Archive for the 'Action' Category

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Fail

Posted in Action, Adventure, Review on June 26th, 2009 by ZekeDMS

Yeah, you can tell how I feel already, I’m sure. I sure didn’t want it to be this way, and for a while, it seemed okay.

But it turns out no matter how well you design a level, how much potential a combat system has, and how much fun a few fleeting moments are, a giant mess of code will ruin the experience.

Oh, and the awful animation and save points don’t help.

I’m going to get the good out of the way first, because there is some. First off, and best of all, there’s a copy of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, classic LucasArts puzzle-adventure game. Translates excellently to the Wiimote, features a nice 2x view, and if you like, anti-aliasing (but I say it just looks blurry).

The combat system’s idea takes a lot from Emperor’s Tomb, which was a great Indy game, but it ends up gimping it and loses a lot of translation in poorly done motion controls. Still, there’s a lot of environmental use, tripping people up with the whip, grabbing objects, and some old fashioned skull-thumping.

There’s some shooting sequences that really are very fun.  Point and click essentially, sure, with good timing on popping up, but fun. Lots of stuff to shoot and blow up beyond bad guys, which is always a bonus.

There’s also a few cinematic sequences that are plenty fun, even if a little loose on the control, including an elephant chase and a good old fashioned plane escape. Sound is excellent too. Very, VERY well acted, great effects, great dialog.

The experience is very Indiana Jones, in dialog, location, and events. The feel is great, and that’s something that’s hard to do. Even the new movie  slipped up a few times in the attempt.

Great scenery too. While the character models aren’t very good, the environments are excellent and well varied.

When it works, there’s some really amazing sequences with action, platform, and puzzle all at once. But it doesn’t usually work, and that’s the problem.

Oh, where to start where to start. The save points. There’s barely any of them, particularly after long sequences of jumps and puzzles. And pressing the same six switches three times is NOT entertaining. Nor is repeating one section of jumps over and over due to loose controls. There’s several points where I replayed 2-3 minutes worth of platforming and fighting, with a set of switches to press in the middle of it. Boring and frustrating. It also managed to entirely discourage me from exploring for artifacts, bonus items to give out game modes and skins (And hey, who can deny that they’d love to play  an Indiana Jones game with the Han Solo skin?). One particularly bad save point made me replay a tutorial section three times before I figured out how to advance. Unskippable, same as the cutscenes. Ugh.

Just to make it worse, save points are always before cutscenes. When coming back after a fail, you see Indy’s hat,  legs walking up, and he grabs it. And then, a cutscene plays that was in another part of the room, or another room. In the middle of the game I found a save point right before a very big fight. And the cutscene before it was in the dark corner of the room, despite the checkpoint resume animation being in the middle of the room the fight takes place in, nice and well lit.

Sloppy sloppy sloppy. That’s most of the game, though. Another frequent issue is that players often need to be in a very unintuitive locations (too close, too far, too much to the side) to manipulate the environment via the whip, or perfectly precisely six inches in front of an object in the world to manipulate it normally. Often whippable items are hidden by the awful camera as well, and that camera with loose controls backing WILL throw players off ledges to their deaths too as they move around corners.

Clipping errors abound as well, one particularly egregious one is where players have to knock back a coffin. It tips back diagonally, through the wall above it, quite visibly. A little alteration, pushing it back six inches, making move back then fall even, would have avoided that. Animation issues are common, though. Sometimes if not in that perfect spot to activate something, Indy slides over to the object at an amazing speed, locked in one animation frame and rushed through keyframes to hit that one. Almost all the animation is stiff, particularly when carying objects or tugging enemies with the whip (they too tend to just glide over).

There is, really, no singular bad part of the game. It’s an overall combination of bad to really bad systems that ruin what could have been a great game, had the level designers and writers anything to say about it. But you throw in the awful saves, loose control, bad camera, constant repitition, and even some predictable traps. You can always tell what tile is going to break away and make you shake the nunchuck and wiimote because it’s a different color. Lighter shade, different texture, it ALWAYS stands out, and you always have to go through the shaking and pull back up. And even that’s annoying, because you have to wait for the falling animation to complete itself before recovering.

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings gets 2 out of 5 stars. Parts are enjoyable, they really are. And there’s some great moments, but there’s tons of suffering to get to them. Also, the multiplayer and extra game modes aren’t worth bothering with at all, terrible, excepting for one the copy of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on here. It’s worth a rent for that, at least, it’s easily unlocked with a few items or a cheat code.

[PROTOTYPE]-It’s amazing.

Posted in Action, Review on June 24th, 2009 by ZekeDMS

There isn’t much time to think during Prototype, just some moments of respite whilst one glides or leaps between buildings, if one chooses not to just destroy everything one sees along the way.

But in those moments, you’ll think two things. “Haha, look at the crowd!” and “Why did Sega take the license for and subsequently fuck up The Incredible Hulk?”

The rest of the time, it’s “How do I get into the base easiest?” or “What’s the best power to crush this group of enemies?” Sometimes “Is that helicopter close enough to kick, or do I need to throw things at it?” Even that disappears into the zen understanding of Prototype quickly enough, though, the fluid destruction and devastation left by Alex Mercer, or the player controlling him.

Prototype is a game of two parts. Awesomely bad 90s plot presented mostly in crazy 15 second cutscene memories of people you abosrb, and nearly unstoppable movement. Constant chaos and battle on an escalating scale. By the end of the game if you’re ground level, you’re going to be in the middle of the fighting. Swarms of military and infected enemies abound even fairly early on, and it would be criminal not to mention the framerate doesn’t ever drop in the middle of this, at least on consoles (there’s still some performance issue for PC versions, excepting for very new high end systems). It has every right to, but it doesn’t.

The simplest description of Prototype is to call it parts Mercenaries, Dead Rising, and Hulk:Ultimate Destruction. It’s wanton melee murder on a massive scale (well, except when you steal a tank or helicopter, then it’s missile murder), and it’s so damn fun. There’s a great selection of offensive abilities, two very useful major defensive abilities, and since you can absorb just about anything living for health (sometimes you’ll need to beat it down a bit first, but hey, that’s okay), there’s not many times you’ll be finding yourself thinking “There’s just too many enemies!”

The game is absolute rapid dynamic destruction 95% of the time. There’s some points where players will want to use a stealth approach, and for that there’s a set of powers and abilities to let them absorb military folks stealthily and to disable the virus scanners that can find a disguised player in the open (open, that is. In a tank, APC, or helicopter? Just fine!). And to stealthily absorb enemies with knowledge you need, an ability to let you point out someone else as, well, you. “There’s the target, over there!” the player shouts, then when everyone is looking away, the player devours someone with helicopter pilot experience.

Oh, yes. While upgrades to your own unique abilities are bought with experience points, which are quickly accumulated by wanton mayhem, side missions (mostly fun, mostly), and story missions, “disguise abilities”, as they’re called, are upgraded by eating people. Find a weapons trainer, improve your machine gun skill (more damage, and more bullets). A mechanic? You’re better with APCs! Devour a commander, and you can call in more air strikes, and they have a wider range. It doesn’t entirely make sense, to be fair, that by becoming more skilled with a missile launcher I can fire three more missiles before getting a new one, unless I just really sucked at reloading. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s an effective system, and really, really amusing to eat someone and gain his power.

The story is cheesy awesome, particularly the flashbacks from absorbing “web of intrigue” targets, and so is swooping down from on high to get them. The control is SILK. While there’s a ton of things to do in any fight, and several mid-fight menus, it all works, and there’s a liberal, effective use of slow motion. When players open the powers menus, the game slows down. When they lock onto a target, a quick moment of slow motion, same as changing. It allows both a better view of the chaos, an easier time being sure you’re on the right target, and it looks so damn cool. It’s entirely possible to jump off a building and spin around firing a machine gun at ground targets in slow motion the whole way by switching targets the whole time. And damned effective too. The short bursts of slow motion really make a difference with firearms especially. Normally in a game like this that sounds pointless, and while they’re not very effective against infected, they’re deadly against humans. Military forces best beware Alex Mercer’s John Woo airspins!

On top of this, there’s the air dashes, gliding, quick turning, controlled climbing, parkour flips over vehicles, and bashing-out-of-the-way of things. It all becomes completely intuitive and precise movement is surprisingly easy, even in the air from high high up.

There are, certainly, a few downsides in the game, but they’re so damn minor, really, if you’re playing. For once, the textures can be a little meh. Buildings, enemies, etc. There’s damage skins on vehicles too, but again, not the most impressive. The city itself is a little bland, too. Not a lot of major landmarks, not a lot going on. To be fair, it’s the middle of a zombie apocolypse, and the non-infected areas are going on normally with their lives.  There’s an overuse of post-processed color around infected areas too. While a hint of red in everything is fitting, toward the end of the game everything is red, and it really can grate a little. It tends to fall away in a fight, but when gliding around, it annoys.

Some of the boss fights can get repetitive, same as Hulk:Ultimate Destruction, often breaking down into hurling something large, running away, and repeating, with an occasional flying elbow drop for good measure. Repetition strikes side missions too, at least in the tank-based ones. Others are pretty fun, but the tank-based destruction missions really require a lot of luck as much as anything to get the needed points for a bronze, much less gold medal, and that’s not even considering the platinum challenges. THAT is distinctly not fun,

Hint and exploration orbs disappear far too easily, and mostly aren’t seen until you get too close, and there’s some pop-in otherwise, though it’s surprisingly little considering movement speed. And while the movement speed is great, it would be better if the game had some quick movement points like Hulk and even GTAIV had. Couldn’t Mercer, with his shapeshifting and such, quickly travel through a sewer system or even the subway? It’d be nice to just catch a train instead of having to run all the way down to to the other end of Manhattan.

To come up with all those issues took me a solid 30 minutes. Normally a game is easy to complain about, but not Prototype. Even with those issues, it’s all forgotten because it’s so damn fun. Yes it’s that undefinable unquantifiable item, and it’s totally relative, but it’s there. Everything is on the rule of awesome, and players should be laughing maniacally while playing. It’s not hard to say this is a rehash of Hulk:Ultimate Destruction at all, especially when some things are completely unchanged. Even the terms “Critical mass” and the attack “Critical pain”, though the actual attack did change, this time. Still, there’s a thunderclap, ground stomps, all the Hulk moves, but now there’s upgraded versions of everything. The critical ground smash includes spikes coming up, the critical thunderclap now has skewering tentacles. And that’s the whole game, it’s a giant upgraded Ultimate Destruction. Oh. And you unlock an armor ability that basically makes you look like Guyver. And that’s awesome.

Prototype gets 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s fun. Tons tons tons of fun, despite a few frustrating moments and one potentially awful short mission series. And you should be too busy kicking helicopters into tanks to complain.

Stay tuned in a few days, when I review Infamous which it turns out Prototype ruined my enjoyment of!

Demigod Review

Posted in Action, Adventure, Commentary, Preview, RPG, RTS, Review on May 20th, 2009 by ZekeDMS

This one sure took a while, didn’t it? Well, apparently, so did patching out the issues with Demigod’s connectivity, a major factor for a game based on multiplayer.

For what it’s worth, Brad Wardell put up an informative post about it, available here.

Now, on with the show.

Demigod is somewhere between Diablo, Dynasty Warriors, and Warcraft. Action RPG, musou, and real time strategy are all smashed together in a team-based competitive game expected to last between 30 and 60 minutes a round. The goal is 30, and it does happen sometimes, but only when one gets painfully steamrolled (perhaps I could say when you steamroll someone else, but alas, that’s yet to happen to me).

Players are given control of a hero unit, one of eight currently, amidst a constantly moving battlefield littered with grunts of all sorts, defensive emplacements, and the occasional other demigod. Essentially you’re dropped with another demigod or two into a prebuilt battlefield, taking on the opposing demigods, generally with the goal of crushing their citadel. In some ways, it’s not unlike jumping into the middle of an RTS game. The bases are established, units are spawning, and defenses are up. It’s up to players to break the stalemate, through their own power or by adding to the team’s strengths. Upgrades are bought for demigods and minions (which half of them get, the generals, while the assasins are one man armies) in the form of armor and items from the shop. Team upgrades, such as reduced death penalties, stronger and different types of reinforcement waves (which come on a constant basis), stronger buildings, etc., are bought from the citadel as the war rank goes up (basically the team level, determined by…all sorts of things!).

Gold is the primary resource of the game, critical for upgrades and items, which lend those oh so important advantages in combat between demigods and grunts, and even against fortifications and citadels, though there are plenty of resource controlling flags around the levels, and control to them is key to winning. Some provide experience bonuses, some regeneration, some more gold, some faster cooldowns on abilities, but all are extremely useful, and tend to be the centers of direct demigod on demigod conflicts.

Otherwise, players spend their time crushing grunts for experience, trying to move their own forward so that they can push through enemy defenses, which means more experience, more flags, and another step closer to destroying the citadel (the most common game mode, and really, the most fun). The game has a very subtle ebb and flow at first, but once someone breaks through the wall, there’s often a real snowball effect and the team on the losing side has to rally hard to end the push fast, lest the momentum become too great (which it most certainly does, and big pushes tend to be the game winners rather than small movements).

It’s a unique experience, and with a decent variety of maps and characters to control, as well quite diverse skill trees and upgrade options, there’s a lot to experience. Dynamic is definitely the word, especially as more demigods are on the way, and likely more maps. I’ve yet to play a game that went like the last one, and while the balance isn’t quite perfect yet, daily patches are making improvements constantly, and, excepting for when you get a clueless partner and an experienced enemy team, it’s a lot of fun.

And it’s pretty! Really, really pretty. The combination of Stardock’s technical trickery (they have a way of loading massive textures and assets into a small space and running it brilliantly) plus GPG’s artistic style works splendidly. The normally sci-fi oriented teams have taken a more fantasy oriented approach, creating fantastic levels, backgrounds, and models. The smallest grunts are all fantastically rendered, and the level of detail added to the individual demigods can be absolutely amazing, particularly The Rook. A living tower that stands far, far above everything else and can be upgraded to have smaller units on him working independantly. Archers, for example, can be seen in the turret on his shoulder when players zoom in, once the upgrade it purchased at least.

Excellent effects and animation bring the battles to life, with clear, recognizable sounds helping players sort out a bit of the chaos in the battle thanks to the unique sounds most abilities have, and several buildings. Throw in some beautiful musical scoring, and the presentation hits AAA levels on a game that’s close to budget priced (considering current owners are getting half-off coupons, it really is budget priced for some). And yet, it manages to not tax the system for the most part. A few frame stutters here and there, but it’s mostly a very smooth experience. I should note, however, some people ARE having issues with audio reverb and horrible framerates. The reason isn’t known yet, but it’s currently being worked on after more network patching (right this second, there’s testing going on for proxy servers to resolve lingering connection issues).

Occasionally, though, the chaos of crowded battlefields can make it tricky to get an ability fired off on the right target, and there really should be more documentation. Basic things like attack-move go unmentioned, for example. The first few games are a trial by fire and best played with the single-player AI (which, it should be noted, is a lot of fun and hard provides a good challenge without cheating like AI tends to in an RTS), but after some warm-up, it’s easy to jump in. Demigod could very likely pick up casual players. There’s depth, but it’s reasonably easy to jump in and won’t take hours of your time to finish a game. Frustration is generally low, though there’s always some initial confusion and challenge in learning a very unique game. Still, those complaints move aside quickly in favor of a lot of fun.

Demigod gets 4.5 out of 5 stars. The base game is excellent but there’s still some lingering technical issues making it hard to connect to other players and causing the occasional crash or stutter for a small amount of players. If the game continues to get the polish and up to twice daily patches, it’s going to be a full five stars. For now, though, it’s falling a little short of that.

Chronicles of Riddick:Dark Athena reviewed

Posted in Action, Stealth on April 27th, 2009 by ZekeDMS

So, how does the followup to the still spectacular Escape From Butcher Bay hold up?

Pretty well, overall. The tone is different than the previous game, and there’s more focus on action than expected. If you encounter someone who’s not locked away from you, well, you won’t be chatting. Everyone is to be considered hostile, and there are more direct action setpieces rather than stealth oriented sections. Assault really is the proper term, all the combat ability learned in the first game will be tested in this one.

Rather than a few prisoners and guards, Dark Athena is a ship mostly filled with drones, followed by the occasional mercenary. Instead of the many areas Riddick could move about freely before, there are mostly tight areas with less shadow and more enemies. Much more careful observation and precise timing is needed, and combat can turn bad in an instant. There are quite a few areas where moving ahead fast will result in a cheap death, be it by turret or an enemy sitting around the corner, though fortunately the game saves automatically often to minimize the annoyance.

Unfortunately, where Butcher Bay often gave players a choice of how to handle a situation, Dark Athena will demand gunplay, stealthy assassination, or a straight brawl in a corridor where you can only  go forward or back and have no shadow to hide in. Six times in a row. I don’t think that last part is an exaggeration, sadly, and after that set of melee brawls, there’s rarely another for the rest of the game, which is a shame as the gunplay is still functional, but far from standout, and occasionally it’s just frustrating. I have to call out one particularly rough section where Riddick uses a drone gun on an elevator platform, but can’t duck down for cover. Players are forced to memorize where enemies are going to be as the elevator descends, and just start shooting before they get hit too much. I think I spent 20 minutes on a one minute sequence, which is incredibly far from fun. Combat isn’t the game’s strong suit, and Butcher Bay mostly saved it as what happened when you screwed up and got spotted, here it’s the expected method.

Despite the lackluster shooting, the game hasn’t lost the sense of tension, stalking, hunting, and very narrow escapes when a section opens up. An early area has some ten to fifteen drones in a cargo bay, but the patrol routes and tricky shadows make it feel like there’s a solid 50 of them, waiting for you to screw up, and it forces some hard choices. Leaving drones alone means they can come find you, but they’re still looking in the dark. If they find a dead one, the flashlight comes on, meaning there’s one less drone searching but that shadow can disappear. Same goes for shooting out lights later on in the game. It’s a new place to hide, but if the mercs get suspicious, it’s flashlights, which present dangers all their own.

Credit goes to the AI here, though, even in combat. While enemies won’t sit still by any means once engaged, they do tend to suppress areas they’ve seen the player in, and react properly to light and sound disruptions. Putting down a lot of fire from behind cover, then sneaking over to another position can result in getting beside or behind the enemy, and allow them to be killed easily, one at a time. And once the AI is hunting the player, it seems to hunt intelligently, checking behind barriers and around corners often enough, rather than blindly moving forward.

The game’s style is still very much Riddick, an artistic bullseye. Dark, dingy setpieces, gritty areas, intimidating enemies, lots of blood. There’s plenty of horrorshow to go around, as there should be. The sound is top notch as well, solid sounding guns, great clashes in melee combat, and once again, EXCELLENT voice-work, even the grunts. While the levels may not be very fun to play through in some spots, they all seem real, no cases of “Come on, this only happens in video games” bring players out of it. It’s a great success, thematically.

There’s a definite pacing issue, unfortunately, as the game shoots through the first section, drags horribly through the middle with occasional bursts of movement, then spends about spectacular fifteen minutes in the third act with, sadly, a VERY disappointing end boss. There’s a distinct lack of the slower, nearly RPG style sections that came before as well, which served to set the slow, deliberate pace of the prior game between fast action sequences, and a lot of character and setting is lost to that. Players don’t feel like part of the world around them this time, simply an intruder. Which they are, in all fairness.

The level design doesn’t really help the case. While it’s realistic enough (okay, one exception, but a minor one), it’s not fun often enough. The early areas feature a lot of backtracking, the later areas are a little too open with no hint of where to go or what to do. And late in the game, cheap kill traps start showing up which can result in a few controller tosses.

Despite all the complaints, Dark Athena isn’t a bad game by any means, it’s really good when it comes together, but it’s got the feel of the middle child in a trilogy. It never really starts or ends, the climactic moments generally aren’t, and it seems to be setting up for something really big to come next. Hopefully something that won’t be so linear and will have a few more ways to go about the hunt, like the first game, instead of deciding how it wants you to handle an area for you.

Chronicles of Riddick:Assault on Dark Athena gets 3.5 out of 5 canes. It’s a very good game that has moments of greatness, but is often down by weak level design and pacing, and inevitable comparisons to the prior installment. Fortunately enough, buying Dark Athena gets Butcher Bay, which is still a 5 of 5 game. Just think of it as an expansion pack, it even adds multiplayer like those used to!

Wanted:Weapons of Fate

Posted in Action, Review on April 21st, 2009 by ZekeDMS

Got three hours?

Play Wanted!

Okay, it might be around four or five, but I doubt it. There are a few points where players will have a challenge, one point where they’ll actually get stuck, and plenty they’ll move through fast after one or two repeats, maybe. It’s far from a hard game, though several points hop off the difficulty curve a bit.

So, Wanted takes place at some point after the movie, presumably some point in the comic books, minus the racism, pornography, and hatred of the comic book form and audience, which is probably for the best lest the ESRB’s rating skyrocket.

The game is a fairly straightforward third person shoot ‘em up, with players moving between cover, firing off shots to suppress enemies, curving bullets, and shooting other bullets out of the air in slow motion.

Okay, that does deserve some explanation, doesn’t it?

Wanted‘s hook is primarily that bullets don’t have to fly in a straight line, you’re just programmed to believe they do. So while you and an enemy are sitting behind very comfortable cover, unable to get a straight shot at each other, you can hold the curved shot button, pick yourself an arc that wraps around a few obstacles, and bam, bullet meets enemy. In gameplay terms, it means when there’s too damn many enemies and they’re too hard to hit, you can take a few shots and maybe eliminate some of them safely, or aim for a conveniently explosive barrel, fire extinguisher, etc.

Beyond that, there’s slow motion abound. The game’s focus is on cover and moving between it, with quickmove functions built in for nearby cover. Players can also choose a special quickmove, which fires up slow motion during the transition and gives a little time to take down exposed enemies on the way. Outside of that, there’s rail-shooteresque sequences that would likely be a quick-time event in any other game. Wanted chose to just slow it down, let players aim for the bullets coming at them themselves, and not have to “PRESS X TO NOT DIE”, which works out very well.

Aside from slow motion, the game keeps a fast pace with extremely short breaks between the action. There’s almost no time lost to looking for the right way to go, and puzzles just don’t happen beyond “Which gas canister can I shoot to cause the biggest chain reaction?” It’s very straightforward action with lots of enemies who don’t stand a chance through a nice variety of environments, and it stays fun for the most part, if not terribly deep.

Wanted gets 4 out of 5 canes-A great action game that’s far too short, but easily worth a replay, and this could be the start of a great series of games.

Naruto-The Broken Bond

Posted in Action, Review on January 26th, 2009 by ZekeDMS

Hey, remember how awesome Naruto:Rise of a Ninja was?

That’s what Ubisoft is counting on, it seems, because The Broken Bond is a tremendous disappointment compared to its predecessor in almost every way. Questionable design decisions that changed previously great mechanics, unnecessary annoyances, and an overall lack of effort define the game. Some elements, frankly, fall under the shovelware category, or “Elf Bowling level flash game” at the high end.

As with Rise of a Ninja, the game relies on a fighting engine and fairly open platform style to advance the story. Both systems have been updated to make use of multiple characters, since most of the game’s time is spent with two or three characters, swapped out as needed in combat and while roaming the world. All have unique abilities(aka jutsu), though several serve the same function, such as trap detection or getting into small places outside of combat, or to deal/heal damage in combat.

In the last game they were occasionally used during the adventure sections, now they’re used constantly. It gets repetitive, which is to be expected, but the execution is terrible. Using the various jutsu draws from the energy meter, and early on there’s only enough energy to attempt the skill once before having to wait a few minutes to retry, particularly annoying since often it’s essential to advance. There’s an option to take one of the various pills that regenerate health and chakra, but that ends up being a waste of money, even if there is an infinite supply, and the same pills are able to be used in combat, where they’re much more useful. It ends up being a time sink in any case, be it minigames for money or a few minutes sitting around; no matter what it’s completely unnecessary and could easily turn players off of the game. It’s like playing an MMO, only with more grinding for platinum. Or gold. Or credits. Whatever your MMO of choice uses as its top tier funds. Or Isk.

The adventure section is very weak this time, sadly. The timesinks combine with constantly blocked paths or areas with tons of invisible, nearly unavoidable traps to soak up more money from health pills, which is to be regained in the crap minigames, and a bit more in combat since enemies seem to explode money once defeated. Actually finding a viable path is a real challenge thanks to a bad map system and areas that all look completely alike except for invisible traps (causing you to wait, once again, to regain chakra so you can see and attempt to avoid them). Quite a few points require multiple jutsu to be used from the same character, which cancels the previous one and soaks up chakra. Sometimes you have to combine powers, which means you get even less time to do what you need, and then it’s back to waiting on your energy to regenerate enough to try again. Ugh.

The newer presentation is incredibly cheap. New character models look bad and almost seem to lose textures. The cel-shading has dropped quite a bit, and while it worked before, bland background and world textures cause it to look alien; there’s a tendency to make characters look unfinished, which I’d venture they are. Hand signs are no longer animated in the world or combat, hell, faces are barely animated. The vast majority of the game’s in-engine cutscenes show no emotion whatsoever. This is fine for a few characters, but if Naruto isn’t a grinning doofus, something is wrong. It almost makes the lack of lip-syncing bearable, as clearly no effort was put into the English syncing. To be honest, the Japanese didn’t match up much better, leading me to believe the animators chose “Repetitive mouth motion number 6″ as their dialogue option.

The combat engine has had the welcome addition of combat tag-ins. Since the game is based around teams, players can change in the middle of a fight (though they’re left vulnerable unless they do a tag-combo generally), letting one character heal or regain energy while the other fights. Chakra is very limited during fights, which helps prevent some of the jutsu-spam that plagued the last game. Unfortunately, Ubisoft chose to also restrict what can be used by an arbitrary special ability meter which builds via hand to hand combat. There are three levels to reach which allow different techniques. In reality, it means you’ll be annoyed for not being able to use an attack you want because you haven’t blocked enough attacks. It would have been fine if it was used instead of the chakra meter and depleted after use, but now, it’s a redundant roadblock to bigger, better attacks, and the game’s hand to hand combat system isn’t THAT good. It’s enjoyable, but it’s very simple and wears out after too much without the variety special attacks added, even if they do get repetitive.

The control feels a bit sluggish this time around, out of combat and loose in minigames and jutsu. The bouncy targeting system deserves special mention, used in some special attacks and minigames. Anything with a targeting cursor suffers from a bad case of acceleration, slow stopping when you change direction, and bounces off the sides of the screen horribly. Hitting specific points or tracking targets is stunningly frustrating in most cases.

There are a few bad QTEs thrown into the mix as well, which can’t be a surprise to anyone at this point, can it? In what would be a great point for a cutscene, players are kept on edge and don’t get to enjoy the cinematics (which stand out as being well done in a game that has quite a few issues). Worse, if a button is missed in the QTE, not only does the entire thing restart, but so does the preceding cinematic if there was one. Two minutes of cinematic, “oh shit QTE FUCK”, repeat at least once. Bad, bad, bad idea.

Naruto:The Broken Bond gets 2 of 5 canes. It had a lot to live up to-and it didn’t. It tries to do a lot of things, but doesn’t excel in any of them and fails quite a few. New annoyances have been added, and pointless hassles, resulting in a mostly below-average experience. It’s not bad, but only hardcore Naruto fans are likely to finish the game, much less make it halfway through.