Review: Call of Duty – Black Ops

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If there’s one thing Call of Duty: Black Ops keeps trying to tell me, I think it’s this: War is awesome.

Real war, of course, is far from that, but Treyarch’s latest work isn’t interested in painting any solemn pictures of the realities of battle. Instead, it uses American war history as the canvas for a wild experience that warms itself in the fires of explosive action-movie theatrics.

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Review: Dead Rising 2

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By Brittany Vincent
Contributing Writer

The boys are back in town. By boys, I mean ravenous, flesh-eating zombies. And by town, I mean Fortune City. Luckily Chuck Greene, motocross superstar, is on the case.

In Dead Rising 2, the sequel to the cult hit zombie apocalypse simulator Dead Rising, Greene replaces Frank West as the Average Joe on the run from the starving undead. Yes, there are plenty of zombies, but there’s a cure floating around that can stave off the effects of zombification. It’s called Zombrex, and Katey, Chuck’s tiny daughter, is in dire need of a dose every 24 hours lest she degrade into a shambling monstrosity herself.

In a world where zombie rights groups advocate fair treatment of zombies and pharmaceutical companies are profiting off the suffering of the people, this isn’t exactly an easy feat. It’s up to players to keep Katey fully dosed with Zombrex as the poignant father-daughter team anxiously tries to withstand, you guessed it, a 72-hour period before help arrives.
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Review: Enslaved – Odyssey to the West

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West feels like something I’d have seen in a movie theater and enjoyed. Perhaps that’s the point Ninja Theory, its creator, is trying to make.

The fusion of techniques from the movie world into the creation of games has been a long-pursued subject. Gamemakers have always sought ways to make their works feel more epic or artistic. Some games offer cinematic treatment to their cutscenes, while others blast your ears with high-end sound engineering or dramatic musical scores. Some use their characters as the engine for the whole experience.

Enslaved attempts to do all of the above, using a blend of glorious visuals, exquisite voicework/character development and action, hoping the player will be too busy enjoying the ride to notice any shortcomings.
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Review: Metroid – Other M

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Samus Aran isn’t supposed to need anyone. Ever since she let her hair down decades ago in one of gaming’s watershed moments (“what? Samus is a girl?”), she has been the quiet and revered standard-bearer for strong, female lead characters. She needed no rescuing and wasn’t prone to inner monologues about stars, life or making people happy. She didn’t wish for love or try to counter her femininity by acting macho.

Basically, she was just damn good in that awesome, alien-killing armor of hers.

At least, that’s what I and others want to believe — some of this imagery, in a way, is our fault. With other female lead characters grunting, bouncing their chests and splattering bits of sex appeal on everyone’s screens, many fans who’ve known Samus since the original Metroid have crafted a mental ideal around her minimalist nature. With her cloudy past, abundance of weapons and gadgets and her reputation as a bonafide ass kicker, she’s almost like an intergalactic Batman.

And this is where Metroid: Other M becomes both a satisfying and confusing experience. The gameplay says one thing about this legendary heroine, while the storytelling says something completely different — and sad. Team Ninja succeeds in taking Samus to new action heights, but I can’t shake the feeling that the mystique that made Samus so appealing in the past has been damaged.
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Review: Mafia II

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By Brittany Vincent
Contributing Writer

I’ve spent plenty of time with Grand Theft Auto, inFAMOUS, and other similar excursions — except I’ve done nothing but harm innocent pedestrians and wreck countless cars while racking up an indeterminable amount of property damage. As a result, I didn’t bother to finish them.

The reason Mafia II works for me was because it was nothing like the go-anywhere-and-do-anything romp I assumed it would be. Like its predecessor, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven (one of the few similar games I did complete and a fantastic play), it’s a scathing, disturbing, and at times decidedly stereotypical look at the lengths one man will go to make money, build a better life, and most importantly, a name for himself.

It’s not perfect. Many may call its refusal to stray from its central narrative a weak point. But it spins one of the most gripping dramas I’ve seen in quite a while.
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Review: Shank

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Shank is a game you play with beer, chips and a dumb grin on your face, the kind of grin you get when the hero’s sole responsibility is leaving a trail of kicked asses in his wake.

Such is the simple, barbaric pleasure in Klei Entertainment’s short offering to the beat-em-up genre.

It’s an artistic, bloody and whimsical exploration of the art of thug killing, carrying hints of films like “Desperado” or “Kill Bill” and merging them with the essence of side-scrolling attack-a-thons like the 8-bit Ninja Gaiden. It’s simple, brutal and joyfully un-epic fun.
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Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – The Game

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By Brittany Vincent
Contributing Writer

Scott Pilgrim did more than meet the girl of his dreams. He met her in them. Ramona Flowers, a delivery girl for Amazon, is beautiful, mysterious, and changes her hair color weekly.

Unfortunately, there are seven major problems standing in the way of their happiness together: Seven evil exes.

These are failed suitors who want to keep Scott from dating her, all of them organized under the greatest ex of all, Gideon Graves. It’s up to Scott to finally find the power of love within himself in order to conquer Ramona’s jilted partners and nab a “good” ending for the both of them.

In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, an adaptation of the comic series and feature film, you’ll take up the mantle of Scott, Ramona, or one of the members of fledgling band Sex Bob-omb on a raucous and thoroughly retro-licious journey to take out six evil ex-boyfriends and one evil ex-girlfriend.

Like the comics and movie from where this violent rainbow sugar rush of a side-scrolling beat-em-up came, this release relies on old-school gaming sensibilities and cheeky gaming references to create one of the better and more enjoyable book/movie tie-ins of all time.

Unfortunately, it’s not one of the best video games you’ll get your hands on. While this 8-bit brawler practically oozes style and classic gaming goodness, it doesn’t quite make up for its plentiful problems.
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Review: Madden NFL ’11

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Pro football and the Madden game franchise have been part of the same sports/pop culture fabric for more than two decades. You don’t spend that kind of time together without learning how to evolve.

The real thing has witnessed the growth of ideas like the West Coast Offense, spread formation and defensive schemes. The games have withstood everything from passing windows to passing cones to the ProTak animation system.

But in the end, it’s still about how good the football is, and in the case of “Madden NFL 11,” some of it’s better than it’s been in years.
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Review: Dragon Quest IX – Sentinels of the Starry Skies

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By Brittany Vincent
Contributing Writer

The Dragon Quest series’ relationship with gamers outside of Japan hasn’t exactly been a stable one, especially out West.

It’s certainly not because of quality. Memorable characters, heartwarming adventures, and artwork from Akira Toriyama create experiences just as worthy of your time and attention as any Final Fantasy title.

This is further proven in the series’ latest iteration, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. It not only echoes what has made the Dragon Quest saga memorable, but is also the first numbered installment to receive a handheld-only release.
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