The Scrap Yard

Review of Avengers: Battle for Earth for Kinect

If there’s one thing that can convince me to re-buy Microsoft’s motion controlled peripheral Kinect, it’s the promise of a fully-fleshed out Avengers game. I’m proud to announce that Ubisoft succeeded in this endeavor, and if you were on the fence about getting a Kinect and/or Avengers B4E, it’s definitely worth the investment.imagesCAEE1GQY

After my relatively fun time with Injustice and the DC universe, I decided to see what Marvel had in store for my fighting game itch. In return, I got a fighting game package that housed as much content as Injustice, just forgoing the superfluous S.T.A.R. missions and instead providing a wide assortment of interesting challenges with subtle modifiers. The other modes such as arcade and story all provided equally meaningful content to the game, all of which was twice as fun in B4E’s fantastic co-op.

The story mode has a pretty interesting story that doesn’t feel like a bunch of superhero multiverse cliches (… Injustice), but instead makes use of Marvel’s villains to provide a serviceable and relevant comic book plotline that you can actually get swept up in. It all begins when the Skrulls begin using their morphing powers to impersonate earth’s favorite heroes, which means the Avengers need to put these imposters in their place. Like I said, serviceable and perfect for the source material.

Once you get through the fourty one fights in story mode, there’s still a large amount of content to explore. The challenges and character missions are a blast, either helping you to explore a character’s move set or take on increasingly difficult modifiers to hone your battle skills. They feel nothing like a tutorial, however, and fit the game’s short-but-intense fighting mentality. Lastly, there’s arcade, a relatively standard fighting game component that pits your team of characters against increasingly difficult teams of AI. The challenge increases at a good pace, never leaving you blown away by enemies’ sudden ability to pummel you to pieces.

While all of that provides a hefty single player experience, the multiplayer adds a whole new dimension to an already superb amount of content. Campaign and arcade can be played in glorious co-op, and the Kinect tracks two people simultaneously surprisingly well. On top of that, there are offline and online competitive matches, and they’re both fantastic. Offline competitive fighting provides the same level of precision motion-tracking and fun as any other offline multiplayer mode, and online I encountered no lag whatsoever. Actually finding a match took a little bit of time (two or three minutes), but that’s to be expected with any Kinect game with online multiplayer. As an added incentive to play online, there are even player cards and collectable titles you can use to represent yourself online, and while it may seem standard for most fighters, it was a really nice touch in a Kinect fighter which most would wrongly assume to have less depth.

Being a Kinect only game, none of this content would amount to scratch if the controls weren’t solid. Luckily, the actual controls and the tracking of movements are both superb, easily the best I’ve encountered on the Kinect to date. All of the moves feel authentic to their character, such as holding your hands up high and raising one leg to have Spider-Man sling into and then kick an opponent, or open your arms and then slam them shut to have Hulk chuck a slab of rock at an enemy. All of the motions tie together perfectly for combos and juggles, providing a combat experience with depth and strategy. The dodging mechanic is especially well incorporated, being a simple shoulder lean to the left or the right to dodge incoming attacks. It’s fluid, fast and fun, simple as that. I occasionally ran into some weird screen freezes (about four times over the course of my play time) and the occasional framerate drop, but these were isolated enough that it didn’t rupture the experience.

-Cohesive story with nice comic-book presentation
-Huge roster of 20 characters from all over the Marvel universe, ranging from Iron Man to Super Skrull
-Lots of meaty content, modes and unlockables
-Phenomenal co-op component
-Graphics don’t try to be gritty and realistic, instead having a nice, colorful and comic-y HD approach
-Controls and motion tracking are the best currently available with Kinect
-Online matches are a lag free and sensational full-body experience

-A few graphical hiccups and crashes
-Matchmaking can take a while

On a sheer basis of good-to-bad, Avengers: Battle for Earth succeeds in being a great game. It has enough content to actually warrant a full-price purchase (I haven’t said that for a game in months), and allows for the best co-op Kinect experience you’ll ever have. Even without a dedicated tag team partner, Battle for Earth is still the best game in Kinect’s library and is worth checking out whether you’re a fan of Marvel or just want a fun, adrenaline-fueled and action-packed time.

The Scrap Yard

Review of Sleeping Dogs for Xbox 360

I got my black shades on, smokin’ ’til it’s numb
Head to he sky, feelin’ so on
Wei Shen, I’m-I’m Wei Shen
Wei Shen, I’m-I’m Wei Shen260px-Sleeping_Dogs_-_Square_Enix_video_game_cover

But in all seriousness, that about sums up Sleeping Dogs. It oozes style within its borders while not drifting too far from its respective genre of open world, something not a lot of games do. It carries a hefty plot with lots of intrigue while still offering a fun and non-commital plethora of side content in case you just want some fun gameplay and mindless button mashing.

Sleeping Dogs is the story of Wei Shen (or Ray Charles, as we’ve seen up above) and his struggle to be an undercover cop in a gang that he grew up with. It’s like having a cocaine addiction, then later coming back to it to help the cops bust the cocaine dealers. Sure, you know what side you SHOULD be helping, but you can’t help but dabble in the other side’s activities a little. The issue for Wei Shen is that he’s not just dabbling, he’s getting way too invested in these gang wars and activities and is becoming a rogue cop because of it. The plot is solid, even if it’s a story we’ve already heard. It takes the familiar concept of dancing with the law, while incorporating memorable characters and things we can relate with, to really make us feel Wei’s plight. I don’t like to sound deep about a game where half the fun is running over innocent families in public parks while driving your Coupe, but the fact is that the story is immersive. It’s not the selling point of Sleeping Dogs, but it’s the next best thing.

The story is an action oriented one, and you need action filled gameplay to complement that. Sleeping Dogs has you covered in that respect, as it combines Need for Speed, Batman AC and even a little Max Payne. There’s a giant open world Hong Kong to explore in Sleeping Dogs, and the excellent driving controls make it a joy to do. Dozens of cars and bikes are at your disposal, and the fact that you can hijack any car you see really helps you experience the varied vehicle selection.

When you’re not driving, you tend to be bashing people’s faces in or breaking bones, both of which are brutally satisfying tasks to complete. The gameplay is right out of Batman AC, with the standard light/heavy attacks and a counter button. It feels slightly more awkward and stiff than Batman, but Sleeping Dogs makes up for this by offering an alternative to basic attack and counter moves. Sleeping Dogs has environmental attacks which play a HUGE part in the combat, as they provide insta-kills and are oodles of fun to pull off. Shoving a thug through droves of spearfish heads is so disgustingly fun that I almost forget how annoying the hand-to-hand combat can be at times. There are also melee weapons which appear infrequently, and are really only good for a couple overpowered kills at most which is why I’m not going to mention them anymore than this.

Lastly, the gunplay. Sleeping Dogs is NOT a shooter, and it makes that well known as you play through the game. There’s only a handful of story related missions that ever have you use a gun, and when you do it tends to be a generic pistol or assault rifle. With that said, the gunplay is fun. Very fun. There are slow-mo kills, epic enemy disarming attacks, cover-diving, and pretty much everything that made Max Payne fun, minus some of the difficulty.

All of these gameplay types are fine on their own, but they’re best when fused together. Mixing up gunplay and martial arts in a single fight is exhilarating, and having an assault rifle with you while escorting a car allows you to pop the tires of enemy vehicles in slow motion and all kinds of other crazy fun sh*t.

Now that I’ve described the fantastic gameplay styles, I can explain how they are incorporated in-game. There are story missions which bounce between the three, and a huge array of open world missions to complete that cater to each one specifically. There are street races, drug busts, collections, “favors” and police cases, all of which offer a certain degree of leeway in which gameplay style you choose to use, while also forcing you to play a certain way during integral plot points. The only exception to this variety is the street races, where straight-up racing is your only option. And I mean, let’s get real. What fun would races be if I could shoot every other racer’s tires out?… They’d be a lot more fun, actually. Darn it. :/

The fantastic story oozes over into these side missions, and unlike Spider Man, none of the side content feels even slightly repetitive (aside from drug busts and races…). They all sport unique dialogue and different situations, which makes each one feel like a real encounter and not another scripted gameplay section. It’s a minor thing, sure, but I wish a lot of other games tried to make each mission this unique.

There’s a lot going on in Sleeping Dogs, but I think I’ve summed up the big stuff right here. Since going more in-depth would just sound like rambling, I feel like the only way to really acknowledge this game’s pros and cons is to do a pros and cons list, and you can use it to judge if the game is up your alley.

-Solid plot that gets you invested in Wei Shen’s life
-Fantastic characters that feel like real people
-Diverse gameplay
-Best driving since Blur
-Cool environmental attacks
-Unique and meaningful missions
-Kick ass radio music while in cars/boats (I can play Magic by Pilot while having a motorboat shoot out. For real)

-Not a very long open world game, just under twenty hours
-Some weird lip synching during cutscenes, takes you out of experience (just a little)
-controls can be a little flaky at times
-hand to hand combat feels a little stiff
– missions with the ladies never expanded beyond one or two dates

The gripes aren’t very big, and are things that could be easily overlooked by all of the positives. It’s not quite game of the year material, but it’s definitely worthy of a sequel. If you’re a fan of open world games, any of the titles I mentioned above or are just warming up for GTA 5, definitely check Sleeping Dogs out.