DEVELOPER: UbiSoft Montreal
SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360 (PC)
ESRB RATING: Mature
REVIEW RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)
Stealth games are more difficult to find than real ninjas nowadays, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that “Splinter Cell Conviction” was finally going to be released. In development for over three years, many fans thought that it would never see the light of day! Was it worth the wait? Well, yes … mostly.
Secret agent Sam Fisher is tired of playing by the book. He’s been double-crossed so many times that he doesn’t know whom to trust. His daughter was murdered and he was tricked into shooting his mentor, so what else is there to lose? It’s time to take action against his former employers, Third Echelon, but this time, there are no rules.
Anyone who has played a “Splinter Cell” title will immediately notice the increased pace of not only the game but also Sam himself. The cover system he uses is so user-friendly that players will rarely make mistakes in movement, and the animations are very lifelike. I love how easy it is to move from cover to cover because I can easily slip behind enemies without them even noticing.
What also makes this possible is the addition of the Last Known Position mechanic. Whenever the enemy spots Sam, a white silhouette appears to let the player know where his last known position appears to enemies. They will attack that area until they see him in another location, so it gives the player a chance to flank the enemy and take them out.
This can be achieved through melee attacks, environmental attacks or various weapons. Yanking enemies off of platforms or through windows never gets old, and there are many different guns to use and upgrade. But the coolest way to eliminate enemies is by using the Mark and Execute feature. This fun addition lets players mark up to four enemies and then take them all out with one press of a button. Thankfully, Mark and Execute cannot be spammed because it requires a melee kill prior to activating.
Too bad the action degrades into clumsy target practice when stealth is broken, or “Splinter Cell Conviction” would be a top-notch title.
‘All Star Karate’ Has Two Left Feet
DEVELOPER: Blitz Games
SYSTEM: Nintendo Wii
ESRB RATING: E10-plus
REVIEW RATING: 1.5 stars (out of 5)
When “Red Steel 2” was released a few weeks ago, it advanced the accuracy of motion-based combat by leaps and bounds thanks to the requirement of the Wii Motion Plus. Now “All Star Karate” kicks its way to the Wii, and the result is definitely a step backward. In fact, this 2-D fighter is so terrible that I wouldn’t be surprised if Steven Seagal was one of the characters.
Budding martial arts experts begin their “adventure” by watching cut scenes so bad that they make “South Park” seem like an artistic masterpiece. These are literally “cut scenes” because the characters resemble paper cutouts that don’t move any parts of their body. Instead, all characters magically glide across the screen in the same position when they move. On a positive note, I was given the option to skip every scene, which I promptly did!
It takes quite a few boring tutorials before the first match, and fighting is only slightly more fun than training. There aren’t very many moves to learn, and the emphasis is on linking combos together. Unfortunately, this is when the inaccuracy of the Wii controller shines through. I found that my moves were often misread, which resulted in performing the wrong move or having more than one move performed with only one motion. This surprised me because I was using the optional Wii Motion Plus add-on that is supposed to enhance the accuracy.
Several mundane mini-games are also available that all have a karate theme, but they’re even worse than the main fighting mode. For instance, fending off attacking ninjas with a katana consists of the screen showing a magical floating katana that can be swiped up, down, left and right. This game is so simplistic that most players could beat it with their eyes shut.
If “All Star Karate” were a real karate student, its sensei would surely commit seppuku.
REVIEW SCORING SYSTEM
5 stars = Must Have
4 stars = Very Good
3 stars = Above Average
2 stars = Bargain Bin
1 star = Don’t Bother
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
E10-plus: (Everyone 10 and older)
T: Teen (13 and older)
M: Mature (17 and older)
To find out more about Jeb Haught and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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