Category Archives: Playstation 3

PlayStation 3 title reviews.

Review: Dragon Didn’t Age Enough II

Dragon Age 2 box artIn continuing my “catch up” session, here is my Dragon Age II review.
Dragon Age II is a title that received controversy online. The original was well received, giving the players a modern experience with a traditional role-playing game. Hell, even I, who had very little experience with traditional RPG’s around the time I first touched Dragon Age: Origins, experienced an overwhelming sensation of nostalgia from playing. For many, the original drawed upon their nostalgia and gave an enjoyable play through this. The sequel, however, does not deliver this sentiment.
Publisher: EA
Developer:
 Bioware
Release Date: 11th March 2011 (UK)
PEGI: 18+
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3 [Reviewed], Xbox 360

Dragon Age II follows Hawke, a refugee in the city of Kirkwall who is destined to be the Champion of Kirkwall. He escapes during the Fifth Blight, in Fereldan (the events of which conspire in Dragon Age: Origins), with his family into his mother’s birthplace. It is here that Hawke has a run with the Qunari and becomes an important figure in the ever ensuing fued between the Mages, whom are deemed too dangerous to let free, and the Templars, the knights who oppress the mages. The narrative itself focuses on a central theme of whether human rights should be sacrificed in order to maintain order.
The game is split into three acts seperated by key narrative events, with each act complimented by its own series of quests. The story being split into three acts, each seperated over the course of a number of years, allows the player to experience and involve themself in the change of Kirkwall under the ever-corrupting rule of the Templars, as well as discovering the consequences of earlier actions in previous years. As of such, players may also initiate quests which actually continue from a previous act, developing their own narrative and becoming a reasonably strong subplot which integrate with the central theme. These subplots delve deeper into the player’s sense of morality, resultingly making them question whether the ends is worth the means. I personally found myself siding with the rebel faction – the mages – more than I ever did the Templars, but there were a couple of tricky situations of which I struggled to pick a choice I felt was the right one as I played my character as a noble hero.
Being a role-playing game, you’d expect a lot of freedom to play the character you want to play. Unfortunately, this is when Dragon Age II becomes a shell of its former self. Whilst the previous title allowed you to choose from six origin stories, three classes and both genders of three races, Dragon Age II only allows you to choose both genders for three classes.  The origin is the same, and the story itself is generally the same regardless of the actions you make. Indeed, the only real impactful choice in the game comes at the end. Beyond that, the game pretty much plays the same both times. This results in the replayibility of the game being completely underwhelming in comparison to the previous outing. Despite this, I did find exploring the other perspectives interesting. It just wasn’t enough to keep my second playthrough fresh.
The combat system feels significantly different in comparison to the previous title, but less has been changed as may appear. The pace has been increased, with battles becoming much faster and have now taken on the pace of an action game such as God of War. Players attack enemies through button mashing, occasonally mixing in abilities for various effects. While this is more immersive than the previous, with the user feeling more involved in the battle, it doesn’t take very long for the experience to become very shallow. Ultimately, there is nothing really to gain from being more in control of battle. Instead of watching them fight, and making impactful decisions, you are mashing the attack key while trying to keep your eyes out for an opening for one of your abilities – and that’s if you ever use them.
I found the majority of battles that I participated in were over in a flash, with myself only ever really mashing attack. My abilities were usually left unused, as they were relatively unnecessary in the many skirmishes you will face. Even with the difficulty turned up, I found that I rarely had to bother with the exception of the higher class enemies. The strategy from the previous outing was lost in exchange for short and flashy battles. While I do admit that there is still the useful tactics system, and how you develop your character requires some level of thought, they didn’t seem to be as effective in the previous. When a new ability is obtained, the characters’ tactics slots are usually updated to include their new skill; meanwhile levelling up has been made more simpler, with each class having two attributes that they specialise in – leaving the others pretty redundant.
Essentially, the new battle system seems to open up a new level of control in battle. And yet, it doesn’t take this new system anywhere. It plays out much of the same as the initial title did, with the bonus of possibly suffering a sore thumb or finger by the end of your playthrough. What could have lead to more depth (maybe invoking a combo system where the effectiveness of an ability is altered based upon the actual ability and when in the combo it is used?) only leads to an experience that, in all honesty, just feels more shallow than the last outing – despite the fact that it does not take anything of substance away (albeit the pace does often make abilities redundant, but I would chalk that up to the change in enemy attributes over anything).
There are plenty of quests to partake, but they usually all amount to the same ‘go here, kill that’ formula. It’s great that they add more story to their quests, but the quests still need more variety in terms of actual gameplay.
One of the key improvements, however, is the level of role playing in regards to a linear story. Bioware have a great tale to tell with Dragon Age II, even if the conclusion can leave the player disatisfied. It’s obvious to me that the story was the focus of this game, with gameplay shunned to second place. Despite that, the role-playing mechanics are superb. The player’s character, Hawke, develops his personality based upon your interactions with other characters. If you make many jokes, then Hawke will become a more sarcastic and witty character, for example. Furthermore, there are still plenty of choices for him to make that cover both ends of the spectrum. It’s just a shame that they usually amount to little more than just an immediate effect, with little consequence beyond the present dialogue.
While the soundtrack was pretty well made, in my opinion, it quickly gets repetitive as a result of the sheer lackluster amount of locales to explore. The player often finds themselves revisiting the same handful of areas. The worst offender here are the interior maps – be it inside a cave or inside a building – there are about three or four of these maps total, and that’s more accurate than I wish to admit. Yet, considering the sheer number, quests almost always lead to visiting at least one of them, if not more. What results from this is nothing more than the repetitive formula quests becoming even more repetitive with their shared maps. It really doesn’t help that all of these maps are very plain, with the most interesting visuals being the background that I was left just wishing I could explore more of.
I can’t help but write negatively of Dragon Age II, despite it being a game I easly spent over one hundred hours of my life on. I personally found its repetitive nature strangely addicting. While the title doesn’t have much going for itself when you compare it to what the original was, don’t let it be said that Dragon Age II is an awful game. Far from it. It just becomes increasingly frustrating seeing the potential that the game has, and how it squanders it with what seems to be too little development time. And no wonder too. The game was released but a year and a half after the original. That’s shockingly short considering the genre, scale and content of the game, and what it had to live up to. There was no way that Bioware could have ever hoped to achieve anything slightly less of the game they were developing a sequel for, let alone surpass themselves.
To me, Dragon Age II is an example of a game that truly has so much going for it, and yet seemingly has little to show. It’s a great and fun game, with an immersive story and experience to play, but ultimately falls short of any expectations. In many regards, it feels incomplete with its lack of maps, underwhelming consequences from all those choices that you get to make, reducing number of quests as the game goes on, and the seemingly shallow combat. This game is an example of what happens to a game when developers try to make a title more accessible to the market. The title just feels more shallow, even if the substance found in previous titles remains. It is also an example of the terrible effects of a bad development cycle, with this game apparently getting too little time to be worked on – most likely a consequence of the older brother title, Mass Effect 3, being released later in the same year. A game of this magnitude should surely get at least two years of development time, otherwise the outcome is an unfinished and underwhelming game that leaves a disatisfying after-taste.
For what it’s worth, Dragon Age II was a title I love, but it does not really earn that love from me. It aims high but falls significantly short, as the game feels unfinished and rushed. There aren’t many people I would genuinely recommend it to over Dragon Age: Origins. In fact, there aren’t many I would recommend it to at all. If you like Dragon Age, I suggest you give it at least a rent, because it does have an interesting tale to be told, but you will be done with it after your first play-through. For anyone else: give this game a miss. It’s a real shame, too.
(Because people fret over scores so much, I have to give Dragon Age II a 6/10. This value means that the game is above average, but has nothing special going for it. In this case, it failed to live up to its predecessor, therefore it not only failed at its own potential, but at the potential of the game it was meant to be improving.)

Me and my InFAMOUS: Festival of Blood Review

festival of the blood infamous
Cole learned the hard way not to party in New Marais.
With Halloween coming up, you can expect developers to celebrate with sales involving the abundance of zombie titles. Some developers even developed a full release for Halloween, and others updated their games to feature monsters of all sorts. One such game to receive the latter example’s treatment is Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS series.
InFAMOUS: Festival of Blood was released on PSN just this week, and new players may be happy to hear that inFAMOUS 2 is not required at all. Set in New Marais, Cole has been turned into a vampire by Bloody Mary and if he does not slay her by sunrise he will become her slave.
Publisher: Sony
Developer:
 Sucker Punch
Release Date: 26th October 2011 (UK)
PEGI: 16+
Platform: PlayStation 3
The game is actually pretty short, but that’s to be expected of a £7.99 release. Overall, I clocked in about two hours for the campaign as well as obtaining all of the collectibles. The story itself is narrated by Zeke as he tells Cole’s tale, whether it’s real or not, to a young woman in a bar. New Marais is bustling with activity as the Pyre Festival is underway. Everyone is in costume; there are balloons, shows and music through-out the city.
Upon trying to save some people who were attacked in the city’s catacombs, Cole is ambushed and captured. His blood is used to re-awaken Bloody Mary, and, essentially, the rest of the tale involves Cole discovering her origins and seeking her out. There is really not much more depth to the narrative than that.
The morality feature found in the previous two titles is gone. With Cole being a vampire, this is to be expected. Instinctually, he will want to devour blood from the citizens of New Marais, and he will need to in order to survive or use his powers to defeat Bloody Mary. Morality is no longer an issue.
The upgrades are also now no longer varied. Instead, the player will unlock upgrades for certain powers by accomplishing certain trophies (such as enhancing the ordinary attack through staking enemies in the heart twenty times). Whilst this may sound somewhat disappointing, given that it’s really just a small PSN game, it’s not really an issue to me. There are still power upgrades, and it serves a purpose as to really try out many of the game’s new features.
The game introduces a flying power for Cole. This uses up the energy he absorbs from blood, but it is pretty damn cool. I love turning into a flock of bats and flying around the town, occasionally attacking enemies in that very form with an ability unlock. Similarly, Cole obtains the power to bite pedestrians and use ‘Vampire Vision’, seeing what vampires can see. Ultimately, Cole can use this ability to detect enemies that appear to ‘teleport’ during their movement,  detect invisible symbols depicting a message from Bloody Mary as well as detecting the collectibles. Finally, Cole can also use it to detect First Borns, the boss enemies, hidden amongst the crowds of people.
The key feature, to me, in this release is the improvements made to UGC. During my run with inFAMOUS 2 I discovered that players enjoyed developing content with narratives. Consequently, Sucker Punch noticed too. As a means of improving UGC, Sucker Punch included a new cutscene mechanic so that users can create comic book stills to enhance their narratives, as well as including more assets to play with.
Otherwise, the game plays more or less like the originals. It’s a fun diversion and a nice little extra for InFAMOUS fans, as well as a cheap little gateway for new fans. At £7.99, I heavily recommend picking it up. Plus, as a bonus, at the time of this review PS+ users get an additional discount, so if you have PS+ then you have no excuse.
Overall, the game is a great little extra that I believe fans will appreciate. I certainly did. It’s a great distraction, it’s fun, and it offers more replayibility thanks to UGC, which is clearly the main focus here. The game has very lasting replaybility, despite how short it is, and is worth every penny. Pick it up today. It serves as an example as to what the DLC standard should be. DLC shouldn’t be a cash in, it’s something for the developers to make something fun and unique with their IP, and Sucker Punch certainly did that here.
Also, for those concerned about score, I’d give it an 8/10. Whilst the offline campaign could have had a little bit extra content, maybe a longer campaign or recovering districts from vampire packs, it offers great value for money and is of high quality all the same. Definitely grab this on PSN if you have a PS3 and enjoy either of the inFAMOUS titles.

Review: Yakuza’s Dying Soul

Cover art for Yakuza Dead Souls review

Recently there has been a resurrection of interest in the growing zombie trend.  It feels like every developer wants to jump on the bandwagon. It’s become something so common that, in all  honesty, it just makes zombie games seem generic, plain, dull and boring.

The most recent victim to be infected by this plague on originality in gaming is the Yakuza franchise. Many of you will be now shrugging your shoulders or scratching your head wondering what this franchise is. Yakuza is a franchise that happens to be really popular over in Japan. It stars a number of Japanese gangsters in a town influenced by Tokyo’s very own red light district. The franchise is famous for the brutality of it’s combat mechanics, but it’s always been about the melee combat. As per standard with zombie games: Yakuza has been mutated into a third person shooter. So, at heart, at the core of it’s very own soul, is Dead Souls still a true Yakuza title?

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: 16th March 2012 (9th June 2011)
Rating: 18 (BBFC)

Similarly to the previous title, Yakuza: Dead Souls features four playable characters – each specialising in their own weapon as well as having the ability to use many others. The story itself explores the mystery behind the sudden appearance of zombies in Kamurcho.

Whilst I might go as far as to claim this has the weakest story out of all of the Yakuza games that I’ve played, that doesn’t mean that it has a bad story either. As you continue through the main story of the game, the player witnesses the gradual progression of the virus and is exposed to the constant impact that the virus has on the district. This leaves an surprisingly meaningful lasting impression. It made the familiar district turn into a creepy and disturbing ruin, and you can’t help but feel melancholic as you struggle to survive. Yakuza: Dead Souls really handles the transition into a zombie horror really well. 

Furthermore, much like it’s predecessors, Dead Souls has a number of touching moments. These are far fewer than they were before, but they still exist and certainly leave a chill or two. It’s not just the occasional sad or moving moment that leaves an impact upon its audience. Yakuza is famous for the badass characters that it features, and in particular Kazuma Kiryuu (aka Dragon of Dojima) is the cream of the crop. His entrance in the last chapter of the game is enough to spread a wide and goofy grin on my face. The character is the embodiment of the words ‘badass’ and ‘cool’, and Dead Souls doesn’t fail in delivering an incredible Kazuma performance. In all honesty, it might actually be my favourite entrance for him so far in the franchise. The title is rich in exciting and incredible moments which can be found even in the gameplay.

For many, though, there exists the disappointment that the series has shifted from a brawler to a third person shooter. I was amongst the many who were concerned, but after adjusting to the new genre for Yakuza it just seems like a minor complaint. At it’s very core, it still feels like a Yakuza title. If anything, the transition compliments the dark focus of the game. It makes sense that the familiar cast would pick up armaments to fend off this new threat to their home. Make no mistake though, as physical combat still returns. It’s just not as central to the game as before. The player may pick up nearly anything they see to be wielded as a weapon. This ranges from a bicycle that continues to break down until you’re swinging just a wheel around, to a frozen zombie that can be smashed against their infected brethren. Despite the dark tones, the title still retains its sense of humour and I’m sure fans would appreciate this. Accompanying this sense of humour are the mini-games which also make a return. It amuses me every time I walk through the quarantined zone to find a store which I can pop by to have myself some ice cream, or play on the arcade machines. It’s ridiculously fantastic.

Initially, trying to adjust to the game’s third person shooter mechanics and controls can be a very daunting and frustrating task. There’s no real way to change the sensitivity and it can be an overall mess. It’s soon overcome with experience as early as the first section in the first chapter of the game. The game’s action is very fast paced, and is actually pretty well refined for something that first appears clunky. There’s a lot of particular focus on being able to skillfully dodge attacks, otherwise the player is left temporarily vulnerable as a stray zombie manages to grab on to them. It can be a fairly challenging title, and as of such anyone looking for an easy time should probably overlook this game.

Dead Souls can be quite graphic, which is also further enhanced by the relatively brilliant visuals despite the aged engine. Yakuza is known for being quite graphic and Dead Souls is by no means an exception.

Yakuza Dead Souls is still rich in content and has an exciting and dramatic story, but that doesn’t change it being the weakest of the PlayStation 3 bunch. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t recommend it. As a spinoff, it’s excellent and plays the third person shooter role reasonably well with that Yakuza flavour.

For those who care about scores in reviews, for whatever reason, I believe this review justifies an 8/10 for Yakuza: Dead Souls. A 8/10 means that the game was great, but was set back by a number of problems that sometimes interferes with the experience. Yakuza: Dead Souls was completed on the normal difficulty in roughly forty hours, but is not yet even near 100% completion.


This review is entirely subjective and should not be considered fact. This review is the author’s opinion and nothing more. Feel free to discuss the review in the comments below, but try to keep it civil. You are also entitled to an opinion that differs from the author, and don’t forget it! The author can also be contacted at CrashScreen@GamingAdvance.com.