XBD Review: Assault Heroes 2

During my review of Assault Heroes 2 this week, two undeniable truths made themselves readily apparent. My first realization is that I absolutely suck at fast-twitch games. Seriously. From Geometry Wars to Ikaruga… I’m really, really bad. The second truth is that I totally enjoy games that I suck at. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps a fast-twitch review will enlighten me. So lets dive right into this game.

Graphically, Assault Heroes 2 is a more polished version of the original Assault Heroes. I bought Assault Heroes 1 when it first graced the infant XBLA because the action was ridiculous and the challenge was welcome; it was also one of the prettiest arcade games to come in at the $10 mark. Not much has changed since then which could be a good or a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing because there wasn’t much that needed improved on. The characters are crisp looking. The particle effects are bright and the levels are diverse. For ten dollars, you can expect graphics that are better than some retail games. I’ll attribute that success to the well-laid graphics engine from AH1 being used. All in all, my only graphical complaint is the lack of a zoom. I know the dynamics of dealing with a camera angle in mid-assault is probably too much, but it would have been nice to see all the lush detail in the environment and my character. I can’t even complain about enemies (or my character) getting lost in the environment. Everything is spot on.

Graphics (25 Points Possible):
• Texture & Image Quality (5): 5 points
• Frame Rate Quality (5): 5 points
• Technical Effort (5): 5 points
• Overall Art Direction (10): 10 points

The audio in the game is reasonably expected. It’s nothing stellar, nothing bad. I can hear each bullet shooting, but it all seems to blend together into one cacophonous mess of bulletry (new word, just made it up). Having said that, I’m a bit of an audio snob. I have an above-average audio setup and the Xbox360 has all the tools to exploit systems like mine. Thus, I was a bit disappointed that AH2 didn’t take more advantage of my speakers. It would have been nice to have a richer echolocation of where enemy fire was coming from. Also, the screams from the exploding “terrorists” get really annoying really fast. I make it a point to shoot them first just out of spite. The soundtrack is appropriate, especially during boss battles. Overall, the audio is just average.

Audio (18 Points Possible):
• Sound Effects (6): 3 points
• Soundtrack (6): 5 points
• Sound Quality (6): 4 points

From a gameplay perspective, AH2 is pretty much on point. It’s addictive fun if you like fast-twitch games and it’s really well balanced. The endless hordes of enemies aren’t unfairly hard and the bosses are freaking huge which is a welcome throwback to R-Type if you’re old enough to remember that game. If you can handle them, the new hijack-able vehicles are an interesting addition. Personally, I find the new vehicles fun, albeit a bit useless. Sure, they break up the monotony of switching between the assault ATV and foot, but they only have 1 standard weapon each (2 on the tank technically). There is no direct advantage to being in the helicopter because it’s still just as susceptible to gunfire as the ATV and the tank is slow as molasses. Seriously, if it didn’t have a huge cannon on it, I’d just as soon walk because it’s a bullet magnet and can’t travel over all types of terrain. Still, it gets the job done. Moving onto the later missions (without giving away any spoilers), I love how diverse the locals become. Fresh challenges await you! I can’t really say that I fell in love with this game because it will probably find itself lost among the other action shooters I have stockpiled on my hard drive. It just doesn’t have that appeal that will keep gamers coming back for more and I feel that carried over from AH1. Don’t take that statement as a lack of fun; but you won’t find yourself craving this game after a few days of playing it through. As for the menus and HUD, they are both very clean. Weapon choice is clearly visible and your health, stats, and upgrade levels are easy to understand.

Gameplay (30 Points Possible):
• Storyline & Attachment (10): 6 points
• Character Control (10): 8 points
• Game Interface (5): 5 points
• Menu System (5): 5 points

And finally, how’s the replay value and multiplayer treating us in AH2? To be frank, it’s the same as AH1. Don’t expect any surprises here. The fun factor is present and accounted for in the single player mode and I didn’t have any issues playing online. Live didn’t have any issues with lag and the game code only hiccupped once when I was attempting to connect with other players. Online co-op is really a joy in the Assault Heroes games because the gameplay is focused on this type of interaction. I give the developers major props for infusing the online game with the same diversity and action as the single player game. Beyond the online co-op, don’t expect any surprises. I would have liked to see some more game modes thrown into the mix to make the multiplayer interesting and offset the lack of replay value in single player mode. I’m hopeful that some form of downloadable content rectifies this shortcoming; however, my hopes are diminished by the fact that extra DLC never came to fruition for AH1.

Replay Value & Multiplayer (25 Points Possible):
• Fun Factor (15): 12 points
• Xbox Live Features (5): 4 points
• Downloadable Content (5): 3 points

So what drives me to enjoy this game so much? Perhaps it’s the challenge of playing something that I’m not already good at (yes, I’m a sanctimonious jerk), or perhaps it’s the enjoyment I get from being taunted by my own virtual death scenes (yes, I’m being sadistic). The achievements are pretty challenging, so guess I simply enjoy games that challenge me to no end. Assault Heroes is a welcome challenge. I’ll still continue sucking at fast-twitch games (for reference, see my Geometry Wars score on my GamerCard) but that won’t stop me from enjoying my own endless defeat.

Above and Beyond (2 Points Possible):
• Achievements (1): 1 point
• That Little Extra (1): 1 point

Total Score = 82 out of 100

P.S. I altered the values of each category one last time. I really felt that gameplay should hold the most water and that the “something extra” category shouldn’t.

Dave “Whet Wurm” Wetty

XBD Review: Wits and Wagers Part 1

In a world of ever changing complexity, the videogame world certainly ceases to be any different and that’s where the XBLA version of Wits and Wagers comes in. A trivia game for the non-trivia in all of us, plus a little bit of luck thrown in for good measure.

At first glance, it’s relatively hard to figure out what Wits and Wagers is, much less what its about. It doesn’t look like every other game out there, nor does it invoke anything of the past trivia(ish) games outside of the much often mentioned You Don’t Know Jack. Then again, Wits and Wagers takes a very different approach that’s ultimately something everyone can play and not feel cheated, because they aren’t a trivia buff hence the wager half of the game.

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(XBLA) Undertow- A Review Under the Sea

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So, I am here providing you with a review of the aquatic-shooter from Chair Entertainment, Undertow.  Does it stack up as one of the more high quality Live Arcade games out there? How does it stand out in terms of playability? Well if you’d like to learn about these things and more, read on and enjoy the review.

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Zero Punctuation reviews Call of Duty 4, finally

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yahtzee Croshaw actually likes another game and it just so happens to be Call of Duty 4. Seriously though, he praises Call of Duty 4 for “nearly” the entire video. It’s about time that Mikey takes a back seat as Yahtzee likes it, he does, he does.

-William “thewilleffect” Bell-

Xbox Domain Reviews: This Is How We Roll (Updated)

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Updated: I changed the values slightly based on community response and my own impressions of the influence each category should carry. I felt that sound, while critical, shouldn’t be equal to gameplay. Any more recommendations? I truly enjoy hearing what you all have to say, positive or negative.

Happy Holidays ladies and gentlemen! On behalf of the Xbox Domain, I want to say Merry Christmahanukwanzakah to all and let you know what one of our New Years Resolutions will be (after we’re done partying). No, we aren’t losing weight…

In light of the whole Gerstman/Gamespot folderol that happened a few weeks ago, The team here at Xbox Domain has decided to implement a reviewing rubric for all the games that get their due justice. Even though we are an independent gaming blog, we are no less susceptible to the accusations of bias that the internet doles out like cake (and yes, the cake is a lie!) For that reason, we have developed a rubric, which is just a fancy teaching word for grading plan, that breaks down games into a point spread. Then we just add up the points and call it a day. It’s an easy 100 point scale that the reader can look at and decide whether we’re still biased jerks or if we are really being fair. I personally hope it’s the latter.

So, without further ado, here’s how we roll:

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XBD Review: Every Extend Extra Extreme

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I have a distinct problem. I may need professional assistance with it. My body craves a sinister addiction that I cannot beat (pun not intended). I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it in public but they say that acknowledging the problem is the first step to beating the problem. So I’ll be honest: I’m addicted to rhythm games. First it was Guitar Hero, the gateway game. Then it was Boom Boom Rocket for that quick afternoon fix. And now Every Extend Extra Extreme (E4) on Xbox Live Arcade comes at me as a happy hardcore substitute. It’s a $10 acid trip that fills in when I can’t rock out to my favorite songs. Read on for more.
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XBD Review: Puzzle Quest – Challenge of the Warlords

Puzzle Quest

Surprises. Everyone loves surprises. Even people that say they hate surprises secretly love them. Personally, I love surprises so when I started up my review copy of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, I was floored from “Total Shock & Surprise” (also known as “T.S.S.”)*. Read on to find out more.

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