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Forums > Contributor Zone > Return of the Challange V Results!

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Author: WilltheGreat
Posted: April 30, 2010 (07:01 PM)
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Apparently there were some issues with staff slacking off archiving the original results topic, so at WQ's request I'll now fix their blunder repost them. Lucky I still had them saved on my computer.

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Team EmP
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EmP - Modern Warfare 2

Ben says...

There’s a lot to like about this review. As usual, you do a great job at vividly painting the picture. The snow level made me reminisce about the first time I played through it. More importantly, though, it provides a solid base to build on for the rest of your review. You continually expand this topic of “it’s a video game and nothing more” and your second level example, one of the America ones, goes one further and explains why it’s such a compelling one despite its ambitions. It’s only natural that you touch on the No Russian mission, and I like how you remain consistent and critique it like you did with the other two. There are a few nitpicks, some detracting from the quality of the review more than others. “Hanger” should be spelt “hangar”, and the one-liner felt a little overdramatic given that your error in judgment in the mission shouldn’t really be the focal point here.

I’m a little ambivalent on a couple of exaggerated phrases—specifically “spot me from across the base” and “plough AK47 bullets into my face”. I get that you wanted to emphasize your point more, but it’s not a truly accurate representation of what happens when things go south. Finally, I can see why you chose keep the multiplayer section brief, but a few things bothered me about it. You mention “deathmatches”, but there is a plethora of game modes online, many of which are objective-based, which contributes to its immense popularity. Also, the “infinitely customisable” phrase is a bit misleading, making me wonder further if you actually touched the multiplayer for more than half an hour. I think completely omitting the online component wouldn’t have been a bad choice, as your review is primarily meant to be a discussion on how well Modern Warfare 2 fares when considering Infinity Ward’s ambition and how well Modern Warfare 2 fares when treated like a typical video game. The discussion itself, however, was a successful one. 80

Masters says...

The language here is employed in typically clever and original fashion. The thesis is brilliantly set out:

" It’s a step too far; pregnant with ambition though it might be, it’s a merciful failure. If their darling scenario was to succeed, the sacrifices made to the overall picture would be catastrophic -- it would be a video game trying its level best not to be a video game. Shortly thereafter, the evil of man is relegated to the backburner where it belongs so you can get on with shooting people before they shoot you.... When it’s not trying to congratulate itself on the supposed brilliance of its subtext, Modern Warfare 2 remains one of the tightest titles on the market."

The only drawback (besides the occasional typo and grammatical mishap) is the weight the negative thrust the thesis is given. The initial example cited makes the game sound dumb, and perhaps not enough time is given to countering that with talk of the game's excellence.

Of course that being said, I recognize that this review was far from the first posted on HG for this game, and so much gushing had already gone on. Still, the review leans too heavily toward the negative, telling me, "MW2's unrealistic and kind of silly, but it's a pretty good shooter", which does not to my mind, a 9 make.

Irony of all ironies: I give this review a 90.

Will says...

Normally I'm a big fan of your narrative style, Sir EmP (and I'm not just saying that because I fear for my life), but this piece I don't find particularly enthralling. It's smooth in some places, but heavy and difficult to follow in others. I feel like there's a lot of dead weight here, too many unnecessary words and needless clauses. Let me give you an example:

The battlefield is awash with the burning husks of cars, the scars on the concrete left by the raining death of what’s little more than a floating missile platform you can abuse to wipe out large bodies of hostiles, and the constant illumination of muzzle flashes and grenade blasts.

Ugh. Honestly, that was my first thought when I got to this sentence. This piece is in dire need of pruning, because underneath all the excess verbiage is a clear picture of MW2 and what EmP thinks of it. Streamline it, and that picture comes into focus. But then gets smacked in the face by that last paragraph. MW2 may be one of the tightest FPS titles on the market, but when you've spent about half the review railing on its shortcomings it takes more than a few words to the effect of "nevermind all of that" to recover and score it a 9/10. The overall experience may be worthy of that 90%, but you'll have to do a little more than just say so to compensate for the negative tone up to that point.

"Well, the single-player is the length of a sneeze, you have to rely on AI teammates to get anything done, IW is trying really hard to be pretentious twats while you're busy getting shot at, and oh yeah, there's quicktime events. But don't worry, it's still a great game."

Doesn't really work for me.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Narrative style
+ Amusing anecdotes
- Really freakin' wordy
- Score/tone mismatch
+ Bribery, fear for personal safety
SCORE
78
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Dragoon of Infinity - Tatsunoko vs Capcom

Ben says...

Good first impressions—I appreciate reviews that quickly get to the point. In this case, you describe the appeal of team fighters. The way you present the core mechanics of the game is particularly pleasing. It could be seen as an introduction to newer players who know little about this niche, and it could be seen as reassuring veterans that a lot of the stuff will be familiar to them. This generally continues for the rest of the piece. You explain a lot of the key points well, and there aren’t any major flaws, at least in my opinion. You successfully convince me that the giant characters aren’t overpowered and aren’t just cheap gimmicks, and you say how the game can be fun for novices and masters. This is a rather concise yet informative review, but not one without some negatives for me to make.

My biggest disappointment is the lack of names when discussing the roster. Are Capcom’s characters the same as those in MvC2? Are the fan favourites still in there? Are there are other new and interesting picks aside from Frank West? I know balance is most important in a fighter, but surely the roster itself is a major selling point for TvC? On the other hand, you freely admit that you didn’t care much about the Tatsunoko characters initially, which is fair enough. I certainly don’t expect much about that side of the roster, so I think what you’ve written about Tatsunoko is sufficient enough. I’m quite surprised that you put the visuals paragraph ahead of the movelist, because the movelist is one of the key components of a fighter. It’s not a huge complaint, but it’s one that made me pause and think about it for a few seconds. And some of the wording in a few places could have been better. For example, there is an overuse of “serious” at one point—three times in two sentences. Overall, a solid review, though. 77

Masters says...

The lack of confidence shows itself from the onset: "always kind of been the premier name"? Really? The following sentence doesn't tell me much of anything: "There are plenty of other games, each with their own merits that make them debatably better or worse." And the third sentence to close out the paragraph seems to contradict the first: after all, isn't a 'team fighter' a type of 'fighting game'?

Rocky opening aside, the next paragraph does a lot to showcase the writer's expertise, but for many it may come too late.

It's smooth sailing again until this line: "The roster feels well rounded even though it's much smaller than precursor Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and the smaller roster size makes every character feel a little more unique simply because there's less to differentiate." I know what you mean, but it doesn't sound right.

Later, "As per usual, Capcom's is a serious giant robot designed to seriously survive the seriousness that is a frigid wasteland planet..." A serious giant robot designed to seriously survive...?!

Aside from the above, the review reads competently, if mechanically. 73

Will says...

I came away from this review thinking "Oh, so it's like Marvel vs Capcom but with somebody else instead of Marvel". This is problematic since you seem to be trying to convince me that it's unique and groundbreaking.

Gonna have to disagree with you there. Tag-teaming characters? Swapping in and out for combos and specials? Shared energy meters? This stuff was new and interesting when X-Men vs Street Fighter was the hot new game in the arcade down the street. You're correct, though, in that the game's biggest strength is its roster. The reason you're correct is that this is true for any fighting game.

Basically, this review tells me about the modern Fighting Game and little about T vs C specifically. Either that's your fault (bear with me here), for not talking enough about the game's unique points, or it's the game's fault for not being very unique - and if the latter, then this needs to be rewritten to talk less about how this game stands out from the crowd and more about how it doesn't need to. A roster assembled from different IPs and two-slot "giant" characters are not exactly revolutionary. But neither do they need to be for this to be an 8/10. The strongest paragraph here is the fourth, where you talk a bit about some of the characters and what makes them special; in a game like this, that is what you should be talking about. The mechanics of the fighting genre haven't really changed in the last fifteen years, it's the characters that make or break it. So don't spend so much time talking about mechanics.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Stickin' to your guns
+ Clear, concise DoI writing
- ...arguing the wrong point
SCORE
70
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Darketernal - Ninja Blade

Ben says...

You open by trying to make me relate to your thoughts. It’s a nice idea, but unfortunately it backfires. Ninjas aren’t really my thing, and I’ve never entertained the idea of being one. This makes the entire first paragraph and the one-liner (I’m not entirely sure why that sentence deserved a paragraph of its own) obsolete, as you’re explaining why you think ninjas are awesome as if I agree with you. I don’t, I’m afraid. The second sentence is also a fragment without much reason to be. I would have much preferred it if you went straight to the point and started with the third paragraph (you forgot to pluralise “ninja” late in the paragraph). “Ninja Blade is like Ninja Gaiden or God of War!” That gets my interest much faster than the whole ‘ninjas’ thing.

The rest isn’t bad, though. It slowly picks up steam when you start talking about the story, but it really hits its stride when discussing how the game actually plays. You write with plenty of enthusiasm and personality that it becomes fun to read. I personally feel that quick-time events aren’t a bad thing if they are executed well, but you convincingly get the point across that in Ninja Blade, they are a detriment. Unfortunately, while it does seem there is an unnecessary amount of focus on QTEs in the game, I wish you could have elaborated more on the combat itself. I’m sure you don’t spend the whole duration of your playthrough pushing buttons in QTEs (otherwise you’d be scoring it closer to a 3, surely). I played the demo a while back, and it seemed like the combat is a big enough presence to warrant going into more detail. For example, I’d like to know how your character gets stronger as you progress through the game. Maybe talk more about the magic system. While it does end up being an enjoyable read, by the end I still don’t feel like I know enough about Ninja Blade to decide if it’s really for me or not. I could have also done without the last line, but you probably already knew that once you found out I disliked the ‘ninja’ intro. 60

Masters says...

The opening line made me laugh, but was regrettably followed up with a line that is not actually a sentence.

After that, I liked the "low life scum" and "but mainly swords" bits most of all, but there are many funny parts to choose from.

I especially like it when a reviewer is able to sum up his feelings so that the reader is not unsure of what is being communicated, and DE does it very succinctly, and in his trademark irreverent fashion: " If you yearn for a game with a supernatural twist to it that has cheesy, but great, action scenes in which you do little to participate, then this game is great."

Besides the beginning and a few questionable word choices, I quite liked this one. 85

Will says...

Well...you've done a good job convincing me this is a pretty bad game. And I love a good bash of quicktime-heavy "games". It sounds like Devil May Cry with less restraint, and makes me want to write a blog post about the difference between good over-the-top and bad over-the-top.

Philosophy of game design aside, I haven't a lot to say about this piece. I like it, it doesn't play around. Ninja Blade is clearly a bad game, and there's not much more needs to be said to demonstrate why. That, and I like the dry wit sprinkled about.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Bash review
+ Dry wit
SCORE
80
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Wolfqueen - Plants vs Zombies

Ben says...

I’m reading my final Team EmP review, and this is the third that uses a one-liner near the start. Like the other two, I don’t think it adds much and hampers the initial flow. I like the review, though. It doesn’t try anything fancy, and gives a straightforward yet effective summary and critique of the game. I found it hard to visualise what Plants vs. Zombies looked like when you were describing the basics—I had to scroll down to see a few screenshots on the same page—so there’s room for improvement there, but I enjoyed reading all these varied strategies and learning that you’re only scratching the surface of it all when you talk about how things get even more complicated as you progress. You make the core game sound fun yet challenging; in fact, you’re starting to tempt me to actually try it for myself.

It’s also nice that there’s a lot in here about the extras, and you convey the variety very well. It seems like you get plenty of value for your money. The slight problem I found with the second half, though, is that you spent too much time on these extras. They take up as much space as the main adventure mode in the review. Does that mean the extras overshadow the main part of the game? I get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the extras are the best part. That said, by the time I got to the penultimate paragraph, I wasn’t really interested in learning about the specifics of Survival Endless mode, because I felt I had a good sense of the range of extras out there already from your previous two paragraphs. Then, that spills over to the conclusion when you go into even more detail about the strategies surrounding this one single bonus mode that I’m not too fussed about. It rambles on for a bit, and at this point, I lost interest. The final few lines, however, partially redeem this and deliver a strong finish. 75

Masters says...

WQ hits a home run with her intro paragraph. But then she delves into the game's 'basics', without telling us what kind of game we're playing -- that is to say, without painting a picture of gameplay first. I found it particularly jarring, and had to check out the screenshots before returning to the text.

WQ's writing continues to shine insofar as her 'way with words'; however, I find that the review struggles to communicate its ideas clearly. The review felt absolutely jammed with scenarios, weapons, problems, contingencies, solutions. Despite the fact that she likely touched on much of what the game offers and what can be accomplished playing the game, I didn't get a clear sense of how the game is played, much less what makes it good.

I'm reminded of what Zigfriend once remarked in a reviewer chat: sometimes too much information is none at all, because a reader can't process your jumbled mind's attempt to re-create a million things that go on during play. Sometimes you should pick a few strong examples of how it is to play the game and run with those. 75

Will says...

Bonus points right off the bat for picking a bizarre game.

For such a quirky and interesting game, WQ, this review feels kind of dry and formulaic. It lacks the energy of some of your other pieces that I liked. The writing is clear and transitions smooth, but it just lacks soul, like you aren't really interested in it. And if you're not interested in the game, I come away from the review thinking the game isn't that interesting.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Technically sound
+ Bizzare game
- Lacking energy
SCORE
75
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Another Team
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Overdrive - Fire Emblem

Ben says...

As someone who has played both Fire Emblem and The Sacred Stones on the GameBoy Advance and enjoying both of those games, I was intrigued to know what you thought of a much older game of the series. I honestly don’t have much to complain about. Your review seems to be written for people like me in mind. My assumption would be that anyone not exposed to Fire Emblem might have a tougher time reading to the end, but I very much appreciated that you often referred back to the more modern Fire Emblems. It gives me a very good idea on how Monshou on Nazo stands up to today’s standards.

Of course, the approach is nothing if what you’ve written is an incoherent mess. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Examples you give can be easily followed and visualised, and by explaining how much dumbed down weapons and spells are and thus how similar most of the characters are, you’re very convincing when you say the game is more luck-based—which isn’t a good thing especially when the penalty is so high. That, among a few other strong points, makes it clear that the game is outdated and just not as fun. If there is one thing I have to moan about, it’s probably going to be how you dismiss stories in turn-based strategies as pretty irrelevant and usually “little more than bridging the gap between one large-scale battle and the next”. With a series like Fire Emblem, where the unique feature is that you can lose your characters permanently, a good story and dialogue can help personify the cast. When I played through the GBA titles, there were characters I cared more about than others, and I tended to be more protective of them just so I could keep using them, despite their maybe lower stats. Really, this is more of a disagreement than anything else. Other than that, super review—my pick of the contest. 93

Masters says...

OD's review is in stark contrast to WQ's in that he tackles a difficult to explain thesis, and through exceptionally clear (though NOT flowery) writing, manages to make us understand where he's coming from. Not at all easy, especially when his dusty old RPGs are going to seem boring to most gamers -- all but the intended niche market, I would think. I have zero interest in the subject matter, but I was able to connect the dots because of OD's uncanny ability to make complex analysis and flow seem natural. That said, the review isn't exciting by any means, but that's because the game isn't -- and he's giving it a middle-of-the-road score. Again: very challenging material, but ultimately lacking of the stuff necessary to make a big splash in a review contest. 88

Will says...

I'm undecided on these first two paragraphs; they don't say much about this game, and they come off kind of pretentious. It may be that some context is necessary to fully appreciate the game, but if that's true then I'd count it a failing.

In fact, the overall tone of this review is geared toward an audience already familiar with Fire Emblem, and as someone who's never even touched a copy I'm immediately and intensely put off. I'm not seeing any reason here why I, someone who's never picked up a Fire Emblem title before, should want to give this game a try. That having been established, I had a hard time really caring about what you've written. And I'm sure you'll agree that when your audience isn't interested, that's bad.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
- Rambly, superfluous introduction
- No "hook"
- Prerequisite knowledge off-putting
SCORE
65
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Zippdementia - Hello Kitty Party

Ben says...

Hm, I have mixed feelings about this one. Toddlers get amused by the smallest of things. I remember this book I saw years ago, and each page was filled with a particular colour (red, blue, green, etc.). A kid was really fascinated by this book and spent a baffling amount of time flicking through the pages again and again. My point is that I don’t think it’s as simple as you make it out to be by saying all young girls will dislike Hello Kitty Party. The game does sound terrible for me, no doubt about it, but you don’t convince me that it would be terrible for the intended target audience. I can imagine a young child happily slicing vegetables on the DS. They can’t slice veg in real life, and they’ve probably seen their parents cook. This mini-game, despite being really shallow which you rightly point out, could very well appeal to that young child as she pretends to be doing something they wouldn’t normally do. I don’t speak for everyone, but sometimes, playing games is a form of escapism. And I don’t speak for all kids, but at times, some of them like to pretend to be something they’re not. I pretended to be a teacher when I was tiny, for example.

I don’t deny that children might have more fun with more complex games (I spent my first years of gaming playing Mario over and over again), but some don’t want that. My parents like Wii Sports Resort because it’s ridiculously easy to get into. On the other hand, they didn’t like New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Ugh, I’m probably not making a lot of sense. Disagreement is fine, obviously, and your opinion is perfectly valid—I’m coming across as too defensive—but the main issue I have is that you didn’t put your points across well enough to make me think “oh, Zipp has a point”. I like the rest of the review, though. I wasn’t too keen on the mentioning of your friend. It felt like a needless distraction to me, and she didn’t add much to the review, but I don’t have many other complaints. It was well written, and you were bold in choosing a game that was quite clearly not meant for you, for better or for worse. 70

Masters says...

Great lead-in, and I liked this in particular: "Unfortunately, in this case it’s like having your favorite childhood characters feature in a sweat shop." The experience summed up early, and in clever fashion.

And this:

"I didn’t have her skills. The dressing game was my first destination at the party. Being color-blind, I quickly proceeded to make such grievous fashion errors as giving Hello Kitty a red flower when she was wearing a puke-orange dress. The game was only full of praise and encouragement, though, and I am proud to say that I now have stored on my DS pictures that would make the colorists at Sanrio cry out in agony. I was better at the dancing game, which is a little bit like Elite Beat Agents if Elite Beat Agents only featured one character and you had to do something on every eighth beat. I had similar success at the shopping activity, where I had to match three objects to their shadows. This might have been disastrous if not for the fortunate fact that cereal boxes, oranges, and celery are quite distinct."

Very funny stuff.

Zipp has done well to choose a game ripe for the bashing, and he bashes it in a way that is funny, but still level-headed -- which I respect a great deal. It's all too easy to make great departures from the task of actually reviewing and stray outside the boundaries of good taste in a self-indulgent "watch me rip this stoopid game" kind of way. Zipp shows some restraint and scores big time. 92

Will says...

You are a brave soul, sir. Your introduction catches my interest almost immediately, and it's easy to follow through the rest of the piece. Also, this is another pretty terrible-sounding game, and like I said before I love classy bash reviews. I wonder what that says about me...

Psychological analysis aside, I like this review mostly for its wit - especially that line near the end about choking hazards. A 1/10 takes a fair bit of explanation, and you've clearly demonstrated why Hello Kitty Party is deserving of such an abysmal score.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Taking the piss out of a terribad game
+ Choking hazard
SCORE
85
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Aschultz - Dark Heart of Uukrul

Ben says...

I got the impression that you rushed writing this review a little, because there were quite a few typos and small things that I’m sure you would have noticed if the review was proofread a bit more. Some errors include “immortailty”, “nasty combats”, “your fighter, paladin, priest and wizard’s attributes” (should be “or” if you’re referring to your one created character, unless you’re saying that the game allows you to create one of each kind for your party, which in that case, the review should have been a little clearer about the party itself), “Thi is certainly not…”, “range enemies”, “figure out obvious strategy”, and “casts and endgame spell”. There are more scattered throughout. I also didn’t feel some things were explained to me clearly enough, and I sometimes struggled to visualise how the game played. The combat system is the most obvious example that comes to my mind. I hope I don’t sound stupid, but I don’t understand how the combat works based on your description of it. “Enemies scuttle around on a top-down grid laid out like the corridor being explored, and then everyone attacks.” What do you mean by “laid out like the corridor being explored”? When you say “and then everyone attacks”, are you saying your party and all enemies attack at precisely the same time? So it’s real-time and not turn-based combat?

Maybe the review should have discussed more about why the combat was so brutal and more about the variety of enemies. You mention that ranged enemies can deal poison, but that point was tacked onto the end of a paragraph, slightly out of place and as an afterthought. It’s not the most accessible review, either. I knew nothing about DHoU before reading your entry, so when you mentioned the “stone ring” and “enclaves” without much explanation, I got a little lost and confused. It doesn’t help that the review jumps all over the place. The penultimate paragraph starts with saying the combat looks ugly, but then the next two sentences casually mention that shopkeepers get annoyed when asked to re-forge over and over again. It’s a neat thing to know; it’s just not relevant to the current topic. The unpolished feel to the review throughout hurts it, which I’m slightly bummed about because you’ve chosen an interesting game to talk about. It doesn’t sound all that fun to me personally, but I get occasional glimpses of why some people, like yourself for instance, would really enjoy DHoU. 50

Masters says...

Schultz continues to show off his knowledge of dusty PC RPG's with this contest entry. Unfortunately, I'm confused from the onset:

"He's scattered eight stone pieces of his heart through the city to gain immortailty. The good news? You only need to find six, and a hammer, to challenge and defeat him. The bad? There's a reason you're given two passes. That, plus some nasty combats, shows up Wizardry and the AD&D series as the FPRPG equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure. DHoU fools the player, but for the better."

I took this to mean that bad news is fighting can suck, and the game is the epitome of choose your own adventure randomness. And then: the game fools us, but it's a good thing? I am completely lost at this point, and it's so early on.

I'm further confounded by this:

"DHoU emphasizes brutal efficiency in finding critical fights just to survive. Early, it's worthwhile to run through twice from the latest sanctuary--a checkpoint that recharges a party on first visit and allows a backup save or teleports to earlier checkpoints. I didn't notice this with my first few tries, making DHoU's auto-saving during a fight or death seem nightmarish. That, and DHoU used a checksum on save files."

Finding critical fights just to survive? What does that mean? The following bits seem afterthought-ish, assumptive, and fragmentary. I think this passage illustrates the issue I had throughout the work, which is that too many thoughts were introduced, and most were not given enough room to be explained because their introduction was jammed up beside another thought. All of this might be fine for the niche fan of genre, but to the uninitiated, it was a difficult read despite the obvious knowledge and writing ability of the author. A shame: 70

Will says...

I like the tone and pace of this piece early on, but halfway through it starts to drag. That paragraph about maps and mazes kills all the momentum you've built up to that point, and the review never really recovers. Which is a shame, because this seems like a charming title.

Also, some bits are not as clear as they could be. I have a sort of vague, hazy notion of how combat and exploration and character generation work, but if it weren't for those screenshots in the sidebar I'd be pretty confused.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Momentum :)
- Slog :(
- Not enough description
SCORE
70
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Suskie - Bioshock 2

Ben says...

I’ve not played BioShock 1 or 2, apart from the demo of the first, so I never really understood the criticism towards the Vita Chambers. I thought people were being whiny for no reason. It turns out that I’ve just never read a good explanation. I still don’t think I’d mind the Vita Chambers if I were playing myself, but your review made it abundantly clear how they could potentially ruin the experience for others. I appreciated that the review immediately gets to the point and tackles a key point instead of dancing around for a bit. The combat also sounds like a pretty important improvement, and I can see how these two combine to make a much more solid and exciting gaming experience. The exploration side, which from what I have read in the past sounded like the biggest draw of the original, does stand out as being significantly worse. The surroundings and the wonder of Rapture are the main reasons I once upon a time briefly considered buying BioShock, and now that the appeal of that is gone slightly, it seems to cancel out the story and ‘game’ improvements for me personally. The deliberate stalling and excuses to prolong the title sounds really irritating. (On the other hand, the answers-stalling in the first game doesn’t sound that bad to me. Then again, I watch Lost.)

Regardless of what conclusions I draw from the review, your own conclusions are consistent and make sense. You make it clear in the opener that you’d rather have a good game than a good “Disneyland ride”, and on those merits, BioShock 2 does seem like an overall improvement. What’s pretty cool about the review as a whole, though, is that I feel I’ve got a decent understanding of how the game plays, and considering I’ve never played the first BioShock aside from the opening hour or so, that’s commendable. Perhaps the biggest negative that really stuck with me was that when you briefly mentioned the new protagonist, Subject Delta, you make it sound like I should be pretty excited about that (“that alone makes you hungry for details”), but I know almost nothing about these ‘Big Daddies’, so that was completely lost on me. What details should I be hungry about? What makes Subject Delta a compelling lead character? Now that I think about it, I kind of wish I knew a little more of the plot. Given that the wonder of Rapture is seemingly gone, I have no issue learning a few details here and there. 85

Masters says...

This is a great review.

This paragraph, in its entirety (well, just about) is probably the truest thing I've read about the game:

"But BioShock 2 still isn’t a great game. It still moves at that awful, plodding pace that plagued the first game, for one. What exactly does 2K have against linear, straightforward level design, where you move from point A to point B, and then to point C, and so on? In BioShock 2, you’ll be led from point A to point B only to find out that you’re actually at point C, and that point B is back in another direction, but as soon as you get there, you’ll discover that the path is blocked until you backtrack to point A.5, and so on and so forth. Your objectives are always simple, but your character is constantly being set back for the most obnoxious reasons, usually only fixable via arbitrary fetch quests."

So true, and so well said. I think the review gets stronger as it goes along, partly because I don't necessarily agree with the emphasis put on the vita-chamber issue and the ease of play in the first game. (Personally, when I died in BioShock 1, I just reloaded my saved game and tried again -- so I didn't use the chambers and didn't even know that I could turn them off, voila!)

Besides that, I'm sold. 94

Will says...

Much as I agree wholeheartedly with your introductory paragraph, I can't help but notice it has little to do with Bioshock 2. In fact much of the review is a comparison to the first game, and since that's what most of the Bioshock 2 reviews do I'm more interested in hearing how it stands on its own. But maybe it doesn't, in which case its failure to do so is something I'd like to see discussed rather than danced around.

But regardless of my opinions about how sequels should be judged, this is a solid Suskie review, entertaining to read and very informative. It's lengthy, but without being ponderous or hard to get through. In fact, despite my distaste for the first game I find myself wanting to pick up a copy of this and try it out, so Mission Accomplished there.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Reads easy
+ Thorough and detailed
+ Convincing
SCORE
90
________________________

Trio the Inability to Understand the Basic Meaning of Trio
________________________

Zigfried - Enemy Zero

Ben says...

I like this review quite a bit. You approach the game by dissecting it and critiquing each piece, which works extremely well when you’re trying to convey all the things wrong with it. From the surroundings to the enemies, from the combat to the puzzles, from the story to the protagonist, you cover and bash every relevant and important angle for a horror title. You don’t dwell on a point, you don’t overstay your welcome on each paragraph, and you keep moving at a brisk pace, which makes my reading experience more enjoyable. Bringing up Resident Evil and Silent Hill and comparing Enemy Zero to its competition are also smart moves. I liked how you gave a short but vivid description of the way Silent Hlil’s creatures were presented—showing how it was effective and why it was chilling—only to immediately counter that with Enemy Zero takes that idea too far. Having said that, one small question did come to my mind. I understand that invisible enemies can make the combat lame. But, aren’t invisible enemies—not knowing when they will pounce because you can’t see them, and not knowing where the next one is as you continue to walk through a hallway—scary in the slightest? If not, why doesn’t this idea work?

Anyway, the review even contains brief moments of humour that succeed. At first, I thought the shower scene example you brought up was rather pointless in the grand scheme of things and just a cheap gimmick, even though the inclusion of it made me smile. After reading through the review a second time, it was more relevant that I initially gave it credit for, as it is a great example to emphasize why it is hard to take Enemy Zero seriously, despite its genre. I don’t have much else to say, really. It’s a solid and informative yet also entertaining read. I also generally prefer shorter reviews, so the fact that this one doesn’t come close to exceeding 1,000 words only helps its cause. 90

Masters says...

Good ol' Zig. Another obscure game, and another winner. This might be the line of the tournament:

"It's easy to miss when the target is invisible."
Ha! Isn't it though?

Then there's this:
"There's a problem. Laura doesn't speak. When Laura encounters other survivors, they speak at her while she grunts. Laura occasionally gasps upon entering blood-stained rooms. Paying Jill Cunniff to grunt and gasp was a depressingly typical marketing ploy by Saturn-era Sega.

There's another problem. As revealed by fellow pervert staff member Gary, Enemy Zero's hard mode begins with a lurid shower scene. Some people would say that shower scenes make characters feel more human. I would say that Laura's uncanny valley is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen."

I like the repetition, the insight, the calling out of Emp as a pervert, and the term "uncanny valley" -- all about equally.

Zig, as always, is hard to beat. 95

Will says...

What is it with all these weird opening paragraphs? This is about the fifth time in the contest I've started reading a review and been instantly put off by the fact that I have no idea what it's talking about and is only tangentially related to the game in question.

Enough about that. Once we've got the weird opening paragraph out of the way you start actually talking about the game, which I find to be an asset in a review.

Anyway, while I admit my experience with survival horror is limited to System Shock, Half-Life, Dead Space, and Worf's opening levels from DS9: The Fallen, I don't quite follow your logic with regards to invisible enemies. The horror aspect of survival horror is not knowing when the baddies are going to eat your face, right? Banks of fog and shadowy corridors hide the hideous monstrosities from view, but you're always pretty sure they're going to jump out at you once your view is obscured - you're never quite sure when, but you know that behind one of those doors is the Satan's illegitimate offspring waiting to devour your soul.

If the enemies are invisible, it seems to me, then that should heighten that tension, because you'd never know when they were going to attack, and as such, you'd be constantly in anticipation. If that's not the case, if never knowing when invisible monsters are going to feast on your flesh doesn't put you constantly on edge, then you need to explain why that is so I have a better understanding of why invisible enemies are a dumb design choice. Invisible adversaries worked for Alien vs Predator, so why doesn't it work here?

'sides which, everybody who's seen a Hitchcock film knows that the monster you can't see is immeasurably scarier than the monster you can see.

Combat discussion also needs a rethink. You've obviously played Silent Hill, so you know that turning around and fighting the menacing hordes isn't what survival horror should be about. Does Enemy Zero force you to fight, rather than run and hide? I don't know, you don't tell us, and in the absence of that information criticism of combat comes off as though you're picking nits and missing the point.

Still, this is clearly another bad game, so you get the Bash Review Bonus Point.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
- Either poor explanation, or missing the point
+ Bash Review Bonus
+ Sneaky dig at EmP
SCORE
70
________________________

Radicaldreamer - Savage 2 - A Tortured Soul

Ben says...

Unfortunately, you’re at a disadvantage with me, because the last RTS I touched was Age of Empires II. I’m not keen on the genre and I don’t know an awful lot about it, so reading a lengthy review that primarily focuses on the RTS mechanics was pretty boring for me. Your writing is tight and polished, but for half of the review you talk about how the RTS elements play without really stamping your own personality or voicing your own opinion—or doing anything to keep me hooked. The review kind of just goes on about the differences between this game and its predecessor. It is thorough stuff and full of information, no doubt, but it’s not something I can easily appreciate. That said, the whole thing actually gets off to an interesting start by focusing on this hybrid genre, and I was still into it when it briefly talks about Savage: The Battle of Newerth. It’s at around the seventh paragraph where I had to stop myself from skim-reading.

Perhaps a more relevant criticism is that I didn’t get a good sense on how the three sub-genre mechanics merged together. At which point does the RTS gameplay turn into first-person action? Is there any specific time where you’re in first-person? Are you constantly in first-person mode, and do you all the RTS stuff in it? You mention that the game is part-role-playing in the opener, but don’t touch on it again until the penultimate paragraph (and you were pretty vague about it apart from the horrible-sounding relics feature). I got the feeling that the RPG stuff was irrelevant because you delayed talking about it for so long, yet then you say it’s too “invasive”, implying it plays a reasonable part. As a result, now I don’t feel like I know enough. What exactly can gain experience and levels and improve its stats? Does each individual unit have their own RPG-esque stats? How much of an edge do stats give you in battle, and is it vital to level up to win? How do you level up, by killing plenty of enemies or by other means? The review tackles each part distinctly and separately without tying everything together, which is a bit disappointing given that it’s a unique-sounding hybrid game that is being discussed here. 55

Masters says...

Let me start off by saying that Bbobb is clearly a polished writer and analytical thinker. The problem with this style he's been developing is that it smacks of uber-formality which is at odds, in my mind, with discussing a video game. I grant that greats in the past have used a similar heavy style -- Dark Fact, for instance -- but even in that example, Fact regularly used dry wit and colourful examples to give his prose some life and levity. Bbobb's review literally reads like some complex dissertation, and the weight of it is exacerbated by its length.

This passage about sums up the experience: " Instead of mere polish and execution, it demanded conceptual reorganization and rectification of the original's functional complications of genre hybridization."

That's a mouthful, and is, quite frankly, distracting. That being said, I'm sure there are hardcore RTS fans that may crave this sort of in-depth exploration and in this sophisticated fashion -- the risk run was that the judges would be part of that group. 70

Will says...

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record here. These first few paragraphs are well written and easy to read, but they aren't about Savage 2. The review should start five(!!) paragraphs down from the top. At the very least, my intimate familiarity with RTS titles means I'm not instantly off-put by references to TA and SC - though I can see how someone else might be. Also, this sounds a lot like Allegiance, so I have a pretty good sense of how this game plays.

Having said that, I feel as though you're describing Savage 2 from the top perspective, and if I'd never heard of Allegiance I'd have a difficult time understanding how this isn't just another RTS game. Two possibilities: Either you're talking too much about the game from the Commander's perspective and need to discuss what it's like to play at the ground level, or I've completely misunderstood how the game works and you need to describe it better. Whatever the case, Savage 2 is obviously a very difficult title to describe to someone who's never played it. I never thought I'd use these words, but it's possible this game wasn't the best choice for a tourny piece. In either case, this review needs to discuss mechanics like ranged and melee weapons less, and focus more on what it's like to play at every level of the game. It's an easy trap to fall into with RTS games, but this should be a review, not a technical analysis.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
- Difficult to get a picture of how the game plays
- Tricky subject matter
- Too much focus on one aspect, not enough on the other
SCORE
65

Oh, one last thing. Why the hell are you called Bbobb?
________________________

Jason - Heavy Rain

Ben says...

I’m not a fan of the opening two paragraphs. For starters, it’s slightly too esoteric for my liking, and I didn’t need a comparison between yours and everyone else’s reviews, as this is only the second Heavy Rain review I’ve read. The first paragraph in particular doesn’t seem to add much to the review (anything relevant in there is brought up again later on). I was kind of wishing you’d get straight to the point. The third paragraph, with some tweaking, would have been a better place to start, as it would’ve wasted no time in properly introducing Heavy Rain. The one-line sentence doesn’t really need to be emphasized as much as it is. I don’t think it is a huge surprise that the game is not perfect—no game is—so the “share of flaws” line doesn’t strike me as shocking or in desperate need of my attention. I should stop being negative, though, because there were bits that I really liked. You describe a lot of the mechanics really well, from the clunky walking to the actions you have to perform using rather unconventional means for an adventure. When you gave your own view on whether the controls were good or bad, you gave extremely valid points from both sides. I’ve heard a bit about people accidentally doing the wrong thing, but then again, the controls are meant to help immerse you.

Heavy Rain must have been a difficult title to review because you obviously didn’t want to spoil too much about it. This is a bit of a problem when you talk about your disappointment of parts of the plot, because it’s hard to see where you’re coming from if you don’t give one or two decent examples. The kissing scene seems like a really trivial complaint, and I don’t think that really gets your point across the way you want it to. All I can do is take your word for it that some scenes feel a bit silly. I’m also unsure about the review as a whole. For most of it, you focus on its flaws, and though you say you rather enjoyed it, it’s tough to tell. You say at the end that there’s a “lot of stuff here that has been done before” and that you “can’t remember it ever feeling this good”, but I can’t quite piece together why. There’s not enough in here that convinces me why you’re recommending this game, and why you scored it favourably. This is probably the review’s biggest flaw for me. The writing is exceptionally tight as usual, but I don’t come away learning everything that I want to learn. 65

Masters says...

I really like Jason's intro here, and he's got quite a few winners dispersed throughout his review:

"The general feel is that you're playing a classic Resident Evil title and your character is drunk." Love that one.

I'm pointing this next line out neither as a criticism nor as praise:

"Whether you're unfastening a bra or helping a baby gulp down a heated bottle of milk" Hmm.

What I DON'T like, is this line:

"I have a hard time deciding what to think of the controls overall." After you've unequivocally told us the control scheme is clunky, this comes off as wimpy.

"I'm just not sure that I grasp the value in making me feel like a raging drunk when I'm simply trying to walk across a room to check the contents of a desk." I can now safely conclude that Jason was drunk while writing this review.

I like Jason's flow quite a bit in this review. The pacing and choice of words make it as entertaining as anything Mr. Venter has written. The problem I have is his slight issue with consistency. It's as if he wrote stream-of-consciousness style, figured out his main thrust by the end of the review (which is essentially this: "...forgive such shortcomings because they're a natural side effect of innovation.") and forgot to go back and smooth out earlier statements that don't quite jive with the later-discovered epiphany.

Still, it's a good read with a nice intro from the Honest One: 87

Will says...

These first two paragraphs really, really catch me off-guard. And in a very good way. In fact, two sentences in and I'm already hooked, eager to read on and find out what the hell Jason has planned. Maybe because they take a stab at the criteria I write (and judge) reviews on, and in that case I wonder if it'd be as effective on a non-reviewer. But let's not worry about that, because it's very effective on me.

Awkward stumbles and drunken zombie survivors get an early laugh out of me. This I like. I don't see nearly enough humor in the reviews I see on the site, at least not this early on.

But this review's biggest problem is its lack of focus, which is another thing I feel like a broken record saying. You yourself describe Heavy Rain as a story-based game, and then go on to score it 8/10. Fair enough. So why do you spend the majority of the review going on about the controls? The overall tone is negative, and slightly nit-picky.

"Here's a story-heavy game with a deep and emotionally involving plot. But the controls are finicky and annoying, and your character moves around like you're three sheets to the wind, and the controls constantly change so you can accidentally shoot a character in the face if you aren't paying attention. But that's okay, I give it an 80%."

If I didn't know better, I'd say you're missing the point. For a heavily plot-driven game, you hardly spend any time at all talking about the story, and as a result that 8/10 score seems to come out of left field and leaves me thinking "Huh?"

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Brilliantly, clearly written
+ Great hook
+ Use of humor, amusing anecdotes
- Lack of focus
+ Fear of getting banned
SCORE
80
________________________

Janus - Hook Champ

Ben says...

You make Hook Champ sound like a really fun game, and one that I should be playing if I had an iPhone. It is very easy to imagine how it plays from your clear descriptions, and I can understand the charming appeal of its retro look. I have no hesitation in believing you that the game would not work the same or as well on another platform without a touchscreen, and seeing as that’s your biggest praise in the entire review, it was important that you managed to get it right. Your point about Hook Champ modernising its gameplay kind of reminds me of Shadow Complex, in that it too successfully tackled an old genre and brought it to the present day with enough fresh twists.

Just a couple of things: I noticed an “its/it’s” typo about halfway through. I’d also like to learn more about these “traps” and “obstacles”. Since this is presumably where the main challenge lies, a brief discussion about the variety of “clever” obstacles in your way would have been nice. If there’s one thing you don’t quite sell, it’s that Hook Champ is a “stiff challenge”. You use that point to close the review too, so I wish you went into more detail. If you did that, you would have crossed the 90-threshold. A great review otherwise. The fact that I don’t have as much to write about compared to the other entries means I don’t have much to nitpick about, and everything about the review that I didn’t bring up here is fine. 86

Masters says...

Janus's intro is simple and it works. Right away, I think, "that's ME! He's describing ME!" And I get excited. I also like the phrase he coined, "retro-gamer charm offensive".

Another goodie I couldn't help but highlight: "The Russian hat costs three hundred, but apparently it distils an entire country and its culture into the form of a great hat."

Janus writes nearly a perfect review.

My only issue is with this paragraph, which is all-important, and well-written, but...

"I know what you’re thinking: its been done before. Using a rope to swing through a level is an idea that stretches back as far as Pitfall and almost every platformer in existence has copied the premise of being chased or hurried through a level by some malevolent force. Shed the cynicism now. Although Hook Champ borrows elements from the past, this is no tired tribute to old glories. This is a fast and furious adventure that hooks you in and doesn’t let you go until you’ve swung through every cave and stolen every treasure. The core appeal is the rush you feel when you manage to swing elegantly through a level without falling to the ground, evading all the traps and obstructions that the game throws in your path. Of course, this rush soon gives way to panic when you eventually fall to the ground or are slowed by obstacles. Take too long to regain your pace and death becomes inevitable. The ghost never slows down!"

Because Janus is a great writer, he meets our skepticism head-on and does his best to avail our concerns. The last sentence in the paragraph does a lot more than one might think to drive his point home, which seems to be this: simple and old-school as the game may be, it's INTENSE, and the control scheme is TODAY, so it deserves your attention. I think he gets this across, but I believe this paragraph could been just a touch more sublime in achieving it. Still: 96

Will says...

Now that is a catchy opening line. It's short and to the point, and most importantly it has to do with the game.

This is a very light-hearted review, in stark contrast to most of the other submissions in this contest. Reviewing doesn't have to be such Srs Bisnuss. This whole piece is a lot like that opening line: it doesn't waste any time getting its message across, and I come away feeling like I should give this a try. If I had an iPhone. Which I don't. But that's beside the point.

I can't find much to fault this review for. Some might call it sparse, but I disagree. What it is is streamlined, it gets to the point and doesn't mess around. Much like Hook Champ, I gather. In other words, it's an accurate reflection of the game it's discussing.

WILL'S BREAKDOWN
+ Clever hook
+ Excuse to make a bad pun
+ Gets right down to business
SCORE
95
________________________

TEAM RESULTS
As always, lowest score on each team is dropped to determine the team score.
________________________

1st Place:
Team Triofail: Zig, Bbobb, Jason, Janus 764/900

1st Loser 2nd Place
Another Team: OD, Zipp, Schultz, Suskie 762/900

3rd Place
Team EmP: EmP, DoI, DE, WQ 698/900
________________________

INDIVIDUAL SCORES
________________________

01. Janus 277 (86/96/95) avg 92.3
02. Suskie 269 (85/94/90) avg 89.7
03. Zig 255 (90/95/70) avg 85
04. EmP 248 (80/90/78) avg 82.7
05. Zip 247 (70/92/85) avg 82.3
06. OD 246 (93/88/65) avg 82
07. Jason 232 (65/87/80) avg 77.3
08. DE 225 (60/85/80) avg 75
08. WQ 225 (75/75/75) avg 75
09. DoI 220 (77/73/70) avg 73.3
10. Bbobb 190 (55/70/65) avg 63.3
10. Schultz 190 (50/70/70) avg 63.3

________________________

Thanks to everybody for participating, and congrats to the winners.
________________________


You may recall there were some math errors last time around. I've attempted to correct them, but feel free to check my work and berate me for failing at number-crunching.


"Either, sir, you're an ass or you're masquerading as one."
- Nero Wolfe


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Author: Ben
Posted: April 30, 2010 (07:58 PM)
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Will - you are awesome. Thanks!


...


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Author: Halon
Posted: April 30, 2010 (11:47 PM)
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ok, archive should be up to date now. Let me know if anything's missing.

http://sportsman30.webs.com/hgcontests.htm

EDIT: just noticed there's no brevity or bust 3. Whoops


IF YOU WANT MORE BEATS FOR YOUR BUCK THERE'S NO LUCK.


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Author: EmP (Mod)
Posted: May 01, 2010 (04:24 AM)
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And saved.

FOREVER.


For us. For them. For you.


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Author: aschultz
Posted: May 01, 2010 (11:27 AM)
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Rats, I'd hoped my performance had gone down the memory hole. Nice job making sure this wasn't lost!


My principal said, 'Emo, Emo, Emo.'
I said 'I'm the one in the middle, you lousy drunk!'
-- Emo Phillips


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: May 01, 2010 (10:11 PM)
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!@#$! it, Will... this is the unaltered broken version with the wrong final scores! How dare you deliver this half assed bullshit to us? Bend over!


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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Author: wolfqueen001
Posted: May 01, 2010 (10:26 PM)
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Uh... Scores look right to me. He said he'd fixed them when I asked him to post, and they look how I remember them after he fixed them the first time. I remember the error having Suskie in fourth by accident or something like that.

Anyway, thanks again, Will, for getting this up, sportsman for archiving and EmP for saving.


What espiga does in his free time
[Eating EmP's brain] probably isn't a good idea. I mean... He's British, which means his brain's wired for PAL and your eyes are NTSC. - Will


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Author: JANUS2
Posted: May 02, 2010 (02:16 PM)
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Good to see that Jason's Stalinist attempt to airbrush my victory out of history has been foiled!


"fuck yeah oblivion" - Jihad


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Author: WilltheGreat
Posted: May 05, 2010 (04:13 PM)
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Sigh...very well Zipp, I will go over the scores AGAIN to verify them.

UPDATE:

Well I'm not sure how I did it, but I managed to undo a correction of a mistake I'd made after these results were originally posted.

Team scores updated FOR GOOD THIS TIME. Once again final placement is unchanged.


"Either, sir, you're an ass or you're masquerading as one."
- Nero Wolfe


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