Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark Review

stealth

In both 2D and 3D, platform games are nearly as old as gaming itself. While this ensures a rich library of games, it does make it somewhat difficult for a title to stand out on its own. Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark is a creative and unique addition to this classic genre. Released by Curve Studios as Stealth Bastard Deluxe on PC, Mac, and Linux in 2011 to warm reception, the rebranded version of this game now comes to the Playstation 3 and PS Vita. Fusing stealth with traditional hallmarks of the platformer genre, Stealth Inc offers innovative gameplay that is both challenging and excitingly addictive.

What Braid did for platform games with manipulating time, Stealth Inc does with shadows and light. Staying in the dark is crucial to surviving and getting a higher score at the end of each level. An indicator at the bottom of the screen lets you know if you’re fully visible, partially visible, or practically a ghost. Your character’s goggles also reflect the status of your visibility—turning red, orange, or green, depending on your status. The challenge of staying hidden varies in a refreshing and versatile way. Some levels require you to move with shifting shadows, while others involve the controlling of platforms to cast new shadows in order to hide from cameras or robots and to reach new areas. Getting spotted by a camera or robot can either result in death or a lower score depending on the circumstance. The game’s stealth mechanic is not as punishing or hard-core as a big-budget stealth title like Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, but rather uses it in a way that works with the platform genre instead of feeling like an added feature that may make gameplay more frustrating.

What also helps is that the stealth mechanic doesn’t turn this title into a one trick pony. There are many other elements to the game—some of which don’t require stealth at all. Avoiding robots, floating cameras that fire lasers, triggering platforms by crossing laser beams, and teleportation ports are some of many challenges this game puts forth; add to that the collectible helices which are sometimes in plain sight, and other times completely hidden. The mix up and fusion of different challenges creates a dynamic experience that prevents the game from getting stale. Things get more complex by means of mixing up different elements and challenges as opposed to using the same ones repeatedly and simply requiring you to make it through the level faster.

The attention to detail in the game and the overall feel is executed well. From the often-humorous messages displayed on the wall such as “This will all be worthwhile…assuming that you survive,” “I’ll be amazed if you do this,” and “You’re making me look bad,” to the game’s music which is not only fun to listen to, but changes every time you start a level—preventing annoyance at hearing the same track over and over again—it’s a fun experience that eases you when you’ve died for the 20th time in a row. The controls are also straightforward and work well with the PS3’s controller. But with this genre, unless you’re adding drastically new features, it’s hard to mess up the controls when running, jumping, and crouching are really all you do. Overall, the game is well polished, looks and plays great, and feels modern.

There were a few things that disappointed me during my time with Stealth Inc. One of which was the fact that the game is a single player only experience. While many gamers may not be phased by this at all, it was a bit of a let down for me. I could see some great potential by allowing for a second player either locally or online. This was also disappointing given that the game comes with a fantastic level creator. With no way to share the levels online or to play your custom levels with someone, it seems like a wasted feature. The fact that I can’t share my own levels definitely dissuades me from putting the time into creating new challenges—especially since the person creating their own levels would know how to complete them; it’s kind of like asking yourself trivia questions that you already know the answer to. I also found myself wishing that there was a dedicated button for dropping down and climbing up ledges. Various parts of the game require the player to hang onto ledge by sort of falling off and quickly turning around. While it’s not necessarily a difficult thing to pull off, you will fall often—even when you think you’ve mastered it. This makes some moments a bit more frustrating as opposed to challenging and could have been solved with a simple dedicated command.

Fans of platform games that missed this title when it came out on PC should definitely look into this for Playstation 3 or Playstation Vita. A nice bonus to buying the game is that you get two copies for both systems. So if you own both a PS3 and a Vita, you don’t need to get the game twice; with a cloud sync feature, you can take your progress with you on the go. With 80 levels, leaderboard listings, a level creator, and unlockable gadgets and features, you can get some pretty good mileage out of this title. Despite being a solitary experience with some parts bordering on frustration here and there, Stealth Inc is a fresh take on a classic genre and shouldn’t be missed.

Rating: 4/5

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The First of Seven: Max Payne 3 DLC out July 3rd

Rockstar announced yesterday that the first downloadable content pack for their noir inspired game Max Payne 3 will release next week on consoles.  Titled Local Justice, this downloadable content will come out on the Xbox Live marketplace and Playstation Network on July 3rd, with a following release for the PC on July 17th.

Three new maps come with this DLC; the 55th Batallion HQ, Imperial Palace, and Departure Lounge.  The 55th Batallion HQ map will be playable on all game modes, while the Imperial Palace and Departure Lounge maps will only be playable on Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Payne Killer.  Furthermore this new DLC pack comes with a new weapon, the M4 assault rifle, a new item called Light Fingers which makes looting faster, and the Sao Paulo police faction, complete with avatar customization.

Originally set to release in June, the Local Justice DLC will be at a discounted price during launch week as an “appreciation of patience.”  During this time the Local Justice DLC will run for 480 MS points (6$) on Xbox Live, and 6$ on Playstation Network and PC.  After the week though, the content will return to its normal price of 640 MS points ($8) on Xbox Live and $8 on Playstation Network and PC.  Additionally the Local Justice pack and all other DLC content for Max Payne 3 can also be purchased through the Rockstar Pass program.  Currently this pass is available for 2400 MS points ($30) on Xbox Live and $30 on PSN and PC.

This new DLC for Max Payne 3 is the first of seven planned add-ons for the game.  Due out later this summer is the Disorganized Crime map pack, the Deathmatch Made in Heaven mode pack, the Hostage Negotiation map pack, and the New York Minute co-op pack.  Coming out sometime later this fall will be the Painful Memories map pack and the Trickle Down Economics map pack.  In short there’s a lot coming to Max Payne 3 making this a title that refuses to slow down.  Be sure to check out our review of the game and stay tuned to Updownright for all the latest in gaming news.

Far Cry 3 Delayed Until December

Ubisoft announced this past Monday that Far Cry 3 has been delayed until the holiday season. Originally announced to be released early in September, this highly anticipated title has been pushed back until November 28th for the UK and December 4th for the U.S. According to producer Dan Hay, the team decided to delay the game because they want to take “more time to create the best possible gameplay experience.”

As of this moment Far Cry 3 is the only title scheduled for December, however this new release date could potentially hurt its sales. Originally slated to be released in September, the only other close by first person shooter was Borderlands 2, which releases on September 18. With this December 4th release date, Far Cry 3 now comes out after Halo 4 (11/6/2012) and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (11/13/2012), which are two highly anticipated and competitive titles. What do you think, does Far Cry 3 stand a chance in the sales against these highly popular titles? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out the Far Cry 3 preview to see what we think of this upcoming title.

U.S. History Just Got a Bit More Interesting – A Preview of Assassin’s Creed III

U.S. History was always a subject I could never really quite get that into.  I mean I consider myself to be quite the history buff.  I love ancient history and world, but for some reason the Battles of Lexington and Concord or the signing of the Declaration never really resonated with me as much as say the battle of Thermopylae or discovering the Rosetta Stone.  Maybe call me un-patriotic or what have you, but I just never really found our nations history to be that riveting or exciting.  That is, until now.

In Assassin’s Creed III, the next installment to the critically acclaimed Assassin’s Creed series, the on going war between the Assassins and Templars has been moved from the dense and rich European cities to the vast and open American frontier.  Taking place over the course over 30 years, the story is before, during, and after the American Revolution.  Unfortunately the sauve yet badass Ezio will not be making the long trip to American shores, however we are introduced to a new character and lead, Ratonhnhaké:ton or better known as Connor.  Half Native American and half British, Connor is conflicted on whom to fight for, however it is this conflict that makes the story.  This is Connor’s story and how he became a part of the Assassin order and how he becomes a part of the fight in the American Revolution.  Along the way Connor will encounter numerous historical figures such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, Charles Lee, and others, ensuring that history is still a staple aspect of the series.

In an interview with CVG (computerandvideogames.com) Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot stated that this Assassin’s game “will be the biggest to date,” and from what’s been revealed so far it certainly appears to be that way.  Ubisoft Montreal is returning yet again to spearhead this latest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, so it should be of no surprise then that a lot of the same elements seen from previous Assassin’s Creed games will be returning, however they have been totally revamped and made a new, creating a fresher and new take to the Assassin’s Creed formula.

The combat has been totally redone and a new controller scheme has been created for this upcoming title.  In being a new assassin Connor now always fights dual handed.  According to creative director Alex Hutchinson, the brand new controller scheme “allows you continual access to tools such as pistols on one button, as well as maintaining access to your core weapon, such as the hidden blade.”  This creates a more fluid control when it comes to combat making Connor not only easier to handle, but also making him look extremely graceful and badass when it comes to killing.  Since the game takes place during the American Revolution guns have become a bigger threat in this Assassin’s game as opposed to past.  According to Hutchinson “firing lines are a key feature of the period and we’ve integrated them into both combat and pre-combat, to give the player different opportunities such as the meat-shield.”  Countering is still a huge aspect when it comes to combat.  Enemies now attack in unison generating a new and stylish “duel counter” and according to Hutchinson after you counter an enemy “you have a choice of what to do, whether to assassinate, dodge, or throw them.”  They call this a “window of opportunity,” which creates a new and refreshing taste when it comes to combat.  On top of this the assassinations have also been totally redone.  In being a new assassin Connor can now assassinate with any weapon, and can also perform “running assassinations,” giving off this impression that Connor is always on the move.

The biggest and most intriguing change with Assassin’s Creed III however is the environment and animation.  The dense gridded cities that always made up the scenery in past Assassin’s games are gone, and has instead been replaced by the vast and open American frontier.  This change of surroundings has lead to a totally redone parkour and navigation system that has always been a staple part of the series.  Tree navigation is the newest and most significant addition to the overall navigation system.  According to Hutchinson tree navigation “allows Connor to deal with forests, cliffs, uneven surfaces as fluidly and smoothly as previous Assassin’s dealt with cities.”  The team at Ubisoft Montreal is “trying very hard to keep natural shapes, organic surfaces, to make believable terrain” according to Hutchinson.  The environment is no longer gridded with square surfaces, and Connor can now grab onto all sorts of different shapes and objects.  “You can go anywhere.  Anything you see that has a handhold that’s climbable is climbable, and we really highlight the areas where you can’t go,” says Hutchinson.  This new navigation system not only brings a fresh take on how to traverse and travel throughout the environment, but it is also a major leap in gaming animation.

With this new environment it opens the door to a whole new type of gameplay.  Seasons such as winter and summer are now implemented in the game, and both have their own unique effects on Connor.  For instance during the winter, snow slows Connor down encouraging him to climb and stay off of the ground.  This introduction of the frontier has also introduced wildlife to the series.  “There are over 200 different species of animal in the game,” says Hutchinson and they all offer unique opportunities or threats to Connor.  Although the vast frontier has replaced the populated city, cities or rather colonies will still play an important role in Assassin’s Creed III.  Colonies such as New York and Boston will be central areas in the game, and will offer a different take on gameplay as opposed to the wilderness.  With two virtually different atmospheres to explore, the environment in Assassin’s Creed III will be a refreshing take to not only the series but also action adventure games in general.

Hutchinson and the team at Ubisoft Montreal truly believe that they “have the most robust third person character in action games today,” and from what’s been seen and revealed so far they just might.  If anything can be said, they for sure have the most robust third person character in any Assassin’s Creed game to date, and this title is definitely shaping up to be the best in the series.  With super tight animation, a new combat scheme and navigation system, this is one title that for sure needs to be on your radar when it comes out later this fall on October 30th.  Be sure to check out the gameplay video and let us know what you think, and stay tuned to updownright for all the latest on this highly anticipated title.

50 Games in 2012 – #3 Saints Row III [PS3]

50 Games in 2012 – #3 Saints Row III [ PS3] (Completed January 30th)

Saints Row and over the top go hand in hand

Thanks to a Boxing day buying spree my library of games was full of titles to choose from heading into my 3rd title of the year. Having played a puzzle fps and puzzle platformer I was still looking for an outside the box gaming experience and Saints Row stuck out as a sore thumb choice to continue. Up until this year I’ve never touched a Saints Row title but with the positive reviews the game got in the fall I decided it was finally time to try out GTA’s zany cousin. Having a soft spot for sandbox games I decided to take Saints Row for a spin and in return I was treated to great time.

One of the greatest features about Saints Row III I felt right out of the gate was it’s inherent ability to make you feel like a bad ass. Whether your skydiving out of an exploding airplane or parachuting onto a penthouse roof guns blazing Saints Row makes sure that your in for a ride. This is largely why Saints Row III main story shines as the game will give you insane missions to accomplish that truly feel unique and fun. Mix these Michael Bay action sequences with over the top tongue and cheek humour in an open world and you start to grasp what Saints Row III is all about.

Being a sandbox game I misconceived Saints Row to be a GTA equivalent but it really differs itself greatly in it’s own charming way. Saints Row pays homage to GTA but where it differs is in how the whole city of Steelport feels. With an open world to explore, missions and activities are abundant if not at some times repetitive. The game will offer you ample opportunity to roam the city in search of things to do. With Stores, side missions and rival gangs to take down you won’t find yourself wanting if your looking for more content outside the main story.

When it comes to gameplay Saints Row delivers good solid fun with easy to learn controls and outrageous weapons (see photo). The main story will run you around 10 hours but with an open world, co-op play and side missions the game holds enough replay-ability and fun to keep you coming back for more. Whether roaming the sand box or playing the story Saints Row III delivers mindless fun that few games try and it works.

Game Summary:

Date Finished: 1/30 | Saints Row III (PS3)
Pros: Loose story with fun missions tied into a zany experience.
Cons: Lacks polish and main story suffers from pacing issues.
Conclusion: It doesn’t take itself seriously and that’s the best part about it. Overall fun game.
[8/10]

-Bryden

The Ups & Downs of E3 2012

Like every gamer around the world I was thoroughly excited for this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, more commonly known as E3, but I found it be quite underwhelming for the most part. Let’s first take a look at some notable titles that were announced at last year’s show. They ranged everywhere from big name series such as Gears of War and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare unveiling their 3rd installments respectively to some brand new gems like Dead Island. Some others worth mentioning include the Uncharted, Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, and Resistance series, along with the introduction of the revolutionary concept of Nintendo’s next-generation console; the Wii U. Keep in mind I’m only naming a few things and that the list could go on and on.

Now let’s take a look at this year. It wasn’t necessarily awful by any means but it was certainly less than what most expected. I’ll start off with the bad side to keep this from straying into something depressing. As a big Nintendo fan I found myself pretty annoyed that there was absolutely no info on the 4th game in the Super Smash Bros. series after being announced last year. It was known that production wouldn’t have begun until Kid Icarus: Uprising had been released, which dropped this past March, but surely they would have some kind of information for the hungry fans? Unfortunately there was no such luck at 2012’s E3. Instead Nintendo revealed the title and release date (Holiday 2012) of Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the Nintendo 3DS along with some new gameplay footage. Normally this would be a good thing but based off of the direction they appear to be taking the series it doesn’t look too promising when compared to it’s predecessors. On another note, Skylanders: Giants, the sequel to Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, looks like a quick rehash of what we’ve already been playing with some bigger playable characters. Let me guess, more figurines to buy in order to play to the fullest potential? I hope not, but as a gamer I’ve learned that when it comes to video games, hoping never helps and you just have to live with it. The most impressive thing about it was the graphics of the cutscenes in the trailer and not exactly the actual game. However, we should wait for the games to be in our hands before we make a final judgement on them.

Game play of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Definitely looks different than previous installments.

I’m an impatient person when it comes to release dates for video games and music. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one shaking my head in disbelief when I found out that some games and consoles we’ve been awaiting for awhile such as Bioshock: Infinite, Super Smash Bros. 4 and the Wii U itself were either pushed back, not mentioned or do not have a release date at this point in time. On the other hand it was nice to finally know when Halo 4 and Borderlands 2 are being released; fortunately this year.

Before our train of hope for the future of video games completely derails, we’ll take a look at the top 3 games to be announced this year in my personal opinion. First we have The Last Of Us brought to us by Sony. The game play footage we got to feast our eyes on looked amazing and it was entirely unexpected. I found it to be a breath of fresh air for a 3rd person survival action-adventure game to be so realistic compared to most other games of the same genre. One thing that definitely stuck out to me was the AI being aware of when the player is out of ammo and reacting accordingly to the situation; as they will continue to do for all kinds of different situations throughout the game. Be sure to check this one out next year. Next, there’s Resident Evil 6. If I had to make an educated guess I’d say that the series is taking the action of Resident Evil 5, spicing it up 100x and throwing in some of the survival horror aspects of Resident Evil 4. If this is what we end up receiving later on this fall, I, and many others, will be happy gamers. Lastly, I was excited to see a New Super Mario Bros. title being announced for the Wii U. The graphics look very modern and flashy coupled with some new power-ups for Mario and the gang. Nothing beats some good, old-fashioned, light-hearted platforming seeing as most games nowadays are leaning towards the darker side of things, whether they be survival horror or straight up first-person shooters.

Leon Kennedy as he appears in Resident Evil 6. Who’s ready to shoot some zombies?

All in all, E3 wasn’t too spectacular this year as a whole but there was enough variety to have at least one thing that caught your eye. Most of the highly anticipated titles will be released in 2013 but I’m sure that the few gems that are awaiting us this fall such as Halo 4, Resident Evil 6 and Borderlands 2 will be able to hold us over until then.

50 Games in 2012 – #2 Catherine [PS3]

50 Games in 2012 – #2 Catherine [PS3] (Completed January 23rd)

Vincent having a drink at the Stray Sheep.

Following up Portal 2 turned out to be an interesting experience. Still riding high on the lovable dialogue puzzle adventure that was Portal 2 I wanted to experience more of the genre. Straying from the beaten path seemed like a solid idea at this point and the puzzler I turned to was Catherine. I had heard good things about this game from reviewers in the summer of 2011 and considered that it could potentially be a sleeper hit for me to sink my teeth into.

When starting up Catherine I came into the title with reserved thoughts. To my surprise I found myself right off the bat enjoying the animated cut scenes which set up the story of the main character Vincent well. Simple in premise the games style of platforming was intriguing and entertaining. Although a little confusing at first you soon realize that Vincent is falling into puzzle platforming dreams each night he falls asleep.  In each level I was tasked with escaping Vincent’s “nightmare” by arranging blocks to reach the top of the falling tower. Outside of these nightmares is where most of the cut scenes take place and where the story of Catherine unfolds.

As Vincent during the daytime you get to learn more about the games characters and get to interact with them at Vincent’s local bar called “The Stray Sheep”. This is a really cool feature as you start to see how some of the other people at the bar are having the same nightmares as yourself. Without this there isn’t much context to why Vincent is suffering these horrible dreams but with each trip to the bar you start to unravel what’s going on which is quite rewarding. Outside of your bar visits the cut scenes also help piece together the story of Catherine with each night’s passing.

Vincent’s bar visits and his actual nightmares are all Catherine offers in terms of gameplay. In most games that would be a recipe for repetitive disaster but what made Catherine work was the innovation and difficulty that grew with each nightmare moving forward. As the story progressed I grew to enjoy the cut scenes and the bar visits more than the gameplay but the game never tired to the point that I wanted to put it down. More than anything these feelings came from my personal shared dread with Vincent for the coming night. Which in the context is awesome that the story made me feel that way. Overall Catherine took a simple game mechanic and made it work with great level design and cut scene storytelling. Not everyone’s cup of tea but a great title to pick up if you’re looking for something outside the box to play.

Game Summary:

Date Finished: 1/23 | Catherine (PS3)
Pros: Fantastic animation, compelling story and great level design.
Cons: Level linearity and mediocre in game cut scenes.
Conclusion: Incredibly unique which makes the title shine through minor flaws.
[8/10]

– Bryden