Madden NFL 12 box art

Once again, this review is exceptionally late. The football season is almost over, and Madden has already sold its bazillion copies for this year. So anything I say here is kind of moot when it comes to helping people decide whether or not to buy this year’s game. But maybe – just maybe – my critiques will help the developers provide us with a better game in the 7 or so months that they have left to make Madden 13.

After being thoroughly disappointed with last year’s Madden game, and not being won over by either the new demo or the gameplay in NCAA 12, I didn’t rush out to buy Madden 12 on day one. I waited till September and bought the game used. This also contributed significantly to the tardiness of this review.

Overall, Madden still just seems uninspired, even when compared to EA’s NCAA Football game. All the same gameplay enhancements go into both games each year now, but NCAA has at least taken some efforts to better represent its sport. Setting up “linked” plays is simplistic but was a start towards a better representation of football strategy. Integration of the No-Huddle offense into the game is a bit clumsy, but is a major component of modern college football, and is thusly represented in that game. Requiring the QB to “read” the defense on option plays doesn’t work as well as last year, but it’s actually an important part of the option strategy. The collegiate look and atmosphere really looks and sounds like Saturday afternoons, and the ESPN integration is actually pretty slick at times.

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Catherine box art

Despite the over-corporatization of the video game industry, not every game is going to be a consumer mega-hit like whatever Call of Duty game that happens to be coming out any given November. Sometimes, these little-known, niche titles can be real gems in the rough (Demon’s Souls, Trine). Other times, they just barely get by. But more often than not, they are utter garbage.

Catherine is not a game for everybody. Not only does it have a very mature plot, but most people probably won’t find it’s gameplay very appealing either. But even though I wouldn’t consider Catherine to be a particularly good game, it isn't a horrible game either, and I have no doubt that its charmingly quirky nature will earn itself a very hardcore following from its niche fans (particularly among adolescent boys). And I definitely have to give the developers credit for really trying to create something that is new and interesting instead of just something that has mass-market appeal.

The entire game consists of pretty much 3 parts that loop a handful of times:

  1. Long-ass cutscene that the player has absolutely no control over.
  2. A scene at the bar in which you walk around with your hands stuffed in your pockets, talking to friends and fellow patrons, and sending/receiving text messages on your phone.
  3. A series of increasingly-long and increasingly-difficult puzzle/platforming sequences in which you push blocks around in order to climb to the top of a wall of cubes.

Rinse and repeat. Or not rinse. But definitely lots of repeating.

The first two parts tend to be the most interesting parts, while the puzzle sections start off being fun but quickly devolve into a frustrating mess of bad camera, twitchy controls, and unnecessarily escalating and cheap difficulty.

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Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception box art

Has it already been two years since Uncharted 2 was released? Wow, I suppose it has. Doesn’t seem like two years. But I guess that’s partly because Uncharted 2 is a game that really sticks out in your memory when you play it. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t stop feeling new and impressive. Uncharted 2 is one of – if not the – best games on the PlayStation 3. It was an order of magnitude better than the first Uncharted, which was also an exceptional game. What few flaws existed in the first game were fixed or rendered moot by the sequel, and Uncharted 2 is one of those rare games that is as close to perfect as a game can possibly be.

So, of course, Uncharted 3 has big shoes to fill. It was hard to imagine how a game could be better than Uncharted 2, whereas there were obvious areas for improvement with the first game.

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NCAA Football 12 box art

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Dead Space 2 box art

The first Dead Space really impressed me. A lot. I think it was released in the same year as Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4. And Dead Space ended up being my favorite game of that year. Of course, part of that was because I was actually able to finish Dead Space by the end of the year, and Grand Theft Auto took longer. In hindsight, GTA IV was probably better. The first Dead Space game perfectly captured the feel of the classic science fiction horror film Alien, but with a bit more action.

The attention to detail was astounding, and the Ishimura just felt so functional! Like a real spaceship. Other than the artificial gravity, the Ishimura seemed like something you might see on a Science Channel special about hypothetical space mining craft The layout and organization of the ship just made sense, and the use of holographic displays as the game’s HUD and interface was brilliant design. And the space setting made the clunkiness of the character's movements actually work thematically - even though he still performed better than the characters from Resident Evil 4 and 5 anyway!

The concept of dismembering enemies to kill them was novel and added a unique dynamic to the otherwise stale shooter formula. On top of that, every one of the improvised engineering tools that were offered as weapons kicked ass (only, ironically, the military pulse rifle felt weak). And the boot stomp! Oh, the boot stomp!

Dead Space hit a gaming sweet spot for me that would be very difficult to improve upon in a sequel. Everything about it just felt so right – except that asteroid shooter segment – that part blew big time.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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