The Year of B-Games–Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

What is It? 
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a new first person survival game set in the world of The Walking Dead television series. Players take on the role of Daryl Dixon as he and his brother Merle travel the Georgia countryside trying to survive the initial stages of the zombie outbreak.

Why Does it Make the B-Game List?
Survival Instinct is a licensed game, made on a modest budget and an accelerated development cycle. The game retailed at $50, as opposed to the usual $60 price point. Its current metascore is 32 out of 100 for the XBox 360 platform, which is what I played it on. Since its release, the game has sold about 420,000 copies on all platforms combined.

Why It’s Worth Playing 
Because there are some really interesting ideas at play in Survival Instinct, especially for a first-person zombie game. For starters, the emphasis on stealth as opposed to combat give the game a great sense of atmosphere. Zombies are deadly in this game, particularly if you encounter more than one or two at a time. And ammo is scarce enough that a ‘run and gun’ approach won’t get you very far.

Survival Instinct also features a party management system, where you can send members of your group off on their own side missions to collect gas or supplies. Granted, it’s not very fleshed out, but it adds another layer to the game and it’s simple enough to manage.

The graphics aren’t amazing, but honestly I could care less about that–they do an adequate job of depicting the world, the story and a creepy atmosphere. A lot of the action happens in broad daylight, and there is some nice lighting throughout the game. And the sound design is pretty great in places.

Where Does It Stumble? 
Survival Instinct definitely stumbles in the technical category. There are a lot of invisible walls, the quicktime melee events are frustrating, and the zombie AI is inconsistent, which makes the stealth portions of the game inconsistent. I could never get a good feel for the aggro range of zombies. Weapons don’t have a lot of heft to them, and melee combat is clumsy, as you get into a pattern of shoving a zombie and then trying to gauge when it’s close enough to connect with your weapon. Having played ZombiU and loved it, I was hoping for more from the melee combat in this game.

There are some truly frustrating moments where you get attacked by a horde and the mechanics just don’t hold up to that kind of situation. Your character is not meant to fight a horde, as the zombies are too deadly, yet there are times where it’s unavoidable and leads to death after death. Worse still, the checkpointing system sometimes puts you in a worse situation when you do respawn.

Closing Thoughts
I’m really torn about this game, because while it isn’t a great game, it’s nowhere near as bad as many mainstream gaming sites are making it out to be. I feel like this is a classic case of the game being doomed by critics before it even came out. It also highlights the problems that B-Games face, and one of the reasons that I started this series in the first place. There is simply no place in today’s gaming market for a game like this.

Survival Instinct actually reminds me a lot of Deadly Premonition, as both were very ambitious in a lot of ways, but fell short because they didn’t have the resources to fully realize those ambitions. The big difference is that Deadly Premonition was released at a $20 price point in the US, and it became a cult hit, with people embracing many of its flaws because it offered a unique experience at a very reasonable price. The biggest misfire of Survival Instinct was the $50 price point in my opinion, because it signaled that the game was a budget title, but didn’t offer a low enough price point to justify overlooking its technical failures. If you can find it for under $30, it’s definitely worth checking out.

If you want to hear some behind the scenes about the development of this game, I interviewed Glenn Gamble from Terminal Reality about Survival Instinct right before the game came out. You can check that out here.


I Love Standalone Expansions

After hearing a lot of positive buzz about Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, I was really interested in checking it out. I was pleasantly surprised when I did a little research and saw that I did not need Far Cry 3 in order to play Blood Dragon. And that got me to thinking about the idea of standalone expansions when it comes to console games.

The last dev I can remember really embracing the standalone expansions was Rockstar, both with GTA IV (Lost and the Damned, Ballad of Gay Tony) and Red Dead Redemption (Undead Nightmare). There’s got to be more out there, but my point is that this approach is not very common when it comes to console games.

But it should be. Because I had no intention of picking up Far Cry 3–I really didn’t enjoy Far Cry 2 that much. BUT, if I really dig Blood Dragon, there’s a good chance that I’ll go back and pick up the main game. At the end of the day, I might end up spending $75 on a game series I wasn’t planning on picking up at all.

It’s the low-risk investment in the expansion pack that is my gateway into Far Cry 3. I’m guessing that I’m not alone, and I’d like to see more devs and publishers approach DLC this way. I know that seems counter intuitive, as most games are being designed to discourage trade ins, but I wonder if in the long run, Ubi makes more money on Blood Dragon sales to non-Far Cry 3 players than people who kept the game.

What other franchises have done the standalone expansion thing for consoles?


Return to Demon’s Souls–Part 2: The More the Merrier

Probably the biggest difference in my current playthrough of Demon’s Souls as opposed to the original is my participation in the multiplayer aspects of the game. The first time I played Demon’s Souls, my multiplayer experiences were limited to being invaded by the occasional Black Phantom.

Having spent over 200 hours with Dark Souls (many of them in multiplayer) has really changed my approach to Demon’s Souls this time around, though. Because Demon’s Souls doesn’t have Humanity like Dark Souls, reviving to human form is a little more precious. You do find stones that will revive you to human form, but they’re nowhere near as abundant as Humanity is in Dark Souls. The most consistent way you revive in Demon’s Souls is by beating bosses.

One huge difference between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls is that in Demon’s Souls, if you have the necessary stone, you can revive at any time. In Dark Souls, you can only do this at bonfires. So, in Demon’s Souls, I can battle my way to just before the boss, and then revive and summon another player or two in. In Dark Souls, when I revive, I have to make it from the bonfire to the boss without dying, and if I’ve summoned in other players, they do as well. This is a huge tactical advantage the Demon’s Souls offers over Dark Souls, one of the handful of areas where the original is better than the sequel.

I’m about a third of the way through the game now, and I’ve summoned players in a handful of times, making boss fights much easier. What I’ve done a lot more though, is made myself available for summoning into others’ worlds.

What’s cool about the summoning in Demon’s Souls is that you actually rate the other player after you beat a boss. When someone looks at your summon sign later on, they see how many matches you’ve participated in, and what your rating is. So far, I haven’t seen anyone really abusing this by trolling people with low ratings, and the system is a great way to thank someone for coming in and helping you through a difficult part of the game.

Outside of summoning, I have had my share of invasions so far, and I’ve had some amazing battles. The other day I was invaded in the Shrine of Storms level (luckily I’d cleared out the steel skeletons before that happened), and the ensuing battle was about ten minutes long. We both switched back and forth between spells and weapons, each getting the other near death several times. I ended the battle with a well-timed roll and sword attack, finishing the invader right before they landed a blow that would have taken my last sliver of health. It’s these kind of battles that make the Souls series so memorable.

That brings up another big difference between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls–the ability for summoned or invading players to consistently heal themselves during co-op or PvP. In dark Souls, players have to use Humanity or miracles to heal when summoned or invading–Estus flasks don’t work. In Demon’s Souls, you can use the healing grasses to regenerate health as much as you want. This makes for longer PvP battles, as well as an increased chance that a summoned player will survive a level or boss encounter with you. It’s another area where I prefer Demon’s Souls over Dark Souls.

Next time I’ll be discussing some of my favorite locations in Demon’s Souls, especially the mind-flayer populated Tower of Latria.


Diary of a Monster Hunter–Part 2: The First Parallel

Well, it didn’t take long into my time with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate to see the first strong parallel with the Souls series of games. Much like both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, Monster Hunter is a game that almost requires you to seek outside help in order to understand its systems and maximize your efficiency in terms of game time. Fortunately, there’s an even bigger community built up around the Monster Hunter series than the Souls series, so there’s no shortage of places to look for help when it comes to understanding the game and its systems.

I tried to go it alone, but you basically arrive in a port city to start the game, and then talk to a bunch of people to get the lay of the land. None of those encounters are particularly helpful in terms of making weapon choices, or thinking about how to start shaping your character. Because upgrading things take resources that you must collect (just like the Souls games), I didn’t want to waste any of those resources exploring upgrades paths I would abandon later.

So, after a few quick searches, I found a great tutorial on getting Started in MH3U by YouTube user DMJared. Entitled “The Beginner’s Guide to Monster Hunter,” this series of videos offers a clear introduction to the game, its systems and the world itself. Despite the narrator sounding like he’s doing a bad NPH impression, the videos are very well put together, and are really funny at times as well.

Having watched the series and begun some of my first monster encounters, I feel well informed enough to slog through the first few hours of the game. Much like my time with the Souls series though, I will be gathering and storing resources before I make any final decisions an what gear I’m going to seriously upgrade.

More to come!


The Nintendo 3DS Is Enjoying An Embarrassment of Riches Right Now

After a rough launch two years ago, the Nintendo 3DS has emerged as one of the strongest consoles of this generation and right now, it may be the best console on the market. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but for a console that just launched in 2011, the 3DS had an amazing software lineup, and the next year is looking fantastic as well. In the US alone, the 3DS has sold over 8 million units, which is a better pace than the original DS set in its first two years.

In the past two months, Fire Emblem Awakening (240,000 units in US), Monster Hunter 3D Ultimate and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (415,000 units) have all had strong launches. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is coming in June and will likely be a huge hit on the 3DS as well.

In yesterday’s Nintendo Direct, a slew of new 3DS games, as well as upcoming virtual console releases were announced. Mario Golf: World Tour, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, a new Mario Party, a new Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, the latest Professor Layton, and a sequel to Zelda: Link to the Past, are all planned for release this year.

On the virtual console and eShop front, two Zelda GameBoy games (Oracle of Ages /Oracle of Seasons) are coming in May, three new Level-5 games are on the way and the acclaimed Bravely Default: Flying Fairy from Square Enix is coming later this year. It’s already been a great year for the eShop, with games like Crimson Shroud, Cave Story, Crashmo, and Tokyo Crash Mobs, to name a few. The virtual console offerings are robust as well, especially if you were part of the Ambassador Program. Even in just the last few months, NES gems like Ninja Gaiden and Zelda II have arrived, adding to a huge collection of classics that are already available.

It’s really an amazing time to be a 3DS owner. There is a great balance of classic and new games available for the console, and with gems like Liberation Maiden and Crimson Shroud, well-known developers are flexing their creative muscle with downloadable titles that are a perfect fit for the handheld.

If there’s one negative about how awesome the 3DS is doing right now, it’s that the WiiU’s struggles seem even greater by comparison. If there’s one thing Nintendo proved with the 3DS though, it’s how to recover from a poor start. Let’s hope they learn some lessons from the 3DS soon.


Diary of a Monster Hunter–Part 1: Does This Game Have Soul?

Well, I finally did it–I bought my first Monster Hunter game. Yesterday, I picked up Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for my 3DS XL. After everything I’ve seen and heard about the series over the years, I decided to take the plunge and see what it’s all about.

Mostly though, I picked up this game because it appears to have some similarities to Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, two of my all-time favorites. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that my enjoyment of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will come down to how real those similarities are.

So, from the outsider’s perspective, here’s what I presume the similarities between the series will be:

1. Combat is pattern-based. In the Souls series, every enemy has a tell, and every animation counts. Getting good at combat means knowing when to strike, and exactly how vulnerable a particular attack makes you. Monster Hunter seems to take a similar approach to combat, and that’s very interesting to me.

2. Larger than life bosses. The boss battles in the Souls series are some of the most memorable I’ve had in any game. Monster Hunter to me seems like a game made up almost entirely of boss battles.

3. Building the right gear for the job. One of the best things about the Souls series is that you’re constantly building up your gear and weapons to take on the different threats you face. There seems to be a premium on that in MH3U as well.

4. Co-Op. Teaming up to take down bosses together? Sounds like the Souls series to me. Sadly, the 3DS version doesn’t have the online co-op features, but if I enjoy the 3DS version enough, I’ll pick up the WiiU one, as there is some cross-functionality between the two in addition to the online co-op the WiiU has. And my save carries over!

So, as I begin my first foray into the Monster Hunter universe, I’ll be writing about whether my perceived connections to the Souls series pan out, and whether I enjoy the game for what makes it unique as well. Stay tuned!


Return to Demon’s Souls–Part 1: A Rude Awakening

My love affair with Dark Souls is well documented her on Co-Op Critics, but I spent a great deal of time with its predecessor Demon’s Souls as well. So, when Demon’s Souls became free for PlayStation Plus members at the beginning of April, I decided to return to the game for a new character and a new playthrough.

Back when I originally completed demon’s Souls my first character was not very well defined. I hadn’t done a lot of research going in, so instead of having a build in mind, I just kind of built a “Jack of All Trades” type character. That worked okay in terms of beating the game the first time around, but as soon as I stepped into New Game+, my lack of specialization really started to become a weakness.

For this new playthrough, I’m focusing on spellcasting, primarily magic, with a few miracles for healing thrown in. I started with the Royal class, as the Soul Arrow spell (basically Magic Missile) is very useful when you’re at low levels. In terms of physical combat, I’m really trying to focus on dodging and parrying, so I’ll be wearing little to no armor, and sticking with my rapier, or a similar weapon.

After creating my character, I jumped into the tutorial and then fought was is essentially the tutorial boss, Vanguard. The fight is designed to kill you, as that is the means through which you travel to the Nexus, the home base of Demon’s Souls. You can allegedly defeat Vanguard, but it’s damn near impossible, and I didn’t last more than a few moments before getting squashed.

That encounter was a great wake up call to the differences between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls (and there are many). I had been spoiled in my 200+ hours of Dark Souls, especially by the checkpoint system. While there are definitely shortcuts you unlock as you make your way through levels, in general, you have a lot more ground to make up in Demon’s Souls when you die than you do in Dark Souls. On the combat front, the lack of “poise” in Demon’s Souls means you get stunlocked with a lot more frequency. Overall, Demon’s Souls just seems much less forgiving to me than Dark Souls.

There are a lot of things I like better about Demon’s Souls, though. The story is much more coherent than in Dark Souls, and the world of Demon’s Souls feels more alive to me than Dark Souls does. The enemies are more interesting, from the number of actual human beings you see, to the Mind Flayers in the Tower of Latria–there’s so many cool enemies in Demon’s Souls. Some of the boss battles are really memorable as well. One of my favorites is the Tower Knight which I’ll talk about in another post), because it takes place on multiple levels and features a few different elements.

All in all, I’m excited to be jumping back into Demon’s Souls, and I’ll be posting a few more times about this playthrough. That doesn’t mean I’ll be neglecting Dark Souls, however. Between these two games, I may not have time to play anything else.


The Year of B-Games–Fracture

What is It?
Fracture is a third-person shooter that takes place in a future where the Untied States are no longer united. The country has fractured (get it?) into two groups–the Atlantic Alliance and the Republic of Pacifica

Why Does it Make the B-Game List? 
This game received mixed reviews when it came out, and its current Metascore is 63. It also sold poorly, finishing with about 430,000 units worldwide on PS3 and Xbox 360 combined.

Why It’s Worth Playing
The basic terrain deformation mechanics are pretty cool, as you can raise and lower much of the ground around around you. The most obvious use of this is to create and remove cover, but you can also smash object and people into ceilings, pull the ground out from underneath things, and so on. The best part of this functionality is that it’s built into your suit, so no matter what weapon you’re using, those basic abilities are available to you.

The game actually has a cool opening sequence as well, which feels very inspired by Starship Troopers in its presentation.

Where Does it Stumble?
Fracture feels like a classic case of a game built around one interesting idea, and not much else. It’s also a game where many ideas really don’t go past the premise stage. The idea of the country being divided is interesting, but once the game starts, it’s just a generic “us vs. them” storyline, and none of the enemies are particularly interesting.

I mentioned that the core terrain deformation mechanic was cool, but the rest of them are mapped to grenades, which means that you are constantly needing a particular type of grenade for a particular situation. This masquerades as puzzle solving, when it really isn’t as you are handheld the entire time. For example, I needed to get into a sewer system at one point, but there was a great covering it. instead of just being able to blow it up, I needed to use a special grenade that would cause a pillar to rise out of the ground, catching the lip of the grate and opening it so I could go through. That type of gimmicky stuff is present throughout.

Closing Thoughts
Fracture is the first of the B-games I did not finish. While it’s definitely worth spending a little time with to check out the terrain deformation, there’s not a compelling reason to stick with it after a few hours. The good news is, you can grab a copy used for $3 like I did, and at that price, I got plenty of enjoyment per dollar.


Gaming Stories: Video Game Championship Wrestling IV

Tonight is not the night, but that shouldn’t stop us from checking in on what is happening in the world of Video Game Championship Wrestling. 
When we last checked in on Video Game Championship Wrestling, Phoenix Wright, Nappa, and Solid Snake had exposed Baz McMahon’s involvement in covering up the vehicular assault on Little Mac. Baz McMahon had kidnapped Luigi, a witness to the vehicular assault, and brainwashed him to believe that he was Mr. L, a violent and vicious fighter who created havoc on the January 28, 2013 show by attacking Locke Cole and Sabin Rene Figaro after they won the Co-Op Championship, Shinya Arino after he won a first blood match against Dante, and Ganondorf before his VGCW Championship match against Raphael. Mr. L’s rampage continued on the February 1, 2013 show by attacking Gabe Newell, Segata Sanshiro, Vegeta, and Zangief backstage. Fortunately, Mario returned from his leave of absence from Video Game Championship Wrestling to break his brother from Baz McMahon’s mental conditioning and become the heroic Luigi once more. In a touching but surreal moment, Mario, Phoenix Wright, and Nappa were able to cast the Mr. L identity to the depths of hell.
This was an unusual moment even for Video Game Championship Wrestling, which considers real people like Gabe Newell, fictional characters like Donkey Kong, and personalities portrayed by real people like the Angry Video Game Nerd as all real. However, in the context of professional wrestling, the occasional foray into the supernatural world isn’t that strange. Putting aside companies like Kaiju Big Battel, which accept the supernatural and the outlandish as common, professional wrestling has had a long and extensive history of using the supernatural to spice up its masculine soap opera. 
The most prominent and famous example would be WWE’s The Undertaker. The Undertaker first appeared in the WWE (then called WWF) in 1990 as a walking undead man who was impervious to pain. He was famously managed by Paul Bearer, a pale and portly man whose voice sounded like a ghost’s wails. Paul Bearer carried an urn that he would use to revive The Undertaker’s strength whenever The Undertaker fell victim to his enemies. The Undertaker would place his defeated opponents in bodybags and carry them backstage; it was never made clear what The Undertaker and Paul Bearer did to these opponents, but the intimation was always menacing. When The Undertaker was seemingly defeated decisively at the 1994 Royal Rumble after some villainous wrestlers sealed The Undertaker in a casket, the announcers acted as though The Undertaker was dead and were shocked when The Undertaker appeared on the arena’s video screen to warn them that his spirit would return.
This was only the beginning of The Undertaker’s infusion of the supernatural into professional wrestling as presented by the WWE. Over time, The Undertaker would found the Ministry of Darkness, a professional wrestling stable that was dedicated to unleashing evil on the WWE. In The Undertaker’s pursuit of his unspecified but evil agenda, he kidnapped Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWE’s owner Vince McMahon, crucified wrestler Steve Austin, kidnapped and converted various wrestlers using incantations and magical rituals to join his cult, and fight his brother, a wrestler named Kane, who demonstrated an ability to control pyrotechnics, had an affinity for fire, and was sometimes portrayed as a monster rising from a hellish inferno from beneath the wrestling ring. Meanwhile, The Undertaker demonstrated that he was a ghostly figure who was able to command lightning and fog. Around this time, The Undertaker was featured in a comic book published by Chaos! Comics, where he was portrayed as a ruler of an infernal dimension known as the Hell’s Prison Realm. 
The Undertaker and Kane, supernatural wrestling brothers.
The resolution to the Mr. L storyline was reminiscent of a storyline that featured Kane from 2011 and 2012, when he returned from a leave of absence in a costume seemingly inspired by the incisions of a portmortem human body after an autopsy. Kane attacked another wrestler named Zach Ryder by dragging him through a hole in the ring to “hell.” These similarities are not coincidental; Video Game Championship Wrestling is, after all, performed in WWE ’13, so it would naturally use storytelling elements that WWE wrestlers like Kane and The Undertaker would use. 
Video Game Championship Wrestling has entered its third season, and the overarching storyline so far has involved a league-wide tournament to determine whom the new General Manager of VGCW will be after Baz McMahon’s departure. Of course, unnecessarily confusing and complex organizational hierarchies and almost meaningless authority figures is another common professional wrestling trope, so it brings a smile to my face to see Bazza87 embrace it in Video Game Championship Wrestling too. The current tournament favorite seems to be Ganondorf, who along with Zangief forms the team of Gerudo Skies, the current Co-Op Champions. Ganondorf’s next opponent in the tournament is Adam Jensen; if Charles Barkley defeats Gabe Newell to advance to the finals, he will be all that stands between Video Game Championship Wrestling and Ganondorf’s second 1000 years of darkness.
The Chaos Dunk vs. The Triforce of Power. 
Indeed, Barkley might be all that stands between Video Game Championship Wrestling and Ganondorf’s second 1000 years of darkness.
A possible dark future for Video Game Championship Wrestling?

Tournaments are another common trope in professional wrestling, and almost wrestling promotion has held a tournament at one time or another. From WWE’s King of the Ring to WCW’s Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament to TNA’s World X-Cup among the major wrestling companies to Chikara Pro’s King of Trios, East Coast Wrestling Association’s famed Super 8 tournament to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s annual Battle of Los Angeles tournament, companies have used tournaments to introduce new wrestlers, highlight the talents of wrestlers already on contract, create new rivalries, reignite old rivalries, and introduce high stakes into what could be an otherwise dull period.

Tournaments have been held in Video Game Championship Wrestling the past, but they didn’t have the stakes involved in this tournament, which started on the February 18, 2013 show and has been featured in each show’s main event or semi-main event since. Rivalries have been renewed, such as the simmering feud between Charles Barkley and Vegeta, and great moments were revisited, such as when Gabe Newell repaid Nappa for the time Nappa suplexed Newell from the top rope and collapsed the ring.

The field has been pared down to its final four, all crowd favorites: Adam Jensen, Ganondorf, Gabe Newell, and Charles Barkley. Newell has seemed unstoppable; his patented Wallet Squeeze bear hug has devastated   his opponents. Similarly, Ganondorf has dispatched Wailuigi, a former Casual Champion, and the Angry Video Game Nerd, a tournament dark horse. Jensen defeated M. Bison and Mike Haggar in tough bouts, while Barkley triumphed over his nemesis Vegeta and countered Dr. Wily’s dastardly designs on his path.

The tournament field as of March 21, 2013.

With all the focus on this tournament, it would be easy to overlook some of the changes to the roster that have taken place. Since we last checked in on Video Game Championship Wrestling, Phoenix Wright, one of the heroes of the Baz McMahon/Mr. L saga, has hinted that he is considering retirement from fighting. Simon Belmont was dispatched by Dracula; he hasn’t been since that match. Woody and Ash Ketchum have been repackaged as Voody and Red, respectively, while Tingle, Geno, Ryo Hazuki, and Groose have joined the roster. While Groose had a divisive debut, I believe that his adorably clumsy entrance, if nothing else, will win fans over to his side.

Groose will represent the Zelda franchise in VGCW about as well as Link did.

Independent wrestling companies like Ring of Honor or the now defunct IWA-Mid South often faced the problem of audience burnout because their shows would run almost four hours, which is a lot to ask of an audience. The shows’ run times, combined with the time commuting to and from the venue, often meant that I would need to dedicate five to six hours to professional wrestling, which isn’t sustainable in the long run. I had similar concerns about Video Game Championship Wrestling because its shows would sometimes run for four hours because of the long matches and the loading times in WWE ’13. Combined with the frequency with which Bazza87 held shows, audience burnout was a strong possibility. Bazza87 addressed this problem directly on his Twitter feed, and he has held firm to the commitment to limit shows to two to three hours long, which has made it easier for fans like me to keep watching.

Shortening the shows has also allowed me to pay more attention to the undercard matches, where sometimes the most entertaining moments of Video Game Championship Wrestling happen. For instance, take Dan Hibiki’s super taunt of Barrett Wallace from the March 19, 2013 show:

On the March 7, 2013 episode of Giant Bomb’s Thursday Night Throwdown (subscriber access only), TwitchTV’s Jared Rea and Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann spoke enthusiastically about Video Game Championship Wrestling; Gerstmann followed it up with a brief article on why he finds Video Game Championship Wrestling so entertaining. Hopefully, Gerstmann and Rea directed even more viewers to Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling feed; something this delightful should be experienced by as many people as possible.


The Year of B-Games–Blacksite: Area 51

What is It? 
Blacksite: Area 51 is a sci-fi/horror first-person shooter from Midway. The game is a spiritual successor to the old Area 51 Atari arcade shooter and the 2005 FPS of the same name. The storyline starts with a Delta Force squad looking for WMDs in Iraq and finding alien technology instead. One of the squad members is left for dead as the rest of the team escapes an alien (Xeno) attack. A few years later, the remaining squad gets brought back together, and they find out the government was trying to harness the technology to create super soldiers. As you might imagine, that plan went awry.

Why Does It Make the B-Game List?
Aside from its light gun arcade legacy, Blacksite has a Metascore of 60 and received pretty mediocre reviews across the board. The designer of the game later admitted that the game had a troubled development, and had almost no playtesting before release.

Why it’s Worth Playing
It’s actually pretty fun. The basic shooting mechanics are fine, and there is some rudimentary squad management, where you can tell squadmates where to go during encounters. It’s not very deep, but it’s enough, as you can use squadmates to trigger encounters, which gives you an advantage in terms of positioning, cover, etc.

And while the level design is plain at times, there were a few times that we went through residential neighborhoods that was cool.

The boss fights aren’t particularly interesting, but I had fun with all of them, and the game was rarely frustrating (save for one boss fight–see below).

Where does it stumble?
The vehicle mechanics are pretty bad, and I never really had fun driving. Most of the time, I would be driving while a squadmate used the turret on top of a vehicle. There was never an opportunity for me to take the turret and assign a teammate to drive. (like you can do in Halo, for example). It wasn’t a huge deal, as there weren’t a ton of driving segments.

There was one frustrating boss fight where you’re the gunner on a helicopter and are taking on a giant alien on a bridge. The controls are clunky, and it’s really easy to get hit by projectiles you don’t even see. I died several times during this sequence, and it was easily the most frustrating in the game.

Closing Thoughts 
A fun sci-fi shooter with light squad based elements, Blacksite: Area 51 is a solid B-game that you could blow through in a day or two. if you see it in the bargain bin, grab it. You can get it for $10 on PC and $20 on consoles brand new, but I grabbed a used copy for five bucks.