Posts Tagged "reviews"

Kensington Digital FM Transmitter Review

Published on May 12, 2008
Kensington Digital FM Transmitter

Back in November, I picked up a Kensington Digital FM Transmitter for my iPod Classic. And on my way back from Dustin and Sarah’s wedding yesterday (congratulations, you guys!), it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet posted a review of the device.

Having never used an FM transmitter before, I was unsure about the reception quality. Thankfully, this specific Kensington model is top notch. It’s rare that I encounter static, and I’ve noted that it most often happens when driving under a particularly large overpass. The audio quality is excellent, though I find that I have to turn up the volume on my car stereo a little higher than I normally would with the corresponding audio CD. This might simply be related to the compression that MP3’s provide, but it’s a minor nuisance.

The unit provides 3 preset buttons, which is very useful to lock in multiple unused stations. This feature was really handy when I went to the mountains last Thanksgiving; one of the preset stations I was using in the RTP area was being used in the Asheville area, and switching was simply a matter of pressing a button (and then tuning to the right place on the receiver).

While your iPod is attached, the unit charges the battery. Unfortunately, there’s no option to not charge the battery, which would be useful for battery conditioning purposes. I don’t use this unit every day, so this minor problem doesn’t impact me as much. One other minor annoyance is that the iPod-style connector doesn’t lock into place. This makes it much easier for the cable to fall out, though I have only seen this happen a time or two.

Overall, I really like this unit. According to the Amazon product page, this particular model is being phased out and replaced by the Kensington LiquidFM Transmitter, which has much lower reviews. If you want one of these models, I suggest picking it up ASAP. You will not be disappointed.

Crysis Mini-Review

Published on May 11, 2008

I completed Crysis yesterday, so I thought I would post a few quick thoughts on my experience:

What I Liked

  • As can be expected, the graphics in this game are insane. The jungle atmosphere is spot-on, physics are incredible, lighting is superb, and character modeling is excellent. Visually, this game is a real treat to play.
  • The nano-suit which the player wears is an interesting game play mechanic. ‘Health’ is handled via the nano-suit, and the abilities which the suit provides (speed, strength, armor, and cloak) are fun to play with.
  • Level design is excellent. All of the locations feel incredibly realistic, and there’s a ton to explore. I’ll probably play through the game once more just to fully explore each map, because I know there’s a ton of stuff I missed.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Crysis isn’t near as long as Far Cry, which really disappointed me. Likewise, the maps in Crysis aren’t as large either.
  • Crysis has an incredibly weak story line, much like Far Cry did. This comes as no surprise, especially in the FPS genre, but I was hoping for a little more meat than what I was given.
  • Again, just like Far Cry, the game turns into a battle against alien forces. I really enjoyed battling the human forces in the early parts of this game, and I wish Crytek had stuck to that theme. The later alien-based levels are, for the most part, not very fun. Why can’t we get a game that uses this style engine and doesn’t devolve into a ‘save-the-world-from-alien-attack’ kind of story? Perhaps Far Cry 2 will provide the kind of experience I’m looking for.
  • Difficulty is really uneven. I played through on the ‘Normal’ difficulty, and found myself stuck at a few places (though I never got stuck permanently). Some battles are surprisingly easy, while others are incredibly hard to survive.
  • Some of the vehicles the player gets to drive are woefully difficult to maneuver, which is frustrating. I’m not entirely sure why this is, because the vehicles in Far Cry were a pleasure to drive.
  • This game is a system hog. I played at 1280×1024 on the High setting (no anti-aliasing or anything fancy), and there were still a few moments where things really chugged (entering and exiting buildings especially). Overall my experience was smooth, but these moments of stuttering killed some of the immersion factor.

I’m not sure if I can recommend this game or not. It’s worth playing through for the eye candy, but some of the game’s frustrations cancel out that fun. My final verdict for Crysis? C+

Professor Layton Review

Published on March 6, 2008
Professor Layton Screenshot Number 1

Never before I have felt so connected to a Penny Arcade comic. I recently picked up Professor Layton and the Curious Village, a puzzle-adventure game for the Nintendo DS. After roughly 10 hours of game play, I’ve completed the game, so I thought I’d post some thoughts on it. Before we get to that, however, I’d like to explain how this game works.

Professor Layton is one of those hybrid titles like Puzzle Quest. It is neither an adventure game, nor is it a puzzle game; it’s somewhere right in the middle. Layton himself is a private detective of sorts who is hired to figure out a puzzling will left behind by the late Baron Reinhold. Along with his assistant Luke, Layton quickly finds himself in an ever-increasing mysterious situation. There are twists and turns all over the place, and plenty of mysteries to be solved in the process.

Each person you meet will give you clues to the ever increasing list of mysteries you encounter, but only if you solve a puzzle for them. And by puzzle, I mostly mean ‘brain teaser.’ The puzzle difficulties are all over the place in this game. Some puzzles are easy to solve, while others will have you banging your head against a hard surface in frustration. There’s a hint system in the game that offers you three hints per puzzle, which is often enough to help you figure things out, but sometimes the hints are themselves quite cryptic. Getting a hint costs you a ‘hint coin,’ of which there are a limited amount (though plenty are hidden throughout the game world). When you solve a puzzle successfully, you are awarded a number of ‘picarats’ (essentially points). Each puzzle is worth so many of these picarats, with harder puzzles being worth more. Answer incorrectly and the value awarded goes down. I’m not sure what this point system is good for. At one point you learn that if you get enough of these picarats, something special happens. I never saw anything happen as a result of my score, so I must not have gotten enough. But enough about these details. Let’s jump into my review.

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Quick Review of Metroid Prime 3

Published on February 3, 2008

Last weekend I finally finished Metroid Prime 3. Here are some quick thoughts I had on the game:

What I Liked

  • The “Morph Ball” mode is incredibly fun. In essence, you become a pinball and get to roll through a number of tracks. There were plenty of puzzles that used this gameplay, and it ended up being my favorite part of the game.
  • The Wii-mote and Nunchuck controls work surprisingly well. This is the first FPS experience I’ve had with the Wii, and I was quite pleased.
  • Backtracking is well used in the game. There are plenty of areas that are inaccessible until you get certain powerups, forcing you to really explore every nook and cranny of every map.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Loading times aren’t what they should be. Levels are loaded in an on-demand fashion, and there are some times when the delay gets in the way.
  • The game feels a little too easy. Firefights end up being “how fast can you pull the trigger.” Weapon powerups are obtained in a few places, but they never feel more powerful.

All in all, I highly recommend this game; it’s a strong A in my book.

Call of Duty 4 Review

Published on December 6, 2007

I recently purchased Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat, and having finished the game, I thought I’d write a short review. I have to admit that I’ve only tried out the single-player campaign, though I hear very positive things about the multiplayer experience. Team Fortress 2 is eating up all of my online gaming time right now, so I doubt I’ll give the CoD4 multiplayer any attention in the near future.

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Team Fortress 2 Review

Published on November 24, 2007

I recently posted a few thoughts on Team Fortress 2, but I thought I should write a full review now that I’ve spent more time with the game. Let me start off by saying that when I purchased The Orange Box, I was not in the least interested in Team Fortress 2. Portal and Episode 2 were the only titles I anticipated playing, and I even considered buying them separately. I’m very glad that I went for the better deal, as I hope this review will indicate.

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Half-Life 2: Episode Two Review

Published on October 19, 2007

For those who don’t already know, I absolutely adore the Half-Life universe, and I believe whole-heartedly that Half-Life 2 is the best game I’ve ever played (though titles like The Legend of Zelda, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and System Shock 2 are close runners up). You may recall that I also really liked Half-Life 2: Episode One (looking back on my review of that particular title, I can say that two of my three bad points, “Too Expensive?” and “Stuttering,” are no longer valid in my book; my judgment was clouded on the former and updates have corrected the latter). So what is it that draws me so closely to this gaming franchise? In a word: storytelling. I’ll be posting more on this particular topic soon, but suffice it to say that few games (if any) have affected me as deeply as the Half-Life series.

Episode Two is most definitely the Empire Strikes Back of this series. In my review of Episode One, I speculated that this might be the case, and it turns out that that theory was right. Be warned that this episode is very dark. It has been known since the release of Episode One that a primary character is killed through the course of events, and that is indeed the case. I’ll say no more except that the particular moment is the heaviest blow I’ve ever experienced in a game. My upcoming post on the use of storytelling will delve a little deeper into this (without spoilers, of course).

I have played through Episode Two twice, and I’m nearly halfway through my third play-through, this time with the always entertaining developer’s commentary turned on. As such, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the game, and so I present to you the following thoughts.

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Portal Review

Published on October 17, 2007

I’ve played through Portal a couple of times now, and I thought I’d post my thoughts on the game. Along with Half-Life 2: Episode 2, this was one of the two items I was most looking forward to in The Orange Box. My review of Episode 2 will come later this week, as I have only played through it once, and I’d like to give it at least one more going-over (I can’t wait to write about it though; there’s so much I want to talk about). For now, let’s talk Portal.

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BioShock Review

Published on September 6, 2007

I’ve played through BioShock a couple of times, so I thought I’d post my thoughts on the game. There are incredibly in-depth reviews all over the web, so I’ll try to keep this as short as possible (fat chance though, right?). All of these thoughts pertain to the PC release, my gaming platform of choice.

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Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow Review

Published on July 20, 2007
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow Screenshot

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is the latest Nintendo DS game that I’ve been playing over the past few weeks. I just beat it last night, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the game.

This is the first Castlevania game that I’ve ever played, though the series dates all the way back to the original NES title. For those not familiar with the series, you play as a crusader set out to destroy the evil that has taken up residence in Dracula’s castle. It’s a classic 2D side-scrolling game, and is an incredible blast to play.

Your character has two ways to attack the various monsters throughout the castle: either with a number of weapons or via special abilities which come through harvesting the monster’s souls. Each soul you collect gives you a different ability. Some abilities cost mana to use, while others act as “enchantments” and are active all the time. You can equip three souls at any time (one “bullet” soul, one “guardian” soul, and one “enchantment” soul). There are also a few ability souls collected through the game, which are always active. This specific aspect of the game is quite enjoyable. Collecting all of the souls is much more difficult than you might think. I’ve been playing off and on for several weeks and only have about 75% of the souls collected.

Interestingly enough, there are only two real “levels” to the game: Dracula’s castle and an area (presumably of Hell) called simply “The Abyss.” The castle “level” has a number of stages, and is incredibly large. It took a long time to explore the entire level, and I have undoubtedly missed some hidden rooms.

When your character dies, the game is over. There are no “extra mans” to be had, so you have to be very careful. Thankfully, you can save the game any time at a number of save points throughout the castle. Make sure to save often; I lost a number of hard to get souls last night because I got overconfident.

I highly recommend this game. I’ve had a ton of fun playing it, and I’ve already started the next game (Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin). This is excellent proof that 2D games are not dead (and shouldn’t be). My final rating: A+

Puzzle Quest Review

Published on May 29, 2007

The latest addition to my Nintendo DS gaming library is Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Although the name is a little hokey, the game is incredibly addictive.

Built around the Bejeweled game play premise, Puzzle Quest is a puzzle / role-playing game combination (one of the first of its kind, to my knowledge). You build a character using one of four character classes (Wizard, Knight, Druid, or Warrior), and travel around the game’s world taking on quests. The game purely makes use of the stylus, and it does a remarkable job in the process (though I might argue that the stylus controls aren’t quite as finely tuned as I would have liked).

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Rocket Slime Review

Published on April 5, 2007

Several weeks ago, I purchased Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, a role-playing game for the Nintendo DS. Though I have yet to finish it, I feel like I have a good enough grasp to give a short review.

I’ve never played any of the Dragon Quest games, but the protagonist in Rocket Slime is apparently one of the characters from that series. The story line should be familiar to every gamer in the world: an evil group invades a peaceful land, captures its inhabitants, and only the brave hero can save the day and restore order. Although formulaic, the story does have some charm. The writing is witty; puns are scattered all over the place.

There are two phases to game play: dungeon crawls and tank battles. The dungeon crawls are reminiscent of the classic Zelda games: top-down affairs where you run around battling bad guys and collecting items. Tank battles are somewhat different. Each team (yours and a member of the evil Plob) has a tank with a certain amount of hit points. Both tanks have two cannons, one which shoots straight out and one that shoots in an arc. Ammunition randomly spawns at a number of spots in your tank, and you must ferry it to the cannons to be shot at the enemy. The early battles are fairly easy, but the later ones (where I’m at now in the game) are very difficult. As such, this part of the game can get a bit frustrating. Every item you find throughout the game can be used as ammunition, and each one deals a differing amount of damage. The amount of strategy to be used in the tank battles is more than meets the eye; I have yet to master this part of the game. As the game progresses, you can even direct up to three other slimes in the tank battles, assigning them to various roles.

I can only think of two down sides to the game. First, the action gets a little repetitive, especially in regards to the tank battles. Second, the music isn’t nearly as varied as it should be, nor is it as catchy as the music in similar games (such as Zelda).

I could expand further on Rocket Slime, but there are plenty of other sites out there that have done that already. Overall I’d definitely recommend this game to all Nintendo DS owners. My final rating: B+

Yoshi’s Island DS and Meteos Reviews

Published on January 7, 2007

Over the holidays I had the chance to finally beat Yoshi’s Island DS. I also got Meteos for Christmas, and have had a substantial amount of time with it. As such, here are my two short reviews of both games.

Yoshi’s Island DS (A-)
This ‘sequel’ to Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo is faithful to the original, while adding enough new features to feel fresh. Introducing multiple babies for Yoshi to carry around (subsequently giving him new abilities) was an interesting idea that works well. My only real problem with this game was that a number of the later levels are ridiculously difficult. I don’t recall the original Yoshi’s Island being so tough, but I played it a long time ago, so I only have the vaguest recollection. I had to play through several levels 20 or 30 times to get past them. Needless to say, this quickly got frustrating. Sounds, graphics, and gameplay are all top-notch, however, so this gripe pales in comparison. Overall a great game, and worth your time. I only wish one could trade their extra lives for red coins, stars, or flowers in each level; getting 100% in some of the levels is nearly impossible!

Meteos (A-)
This puzzle game is reminiscent of Tetris (as are most puzzle games), but it’s use of the stylus is incredible. In fact, I consider this a ‘stylus-only’ game, even though you can play with the D-pad and buttons. The goal of the game is to launch falling Meteos back into space by lining them up in groups of three, either vertically or horizontally. Each planet that you play through has different gravity and so varying strategies must be employed to succeed. For example, some planets require that you create secondary ignitions of launched Meteos by lining up another set of three or more in the air. This game is fast paced, fun, and highly addictive. For a few days after I got it, I actually spent time thinking about ways I could line up items in the real world in groups of three or more. It’s been a long time since a game has affected me in such a way, which should be a testament to how addicting this game is.

Does anyone have any recommendations for games I should get next? Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is currently on my list. What else should I get?

Nintendo DS Lite Review

Published on November 22, 2006

For my birthday this year, I got a Nintendo DS Lite. Now that I’ve had some time to play with it, I’d like to give you my thoughts on the system, along with the various games that I have picked up so far. I’ve given each a letter grade, for whatever that’s worth.

The DS Lite System (A+)
What first wowed me with the DS Lite was the screen brightness. Having never seen an original DS, I can’t make a comparison between the two generations. However, I can say that my Gameboy Advance SP doesn’t touch the DS Lite brightness levels. It’s literally like night and day. However, the brighter you run the screen, the faster the battery drains. I use brightness level 2 (out of 4, if I remember correctly, where 4 is the brightest). I have been very pleased with the battery life at this level; I charge the system after several hours of play (I haven’t timed it, but I’m guessing somewhere between 6 to 10 hours between charges). And the sound in the DS Lite is incredible. I don’t know how they packed such awesome speakers into a tiny package, but they are really crisp. The added bonus that there are two speakers, and that they utilize stereo to great effect, is even better!

The touch screen is a novel idea and works well, though I find it a little hard to use the stylus in a game that also uses the buttons. And while I’m on that topic, let me say that I am glad that Nintendo included the X and Y buttons. The lack of X and Y on the Gameboy Advance SP really hurt the SNES game ports. Hopefully the DS will help fill that gap. It’s also nice that Gameboy Advance games can be played in the DS (though the X and Y buttons still aren’t useful for those older games). It’s nice to only carry one system around but have support for games from multiple platforms.

Since I’m the only one I know with a DS Lite, I haven’t tried the multiplayer stuff (with built-in wireless). I hear it works pretty well, but I can’t comment since I haven’t used that aspect of it.

There isn’t much negative to say about the DS Lite. Each time you start it up, you get a weird “Health and Safety Warning” that requires a tap of the touch screen to bypass. I find this odd, and a minor annoyance, but I guess Nintendo is trying to get people to be mindful of what they do. Also, the shiny casing is nice, but it shows fingerprints very easily (at least on my black model).

Overall, I nothing but good things to say. I highly recommend the DS Lite as a gaming platform.

The New Super Mario Bros. (B)
This being my first game, I was highly excited about it initially. It evokes classic gaming memories from the NES days, and the game’s action is as fun as ever. But, sadly, Mario’s adventure is a little short. The levels are surprisingly small, and are rather easy (to say the least). New power-ups help ease that pain a little; the giant mushroom and tiny mushrooms are a blast to use. I dislike how worlds 4 and 7 are completely optional (and a little difficult to access; they are only available through secret boss-level exits). The included mini-games are cute, but they don’t draw me back to them again and again. Final verdict? This is a fun game, and a must have for Mario fans, even if it is indeed a short endeavor.

Tetris DS (B)
Six game types are available in Tetris DS, and most of them are decent enough. The only two game types that don’t really excite me are the catch mode and mission mode. The other four (touch, push, puzzle, and standard) are really fun, and I would imagine are a blast with multiple players.

Kirby Canvas Curse (A)
I’ve never played a Kirby game before this one, but I must say that this one is highly entertaining. It uses the touch screen and stylus entirely; you never make use of the game pad buttons. By drawing “rainbow bridges” for Kirby to roll on, you must defeat an evil witch who has turned the world into a painting. Artwork in the game is phenomenal, and the action is pretty intense in some places. The stylus is used to great effect, and was a great twist on gaming. I highly recommend this title.

Yoshi’s Island DS (???)
I haven’t assigned this game a grade yet, because I only yesterday received it from Amazon. The original Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo was a blast, and this one looks like it will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps. It uses both screens to show the game world, which is mildly annoying; there is a physical gap between the screens on the DS Lite, and so there’s a “gap” in what the game shows you at any one time. Hopefully this “feature” won’t be too much of a burden as I go forward. Time will tell.

It appears that I have written a lot on the subject, but hopefully you’ll find this information to be of use. I’ll be taking time off from my posting duties over the holiday weekend so until then, Happy Thanksgiving!

Zalman VF900 Review

Published on July 7, 2006

I recently ordered a Zalman VF900 VGA cooler for my NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT. As I previously mentioned, the temperatures I’ve been seeing on this card have been incredibly hot. It would probably be safe to say that this was the primary factor in my frequent system crashes, but only time will prove that theory. Well, yesterday the cooler arrived and I installed it. Read on for my thoughts on the card, the results I’ve seen so far, and more.

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Episode One: Further Thoughts

Published on June 3, 2006

I’ve now played through Episode One a total of three times, having just wrapped up the final run with the commentary system turned on. All I can say is wow! Having commentary really adds to the game, and provides some interesting insight into what challenges the developers at Valve faced when making certain decisions. Make sure to enable this at least once if you own this expansion (and if you don’t own it yet, what are you waiting for?). My main goal for this post, however, is to focus on the “what-ifs” coming up in Episode Two (and possibly Episode Three). If you have yet to play Episode One, or if you haven’t watched the Episode Two trailer yet, you may wish to avert your eyes from the rest of this article. A few spoilers lie ahead, so consider yourself warned.

The trailer for Episode Two makes it appear that Alyx meets a rather early demise. Is this true? Here’s a quote from a recent Episode One review:

Half-Life boss Gabe Newell has revealed that “primary characters” will die over the trilogy of new Half-Life 2 episodes. “People need to feel that characters are genuinely at risk,” he says. “Otherwise they lose investment and the significance of their actions is diminished.”

If Alyx truly is the character who dies in the upcoming saga, I might literally break down and cry. After investing so much in character development over the past two installments, would Valve really snuff her out of the picture? She is the one realistic female lead in computer games today; hopefully that fact alone will prevent such a travesty. Or perhaps the developers have something else up their sleeves. Could Episode Two be to the Half-Life 2 episodic trilogy as The Empire Strikes Back was to the Star Wars trilogy? The dark note before the final, brighter conclusion? At this point, only the developers have that answer. I’m hoping that Alyx lives on for another day, at least so that we might have further opportunities to enjoy her flirtatious personality.

Other questions have also arisen in my mind. The alien beings which talked with Dr. Breen at the end of Half-Life 2 are clearly on Earth (residing in those pods you run across while in the Citadel during Episode One). What are they doing there, and what will they do now that the Citadel has been destroyed? Where is Judith Mossman, and what “Project” has she uncovered? And what does the G-Man have to do with all of this? According to Gabe Newell, he might be behind the demise of whatever primary character gets killed off.

Hopefully Episode Two will shed some light on all of this. Unfortunately, we have to wait another six months or so to find out. I haven’t been this riveted in a long, long time…

Half-Life 2: Episode One Review

Published on June 1, 2006

After about roughly four hours of game play, I’ve finished Half-Life 2: Episode One. I fully intend to go back through the game at least twice: once on a harder difficulty, and once with the commentary system turned on. The following points are those I think most worth talking about.

The Good

  • Incredible Atmosphere: Throughout the entire game, you literally feel like a refugee fleeing City 17. You never have enough supplies, the Combine are always on your tail, and it’s literally one narrow escape after another. I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire game.
  • HDR: High dynamic range lighting in Half-Life 2 is simply awesome. This is the best use of the technology of any game I’ve seen, and it adds so much to the overall presentation.
  • Excellent Level Design: This goes hand in hand with the atmospheric presentation. Each level, although shorter than the ones in Half-Life 2, is incredibly well designed. The locales feel quite realistic, and the attention to detail is astounding.
  • Alyx: Nearly all of Episode One takes place alongside Alyx, and that simple fact adds so much to the action. Not only does she cover your butt a number of times, but you must look out for hers as well. And who could resist fighting to save a girl as sexy as her? Her AI is incredible; she never gets in the way during a firefight and she’s a damn good marksman. Did I mention that she’s really sexy?
  • The G-Man: I won’t spoil it, but the G-Man gets some much deserved comeuppance.
  • Voice Acting: The voice acting is top notch. No other game that I’ve played in recent times comes close to the quality presented here; every actor is convincing to the last.
  • Story Line Advancement: This goes without saying. Episode One answers a number of questions, asks a number of new ones (so exciting!), and advances the storyline considerably.
  • Episode Two Trailer: A sneak peek at what’s coming in Episode Two is included with the game (and it looks wickedly cool).

The Bad

  • Incredibly Short: I want more Half-Life! Four hours just isn’t enough (although I do still have the commentary system to check out, and I’ll definitely play it through again).
  • Too Expensive?: This is a sore point with a number of gamers on various forums that I peruse every once in a while. $19.95 just seems a tad too expensive for this amount of gaming. Make it $14.95 and you’ve got yourself a deal. (Will I continue to pay $19.95 for future episodes? Absolutely. Half-Life is just that good.)
  • Stuttering: Maybe it’s just my system (I wouldn’t be surprised), but the game seemed to stutter more than I would have liked. Most of the time it seemed to be related to loading sound effects.

The Ugly

  • Episode Two Trailer: Once you beat the game, the trailer for episode two is launched. At first, I thought my game had crashed. I tried to exit Steam and got a warning that a Steam application was still in use. A little notice on what they were doing would have been helpful.
  • Character Appearance: How is it that Barney looks like crap but Alyx is still as hot as ever? Doesn’t everyone get a little dirty in this deal?

If you enjoyed Half-Life 2, I think you would really enjoy Episode One. If you thought Half-Life 2 was just a mediocre game, I would recommend avoiding this next chapter. Plenty of people will no doubt complain about the length, but I don’t think anyone can argue about the level of execution. The action is tight, the levels are well designed, and the story gets pushed along nicely, leaving the player with a number of new questions. If you’re looking for a fun little action romp, I highly recommend Half-Life 2: Episode One. I for one am eagerly awaiting Episode Two.

Further Thoughts on San Andreas

Published on August 11, 2005

Over the past several weeks, I have spent virtually all of my gaming time in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As I previously mentioned, the game is so large that it has taken me this long to complete it. And now that I have completed the main story line, I feel I can better point out the game’s highs and lows.

What I Liked
My main praise for this game is the story line. San Andreas weaves an interesting tale full of twists and surprises. Character development is decent, but it’s the voice acting that pushes it over the top. The developers of this game cast each character to a tee (Samuel L. Jackson is excellent as Officer Tenpenny). Likewise, the game environments are impressive. Not only is the game world gigantic, but it’s well developed with plenty of detail. The number of vehicles available to the player is much larger than in previous GTA titles. This variety really adds to the overall experience. And finally, the game soundtrack really fits the overall ‘gangsta’ theme.

What I Disliked
San Andreas is far from perfect, however. A few game missions are poorly designed, making them unnecessarily difficult. Several of the racing missions are near impossible, and the various driving schools contain tests that rely on pure luck to result in a perfect score. Enemy AI exhibits some severe flaws; often times during a gang war, the enemies will flee from the war zone. You inevitably have to chase them down, but then get penalized by leaving the war zone. Likewise, recruiting gang members to fight for you is an exercise in futility. They often get in the way of your line of sight, so you end up killing them instead of the rival gang members.

A number of people have slammed San Andreas for its graphics (and they are indeed sub-par). But given that the world is so large, and that there is so much to model, I can see why the developers chose to go with simpler designs. Fortunately, running at 1280 by 1024 with all the eye candy turned on helps in this regard (thank you GeForce 6800 GT).

So do I recommend the game? Absolutely. Just make sure that you are mature enough to play it (the ‘M’ rating is clearly warranted due to extreme language, intense violence, drug references, and sexual themes). If you are old enough, welcome to San Andreas. Grove Street baby – holla!

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