up the core gameplay of “Empire: Total War,” the first of which is the Grand Campaign. In this mode, you’ll take control of a country/empire, and will need to expand your borders within a certain number of turns. You’ll need to monitor your economy, create an infrastructure, make use of diplomacy, research technology, and have a viable military force. An interesting feature that the developers at Creative Assembly added to the Grand Campaign was that some of your buildings are no longer restricted to your capital; instead, you will invest to develop key areas on the map, such as farming or a school. Essentially what this means is you can try to cut your opponent’s research centers or income by capturing these key areas, instead of charging head-first into the region’s capital. Combine all that with the World map allowing you to go to North America, Europe, and India, and you have one of the largest games in the strategy genre. [Read more]

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Slayers Review: Slaying the Hearts of Millions

March 10, 2009

Onechanbara

D3Publisher is quickly becoming one of my favorite companies in the games industry. When they aren’t releasing original games, they’re reaching out to some of the more unique releases in Japan, and bringing them Stateside, including hidden gems like “Earth Defense Force 2017,” “WTF,” and “Bangai-O Spirits.” “Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Slayers” is the latest in their line of Japanese imports, and it is easily the most… interesting one yet, as it includes everything in its title; bikinis, samurais, and slayers – with a few added zombies mixed in. It’s almost a perfect mix of things that gamers love, but, like many a mixed drink, this game won’t be for everybody.

Much like one of my favorite titles of 2007, “Earth Defense Force,” you can’t really judge “Onechanbara” on the same scale that you would judge a “Killzone” or a “Resident Evil,” because it’s simply just not the same kind of game. Both of these titles from D3 venture into a realm of gaming that few have gone before, B Games. They’re a lot like B Movies, just games. While it may still take a sizable staff, and an artistic vision to create all games, B-Games’ end product is a whole lot different than your “average” AAA-quality games, but that’s okay, they aren’t meant to take themselves too seriously, and “serious” would be the last word I would use to describe “Onechanbara.” [Read more]

Killzone 2 Review: War is Beautiful

March 6, 2009

The tagline for “Killzone 2″ is “War perfected.” While perfection is a tall order to fulfill for any game in any genre, “Killzone 2″ comes refreshingly close.  Since its infamous debut trailer back at E3 in 2005, “Killzone 2″ has had enormous shoes to fill. So, could Guerrilla Games actually meet the ambitious expectancies of gamers across the globe? Rest easy PS3 owners, as “Killzone 2″ improves upon nearly every aspect of the FPS genre, and, in doing so, becomes an early frontrunner for 2009’s game of the year.

The story of “Killzone 2″ is epic. You play as Sergeant Thomas “Sev” Sevchenko, and you and you team, Alpha squad, are sent to the Helghast homeworld to help take down their leader, Scolar Visari. You will be aided by familiar characters, like Rico (Killzone) and Evelyn (Killzone: Liberation). You’ll also be taking orders from Colonel Jan Templer, who’s the main protagonist of both the PS2 and PSP entries. While many of the characters from previous games have returned, playing those games is not integral to enjoying “Killzone 2″. [Read more]

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand Review: G-Unit Tours The Middle East

March 5, 2009

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

Go Go Go Go Shawty…

Yeah it’s Fiddy. Here we have a game that by any shape or form sounds like it should be bad. A lot of people are expecting it to be bad based on 50’s first game, “Bulletproof.” But hey, for some reason that game sold millions, so, like any blockbuster, you know it would get a “sequel.” After getting a chance to sit down with the man himself in our exclusive preview, and getting some hands on time with the game TrueGameHeadz came away feeling good about the project.

The full retail version does not disappoint. I must say that Swordfish Studios did their homework for “Blood on the Sand.” Developers of the little known sleeper title “Cold Winter” from back in the day, they nailed the big budget “blockbuster” feel of this game. Borrowing generously from the ideals seen in last year’s Sega release, “The Club,” and “Gears of War,” they developed a control scheme for “Get Rich” …er “Blood in the Sand” that feels polished and familiar. You will not find any problems with the control setup as you’ll feel in control when using the game’s many weapons, and the cover system works admirably. The Counter Kill system can be considered comparable to the chain saw kill in “Gears” where you run up to the enemy and hit the attack button, which launches a quick time event that shows you how bad war can be. [Read more]

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection Review: Still Doing What Nintendon’t

March 2, 2009

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

Nostalgia is a funny thing, especially when it comes to video games. Some gamers think that retro games are classics, and should be appreciated as such, and others think that the games of the past should be left in the past. Fortunately for both groups, every now and then a compilation of classic titles is released to remind both groups fondly of the old days. The most recent of these compilations is Sega’s “Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection” which revitalizes such Genesis classics as “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Golden Axe,” and “Phantasy Star” games in addition to some 40 other games, and it does it with class.

Maybe you can blame it on the fact that I never had a Genesis when I was a kid (it was Nintendo all the way in my house), or the fact that I’m really bitter that my Sega CDX died over the weekend, but I never really thought that Sega’s games were on the same level as their competitors back in the day. There was something about the quality of games that were released for the Genesis that just never appealed to me. Sure, there were classics that I loved to play at my friend’s houses; the “Sonic” games, “X-Men,” and even “Holyfield’s Boxing” but beyond that I didn’t think I was really missing out on much. “Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection” showed me that apparently I was wrong. Even though I still remain a true SNES fan at heart, the “Ulitmate Genesis” collection has finally convinced me that there are some great titles that I’ve missed out on; “Comix Zone,” “Ristar,” and “Streets of Rage” just to name a few, and maybe it’s about time I went back and did some deeper digging into Sega’s back catalog. [Read more]

X-Blades Review: A Slashing Good Time

February 26, 2009

X-Blades

The formula Gaijin used for the design of SouthPeak’s latest hack-n-slash game “X-Blades” is almost mathematical: take one pretty girl (preferably a treasure hunter), add swords and/or guns (both in this case), some kind of mystical power, and a whole lot of att-i-tude, subtract clothing and bam, you’ve got a game dudes will buy. Even though this formula is pretty tried and true at this point, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a good game on your hands. The final sum of “X-Blades”’ equation is a game that might not appeal to everyone, but it’s still pretty fun for what it is.

Even though there is an “M for Mature” rating slapped on the front of the “X-Blades” box, the heroine’s barely covered bottom is going to alienate a few different groups that might have given the game a shot. First, the ladies; who may find the lead character Ayumi a little too sexy, and a little too perky for their tastes. Secondly, most self-respecting gentlemen may not be giving “X-Blades” a run, because they may find it to be a bit below them, in terms of intellectual stimulation, as well as overall entertainment value. Fortunately for “X-Blades” it’s a good thing that there aren’t a lot of gamers in either of those categories. Back in reality, there is one group of gamers that this game may turn off pretty quickly - the ones that don’t like anime. At its heart, “X-Blades”’s story is very inspired by anime, so, if you have any kind of aversion for Japanese cartoons this game might not be for you. However, anyone that’s looking to have a little bit of mindless fun slashing and shooting tons of baddies at once, just to finish them off with some kind of short cutscene prompted mystical spell, all while staring at a darling piece of eye-candy, then you might want to give “X-Blades” a chance. [Read more]

Evasive Space Review: Lost In Space

February 24, 2009

Evasive Space
Lately, it seems it usually takes a really good reason for a lot of Wii owners turn on their systems, sit down, and play something that isn’t “Wii Sports,” “Rock Band,” and/or ”Guitar Hero.” After all, those are some of the best party games that have been released in the last few years, and that’s why the Wii has become a party system for a lot of owners – only to be played when guests are over. However, if you look really hard, there are a few reasons to turn on your console, and load up a game, and sit and play, even if company isn’t over. “Evasive Space” is one of those games, developed by High Voltage, and published by Akinai Games, it was released last week via WiiWare. It may not be “the next big thing” but it does offer quite a bit of fun in a small package.

“Evasive Space” has a very loose story about a Stellar Guardian named Konki who has to reignite the universe by collecting stolen constellation stones, and defeating the evil Dr. Dark Matter. It’s not a great story by any means, and it’s told through text boxes that preempt each level. The blandness of the story, as well as its presentation is one of my few complaints about the game, but it’s easy to look past, when compared to the gameplay. In fact, you’ll most likely find yourself ignoring the story completely, and focusing mainly on beating the levels, after all that’s really the heart of this game. [Read more]

Deadly Creatures Review: Down And Dirty

February 23, 2009

Deadly Creatures
If, as a child, you had an aversion to playing in the dirt, touching slimy things, or taunting little girls with slimy things you found in the dirt, you can stop reading this review right now, “Deadly Creatures” is not for you. However, if you’re a fan of Fear Factor, have never had a problem with Phylum Arthropoda, or if Japanese Bug Fights is your happy place (it soothes me for some reason), then I hope you’ve got a Wii because, boy, have I got a game for you. It’s time to crawl around on the desert floor, and attack some bugs in THQ’s latest Wii title “Deadly Creatures.”

This is not your average Wii game – or your average video game for that matter. In terms of its arachnid inspired subject matter, it’s pretty much in a category all by itself. No other game in recent memory has allowed you to play as a scorpion or a tarantula creeping around on the desert floor, tearing wings off of wasps or going head-to-head with a rattlesnake. It’s a creative take on the 3rd-person action genre, stripping out the guns and swords, and replacing them with pincers and fangs. While it may not be the most original genre to tackle, Rainbow Studio’s take on it has definitely breathed some new life into a stale genre; proving that sometimes it’s a good idea to let studios be creative, instead of forcing them to churn out the same genre over and over. [Read more]

Retro Game Challenge Review: Turning Back The Clock On Awesome

February 20, 2009

Retro Game Challenge

When “Captain N” was on the air, back in the late 1980s, I used to be a big fan watching it as religiously as an 7-year-old could. However, there was always something I thought was missing from the show – why didn’t Kevin and the gang have their own video game? Granted 19 years later, I now fully understand what kind of licensing hell that would have been, but, ironically, 19 years later, I also feel that something has finally come along to fill that void in my life, which was coincidentally based on its own TV show, “Retro Game Challenge.”

The entire plot of “Retro Game Challenge” is charmingly ludicrous: since you’ve become so good at modern day games, you’re sent back in time by an insane “Game Master” who forces you to complete challenges in old-school games in order for you to return to the future. (If that doesn’t interested “Captain N” fans, I don’t know what would.) Top that off with the fact that the child version of Game Master is your unwitting playmate – in fact, the old-school games you have to play, and the magazines you have to read for tips are actually all his. While the basis for “Retro Game Challenge” is a 50 on a 1-10 bizarreness scale, the story isn’t really why you need to play this game; it’s the retro games that you’re forced to play to complete challenges that makes it a true gem. They’re utter 1980s bliss packaged for your Nintendo DS. [Read more]

Afro Samurai Review: Stick to TV, Kid

February 12, 2009

This is my first review for TGH, so I was rather excited about the whole experience. Then I was told I would be reviewing “Afro Samurai,” and not much changed. I had always wanted to see the show, but never made time to do so. Now, after beating the game and watching a good portion of the series, I know two things to be true. First, all Afro Samurai episodes will soon find their way to my library. And second, the game will quickly find its way out.

The game follows the show’s plot closely, with Afro on his quest to avenge his father, and obtain the number one headband, a headband that is rumored to give its user god-like powers. The show is overflowing with interesting and mysterious characters, and the game tries to accommodate fans of the series by hosting most of those individuals. However, Namco Bandai seemed quick to forget about adding in any sort of story. Having not seen the series before playing the game, I was completely confused by what was going on, but I knew damn well that I wanted to find out. Audibly and visually “Afro Samurai” has all the elements it needs to deliver an enjoyable story, but it simply seems to pass on the chance. [Read more]

Big Bang Mini Review: Boom Goes The Dynamite

February 11, 2009

Big Bang MiniWho would have thought that fireworks, of all things, would provide so much inspiration for video games? Aside from their obvious celebratory implementation in sports games, the firework has recently become a key gameplay element in more than one game, the latest of which is SouthPeak’s DS title, “Big Bang Mini.” This time around, the firework’s role has been expertly crafted for Nintendo’s touchy portable, providing the most fun I’ve had playing with fireworks since that time when I was a kid, and I almost had to go to the hospital.

At its heart, “Big Bang Mini” is a shooter, and, in a genre that’s known for its difficulty, “Big Bang” can hang with the big boys. Each level in the game has ten stages, a boss, and an overall theme based on the location of the level. The point of each stage is to collect enough stars by shooting your enemies down to fill up your meter, once the meter is full the stage is over, and you get to take a shot at a bonus level. While that may sound cut and dry, there is one added element to contend with; a small orb that you have to, at all times, keep out of harms way, or else you game comes to an immediate end. Additionally, moving the orb around is vital, as it is the only way to collect the falling stars you need in order to advance. Of course, your shots aren’t coming out of the orb – that would be too easy - they can originate from anywhere on the touch screen, just as long as you can keep the orb safe, which is a daunting task, especially in the later levels. [Read more]

Savage 2 Review: Changing The Game

February 9, 2009

Savage 2

Five years ago, S2 games released their first game, called “Savage,” and it instantly became hailed as an original multiplayer title due to it’s unique combination of a real-time strategy game and a shooter. Unfortunately, due to a rather failed marketing campaign as well as flawed design, many people thought it was an MMORPG, and for those who didn’t, found the game to be a bit high on the learning curve. In January 2008, S2 games releases their second attempt to gather an audience with “Savage 2.”

You must be wondering why this writer is wasting his time on a game that was released over a year ago? As strange as this sounds, the game has changed so much since its original incarnation that any review which hasn’t been written the past few months should be considered obsolete. Recently, S2 games performed numerous changes to the game; removing units, adding new units, giving the player more items, and changing the core melee system. Are these changes for the better? Hell yeah. [Read more]

Geo-political Simulator Review: Running The World… Or Ruining It?

January 30, 2009

gps2

Many strategy games give you a role as a commander taking control of a battle or overseeing a campaign, although they are often taken place in fictional settings. For those of us who prefer to launch nukes instead of spells, with our targets being authentic countries, there is the political genre. It is a genre within a genre, giving us strategy gamers a world where can relate to: ours. Unfortunately, many political games tend to focus on one area of politics, such as getting elected or preventing warfare. “Geo-political Simulator” tries so hard to cover all the bases of politics and fails on nearly every single one; which is pretty damn shameful because this game has a lot of potential.

“Geo-political Simulator” truly feels like a political game, where you have the freedom to be the biggest fascist in history, the nicest guy on the planet, or someone who likes to dance on thin moral lines. It’s such a unique experience that I’ve never experienced a political game where I managed to convince a local tennis star to endorse my leadership, only to find out that my defense ministry was kidnapped by the Russian mafia. This game demonstrates how chaotic and unpredictable politics really can be. [Read more]

Moon Review: Intergalactic, Planetary

January 26, 2009

MoonThe first time I saw “Moon,” I had a very private demo of the opening of the game from Mastiff’s “Big Dog” in the back hallway, upstairs at the Nintendo World Store. While the demo didn’t last that long, since there was an entire other even that was about to happen (it involved professional eaters), I got a small taste of what was to come for the new FPS from Renegade Kid – the small team that graced the world with the twisted “Dementium: The Ward” a few years ago. Needless to say, when I finally got my hands on the final version of “Moon,” I was impressed by the intergalactic game that was crammed into the tiny DS cartridge; one of the best FPS games for Nintendo’s handheld.

“Moon”’s story is a pretty standard piece of video game fiction – the military is brought in to explore some extraterrestrial unpleasantness in space, something goes wrong, and you have to shoot it. Even though it isn’t that groundbreaking, it’s still compelling enough keep you playing through the game, and to want to continue on to find out just what is happening on the “Moon” (that last part is best read in a deep and foreboding voice). While the overall story is just okay, but there are some really entertaining highlights found throughout the game on the informational panels found throughout the base on the Moon. My personal favorite was about how multiple religions were created to cause conflict amongst the earthlings… well played Renegade Kid, well played. [Read more]

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