Impression: Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Friday, October 24th, 2008 in Gaming Life /Rants

I’m not sure how first to put this game down. I have so much to say about it, yet so few hours into it. What’s not to like about this trailer?!

By “put down” I really mean bash. What a disappointment. I was really looking forward to this game. When GameFly‘s email said they’d shipped it last Friday, I checked the mail Monday for that nice square envelope. It had come, and unfortunately not a bit sooner.

My first impression of the game was that it was an accurate WWII title using the Unreal Engine. Two promising features right there. I pop the game in, enjoy some openings and titles, and get right to action.

First off, the graphics are truly something else. Gearbox makes great use of the engine as far as texturing and lighting, models, and dynamics. As far as animation goes, they suffer from what I’ve noticed a lot of developers have from these days. They focus on major movements like actions that motion capture picks up and leave out the important stuff like facial animations. Downed enemies look like mannequins on warehouse shelves, with no interaction or rag doll effects to even play with. Most of the dialogue that takes place in the opening movies is yelling; however the characters’ facial expressions remain calm and placid, rarely opening their mouth as wide as a yawn. It’s not hard at that point to figure out where they put their efforts.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway screenshot
BLAM! A cinematic piece you are rarely afforded.

Gameplay is something similar to that of Rainbow Six: Vegas, which is awesome, but the control scheme doesn’t match it at all. Controls felt misplaced and clunky. There wasn’t any way to come out from cover and start running without returning to the original cover position, moving away from the cover, strafing left or right, then sprinting. I also often found myself commanding my squad to go on a suicide mission instead of chucking a grenade, and chucking grenades instead of doing something else, like reloading. Which, I might add, is completely manual. ( Game Realism + 10pts | Game Fun & Pace – 20pts ) Everything just really felt out of place.

Squads are a feature that has recently become a norm for most first-person-shooters in the latest generation of consoles. It’s really not a difficult concept. But when you do deploy it in your game you really need to make sure it works. Now, I’ve read reviews and comments on the squad system and how covering fire and flanking is really the way to do it, but sometimes these guys are just plain stupid. Standing up to fire the mounted machine gun while taking hits is not heroic, it’s moronic. They don’t work for themselves! That’s what I think the real problem is with HH’s system. In games like Gears or Vegas the squads fight for themselves, but they can also take orders. Really not a difficult concept.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway screenshot
Hmm…I remember this level. It was the one right before I took the game from my 360, put it back in the envelope it came in, and sent it right back to GameFly!

All in all, I’d say that for a game that’s supposed to be historically accurate, it does a great job with the setting, characters, and everything else. OK, so the AI can get screwy from time to time. Your on-staff historian shouldn’t have to point out that anyone in their right mind wouldn’t lug a mounted gun right to the sandbag wall behind which Nazis are using their life to keep you back. For a game that should be accurate, period, I’m just not able to play through it when it requires three to five shots in the face(!!!) in order to take a Gerry out. For a game that should be accurate at all, I shouldn’t have better luck hitting long range targets with a Thompson machine gun than with an M1A rifle. Sigh…

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Tell me this is not one of the coolest things you’ve ever seen! Skip to about 3 minutes in if you just want to get to the juicy stuff. This is a genuine turbine engine powering a R/C F-22 Raptor. As soon as the ground is not visible anymore, the jet seamlessly goes from a five thousand dollar toy to a multi-million dollar aircraft. I’ll bet this guy has made love to that jet more than once…

Review: Dracula X – Nocturne in the Moonlight

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 in Retro /Reviews
Nocturne in the Moonlight Saturn cover

Immediately following the events of Richter Belmont’s adventure, Rondo of Blood for the TurboGrafx-16, Dracula X – Nocturne in the Moonlight starts you off smack in the middle of the final boss fight against Dracula from the previous game in the Castlevania series. Known here in the U.S. as Castlevania – Symphony of the Night, Nocturne is the Japanese version of one of the best titles of the 32bit era. I had the privilege of playing the Sega Saturn exclusive version, which contains more areas of the castle to explore and additional features and dialogue than the PlayStation.

I first played this title when it was released as downloadable content on Xbox Live Arcade. Of course, that was the English port, but it was still enough to suck me into the decade old 2D adventure. Anyone who knows me knows that Super Metroid is my favorite game of all time, and Nocturne‘s gameplay is not far off. It’s a lengthy 2D RPG platformer that takes you through the bowels of Dracula’s castle in search of what’s caused Castlevania to come back into existence. Collecting a slew of weaponry, armor and items along the way, the main character, Alucard Tepes, is something of a recluse. He doesn’t talk much, but there’s honestly no need (Hell, Samus gets away with it…). On his journey he meets Maria, a sprite from Richter’s adventure searching the castle for him after his disappearance. They exchange awkward silences and facial expressions occasionally throughout the castle and eventually end up duking it out. You’ll see two different endings depending on the choice you make and/or items you collect.