Saints Row IV is Crackdown 3

Perhaps me spending a lot of time re-playing Crackdown 2 recently was just a happy coincidence. but, when I started Saints Row IV this week, the similarities between it and the Crackdown franchise were immediately apparent. In fact, Saints Row IV may just be the Crackdown sequel gamers have been waiting for.

Maybe the biggest addition to the franchise in Saints Row IV is the introduction of super powers. Early on in the game, you get super sprint and super jump abilities, which make navigating the world feel very similar to a powered up agent in Crackdown. Saints Row IV also features golden orb-shaped robots that you have to chase down . In Crackdown 2, these were known as “Renegade Orbs,” but Saints Row IV refers to them as “CID Command Orbs.” They function pretty much the same though, granting rewards for tracking them down.

Using your jump powers to bound from building to building like the Hulk feels very much like jumping around in Crackdown. As you get further into the game, you get a wider variety of powers than what Crackdown offers, but the moment to moment gameplay still feels very much like Crackdown, as you’re often using a combination of your powers as well as firearms to deal with large crowds of enemies.

I was already a huge fan of the Saints Row series, but by sprinkling in a dose of one of my other favorite franchises, Volition may have created my favorite open world action game yet.


WiiU Price Drop–Better Late Than Never


Nintendo announced this week a $50 price drop for the deluxe version of the WiiU. This price drop will take effect on September 20th, the same day the new Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD bundle comes out. Even better, the Wind Waker HD bundle will also retail for $299, and will include a Zelda-themed GamePad, and a digital version of the Hyrule Historia compendium, which, if you haven’t seen it, is amazing.

So, the price drop puts the full-fledged version of the WiiU at $299. The PS4 will retail for $399 and the XBox One for $499. From a price standpoint, I feel like WiiU would be better priced at $249, but the fact that Nintendo has now aligned the console at $100 bucks cheaper than PS4 and $200 cheaper than Xbox One is a great thing. There are now clearly three options out there, and for those who are making the choice based primarily on price, there is at least now a marked difference between Nintendo and the other consoles.

The Zelda bundle is a no-brainer if you are even considering getting a WiiU. Hyrule Historia alone launched at $35 and is an amazing tome. Throw in the game and the special controller, and that’s a great package.

As much as the WiiU’s lineup of games has been maligned, by the time the other two new consoles launch, WiiU will have a pretty nice stable of games. We already have Nintendoland, LEGO City Undercover, Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Luigi U, ZombiU, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Game & Wario among the more notable titles. Wonderful 101 and Rayman Legends are just around the corner, with Wind Waker HD and Scribblenauts Unmasked (the DC Universe Scribblenauts game) following right behind. All of those games are either out now or will be by the time the next PlayStation and Xbox consoles launch. Not too shabby.

So yes, Nintendo completely squandered the year long head start it had to build WiiU momentum. And the third party support is as bad as we all feared it would be. BUT, the price drop will help overall sales, and there are plenty of great games out now and coming in the near future to make the WiiU a worthwhile purchase.

The biggest question for Nintendo now is whether or not the WiiU price cut was too little and too late. There is no question they should have either priced the console lower at the start or cut the price as soon as the game drought hit. Whether this move turns the console’s fortunes around remains to be seen, but I will never doubt Nintendo’s ability to turn things around after what they did with the 3DS, which is now blowing the doors off every other console in terms of sales.

There are still a couple of things I’d like to see Nintendo do that I think could go a long way to helping speed the recovery of the WiiU. For starters, an Ambassador Program for early adopters would be nice, similar to what Nintendo did with the 3DS. Building in more interactivity between the 3DS and the WiiU (like remote play or using the 3DS as an alternate controller) would be great as well. But I think the biggest thing Nintendo needs to work on with the WiiU is its implementation of the GamePad. Outside of ZombiU, Nintendoland and LEGO City Undercover (to a much smaller degree), hardly any games take advantage of the functionality of the GamePad. It’s one of the defining factors of the console, and it’s sorely underutilized.

For now though, I’m happy that the price cut has finally arrived, the games are starting to pile up, and a new bundle is on the way. Here’s hoping it’s enough to get the WiiU back on track for this holiday season.


How Amazon Could Re-Create the Wii’s Success

So, rumors were flying around the internet this week that Amazon is currently developing an Android-based gaming console, which will be released before Black Friday this holiday shopping season.

Now, most avid gamers will scoff at this potential news, for a few reasons. First, the recently-released Ouya Android gaming console has received mixed reviews at best, and while we haven’t seen actual sales numbers, the console does not appear to be selling briskly.

Second, we have the Xbox One and Playstation 4 coming this holiday season, and most avid gamers that are looking for new hardware will be investing in one or both of those consoles.

Finally, many avid gamers associate Android (and iOS for that matter) games with phones and tablets, and tend to look at those games as inferior experiences to console and dedicated handheld gaming.

Here’s the thing, though–avid gamers looked at another gaming console as providing inferior experiences to more casual audiences. That console was Nintendo’s Wii, and it recently crossed the 100 million-sold mark since it’s 2006 release. Unfortunately for Nintendo, when they developed the WiiU, they got away from what made them so successful last generation created an expensive console that left more casual gamers behind.

Amazon has a golden opportunity here to fill a missing spot in this upcoming console generation. For that matter, Apple does as well, but seems uninterested in taking gaming further than it currently is on iOS devices. Both Amazon and Apple already have app-based ecosystems full of games. Unlike the Ouya, they also both have brand recognition and a built in consumer base. So, if Amazon decided to put together an inexpensive gaming console that featured a controller and played all the games on their app store and then some? A lot of parents would be seriously considering that console for their kids this holiday season.

It makes sense that the Amazon console would be able to take advantage of other apps as well, like the Amazon Prime Video library, Netflix, and other streaming media apps.

So, imagine an Amazon gaming console and controller combo releases this holiday season for $99. It plays hundreds of games from the Amazon App Store, and a new app or game can be downloaded for free each day. The console also features Netlfix, Prime Instant Video, Audible, and more. Maybe it even allows you to use your Kindle Fire HD as a touch-based controller or a second screen.

Anyway, you get the picture. If Amazon plays their cards right, they could deal a substantial blow to both Apple and Nintendo, and offer the less expensive gaming experience to families that the Wii did in the last console generation.

I am very excited to see what happens with this, and I hope the rumors don’t turn out to be unfounded. There is definitely a part of the gaming market to be filled here, and someone will eventually take advantage of the opportunity. It’s only a matter of time before Apple comes to its senses, so Amazon should strike while the iron is hot.


SEGA’s ‘Let’s Go Island’ is a Fun Escape

One of the best parts about vacationing in Maine with my family each summer is the fact that there are two arcades within twenty minutes of where we stay. It’s become an annual tradition for me to take my kids to each of them at least one per trip, and this year was no different.

Since many of the arcade cabinets have been replaces by midway-style ticket-producing games, it’s rare to see either of the arcades bring in new video games anymore. So, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into the Boardwalk Arcade in Wells and see SEGA’s Let’s Go Island: Lost on the Island of Tropics.

While Let’s Go Island is a sit-down, turret-based game, anyone who’s played House of the Dead will feel right at home. The story follows Beth and Zach, two stereotypical goofy characters that are stranded together on an island that is crawling with mutated creatures. From leaping sharks to giant leeches to a mighty kraken, there are tons of colorful enemies that are constantly flying at you as you and your partner try to stave them off.

The gameplay is simple and fun, and there are a couple twists to the usual light gun shooter formula. After completing certain levels, you get to choose which area of the island to explore next. There are also quick time events sprinkled throughout the levels that require both players to complete actions at the same time. At the end of each level, you and your partner get a compatibility rating based on how well you worked together.

Interestingly, there seems to be three versions of Let’s Go Island out there. The original 2D version featured a movable boat-shaped seat that allowed players to lean back and forth during quicktime events. A second version of the cabinet was in 3D. The third version (the one that I played), is the lesser of the three, as it has a static seat and a 2D display.

Lesser version or not, this game is a blast to play, just like most of the other SEGA light gun games. The goofy nature of the game actually makes it much more of an all ages title, as there’s no blood and the story is very cartoonish. Both my wife an my son had a good time blasting away with me.

Sadly, this game, as well as it’s predecessor Let’s Go Jungle, were never ported to consoles. That’s too bad, because this would be a great family-friendly game for the WiiU, and I can’t imagine it would be that difficult to bring it over.

Anyway, if you get a chance, it’s definitely worth checking out!


Tomb Raider’s Opening Features the Best and Worst of Quick-Time Events

Recently I wrote about how much the opening of The Last of Us grabbed me and got me invested in the world and story of the game.

I picked up Tomb Raider during the Steam Summer Sale and started playing it the other night. Turns out, that game has a pretty great opening as well. But where The Last of Us did a great job of keeping you in the moment during its opening, Tomb Raider constantly pulled me out of its opening.

From a story standpoint, Tomb Raider’s opening is immediately interesting. Through a series of quick-cut scenes, you see a young Lara Croft become shipwrecked on a mysterious island, where her life in put in peril immediately. As you take control of Lara, you’re tasked with trying to find a way out of a series of underground caverns, as things are collapsing around you and you run into some of the dangerous inhabitants of the island. It’s actually a great tutorial, as you learn the basic controls while navigating your way out.

But the quick-time events, man.

I’m not anti-QTEs at all–I grew up on Dragon’s Lair for crying out loud. When used well, quick-time events can be very effective. I enjoyed how the Mass Effect series had character moments (Paragon and Renegade) that could be activated by a trigger press at certain times. I enjoyed the hacking minigame in the first Mass Effect. In Gears of War, the idea of a timed button press to reload your gun faster and get a damage bonus is great. Telltale’s The Walking Dead also had some interesting implementations, particularly when fighting off a zombie that had grappled you.

In general, the QTEs that I hate have two components: (1) To fail is to die instantly, and (2) There is little to no margin for error.

Such is the case with many of the QTEs in Tomb Raider. There are a handful of points during Lara’s escape where the QTEs require exact timing. Worse, rather than a button press, they resort to wiggling the analog stick back and forth. A second too early or too late, and Lara gets killed in a horribly grisly manner.

So, as I played through the opening that featured an interesting story, there were places where I continued to die gruesomely several times, pulling me right out of the story before the title credits had even appeared. I had already lost some of my investment in the game by then.

Now, I did say in the title of this post that the game also featured the “best” of what QTEs can be used for, and there is one particularly good implementation in the opening Tomb Raider. At one point, Lara is scrambling from an underground cavern toward daylight, and you are actually using the right and left triggers to help her claw her way up a muddy, slippery slope. It reminded me of the scene in the original Modern Warfare when your chopper goes down and the soldier you control is crawling hand over hand amidst the wreckage. That kind of implementation really connects you to the moment.

When QTEs are used well, they add to the experience. The opening of Tomb Raider could have kept the QTEs,but made them much less punishing (at least during the intro of the game), and the effect would have been much more dramatic and rewarding.

You can watch the opening chapter of the game below, if you don’t mind the spoilers.


Co-Op Critics Podcast–E3 and Left 4 Dead

In this episode of Co-Op Critics, Brian and Dan discuss their takeaways from this year’s E3, and profess their love for the Left 4 Dead series.

You can either listen to the episode here on the embedded player to the right, or download it here.

You can follow Brian on Twitter ( and check out his blog at

Dan Evans can be found on Twitter (

Send comments to OR leave us a voicemail at 860-698-0468. Check out for all things Secret Identity, and come back to for more gaming discussion!


Worth Reading: The Staff of USgamer on Good “Bad” Games

Back in January I said I was going to start highlighting more articles from other sites that contain the types of discussions we try to start here at Co-Op Critics. I’ve done a really bad job of that, but perhaps today’s entry will kickstart a more regular flow of these highlighted articles.

Over at USgamer (the sister site of Eurogamer), Pete Davison posted a great article today that fits in with The Year of B-Games series I’ve been doing here. The article is called “When Bad Isn’t Bad,” and Davison asks the staff of USgamer to reflect on some of the favorite games that were not critically or commercially well-received.

There are some interesting games on the list, including Ninja Blade, a From Software title that I’m hoping to get to this year for my B-Games series. Here’s a snippet of what USgamer’s Mike Williams had to say about Ninja Blade:

“Everything in Ninja Blade has to be there because it’s awesome. It’s the only explanation. Ogawa carries four different weapons on his back because it’s awesome. He does amazing skateboard tricks while surfing on a missile because it’s awesome. He hits a wrecking ball like a baseball because it’s awesome. Why does Ogawa ride a motorcycle through the sky to shove it down a boss’ throat? Because it’s goddamn awesome.

To see the rest of what Mike had to say and get the full list, you can read the full article here.

On a related note, I really like what I’m seeing from USgamer so far, and that’s not surprising seeing as 1UP alum Jeremy Parish is the Senior Editor for the site.


The Opening of The Last of Us Is Amazing

I started The Last of Us over the past weekend, and I’m about 25% through the game at this point. While I’ll certainly be writing about my overall experience when I’m done, the opening of The Last of Us deserves to be written about on its own.

Quite simply, it’s superb. Not only does the opening provide an origin story for the lead character Joel, but it introduces us to the world of The Last of Us at a point that makes everything that follows that much more impactful. The only other games that come to mind with openings of this caliber are Half-Life 2 and the original Bioshock. Like with both of those games, The Last of Us gives the player just enough interactivity to feel immersed in the world, but not so much that you miss what the game is trying to show you.

For me, The Last of Us actually rises above those other games because of the emotional punch the opening has. As a player, you’re not only seeing the defining moment of this world’s creation, but the defining moment of the main character’s creation.

I was actually tempted to embed the YouTube video of the game’s opening here, but you should experience it in the game. It’s that good.

In fact, the opening for The Last of Us might actually be too good, because it sets a bar for the game that’s almost impossible to live up to. It was one of the few times in gaming where I actually put the controller down and had to take a breather to process what I’d just experienced. The last time that happened was at the end of Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

Whether the overall experience lives up to the game’s opening, I have no problem recommending people check the game out. In the time I’ve spent with it, I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.


Grr! Where Are All the Games That I Don’t Have the Time or Money to Play?!!

This is a bit of a tangent, but it came to mind as I was watching the E3 presser reactions on Twitter over the past 24 hours.

Every time a new console launches, there is public outcry from gamers about the lack of games for it.

Every. Single. Time.

XBox 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, Vita and now WiiU are just the examples from this generation. Despite promises from both Microsoft and Sony about their launches, I think we all know that at some point in their launch cycle, there will be a drought of new releases.

You know what? It’s not that big of a deal, people.

You could make the argument that it matters from a business standpoint, because of course having a robust library for your new console will help sell units. But most gamers act as if they are on the boards of these companies, getting up in arms about something that doesn’t even affect them.

A lot of gamers act as if they have unlimited money and time when they rant about this topic. Would I have liked the WiiU to have a better launch lineup? Absolutely. But the fact is, the only game I’ve completely finished for the WiiU so far has been ZombiU. I still need to finish New Super Mario Bros. U and LEGO City Undercover, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Not to mention that I’ve got a slew of games from the eShop that I’ve barely touched. I’m not even ready for Pikmin 3 yet, whenever the hack it actually comes out.

And I don’t think I’m that far from the norm. Most of us don’t have the time and money to play everything. If the new XBox One launches with 27 games on day one, or even over the first three months, do you have $1600 and 270+ hours to play them between November and January? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most gamers don’t.

So, who gives a crap if there are a slew of games at launch? You’re going to get two or three over the first few months and then grab the others for less moeny down the road, if at all.

WiiU is going to be just fine come this holiday season, and both new consoles will have more than enough games to keep gamers happy. They’ll certainly have more than enough to keep me happy, as evidenced by the hundreds of games I’m still catching up on from this current gen.

So, everyone just settle down, okay?