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Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

The sequel to Morrowind is now available for Xbox 360 and PC. Amazing graphics, improved battling system, more variety and an immersive RPG experience will likely draw gamers around the world to possibly the best RPG ever created.

Graphically the game is stunning. Not only is the game massive but it never disappoints in the visual department. Not even on a low definition television. Nearly all textures are displayed at a high resolution and characters are always highly detailed. Some animations are lacking but considering the large world, that is tolerable. However, mostly in the Xbox 360 version, there is framerate stuttering and long load times.

Like previous Elder Scroll games, this is an open-ended large game. You could be visiting the world of Tamriel for more than 200 hours depending on what you plan on doing. Basically you can do whatever you want. There is a main quest but it is never forced upon you, leaving choices up to you. In fact you do not have to do the main quest at all. The possibilities are almost endless. You can join guilds such as a thieves guild, mages guild, fighters guild, etc. or all of them if you wish. You can become a knight to protect the lands. You could just randomly search for dungeons and caves to find amazing treasure. Whatever you choose, it is hard to not get sucked into this interesting world. There are hundreds upon hundreds of characters to interact with, all of which go about their daily lives. You could literally follow one character around all day, from the time they wake up, go to the store, go to work, to the time they go to sleep. Gameplay is fairly simple and easy to learn but the variety is immense. You use one button to attack and one to defend (such as a shield). You have a jump button, duck button, and a magicka button. There are hundreds of weapons and spells to be found. As you gain enough experience, when you go to sleep you can level up and improve abilities such as strength, personality, willpower, intelligence, agility, etc. Once you start the game you can choose what kind of character you will be —a mage, fighter, thief, sorcerer or a mixture of any of these. You can even create how your character will look.

The music is memorable but unfortunately the same tunes are played in similar areas making them turn boring. Sound effects ranging, from sword thrashing to character footsteps, sound very impressive. Best of all is the voice acting, which is very good. It is unfortunate but expected that you hear a lot of similar voices throughout the game, considering the large variety of characters you will interact with.

This is the best RPG released so far this year. The best part is the variety and how you can do what you want to do. The biggest flaws are the framerate issues (mostly in outdoor areas) and the loading times. Other issues are more personal preference. Don’t expect an involving storyline with fancy cinematics and character development. This is a must play for any RPG or even adventure fan.

......................Overall: 96%

New Ghost Recon

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

The newest installment of the Ghost Recon series—Advanced Warfighter— is now available for the Xbox 360.

For the first time Ghost Recon takes place in the future with real weapons and gadgets that are in progress or prototype form at present. There are gameplay additions that make some significant changes for the better. Great graphics, intense firefights and a strong multiplayer are something to look forward to in Ghost Recon.

Graphics are some of the best on Xbox 360. Unfortunately there is a large loss of graphical power in multiplayer, most likely to keep the game smooth and reduce any lag issues. Textures look amazing from a distance but lose some detail up close. Framerate is consistent and smooth. The most impressive aspects of the graphics are the reflections and lighting found through the campaign mode.

The game almost feels like two different games. The campaign mode has some interesting gameplay mechanics never seen in Ghost Recon before. For one you can now stick to walls and lean from them. This is not only essential but also makes firefights more intense and fun. You can do a roll when laying down on the ground. You can bring three teammates along the missions and you have the ability to bark orders at them such as hold position and move/attack. You can also switch between a assault mode and ghost mode. Assault mode means your team will be very aggressive and quick while in ghost mode they will be silent but deadly. Not only can you order your teammates, you can also order tanks or a Blackhawk helicopter in a lot of missions.

Multiplayer plays are more like the previous Ghost Recon games with little changes. The game moves at a faster pace and the new gameplay mechanics are not available for multiplayer unfortunately. There are a good number of weapons to choose from, all which seem to be fairly well balanced. You can edit your characters appearance and choose one of the four classes. In ranked games you are able to upgrade attributes that can improve accuracy and shooting power. There are several modes of play which consist of different co-op and adversarial modes.

The sound quality has not improved much but it always has been impressive. I don’t see how it could sound much better. Voice acting is good and music, though lacking for good reason, does add to the intensity of the gun fights.

This is the best Ghost Recon in the series yet. The graphics are some of the best yet on Xbox 360 and the framerate is smooth. I found aiming not as refined as it could be and even a little sluggish which made pinpoint accuracy taking some time to get use to. The campaign is intense and a lot of fun with great level design, addictive gameplay and smart A.I. The new gameplay mechanics are a welcome addition but it can be troublesome sometimes when trying to stick to walls. It may take a couple tries before being successful. Ordering teammates usually is not a problem but sometimes your teammates will not cooperate causing frustrations. Multiplayer is great but has not advanced much from previous Ghost Recon games. I would like to see the new gameplay mechanics from campaign be implanted into multiplayer which would make some very interesting combat. The flaws are mostly just nitpicks. Overrall a good game and the only one in the series that I would personally enjoy.

If you have feedback about these reviews or other comments about games, Kurt invites you to send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

......................Overall: 88%

Dead or Alive 4

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

The first fighting game to be released for Xbox 360 is the fourth edition of the Dead Or Alive series. Although not much has changed, the improvements are significant—a deeper fighting system, more characters, improved countering system, and more.

In this edition, the graphics are smoother, more detailed, and the environments have more variety. Framerate is locked at a solid 30 fps, and environments and characters look very impressive on a high definition TV. Gameplay consists of responsive and a deep fighting system. There are 23 characters to choose from, each with their own distinct set of moves. The countering system is vastly improved. You now must time your counters accurately for high, medium or low attacks.

One good thing about this game is that button smashing will not get you too far in this game. You will need to learn and memorize your characters moves if you want to win. Having a fighting strategy is key especially when fighting against real players. There are several modes to choose from, all of which are familiar if you played any of the other Dead Or Alive games, including doa online, survival, story mode, time attack mode, team battle mode, and versus mode. The story mode now has cutscenes in between matches and better end movies when you complete the game with a character (even if they still make little or no sense).

Sounds have not been improved. The game still has a very Japanese soundtrack and voices—decent but unfortunately the game’s weakest link. Why can’t they dub the Japanese voices to English?

This could end up being the best fighting game of the year— good online play with a little lag that usually doesn’t affect gameplay, improved countering system, well balanced characters to choose from, interesting but odd cinematics and a deep overall fighting system, amazing fighting environments with dangers players must avoid such as cars, wild animals,etc.

On the minus side, sound is lacking, and the game itself has not changed much from the previous edition. Avators and buying avator’s costumes seems pointless. Still, as far as fighting games go, this title has little or no competition. If you love fighting games then this game is highly recommended.

......................Overall: 93%

Call of Duty 2: The Big Red One

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

Available for the Xbox, Ps2, and Gamecube now, The Big Red One is based on a true story which took place during world War II. It’s not to be confused with Call of Duty 2 for pc and Xbox 360. This is a different version of the game with a completely unique single player campaign filled with emotion and a strong atmosphere depicting what these soldiers went through during their missions.

Graphically, the game has decent textures and good player models. They definitely don’t look as good as some of the latest games but should not distract gamers too much. The Xbox version keeps a solid framerate and looks better than the other versions. Explosions are some of the most impressive I have seen on this generation of consoles. Gameplay is smooth and basic. In the single-player game every level has its own distinct features, keeping the game fresh. Most missions lack freedom causing the game to feel less immersive. Most missions rely on explosions and teammate chatter to make the game feel more exciting. The personality of your characters is done very well. You get to know and differentiate each character and feel the sorrow when a teammate falls in battle. As interesting as this can be, missions can be repetitive and dull a lot of the time—basically shooting one enemy after the other and moving from one area to another. Sometimes enemies will just keep coming in waves never-ending if you do not move on, which seems unrealistic and proves that the action scripting is relied on a little too much. There is a lot of fun to be had in the single-player game but it just has some dull moments.

Multiplayer is the highlight of the package, particularly online. There are 11 maps and they all are very well created. The weapons are well-balanced except maybe the sniper rifle has a bit of an advantage. One interesting feature is that you can level up during matches which will allow you carry more ammo and grenades every time you respawn. You even get a bonus, which may be health packs, sachets, bazooka, ability to call airstrikes, etc. It just depends on what weapon you choose. Sound is amazing. Every gun sounds realistic. The acting and dialogue of your teammates is very good. Even the sounds of planes zooming by and tanks driving around sound top notch.

If you love war games than you will love this game. It’s not the best out there but it is a solid title. Single-player is good but seemed monotonous at times. AI ranged from painfully bad to decent. The campaign is about 6­8 hours long and worth playing through particularly for the emotion side of things. Having your teammates yelling for help and weeping when a teammate falls in battle can be interesting and give you the feeling you are part of something. Multiplayer is great. The only drawback I found is that the auto-aim could be overwhelming. Online there are no scoreboards or clan support.

Overall a good game but I can’t help but think that this game was not a first priority and that the pc and xbox 360 versions were.

......................Overall: 84%

X-Men Legends II

Score of the game

by Kurt Johnstone

The sequel to the one of the most successful X-Men video games is now available. This time the X-Men must team up with the brotherhood which includes previous enemies such as Toad, Magneto and many others. Apocalypse has risen and you must stop him before it is too late. Yes, the storyline does not offer anything original, but the conflicts between characters and plotpoints prove to be interesting throughout the adventure.

The graphics in Legends II are cel shaded to give the game a comic book look that works well. The framerate stays consistent allowing the game to be very playable. The camera angle is always from birds eye so you can see everything on screen without getting confused when players get split up.

The gameplay is basically a hack and slash game. Simply fight a group of enemies—all the way to your objective, which is usually meeting a boss. Most missions just consist of finding particular collectibles or destroying certain objects while fighting swarms of enemies which seems a little repetitive but enjoyable when playing co-op. Having the 4 mutants work together with their distinct attacks and mutant powers. There are about 16 mutants to choose from. As you gain experience from defeating enemies, you will be able to add attributes to your character such as how strong he/she is or speed. Also you will be able to gain more and strengthen existing mutant powers.

Online play is a welcome edition but you may experience some lag. Controls are simple and responsive. Basically you can do a throw, basic attack and a strong attack. You can put together combos to put a fancy end to your foes. Also you can assign up to 4 mutant powers to the controller at a time.

The sound is similar to the previous installment. It does the job and voices suit the characters well. Acting is decent but nothing special. If you ever watched the cartoon then you probably would know what to expect.

If you love X-Men, you most likely will enjoy this game. Otherwise, think of it as Gauntlet with X-Men characters. The plot is traditional and mostly predictable but has some interesting moments. Storyline is geared towards X-Men fanatics and they will love it. The game is enjoyable even if it is repetitive. The game should last a good 15 to 20 hours of gameplay.

I would have liked to have seen the characters cooperating through the missions, having to use their mutant powers to advance puzzles and defeat enemies, but it ends up being a satisfying beat em‚ up. Bosses required some strategy however, keeping the game fresh.

The use of online co-op is very cool, but not without some flaws. People can’t join once you begin a match-forcing the host to quit and create a new match if all the players leave while in a game. There is some noticeable lag and people can skip over the cutscenes which can cause some frustration if people are trying to watch them.

Overall it is a good generic beat ’em up game geared towards X-Men fans.

......................Overall: 80%

Rainbow Six: Lockdown

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

The newest addition to the Rainbow Six series is now available. The gameplay has been altered from a simulation to an arcade style gameplay. The game is similar to its predecessor in mission design. You will still take down terrorists, save hostages, defuse armed bombs, etc. Along with many of the same modes of play there are some new ones such as, Lone Rush, Sniper Game, Total Conquest and Retrieval.

The graphics are strangely degraded compared to previous Rainbow Six games. Textures resolution is low and bland. Lighting only gets as advanced as shadows put on screen. The only decent quality is the character models which look good but somewhat unrealistic. The framerate is a solid 30 FPS which is the only real good aspect in the graphical department.

The gameplay is faster-paced and much easier now. You now have a health bar and can take many shots before death. The level design is linear and boring. Most missions you just save hostages, clear out terrorists or defuse bombs. The enemy and ally A.I is downright horrible. Teammates will shoot through solid walls at enemies and enemies will sometimes just stand there waiting to die. I feel like I’m playing a game made 5 years ago or older half. There is some replay value however. You can earn intel points throughout missions which allow you to unlock cheats, weapons,artwork, etc. which makes the game more tolerant. Although the single player is pretty much a waste of time, the multiplayer has some pleasurable use. You can play through the missions with up to four players online or offline which is kinda fun. The competitive multiplayer is pretty good. You can play in four different modes some objective based and others are frag fests.

A new feature added to the Rainbow Six series is the P.E.C. mode which allows you edit your own character and gain levels. Every time you gain a level you can upgrade your skills such as accuracy, toughness and power.

Sound is well done for the most part. Gun shots sound distinct and powerful on each gun. There are details such as foot movements. Your team, when playing single player, have lots of dialogue but it is more cheesy and annoying than anything. Acting is pretty bad.

The new P.E.C. Mode is a welcome addition but it rewards the player who plays the most and not the one who is most skilled. There is a good variety of weapons to choose from and some fun multiplayer action but it gets old all too fast. Graphics are very disappointing and so is the gameplay. I feel like they just threw together a game as fast as they could with a big name on it just to make a quick buck, and they probably will succeed. The A.I. is awful and The level design is too simple. Hopefully a tweaked P.E.C. mode will be implemented into a much better sequel. I can only recommend this for a rental or hardcore gamer.

......................Overall: 65%

Pyschonauts

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

One of the most underrated and rarest games on the Xbox and PC is now available for the Playstation 2. The latest work of Tim Schafer, who is known for some classic adventure titles such as Sam & Max and Day Of The Tentacle, takes a shot at the platform genre. You will meet interesting and wacky characters, solve puzzles, learn psychic powers and enter worlds inside people’s minds.

The graphics are odd and wildly imaginative. Though character models are never impressive they do the job. The environments are full of vivid colors and wacky design even if the resolution is of a lower quality than some games. The framerate is locked in at a solid 30 FPS so the action stays smooth.

The main idea of the game is to enter character minds and help them cast away their insanity, fears, conflicts, or anything that will allow you to progress through your mission to get back your friend’s stolen brains. You play as the character Raz who escapes the circus to join a psychic summer camp to learn and enhance psychic powers.

Tim Schafer, the Tim Burton of video games, has created something very original that never becomes repetitive. Each level you enter is completely different than another. One looks like you’re in a French painting, another has you stuck in a board game where you must win the game, and those are just two examples.

The gameplay is a platform game where you must do a lot of jumping and swinging. The gameplay never gets overly complicated and stays simple throughout. Another big part of the game is solving fun puzzles that are not too hard but very entertaining. Using your psychic powers is key to solving these puzzles. Also, finding items in the minds you explore is vital. Pretty much classic Tim Schafer stuff. The music is amazing, suiting the area and circumstance you are in, making the experience richer.

Acting is top notch—without it, this game would not be the experience it is.

This game is extremely entertaining from beginning to end. There never seems to be a dull moment. Puzzles are fun and unique as are all the minds you will explore. You just want to keep playing to see what you will run into next. There are many cutscenes explain the story. The several psychic powers you obtain—levitation, marksmanship, telekinesis, invisibility and more—are also very entertaining.

I strongly recommend picking this title up as it is interesting and offers few problems, which is rare in a platform game. The game balance is ignored, as is the challenge level of the game, but it is still one of the best experiences in gaming.

Overall… 95%

Jade Empire

Score of the Game
by Kurt Johnstone

Jade Empire is the newest RPG by Bioware available for the Xbox game console. The story is similar to Knights Of The Old Republic also created by Bioware. It is a basic good versus evil story, and the evil far outweighs the good. You are the last spirit monk who is destined to stop the empire’s corrupt ways. Your primary objective is to retrieve your Master, who was kidnapped from his homeland.

The graphics are very impressive—in fact, the best graphics that Bioware has been able to conceive on the Xbox. Characters and environments are made up of a high resolution without the framerate suffering, and stay consistent throughout your journey.

The gameplay is relatively simple especially when compared to past games by Bioware.

You can select one of many different fighting styles. You can do a simple attack combo, a powerful attack or a 360-degree attack. You can also increase your power with chi for a short period of time or defend and dodge attacks.

A vital part of this game is talking to people and searching many different locations, although I find the dialogue at times can be overwhelming. You can spend more than 10 minutes talking to even non-important characters. During conversations a list of different responses will appear and you can choose one to direct the flow of the conversation. Some of the choices can be good, bad, or neither. As you progress, how you respond to others can alter whether you are a good or dark person. Unlike Knights Of The Old Republic this does not change the game experience.

Aside from the main quest, you can embark in many side quests to increase the length of the game and make some extra money.

Overall the sound is very good. The music suits the atmosphere of the game very well and the effects do the game justice. The voice acting leaves me with mixed feelings—most of it is mediocre, and sometimes it can get painfully bad. The majority of it, however, is decent.

On the plus side, there is some good humour, and fun fighting styles to play with, and interesting environments to explore. The fighting system is good even if a little simple. The characters you encounter and work with or against are intriguing. The camera work is flawless and doesn’t cause any frustration. The graphics are extremely well done. This game does feel slightly rushed. For one thing you can walk through most people and there is pop-up (mostly people).

I was hoping to see a more interesting game, but it turned out to be predictable and boring. The story feels too simple. The loading can become a nuisance with fairly long load times. Most characters don’t bring much emotion to the situation, making the game feel awkward. I found the game was quite good technically but, deep within, it just felt empty, and I never got sucked into the story enough to care what happens next.

Overall… 80%

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The Boarding House

The Murray Players November 23–25
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November 16–20
City Cinema PG, language may offend, scary scenes
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