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Brittany Vincent

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  1. Brittany Vincent

    Game of the Year 2013: Brittany's Picks

    Though there were a ton of great games this year, I wasn't especially blown away by many. True, there were games I enjoyed, and ones I came back to time and time again, but even despite jumping into the next generation of consoles, I wasn't impressed by much. For that reason, I chose five games I enjoyed more than anything else this year. And thinking back, wow -- I can't believe these released in 2013. It all seems like such a long time ago. But enough reminiscing and onward to the games! Papers, Please Official GP Review I remember the first time I laid eyes on Papers, Please during a random streamer's cast on Twitch. It looked absolutely bonkers. She put on some sort of pseudo-Russian accent while allowing people into the bizarre country known as Arstotzka. It was free, she said. I wanted in. Soon, I was embarking on this Carmen Sandiego-like journey as often as I could, though I found myself starting over more often than not because I couldn't keep my family from going hungry or dying from some illness that's miraculously treated with warmth and food. Or medicine. It made my day when the game transitioned to Steam for some tasty Achievements, and awareness spread to the masses who previously hadn't tried it. I still like to visit Arstotzka often, and I surmise things will stay that way. Rogue Legacy Official GP Review I failed, and I picked myself right back up and went at it again. I can't think of many other games that made me feel that way this year (or ever), especially considering its difficulty and how hard it was for me to get used to simple platforming again. Rogue Legacy is genius for changing my mind about starting over and getting me to be serious about bettering myself. And for that it definitely deserves praise. DmC: Devil May Cry Official GP Review Even as a die-hard Devil May Cry fan, I was receptive to all the changes Ninja Theory threw out at us. Dante's design never really grew on me, but awesome boss battles, fluid combat, and an amazingly dapper version of Vergil made me a believer. It may be reviled in many circles, but it was an excellent game, and I'll defend it at every turn. Shin Megami Tensei IV What kind of MegaTen fan would I be if I didn't include the fourth iteration on my best-of 2013 list? I waited for this game for so long, and after it thoroughly trounced me at every turn, I came back again and again with a vengeance, ready to tackle it. Even though it keeps beating me away with a stick. Seriously. I'm extremely awful at this game. I'm pretty sure I'm playing it wrong, too. But I sure do love it. Especially the fact that it was a handheld release. Good on you, Atlus. Outlast Survival horror hasn't been an extremely strong genre for quite some time, but it re-emerged with a vengeance with Outlast, and I was there at every turn to savor it. It wasn't the terrifying game I've dreamt of for so long, but for a game that relies on a camera and recording the events in front of you, it tells a hell of a lot better story than Slender, and brings a lot more chills than those games ever could.
  2. Brittany Vincent

    Review: Aliens: Colonial Marines

    Developer: Gearbox Software Publisher: Sega Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC Release Date: February 12 2013 ESRB: M for Mature A retail copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for review. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game. What's the definition of an unplayable game? "Unplayable" should obviously be taken to mean that the product cannot be played. In the case of Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines, plenty of criticisms spring to mind, many of them negative. But unlike the spectators who watched me complete the game or those I played the game with, the world "unplayable" didn't cross my mind. I was fortunate enough to never have encountered game-breaking glitches, and though I was on autopilot for the entirety of the game, the lack of challenge wasn't cause for me to abandon it. I soldiered on, despite the multiple (at least seven) tweets of "I'm sorry" when my Raptr client tweeted my game activity. For the record, there's nothing more condescending than the insincere condolences of those who see you playing a "bad" game, thinking you're being forced or that you're too stupid to know anything else. This entry in the world of Alien games (mostly subpar) was especially rancid, but wholly playable. Bland, disjointed, and mediocre? You bet. But nothing different than what you might find in the bargain bin. What makes this game different is that we had every right to think it would be spectacular. And it fails spectacularly at what it set out to accomplish. The vitriol spewn at Colonial Marines by my partners is not all undeserved, though it mainly stemmed from the massive amount of hype generated by Gearbox for Colonial Marines as the new "go-to" Aliens title. To recognize any part of the half-baked plot as Aliens canon or any piece of the game as better than slapped together with minimal effort is ludicrous: it's clear it needed much more time in the oven. But amidst a sea of uninspiring gunplay, nonsensical plot revelations, and the most braindead xenomorphs I've ever come face to face with, there were some interesting moments as well -- decent voice acting, easter eggs for Aliens fans, and even a bit of dark humor. There just weren't enough shining moments to declare it a victory. Divulging the plot details isn't really necessary in order for you to understand what kind of game this is - you'll be able to pick apart every single bit of strangeness siphoned in by the writers, and it's frankly more frustrating than anything else. Considering the many bizarre twists near the end of the game, it's best to think of Colonial Marines as a "what-if" scenario with familiar characters and locations. Reading into it any further is disappointing. The things that do occur on the journey will draw criticism and questions, so be prepared to be scratching your head when you come in contact with someone you thought long gone. Other than these snippets which will cause you to question the motives of the Colonial Marines writers, your only objective in-game is to shoot. Shoot some more. Shoot Xenomorphs 'til they're dead. Shoot Facehuggers 'til they're dead. Walk around with a squad member until they're inevitably dead. It's very cut-and-dry. But even taking aim at enemies doesn't have much weight to it. Whether attacking Wey-Yu forces or aliens, there's no real "kick" when you land a hit, leading you to wonder if you're even doing any damage until they randomly fall down dead. Guns, even though they're meant to mimic the sound effects from the movies, carry the most grating noise I think I've heard in a first-person shooter. It's supposed to be emulating the pulse rifle, but instead it sounds like the sad whine of a dying gun. It's most unpleasant. The arsenal of weapons you'll pick up (some attached to characters from the Aliens mythos) is lackluster as well, and none of them feel particularly powerful until you try out a flamethrower. Even then, it's pretty yawn-worthy. Level design is lackluster and lazy as well, though the first couple of areas were worth it just to stare out at the wreckage and the same setpieces seen in the movies. Time spent wandering around earlier levels with a fleeting sense of childlike wonder quickly dissipated into annoyance as the last chain of four to five levels looked and felt exactly the same. They melted into one another like a goopy mess, much like the objectives themselves, which hardly varied beyond "open this door," "pull this switch," and "kill X amount of aliens." It creates a sort of monotonous symphony, one without variance or different sounds to keep it afloat. In many ways, it's just going through the motions of what an FPS should be with little regard for polishing its myriad aspects and more focus on keeping its head above water rather than refining unacceptable traits. What interesting moments I did glean from the game were creeping through egg-infested areas where you needed to simply stop moving for aliens to not attack you. It wasn't horrifying, but it did instill a quick sense of dread that I appreciated. Since the motion tracker wasn't exactly necessary throughout the meat of the game, this was one part that felt distinctly more Alien-like and thus as if more attention had been paid to it. These times were, of course, few and far between, and did little to create an engaging atmosphere every step of the way. Most of the time I was bored, listless, and ready to advance the plot. I moved forward, I shot things, and the level was completed. And looking back on it now, that's what I've done in every shooter -- even my favorites. But this particular one didn't really provide anything truly memorable except its shoddy visuals, sloppy multiplayer, and bizarre "canon" that did little to answer the questions I had. In short, Aliens: Colonial Marines is an exercise in the same slog we've been seeing for years. It just did things in a less appealing and acceptable manner. Coupled with strange design decisions, the fluff accompanied by its marketing campaign, and ludicrous amounts of buzz, it had so much to live up to. It did not. It's playable. And that's about all you can say about it. Pros: + Motion trackers, power loaders, and other Alien setpieces + Decent voice acting + Occasionally interesting bits (but not often) Cons: - Muddy, horrible graphics - Samey levels - Samey levels (what? we didn't think you'd notice) - Boring objectives Overall Score: 3.0 (out of 10) Poor Aliens: Colonial Marines fails miserably at instilling any sense of fear or adventure into its extremely short campaign. It's a shooter. That's about it.
  3. While 2012 was certainly the year of the heavy-hitters, it felt painfully derivative and devoid of inspiration for me. Perhaps I'm becoming jaded. Perhaps it simply takes too much to satisfy me these days. Whatever the case may be, I wasn't particularly impressed with the whole of games this year. However, I was able to weed out a few that I did quite enjoy, many of which feel much more like unconventional choices -- are my tastes changing or is the overall quality of the hundreds of sequels releasing each year declining? Who can say? The only thing I'm sure of is this: these are ten of my favorite games of 2012, and I'm hoping you can get behind my reasoning. Let's talk my favorite games of 2012. 10. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Official GP Review Say what you will about this admittedly bland RPG, but I couldn't stop coming back to it. Even when I grew tired of hacking and slashing through the same three dungeons, collecting flowers and herbs, and grinding, I came right back the next day. It's a shame we'll likely never see another, because something about this high fantasy tale rubbed me the right way. 9. Asura's Wrath Official GP Review I'm an enormous Dragon Ball Z fan, and I'll be a shounen anime junkie for life. Perhaps that's why I instantly gravitated toward Asura's Wrath. Maybe it was the Street Fighter IV-esque logo, the over-the-top carnage, or maybe it was the visceral, raw action showcased within. I wasn't even bothered that most of the game took place across several well-positioned quick-time events. It was simply a full-on adrenaline rush that looked as fantastic as it played. Let's not forget how majestic the Brahmastra looked -- seriously, Death Star what? 8. Dyad Rhythm and music games are my forte, but I'm also a huge rail-shooter enthusiast, and the synesthetic sensibilities of Dyad were reminiscent of the many long nights I spent with the classic Rez. Neons, delightful audio puzzles, and pure graphical intoxication made Dyad clearly one of the best downloadable titles (closest to the classics of my personal heyday of gaming) I've had the pleasure of purchasing this year. 7. Halo 4 In many ways Halo 4, like fellow Xbox 360-exclusive stablemate Gears of War 3, is alien to the rest of the series in many ways. But rather than in a disconcerting manner, it hit all the high notes. Updated graphics, a completely retooled soundtrack, and an affecting cliffhanger of an ending were enough to rekindle interest gone by in the long-running franchise, and while aspects of it weren't perfect, it was one of the most human Halo games we've seen yet. And I'm ready for more. 6. Mass Effect 3 Official GP Review Endings be damned, Mass Effect 3 was one engaging ride. Though I was initially lukewarm on the original years ago when I first played through it, the series quickly grew on me with its endearing relationship options, tight combat, and a narrative I couldn't get enough of. I fought until the end, and the backlash meant nothing to me. Mass Effect was a ride I'd gladly take again and again, because you can't denounce an entire franchise when you had so much fun to speak of on the way to the ending. I also cheated on Liara. 5. Minecraft (XBLA) Say what you will about the lack of features in the Xbox 360 release of the wildly popular PC sandbox game, but it drew in brand new audiences and players who may never have been in the line of sight of a creeper on the prowl. Its simplification of a game that might have mystified others with crafting and the various nuances of gameplay turned into a fantastic departure on the Xbox 360, and one I enjoyed with friends who couldn't afford a gaming PC (or PC for that matter) time and time again. It may never be as complete of a package as the PC version is, but it's an extremely competent release that deserves your time and attention, infinitely more so than the mobile version. 4. Borderlands 2 What can be said about Borderlands 2 but loot, loot, loot? While I felt it did little to advance the franchise, it did excel at what the games have done best at so far: giving me stuff to pick up. Handsome Jack was a deliciously devious villain, the additional characters were entertaining (especially latecomer Mechromancer Gage), and I choked back a few tears when some of my favorite teammates were murdered. It was the greatest co-op challenge I had this year, and for that I must thank Gearbox in the middle of wartime debauchery and zombie nonsense for giving me something a little more light-hearted to adventure with. 3. Little Inferno I typically allot little time to independent releases that take only a few hours to complete, but I'm so glad I stopped to see what all the commotion was about here. Little Inferno is a game about burning things: magnets, miniature nukes, cat plushies, and anything you can get your hands on from Tomorrow Corporation's several catalogues, but it's also a post-apocalyptic tale that resonates with the player. You'll laugh your way through the unlockable combos, but come time for the game to end, you'll be singing another tune. 2. Hotline Miami Official GP Review Gaudy fonts, hip techno beats, gore, and violence? Someone tapped into my personal "favorites" list when it comes to design, fashion, and media. All they needed was a little glitter and it would have been set, but Hotline Miami hit the ball out of the park as-is. I won't ruin it for you. Just pick it up on Steam and get ready for some disturbing, action-packed gore -- roll on up in your DeLorean and take everyone out. 1. Persona 4 Golden Persona 4 received a lot more love than my personal favorite, Persona 3, but nevertheless Persona 4 Golden meant the most to me this year in the realm of RPG gaming and more. It sports a phenomenal amount of content packed into a single card. One of the PlayStation 2's greatest role-playing games of all time graced the Vita with slick, vivid aesthetic improvements, loads of additional areas to explore, and tons of reasons to come back even if you've beaten the game into the ground. I'm not one to come back to a game once it's been completed, but this is one re-release that was worth the hype, and quite possibly the most fun I had all year.
  4. Brittany Vincent

    Review: Dishonored

    Developer: Arkane Studios Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Platform: PC, PS3, 360 Release Date: October 9, 2012 ESRB: M This review is based on the PC version of the game In a world of recycled dystopian futures and alien invasions, Dishonored dares to try something a little different. Early reports were overwhelmingly positive, which usually signifies that either the game in question is mimicking all the right top-quality products, or it's coasting along on a wave of hype generated by a hardworking PR company. That's the cynical gamer's thought process anyway, and one that seems to be correct most of the time. Dishonored is genuinely good, thankfully, but not because it's groundbreaking. It's good because it expertly cobbles together aspects of successful releases and weaves them into a comfortable blanket that resembles the fantastic stealth stylings of Thief more than any Assassin's Creed or BioShock nod. But you wouldn't know it's that good based on the plot threads woven around the banal beginning. It's a textbook case of framing the protagonist that livens up down the road, but disappoints early on with its sameness and niggling familiarity. Step into the boots of the Lord Protector, Corvo, who falls victim to a nasty crime while meeting with the Empress, the charge he's meant to keep safe. A rather peculiar group appears, both murdering the Empress and abducting Princess Emily, who would be next in line for the throne. In typical melodramatic fashion, when the guards finally arrive on the scene (with Corvo knocked out, of course) the slain Empress and Corvo at the scene has "guilty" written all over it. You're now Public Enemy #1, and taken into custody so that the new regime has a fall guy for their plans to come together. It's laughably overdone, but it serves its purpose as a backdrop for all the sneaking around you'll be employing for the better part of the game -- or slaughtering everyone Hitman-style until the target makes themselves known. Whatever works. After the powers that be toss Corvo into prison you're forced to make your great escape to meet up with a band of rebels who plan on thwarting the current regime's plans with your help. They're primed and ready to aid you in your quest to rescue Princess Emily and clear your name. From there, you're tasked with becoming the new assassin-for-hire amongst your "saviors," accepting jobs that will aid the resistance in gaining a foothold in rising to power. Missions range from assassinating cruel guards, infiltrating sewers, or seeking out targets who may or may not deserve a swift death -- there are plenty of areas you'll find where a death may feel wrongful or somehow go against what you might find "acceptable limits" -- for example, early on in the game during your first assassination attempt you happen upon a young woman who just knows a particular soldier is going to be poisoned by your target. Neither of the characters are savory by any means, but you have the choice to spare this young man and claim your target. Or you can take the lives of both and see what happens from there. There's something to be said about a game that allows you to make decisions such as these, and it's fulfilling to take these lives into your own hands whether by assignment or not. These decisions are easy to make on the fly, but carry a satisfying weight -- something you probably felt back when you harvested Little Sisters in Bioshock or tried hard to determine who you should side with in Heavy Rain. In true stealth fashion, you've got plenty of tools at your disposal with which you may dispatch those who would get in your way -- tools ranging from normal, everyday weapons such as swords or crossbows to the more plasmid-like system that allows, through the discovery of runes and other artifacts, superpowers and various other abilities that may be added to your arsenal. For instance, the supernatural Blink ability allows you to fast travel from point A to point B (a very short distance) by vanishing and reappearing -- extremely useful for surprising the guards of Dunwall who would have your head for conspiring with the dwindling population of Loyalists in dire need of your assistance. None of them seem all that trustworthy, but that's beside the point. You've also got the Heart that whispers cryptic messages and aids you in locating objectives or runes that unlock both active and passive abilities. Many are indispensable tools for conquering your enemies, especially Dark Vision, which grants you the invaluable advantage of seeing the guards' line of sight through walls and other impedances. Possession is especially useful as you can imagine, allowing you to possess any person or animal for a fixed period of time, and the gruesome Devouring Swarm, where a ravenous wave of rats materialize to consume your enemy, is a wicked sight to behold. These abilities and the others unveiled across the course of the game are easily some of the most fun you'll have as Corvo, and serve to enhance what could easily have been another derivative arsenal. These tools are a blast to employ, and add a sense of mysticism to the strangeness that already permeates Dunwall. It's up to you to control Corvo's growth and skill proficiencies, so your abilities and enhancements are interchangeable. Corvo is, essentially, a moldable assassin who may be tailored to fit your play style. The game, in turn, can be played to suit your needs as well. You can opt to trail your targets in the shadows, craftily plotting their demise, or go in guns blazing to ensure each and every target is eliminated. There are multiple paths you may take to see your assignments through, so in a way you choose your own difficulty: coast through and annihilate everyone or go on a murderous killing spree. It's up to you how you want to approach your newfound role, but be aware the world of Dishonored will alter according to the choices you make. If you blow through Dunwall like a deadly tornado, the ending outcome will be tailored to your actions, with the world around you closing off paths and making things overall much more austere than if you had chosen to walk the stealthier path. You are given the final word on how you will progress, but be prepared to live with the consequences. That's what made Dishonored stand out for me when it very easily could have vanished in a sea of sameness. It doesn't completely revolutionize player choice, but it does a decent job of establishing a world in which you may play as you see fit. Expanding on the already excellent gameplay foundation is the star-studded voice cast and lovingly-crafted environments. Dishonored boasts a cast with recognizable voices from the entertainment industry: Carrie Fisher, John Slattery, Susan Sarandon, and more -- and as such, there's less of an opportunity for "Nolan North syndrome" to arise, where you swear you've heard every single character's voice elsewhere several hundred times before. You'll recognize these actors, but hearing them lend their talents to new roles is especially exhilarating. The intricacies of Dunwall and character designs are top-notch as well, adopting a more stylized stance rather than opting to go the "realistic" route, which in the end gives the game a much more satisfying, neo-Steampunk feel than overtly realistic character designs ever could have. Dishonored takes liberties with its story, characters, weapons, and gameplay paths, and in the end comes out a champ. It wastes no time with unheard of mechanics or ideas but combines the best of all worlds to offer a polished (even if samey) narrative with striking art direction, a memorable score, and an engaging stealth narrative that stands tall even amongst the other strong IPs out there. Is this the beginning of a renaissance for new ideas and locations in gaming? If so, we're already hungry for more. Pros: + Excellent cast of voice actors + Exciting new IP with fully-realized world + Insanely fun tools and arsenal of supernatural abilities + Familiar, polished elements Cons: - Can be short if you decide to blow through killing anyone and everyone - Back story is dated and overdone Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Dishonored is a fantastic new IP that deserves your time and attention.
  5. Brittany Vincent

    Binary Domain Review

    Developer: Yakuza Studio Publisher: Sega Platform: 360, PS3 ESRB: M for Mature Release Date: Out now Binary Domain has all the trappings of what one would assume belongs to a bargain bin dive: virtually zero notoriety or exposure, a seemingly bland protagonist and feature set, and voice recognition. However, when you've spent more than a few minutes glancing over the box and its blurbs, having actually jumped right into the action, you're pleasantly surprised with a capable third-person shooter with plenty of chills and action. Seventy years in the future, mankind has been forced to respond to worldwide flooding by creating robot workers that aid in the rebuilding efforts of the ruins of civilization. Pretty heavy stuff, right? The robots, dubbed "Hollow Children," are taking on personalities of their own, thinking they too are actually members of the human race. This is unacceptable, as part of the Geneva code, and thus anti-robot task forces are deployed to get the rising "problem" under control and as a secondary operation, encroach on the large robot production company Amada Corporation. That's where protagonist (and player character) Dan Marshall comes in. Dan and his crew head the task force, annihilating the malicious robots that stand in their way. It's your standard stop-and-pop third-person shooter from there, except for one caveat: enemies in Binary Domain feel much smarter than your average drone. They resemble the 'bots you saw in movies like I, Robot and rock a surprising amount of artificial intelligence. It's satisfying to take out their legs and watch them desperately crawl toward you in a bid to finally nail you, or figuring out a strategy that works best to cripple the advancing forces. Because even when they've lost one or several limbs, they're still a threat. Though the action feels fairly standard (though solid) it's the attention to detail that seals the deal, like the uncomfortably intelligent robots and the strange addition of voice recognition through which you can control your squad. It's more than the flimsy system you may have experienced in games such as Lifeline, and an ambitious way to give players a better way to interface with the computer-controlled members who are also out in the field mowing down robots. Unfortunately, it's criminally under-utilized and a bit frustrating in use. In theory, it's a fantastic addition -- build trust with your squad mates through simple interactions and pleasantries such as thanking an ally for saving your hide. In reality, voice commands are wonky and spotty, especially if you choose to take up a headset to issue commands or speak to your teammates. On the whole, it's an interesting addition to be sure, but not one that majorly influences your campaign as developers may have intended. It's still an interesting oddity that's fun to explore with. And there are no consequences to be had if you decide to forget it exists entirely. Binary Domain rocks a great cyberpunk look, with plenty of destructive eye candy (though its soundtrack is understated and forgettable) and an interesting cast of characters whose plights do beg you to delve in a little deeper. The slick, robotic look of modern Japan is unsettling, as was likely intended. It's important to realize throughout your struggle to survive that the robots aren't necessarily "enemies," but unfortunate side effects of humanity's actions gone a little too far. When you take a step back from the addictive and familiar gunplay, you find a surprisingly well-written cautionary tale as far as humanity and robotics go. Not all third-person shooters must be triple-A, heavily hyped titles. They need only great gameplay, an interesting premise, and solid mechanics to back up their schtick. It would have been fantastic if the voice commands had worked out as spectacularly as we had hoped, but it's an interesting building block for future renditions. This compelling adventure is still well worth your time, especially if you're looking for something to fill in the blanks while waiting for the "next big thing" in the world of shooters. Gears of War it isn't, but perhaps that's why the title excels. Pros: + Solid gunplay and action + AI is remarkably formidable + Interesting landscaping and plot that raises a lot of questions Cons: - Tutorials aren't nearly involved enough - Easily apparent this isn't a triple A title Overall: 7.0 (out of 10) Good Binary Domain squanders its potential to use voice commands in an innovative way, but works quite well as a third-person shooter.
  6. Brittany Vincent

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