Sunday, February 14, 2010

Half Life 2: Deathmatch Review

After releasing Half Life 2 in 2004 alongside the famed Counter-Strike: Source, Valve Software threw fans two free multiplayer games. Both of them remakes of original GoldSrc games. Those being Half Life 2: Deathmatch and Day of Defeat Source.

There is a notable deficiency of internet reviews for games like this, but read on. This game is definitely worth a download for those with computers with low specs.


Half-Life 2: Deathmatch is a fast-paced online deathmatch multiplayer first-person shooter in the vein of Quake III. Using weapons from Half-Life 2, players are tasked with amassing kills in a variety of maps. Two maps are preinstalled, both based off areas in the Half-Life 2 single-player campaign. Thus, the community is responsible for developing the great majority of maps with the Source SDK.

Combat is very fast-paced. Players can run while shooting with minimal effect on accuracy. Thus, combat is radically different from more recent shooters like Call of Duty or M.A.G. Camping is a recipe for failure and constant movement is required for success. Thus, the gameplay evokes classic deathmatch arena shooters like Quake III. dm_killbox_final0009

The Community and Gameplay

Upon joining a game, I was warmly welcomed by the sever admins. In an age of homophobia and harassment in online gaming, this is a refreshing change. Community-made maps and modifications are very well done. A map named killbox_dm is particularly fun to play with and conducive to chaotic combat. Low-gravity mods can be found frequently and enhance the experience greatly.

One of the greatest concerns regarding Half-Life 2 Deathmatch is the use of the Gravity-Gun, a weapon that can pick up any physics object and fling it at an enemy to deal damage. The Gravity-Gun makes for good combat and takes a good deal of skill to master, one-hit kills using toilets, desks and cars are frequent occurrences. Despite this, the Gravity Gun is difficult to use effectively because it requires the player to slowly pick up an object. Thus, this gun will not be replacing other guns in the Half-Life 2 deathmatch arsenal.

Speaking of the arsenal, Half-Life 2 Deathmatch includes a wide variety of weapons, all from the single-player campaign. Upon spawning, the player starts off with a USP, sub-machinegun, crowbar and gravity-gun, none of which are that powerful. Spawning around the map are weapon and ammunition pickups. Such weapons include the classic SPAS-12, a crossbow with mounted sniper-scope, a revolver, plasma rifle and laser-guided RPG.  Most of the weapons have alternate-fire modes that can be triggered with the right-mouse button. For example, the SPAS-12 can trigger a powerful two-round burst, the SMG can fire a small grenade and the plasma rifle can fire a vaporizing orb of dark energy. Half-Life 2: Deathmatch’s arsenal might be small, but it holds a great deal of variety.dm_killbox_final0004

If there is any criticism to be held over Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, it is that it is shallow. Cover is virtually useless and combat usually becomes a run-n-gun affair. There is no deep character-customization system like those found in Battlefield or Call of Duty. No Steam-Achievements or stat-tracking are present. It is also limited to only two gametypes: deathmatch or team-deathmatch. This simplicity makes the game accessible and easy to pick up, but it also limits the game’s lasting value.


Half-Life 2: Deathmatch cannot compete with deeper shooters out there because of it’s lack of depth. But the fun combat, warm community and fantastic community-maps make this arena-shooter a fun throwback to Quake III. Plus, it’s free for both ATI and nVidia users.

The Good

  • Likeable Community
  • Great custom-maps
  • Accessible and fun gameplay
  • Varied Arsenal

The Bad

  • Shallow and limited
  • Only two game types


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Scribblenauts Review

Unfortunately, my good friend Jack Taylor forgot his password, so I have published this review for the DS game Scribblenauts under my account.

The Nintendo DS in the past had been known to only appeal to certain audiences. Now that the range of game styles is increasing on the DS more and more people start to turn to Nintendo’s newest franchise for handheld fun.256px-Scribblenauts_cover

I was always an Xbox guy and I hadn’t played a handheld system since I was little. I recently invested in a used DS Lite just for the fun of it but it turned out to be a well-purchased item. I bought a few games to start off playing and since then have been on a roll.

Scribblenauts was among my first DS games I bought. This game has the appearance of a childish puzzle game that is limited in action and holding casual gameplay. Many people stay away from DS games for that reason. They ignorantly believe all DS games are in the same vein as Nintendogs and the Cooking Mama series.

I was under that assumption but Scribblenauts changed my mind. The graphics are simple but they grow on you. There is no need for the insane graphics of new games on a handheld puzzle game. Their simplicity adds to the fun of the game and doesn’t limit it to an eight year old and under audience. The graphics lend itself to the game’s sandbox atmosphere. The graphics match the game perfectly for its aim.

Next, Scribblenauts’ gameplay. You go through the game as a young kid named Maxwell who mysteriously wears a rooster hat (another creative quirk that just is funny). His goal is to receive the Starite located in each level. At the beginning of each level a little hint is given to steer you in the right direction to reach the goal. With the stylus the player is allowed to write in any object into the text screen and have it appear in the game for Max’s use. You can summon anything from cake and cats, to Cthulhu and zombies. In Adventure mode, there are more any enemies and the levels tend to be a little longer. These stages are focused on getting across the level to an “unreachable” Starite. Puzzle levels are more abstract and require you to use your imagination to get the Starite. More thought has to be put in these levels. One bad thing though is that moving Max sometimes can get a little glitchy. I’m not sure of the reason for this and it isn’t a major problem but it does occur and can frustrate the player.200px-Scribblenauts_screenshot

The game’s length is surprisingly long. There is world after world that contains around 10-12 levels a piece creating challenging stages that don’t end after 20 levels. And after the Adventure worlds are complete, there are just as many Puzzle worlds to explore. And after those are done, you can go back and try to beat each level three times in a row using different techniques each time to challenge you. These are fun but they draw on. The game’s length is a strong point just to illustrate how much can be done in the game but really it becomes a nuisance. After a while you lose interest. The music also loops so that can really get to you. But that is all right because the game is simple enough where you can set it done for up to months and come back and still know how to play a reignite the original fun the game once had.

Scribblenauts is a great game with well-matched graphics, imaginative game play. The uniqueness of this game is what keeps you playing and I recommend it for all audiences even if these sorts of games are foreign to you. Scribblenauts is a must play.


The Good

· Graphics that fit the game well

· Imaginative game play

· Some replay value

· Unique

· Good for gamers not accustomed to the DS

The Bad

· Can be repetitive

· Glitchy at some points

· Repetitive music


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Metroid Prime Trilogy Review

Hey there, it’s Kevin with yet another Radical Reviewers Review. This time, for what is in my opinion, one of the greatest collectors edition products in video game history. We’ll be reviewing Nintendo’s Metroid Prime Trilogy for Wii.


After skipping an entire generation, Nintendo decided to reboot the Metroid_Prime_Trilogy Metroid series on the GameCube. To do this, they purchased a Texas-based independent development company called Retro Studios, made out of alums with portfolios varying from Half-Life to Starcraft. The decision to use an American studio to develop a Nintendo game was already a radically different decision. It would only continue to change from there.

In 2001, a trailer was revealed for the final build of the game. It showed gameplay from a first-person perspective. This immediately drew a huge backlash from fans of the series, who feared that their beloved Metroid would turn into shooter like Quake or Halo. These fans decried the game, feeling that it was dishonest to the adventure themes of previous games. Nonetheless, Metroid Prime succeeded in drawing a massive amount of hype, with a live-action advertisement and a marketing ARG. 

When it was finally released in 2002, Metroid Prime defied all expectations. Drawing a metascore of 98, it is the highest rated game of the sixth generation. Critics praised the tight controls, atmospheric visuals, intense action and adherence to the Metroid formula. Metroid Prime made a perfect transition to the third-dimension, and would soon spawn a series.metroid-prime-2-echoes-image4

Retro immediately agreed to create two new games in the subseries. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was released in 2004 for Gamecube to rave-reviews, praising its darker atmosphere and gloomy story. Nonetheless, Echoes failed to generate the record-breaking sales of its predecessor. A Wii sequel was released in 2007, bringing the best graphics of the series, perfect pointer-based controls and improved action.


Historically, Metroid Prime games have all brought high metascores of 98, 95 and 92 respectively. Noting this, Metroid Prime Trilogy rivals The Orange Box in terms of value.  For fifty dollars you are receiving nearly eighty hours of gameplay and three of the finest Nintendo games ever created. Even if sold in a standard white plastic box, Metroid Prime Trilogy would still be an epic deal. But in addition to the games, a Collector’s Edition tin-casing is supplied as is an art-booklet printed on glossy photo-paper.

The list of upgrades and bonuses does not stop there. Metroid Prime 1 and 2 have been ported to the Corruption Engine, featuring stylish bloom lighting, 16:9 widescreen and updated textures. This effectively makes the aging Gamecube games look state-of-the-art on the visually challenged Wii. Of course, precise pointer-based controls have been implemented along with a new difficulty level. Topping it off is an integrated achievements system, which gives the player tokens for accomplishing certain objectives. These tokens can be traded for concept art and music. These additions make the Gamecube games far more enjoyable than before. metroid-prime-3-corruption-20070711


Despite the first-person perspective, the Metroid Prime games can hardly be considered first-person shooters. Emphasis is moved from linear-combat to exploration of an open world. Metroid games revolve around the collection of items and upgrades. New items give access to new areas, which behold boss fights, platforming challenges and adventure aspects. Simply put, few other games provide the experience of developing from a feeble bounty hunter to a one-woman army with integrated rocket-launchers, cloaking-mechanisms, personal anti-gravity devices, grappling-beams, morph-balls, bombs and energy cannons.

By far the most important aspect of the Metroid Prime games is the scanning-mechanic. By using an item called the “Scan Visor”, Samus can collect information about enemies, environments and items as well as decode logs. All information is saved into an internal logbook, which tells a gripping backstory. This mechanic effectively makes Metroid Prime one of Nintendo’s strongest story-telling games.

Many first-person action games have made attempts at integrating platforming into their gameplay. Half-Life is infamous for attempting to integrate platform challenges in Xen, to no avail. The first-person perspective and lack of visible feet made platforming imprecise and frustrating. Unlike its influences, Metroid Prime provides the best first-person platforming in gaming history. To compensate for the first-person perspective, platforms are amply-sized and spaced from each other. Making movement a speedy and pleasant experience. This contributes to an excellent shooting mechanic. Pointer-based controls make combat more intense and fun than it has any right to be. A large variety of foes with varied AI scripts makes shooting radically different from other games. Metroid-Prime-Trilogy-Debut-Trailer_2

The Metroid Prime games are very well known for their atmosphere and backstory, and this is easily echoed. Numerous effects and details have been added to make Tallon IV, Aether and the GF System one of the most inspired, detailed, memorable and believable virtual-worlds ever made. Extensive craft has been placed in giving the world a history and a backstory. The player can simply spend hours at a time researching the backstory of Metroid’s sci-fi/fantasy world. Thus, exploration is fun and rewarding and the player is given great motive to thoroughly scour each area for secrets.

Recently, Nintendo has announced that Metroid Prime Trilogy will soon go out-of-print. Go after it now to pick up this fine collectors-edition before it becomes super-rare.


Metroid Prime Trilogy is easily one of the finest compilation titles ever made. Three history-making games have been put into a package of legendary value. To be rare in the future, the only reason not to buy it is if one has played the compiled games before.

The Good

  • Insane value, 80-hours of gameplay, plus Collector’s-Edition Specials, for the price of a standard game.
  • The games serve as the paragon of first-person action-adventures
  • Gamecube games ported to Corruption Engine with motion controls.
  • Incredible story and atmosphere
  • Much improved multiplayer

The Bad

  • All old games
  • Not much value if you’ve already played the entire trilogy



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Avatar Review

James Cameron is best known for his romantic drama Titanic, the highest grossing film of all time. However, his recent sci-fi action film Avatar could soon challenge Titanic for the #1 spot. Cameron's new movie is all the craze on the internet (and in real life too), and people have good reason to be excited about it. I saw Avatar a couple weeks ago in IMAX Digital 3D, and I'm ready to give you my scoop on the film...

The acting in Avatar was alright, but not excellent. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, who played Jake Sully and Neytiri respectively, worked well together playing the two most important parts of the film. I also really enjoyed Sigourney Weaver's work playing the eager botanist Dr. Grace Augustine, and Stephen Lang did a pretty good job of playing Colonel Miles Quaritch.

The script created an funny tone, which contradicted the serious nature of the film, yet made it slightly more enjoyable. However, the script and acting was awkward at times, which was distracting and took away from the experience.


The plot was exciting and full of action, yet highly predictable. It was definitely the weakest part of the film. It included several battle scenes, which I found to be really entertaining, but other than that, it followed the basic outline for a "underdog vs. evil empire" film. The plot did, however, send an important message that it is important to respect the land, and that it is possible to fight back against those who destroy it. That was a big part of the movie for me.

Special Effects/Graphics
The special effects and graphics were really what made the film so great. Instead of giving the viewer a few cheesy 3D shots and a mostly 2D movie, Cameron made it look like everything was happening right in front of me. As soon as you get used to looking at the in-focus spots and not the out-of-focus spots on the screen, it will seem like you are actually there. The animation, which was based off of wireframes of the actors, was also amazing. The movement of the characters was highly realistic, unlike in many animated films. The animators also did an incredible job of creating a completely new planet, from the plants and the animals to the floating mountains. Pandora, the planet on which the story takes place, was truly stunning, which made it even more sad to see it being destroyed by the Humans. The extra effort on the part of the special effects team definitely helped to make the setting and characters more realistic.

Although Avatar has a predictable plot and a mediocre script, it is a must-see because of its thrilling graphics and important underlying message.

The Good:

-Amazing Special Effects
-Realistic 3D
-Urgent and Relevant Message
-Realistic Setting and Characters

The Bad:

-Predictable Plot
-Poor Script
-Mediocre Acting

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Brief Message from Kevin

Hello Readers

While you wait for the rest of the Radical Reviewers to complete their first reviews, I encourage you to visit and bookmark This is my personal blog, there you can find analyses, social commentaries and tips on life, as well as the perennial Sunday Sites feature. It is frequently updated, so please visit as you wait for the Radical Reviewers to kick into full swing.



Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword Review

After losing popularity in the fifth console generation, beat-em-up action games grew rare, almost to extinction. However, Capcom revitalized the genre by releasing Devil May Cry on the Playstation 2. Since then, several new beat-em-up series have sprung up, including God of War and Bayonetta. In addition, the resurgence of popularity in beat-em-ups was responsible for the revival of one of the hardest action-adventure series of the 8-bit era: Ninja Gaiden. 256px-Dragon_Sword

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a stylish beat-em-up action game for the Nintendo DS. Like its console based cousins, fast-paced, intense combat is the name of the game, and Dragon Sword delivers such combat. Stringing massive, hundred-hit combos together is an effortless task here. The action is visceral and intense, made possible by a perfect, entirely touch-screen based control scheme.

Like The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, movement and combat is controlled through the DS’s touch screen. Touching a point on the map will cause your character to run to that point, sliding the stylus up makes him jump and slashing with the stylus will cause him to slash with his sword. Lightly tapping a point will cause your character to throw projectiles in that direction. Special moves and magical attacks are handled with specific directional stylus combinations. For example, slashing down, then up, then up again will make your character throw an enemy into the air, then jump after it to perform a brutal pile-driver attack. Pressing any button will cause your character to block incoming attacks. Tapping point while blocking will bring about an evasive roll. The entire control scheme is precise and easy to pick up. Without a doubt, gamers with little experience can pick up this game and start banging out lengthy combos.

Despite the accessibility of the combat, this is no mere button-masher. Enemies are numerous and susceptible or resistant to certain attacks. Predicting the movement and attack patterns of enemies is a must on the difficult later levels, giving combat a tactical edge to round off its fast-paced intensity. Nonetheless, the intense combat grows repetitive quickly. Dragon Sword’s thirteen levels boil down to sets of connected arenas for enemies to respawn and fights to take place. Variety is unsuccessfully forced in through simple environmental puzzles and gorgeous boss fights. The attempts at variety are uninteresting compared to the intense, but repetitive combat. 938848_20080606_790screen003Graphically, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword blows nearly every other 3-D game on the Nintendo DS out of the water, often coming up to a near PSX level of quality. The 2-D cutscenes are fantastically drawn in a manga-style. In normal combat areas, 3D models are used on a prerendered 2-D backdrop in a Final Fantasy VII/Resident Evil fashion. The backdrops are impressively drawn and detailed, effectively disguising the fact that the levels are almost all the same. The 3-D characters are all fantastically animated, moving fluidly at 60 frames-per-second, action is made satisfying and visceral through amazing sword slashes.

Easily the most impressive parts of the game are the full 3-D boss battles. Where the engine is pushed to render large arenas with textured models and animated characters. Each special move is made even more intense in 3D and combat is absolutely beautiful. It is a shame however, that the entire game couldn’t be rendered in this fashion.

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is also a treat for the ears. Sound effects are well-done, with violent sword slashes and shuriken plunges being precisely synthesized. Characters are voice-acted, roars, grunts and screams are made as they do battle. The music is also very good. Traditional Japanese-styled music is used for the central hub areas and adds atmosphere to the environments. Ethereal environments are accompanied by echoes and wind and boss battles are made intense with anachronistically contemporary techno-metal.

There is a story buried within Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, but that story fails as a motive for progression through the game. Even the beautiful cutscenes fail to tell an already uninteresting story. The plot is forgettable and best left ignored


Overall, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a fantastic game for those seeking a portable action game. Nearly technical aspect of the game shines, from its unsurpassed visuals, tight controls and fun and fast fights. However, repetitive combat, recycled level design and forgettable story weaken this game, preventing Dragon Sword from entering the upper echelon of DS classics. 


The Good

  • Best Graphics on the DS
  • Intense action
  • Controls well

The Bad

  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Weak story
  • Short at six hours
  • Average replay value


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Welcome to The Radical Reviewers

Hey there, this is Kevin of  My Back Pages: Question The Answers. Welcome to The Radical Reviewers! In a few short days, this new site will be up and running at full speed, bringing highly detailed criticism of a great variety of products. While video-game reviews will always be the main emphasis of this site, you can easily expect reviews for products, films, restaurants and books. A small staff of volunteers will be running this site, regularly publishing reviews for pretty much anything.

As always with my sites, content published here will be provided under a creative-commons license, meaning that you can freely redistribute our content for any means as long as attribution is provided. We still have a few kinks to work out before we get up and running at full speed, until then, you can help by bookmarking this site or subscribing to our RSS feed. So be back in a week to read our first review!