Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot - 7

Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot is the second piece of downloadable content for the first-person shooter Borderlands and is centered around a wave-like cooperative multiplayer style of game play. The content sticks to the game’s gorgeous art style and sense of humour along with introducing new multiplayer modes and several new in game options. However, the content surrounds this new cooperative coliseum style fights completely and can cause the content to come up as slightly shallow in overall value.

The main feature about Mad Moxxi is the new coliseum mode to play in. The object of this mode is to survive a number of rounds while enemies flood into the area. Each round has five waves and contains different enemies and different handicaps or bonuses. These little add-ons can range from increasing the damage or one weapon while reducing the effect of others, to game play devices like making the enemies more accurate, have more ammo, or even taking the players shields away from them. There are a number of handicaps that can be set up for each wave and the more rounds you complete, the more bonuses will be added at one time.
The waves also differ from how the enemies will go about trying to kill you and as you progress through each round they will become smarter and stronger. One nice addition to the rounds is that the final wave of each one is called the Boss Wave and pits you and your team against either one of the main story’s bosses or a new one for this content alone.

The waves are formatted like Horde mode from Gears of War 2 or Firefight from Halo: ODST. Like these other games, the coliseum causes your team to stay together and work as one. Leaving to fight by yourself will quickly lead to death when playing on the higher rounds and finding precise locations to set up a camp is important. Each of the three coliseums are based on areas from the main campaign and are set up in very different ways. For example, The Gully consists of a tall sniper tower with three levels of arena beneath it, while The Angelic Ruins is wide open with not many closed off areas to make a safe place to hide out in.

There are a total of three coliseums and two different round caps to choose from. The first being a short five round game (25 waves in total) and the second being a long 20 round game (100 waves). A short game can take around 30 minutes to complete while the latter can last over four hours. Apart from these three arenas to play in, Mad Moxxi also includes an all new bank system and the ability to unlock two more skill points for your character. The bank is probably one of the more intriguing features to the game. It allows players to stash any of your guns and equipment. You can also purchase bank upgrades that will give you more room to hold your stuff. The bank is a very welcomed feature since you now have a place to hold those weird weapons that you’re only carrying to show off to your friends.

The one downside to this add-on is that it focuses completely on the coliseum battles and nothing else. This causes the content to feel a little short and shallow when you look at what you’re really paying for. Despite some of the matches lasting very long, finding out exactly how to position and use your team over and over can come off as a bit repetitive. With that said, the handicaps for each wave add a random element to each fight and can cause you to mix up each of your formations. This addition greatly s and alters the otherwise monotonous nature of simply kill everything.

Despite the short length of time between this and the previous piece of additional content, Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot feels like a solid addition to the game. Even though the arena fights can get repetitive during your third hour of the 20 round games, the number of different bonuses and handicaps can still keep you on your feet. The bank system is very welcomed to anyone who has come across a weak but unique gun that they don’t want to have to sell off in order to keep some inventory room. And to anyone who has hit the level cap - but still wants to upgrade their character - the two unlockable skill points are a great addition. Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot not only gets the wave-like cooperative game play right but alters it enough to make it feel new and very exciting.

Overall: 7/10

Monday, December 28, 2009

What I am currently playing:

I know I could just update the side bar section specifically for this, but I'm playing a lot and felt it deserved its own post.
  • A Boy and his Blob: So far this game is spectacular. The art is fantastic and the overall feel of the game is wonderfully cute. This is definitely one of my favorite games of this year.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii: What can I say, it's Mario, so you know it's good. The multiplayer aspect is as good as it sounds and brings a whole new level of enjoyment to the standard side-scrolling platformer.
  • Bit. Trip Void: I have yet to get into this but it is downloaded and waiting.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: I didn't like the first game but this is already starting (I'm on chapter 7) to change my mind. Much more on this later.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: So far I have only created my character and been through the very first dialogue tree. I have not played enough yet.
  • Call of Duty: Classic: The only reason I got this was because someone gave me their download code since they only cared for MW2.
  • The Maw: I have always been interested in this game but not enough to spend the full 800 on. It became xbox's deal of the week today so I picked it up for half price. I have yet to play it.
  • Uno Rush: Once again, I always wanted it, but not for full price. It became one of xbox's holiday deals of the day, so I grabbed it for 50% off. This game is crazy, very hectic and very fun.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: So far I am loving the game despite not reaching a dungeon yet.
That's quite a bit, and if I choose to hang on to Assassin's Creed Bloodline then that rounds the count up to ten. For the most part I will be talking more about each of these games later, if not during Game of the Year stuff.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Games. I've been playing them.

It's been a while since I booted up this blog and wrote something. I put up my Balled of Gay Tony review last week after realizing I never did. Anyway, I've been playing games, a lot of them. Mainly because a ton have come out in the last two months.

Since it is Christmas break, I have free time; and since I got a new laptop, I have the means to write on here anywhere; and since I played games, I have opinions.

So over the next week or so I shall be talking about some of the games I've been playing and played over the last few months. By the new year I will try and get my list of top games of the year like I did last year.

Here's a sneak peek of some stuff: PSP isn't doing too great for me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: The Ballad of Gay Tony - 8

Like the first piece of downloadable content added to Grand Theft Auto 4, The Ballad of Gay Tony brings new forms of gameplay and a completely new story. Though the story remains separate from the main game’s campaign, there are enough references and ties between the two games to present a real connection. The story that you play through remains as well written as ever and despite the look of the aging graphics, The Ballad of Gay Tony feels like a solid addition to the already massive game.

You play as Luis Lopez, the body guard of Tony “Gay Tony” Prince, as you help revive the chain of nightclubs that you both have a stake in. Not only has Tony managed to piss off the Russian mob group in Liberty City, but everyone you meet seems to want nothing more than killing the flamboyant business owner. As the trusted friend, you take it upon yourself to win back your enemies by either helping them out, or gunning them down.

A great inclusion to the game is the various references towards events are characters from the main game and even the first piece of downloadable content. Many characters make a return and sometimes even play a more major role in some of the missions. It was great being able to see characters like Roman Belic try and squeeze his way into one of Tony’s clubs. The addition of these constant references really make the world created in Grand Theft Auto 4 and The Ballad of Gay Tony much bigger and real.

The Ballad of Gay Tony’s strongest aspect is the writing behind the characters. Each one of them either feels very realistic or completely ridiculous. A personal favorite is Tony himself. He is set up as this rich club owner who seems to have it all. However, as the story plays out, we learn his life is far from glamorous. The game does a great job at showcasing this drugged up shell of a man. Another great character is the main protagonist Luis. The drama he has to go through to keep his boss from killing himself and getting himself killed is very well handled. Along with the constant issues we are presented about Luis’s home life, we can see how crummy this character really has it. On the more playful side we have Yusuf. His only dream is to build the biggest skyscraper in all of liberty city. Along with that goal, he wants to spend all the money he can. This is most often played out by getting Luis to steal him helicopters or even tanks. The mix between the two contrasting personality types really helps this content pack to live up to the tone set in Grand Theft Auto 4 but also relate back to some of the previous, less serious Grand Theft Auto games.

As always, the conflicting parties in the story will have the main character performing various tasks for them and this is where the main gameplay comes in. These missions can be anything from car pursuits to shooting your way out of a museum. Along with these, the always amusing helicopter missions make a return. The game can be quite fun when you are instructed to take out a ferry ship with your missile equipped copter.

A new type a mission is included in this download pack known as base jumping. These will have you either ride a helicopter into the air or get to a very high location and jump out. From here you can freefall down until you wish to pull the ripcord to release your parachute. With the ability to play these outside of story related missions, the game becomes all that much more enjoyable. The map is filled with dozens of different base jumping missions and they all differ by either the location and height or if you are intended to land on a moving object or not.

One of the main downsides to the game is the return of the incredibly awkward driving mechanic. Like the original Grand Theft Auto 4, the cars’ handling is very different than most driving related games and the learning curve can last you longer than the time spent going through the story. The problem is that the vehicles feel as if they’re constantly on ice. The inclusion of a hand brake doesn’t help much either. Many times I found myself performing donuts when I had anticipated an easy right turn. Though the cars can become easier to drive when finding and unlocking better vehicles, the main ones that are given to you for each mission aren’t very fun to use at all.

The final complaint to be had with this download pack is the visuals. Since they’re almost identical to the main game’s, they begin to look a little dated. The character models don’t have the same realism they had last year and some come off looking a little to polygonal. However, the environments remain good and the lighting and water effects throughout the enormous Liberty City is just great.

The Ballad of Gay Tony is a solid piece of additional content that is worth the $20 being charged for it. Whether you’re just into the series’ fiction or want to find new ways to cause havoc in the streets, this game has it covered. Despite the steep learning curve to the cars, there are many ways of becoming accustomed to it and with all the replay ability, you’ll get used to it in the end. This pack delivers what you’d expect and want when continuing a Grand Theft Auto game and it does very well in doing so.

Overall: 8/10