Month: July 2011

Captain America: Super Soldier (PS3) Review 1

Captain America: Super Soldier (PS3) Review

You’ve finished watching the Captain America movie, and now you want to feel like a super hero.  Other than putting on a red, white and blue leotard and  grabbing a shield, your next best option is playing Captain America: Super Soldier.  The track record for movie licensed titles has never been solid and Captain America: Super Soldier does nothing to change this.  It’s a mediocre game with a passable plot to keep you going and functional, responsive combat, but there really isn’t enough variety or depth to drive you back to the game after you’ve finished it.

Like the movie, the whole game takes place during World War II.  As Captain America, you have to stop the Nazi scientist, Baron Zemo from his mad research, but it’s the Red Skull and his right hand man, Dr. Zola, who are really at the heart of the evil operations.  The plot is driven forward with missions and cut-scenes voiced by the movie’s star, Chris Evans.  Though it’s a plus to have the big-screen star voice-acting his main role in the game, his vocals are nothing spectacular.  The delivery feels flat and mechanical.

The real star of the game is the combat, though even that stops short of being anything outstanding.  It can feel cumbersome at first but becomes  becomes surprisingly responsive and fluid with practice. There were many times where I saw an incoming attack and I was able to block or counter-attack without having to escape the centre of battle.  Directing attacks from one enemy to the next was effortless and fluid and allowing for some impressive cinematic fights.  Attacking enemies fills up a gauge meter that allows special “crippling blows”, and with a full gauge, Captain America goes into hyper mode transforming into a “Super soldier”.  It’s unfortunate the game doesn’t offer many opportunities to go into “Super Solder” mode, but even if it did, it would just be downright repetitive.

Accumulating experience points doesn’t add much to the combat.   You have a total of 9 upgrades to choose from in 3 different categories; strength, shield rebounds and special shield attacks, but the moves you get with the shield aren’t really useful.  For example, the shield stomp,”that stuns enemies all around you, is so slow that you’re better off just taking care of enemies one by one even if you’re surrounded.

The same enemies from the beginning of the game remain till the end.  There’s only a small roster of enemy types;  grunts, scorchers, screamers, and mechanics to name half.  At first these enemies are tough to deal with until you get more damage upgrades, learn their patterns, and get their schematics.  Collecting schematics, which are scattered throughout the map, allows you to stun enemies longer, deal more damage and make crippling blows fatal.  Towards the end of the game, you’re given better options to take down the bigger kahunas, but dealing a crippling blow, is one of the only alternatives to disposing them quickly.  Despite this, the lack of variety in enemies doesn’t become repetitive but that’s because the game only takes about six hours to finish.

Throughout the game you’ll some time exploring the map or picking up antique items like “ceramic eggs” and “gold falcon statues”.  You can enter tactical vision which highlights items, ledges and destructible levies which give you experience points and new items.  While the game offers  some ability to back-track, there’s not much left to pick up after you do a first run through of the game, except for maybe Captain America’s extra costumes.

In an attempt to add some replayability, there’s a variety of different items scattered throughout the map that unlock galleries, enemy origins, and extra costumes for Captain America.  There’s also a “challenge” mode to go through which awards you experience points based on your performance, but it’s not really difficult to rack up a gold score.  Completing the challenges offers experience points bonuses, but I only needed one more skill to fully upgrade Captain America by the time I finished the game.  Also, finding nearly all the collectibles is easily done on the first run through of the game.

As for the graphics, the game runs on Unreal Engine 3 with characters and environments that are detailed and murky with the rust of the 1940’s.  And though there’s not much of it, the few views you’ll get when going outdoors to go on high ground and peer over mountains and valleys to shoot down a copter are vivid and shockingly detailed.  All this comes at a cost.  At times, running through a wide area and running into a bunch of enemies caused the frame rate to drop.

On the whole, Captain America: Super Soldier is a decent game which fans of the movie will appreciate.  The best thing about Super Soldier is the battle system, and once you’ve completed the game there isn’t much left to go back to.  The lack of enemy variety and upgrades leaves a lot to be desired and would make the game feel repetitive if it were longer.  The game does have its moments with the quick intuitive combat, and shield whipping mayhem, but other than that it’s average at best.  Pick it up if you really loved the movie, otherwise this is only worth a rental.

Heroes For Hire #9 Review 2

Heroes For Hire #9 Review

With Fear Itself spreading across the Marvel Universe, no title is safe, as it hits Heroes for Hire with a vengeance!Since the start of this series I’ve really enjoyed Misty’s new incarnation of the team, and her role as “Control”, and this is a good issue to feature her in that capacity, behind the scenes, working on a disaster scenario.With so many disasters being reported globally, she does what she can to mobilize heroes to deal with specific situations, whether it be saving Paladin from a rampaging, transformed Thing, or investigating the Raft breakout attempt.

Abnett/Lanning have been successfully using this title to use all sorts of heroes, bringing together new combinations of hero team-ups that we’ve never seen before.Having Shroud and Elektra team-up, or Gargoyle and Paladin, it’s something different, and adds a cool new element to the proceedings, as these aren’t finely tuned partnerships, but something much different, newer and riskier.Paladin is becoming the true breakout star of this book, and deservedly so, especially given how well Abnett/Lanning have been writing him.Misty’s role is a little underplayed here overall, but given the rest of the action in the issue, it’s understandable.A new antagonist is slowly developed throughout the course of this issue, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with him going forwards.

Hotz’ artwork brings a a new flavour to this book’s visuals, adding a quirky yet dark sensibility, which really plays well against the backdrop of Fear Itself.

Since its launch this title has been a consistently enjoyable read, and that trend continues with this issue. Recommended!

The Iron Age #2 Review 2

The Iron Age #2 Review

This mini-series has turned out to be a delightful surprise, as Tony Stark jumps through time to re-assemble the pieces of a fragmented time platform so that he can try to save the world in his present. Along the way, he has to team up with his fellow heroes in his past, navigating a life that has had many twists and turns, and been turned upside down more than once.

This issue’s first tale takes place during Tony’s second alcoholic phase, when Obadiah Stane took control of his company, and Jim Rhodes had stepped full-time into the role of Iron Man.With Iron Man having recently gone on a drunken rampage in New York, Tony must navigate a hostile city to find the piece of the time machine he needs to move on to his next stop, and teams up with a suspicious Iron Fist and Power Man to do so, bringing the trio into conflict with the Tinkerer.

The second story is set in an earlier period, when Iron Man’s armour had a nose and Johnny Storm’s FF costume was red, and sees the duo go up against Dr. Doom himself.

This is a surprisingly fun and enjoyable romp through Marvel History, through the eyes of a man who’s made many mistakes throughout that very history, Tony Stark, and seeing his interactions with Power Man, Iron Fist and Human Torch in the past is a nice way of showing how Tony views these allies in the present as well.

Van Meter and Kalan, relative unknowns, put together enjoyable scripts, with veteran artists Dragotta, Frenz and Buscema doing the honours of the visuals.This may not be the most important mini-series you’ll buy this year, but it’s definitely one of the most fun, as it never takes itself too seriously, but instead manages to tell a good story well, and have a good time doing so. Dragotta and Frenz on artwork help up the game of the series as well. Recommended!

New Mutants #27 Review

New Mutants #27 Review

When this arc was first announced I was filled with excitement, because it promised the return of Nate Grey, the X-Man, after his last appearance during the Dark X-Men mini-series a year or so ago.Unfortunately, this arc quickly became about thefar less interesting Sugar Man, another refugee from the Age of Apocalypse, with Nate Grey merely being a casualty of the conflict between the New Mutants and Sugar Man.

This issue sees the conclusion of the story, but it’s relatively predictable, and the outcome for Nate Grey is nothing short of disappointing for fans of the character.Considering Cable’s recent demise, plus his upcoming return in the fall, what happens to Nate just feels like a waste of potential for the poor character, not to mention needless.

The artwork by Fernandez is lacklustre at best, the character designs are sloppy, and the action is often poorly defined.Sugar Man is a difficult character to illustrate, and it shows here, as Fernandez can’t handle it capably.

The script has its decent moments, but the issue could have been much better than this, and the artwork definitely detracts from the mediocre script.  This issue represents a waste of potential.

Iron Man 2.0 #7 Review 3

Iron Man 2.0 #7 Review

This particular Fear Itself tie-in has managed to completely overtake this title, at a major detriment to the ongoing storyline in this book, which is still just finding its feet.This story just isn’t one suited to Jim Rhodes, and his presence here would make sense more if it was an Iron Fist or Immortal Weapons book,because he is essentially a guest star here, and nothing else.

The Palmer Addley story is still not even addressed, and oddly will be closed out in the Point One issue (an issue that should have been a launching point for the next arc and year of stories for the title).

The artwork by Olivetti doesn’t work at all for this story because of the characters involved.His artwork doesn’t convey speed, and so using him to illustrate martial artists just fails completely.His artwork is very static-looking, and that’s fine on particular books and characters, but it’s miscast here.His artwork is technically good, but doesn’t work in this context.

The prologue and epilogue have excellent artwork by Di Giandomenico, but once again it has nothing to do with Iron Man 2.0’s storyline, and is completely different and having to do with characters who are only guest stars here.It’s very distracting, and definitely detracts from any reading enjoyment to be derived from this book.

Overall, this tie-in is very dull, and the main character barely gets to do anything, aside from stand around like a lame guest star, and even when he DOES do something, he’s possessed by a mystical force when doing it.

Invincible Iron Man #506 Review 2

Invincible Iron Man #506 Review

When reading through this issue, I realized that there was a specific reason why Fraction’s Point One issue focused on Tony at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, given the character’s decision made at the end of Fear Itself #4.

This issue is an abrupt change of pace if you didn’t read Fear Itself #4, as it positions Tony for the start of this issue.The issue is a very quick, light read, as the story takes a long time to get where it’s going, when it could have been much shorter.I can’t say I cared for this issue at all, as the script is belaboured, I don’t like where it’s headed as it feels like a retread of old story beats that don’t need to be revisited again, and the entire nature of Tony’s deal with Odin felt off, and very forced.

Additionally, the dialogue for the dwarves was absolutely dreadful, and painful to read over and over again.

The artwork by Larroca is nothing special, and often feels a bit washed out.I think his art would benefit greatly from a separate inker, instead of him doing his own inks.

The issue is fairly important in the Fear Itself storyline as a whole, which makes it an even greater shame that it wasn’t of higher quality.

X-Factor #222 Review 2

X-Factor #222 Review

If there was ever a model of consistency in the X-universe these days, it would be Peter David’s X-Factor.The book is consistently enjoyable, month in and month out, no matter what the team might face.

That’s especially true with the current arc, as we now have the team under siege by mystical forces drawn to Wolfsbane’s not-yet-born child.Amidst all the craziness, David scripts some great characterization for the entire team, regardless of how much actual screen time they might get in the issue.The issue has a good sense of pacing, as we near the end of this storyline, and everything starts to come to a head.The cliffhanger is enjoyable, but might go right over the head of some newer readers who aren’t aware of who this character actually is.

The artwork by Lupacchino is enjoyable, and manages to keep the book’s artistic style consistent with the work of prior artists on this book.

An enjoyable read, as always, and the characters continue to evolve in intriguing new ways.

Avengers #15 Review 2

Avengers #15 Review

It’s amazing to me how month after month Bendis manages to suck the momentum out of Avengers by loading it up with numerous interview panels, which break the cardinal rule of comic book storytelling, which is to show, not tell the audience what’s happening.To me, his heavy use of narration takes the suspense out of the issue, and makes the flow of the issue far more disjointed.

At its core, this issue should be a fun romp, as Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye and Protector take on an Asgardian-empowered Hulk in a big battle royale.And yet Bendis slows it down, peppers the issue with needless hemming and hawing about how Spider-Woman doesn’t see herself as a real Avenger, and then shows us how she supposedly finally got some respect.

This issue would be far more enjoyable if it took out all the conversation panels, and just showed the fight, without the uninteresting characterization of Spider-Woman.

Bachalo does what he can with the script, often to good effect, but it really felt like he was chaffing against Bendis’ script, because it limited how much he could show visually in terms of the big action.I can’t imagine being an artist and finding out you get to show the Avengers versus the Hulk, and then when you actually do the issue, most of the issue is taken up with redundant, repetitive interview shots instead.

Unlike some other “Fear Itself” tie-ins, the actual flow of this book has been completely disrupted, and instead we just have fights happening, which isn’t bad, but it definitely makes the issue feel superfluous and directionless.

FF #5 Review 2

FF #5 Review

Regardless of whether or not Johnny Storm’s recent death in Fantastic Four was more for shock value than anything else, it’s clear that in the meantime Hickman has really kicked his story up a few notches, and made FF one of the most entertaining reads of 2011.

This current story is an excellent culmination of everything that’s occurred since Hickman’s first work on the FF in “Dark Reign: Fantastic Four”, and as Hickman continues to expand the concepts and fill-in the details, it only gets better.The Future Foundation as a concept/team is really working well in this book, and the Council of Doom is a work of genius.The script is tight and suspenseful, with great character interactions.Alex Power has never been as cool or as productive as he is here, and his interactions with Reed are well-written.

The artwork by Kitson is absolutely fantastic; his skills as an artist and storyteller continue to amaze.

The only quibble I had with this issue was the cliffhanger, but as long as Hickman fills in the big blanks that remain here, I’m open to what this could mean, and how it’ll affect and shape this storyline further.

Thunderbolts #159 Review 2

Thunderbolts #159 Review

With Juggernaut now wielding a new Asgardian hammer, the Raft has been heavily damaged causing villains to escape en masse.The Thunderbolts take on damage control duty, as they try to restore order and apprehend the escaping prisoners.

To Jeff Parker’s credit, he takes what happened to Juggernaut and spins a great story of how the new Thunderbolts Beta team, the Underbolts, respond to the breakout and consider the possibility of escaping.This is a double-sized issue, with additional stories focusing on Ghost/John Walker, Moonstone and some prisoners, and Crossbones.

The most enjoyable stories are the lead story and the Crossbones back-up, as they are by far the best illustrated/written.Unfortunately, the additional back-ups aren’t anything special, with art that is substantial, and with scripts that feel rushed.

For the price of $4.99 , you’re getting an inconsistent book which starts strong, falters with two average-at-best stories in the middle, and then closes out with the solid Crossbones-centric story.

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