Hitman: Absolution Review

Square Enix and Io Interactive bring a long awaited continuation of Agent 47 with Hitman: Absolution. Hiding bodies and asphyxiation remains the core to keeping one of the last true stealth game in the genre. While many other stealth games have given way to more action, Hitman creates an addictive and encouraging thriller that keeps players coming back for more.

Diana Burnwood puts the agency on the brink and vanishes. Agent 47 needs to find her and do what he does best. Diana appears to have gone rogue and taken an agency asset, a young girl, which must be returned. Agent 47 makes a judgment call against the agency to protect a girl facing a future like his own, leading him into a twisted world of cat and mouse.

As the story unfolds every character becomes a question mark. Who are 47s real friends? What makes this girl so special? Where will 47 go if he survives this chaos? The 20+ hour long story creates a surprisingly steady learning curve never allowing frustration to set in until later in the game. Each mission leaves multiple options to eliminate 47s targets. With creativity and helpful hints from less difficult modes the game creates an atmosphere of comfortable exploration. This exploration shows the boundary of options for 47’s abilities for the player to master in preparation for the later and more difficult levels in the game.

Hitman provides a stealth game at its core. Specific strategies are required for victory, but several ways can get the job done. As the game gets later the options to achieve victory get slimmer. Frustration can set in if players abused the easier levels options, leaving them with a steeper learning curve consisting of more trial and error.

The feel of the hunt is something Hitman has created better than any other recent game. To kill the target is a simple one. Laying out a plan for a silent kill and hiding the body to escape without anyone revealing 47’s existence requires skill, timing and execution (both meanings being one in the same). Most games draw a larger audience with over-the-top action, while Hitman: Absolution prides itself with hunt and kill tactics, avoiding the any messy over-the-top action.

The strategy and hunt syncs with the artistic atmosphere the game creates from the first mission. The artistic imagery matches the Agent 47’s art of the assassination. With each move made to complete 47’s work of art, the music comes to the forefront giving players not only encouragement, but pride in their accomplishments. The game mixes gritty violence with an artful setting display. The display is not just the setting and background, but the people too. Civilians are the silver lining that completes the atmosphere of places like Chicago’s Chinatown, the local strip club or a western-style gun range.

Agent 47 using his instinct ability. It highlights enemies, targets and friendlies and shows their current planned movements. This gives 47 a better understanding for planning his strike.

Replay Value equates to the pursuit of perfection. Each mission is broken down into smaller segments. These segments have two categories: mission skill and collectibles. Mission skill is determined through assassin efficiency. There are several ways to kill each marked target and replay is required to complete each challenge. Discovering the best way, reveals bonus points under signature kill. Each segment within the mission also has the occasional side challenge, such as saving a civilian or getting all accidental kills. For each challenge completed attributes are added and described at the end of each mission making each life easier when taking lives.

Collectibles are items picked up from each mission and there are a ton of them. For the 100 percenter’s, this game provides a challenge to find it all. Once all of them are found, Agent 47 gains more experience to level up.

As for multiplayer, there is a challenge mode that pits gamers against each other to see who the better assassin is. Each campaign level also shows scores of the leading friend and the US and Country averages. Hitman: Absolution extends multiplayer best through specific contracts within the campaign. It provides another challenge to create more gameplay and replay value.

Score: 8.75 / 10

Valhalla: Stealth Gameplay, Replay Value, Learning Curve, Graphics

Hel: Disconnected Story, Veterans will Hate the Learning Curve

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Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review

 

The autonomous robotic organisms are back to the small screen destroying their own homeworld in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. The original, War for Cybertron was surprisingly good after the low expectations of the terribly made movie-based games. It had a cult following, but could the sequel ride the popularity of the first or fall short with high expectations?

The story surrounds the last remaining Autobots planning to flee Cybertron on the vessel known as the arc.  Optimus Prime continues his everlasting war with Megatron and his Decepticon minions with all genres of past transformers. Blending the stories of Beast Wars and Dinobots with generation one transformers creates and ends many arguments of adamant fans of the Transformers universe.

Fall of Cybertron tells its story through different characters in each chapter. As the campaign twists and turns the gamer plays as both well-known Autobot and Decepticon characters. Each character has different abilities and styles of warfare, changing up shoot-’em-up gameplay from chapter to chapter. With 13 total chapters, the game builds a connection with each character until the climactic and glorious final battle destined to happen. Unfortunately, the game only lasts for only 10 hours.

The third-person shooter plays and controls just like Gears of War without a cover system. The amount of weapons your character can hold attach at a time is limited to just two. Without a cover system the game has a button to switch which arm to fire from while hiding the majority of your large robotic frame behind cover. Weapons are swapped out and upgraded at Cybertron defense grid stations. Each character is part of a class of transformers.

Within each class, there are certain abilities that aid their best gameplay style. About a third into the game, an infiltrator class transformer, named Cliffhanger, is the smallest class transformer in the game. With a lack of firepower he is forced to fight outside normal means with hand-to-hand executions. Cliffhanger is given cloak ability, giving him a better chance to get in close and kill his foes before he is marked by crosshairs. Each class mixes up the game with different abilities and tactics. The campaign engages in a great story, but it is designed as one big tutorial to prepare for multiplayer.

Multiplayer has numerous forms and is the most expanded section of the game from the original. Building your own transformer has expanded to metallic plating, color weapon, ability choice and body structure along with overall design and class loadout. There are four basic transformer load outs: the agile Infiltrator, the heavy tank Titan class, the support class scientist and the mid-range warrior class Destroyer. After creating your new transformer from several options for various categories, the only choice remaining is which multiplayer mode to join.

Fall for Cybertron has included the four player last stand mode, Escalation, for wave after wave of decepticons attack Optimus Prime, Warpath, Cliffhanger and Bumblebee. Each one covers one of the four classes to create a solid team of a healer, tank, etc. The battle maps have stations for weapon changeouts and purchases of ammo and upgrades along with levers to activate certain defenses against the overwhelming onslaught lasting 15 rounds.

Other multiplayer modes all include human-to-human, autobot-to-decepticon combat. These modes bring the user-created transformer into battle. With each game the users chosen class gains experience to unlock other load outs with abilities and weapons. The multiplayer exceeds just the basic team deathmatch with objective based games to conquer territories, capture the flag and headhunter.

The overall game is a success for fans, but besides the enjoyment of fighting as a massive transformer the game falls short as a Gears of War knockoff. The multiplayer is solid, but unless you have to be a transformer there are plenty of other shooters to replace Transfromers: Fall of Cybertron.

 

Score: 6.75 / 10

Valhalla: Solid story, Great character additions for fans, Expanded multiplayer

Hel: Basic Third Person Shooter, Nothing to attractive to newcomers

Here at Top Tyr each game is played through its entirety before the review process begins. The review is based on entertaining gameplay, story and innovative advancement in gaming. Intangibles and changes between sequels are also viewed.   

Darksiders II Review

Vigil Games prepares the world for second horseman of the apocalypse with Darksiders II. The month of August will ride into the second half of the year with the grim reaper himself, Death. The sequel expands upon a combined story of multiple mythologies and eliminates the majority of the games previous frustrations.

Darksiders II is a parallel timeline, played out during the imprisonment of War. In Darksiders I, War fought to clear his name on post-apocalyptic Earth, but Death works to aid his brother in proving his innocence. To grant War’s freedom from their bosses, the Charred Council, Death plans to uplift humanity from their grim fate, but Death finds problems of his own in worlds he barley knows.

A pleasant surprise is the further expansion of the Darksiders universe. Most sequels minimally expand the already created universe, but the sequel almost doubles its size and scope. Darksiders II also included dialogue choices with many characters throughout the game, allowing a deeper connection to further the universe if you choose.

Death prefers speed and agility instead his brother’s strength and power. He moves fluidly through platforming environments, eliminating any frustrations from the clunky parts in the previous game. Death has an Assassin’s Creed simplicity when it comes to traversing through the world. And the world is wide open with numerous side quests. The level design is also challenging and entertaining with new puzzles and boss battles that have Death looking up high at his enemies.

The mature-rated Legend of Zelda, Darksiders II creates numerous quests, dungeons and bosses to help Death save the princess brother from peril. Just as the first game seemed to be a mix of LoZ: Ocarina of Time and God of War, Darksiders II embraced an extra genre: RPGs.

The RPG elements of the game have expanded with detailed inventory and power abilities. Inventory is brand new to the series. Killed enemies now drop the occasional weapons and armor for Death. The overall feel fits Diablo-like RPGs. Just walking over the item gives brief info on it with a simple stat informing whether it is better or worse than the current equipped item. The unused items cannot only be sold, but used to feed your favorite possessed weapon, leveling it up to stay in Death’s grip longer.

Inventory is brand new to the series. Killed enemies now drop the occasional weapons and armor for Death. The overall feel fits a dungeon RPG, but with less stat crunching required. Just walking over the item gives brief info on it with a simple stat informing whether it is better or worse than the current equipped item. The problem is the simple stat is not everything. The comparison is mostly limited to damage or defense not in the unique abilities, making you still pause the game for a complete comparison. The inventory system also seems to mask that the three dungeon weapons from the first game are three out of the four weapons given in the sequel.

Each time death gains a new level a skill point is earned. Each point can be used to unlock or upgrade abilities in two skill trees. The trees are divided into AOE-style attacks, upgraded defense or summoning abilities. Each one can also be upgraded adding extra powers or more damage or duration.

The overall look still maintains their graphic novel animation, but it received a much needed update from the original and it looks glorious. The heads up display also received some tweaking, revealing a more inventory-friendly HUD. Items like wrath and health potions are shown under the health bar. It keeps the action going with simple one touch quick heals or potions.

Vigil Games fixed plenty of minor issues by adding small, but vital, elements to the sequel like fast traveling. Finally the world map has a purpose and actually adds a better sense of scope to the game. You can fast travel to pinpointed places even from dungeons, which is much improved from eight different parts from the entire first game. Another aid is Death’s competent companion: Dust, his crow. Dust guides with helpful, yet subtle, hints as to the next goal or chest to reach. When Death is stuck or lost, he can call upon Dust to find the next room. While progresses forward it removes the frustration of just being lost and wasting time, leaving only the puzzle to test the mind.

The main problem is the game drags on too long. They change the gameplay up from place to place, but Death becomes an errand boy from one customer to the next. By the end of the game I wanted to become Death, grab my next customer and beat wanted I needed out, not earn it. Instead I was left with one three-item-retrieval quest after another. And yes, it is three items every time. As entertaining as the game is with different styles of gameplay to prevent any repetition, the story is one retrieve quest after another.

After being fully satisfied with a 20+ hour campaign, excluding side quests, Darksiders II offers a game plus to achieve multiple playthroughs. After completing the game, it also allows a challenge mode, with endless waves of enemies. Whether you’re a fan of the first one or just looking for the next game this was a solid form of entertainment.

Score: 9/10

Vallhalla: Entertaining Gameplay, Boss Battles, RPG element

Hel: Story drags itself out, Same added weapons from the first

Here at Top Tyr each game is played through its entirety before the review process begins. The review is based on entertaining gameplay, story and innovative advancement in gaming. Intangibles and changes between sequels are also viewed.   

NCAA Football 13 Review

Its July, which means one thing: the new seasons for fall sports begin their annual releases. The question usually following the excitement is will it make substantial changes or remain primarily the same? EA Tiburon has put together NCAA Football 13 with new features and tweaked ideas, but just as NCAA 11 developed huge changes so has 13.

The foundation of the gridiron has changed in the passing game. Defensively, the corners and safeties follow a read-and-react system. They respond to the release of the football on a pass by going up for the ball as often as the receiver, making the pump fake more useful than ever before. Without the need to control the corners to cover every play the game feels more lifelike. No more linebackers with impossible leaping INTs or teleporting wide receivers. With this system, zones now work the way they drawn up in the playbooks. Each player covers a spot, but waits patiently for the release of the football to close on pass. When the ball goes up in the air, it truly is a 50-50 ball as defenders are always lurking for a pick. The strategies become more important, because now telling zone coverage to cover short or deep will determine who is left open the longer the play continues. Just as zone is vulnerable on the real gridiron, targets will be easier to find in NCAA 13, because zone covers the field and not the recievers so mask the defense well.

Quarterbacks have their own counter to the new defense with placement control. Previous NCAA’s promoted control, but it ended with which shoulder and if it was a lob or a laser. Now each pass has its placement in relation to the receiver with each movement of the stick. It creates an entertaining flow to break the newly created defenses and gives the greatest QBs a larger gap of accuracy from the rest. All new animations reveal where each pass placement connects, leaving room for constant improvement.

On the topic of animations, tackling is now leaning more on realistic physics instead of the basic contact = tackle formula. Now the momentum of each player goes into effect and now more than before can gamers feel the potential to break a tackle each play. This also starts to have an effect on the juke. Most jukes create contact, but if the tackle is not strong enough the juke did its job avoiding the tackle.

There are many on the field changes in this year’s game, but the first noticeable change is the graphics. The lighting from the stadium appears to change every year, tweaking it for the better. This time on initial glance the game seems to have lost some detail, but up close NCAA 13 makes every player feel more alive. The usual upgrade of commentary and post-play animations shows the unique new look to this year’s graphical touches.

NCAA 13 did not stop at on the field changes. New features like Heisman challenge create another change of pace from the create-a-player concept. Now along with create-a-player, gamers can play as a former Heisman winner on any of today’s teams. Robert Griffin III along with greats like Charlie Ward, Barry Sanders and your own digital self each have a bullet-time ability to use. It is great for the few remaining seconds before a big juke or being under pressure in the pocket. NCAA 13 allots a certain amount of time based on player’s status and each second used is replaced only through yards, first downs and points.

Dynasty has also been tweaked focusing around feeling connected to the rest of the country. Recruiting now appeals to the current season instead of feeling separated from each week’s games. Recruiting pitches are changed weekly and are based on big wins/losses, other prospects and player performance. Most important for recruiting they have finally added an adaptable top ten list for each recruit. Scouting has also appeared in the recruiting section to avoid the busts. It is basic and just adds another selection in the recruit option. Nonetheless, it is an addition that will surely be improved upon with each annual release. Each school can also change its pitch grades now and understand how to improve or maintain it with the My School Screen. When playing each week, gamers will now know the repercussions from other games around the country with in-game updates during your game.

This year’s addition is a great improvement towards the overall goal of complete realism. There will always be room for improvement, but NCAA is always looking for the much deserved love and attention its older brother Madden receives. The multiplayer could still use some improvement and needs to hone in on its online identity. These improvements can always be set for another year, because this game was a strong step forward.

Score: 8.5

Valhalla: Good Improvements in the Passing Game, Heisman Challenge is a Nice Change

Hel: Online Identity still missing, Recruiting still needs Tweaking

Here at Top Tyr each game is played through its entirety before the review process begins. The review is based on entertaining gameplay, story and innovative advancement in gaming. Intangibles and changes between sequels are also viewed.

Spec Ops: The Line Review

The summer shooter, Spec Ops: The Line stands out above the rest with originality.  Instead of showing the more classical, heroic and James Bond style of warfare, 2k Games chooses to express the darker side of war. The deep-rooted story is inspired by the Joseph Conrad novel, Heart of Darkness, and pays graceful homage throughout the game.

Captain Walker leads the three man squad who are sent in to find a recent distress signal in Dubai six months after it was abandoned. Each basic objective leans toward the next potential answer on the journey for the overall question: Just what happened to Dubai after catastrophic sandstorms demolished the city? The story lays out as a search and potential rescue of a military leader, Colonel John Conrad, and his battalion of troops aiding everyone to evacuate the city.

The game begins quickly, flying out of the menu screen to be exact, and never lets go. Walker begins to discover a city already past the brink, viewing the aftermath and sifting through the destruction to solve the mystery that Dubai has become.

Most shooters lead with the gun battles and let the story drag behind. Spec Ops: The Line is just the opposite. The story sets up each battle making them feel more powerful and exciting. The cutscenes stream smoothly in and out of gameplay never giving gamers a moment to relax.

The characters are always expressing opinion and thoughts to verify and explain the reasons for each move made throughout the campaign. The reinforced ideals show the progression of character development and change in their behavior as they travel further into the heart of Dubai.

The unique offering the game brings is its in-depth story – the dark side of humanity that rises when there is consistent chaos. The war crimes committed by your enemies inside Dubai are horrific, but as Walker travels down the rabbit hole he faces certain decisions in order to survive. And after one war crime is committed, where is the pain in crossing that line one more time? Choices are made throughout the game, but each choice is not a pleasant one. Spec Ops: The Line questions ethics, morals, justices, order and right v. wrong. How can order be maintained in such chaos? Leaders stretch the limits of sanity and make Walker and his pals question the meaning of each of these words and blur the lines and boundaries of each one.

Near The Line’s finale, the loading screens refuse to let you ignore the horrors Walker and his allies and enemies have committed. Instead of continuing to give tips and hints for gameplay it sparks questions of what they have done and was it worth it?

As the game progresses each difficult decision seems to give Walker a new scar or abrasion on his face. It is the imagery of “to look yourself and know who you are” that creates a deeper feel than the average shooter.

Spec Ops: The Line uses the standard third person controls and the A-button cover system, with some well executed tweaks. It uses B-button as the vault over cover and the A-button to swing around it. It effectively eliminates those frustrating moments of past games running over cover instead of into it. While charging toward cover, the animations getting behind cover respond farther out, giving you ample time to stop tapping the A-button before accidently leaping around it.

The entire game feels very real. The guns have a solid kick when fired, a pleasant touch that has been lost over recent shooters. The power doesn’t end there as many enemies will drop just as they would in reality. No health bars or X amount of rounds needed, a single burst of rounds to the chest will do just fine. Headshots aren’t left out as slow-motion will show off the result.

However, the battle doesn’t just end with them. Sandstorms shape-shift the battlefield along with the ground you fight on. Mother Nature is not always your enemy. Enemies can be killed by sand and a city, declared no-man’s land, breeds new types of enemies throughout the game.

The AI opponents make firefights a challenge. They can be over-anxious in closing the gap, but as a group they push forward with every opportunity. It seems simple, but it increases the pressure to make the kill before being overwhelmed. Walker can order his troopers to attack certain enemies, keeping everyone on the same battle plan. That babysitting is required at times. Problems arise in your AI partners, Adams and Lugo, who seem to stand out in the open if cover isn’t conveniently available. When grabbing cover I always had to make sure there was enough available for everyone, otherwise I would be healing my downed friends most of the battle.

The weaponry options had a wide variety and the choices grew with each objective never leaving the game feeling too repetitive. Each weapon had a different ability, whether it was a scope or silencer attachment or burst v. automatic fire it gave multiple options on how to attack each battle. Every weapon also had its own feel and muzzle climb, although they blurred together as the game went onward.

The online capabilities consist of online co-op in the campaign and the basic multiplayer. The online co-op is successful for the harder difficulties, but the story itself is best left for single player. Multiplayer is not a strong suit, and seemed more like a forced add-on only because all shooters today have it. Then again, it makes no difference because of the game’s dared-to-be-different campaign, lasting 12 hours.

Score: 8.75 / 10

Valhalla: Great Story Adaptation, Solid Gameplay, Replay Value for Choices, Guns Feel Powerful and Effective

Hel: Multiplayer fell flat, Local Co-op would be Better, Lack of Modes outside the Campaign

Here at Top Tyr each game is played through its entirety before the review process begins. The review is based on entertaining gameplay, story and innovative advancement in gaming. Intangibles and changes between sequels are also viewed.

Lego Batman 2 Review

Another Lego game has arrived in Lego Batman 2: Super Heroes. The typical review would explain the great Lego adapted story packaged around simplistic yet entertaining gameplay. The humor would clean up any gaps of mellow points throughout the game. Fans of the adapted movies or comic book characters enjoyed each reminiscing moment re-enacted by the funny and adorable Legos.

Lego Batman 2 is the next of the lasting seven-year formula that has barely changed over the years. The simple addiction of collecting items throughout each level, which unlocks more gameplay in future play-throughs, feeds a great replay value. The breaking and rebuilding of Lego pieces to solve puzzles attaches to a childhood love. The formula has not changed since Lego Star Wars on the previous generation of consoles, because it has never needed to do so.

Nevertheless, Lego Batman 2 has improved the genre in some areas. Previous Lego games have created humor without speech by just using facial expressions and vocal tones. Lego Batman 2 gave its characters the gift of language and the humor was just as effective. Adding speech gave more comic relief for each super hero’s personalities spite or love for one another. Other improvements are less significant, but one worth mention is the new potential for a split-screen co-op. Instead of the mandatory shared screen, now when characters go their separate ways the screen will divide until they reunite to share the screen again.

The relative flaws are all associated with controls. Certain parts of the game create clunky controls for each scenario; Superman stands out in this category. In flight or where third person battles occur there is a lack of inverted controls, which is a standard in almost all games in today’s generation.

However, this is all just a small part to a solid overall game adding itself onto an ever-popular series.

 

Score: 8.0 / 10

Valhalla: United super hero personalities are hilarious, Improved Co-op, Enjoyable Story

Hel: Controls are Clunky at Times, Little Innovation

 

Here at Top Tyr each game is played through its entirety before the review process begins. The review is based on entertaining gameplay, story and innovative advancement in gaming. Intangibles and changes between sequels are also viewed.