L.A. Noire box art

After decades of video gaming, the real good guys with the uniforms and badges finally get their moment to shine! But can they stand up to the vigilantes, anti-heroes, super heroes, undercover cops, crooked cops, and outright criminals that we are used to playing as?

Brain before brawn

Fighting crime isn’t all glamour and excitement. The job of a protector of the peace isn’t all shootouts, car chases, street brawls, damsels in distress, and throwing cars at super villains. There’s a lot of walking around crime scenes and looking at stuff. Figuring out what kind and size of shoe left the prints in the dirt. Reading the brand name of the lipstick of murdered women. Reading the addresses of bars off of matchbooks. Looking up the registered owner of a car with a license plate number provided by a witness. Reading through hotel registries. And accusing people of lying about stuff. It is this element of police work that L.A. Noire tries to capture. The focus of this game is taken away from gun fights, chases, and action scenes, and attempts to highlight the more cerebral elements of police work.

Although the exciting stuff does still happen, this game is a departure for Rockstar games. It puts the player in the role of a police investigator with a badge rather than the hardened criminals, vigilantes, bullies, and antiheroes that we’re used to. The exaggerated fictional cities and over-the-top dark humor have been replaced with a massive and highly detailed (although somewhat anachronistic) reproduction of 1940’s Los Angeles that takes itself much more seriously. The map is pretty large, accurate, and surprisingly densely packed with streets and alleyways. Average roads are multi-lane, sidewalks are decently-sized, and everything has a great sense of scale to it that most city-sandbox games lack. And the game only contains a fraction of the actual city!

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Alan Wake box art

Years ago, when the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 were brand-spanking new, I was debating about whether I should get a 360 or stick with Sony and get a PS3. I had a lot of built-up loyalty to the PlayStation and the game franchises that had been exclusive to that console: Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Ace Combat, Devil May Cry, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Gran Turismo, and so on. But as time went one, more and more of these game franchises jumped to being multi-platform, chipping away at my justification for saving up for a PS3 instead of the cheaper 360. But when it all came down to it, I knew I would still be able to get all those games on the PS3, and there would still be a few of them that would remain exclusives (Metal Gear Solid ended up being the only one on the list that stayed exclusive and is worth a damn any more). But there wasn’t anything on the 360 that specifically jumped out at me. I kind of wanted Ace Combat 6 and Forza, and Star Trek Legacy looked interesting. But neither one wowed me enough to buy a whole console. I wasn’t into Halo or Gears of War, or Fable, so none of the big-name Xbox exclusives really pushed me over the top.

But there was one game that kept the thought of purchasing an Xbox 360 at the back of my mind. That game was Alan Wake. I tracked it on the internet for years, waiting for its release. Its gorgeous, scenic visuals and promise of a psychological horror story set in a small, mountain town had me captivated. But the game kept getting delayed. The fact that it was supposed to be on PC, and the lack of a firm release date, eventually caused me to give up on purchasing an Xbox. Eventually, the game was released to critical acclaim, but I missed it, since I was waiting for the PC port that eventually got canceled.

Well, I recently bought an Xbox 360 for my sister’s birthday, and one of the things I picked up for it was Alan Wake. I finally got a chance to play this game that I’ve been wanting to play for over four years.

So is it worth the wait?

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I recently had my full review of Portal 2 posted on Game Observer (now defunct as of 05/13/2014).

If you are interested, you can also prepare for my review by reading my pre-release blog for the game, in which I express concerns that Portal may go the way of Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and other games that oversaturate themselves with annual or bi-annual releases until the public gets sick of them. Hopefully that doesn't happen.

Portal 2 box

In the meantime...

Yes GlaDOS, we brought you back because we really do love to test!

Apparently, a very long time has passed since the first game. The Enrichment Center is very different. Under the care of the watchful AI, Wheatley, the entire facility has been slowly falling apart. The degrading, decrepit test chambers make for much more interesting visuals than the sterile, white and gray chambers of the first game. They are now overgrown with weeds and vines, panels are falling off the walls, broken glass litters the floors, and fallen and bent metal beams and girders obstruct some of your paths. It’s just too bad that with all the debris and vegetation littering the environment, that none of it is interactive. It slightly breaks the immersion when you walk through dangling leaves and they don’t react to your passing at all...
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Earlier this week, I had another game review posted on Game Observer (now defunct). This time, it was a review for the PS3 game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions:

Beenox combines several different styles of gameplay and visuals into a fairly enjoyable but very short, disjointed, and sometimes unstable Spider-Man adventure.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions box (PS3)

I’m so glad that the last few Spider-Man games have not been constrained to follow a movie’s plot. Even though the Spider-Man 2 movie game was arguably the best Spider-Man game since the first one on the PS1, I really want to see developers try something a little more creative with the Spidey character. I’m one of the people who thoroughly enjoyed Web of Shadows and was really hoping to see further development with that game’s fantastically tight controls and combat mechanics. But Beenox had different ideas for a Spidey game – much more ambitious and creative ideas. They scrapped the free-roaming open New York and web-swinging mechanics that have become a staple of Spider-Man games since the second movie game in favor of a dimension-hopping beat-em-up. It’s actually a nice change of pace....

UPDATE: The Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions review is also now available on this blog. Click here to check it out.

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Earlier this week, I had another game review posted on Game Observer (now defunct as of 05/13/2014). This time, it was a review for the PSN downloadable game Back to the Future: The Game - Episode I:

TellTale games has crafted themselves a wonderful little piece of fan service in Back to the Future: The Game. The game really does feel like a labor of love, as the developers clearly put a lot of time and effort into getting the details right and being as respectful to the source material as they could. Characters, environments, and props all look exactly as you’d expect them to (within the style of animation used), and the voices are mostly spot-on. The voice of Marty is replicated by the fantastic Marty McFly impressionist AJ LoCascio, Christopher Lloyd himself was tapped to return as Doc Emmett Brown, and the supporting cast all do an excellent job. Except for Biff. Biff didn’t sound quite right. At least not to me. This game will no doubt draw in any Back to the Future fan right from its opening moments, in which it replicates Doc Brown’s unveiling of the time machine and the first time travel experiment...

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A gamer's thoughts

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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