The Scrap Yard

Review of Syndicate for Xbox 360

If I hadn’t listened to the media and had played Syndicate in 2012, it would’ve been on that top 5 list. Hell, it might’ve been number 2. It’s THAT good. It’s three of my favorite things wrapped up into a nice, gun-toting package: Halo, TRON and the Matrix. The only thing missing from Syndicate is Keanu Reeves.images

Syndicate is the story of a dystopic future where businesses have more power than governments, and have private militaries to enforce their products. The majority of humans have chip-implants in their heads linked to their favorite businesses. In other words, Apple gets a lot bigger in the next few years.

The story is enough to make the gameplay believable, where you go around “breaching” (hacking and inserting viruses) into enemies’ chips and software, giving you godlike powers. You can go into a special slo-mo matrix mode called DART overlay, which makes all enemies visible and slows time to a halt. This means you can do everything from getting an enemy to kill themselves and surrounding foes to slow-mo headshotting five guards in under a second. It’s a seriously intense combo.

Syndicate doesn’t rely solely on its extremely cool gimmicks (although they are enough to support the game on their own), offering a wide variety of weapons for the player to use. Everything from rocket launchers to flame throwers are at your disposal, allowing you to shock, cut open or burn your enemies to a crisp all in the most stylish of ways. This wide variety of firearms coupled with the fantastic breaching mechanic adds up to one awesome gameplay experience, and there are even minor elements of first-person parkour to ice the cake. Overally, the gameplay is kick-ass.Syndicate-2012-03-01-12-25-51-63

The single player campaign makes full use of all the gameplay features I discussed above, and creates a really fun eight to nine hour experience. The story is relatively engrossing, the characters are memorable, and Kilo (the agent you play as) is a complete bad-ass. Unlike Splinter Cell: Conviction, it actually makes sense for this main character to be an unstoppable tank, which I absolutely love. With all of the compliments that I’ve given the campaign, I will stress that it’s nothing more than a tutorial for the amazing online co-op, which in all actuality is the real meat of Syndicate.

The co-op is the only form of multiplayer in Syndicate, but this is good for two reasons: No online pass from EA, and that all of the issues with competitive FPS multiplayer mechanics are instantly avoided. This allows you to have nonstop co-op fun, which is easy to do provided everyone who still plays Syndicate online is relatively good. Another easy way to ensure a good group for co-op is to join a syndicate, this game’s form of the clan system. It’s a REALLY cool in-game feature that allows for great leaderboard competition between syndicates and encourages you to play a lot and contribute to your syndicate’s overall score. Playing isn’t a hassle either, as the multitude of maps for co-op are all well designed and are scaled perfectly for the three difficulties the game offers. Each difficulty offers a different experience and allows for a tough as nails challenge, something a true gamer always wants.imagessyndicatre

Before we get to the part where I say “In conclusion, go out and buy multiple copies of Syndicate for yourself and everyone you know” I have to list some pros and cons so you get the idea of how much this game excels.

Pros:
-Gameplay mechanics like breaching are fantastic and well-developed
-Mission structure in campaign is solid and tells a good story
-characters and premise are cool
-Co op is fantastic
-Creating the ultimate syndicate with others is addicting
-Atmosphere literally radiates the Matrix
-Soundtrack is the best of the best dubstep (Skrillex? Yep. Nero? Check.)

Cons:
-Campaign may not satisfy players who only want Syndicate’s singleplayer component
-Main character Kilo may not engross some players
-Online servers have occasional hiccups

Needless to say, Syndicate is kick-ass. Rocking out to Skrillex while slow-mo shotgunning an agent in the skull while brainwashing his partner to help you is oodles of fun, and provides the best FPS experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. I’m extremely sad that sales of this game were so lacking and caused EA to lose any incentive in a sequel, so the best plan of action I can recommend is to go out and buy this game for anyone and everyone so that EA can see there is a community that will buy another Syndicate. This is one FPS that really deserves another installment.

The Scrap Yard

Review of Borderlands for Xbox 360

Before we talk Borderlands, let’s take a second to talk Gamerrob. It was this blog’s two year anniversary about five days ago, and I’m still here posting reviews for people of the internet to see. Phew. Alright, now let’s get to the review!imagesCAKGXMR0

Borderlands is the intriguing tale of a some looters who go hunting for some alien tech and stuff. The end.

Story aside, the core of the game is this:
A.) Pick up a gun.
B.) Shoot a lot of monsters until you level up.
C.) Pick up more guns.
D.) Rinse and repeat the following steps with friends.

Borderlands doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and it totally admits to being a slightly above average first person shooter. But it’s in that admittal, that honesty and sincerety, that Borderlands grows wings and becomes its own gaming butterfly. It fuses insanely loose arcade driving gameplay, weapon generating, four player co-op and standard FPS gameplay into a neat open-world package. It’s a solid enough game, and definitely appeals to anyone ranging from the Skyrim to Crysis crowds.

Borderlands has two real strong points, those being its co-op and insane amount of guns. The marketers of this game were genius, as they obviously knew what made this game good. Those of us who are compulsive and want the very best stats and not 1% less than that will be driven insane looking for better and better guns, which never seem to run out. Doing a task like that might sound tedious, but when coupled with the other highlight of this game, the co-op, Borderlands is a damn good time. Running through the massive (and environmentally varied) cell-shaded environments with three people and a lot of gunfire is a hell of a lot of fun, if a little on the “plain, stupid fun” side. There aren’t really goals (well, there are, but they’re all collect X amount of something or shoot X amount of something type quests), but occasionally you’ll come across a huge boss character and having friends along for the ride for these bosses really brings Borderlands to the pinnacle of its enjoyment factor.

There are two real issues with Borderlands: The dreadful online community and lack of in-game depth. The online community constantly abuses the development flaws of allowing anyone to do anything, which leads to the host getting jerked around to maps he didn’t want to go to. Trying to get to Earl’s scrapyard? Well, some random dipstick who’s playing with you is deciding to teleport the whole group to the Rust Commons, so screw you. This is why you play with friends. The other issue goes hand in hand with playing online with people, as it really shows Borderlands’ lack of depth. As you run around shooting things with other people online, you realize you’re doing dozens of missions within hours, with no plot, connection or any sort of intrigue present. You’re just running, shooting, driving and shooting again. This isn’t a terrible thing, it just stops you from really getting enveloped in Borderlands vast territories and supposed lore.

The final verdict is get Borderlands as a fun weekend buy with friends. It’s cheap enough that you can get the GOTY edition for under twenty bucks, and it’s a hell of a lot of mindless fun if you’re just in the mood to watch things go boom in all of their cell-shaded glory.

The Scrap Yard

Review of Metro 2033 for Xbox 360

Neither THQ nor Glukhovsky could make Metro 2033 work, and it makes me sad inside. Really, the premise of an underground post-nuke society is fantastic and is ripe with possibility, yet the book was just too philosophical and game isn’t philosophical enough.imagesCAKXTQTX

Metro 2033 is the story of Russians living underground after the face of the planet was destroyed by nuclear war. They live in metro stations, being hunted by the mutated creatures that were at one time people like them. Needless to say, Metro 2033 is pretty eerie, as far as plots go. The problem is, with this level of eeriness shouldn’t it be scary? Roaming dark metro tunnels alone, knowing mutants could be in the shadows at any given moment should be a terrifying experience… but it quickly turns into tedium. This is just the first of many problems to plague Metro 2033.

The action is divided into “stealth”, “horror” and generic FPS gameplay. The reason I put two of those in quotes is because the game does a piss-poor job executing them, and barely wings the FPS genre. The stealth only occurs in maybe three sections (out of a couple dozen), and isn’t realistic at all. You step on a bone, it makes a little rustle, and all of a sudden every guard in the level instantly starts pumping shotgun rounds into you. As far as horror goes, the best I can give Metro is props for the atmospheric horror. When you’re roaming a dark tunnel, can’t see a thing, but hear the growls of mutants getting closer and closer, things get scary. But the issue is, things never elevate from that and eventually the atmosphere wears off. I think there was only one real jump scare in the entire game, and it was within the first two hours.

As far as the FPS mechanics go, they’re not exactly dated, but not very current. You don’t get to enjoy true FPS fun due to the fact the game is super hardcore about its premise and you’ll only get access to the sh*t guns that metro survivors have salvaged, which isn’t much. I rarely found myself using anything other than a shotgun and a pistol, a pretty blase` combo if you ask me.

Actual level design isn’t amazing, but it’s not terrible. The game does a good job providing you with ways to go about a level, and sneaking past an enemy is occasionally a worthwhile endeavor. My only issue with level design is that later in the game you come across floating warts that explode puss on you and they are downright cheap, which pretty much ruins the end-game tension.

The things that Metro 2033 does uniquely are nice little touches, but nothing to save this game from its own obscurity. You have to charge your flashlight manually, wear a gas mask on the surface of Moscow due to toxic radiation, and so on and so forth. It sort of brings you into the world of Metro, but not enough to actually make you want to stay.

Overall, I deem Metro a worthwhile dirt-cheap purchase if you’re in the market for some uber-realistic FPS-ing. If you want a good FPS, go play Syndicate. If you want a good horror/stealth game, go play a classic Resident Evil. If you want an eight hour adventure that kind of senselessly mashes together the genres I just named, Metro 2033 is the shooter for you.

The Scrap Yard

Review of Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale for PS Vita

Zelda acquired the smash ball- wait, wrong game.all-stars-lead-440x270

It’s widely known that PS All-Stars is Sony’s crack at making a successful Playstation-ized Super Smash Bros., and for the most part Sony admits that. But there was that little band of Superbot design team members who were determined to seperate this from Super Smash Bros., to make it its own game. The best thing they could conjure up? Super move kills only.

All cynicism aside, the game does a good job at being an original twist on the practically perfect Nintendo formula. Twenty characters, the majority of which are exclusive to Playstation, battle it out on small maps with up to four people. It’s a button-masher, nostalgia-inducer and fighter all wrapped up into a nice, family-friendly package. Does that mean it’s actually a good game?

I’ll put it bluntly: If you’ve never been spoiled with the glory that is Super Smash Bros. Brawl, then PS All Stars is for you. But once you’ve played the masterpiece by Nintendo, going back to Sony’s title with amateur developing mistakes like “super move kills only” just won’t do. The idea is fun, but in reality it just makes everything really unbalanced. Characters like Raiden and Nathan Drake have level 1 supers (super moves can be attained through basic combat and level up the more combos you pull off) that are on par with characters like Sackboy’s level 3. So depending on who you’re playing with, racking up kill points will either be a walk in the park or a near impossible task, and that kind of balancing, or lack there of, just isn’t acceptable in a supposedly “hardcore” tournament worthy fighter.

Not only are supers overpowered with some characters, but basic move sets aren’t balanced either. Colonel Radec has this cheap-ass sniper attack that can knock fifty shades of snot out of someone across the map, while most of Parappa the Rappa’s attacks can’t hit anything beyond point-blank range. Now, character and moveset variety is to be expected, but movesets that encourage piss-poor playing? Not exactly what I’d call a smart gameplay element.

I’ve been pretty harsh to the game thus far, but it does have some nifty features. The stages are unique combinations of various Playstation series’ levels, and some even have environmental hazards (though not to a degree where it feels anything more than just a petty annoyance, unlike SSBB). The items are solid enough to give the player an edge but not overpowered like a smashball or a really good pokeball in Super Smash Bros., so that’s another thing PS All-Stars has going for it. The menus showcase different characters every time you boot the game, which is a nice touch.  And that’s pretty much all I have to say in terms of complimenting this game.

At the end of the day, is this a Super Smash Bros. copycat worth your money? Frankly, no. Sure, it’s fun for Sony fans and people who want to see Big Daddys trample Sackboys (or vise versa), but otherwise you should stick to Nintendo’s superior game, or get this one after a twenty dollar price drop.