Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Second Look @ SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 3

(Images are taken from
(Please note that I haven't been able to play the multiplayer for this game yet. I did buy my copy new but my home wifi security setup isn't compatible with the PSP.)

Fireteam Bravo is back in a black ops mission that has them running around the fictional country of Koratvia. A military regime has risen to take power and threatens the Russian government, their nuclear arsenal, and the world. The story is extremely weak and awfully cliche, often sounding like a rejected script for a Tom Clancy novel. Its best to be taken with a grain of salt and only to give you reason for shooting up rural areas. As Wraith, you are joined by former-team lead Sandman, team member Raven, and newcomer Toro. While a four-man team might seem to be overkill this time around its much needed as enemies are less forgiving, there are more blind corners, and open areas are just begging for your ambush.
Fireteam Bravo 3 was developed by Slant 6 Games, the ones responsible for the previous SOCOM Tactical Strike on the PSP, leaving Zipper Interactive to make mediocre games such as the Online Only SOCOM Confrontation. Throw in a few surprises such as former-SEAL-turned-merc-leader Lonestar making a major appearance, a nice variation in the environments, as well as a wide selection of weapons and you've got the second best in the FTB series. But with all of the improvements, FTB 3 is still lacking in certain areas that make it hard to appreciate.

 See this enemy in the background? Most of them will do this: stand out in the open.

A small amount of tactics can be used this time around with the four-man team, split between Able and Bravo, but nothing that resembles Tactical Strike's advanced, and initially puzzling, two four-man team tactics. Two people can cover a target or a door better than just one. However that's not really the case here as it rarely presents the opportunity to do so. There is very little need to cover targets, use bounding overwatch, or even split the team to open a door. Its more run-and-gun, less planning, and its so painfully obvious that it seems the developers intended it to be so.
The major flaws of the game are more pointed towards the enemies themselves. While there are a decent amount of them scattered throughout the levels, things such as some never needing to reload, the inability for some to find cover, and the way they can pinpoint your exact location after one misfire makes them less like soldiers and more like robots.
Another problem comes from level design. While they do vary nicely, they're just as linear as they've always been in SOCOM games: narrow ways opening into arenas where you're free to snipe and pick off opfors with ease.

The sound is one of the better aspects of this game, with the environmental effects being surrounding and clear. Rain water hitting the roof of a car in the level Grey Dawn is something unexpected and lends to the thought of just how much attention went into sound details. While guns lack powerful sound they do vary in tones. Explosions, however, do pack a punch. They are better placed and more defined than in the previous games.
The orchestral soundtrack is something that comes with the territory of a SOCOM game. Whatever effort has been put into it can be changed by simply adjusting the sound options. There's no reason to have it on since the only time you might notice it is at a scripted moment.
Voice acting can be described as sterile: its clean and clear at all moments. Very little emotion even after two events happen that split the team. There's no confusion, only determination. Sure, they're hardened military men, but I doubt real people stay as stern as these guys when facing odds like in this game.

BOOM goes the dynamite. While there is no TNT in this game, the explosions are loud and clear.

The graphics are definitely amped up for this title. Its a huge step from the first FTB game and as a latecomer in the PSP lifespan shows that the system was capable of graphics comparable, and maybe even surpassing, those of the PS2.
A gradient has been placed over the foreground to give a cold, dusty feeling on some levels  whereas sunny skies and in-doors are without. Cracks in the ground, rocks protruding, lights giving off rays, and even some water effects show that the PSP still has some beef to it. While most edges are squared, its to be expected. It shouldn't distract from the gameplay.
Cutscenes are in-game rendered and what's most noticeable is the mouth movement on the characters. The engine for this game does what it can and does it very well.

 Class photo: Raven, Wraith, Toro, Sandman, and Lonestar.

If you've played the other two FTB games, then you're sure to navigate through this with very few hangups. Its tuned so that it might be challenging only to newcomers. Veterans only need to learn the new button layout and they're good to go. The initial single-player game clocks in at a humiliating 3-4 hours and while there is a decent replayable factor to it you'll just wish more could have been done. With enough attention, you could sweep through with 100% completion on your first playthrough. The custom missions replace the non-campaign missions from the last game but give you very little reason to play them since some last less than 5 minutes.
There's just NOTHING memorable about this game.
Overall, Fireteam Bravo 3 should see our SEAL team retiring with an honorable discharge. Thanks boys, but I don't think we'll need you on the PS Vita.

Keep Playing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shotgun Review: Halo CE Anniversary Edition

(Shotgun reviews are my one-shot, opinionated, quick reviews of games. I hit you with the facts and a little bit more all at once. Pictures taken from Gamespot and

Hard to believe its been 10 years. Actually, for me, its easy. I was never one that was heavily invested in the Halo games but I do like the extensiveness of the universe. I was curious to see how the new 343 Studios would handle Bungie's baby, seeing as how 343 is comprised of former Bungie devs.
Let's clear this out of the way first: its the original Halo game with graphical improvements, achievements, Kinect functionality, skulls and more storyline added via the data terminals hidden throughout the game. If you played it so long ago on the original Xbox, its the exact same game.

The new graphics are just the icing on the cake. Some things that might not be clear to see with the classic graphics become great to look at with the new. You can switch the graphics styles by simply pushing the Back button and the change happens fast, there is no level reloading. All its simply doing is placing the new textures over the old. It almost seems to be a rush job at some moments. Unfortunately, I will say that the graphics aren't as good as Halo Reach.
There are a few pop-ins, particularly a few Grunts and Elites appear out of nowhere, as well as Sgt. Stacker in the flashback video the Chief takes from Jenkin's helmet. Textures at a slight distance will also have a pop-in effect. Its definitely not fitting for people who get angry at glitchy graphics.

Is it worth playing? Yes, but possibly only for the achievements and data terminals if you're a fan of the story. If you're in it for the flashy graphics and are expecting a complete overhaul and re-telling of the first Halo game... its not here. If you're worried about the game needing Kinect to be playable, its not. The only thing the Kinect brings to it is a library of data from scannable weapons, enemies, and objects. The game can be played without it and its no reason to rush out and buy one. Its just an addition to give more depth to the universe.
As an added bonus, the game comes with a standalone Halo: Reach Anniversary map pack. The maps are remakes from the original Halo game and can be played without the need of owning Reach, just know that you will be missing out on a better game.

*Dodges objects thrown by fanboys*

Hey, hey, hey! Reach is better to me because you actually get to know a little bit about the characters rather than being a faceless space marine! For some reason that baffles me, there was a pre-order bonus that included avatar gear and the Grunt Birthday Party skull. Thing is, you didn't have to pre-order anything. I bought mine from the store with the cardboard box around it. it would be tough to find it that way now so any early adopters need not shell out $10 for the DLC.

The combat is the same as the original Halo, the button layout is different but not a huge change. The friendlies, enemies, vehicles, weapons, and power-ups are all in the same places. Driving the Warthogs are still wonky and floaty. Some small confusion might ensue because things look different but that's practically a moot point. There are some moments where the new graphics aren't attached well and you can find yourself poking through walls.

What it boils down to is this: if you want the achievements, get it. Its cheap and can provide a weekend of something to do. A rental at best.
If you're expecting a grand re-packaging of Halo, its not worth it.
All others need not apply. If the original game didn't draw you in to the Halo universe so long ago then this one will not help any. I've had it since a couple of weeks after release and I haven't even bothered to complete it. Its just not very interesting.

Keep Playing.