Review | 3/13/2009 at 11:28 AM

Beyond Co-Op Reviews: March 2009

As spring nears, a lot of great video game titles are released. And sometimes, yes sometimes, they don't include co-op. Every month we cover some of the titles you may have missed in the video game industry with our Beyond Co-Op Reviews.

This month we have a handful of great titles for our Beyond Co-Op Reviews. On the plate is: FEAR 2, Retro Game Challenge, Killzone 2, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Street Fighter IV, and Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars.

Retro Game Challenge..........................................Page 2 by Mike Katsufrakis
FEAR 2: Project Origin..........................................Page 3 by Mike Katsufrakis
Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars..........................Page 4 by Katrina Pawlowski
Street Fighter IV....................................................Page 5 by Jason Love
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows...............................Page 6 by Marc Allie
Killzone 2................................................................Page 7 by Nick Puleo Widgets


Explanation of Scores:

- Golden Billy - This is a must buy title. Truly excellent in almost everyway.

  - Silver Billy - A solid title with a few flaws.

- Bronze Billy - An ok title. You might not want to pay full price for this game

Retro Game Challenge
Mike "pheriannath" Katsufrakis

A more fitting title to this instant classic would be “Mike’s Childhood: The Game”. Loosely based on the Japanese TV show Game Center CX, Retro Game Challenge places you in the shoes of a modern day gamer, transported back in time to the mid-1980s by the malicious Game Master Arino. Your task is to play brilliantly crafted faux-retro games and meet certain goals in each before you are allowed to return to your own time.

The included games are all based on easily-recognizable 1980s archetypes: shooters, both simple and of the bullet-hell variety, top-down racing, Dragon Quest-esque role playing, and even a multi-sequel tribute to Ninja Jajamara-kun which eventually becomes a sort of Ninja Gaiden clone. With the exception of the racing game, each title is completely enjoyable. I could play Star Prince, the analog to Star Soldier for days on end.

Helping you along in your quest to conquer each title are an entire run of fake gaming magazines, containing reviews, previews, tips and tricks for all of the games you’re playing. Stuck on a shooter? The mags might contain a cheat code to help you along! With a top-notch localization and personality in spades, the whole experience is deliciously meta. Highly recommended.


F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Mike "pheriannath" Katsufrakis
Monolith/Warner Bros. - 360 (reviewed)/PS3/PC

Hey, you got horror in my shooter! F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin takes the fairly successful blend of FPS and horror from its progenitor and ramps the atmosphere up considerably. While not outright scary per se, there are times when the game is outright oppressive, and the player, though empowered, can feel quite ineffective against all that is happening around him.

As was the case with the original F.E.A.R., the shooting mechanics are very solid, and the enemy AI interacts very well with the environment, overturning tables, cabinets and couches to create cover on the fly when there is none. Your foes will recognize when you are holed up and try to force you out of hiding with some well-placed grenades. Once again, you are given a slow-motion reflex power to help counter considerable odds placed against you.

Unfortunately, the good shooting mechanics and atmosphere can’t make up for the fact that it feels like an expansion pack to the first game instead of a true sequel. The environments are still office parks, apartments, hospitals and generic “laboratory” settings. The reflex ability makes the game almost too easy, even on harder difficulty modes. While the story is handled a little better than the original, you’ll still be left scratching your head when all is said and done.

Rating: Silver

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars
Katrina "ShadokatRegn" Pawlowski
Southpeak Interactive - Wii

Theoretically, a giant meteorite might destroy human civilization. But, a smaller meteorite may grant life to the tiny world of fungus and plants. Mushroom Men is a game of sacred pieces of meteorite, living mushrooms, vicious insects, and a small world at war. Aggressive Amanita, or poisonous mushrooms, wage war on the peaceful pint sized world in search of sacred pieces of this meteorite. Pax, the little hero of the game, is set on a quest to replace a meteorite that he accidentally absorbed, in exchange for "magic" powers. He will help many other mushrooms, and plants in these Spore Wars using “Sporekinesis” and “Will of the Spore” powers, along with many improvised weapons that you can build as you find items.

Mushroom Men is artistically astounding, with intense attention to detail in game - especially in the perspective department. Each environment is modeled after something we encounter in our everyday lives, only we don't have to follow a series of climbing, jumping, grappling, and gliding to get to the toilet. Even the characters and enemies are proportionate to bite-sized Pax, so rabbits and moles are hulking monsters that require player ingenuity to bring down.

The platforming gameplay is similar to Mario Galaxy; move with the nunchuck, aim at the screen with the Wii remote to pick up or move objects, and swing the Remote to bash enemies with physical attacks. Be creative in all of your attack combinations; block with Pax's mushroom cap, alternate powers, and use different weapons to enjoy this game to its full potential.


Street Fighter 4
Jason "OrigamiPanther" Love
Capcom - 360/PS3

The last major Street Fighter release was over 12 years ago with Street Fighter III. Since then, things got quiet for the much beloved franchise that spawned not only a few imitators, but a large number of competitors that all attempted to take down what some would consider to be the king of fighters. The Street Fighter hiatus finally ended with the release of Street Fighter IV.

The latest Street Fighter game has gotten an interesting face lift, both in terms of the art style and the move system. While Street Fighter still controls in the familiar 2D plane, the world itself has been fleshed out some to include stylized 3D models that look more hand drawn than CG. The art style is nice, but it can be a bit over the top at times; especially when you land a particularly crushing blow and your opponent pulls a Looney Tunes-esque face. The familiar quarter circle, punch is still there, as well as the dash cancels and EX moves that were part of Street Fighter III, but gone are the parrying, super cancelling, and stun gauge mechanics. While the large cast of “also ran” characters that bogged down the third game have been removed, of the new characters, Crimson Viper is the only one that feels like she belongs in the Street Fighter series. The others are a bit too gimmicky and feel as if they were pulled from Virtua Fighter or Soul Caliber.

In the end, Street Fighter IV feels like the spiritual successor to Street Fighter II and plays like the precursor to Street Fighter III. While this makes sense to some degree as the story is intended to bridge the two games, those expecting a revamped version of Street Fighter II may find themselves a little disappointed.


Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Marc "DjinniMan" Allie
Activision - 360/PS3/Wii

Spider-man has had a mixed bag as far as video games go. Some of them have been stellar, others... not so much. Spider-man Web of Shadows is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum

The best aspect of the game is the open world you have to spin webs and wall crawl in. New York City feels large, and alive. The webslinging is easily as well done as that of Spider-man 2. I often found myself swinging for long periods of time, in a zen-like state of bliss. This open ended gameplay is a fine choice for a game that will appeal to the young, and the young in attention span.

The story is engaging, particularly for those who are familiar with Spider-man's history and supporting cast. Spidey will team up with all sorts of heroes and villains, including Luke Cage, Moon Knight, and the Black Cat. Of course, Venom is a large part of the tale this time around. At several points in the story, Spidey will be forced to decide between good and evil. This feels appropriate for the character, and also allows for replay options.

The games allows you to upgrade your attacks based on which suit Spider-man wears. The red suit allows for some incredible moves and combos, with our hero flying all over the screen in a sort of aerial ballet. The black suit is impressive visually, too, mainly due to the use of symbiotic appendages. The black suit is really overpowered, and feels like cheating; this ties into the story nicely. The problem with combat is, it basically comes down to button mashing. There is little incentive to be creative when the most powerful attack is pressing the A button many times in a row. Visually, it's fun, but it gets old quickly. Midair and wall fights also suffer from some targeting issues.

Overall, Spider-man Web of Shadows is a good game. The appeal of an open world to swing in combined with a decent story are a potent combination. The primary flaw is the repetitiveness of the combat. Still, it is easily the best Spider-man game of this console generation.


Killzone 2
Nicholas "bapenguin" Puleo
Sony - PS3

Very few games have been able to match Call of Duty's intensity. Dropping the player in the middle of a war, the gritty and scary nature of a fire fight, hiding behind a wall for fear of death. Killzone 2, from Guerilla Studios, has not only matched it - it passed it in many aspects. There's no cheap grenade spams or infinite spawning enemies, at least for the most part. So after three years since the infamous E3 announcement trailer the game has been released on the PlayStation 3 - and it has some big shoes and hype to fill

Right from the get go Killzone 2 shows why it's one of the most beautifully detailed games to date on any system. Spawning from high flying ships, your dropped from two miles in the sky into the thick of battle. Amazingly, it DOES look almost as good as that E3 trailer. Exploding buildings, flying shrapnel, and gorgeous puffs of smoke all create an intense battlefield situation that will have you gripping your PlayStation controller tighter and tighter.

The problem with that PS3 controller though is it just never quite feels right. Perhaps it's the deadzone of the controller, or something with the analog sensitivity in the game, but I found it incredibly difficult to pull off shots and turns - I always felt like I was fighting it to some degree. Thankfully the game employs a great cover mechanic that's similar to Rainbow Six Vegas, and this helps counter any issues you have with the controls for most of the game.

From beginning to end, Killzone 2 is a solid first person shooter experience, even if it is flawed by the controls. While you'll be finishing up the single player in roughly 7 or 8 hours, there's an entire deep multiplayer section that puts it right in the same category as Call of Duty 4 in terms of a progression system. It would have been impossible for Killzone 2 to live up to the hype, but that doesn't mean it's a bad game.