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Deus Ex Human Revolution game review

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It’s not Deus Ex Human Revolution’s fault that its another FPS with unlockables in which you stalk through office buildings and warehouses fighting minor varieties of the same enemies while picking up clues to the story from files and emails. From its beautiful art style to its attempts at letting you sneak around and take down enemies in different ways, it is making an effort.

It just isn’t groundbreaking.

Deus Ex Human Revolution owes more to the influences of the modern FPS/RPG, Half Life 2 Bioshock, than it does to the original game, but it isn’t breaking any new ground in gaming or its story about the dangers of enhancing human abilities with cybernetic technology.

Deus Ex Human Revolution doesn’t do subtle. It takes a clear position on every issue and its endings bully you into a single path making those three endings almost as interchangeable as Mass Effect 3’s duplicate endings. It tries to make conversations a factor, but they never matter.  Human Revolution gets by on conspiracy theories, looping broadcasts of an Alex Jones wannabe and playing with headline conspiracy theories about FEMA, Blackwater and the World Health Organization, but it’s the art design that is more effective than the story.

The graphics telling detainees to crouch at a FEMA detainee camp and the rows of padded velvet armchairs in the observation area of an operating theater where human subjects are experimented on are much more effective than the game’s own lectures. Making matters worse, Deus Ex Human Revolution’s cutscenes are even worse than its much maligned boss battles, which are mostly not that bad. Sneak through to an objective and a cutscene comes on where Adam Jensen strides boldly into a room and lets a bunch of gangsters or the CEO or a corrupt Chinese medical company sidle around him. And making worse matters, even worse, Adam Jensen, in the cutscenes, is an idiot who is slow to figure out the same things that the player already knows. And all these terrible cutscenes culminate in a final moral choice that makes no sense and in which the game’s only good ending is to blow up yourself and a station full of people so that humanity never learns the truth.

Human Revolution’s story of conspiracies holds together at least until in an idiotic plot twist, Hugh Darrow, the man behind enhancement technology sabotages the Illuminati’s plan to compensate for anger over his birth defect leaving his Global Warming station to be overrun by zombies.

That’s Deus Ex Human Revolution as a story, but what is it like as a game? The answer is generic.

The game does keep track of whether you kill people or knock them out, but only to attach a little lecture at the end. Going quietly has its advantages, but is rarely necessary. The enemies are repetitive and so are the levels, most of which take place in minor variations on modern office buildings or warehouses like every other FPS out there.

The exceptions are the large outdoor maps of a new Detroit and Hengsha in China. The engine shows its limitations in these places. Both cities are always dark and a riot in Detroit lacks rioters, but the effort briefly makes the game come alive, especially in the Hengsha sections where the streets are full of stores and people and oppressive security, where a whorehouse has damsels in distress and people from across the world sleep in pod capsules in a giant rundown hotel.

Unfortunately Hengsha is the exception not the rule and before long, you’re back sneaking around abandoned office buildings and fighting soldiers dressed in red so that they are easier to see.

Human Revolution is a decent enough example of what a modified FPS AAA sequel that isn’t in the military genre is like today, but it’s not especially groundbreaking or even worthwhile. Visually it’s stunning, but no other part of the game lives up to its art direction. The Missing Link DLC embedded in the director’s cut in which you expose an undersea lab where the Hyron experiments are taking place shows what the game might have. And what its sequel might still become.

Crysis 2 Game Review

Crysis 2 very badly wants to be Half Life 2 and why not. Half Life 2 dramatically rebooted the First Person Shooter, becoming the most influential title since Doom. Crysis 2 carries those echoes of Half Life 2 wherever it goes, the story set in a city under alien control, the masked goon squad, the squabbling scientists, the physics and the boasts about using a Science Fiction writer to come up with the story.

But Crysis 2 is still nothing more than a magnificent tech demo and a decent shooter. The wagonloads of story it dumps on you never connect. Maybe it’s because Valve understands the player experience so much better than Crynet does. Even the first Crysis understood it better than its sequel seems to. The best games let you discover who you are. The worst games insist on telling you right from the very beginning.

Crysis 2 showers you with the gorgeous spectacle of a city being destroyed around you. The suit hums, the customizations are there and while your weapons options are more limited, they’re still solid. There are vehicles, but you don’t get much use out of them the way you did in the original game. And forget about flying anything. When you do get to man a gun in a convoy, you rarely get to use it. And you rarely spend time with a squad. Except for a few levels that let you climb down buildings, the scope of the original landscape is also missing. Like so many EA published sequels to innovative games, Crysis 2 streamlines and dumbs down the experience to be more of a generic game.

But there’s still plenty to enjoy here, if only the game would ever let you experience any of it without a constant hum in your ear. For the first third of it you have to listen to Gould, the game’s most annoying character, whining at you to come protect him. It gets a little better when Gould is temporarily swapped out for Hargreave, but not much. The writing is bad and the voice acting is even worse. Hargreave is the closest to a nuanced character, and his big secret is now about as much of a cliche as it gets. Especially a few months after the release of New Vegas.

Crysis 2 keeps dumping all its cliches on you while you’re trying to have to fun. Thugs in stormtrooper uniforms trying to kill you and random people for no real reason are the worst offense here. So is the entire Cell plot about an evil corporation and its evil leaders. The North Koreans in Crysis were the appetizers setting up a larger conflict. But the Cell is just in the way and takes up most of the game with its shenanigans.

The game expects you to care about Alcatraz, a character you never met, being transformed into a symbiotic organism. That might be a good idea for a story, but it’s a terrible idea for a game. The player doesn’t experience the transformation, just tons of exposition and light effects every time the suit reboots. The designers probably thought making you hit different buttons to resuscitate yourself or crawl would be involving. And it might have been if you had any choice about it. If you weren’t just Dragon Lairing your way through the story the game wants to tell you.

But put all that aside and Crysis 2 is still a decent shooter, lacking some of the fun of the first. It’s visually gorgeous, but uninvolving. And the checkpoint system on larger levels makes for frustrating replays of the same enemies again and again. Using the cloak became not a way to play the game, but a way to get through it quicker. I felt more of a sense of accomplishment on uninstalling the game, than I felt on finishing it.

There are spectacular setpieces here, no question about it. Climbing down downtown buildings into a firefight. Escaping from the burning fifth avenue library. Pushing through an artillery barrage in midtown. But more fall flat. A Times Square battle royal comes off as cramped and disappointing. Too many levels of broken up city look and feel like a generic canyon shooter. And even the spectacular scenes never really connect. Like a big summer blockbuster, Crysis 2 blows everything up, but somehow it’s still boring.

Dragon Age 2 Review

Dragon Age 2 is not only poorer in characters, in story, in its world and its customizability than the original Dragon Age, but it’s even poorer than the expansion, Dragon Age Awakenings. Where Dragon Age Awakenings gave you more to do by taking responsibility for an entire region and making decisions with a real impact, Dragon Age 2 lets you hit buttons over and over again. And over and over again.

dragon ageDragon Age Origins: Ultimate EditionDragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition [Download]Dragon Age: Origins AwakeningDragon Age: Origins AwakeningEverything that Dragon Age did before it, Dragon Age 2 does less of. Characters? Forget about it. You’re stuck with a generic Hawke and his generic sibling and the generic Aveline you meet along the way. Then you’re gifted with Varric, a bland version of DA’s Oghren, and slightly more interesting characters carried from Dragon Age and its expansion, like Merill, Isabella and Anders. Slightly because even the best characters in Dragon Age 2 still pale before even the weakest ones from Dragon Age.

The story? Don’t even bother. Bioware boasted of an epic tale about the forging of a legend spanning a decade. Don’t believe them. There’s no sense of the passage of time the way there was in Fable. Occasionally NPC’s will mention how many years have passed but there’s nothing to make that feel real.

Dragon Age 2 takes place in 3 chapters, the first where you run around doing ordinary tasks to raise money, and the next two where you get caught up in two inescapable conflicts in the city of Kirkwall, one with the Qunari and one between the Mages and Templars. These feature the usual Bioware stabs at social relevance, but all they do is drag you into interactive cut scenes and nothing you do changes anything. Want to side with the mages? You’ll end up fighting mages anyway. Rescue mages? You’ll have to kill them anyway. Want to side with the templars? You’ll still fight the templar leader at the end. Your choices don’t matter.

Where Dragon Age and Dragon Age Awakenings had endings that differed dramatically based on the choices you made, Dragon Age 2 has the same ending repeated twice. Not only doesn’t the Dragon Age 2 ending bother to tell you what happened to your companions, the two different endings are identical except for four words, with mages swapped out for templars in a few places. It’s pathetic and it’s hard to imagine for all the posturing that Bioware Edmonton writers and producers actually feel good about this.

The gameplay? Dragon Age 2 doesn’t completely wreck it, just dumbs it down. There’s less customizability and more button pushing. Except for the grand Gallows set piece, the game is just the same sets reused over and over again. And over and over again. The same three dungeons, the same grand buildings and the same tunnel interiors. And I mean exactly the same. The enemies all come out the same way, and whether you’re fighting skeletons, templars or qunari, they’re all going to bring out their assassins and their archers and the rest of the troupe. Only the tiles are different. You don’t need to think about strategy, do it once and do it a thousand times.

The lack of customizability means there’s no point in doing most of what you’re doing. Interacting with your companions only affects how they show up in the final battle. And even a half-assed player should be able to beat Orsino and Meredith with their help or over their opposition. You can pick up money, but there’s nothing worth buying with it. You can’t upgrade your companion’s armor. You can’t even drive them away. That would interfere with Bioware’s cutscenes. The only thing to do with Dragon Age 2 is rush through it as quickly as possible so you can see for yourself how little game there is.

Dragon Age 2 isn’t the worst game ever made, but probably the worst game Bioware has ever made. It’s a rush job, weak and phoned in. The graphics engine has been upgraded, but that just means a better looking version of the game that Bioware keeps making over and over again. And without the characters, the story or the RPGness, it’s not even worth playing through once. I finished Dragon Age feeling like I had gone on a journey, I ended Dragon Age 2 feeling like I had pushed a lot of buttons in the right order.

Freedom Fighters – PC Game

On paper a game about a Soviet invasion of America and a domestic resistance movement trying to throw out the Russian invaders, Wolverine Red Dawn style should be about the coolest thing since a pirouetting Great Dane in a toga. And Freedom Fighters starts out right, from the alternate history setup that has the USSR discovering and using the atom bomb first, to the cheesy patriotism to the panic in realistically rendered New York City streets as the Russians attack. You might even call Freedom Fighters Half Life 2 meets Max Payne with Russkies instead of aliens from another dimension or mobsters.

But Freedom Fighters comes from the Hitman team and suffers from some of the same problems. Your average mission is Hitman in a more complicated setting and with a squad. There are of course no save games, just save points, which means you can expect to keep running through the same mission over and over again until you get it right, an experience that alone will teach you to quickly hate the game.

Freedom Fighter’s worst sin though is that it’s basically repetitive. Once you’ve played a few missions, you’ve played them all because each mission is just a variation on the one before. Each map may be nicely laid out and you have the option of which order to do which mission in and which objective to complete first, but in the end you find yourself grinding your way through minor variations of the same thing. Fight your way through a street, then a building, liberate some prisoners or set off some explosives and hoist the flag high. It’s fun a few times and then it’s just about as fun as licking shellac. With normal save games enabled, Freedom Fighters might have been a lot less tedious and a lot more fun. But when you’re navigating the same map for the 20th time, it becomes obvious that you’re just a rat in a maze and the only cheese is another silly Soviet newscaster cutscene.

 

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