Game Review – The Darkness [360] – By Dark Reyule

THE GIST: License? We don’t need no stinkin’ license! Visual Concepts and 2K Sports make their triumphant return to the gridiron with All-Pro Football 2K8 featuring over 240 of the best to ever hug the pigskin, innovative gameplay elements, and immersive realism. Some thought that the 2K brand of football games died when EA secured (read: took away your options as a consumer) the NFL and NFLPA licenses… well, it’s time to think again. 2K Foot ball is back, better than ever, and stands today as the best football game I have ever played… YOU CAN’T COACH THAT!

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Game Review – The Bigs [360]

THE GIST: THE BIGS is developer Blue Castle Games’ offering on the whole “extreme” take on sports in the vein of NFL Blitz, NBA JAM, and MLB Slugfest. Build up your respective POWER BLAST or BIG HEAT meters by performing certain in-game tasks and unleash some hurt on your opponent.

Pitching and batting all take place from the behind the plate perspective

THE GAMEPLAY: Normally with these kind of games the gameplay is rather bare bones and all pick-up-and-play, THE BIGS is no different in that regard. I felt right at home within minutes with the controls save for the always initially confusing base running. The title offers several modes, all with the depth and character as Keanu Reeves doing Shakespeare except for the compelling Rookie Challenge. In this mode you build a prospect from scratch, assign him some limited ability, and take to the minors to work on beefing up his ratings. This mode is akin to the 24/7 mode in NBA 2K7 and is quite fun.

Blue Castle also tossed in Home Run Pinball, a unique mini-game where you tee-off in downtown NY and earn points for taking out everything littering the city streets while the pitcher gradually throws more mixed pitches at you, this is mindless fun.

Standard games are stretched out over 5 innings though you can switch that to 9 if you’re a rawhide purest at heart. Much of the action in THE BIGS seems to be focused on the batting, you will see fly balls hit to the track in droves and you will see just as many fence-climbing catch attempts. Though the 5 innings may read like too little it isn’t. You will complete a game in about 20 minutes, perfect for quick gaming fixes.

Homerun Pinball rules. Just about everything seen here is hittable and breakable.

THE GRAPHICS: The stadiums all look very good, and there are some nice effects when you use your power-ups. The player models often look like their respective counterparts (best Jim Thome I’ve ever seen, he almost oozes hillbilly off of the screen when he steps into the box) though they have a somewhat doughy look to them. The framerate and camera angles are all spot-on as well.

Plays-at-the-plate are made all the more dramatic with a bullet-time buttonmashing fest to see who will win the most grand of jousts.

THE AMBIANCE: This is baseball, from the fans in the stands to the homer schlep in the booth you know you’re engaging in America’s pastime. Fan noise, ball-on-bat sounds, etc. are all what you’d expect in a game like this however the 2K beats soundtrack is awful. “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead in a baseball game? Lemmy and his facial tumors should not be involved with a title about baseball, period.

Fly-ball hit deep, he goes back, at the wall… Will you be Griffey or Canseco in the spotlight? You’ll have plently of chances to find out.

THE VERDICT: Blue Castle pulls off a… wait for it… homerun with THE BIGS. Though I can imagine a title like this losing much of it’s luster after a week or two the rather deep Rookie Challenge mode is enough to justify a purchase.

I can easily see this becoming a series that improves year after year. Not based off of what I see, but rather what I don’t. For as many opportunities as you get to rack up points there feels like there should be more like bonuses for back-to-back HR’s, home-run distance, and hits in clutch situations, expect to see things like this in future incarnations.

Still, as an initial offering you can’t go wrong with THE BIGS.

Photos courtesy of

Game Review – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer [360]

Fantastic FourTHE GIST: Based on the movie of the same name, veteran sports developers Visual Concepts take a shot at the “if-it’s-a-movie-we-can-make-a-game-about-it” market in this souped up version of Final Fight that is bizarrely reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online, but with significantly less depth. You control one of the four heroes but can change to anyone of the on-the-fly, and in some cases you have to.

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Game Review – Shadowrun [360]

ShadowrunTHE GIST: FASA Studios gives you a full-blown, online-only FPS based off the cult-classic Shadowrun that came out in the 16-bit era and is the first 360 title to allow 360 owners and Windows Vista users to sync up online. Players can choose from 4 races (each unique in their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses) and do a pre-round stock up on various weapons, tech abilities, and magic a’la Counterstrike. Combatants engage in various derivatives of capture the flag (called the artifact) as well as deathmatch (called attrition) in a first-to-six-wins battle. Matches can be public or private and players can also add bots with several levels of difficulty to the mix. (This game has no offline campaign mode but does come with a tutorial which I strongly recommend going through.)

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