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No GravatarWhen I first began playing BioShock Infinite, I had a tough time getting into it.  Not because the game isn’t interesting.  It pulls you in pretty quickly with its beautiful graphics and fascinating storyline.  I was just mad that the game was vastly different in setting and tone then the original BioShock, which is one of my favorite games of all time.  I wanted BioShock Infinite to be in Rapture or somewhere like Rapture.  I actually stopped playing the game and went back to play the original several times before I finally forced myself to play Infinite.  It was a good thing that I did too.  Infinite is an absolutely amazing game, and I shouldn’t have compared it to the original.  Trying to make a game too much like the original BioShock only ends in mediocre sequels (BioShock 2).  I think that Irrational HAD to pick a different setting in order to have an effective story.  So, after getting over that self-imposed hurdle, I found that Infinite is actually one of my favorite games ever.

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Overview

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K in 2013 for PS3, XBox360, and PC.  Is it is the second sequel of the much loved original BioShock.  It uses a modified version of Unreal Engine 3 and has also been praised for its graphics, setting, and story.  Despite being a BioShock game, it departs from the Rapture-setting and instead focuses on its own dystopia of Columbia. BioShock: The Collection comes out in September, which is a remastered version for the current generation of all three BioShock games.  For the purpose of this review, I will be concentrating on the PS3 version only.

Story

The original BioShock had an amazingly intricate story that made several play-throughs enjoyable because of all of the little details.  BioShock Infinite steps it up to a completely different level.  The story is absolutely amazing.  It follows Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton and Battle of Wounded Knee vet, who has acquired a massive amount of debt.  To repay this debt, he is hired to rescue, Elizabeth, a woman who has been imprisoned since childhood in a city called Columbia.

Columbia is not a normal city, though.  The place floats in the sky (don’t worry if it sounds ridiculous; it’s very well explained) and is run by the prophet Zachary Comstock, a religious fantastic.  Like the original BioShock, Columbia is a city that has gone wrong, but it also highlights issues such as: racism, religious extremism, socio-economic struggles, American exceptionalism, the corruption of power, and dealing with past mistakes.  As you can see, Infinite is not a one-trick pony when it comes to thematic elements.  I am not even sure what part is better: the story or the setting.  The story is amazing, don’t get me wrong.  Elizabeth is probably one of the best, well-thought out, well-developed female characters ever done in a video game.  However, I also find myself playing Infinite just to explore Columbia (it is really that cool).  I love the early 1900s/steampunk style to it as well.  It’s just overall very well done.  There aren’t many games like it, especially in the first-person shooter style.

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Game Play

If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I’m pretty picky about my first-person shooters.  I’m not really that into most multi-player games, and I hate fps campaign modes that are too short and without substance.  BioShock Infinite, first of all, is worth the price  (I think it may be on PlayStation Plus now, though) because of its length, which is perfect for a fps game.

The game play, however, is also amazingly well-done.  With Infinite, you get a fun, smooth-flowing fps game with a few added elements that push this game up to a 10.  First, there is the use of plasmas…um, I mean vigors, which gives the “BioShock” power.  Then there is also the use of infusions and gear, which give some added elements of game play, such as more health, shields, and salts as well as some special “perks” from the gear.  Second, there is the use of the sky-line hooks and open-environment that make this game incredibly fun to play.  The first time I got on a sky-line, it felt like I was on a freaking roller-coaster.  You can zip around and melee enemies from above, jump on floating air ships, and fire your weapon while swinging around.  Third, you get Elizabeth as a sidekick, who helps out Booker during battles.  The AI for her is absolutely brilliant.  It really is a new way to play an fps.

These added elements make the game so much fun.  The game never felt repetitive.  I never got bored with the game either, especially with all of the fun vigors I got to use.  Overall, I have not seen many single-player fps games out on the market quite like this.

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Graphics

This game highlights the pinnacle of what the PS3 can handle graphics-wise and was pretty much one of the best-looking games for the PS3 (if not the best).  When I got my first glimpse of Columbia, all I could do was go, “WOW!”  After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I began really enjoy how amazing the setting really is.  Even if you don’t like first-person shooters, the game is worth seeing just for how truly beautiful it looks.

Voice Acting

As you might have known, Troy Baker is my favorite voice actor.  What you might not have known, is that I had no freaking clue who the man was before I played this game (*gasps can be heard from across the Internet*).  Yep, that’s right.  No clue.  But I enjoyed listening to Booker DeWitt so much that decided to look Troy up and the rest is pretty much history.  In seriousness, though, the voice acting is top notch.  From Troy who plays the quiet, soft-spoken but flawed Booker to the very-talented Courtnee Draper, who does Elizabeth’s voice, the actors make the game that much more enjoyable.  Even the Lutece twins are pretty awesome and give some added humor to the game.  By the way, this game is still my favorite Troy Baker game.

Music

I usually do not include a game’s musical score in my reviews, but I decided to add it to this one because the music in Infinite is so great.  Besides having a great score for battles and exploring, you have the added bonus of all sorts of popular songs being done in an early 20th-century style.  There are a lot of Easter-egg tunes to hear, but I don’t want to go into it because I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t played the game yet (you should).

Overall

There really isn’t anything that I can knock this game on, and trust me, if I see something wrong, I will say something.  BioShock Infinite is just an amazing game.  I know this review is very glowing, and I can’t find anything to complain about.  For the most part, the complaints that I have seen about this game are a little unfounded.  Here are some and my response to them:

Complaint: The story is too complicated, especially the ending.

Response: Sorry, it’s not the game’s fault that you can’t figure it out.

Complaint: The game should have been third-person not first-person, since it has a lot of narration from Booker.  You are the character when you inhabit a first-person perspective, hence there should be no narration.

Response: That’s like saying if you read a book that is in first-person narration that YOU are the character.  Not so.  You are just getting it from the first-person perspective.  Even though you control Booker from the first person, you are not Booker. Sorry.

Complaint: It’s not enough like the original BioShock. (This was my original complaint.)

Response: If you want to play the original BioShock, play the original.  If the game was too much like the original, we’d get a mediocre re-hash like BioShock 2.  The game plays tribute enough to the original but is still it’s own game.

Complaint: I didn’t like the hordes of people coming at you in battle.  It felt like filler.

Response: Um, if you don’t like fighting in a first-person shooter game, then you probably shouldn’t be playing these types of games.  Just saying.

Complaint: It’s too gory.

Response: Uh, last time I checked, it was a BioShock game AND a first-person shooter.  Considering that the original had tinge of the horror-genre to it, Infinite holds up to the franchise.  If it’s too gory, may I suggest a game like Little Big Planet, instead?

Complaint: Elizabeth is too much like a damsel in distress.

Response: I think that she takes care of herself just fine, but apparently you must have missed those parts of the game.  Sure she’s trapped at the beginning, but there is a reason she can’t get out herself, and she also takes charge for a lot of the game.  May I suggest that you replay it and pay attention?

I think the biggest issue is that some of these critics want this game to not be a first-person shooter, BioShock game.  I think they are looking for something that they were never going to find and never should find in this game.  I don’t even know what to tell them there.  I enjoyed the heck out of it.  Infinite will be one of those games I will replay many, many times.  In my humble opinion, it is just that good.

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No GravatarThere are not many games like The Last of Us.  It’s one of the few gems that really shine in a sea of mediocrity.  In a way, it is pretty much perfect when it comes to games.  When I first played it, I actively looked for things to ding this game on, knowing all of the glowing reviews it got.  However, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.  Nothing.  The game is about as close to perfect as you are going to get.  Here are my reasons:

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Overview

The Last of Us is a third-person action/horror/survival game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony in 2013 for PS3 only.  The game engine is an in-house blend and uses the Havoc engine for the physics side.  It was one of the last games for the PS3 that demonstrated just about all the console could handle (BioShock Infinite was the other), and it was hailed for its graphics, game play, and story.  It came out again in 2014 as a remastered version for PlayStation 4, but for the purposes of this review, I am only looking at the original.

Story

The setting takes place twenty years after a fungal infection spreads across the United States, turning the infected into zombies.  The protagonist, Joel, is tasked with transporting a young girl across America to a resistance group who believes that she may be the cure to the infection.  To avoid any spoilers, there is not much else that will be discussed here.  However, one point should be mentioned:

The story is a bit depressing, being a survival horror story and all.  There are some lighter elements to it, but the overall tone is pretty dark and gritty.  This made–for me at least–it a bit hard to push through at some points.  This is probably why it took me so long to finish it.  However, this is not something that I can knock the game on.  That is just the genre, and for the genre, it is excellent.  The story feels gritty and realistic.  The characters feel real and believable.  Overall, there is nothing that could actually be better, and there are not many video games–if any–that I can say have a better quality story.

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Game play

If you’ve played any of the Uncharted games, then you will know pretty much how The Last of Us will play.   If you have not played the Uncharted games, it is a third-person action game that focuses on the elements of sneak, duck and cover shooting, and climbing and exploring.  Unlike many traditional sneak games, you can go about most areas without having to sneak perfectly.  You can go in guns-blazing if you would like, though this is not recommended on the more difficult settings (you will never find enough supplies for that).

Overall, the game play is sharp and responsive.  There is a good mix of sneaking, shooting, and climbing.  This is a characteristic that Naughty Dog has been perfecting since Uncharted 2.  Nothing felt too repetitive.  They even threw in some surprises that I wasn’t expecting, though I probably should have since it borrowed from Uncharted 3.  The game play length was perfect for the type of game as well and was overall pretty darned fun to play.

Graphics

The graphics for The Last of Us were pretty much the best that one could get for the PS3’s limitations (only BioShock Infinite revivals it).  The characters are amazingly realistic and the setting is richly detailed.  This is one of the reasons why I am still scratching my head at the fact that Naughty Dog remastered it for PS4.  What is there exactly to remaster?  I can understand older games like Final Fantasy X/X-2 being done in HD, but I am still trying to figure out why I need to re-buy this game on PS4 when it looks so beautiful for PS3.

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Acting

Probably one of the coolest elements of this game doesn’t even have to do with the game play.  It’s the fact that Naughty Dog went with voice and motion capture to do the cut scenes and picked some exceptional acting talent.  Now, if you have never read any of my articles before or do not follow me on Twitter, you may not know that Troy Baker IS my favorite voice actor.  So, you can imagine that it was an absolute treat getting to listen to him for the entire game.  It was even MORE amazing to get to see the cut-scenes where they did the motion capture.  This was what probably made all of the cut-scenes so memorable, and it also helped with the realism of the story.  Besides Troy, we also have the talents of Ashley Johnson (amazing as Ellie), Annie Wersching (from 24), and freaking Nolan North (Mr. Nathan Drake himself).  Overall, it was an amazing cast.  They could not have picked better people.

Overall

Again, I tried to knock this game on something, but I really couldn’t  One thing that I wanted to complain about was the fact that I will probably never play this game again.  For me, the story is a little bit too depressing for me to do a couple of repeat play-throughs.  Also, now that I know the ending, there’s not the same drive to try and play it again.  However, I don’t think the multiple-playability of a game should be considered in a rating.  The game was long enough that I definitely got my money’s worth out of it.

The Last of Us covers all of the areas that I demand out of a great game:  amazing story, fun game play, beautiful graphics, and the voice talent of Troy Baker.  During this game, I cried both tears of joy and despair.  I was yelling at the screen many times.  I covered my eyes at certain parts.  Some places even left my jaw on the floor.  In the end, this game did what I do require out of any good story, which is this: When it was all over, all I could do is sit there for an hour and ponder the whole thing over.  If that isn’t perfection, then I don’t know what is.

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No GravatarMy little girl might be little now, but eventually, she will be old enough to start gaming.  For the record, I’m not saying that she has to be a gamer (she can have her own interests and hobbies–as long as they are appropriate), but I will be introducing her to gaming when it is developmentally appropriate (don’t put comments about how some of these games aren’t appropriate for (fill in the blank) age; I know that).

If I had to whittle down my list of games I would love to have my daughter play, here is the list that I came up with of the games that really had an impact on me, both as an adult and when I was growing up:

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20.) Rebel Assault II

I do love a good Star Wars game, but this one was very special to me.  I still have the discs for it, though I’m not sure I could get it running again.  I bet my technically-savvy hubby could get it to run.  This was one of the first good Star Wars games that I played, which got around graphics limitations of the time by having live actor shots.SWTIEFighter

19.) Tie Fighter

This is another Star Wars game, which I still have but have no idea if I could ever get running again (bet hubby could with enough motivation).  Just like it’s X-Wing counterpart game, Tie Fighter was an excellent flight simulator that also portrayed the Empire in a different light.  I spent HOURS playing this game.

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18.) Wolfenstein 3D

It’s the first first-person shooter I ever played.  I clearly remember the first time I got to play this revolutionary game, even though I was only six or seven at the time.  Sure, there have been sequels and reboots or whatever, but nothing beats the original.

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17.) Sim City 3000

I do love a good simulation, and this was the last good Sim City that I can still play without any special things done to my PC.  Interesting story: When I was in high school, I studied for my AP Government local government test by playing this game.  I had the highest score in the class.  Woot!  Woot!

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16.) Duke Nukem 3D

Sure it’s a little raunchy, but I spent most of my middle school years playing this game.  I bought every add-on that I could get my hands on.  It’s just a really good and really funny first-person shooter, and I still find myself to this day quoting from it.

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15.) Doom

This is an absolutely essential classic first-person shooter that I think everyone die-hard FPS gamer should play.  Sure, it was a bit scary for it’s time (now it looks a bit cartoonish), but it was revolutionary for when it came out.

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14.) Manhunt

Okay, this is definitely a game that my little girl will not be playing until she’s much, much older, but it’s probably one of the best, most original games that I have played for PlayStation 2.  Screw the Hunger Games.  This game is an amazing sneak game with a really good story, similar to “The Most Dangerous Game,” The Running Man, or Battle Royale.  It’s amazingly violent as well, and I wish that Rockstar would either redo or remaster THIS game instead of some of the other games being redone.

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13.) Jones in the Fast Lane

I do have an original copy of this game complete with packaging because it is one of the best life simulation games that I have every played.  However, you can actually play this game on your phone or tablet now without worrying about getting it to work on a PC.  My have times changed!  The game is similar to The Game of Life: you get a job, work on advancing, and manage your time.  And it can have up to four players, so I will be playing this one with my little girl as soon as she is old enough.

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12.) Fallout 3

Besides having the best intro to a video game that I have ever seen, the game is absolutely amazing to play.  Part first-person shooter, part action RPG, this game has it all.  Another thing that I absolutely adore about the game is the size of the enormous map you get to play around in.  No claustrophobic maps here!

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11.) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Another amazing Bethesda game and one of my favorite open-world, fantasy games, Skyrim is another must to play.  Sadly, I’ve probably spent a couple hundred hours on this game and actually haven’t finished it yet.  It can get you really side-tracked if you let it.

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10.) Borderlands 2

This is one of my favorite cooperative games that I have ever played.  It’s funny and a bit ridiculous at times, but that’s what makes it so great: it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  With several different characters to play as, including two very strong female roles, and a TON of weapons to collect, this will always be one of my top FPS games.

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9.) Final Fantasy VII

Okay, the graphics DO make my eyeballs bleed a bit, but there is no doubt that this game is one of the best Final Fantasy games ever.  It’s got the best characters, the best music, and the best story line.  And with the remake coming out soon, she hopefully will be able to play it without getting a headache.

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8.) Tomb Raider II

The original Tomb Raider was a little fuzzy on graphics and TR III was a bit whacky in the plot.  However, Tomb Raider II–to me–is the perfect balance of a cool story, interesting places to explore, and a trendy tone.  It’s the game that really spawned my love for the franchise.

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7.) Final Fantasy X

This is another one of my favorite Final Fantasy games.  It’s got a great story and awesome characters, but the graphics have aged a lot better than VII (and I’m not even talking about the HD version that just came out).  And, I now do have the option to update by PS2 version if I want to.

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6.) Sims 3

Sims 3 is my favorite out of the franchise (and I have played 1-3 extensively).  Some people don’t understand my obsessive with simulation games, but think of all of the cool things that I can do: create interesting Sims, design my dream home, design my dream town, go to new and exciting places, and do things I wouldn’t dream of doing in real life.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

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5.) Chrono Cross 

This is one of my favorite RPGS of all time.  The graphics STILL look awesome.  The story is amazing, even though it’s technically a sequel.  The music is amazing (I actually bought the soundtrack).  It’s a great game, and would be my favorite RPG if it weren’t for the next game on the list…

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4.) Chrono Trigger 

A game that has consistently shown up on “best RPG ever” lists, Chrono Trigger really should be listed as one of the best games ever.  Period.  The graphics stand up to the test of time.  The music is awesome.  The story is amazing.  My husband always likes to comment that it it one of the few games in which you don’t have to have the main character to beat the game.  It’s just one of those games that you will always remember and want to play no matter how old you or it gets.

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3.) Mass Effect 2

Not the original Mass Effect and definitely NOT Mass Effect 3–Mass Effect 2, to me, was the perfect balance of a good story, good game play, and cool characters.  But it wasn’t just those elements that makes me rank this game so high.  I was completely in awe of the really cool mix of genre and game play.  I mean, how many space-related action RPGs do you see out there?  Not many.  One of the best things about the game, besides having the really cool character of Commander Shepard, is how engrossing BioWare was able to make the Mass Effect universe.  As in games like Dragon Age, you could literally spend hours reading up on all of the technology, history, and species in the Mass Effect Universe, and that is a really important story element for me that I love in well-thought out games.

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2.) BioShock Infinite

I never thought that another game could rival my precious BioShock, but I was totally wrong about this one.  BioShock Infinite is an amazing game with some of the best graphics of the time and a story that will make your jaw drop.  The game play was a blast to play as well, and the setting was totally immersing.  This is a game and a franchise that have really upped my expectations on what first-person shooters should be like.

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1.) BioShock 

I thought about this for a long time and realized the BioShock is–hands down–my favorite video game of all time.  There are many reasons for this.  It was the first FPS that I have every played that demonstrated intelligence in its story: it discussed political issues, morality, all sorts of things that don’t normally make it into the standard FPS.  Second, I absolutely, positively fell in love with Rapture.  I can’t explain it.  I just love being there and exploring.  I love learning about the people who lived there and what all went wrong.  I enjoyed the cool game play with the plasmids and ADAM.  Third, I really enjoyed how awesome the graphics have aged (look at some of the other games that came out at the same time, and you’ll see what I mean).  It still looks AWESOME.  And lastly, I really appreciate the tone of this game, which many games in the genre fail to generate.  It’s sometimes scary but always enjoyable.  It’s a bit demented but doesn’t encourage what you see as being “normal.”  It really does make you think, and I love that and hope that I can share that–eventually, when my little girl is much, much older.

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No GravatarAs some of you might know, Mass Effect is one of my favorite gaming franchises.  Of course, when I say that, I am looking at the franchise as  a whole (I will not dwell on what happened to ME 3).  However, for those gamers who primarily play on PlayStation consoles, playing the original Mass Effect was not in the cards.  This changed once the game was finally released for PlayStation 3 at the end of 2012.  Finally, PlayStation fans were able to play the whole series through.  I  was one of those fans who got the original for digital download.  Here is what I thought:

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Mass Effect is a science fiction third-person RPG developed by Bioware and published by Microsoft originally, but is now being published by EA.  It originally was released for XBox 360 only, but eventually was released for PC and then Playstation 3.  It uses the Unreal 3 engine.  The game was applauded for its in-depth universe.  To me, the game is the Holy Grail of RPGs, since most do not have the Science fiction twist that Mass Effect does.

The setting puts the game far into the future where the human race discovers alien technology that allows them to travel faster than light (the “mass effect” field).  They have also found mass relays that allow them to travel significant distances in space in short amounts of time.  The human race expands throughout the galaxy, meeting other alien races.  They create the Human Systems Alliance that becomes a rising power among the other, older races.

The game follows Commander Shepard, an elite soldier who is picked to head a secret mission on a experimental ship, the SSV Normandy.  He is also in the running to become the first human Spectre, a black-ops division of the Citadel counsel, a governing body of the “civilized” parts of the galaxy.  As the story continues, the player begins to delve into the richly-designed universe that is Mass Effect and discovers that there are some very sinister things lurking in the galaxy.

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One of the fun things about this game is the ability of the player to go where they want to go in the galaxy.  Sure, there are some parts that you don’t get to decide, but there is a lot of freedom in traveling, allowing the player to go to some really cool planets.  Another interesting aspect (that I’m sure you may have heard about) is the ability to have Commander Shepard have a relationship with some of the characters.  You only get a few options in this game, but it still keeps things kind of interesting.

There’s a lot going on in Mass Effect.  It’s an RPG with XP, leveling up, and different skill-sets you can go through.  However, it is also a third-person action adventure shooter.  It employs a duck and cover system of fighting but also incorporates vehicle battle as well.  It SHOULD be a very diverse game play.  For the main missions, that is correct; the actual main quests are a ton of fun.  It’s the side quests that are a complete bear to play.  They are tedious and difficult in some spots, something that I wasn’t used to from playing Mass Effect 2 and 3 originally.  Because of this, I will have to knock the game play down quite a bit.

There are other aspects of the game play that I would like to cover, however.  The first being the class system.  Players get to choose at the beginning the type of class they want their character to be.  This also includes being able to fully customize the Shepard character: male or female, default or customize completely.  I recommend being on male default because Shepard is sexy.  Besides customizing the character in that way, there are six classes to choose from: Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Vanguard.  Each class has its own special perks.  I typically play as soldier.  Each of the classes also have their own special combat abilities.

Another interesting aspect of game play is dialogue and morality system.  As the story unfolds, the player is given options for dialogue.  One is typically the “good” option.  Another is the “neutral” option.  And the third is the “bad” option.  Depending on how good or bad you want Shepard to be will depend on how you answer.  However, sticking with one side opens up special dialogue conversations not available otherwise.

This particular Mass Effect game focuses very heavily on upgrading weapons.  The player can upgrade pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, as well as grenades and armor.  Mods to weapons and armor can also be found as well.  Upgrades are collected while exploring and in battle when an enemy is killed, but it can be a pain keep track of all of them.  Many times, I would have to stop game play because I had accumulated too many upgrades and had to either apply them or convert them into omni-gel (an all-purpose tool that helps with everything for fixing damage on vehicles to hacking locks).  This did get a bit annoying at times.

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For the time that the game came out, the graphics were pretty darned slick.  And not only that, but the game has actually aged well.  It is still playable without the graphics seeming to be annoying.  They certainly do not cause me headaches like Final Fantasy VII, for instance.  The in-game graphics are great, but the cut-scenes are really were the money is.

Unfortunately, even though the main parts of the game are a lot of fun, all of the side quests are a pain.  They are such a pain that I almost stopped playing the game.  They are tedious and repetitive.  Technically, I would give the fun-factor of the main game a 10, but I would give the side quests a 1.  Also because of this, I will probably not be revisiting the game, despite the awesome storyline.

As a whole, this game is great.  It’s got some issues; however, if the player just focuses on the main mission, the game is a lot of fun to play.  I’m also a bit picky because I feel Mass Effect 2 is a much better game overall.  Then again, considering that you can get the whole trilogy pretty cheaply and just the original even more cheaply, it’s definitely worth your time.

 

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No GravatarBioShock is a first-person shooter released in 2007 for XBox 360 and PC. It was later ported for PS3 in 2008.  It was developed by Irrational Games (they were calling themselves 2K Boston back in the day) and published by 2K.  The game uses a modified version of the Unreal engine with Havok for the physics side.  It was highly praised for its story, setting, and thematic elements.  It later spawned two sequels: BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite.

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As the player, you take on the character of Jack, a man who survives a plane crash into the middle of the ocean.  Upon swimming to safety, you find a lighthouse.  However, this is more than meets the eye.  After getting into a device called a bathysphere, a type of submersible, you are transported underneath the ocean and are introduced to Rapture, a huge underwater city.

However, there is something completely wrong with Rapture.  Upon arrival, you discover that the once utopian city is now in a state of disarray with roaming “splicers,” creepy little girls called “Little Sisters,” and huge robotic bosses called “Big Daddies.”  I don’t want to get into the story too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I will tell you that the story is top-notch.  To me, the best part of BioShock is the setting.  I could just walk around in Rapture all day and be as happy as can be.  I know it’s a really creepy place, but it’s also a really interesting place, especially since you have to dig around a bit to figure out what went wrong.  I loved that the game was kind of scary, but not so scary that I wanted to stop playing it.

One of the other great things about the story of BioShock was a lot of really good and really interesting thematic elements of the game.  Rapture’s creator, Andrew Ryan, designed the city to be free of government and free of religion (a nod to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism).  However, without some constraint of morality, the city quickly crumbles into chaos after some bio-engineering and experimentation gone really wrong.  It’s a really interesting and engrossing game.  It’s one of my favorite video game stories of all time.

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BioShock is first and foremost a first-person shooter.  It’s a rather good one at that, especially for the time that it came out.  As an FPS, it plays smoothly and adds some interesting game play elements.  It has a typical style of ever-increasingly fun weapons to play with, but it also adds the “bio” element to it by creating the use of plasmids (a type of genetic alteration involving needles–I told you the game is a bit creepy).  With your left hand, you control your plasmids, which can vary from shooting fire, ice, and even bees out of your fingertips.  With your right hand, you control your primary weapon.  This is a really, really fun combination, and it makes for  some interesting game play.  However, it gets annoying switching back and forth between shooting plasmids and shooting your weapon, since you can only have one or the other at a time.  This glaring issue was later fixed in BioShock 2.

Besides the use of plasmids, the game play also adds some role-playing and stealth elements as well.  The player has options for stealth around security, including cameras and auto-turrets.  Collecting money in the game gives the player options for upgrading weapons, buying new plasmids, or gaining additional ammo or health.  You may also collect gene tonics that give you special abilities.  One of the more annoying parts of the game was the ability to hack certain things like cameras and vending machines.  Although this sounds like a great idea, to hack something, you get pushed into this mini-game, similar to Pipe Dream.  The first ten or so times you do it isn’t bad, but it gets annoying after twenty, thirty, or forty times.

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One of the unique game play aspects of BioShock is fairly original concept of “roaming boss battles.”  In order to gain more power, the player must take on Big Daddies in order to get to the Little Sisters.  There are a set amount of Big Daddies in each level that will appear in various places (but sometimes can feel like at random).

The graphics were very good for the time that it came out.  It has still held up well for an older game.  In fact, it has held up much better than games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and even the original Infamous.  Even going back and playing it now, I don’t get headaches from playing a game with crazy old graphics.

One really enjoyable thing about the graphics (and the setting) is how it highlights the amazing Art Deco designs of Rapture.  This is one of the reasons why I will actually play the game just to wander around and explore (I can’t say that for many other games).

I don’t care if the game play is perfect.  I don’t care if the graphics are perfect.  BioShock will always be one of my most favorite games of all time.  It is probably my favorite first-person shooter.  This game is just plain fun.  It has been the most fun that I have had in a game in a long, long time.  It is the reason why I have been so backlogged on so many games: I keep wanting to play this game over and over again.  BioShock made me expect more out of my first-person shooters.  It is a complete must-play, trust me.

By Jessica Brister On 1 May, 2016 At 05:07 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Editorials, Featured, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4 | With 0 Comments
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Warning: This article is spoiler-city. If you have not finished playing The Last of Us, please do not read any further.

Spoilers!  Spoilers!  Spoilers!

Seriously…you were warned!

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It is rare that a video game has a story so beautifully told that it gains critical acclaim and a massive fan-base just based on the story alone.  The Last of Us is one of those exceptional gems that show the world that video games can be fun and intelligent.  One of the most interesting aspects of the game is its theme.  Many have been scratching their heads at the end of the game, wondering what the implications of Joel’s decision may actually be.  He chooses to save Ellie rather than save humanity.  Is he being selfish?  Was it a bad choice on his part?  Judging by how Naughty Dog presents the rest of the story, Joel actually became one of the few moral characters in the story.  The Last of Us demonstrates that traveling down the slippery slope of so-called “sacrifice” will only cause humanity to lose itself.

In the early parts of the game, the gamer witnesses a police-state with martial law.  There is no freedom; people are forced to live and work in a place where their every move is watched.  Checkpoints are everywhere.  The people who live in these areas are forced to comply in order to receive food and the illusion of safety.  Of course, the military is doing this in order to “protect” the citizens there.  However, in doing so, it has completely destroyed everyone’s freedoms.  Under this militaristic rule, all rights are taken away.  The military can kill anyone for any reason at any time.  Under the guise of “safety,” people have given up all of their freedoms.  As the player can see by watching Joel and Tess’s actions early on, people do not naturally want to live in this manner.  Even in the beginning segments, The Last of Us demonstrates that survival situations can bring out the worst in the way a government will treat its people.

As the player continues to follow Joel and Ellie, there are several factions that are introduced.  The first is the group of hunters that patrol down-town Pittsburgh.  This group will kill anyone they see in order to salvage clothes, shoes, weapons, food, and whatever else they can scrounge.   The group labels outsiders are “tourists” to perhaps make it seem like it’s okay to kill in non-defensive situations.  Besides, they are just doing it to survive, right?  Joel even mentions to Ellie that he was in a group like this in the earlier years because that was what he had to do to survive.  Another group that Joel and Ellie come across are the cannibals run by David, a charismatic but highly crazy guy.  When justifying what his group is doing, he uses the “we’re just surviving, like you are” argument to Ellie.  Of course, Ellie completely rejects that reasoning.  The player sees in these sections groups of people who have lost their humanity and their souls because they were “just surviving.”

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At the end, Joel is faced with a dilemma: save Ellie and give up a possible cure to the infection or sacrifice her in order to help humanity.  Some may argue that Joel’s decision to save Ellie was selfish and short-sighted, that he wanted to save her because she symbolizes the daughter that he lost twenty years earlier.  This is not the case, though.  Killing Ellie was no guarantee that they would have found a cure.  If Joel would have sacrificed Ellie, it would bring up the question: How many need to be sacrificed in order to “save” humanity?  The Fireflies wanted to practice altruism, but what is the tolerable number of little girls that need to be killed in order to help the rest of the human race?  One?  Ten?  A hundred?  A thousand?  It becomes a slippery slope when people start sacrificing others in the name of “saving the human race,” especially when Ellie didn’t even have a choice in the matter.  She was never asked.  That individual choice was taken away from her.

The Last of Us thematically looks at the question: Where exactly does it stop?  How many individual rights and freedoms need to be given up?  Self-defense aside, is surviving worth giving up your soul for extra clothing and food?  How many people need to be sacrificed in order to help the whole?  At the end of the game, Joel becomes a symbol for “enough is enough.”  His decision to take Ellie marks an end to the slippery slope that was highlighted again and again in the game.  Humanity does need a cure for the infection, but at what cost?  What it really needed was a cure from the thinking of “survival at any cost.”  Despite the infection, people wererebuilding.  The player can see that with Joel’s brother Tommy and his group.  This group was a beacon of hope.  They emphasized the re-establishment of the family and the focus on working together to achieve a goal, while still keeping everyone’s individual liberties.  Joel’s final decision to bring Ellie back to that group highlights the final message in The Last of Us: the end of the slippery slope of moral decay in world that had been decaying for decades.

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No GravatarThe Final Fantasy franchise is beloved by many gamers.  They have fallen in love with the characters, the music, and the worlds of this popular series.  When Final Fantasy XIII came out, many were expecting something wonderful.  Instead, fans got the worst game of the series and possibly one of the worst AAA titles of the generation.  Here is what went wrong with FF XII:

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Final Fantasy XIII was released on December 17, 2009 in Japan and in 2010 worldwide as a straight-forward RPG.  It was developed and published by Square Enix for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (the game was eventually released for PC as well).  It was widely criticized because of the game’s linear game play and storyline, while most western RPGs had gone toward open world.  However, there were other issues with the game as well.

The story itself was extremely hard to follow.  I actually still don’t quite understand it.  From what I gathered, a world called Cocoon and it’s government, Sanctum, is basically committing genocide of people who have come in contact with the world below Cocoon called Pulse.  The main character, Lightning, has a moral epiphany and decides to fight back with a bunch of others.  There really wasn’t anything to love about the story or even really like.  It was completely bland, and many times confusing.

Unfortunately, the characters were even worse than the story.  They were extremely cheesy, and the dialogue was cringe-worthy.  Here are some actual quotes from the game:

“Heroes don’t run from fights.”

“Mom’s are tough.”

“Hang on, baby.  Your hero’s on the way.”

Even the talents of Troy Baker were wasted on the character of Snow because everything that the character said was dumb (you know I think it’s a bad game when I tell you that Troy Baker couldn’t even salvage anything good in the game).

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The battle system is outdated in style and resembled more of a ’90s RPG where characters take turns fighting each other.  It was a system that actually made my jaw drop when I got into the first battle.  Though the game is a bit older, that sort of style has died off for AAA titles.  For a “modern” RPG, it felt like a blast from the past, and not in a good way.  When a player meets an enemy, he or she is entered into a “battle system” with change in music and everything.  Each character takes turns attacking the baddie, and if they aren’t attacking, then they sit and dance around in place.  It was very similar to many ’90s retro RPGS.  Though those old games were so much fun, it is quite bizarre for a game in the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation.

Also, the battle system is way too simplistic.  You don’t even have to pay attention while playing the game.  Just hit “X” (playing on PS3).  You’ll kill almost anything that way.  I could train my cats to play this game.  In fact, for the most part, I really wasn’t even playing it.  I was on Twitter, milling around.  The only part of me that was playing the game was my hand, which kept hitting X, X, X, X.  What’s the point of even playing if the game is that easy?  I didn’t really even seem like a true leveling system.

Unlike most modern RPGs, I was limited basically going in a straight line throughout the maps.  The whole thing felt claustrophobic.  And it never got any better!  I kept on thinking: Well maybe if I go along a little farther, the map will open up a bit, and I can actually do some exploring.  Nope!  It never happened.  For a game that came out to PS3 in late 2009, this is actually embarrassing.  I’ve played Call of Duty campaign modes that were more open than this game.  I can’t believe that Square Enix thought that this would be okay, considering FFXII (for the freaking PS2) gave you more freedom.  In fact, every Final Fantasy game I have every played gave you more freedom.  Heck, freaking Pac Man gives you more freedom (at least you don’t have to continuously go straight).

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Another annoying aspect of the game was the sheer amount of cutscenes in the game.  You could barely go five minutes without a cut-scene interrupting.  It was quite obnoxious.  Sure, the cut scenes were pretty, but most of them didn’t feel like they moved the plot.  I’m still scratching my head at what was going on in the game.  In fact, most of them felt like they were just thrown in there to show off the graphics.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy a good cut-scene, but I expect the cut-scenes that I watch to have a point and move the plot.  It shouldn’t just be a graphics show-off.

Sadly, I think that Square Enix is losing touch with what many gamers are demanding from their games now.  At this point, I think that they are focusing on an audience that wants a true JRPG experience.  If that’s the case, go for it.  However, don’t expect any glowing reviews from me.  That’s just not my cup of tea anymore.

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No GravatarUncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the start to an amazing series.  I unfortunately played the games out of order (started with Uncharted 3).  I ended up buying the Uncharted/Uncharted 2 dual pack and really thought I got my money’s worth from both games.  Despite having some age, Uncharted is a blast to play.

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a third-person shooter, action-adventure game that came out on the PlayStation 3 in 2007.  It was developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony.  Overall, it sold very well, and got critical acclaim, spawning two sequels.  Although when I originally heard about it, I thought it was going to be a Tomb Raider rip-off, so I ignored it completely until now.  This is not the case at all, and I wish I would have known that back in 2007.  This game is a ton of fun and does not play like a Tomb Raider game at all in game play, story, and tone.  If anything, it’s more Indiana Jones-like than Lara Croft.  The game was re-released as part of the Uncharted Collection in 2015 with slicker-looking graphics and more power.

In this game, we are introduced to Nathan Drake, treasure-hunter, Victor Sullivan, his mentor, and Elena Fisher, a journalist hired to record his adventures.  Nate is searching for Sir Francis Drake’s secret, which leads him on a quest for El Dorado.  Adventuring ensues with Elena provided as a love-interest for Drake.  Overall, it’s a fun story, but I felt the pacing was a little slower than Drake’s Deception.  I also was a little annoyed at the fact that the scenery was very similar: jungle/ruins.  That made the game feel a little dull, especially compared to Drake’s Deception, where you get to go to so many cool places.

The game is a typical third person shooter, duck and cover with the added elements of jumping and climbing.  Being the first of the series, it is definitely not as polished as the later games.  One thing that bugged me was the constant gun battles that lasted way too long and came up too often.  I felt like there wasn’t a very good balance between the adventuring portion and the action portion.  There were also some spots that drove me absolutely crazy and actually made me want to stop playing (I’ll get to that in a bit).  This is how I would classify each part of the game play:

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1.) Adventuring/Puzzles

To me, the fun part of the game is the adventuring, and even though I don’t particularly like puzzle games, I actually kind of enjoyed the ones in this game.  I could figure out most of the puzzles by myself, and the rest I easily found how to do on YouTube (what did we do before YouTube, right?).  The jumping, leaping, and climbing is pretty easy to get the hang of, although it was a lot more polished in the later games.  I actually wish there was more exploring and jumping puzzles.  I felt that it was a little lacking, especially for a Tomb Raider fan like myself.

2.) Fighting

This was the part that really annoyed me.  I thought there was way too many gun fights for an adventure game.  It felt like every time you turned the corner there was another gun fight.  It actually became very predictable after awhile and took away from the game a bit.  This aspect was much improved in later Uncharted games, but it still unfortunately took a little away from the game.

3.) Vehicles

Throughout the game, you will ride on different vehicles, including Jeeps and jet-skis.  To me, this was one of the more fun points of the game.  In the Jeep, Elena is driving and Nate is shooting.  With the jet ski, you are driving as Nate but also must shoot with Elena.  It was a fun change from the massive amounts of gun fights that consumed the game play.

For the time that the game came out, the graphics were pretty good.  Obviously now, they are a little dated.  However, I could stand the graphics, and they didn’t give me a headache from Final Fantasy VII syndrome.  By the way, Final Fantasy VII syndrome is a term my husband and I have coined to describe how older games with funky graphics give us headaches when we play because of the eye strain.

Here’s the problem with this game: It reminds me of how I felt about the original Mass Effect.  Now don’t get me wrong, except for the cover-shoot and third person game play, they are worlds different.  But because I had to wait to play the original Mass Effect since I typically play on PC or PlayStation, I had already played the second and third game.  Playing the original became tedious and unpleasant because I knew how much better the later games were.  I don’t see this as a complete knock to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.  With all gaming franchises, there are improvements that come along the way.  Luckily, this is a franchise that keeps on improving.

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No GravatarBorderlands 2 is one of those special games that only comes around every once in awhile.  It’s a blood and guts shooter with some humor (and a bit of satire as well).  It also is one of the best online co-op games to this day.

Although the game has aged a bit, it still holds up very well.  Borderlands 2 is considered an action RPG first person shooter.  It was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K in 2012 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC/Mac (the game also had a late PlayStation Vita and Linux port).  It is also the sequel to the original Borderlands that came out in 2009.  The game was re-released in 2015 in the Handsome Collection for this current generation of consoles, but for the purposes of this review, I am referring to my play-through on PlayStation 3.

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Just like the original game, Borderlands 2 follows different Vault Hunters on the planet of Pandora.  Another large corporation has taken control of the planet, spear-headed by the charismatic Handsome Jack.  The Vault Hunters have come to seek an even larger Vault on the planet but also end up getting caught up in a lot of issues on Pandora, including tons of side-quests.  Although the plot itself is kind of bland, the dialogue, humor, and splash of satire keep the game interesting.  Overall, the feel and ton of the game is a kind of dark comedy/space western.  It’s an odd combination, but it somehow works.
Borderlands 2 is a game that CAN’T take itself too seriously because the game itself is absurd.  It’s filled with ridiculous characters in a ridiculous places doing ridiculous things.  When playing the game, you will laugh, and you will probably laugh a lot.  It’s just enjoyable wandering around the world of Pandora and meeting the crazy people who live there.  Whether it’s meeting the British-imperialist wannabe, Sir Hammerlock…Or the very much redneck, Scooter….Or Ellie, the very big, but very funny mechanic….Or Tiny Tina, the world’s deadliest 13-year-old (by the way, search for “Tiny Tina” on YouTube and see why she’s a freaking hilarious)….Or my favorite, Butt Stallion, the diamond pony.

One great thing about Borderlands 2 game play, is that the game allows you to play as much as you want offline and immediately join up online and not lose your place in the game, as long as you are hosting.  So I could play for a couple hours by myself, see my friends online, invite them into my game, and continue my adventure with my friends without missing a beat.  Another thing that I love is that you can have your game open and allow online people to pop in and out at their leisure to help you.  Or, you can jump into someone else’s game that is way ahead of yours and help you level-up.  Or, you can have someone help you get through a particularly tough time.  It’s an extremely social game.

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Online holds up to four people of whichever class you prefer.  The classes consist of: Commando, Siren, Gunserker, Assassin, Mechromancer (DLC), and Psycho (DLC).  Let me quickly go through each:

Commando: Turrets!

Siren: Phase-lock/Team Nurse!

Gunserker: Double-trouble guns!

Assassin: Stealth/Snipe!

Mechromancer: SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND! (You get a mech that helps you, and it’s awesome.)

Psycho: High risk, high reward play-style!

Each character is a blast to play.  And you will end up playing through the game, which is pretty long to begin with several times with each class.

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Another big thing about Borderlands in general is the fact that there are more weapons possibilities than a player knows what to do with.  I’ve heard at least 17.75 million combinations because weapons randomly generate based on: your level, how many people in your group, where you found it, what baddie you got it from, what rarity level it is, and so on.  This means that even if you have beaten Borderlands 2 several times on all of the difficulties with ever character, you are ALWAYS looking for the next best weapon.

Though the original Borderlands game was interesting, and I have played a good deal out of it.  But I really didn’t like it, mostly for the fact that the graphics were awful and the online play was hard to connect to.  Now for the graphics, please understand that Borderlands uses cell shading, which gives off a cartoony-look. In the original game, I had a hard time even playing it because it gave me a headache (I call this Final Fantasy VII syndrome–where the graphics are so weird that it hurts you eyeballs/head.).

In Borderlands 2, you still have cell-shading, but IT IS SO MUCH BETTER.  The lines are crisper.  The graphics are much improved, and I can play this game for hours without issue.  Plus, now cell-shading makes sense to me.  This game isn’t about the latest, greatest graphics, but about the humor, satire, and fun of it.  The graphics actually look pretty good, but I have come to understand why the developers choose to use this method.  Also, with the online play, it is pretty easy to connect with your friends or random people.  The original Borderlands was kind of a pain in the you-know-what, but now you can jump from game to game without issue.

So, as you can see, Borderlands 2 is nothing but fun.  I am currently patiently waiting on news for a 3rd.  But in the mean time, happy vault hunting for those who still play!

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No GravatarThe Uncharted series is all about fun and adventure.  Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception does not disappoint.  Whether you are playing it on a last-gen console or as a part of the Uncharted Collection for the current generation, the game delivers exactly what is expected of it.  Though it’s not quite a retro game yet, it’s getting to be a bit older now.  Here is my (Almost) Retro Review of it:

–For the purposes of this review, I played the game on the PlayStation 3.–

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is third person adventure game, developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony.  It is a PlayStation 3-only game, which came out in 2011, and has been pretty successful both in critical acclaim, awards, and copies sold.  The game was re-released in the Uncharted Collection for PlayStation 4 on October 7, 2015 with enhanced graphics and more power as it was rebuilt by Bluepoint Games for the current generation.

*Warning: Some Spoilers, but not many.*

I am going to admit that I have not played the first and second Uncharted games, so I’m not going to go into back-story, since I don’t know it.  However, I will say that the story is actually pretty easy to follow, even without knowing much about the first two.

If you didn’t know already, the Uncharted games are adventure games similar in feel to Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider.  Since I really like adventure-stuff, I am probably going to be biased on some of this (just letting you know).  If that genre is not your cup of tea, you can actually stop reading now.  But if you’re an arm-chair adventurer, like me, then you will probably love this game.

The particular plot of Uncharted 3 revolves around Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan attempting to bring Katherine Marlowe, but they end up digging up more than they bargained for.  There are some flashbacks to a young Nate Drake and many locations to explore, including France and Syria, all in hopes of tracking down possible treasure/secrets Sir Francis Drake may have found in his journeys.

This game has a really fun story that definitely has some Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones qualities to it.  There are also some twists and turns.  The pacing was good as well, not too long or too short.  Many of the characters have been developed throughout the series, but I was able to follow along pretty well without playing the first or second.  Overall, it was a lot of fun to play, though the game is very cut-scene heavy.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or not.  Considering adventure games are supposed to be a bit cinematic, I suppose it’s a plus on Uncharted 3’s side.

*End spoilers.*

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Like the other Uncharted games, 3 is also third person.  When I first saw the franchise being advertised, I thought the gameplay would be a rip-off of the Tomb Raider games.  BUT IT’S NOT.  The closest thing I could relate it to would be The Last of Us meets Assassin’s Creed, but even then I don’t know if that’s an apt description, so I’m going to go into the four aspects of gameplay I noticed the most:

1.) Exploring

Tomb Raider (at least the older ones I’ve played) forces the gamer to line up jumps pretty much perfectly to solve jump puzzles.  Uncharted seems to be more lax on this, though I’ve fallen off enough things in this game to say that you can’t push it too much.    Instead, I feel that it focuses more on the fun of exploring but not making the controls and jumps super hard.  This is a big plus.

2.) Puzzle-solving

I didn’t think that the puzzles were overly hard.  Most of them I could figure out by myself without a walkthrough (and I suck at puzzles).  They were fun, but not to the point of being stressful.  There was only one or two that stumped me for a moment, but YouTube quickly solved that problem.

3.) Battles

To me, the gun-battles felt a lot of the Mass Effect franchise, where you employ the use of cover and shoot from there in most cases.  I thought this game took it a step above by also using a really cool hand to hand fighting system that allows you to hit, block, and push in a battle with multiple people around.  I thought it was quite unique and enjoyed it immensely.

4.) Racing

That’s the best description that I could give it.  There are define times in the game where fighting isn’t the purpose; you must run.  And the running involves jumping and dodging and all sorts of fun.  I haven’t quite played a sequence like it, which is why I really liked playing.  It’s high intensity and really cool.

The multiplayer is pretty standard, though it is a bit weird because it is in third person.  It takes some getting used to.  However, it is fairly fun for those who enjoy that type of thing.  Unfortunately, I only had a chance to play it when it was free on PlayStation Plus, which excluded the co-op play.  I do have the game for PlayStation 4 in the Uncharted Collection.  When I get a chance to play it, I will update this review.

For 2011, the graphics were actually pretty darned good.  The overall game play looked good, but the cut scenes also looked really polished.  For a last-gen console game, I thought Naughty Dog did an amazing job.  Yes, I can say that games like The Last of Us (also Naughty Dog) and BioShock Infinite do look better, but those came out two years later.  Uncharted 3 still holds up very well and looks great in the process.  If you are playing it in the Uncharted Collection, the graphics will be a lot more polished.

In conclusion, I have completely fallen in love with this game and will probably be playing it again.  And again.  And again.  Once I get the time, I will be playing it on PS4 in the Uncharted Collection.

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