Tag Archives: Square Enix

Fans Treated to New Footage and Gameplay of the Final Fantasy VII Remake

Earlier this year Square Enix and Sony made a big splash at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) when they showed the announcement trailer for an upcoming remake of Final Fantasy VII. Though many fans have been asking and hoping for just such a thing to happen, many believed it never would. So, when the announcement trailer dropped back in June, people lost their minds.

This weekend, in what seems like a pretty short span of time, we were already treated to more footage of the game. Most interesting is the tiny bit of actual gameplay in the trailer, as it definitely looks to be a departure from the classic turn-based system that the original operated on in lieu of a more current, action oriented approach. Not surprising as the franchise has largely moved away from the classic combat systems of old in favor of a more fluid approach to battle. Take a look after the jump:

Continue reading Fans Treated to New Footage and Gameplay of the Final Fantasy VII Remake

Life is Strange – Episode 1: An Engrossing Start to a Supernatural Mystery

Episodic adventure games are in the middle of a well deserved renaissance period. Telltale Games’ popular titles have breathed new life into the genre, which is why other game developers are now following suit. Dontnod Studios has put together a supremely interesting plot line that follows the supernatural mysteries and high school drama of a female teenage named Max.

Welcome to the first episode of Life is Strange – Chrysalis.

Life is Strange Game

Your main character, Max Caulfield, is an aspiring photographer who’s recently made a big move. After leaving her quaint hometown for the big city, she finds herself returning to that quiet town to attend a prestigious private school. Max exhibits the expected qualities of a teenager who considers themselves an outsider, which makes her instantly relatable for some. Her love of photography has driven her to attend such a respected institution. Max’s school mates fill the gamut of the personalities that exist within high school cliques – mean rich girls, varsity jacket wearing jocks, mysterious loners, skate punks and more. There’s a wide host of interesting characters to interact with who come with their own events for Max to intervene in. Getting the chance to play out these events is one of the highlights of this game.

The most important element behind Life is Strange is Max’s newfound power – she has the ability to rewind time at will. Max’s time rewinding skills come into play as you solve simple puzzles and help deal with situations involving your closest friends. The first episode starts off simple enough, as you sit inside a classroom and discover how to make good use of your new time sensitive skills. The story quickly intensifies though, as you’re forced to utilize your rewinding skills to save the life of a close friend. The rest of this episode is filled with even more events that test your moral compass. You’ll be driven to find each and every instance of character interaction.

Life is Strange Episode 1

Life is Strange’s supporting cast is fun to follow. The voice acting here is great, as is the simple yet clean visual makeup of the quaint environment you inhabit. A slew of personalities await at every turn and the conversations you engage in with them are hard to pass up. The trials and tribulations of early adulthood permeates through this first bit of the game. Important decisions seem to occur regularly. Should you tell the school’s principal about a potential threat? Should you intervene when a school security guard bothers a young student? Should you aid a close friend when her stepfather gets out of hand? There are several decisions to make here and the game’s solid story will drive you to strongly consider every possibility.

The time rewinding mechanic of Life is Strange is a cool, no doubt. But this power kind of diminishes the impact of your decisions. Having the chance to quickly change your decisions after making them feels like a cop-out, which may be great for some players who feel a sense of regret and guilt after an important event. This ability is great for navigating environmental puzzles and changing minor events, but it makes important decision making feel unimportant since you can change your mind at the drop of a dime. It’s best if you were left with your hard choices instead of having the power to change them to your liking so quickly.

Life is Strange

Life is Strange’s first episode ends on a high note and will most certainly have you anticipating the next chapter in this strange tale. Max is an interesting young soul surrounded by suspicious characters who present several mysteries to solve. All of these stories, combined with the time rewinding powers, missing young girl and the threat of an impending storm has us ready for another helping of the game.


Images: Square Enix, Dotnod

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Review: More of The Same Co-Op Raiding

Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics gave longtime Tomb Raider fans a fun sidequest to enjoy with friends back in 2010, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light . Introducing Lara Croft to the world of top-down, twin-stick gunplay and co-op puzzle solving, this winning formula breathed some life into the stagnant Tomb Raider series that was one so highly regarded by gamers. In 2014, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have once again decided to adopt this formula for Ms. Croft and her accompanying adventurers. 4 players now have the ability to battle an evil Egyptian God in Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

The Lara Croft that ’90s followers have become accustomed to returns here, and this time she has three other allies in tow. All four heroes must deal with the wrath of an angry Egyptian God named Set, which means they are tasked with retrieving the idols of a kinder God and putting an end to Set’s plans. The increased player count makes this missions a lot more fun to engage in and introduces new powers for each player to utilize. Lara and her friendly rival Carter get around using a grappling hook that gets them to higher ledges and allows other players to climb up to them. The two magic-powered characters, Isis and Horus, can lift up specially marked platforms and create shields through the use of their magic staffs. Watching how all four characters and their associated powers work together is one of the better elements of this fun adventure.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

The bulk of this sequel features the same great gameplay seen in its predecessor – action-packed shooting sequences, intricate puzzle solving sequences and plenty of opportunities to collect gems and score more points than your allies. One of the newer wrinkles for this release is the addition of stat-boosting rings and amulets. While the introduction of these items is a nice change of pace, they don’t do too much to drastically alter the gameplay. While these equipped items offer nice bonuses such as increased weapon damage, your chosen character won’t be impacted as much by them. Later sections of the gameplay don’t get too difficult or include moments where your items are dire, so these rings and amulets won’t make much of a difference.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is fun, no doubt. The online co-op, and ‘short but sweet’ campaign provide a nice bit of fun. Solving intricate puzzles and besting the huge bosses you encounter with your buddies is always entertaining. Fans of the past game will certainly enjoy their time here, while others looking for something newer and a lot more improved will be disappointed here. The visuals, audio and gameplay elements of The Guardian of Light are clearly evident here, yet the only real change is the addition of two extra characters. This newest installment in the Tomb Raider series may be enjoyable for some, but its repeated gameplay elements bring this game’s replay value down just a tad.


Images: Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics

PlayStation Experience 2014: Ten Trailers We Had A Nerdgasm Over

December 6, 2014 will go forever be remembered by Sony PlayStation fans for several reasons. Sony celebrated 20 years of gaming excellence on their behalf by putting on the inaugural PlayStation Experience event. The first official day started off with an extensive press/fan conference that featured exciting bits of gamer trailers and so much more. Never mind the disappointing moments (that Final Fantasy VII PS4 reveal felt like the biggest troll announcement ever…), because we’re going to showcase the top 10 gameplay trailers that made their debut.

10. LittleBigPlanet 3

This nod to the long spanning past and present of the PlayStation brand was incredible. The PlayStation Experience audience no doubt got nostalgia chills as they watched Sackboy reenact the best moments from PlayStation’s biggest games. We spotted some of our favorites here, like Twisted Metal, God of War, Shadow of the Colossus and more.  We’re hoping those levels spotted in this trailer are up for download soon…

9. Drawn to Death

David Jaffe’s name is attached to two of Sony’s biggest original IP’s – Twisted Metal and God of War. So when he finally hit the stage during the final moments of the PlayStation Experience live stream, we got excited. His newest project was revealed to be Drawn to Death, a third-person multiplayer shooter that sports the visuals seen in school book doodle drawings. We have a new favorite character because of this gameplay trailer reveal – Dodgeball Dan.

8. Until Dawn

You’ve probably guessed by now that some of us here enjoy a good slash ’em up horror film or two. The PS4 exclusive Until Dawn replicates the slasher film experience perfectly as evidenced by this new dose of gameplay. You’ll have to make tough decisions as you avoid death at every turn. You’ll need to keep your teenage survivors safe since they’re capable of dying for good. We can’t wait to act out our Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book fantasies with this game in 2015.

7. Yakuza 5

Sega made a bold proclamation during the PlayStation Experience live stream event – Yakuza 5 will be arriving on the PS3 in 2015! Our hype levels went through the roof once that announcement was made! There’s no need for us to be jealous of Japanese gamers any longer. The localization for this open-world hit has been a long time coming. We’re finally getting the 5th main entry in the best video game adaptation of Chinese Mafia living…ever.

6. The Order: 1886

FINALLY! Some extended gameplay for this fresh PS4 IP was on the top of our list of the trailers we wanted to see during the Playstation Experience. The Order: 1886 just got put back on our list of most anticipated games for 2015. The cover-based gameplay, cinematic graphical presentation, interesting plot premise and terrifying beasts got us even more excited to enter this game’s dark world.

5. Batman: Arkham Knight

We knew we were going to have to pick our jaws up off the floor once this trailer came to a close. Batman: Arkham Knight will take away so many countless hours from our lives upon release. This new gameplay trailer showed off the Batmobile’s puzzle integration, Batman’s new combat skills and an explosive gunfight between the Batmobile and a helicopter. Just like those bums The Dark Knight laid out, that helicopter didn’t even have a chance…

4. Bloodborne

Wow…just wow. From Software adopted the punishing yet addictive nature of its Dark Souls series, placed it all within a gothic horror backdrop and made the combat just that much quicker and bloodier. The result? Bloodborne. The new trailer on display for the upcoming action RPG featured some intense battles that featured well-equipped co-op partners. The mentioning of a playable, never-ending dungeon got us pretty hyped for this one.

3. No Man’s Sky

So Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky is big. Like, really friggin’ ginormous. Want proof? Take a gander at all the different planets you’ll come upon as you explore this game’s massive universe. The sci-fi nut inside of us felt so much shock and awe at the sight of all the different looking landscapes we could explore. This game is innovative and we can’t wait to test out its fresh take on planetary exploration in 2015.

2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

We knew we were going to see some sort of trailer alluding to the continued development of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. We just weren’t expecting to watch a 15-minute long live demo of it. As far as video game press conferences go, this intro was one of the best. Watching Nathan Drake run, jump shoot, sneak and grapple looked amazing in motion. That new grappling hook mechanic was cool as all hell. Ignore the Drake death glitch and enjoy the gameplay!

1. Street Fighter V

Yeah, we totally saw the leaked trailer for this huge reveal. But the official PlayStation Experience reveal was nothing short of mesmerizing. The next-gen overhauls of Street Fighter’s Ryu and Chun-Li were incredible to watch during this extended fight scene. We came away from this demonstration thoroughly impressed. The flashy air combos, environmental interaction and powerful new moves has us ready for the next generation of Street Fighter.


 Images: Sony Computer Entertainment America

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix: A Updated Reminder of Kingdom Hearts’ Greatness

The Kingdom Hearts fanbase has every reason to be joyful once again. 2013’s HD 1.5 Remix bundled up the original Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories and a cinematic presentation of the story for 358/2 Days. That particular collection was worth investing hours of playtime into again, due to the extra content and upgraded visuals for the first game. The two other additions to that package were sort of a letdown due to their own faults, but it was still worth playing through and watching to some extent.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5

This time, Square Enix has brought along another remixed compilation of its most beloved action RPG series – Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix. The package here automatically gets extra points over its predecessor due to the inclusion of its main title – Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix. Fans who have fond memories of this sequel will no doubt fall in love with it all over again. The excellent Keyblade swordplay, an abundant new Disney world to explore, varying Sora battle transformations, and extra dosage of bosses make this the version you need to revisit. It’s easy to see just how superior this game is when compared to the first introduction of Kingdom Hearts. You’ll once again get sucked into Sora’s epic conflict thanks to the wealth of new content on hand.

In this reviewer’s honest opinion, the standout part of this game’s package has to be the former PSP exclusive, Birth By Sleep. This entry immediately feels a million times better since it ditches the PSP control scheme and adopts the DualShock 3 control scheme. Getting access to new analog sticks makes maneuvering around the world and engaging in battles a much simpler and less strenuous affair. You’ll get access to three separate Keyblade warriors and venture through the same locations, but with different scenarios. The settings lose their fresh factor after all three playthroughs, but the battle gameplay is the best of the entire series. Getting access to character specific skills in the heat of battle makes each encounter different and gives you cooler skills to employ. The extra content here must be applauded as well.

Kingdom Hearts 2.5

The RE:coded portion of this collection fits the same mold as 358/2 Days presentation in the 1.5 Remix collection. This 3-hour long FMV sequence is only recommended to hardcore fans. Watching it is a chore for casual fans, so it’s easily the weakest part of the overall package. It’s there for those who want to make sense of the incredibly hard to decipher plot, which deals with Roxas and Organization XIII. You’ll likely pass on siting through all of it though. Some of the other issues of the overall package deal with the occasionally wonky visuals. Sometimes the updated visuals are easy to spot, but it’s even easier to locate the wonky lip-synching and loading textures of environmental structures.

Kingdom Hearts 2.5

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix’s overall package is worth getting thanks to its two upgraded, playable adventures. Ignore the RE:coded movie sequences, deal with the sometimes strange visual hiccups and you’ll feel right at home with this still excellent compilation.


Images: Square Enix

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Review

You probably passed up on Sleeping Dogs upon its 1st launch back in 2012. This super underrated open-world action game set in Hong Kong surprised gamers who played it, due to its tightly written plot, immersive combat system and excellent world. Now that gamers have moved on to the next-generation of consoles, the game’s developer (United Front Games) have done a clean-up job with its much appreciated game.  In 2014, Sleeping Dogs has been given a new lease on life with this Definitive Edition.

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition

This remastered version of the game does a fine job of improving the visuals to an impressive level. The crowded markets, dark alleyways, rambunctious crowds and hot rod’s existing in this game’s version of Hong Kong looks even more detailed. The rough graphical patches of the past-gen version of the game are practically existent. Venturing out into this game’s crime-filled world is a better experience thanks to the 1080p graphical fidelity and much improved textures. The added details of extra traffic and pedestrians is a cool but non-impactful addition, though.

Sleeping Dogs gameplay is still as strong as its initial version. For those who don’t know, you take control of Wei Shen, an undercover police officer who’s looking to take down the most volatile Honk Kong Triads. As you venture throughout this game’s murky underworld, you’ll get involved in multi-man melees as you fight for turf control and drive away rival gangs. The good cop persona of Shen will task you with aiding the police during criminal skirmishes, undercover stings and high-speed chases. For those who love the gang part of Shen’s lifestyle, the abundance of ever-changing missions are ripe with fun and plenty of replayability. Both sides of the law provides equally engaging modes of play.

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition

Along with the excellent main story campaign, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition comes with a host of much-needed extras. The two additional side story campaigns are present here, thankfully. The fantasy filled story campaign and good cop duty fulfillment missions are both fun in their own right. The tight fist to fist gameplay makes these missions and the main story campaign a very entertaining experience. The gunplay doesn’t falter behind the melee combat and the driving aesthetics control much better than some of its open-world gaming peers.  The extra DLC costumes are all present here as well.

While this Definitive Edition is nice to have, it’s notable upgrades honestly doesn’t make this game a worthy second purchase for those who have already played it. The improved visuals and full suite of DLC is fine, but it’s mostly worth checking out for franchise newcomers. The game itself is still a joy. Returning to it with this new re-launch won’t be much of a priority, though.

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition does a great job of making the game’s gritty Hong Kong look even more amazing.  This game’s full package of DLC content is a worthy treat for first time investors, but it isn’t much of an important re-buy for those who have already taken down the Triads.


Images: United Front Games, Square Enix Games

Square Enix to bring Kingdom Hearts back to Playstation

Excuse me as I have the biggest fangirl moment you’ve seen in a while…

Kingdom Hearts

What could cause such a reaction? Well it’s only a game announced at Sony’s E3 press conference that has been a long time coming. “Oh. All this over a game?”, you might say and I’d be inclined to agree except I. Love. This. Game. What game? It’s none other than Disney’s Kingdom Hearts.

When the first Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002, I only picked it up because I’m a fan of Disney characters. I hadn’t really played much of the Final Fantasy series so that aspect of it meant nothing to me. However, within a couple of hours of gameplay, I was hooked. It’s not often I’ll play through a game more than once, and it is rare that I’ll do it more than twice. I have played through that first Kingdom Hearts game at least ten times. Then 2005 rolled around and Kingdom Hearts 2 came out. Back then I thought I’d waited an eternity for that second game. Little did I know that I’d be halfway to my grave before the third full game was announced. Sure there have been quite a few small games released, mostly for Nintendo handhelds, but they haven’t captured the greatness that is the full-blown console version.

Thankfully, it seems as if my wait is finally over…

That’s right, Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally going to be released! Not only that, but Square Enix is putting together the first few games of Kingdom Hearts and re-releasing them for the PS3 in September. NOT ONLY THAT but if you preorder you will get a limited edition artbook.

[quote]How about 24 pages of behind-the-scenes imagery like character renders, promotional artwork and concept artwork from various Disney worlds from previous KINGDOM HEARTS titles like the original KINGDOM HEARTS, KINGDOM HEARTS Re:Chain of Memories, and KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days. — Square Enix[/quote]

I didn’t really need another reason to preorder, but I’m a sucker for behind the scenes stuff and my bookshelf is missing a Kingdom Hearts book.

So if you were looking for a reason to justify purchasing the Playstation4, you’ve got one now. Lest you all think I’m alone in my excitement for this new chapter of a great franchise, the moment people realized what they were actually showing a trailer for, Twitter was one excited Kingdom Hearts tweet after another. It seems there are quite a few of us who’ve been waiting patiently for this day!

Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts

Grizzly Game Review: Sleeping Dogs

Summer is a quiet time for video gamers. With triple-A titles such as Call of Duty and Dishonored not being released until fall, there really isn’t a reason to get excited about summer if you’re a gamer. Of course we have Darksiders 2 which came out earlier this week, but that’s pretty much it.

Or is it?

Sleeping Dogs was also released on Tuesday for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. The game, once went by the name of True Crime: Hong Kong, was under United Front Games’ development before it was dropped by Activision. The publisher of the infamous Call of Duty  franchise decided that doing something different and switching things up are not part of their repertoire, and thus gave up on the title after pooling in a couple of years’ worth of resources and time. Six months after the game’s cancellation, Square Enix purchased the publishing rights to the game. And a year later, the game was released.

So, does the game make you put your dogs to sleep? Wait, that’s a horrible attempt on a pun, like “I’m gonna perform seppuku to express my shame” level of horrible. It doesn’t even make sense. What’s wrong with me?

How about this:
So, will you be playing Sleeping Dogs for a long time? Or will you be watching sleeping dogs online instead?

That’s much better.

Story

The game puts you in the shoes of Wei Shen, a detective working for San Francisco Police Department. He was seconded (or “lent”) to the Hong Kong police to help investigate a triad known as Sun On Yee. Wei was born and raised in Hong Kong for most of his childhood, and has some connections to triad members in the city. These factors make him a seemingly perfect candidate for undercover work in the gang. So, Wei is assigned a handler and his journey on the fine line between black and white begins.

Yea, we have all heard that story before.

Plot-wise, the game is fairly predictable. The characters range from the good-guy-who-turns-out-to-be-the-big-bad to the asshole-who-turns-out-to-be-cool-cat. You know, the usual stuff. Of course, there are also the dialogues practically made out of cheese:

Handler: I’m shutting the operation down because you can’t handle the stress
Wei: You can’t do it now! They see me as one of them. We’re so close!
Handler: That’s what I’m worried about – you’re one of them.

Obviously, we also have the melodramatic sequences in which the protagonist is not sure of his identity. You know, sound bites of characters from both sides of the law playing in the protagonist’s mind as he drives in the rain to confront a major antagonist and sad music about being lost or something like that playing in the background. It’s pretty much a basic requisite for any form of entertainment that involves police working undercover.

Despite of the story’s predictability and cringe-worthiness, I find it, strangely, enjoyable (though not by any means good). How the journey unfolds feels right, and most of the characters are fairly likable. Characters complement each other very well even though they’re molded straight from the cookie cutters of movies or TV shows dealing with Asian gangs. In this case, they picked the right cookie cutters and baked good cookies. They’re nothing mind-blowing, but they are very solid. The story flows well and is satisfying. Like a well-made sponge cake, it is nothing to be excited about, but you’ll eat it. It’s relatively bland compared to other cakes, but at the very least, it will meet your expectations since there aren’t too many things that could go wrong in a sponge cake. In non-food-analogy terms, the game tells an average story. Since the story is pretty easy to execute, and the writers delivered a solid performance, there aren’t too many flaws to be found in the end product. Your low expectations are easily met.

I still don’t understand the title though. Just thinking about it is wrinkling my brain.

(Note: Per TV Tropes. the title is based on the proverb “Let sleeping dogs lie”. It should be interpreted as “leave something alone as it may cause trouble”.  I still don’t get it though. Does that mean the protagonist should have left his past alone? Whatever. I’m done with this.)

7 grizzly paws out of 10.

Gameplay

Throughout the game, you will be completing around 30+ story missions. There aren’t too many varieties among missions. Most of them feature the player getting from point A to point B in a car, kick some asses, chase someone down on foot, and maybe pick up a gun and shoot some people. They’re fun, but not revolutionary. Early story missions introduced side quests. More on that later.

As far gameplay mechanics go, they are pretty well-done. The cars feel grippy, and are fun to drive. The devs did a great job in creating the sense of speed. Driving down the highway has never been more satisfying. Cars have different handlings. You can tell the difference between driving a van and a coupe. I did not like the motorcycles though. Their handling is not agile enough for me to pick them over cars. You can hop from one car to another as you drive, performing a mid-air high jack of sorts. Personally, I didn’t care for this feature. The cars you purchase from merchants are much faster than civilian cars anyways.

The shooting mechanics are so-so. They’re just there because open world games set in modern times need guns. You have a reticle and you shoot people. There are pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers.  That’s pretty much it. They don’t feel all that different. You can get into slow motion if you hit X (on the PS3 controller) as you vault over cover. That’s generally how I eliminate the baddies. Bullet time is somewhat over-powering if you ask me. A skilled player can take out quite a number of hostiles in one use.

The fighting mechanics, however, are other-worldly. Picture Batman: Arkham Asylum’s system on steroids.  Unlike Arkham Asylum, you can grapple your enemies in this game, and you need to hit a different button to counter enemy attacks. You can’t chain up insane combos in this game like you can in Batman, but I would take the melee combat system in this title over the other. Why? The combat in Sleeping Dogs is very fluid and much more brutal. You have the usual melee weapons as well. Most importantly, you can use the environment to your advantage. Grappling your enemy and hauling his ass into the spinning blades of a fan cannot be more satisfying. Or drop a car engine on him if you feel like it. Hell, you can throw him off a building if given a chance. It has the hands down most awesome hand-to-hand combat in open world games.

The parkour style on-foot chases are decent. Basically, you hold down the X button to run, and when the screen prompts you to vault or climb, hit the X button. It’s not Assassin’s creed though, since you can only climb low walls. It’s not like you can get to the top of a 10-storey building by just climbing up the side of said-building.  The pursuits are fun due to the diversity in environments. Running through the crowded night market of Hong Kong chasing after a gangster is pretty mesmerizing.

When it comes to side quests, the game offers a decent amount of those. Obviously, there are the usual street races, which are fun because they’re short and the driving mechanics are great. There are also the random encounters, which are diverse in objectives, though most of them follow a similar structure – the usual get to a certain point, do some stuff, and get paid. You may also pursue a romance if you so desire. Romantic interests appear as contacts on your phone after certain missions. You can invite them out for a date. Afterwards, you’ll receive some sort of reward. Most of them reveal the locations of hidden items on the map. These relationships are incredibly shallow since you won’t be able to contact them anymore after that one date (and in some cases, not see them ever again throughout the story). I have no idea why the devs were bothered enough to include this feature.

Speaking of hidden items, there are different types of those. There are health shrines, which boost 10% of your health for every five you find. You can also look for lock boxes, which grant you a generous sum of cash, or clothing items, or even a firearm. You are also asked to keep an eye out for security cameras. These cameras are located all across town and you’re asked to hack them on location. Hacking them will lead to potential drug busts. There are also statues which you can keep an eye out for during missions. These statues, when brought back to the wushu academy, can give you new fighting abilities. The rewards are immediate and adequate enough for you to actively seek out for them.

The critics are in love with the leveling up. To me, it just seems like a no-brainer. You have the cop XP and the thug XP. The former requires you to drive carefully throughout missions and not harm innocent civilians. The latter asks for you to be brutal towards your foes. (Perform an environment attack for example.) They do not contradict each other. There is the face meter as well, which keeps track of your progress on side missions. The more side missions you complete, the more you progress on your face meter. For each level of face you gain, you will unlock perks such as reduced prices of clothes and cars.

Customization options are limited to clothes. Wearing different sets grant you different perks as well. Some increase your XP and some reduce the price of cars. You can also purchase cars from merchants. They are generally faster than the generic civilian transport. Either case, there is nothing too special about them.

Powerups are available in food stalls. Different types of food grant you different temporary abilities. Consuming a can of energy drink will enhance your melee damage whereas eating a bowl of curry fishballs will increase your rate of health regeneration. They are readily available at all times, even during missions.

In conclusion, the gameplay is fine. It will last you somewhere over 20 hours. There is nothing innovative, but there are also little wrongdoings. The game is just fun to play. The complaint will be the devs were playing it a little too safe.

7.5 grizzly paws out of 10.

Presentation

Presentation is where this title shines. Having spent the first 16 years of my life in Hong Kong (which is a shit hole if you ask me), I am glad to report that Sleeping Dogs is a fairly accurate portrayal of Hong Kong. The game covered only one of three major areas of Hong Kong and only four of eighteen districts. Despite of these shortcomings, you can clearly tell the devs did their research. There is a balanced mix of eastern and western architectures across the city. Each district has a distinct feel to it and is a good representation of its real life counterpart. The narrow roads on the slopes of Central and the neon lights in North Point brought me a sense of nostalgia. Certainly, street vendors selling food do not happen anymore and the back alleys are much cleaner in reality, but there is no complaint from me. As a matter of fact, their inclusion gives the city an early-90’s feel, when nasty alleys and food carts were everywhere.

Complementing the city’s sights are the sounds. There are many interesting dialogues going on between pedestrians and they are surprisingly good reflections of the current Hong Kong culture. Some of the swear words / phrases are surprisingly explicit (which is a plus in my book). Well, I’m sure most of you don’t understand Cantonese, so this may not be a point of interest to you. Either case, I must applaud the devs for putting in all that hard work in making the city feel authentic.

I must also compliment the voice acting in Sleeping Dogs. The devs somehow managed to involve big time Hollywood actors in the project. Names such as James Hong, Will Yun Lee, Lucy Liu, Tom Wilkinson, Kelly Hu, and even our beloved Emma Stone appear on the credits.  They did a fantastic job in giving lives to the characters they were playing. Sadly, the devs have underused many of these talents. Most of them appeared in no more than a couple of missions only to be ditched and forgotten. For any Emma Stone fans out there, she appeared in only two missions and her character was never mentioned again. Anyways, I must also give credit to the rest of the cast – the ones voicing the nobodies on the streets. They were responsible for making the in-game city alive.

When it comes to soundtrack, the game covered a good number of genres. From Canto pop to Chinese oldies to American hip hop, they have it all. Don’t ask me if I like the Chinese tracks in the game. I listen to English music exclusively. Modern day Canto pop consists of incredibly one-dimensional love songs only. Anyways, the soundtrack doesn’t blow fishes out of water. It’s solid, but it’s also nothing special.

9 grizzly paws out of 10.

With that said…

The game is good. It is nicely executed but lacks in innovation. Without a doubt, it’s much better than its predecessor, True Crime: New York.

7.5 grizzly high fives out of 10

I don’t do round-ups.

Should you buy it?

Not now. As good as the game is, it is not on the level where Square Enix can command 60 bucks. Grand Theft Auto IV was perfection in presentation and Saints Row The Third was creativity at its finest. Certainly, the presentation of Sleeping Dogs is almost on a phenomenal level, but it is not enough to overcome the shortcomings in gameplay.

It’s a good, clean punch but not a knock out.

Rent the game or wait till a price drop (to somewhere under 40 bucks).

Tomb Raider: E3 2012 Trailer Impressions

Before we get to anything Tomb Raider, I wanna take a second to apologize for not giving you a sneak peek of this article two hours before putting it up. It’s completely on me. In order to atone for my mistake, I shall perform a Japanese ritualistic suicide known as seppuku to myself. No, I won’t post pictures; I can, however, describe the scene. Imagine a fat ass teenager cutting his stomach open with all of his intestines oozing out, dying a slow, painful death. Yea, let’s just pretend that actually happened and get this over with. Let’s move on to what you clicked on the article for – my impressions. Here’s the trailer, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

First and foremost, we’re finally getting a release date for this game. This game will hit store shelves in March, 2013. That is a good 8 months away from now. Given how many blockbusters are coming out in fall (such as Hitman, or the 9 millionth Call of Duty game), it seems to be a logical move for Square Enix to push this game to the next fiscal quarter and give Crystal Dynamics more time to polish this game.

Assuming the world doesn’t end in 2012

As I mentioned last time, the game is looking great. This time, we get to see a greater variety of environments and weathers, ranging from dark, gloomy caves, to large, open forests.

This time round, we finally get to watch some more gameplay. Lara Croft can be seen wielding a bow in the picture above, which she would use to kill the deer.

Pictured above: A non-PETA member doing something very anti-PETA

Soon after, Lara can be seen cooking what I would presume to be deer meat. This leads me to wonder if there will be some sort of hunting feature in the game, similar to Metal Gear Solid 3.

Pictured above: A non-PETA member cooking some very anti-PETA food

We also get to see a bunch of cutscenes which I would assume to have incoporated a series of quick time events. The first of such occassion is the wolf attack, and the second being the rape attempt. Personally, I’m not digging these button-smashing features. They cause frustrations, and lead to a decrease in intellectual levels. Furthermore, you know it’s an overused gimmick when you see it in a racing game.

Pictured above: A non-PETA member protecting herself from a PETA-endorsed individual

Men think with their dicks. FACT!

In one  of the cutscenes, Lara Croft communicates with some of her allies. This begs a question: will there be a companion system of some sort? It makes sense for Lara to stick with her pals since they are in the wild, fighting off some people with guns while waiting for help. Interesting…

There is also a sequence later in the trailer which shows Lara sneaking around a burning site (until a guy tries to rape her, as mentioned above). Stealth seems to play a role in the game, and staying quiet and unseen might be important in the game. After all, Lara is stranded on a deserted island, where ammunition sources should be scarce. Plus, it doesn’t help that she’s going up against trained mercenaries.

In addition to the bow and arrows, Lara can also use pistols. The sequence shows her drawing her sidearm in slow-mo and fire a few rounds into the bad guys.

I thought only alcoholic pill-heads can slow down time

There are also melee combats, but we could only catch a glimpse of them. I actually feel there is a good amount of potential in this aspect of the combat system, since she is in the wild and should be able to use whatever nature throws at her. For example, she could try combining a huge rock and a tree branch to make a hammer. I can’t tell if there will be such a mechanic in place from this still.

Last, but not least, we also get to see some platformer action. Nothing much can be told at this moment, except that they seem to require some reflexes. Duh.

I’m disappointed with the complete lack of puzzle-solving in the trailer. I sincerely hope we can see more of that in E3. From what I’ve seen so far, the game is capturing that “fight for survival” tone pretty well. This is certainly looking promising thus far. And before you ask, yes, Tomb Raider will totally piss PETA off, which is a major plus in my book.