Posts Tagged ‘ review

Recipe for a Great Spring Day

This spring is making me ridiculously happy, in part because it’s the first real spring I’ve experienced in many, many years. In northern Wisconsin, where I used to live, the ground is covered in snow and ice until April, until it abruptly melts into mud, then bakes in the heat throughout May. “Spring” is what you call the nice couple of weeks that precede the summer heat wave. The weather isn’t much better in northwest Indiana.

Boston winter may have sucked, but it’s making it up to me with days like yesterday and today: sunny, breezy, and cool. It was so nice yesterday that I decided to go work elsewhere, and took  a stroll down to Toscanini’s ice cream in Central Square. There is nothing like eating Caramel Delight ice cream for lunch on a weekday morning to make you feel like being a grown-up is everything you thought it would be when you were a kid.

At the risk of seeming like an unprofessional novice, I will say that yesterday also marked the first time I’ve had two pieces of paid work published on the same day. I could and perhaps should let the occasion pass unremarked, looking on with a cool detachment that says, “This happens to me every day.” But the fact is that it does not happen every day, and yesterday’s milestone was further proof that I am continuing to move the ball down the field. Such morale boosts are important, especially when there are nothing but deadlines as far the eye can see.

The first piece that went up was my GameShark review of Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943. No reader of this blog will be surprise to find that I gave it a positive review, but I reserved most of my judgments for the review itself. This game would have been in “A” territory easily with a little more polish and a less infuriating interface, but even with the user-unfriendliness that I’ve come to associate with eastern European PC games, it’s a really good wargame. A patch was just released that I haven’t had time to play with. Hopefully it addresses some of my complaints.

The other piece that went up is a feature on The Hunter and its moral code that I wrote for The Escapist. I’ll definitely have more to say about this game and this piece later this week, but for now I’ll just point you to the article and let you read it.

Reviewed – Napoleon: Total War

My first-ever review is up at GameShark, and it’s a fairly positive one for Napoleon: Total War. This assignment was something of a treat, and is probably a poor representative of the reviewing experience as a whole. Napoleon: Total War is a good and very enjoyable game, and I’m still wrapping up some campaigning in it even though the assignment is over. I was happy to have an excuse to plow over 40 hours into the game.

I am sure I’ll jump onto the “I hate reviews” bandwagon the moment I have to review a real dog of a game. But for now, it’s a fun change of pace.

As I was in the process of assigning a score to this game, I found myself thinking about the kind of reviewer I want to be. It would be nice to have a reputation for being tough but fair, but somehow I think most reviewers probably aim for that. It’s maybe more important to have come to terms with how I react to games.

On the Three Moves Ahead before last, or maybe it was during the after-party, Tom made the comment that he got the feeling there weren’t too many games I hated.  On reflection, that’s very true. I actually like most games I play. I’m the sort of person for whom a lot of things just don’t get old. Sometimes, when I’m putting my car key into the ignition, I still kind of marvel at the fact that I can drive. I got my learner’s permit ten years ago, but the feeling of privilege hasn’t entirely gone away. I feel the same way when I sit down to play videogames, especially when I can say, “It’s for work.”

So it takes a lot to make me dislike a game. Huge disappointments, like Rebellion, Rome: Total War, or Empire: Total War, can usually get me there. Pissing me off is another good method. I thought GUN was a good game until it all went to shit in the third act, and that final act erased just about every ounce of goodwill. I’m a little allergic to hyperbolic praise and self-importance. I enjoyed Far Cry 2, for instance, but I can’t say I really like it. It was a beautiful and exciting open-world shooter, but it was also murderously repetitive and kind of shallow. I end up judging the game more harshly because of how it was received, and for its own very limited ambition. I have not been kind to Modern Warfare.

But for the most part, I love gaming and like most videogames. I just don’t think many of them are excellent. I really loved playing Napoleon: Total War, and really do think it’s probably the best Total War title in quite awhile. But when it was time to consider flaws that really bothered me, I didn’t have to look hard to find them.

I’ll have more to say about Napoleon. I really did like it quite a bit. So I’ll close with the reviewer’s typical request: read the text. The score doesn’t perfectly reflect how I feel about the game, or how I personally weigh the game’s elements. It reflects a slightly more cold-blooded assessment.