Saturday, January 18, 2014

Level Up: Impossible Creatures

Today the name of our game is dealing with science fiction, a tale of revenge, real time strategy and animals that were never meant to walk among us. Folks, this year, to celebrate my birthday, I am once again looking at a PC game. I bring you Impossible Creatures.
Our hero is a no nonsense news bringer by the name of Rex Chance. This war correspondent is known for covering wars like Frank West, but after he gets involved in what he’s scooping, he gets the boot and is sent back home. Now with the time he’s needed but never had, Chance get the opportunity to find his estranged father Dr. Eric Chanikov, who he thought he had thought was long gone. Following a series of mysterious clues through newspaper articles and a letter from the old man himself, Chance goes to a tiny island. There, Chance finds NOT his father, but his “colleague” Upton Julius, accused of stealing Dr. Chanikov’s secret project: the Signma technology designed to combine animals! Before getting ripped to shreds by a monstrosity created by this technology, Chance is saved by Dr. Lucy Willing, who also worked on the project, until she discovered Julius’ evil intentions. Leaving on her flying train, Chance and Dr. Willing look to find what happened to Dr. Chanikov and hopefully stop Julius simultaneously.
Though a tale that’s been told before, this is a classic to be enjoyed, and the player finds himself easily able to back our heroes. And though Julius is the big cheese behind the operations, he commands a crew of anti-animal villains that have probably shared a pint Captain Planet rogue’s gallery. They show different degrees of animal cruelty with whaler Whitey Hooten, the fashion (and fur) obsessed Velika La Pette and the ring leader of a phony freak show, former veterinarian Dr. Otis Ganglion. You might not think the story is much to shake a stick at, but the characters (even the henchmen) add so much personality to the game, you’ll enjoy the cut scenes.
As I’ve already mentioned, this game is a real time strategy affair, but I’ve never covered those kinds of games before, so here’s a quick synopsis. In most games like this, you’re the commander and chief in charge of a whole work force and army. You’ll give orders to where resources should go, decide what buildings to make and what people should do. You’ll spend most of your time collecting resources (in this game coal and energy) to spend to either make resource collecting easier or to make a larger army and crush your opponent. It’s a game system that will test your ability to multitask and manage resources in a split second.
This game takes a unique twist on this play style as, not only will you have to worry about being able to get the resources to hire your army, but you’ll also have to DESIGN it. As you play through the campaign, you’ll collect animal DNA, which you will use to genetically map out your own “Impossible Creatures”. Choosing their heads, legs, body, tail and other parts will affect their stats and abilities. This means that you can sway your army to what you need at any moment. Do you need flyers to get over fences, or something that can turn invisible? Do you want a cheap weak army, or a costly strong one? Is an amphibious creature worth the extra creation chamber, time and resources need for it right now? Whatever the situation, you can make a creature for it.
Impossible Creatures is real time strategy game with a unique premise that really won me over, and I know I spent hours seeing what kind of creatures I could create. However, I have to admit, real time strategy games are not my forte, and I could see why fans of that genre could be turned away from this game. Having to suddenly stop your game to build creature does break any momentum you might have, and not having every creature in the campaign mode does make a huge difference from multiplayer. Speaking of multiplayer, Publishers Microsoft Studios have shut down the servers, so that mode of play is now unavailable. Still, this is a game worth anybody’s time, especially if you’re like me and once drew a “Gorilla-shark” as a kid. Thank you Relic Entertainment for making live out a childhood dream. I give Impossible Creatures for the PC 8 levels out of 10.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Level Up: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Once again, I celebrated the coming of the new year with a Guitar Hero game, but I saved myself the hang over to talk seriously about this one. Last year I talked about Guitar Hero World Tour and explained how it seemed to me like it was becoming quite bland. At the time of its release, this was a trend; a lot of games looked very gray and similar. A lot of people complained about the stagnation of the industry, and with Guitar Hero releasing similar games regularly, along with their competitor Rock Band on the market, you didn’t just need to look at first person shooter titles to see there was a problem. However, that’s where today’s game comes in: in a series that was just repeating itself to the point of monotony, the last hurrah for Guitar Hero would be something that decided to change things up a bit, but the series was STILL axed. Was it still the same or did people just not give it a shot? Let’s find out with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, available for the PS3 and xBox 360, but I’ll be playing it on the Wii.
Once again, this game has a story, but it’s even more unique than some previous titles like Guitar Hero 3. Instead of playing as one person or one band, the game plays out as an anthology following different musicians and their paths leading up to meeting one and other. Also unlike previous titles, you’re not trying to rise to the top or anything, as some already have a fan base. So why are you playing? To transform into a monster and to help fight “The Scourge of Rock”. Let’s just let that sink in for a bit: the characters you play as turn into monsters and eventually fight basically the devil of rock music. Axel Steel turns into a mummy, Johnny Napalm looks like a Night Crawler character, people turn into frankenstein’s monsters, pig men and headless horsemen.  Quite different from a series that had been doing nothing with its story beyond just “pretend you’re in a band”. And I can’t help but feel that it’s really awesome and that it’s what the series needed. Imagine the potential: the next game we might have been fighting off aliens or nazi zombies with your guitar (as Yahtzee once suggested). If it would have stuck around, Guitar Hero could have been to Rock Band what Saints Row has become to GTA.
Surprisingly, the game play of Guitar Hero has been switched up and made almost strategic in some points. The core game play is still the same (listen to last year’s review for more on that), but this game adds something new; power ups. Each character has one that will become even more potent once they reach their monster form. One automatically generates star power, another increases your score multiplier and another can allow for a mistake every now and then without losing your streak. These let you relax and just concentrate on playing the music, instead of worrying about if you make A mistake. This is especially true after beating the game, when you can play songs with EVERY power at once.
But where does the strategy I mention come in? That’s partially two folds. First, during the final battle, your 8 band members are divided into 2 teams. Some powers work REALLY well with each other, so you’ll have to figure which 4 gives you the best chance of beating each half of the song. The other part isn’t as unique but worth mentioning. Instead of having to play every song, this game requires only that you earn a certain number of stars before being allowed to move on with the story. This means if you’re having trouble with a certain track, you can just skip it and make up for it in the ones you are good in. I say this mostly to give you guys a valid reason to ignore the Nickleback track they got in there.
Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is one of the rare music rhythm games that I really like despite not being really wowed by the sound track. There still are a few songs I really like though, and I’m sure other people would love it. The game play changes things up a bit and rewards players with abilities to make the game easier and more fun. The plot is over the top fun ridiculousness and I love it for that reason. Sadly, at the time of its release, it was too little too late for most people. With the number of Guitar Hero games that were coming out at the time, people had already made up their mind about whether or not they were going to get it. Maybe if they had waited a year or two, more people would have seen this as the breath of fresh air that I see it as. If you liked the Guitar Hero series but skipped on the last game cause you grew tired of it, maybe my review let you know what you’re missing out on. I give Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock 9.5 levels out of 10.