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No GravatarI had been dreading playing Mass Effect 3 for years because I knew how bad the ending was.  In fact, I procrastinated for a couple of years by continuously playing Mass Effect 2 over and over again.  Well, after I finished ME2 four times through, I decided it was finally time to move onto Mass Effect 3.  I began the game with a bit of trepidation, but it didn’t take me too long to figure out that ninety-nine percent of ME3 is actually an amazing game.  It’s that pesky one percent that wrecks the whole thing.  But I’ll get to that later.  First, let’s concentrate on the good:

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Mass Effect 3 is a third person, action RPG developed by BioWare and published by EA in March of 2012 for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and eventually Wii U.  The game uses the Unreal 3 Enginge and improved upon the graphics and game play of its predecessors.

For a moment, let’s pretend that the last five to ten minutes of the game does not exist and only concentrate on the good parts of the story.  And there are many.  Mass Effect 3 leaves off where ME2 left us: after years of warning, the Reapers finally come and invade Earth.  Commander Shepard is recruited to rally a force that will be able to stop them.  After finding a an ancient Prothean artifact on Mars that may be the key to the Reapers’ undoing, Shepard and his team must gather materials and help in order to build the device that will hopefully save Earth and the rest of the galaxy.

It’s a really fun story line, though it’s a bit desperate at times.  There is still a bit of humor thrown  in every once in awhile to keep it from being too dark (i.e. Joker’s The Hunt for Red October joke, which was quite a cute little Easter Egg).  Since the player accumulates resources throughout the game, every missions feels like it matters, even the side missions.

Again, just like the first two Mass Effect games, the space setting is done right.  ME3 has more of the amazingly rich settings that I have loved about the franchise, complete with a detailed set of back-story or “Codex.”  Although the game is Science fiction, the pseudo-science jargon feels like it could actually be real.  From the relays to the use of biotics to the Crucible, everything seems to be plausible and like it could actually happen.

For those players who had played through the first two games, there is an overlying tone of sadness as many of your previous team’s homes get wiped away by the Reapers.  There are also some set characters that will die on you, and depending on how you played the previous two games, others team members may go as well.  I actually cried several times during the game because I had gotten so attached to a few of the ones that died.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Mass Effect 3 moved me so much that I cried.  I cried more in ME3 than ME2, which I enjoyed much more.  The game would have been amazing without those last ten minutes, but I will leave aspect last.

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The game play was actually much improved from Mass Effect 2…once a player gets used to the controls.  I had some issues with the roll from cover to cover for a bit because I was so used to the mechanics of ME2.  After awhile, I got much better at it.  Though it still has standard duck and cover, third person shooting elements, I found that the game enemy AI was much sneakier than in the first two Mass Effect games.  Multiple bad guys would actually try to outflank me on many occasions, something that happened very rarely in the ME2.  The RPG elements felt pretty similar to Mass Effect 2.  In ME3, the missions take on a sense of desperation.  Even better, the planet mining that was the worst part of ME2 has been replaced with a scanning for resources in ME3.  I can be a pain because the more the player scans, the more the Reapers are attracted.  This could be an annoying feature.  However,  at this point, anyone can Google any sector and get the precise places of the resources.  Problem solved.

Just like Mass Effect 2, ME3 is not a typical open-world RPG because of the whole space thing.  However, just like with the previous games, the player does get free roam of the galaxy, as long as there are no Reapers actively looking for you.

Mass Effect 3 continues with the great choice-driven tradition of the series.  Unfortunately, that goes down the drain in the final few minutes, but the rest of the game gives you some amazing choices.  The ability to make decision that will affect how the game goes is one of the best parts of the game.  Also, players still have the option to player Shepard however they’d like.  Dialogue options are more paragon/renegade focused without as many neutral options.  One thing that I did not like about the dialogue options was that a player has to hit all of the right paragon options earlier on in the game to get the “good” Illusive Man response at the end.  I totally missed it, but I really didn’t want to mess with a walk-through on a game that really shouldn’t need one.

Mass Effect 3 is one of the few last-gen games that I can still play and not cringe a bit.  It still looks great.  The upgrades from ME2 were amazing.  The characters looks great and the environment looks even better.  The regular game play is great, but the cut-scenes are what really look amazing.  It is still a game that I would recommend to play graphics-wise even after a year and a half of the current gen of consoles.

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I cannot say enough of the amazing voice actors that have contributed to Mass Effect 3.  BioWare pulled an amazing team together, as always.  Honestly, nothing really disappoints in this game.  Well, except…

Everything goes downhill in the last ten minutes of the game.
I honestly felt like I wanted to hit my head through a wall when I finished the game, and I am not exaggerating.  How can you go from such a great story to such a disappointment?  The last ten minutes of the game are just absolutely awful.  I don’t even really care that Shepard dies no matter what.  He did go up against the Reapers, but the explanation about why the Reapers were destroying everything made no sense.  There was also no real ending choices.  The player basically gets to choose what filter color he or she wants over the end sequence.  I am not exactly sure what BioWare was trying to do there, but I’m assuming that it was a rush to get the game out for whatever reason.  Unfortunately, that rush led to one of the worst game endings in the history of video games.  It’s unfortunate too because the rest of the game is so good.

I still love Mass Effect 3, despite the ending.  To get around the ending, I recommend stopping after saying goodbye to all of your teammates and friends.  Then you can just make up a better ending in your head because what BioWare gave us is just awful.

By Jessica Brister On 15 Jul, 2016 At 09:01 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Games You Slept On, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments

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.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 13 May, 2016 At 12:50 AM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarValkyria Chronicles is a game that received much acclaim when it first came out but was still overlooked by many.  Sega has remastered the PS3 classic for the PS4, and now it is available for a new generation of players to enjoy.

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Valkyria Chronicles is many things in one.  It tells a war story in the form of a Strategy RPG, but it isn’t a traditional Strategy RPG.  Unlike others in the genre, when you select a character to move in this game, you actually control them, and how they attack.  This makes Valkyria Chronicles a hybrid between Strategy RPGs and Third Person Shooters (albeit leaning heavily to the Strategy RPG Genre).  It is an interesting set up, and while others have tried it since, none have done it as well as Valkyria Chronicles.

The story is one that tells of wartime conflict, but with humor spliced in at times so you are not overwhelmed.  The steampunk-esque setting really does allow a lot to be done and the characters within are developed well.  In fact, much like a certain other Strategy RPG, this is a game where you will grow attached to all the characters and will want to save them from dying in battle.  Even the minor characters have distinct personalities that make them stand out as individuals.

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The art is done in a sketchbook art style, giving the game a unique look that helps convey its story better than it would have been able to with a  traditional art style. This style comes off as a serious cartoon about major issues.  It gives the game a sense of identity, a sense of difference.  This is a game that is not like others and that is a good thing.

The game may have elements of third person shooters mixed in with its strategy elements, but do not be misled as this is truly a strategy first game. You will have to coordinate your combatants and choose carefully who to bring to battle and who to save for later. The wrong pick of soldiers can lead to a crushing defeat, while a good pick can lead to a faster victory. There is a steep learning curve, much steeper than most Strategy RPGS due to the aforementioned unique combat, but it isn’t audience alienating as some other games can be.

Valkyria Chronicles Remastered runs at 1080p and 60 frames per second, which makes the art style truly stand out and look alive. The remastering includes an expert difficulty and the previous DLC and that is all.  To be honest, given the price this is being sold at, that is a good deal despite some complaints people may have about content. The game also includes Japanese voices and English subtitles and given that at some points, the English voice acting can get extremely annoying, this is a welcome addition. It isn’t that the voice work in English is bad as a whole, but some individual voiceovers are not exactly the best done. And given that there are a lot of cut scenes ( to be expected in an RPG), you might want an alternative.

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Aside from the steep learning curve and the occasionally spotty voice acting, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is a good package at a good price. The gameplay is solid and the visuals are well done. With solid combat and story, the game has something for everyone. I say that if you are a fan of strategy games and especially Strategy RPGs and have not yet played this game, then you really should check it out. It is an experience that you will not regret.

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.