Month: April 2013

Superman: Secret Identity TPB Review 1

Superman: Secret Identity TPB Review

It’s common for Marvel and DC Comics to time new trade paperback collections with the release of new films for their licensed properties, so it’s not a surprise that we’re starting to see numerous new Superman collections hit the shelves now that The Man of Steel is just a month and a half away. What is a surprise, however, is this particular collection, which brings together this ostensibly Elseworlds mini-series which was published back in 2004. The timing of the original mini-series was always intriguing to me, as it basically re-introduces the concept of Superboy Prime, at the same time as in the regular DCU the original Superboy Prime from the 1980s returned in Infinite Crisis.

Besides the basic concept of a young man named Clark Kent finding out that he really does have super powers, like the comic character Superman, there’s not much else here which ties the character to the original Superboy Prime character. And to be honest, that’s a good thing, as Busiek takes that core concept and tells a much more interesting story about this young man, throughout his life, starting when he grows up on a farm, and ending years later, after he’s had a family and grandchildren. It’s a very heart-felt story, which is sentimental and engaging, although admittedly light on actual super-heroics. There’s not much action to be found in this collection, but I honestly didn’t mind that a bit, as it’s just not necessary. The Superman title is meant to sell books, it’s not truly what the story is about. It’s a story about a young man who ends up having the same powers as comic-related namesake, and how he goes about his life despite his famous name. The fact that he has super powers means his life takes some interesting turns, and there’s some fun nods to Superman’s history, with Clark meeting his own Lois, and settling down and having a family. Busiek feels very at home with telling this sentimental tale, as he easily taps into this new character, bringing not just him but also his world to life. Clark puts on the Superman costume and does good deeds throughout the series, but we also get to see how Clark grows up and truly becomes a man. He meets the love of his life, marries her, and then has to deal with the fears of becoming a father. As an expectant father myself, I thought Busiek did a brilliant job with making Clark feel like a real person, with regular hopes and fears, despite the powers and the Superman costume.

Stuart Immonen provides the artwork for the series, and it’s markedly different from some of his more recent artwork. For one, Immonen handles the pencils, inks and colours, but the inks are noticeably different than some of his more recent work. It’s hard to describe, but there’s a certain storybook quality, which was instrumental in cementing the emotional resonance of the story in the artwork.

This is a great read top to bottom, although it’s not a “real” Superman story by any means. That doesn’t mean it isn’t one hell of a great read though. Highly Recommended, this is a fantastic book, extremely enjoyable.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (Xbox 360) Review

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (Xbox 360) Review

Are You Ready For The Rad-ness?

The typical kind of DLC gamers expect now is pretty pedestrian; some new skins for characters or weapons, or if you’re really lucky, a new, bite sized adventure that carries on the shenanigans of the core game that was originally purchased. Ubisoft however, have done something unusual; the latest add-on, downloadable content to last year’s Far Cry 3 has absolutely nothing to do with the game, but is instead a standalone, retro/pastiche/homage to 80s game, film and general pop culture that anyone can buy. It’s still the exact same engine used in Far Cry 3 but now with its tongue firmly in cheek as it satirizes the decade that gaming comes from. So the big question is, is it worth your $15 or 1200 MS points?

Cheese Is My Business & Business Is Fair To Middling

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon asks gamers to dial the wayback machine to the S/NES era of games, when the distant future was 2007 and mutually assured destruction via global nuclear war was not an “if” but a “when.” Cyber Commando Rex Power Colt and his tech/ninja partner are out take down a former elite military commander gone rogue along with his unit. Clichés aplenty ensue as the game self-consciously pokes fun at the 80s and gaming conventions such as intrusive tutorials.

Blood Dragon is the Far Cry 3 engine all souped up in a lot of neon. Graphically, it’s a lot of jungles and 80s retro-science fiction aesthetics, so the game isn’t a real looker, but that’s not the point here. The sound is quite impressive, with fairly humdrum audio effects punctuated by some authentic 80s synth that gives the game feel of a John Carpenter movie. Michael Bien steps in to provide a gravelly voiced 80s action hero complete with bad puns and ironically delivered jingoism, and the jokes run the gamut from eye-rollingly “good” to just plain awful.

That in itself probably sums up the experience of the game. People who have played Far Cry 3 already will be familiar with the mechanics as they’re all identical; chained melee kills, animal hunting, side-missions to rescue people and conquering bases all make the transition to the 80s neon era. The open world aspects of Far Cry 3 are grafted onto a simple main missions that is one long running joke about the 80s, so really the star of the show here—at least in theory—is the humor. The game is clearly aimed at people who grew up during the 80s or younger people who have in-depth knowledge of 80s pop culture, but the array of humor at play here is very much like the more recent spate of satire comedy films. It takes an approach of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” in terms of humor. Some jokes, like the inevitable 80s guitar laden training montage are on the mark and get a knowing chuckle, while other jokes such as the loading screen tip “A hand gun fits in your hand,” are juvenile but not particularly funny. For the most part, the humor in Blood Dragon lacks the wit or insight of something like a Tim Schafer game, or even Grand Theft Auto III: Vice City back in the day.

In the end, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is clearly meant to be a novelty. If you’re okay with spending $15 or 1200 MS points on a game that will run anywhere between four to eight hours (based on whether you do the open world/side mission content or play straight through the story) then you’ll enjoy this purchase. Just be aware that the jokes overstay their welcome after a while, and that’s largely due to the inconsistency of the humor. There’s nothing more awkward than a joke that falls flat on its face, and Blood Dragon does this with regularity, though it can also elicit a laugh here and there. The humor is definitely uneven, and relies almost entirely on familiarity with the 80s, but it’s not a bad game, just one targeted at a very specific—and perhaps forgiving—audience.

Press Start - April 30th 2013

Press Start – April 30th 2013

There’s plenty of titles this week to scratch that RPG itch but if flipping off explosions and hunting cyborgs is more your thing than Ubisoft Montreal is happy to deliver. Or take your RPG action on the go with a new release from SCE Japan.

New Game Releases for April 30th 2013

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God Mode (PS3) Review 1

God Mode (PS3) Review

There’s a certain kind of party where before you’ve even managed to remove your jacket and shoes you’re pretty sure you want to leave. A quick glance around the room and you notice that only one other person (who you don’t even like) has shown up. There’s no music on and the host is in a bad mood. You’ve come, though, and it would be rude to leave right away so you stick it out, counting the minutes until the thing is done with.

Within minutes of booting up God Mode I felt like I’d just walked into that kind of party.

Saber Interactive/Old School Games’ co-op third-person shooter seems like a pretty good idea on paper: a throwback, arcade-style action game that sees a group of four players working together to clear enemy-filled arenas using an array of upgradable firearms and special abilities. When this type of game works it can be a great diversion. Getting together a group of friends, hopping into a match of “Horde mode style shooting” and testing your collective skills by blasting through waves of enemies can make for some wonderful, mindless fun. Unfortunately, God Mode doesn’t accomplish this.

God_Mode_Quote.jpgThe game’s most noticeable failing is how it feels to play. Not only do most of the guns feel overly floaty (a problem alleviated somewhat by pumping post-match experience points into accuracy upgrades), but there is almost no damage feedback when hitting, or being hit by, enemies. A nearby minotaur or gladiator (God Mode‘s aesthetics are based on Greek mythology) can swipe a club in the player’s general direction, sapping health points and causing a red blur to spread around the periphery of the screen without any animated response or accompanying controller rumble to signify the attack. Shooting enemies is similarly lifeless; the creatures don’t flinch under a hail of bullets and there are no other sound or visual representations of damage.

This problem is exasperated by enemy artificial intelligence that, as rudimentary as it is at the best of times, is terribly inconsistent. God Mode‘s legions of monsters not only look like they’ve been picked out of a God of War designer’s trash can, but they are also programmed to do nothing more than run straight at the players. This would be fine if this behaviour was consistent (the Serious Sam games get a lot of mileage out of making waves of melee enemies constantly rush toward the player), but it often goes haywire. Enemies end up standing in place at random intervals and purportedly dangerous creatures get stuck running in place while facing a wall.

Couple these significant issues with a litany of glitches that include disappearing sound effects, a frame rate that chugs to stop-motion animation levels when numerous enemies are on screen (this is often) and character and environment textures that frequently drop out entirely, and God Mode gives the distinct impression of being an unfinished product. The game may be playable in the sense that it’s possible to join up with three other players and complete a level without the system crashing, but it only manages to earn the descriptor of “functional” by scraping by in the most basic manner possible.

God Mode could have been a fun game, but even its best concepts are tough to recognize in light of its many issues. Smart ideas like arena modifiers (“Tests of Faith”) keep progressing through a map interesting by randomly changing gameplay rules (all players must share their health, shield and ammo; enemies become bigger and stronger, etc.) and selectable “Oaths” introduce a gambling element to a given match by rewarding extra experience/money while making players weaker and enemies stronger in a variety of ways.

These ideas hint at the kind of enjoyable diversion that God Mode could have been. But none of them have been implemented well enough to elevate the gameplay past its repetitive — and technically problematic — design.

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