Tag Archives: steam

Review – Alien Rage (PC)

At E3 this year I was able to catch a glimpse of Alien Rage, an sci-fi shooter aiming to bring back some memories from the old days of Unreal combined with score counters, combo levels and heavy levels of AI swarms and massive bosses. This isn’t Gears or COD, its a massive solo assault on a horde of bad guys set on total annihilation.

Our review focus on the PC version in single player mode, Alien Rage is launching soon and as the servers populate with traffic I’ll have a feature for that. The game takes place on a mining rock where humans and aliens clash over the most powerful potential fuel in the universe.  Things go sour and soon the aliens are the only ones standing still, to even the score and keep the Earth safe, a lone soul lands and sets forward on fixing the score.

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Alien Rage focuses on discovery (finding audio files to fill in the history) and massive amounts of survival and scoring players on how well they can do it. While this might seem easy, it’s actually rough because the AI rushes, shoots longer and uses technology beyond what players have. It’s a bit stacked against players and then you get the big boys, the guardians who occupy the main transitions it’s just a massive stab at proportional balance as they have bigger guns and just general size.

Thankfully there’s a motivator, Alien Rage has scoring, combos, achievements and well, scoring. Every combo, every headshot, every melee combo and successive streak rings with badges, bonuses and rewards for taking down hordes, it’s excessive to the point where you can run around even a minute later and have the game catch up with how much damage and how many streaks and combinations you’ve executed in a short spree just prior. 

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Action comes from a variety of weapons, machine guns, shotguns, rifles, rocket launchers and so much more. Each possessing primary and secondary firing options, for pure players, the primary presents a unique challenge to progression but it’s possible. Secondary firing modes are incredibly powerful, they are the equalizer to any flood and they decimate anything in their path. Alien Rage offers tons of options and it’s up to players to manage ammo and the best gun for the job before death just pours in from all sides.

 

This quick impressions video drives home all the reasons I loved checking out this game, if you can’t take people talking on video just skip to about 40 seconds and watch what I assembled for you.

Performance wise, the Unreal 3 engine continue challenging PC’s, Alien Rage delivers intense environments with heavy particles, detailed textures, depth of field and so many other options. It’s a gun’s blazing joy ride through a world of eye candy. On the test system (Phenom II X4, 7870) there haven’t been issues going into launch for speed and the frame rate at the recommended setting of High post-processing, medium textures and medium shadows ran at 60fps solid with few dips.

Coming in at $19.99 (15.99 if you pre-order) Alien Rage is a great value on the PC, the single player experience is incredible and long and torturing even for experienced players, crank up the difficulty and it will simply induce nightmares for weeks. If you’re on Xbox or Playstation, the game does not include online play but the single player is strong enough to keep players engaged.

PC gamers can find Alien Rage on Steam tomorrow, I suggest lining up early for those $4 off while it lasts.

The good:

  • Intense action in single player that isn’t rushed along
  • Tons of weapons with their primary and secondary fire modes
  • Immense boss fights, incredible odds at stake
  • Gorgeous level design and details surrounding each area
  • Scoring allows players to challenge themselves when replaying levels

The not so good:

  • For difficulty sensitive players, Alien Rage doesn’t just roll over
  • Graphics really do benefit from higher level settings

Review – Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed Heart

Artifex Mundi brings Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart to the table this month as they push for Greenlight approval, the game is already available outside of Steam but they’re pushing to reach that next audience. Adventure games are a secret love of mine, I used to play them for ages along the likes of Doom II and Duke Nukem, simple narrative driven stories that weren’t competitive but made your brain rage out anyway.  Is this one of those games? Lets take a look and see what Nightmares from the Deep packs and how it executes upon that goal.

The story introduces a loving duo, a mother and her daughter leading an exhibition on a legendary dreaded pirate. Recovered in scary levels of preservation and with a boatload of swag they’re able to put on a massive exhibition… well, until someone decides to start outfitting our dear pirate captain with enchanted accessories. Suddenly the story goes sideways and the deeper truth behind his amazing preservation and trinkets comes forward.  Cursed ships, undead pirates mysterious enchantments and a deal with the devil while the curator’s daughter pushes closer to her own ill-fate all emerge in the story.

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To some degree I enjoy the story, it’s honest and while a bit taxing to build it piece by piece to find the entire back story (there’s a challenge for that). That said, sticking it to the undead, there’s nothing better than that, they can run off some smart remark about how you’re incapable or you’ll fail and then you shove it in their face and it’s just majestic beyond words to throw at them.  What I didn’t care for, introducing a massive geographical change and then not resolving it, because it only happens once but it still bugs about why it’s unresolved. You’re introducing a story driven game with lots of thinking mechanics to a demographic that will think about everything you throw at them. It’s not a deal breaker but sometimes it’s just an extra moment spent on review of the plot where one would go “ooh… we should probably make a note about that”.

While the story may have some rough edges, it’s easy to get distracted while playing due to the detail levels of the art within Nightmare of the Deep. There’s something about just heavy illustrations with painterly style, watching these intense scenes of still ambience without relying on lighting elements to paint it in the moment.  It’s a crafted moment and easy to take a moment to appreciate the intense labor to develop each scene. To some degree I can really say I almost wish they even omitted trying to use mouth animations as it does remove some of the immersion (it’s not really in sync at all).

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Players have to piece together just about everything in The Cursed Heart, jump back to the mid-late 90’s adventure era where things were click based, arranged, mixed and so on and that’s where you go. Artifex Mundi actually accounts for this and created 2 modes to cater to new audiences and classic players.

Regular Mode:

  • No misclick penalty for hidden-object scenes
  • Active zones glimmer frequently
  • The hint and skip button recharge quickly
  • Locations with an available action are indicated on the map

Expert Mode:

  • There is a misclick penalty in hidden-object scenes
  • The hint and skip buttons take longer to recharge
  • Active zones, except hidden-object scenes, are not indicated
  • Locations with an available action are not indicated on the map

Odd facts about those:

  • I played on regular mode, I’m extremely defiant about click spam, I still focused on targeting those or playing the Mahjong mini game to finish out those I could not finish
  • Had no use for the hint or skip buttons, most of the challenges are very accessible
  • I did notice glimmer but honestly I figured that was just part of the atmosphere of a cursed pirated adventure, wasn’t my focus
  • I never used the map unless it was an interactive event

You can act completely oblivious in this game on either mode and still have a fun time and a challenging experience, I urge players who do attempt to take on Nightmare of the Deep to also ignore the skip and hint options as with a decent pace, the game is only about 4 hours long with full exploration and even some double backing.

It’s been ages since I really dove into an adventure game, with so much experimentation and hybrid design it became off-putting to really keep after the genre. The art and general design of Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed heart make for an enjoyable experience, the story tackles pirate lore and a lighter supernatural layer without trying too hard. I’d suggest checking into it now or boosting it on Steam Greenlight if you’d rather have it managed in Steam.

The good:

  • Beautiful areas, just flat out stunning art to look at
  • Challenging but not to the point of pure rage and quitting
  • Applies itself to new and old players, pick your entry level
  • Story is reasonable, not overkill but easy to relate to
  • Low entry point at $6.99 currently through Artifex Mundi

The not so good:

  • CG actually is a disservice, blocky resolution not sure how to avoid it
  • Facial mouth movements aren’t remotely synchronized
  • Using the tip and skip feature could probably make this game about an hour shorter if used

As Nightmare of the Deep released in 2012, a lot of people might already have the game, regardless I think it’s still worth supporting to see on Greenlight, it would give an enjoyable experience to the genre and bring in some new players to the adventure genre. The flaws within the game are cosmetic and not game breaking which are easy to overlook in the overall picture.

Link: Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart (Steam)

Review – King of Fighters XIII – Steam Edition

The King of Fighters lands on Steam, bringing the latest engine packed with redrawn visuals, HD backgrounds and tons of goodies that make the game pretty exciting to play on the desktop, notebook or what keeps players gaming now. It pops in at $29.99 on the market and delivers online and offline competition to keep the challenges coming. For those wondering if it’s just a plain rehash, it’s not, the game also packs in Iori, Nests and Mr. Karate DLC to drive the roster to 36 characters. All the Xbox DLC in one spot for this celebratory installment so that really adds some extra value for a title I’m sure many didn’t see coming to the PC.

When KOF XIII launched on the 360 a while back, I enjoyed the game as it was a large improvement over XII which lacked in move variety and options. It’s not the perfect installment although they kept pushing to make up for it by including DLC characters to complete the fan requests and build a diverse lineup. My stance on KOF XIII remains the same, the story, AI, character moves and experience are memorable and are easy to return to. Players can beat the game with pure domination, come back a month later and get destroyed just because they were slow or missed a connection. It’s always fun, it’s always a challenge and learning new moves and combinations every time is just really rewarding.

The graphics are beautiful on the PC, crisp on my LCD’s and it scales surprisingly well in Eyefinity, character resolution in the art is able to scale heavily for the game it’s just fantastic. Those hoping for a vivid and crisp experience are in for a treat using classic 2D mechanics vs cell styling or a 3D engine trying to support classic fighting mechanics. The only flaw is a simple one, on my build I was unable to display subtitles, it made the cut scenes dry as those without knowledge of Japanese aren’t able to take note of the events unfolding.

Where it all gets a bit sideways is the online experience, SNK is working like mad to get this fixed and optimized but in the moment, it’s sketchy. The beta leading in had decent latency (not amazing but not awful) but at release I was unable to find players at all with the search stalling. People love competition, this is a huge item for SNK to tackle if they want KOF to really take off, it’s not the first game of the genre to launch on the PC and others have bridged this gap. If it’s a matter of days or week’s it’s hard to say, if they return to the netcode from the most recent branch it would return the game to an online playable state even if that includes some ghosting or glitching.

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Additionally, controls are suffering from issues when using specialty hardware, Hori sticks have reports of issues and those hoping to use custom keys for keyboard input face limitations in an awkward array.  Trying to use my arcade stick I wasn’t able to properly map buttons which neutralized the use of it in the review. I was able to use an old Logitech USB controller but that’s about it. Very unfortunate but it’s part of the ongoing patch list for KOF now, it is a hard disappointment but using at least some form of controller helped keep the delivery. Even having an ini file to manipulate would aid heavily.

I love KOF games, I have since they debuted in my hometown arcade, watching the series expand, experiment and evolve has been fun but gaming is moving into the personal space so KOF has to adapt to the times to survive. I just wish SNK was able to perfect a system that had suffered some setbacks even on the Xbox 360 for quality. Right now there are many hoping the net play to shape up again and that’s just a rough hit for everyone.

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King of Fighters XIII Steam Edition rewards players with DLC and a real arcade experience, unfortunately it now struggles to deliver on network experiences for online play and control. Fighting enthusiasts love their hardware and they love beating up on each other, both of those have obstructions and it’s hurting that word of mouth and hype train. I want to see the Steam Edition flourish with players and fans so we can see more installments but buyers need more than this and hopefully it comes through.

The good:

  • Beautiful visuals, detailed and crisp delivery
  • Fluid frame rate, 60fps solid with great response
  • Controls that work deliver quick movement and easy actions
  • Strong AI and challenges, keeping players on their toes constantly
  • Custom character options, design their look as desired

The not so good:

  • Netcode is buggy, matches are hard to find or lagging needs improvement still
  • Controller support is off, Hori, X-Arcade and other models are struggling to deliver
  • Subtitles enabled please? None available at 1920×1200.

Would I say it’s worth the investment? Yes, in general King of Fighters is a good bet, the SP campaign has lasted with the test of time and a full roster of 36 characters makes it extremely enjoyable. One can hope that SNK continues to heavily devote themselves to fixing the control and network issues and this release will stand out as a gem. Given their interactions with the community so far, it seems likely we’ll see brighter days ahead.

Link: King of Fighters XIII Steam Edition Product Page (Steam)

GRID 2 Demolition Derby DLC arrives but is anyone home?

So the online community on GRID 2 is a bit hit and miss, and by that I mean it misses… often. Players when you find them tend to love crashing, other times they’re not around at all.

Demolition Derby is a revival mode for fans, hoping to bring back some of the enthusiasm and appease those who prefer to wreck cars instead of racing them. It’s a good mode, don’t get me wrong but the absent player base really doesn’t help the situation. I ended up opting out of a 30 minute wait cycle for players and instead jumping into custom events to get a taste of the carnage. It’s not overly brutal and the AI is a bit bossy but I think there’s another level waiting to happen by playing with human opponents that have no intent to finish the race with a functional car.

Check out the video demo for custom event Demolition Derby, hopefully I’ll see more people online in the coming week or this is really just a dead release.

Review – Shelter

Might and Delight took a shot at platforming with p.i.d. and they’ve returned with Shelter, a game of a different scope, asking players to find a parental or guardian instinct within. The task presents difficulty, having to fend off flying predators, lurkers in the dark and brave the elements while trying not to let your family starve. The reward of course is simple, your family lives and you take the reward of having protected and saved them, that’s one of the best they could really distribute.

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Sadly, Shelter is really short, like an hour if you really push through and don’t get lost in the dark. The pathways are linear through most regions and fail to embrace the open world presentation, predators and challenges fail to repeat and instead greet players a step at a time. With a difficulty adjustment option maybe it could solve that issue, now though, once completing Shelter, there’s a general idea of where mistakes happened and how to overcome them.

Shelter 2013-09-03 01-41-08-52It’s a nice perk to learn from the past but to have that negate the experience is a bit rough, replay value does drop as players begin to count of turns or paces between zones until they’re on the next task. I really wish they would attempt to add some alternatives or options into Shelter, before you know it, you’re almost done and it’s too late. For $9.99 there’s a contrast in the experience between this and other Greenlight games, being able to revisit is a huge part of the experience now.

Conceptually I find Shelter as a fun start of an experience, crossing regions, protecting from predators and experiencing a world without guns, swords or other weapons. It falls short of taking the experience further, what about other shelter regions, paths, enemies or different level designs for each adventure. Variety is the biggest issue here, I just wish there was something available to generate that impression.

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The good:

  • Unique experience, focusing on protecting your kin
  • Challenges forcing preservation of self and the group
  • Design uses simplicity and rough illustration to paint a warm home

The not so good:

  • Good for about 1 experience
  • Lacks variety in enemy and layout options
  • Short, between 60-120 minutes depending on the player