Category Archives: Video Games
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a remarkable shooter, but not because of its story, or its visuals, or some innovative new game mechanic. No, what makes Gunslinger so successful is its focus on delivering some of the most entertaining shooting around. Each and every bullet fired from your trusty six-shooter rings out with a booming blast that echoes around the valleys of the Old West and slams into villainous cowboys with a thoroughly satisfying splat. It’s all so tight, and all so controlled, that the shorter missions and lack of exploration are easily overlooked in the pursuit of the perfect combo and the glory of a leaderboard-topping high score.
With the shooting displaying such finesse, it’s a shame that the story doesn’t quite reach the same levels of quality. But that’s not to say it’s entirely without merit. There are moments when it’s deliciously sharp and witty, its tongue firmly in cheek as narrator and protagonist Silas Greaves tells of his adventures through the Old West via a series of flashbacks, rewriting history in the progress. Famous outlaws like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Billy the Kid make appearances, and sometimes disappearances too, as Greaves forgets parts of his stories and throws outlaws in and out of each of the short levels at will. There are even a few nods to the dumbness of video game mechanics that raise a chuckle and let you know that Gunslinger isn’t taking itself too seriously.
Outside of those cheeky moments, some crisp animated cutscenes, and the hearty Southern drawl of Greaves, the story offers little in the way of surprises, building as it does to a predictable conclusion. Still, the onus here is on the shooting, and Gunslinger is an undoubted success in that regard. Each level is constructed like an old-school pop-up shooting gallery, with crazed cowboys aplenty for you to take aim at. The use of cover and height around each level is impressive, not because it’s particularly sophisticated, but because it gels so well with the fast-paced shooting. You’re constantly kept on your toes and behind your iron sights as you scan behind every rock and up to every water tower to pick off pesky cowboys.
Do so quickly enough, and you begin to rack up a score multiplier. This proves to be very compelling, and tons of fun. The satisfaction of nailing a 10x multiplier with some wonderfully quick shooting as you dash behind cover cannot be overstated. And Gunslinger just gets better with each level as enemies move more quickly and rattle off more bullets, forcing you to up your game and become ever more proficient with your weapon of choice. By the end, you feel like you’ve developed some accomplished six-shooter skills, even if they are limited to the virtual world. And as an added incentive, in the story mode, any points you earn are converted to experience points, which you can use to buy new skills such as quicker reloads or the ability to slow down time when you look down a gun’s iron sight.
There are special, super-shiny guns to unlock too, but the majority of weapon types can be found in each level. And while the weapon selection isn’t vast, it is sensible, giving you enough variety to fine-tune the action to your own style. Like to pick off enemies from afar? Arm yourself with a rifle for long-range shots, and back it up with a quick-fire six-shooter for closer combat. Like things up close and personal? Saddle up with a sawed-off shotgun and a pair of powerful Ranger revolvers for some messy takedowns. Or, if you just feel the need to blow stuff up, light a few sticks of dynamite and watch your enemies fly.
The excellent shooting is capped off with the series’ trademark quick-draw duels. The system has been tweaked slightly so that instead of following the footsteps of your opponent, you have to keep him within a target reticle to increase focus, while also keeping Greaves’ trigger finger as near to his pistol as possible for a faster draw. It’s a precise, fun system that’s a great counterpoint to the fast-paced action that precedes each duel. If only every boss battle in the game worked this way. Sadly, there are some frustrating sequences where you’re forced to face off against bosses armed with Gatling guns. Your only recourse is to spam dynamite at them from behind cover and hope for the best. Any other move results in a frustrating instant death.
Such frustrations aren’t enough to sour Gunslinger, particularly when they disappear altogether in arcade mode. There, you’re treated to short, timed levels where your goal is to rack up as high a score as possible as quickly as you can. These are an absolute blast to play through, distilling everything that’s great about Gunslinger’s combat into short bursts of action. And it’s their very shortness that makes them so compelling, letting you quickly replay levels to rack up the biggest multipliers, and perfect every high-scoring headshot. There’s a similar mode for duels too, where you’re judged on the accuracy and speed of your shots. Both modes link to online leaderboards, so if you’re the competitive type, prepare to sink hours into beating your friends, or making your way into the top 10.
It’s Gunslinger’s arcade hooks that set it apart from other shooters. The single-minded focus on creating as tight and as entertaining an arcade-style shooting experience as possible is a breath of fresh air, particularly after the disappointment that was Call of Juarez: The Cartel. There’s so much stupid satisfaction to be had from Gunslinger’s bloody headshots and from nailing sweet combos that its flaws quickly disappear in a flurry of gunpowder and shotgun shells. It doesn’t look half-bad either, with a semi-cel-shaded design and some nicely detailed environments that drive the Wild West theme home. Don’t worry that the series has been moved to XBLA. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a whole heap of Western fun and a thoroughly welcome return to form.
From the controllers to the big screen. The Morning Crew reveals the five best movies based on video games.
NCSoft is prepping an expansion pack for GUILD WARS 2! Official Xbox Magazine has revealed some juicy gameplay details about the upcoming CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2! FINAL FANTASY VII and VIII are both heading to Steam soon! Since it’s reveal this year, the buzz surrounding the Playstation 4 has considerably faded. Shaquille O’Neal’s entertainment company, “Mine ‘O Mine,” has trademarked Shaqfighter, to cover video games, entertainment services and an animated series.
With its reversal of typical tower defense roles, Anomaly: Warzone Earth‘s experiment in pushing small military convoys past heavily entrenched alien strongholds really hit the sweet spot between familiar and fresh. Anomaly 2 layers on a smattering of interesting new ideas to flesh out the core gameplay with a few welcome added strategic complexities, though it doesn’t go quite far enough to sustain the same innovative vibe of the original. Going back on the offensive for another round of mechanized tower thrashing still offers a fun–albeit brief–challenge. Fortunately, a dynamic new multiplayer mode picks up a lot of the slack, offering ample reason to keep blasting away after you push through the quick campaign.
Post-alien invasion, Earth isn’t looking so hot. Giant extraterrestrial machines have taken over much of the planet’s surface, which is now transformed into a barren frozen wasteland. Struggling to survive, the last remnants of humanity have formed up into roving convoys to scavenge the land for supplies needed to stay alive. As the commander of one such convoy, you set out to recover, rebuild, and deploy a lost superweapon dubbed Project Shockwave in hopes of taking down the aliens and regaining control. The 14-chapter campaign recaps the plot of the original game and eases you into the gameplay well enough that newcomers won’t feel left behind. Clocking in at about five hours or so, it’s short and punchy–just long enough to throw a mix of new units, mechanics, and tactical situations into the fray without recycling encounters and growing stale.
Building out your armored convoy and rolling through massive winding stages as the aggressor, you spend half of your time directing and adjusting its course on a map screen to deal maximum damage, avoid more dangerous traps, and complete objectives. The real-time action pauses while you plot your path and upgrade or rearrange your units, giving you moments to consider what’s ahead and adjust accordingly. Once you set your path, your convoy rolls out along the course laid out while you hoof it on foot to deploy power-ups to aid your crew and hamper the efforts of the enemy towers waiting for you around every turn. While the gameplay hasn’t changed much from the original, new tricks keep the single-player campaign rolling along with some fresh energy.
This time around, you can transform all of your unit types into a second combat form with a quick click of the mouse, giving them alternate fire modes and greater adaptability to help you in your missions. It’s cool to watch and opens up a great range of strategic options when you’re dealing with foes that have specific strengths and weaknesses. New units are added to your arsenal at almost every stage too, and the game does an excellent job of explaining how they fit into the mix.
While all but a few units are carryovers from the original game, their morph abilities make them feel new. Between sluggish rocket launchers, machine-gunning tanks, force field-providing hover jets, and more, there’s good variety across the spectrum of vehicles you can deploy. You need this range of abilities, too, because some of the new enemies thrown in your path will really throw your squad for a loop and send you scrambling to adapt.
Globetrotting to battle aliens across the US, South America, and beyond delivers a nice mix of vistas that run the gamut from snowy hilltops and dense cityscapes to sweltering jungles. Anomaly 2 looks stunning, and every detail really pops on the screen. Beyond visual variety, the levels themselves also keep you guessing, which is what makes the tough but short campaign worth motoring through. A great example is one of the later missions which has you driving around a central base to defend it from oncoming waves of enemy tower structures that are encroaching from four directions. This and other unexpected surprises help keep missions from growing too monotonous, though there are stretches that lag.
The most exciting addition is Anomaly 2′s unique competitive multiplayer mode, which puts one player in control of the convoy and another in control of the alien turret defenses. Though playing as the humans feels very similar to playing the main campaign, the alien faction is a completely different animal that requires you to harvest resources, deploy turrets, and expand your infrastructure while fending off the convoy’s attacks. Both sides earn points for destroying units, and unlocking different tiers earns you extra abilities and new units or buildings to deploy.
This all plays into a cool tug-of-war style scoring system that makes for some intense flip-flopping between who has the advantage at any given moment. As you dig into match after match, bigger maps unlock, opening additional settings and strategic considerations to keep battles interesting. While some games can take a decent amount of time to play out, they move along quickly on smaller arenas. This mode is a satisfying, well-implemented addition that greatly extends the fun beyond the main campaign.
For all of its updates and improvements, Anomaly 2 doesn’t feel quite as groundbreaking as its predecessor. It refines and builds on the original’s table-turning spin on the genre while staying largely within the established blueprint. That’s a minor complaint, really, because it’s still a great game. Going back on the offensive for another round of mechanized tower thrashing still offers a fun challenge. The exciting new multiplayer mode adds to the thrills, offering ample reason to keep blasting away after you push through the quick campaign.
UPDATE: Trion tells us the layoffs were not as bad as IGN’s sources indicated: “up to half of the company was not affected by the reduction,” and reports of some employees being escorted out of the studio and others not receiving severance are false. The original story follows below.
The company behind Defiance and Rift has “adjusted [its] staffing levels” and anonymous sources claim half to four-fifths of the company’s staff were laid off. IGN broke the news, saying Trion’s San Diego studio, which was primarily responsible for work on Defiance, was hit the hardest.
IGN’s sources say employees are being escorted from the premises, and that certain senior leaders may not receive severance because of “undelivered services.”
Trion avoided numbers in its official response, but did acknowledge some staffing changes have been made within its three studios:
“To best position Trion in a rapidly changing industry, we have reorganized our teams and are expanding our free to play offering. With Defiance, we delivered a great game that more than one million gamers registered to play and continue to enjoy. As we progress from launch to ongoing development of the game, we are adjusting our staffing levels to deliver new content and improved features. Rift, and our other titles in development, were unaffected by these changes. We are very much looking forward to the free to play release of Rift and are excited by the other new titles currently in development.”
Trion Worlds also laid off as many as 40 Rift developers in December. Defiance’s SyFy network television show was greenlit for a second season last week.