Author: Ian Bonds

Ian Bonds is a comedian and writer from Baltimore MD. An almost ten year veteran of video game reviews, Ian also collects game systems and is a self-proclaimed "video game historian". When not reviewing games, he's writing songs about them as the comedy/nerdcore musician Insane Ian. Visit him at the Funny Music Project (theFuMP.com) or his own website, www.InsaneIan.com

Video Game Review: “RAGE”

It’s been six years since id Software’s last title (the expansion [[[Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil]]]) and in that time, lead programmer John Carmack has crafted one of the most technically sound shooters for this generation of consoles. RAGE starts out strong, as a tale of a selection of pseudo super soldiers are sent into stasis prior to a giant asteroid crashing into the Earth. Only one survives the damage, and you play this voiceless protagonist, in various missions across the post-apocalyptic wastelands. Sadly, this is where the story both begins and ends, as storytelling wasn’t obviously the focus of the game’s long six year development cycle. Instead, your character plays errant boy to anyone who asks, going on fetch-quest after fetch-quest, retrieving this and that for various folk in order to ultimately…just repeat doing that.

It’s not to say that the game is no fun. Far from it, actually, as the fetch-quests lead up to a series of fantastic gun battles and large set pieces. The wastelands are host to many manner of bandits, scabbers and sundry evil-type folk, and each character has strong and wholly different character AI that behaves uniquely in battle. Enemies don’t just seek cover and shoot blindly, some will charge at you, some will flank you, and all will try to bring you down with a ferocity that would make a Bengal tiger run in fear. The animations of reach enemy is also unique; shoot them in the side as they charge and they tumble down, staggering to regain their footing, all the while still closing on you. They leap from walls, run at you screaming…it’s all very intense.

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Video Game Review: “Ace Combat: Assault Horizon”

Video Game Review: “Ace Combat: Assault Horizon”

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

I’ve never been very good at playing flight simulators. Invariably, I always end up crashing into the ground or a mountain as I’m trying to swing the camera around to follow the bogey on my six. However, the most recent entry in the Ace Combat series has made me a fan all over again, and its new cinematic approach is a good reason as to why. Taking cues from the Call of Duty series, as well as listening to critic and fan reviews of previous titles, [[[Ace Combat: Assault Horizon]]] is the most diverse and fun title I’ve played in the series yet.

The game starts you off in a dream sequence taking out enemy planes over Miami. It’s here that you’ll first utilize the game’s star feature, DFM, or Dog Fight Mode. When tailing an enemy, pressing both shoulder buttons locks you onto your target and gives you a cinematic behind-the-plane view with a focused targeting reticule on the ship in front of you. Since most enemies are fairly adept at maneuvering out of missile locks, this is the ideal way to lock-on to foes to take them out. While in a lock, you also have to watch out for foes putting a lock on you, and the dogfights can get pretty harried in the skies above. Luckily, there are awesome-looking counter attacks you can perform if locked on to, which has your plane looping around after lining up arrows on screen and pressing the appropriate buttons on the controller. However, there tends to be a LOT going on on screen, so attention to details is a must.

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“Batman: Arkham City” Destroys Week-One Sales Records

Batman performs a glide kick on Victor Zsasz.

In what may be the really profitable digital strategy for DC, Batman: Arkham City, the critically acclaimed sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Rocksteady Studios has become the Highest Reviewed Video Game of 2011 on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and has shipped more than 4.6 million units worldwide since its October 18 launch in North America.

These sales figures are more than double the number of units the previous title sold in the same time period, and has already solidified the games rank as a contender for one of the top-selling titles of this year. Also, the game currently stands as the highest reviewed PS3 and 360 game of this year on Metacritic.com with average scores of 96 and 95 respectively.

Building on the intense atmosphere and story from the original game, Batman: Arkham City drops players into a section of Gotham, shut off from the main city, and over run by the inmates of the former asylum. Gangs wage war against each other and a new threat looms to take over Gotham as a whole. Cameos from Catwoman, Two-Face and more from Batman’s Rogues Gallery litter every single scene in the game, and coupled with the excellent storytelling, make it one of, if not the best superhero game ever. Look for our review in a day or two.

DC Universe Online MMO becomes Free-To-Play

DC Universe Online MMO becomes Free-To-Play

DC Universe Online

DC Universe Online, available for both PC and PS3, is switching to the free-to-play model that many other Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) titles are adapting in the genre. During a live webcast last Thursday, it was announced that the transition is coming today.

There will be three subscription levels available, each with varying types of access to the game’s content. Legendary status is for those who still wish to pay the standard $15 a month to play DCUO and grants you all of the Downloadable Content (DLC) for no additional cost. The following membership level, Premium, is awarded after you spend at least $5 on the in-game store and will never expire once purchased. Finally, the completely free-to-play status has the obvious least cost but most restrictions on just about every aspect of the game, including chat functions.

There is a complete layout of all the subscriber listings on the DCUO website and you can check out the FAQ there as well.

Video Game Review: “Alice: Madness Returns”

Video Game Review: “Alice: Madness Returns”

In the year 2000, American McGee’s Alice took the story of Alice in Wonderland and turned it on it’s already twisted head. As a sequel of sorts to the books, the game opens with an accidental fire destroying Alice’s home in Victorian London, in which her parents and sister die. Alice then attempts to commit suicide (due to survivor’s guilt) and is committed to Rutledge Asylum. While there, her shattered psyche has her (and players) revisiting the Wonderland of her childhood, now decayed under the rule of the Queen of Hearts. By the game’s end, she destroys the Queen (who some believe to be a manifestation of her own insanity) and restores Wonderland to its original charm and glory, and is declared stable (or stable enough) to leave the asylum.

Perhaps that wasn’t for the best, however. In [[[Alice: Madness Returns]]] (out now on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360), it’s eleven years since Alice left Rutledge (and, ironically, eleven years after the original game). Alice is living with and being cared for by a child psychiatrist in London (as his oldest patient), and the death of her family continues to stalk her. Her madness has manifested again, and now she finds herself returning to Wonderland – albeit the Wonderland that we now know to be imagined – in order to restore order to its now-recurring chaos. This time, though, there’s an bigger question fueling her madness: was the fire that caused it all accidental?

The game divides its time between two settings: Victorian London, with its bleak, muted color palette, and the visual mind-bender that is Wonderland. Take Tim Burton, throw him in a blender with Dali and Picasso, and add a dash of steroids and heroin, and you’ll have a rough approximation of the visuals here. The settings are stunning, from the steampunk-esque Hatter stage, to the underwater follies of the carpenter and the Walrus, to the card bridge and the Queensworld…it’s all, well, fairly crazy actually. The animation is also fluid, as Alice jumps, twirls and floats through demonic paranoias and her own destroyed psyche, made visual in Wonderland. She can even shrink in size to pass through keyholes, which also gives her a new perspective on the layout of a level, revealing hidden clues as to where to go next, or thing she just couldn’t see at normal size.

At it’s heart, Madness Returns is a platformer, but there’s a heavy bent on action. Alice has many weapons at her disposal to use against the negative densiens of her mind. At first, black slime with babydoll faces known as “ruins” populate the land, and Alice can dispatch them with her trusty Vorpal Blade (which goes Snicker-Snack!) or a Pepper Grinder (basically a hand-cranked machine gun). Later she gains a Hobby Horse, which she uses as a melee club to bash and smash. All of these weapons flow effectively into one another for combos, and when combined with the dodge move, become invaluable in escaping hasty death from an onslaught of enemies. After traversing some areas, the foes become more familiar, namely the Card Guards, only now more…demon-esque.

As a platformer, there’s also a good amount of gathering collectibles, and each one has it’s own use. Scattered throughout the land are memories, which piece together the story for Alice (and the player). There are also teeth, which Alice gathers from fallen foes or smashable objects, and are used as currency in the game to upgrade weapons. It all seems like typical fare for an action platformer, but teh setting and storyline are really what set this one apart. There’s some truly messed-up things here, and the game really pushes the M rating.

If there were one complaint to make towards the game, it’s more about the little hiccups you encounter during gameplay. Sometimes, Alice will get hung up on an invisible wall or something in the floor, usually after releasing the “shrink” button on the controller. It’s a minor setback, but when the animation is usualy so fluid, getting held up in a graphical glitch can take one out of the moment. Also, the level layout is preposterously long. One chapter can have several individual sections, feeling like their own levels, but are really part of the chapter istelf. Sometimes this works to move the story along, and sometimes it gives the player the feeling of the developers trying to drag out the length of the game. Alice herself even comments on this, in a manor, when asked repeatedly by various characters in the game to do tasks for her, acting as though the level would be much shorter had they simply done teh task themselves. But then, it wouldn’t be a game then, would it?

While it isn’t a perfect game, it is certainly a fun one, and visually, one that will take hold of you, with it’s abstract settings and newspaper cut-out style cut scenes. It’s all very stylized and slick. As an added bonus, the original American McGee’s Alice is included on the disc (unlockable by download on an online pass included with new copies of the game). Playing through it is definitely a treat to those not familiar with the original, though I will say, it hasn’t held up well over time.

If you’re looking for solid action, decent platforming and puzzles, and a intriguing storyline, you needn’t look much further than here. While it may seems a bit unfair at times with the number of enemies beset upon you, the story is one certainly worth going through, and the adventure is truly a fascinating one. Horiffic though it may be for our heroine.

Rating (based on a scale of BUY IT, RENT IT, SKIP IT):

BUY IT!

Video Game Review: “Brink”

Video Game Review: “Brink”

Brink (video game)

Image via Wikipedia

The genre of First Person Shooters (or FPS) in an already over-saturated video game market is a risky venture.  In order to succeed in a sea of Halos and Call of Dutys, one must be unique, or offer something that will appeal to the masses.  Developer Splash Damage is hoping that [[[Brink]]] (out now for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360) is such a title.  Utilizing a unique graphical style, and taking note of some of the lesser-used conventions of modern shooters, Brink aims (no pun intended) to be the next go-to online shooter.  But does it hold up to expectations?

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Holiday Video Game Buying Guide Part Two: The Apocalypse

Holiday Video Game Buying Guide Part Two: The Apocalypse

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like wandering through the deteriorated wasteland that used to be a familiar setting.  Decaying and destroyed memories of the past in a post-apocalyptic future.  It’s a cozying thought, really…well, if done in a video game and not actually having to live through it yourself, that is.  And the games we feature this time around are as good as they get for post-apocalyptic wasteland survival.  They may not be very ‘festive” but they sure are fun, and actually are front runner sfor some of the best games of the year (in my opinion, anyway).

Want to see what you should have asked for in your stocking?  Hit the jump to read on about these “after the end of the world” scenarios.

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Holiday Video Game Buying Guide Part One: Music Games

Holiday Video Game Buying Guide Part One: Music Games

There’s a lot of games to choose from nowadays.  How will you know what little Billy or Jamie want for the holiday gift season?  Well, I’m here to steer you in the right direction when shopping for the newest electronic kagigger that the kids want for their X-stations and GameBox 460s and such.  That what the kids, play, right?

In all seriousness, there’s really a wide variety of crap out there, and someone needs to sift through it for you.  And sure, it may be a week until Christmas (so for some of you, you may be doing some returns before the holidays) but I’ve had to actually PLAY through these, so my warnings are for YOUR benefits, people!

Let’s start with music games.  We’ve moved on from the normal rhythm titles where we play plastic instruments and have graduated to real instruments.  Two games are boasting that they’ll teach you to play…but which one is right for you?  Hit the jump and find out.

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Video Game Review: “Undead Nightmare”

Video Game Review: “Undead Nightmare”

One of the best games of this year has received a new downloadable content expansion this past week.  While “[[[Red Dead Redemption]]]” was a fantastic open world look into the lawlessness of the Old West, it’s newest single player mode, “[[[Undead Nightmare]]]”, available now via Xbox Live or Playstation Network for the game, takes the familiarity of the b-movie zombies and places them firmly in a storyline separate from the main adventure.  But is it worth the price of the download, does it, like the rotting corpses you’ll face within, stink?  Read on to find out.

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