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We’re getting deep into the months of holiday releases, kids. New titles are springing up literally by the hundreds each week, and who’s there to help you keep track of you holiday dollar? That’s right…me, baby. This week we’re going to take a look at some of the more recent releases across ALL the consoles, from Xbox 360 and PS3, the Wii and PS2, to the handhelds of DS and PSP. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get into it.

TIME IS ON MY SIDE, YES IT IS

timeshift.jpgFor a game that’s been done and redone so many times before its release, TIMESHIFT has finally hits shelves, and unless you knew of its delays, doesn’t show it too much. Out now for Xbox 360 and PC, and due on PS3 next month, the game (originally due a few years ago on the ORIGINAL Xbox) has gone from a handsome hero voiced by Dennis Quaid to a faceless, voiceless anybody in a super suit. However, the game that surrounds said hero is actually more interesting than it started out to be, and that’s thanks to a suped up graphics engine, and a better handle on how to utilize the titular time shifting powers.

After an experiment gone wrong, both Dr. Adrian Krone and yourself are shipped backwards in time thanks to the suits you wear; his being the alpha and yours the beta-versions of the experimental SSAM software…which, in a nutshell, basically lets you stop, slow and reverse small chunks of time. While he went back a bit before you and used the suit he developed to conquer a period in history, you move forward to stop him, as only a scientist in a crazy suit can: by shooting up a lot of shit. Thanks to the suit, you can use the environment to your advantage too. You can bypass electrified water by freezing time and walking across it or shooting a barrel off a tower, jumping on it, reversing time, and riding it back UP to the top to gain a high vantage point…all done with the suit.

While the SSAM system in your suit may hold the player’s hand a good deal of the time as to when to use what time power the player also has the freedom to act however they wish in any given situation. Simply tapping the button executes whatever SSAM suggests, holding it brings up the 3 functions to allow you to choose the time power you feel best suits the task at hand. Unfortunately, most of the “puzzles” you’re tasked with aren’t that mind-bending. Walking on water as mentioned happens a bit to frequently, and using the time freeze to stop a grate you just cranked open from dropping occurs a few as well…and that’s about the extent of them.

Still, the freedom to use whatever power whenever does open up areas you may not have realized, but it does take a certain amount of imagination. Anyone can stop time, take an enemies weapon, and tag them with a sticky grenade, only to unfreeze it, watch them panic and go boom. Still others may not use the power when a lone enemy drops into your path unexpectedly, to suddenly reverse time and have them not even realize you were there as you walk past, saving on ammo. It’s these kinds of choices that really let players think outside the box when it comes to an FPS.

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Sadly, when it comes down to the meat of it, however, it’s just another run of the mill shooter. Enemy AI isn’t the best, as most will stand out in the open as you shoot them (time frozen or not). The environments aren’t that different than any other FPS (there’s a sewer level, there’s a warehouse level, yawn), and while the weapons are cool enough, they’re a tad unbalanced as far as firepower in certain ones, and with the AI so drab, you won’t get much thrill out of them. That, toppled with the basic “stop the bad guy” storyline, TIMESHIFT has taken a good idea, and tagged it onto a mediocre shooter. Plus, and I mean this seriously, if you’re fighting with the resistance, but you JUST dropped in from nowhere, why does NO ONE question who you are? I mean, I know this has gone through several different writings but WOW…

Graphically, the game can have some really nice touches, like stopping time in the rain, or an exceptionally large explosion you’re dodging, but at others, like the backgrounds, can run into the territories of drabness. The audio is also only passable, with weapons not given the right amount of “oomph” needed to have a satisfying kick. Multiplayer at least saves the game from total mediocrity, as the time elements are smartly put into use here as “Chrono Grenades”; separate bubbles of time you can throw and place you adversaries into to seriously fuck them up. Plus, somehow, the weapons balance issue seems resolved here. Good times indeed.

All in all, TIMESHIFT isn’t a total wash. The time elements really ARE the main draw of the game, and a careful imagination can really warrant some pretty awesome effects and displays of coolness. It’s just too bad they’re found within such an average shooter.

One Gamer’s Opinion:

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QUICKSHOTS

MANHUNT 2

manhunt2_1.jpgFor a game that’s steeped in controversy, for once, it’s kind of backfired on Rockstar Games. MANHUNT 2, out now for PS2, PSP and Wii, originally got the dreaded AO rating from the ESRB. After some careful edits, the game was re-evaluated and given the M rating…but at the cost of what makes the game enjoyable to most; the brutality of the killings. Here, the story of Leo Kasper and Daniel Lamb has them slaying all those who get in their way as they try to escape the trappings of an experiment gone wrong, but no one knows HOW they kill. Every execution is just SLIGHTLY out of the camera’s view, and effects like shake and blur are done to such an extreme that identification is practically nil. Add to that is the Wii version’s motion guides in the top left corner of each kill, and you’re unable to watch the action at ALL. Which, sadly, is the only reason people play this series. The plot in this one isn’t as engaging (no video game version of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME this time around) which only makes the game seem to want to be shocking, but has that looming censorship over head. There’s rumors that the PSP and PS2 version can be hacked to remove the kill filters, but that still wouldn’t seem to make the game any more playable. Still, for some general craziness, it does have some merit, as the environments, and especially the enemies, are even more fucked up than before. If you’re sadistic enough (and no, not in THAT way) you just might enjoy the pain of MANHUNT 2.

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One Gamer’s Opinion:

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VIRTUA FIGHTER 5

vf5_1.jpgThe VF series is the bastard child of the fighting game genre, and it doesn’t deserve that. It may not have the unique characters of TEKKEN, or the reversals and “bump mapping” of the DOA series, but what it does have is one of the deepest fighting engines found in games today. Sure, button mashing can get you through the matches, but if you take the time, you can find that all of the fighters have a deep move set, with combos and crunchers that take weeks to master. That, fueled with the game’s quest mode, will have fighters customizing their avatars with new costumes and accessories, then taking them online to the smoothest lag free smackdowns around. The game looks amazing, plays amazing, and is one of the best one-on-one fighting experiences since…well, since VIRTUA FIGHTER 4: EVOLUTION. A definite buy.

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One Gamer’s Opinion:
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FINAL FANTASY TACTICS and FRONT MISSION

fft1.jpgSquare-Enix likes handheld systems. They also like their old games. Both of these are to our benefit, as two of their greatest strategy games have found their way to the PSP and DS. FINAL FANTASY TACTICS: WAR OF THE LIONS is just as good as you remember on PSOne, but now includes gorgeous cut scenes, new job classes, and some stellar multiplayer options. All the tactical strategizing is back, and while the game can be a bit unforgiving in areas, that shouldn’t stop tactics fans from picking this up, even if you’ve blazed through it before.

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frontmission.jpgFRONT MISSION, on DS, takes the little-seen SNES title and ads touch screen control to customize your mechs and battle it out pseudo RTS style, with multiplayer options galore. The story of post-apocalypse “wanzer” mechs will find it’s bigger audience here, and the game is a perfect fit for quick battles on the go, alone or with friends, though the single player does take a bit to get moving. Once it sets trough, however, its deep customization will take hold and not let up. Both are solid re-releases that first timers and long time fans will want to grab.

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One Gamer’s Opinion (for both):

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CRAPTACULAR GAME OF THE WEEK

kengo1.jpgI know it’s been out for a while, but something must be said about KENGO: LEGEND OF THE 9, and that something is this: who bothered, and why? The game is broken from start to finish, and if anyone has picked up the box they must immediately cleanse their hands, lest the game infect them. A sloppy story mode (rehashed from different POVS for each character), a broken fighting engine (two attack types that EVERYONE blocks) and graphics that look like FIRST GEN Xbox should make this game suffer the same fate as the game’s protagonists; a quick death due to shoddy hit detection and blocking. Yeesh.

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One Gamer’s Opinion:

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Well, after those quick hits, I think we’re done for the week. Big stuff on the horizon, though… keep your peepers peeled.

 

THE GAME ON! RATING SYSTEM

 

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Ratings From Greatest to Least:

Kick Ass, Right On, Okay, Eh, and Stinker (aka CRAPTACULAR)

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