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The graphics are a bit rough but this game is all about speed and accuracy killing waves of experimental creatures. Forget story, the co-op is loads of fun with a group of friends, and fairly challenging as well.

The most difficult part is the way enemies rubberband - if you run full tilt on many maps, and turn around they'll still be very close behind you - rounding the nearest corner or doorway. The spawn locations also don't seem to be set specifically - they seem to appear directly around any corner that you haven't looked around in the last few seconds, or further ahead if you're running rather than camping. On some areas in maps they also drop down from above, off buildings or through holes in the roof.

These mechanics aren't necessarily flaws - they make the game much more fast paced and difficult than it would be if you could kite them more strategically. Kiting is still very much possible because the game limits the number of enemies on the map at any time - so if you can group them all behind you then they will slowly appear in front of you as you kill ones behind.
 
This would be better if it wasn't F2P - the focus on micro-transactions distorts the game a bit, making it hard for free users to play more than an hour or two at a stretch.

There are normal battles, which resemble a turn based Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, except that you are limited to the tanks and infantry that you start with. This makes repair and healing units incredibly important.

Some of the vehicles are cool - like the Wheel of Doom that does 360 degree area damage. Others don't quite live up to the strengths their descriptions seem to portray. When fighting AI, it doesn't seem to use infantry much, and infantry seem to be pretty weak against any type of foe. (Including opponents that are supposedly good against armor)

There are also Smuggling runs, which involve tying up a bunch of your units for several hours - and if your convoy is attacked during the run you have to use the units you committed to fend off the raiders. If you fail to do so you lose all the units. (Except the Heros, which are returned to you 'wounded' and take time and gold to repair)

Upgrading units, researching new technologies, etc all take place outside the battles, unlike AOE2. Your money, resources, and research are persistent so you can continually upgrade your army.

Conclusion
Overall I enjoy the actual battles, but wish the units were a bit more balanced. I don't like smuggling tying up my units for hours, and my play being limited by 'Energy'. The unit micromanagement outside of the game pulls me out of the experience a bit, and I don't like having to commit to using specific units before I even know what the enemy is fielding.
 
One of the more strategic tower defense games I've played. Although it attempts a story, it's really just a skeleton.

It looks nice and is enjoyable, but could use some tweaks especially at the more advanced levels. A bunch of enemies in a row can tag team your resources quickly down the line from quite a distance away - which feels a bit cheap at times, especially since the resources travel much faster when rubber-banding to an enemy unit.

It also would be nice to have more control over tower targeting priority, or even just a manual targeting mode. For example, in the later levels you want guns to tear the shields off targets before the lasers attack them - but the guns stay focused on a target until it is completely dead even if they aren't doing effective damage.

Overall I'd recommend it, but a few advanced features would take it from 'pretty good' to 'fantastic'.
 
Disappointing compared to Assassin's Creed. The graphics are better, but the console-ified tutorial shows icons - not keys. Free running is also a bit harder as the buildings are sparser, and it is a little buggy - allowing you to slip and fall off rather than balancing on the edge.

Doing one mission at a time is annoying, but it is nice that quest timers stop once it is complete, rather than making you race back to the quest giver like the original game. Being able to block punches is also a great addition - sorely lacking in the previous version.

Overall an okay game, but it doesn't really live up to the free spirit of the original. Definitely feels like a game rather than an immersive experience.
 
I like the story and the overall feel of the game - unfortunately the combat is frustrating unless you follow the minimal engagement approach. Unlike the original Deus Ex, these developers clearly decided that pacifism is the "right" way to play the game - and skewed the mechanics heavily to enforce that notion.

Combat
Your health regenerates automatically when you haven't been damaged for a while - no chugging health packs during boss fights - you have to get creative and hide or run a lot.

The middle difficulty level is actually harder than the original Deus Ex on "realistic", combat wise. The AI has superhuman long range accuracy with any weapon - and soaks more damage than the player character. Additionally it doesn't seem to suffer from any sort of knockback when shot. Quick-saving and loading multiple times in a fight with a swarm of guards a taxing experience. It would also be nice if the real saves had screenshots like the original Deus Ex, so you could tell them apart easier.

There is a cover system, but it is mostly good for dashing from place to place avoiding detection, and is mostly worthless for combat. The aiming while behind cover is about what you would expect from someone sticking a gun around a corner and waving it around a bit - occasionally you'll get a kill but you'll waste so much ammo it is totally worthless.

The cover system also seems to have introduced a bug for those who don't use it - sometimes your bullets will hit the object you are peeking around, even as you are being pelted by bullets from the AI you are aiming at. One particular level also had minor problems with AI seeing my character when they clearly had no possible line-of-sight.

The map radar does compensate for these flaws a little - if you're patient you can sit at the corner and wait for the baddie to walk by, then pop him. You could also accomplish this by using your takedown move to punch him unconscious - though this uses a lot of battery.

Occasionally the AI seems to cheat a bit too - some characters having unlimited grenades, and others with the ability to invisibility cloak indefinitely. Some of the tougher bruisers also seem nigh-invulnerable to everything besides electric stun weapons


Mechanics
Hacking cameras, doors, etc is now a (sometimes) lengthy minigame - which would be okay except that guards still see you while you're playing it (unlike the original DE). The game also forces your character to stand up directly in front of the terminal - no hiding behind the desk while hacking. Your radar doesn't show while hacking, so being killed occasionally because of this is likely. There are a limited number of attempts per terminal, and being caught on an attempt locks you out for 20+ seconds (an unnecessary annoyance).

Inventory management is also a bit of a pain - the game will automatically do inventory tetris for you, but when it can't fit an item it tells you it's full - with no indication of how much space you need to clear. Additionally, ammo now takes inventory space, and grenades/mines don't stack - both horrible design choices.


Look & Feel
The orange object highlighting is a bit much, but can be turned off in the options. It would be far better if there was an in-game toggle instead, to treat it as a light hint system rather than an always-on feature. The pre-rendered cutscenes also look fuzzy compared to actual levels - but other than that the graphics are shiny and the animation is well done.

The first level or two are completely on rails or corridor shooters, but after that it opens up a bit. Options lets you turn on waypoints to give directional cues - which is helpful since the multi-level maps aren't easy to navigate. Unfortunately in the later levels this waypoint system goes haywire, and following them can actually get you lost. The short (5 second default) sprint time adds a bit more frustration to the mix in large cities.

The developers did get NPCs done right - giving them a reasonably lifelike feel, both in dialogue and movement. They also imbued Pritchard with an amusingly sarcastic wit not found in the original DE. I felt cheated by a few cut scenes that made foolish decisions for me though, cheapening the storyline slightly.

It has a fair amount of replayability, and many of the cut scenes and dialogue are skippable - with the notable exception of the first on-rails walk through the lab, and any conversation where you can get a Silver Tongue reward (about 8, approximately). For achievements it's a huge flaw that there's no indication whether you are still eligible for Pacifist or Foxiest, since you have to play the entire game through to get them - and it is easy to disqualify yourself without knowing it.


Conclusion
If you enjoy a stealthy shooter this might be an enjoyable choice - but if you're a fan of the front-door assault this probably isn't the game for you, unless you want to play it on "easy".
 
Interesting story, good combat, most flaws in this game are minor - it's a lot of fun.

The only major problem - especially for replayability - are the multitude of unskippable cutscenes. It's incredibly annoying to sit through repeated speeches that are long enough to get a snack.

It opens with what looks like a hectic tutorial, button commands flashing on your screen - turns out it's just a dream intro (thank god!). As you get into the actual game the button combinations are complex, but they become more natural as you play.

The gameplay starts out a bit slow, with long distances to run for no apparent reason other than to familiarize you with the town geography. Thankfully they give you a horse fairly quickly, and teach you to sprint. Mercifully it also never seems to limit your sprinting or galloping abilities by making you 'tired' as some games would.

The game is also graphically nice, except when you have a close-up of the faces, then you hit uncanny valley territory. The only flaw is the unskippable pans/cutscenes in certain places that can be annoying if you die. In the end though, these flaws are tiny compared to all the good parts of this game - and I would highly recommend it.
 
The beginning gives decent gameplay and story - though it lacks a bit in the quest objective tracking, especially for the quest to scan 24 keepers. You just have to hope you run into them all during other objectives.

After leaving the initial station they give you far too many solar systems and planets to choose from, which gives the feeling that your choice doesn't matter. At least initially they should have limited it to a few important systems - and slowly opened up the galaxy. Navigation within galaxies themselves also seems unweildy, and it's annoying that you can click on planets which you aren't even able to visit.

The combat works fairly well, although your character doesn't return to cover quite as fast as possible - which can be annoyingly deadly at times. This probably has to do with the smooth animations - if you tap to move forward he takes a full step, unlike games like World of Warcraft where you can move in fractions of a step.

The skills and conversation menu are well thought out, and the ability to train extra skills that allow you to intimidate or flatter the person you're conversing with are satisfying. Overall the game has a few interesting aspects, but also a couple annoying flaws. It's probably still worth a look though.
 
The shooter aspect is okay, and the frights are good, but when put together it's an unsatisfactory combination. If you added the fright to something like Half-Life 2 it would be a much better fit.

Movement through water is so terrible that I once backtracked half a level trying to figure out what I was missing because my character wouldn't exit the water onto the appropriate ledge. The flashlight is also the worst I've seen in any game - running out of batteries every 20 seconds.

The audio is also so shockingly bad it's worth mentioning. You can't locate enemies by the direction of their voices - many times the sound comes from the opposite direction. Extremely poor for an FPS.

The slow motion feature makes combat like shooting fish in a barrel, yet when you're at normal speed the AI grenades are way overpowered - one hit kill if it's anywhere near you.

In the end it's entertaining for a couple levels - but after that it feels like a repetitive mess of hallways, ghosts, and soldiers.
 
It has potential, but feels like a game that hasn't yet been play-tested. There is a general lack of instruction about controls and the little that is given is as entertaining as reading a manual.

The open world seems interesting at first, but your character gets exhausted quickly and soon you're trudging at a snails pace across the vast terrain. The pistol you've been equipped with has terrible accuracy, and to hit anything you need to be right on top of it. This is an impossible feat when your opponents have assault rifles and your character dies with a couple bullets.

Twenty quicksave/loads later you've finally been lucky enough to run up and shoot your opponent in the face before he can reload. Yet the gun you just picked up wasn't automatically equipped, and as you switch to the unweildy menu to activate it the game doesn't pause and you are mowed down once again. Eventually you survive and get it equipped, but you have to press the reload key to actually load the gun.

Now due to invisible areas apparently high in radiation one of the missions in the starting zone seems impossible to reach, much less complete. Not to mention that once you have slight radiation poisoning you might as well just reload a quicksave instead of wasting large amounts of vodka and bandages.

The AI itself is decent and manages to put up a fight while not being godlike - though it does cheat by omnisciently knowing your location. AI enemies only show up on the map temporarily after they shoot, like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, which puts you at a bit of a disadvantage. Bushes can also be annoying - not obscuring your location to the AI, yet making it hard to aim.

It's a pity they didn't actually play their own game. It could have been fun, but there are just too many rough spots to make it worth struggling through as-is. Realism is fine, but not when it interferes with the game being fun/entertaining.
 
This is a weird mix of MMO leveling and FPS, and in a certain aspect it works okay, but at other times it can be frustrating.

The beginning of this game includes a lot of scripted sequences, which can be a bit annoying if you play through multiple times, as was intended (you reach level 35 or so on the first playthrough, 50+ on the second). The first time playing it seems incredibly smooth and well paced, teaching you all your necessary skills painlessly.

The game itself isn't hard - I was level 13 before I died the first time - but after a while it gets annoying to take headshots and not actually kill the enemy, like a normal FPS. This is due to the level mechanic - killing an enemy one level above you is difficult, and two is nearly impossible. The exception is playing the tank/melee character, who has a special ability that flattens higher levels with ease.

There is also a melee enemy class known as Psycho that has an annoying tendency, when injured, to run full tilt at you holding a hand grenade above their heads. Many times when this happens they are inescapably close, which results in your instant death.

Lastly, the bosses tend to take 3-10 minutes for a solo player to slowly tear through their massive health pools - almost like fighting an MMO raid boss on your own. Almost every boss also has a group of annoying normal enemies to dispatch during the beginning of the fight as well. These encounters are probably much more suited to the co-op gameplay.

Overall a mixed bag, fun in certain aspects, but also one of the few games that makes me feel angry when I play it. That's a sure sign the enemies aren't quite as balanced as they should be.
 
A marked improvement over Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion, AOE3 doesn't just add fancier graphics, they also added a number of new features to make the game less rock/paper/scissors. That shouldn't discount how satisfying the new animations are, with ship masts falling over and pieces of buildings flying in the air.

Your infantry units spread out nicely and block opponents from reaching ranged or artillery units behind them, something that was hard to accomplish in the previous game. Some units now have useful special abilities as well. There is also a new XP/Development Card mechanic that allows you to get free upgrades and units as you progress through the game, which breaks up the monotony of gathering resources and building units.

My only complaint is how cliche Act II of the scenario series turned out to be, but overall it seems like an even better RTS than its predecessor.
 
Fairly good story for a FPS, but doesn't even compare to the original Deus Ex. The missions give it a much more structured feel, compared to just one general objective in the first game.

The gameplay itself also leaves a bit to be desired. On 'normal' a headshot will kill a standard enemy, yet when you reach the last few levels the armored enemies take three shots from the most powerful gun in the game. Since the game uses a single ammo type for all guns (more powerful guns use more ammo) it is extremely easy to run out. This leaves you with melee weapons and grenades.

The mods your character can install are much more powerful and useful than the original game though, and you can get them maxed out by the middle of the game. Bot Domination + Thermal Masking lets you bypass/control turrets, bots, and cameras with impunity. Health Regeration lets you trade energy for health and win impossible fights.

Lastly, the game allows you to apply two mods to each gun, which results in cool combos like a silenced pistol that can use electromagnetic shots to disable laser tripwires. Very cool

In the end the game is just okay because it isn't balanced nearly as well as the first one. You get tons of money, mods, multitools, and grenades - but not enough ammo and a plethora of hard to kill guards on the last few levels.
 
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November 8, 2011
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