by: Jeb Haught
PUBLISHER: Square Enix
SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 3
ESRB RATING: Teen
REVIEW RATING: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Glancing at the description for “Star Ocean: The Last Hope International” on the case — “Explore the galaxy, discover allies and enemies, encounter a threat to all of humanity” — one might think that the game seems comparable to “Mass Effect.” On the contrary, the only similarity these two games share is interstellar exploration because Star Ocean is much more of a traditional JRPG, while “Mass Effect” is an action game with RPG elements.
This title is basically a slightly enhanced version of last year’s Xbox 360 prequel that follows a pilot named Edge as he and his crew embark on the Space Reconnaissance Force’s debut journey to the stars. After WWIII decimates Earth, humanity’s only hope is to colonize a new planet. Unfortunately, problems with the warp drive force a crash landing on an unsavory planet, and the inhabitants aren’t very friendly!
Don’t let the deceptively large outside levels fool you: This is a dungeon crawler where players will have to trudge through seemingly endless dank caves only to find out they have to backtrack their way out. As if this frustrating and outdated level design wasn’t enough, the designers placed save points very far apart, so players have to replay large portions of the game if their characters perish.
Combat is performed in real-time, but it is initiated by literally running into enemies to trigger “enemy encounters.” This old-school mechanic starts a battle scene where players control one character at a time that can freely engage any enemy on-screen and also switch between teammates at will. As a result, players can utilize each character’s skills, and their behavior can also be customized to act a certain way when the computer controls them. Switching characters also helps to control which character the enemy attacks.
With most of the environments so closed-in, I’m surprised that the visuals aren’t more impressive. Even worse is noticeable pop-up from many elements of the game, ranging from plants to enemies. Thank goodness the awesome item creation system from past games is intact or else “Star Ocean: The Last Hope International” would be just another fading star.
Even Fans Will Find ‘Aliens Vs. Predator’ Disappointing
SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360 (PS3, PC)
ESRB RATING: Mature
REVIEW RATING: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
The gruesome Alien and Predator franchises both produced popular films and eventually merged for two enjoyable games. So, why are both Aliens vs. Predator movies so incredibly horrid? Surely the latest “Aliens Vs. Predator” game is better than the movies. Right? Right? Wrong!
Single player is divided into human, Predator and Alien campaigns that revolve around the same tired story. Once again, humans have accidentally released Aliens and the Predators swoop in to shred everything. This thin story line is little more than an excuse to pit three deadly races against each other, and it never introduces any memorable characters, such as tough guy Blain (“I ain’t got time to bleed”) or the ultra-annoying Hudson (” … they’re gonna get us”).
Playing as the humans takes me back to the good old days, but not in a good way. It feels like I’m playing a mid-1990s “twitch-shooter” because there is no “aim mode” that enhances accuracy, no crouch ability and no way to take cover behind objects. Sure, the use of flares and a flashlight to locate enemies in the dark helps to create tension, but I’m tired of treading through dark environs.
Predators control a little better, but they feel stiff when moving around. Since it takes energy to use the plasma caster gun, players will mostly use arm blades to dispatch enemies. That wouldn’t be so bad if there were more melee maneuvers, but it seems like my Predator only learned three or four attack moves in bug-hunt class.
On to the Aliens, which aren’t nearly as nimble as they appear. I like the ability to crawl on the walls and ceiling, but transitioning from one angle to another is awkward to say the least. They are also very hard to see against the bland, dark backgrounds, which gives them an advantage in several uninspiring multiplayer modes.
Sadly, the authentic sound effects are the best part of “Aliens Vs. Predator.” I think Hicks summed it up in the “Aliens” movie: “I say take off and nuke the entire [game] from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.”
REVIEW SCORING SYSTEM
5 stars = Must Have
4 stars = Very Good
3 stars = Above Average
2 stars = Bargain Bin
1 star = Don’t Bother
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
E10-plus: (Everyone 10 and older)
T: Teen (13 and older)
M: Mature (17 and older)
To find out more about Jeb Haught and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM.