Scores

Justification for scoring practices can be found here

FIFA 10

Sometimes European guys get all shouty about soccer.  Or football.  Or whatever.

Visual Representation: 1.2/2.0

FIFA 10 isn’t scoring any awards here; three or four different body sizes for players and about as many face/hairstyles across all of the teams drawn upon lackluster, although clear and crisp, graphics. The crowd looked to be made up of flat bitmaps, a small growth over the Playstation sports games I played in middle school. Even still, things come together nicely for instant replays, and really give the game a visceral edge.

Gameplay and Level of Immersion: 1.8/2.0

Again, the instant replay is the real winner here; it highlights great moments and makes the game come alive. The ebb and flow of the game mirror the real-life counterpart well, and the cheers of the crowds are convincing and encouraging as they change in pitch and fervor. Poorly implemented controls and a lack of any real level of pre-game strategizing hurt, though.

Mechanics and Technical Considerations: 1.1/2.0

As mentioned above, it’s often difficult to predict with any efficacy how effective the pass or shot one is about to undertake is going to be. The meter indicating the strength of shot is at the bottom of the screen and is small, forcing a diversion of the eyes from the action. When things work as you intend them to, FIFA 10 glows golden, and everything just works – but, again, it is difficult to initiate this due to unpredictability.

Quality of Narrative:1.6/2.0

Lacking any system to establish consistency from LAN game to LAN game, FIFA 10 nonetheless provides ample rivalry opporunities; specific players, such as _________ on the German team _________, tend to get their names mentioned often – and thus become targets for retaliation. The instant replay feature really hammers home a great goal and makes the viciousness of a slide tackle from behind all the more brutal.

Connectivity: 1.5/2.0

The game rarely if ever stuttered, either in terms of FPS-lag or network latency. Connecting to actual games involved what felt to be an inordinately long pause before newly-hosted games could be seen by the joining player. Again, no real ability to plan any strategy, which seemed to be an exclusive negative to the LAN feature. Having played the game only via LAN, I’m not sure it would be fair to heavily dock the game here.

Final Score: 7.2/1.0

No Flex Points here.

Wordy review can be found here.

Red Faction: Guerilla


Visual Representation: 1.6/2.0
Explosions are vibrant and intense and complement the overall, red-grey aesthetic of the game in a highly complementary fashion. The overall design sense of the game is solid all-around, whether it come in the form of the design of the protagonist, his animations, or the interface game information is presented through. However, the health bar is small and located at the top of the screen, independent from the rest of the interface, making quick reading access difficult. Further, enemy design tends on the generic side; the EDF troopers look like every other fascist solider you’ve ever seen.

Gameplay and Level of Immersion: 1.5/2.0

The integration of independence and player choice provides for an intuitive and engaging experience; the sledgehammer feels heavy and brutal when killing either buildings or people, and avatar movement feels natural and flows well. However, narrative difficulties – like the EDF ceasing in pursuit and the badass-level of Alec Mason – shatter the illusion on occasion.

Mechanics and Technical Considerations: 1.7/2.0

This is where the game shines with the intensity of a thousand exploding nitrogen tanks; buildings collapse onto each other realistically, player-placed traps detonate how it seems like they should, and the sound effects are powerful and persuasive. The paper doll death-effect is a little overdone, and gravity seems to be slightly off. The vehicle sections were often difficult to control and aim and, since they were required, were more bothersome than anything else.

Quality of Narrative: 1.4/2.0

The Maoist backdrop provides a compelling reason to dismantle the corporate structure of Mars, giving Alec Mason good reason to be an angry badass with a sledgehammer. However, his motivations for joining up with Red Faction and his relative strength compared to his enemies alienate this from typical Marxist/Maoist dialogues and, given the importance of these dialogues that the game places on itself, it tends to fail in this. Close, but not quite.

Connectivity: x/2.0

As I played a, well, non-online version, I am unable to effectively speak on this. However, multiple leaderboards and deathmatch/team fighting scenarios seem available through Windows Live.

Total: 6.2+x / 10

Original, non-rated but inebriated look at Red Faction: Guerilla

Risen


Visual Representation: 1.7/2.0

While not bleeding-edge by any means, Risen looks exactly as the them states it should: dark, moody, and morose during thunderstorms and evening hours, and bright, glowy, yet still desperate in sunlight hours, everything looks and feels just right. Monster design was some of the scariest and most intimidating I’ve seen in a game, and both the monsters and the weapons of humans delivered their attacks with a pleasantly convincing heftiness. Unfortunately, it was difficult to actually see the front of my character, and the armor I found myself wearing was as blocky as it was flowing. There was also very little variation in models once new ones were established; monsters weren’t recycled as much duplicated throughout, and I must have seen the same bearded man-face twenty times.

Gameplay and Level of Immersion: 1.7/2.0

Due to great music and dark visuals, Risen is a fundamentally immersive experience. That the player is weaker than almost everything around him at any given time furthers this. The in-combat gameplay, as mentioned, is mostly awesome when using a sword or other weapon, but falters when using magic or scrolls. Exploring was both a positive and a negative experience; getting killed easily by monsters forced me to come back later, but jumping around and finicky movement in general made me want to stand still more than move.

Mechanics and Technical Considerations: 1.5/2.0

The game only crashed twice in almost forty hours of play – a very high mark. FPS ran at consistently high-levels, even when many things were happening on-screen. Some tactics, such as the first charged swing when leveled sufficiently, guaranteed a damaging strike or an interrupt; unsure if this was intentional or accidental, but granting an unbeatable strategy made the game a bit easier than it should have been. The crystal magic system was unimaginative and ineffective in combat, and the scroll system, while forcing the player to plan ahead, was constricting; forcing me to dig through my bags mid-combat to cast a shield spell was an unnecessary pain. The inventory system was typically cluttered even though it sorted things by category. High marks, however, for forcing the player to learn the game on their own and not handing things to the player.

Quality of Narrative:  1.9/2

For most of Risen, the narrative is top-notch. Both by way of visual /audio cues, good voice acting, and a downright fantastically-written story and character dialogue trees, Risen aims to compel and it succeeds. Easily the best feature of the game – a high mark, considering that the player ends up more or less pigeonholed into a single path once initiated. That this path feels naturally the best choice grants Risen that much more believability. Unfortunately, confusing and unresolved plot elements towards the end of the game dissolve this, as does the ceasing of interaction with any given NPC once their only questline has been completed.

Connectivity: x/2.0

No multiplayer features, and the Risen official blog seems to contain no mention of upcoming downloadable content. Looking around the net digs up a few player-made mods in production, but it doesn’t look like anything is complete. As a result of this, I’m taking a pass on gauging Risen in the context of connectivity; I’ll amend this as I see what mods become available, and how flexible Risen is to being modded. I suspect that even a cursory attempt here on behalf of Piranha Bytes will push this to at least 1.0.

Note: Going to avoid factoring in Connectivity at all.

Final Score: 6.8/8.0
Final Score with Flex Points: 7.0/8.0
(Justification: Risen is one of those rare cases where the overall experience trumps the negatives of Mechanics and Technical Considerations, and deserves to be pushed up ever-so-slightly as a result.)

Actual review can be found here.

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