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PC Game Review: Mass Effect 2

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The Mass Effect series, developed by BioWare, published by EA games, adds to the list of reason’s I love gaming. While it doesn’t push any outlandish ideas like pushing a giant ball to collect the universe, nor does it introduce a new way to blast enemies to kingdom come, it did what no one else was able to do: craft a story that could only be told in its medium.

Thane Krio's is SO COOL!

Holy crap! That man's face is GREEN!

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Written by vigorot

March 8, 2011 at 6:53 am

PS3 Game Review: Vanquish by Platinum Games

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Looking good, Sam!

Looking good, Sam!

Platinum Games delivers another snappy game by the name of Vanquish. A sci-fi third person shooter featuring a guy with a special suit that lets him rocket around the battle field while granting him some super human qualities. The name of the game is bull rush speed with pin point shots. Can you save the world from the Russians? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by vigorot

March 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm

PS3 Game Review: Castlevania -=Lords of Shadow=-

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While the game is called Castlevania, there is strangely very little castle in it and the key villain in the series also seems strangely absent. Yes, that’s right, it’s a Castlevania game with no Dracula. This is only some of the many things that separate this game from the rest of the series. The creators intended this to be a reboot for a new audience rather than the usual rabid vampire whipping fans. Maybe a particular popular book series featuring particular sparkling people might have something to do with it. Now that my PS3 got replaced by Sony, I am finally able to finish this game and bring you this review. I did get a heart attack when the audio just flat out died on me, but after a restart it hasn’t returned to scare me again, I’m keeping my fingers crossed it stays that way…

He looks like Simon Belmont doesn't he?

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Written by vigorot

November 10, 2010 at 4:58 am

Posted in Game reviews

Review: Bayonetta on the PS3

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This will be a deeper look into Bayonetta, a second look if you will. If you want a quick gist of what the game is about, I suggest you read the original posting for Bayonetta on our blog. You can find it here.

I was looking forward to reviewing this for a while, considering the entire PR around it and the fact it featured a strong heroin character filling the same shoes as Dante from Devil May Cry. Not that her being a woman really changes anything besides it’s rare to actually see a strong female main character that didn’t need any saving nor is she shaking at the knees at the sight of another man she loves. Although how she is portrayed in the game and themes behind it may lead some to think otherwise.

In Bayonetta, you learn the main character of the same name, was found at the bottom of a lake within a casket, suffers some kind of amnesia besides her knowing she’s a witch and has super powers. With the help of a man named Enzo, she’s seeking whatever lead she could find that could relate to her forgotten past; while in turn, help’s Enzo with his shady dealings so he could have enough funds to do the research necessary as well as keep them afloat. A possible side story they could make a game of, but this game will be focusing on the first part where they are trying to find out more about Bayonetta’s past.

I know I have done reviews similar to how IGN does it with a break down in parts but it feels a bit archaic and even IGN does a large body of an review before the basic break downs so I will attempt to follow suit.

Personally, I was lured to the game by it’s over-the-top action and battle mechanics. Since I was a real fan of Devil May Cry 3, and this was under the same director, it seemed like a no brainer that I should get this game. Just so you folks know, my review will be based on my experience playing ridiculous beat’em ups such as Devil may Cry 3 and God Hand. Speaking of God Hand, since Clover was disbanded, much of that staff created Platinum Games which made Bayonetta, as well as God Hand when they were still known by their formal studio name. The game is littered with references from the history of Sega, Capcom, as well as Clover’s line of video games. While there are a few many would recognize such as when Rodin says this line “’what da’ya buyin? I heard that in a game once.” A reference to the merchant in Resident Evil 4, there are some much less obvious like when Bayonetta draws the markings on Amatersu from Okami upon Luka’s face. There is also what I thought was a Viewtiful Joe reference, the After Burner Kick being to the Red Hot Kick, I learned it was actually after the game After Burner, a game akin to Ace Combat.

The game has very deep and rich combat system where the flow and effectiveness of it will reflect that of the player, rather than just mashing buttons.  The game ranks you after every fight, based on time, combo score, and damage taken. While weak combo’s can give you higher combo score for little effort, you will burn more time trying to kill enemies so your time ranking will make you suffer. In contrast, if you kill the enemies extremely quickly but you barely combo nor did you maintain the combo multiplier, you will suffer in combo score ranking, dragging the overall ranking down. There are many ways to accomplish all these goals at the same time where as long as you use the elements given to you, you will earn your Platinum rankings like a pro.

The game gives you some pretty basic commands. Punch, Kick, Shoot, Jump, Lock on, and Dodge.  Punching and kicking in different combinations is the foundation of the game’s combo system. Shooting will auto target an enemy, doing minimal damage but it helps maintain the combo multiplier in case you don’t think you can’t get to an enemy in time. One of the game’s unique features is Witch Time, when you successfully dodge an enemies attack with the dodge button, you will enter a state in which you enemies will be slowed down to a crawl while your attacks double in effectiveness, such as damage and ability to knock down foes you normally wouldn’t, and your attacks will also rack up the combo score multiplier significantly faster. This feature is the key to defeating certain enemies while it outright improves the gameplay overall, giving you the breathing room to control a crowd, the power to manage the more resilient enemies, obtaining the Platinum rankings, as well as shorting the time it takes to bring down bosses. You can even reflect projectiles using witch time, so while there is a time and place for difference combos and weapons, it’s always time for witch time. The onother thing that’s major about Bayonetta though, was that you can equip weapons on both her hands and her feet. This adds a little spin to her move set and can dramatically change the way you play.

Now what would be the player’s incentive for trying to get good rankings, or good combo scores when they could honestly just get through each fight simply doing the bare minimum? Halos. The rings, bearing absolute resemblance to the rings in Sonic the Hedgehog, are this game’s form of money. You will use halos to purchase new moves, items, weapons, costumes, and accessories.  All of which, besides the costumes, will make the game much easier to play since you will have more options, so you would do well to earn some of those halos if you don’t want to get frustrated with the game since it will be more and more brutal as the game continues on from level to level.  There is no level up system, there is no open world to explore, it is a classic from level to level action game. You will be able to choose which levels you want to play so return trips are not only possible, but encouraged to find any hidden items you may have missed the first time.

Despite the game type, it does try to cater to everyone besides children. If you’re a hardcore action game fan, you will find a very rewarding combat system with all the oomph and pizzazz you would come to expect from action games nowadays, while for those who simply like action games but was never the type to try to string anything longer than three moves together, you will find a place in Bayonetta all the same where the very easy and easy modes have a automated combat feature where so long as you’re pressing a button, the game will string combos and maneuvers for you until you can do them yourself.

Now the themes, probably what has brought as many people in to the game as a there are many people it turned away. There is no holding back when it comes to game’s use of sensual themes short of an adult film. You will frequently see Bayonetta strip down to her birthday suit while all the naughty bits are cleverly censored, this will be while she’s summoning demons from the bowels of hell or when she’s performing her ridiculous combos. You will also notice that much of how Bayonetta does things always involves some kind of curvaceous dance much like that of a belly dancer; not surprising since a belly dancer was whom Platinum hired to model Bayonetta’s movements.  Even when she’s pulling a lever, she will wrap her legs around it in a sensual matter. This doesn’t really take away from anything since the theme was very well put together throughout the game’s design making what would seemingly be out of place anywhere else, right at home. The game features a heaven versus hell motif among these themes, while the angels uses divine axes and trumpets that propel holy energy at you, Bayonetta uses dark medieval times style torture devices via Torture Attacks, finishing moves you can do when you have the appropriate magic power, from Iron Maidens, guillotines , spiked wheels, and even a very risqué finisher using a wooden horse with a spiked back.

Lets talk about what I didn’t like about Bayonetta now…

There really isn’t that much that I didn’t like about Bayonetta, most of it has to do with how the game was ported from the XB360 version. There are many times when the frame rate suffers because there is just so much going on a lot of times, at least that’s what I wanted to think before in the later parts of the game when there is even more insanity but actually runs at a very smooth pace so I don’t know what’s going on with when the slowdowns actually do happen.  The biggest gripe is probably the cut scenes they have in the game. For one thing, there are A LOT of them.  I spend just as much time playing the game as I am watching it, as if that wasn’t bad enough, there are also quick time events put in throughout a small percentage of these cut scenes, where if you aren’t careful, you will get a death marked up onto the board, penalizing your ranking as well. I was never a fan of the “press X to not die” mechanic since it doesn’t do anything more but annoy the player. There is no skill aspect, nor does it contribute to the experience, it just exists for the sole purpose of pissing you off. While the story may have plot holes as large as the grand canyon, it was forgivable due to the already ridiculous nature of the game, it would’ve been nice if they actually animated most of the cutscenes. The story is told through a mix of flipping film strips and in game sequences. While the characters do as they always do in the in-game sequences, the film strip style didn’t actually have any real animation. None of this is actually prerendered, they are actual 3D models put in semi still life. I say semi because things like their hair, scarves, and grass are still blowing in the wind but the character themselves don’t have moving lips nor are they doing any actual moving at all. I’m sure this was intentional, but with the way it was done it felt like they just ran out of time animating and just slapped it together to save money and time. It’s a very minor annoyance since it does have a certain level of style I can appreciate.

What isn’t very forgivable though is the screen tearing and frame rate drops during all the cut scenes. Nearly forty percent of the time, there is large frame rate drops and sometimes screen tearing can last as long as four seconds. Sure, it’s not enough to last the scene, but it’s long enough for you to go “What the hell was that?” These issues could’ve been easily solved with v-sync or simply doing a better job at porting it. Apparently Platinum Games didn’t even plan on putting it on PS3, it was Sega’s decision to bring the game over. While I thank Sega for bringing it over, they also could’ve done a better job, if necessary, just delay the game and work out these issues. There was also the issue of load times occurring in mid cut scenes and while picking up items before a patch was released. Can they patch up Bayonetta to improve it? They sure can as proven by their Install to HDD” feature provided by their patch. From what I’ve read, some features in the PS3 can also improve on the aesthetics  for the game, which thankfully I did have on. Would Sega actually do it though? It’s up in the air, because they sure didn’t mention making the patch that they did, and they could very well be working on it now, but it’s wishful thinking and I only see what stands in front of me and that is a great game bogged down by poor porting.

So what would the final verdict be on this game? Besides some technical issues involving the porting, the game is a blast from beginning to end, where the story only outdoes itself with every chapter you go through. The characters a tad cliché but you won’t be forgetting Bayonetta for a long time. Game play is solid and just as any good game should, has very high replay value as you will want to unlock the rest of the weapons, constumes, replay levels and work on your combos. Heck I might give Bayonetta a spin just beat down some angels. While the gameplay mechanics would only lure the hardcore, the visuals and insane boss battles will bring in the rest. Could use a few less cut scenes though…

If you’re a fan of games like Devil May Cry or even God of War, you will enjoy this game and you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. For anyone on the fence, you should at least give it a rental or heck, borrow it from a friend who will likely own it because they know what a good game is.

Story:  Cheesy, although you won’t forget characters like Bayonetta anytime soon.

Graphics: Very Pretty. The details and the designs of the enemies are not only unique from each other but there is a large variety so there is much to see on top of Bayonetta’s own flashy course of destruction. The levels are nice to look at but you’re mostly in this to beat up the baddies.

Game Play: Phenomenal. Battle mechanics are spot on without the frame rate getting in the way.The game is feature rich in adding on to your fights so they don’t have to be the same everytime. Bosses are practically a chapter on their own due to the ridiculous amount of health on top of intense choreography and battle sequences.

Sound: For some reason the choice of BGM for most of your fights is their own rendition of “Fly Me to The Moon” among the many tracks of gothic hymms. The voice acting is actually quite good but the main attraction is of course Bayonetta herself.

Replayability: You’ll unlock more difficulties on top of more items and even characters as you play after the initial completion of the story. Even if this is all done, it’s fun just to mess with the variety of attacks that are given to you, or even try to beat the insane people on the leader boards.

Game finished on Normal Mode with mostly stone statues…don’t judge me! Game was patched with the latest version.

Written by vigorot

March 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Game reviews

Batman Arkham Asylum

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Batman: Arkham Asylum for PC

Ah, this game certainly raised a lot of fuss in its development, a majority of it being “It’s a game based on a comic, and those are never good.” And this game looked to changed that mentality.  That mentality is definitely a strong one since game based on movies and comic books are usually made with one thing in mind, a quick buck and this always lead to poorly designed games that left a lot of customers burned and unhappy, both fans and non-fans alike. So what is it about this iteration of Batman that is so different? While I myself am not a huge comic book fan, I have dabbled in many games and they happen to include games based on comic book characters and I saw this iteration as a chance to pave the way for future GOOD comic book games. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Presentation: Oh the shine and polish of the look and feel of this game screams with developer love. From the stylish menus to the brooding ambience that has made me love Batman is all well and sewn together into a strangely unique experience that you won’t get from another game. While other games have bloom and heavily detailed scenery, the design of the environment is not like any other.

Sound: The choice of sounds used in Batman remind of me very much of the tracks you hear from the most recent batman movies, I wouldn’t be surprised if they said that’s where their inspiration was drawn from. The voice acting is also top notch,  although probably due to my own bias since I loved the batman animated series and that very casting crew makes a return. I love me some Mark Hamil Joker, don’t you?

Gameplay: Now, they can spit shine the game all they like but what good would it do if the game didn’t play the way it looked? Thankfully you can actually feel shine just as you see it. Batman had a very simple yet elegant combat system,  that focused more on strategy and flow rather than straight brute force. There was also a lot of freedom in your moves, allowing you to be inventive with what is given to you. Things like boomerangs, bat claw, even tackles and throws can be flawless pulled off with the simplest of button combinations, none of which exceed more than two, and each of these have their time and place to be used. This kind of philosophy behind a combat system is one that I always liked, where you can at all times you have many choices, but you need the experience to know how to use them properly and each choice can be used to great effect when it is done so.  The gameplay experience is not limited to just mechanics however as there is the rest of the experience. Just like the dark knight, you have to do a lot more than get into fist fights and that means taking down your enemies from the shadows. You can dangle off gargoyles to string up baddies, use baterangs to pick off targets and even do a quiet takedown in which batman would knockout an enemy via just enough suffocation to make the target blackout, or at least that’s what it looks like he’s doing for we never see that thug ever again.

There is also the atmosphere in the game that will only exist in batman.  Joker will constantly taunt you throughout the game with his snarky remarks and trademark laughter as he guides you through the asylum. You will meet some of his still colorful subordinates but they don’t quite match up the insanity that is the Joker.  This truly adds to the experience as listening to what the characters have to say, will also have an impact as to what your next move should be, so it’s not just simple I’m blowing hot air right now, don’t mind me, I’m just eating a sandwhich mindless bantering, there are queues in the dialogue you will want to listen to cause it could very well mean whether or not you’re going to see the continue screen over and over again. All in all, Batman’s gameplay is heavily entwined with all its parts rather than just a few.

Conclusion: I didn’t want to touch on the story too much because there are many surprises left unsaid, otherwise they wouldn’t be surprises. I feel that the game really redefines what a comic book game should be, and there are a few things that it does that the other games didn’t do besides the game play mechanics.

Didn’t try to retell a story: While the game still featured much what made Batman what we know today, it didn’t try to rehash a story that’s already been told; or worse yet, take an existing story and just make a video game version out of it, a real no no. If we wanted a movie experience, we watch the movie. We want the animated cartoon experience, we watch that, please don’t imitate something in a different form. The story in Arkham Asylum is actually written by the writer for the original animated series on WB, where you first see Batman in a dark and gritty world. The game had its own story, it didn’t try to imitate another game, all it did was “You’re the freaking Dark Knight, you WILL be he freaking Dark Knight, and it WILL be awesome.” It is the only likeness you will see with other games, is that it features batman.

Development Time: Unless the game is an established line of best sellers, games usually have one year at most and that’s if there was some level of faith in your work. If you’re some kind of movie tie in, you’ll have at most half a year.  Batman had at least two years to work with while the looming “You’re based off a comic book” mentality hanging above their head.  Quite impressive, and there was just so much love put into this game with many nods to the old fans as well, even to guys like me that only watched the cartoons.

Wasn’t just a comic book game: Even if it wasn’t based on batman, what they accomplished in the game could also stand on its own, with mechanics that have a lot of polish and level design that still astounds me with all the attention to detail.

I do have a few quirks against the game such as how the final battle was handled and the camera choices when dialogue is exchange between batman and some of the npcs but they hardly drag down the experience considering how much the game has to offer and how well it does it. Now there is a lot of things I haven’t mentioned but I covered what I thought was most important. So what more is there to say about this game? If you haven’t played it, you should, it’s available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and if you’re still reading this review you are likely to own one of those three. If you’re a batman fan, you don’t need me to tell you to buy this ASAP. The best way to let developers know you want their game, is to actually buy it retail, writing a letter helps too.

This review was based on my play through of all of normal mode, played a few challenge modes. PC version all settings on max via ATI Radeon HD 4890.

I’ll be putting a second opinion up for Bayonetta now that I’ve actually finished it. I have to say I have some nice things to say and some nasty things to say. Mostly nice, I promise.

Written by vigorot

March 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Review: Prototype on PC

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Prototype is an open-world sandbox game akin to GTA. For those unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, you are basically given a giant environment and you are free to explore at your own pace, given a basic objective and side missions scattered all over. In this setting for Prototype, you are Alex Mercer, a man whom has suffered amnesia, with only a gist of whom you may be and endowed with incredible powers; you seek out answers to why you are this way and who’s responsible.

At least, that’s how it would’ve started if the game didn’t already drop you near the end of the story, you are given a very basic tutorial of general things such as jumping, attacking, targeting, along with a crash course on one tenth of your powers. After your little taste of super Alex, you are put back to the beginning of the story where he has yet to accumulate the strength you had just seen.

So right from the get go, you already have an idea of where the story is headed. You witness NYC covered in “the infection”, which can be described aesthetically as ketchup and hardened meat fat spread all over the place by a lawn sprinkler. You can hear all the screams and wails of the not-yet-infected citizens and the unintelligible growling of the was-too-slow citizens. This will give you some context on what will happen as you progress and witness the events unfold.

Prototype Box Art

Story: A little spotty. While I didn’t expect an award winning material from a game like prototype, I expected it to feel less rushed. The voice acting felt a little rushed, some of the lines felt like they were all read in one breath while others felt like the voices were attempts at establishing a character type but then felt flat. This mostly applied to the main scenes earlier on.

The presentation of the story wasn’t too flattering either, with some unnecessary shaky cam in cut scenes and character animations that simply aren’t good. Nice try but the end result isn’t very nice.

However I will give them props for what they did in the latter half of the game where the story picks up with a lot more interesting elements along with a pretty clever plot twist. At least, I most certainly didn’t see it coming. Even with this though, the first half is just too poor to sit through just to get to the later portion.

Game Play and Mechanics: At its heart, Prototype wouldn’t be too far away from other super powered sand box games and it’s fun. You are given a large array of abilities that by majority add flavor to the chaos. You have your claw ability that lets you serve as a blender on legs, the hammer fist ability that lets you pound tanks into soda cans, and even a whip arm that will allow you to grab and pull either yourself or the target  towards each other. You’ll find yourself traveling the city mostly by roof top, running up building walls, gliding from skyscraper to skyscraper, jumping, and sprinting the way super humans usually do in movies and comic books. All these elements as a whole give you that omnipotent feeling of a super powered mutant with the world in its hands, which is until the military breaks out the missiles.

In this game, you can buy abilities with Evolution Points, granting you access to more and more powers as you go through the game. You can earn EP by killing enemies, collecting the orbs that they drop most of the time, collecting special orbs around the city, completing side missions as well as completing events in the main story. As you progress through the story, you get a chance to buy more abilities that weren’t available before, giving you some incentive to progress through the story line. A very basic formula of these game types, and that’s what you’ll find here.

The targeting system can be very iffy since the game will automatically target what it thinks you should be targeting. Sometimes this works great cause you don’t necessarily have to have this target in view for the game to pick it out for you, but half the time it’s telling me to keep my eyes on a tank 2 blocks away while my face is being pummeled by a crazed mutated gorilla. You can use the right analog stick to change your targets but this doesn’t always cooperate as well as you think cause sometimes it would cycle the same couple of targets, or it makes you cycle through the crowd of soldiers in front of you before you can get to what you want.

The game also has what we all now know as Bullet Time or that slow camera trick thingy from the Matrix! While many games of all kinds have this little mechanic, I appreciated how it was implemented here. Usually on-the-fly ability/weapon switching in other games can be detrimental to your survival because while you are thinking about what you should use, you might already be cake frosting on the wall before you figure it out. In Prototype, the game will actually initiate bullet time every time you bring up your menu ring of all your abilities neatly categorized for their purpose. While this little instance of bullet time is brief, roughly three to four seconds, it gives you a little breathing room to decide what power to switch to and you can do this at any time short of a cut scene; although I did notice if you constantly do this it takes a little time for the game to catch up. You’ll also find these little camera tricks when Alex uses one of his Devastator attacks, his version of a smart bomb so to speak; it’s purely aesthetics and it certainly does look nice.

Sound: Most of the time you’ll be hearing screams of the civilians running away from the infected and the military blowing up said infected. Voice Acting runs a flat early on, while the only real significant voice actor is Alex himself, and even then it sounds like he tries too hard to be angst. A majority of the voice track would be the generic “disembodied military general gruff” placed behind “tons of images sequenced together at 100 miles per hour.” Nothing really note worthy otherwise.

Graphics: Like many sandbox games, the environment is quite bland compared to Alex himself. NYC has many faithfully recreated land marks but anything outside of that is “generic building A” and so on for the rest. Alex himself has extremely well detailed transformations and all his powers have a very unique look from each other. The grunt units, while mostly generic in design, actually have quite a bit of detail on them from the hand gun in the holster to the shining lenses on their gas masks. The Tanks are also exceptionally detailed. Oddly enough the Helicopters have the least amount of polish among all the vehicles since you do zoom in really close to it and see the extremely low res texture on the copter’s wind shield.

A game like this wouldn’t be very entertaining if it was ever ridden of anything to kill, thankfully, the game provides that in endless amounts of destructible objects, civilians, military grunts, giant infected called Hunters, and so on to keep you entertained. If you ever needed to blow off some steam, Prototype will provide. This is especially true if you’re a New Yorker such as me. This is all pulled off without dragging down frame rate down to the single digits and that’s quite impressive.

Conclusion: I could go on and on about the mechanics that drive prototype and what makes it both incredible and disastrous but I could do that till I’m blue in the face, as you can tell, I already wrote many paragraphs on just that alone. The game is quite spotty with its elements. Its main appeal for me was its combat and the super powers, that being done admirably and I hope more games in the future could feature such elements again. I would like to see, however, a better told story along with a better designed environment.

All in all, Prototype is most definitely fun at its heart with some issues that drag down the experience, it’s worth a rent for anyone interested in the whole Supah Powahs genre of video games, and this is actually as good as you’ll get in the sand box spectrum. However as for a buy, that’s a call you’ll have to make.

Notes for the PC Version: I have noticed while reading forums that the PC version of Prototype is riddled with significantly more bugs than the console version, some of these bugs I’ve encountered myself. One of these bugs was “Assist the military till you’re called back to Base” and when I destroyed the hive as instructed, the mission would not progress. You were basically stuck. I had to shut down the game and then load it again to fix this bug, no dying and re-spawning and check points was able to fix this issue. There is also some graphical differences between NVidia and ATI video cards, namely the ATI cards has a significantly worse looking game with some software compatibility issues on lighting in all the wrong places, giving you shadows where they shouldn’t be. It’s hard to say if it’s just because of ATI because other games I own don’t have this kind of problem, such as Batman and Bioshock. Chalk this one up as another sloppy port.

This review was based on my experience on the PC version of Prototype downloaded through Steam on a AMD Phenom II x4, ATI Radeon HD 4890 drivers updated as of Feb 3rd, 4 GB DDR3 Ram, OS Win 7. Used a XB360 controller. Finished game on Normal Difficulty, 90% of powers unlocked. Barely touched side missions.

10.9 hours clocked according to steam.

Written by vigorot

February 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Game reviews

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