Summary: Here we feature the two finalists for the game review writing contest at our AMD Contest Cluster. Feast your eyes on jacobvandy's review of Kane & Lynch, or DiscoBiscuits' review of Unreal Tournament 3 including video!
The first review is by jacobvandy and if you would like to see the media blog and vote for his entry, click here.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Review
Lynch acts as a full-fledged companion-in-crime, accompanying you throughout the game and watching your back. Squad-based combat strategies come into play, as you can order him to follow, attack, and move/defend. He will also exchange inventory items – such as guns and grenades – with you, offer a limited supply of ammo, and revive you if you are downed. The latter is a rather remarkable aspect of the game because instead of outright dying after taking a few too many hits, you will fall to the ground and experience a flashback of sorts, consisting of impactful audio clips from previous scenes in the game. If Lynch or another AI team member can reach you before you bleed out, you will be injected with adrenaline and put back into the fight. This can only happen up to a few times; any attempt to revive you after that limit will result in a deadly overdose. You must be mindful of this in the later levels when reviving squad members quite often, as they are susceptible to the same fate.
One particularly interesting feature is the ability to play through the campaign in a two-player cooperative mode where a friend takes control of Lynch. Originally intended to be played over the internet, it ended up being made into an offline, split-screen game type. While this style of multiplayer sounds like great fun for a console, I imagine it’s not as enjoyable on PC unless you have a significantly larger-than-normal monitor and a gamepad or two. While I have not tried this, I wonder about the implications it would have on Lynch's character development, a major part of the above-average storyline. This is one of those games that genuinely deserves its 'M' rating; dark themes, wanton violence, and enough profanity to make virgin ears bleed combine to solidify its position as a game that ain't for the kiddies. As outrageous and controversial as some may find such content, it soothes my soul to see that some developers are not afraid to cater to mature tastes.
Kane & Lynch makes use of a cover system that adds an interesting dynamic to the Max Payne-style shootouts, giving you the ability to blind-fire and see around corners more easily. Precision aiming from behind cover is the premiere tactic of the game, which isn’t surprising, considering your survival often depends upon its extensive use. This makes it all the more frustrating when you discover how clumsy the implementation is. There is no key to activate the usage of a cover object; instead, you merely move close to one and you “take cover” automatically. While I am certain it was planned with convenience in mind, this sticky cover system is unreliable. There were times when I was under the impression that I was “taking cover” and attempted to move to the other side of an object, only to run full-speed into a slew of bullets. Even when I was properly covered, using the aim button to peek around the corner often resulted in shooting the object I was “taking cover” behind. At that point, you’ve exposed yourself to fire without the benefit of being able to return it efficiently.
Visually, Kane & Lynch is no slouch. Environments range from urban Tokyo to the jungles of Havana, and they don’t look half bad. Interiors are very detailed and it doesn’t really matter what the exteriors look like when the overactive depth of field effect blurs just about everything anyway. Character models and textures are very crisp, however, which are probably the most important in a fast-action game where you aren’t particularly interested in immersive surroundings. Destructible environments are loads of fun and the dynamic decals, namely bullet wounds, look especially good, even though they show up in funny places like a sweater hood or duffel bag. The minimalist HUD is refreshing, though I wish you could bring up the radar while moving or pin it to the top corner of the screen. Overall, the graphics are not spectacular, but on the bright side, all high settings with some AA and AF is very playable on an X1900XT.
Something that I really enjoyed was the pure volume of neutral NPCs in each level. An early sequence in a night club touted literally hundreds of patrons on the dance floors, all ready to panic at the first gunshot. It is entirely possible to creep stealthily through the dark crowd, avoiding the flashlight-carrying guards, as you make your way to the back office. Innocent bodies inevitably drop when the firefights break out... You can choose to be careful if you were so inclined. On the topic of stealth, melee kills are achieved with Kane's signature knuckle-mounted blade. I was disappointed that you are not able to finish off wounded enemies, writhing and moaning on the ground, in this manner.
The Good: engrossing storyline, rather enjoyable gunplay, squad commands, destructible environments, Lynch's retorts
The Bad: online co-op fell through, average graphics, flawed cover system, overzealous use of depth of field
The Verdict: 78%
A Truely "Epic" Game: Unreal Tournament 3 Review
Yeah, that classic Unreal goodness is still present, but where the game really excels is the array of vehicles included. The vehicles have now been separated, faction-wise. There are now Axon and Necris vehicles present, Axon revolving around previous UT2004 vehicles. In total, we’re looking at over 15 vehicles, all unique to their own tastes. The more basic humvees and tanks have been included along with strong, unique Necris vehicles. What’s more intriguing is the Hoverboard included in UT3. Both Vehicle CTF and Warfare allow you to spawn in automatically with this beast, allowing you to just hover around doing tricks and grapple on to faster vehicles in a true “Marty McFly” fashion. And yes, the Manta is back. Vehicle Manslaughters-aplenty, UT3 gives you hours of enjoyment out of crushing noobs with the deadly twin blades of the Manta.
Unreal Tournament 2004’s staple gametype was Onslaught. The community was large, and that’s the game that was being played by most of the game’s owners. Assault was also included, but just seemed weak by itself. Unreal Tournament 3 seems to have taken those two ingredients, and created a whole new gametype referred to as Warfare. New additions to Warfare which Onslaught didn’t have are the addition of unlinked nodes and countdown nodes. Unlinked nodes are pretty much an extra spawn point that players can capture. Countdown nodes, on the other hand, are more important. These nodes trigger events that provide teams with an event or vehicle that makes killing the Power Core possible, or easier in most cases. "Orbs" are also available for each team to carry to a power node, which instantly captures the node, this in turn adds up to a new sense of strategy and planning in comparison to Onslaught.
View Video: The whiplash effect of the Shock Rifle is highly amusing
Warfare is the only new light that Unreal Tournament 3 sees gameplay-wise. But that is what great about the game; UT3 remixes what made the game so much fun. The game is no longer slowed down with weapons like the Shield Gun, and additions like the Hoverboard allow for everyone to move fast across the maps in the game. Classics like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag still retain a fun factor unseen from other fast-paced shooters.
For once, there is a true “campaign” included this time around. Epic Games constantly noted how “50%” of the community never played online. I found this hard to believe, and apparently Epic did, also, as the campaign contributed nothing to the game whatsoever. Take original gametypes of UT3, add in some cutscenes and a weak revenge story, and you’ve got the campaign of UT3. The campaign definitely wins no points for innovation, but it is a nice introduction and warm up to the gameplay and graphics to come in the multiplayer aspect of UT3. And about the graphics… oh, the graphics.
View Video: Do not stare at the beautiful skyboxes for too long!
We’ve seen what the Unreal Engine 3 could offer through Gears of War early on, but I think everyone knew what the engine’s main predecessor was going to be. When I first loaded up UT3, I checked in on deathmatch, and the classic deathmatch map, Deck 16 (now called Deck.) Every UT has seen remakes of this map more than any other, but this one is really something new. The beauty of the map expands from the hazardous sludge pits to the peak of the map, where a sniper’s nest can be attended. The contrast provided in the maps of UT3 gives not only a next-gen feel, but it just feels absolutely fresh and relieving. The design of the maps is relentless, and I cannot fully enjoy the beauty of it, due to me being limited on a 19” CRT monitor. The game still pleasures my senses to a point beyond what I’ve seen before in any game. Skyboxes, depth of maps, particle effects, everything visual-wise is here and more intact than ever.
Sticking to senses, it’s safe to note that the sounds of Unreal are spot-on. Classic Unreal music has also been re-done along with the maps, and flawlessly might I add. I often find myself turning music off in most first-person shooters, but UT3 really set the bar for music as far as shooters go. Not only are the tracks brilliant, but they also gain momentum and pulse whenever you encounter any action. The bass beat intensifies as you strive on, achieving killing spree after killing spree. Sound effects are gruesome and can arguably be said to be the best of any sci-fi shooter of our time. Devastating shock combo explosions will thrill you to the core of the game, while the ambient effects will chill your spine and set the mood of the maps perfectly. I was expecting Epic to achieve well in this area, but they have excelled beyond my belief.
View Video: Redeemers produce a deadly psychedelic effect.
I’ve had a share of headshots and double kills to this day in Unreal Tournament 3, and I believe it is going to continue through the years to come. Minor gripes and glitches limit the game, but only to a point that you could care less about. Obviously, being shared on consoles this time around, the game feels like it was focused on a console, which is kind of sad considering the reputation Epic Games hold. Needless to say, a patch has already been announced which is going to fix a nice chunk of mishaps the game has had. These include some of the server browser issues, player-height, and other minor problems found on the release.
As you’d expect, Unreal Tournament 3 delivers yet another engrossing shooter which takes place in the Unreal universe. The revamped classic gameplay makes this Unreal Tournament 3 feel fresh regardless of how old the gameplay’s formula is. Superior technology in the game adds on to the gameplay, as this is the most beautiful shooter out right now. Some may say Crysis bests UT3’s graphics easily, but I can only point out the fact that UT3 is about a hundred times faster than Crysis is. Not to mention the game easily scales on older machines, as well as newer ones. This shooter is going to hold it’s shield for years to come. The real coming of Unreal Tournament is going to be the community. Endless replay value comes from a secondary .exe file called “UnrealEd.” Not only is the Editor feely available to anyone who purchases the game, but the Collector’s Edition of the game included a vast amount of tutorials to help start out anyone interested in undertaking the editor. Community drives this game. Killing sprees and double kills will become your future for the next coming years once you purchase this game. New to the series or not, Unreal Tournament 3 needs to be on your hard drive if you enjoy first-person shooters.
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