Friday, June 29, 2012
Score: 8 / 10Quantum Conundrum
PC - Xbox Live - PSN
Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: June 21st, 2012 (July 11th for consoles)
- Dimension switching gameplay is simple, and easy to get the hang of
- Feeling of satisfaction from solving each room never lessens
- Cartoon atmosphere is enjoyable and entertaining
- Repeating interluding hallways and textures become an eye sore
- Abrupt, and lackluster ending
- Little incentive in replay value
Imagine If You Will
You assume the role of a twelve year old on an annual visit to his uncle's mansion. His latest undertaking causes an explosion, sending him to another dimension with short term memory loss and leaving you alone to a mansion full of faulty experiments. Donning his latest dimension altering glove, he guides you through the task of restoring power to the mansion and finding a way to bring your uncle back. The game does not possess a very compelling narrative, but the simple story is all that is necessary for a puzzle title. The quirky persona of your uncle will guide you through each room and acts as the soul source of dialogue with only an occasional cutscene to hint an ominous events to come. The story serves its purpose, but the abrupt ending will do little in terms of closure.
The look in Quantum Conundrum is akin to a Saturday morning cartoon. A palette of colors adorns each room, portraits of characters change with each dimension switch, and fuzzy adorable Ike creatures add to the humor of the game. With every change in dimension, the environment around you adapts accordingly with the fluffy dimension adding a lighter haze to your view and the gravity dimension throwing a green hue about the room. The textures and lighting may not exceed most of what is out there, but it melds well with the overall cartoonish atmosphere.
Your uncle is the sole source of conversational dialogue, and John De Lancie makes a fantastic mad scientist persona with numerous chuckle worthy puns and quips to break the silence. The audio is all tied together with a fitting original soundtrack, complete with one catchy end-credits tune.
The Powerglove of 2012
From a first person perspective you solve a series of physics based puzzles to progress from room to room. These usually involve hitting a series of switches to domino over into opening a door. The mansion is split into three zones, each culminating with powering a generator at the conclusion to open up the next area. As you enter each room you cannot shake the feeling of being a lab rat as you press every button available to you to piece together the intended solution.
The core concept lies in switching between four different dimensions to alter the density of objects, time, and gravity of the world around you. Fluffy dimensions makes things adorable and lighter, allowing you pick up heavy safes with ease to move them around the room or create momentary platforms near a fan. Heavy dimension makes everything heavier, offering objects immunity to being destroyed by lasers and allowing cardboard boxes to hold down switches or break glass when thrown. Slow-mo dimension will slow everything around you while you maintain normal speed. Lastly, anti-gravity dimension changes the polarity of gravity for objects in the room. You soon find you are able to mix these abilities together to add further possibilities, such as picking up a safe with fluffy, tossing it and hopping on with slow mo, then using it to cross a gap by alternating anti-gravity on and off.
Accompanying these physics altering features are a slew of hazards that you must overcome. Lasers that can destroy objects, ceiling height fans that can blow your platform away, and bottomless pits are just a few of the many hazards you have to work around to reach your goal. Your glove powers are also kept in check by locking out select dimensions until you retrieve the appropriate battery. Rarely will you ever have all four dimensions available in each room, and in one puzzle you even choose your preferred power at the start. The later complexity in utilizing spring boards and platforming with slow mo can be entertaining, but no puzzle really sticks with you.
The core game itself is completed in about four hours time depending on how often you stray from the beaten path, but there are a few things you can do once all is said and done. A level select option is available with opportunities to beat time goals or complete each room without dying. There are also a number of hidden collectibles tucked away in less obvious corners of the map to hunt for, but the most these will do is add decor to your hub room.
Though DLC is inbound, there is not a lot offered considering the price tag. Some challenge rooms or a multiplayer feature would have been welcome, but as it is Quantum Conundrum feels like a bare bones campaign. The general experience is great, but it tends to get dragged down with a few issues in platforming and finding your footing, repeating hallways, and a lackluster closing segment.
Quantum Conundrum is a unique, albeit short-lived, experience. The dimensional rifts add plenty of variety to the puzzles, and the feeling of accomplishment with each room never lessens. Its obvious similarities to Portal feel more like an inspiration, and less like a cheap rip-off. The small nuances can get in the way of the game's intended experience, but you should be able to look past them to see the solid puzzle game that lies underneath and fans of Portal will find plenty to enjoy.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Spec Ops: The Line
PC - Xbox 360 - PS3
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Some stunning physics and incredible looking visuals make this one game to keep your eye on. The game focuses on the natural elements to provide dynamic terrain changing during gameplay, such as the sandstorms bringing in new pieces of cover. Coupled with a multiplayer and multiple modes carrying over online, this is the title to own for the month of June.
Score: 8 / 10Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
PC - Xbox 360 - PS3
Release Date: May 22nd, 2012
- Solid cover to cover shooting mechanic
- Gunsmith provides an impressive way to customize each weapon
- Interesting array of multiplayer modes to choose from
- Challenges provide incentive to return to Campaign
- No matchmaking for the cooperative portion of game types
- Campaign pacing becomes predictable after a few missions
- Rough visuals during cinematic sequences
If I Die, I Am So Going to Haunt You
Ghost Team Predator is wiped out when a standard assignment turns up a bomb and the mission goes south. It's up to Ghost Team Hunter to find the responsible parties and avenge their fallen brethren. As each source of intel links to another, a much bigger plan reveals itself and the ghosts must quell a larger threat in their road to revenge. You get most of the story from cinematic sequences and briefings introducing each mission. Unfortunately, the story begins to take that typical turn in military shooters where the player is left wondering why they are in certain areas and told to eliminate certain enemies. The game lands a few attempts at humanizing the soldiers in your squad, but the story fails to wrap you in and ends rather abruptly.
The visual appeal of Ghost Recon is slightly bipolar, looking gorgeous one minute and incredibly dated the next. Environments are profoundly detailed, in no small part due to a fantastic play on lighting in several areas and effects in the environment like sight blinding sandstorms or sudden flashes of lightning. Your squad will wade through waist high swamp waters, navigate blindly through snow storms, and even peruse through a forest in the Fall. On a few occasions, the eye catching views can be skewed when you are stuck in a vision mode. Character models for the four squad mates are gritty and real, and the solid motion capture assists in crafting some believable performances. During the cutscenes, however, the game goes from gorgeous to blocky with rough textures and doll-like characters.
Accompanying the look of a battlefield is the very gritty sound. Future Soldier makes sure that each bullet that leaves the chamber of your gun is audibly pleasing, and everything from sniper fire to light machine gun rounds are satisfying to shoot. The shouts of enemy positions and riddling of bullet fire all combine to craft that intense feeling of being in a firefight. The music is solid enough to fuel each battle, with movie like tracks influencing those tenser moments, though the occasional dubstep tracks that pop up feel a bit out of place.
The Future is Now
Future Soldier's campaign takes you over thirteen mission and is a team based cover shooter at heart, with plenty of stealth segments mixed in between to keep things interesting. Being a cover shooter, it only takes a few rounds before your character will drop getting to the heart of what makes ghost recon what it is; part skill and part strategy. Playing it smart and knowing when to run is key to survival, especially on the tougher difficulties. There are even some segments where stealth can even be used to skip a fight entirely. The campaign ends up being rather easy, and only becomes truly enjoyable if playing on Elite where if you are downed, you die.
The stealth segments are about playing it careful and picking off troops without detection, in which your gadgets and vision modes can assist you greatly. You are able to mark up to four targets that you can drop simultaneously, which can be done manually or by way of a flying drone. Cloaking automatically occurs when crouched to assist in getting in position and lining up targets, but can still warrant detection if your close to an enemy. It ends up being a game of watching troop patterns and making sure that no soldier finds a dead body. Some segments actually require stealth in order to progress, but in most cases failure to accomplish the task results in an influx of enemy troops.
The firefights in the game are plentiful enough to shake off the suppressed weapons in favor of something louder. Enemies have the ability to "suppress" you by laying firing on your position, resulting in a shaky camera and inaccurate aiming until your teammate intervenes. You can still mark targets and call out certain troops to attack. The friendly AI holds up well enough, and will automatically call out enemy positions. Cover to cover transitions are quick and easy, allowing you to get in position without sacrificing time or exposing your head too long.
There is no "I" in Team...or Ghost
The co-operative at heart will find a decent offering in this title. The campaign can be played with up to four human counterparts in lieu of the AI. There is also a Guerilla mode, akin to typical horde mode setup of other titles. Waves of enemies will converge on your position, with interluding waves offering a switch in weaponry, reward for completing waves successfully, and resupply of gadgets. The mode holds up well enough but with fifty waves...it can wear thin after the first handful. The most disappointing factor is that neither of the co-operative modes mentioned have matchmaking, so be prepared to hit up the forums for some Gamertags if your friends did not pick up their copy.
If competitive multiplayer is more your style, then Future Soldier has you covered. Two teams of 6 are dropped into an arena with varying objectives, and each team is split into squads of three. You have the ability to spawn on your teammate or a designated area, gaining points for working as a team instead of acting the lone wolf. Three classes are available at the start with varying equipment; ranging from the all around Soldier, to the stealthy Scout, and close-quarters Engineer.
There are four base game types at your disposal: The Conquest mode acts as the go-to game, in which objectives such as destroying a point or defending a device are continually updated, with the winning team gaining an advantage over the other. Decoy mode spawns a defense and attack team to squabble over three points, in which only one really matters. Siege will allow a defending team time to setup and hold off an attacking team with no respawns. Lastly, Saboteur involves two teams fighting over a bomb to plant on the opposing faction's side. While Siege and Saboteur are pretty standard, the Conquest and Decoy modes end up being the most enjoyable. Though there is some slight server lag and a lack of any real introduction for new players, the multiplayer is a pretty enjoyable experience.
When you are not out hunting the masses you will be customizing your arsenal, and this is where Ghost Recon truly shines. The Gunsmith customization allows you to completely assemble a weapon of your choice right down to the trigger. Picking out that ideal weapon is made even simpler with the ability to pop in and out of a firing range from the menu to test out modifications. With hundreds of choices and endless combinations of accessories, the gunsmith mode is a fantastic addition to the game that makes each weapon your own.
Competitive multiplayer even allows you to customize your classes. At a certain level a "crossroads" decision is made on the particular gadget or weapon you would like your class to use. You end up choosing between two weapon types or even the ability to use a decoy grenade or dragon's breath incendiary ammunition. This further level of modifications allows players to assign themselves roles like a support or suppression role. It is unfortunate that most of these are locked out until the later levels however, making new players prime targets for the seasoned vets.
Upon completion of the actual campaign there are a slew of smaller objectives to achieve. These include level by level challenges that unlock additional weapons and modifications in the campaign to new classes only available after leveling your characters in multiplayer. There is even a Kinect gameplay integration that proves...interesting to say the least.
Ghost Recon has a few areas that border the typical, but it manages to provide a solid third-person shooter. There are a slew of challenges, multiplayer unlocks, and rewards to provide incentive to revisit the Campaign and try out different multiplayer modes. While the lack of matchmaking for the co-operative experiences is a let down, there is a split screen option to get your buddy in on the action to alleviate that downfall. Future Soldier is a great all-around title if you have a group of friends willing to work with you.