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Well, the holidays have officially hit, and there’s a crapton of stuff available for your shopping dollar. Today we’re taking the first of what will be many looks at what will be (and ultimately WON’T be) worth your holiday cheer this year, for both big kids and little kids alike.

CONAN – PS3, XBOX 360, PC

conan.jpgUp first, by Crom, are the adventures of everyone’s favorite Barbarian, CONAN. In what is ultimately a GOD OF WAR rip of…er…”homage”, CONAN has you slicing and dicing your way through stages filled with mythical enemies, soldier, and of course, saving bare chested wenches.

When I say this game is like GOD OF WAR, I mean it basically IS GOD OF WAR. You have your combo-heavy attacks, the screen-prompted button mashing, your different colored orbs to gain health, stats and power, and your gruesome graphics. Here however, gruesome graphics also mean UGLY, not just bloody. CONAN is not a pretty game. While the cut scenes do the job well, they’re not rendered in the best way, and everything doesn’t quite look “next-gen”. Still, they are detailed enough to see the carnage you’ll inflict on your foes, so that’s good for something, right?

And what carnage it will be. CONAN rips through guys like tissue paper, cleaving limb from body. He can pick up just about any weapon lying on the ground, and depending on its size and variety, his combos adjust accordingly. If it’s a two handed broadsword, he’ll swing it like Babe Ruth and swat off your head. Dual-wield two swords and away goes the enemies arms. Carry a shield for protection, and you just might find that it’s good at lopping off some poor sap’s head in a clinch. CONAN practically drowns in the visceral eviscerations, as he drowns his wounds in mead.

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Sadly, all that killing can become repetitive, and while CONAN has a good deal of combos to break up the monotony, some just aren’t as effective as one would hope. While the end result is the same (that is, a dead bad guy) from battling it out with a strong or regular attack, the strong ones usually leave you wide open for return attacks…attacks that become pounded upon you with little reprieve. Once an animation starts with you backpedaling from an attack, another enemy strikes you, sending it all starting over again and you cursing your controller.

Of course, this is actually slightly realistic (I mean, what group of thugs would TAKE YTURNS attacking a single guy?) but it certainly does make things a bit tiresome for a game. Thankfully, moves can be upgraded, and once mastered, can gain you even more stats upgrades and further help you conquer all lands. It’s simplistic, but despite it’s shortcomings, is actually fun. It’s as close to a next-gen GOD OF WAR that we’ll get for a while, and taken as such, you pretty much get what you come for: a carnage filled button mashing mess of guts and boobs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that in my book.

One Gamer’s Opinion:

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SOLIDER OF FORTUNE: PAYBACK – PS3, XBOX 360, PC

sofp.jpgIf it’s blood you want, then brother, you’ll get it by the gallons in SOF:P. Every shot is meant to kill, and more so it seems, as literally FOUNTAINS of crimson spray from every enemy tagged. As a mercenary for hire, you stumble onto a plot that double crosses you on your first mission out, and the remainder of the game is…of course, getting payback.

Payback meaning severing limbs from armies of dudes. With bullets. I never knew you could shoot a man’s head, arms and legs off with pistol shots, but there it is in black, white and red. As a first person shooter, the action is passable, but obviously the gore is there to satisfy the baser needs of gamers. Those with a love of plasma, apparently.

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Apart from the KILL BILL style sprays, there isn’t much to write home about in SOF:P. The story is ho-hum, the controls are basic, and the multiplayer has been done to death. It’s not a particularly bad game, it’s just not a particularly compelling one. It’s nice to be able to customize your weapons from the start of each mission, but it seems like everything you need is unlocked from the start…no upgrades to play towards. Plus, the enemy AI is AMAZING dull. They’ll run headlong into your weapons fire, losing life and limb quickly in the process.

As a shooter, it’s as basic as one gets: A by-the-numbers shooter with nothing more to add than gallons of gore. Sure, it’s a change from HALO or CALL OF DUTY 4, but better time could be spent.

One Gamer’s Opinion:

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CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE – PS3, XBOX 360, PC

cod4_1.jpgSpeaking of CALL OF DUTY 4, it’s finally here, and for once, they’ve left the fields of WWII behind for more topical locales. Namely, the Middle East and points near. This is modern warfare, and with it comes modern weapons, modern sensibilities, modern themes, and of course, modern changes to multiplayer.

I’ve spoken about the perk system before in a previous column when I played the beta, and thankfully, not much has changed. You still gain skill points based on kills and those points can level you up and gain you perks to out fit your avatar. However, the matchmaking system does need a bit of work. In one match, I was paired with two guys at level 3, one guy at 15, me just starting at 1, and three guys in the twenty-fives or higher. That hardly seems fair. Still, it’s a more fun, more solid style of run-and-gun gameplay than HALOs, so I didn’t mind too much.

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As for the single player, the graphics and sound are once again top-notch, with practically Hollywood style presentation. You really seem to care about these soldiers and everyone feels like a team unit…a lofty claim for an FPS. Every nerve wracking fire fight, every advance and retreat, every shining moment and crushing defeat is gloriously brought to life. If there’s only one complaint it’s that there’s no cover system, a feature that should be standard with any FPS released on the next gen platforms. You’ll often find yourself wishing for blind fire or a way to chuck a grenade over a toppled table as you repeatedly step out of the safety of your device only to be ripped to shreds in a cross fire.

If there’s two complaints, it’s that it’s too short. The main story mode can be beaten in about 5 hours, but thankfully, there’s that awesome multiplayer I’ve mentioned. For wartime simulators and First Person Shooters, of which there is a glut of this Holiday season, this is the cream of the crop.

One Gamer’s Opinion:
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DEWY’S ADVENTURE – WII

dewy.jpgEnough with the killing, bloodletting and shooting. How about some lighter-fare. Y’know, for kids? DEWY’S ADVENTURE is one such title aimed at the younger set that I personally was looking forward to. An adventure specifically designed for the Wii, you guide a dewdrop named Dewy on a quest through his world to rid his fellow droplets of the “black rain” that has captured all the other creatures of some brightly colored fruity little forest.

The idea started promising enough. Dewy would slide along the levels as you tilted and shook the wii-mote and change form based on the temperature drop or increase, as dictated by the player. Raise the temperature, and the dewdrop Dewy turns into a gas cloud, stunning foes with lightning shots. Drop the temp, and he freezes into and ice block, spinning and shattering foes as he goes. This sound great, and a lot of fun…that is, until you actually play it.

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Sadly, DEWY’S ADVENTURE suffers from the “too damn cute for it’s own good” syndrome. The story, which started out sounding harmless, is delivered in sparsely animated cut scenes with dialogue and voice acting that make me want to punch myself in the face. “Oh noes, the fowest is in twouble”.

Then, there’s the gameplay itself. While it does take some skill to maneuver Dewy through each level, he just doesn’t control as fluidly as a guy who’s mostly fluid should. His jumps falter a bit, and he’s hard to control in the air whilst tilting the land. See, the wii-mote acts as the stage itself. You tilt the controller to tilt the level, getting Dewy to slide around as needed. It’s kind of a digital version of LABYRINTH, where you guide the ball through the maze? However, instead of drop holes, you get annoying enemies, attacks that don’t deal enough damage, and a jump that invariably won’t send you high enough, or has you careening over the edge of a cliff each time.

I had such high hopes for DEWY’S ADVENTURE, and, while the gameplay isn’t all-bad, it’s just not very good. The controls aren’t tight enough and it just seems “broken”. That coupled with the “let’s talk down to children” storyline and vocals just soured me on the whole situation. For a game that was “built specifically for the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii”, more time should have been spent perfecting those controls.

One Gamer’s Opinion:

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SPIDER-MAN: FRIEND OR FOE – PS2, PS3, PSP, XBOX 360, WII, DS

spideyfof.jpgThe licensing machine is in full effect in the younger-geared Spider title FRIEND OR FOE. Set in the movie universe (sort of) Spidey must team up with his greatest enemies to stop a new threat. Never mind the fact that half of them ‘died” in the films, only to be back here, with no explanations, here they are, fighting along side the wall crawler.

So Doc Ock, Green Goblin, New Goblin and Venom are back from the dead. As well as Sandman, Rhino, Scorpion and heroes Black Cat, Silver Sable, Prowler, Iron Fist…goodness, 14 other character team up with ol’ webhead to battle symbiotic goo similar to Venom’s as it spreads across the globe. As you defeat the mind-altered baddies, they join your team to stop this unknown threat, giving the player a partner for each level, and offering drop-in drop-out co-op play. Attacks are basic and upgradable, but unfortunately, there’s not much reason too.

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See, all the enemies are variations on the same theme. You’ve got your drones, out in two hits. You’ve got the stronger drones…they take three. Then there’re the random big enemies, who have a specific weak point. Through each level there are variations on how they look, but they all behave (and are defeated) the same way. Wail on the attack button, repeat. And since it’s a kid’s game, the lack of challenge doesn’t end there. You never die. Sure, your character might fall off a cliff, or his health diminish, but he respawns right back where he was…over and over again.

The game is as basic as one gets. Basic combat, basic controls…the idea of teaming up with Spidey’s greatest foes is a unique one, but sadly the action just won’t support it. There’s no need to upgrade your moves since the enemies never really change, and the level design has you just running around and mashing buttons over and over to the same ends. It’s just too bland to bear the Spider-man name.

One Gamer’s Opinion:

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There’s more to come… but this ends the column for the day. See you next time.

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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