Mini Game Reviews

The place where I give small (by my standards), reviews of video games. Note that although I am puffed up with self-importance about my own opinions, I am not a staffer in the employ of some game 'journalism' magazine, website or other enterprise. I don't just get free copies of whatever shovel-smeg the companies are pushing.

So. You will probably find a shortage of super-negative reviews because I have to pay for everything I play. Being the informed consumer that I am, I generally only buy stuff I'm sure (or pretty sure) I'm going to like and I'm right about 90% of the time. I'm not a professional ass-kisser or a starry-eyed n00b who wants to give everything some love. I just generally don't buy games I'll hate. Frankly it always surprises me to find any significant number of negative reviews on a personal gaming site or 'blog. Do people really spend money on shit without at least getting some ideas about it? Even with all the used games and their low prices it would seem ludicrous for people to just plonk uninformed money down more than just occasionally.

I'll give a number rating at the end. I don't mind ratings, so I'm including them because they never stopped me from reading the body of a review. The rating stands for overall quality or 'fun factor' for me. I'm mostly going to include games I've seen all the way through, though I won't necessarily have mastered every aspect. That'll be another reason you won't see many shite ratings. Who'd want to play a bad game all the way through? I'll grow this list as time and inclination permit. In alphabetical order:

Afterburner Climax- Xbox 360.
A straight-up 3d arcade shooter. 3rd person perspective. Sequel to a franchise that hasn't seen an episode in quite some time. An improvement on the old Afterburner games in almost every way except for the lack of a sit-in cockpit! And this is coming from a fan of the old Space Harrier style 3d games, though Afterburner was quite repetitive. This chapter avoids that. Fast, furious, and flashy with unlockables consisting of enhancements to your plane or the game itself. Sometimes a bit difficult to make out incoming missiles, but part of the game is to learn the patterns so you can anticipate the enemy fire. The controls actually took me some getting used to... moreso than Panzer Dragoon Orta or Rez, which also play from a similar perspective. The game is short, as befits its arcade origins, but there are multiple paths and some secrets througout the game. Sitting close to your widescreen HDTV, this game will show you why arcades used to rule. 8/10.

Akai Katana Shin- Xbox 360.
2D shooter from Cave and in the rare (for Cave) horizontal orientation. Harnessing all the power of the Xbox 360 to push a sprite-based game to unheard of levels. Less sterile than Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu (I was reminded of Metal Slug in places, a great thing) yet even more spectacular, it is hard to imagine where an STG could go at this point to top this game visually and complexity-wise. Not the most difficult Cave game ever, but one that could take ages to master for scoring puporses, especially since there are three widely different (mechanics-wise) versions of Akai Katana on the disc. I think this game is accesible for relative newcomers, but the downside is that in a number of ways every other hori shooter is a step backwards or down. Might be my Game of the Year for 2011. 10/10.

Alien Soldier- Genesis.
2d run 'n' gun (sort of) from Treasure. Actually played by way of the Wii Virtual Console because as good as this game is, there's no way paying out the ass for an original copy beats getting it on the VC... AND having its output looking good on HDTV. Treasure has a rep for 'boss fest' games, but this one is pretty much the literal example. A few lackey enemies strewn around the foyer of each level before you get to its main guardian, frequently some rotating tentacled horror. A selectable weapon system and a control scheme that is somewhat difficult to get used to but eventually impresses. The visuals aren't going to further the cause of sprite art, but they (again the bosses especially) were pretty cool back in the Mega Drive's heyday. If you like your mental challenges about how to use weapons and skills to defeat something instead of literal puzzles, this is your game. 8.5/10.

Bangai-O- Dreamcast
More sprite madness from Treasure. Probably most closely classified as a sort of arena shooter. You pilot a small onscreen mecha amidst levels filled with enemies and bullets ending each level with a surreal conversation with the various bosses and characters. Your robot is quick, responsive, and armed with a fall-back weapon/smart bomb that is so ingenious it is a wonder that no one else has ever copied it, and yet only the recent XBLA sequel has bothered. Many stages are almost puzzle-like in nature, but much less so than the later Bangai-O games. A must own for 2D shooter fans despite the fact it isn't a forced-scrolling game. 10/10.

Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury- Xbox 360.
Sequel to Treasure's unconventional mecha shooter. The bizarre characters are missed this time around so this game has considerably less wacky 'flavor'. But Treasure upped the blast factor with more attack options, more types of weapons, and what is probably the most overwhelming 'smart bomb' in the history of video gams. Yet you will still find the volume of enemies to put you to the test. Many weapons and the puzzle-like nature of many of the stages have been brought over from the DS title Bangai-O Spirits. I found the difficulty spikes and one-solution answers to the stages (compared to DC Bangai-O) to bring this one down somewhat. Still awesome, but definitely one for the masochistic. 8/10.

Bayonetta- Xbox 360.
Unbelievable art direction and lush production values surround this third-person action game. Bayonetta's style might not be for everyone, and the quasi-religious nature of the conflict seems to be the flavor of the moment in Mature action games. There's no denying the depth of the combat system, or its uniqueness... being based more on athleticism and dodging than blocking or cover, and that added to a really unique version of 'bullet time' that stands out from most examples of this overworked mechanic. If you want to blast straight through, expect the game to run a bit short compared to most games at the same price point. But if you want to play it as intended, getting better and better, improving your grades and ferreting out all the game's secrets, you could be at this for a long, but fun time. Additional kudos to Platinum for a different sort of protagonist. If you can handle the aesthetic choices made for the game, I'd highly reccomend it. 9/10.

Bejeweled 2- Xbox 360.
Downloadable puzzle game on XBLA. Makes me question my sanity and want to go out and choke stray dogs in the street. Seemingly laid back and fun, but so difficult for me, that at this point I'd rather have brain surgery with no anaesthetic than have to play this game again. But I'm determined to get at least the Classic Mode achievement, so I keep playing and I'm an idiot. No rating.

Child of Eden- Xbox 360.
Mizuguchi's sequel to cult hit Rez. Another trip through the innards of a computer network but this time harnessing the full graphic power of a modern console (the orginal first appeared on the Dreamcast). The levels this time around are lush, intricate and visually based on some form of development, the rise of life itself in the Evolution stage, things growing in the Beauty stage, or humanity's progress in civilisation in the Passion stage. A few additional mechanics make the experience a little more complex to play than Rez. Like the previous game I found the immersion in this game caused parts of it to really resonate with me emotionally, though I don't rate it quite as high as the previous game. Partly that's because of the impact a sequel is not going to be able to duplicate, but also the lighter New Age sort of aspect to this isn't as appealing as the darker, edgier Rez. 9/10.

Darkwatch- Playstation 2.
First person shooter with a hybrid Halloween/Old West theme and plot. The combination works pretty well. Although the locales could've been really drab with endless browns and tans, adding the horror element lets a few curves get thrown in. The weapons and powers are interesting, and there is a save/destroy the victims decision element that is not unusual now, but wasn't common in an FPS back when this was released. The game mechanics don't do anything new, and the few thinking elements won't break anyone's brain, but it everthing its got is all done pretty well. With some aspects, like the audio, being just awesome. There were some pretty scary moments that may not be on the Resident Evil/Silent Hill level but still had me kinda tense. About the only downside is that the art style makes for some oddly-shaped, spindly people. 7.5/10.

Dodonpachi- Saturn.
Sequel to Donpachi, and a better game by an order of magnitude. Here Cave gets into the pace and bullet density that pretty much defines the developers entire shooter output... and shooters is almost all they've done. One of my favorite games on the Saturn (its available for PS1 as well), a system that is bowed under by great shooters. Playing the excellent, current 'Pachi' games on Xbox 360 means a hell of a lot more when you see the source of so much of their greatness-- this game. 8.5/10.

Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu 1.5- Xbox 360.
Most recent of the 'pachi' series of STGs (2d shooters). With graphics upgraded to rock your flatscreen TV (as opposed to most arcade-based STGs sticking to their CRT visuals), this game has an unprecedented level of eye-blistering curtain fire and explosions. In a way the graphics are almost too slick, and flasy as they are, they're almost sterile. The same almost-HD treatment was given to Mushihimesama Futari, but it comes off better there. Maybe because of the organic nature of the backgrounds and enemies. But a smoother, more intense bullet hell experience would be hard to find. This one is a bit easier than the other 'pachi' games, mostly owing to the auto-bombing and super-powered weapon options. Includes novice and alternate modes, it'd be hard for me to recommend a shooter more. Especially with today's HD spoiled players. 9/10.

Dodonpachi Daioujou (Black Label Extra)- Xbox 360.
Followup to Dodonpachi. The first home version of this game was released for PS2 and didn't have the extra modes this one does. There's a lot of flak for this game out on the internet. Sane individuals will realise that the problems mostly stem from amateurish, sluggish menus and long load times. There is supposed to be a patch released imminently that will fix these issues, but even if that doesn't happen the core game is pretty damn good. In line with other recent-ish Cave titles, 'loli' characters have been added as co-pilots, but don't let the ads featuring these girls fool you. The game is probably Cave's grittiest game after Ketsui. I don't really like playing this game for score, since the chaining system is so unforgiving, but given the other cool aspects of 'pachi' mechanics, and super difficulty, this game is great played for survival. 8/10.

Donpachi- Saturn.
The first danmaku (curtain fire) or bullet hell shooter from Cave, currently the biggest flag-waver for the old-fashioned 2D shooter genre. Not a particularly pretty or complex game, but all most of the pieces that would become Cave standard mechanics are in place. A piece of history and not a bad starting place for players wanting to ease into bullet hell games owing to its less hectic pace... if one can get over the somewhat clunky graphics and voice samples. Being a Cave fan myself I have kind of a soft spot for this game, perhaps liking it more than it deserves. 7.5/10.

Espgaluda II- Xbox 360.
Nothing unexpected here for anyone familiar with the first game or is familiar with Cave's manic shooter style. In fact, this game is almost too similar to the first game. The graphics are sharper, if you choose the HD-friendly Xbox 360 mode, and the slow motion ability has been enhanced, but this is basically a harder version of Espgaluda. The first game is frequently indicated as a good starting place for those new to Cave games, with all the Cave hallmarks, but a bit easier (apart from the last boss who is the typical lube-eschewing ass pirate). This sequel, not so much. It's a good game, and the mechanics, though somewhat complex, are pretty cool. It has a scoring system you can really sink your teeth into... or leave well enough alone, you'd still have a good game. Both Espgaluda games have a unique (for an STG) fantasy-tech graphic them, that is the favorite of some hardcore players. You'll believe clones with butterfly wings can fly. 7.5/10.

Gate of Thunder- TurboGrafxCD
On a console known for its abundance of shooters, this is one of the best. Lone spaceship against the universe plot, as usual, but the game still set a standard for all home sidescrolling shooters to follow, a standard that has rarely been equalled. Sharp visuals, with backgrounds constantly evolving, and a rocking soundtrack that still has fans spinning it today. The mechanics may seem fairly basic but this game just does everything right. You have no business calling yourself a 'shmup' fan unless you've played this game through. 9/10.

Keio Flying Squadron- Sega CD.
Humorous, but odd 2d shooter from JVC. Set around the time of the Meiji Restoration (the 1860s) Keio posits all sorts of technology for the enemies that didn't actually exist at the time, in the same way Robo Aleste or Sengoku Ace does... but in a far more wacky, cartoony manner. Lots of Japanese cultural references and truly original enemies and bosses. The scoring and powerups are straightforward and the graphics won't win any awards for sophistication, but the aesthetics in this game make it memorable. 7.5/10.

Keio Yugekitai (Keio 2)- Saturn.
Mixed genre (mostly platform) game from JVC. Sequel to Keio Flying Squadron but with only two real shooting segments that resemble that game. A likely disappointment to players looking for more of the same as KFS, but I really liked this game. The visuals are in the same kooky Keio vein but bigger and louder. The soundtrack is awesome. If anything this game reminds me of Silhouette Mirage with its humor and the varied sections. Amongst the platforming and shooting there is also jumping and ducking rail rides and confrontations with bosses that include sumo and a fighting game style tournament. The further along I got the more enjoyed it. You never do anyone thing for long before a whole new style and challenge is thrown at you. Not too difficult if you are an experienced platform gamer. 8/10.

Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi- Xbox 360.
Originally released in arcades eight years ago at almost the same time as Cave's Dodonpachi Daioujou, this game shares Daioujou's hardened, mechanised aesthetic, and similarly to that game has lost none of its graphic appeal. One of the last games from Cave to NOT feature 'lolis' (teen or pre-teen anime girls) in its artwork, Ketsui has appeal for macho Americans all over it. Featuring a unique and (for Cave) easy to understand scoring system, this one is battling for top spot in my favorite shooters of all time. Oddly, I find getting through the actual levels MUCH harder than the bosses. The disc is not loaded with extra modes and all that, but what is here is an awesome, focused example of a bullet hell shooter. A real case made for a great game making a lot of extras superfluous and unnecessary. 10/10.

Mars Matrix- Dreamcast.
2d manic shooter from Takumi and Capcom. Somewhat crude pre-rendered sprite graphics, with a bullet-canceling shield mechanic similar to Takumi's Gigawing titles. But a very unique and fun game if you are into masochistic difficulty (fans of Dodonpachi or Ketsui line up) that is somewhat mitigated by using credits earned to 'buy' ship and game enhancements from a shop menu. You'll still have to play a lot to get anywhere whether you use practice and raw ability or need to earn enough for a lot of ships and continues. Either way prepare for some of the hardest bosses and one of the most brutal final levels that I can remember. 7/10.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade- Wii.
Pretty solidly my game of the year for 2009. And that is going up against the likes of Bayonetta and Mushihimesama Futari. I had a good time with Vanillaware's previous 'princess game', Odin Sphere. But there were enough sloggy issues that I wasn't sure I wanted to go through a similar experience with a followup. Thankfully Vanillaware addressed all the problems, and I had an incredible time playing this game. A sidescrolling combat game (not a literal beat 'em up in the Final Fight or Streets of Rage sense) with some platforming (but not dangerous platforming) thrown in, this might be the first wii game where I have actually lauded the use of the wiimote. The graphics are second-to-none, and despite being 2d, make almost any other game look blah and uninspired, being very stylised and drawing heavily from Japanese mythology, as does the plot, but I think anyone who just blows this off as old-fashioned is an utter fool. The action is fast and intuitive. You won't believe how much blocking, dodging, and slashing Momohime and Kisuke can manage in just two seconds. And the game is utterly epic, with many cool places to explore and tons of items to find and exploit. Gaming doesn't get better than this. 10/10.

Mushihimesama- PS2.
Literally 'Beetle Princess' this is Cave's video game tribute to Hayao Miyazaki's awesome film 'Nausicaa'. Lots of bitching from the hardcore set about how muddy this game looks, particularly on modern flatscreen televisions, but I'm not seeing a real problem myself. After fucking with some of the options in the menus, and having a damn fine plasma screen, everything looks decent. And the game plays like a dream, though the scoring principals are overly complex. Art for the game makes it look like it'd be cutesy to a fault, but it absolutely is not, with Princess Reiko's death scream actually being kind of chilling. The giant insect theme has occasionally been done before but not nearly this well. 8.5/10.

Mushihimesama Futari 1.5- Xbox 360.
Yet another must-own danmaku shooter from Cave. Takes everthing great about the first Beetle Princess game, simplifies the scoring a bit, adds in non-bug enemies (dinosaurs and dragons) on certain levels, gives you a another character with different shot types, and juices the whole thing up with graphics nearly optimised for HD televisions. Despite being an old play style of game, this game's sights and sounds make it a showpiece for the 360's abilities. 10/10.

Outrun Online- Xbox 360.
Downloadable arcade racing game from Sega. If you've played any version of Outrun you know what to expect. Fast, flashy racing with selectable paths and crazy amounts of traffic. I played various versions a lot in arcades but never really bought a home Outrun 'til this one. Control is smooth, lots of different modes of play and online leaderboards (as expected). Graphics are polygonal replacing the old Outrun's sprite-scaler effects, but are still sort of coarse and pixel-y, maintaing a lot of the feel of the older iterations... quite unlike the high gloss cutting edge look of the other sprite-scaler update, Afterburner Climax. 8/10.

Panzer Dragoon- Saturn.
3d rail shooter from Sega's now-defunct Team Andromeda. Unique and unforgettable game world with an awesome soundtrack to boot. Considering how basic rail shooters are, this could've been an example of style over substance, but like Sin & Punishment, the game plays really well too. As with almost all polygonal games from that era, the graphics have dated rather a lot, but the uniqueness of the art design still shines through. On a recent playthrough I was still marvelling at the imagination behind some of the set pieces. 7.5/10.

Panzer Dragoon Zwei- Saturn.
Sequel from Team Andromeda. Takes the formula established in Panzer Dragoon and tweaks everything just a bit and the game comes out better. More colorful levels, more awesome bosses, more everything... and not in the shitty summer blockbuster sequel way either. Polygonal graphics look fairly scratchy in HD nowadays, but can still impress in places. You won't get a significantly different play experience over the original, but if I could only own one PD game this would probably be it. 9/10.

Panzer Dragoon Orta- Xbox.
Rail shooter sequel developed by Sega's Smilebit after Team Andromeda shut down. Word is that Smilebit had some of the previous games' staff involved and it shows. Orta adds a few new mechanics, multiple dragon types and an acceleration/braking control that add some complexity but work out pretty well once you get acclimated. The updated visuals evoke the same sense of wonder for the new spoiled gamer generation. I anticipated this game highly and wasn't let down at all. The ability to save makes this game easier than the older episodes, but it also feels a lot longer. 8.5/10.

Panzer Dragoon Saga- Saturn.
The RPG entry in the PD series. I'm not the biggest RPG fan in the world, but I though the PD world would make a great choice for a role-playing background. Riding dragons would just be the icing on the cake, though I did wonder, upon first hearing about the game, how they'd make the combat work if it wasn't rail-shooter segments based on the earlier games. Turns out the game was pretty damn good. Some of the on-foot exploration stuff can get tedious. PD's scenery, canyons and jungles, looks great when you are whizzing through it at high speed on a dragon, but much less so when you are hoofing it. But it isn't any worse than many RPGs and if you are a fan of the genre it may not even be a blip on your critical radar. The game is STILL great to look at, particularly when you are mounted on your dragon, with a combat system that is probably the most fun I've had in an RPG ever. Ahead of its time. 8/10.

Rez HD- Xbox 360.
Hi-definition remake of the 3D rail shooter from musician/game designer Tetuya Mizuguchi. His attempt to put the concept of synaesthesia into a game, Rez is a mind-bending exercise in gaming and music. The original game was released for Dreamcast and then PS2, and there's been no attempt to update the graphics other than to increase resolution for this generations big widescreen TVs. Despite the idea that wireframe polygon graphics should be old-fashined by now, this game still feels really fresh owing to the surreal nature of the 'journey' and the way your play fashions new elements to the music. I found the final level to actually be pretty moving emotionally... no mean feat for a rail shooter which is historically one of the shallowest game genres there is. 10/10.

Samurai Shodown VI- Playstation 2.
The latest 2d installment in SNK(/Playmore)'s long-running fighter franchise. Also known as Samurai Spirits: Tenkaichi Kenkakuden. Despite the lack of blood, and less variety in the backgrounds and stages than is usual, I actually enjoyed this chapter of SamSho rather a lot. Every character from the previous 2d games (so missing fighters from SS64 and SS Warriors Rage), and a choice of 'styles' that emulate the mechanics systems of each older game. In effect, a Dream Match game akin to the ideas seen previously in the King of Fighters series, out of continuity like that game but more comprehensive. The game controlled very fluidly on a HRAP stick, and the end boss though 'SNK difficult' was not as bad as previous villains, and in fact one of the new-ish characters makes him ludicrously easy. Art and spritework still pretty old school. A must-buy for fans of the series, and an improvement over SamSho V. 8.5/10.

Sengoku Blade- Playstation 2.
Port of Psikyo's 2d arcade shooter. A rare horizontally oriented game from a company known for there verts, this game looks great on the widescreens of players unwilling or unable to rotate their screens. Sequel to Sengoku Ace, this franchise is set in a sort of steampunk-meets-feudal-Japan background similar to Robo Aleste. Although the scoring is pretty basic,and the powerups mundane, the variety in enemies, backgrounds and bosses makes up for it. The hand-drawn art is spectacular. As usual for Psikyo, the first four levels are thrown at you in random order and you can credit feed where you die. After that, the last three levels are fixed and if you lose all your avatars you will restart from the beginning of the fatal level. Not a total kibosh on credit feeding, but better than nothing. 8/10.

Silhouette Mirage- Saturn.
2d platformer from Treasure. The run 'n' jump version of Ikaruga... but not really. Using a similar color-switch mechanic to the revered shooter (but available years prior) Silhouette Mirage is a very quirky, fun game. Every level has some new nutty enemies, or wacky challenge to overcome most involving various shots or beams the heroine blazes away with. Having to position yourself to use the right color at the right time might be annoying to some gamers but I found it really fun, and the game is not that hard, even given Treasure's penchant for huge, powerful bosses.... which ARE to be found in this game, but aren't all that difficult to dispatch. The massive firepower on display in Guardian Heroes or Radiant Silvergun is present here as well. 8/10.

Sin & Punishment- Nintendo 64 (Wii Virtual Console)
Legendary rail shooter from Treasure. As quirky and awesome as every review says it is. Controls take some getting used to as they aren't as intuitive as the wiimote/nunchuk that the sequel would employ. Absolutely worth it for the 'aircraft carrier' and 'you versus the world' stages alone. 9/10.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor- Wii.
Probably my Game of the Year for 2010. Sequel to a cult classic that ran on the Nintendo64 and is currently on the Virtual Console. A rail shooter that miraculously includes dodge and melee attack mechanics that are actually useful and fun. Unbelievably long and intricate, the game is just one spectacular setpiece after another. Difficult, score-based, and exhausting and yet the most exhilirating game I've played this year. And the passage of time, all the acclaim, and the great sales, have not dimmed Treasure's weirdness. 10/10.

Sonic Adventure- Dreamcast.
3d action platformer from Sega's Sonic Team. Disproves the axiom that moving a franchise from 2d to 3d must kill off its quality (go with it and skip over Sonic R). So imagine my surprise when Sonic Adventure actually turned out to be good. REALLY good. It wasn't faultless, but what it did right, it did so right as to make the quibbles really trivial. And it was the most fun I'd had with a game in a long time. After all this time, Sega still hasn't made 3d Sonic title that can touch it... though the immediate sequel was good too. Mario 64 wasn't perfect either, but Sonic Adventure had the same effect that on me that title had on the Nintendites. 10/10.

Sonic CD- Sega CD.
Released on a platform not a lot of people owned, Sonic CD, is the great 'lost' Sonic game. Never seeming to make it onto the various compilations and anthologies that have come out since the Genesis days, this is probably the one episode that can rival Sonic 2, for sheer awesomeness. The usual speed and rings, but with the addition of time travel to level variants, and the awesome rival Mecha Sonic. Practially worth hunting a Sega CD down all on its own. 10/10.

Sonic The Hedgehog- Genesis.
A revelation in platforming games back in the day. Graphics and gameplay have been improved in the sequels, but this one is still well worth playing. And with Sonic Generations coming out soon, it's time to get caught up if you haven't already. Is there anyone who doesn't know something about Sonic? Knocks the shit out of most of the later 3D games. 8/10.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2- Genesis.
Sequel to Sega's famous mascot platformer. Lacks the impact that the first one had, but otherwise is an improvement in almost every way. Introduces one of the few additional characters that fans actually like, Tails. So good it is hard to believe that every platform game, with very rare exceptions, struggles to be better than this one. 9/10.

Sonic The Hedgehog 3/Sonic & Knucles- Genesis.
The famous lock-together Sonic Game. I've never played Sonic & Knuckles on its own. From my experience, this is pretty much more of the same from Sonic 2, with the addition of Knuckles who, like Tails, plays quite a bit differently and was a welcome additon, particularly with his rival status to Sonic as opposed to just being buddy-buddy. I'd have to say the visuals took something of a hit. In certain places the game(s) get a bit ambitious in trying to pull off cool graphics tricks and they wound up looking more scruffy and odd than 'wow'. But the game is still essential for the Sonic experience that old timers rave about, but seems noticeably absent in modern games. 8/10.

Soul Star- Sega CD
3D shooter for the semi-obscure Genesis add-on. Made before Core/Eidos sunk into the pits of hell from creating Tomb Raider. A simply awesome game. Controls are responsive, but the amount of stuff onscreen makes the movement of your ship somewhat jerky at times. Three different vehicles to pilot, with the spaceship levels being a rail shooter, but the other vehicles being free-roaming 3d. Spectacular 'mode 7' landscapes and one of the best soundtracks in any video game ever. This game is an unknown or underrated gem if there ever was one. 9/10.

WH40K: Fire Warrior- Playstation 2.
Objectively, this is a mediocre FPS. It isn't horrible, it just wouldn't seem to have anything to recommend it over other corridor shooters. Unless you're a 40K nutter. Which I am. That made all the difference for me. Amongst all the various games based on GW properties this is the only one in real-time with a truly immersive perspective. This is the only game that will show you what it is to see and hear what it's like to hunker down in an Imperial Guard bunker, walk the halls of a Tau spacecraft, or watch a Chaos Marine hold his boltgun to your face and pull the trigger. For 40K fans that could mean a lot and make up for quite a bit of mediocrity. The graphics ARE murky in places, but that is part and parcel of the backwards technophobic game background. I can't say I'd recommend this to the uninitiated, but for me it was better than the sum of its parts. 8/10.

Wolfenstein- Xbox 360.
If you right down a list of Wolfenstein's attributes, it comes off as a rather basic example of a first person shooter. The magical medallion that the hero uses is cool and in used to good effect in the game, but doesn't do much more than 'shields' and 'bullet time' abilites do in other FPS titles. But what really struck me about Wolfenstein was the sheer visceral nature of the gunplay. From the first scene with bullets thunking into the walls around you, sending splinters flying, my nerves were put on high alert. Rarely, if ever, have I played a game that STILL had me so cautious about taking a hit even after I had a pretty good idea just how much damage I could take before I'd die. And I mean this in a good way. The feedback you get from machine guns chattering and jumping in your onscreen hands was actually kind of disturbing, conveying to some small degree that guns are life-threatening *weapons* and not just virtual toys for wiping out alien scum. Everything from the super-detailed environments, to the horrible bloody deaths of the nazis just reinforces the 'you are there' feeling. I pooped around with a Call of Duty game just for comparison's sake while playing Wolfenstein.... and there just was no comparison. I was constantly keeping my goshdamn head down, or running pell-mell across open street after tossing grenades to keep THEIR heads down in Wolfenstein. Other modern FPS, just don't compel the same terror. Wolfenstein sure as hell didn't reinvent the FPS game, but it probably gave me the most intense experience I've ever had playing one. I played the game through on normal, and in hindsight it was probably a little too easy given how deadly the guns are for the enemies. But the first stage of the final boss is famously an absolute prick to beat and any higher difficulty for him might've really put me off finishing the game. I'm knocking a half-point off this games grade because of how many achievements are tied to online play. I'm not that concerned with achievements but I feel like getting through the awesome campaign should've been worth more towards the overall total. 8.5/10.

Vanquish- Xbox 360.
Super-awesome third-person shooter that *can* play like Gears of War, but really becomes its own beast when the player untucks their nutsack and uses the boost and ARS mode the way they were intended. If you are willing to get out from behind cover then this might be the game for you. No padding and no multiplayer. 9/10.