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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Can’t Stop: Halo 4

The Can’t Stop Segment is my personal look into my current gaming addiction. Voiding any objectivity, I explain whatever my gaming central is and why.

No Multiplayer has grabbed and never let me go since COD: Modern Warfare 2. Yes, it has been that long since I was addicted to any kind of multiplayer. Halo 4’s Every detail from the updated radar to personal loadouts has changed the gameplay enough to make it original without changing what is Halo. The added game types each week along with an engaging Spartan Ops keeps players and me, coming back for more no matter how much I can still be shown there is always a bigger fish with a bigger gun.

Multiplayer added balance to each warrior with loadouts for players to strategize their attack. Each primary and secondary weapons feel balanced, yet might fire faster with less accuracy or have more range but less ammo and fire rate. It ends the dreadful Spartan charge at each other to see who got the most headshots with the Battle Rifle, which Halo 3 multiplayer became. The radar has quick glance understanding potential instead of being a cypher to read. Glad 343 studios finally added vehicle images to the radar.

Added gametpes spawn new fans of old genres to Halo4, allowing all of us to enjoy the basics before divulging in our more specified favorites. They need to hurry up and unveil the Objective Big Team Battle gametype. Update: Multiplayer has now released the first DLC release date. Three maps are to be added on December 10.

Loadouts personalize your spawned spartan by choosing a primary and secondary weapon, along with a support upgrade, armor ability and class-style upgrade. Loadouts also carry over between Multiplayer and Spartans. Build your Ultimate Spartan for any situation.

Spartan Ops is my new DLC addiction. It releases one episode a week, consisting of five missions, giving me something new to come back to each week. Five special challenges that are not as easy as the campaign. A challenge for single player or in a group along with difficulty changes provides outstanding replay value. It might use the same maps from multiplayer or part of the campaign, but it’s best to have home-field advantage because even on heroic these enemies aren’t push-overs. I personally feel Spartan Ops is the most efficiently innovative product since Gears of War’s Horde mode and before that the COD: World at War Zombies and the creation of matchmaking for Halo 2. (Okay maybe not as big as the last one.)

Don’t believe me? Play Spartan Ops Episode 3 Mission 4. Heavy Weapons, Heavy Vehicles Galore… and that is just 1 out of 50 missions totaling 10 episodes. They have already sold me on future DLC Seasons.

Changes? – Hopefully 343 Studios adds skulls or penalties for death to create an even harder challenge and an even greater replay value. As they release more seasons, I would like to see how they plan to improve upon their original idea.

Assassin’s Creed 3 Review

The time has finally come, or rather the history has. The war between the Templars and Assassins reaches the summit of the battle between freedom with privileged chaos and control with enslaved order. Ubisoft grants us with the historic American Revolution and the present day Mayan apocalypse as the battleground, but the hype machine turns the expectations towards for the worse. The game feels simplified, segmented and forced at times.

Assassin’s Creed 3 jumps right to it, by picking up right where it ended in Revelations. The storyline is a vast one, spanning 35 years (1747-1782) and playing as several characters. With such a massive undertaking narration bridges gaps between years, teaching us the assassin’s history as it parallels with our own. The game begins in Britain with a Hytham Kenway, a man sent to search the new world with a mysterious key.

Just like any of the other in the series, AC3 is loaded with historic people, places and events without the patriotic propaganda. The early main-story missions cover one historical event after the next, but each feels as an interactive history lesson than an Assassin’s Creed game.  This is where the game falls flat. The story builds around the end of the world paralleled with the revolution, but it leaves us chasing the hype and build until the game just ends.

The game has its moments with gameplay mixing well with history and the great atmosphere the trilogy has always produced. From scene to scene, the game creates layers of gameplay, but without a foundation of consistent gameplay. Instead of building to the epic conclusion, like previous games, each mission feels like a separate mini-game from the last.

The story continues to remind players this time period was filled with doubt and mistakes. Each side shows a reasoning and understanding to the British, Americans, Assassins and Templars. Their enemies and friends overlap one another to create an un-American action story. Nothing is simple when enemies become allies and allies become enemies, leaving Connor in the middle of this historic conflict only to learn that his resolution is not as easy when he entered.

But as any Assassin’s Creed fan knows we’re not here for the history, but for the future, specifically 12/21/2012. After finding the first civilization room AC: Revelations lead Desmond to, two devices prevent him from completing his journey to save the world, a key and a few power supplies.

Desmond Miles has developed into a vocal character, a change from the popular silent-types. He continues to have a growing role in gameplay, but still falls short will limited gameplay compared to the expanded role fans expected.

The controls are awkward at first, but as characters change there is a realization that each character moves different. The adjustments remain smooth and intuitive with an occasionally improved tweak, like the previous AC installments. Climbing is easier with a more lenient and less precise stick movement allowing the player to just consistently push in the direction wanted and not needed.

Ship battles replace the unpopular Assassin’s Den Defense mini game. There is a learning curve, but more because most of have no foundation of sailing. When battle arrives three factors always apply: wind, position and weapons. Wind works with the sails, giving the ship three speeds. Position is the most forgotten when turning to line up the ship, because turning into the wind is disastrous. The weapon number and type can change any battle, or quickly end it. Cannons can increase in number with upgrades, while smaller swivel cannons can deliver a precise hit. Each needs constant adjustment if the battle is to be won. When it all comes together, it can result in yelling victory with Connor’s AI shipmates.

Every Assassin needs a manor to maintain and Connor doesn’t miss out. Most of the design remains the same from previous games, but it differs in money made. No more city reconstruction, each group is recruited through homestead missions. Each recruit added improves trade capabilities, the sole income for the manor. Crafting is also new, allowing players to create numerous products for profit, although it is segmented from the rest of the game and not required.

Other parts seem segmented and thrown into the game without any connection or requirement to the main story. Hunting is for fur and meat, but those only result in small funds. Money is less important, which keeps focus on the game at the cost of removing any purchasing of item collections and upgrades.

The Assassin’s guild is back, but this time it is another segmented afterthought. Recruiting assassins is practically the same, but now each one adds a special ability to aid Connor. The problem is nothing of it is needed. The guild and their missions are forgotten except for mini-missions and for unnecessary income. The frontier is another forced new idea in AC 3, but again it feels more as the area between cities, not something wanted to venture.

The frontier is beautiful, but feels more grueling than entertaining. Tree-to-tree movement is preferred, but too limited, leading to never looking for the opportunity at all. However, when finding the chance in the forest, free running is fluid with dash of sexy and a pint of blood. Not always available, swooping from tree to tree while hunting Connors enemies below seems reminiscent of the classic Predator movie, and you feel just as powerful with your own belt of tools. The rope dart is the new unique weapon that fits the assassins as well as it is deadly. The dart gives options for above and equal-level kills. From above Connor hangs his enemies and on equal ground Connor can pull his enemies into the bushes when out of reach for the silent kill. Unfortunately, there is never a time to use it, except when being trained for it.

Combat has received minor changes. Left trigger has been completely removed leaving no need for locking in and out of battle. If multiple enemies attack Connor a successful counter produces an action-packed double kill cinematic. The enemies keep the same variety requiring a different battle strategy with each new group faced, keeping the excitement throughout the game.

Assassin’s Creed 3 as a whole is not greater than the sum of all its parts. The game lacks the larger picture, connecting all of the nuances and side missions and abilities throughout that the series gamers are promised. The continuation of the present-day end of the world story shrinks in size with each new game in the series. The story will continue onward, but hopefully future games in the series will focus on the reason Desmond continues to enter the animus and not the animus itself. Or hopefully about assassinations and not being a financial assassin.

SCORE: 7.25

Valhalla: The Historic Choice, Gameplay, Naval Battles

Hel: Desmond gameplay, No strong core story, No Risk to the next level, Ventures away from original AC games

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.   

Halo 4 Review

 

From a new Halo developer come new enemies, a new planet and new issues. 343 Studios takes the Halo reigns from Bungie for a new trilogy, but will it be approved from diehard Halo fans and multiplayer junkies? 343 walks a thin line by expanded the genre while holding true to the Halo core. It adds detail to each game aspect from sounds and visuals to plot and gameplay for a strong first step into the next Halo saga.

Halo 4 begins almost five years since Halo 3 and plenty has changed while Chief has been napping. Character depth became an apparent goal for 343 studios with John and Cortana. Master Chief peaked in Halo 3 saving humanity, but everyone has moved on from those times. The Chief is no longer immortalized. He is just another solider being put in his place early into the game. Cortana is having rampancy issues, as all AI do after seven years leading to their deletion. Each has their own issue to resolve, despite needing to save the world from a new threat. The duo of brains and brawn show a closer side for one another beyond just death defying relationship during war. These two are not alone in their endeavors, encountering new friends along with their new enemies.

After finding out whom he is in the viral video series “Forward Unto Dawn,” Tom Lasky takes baby steps into the virtual spot light to become a strong character for the Halo series. He looks to form a replacement to his outdated commanding officers from the first trilogy. For looming threat ahead, Lasky commands several other soldiers and officers for Chief to meet, like Spartan Sarah Palmer.

The theme of the man and machine relationship and man becoming machine to achieve victory is wrapped around the plot of a solid FPS standard 8-10 hours. The game creates several scenarios of action constantly being changed up among the eight lengthy levels. The new enemies, the Prometheans, are the mechanized enemy threat Spartan 117 has never faced.

The Knight in his shining armor

The Prometheans are another caste system of warriors like the Covenant. Prometheans have three units working together to create a chaotic battlefield. The foundation begins with the knight: a powerful slow moving shielded enemy willing to withstand massive amounts of firepower while dishing out his own. Much like the elite, the knight can and will go toe-to-toe with the Chief, but is rarely alone. The knight will summon another unit, the watcher, to provide support by giving extra shielding or throwing back grenades. Still everything would be the same typical strategy fighting the covenant, until the third piece of the puzzle enters: the crawler. A weak but pack oriented four-legged creature, the crawler causes chaos by surrounding and flushing Master Chief out of cover and into heavier firepower.

When it comes to firepower, Halo 4 puts fresh weapons into the hands of Spartan 117, while maintaining a familiar feel to the Halo series. Each weapon has new sound effects, making each weapon species unique and identifiable from the other.  While reloading and firing human weapons have a more mechanical vibe than forerunners advanced tech or the finesse based weaponry from the covenant. New weapons stay within the classic Halo categories, but now each category provides options. For example, the SAW feels like Halo’s basic assault rifle but it has a 100 round magazine. The forerunner beam rifle acts as the former battle rifle, while the new DMR is a short mag capacity but provides more damage.

Vehicles have a more powerful feel along with subtle changes. The classic warthog has a new look, a better grip on the ground and more muscle. The engine sounds as powerful as they come, along with devastating firepower with the upgraded gauss rifle. The new Mantis, a manned-mech with rockets and a mini-gun, can face several enemies on the field and hold its own. The tank remains the same, but the shell launches at a slower rate, while subtle visuals like the large shell casing launched out of the cannon adds a robust realism. A final note for vehicles, something rumored for almost every Halo since the original, Halo 4 puts Chief in control of a pelican.

Not every change was a good one as checkpoints. Checkpoints appear to have lost their timing. Many times after dying Chief would respawn several rooms back, because I refused to pause between sequences, allowing the game to recognize the checkpoint.

This time around multiplayer aligns itself with the story in two ways. The multiplayer, Halo fans are familiar to, remains the same as a training ground for new Spartans. The other is Spartan Ops: a four player co-op story mission that releases four episodes each week telling an entirely new story throughout 50 missions. Multiple seasons are planned, but 343 Studios was kind enough to release the first season of all 50 missions with the games release, to keep continuing the story of Halo 4.

The loadout formula has been enhanced, following the Call of Duty formula by unlocking weapons along with visual customizations. Each Spartan receives loadout points as they level up to spend on unlockables they want. Personalizing loadouts takes the reigns with a primary and secondary weapon slot, grenade slot, armor ability and a passive armor upgrade. Players can also unlock four extra loadout slots to save different strategies and preferences. These work the same for Spartan Ops, giving players the chance to build their ultimate spartan.

Multiplayer, now called War Games, keeps the majority of game type variance from past Halos with a few extras like Regicide and Flood, while removing objective big team battle. Flood is this games zombie mode, except players fight as Spartans and zombies. Regicide is free for all, but marks one player as a higher kill score. All the others remain the same except for Oddball and Capture the Flag. Oddball now added passing, and intercepting, while CTF allows your supersolider to actually multi-task with a flag in one hand and a pistol in the other.

Multiplayer gameplay has improved with weapon positioning on the map. By periodically dropping ordinance instead of assigning weapon spawns to points on the battlefield, players will stop guarding weapon spawns. Everyone can see when the random weapon spawns, because they put it on every player’s HUD. As kill streaks increase, players get their own personal ordinance with three random choices. Still the biggest enhancement is the radar. Now instead of just dots, players can see specifics, like vehicles and their neutral, opposing or friendly identifying colors.

Every multiplayer game will have its slip ups in respawn positioning, so does Halo 4. The difference this time is the minimum player requirement is too low. When a carried over game begins, the game may start two v. one and result in uneven teams even after others join.

Score: 9.75 / 10

Valhalla: Detailed Improvements Everywhere, Spartan Ops, Best Halo Graphics

Hel: Multiplayer minimums, Checkpoint issues

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.   

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.   

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.