Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Phantomsmedia Website!

 Phantomsmedia has been moved to it's new website:
 All new reviews will be uploaded here, so bookmark the new site! Thanks to all the fans who have followed Phantomsmedia for the years it has been up and running, you aren't forgotten.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Battlefield 3

Whilst the Call of Duty fans frolic unknowing in their drunken stupor created by playing Modern Warfare 3 other members of the gaming community waste hours battling through much more detailed, much more tactical skirmishes. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm talking about Battlefield 3, the newest game in the battlefield franchise by DICE and EA. Battlefield 3 brings to the table what all Call of Duty games don't but still falls short on several planes. Does this make this interesting and uniquely fresh shooter another item on this years Christmas list, or is it yet another "unique" shooter?

Set in a fictional world of 2014, a war between the US and the People's Liberation and Resistance (PLR), Battlefield 3 contains a campaign which throws you into several locations all over the world. Only taking a few hours to complete (It took me two play sessions of about four hours each) the campaign does fall short of length, yet most FPS aren't known to have massive gameplay time. The story is shown in a series of flashbacks while you're being interrogated. Sound like Black Ops to you? That's what I thought too. Moving on, the interrogators are interested in your connection to nuclear weapons which the story is centered around. The ending if fairly climactic, though it seems almost a perfect place for a sequel. Most of the weapons in the multiplayer can be found in BF3's singleplayer. Obviously you can't customize any weapons during campaign, but are left to scavenge dead bodies for weapons and ammo. There is no co-op built in with the singleplayer. Co-op is provided in a separate cooperative mode which plants players in missions where they complete objectives and earn weapons to use in standard multiplayer. Battlefield 3's singleplayer is something they fail to ace. It feels a bit cliché and run-of-the-mill, still, it's a time waster, and a damned good one.

Multiplayer brings the epic battle to the massive scale. No game has felt this much like a real war since... Since... I really can't remember. The PC version allows for up to 64 (32 on Consoles) players to wreak havoc with a multitude of drivable vehicles, from jets to helicopters and from tanks to jeeps. There is a progressive level system with unlocks along the way. Four balanced classes help even out the battle, the assault class gains the medic's equipment and the support gets a light MG and ammo. Recons get sniper rifles and equipment to aid in intelligence gathering and spawning. Engineers blow up tanks and repair them, 'nuff said. Battlefield 3's maps are built with architecture in mind. No item is left untouched. The forests in the map, Caspian Border are rich and filled with great choke points as an example. Multiplayer never felt this natural, this good, since Team Fortress 2. Man, those were the good old days.

Battlefield 3 is the best looking game on the market in my educated opinion. Skyrim may have the environment and models down pat, but when a helicopter screams overhead, blocking out the sun while you're sprinting through the jungle, nothing can beat Battlefield 3, yet. The xbox actually doesn't run on the full graphical settings unless you download the HD textures. If you don't download them, this game looks like crap. It's not Battlefield's fault, it's yours. From what I've heard (Don't play on the PS3) the PS3 has the textures downloaded by default. Water textures look nice, the sun glares realistically. Character and vehicles models are sharp and beautiful. Explosions shake your screen and cloud it, making your experience all the more amazing. You can't compare this game to the COD series. The graphics are just too good in BF3, just too... Epic. Just remember, install those HD textures Xboxers.

Many games can have a sound engine. Mostly, that means it's bug free and runs the way it needs to. Battlefield 3 has more bugs than the other big brand shooter on the market today, but to me, it doesn't matter. All I can say is, "Frostbite 2 (drool), Destruction 3.0 (drool)". It's just that good. A new engine, Frostbite 2, the predecessor to Bad Company's engine allows BF3 to take the next flying leap into the gaming world. Destruction 3.0 allows that leap, making Battlefield 3 have a major difference compared to other shooters. Example:
Bob: "Damn! Those campers are sitting in that building the whole match! No one can touch them!"
Joe: "Hmmm... I have this RPG! I'll just make a hole."
(Massive explosion, then gunfire)
Bob: "We showed them noobs! Oh, crap! The building is coming down!"
If you gained the general message from the garbled text above, almost anything in Battlefield 3 may be torn and blown apart. This leads to door camping being useless. C4 gains meaning and jets can actually provide ground support. The Battlefield engine not only provides a support for the gameplay, the graphics but it changes the gameplay itself. Gamers be warned, bugs are plentiful, but it's a fine price to pay for such a great engine.

Overall, Battlefield 3 is far superior than any shooter on the market at this date. That is part of the reason I denies myself the act of reviewing Modern Warfare 3, it's just not different than MW2. Graphics, engine, multiplayer are amazing. Singleplayer, though fun and not missing the, "Oh! Shit!" moments everyone loves, is not that great. Then again, who ever bought a Battlefield game for the singleplayer. PC players be warned, if you're looking for a Steam friendly game, looking away. BF3 is only available as direct download from Origin, EA's new online store.

Overall Score:  9.5

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

 Vast mountains, beautiful rivers and swishing trees? Yep. Skyrim. If you ever read my review of Oblivion which was posted a year or so ago, you'll realize that these sort of games, open world RPGs are my overall favorite. Many people may feel that games of this scape are too large, and don't allow for a good story (What? Really? No.), but I strongly disagree. Now, this game is nothing like the Fable games, or anything like a game of that class. Skyrim has more finesse and is filled with a LOT more epic moments and places. Skyrim also allows you to build your own story, look, everything. Your destiny is yours to control. Want to be a nameless, evil assassin, kill of kings? A gallant warrior rooting out all things evil? Or possibly a sneaky thief with tricks up his sleeves? You can be all that and more.

(My first dragon battle and eventual kill)

 The first thing to realize about Skyrim is that the game is not centered around the main quest. There are what seem like hundreds of side quests and that's not including the random miscellaneous quests that are given by NPCs. If you're not a quest guy, this game still holds miles of terrain for you to explore. The geography switches smoothly, from harsh, snow whipped plains and mountains to open grasslands and forests. Then from the snow and grass to rough hotspring landscape that is bleak and barren. No matter where you travel, the amazing graphics draw you to some new place. I found myself on an important quest when I saw a random windmill. The next thing I knew, I was miles away and battling for my life against some evil bandits. How I got there and where six hours went, I don't know.
Things have been fairly evened out from previous games. I no longer am struggling against seemingly weak enemies at the highest level, as in Oblivion. Skyrim does scale some foes to your level, but others are capped at different points (Ex. You're level 49, enemy is 30.). The scaling did lead to me falling dead many times with giants at a low level. They instantly scale to a super high level and I do believe they stay there (Pro Tip: Don't mess with a sleeping giant. Unless you are above level 20.) 

  The combat has been upgraded to a more realistic and useful setup. You may now dual wield swords (Oh. Yeah. Awesome.), or mix it up, with a spell in one hand and a sword in the other. Any combo works well and in battle, seems right. Sure, it still feels like you're swinging a Nerf sword, but the magic system is much better. Dual weilding spells makes you feel like a Badass. Archery feels the same, but a bit smoother overall. Back to the swords, they do feel like Nerf swords. Hitting enemies doesn't really stagger then and in real life, blood would be EVERYWHERE. Still, the kill animation added to Skyrim do hold up for this flaw, making you forget the sad battle beforehand as you skewer your enemy. 

 Skyrim's engine seems to be holding up well for such a big game. I haven't found any game breaking flaws, except for the one quest... Where the quest item literally fell through the floor. With to way to get it back, the quest is forever in my quest log. The NPC's haven't crashed on me, the game hasn't made enemies disappear. My items haven't gone missing, but my face has... The Arch-mages robes and masks don't mix. Bugs wise, I haven't seen much. The new 1.2 patch did add reverse flying dragons, which was an obvious bug, but I have full satisfaction that this will be fixed within the near future.
 The game's story (Main, side, lore, everything) is fully fleshed out. There are no inconsistencies that I have seen. The plots are scripted with beauty and the lore written with love. If you are even wanting to know more about the Elder Scrolls universe, you can dive into the mounds of in-game books! The only problem with the storyline, was that all of the faction quests seemed to be very short. The dark brotherhood left me with loneliness. *SPOILER* The entire guild died. Except for two people, leaving me to be leader of a small shadow of the real brotherhood. Happy? Nope. Oblivion's ending was much better. At least I had a much cooler base of operations there. The mages guild also looked to be really short. I found it strange that a newcomer to the guild stepped up to be the Arch-mage just after being with the guild for a short while. There were other, more high ranking people there. I didn't really do anything that epic either, just kill some Thalmor dude and avert some unknown danger... The most promising storyline was actually not the main, which is extremely short (At least in the time I played.). The best, seems to be the thieves storyline. It has a totally unexpected traitor, where as in the brotherhood's case I had a feeling that someone would rebel.

Overall, Skyrim is a exceptional game. It blends the deep experience of a... For the lack of a better word, a simulator and the levels and content of an RPG into one sweet, soft, cute, fierce and powerful package. This is probably MY game of the year. Yeah. I just went there and it's not even the end of December. Skyrim is worth it's price, for all the time I've put in it, I've at least doubled what I usually play with a game.
 Overall Score: 10.0
For more awesome Skyrim screenshots directly from me, go here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


 I visited Minecraft months ago, when it was in it's stages of Beta. Back then, this game was rated 9.0, in an unofficial state, since the game wasn't truly released. Now, with Minecraft released I'm revisiting it.(Well, I never stopped playing. This is an amazing game.)

 Minecraft is an indie game built from the ground up and it couldn't have done better. Over the course of several builds launched before release the public was allowed to play Minecraft. This let the devs add content and fix bugs with community input. Going into this review, I won't touch upon graphics, or this games engine much, as both are unique to this game. The graphics wouldn't live up to current standards, but they're not supposed too. The engine has bugs, but the devs have them fixed within weeks.

 When you normally jump into a game world, the first thing you see in front of you, is your end goal. Minecraft takes a different approach, dropping you into a world where you can build, destroy and do anything. There is no real end goal, unless you count defeating the final "Boss". With so much content added before release, Minecraft turned into a shining game. No longer can I compare another video game with Minecraft. It's on a planet of its own, in a great way.

 Minecraft works off a basic system, break blocks, which you can then place, with some exceptions. At first, this is all it offered, then it came out with Survival mode, adding tools and weapons to help survive against creatures which spawn every night. Not only did this add more play time to Minecraft, it made it a challenge, what every real gamer wants. With each update, there were bugs, but at the next update, they were always removed or at least hidden.

 With hundreds of items and blocks, Minecraft is in no way limited by content. Recently Notch, the main dev and creator of Minecraft, released The End. The End acts as a realm to combat the final boss, the Enderdragon (OMG. Yes. This game has a dragon in it!) Another realm, the Nether, a hellish zone with appropriate land forms and terrain was also added a while back. NPCs and their villages added a new spice to the game and of course... Multiplayer.

 Multiplayer for Minecraft is an experience totally it's own. Building castles and towns with friends is something that you can't beat in any other game. Though it contains more bugs than singleplayer, multiplayer is much for entertaining. Though setting up a server may be a hassle for some, it pays off. There are plenty of third-party mods which also boost your multiplayer experience, but do detract from the feeling of vanilla Minecraft. So if you're a gamer who can't live without his friends to play with, do not fear.

Overall, Minecraft is a game for almost everyone. The engine, graphics and gameplay lead it to be a game that can't be compared to another and make it stand out with a gleaming shine. Bugs don't mean much in this game, as the devs are great about repairing any problems. Minecraft does have one of the biggest, or THE biggest community for a single game. Just buy it.

 Overall Score: 9.75
Yes. It's almost the best game ever created.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dead Space 2

Guest Reviewer: Luke T.

            Dead Space 2 is the sci fi, horror sequel to Dead Space. Dead Space 2 takes place on a space station where Isaac (the main character) is being held in a mental hospital after the events of Dead Space. You are awoken right around the time the shit hits the fan, necromorphs are overrunning the space station and once again Isaac is called to battle with these monsters. I don’t want to spoil the the story for you but trust me, it is awesome and from start to finish Dead Space 2 keeps you on the edge of your seat. Some people don’t think they can be scared by a video game but if any game can scare you this one will. The thing that scared me the most was the feeling of vulnerability as I walked down the dark halls, you never know when a necromorph is going to burst through the wall or ceiling, or when one of the mutilated bodies on the ground comes to life and attacks you.

            The graphics in Dead Space 2 are not amazing but very good. Whether it be the excessive gore or some of the epic views the game holds I was never disappointed when it came to the graphics. The graphics for character models are extremely well built. For example, the necromorphs disfigured bodies are very detailed, and the bloodied carcasses of the inhabitants of the city are quite realistic.

            The combat in Dead Space 2 is intense and satisfying. One thing I loved was that there was no HUD, your health display is a row of bars on your back and your ammo is displayed right above your weapon. When you bring up your inventory it doesnt pause your game instead it projects it directly in front of you and leaves you vulnerable to enemy attack, I think this adds a nice bit of realism to the game. Almost all of the weapons in the game have a primary and secondary use, for example the line gun can fire a wide powerful shot or it can place a mine on the ground, things like this make it so you have many different ways to approach a battle.

            Overall I think this game is definitely worth its price and it is as fun as it is scary. It has a deep and very interesting story, it has very fun game play, and last but not least the graphics are awesome. So if your looking for a great scare or some fun get this game, once you start to play you wont be able to stop until the game is finished then you’ll have to play it through again.

Overall Score: 8.5

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Killing Floor

 Now, before I start this review, I'd like to hint that I have something really, really, REALLY awesome coming up. Oh. How I love dragons. ;)

 Killing Floor, a Left 4 Dead rip off, you might say? Not really. Just because it's a horror, and has things that look like zombies, it's not based off Left 4 Dead. This game is an interesting build from the people (Tripwire interactive) who have now created the new Red Orchestra game.

 Killing Floor is, for one, a game that does not really include zombies... or, the normal kind. These are mostly referred to as Specimens. Though server Specimens seem to echo the Left 4 Dead zombies, like the Bloat, a huge, fat, and bile spewing Specimen, you can't really mark this game down. Take Dead Island for example, it ALSO had a fat, exploding guy of sorts. Moving on. The game also does not run the same. Killing Floor lets you select one map and then battle out against waves of Specimen which increase in number and difficulty. There is NO really storyline for this game, unless you want to look on the Main Data Base for all things Killing Floor. Killing Floor also allows you to go to a trader between waves, who will let you buy and sell weapons. You will not really find weapons around the map, but a few do spawn, though rarely.
(Yup. That's a Christmas themed event. They also have Halloween. :D)
 Killing Floor's graphics look great for a horror survival game. The tone seems gritty, which is totally awesome. While you are dead, your spectator cam looks as if it came from the early model of recorders, with old style effects everywhere. The models of guns and equipment look fine, but the character model's animation looks the same. Not a bad thing... but come on, maybe the guys with gas masks can move the mask around when the player stands still. There are numerous weapons, and seven classes to go with them including: Firebug (Pyro), Commando, Sharpshooter, and Field Medic. The classes gain boosts with their class weapons, and discounts from the trader. It really seems like a solid system and when you get bored of one class, you still have six more to play.

 Killing Floor is a great game to play with friends. Alone, it gets boring, but it's not called a co-op survival for nothing... The game has perfect atmosphere, and the totally British survivors calling for money, heals and spouting jokes is aways funny. The graphics are great for this sort of a game, not for a COD game of course. The engine I didn't talk much about, but it's quite solid also. The Specimen are coded nicely. Don't buy this game if you are easily scared. It's a horror after all.

Overall Score: 7.5

Friday, October 7, 2011

Arma II

Tired of Call of Duty arcady gameplay? Do you hate the little eleven year old kids screaming over microphones and mucking up teamplay? Maybe you should look into Arma II... Gunships scream over the battlefield, snipers position on hill tops as ground forces attack strategic locations. But, though the gameplay seems to be interesting, different and invigorating, as shall be shown, do the graphics and engine work and look well?

Arma II is probably one of the most realistic shooters created to date, with some flaws in it's intricate design. The gameplay is a lot more tactical and focuses almost totally on teamplay. With so many vehicles, weapons and two maps, one of which is about 225sq km, this game seems to have everything. That's obviously not all, Arma II contains a useful, powerful and amazing mission editor. This is definitely not a normal editor such as Halo: Reach's, this editor has the power to create scripted events, actions and enemy tactics.
Gunships screaming over battlefields? I wasn't kidding, this game has beautiful sounds and makes the atmosphere seem totally real. The sniper rifles have a normal amount of drop, which makes sniping at 2km from the battlefield actually challenging. The gun sounds sound a bit dull though, ever shot sounding the same, no matter what. Then again, most gamers don't care about sounds that much.

Graphics in this game are almost realistic. The option to be able to free-look and yet walk forward is great, and maximizes the amount of enjoyment you can get from the world. Sitting in one of the trucks in a convoy and looking all around you makes this game seem super realistic. The weapons are shiny and detailed, yet small things could have been changed: Weapon dirt, better muzzle flash, reloading animations. The helicopters are modeled quite well, but have strange hit boxes that don't match their shape. Dust and grime are kicked up from helicopter blades and from fast moving trucks. Worried that your budget computer doesn't have the power to hold up to such a game? The graphics can be altered easily and don't take away from the overall gameplay. At full graphics and maximum fog distance, the environment is beautiful, with grass and bushes. The view distance is truly insane, allowing you to spot and fire at targets from crazy ranges. Water is animated without flaw and looks great. Can an engine handle this?

The Arma II engine actually holds up such a game without too many problems. The game renders as fast as your computer lets it, FPS is definitely not a problem (:D Max graphics and I think I'm still at 60FPS atleast.) The main issue with this game is the bugs. A few times I've found myself wondering why my character had invisible hands. Or... was frozen to the ground... Or died after he got out of an unmoving helo that was in my own base. There are problems, but that is NOT a reason to skip out on this realistic game. Bugs though, in about five hours of straight gameplay, maybe show up once. They aren't that major, not gamebreaking at all.

Overall Score: 9.0