The VPH Review: Rockpockalypse & Tekken Card Tournament

rockpocalypse1

-Why is this game free? Usually Vince McMahon and the WWE, owing to their carnie roots,  will do anything in their power to make a dollar. This weekend’s Wrestlemania XXIX is making fans shell out 55 clams for what’s almost assuredly going to be bad wrestling and awful cameos. So the fact that the app equivalent of that is free is suspicious.

-Why would the Rock allow this game to be free? It’s using his likeness and his voice. Dwayne’s as much of a naked capitalist as Vince is, I’m shocked he isn’t trying to capitalize on every single WWE promo out there.

-The story is….well….. there is no story. You walk out of a trailer and you learn how to fight.  And how do you fight? By swiping your finger in one direction or another. Very similar to (i.e. a complete & total rip-off of) Infinity Blade but not nearly as fun or challenging.  Each foe you vanquish is a level.  I made it to level 3. And then the game froze on me.  How do you fix the frozen game problem? Why, you delete the game and reinstall it.  Well…..that was fun.

-I’m back. I decided to reinstall the game and give it another go.  After passing the 4th level I realized every level was going to be exactly the same.  This is the kind of game you’d give to a 6 year old at a restaurant to keep him busy while his parents are eating dinner.

Final thoughts: Gawd Awful

tekkencardtournamentlogo

Let me start by saying I love Tekken.  Am I good at it? Hell no, but I really really do like the game.  The characters are all unique and interesting, the move sets are diverse, and if you’re playing by yourself it really can be enjoyable. My problem with these games, and this game specifically, is that that learning curve to play multiplayer is just ridiculously steep. You’re playing against people who have been playing this game for the last 10 years nonstop and it makes the whole experience 0% fun.  Just ask ImperviousRex about the latest Street Fighter game  I’ve witnessed first hand controllers being thrown across the room (ImperviousRex: What? I can’t hear you over the sound of all these broken controllers). .  AND HE IS NO NEWBIE!!!!!! When I saw the trailer for this I said “Wow, maybe a Tekken game I won’t completely suck at.”  Here are my reactions to the new Tekken Card Tournament:

-Great, I have to sign in using Facebook. Can’t wait to impress everyone with my mighty Tekken accomplishments.

-OK, so far it’spretty interesting. Your deck of cards and how you decide to play them (focus cards, attack cards, and block cards) determines your course of  action.

-So to be good at this game or even to enjoy it doesn’t require any prior knowledge of Tekken or any fighting game in general.  It’s a basic card game where choosing the right card action at the right time grants you victory.  It feels like a fresh take on the card game genre.

-Final thoughts: An entertaining and unique game, but one that I feel will wear out its welcome after an hour or so of gameplay (IE: Family Fued & Draw Something)

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The VPH Review: Compliance

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more disturbing movie that had no gore or violence, and that took place solely in a fast food restaurant than the indie flick Compliance.  This is a movie that just makes you shake your head the whole time because you are just so frustrated and aggravated at the characters that it makes you want to jump through the screen and just yell at these people for being so stupid.  The movie caused such a stir that at the Sundance Film Festival people walked out of the theater in disgust and during the Q&A following the movie, people were YELLING and SCREAMING at the cast and crew for making this movie.  It’s a movie where the concept is so absurd that it must be true.  The movie Compliance will not win any awards or even be noticed by the Academy for the Oscar race.  The film was only released in a maximum of the 21 cinemas and made a measly $331,000 at the box office.

Every now and then a movie or a performance flies totally under the radar that you wonder why distributor make it more of a wide release.  Hal Holbrook clearly should have won Best Actor for his performance in That Evening Sun in 2009 instead of Jeff Bridges for his performance in Crazy Heart. It was almost an exact remake of the movie Tender Mercies in which Robert Duvall won for Best Actor back in 1984.  Honeslty, Robert Duvall probably shouldn’t have even won considering that Al Pacino was snubbed for his performance in Scarface, one of the most memorable characters in cinema history and Robert DeNiro was also snubbed for his performance in The King of Comedy by Martin Scorcese.

Compliance tells the story of the strip search prank call scam that occurred in the late 90’s – early 2000’s where a prank caller would call various fast food places and pretend to be a police officer and coerce the people on the other end of the phone to do bizarre and crazy shit.  The incident occurred at least 70 times in 30 states before an arrests was finally made in Mount Washington, Kentucky in 2004. The film is almost 100% accurate aside from the dialogue because the director used the actual surveillance camera that filmed the entire incident.

After viewing this movie one cannot think back to the Milgram Experiment which occurred in the late 70’s and you could possibly make an argument about Nazism and how people obey authority figures who are telling them to do acts that go against their conscience.  The Milgram experiment was in fact in direct response to the trial of Adolf Eichmann.  Via Wikipedia – Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: “Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?” In other words, “Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?” Milgram’s testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs.

A movie like this will inspire much debate, as it should.  I watched it with three other people and we were getting into heated debates about who is to blame and who should be held responsible.  Part of the interview and actual footage can be seen here but do yourself a favor and watch this movie before you do.

The VPH (early) Review: Assassins Creed 3……Is Bigger Better?

Ubisoft gave audiences such high hopes for Assassins Creed 3.  They promised they would take the series in a new direction with all new characters, story arcs, settings, and side missions and in my opinion, they certainly delivered.  It’s refreshing to see a different story in a different location. For the last three it seemed like the series was stuck in Limbo while Ubisoft kept releasing new games that were essentially content cut from previous installments.  This time though, we have a fresh face and fresh take on the Assassin/Templar legend alongside new side quests that are large enough that they could each be their own game.  The game is set during the American Revolution, where a half English/half Mohawk named Conner is thrown into the middle of the Assassin/Templar war.  Wonderful improvements, but is it better?

To begin with, the story is much more comprehensible than the previous three installments.  As a history teacher the games that I most enjoy playing are those that involve historical fiction.  Even though it takes some time to get off the ground, by and large I’m pretty invested in the game. Hell for the first part of the story you’re not even playing as the main character.  I’m six hours in and the Revolution isn’t close to starting yet.  Nice to see that plot was actually thought about and the well populated with strong, interesting characters.

On the other hand,  it just feels like it drags a bit.  Certain points during the first few hours were a bit silly. SPOILER:  The owl flying across the screen. Come on, REALLY? Now we’re playing as owls?  END SPOILER. Assassins Creed 2 is still my favorite and as a stand-alone story it was top notch. It was the first game on the PS3 where I really felt the impact of an open world type game with an amazing assortment of side quests. Plus, being a fanatic about all things Italy, the time period that the game was set in really spoke to me.

The mission layout is exactly like the previous installments.  Complete the mission but follow a strict set of guidelines to get 100% credit for the missionwhich means nothing to the actual story.  I can see if there were trophies involved but there aren’t, so what’s the point aside from a completionist perspective?  It seems solely like a specific way that the developers want you to play the game.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but provide us with some kind of incentive to do so.  If most of the world surrounding Conner is free roam why aren’t the missions? I love trying to follow the guidelines that are established before the mission begins, but make it worth our while.  The same can be said about the weapons system.  Whats the point of acquiring new weapons if it does not change the outcome of anything other than the animation.  This was perhaps my only gripe with Assassins Creed 2.  How about some kind of leveling system or a type of point system that rewards you for using different weapons?  But maybe I’m contradicting myself since I’m focusing on the “Is Bigger Better” theme here.  DAMN IT NOW I’M CONFUSED!

To me, Assassins Creed games are comparable to the Matrix movies.  The Matrix and Assassins Creed 2 were Bad Ass. (I’m leaving out AC1 one because EVERYONE knew that it was shit and not polished yet).  The Matrix Reloaded and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood were both good with some excellent scenes but in all likelihood unnecessary.  The Matrix Revolutions and Assassins Creed: Revelations were completely unnecessary cash grabs.  I cant even being to tell you what the hell went on the third Matrix film and as for AC:R, the city of Constantinople really didn’t do it for me.

Back to one of the aspects of the game that I am really enjoying, and that’s the side quests.  It’s very similar to Red Dead Revolver in terms of open world side missions.  Naval warfare, hunting, picking fights with the British and challenging fort defenses.  I’m sure most gamers out there have said to themselves while playing a game “How cool would it be if you could go hunting? How awesome would it be if you could free roam in the woods and trade?”  Well, it turns out that it’s much better in theory than in practice. So, careful what you wish (or quasi-hope) for!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for another, more in-depth review once I’ve sank some serious hours into the game in addition to my multiplayer review.  With most of the games that I play I like to knock out the single player campaign before I dive into the MP aspect.  Since I was the first person in Blockbuster to rent the game post Hurricane Sandy I got the Online Pass for free.  Yay me.  Remember to add me to your friends list (our gamer-tags are in the right hand column)  Ill be seeing you online…but you won’t be seeing me.  Get it? ‘ cause I’m, like,  an assassin and you cant see me….NEVERMIND.

The VPH Review – Max Payne 3

There is violence, there is realistic violence, and the there is Max Payne 3. RockStar Games (my former employer) has made a disturbingly gritty game with a cinematic touch.  At NYC ComicCon 2011, ImperviousRex and myself got an early glimpse of what MP3 had to offer.  A quick promo followed by a few short minutes of gameplay footage which showcased the ins and outs of both Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge.  As impressed as I was by the demo and the free stickers they handed out prior to the screening, the only thing I could think of was that awful movie starring Mark Wahlberg.

Regardless of questionable films, the game looks stunning.  The attention to detail on some of the levels reminded me of the Uncharted series, but much darker and much grittier.  In fact, I felt myself comparing this game to the latest Uncharted installment, which may explain why I could just not get into the story as much as I would have liked.  Maybe it was too dark for my liking.  The story plays right down the line and unleashes Max in one action packed territory after another.  The character designs are commendable and the level layouts, especially towards the end, are rich in detail.  Other than a few texture issues and an occasional image pop, RockStar once again does a great job of setting a story.

As I mentioned earlier the game plays much like Uncharted.  The constant color changes, blurry and drunken visuals and thought scrolls across the screen got old for me kind of fast.  It all makes sense though to keep the story rolling along but there were definitely times that I felt like I was the drunk who was addicted to  painkillers.  Some of the most memorable moments are the ones where Max is dangling from a helicopter,  equipped with infinite ammo and just going for broke in a truly cinematic,grandiose style.

Even with Bullet Time, Shoot Dodge and playing on medium difficulty though, I found this game really difficult at times.  One scene in particular,which takes place on the docks of Rio, had me longing for a checkpoint that I thought would never come; painkillers and the cover system are essential.  Many time I thought I was in the clear only to get my head blown off by an unseen foe.  The weaponry is varied and each killing implement has its own distinct look and feel.

Trophies for Max Payne 3 are certainly not a quick and easy affair, as they definitely  require multiple playthroughs to obtain.

Max Payne 3 was just the game I needed to get back in the swing of things after my long vacation.  Rockstar did a fantastic job of creating a game with a tremendous cinematic feel.  The simple gameplay may not have been as satisfactory  as some games I’ve played lately but the story and character development made up for it.  I was not expecting the gratuitous detail in the violence, but was pleasantly surprised to see how far RockStar was willing to go to make a person really feel invested in a games characters, gameplay and distinct style.

(ed. note – The soundtrack was one of the best I’ve heard all year; take a listen)

VPH Review: “Shadows of the Damned” a.k.a. I Don’t Want to Play Video Games Anymore

PLAY AT YOUR OWN RISK

Let me first start out by saying  I had zero interest in playing this game but after a year of badgering from imperviousrex and him literally showing it into my hand while shoving me out of his apartment the other week after poker I figured why not.  A list of quotes, then, from me while I was playing the game:

  • “I’ve never played a game where you get a trophy for adjusting the brightness.”
  • “Apparently being trapped in an invisible corner and tapping X to turn around just makes the camera completely schiz out…and now I just died. Thanks, terrible camera.”
  • “This isn’t the worst soundtrack ever, but that’s only because I haven’t heard every soundtrack ever.”
  • “So apparently when you try to jump over something,  instead you stop and reload. Fantastic”
  •  “I can’t believe I’m still playing this.”
  • “Seriously? Are you serious right now?”
  • “(unintelligible cursing)”
  • (get up from couch and walk around trying to keep calm)
  • “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME”
  • “Come on man (followed by kicking the controller across the floor)!!!”

I lost/burnt the rest of my notes. To say this game was a frustrating, non-fun experience would be underselling the frustration & non-fun of the whole ordeal. I think Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a better game and I HATED that game with a fiery passion. I would like to think that, had I not heard that this game was “super fun” ” really funny” “dark” clever” and some other adjectives I forgot I would’ve played this with at least a bit of objectivity.

No. You know, just no.  It’s terrible, terrible EXPERIENCE. Taken as a whole, (story, graphics, sound, voices, acting, writing) it’s breathtakingly bad.  Suda51 must have all sorts of dirt on EA’s executive board.

…if i take a step back, there were at least two tiny, slightly not as awful parts of the game:

  • The Big Boner (which I will leave up to those of you brave enough to play this game to figure out exactly what that is / could be)
  • The 2-D  papercraft sidescroller levels. I thought that was a clever & unexpected direction to move in.  So kudos there, you creepy weirdo.

I could never tell whether having your unkillable, undead girlfriend Paula (who the Devil may have raped to death) chase you was scary or annoying. It’s your classic Indiana Jones v. The Boulder chase scene, where Paula’s the boulder and if she catches you (and she will. Many, many, many times) instead of being mercifully squished and whisked off to archeological heaved, you’re forced to repeatedly re-enact the chase until you can finally get away.  Terrible.

As I’ve yet to come up with a clever rating scheme (ed. note: unbuttoned shirts?) we’ll just go with this in the meantime:

You get

(additional words & edits by imperviousrex)

The VPH Review: The Darkness II On The Edge of Town

This is what boredom & an unlimited video game rental policy gets you: it gets you to play The Darkness II. At least that’s what I thought as I shuffled home, hands shoved in pockets & kicking cans.  “Stupid…Darkness II…razzemfrazzem.”

That was all before I got home and fired the game up.  Whoa. I take back all of my Charlie Brown-esque dejection about renting this game. Even though it only took me about eight hours to finish, those were a cool-ass eight hours! Took me around 8 hours to complete Darkness II and I’m glad I played it.  Was it a game I’d go back to later?  Probably not, but definitely fun enough that you can probably pick it up some weekend you’ve got nothing going on.  Watch some terrible documentary on Netflix or tear mobsters apart with Darkness demons from Hell? Real tough choice…

The visuals were comical and different, which is always really appreciated.  Nice to see 2K Games got out of the box a bit for a non-run of the mill gaming experience. I wasn’t real keen on the cut scenes though; they didn’t seem to add anything and luckily they let you skip them because I really wasn’t interested.  They just didn’t seem to advance the story too much.  What did  enhance the story in my oh-so-humble opinion was the monkey that you can throw.  Always a bonus!  Would you like to buy a monkey?

Bottom line: Does the Darkness II set the world on fire? Was it a land mark video gaming event?  No, but it was never intended to.  It’s a pass-able comic book property that’s been adapted to video games and it’s a fun, bloody, messy, quick experience. Like your birth, just waaaaay cheaper (like that last joke).

–VPH OUT

The VPH Review: Starhawk (Warhawk…IN….SPAAAAAAAAACE)

ANOTHER mech?Starhawk is a pretty fun game if you’re the kind of person that enjoyed Command & Conquer: Red Alert.  It doesn’t come close to the depth and strategy that C&C embodies, but for a PS3 RTS  Starhawk is a reminder of just how fun games of this ilk are. The only other recent PS3 game I can think of that resembles Starhawk is Brutal Legend.  Brutal Legend was more of a more enjoyable game though because the characters, the story and the hilarious setting really pulled me in. Though considering that Meat Loaf’ s Bat Out of Hell is one of my favorite albums it’s pretty easy to understand my attraction to Brutal Legend.

Starhawk served its purpose for me as a game simply because it was different from what I’ve played for the last six  months: Modern Warfare 3, random sports titles and Skyrim. I picked this game up without knowing much about it, having never played (ed.note: the very excellent) Warhawk. I was pleasantly surprised. The story wasn’t something I could get invested in because it was somewhat bland and formulaic but the gameplay itself I found enjoyable for the 8-10 hours it took to finish. I loved the idea of building defensive structures to stop waves of enemies and the building of offensive units to crush your opponents. Sadly, the single player only touches the surface of the various building possibilities. You’re not going to need to craft more than one of anything as once you do the combat itself is pretty much over. I would have liked to see more of a “castle defense” -esque mode, where you’re constantly building, defending and attacking against waves of enemies.

In my opinion, Starhawk is a nice change of pace for someone who’s been slogging through CoD, Skyrim or Street Fighter X Tekken for the past few months and would instead  like to collaborate with groups of people to build & defend structures then jump in a crazy mech, transform into a jet & fly around the unfriendly skies.