Sick of traditional military shooters yet? Well, if the astounding sales numbers for the “Call of Duty” franchise is any indication, you are not. While we wait for the coming showdown between “Battlefield 3″ and the next Call of Duty, we have been blessed with three first-class shooters to fill the void and show us that there’s more to first-person warfare then what we’ve been told. One of them – Crysis 2 – is the best looking game we’ve ever seen on a console. It is simply stunning. It’s also a rock solid shooter with a decent story and exciting gameplay. In the middle of the pack is “Bulletstorm,” a fun game that definitely does not take itself too seriously. It’s a refreshingly raunchy space shooter that rewards creative kills. In third place is the ambitious “Homefront.” The game plays out in the near future where a unified Korea invades and occupies the United States. It’s been well-reported that the game is short and doesn’t have the graphical prowess of its peers. However, that should not stop you from considering it.
“Crysis 2″: 9 out of 10
Here’s a book you can absolutely judge by its cover. “Crysis 2″ is gorgeous, you’ll see that right away. The game lurking beneath the beauty is also smart and exciting. “Crysis 2″ takes place in a beautifully-lit New York City that is alive with destruction and two distinct enemy forces. It has some of the trappings of the common military shooter, but the story about a high-tech “nanosuit” that turns you into a super-powered army of one helps this game stand apart.
You will not be trapped in corridor firefights. You will explore a breathtaking city as well as otherworldly set pieces and interiors. And you will be afforded the chance to approach each enemy engagement with your own style. How? It’s the clothes that makes the man. The suit – which you can upgrade throughout the game – allows you to take a tactical approach to most situations. One reviewer compared it to the “Batman: Arkham Asylum” in which you are often given the chance to assess the enemy’s positions so you can plan out your engagement. That’s a good comparison. A cloaking device allows for stealth and an over-shield feature make you nearly indestructible for a few moments at a time. To keep it fair these special features drain energy from the suit and can only be used in small doses. Also, your tactical heads up display (HUD) let’s you pick your moves early.
However, it’s not all stealth and strategy. Once you have the feel of the game you may find that it’s more fun to throw yourself into a punishing firefight and use the cloaking, shield and formidable weapons on the fly to play through some Hollywood-caliber action sequences.
The suit’s abilities also make for an interesting romp in multiplayer modes. Some of the people behind the adored Timesplitters games worked on multiplayer, and it pays off. There are the obvious nods to Call of Duty standards, but the suit power-up perks are a clever integration and the anti-camping Killstreaks that require you to fetch an enemy’s dog tags is pretty smart.
It’s easy to love a solid shooter with phenomenal graphics, but “Crysis 2″ isn’t perfect. The story is fine but often confusing. Pacing and checkpoints could be improved. And the voice acting has some highs but mostly lows. In a game that looks and plays this good you tend to notice what it does wrong even more. If that’s a backhanded compliment, so be it. “Crysis 2″ is still one of the best shooters on the market for any system and is blessedly different enough to warrant a look for any FPS fan.
“Bulletstorm”: 8 out of 10
EA went out of its way to create controversy over this game before its release. Commercials showing dudes being shot in the crotch were just one of the tools in the hype toolbox. As it was prepared to hit the selves, people were already making up their minds. The general public – and your average gamer – are used to gratuitous violence at this point. But when you pair that up with some potty humor you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Unless, of course, the game is a blast to play. And it is.
“Bulletstorm” is a steady stream of humor aimed at making 12-year-old boys pee themselves. It gets old fast, but the game lurking beneath this prolonged pee-pee joke is what’s really special. It’s not just that the shooting is solid, the interaction with your enemies via a lasso is the main event here. While suffering through the endless wave of stupid jokes, you’ll be using the “leash” to hurl bad guys around the world, impaling them into all sorts of environmental hazards. This is the true heart of the game: Finding new and interesting ways to use the leash and your wits to kill enemies so that you are graced with points with which you can buy new weapons and the upgrades that make them devastating.
“Bulletstorm” has some fun cooperative online features but the multiplayer aspect isn’t as interesting as the main event. The idea of being creative with your carnage is what will bring you back to the game. It’s fun and isn’t a bad looking game, either. The relentless attack on your tolerance for potty humor is really a drag after awhile, but at least it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
“Homefront”: 7 out of 10
One game that does take itself seriously is “Homefront.” Written by John Milius – he wrote “Apocalypse Now” and directed “Conan: The Barbarian” – the game is easily the most ambitious mass-market title from a storytelling perspective.
Not unlike Milius’ other project, “Red Dawn,” “Homefront” is about a United States invasion. In 2027 America has fallen to the Greater Korea Republic, an unlikely alliance of North and South Korea with nuclear might. None of our allies come to our rescue as our high school stadiums become detention centers and death squads kill parents in front of their children on Main Street. The dramatic opening cinematic in the game tells the story well, but the threads start pulling out nearly immediately. The graphics and voice acting are not what you’ve come to expect from a AAA title. There’s also nothing special about the gameplay other than the phenomenal feel to the weaponry. Of all the games on this list, “Homefront’s” weapons feel the best. Given that the game is a “shooter,” solid gunplay is enough to lift the game above its weaknesses.
It’s also paced well. Some people may disagree, thinking it too slow at some points, but the game lulls you into the story with its pacing for just long enough to be able to shock you with an intense firefight that brings you back to the edge of your couch. This would be even more impressive if the game was longer. At about six hours, the single-player campaign is far too short to justify the $60 price tag. Luckily, the multiplayer is the game’s best feature. If you’re ready to step out of your Call of Duty comfort zone and get into a new multiplayer experience, “Homefront’s” short campaign will serve as a training ground for some truly fun online battles.
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