Summer is here and so are the game. We've got an explosive issue of Beyond Co-Op this month which puts the two biggest arcade racing games head to head - Split/Second and Blur! Also is the Action/RPG Alpha Protocol, 3D Dot Game Heroes and much more.
FIFA World Cup 2010....................................................................... Page 2
Dementium II......................................................................................Page 3
Blur ....................................................................................................Page 4
3D Dot Game Heroes........................................................................Page 6
Alpha Protocol ..................................................................................Page 7
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 - This one is probably a rental if it interests you.
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
by: Nick Puleo
For many Americans the World Cup isn't on the top of their must watch sporting events, yet for the rest of the world this is the biggest sporting event that occurs every four years. While FIFA 10 has already been released earlier this year, EA has launched a special World Cup game based on the same engine for this world wide celebration of soccer. As soon as you fire up the game you're suddenly immersed into a South African themed menu system with music and visuals setting the stage for some impressive atmosphere.
To truly experience the biggest soccer competition in the world, 2010 FIFA World Cup adds a huge online mode that not only allows you to compete head to head with other players around the globe, but one that also tracks all play, offline and online, to rank the top countries in terms of wins. The latter is a constant reinforcement of just how big soccer is - at the time of this writing Mexico was leading the way with over 550k wins. That means over 550,000 games of soccer were played using team Mexico taking them to victory. To further brag about your cleat skills you can save replays and upload them online.
So what about those who don't want to take to the online pitch? 2010 FIFA World Cup also offers an offlline cup mode to play the tournament exactly as scheduled to date as well as a management style mode where you can just simulate games and manage players and formations.
I never played FIFA 2010, but the World Cup version of the game plays particularly well and for the most part, represents a realistic soccer match. There's plenty of options for game strategy and player tactics to tweak your game to your liking. For me it's all about a quick passing game and long runs down the wings with a cross for scoring chances, but I've seen the AI try to mix it up with inside runs and plenty of other strategies. The AI is particularly brutal on defense and when you do get that elusive goal it's incredibly satisfying. The game does a great job with audio as the crowd roars upon a goal making you feel like the hero of a country. There is some odd graphical hiccups as the game switches views from an isometric cam to the close up player cam, but it's a minor issue and one you'll quickly learn to ignore.
Soccer fans already own 2010 FIFA World Cup so they won't need convincing they need to pick up the game. By the time the tournament starts this weekend you might find yourself getting that "itch" to play video game soccer, and 2010 FIFA World Cup is the perfect game to scratch it. There's plenty of difficulty levels and control options to make it accessible to gamers of all skill levels.
Developer: Renegade Kid
by: Nick Puleo
While horror movies have been around for ages, and in the past decade have had quite the resurgence, horror games rarely are able to give people the jump and scare that the movies are able to. Still many people find the thrill of the survival horror genre an admirable experience and while the handheld platform isn't exactly known for numerous horror titles, the original Dementium did a decent job for fans of the genre despite some quirks.
Dementium II looks to fix many of the things that plagued the first game - respawning enemies, a poor save system, and other numerous problems. Good news is D2 has a brand new save system along with checkpoints fixing the biggest gripe most had with the original. Difficulty was something else that turned people off in the original game, no longer do enemies randomly respawn when you backtrack easing that up. Despite being a sequel, D2 starts you with a fresh character strapped to a gurney in a psych ward at a hospital. Suddenly your reality is warped and you find yourself in a horrific pseudo-reality with monsters, torture, and a plenty of gore. You'll switch back and forth between the normal world and this demented world throughout the game, making you question your character's sanity.
Gameplay is a straight forward shooter, though ammo is always something you need more of. While the game offers 10 weapons, some require two hands - and on levels that are pitch black you'll need to decide if you'll give up the power of a two handed weapon for a flashlight and a single handed one. Each of the game's levels are capped off by a large boss encounter, one you'll want to conserve your ammo for.
But is Dementium II scary? Hard to say. Some of the audio effects, especially with headphones on, are quite creepy. Enemies giggle maniachly at you at times, and careful use of echo effects make you wonder if you're in the room alone or not. Still there was very few "jump" moments I found in the game. Graphically the game looks great, especially for a handheld title, with silky smooth frame rates and rarely a hiccup. Sure the gore was pixelated, and the enemies were a bit blocky, but it got the point across.
The full ride should take you about 5 hours to complete and there's a nice variety in the levels - snowy open areas and tight corridors are just some. I found i only wanted to play the game in small bursts, perhaps exactly what the handheld version of a game like this is designed for - and thanks to the fixed save points this worked perfectly. Dementium 2 won't win any horror film awards, but you still may find yourself sleeping with one eye open after a late night session with the game.
Developer: Bizarre Creations
by: Katrina Pawlowski
You've heard it a million times: Blur is like Mario Kart for big kids. It's true that it seems to have picked up a lot of elements from the popular kart-racing game, including vicious attacks that come from power ups, but it's also not the same game. Blur was made by a lot of the team responsible for the Burnout series. With that being said, the multiplayer is definitely where it's at. "Where what's at," you ask? The bulk of the gameplay revolves around playing with and ultimately against other drivers to blast your way to the finish line, without wrecking first.
The single player story is short, but rewarding in some ways. You'll unlock cars and become familiar with a variety of tracks before facing off against the world of the internet, as well as learning the best strategies for getting ahead against a challenging A.I. You progress through the story by unlocking "lights" for completing tracks, certain lights for placing 3rd place or above, and additional lights for wrecking other cars, completing "fan circuits" (which are 12 arches on a certain path to drive through), and earning fans. Single player did have more race types, including 20 car races, one on one bosses, target practice cars, etc. The online mode only had two, battle arena and general races.
The fan system is the games way of telling you whether you're doing a good job or not. Earn fans by ramming, shooting, shocking, and speeding ahead of your competition. A low fan score means you didn't do nearly enough damage, or you were just not in the groove. Earning fans will unlock additional cars, and you will be presented with a higher Fan Level. The fan level really helps with matchmaking online, hopefully ensuring you're not a level 1 racing against level 20 or higher. Along with the levels there are race classes that can either raise or lower the pace of the game, A class races were much faster pace than C class races. The speed of the game made the power-ups all the more important, often meaning the difference between first and fifth place or more.
I suppose the best way to approach Blur as opposed to the plethora of other racing games recently on the market, would be to blend the mixture of goals from Burnout Paradise with the quirky attack qualities of Mario Kart. General races will host up to 20 other cars on the track, so it's incredibly beneficial to make use of every power-up you can drive through. You'll get an explosive charge that pushes cars out of the way, bolts to shoot at other cars, red orbs that track down other cars, a shield to protect your car, lightening to subdue the cars up front, and a repair kit in case your car gets a little too beat up. It's also ideal to keep your car in working condition, otherwise you'll truly wreck and be pushed back in the rankings forced to catch-up.
Blur may not be particularly in depth, but it's got fun where it counts. If you've been looking for a solid racing game with plenty of destruction, look no further.
Developer: Black Rock Studios
by: Loren Halek
Split/Second from is an interesting game that surely does something different than the rest of the arcade racers out there, but it is also a very thin game in regards to tracks and visual aids given to the player.
The story is interesting in that you are a driver on a reality television show called Split/Second. The season is split into 12 episodes with six (6) events in each episode. The types of events fall into these six (6) categories:
Race: be the first one across the finish line to win Eliminator: last vehicle eliminated after 60 seconds and then every 20 seconds, be the last one standing Detonator: run a supplied vehicle through the course the fastest with explosions and general Powerplays happening throughout your run Air Strike: helicopters shoot missiles at you, dodge them and score the highest amount of points to win Survival: you need to pass trucks dropping explosive barrels at you, get the most points and win Air Revenge: blow up the helicopter by using Powerplays to deflect missiles back, take it down the fastest to win
The powerplay is an interesting mechanic which makes it all the more disappointing when you start to realize that the tracks repeat themselves quite a bit through the episodes. Yes, there may be different paths to take in each event like the Burnout games of old, but when I’m going through the same trail for over 80% of the track it does get a bit stale. Another problem with the game is although the visual aids are minimal (your position, lap number and the powerplay meter is all that is shown), it would have helped to have some speed indicator so you know whether you’re at full speed or still have a bit to go. This becomes very important later in the game where the cars you’ve unlocked may not be able to easily stack up against your opponents and you’ll have to rely more on the powerplays than your driving prowess. Roughly in the middle of the game you find yourself outclassed, but towards the end if you’ve gotten enough credits you get some really nice rides.
In many ways Split/Second reminds me of the Burnout games of old, right down to the rubberband AI. Yes, there were many times where I felt I left the cars in the dust and the HUD would indicate I was 4+ seconds ahead, but sure enough one or multiple cars would often overtake me even when I drive perfectly and then you are depending on the powerplays again, something you can’t increase much when you are leading the race because drafting is no longer available to you.
This isn’t to say Split/Second is a bad game. It does something different and does it well, I just wish Black Rock Studios would have worked more on either making the world open or having more variety in the overall tracks. The online gameplay is nothing to write home about either, although once you unlock enough cars and all the tracks and game types it can be quite fun. Just don’t jump online right away because you will get smoked since there is no parity with the cars.
Developer: Silicon Studio
by: Marc Allie
Retro games are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Retro Game Challenge and Half Minute Hero are two recent examples we've covered in Beyond Co-Op Reviews before. A new game, with roots deep in the 80s adventure/RPG genre, joins these old school new releases: 3D Dot Game Heroes.
It is clear that the developers at Atlus grew up playing 8-bit classics like The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Warrior. 3D Dot Game Heroes borrows heavily from the gameplay elements of these vintage pioneers. Some might argue that it is less of a loving homage than a blatant ripoff, but I think that's going too far. The fact of the matter is that the best video games throughout history have built upon the innovations of other games. Space Invaders beget Galaga, Breakout beget Arkanoid, etc. There are few if any real innovations in 3D Dot Game Heroes, but really, that's the appeal. It takes all the best parts of games you remember, blends them together, and wraps it all up in a shiny HD package. Quite simply, the result is glorious.
The game's graphical style is simultaneously 8-bit pixels and high res 3D. The opening cinematic explains that the land of Dotnia used to be a two dimensional kingdom, but stretched into three dimensions to become more modern. As you watch, the flat pixels stretch and change into LEGO-like forms made of small blocks. Almost everything in the game is rendered this way, and it's quite charming. The presentation is so appealing, it's easy to just find yourself wandering around looking for interesting things, mimicking the open exploration that was a characteristic of early RPGs.
The storyline is the standard "gather the objects of power, beat the bad guy, save the world" scenario. Laced throughout the tale, though, are humorous tidbits. Sprinkled here and there, you'll find tongue-in-cheek dialogue or references to other games. For example, at one point, you are told it's dangerous, so you'd better take a sword with you. A talking blue slime is found in the first village; this sort of thing happens often in 3D Dot Game Heroes, and if you're an old school gamer like me, these references will keep you smiling. The sword your hero wields flashes out across the screen when you are at full health, and it can be upgraded in different attributes like piercing, length, and width. (Insert natural male enhancement joke here.) Other weapons like a boomerang, bow and arrow, and bombs also aid you in your quest throughout Dotnia's temples. Sound familiar?
3D Dot Game Heroes allows you to choose a different hero each time you load a game, ranging from knights and mages to princesses and even a dragon. The choice isn't merely cosmetic; knights are slightly better with swords, and princesses have extra magical power, for instance. Custom heroes can be made using a simple editor, and your creations can be shared with friends. Mini-games are available at inns, including racing and tower defense. All told, 3D Dot Game Heroes is charming in its simplicity, a love letter of sorts to great fantasy games of old, and is highly recommended for fans of the genre.
by: Nick Puleo
While James Bond might be the stereotypical spy, Jason Bourne redefined the style of spy movie and character. Alpha Protocol lets you be either kind of spy, and anything in between, all in an action RPG that will feel strangely familiar for those of you that played the first Mass Effect.
To become your own spy you have a few choices in not only your actions within the game, but your disposition in conversations. Every conversation with characters in the game gives you indirect choices for answers, so instead of choosing some text of how to respond, you choose the manner in which. Options likes suave, professional, aggressive and doubtful change how you interact with other characters, and you'll earn and lose respect amongst characters which can open up new missions, intel, and other options throughout the campaign. There are even choices in which to spare the life of a character which may prove beneficial later on in the campaign.
Overall there's a lot to like in Alpha Protocol for fans of the spy genre, you can buy intel between missions that can make your operation easier. For instance one mission I paid an informant to leave me a sniper rifle on a ledge overlooking a train yard. The money you earn from missions can also be used to upgrade to new weapons, or buy replacement parts to change and modify your weapon and armor stats. The missions themselves usually involve tracking down a target, retrieving some information, or in some cases interrogating or meeting an informant. Along the way as you learn information you may unlock new missions, but you don't have to complete every mission in the campaign to complete each of the four campaigns.
So all of that sounds well and good, but the problem comes from the actual execution in gameplay. At the start of the game your character has very few skills and because of it it's incredibly difficult to land shots even with the cursor firmly located on a enemy. This is because the underlying statistics system governs when the enemies (and yourself) take damage. This methodology just feels stale, especially after playing a title like Mass Effect 2 that went a bit more of the action route. There's also an issue with pacing within the game, there are a ton of small mini games for just about any action - hacking a computer, bypassing a keypad, disabling an alarm, picking a lock - and none of these are very entertaining. In fact, most are just annoying.
In the end Alpha Protocol is a game that gets better as you play it, but it's still doesn't live up to its potential. Fans of the spy genre will enjoy what the game has to offer if they can get past the pacing issues, everyone else might just be too turned off at the beginning to want to continue to the more rewarding second half of the game.