Review: Syndicate (X360)

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In 1993, Bullfrog Productions introduced the world to an isometric, future dystopia where augmented “Agents” were used by megacorporate empires to take the battle for market share out of the boardrooms and into the streets.

It was a tactical game spread across fifty cities across the world as you guided your team of four to cripple the competition by any means possible even if it meant using civilians as meat shields. The Atlantic Accelerator mission still gets a nod from me for its ruthless difficulty, and that was before the expansion pack made things even worse.

Since then, it’s become a cyberpunk classic so when EA and Starbreeze announced that Syndicate would reboot as an FPS, more than a few people were upset. For some, it reminded them of what FASA under Microsoft had done with Shadowrun. Even I had doubts. At the same time, it’s also easy to understand why. In a market dominated by Activision’s Modern Warfare, it’s a safe guess that they were trying to answer how to get an audience that may not have even played the original game to give this a shot.

And now after moonlighting as a new Agent, I can safely say that while it won’t knock your cybersocks off, it doesn’t quite leave the operating table littered with leftover body parts from the original, either. 
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Review: Call of Juarez – The Cartel (X360)

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Call of Juarez: The Cartel is a game that likes making you wait.

Health regeneration is usually a fast and painless way to get back into the thick of things, but not here. In-game cell phone calls can’t be canceled even if you’ve heard them before, and that problem carries over to multiplayer co-op where everyone has to wait until their scripted personal time is finished.

If there’s an explosion nearby, expect to get knocked on your ass and being forced to wait as you get back up. There’s a reason most FPS shooters don’t do this to the player, and it’s not because of realism issues. If you’re thinking “because it’s not fun”, you’re already ahead of this game. 
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Review: Homefront (PS3)

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Red Dawn, a film released in 1984, channeled Cold War thrills with an invasion of America by the Soviets and their allies. While it might have stretched the limits of plausibility, it was still a fun piece of fiction that imagined how it could have gone down and how ordinary people became heroes in defense of their homes.

Games have also gotten into the act ranging from IO Interactive’s third-person shooter, Freedom Fighters, to Massive’s RTS epic, World in Conflict. But there are no more Soviets, right? Well, there are always ultranationalist Russians if you follow Modern Warfare 2.

Instead, THQ has settled on North Korea to take on the United States.
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Review: GoldenEye 007 (Wii)

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Rare’s GoldenEye was a sharp reply to PCs of how exciting the FPS genre could be on a console – especially the N64 – in 1997. It also stands out as what is probably the only movie-based game to actually expand on its own material while being good at what it set out to do.

With those two things in mind, it’s easy to see how GoldenEye became such a influential legend, one that fans would even go so far as to bring the experience back to where the FPS began on PCs with mods recreating its famous levels with Half Life 2′s engine, Source.

Those same fans had also clamored for Nintendo to release the classic game on the Wii’s Virtual Console as a downloadable game only for the idea to die a slow and license litigated death.

And then developer, Eurocom, stunned everyone when they announced their own GoldenEye game built from the ground up as a re-imagined reboot. But far from being sacrilege, Eurocom’s remake is both an unmistakable homage and a fantastic FPS in its own right.
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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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Duke Nukem Forever Lives…or Lives Forever

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However you want to say it, DNF is alive and well.

Not happy with a simple blurb in saying that it’s actually real? Jaded by so many years of false promises?

I would be, too, along with many fans that had been waiting for this thing longer than some of today’s gamers have been alive. But at PAX 2010, a playable demo was actually available on the floor showing off the progress made. There’s also some talk that it might actually make it out sometime in 2011 courtesy of Gearbox Software.

The long wait is almost over and it looks on track to finally chuck that Lifetime Vaporware award Wired gave it in 2003.

Review: Singularity

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Raven Software’s mix of Soviet super science and time travel have cooked up a Cold War surprise that effectively blends both into a fun romp with a healthy dose of sundered limbs. If you’ve seen their work with Wolfenstein, this will feel like a return engagement. You’ll probably also remember that the single player was the best part about the Nazi buster.
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Duke Nukem Never?

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It looks as if Duke Nukem Forever developer 3D Realms has finally been shut down due to lack of funding from publisher Take-Two. 3D Realms had been working on the follow up to the much loved, tongue in cheek title for over 12 years. Take-Two will retain the rights to the game but no real word has been given on it’s current status. Read the original story over at

http://www.shacknews.com

First take: Killzone 2

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I’m a little late to the party with Killzone 2, another of the newly anointed messiah games for the PS3. Saw it at E3 and CES, liked what I saw, finally got to play it this week.

As far as first-person shooters go, I look at this game as the anti-Halo. Not in terms of popularity, but it how it feels. While the Halo series (and other PC shooters before it) have always been a haven for bouncy, up-and-down, gravity defying shooter action, Killzone 2 is rooted to the ground, both in philosophy and gameplay. It’s a meat-and-potatoes first-person shooter that will leave you with dirt and blood on your fingernails as opposed to inspired visions of intergalactic heroism.

The controls took some getting used to for me, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. I’m not sure of the designers’ intentions, but you feel like you’re steering a guy who is not only carry a lot of weaponry, but it’s HEAVY weaponry — so it could stand to reason that one should not except the ability to whip your gun around at high speed. Then again, perhaps I’m overthinking, and the controls just feel sluggish at first. We’ll see. I’m on the final level (I think) and I plan to finish off the single player tonight. It’s a little short — it took me less than five hours to get there.

The visuals don’t particularly shock me, since I’ve already seen the game. They’re still excellent, comparable with the destroyed beauty concept we saw in the Gears of War games. Add in the waves of f-bombs from Rico and the other soldiers you run with for sounds, and you’ve got the foundation for some wartime atmosphere.

I’ll be trying multiplayer this week as well. You’ll get a review after that.