First game on the list is Lost Planet 2 for the Xbox 360.
Lost Planet 2 is, of course, the sequel to the previous Capcom game Lost Planet. The game is based on this colony world called E.D.N. III (though they never DO explain what the acronym even means...), what was ONCE a frozen wasteland covered in creatures called Akrid, now a lively and colorful planet of many climates covered in Akrid.
The game is a sci-fi 3rd-person shooter where you play story mode as one of several groups of Snow Pirates, each fighting their own battles for one reason or another that is explained at the beginning of each chapter. The basics of the story are that the colonization corporation, Nevec, and the colonists the Snow Pirates, have been battling each other for the past decade or so, for domination of the planet. This of course involves lots of guns, lots of mechs, lots of mech guns, and also the occasional battle against the native Akrid by both sides.
This game is made for cooperative play, and has 4-player online co-op in story mode. The gameplay works well, with the customizable characters all moving and attacking quickly and smoothly. Missions are objective-based, and require several different things, from defending your base/vehicle, to destroying a target, to defeating a boss. There's not really a wide variety of objectives to do, as they all revolve around killing lots of people with lots of guns. You have the option to hop inside one of the various types of mecha called Vital Suits, or you can also just pull off the Vital Suit weapons and run around with them to kill people. Where the game really shines is the boss battles, against massive Akrid that make even things like cities look small in comparison! Nothing beats taking down a huge fucking Akrid with three of your buddies, and each battle is unique! One has you using a train's massive cannon while your buddies load and charge the thing, and another one might have just the weapons you carry against another Akrid.
Lost Planet 2 features 5 different base character types, and each one of them has their own gear you can switch, with head, upper torso, lower torso, and t-energy pack all being interchanged with other styles and colors. You get more parts by fighting online and in story levels with your character type and leveling it up with experience. Every 10 levels unlocks some new gear, usually clothing options, but also guns. You are allowed to choose the different types of guns your character uses for each base type, and whatever of that type you find on the ground will be of your own chosen weapon. There's also a slot-machine type deal that you get parts/guns from with points gotten during big boss battles.
Lost Planet 2 is a good game with a decent story, fun mech combat, and awesome boss battles, all with the ability to play together with friends online. I'd recommend it as a good group-play game or for someone who was a fan of the first game. I give Lost Planet 2 an 8.5 out of 10.
Next game on the list is Rocket Knight on the Xbox 360, on XBLA.
I remember Rocket Knight Adventures from the Sega Genesis, and that was a damn fun game. I remember trying to save the kingdom from those pig bastards in this steampunk type armor in a village or castle, then going into the sky to blow their ships away. It was good fun back then, and now they've made an awesome sequel with modern graphics for the Live Arcade.
The gameplay of this sequel is very similar to the original, where you jump and dash and fire energy from your sword slashes, all from a side-scrolling viewpoint. And when you're between most levels, you're powering up your jet pack to take the fight to the skies in a normal shooter type game. This one features far more abilities in the air than the original game did, allowing you to fire powerful beam attacks and to do quick dodges as well.
The basic premise of the game is that the knight's country is attacked by an army of Wolves not too long after the pig army has been defeated, and the character dons his Rocket Armor once again. As you fight against the Wolf army, you find that the rival character from the last game shows up to cause trouble once more, and you must go find what link he has to this conflict, even as the Pigs join the fight against the Wolves.
Rocket Knight is a good side-scrolling action platformer, and a GREAT sequel to a cherished childhood game. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys platformers or is familiar with the original game. I give Rocket Knight a 9 out of 10.
Next game on the list is ModNation Racers for the PS3.
ModNation Racers is a kart racing game, the style of which is reminiscent of Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing. Being part of the Play Create Share group of games with LittleBigPlanet, it has a HUGE focus on customization, allowing you to make your own racers, your own karts, and even your own race tracks! The possibilities are near infinite with so many different items and colors for each category, lots of different skins/colors/clothes/accessories for racers, lots of different bodies/paint jobs/colors/parts/etc. for karts, and several base areas with all sorts of different buildings, road types, terrain alteration, and many other things to make the race tracks of your dreams!
The game actually has a decent story as you play, starting out with you being some kid working for your mom in a kart paint shop. When your character asks her about the races, she tells him of knowing a pit chief, and he gets your character into the races. From there, you go on racing against some other up-and-comers, and as you gain attention from the race fans, you also gain attention from the owner of Conservative Motors, a company that focuses on selling bland, boring tan or light blue (only two color options) karts, and deal with him trying sign you to a contract for the company.
The gameplay for ModNation Racers is AWESOME, very fast-paced and action-packed! The game allows you to change your racing stats a bit, starting you out balanced but allowing you to focus on tighter turns over drifting, or max speed over acceleration, or vice-versa... Controls are solid, the driving physics are easy to get into, and drifting is easy enough to use that anyone can pick this game up and just start playing. The weapons are all quite balanced, and have three different levels, one for each power-up you grab. You can fire attacks forward, or actually lay them behind you as a mine. You also have the ability to side-swipe your opponents when they get next to you, and put up shields around yourself to guard from attacks coming at you, which the game warns you of with a rapid beeping and flashing icons. When flying through the air, you can do spins to build up a boost meter used for boosting, shields, or side-swipes.
One thing I have to bring up about this game, is that playing the story/season mode is like Demon's Souls for kart racing after the first tour! Enemy AI can get really cheap about hitting you with different attacks at important spots, side-swiping you when you're in the middle of an awesome drift, double-teaming you with attacks, and other annoying things. The AI can be a real pain in the ass, especially when you're trying to beat the race challenges to unlock more customizable items for your karts/racers/tracks! That being said, anyone wanting a challenge sure won't be lacking for it! Online, the difficulty is toned down with human racers, though that leaves all the fun of a normal racing game with such a superior driving system.
I played ModNation Racers for hours and hours and hours, beating each and every challenge, getting every token to use in the item slots, and finally getting every single item in the game. I would gladly do it all over again! Everyone who owns a PS3 should pick this game up IMMEDIATELY! I give ModNation Racers a 10 out of 10.
Last game on the list for today is Castlevania: Harmony of Despair for Xbox 360, on XBLA.
I'll be honest, I never played a single Castlevania game before this. I had only heard about it at one point or another, and even then I didn't know much at all about it, besides it being a side-scrolling action/platforming game, with some exploration. Apparently the series focuses on one family's struggle against the constantly reincarnated vampire, Dracula. Who keeps bringing him back to life every 100 years, I dunno, but obviously the family that kept fighting Dracula never thought to stop his revival in the first place...
Anyway, I'm sure lots of people reading this are just a bit irritated at my lack of knowledge of the Castlevania series, so I'm just gonna stop my analysis of the series from my limited info, and just talk about this Xbox Summer of Arcade release. This latest, and from the sounds of it LAST, chapter of the original Castlevania series is both a tribute to the series as a whole, and a multiplayer-focused foray into the series.
The story of this game is that there's a book called The Grimoire, in which the entire history of Castlevania is written, and within is also an incarnation of the cursed castle. While the castle's history is written within the book, so too are the heroes who have time and again beaten it down. Playing as one of five different characters from previous Castlevania games, which all play exactly like they did in the games they originated from, you go through six different past incarnations, re-imagined, and beat down powerful beings within each area, finally ending with Dracula himself in the last level, the current incarnation of Castlevania.
Apparently unlike most recent Castlevania games, your stats are increased ONLY by the gear you equip, and not by building up your levels (except in cases of magic/secondary attacks that build power by absorption/use). You go through the levels battling monsters from past games in the series, opening treasure chests for equipment. You gain different abilities or secondary attacks based on how the character you chose did in their game, Soma by killing enemies and taking their souls, Charlotte by absorbing magical attacks, etc...
I've mostly been playing this with others in the clan, and I must say that they did quite well translating this to a multiplayer experience. When you choose one of the five characters to play as, you get to choose from one of 6 or 7 different color styles for that character, allowing you to differentiate from other people. The game is quite fun, allowing up to 6 different people to get together and battle through these levels and destroy the powerful bosses. The combat is pretty straightforward, at least depending on which character you use, and it doesn't really get boring slaughtering the various monsters in each level.
Rumors are that there is a sixth character that is unlocked with the capture of a secret item in each level, though who it is is still a mystery. Downloadable Content will be available at some point for more characters and probably more levels.
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is a fun game, especially with friends, and I think is a fine first step into the Castlevania series for anyone. I give this game a 9 out of 10.
Finishing up this particular mass review, which I must apologize for being so long after the previous one, I wanted to end this with a small rant about the severe lack of same-console multiplayer in games these days.
Back when I was a kid, many games on the SNES and Sega Genesis had up to 2-player same-console, mostly co-op with some VS, but you could get a buddy together with you and just start kicking some ass. Later on companies added up to four controller slots on their game systems, and thus up to four people could hang out fighting against computer enemies or each other if they so chose, and could make some simple gaming into a small party. Those were good days, when my buddies and I could fight each other on Goldeneye 007 or Star Fox 64 for the Nintendo 64, or fight together in Everquest: Champions of Norrath and WWE Smackdown: Here comes the Pain! for PS2.
Sadly, times have changed, either because of laziness of the game developers, or more likely that they're just fucking GREEDY, and it is VERY rare to find any game around that has up to four-player same-console multiplayer. Sure, my buddies and I have Xbox 360's, and Gold accounts, but that doesn't mean we don't like getting together and hanging out in the same house to play games together and just dick around. When we get together, it's always the same few games we always go to for multiplayer, and the fact that only a couple of them are things that most people will agree on is even worse...
The console makers have NOT changed their designs; current game systems ARE capable of having four controllers working at once! With the lack of four-player same-console games out there, you'd think these dumb-fucks had forgotten that fact! Some of the most popular games out there today, Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Rock Band 2, ALL have four-player same-console multiplayer available to the players! I think that their massive sales SHOULD be some kind of indication to all the other game companies out there that YES, people DO in fact like to hang out when playing games; we're not a bunch of plague-ridden folk that need to be kept in quarantine away from everyone else!
Gamers everywhere regularly get together to play games like the above with one another, and other games with same-console multiplayer. It's not like we decided overnight that we don't want to even look at other gamers anymore, it's not like we all suddenly stopped having friends; it's the simple fact that these game companies simply want to force us gamers to buy more copies of their fucking games so that we can play together. It's pure fucking GREED is what it is, and I don't appreciate it!
In this economy, people are hard-pressed to keep their homes and jobs, and gaming is NOT a cheap hobby! When people everywhere are trying to save themselves money, trying to save up for food and clothes and paying the bills because they don't know if they'll still have their jobs next month, they aren't looking to get themselves all the latest games that all their friends have! They may not even have the money to buy a current game system or the online services needed to play with their friends! They're gonna borrow a friend's copy if they've got the system, or just go to a buddy's house and play the game while their friend sits there and watches.
And if you're planning on having a few friends over like just about EVERY gamer out there does fairly often, they're all gonna have to come to an agreement on which of the VERY FEW same-console multiplayer-capable games they're gonna play... Sure, lots of games also offer system-link multiplayer, for those of you saying "oh, well TECHNICALLY you can play in the same house", but who the fuck has the space to have a bunch of TVs and game systems, along with the players themselves, all around a house to play a game together? And who has money to have a TV specifically for system link in THIS economy?
To all those game developers out there, if you're GONNA make a game with multiplayer, put in same-console multiplayer on TOP of the online/system link multiplayer you're adding to the game! You'll make a LOT of people happy to be able to play games with their friends, and you'll probably sell more games in the long run because people can decide when they have money to go and buy their own copy of your game, to play online or with their friends!
That's all for now, until next time.