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Oct 17, 2012

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

This is a really, really good game. However, it's not X-COM UFO Defense or Terror from the Deep with updated graphics, physics and interface, which is what a lot of fans were hoping for. I grew up playing X-Com, Civilization, Command&Conquer, etc etc, all those good classic games. I've been getting one disappointment after another with today's developers trying to give their "spin" of the classics, my latest gripes were Civilization 5 and Diablo 3.


That being said, this is NOT one of those cases. This is actually a really good succesor of the franchise, the moment you open your mind and realize that not EVERYTHING has to be the exact same as the older games. Most of the bad reviews and complains are coming from die-hard fans of the franchise (I'm one of those), that wen't into rampaging rage the moment they didn't find the very exact game in the very exact layout, literally. This game has 80% of the original X-COMs, they took some stuff out, added some others, and overall made a great game. Look, I agree, I'd love to have loadouts, inventory and the extra basic movements with action points, like crouch, kneel, etc. I'd also like to have the similar Geo-escape, the Auto vs Aimed shots, the destruction of ground, and other smaller features they left out. However, not having these things DO NOT make this game a bad successor of the X-COM franchises.

It definitely does NOT merit the "0 scores" fans are giving it. You have to be objective in this case, it's not the exact same game, it's not what probably you were expecting, but it's not a bad game at all. Considering the other X-COM disasters, and today's games, this one is a standout tittle. They amped up the action, gave it nice graphics, the new base layout/design is actually a better idea graphically and logically than the original games, the individual progress of your soldiers through abilities and classes is a very VERY good implementation, and overall they did achieve the "grim feeling" of the original games. Music could've been better, but still gives you that scary feeling like the older games, not as much tough. The parts of the game that I didn't like were the handholding to the point of annoyance of the starting missions, the cheese cut scenes and attempt of background story could've been left out, the lack of randomization of maps/landing zones and the feeling of a linear progression. Conclusion: This is a great game, a decent successor of the X-COM series, but it's NOT the exact same game as the old ones. There were several features left out that could've made the game even better, but there are also couple of really good additions. Overall is a modern age X-COM, it does deserve a good rating and you'd truly enjoy it if you get in your head the fact that this is a new game, not a X-COM UFO Defense with modern graphics, it's in fact a new game.

 There are some bugs here and there, nothing horrible; the game is not "dumbed down" as many are saying, it doesn't have the same level of difficulty as the classics, it's true, but the features left out from the original games DOES NOT grant it the tittle of "dumbed down". Please take with a grain of salt the "0 scores", those are really not objective reviews, they were wrote in anger by fans of the older series that would give ANYTHING a "0" just because it's not the exact same game or maybe just to say "I used to play the older games and nothing will be the same".

NBA 2K13

There was never so much cheese from CPU in any of the 2K games. It is impossible to enjoy while playing against CPU on superstar or hall of fame difficulty. And if you want to make it enjoyable, you will need to try many game sliders combinations which takes time or you will need to play with Heat, Thunder or Lakers (I am sure fans of other teams also play this game). Another issue is that the game has so many bugs. One of the examples is from MyCareer mode which is almost unplayable if you are not point guard because play vision doesn't work correctly or there is a bigger problem in scripting if CPU teammates do not run plays at all. 

The bug is well known by now and there is still no solution (not all of the users have this bug). Rebounding is atrocious as it was in previous games. Too much contact layups, speed problem is still present, magical moves (read: magically disappearing in defense, CPU goes straight through you) from CPU are still there, magical spawning and going in contact layups from CPU even if they are not close to you is still there. I played 2K11 and 2K12 and there were some bad first impressions, but not as bad as they are now. On the other hand, game has some positive sides. Overall presentation and bunch of new pre-game and in-game animations area big plus. Commentary is good and on time. Music is enjoyable, but there is too much Jay Z tracks. I am not sure what they meant to do with "executive produced by Jay Z". Who gives a damn about who "executive produced" soundtrack. Also, I need to mention online games - there is no lag, some online features from 2K11 are coming back and that's very good. Except for invisible scoreboard bug. I will give this game a solid 6, it deserves no more than that, at least not until the patch comes out which will, hopefully, fix some major bugs.

Sid Meier's Civilization V



As a longtime fan of the series, I unfortunately have to say that Civ5 has been vastly overrated by professional reviewers. That's probably because the game looks great and the real flaws don't start to show up until after a few hours of play.

There are certain things I really like about this game. City states were a great addition and make the game a lot more interesting. Being able to purchase land is awesome and realistic. Easier rushbuying is a lot of fun and doesn't unbalance the game.

The new combat system is pretty goofy (for example, archers are a ranged unit but riflemen are not). It's a bit more fun than the old "stacks of doom," but I see reviewers praising the new combat system as "more streamlined" when it is definitely not. Moving an old stack of doom required 2 clicks (click on SOD, click on destination). Now you need to do the same thing 5-10 times as much to move an army.

The new Civic talent tree offers more customization of specific traits, which is fun to plan around. However you can't swap civics to match a change in strategy in-game (eg. teching up at the beginning of the game and then turning to a warlike theocracy once you realize you're likely to lose the space race). This is disappointing. Overall, when Civ5's civics are compared to Civ4 its a wash.

In-between-turn load times suck. On a normal size map in the modern age, I was sitting and watching the hourglass for an average of 15 seconds in between each turn--even when I wasn't watching animations of enemy moves. I'd blame my computer but it runs pretty much every other game at high settings without a hint of a problem.

Music is poor, particularly the asian themed music which sounds like a bad parody of its genre.

It's hard to believe they wasted time animating leaders and making them talk in their own languages. It doesn't add anything to the game and some of their voices (Queen Elizabeth) actually detract from it by being annoying.

The lack of science/gold/culture sliders takes away a lot of customization potential that was fun to tinker with in previous Civ games. This became painfully apparent when going for a cultural victory. A cultural victory doesn't require the last 25% of the tech tree, but you can't stop researching until you run out of money. And in the meantime, because you're still researching new tech, your puppet states are building more and more new buildings and costing you more money. And when you run out of money you can't do a LOT of things, like rush-build or more importantly buy luxury resources and establish good relations with city states that provide culture. Basically you lose the ability to do the things that make the game fun. This is especially frustrating when it have been so easily solved with the old-school sliders, which were never that difficult to manage in the first place.

Civ5 reminds me of Civ3, in that it attempts to add a couple of new game concepts and surprisingly flops at aspects in which its predecessor excelled. Overall, it's an interesting but ultimately flawed game that doesn't hold a candle to its predecessor and will most likely be remembered as one of the weaker chapters of a great series.

Borderlands 2

This is a great iteration on the same formula that made Borderlands fun. Every single system is improved, including the anemic opening fights in the first game; this time you jump into a plot fight without having to wade through a mile of filler first. Claptrap is often actually amusing - Gearbox clearly realized how annoying he became in the first and made him the butt of some honestly funny jokes here. Gun handling is tight and I'd say the PC version is truly a "PC version", not a "PC port" - much unlike the first game, they put in the time to do it right. The difficulty is turned up a few notches, though - my Siren character regularly gets curb stomped which didn't happen much in the first game. The game is clearly balanced for multiplayer, but it's still a lot of fun single player - just don't expect to dominate everything on your first try like in BL 1. In short, this is a truly excellent followup. If you liked Borderlands you absolutely need to get this; if you didn't, skip the first and try this out. Especially for PC, it is literally better in every way. 

Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods and Kings


Bioshock 2

INTRO - If you could describe the perfect game, many people would have tons of ideas that would portray off their own fantasies; whether this is another Final Fantasy VII redeux or something completely original, we all have come to the understanding that games are just something we work with. Bioshock was the gem beneath the stone. During it's release, the gaming market was flooding with overdone title works with nothing to original in the pan. Ken Levine brought to the table something completely different from his System Shock franchise and boy, this was an excellent piece. Bioshock is something that no one expected from the gaming market and the concerns of quality were part of the skepticism but after all that talk, Bioshock proved even better.

GAMEPLAY - The gameplay of Bioshock was something refreshing for the FPS genre pulling elements from the Elder Scrolls and using the same action schemes of your traditional FPS. These two melded together with precision as you traverse through the game pulling objects exploiting the history of Rapture and various pieces to create your own arsenal of weaponry to use against your enemy. The transitions between using plasmids and weapons was a bit rough considering you had to swap between to maps of skills and items but as you learn to grasp the system, it becomes second nature. Overall, Bioshock proved itself in the use of FPS and RPG elements creating a fresh new genre and expanding the horizon for gameplay in the industry.

MECHANICS - One of the biggest concerns about having an underwater city was the use of water in the game. Fortunately, Bioshock was able to show the reality of having a city in such an environment. The fluid gameplay was excellent even with the linear point A to B scenario but the mechanics between each using Irrational Games own physics to generate realistic water elements throughout the game kept the player realizing where they were. The combat system flowed well with hardly and bugs and the game's overall presentation was very well polished on subjected to very few glitches and bugs. The only issue with this game is that it asks a lot out of its PC counter part than the consoles which results in framerate issues.

STORY - The story, hands down, made this game a masterpiece. The story of Rapture and its creator Andrew Ryan has burnt a permanent place in my memory bank as I imagine it will for many who play this game. The enthralling detail of a story line has never been so benevolently sinister yet beautiful in any game I've played and it makes Bioshock stand above its opponents.

VISUALS - The overall look of this game on the PC is better than that of the console though both share grounds equally in keeping the quality together. Irrational Games' art team did a phenominal job of portraying an underwater city built in the late 50s and every piece of Rapture will have you gawking in awe. Throughout this game you will find that there are hardly any flaws in the artistic ability of the development team and that Rapture is practically a virtual art museum.

CONCLUSION - There is not many times in my life where I can say I was in awe of a video game but Bioshock has captured my heart. The visual and story elements create the most beautiful dark place in any FPS I've ever played and it will remain in my history books as one of the best. There isn't one person that I wouldn't recommend this game too and if you're looking for something to try out, this is the perfect candidate. 

Mafia II

If Mafia II could be compared to anything, it would be to that rude cousin everyone has in their family, who while is entertaining always overstays their welcome and ends up making them uncomfortable. I bought this product almost entirely off the strength of its predecessor, whose old-timey feel, believability and great game play endeared me for all time. Mafia II is a beefed-up, modernized slicker continuation that misses the heart of what the first game illustrated. Americana at its grittiest.
The high points for me was the upgraded combat system. Ducking behind anything you could find and retaliating with bursts of gunfire was thrilling. The ability to carry more guns than six people could hold and defy the laws of physics (the one thing this game had on Mafia part one, though it made the game more believable) increased playability and added another level of interest to the game. The hand to hand combat also grew up from the last game, and looked great. Overall the graphics, cut scenes and voice acting were very well-done.
Where it lost me was the game's tone. Mafia II's approach to the telling of mob life, the interaction with other cultures (I get that for this time in history, racism was appropriate...-Ashy Larry voice - but still, tho -_- ) and the plot all mixed together to form something that ultimately had an ending, but kept me at arms' length the whole way. And the ENDING...let's just say to justify it, they'd best be working on a Mafia III.
I'd recommend the game for completest-minded people who are fans of the franchise. Experience it, and like that rude cousin who makes you laugh for a little while then makes you want to head him to the door, put it away and await Mafia III. 

BioShock

"A beautiful smooth veneer finish over a flawed, ultimately hollow core" would sum this title up for me perfectly. The setting and overall theme were done quite well, and the conveyance of exploring a now-ruined underwater dystopia is executed very well. To my eyes, that was where the excellence stopped, and the mediocrity begins. The story holds up about as well as a cardboard cutout in a windstorm, as most of it is told not via in-game events but by picking up random tape recordings scattered throughout the ruins. There was one major plot twist, but by the time it occurs most people would have seen it coming anyway. The weapons, though reasonably balanced, were all pretty standard fare - nothing we haven't seen before. The plasmids, which should have really set the game apart, were only marginally useful save for the one or two strong ones; the rest were relegated to use only for the few virtual stop-gates that required their use for you to pass. By the time I was done playing - which, by the way doesn't take all that long - and had followed the cookie-cutter "good" or "evil" path, I left with the feeling that I could have had much more. I think the initial reviews were made by journalists who played through the first hour or so of the game and were really just absorbing the theme and environment. Had they dug a bit deeper, they would have seen the shiny surface give way to the flaws that lurk underneath.

Major League Baseball 2K12

It's the only baseball game you can get right now on the PC unless you own a 360 or PS3. I have the 2K11 version for the 360 and this version is actually better. I honestly have no need for the online material so if all you want to do is play ball then this is it. I like that you can play along as the season unfolds and create your own player. The menu navigation is not the best but once you get the hang of it there is no issue. Graphics are good on my machine but I'm not sure how the game would fare on a low end rig. I have an i7 2600 with a mid range graphic card so the game moves along smoothly at 1920x1080. For the price, this is an easy decision if you don't want to shell out $40+ for the console versions. Well worth $9.99 and the relatively long download time of 9.5GB which I expected. However, the installation was quick and painless after download which I felt was easier than inserting a physical DVD and remembering to pop it in each time I play. 

NBA 2K12

Game is fun but so many many technical flaws make this frustrating pretty soon and you will put this game down after the initial experience wears off. First of all I play with the 360 controller which I highly recommend. I cannot speak for the keyboard controls because I havent taken time to get used to them.. The gameplay is very smooth and has the most realistic feel than any other basketball game you have played out there...but it is the tiny little things that add up to make you want to put this game away for good..a few examples of which I will share 1. On a fastbreak the CPU easily intercepts and controls your passes regardless of how much advantage you had. It takes just one defender standing in the middle of the paint, sticks his arm out and the ball is his almost all of the time unless you pass the ball to a cutting teammate when you are right within layup range yourself. Also the speed at which the CPU runs back on defense does not depend on speed or quickness ratings at all..Even big men will run faster than guards and leave you feeling unsatisfied on the fastbreak so many times because the defense unrealistically tightened up on you when you had a head of steam on them...this really adds up. Fastbreak is one of the most exciting parts of playing basketball in real of video game and if you dont get to have fun with it then you can see how the more grinding parts of playing the game will get to you slowly.. 2. It is too hard to make a driving layup or slash to the bucket in this game on half court. It is so hard to break someone off the dribble..even the big men...It is so bad that you will end up playing a jumpshot oriented game eventually because of how unfruitful trying to slash to the basket can be majority of the times. 3. 

Trade logic is horribe in Association mode and My player mode..the CPU teams make the most horrendous trades. Completely unbalanced, unnecessary, trading for a player when they dont even need someone who plays his position. CPU teams may end up having a logjam at guard positiion..It just kills the feel of advancing through the game. The NBA teams look like a joke the deeper you go in. 4. The game will feel rigged at times. Especially when the CPU is trying to make a comeback. Your wideopen shots will fail but they can hit contested fadeaway 3s. There are many tiny things like this that will turn you off from this game. I am a big NBA fan so it is hard for me to simply let go off this game...but it wont be the same for everyone.. A patch is supposed to come out for PC but it wont be for around a month or even more from me writing this review. You cannot leave a game this unpolished and flawed out for users to have to play with... PS: the online feature is garbage and does not work on PC..


Spec Ops: The Line 

I was expecting this game to be a mediocre, run of the mill, third person shooter. I saw it on sale on here for half off the weekend after it's release, and I picked it up. It has been a long while since I've looked forward to getting home to play a game, and this game makes it so. The story does not drag. It is enticing and interesting. You fill the role of a captain of a 3 man squad who were sent into Dubai which has been ruined by war and extreme, near constant sand storms (which lead to very interesting gameplay and visuals), to recover survivors of the whole situation. You start to uncover a long strange line of destructive behavior from the different sides of the war, while being caught right in the middle. Currently I am about 3.5 hours in, and have not once been in any way bored. The game does currently seem a bit easy. I started on the hardest unlocked difficulty, suicidal I believe it is called, and it has gone pretty quickly. I do enjoy that the enemies are not bullet sponges. They die in about 3 bullets or less, and headshots are OHKs. The majority of the enviroments allow you to flank the enemy. While the levels tend to progress in a generally linear fashion, most of the fire fight areas are large, interesting, and varied. This game portrays the feeling of stranded that you are very well. You are constantly low on ammo, you swap weapons very often, and you rarely come across someone who isn't trying to kill you. Overall, for 25 dollars I completely feel this game is worth it. I have not been able to try multiplayer, due to some kind of issue with steamworks. I don't know what it is but the game believes I'm in offline mode, when I'm not, but if the multiplayer is good, then this is a 5 star game, in my opinion. 

Sid Meier's Railroads!

I'm not trying to boast or claim to be a Nostradamus of game prediction, but when September rolled around and there was still only one totally meaningless preview video and a handful of screenshots showing at most a train on a track next to some ridiculously off-scale buildings floating around on the net, I knew this was a dumbed down rush job. From what I've read on gaming forums that at least one developer has participated in, this was never meant to be "Railroad Tycoon 4", and to that end at least there's truth in advertising.

Beyond that however, the changes are designed solely to cater to the casual gaming crowd and to drive up sales. I cannot imagine any other reason, since released as is this game was bound to disappoint long-time RRT series fans. The fact that they do not even include a map or scenario editor to extend the pitifully short life of the game's included maps is perhaps the most disappointing. The scale of the maps has already been beaten to death, but those other reviewers are not inaccurately describing their cramped nature. Everything else that was even remotely challenging (track laying, the stock market, chained economies, etc.) in the previous titles is more or less gone or dumbed down to near pointlessness.

This is a game that caters to the Sims crowd, and that is not a bad thing in itself but I fear games like this will become ever more numerous as sales numbers overtake depth and challenge and catering to smaller, more "intense" and educated gamers. If this is the heir to Railroad Tycoon, god forbid what Civ 5 may end up as. 

CivCity: Rome The Darkness II

Sid Meier's Pirates!

While there should be little doubt that this game is a reissue of the original pirates game of the 80's, and some parts seem dated at best, it is still hours of fun. The drawbacks of the game are dated graphics, some repetitious fight scenes, and rather generic quests but there is just something about Pirates! that is somehow addicting. Hardcore strategy buffs might not care for the game due to its limited choices and micromanagement but for those of us who grew up with the original, it is a wonderful re-release of a classic, and a more than a fair gaming value. 

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