Primal Carnage (Review)

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Ah, a first person shooter. A quick glance at the list of reviews I have on here will quickly reveal that I don’t play many or, at the very least, I choose not to write about them. This is because I’m not really a major fan of first person shooters. They tend to feel very “samey” in this day and age. Everything is a modern war shooter, I guess because Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took off and everyone wanted to emulate it. Continue reading

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Saints Row: The Third (Review)

I think I’m about a month late to the Saints Row party but, whatever, I was busy playing Skyrim! Anyway…

There’s a lot that could be said about Saints Row: The Third. Prior to playing the game, I always thought that the series was just a more “gangsta” version of Grand Theft Auto and nothing more. Sometimes it feels good to be wrong about some things, and I’m certainly glad that I was wrong about Saints Row: The Third. This game is so much more than just a GTA-esque sandbox game and it is, dare I say, better than Rockstar’s series.

Saints Row: The Third is, yes, an open world sandbox game set in a huge urban sprawl. Just like in Grand Theft Auto you can steal cars, have shootouts with cops that grow progressively more and more intense the longer you hold out, play dress up by buying clothes, or even just mucking around with the pedestrians and traffic by causing general mayhem. The difference between the two? Saints Row does it better than Grand Theft Auto and it’s mostly because this game is just so insane that you cannot take it seriously.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to beat zombies with a big two foot long dildo? How about to pilot a bizarre ATARI-esque tank in city streets firing giant explosive blocks? Or have you ever wanted to take a Jet Moto bike into the open and run over dozens of people? While we’re at it, let’s set a casino full of gamblers on fire with molotov cocktails. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about throwing ourselves into traffic and getting rewarded for it. This game is just completely balls to walls crazy.

Character customization can be quite good in this game depending on what you're aiming for.

The story isn’t the greatest there is simply because the game is so ridiculous. Missions have you getting plastic surgery (and possible a sex change) to impersonate an enemy, turning into a toilet, waging war with a computer geek in a virtual world, and driving around the city with a pissed off tiger in your vehicle for no apparent reason. There is an actual story and it deals with the 3rd Street Saints ending up in a city called Steelport after a bank heist goes terribly wrong in their home city of Stilwater. With Pierce and Shaundi, you (the leader of the Saints) must establish a presence in the city by battling rival gangs for control over districts to raise your reputation and power in the underground. The further you progress in the story the greater your hideouts and residences (cribs) will be, and the Saints will acquire access to things that seemed completely out of reach at the start of the game. The story is just all about building your power and reputation in Steelport while not letting the rival gangs walk all over you. Eventually a military group called STAG will arrive in Steelport to bring the gang wars under control, and that’s where things get really interesting.

There are a few surprises and twists in the story throughout the course of the game, but nothing that happens will really blow your mind or have you on the edge of your seat. Saints Row: The Third isn’t trying to give you an epic story, no. This game just wants you to have a lot of hilarious and over the top fun in a city where anything goes. Literally. As I said, your missions will bring you face to face with an angry tiger, virtual reality baddies in a Tron-like world, zombies, and more. Fun comes before story here and it’s blindingly apparent.

Your character’s cell phone is pretty much the most important thing in the game as it has a list of available missions for you to take on while playing. If progressing the story isn’t something you feel like doing, you can have your phone direct you to various locales throughout Steelport that counts as additional content. The most enjoyable form of additional content has to be acitivites. These are essentially minigames that you can find on the side of the street and triggering them will initiate the activity itself. Some have you thrusting yourself into open traffic in an attempt to collect insurance money while another kind throws you into what has to be the most violent game show ever where the objective is to gun down enemies dressed in cute animal mascot costumes while avoiding many electrical and flaming traps.

Other things to do outside of missions include purchasing properties and shops. By buying these locations, you will earn revenue from them hourly. The more expensive the location is, the more you’ll probably get from it in return. Purchasing shops will give you discounts such as lowering the cost of ammo and making clothing cheaper to buy. Another handy thing about buying shops it that, whenever gangs or police are after you, entering a shop will immediately clear you of any notoriety you have.

Crazy carnage and unrealistic vehicles are the name of the game here.

One of my favourite aspects of Saints Row: The Third is the customization. The character customization process is pretty thorough (it has dozens of sliders for facial features) and can take you up to an hour to make your character if you’re really serious about getting them to look the way you want. Fortunately you can edit them again later by visiting plastic surgeons littered throughout Steelport. Many vehicles can also be customized by upgrading their brake, torque, and much more or buy giving them a new paint job, tossing some new rims on the wheels, or modifying the body of the car itself. Any vehicle that you modify will then be saved to your garage where you can access it whenever you’d like. The greatest part about this? If you blow up your highly customized car and then accidently blow it up, all you have to do is visit your garage again and presto! You can spawn the exact same car! It may be unrealistic, but it’s a fantastic feature which heavily endorses the whole “we just want you to have fun” aura that permeates this game.

Your character can also be customized via the upgrades menu from your phone. By selecting this you can increase your combat effectiveness (raises damage you inflict from guns, etc.), unlock gang bonuses, or just make life a lot easier for you by increasing your sprint speed or health regeneration. There are tons of upgrades available which will unlock over time by gaining respect which is a sort of experience point system. You’ll gain respect by completing missions, activities, and other various tasks. You can also acquire respect simply by performing stunts and such in the world like having several near misses in a row when you’re in a vehicle. There are tons of little things that award respect and you could literally decide to just grind respect and still have fun in this game since the things that grant respect are fun themselves.

One thing that I’m glad for in this game is how responsible the controls are. Traversing on foot is predictably easy to do, but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how easy it is to drive the various automobiles, boats, and flying vehicles in the game. A few of them (mainly anything that flies) may take a few minutes to get used to but there’s little challenge involved and you’ll rarely ever find yourself blaming the controls for anything that happens.

The graphics in Saints Row: The Third are pretty impressive. Some districts of the city look really beautiful when you’re on foot, especially the downtown areas with huge neon displays. I haven’t found any areas of the game that look a little rough. Some locations may seem a little barren, but nothing actually looks bad in this game. Considering you can go into buildings as well (mostly just cribs, shops, and a select few others), there’s a lot to look at in the city itself. Characters also look pretty good in this game. Your homies (mostly Pierce and Shaundi) are quite detailed but other secondary characters such as Cyrus, Kilbane and Viola all look great as well.

Yes, you can parachute from that high up... and it's pretty damn awesome.

The sound work in the game is also quite good. Sound effects are mostly pretty generic and standard stuff that we’ve already heard before, but the music and voices are something else. The soundtrack in this game has some truly great licensed songs that you’ll hear on the radio by Benny Benassi, Bush, Robert Tepper, and Sublime while the mission sequences also boast some good tunes. I never expected to enjoy anything by Kanye West, but there’s one song by him called “Power” which plays during some great moments ingame and it really fits wonderfully with the action on the screen.

About the voices, I love them all. All of your homies have excellent voice actors bringing them to life and the antagonists aren’t half bad either (especially Kilbane). The voices that you can select for your character are all very good as well. I was instantly won over by Female Voice 3 for my Hispanic chick and it fit like a glove. Another voice worth mentioning is one by the never-out-of-work Steve Blum who provides the lines for another selectable voice that is simply titled “Zombie Voice.” By choosing this for your character you are entering a land of non-stop laughs. The zombie voice is less moan and groan and more… Spastic weird noises and grumbles. It’s pretty funny stuff, especially during one sequence where your character sings “What I Got” by Sublime with Pierce. I literally burst out laughing when I heard it.

So how good is this game? Pretty freaking good. There are some details I left out such as the co-op (it works beautifully and is a lot of fun) and probably a few other little things, but they are worth discovering on your own. There’s a lot of fun to be had in Steelport and I think just about anyone will enjoy this game. Saints Row: The Third is perhaps the quirkiest and silliest game I have ever played and I absolutely loved every single second of it. This game is a winner and if you’re reading this review then you must be thinking about giving the game a try. Do it. Now.

Final Score

9.3/10

Pros:
+ Steelport is a blast to explore and has lots to do.
+ The voicing in the game is superb.
+ This game has customization coming out the wazoo!

Cons:
– Later missions can become overwhelming with the amount of action happening at once.
– Loading times can infrequently spike at random.
– Unfocused storyline may deter those looking for a compelling quest.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (Review)

I’m very late to the party having just played and finished Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune while most people have completed Uncharted 2 and are anxiously awaiting Uncharted 3. Even though I’m a bit behind with Uncharted, I’m still going to review Drake’s Fortune because there may be others out there who, like me, never bothered to play the Uncharted games for whatever reason and would like to know what the games are all about. Well, to my fellow PS3 owners who are late to the Uncharted party, I can safely say that it is indeed a party very much worth attending!

In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, you play as an adventurer and treasure hunter named Nathan (Nate) Drake who claims to be the descendant of famous English explorer and navigator Sir Francis Drake. The story involves Nate tracking the foot steps of his famed ancestor in an attempt to find the legendary treasure of El Dorado. Joining Nate on his adventure is long time friend and fellow adventurer Victor “Sully” Sullivan who is never short of cigars and wise cracks, and the spunky television reporter Elena Fisher who is looking for the story of a lifetime. Unfortunately for Nate and his motley crew, rivals of both Nate and Sully find out about the plan to locate the treasure of El Dorado and decide to beat the heroes to it. If 1980s action flicks have taught us anything, it is that treasure seeking bad guys are always pricks and have an unrealistically vast amount of gun tootin’ henchmen working for them. Drake’s Fortune does not stray from this as primary antagonist Gabriel Roman employs a huge army of pirates to deter Nate and company from reaching the treasure of El Dorado.

Platforming sequences will often lead Nate up and over walls.

Undoubtedly the best part of Drake’s Fortune is the fact that the game feels like an interactive movie. The cutscenes are truly among the very best out there thanks in part to the incredible script and voice acting in this game. Nate is voiced by the never-out-of-work voicing superstar Nolan North and he certainly gets the job done here very well. Emily Rose also brings the character of Elena to life, making her easily one of the most believable and realistic video game girls out there. Sully is voiced by the awesome Richard McGonagle, who has one of the best voices in the industry by far. The three main characters are so well written and so believable that, during cutscenes, it’s not unusual to view them as actual people rather than as video game characters. This is especially the case with Emily Rose, who happens to look pretty much exactly like the character she voices. Hollywood, you’d better cast her as Elena in the Uncharted movie if you have any sense!

The supporting cast is also fantastic. While there are three protagonists, there are also three antagonists. Eddy Raja is an apparent ex-friend turned rival of Nate, Gabriel Roman is a treasure loving crimelord who loaned Sully a great deal of money (which was never paid back, hence the hostilities), and Atoq Navarro is a smug archaeologist hired by Gabriel Roman to assist him who really comes into his own later in the game. Each of the antagonists are well voiced, with many fans still loving the cocky and energetic Eddy Raja to this day. “Don’t mess with Eddy Raja!” Indeed, Eddy. Beyond the three antagonists, the only other voices players will really hear are of the pirates who under the command of Eddy and Gabriel. Most of Nate’s encounters in Drake’s Fortune will be with these pirates and, for the most part, they are well voiced. I could not help but notice that they sound a lot like the terrorist NPCs in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the same guy did the voice work for both Uncharted’s pirates and Vegas 2’s terrorists.

The supporting cast are not only memorable, but they're also handy as AI partners.

It is 2011 now and Drake’s Fortune is probably still one of the very best looking games on the Playstation 3. While the game does show a bit of age in some areas, it is still very pretty to look at and is certainly more pleasing to the eye than even many games released this year. This is a pretty wild accomplishment for a game that is four years old! The weakest point of Uncharted’s presentation is probably in the character models themselves. Facial animations look a little unnatural at times, and there are very obvious clipping issues with hair. Elena’s blonde hairdo in particular is prone to clipping quite a bit, and it’s painfully obvious whenever you see the back of her head in a cutscene. I’m also a little displeased at exploding objects in Drake’s Fortune. At one point in the game players must navigate a jet ski up a raging river that is, for some unknown reason, littered with exploding barrels. Ignoring how odd it is that there is a neverending stream of these barrels floating down the river, when you shoot one of these barrels to make them explode, the barrel will simply vanish and be replaced by an explosion. Even for a 2007 game, this is a really tacky looking effect which I thought we started to phase out during the last generation of consoles. Aside from these minor issues, the graphics are still very good for the most part. Jungle areas in particular are incredibly detailed and beautiful to look at. A few textures here and there look a little blurry or dated, but they are incredibly easy to miss unless you play this game with the intention of nitpicking and looking for graphical flaws.

In terms of gameplay, I can pretty much say that if you’ve ever played a Tomb Raider game then you will know exactly what to expect with Drake’s Fortune. Simply replace Lara Croft with Nathan Drake and bang, you’ve got Uncharted! For better or for worse, the gameplay in Uncharted really doesn’t do anything new that we haven’t seen before. However, for everything gameplay related that Uncharted does, it does well. The gameplay can be divided up into three categories: gun fights, platforming, and puzzle solving. Since this is a third person game, the gun fights are a little tougher to get used to than they are in first person shooters and the aiming can be horrifically difficult to get used to. Making Nate point and aim his gun can be a slow process. This isn’t Resident Evil 4 or 5 where the character can whip out their gun and point it anywhere in a fraction of a second, no. Aiming Nate’s gun is a pretty slow process as he moves his arms around at a snail’s pace, if you are the kind of player who blindly charges into battle, you’re going to die because of this. Due to the aiming being fairly slow, pretty much all of your firing will be done behind cover. Pressing the circle button will make Nate leap behind any piece of cover nearby, protecting him from the endless onslaught of ammo being flung his way by Eddy’s pirate goons. The key is to find cover, wait for the pirates to stop firing, and then pop your head out and get off a few good shots. I would advise most players to go into the options and put the aiming sensitivity slider around the middle of the bar. I found that if you have the aiming sensitivity too low then aiming is pretty much as slow as molasses which doesn’t help when you have to pop out of cover to take down a sniper before he gets a headshot on you. In contrast, putting the sensitivity all the way up makes it too hard to aim well. Lining up a headshot is extremely difficult with maximum sensitivity, as even just the slightest tap of the analog stick will cause your crosshair to whip around further than you want it to.

Four years later and this game is still gorgeous. A remarkable feat by Naughty Dog.

The only other issue I have with the fire fights is that it is not uncommon to kill all enemies in the room only for half a dozen more to spill in from another entranceway. It isn’t so bad in games where reinforcements come once every five or six fights, but in Drake’s Fortune you had better expect a constant stream of reinforcements in any room that is larger than the typical school or work cafeteria. When almost every large opening or room becomes a five to ten minute long shoot out, things can become a bit tiring. Unfortunately for Drake’s Fortune, there are a lot of these rooms. Around the middle of the game when Nate is working through a series of ruins with Elena, there are several very long fire fights that really just drag on for too long. Gamers who decide to check out Drake’s Fortune primarily for the platforming and puzzle solving aspects will probably be a bit turned off with the repetitive gun fights. Thankfully, for most of the game Nate will have either Elena or Sully alongside him providing support in shoot outs. On less stressful difficulty settings, players who aren’t too exceptional at shooting games will surely love their AI partners who don’t just stand around or behave erratically like in most games of this game. Elena and Sully take appropriate cover and are pretty decent at taking down enemies on their own. It is entirely possible for the AI partners to clear out areas for less skilled players, though this would probably take a bit of time and I wouldn’t advise doing this at all unless you are a player who REALLY despises shooting games. Unfortunately for players of this kind, towards the end of the game everything is turned upside down as enemy encounters change drastically (I won’t go into details for the sake of spoilers) and you’ll be without a partner for the last few chapters. The change of pace in terms of how encounters work is actually very well done and will force pretty much everyone who plays the game to change their strategies. Everything the game teaches you essentially becomes irrelevant as the fights become completely different and it is a lot of fun adapting to the changes.

There is also melee combat which involves running up to an enemy and mashing the square and triangle buttons to perform what the game refers to as brutal combos. These are pretty unfulfilling overall and just feel really out of place for some reason that I can’t really pinpoint. I would advise avoiding melee combat if your gun skills are more than up to snuff. I’m not even close to being a good shot, but I only ran out of ammo a few times later in the game and had to backtrack for more, so the melee combat isn’t an essential aspect of the game and it can be beaten very easily without going all Rocky Balboa on every pirate you meet.

The platforming sequences are pretty much ripped straight out of Tomb Raider. Nate will scale tons of cliffs, fortress walls, and vines throughout his travels. Most of the platforming moments just involve climbing up walls, shimmying around a little bit, and jumping to adjacent walls and such to find a way past obstacles. These sequences rarely last long and are, in my opinion, very under-utilized. Drake’s Fortune could have potentially a very incredible platformer but instead we’re only treated to Assassin’s Creed or Tomb Raider-esque climbing moments once every twenty or thirty minutes and they rarely last longer than a minute or two. This is a shame because they’re often quite fun and I enjoyed having to stop and look around for things to climb and jump to.

Melee combat is woefully unfulfilling and most players will probably opt to use firearms.

The puzzles of Drake’s Fortune are pretty straight forward and usually just involve flicking switches. The most advanced puzzle is one around the middle of the game when you have to point four statues in different directions to open a hidden passageway. Another puzzle indicates that you have to make two large church bells ring simultaneously to proceed. Well, that would be pretty hard in any other game, but in Drake’s Fortune Nate has guns. Yeah I just ruined the bell puzzle, but even a five year old would be able to figure that one out in approximately five seconds. Drake’s Fortune has very basic puzzles that will rarely, if ever, make you stop and wonder how you are supposed to even proceed. This isn’t all that bad since it keeps up with the steady pace of the rest of the game. It goes hand in hand with the quick platforming sequences, though the overly long gun fights usually bring the steady pace to a screeching halt for a few minutes.

Overall, there is no shortage of awesome things to say about Drake’s Fortune. It isn’t without problems, but the issues this game has are extremely minor and can be overcome, if not completely forgotten, by devoted players. The game only takes about eight hours to play through, but there are dozens of hidden goodies that will be missed on the first play through the game. By finding hidden treasures littered throughout the world and performing various tasks that award trophies, players will amass medals ingame which will unlock various bonus features such as playing with fun screen effects filters, using any gun in the game whenever you want, to even playing as Elena, Sully, or any of the game’s antagonists. There’s quite a bit to do in this game besides enjoy the fantastic story. The gameplay is blast, the characters are extremely likeable and memorable, and there’s tons of hidden goodies. Fans of adventure games will find lots to love in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Pros:
+ An unforgettable cast of characters who you’ll fall in love with.
+ Script and voice work are both among the best ever in a video game.
+ The game is still beautiful four years after release.

Cons:
– Aiming controls can be fairly sluggish.
– Melee combat feels out of place and depressingly bare-bones.
– Some shooting sequences can drag on for too long.

Final Score

9.5/10

Flying Hamster (Review)

“An excessively crazy and cute side scrolling shooter that anyone can pick up and enjoy.”

While poking around the Playstation Store’s Minis section for something to play on my PSP, I happened across a curious sounding title. Flying Hamster. I read the description and realized that the game was side scrolling shooter, like Gradius or R-Type. Considering the fact that the player assumed the role of a hamster, I just had to check the game out to see what it was like. Well, after playing the game quite frequently on my PSP, I can say that it’s a pretty fantastic shooter.

In Flying Hamster, you play as a hamster who is constantly trying to rescue his girlfriend hamster from the clutches of evil. Just before the start of each level, the protagonist’s girlfriend is captured by the boss of the next level. It’s all done in a really adorably cartoon-like anime style that you can’t help but chuckle over. The game’s cuteness is so over the top that it is absurd. That does not mean that the game is just a cute little romp for kiddies, no. While the presentation of the game may be very sugar coated, there is a very dark sense of humour in this game. In the first level, cows that use their udders as machine guns attack the player, and in the following level that is set in the desert, penguins with parasols try to shoot down the player with pistols. Yes, you read that right… Penguins in the desert.

The joy of Flying Hamster is that it makes practically no sense at all. The game is just mindless fun, and it plays like something straight out of 1990. If the graphics were a little lower quality, this game could easily pass as something straight out of the Super Nintendo’s library. That is in no way a bad thing, since the Super Nintendo had a healthy amount of fun shooters. Flying Hamster is perhaps even more enjoyable than any shooter on the SNES. The game’s insane levels of quirkiness help it along quite a lot, but the gameplay is also extremely solid. Controls are very fluid and precise, so missing your targets or failing to avoid incoming projectiles will always be your own fault.

Flying Hamster is divided up into roughly half a dozen stages which are all themed. Throughout the stages, the player will have to dodge all sorts of zig-zagging enemies and projectiles while shooting down obstacles and stage bosses. The bosses are pretty fun in this game and definitely make you smile. The bosses start out moderately easy with a giant owl that shoots homing lasers from it’s eyes, but the game will quickly ramp up the difficulty slightly, though the game never becomes as difficult as other games in the genre. I think most of the reason for this game being fairly easy is the fact that you are able to take three hits before dying instead of just one, and the powerups are pretty darn powerful.

My two favourite power-ups are the beer and the fire. The beer will make the player squirt little dabs of beer, but when it is charged up, prepare for projectile vomit-like streams of beer! It’s a prett gross (but hilarious sight) and, fortunately, it’s strong as hell too. The fire is in the same boat as the beer. If you fire it without charging it, you’ll just shoot off weak little shots, but when the fire attack is charged, our little hamster spews a steady stream of fire that obliterates everything in it’s way! There are many other power-ups to collect, such as homing bees and boomerange bananas. All of them are pretty silly and should put a smirk on your face.

The presentation is what really sells this game, though. The graphics are ridiculously cute (just look at the screenshots in the review) and the music is so light-hearted and fun. It really is impossible not to be captivated by this charming little game. I had a recent play session of the game where I hooked my PSP up to my TV and everyone in the room got a kick out of all of the hilarious and silly things happening on the screen.

I honestly cannot give this game a low score or not recommend it to anyone. It’s such a lot of fun to play, and the crazy presentation of the game even appeals to people who don’t like side scrolling shooters. For only a few bucks on the Playstation Store (as well as on the iPhone App Store), you really can’t go wrong with having this game in the palm of your hands.

Final Score

9/10

Why APB: Reloaded Will Succeed

Sometime in Q1 2011, APB will return as “APB: Reloaded.” The original designers are onboard thanks to the game and studio being bought by K2 Network. Numerous improvements are being planned, and there are a few reasons why I think APB: Reloaded will succeed. “Gasp! APB succeeding?” Why, yes. As a player of APB during it’s original run, I saw the huge amount of potential that the game has. Unfortunately, due to EA forcing Realtime Worlds to rush APB out the door, the game was not what it was promised to be.

APB: Reloaded promises to make the game what it was originally supposed to be while improving the bad aspects of the game that became evident during the game’s original run. So, what will APB: Reloaded do that will make this game succeed? I have three points that I think will lead to the game working out this time around.

1. Tougher Crackdown On Hackers
Towards the end of the game’s life cycle, APB was plagued by hackers. Countless people used aim bots, wall hacks, and god mode hacks. It was a little out of control, and Realtime Worlds are already discussing the matter of eliminating foul play from APB: Reloaded. There seems to be a good amount of confidence coming from them at the moment, and they’ve had a bit of time to learn from their mistakes in APB and, presumably, they’ll be able to close a fair amount of holes that hackers exploited originally.

2. Revamped Gameplay Focus
Realtime Worlds has stated that they want San Paro to be a more enjoyable city this time around, the core PvP gameplay will not be the complete focus of the game anymore. Apparently there will be true PvE objectives in parts of the city, and plans are in place to make players want to return to specific areas of the city. To the average reader, this sounds like Realtime Worlds wants to implement something in the districts that will make players want to hang around at certain streets and locations. Minigames? Fun and rewarding quests? I’m willing to bet on both. Perhaps we’ll have access to a miniature casino, an arcade, or something else along those lines? It’s completely probable judging from Realtime Worlds’ comments. They want people to want to hang out in specific areas of the districts. Something is at work here, and I feel that it will add a lot of replayability to the game. The fact that PvP will not necessarily be the core focus of the game is also a great idea. They want the cities to feel more like, well, cities. Let’s hope that the revamping of the gameplay is going in a good direction.

3. Free To Play/Microtransactions
Free. To. Play. Those are the three most important words in this entire article. Players will still be able to perform microtransactions to probably obtain premium features and items, but paying to play is absolutely not required anymore. This is fantastic, as the original APB simply was not good enough to warrant monthly payments at all. Not having to pay will give the developers a lot of breathing room, and players will have more patience with the game if it is still lacking when it relaunches. By not having to pay, more players will be likely to stay on and wait for improvements.

Overall, APB: Reloaded may very well be the game that we were originally meant to play. Can’t wait! Stay tuned for more info.

Return to December 2010 Articles

Einhander (Retro Review)

“One of the absolute best games to ever grace the original Playstation.”

If, in 1997, I was told by someone that the makers of the Final Fantasy series would soon be releasing what would undoubtedly the best space shooter on the Playstation, I would’ve called them crazy. Well, in 1998, Squaresoft had done just that. Einhander is the best space shooter on the Playstation and perhaps even one of the best ever.

Einhander is a fantastic game that, in 1998, had it all. It looked awesome, had a stunning soundtrack, and had amazing gameplay. Twelve years later, and Einhander still plays and sounds like a gift from the heavens despite looking dated, though not at all ugly.

In Einhander, the player takes control of a ship belonging to the Moon’s military forces and must blast through several unforgivingly tough levels. Despite being an amazing game to play even by today’s standards, Einhander is not for the weak of heart. Don’t let the fact that it was made by Squaresoft, creators of the easiest RPGs ever, fool you. Einhander is tough as nails and doesn’t hold your hand at all.

As a space shooter, Einhander plays like many classic favourites such as Gradius or R-Type, but shakes the formula up a bit. The player is able to mount weapons onto their ship that drop off of enemies, and the position of mounting can be changed by the player at will. By default, weapons normally attach to the bottom of the ship. However, with the press of a button, the mounted weapon will swap to the top of the ship. This changes the firing arc of the weapon entirely. If the player’s ship has two mountings, then they can hold two weapons at once, which can also be fired simultaneously. It’s worth noting that no weapons that are picked up replace the default rapid fire gun that the ship comes with, with pretty much means that if you have two weapons at any given time, you can obliterate anything in your path by using all three weapons. Now that’s pretty badass.

Most enemies are pretty easy to get past. Lowly enemy ships and turrets are destoyed with ease, but the difficulty spikes dramatically upon encountering a mid-boss or level end boss. All bosses, regardless of whether or not they’re at the end of the level, are remorseless and will do everything they can possibly think of to destroy you. Most bosses have clever attacks that will catch you off-guard, while other bosses just rely on the old “spray the entire screen with dozens of bullets” routine. It’s worth noting that bosses can change their attack patterns as well if you destroy certain parts of them. That is one of the joys of Einhander, being able to destroy bosses in whatever way you wish since they are mostly all fully destructable. Few games offered this in 1998, so it was welcomed by many.

The graphics in Einhander were absolutely stunning in 1998, but today they are understandably outdated. Visually the game has stood the test of time fairly well. While most aspects of the game really don’t look impressive at all anymore, nothing stands out as being unpleasant to look at. As one of the original Playstation’s better looking games, Einhander simply looks “passable” in this day and age.

The music and sound effects have managed better than the game’s graphics and are just as good now as they were twelve years ago. Einhander’s soundtrack is mostly made up of “moody techno” sort of music tracks, which is really cool. For the most part, music takes a backseat and stays fairly quiet and in the background until players encounter a boss. It is at this time that the boss theme, which sounds freaking awesome, kicks in.

Click here to listen to Einhander’s boss theme.

Sound effects fit the mood just as well. Explosions sound gritty but muffled, and sounds given off by the heavy bodies of the game’s bosses are heavy and metallic. Most of the weapons sound pretty generic, but are anything but disappointing.

Overall Einhander is a truly awesome game that, despite not being a smash hit when it was first released in North America, has become one of the original Playstation’s most popular games over the past decade. If you’re a fan of space shooters, you should definitely get your hands on a copy of this game to enjoy on your PS3 or emulator.

Final Score

9/10