Review: Muramasa – The Demon Blade

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Muramasa: The Demon Blade is an art lesson disguised as an action game. If most of my schooling was this enjoyable and simple, I’d probably be more cultured.

The Nintendo Wii has become something of the local art house for video games, as designers compensate for the system’s lack of obnoxious graphic horsepower by putting out titles with a unique visual spin. Before Muramasa came MadWorld and No More Heroes, a pair of games that stood out as much for their creative look as much as the gameplay. Okami also earned a lot of praise for its artsy vibe.

Muramasa bobs and floats along the same artistic river, making the player feel as if they are performing within the confines of Japanese paintings rather than the standard levels one would see in most action games. Adding to the mystique is the fact that Muramasa functions as a classic side-scroller, which makes it instantly accessible to practically anyone who plays it. This approach also enables the player to immerse himself or herself in other elements, such as story.

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Review: Chronicles of Riddick – Assault on Dark Athena

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Vin Diesel has a place in my gaming heart. Not because I was that enthralled with his fictional street racing exploits or hijinks as a souped-up super agent — but because he was part of the first movie-related game I played that wasn’t a flaming ball of rehashed “play the movie” garbage.

A few years ago, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay for the original Xbox seemed to get a better reception than the film to which it was tied.
With the full backing of its bankable star and executive producer, “Butcher Bay” rode its formula of movie-free story, visual personality and melee combat to critical acclaim.

Now comes the follow-up for the 360 and PS3, Assault on Dark Athena, which comes out with no movie behind it, but the same support system of star and developer. It’s also got the same formula, which works beautifully for the most part, but doesn’t have quite the same impact as its predecessor.

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Review: Resident Evil 5

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If you want to know what bioterrorism fantasy looks like, try the latest chapter of the “Resident Evil” series. At the very least, it’ll make you think about investing in a mask.

Resident Evil 5 is the culmination of a saga that has evolved from a zombie-killing, bump-in-the-night scarefest to an action-packed monster thriller. By fully coming out of the shadows and adding a mythic spin on the world of biological weaponry, this piece from Capcom is one of my favorite titles of the early year.

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Mini-review: Grand Theft Auto IV – The Lost and Damned

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As if driving around Liberty City and throwing down with a Serbian national isn’t enough, now you get to do it donning the colors of a fictional badass biker gang. That’s the premise of this new downloadable episode from Rockstar, which further sharpens the edge of one of 2008′s best games.

When I first reviewed the game, I talked a lot about the depth and dimensions of the character of Niko Bellic. Johnny Klebitz, the biker protagonist in this new episode, doesn’t have Niko’s grizzled Euro charm, but his presence and the presence of his friends infuses the Liberty City experience with a gruff dose of old-fashioned Americana. Johnny rarely loses his hog-riding machismo, whether its delivering drugs, fighting rival gangs or talking business with a fully-nude senator in a spa.

I also thought it was interesting how attached I was to Johnny’s customized chopper. The GTA series has usually encouraged the player to be a vehicular nomad, but it looks like Rockstar has an understanding of how biker culture works, at least on a surface level. If anything, it’s added a little more enjoyment to the simple act of traveling from one end of town to the other. Some of the characters are already staring to grow on me, and the voice acting, once again, is top shelf. The game also does a pretty solid job of weaving together the storylines, so you’re going to see some familiar faces — you know, before some of them die.

Overall, I almost forgot how much I enjoyed Liberty City the first time I went through it. Now that I’ve got a bike (and biker) to call my own, I certainly don’t mind visiting it again.

Review: Killzone 2

Killzone 2 is dirty. Grimy. Hard. It’s a butt-scratching, steak-and-fries eating, beer-drinking shooter that lives down the hall from games like Gears of War, eschewing much of the galactic frilliness one sometimes sees in other games set in the far future. There are no lasers, massive robots, or delusions of universal heroism. You get bullets and fire, f-bombs and blood. And that’s plenty.
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Review: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

I was never really afraid of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. If anything, I was happy.

That probably sounds strange considering we’re talking about a game with tons of blood and a crazy dead girl with the power to bend minds.

But it’s everything surrounding the creepiness that makes this game one of the cooler shooters of the year. Unlike “Dead Space,” which constantly chewed away at your comfort zone, F.E.A.R. 2 elects to give your sense of reality a hard shake and a slap when you least expect it.

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