Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel review


Everything is better with a friend–especially blowing up bad guys. It’s here that Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel shines the brightest, glistening with blood and gibs, like a Michael Bay movie on steroids. This sequel isn’t deep or all that innovative, but odds are you won’t have time to complain while you careen from one bloody conflagration to another, with barely a moment to breathe or take stock, delighting in wildly violent action each step of the way.

Above all else, Army of Two succeeds in looking terrific in battle. Firefights are morbidly beautiful in intensity and chaos; the environments disintegrate around you as the bullets and rockets fly, and there are dozens of moments where you’ll pause for a moment to say, “wow–that looks cool”. A moment is all you’ll have, though, as the action in Devil’s Cartel is unrelenting and pervasive. Taking place in Mexico, memorable locales abound, from city plazas to gorgeous resort hotels to ancient churches and graveyards. By the end of each battle, though, they’re choked with bodies and body parts in every corner. The carnage is immense.

“The carnage is immense.”

The death-dealing starts immediately and never stops as you and your partner (the more serious Alpha and Bravo, replacing the cartoony Salem and Rios from the last two games) dispatch wave after endless wave of drug cartel minions, each seemingly resigned to his fate as cannon fodder. While there is a story of sorts–a Mexican politician is trying to succeed in an area dominated by the cartel–it serves as only the narrowest thread to bring you to each of the set pieces as quickly as possible. Many follow a similar pattern, battling through enemies to get from point A to point B, but there are also some interesting vehicular missions to keep things fresh. Army of Two knows what it’s good at–namely, bullets, blood, and guts–and focuses on it like a laser beam.

Technically, a run-through of the game’s ten campaign locations takes 6-8 hours or so, but focusing on that utterly misses the point. Your first pass is a practice run that lets you learn locations and amass some cash to outfit yourself properly to do it again–and again and again. As a title focused on performance-based leaderboards, the ultimate victory is achieved by arming yourself and your partner to the teeth with tricked-out versions of the best weapons possible, then using smart tactics to earn top scores. Anyone can shoot a dude in the head, but properly flanking a group of enemies then blasting them to high heaven with a single rocket launcher scores quadruple the points. At the end of each level–some as short as a few minutes–your score is immediately assigned a number on the global leaderboards. Such is the ultimate hook of the game, and the reason to keep building your loadout and hopping back in to do just a little better each time.

“…the ultimate victory is achieved by arming yourself and your partner to the teeth…”

The best way to get the highest scores is using the Overkill mechanic, which takes the already-bloody action to another level entirely. Overkill does several things–slows down time, makes you invulnerable, gives you infinite ammo and grenades, and makes those weapons chew through enemies with frightening results. Both you and your partner have their own Overkill to be used (they charge up over time), but when combined the powers are doubled and the scores are dramatically improved. The biggest challenge is figuring out when to use them; virtually every circumstance is a plausible one but it takes awhile for it to recharge.

One of the major disconnects with Army of Two is the intelligence–or lack thereof–of enemies. While some will seek cover, others will charge screaming while brandishing machetes. They will often stand idly nearby while you’re being revived and not capitalize on the chance to eliminate you. The other missteps are cosmetic. The ghastly carnage is occasionally peppered with forced dialogue between several of the characters, often trying to be a little funny; it simply doesn’t work as jokes are being dispensed at literally the same moment live grenades are landing at your feet. There’s no amount of humor that makes sense in the environment created here, as death and sadness are an overarching theme.

“One of the major disconnects with Army of Two is the intelligence–or lack thereof–of enemies.”

The mechanics and controls are sound, with plenty of options to kill that work well. There’s no map, radar, or HUD; you simply follow indicators to figure out where to go and cower in a corner when it’s obvious you’re about to die. A few seconds without soaking up bullets and you’re good as new. When you do get taken down, there’s a generous amount of time for your buddy to heal you and keep going. Naturally, when you take all of this into account along with the staggering number of people that just two individuals mow down, it’s all utterly implausible. Army of Two throws plausibility out the window within the first five minutes, though, so it’s not really on the table in the first place.

Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel seems to accomplish exactly what it set out to do, offering an intense, impressive two-player co-op experience that’s heavily customizable and replayable. While it won’t likely scratch the itch of those looking for a more traditional shooter game–namely, competitive online multiplayer–it’s an original concept set inside familiar trappings.

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.

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Company of Heroes 2 closed beta dated, detailed


 

Sega will launch a Company of Heroes 2closed beta on April 2, showcasing the strategy title’s competitive multiplayer and skirmish gameplay. Players will be able to test out six maps, 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 competitive matches. They’ll also be able to play alone or with friends against the AI and have access to the first 40 levels of progression.

Set to be hosted on Steam, the beta will initially only be open to eligible pre-order customers, although a second phase will welcome more players “in the coming weeks”. Company of Heroes 2 producer Greg Wilson said: “We invite our fans to help us test and balance the game prior to launch, as well as see the changes we’ve already made since the Alpha test in December.”

Sega recently delayed the Company of Heroes 2 release date from this month to June 25, 2013 in North America and Europe. The publisher acquired Relic and the Company of Heroes franchise from THQ for $26 million in January.

Get our hands-on impressions of the game’s online component in this Company of Heroes 2 multiplayer preview. We also said of the title’s campaign in this Company of Heroes 2 preview: “CoH2 feels like the Company of Heroes you know and love, with more strategic wrinkles – like body temperature and cracking ice – to keep you on your toes.”

DuckTales Remastered coming this summer


Everyday WayForward’s out there remaking DuckTales, ohh-oh! That’s right, the NES classic from Capcom will reappear as DuckTales Remastered on PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox 360, via the developer of Mighty Switch Force and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge.

This is no port–the 1989 platformer has been remade from the ground up with hand-animated characters and 3D backgrounds. Remastered will hew close to the original game, with the same layout of treasure-laden levels from Transylvania to the Moon. A few new areas will bolster the selection, including Scrooge’s beloved money bin–you can, of course, jump in and roll around in it. You got served, Wario.

The remake will even feature much of the animated series’ voice talent, including Scrooge McDuck voice actor Alan Young. Clear out your summer calendar for life-threatening levels of nostalgia when this $15 downloadable title lands

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 review


The transformation that the Tiger Woods franchise has gone through this generation–not unlike that of the man himself–is astounding. What started as a slick-looking arcade-style golf game with simple mechanics has evolved into a meticulously designed labor of love that focuses on the best of the sport today as well as its storied past. In many ways, it symbolizes the top aspects of sports gaming in the waning years of the PS3/360 era–as well as one of its worst.

The difference between a Tiger game several years ago versus its latest incarnation is stark; a completely different mechanic that allows exponentially more shot-making opportunities is backed by the inclusion of all four major championships on the PGA Tour, a fully realized women’s tour, a new difficulty mode to challenge the best players, a bona fide historical mode that combines legendary players with old-timey equipment on wildly different courses, and an online social community that encourages play with and against friends. As recently as two years ago, none of these were present in any real capacity. In many ways, Tiger 14 feels like the ultimate fan service for longtime players of the franchise.

It’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room, however. Even as the game comes jammed with content for the $60 price tag (or the special edition with a few more courses for $10 more), a staggering amount of expensive DLC in the form of additional courses also awaits. Even worse, any courses that were purchased last year do not count towards this season’s selections. If you were to purchase all of the courses, it’s conceivable you would come close to doubling your investment; considering that many of these courses are key to integral parts of the game, it feels unnecessary to demand so much from customers.

“In many ways, Tiger 14 feels like the ultimate fan service for longtime players of the franchise.”

What is on the disc at launch is certainly impressive, though. In career mode–the heart of any Tiger game–you have the ability to tailor your golfer out of the gate to your preferred play style. Big hitters can choose Power players, while precise golfing surgeons can go in the direction of Control. The modified Total Swing Control mechanics provide instant feedback to your input, all of which is controlled with the left or right stick. That’s right–there’s no three-click method anymore. Everything is managed by moving the sticks up and down in time, with precise measurements that directly impact where your ball will go off the tee, fairway, rough, sand, or green. If you haven’t played Tiger in a while, be prepared to spend some time learning. It’s the best Tiger control set yet, but it takes some practice.

Legends of the Game is the newest mode, featuring all types of challenges set throughout golf’s history. Borrowing from NBA 2K13, the presentation will reflect the era; when you’re walking the courses of Scotland in the 19th century, sepia-toned hues awash the screen. As you move forward in time, presentations will change accordingly. While it’s an interesting feature, the much more impactful aspect of early eras is the different equipment being used. It forces you to take a different approach–obviously, you’re not nearly as long off the tee nor as accurate in rough spots–but more than anything will have you longing for current-day gear. By far the best aspect of the Legends mode is the carefully crafted men themselves, as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and many others have their distinct mannerisms beautifully captured.

For the first time ever, all four PGA Tour major championships are licensed and playable. This is simply huge for all fans; imagine if Madden didn’t have the Super Bowl, but rather a “Football Championship Game?” That’s no longer an issue, as the Masters, US Open, British Open, and PGA Championship, as wel as their respective courses, are in the game. As it has for several years now, Augusta permeates the experience of Tiger Woods; not only is the present-day course still a major attraction, but the famous Par 3 course and 1934 layout are also available. However, they are only on the premium Masters Historic Edition or as DLC.

“Tiger Woods 14 stands as a terrific example of a sports franchise that has continued to evolve itself in the direction its fans want it to go.”

Online play also continues as a focal point, as Country Clubs–groups of friends that can congregate with aggregated stats and their own tournaments–are back and expanded this go-round. Entire communities sprung up around these Clubs last year, and it was a wise decision to boost their membership from 25 people to 100 for this season. While many players will never head into online golf, those that do have a way to find like-minded people with similar skill levels and desired experience–something all sports games could benefit from.

Tiger Woods 14 stands as a terrific example of a sports franchise that has continued to evolve itself in the direction its fans want it to go. Better mechanics, a deep historical mode, expanded online capabilities, and multi-gender careers highlight a huge game with much to offer its fans. However, it’s difficult to view its desire to exact even more money after purchase by offering enticing course content as payable DLC that directly impacts your ability to play core modes of the game as anything but questionable. If you go in with eyes wide open, chances are you’ll get exactly what you want out of Tiger this spring.

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

The Croods: Review


Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds lead the voice cast on DreamWorks’ 3D animated comedy-adventure about a prehistoric family leaving cave life behind.

The Croods-Poster-8

Two of the principal plot drivers in The Croods are an athletic Neanderthal chick with a wild titian mop top and a rockin’ bod packed into a tiger-fur sheath and a brainy boy babe with skater-dude hair, perfect pecs and the waistline of a supermodel, not to mention a pioneering flair for accessories. But the core audience for DreamWorks’ 3D animated prehistoric family adventure is probably less the tweens and teens those adolescent lovebirds would suggest than the younger tykes who flocked to a comedy franchise situated elsewhere on the paleontology chart, Ice Age.

The humor and charm in Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco’s film is too uneven to help it approach that series’ mammoth market share. But its mostly fast-moving roller coaster of kinetic action and its menagerie of fantastic creatures – from cute to menacing – should keep kids entertained. They’ll also have no trouble grasping the simple message to face your fears and embrace change.

The film evolved out of a project first announced at Cannes in 2005 under the title Crood Awakening, which was to reteam DreamWorks with artisanal British toon shop Aardman Animation after successes like Chicken Run. That earlier version was being co-written by DeMicco with John Cleese, who retains a story credit here.

While his neighbors steadily have succumbed to the perils of the Stone Age, Crood brood patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage) has kept his family safe by sticking to the simple rules mapped out in the cave paintings. His credo is: “Fear keeps us alive. Never not be afraid.” (Grammar obviously isn’t his strong point.) “No one said survival was fun.” Curiosity, for Grug, equals danger.

The hell they have to go through for sustenance is outlined in a dizzying hunting sequence near the start that’s like an over-caffeinated pro football game with a giant bird egg in place of the pigskin. Everyone in the family plays a role on the team, from wife Ugga (Catherine Keener) to plucky teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone), lunkhead son Thunk (Clark Duke) and leathery Gran (Cloris Leachman), Grug’s barely tolerated mother-in-law. Even the feral infant, Sandy, is deployed on cue with the battle cry, “Release the baby!”

But despite their tight synergy, the Croods’ world literally is crumbling around them. Eep’s growing rebellion against the physical and mental darkness of cave life also is causing friction with Dad. When she follows the light one night and meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), with his mysterious invention of fire and his warnings of the destruction to come, Eep propels the family onto a quest toward the higher ground of tomorrow. Once she’s seen fire and she’s seen rain, there’s no looking back.

Aside from the earth opening up beneath them, the boulders flying and the predators at every turn, the chief conflict is between brawny Grug’s belief in his strength and Guy’s revolutionary reliance on ideas. The protective father’s anxiety over his daughter’s first crush adds to this still-somewhat-undernourished friction. Guy has a de rigueur animal sidekick in a sloth named Belt (“voiced” by co-director Sanders), who serves to hold up his pants as well as bring a cheeky sense of the dramatic.

Sanders and DeMicco’s script doesn’t have the robust plotting, consistent wit or flavorful character development of the best family animation. And some of the voice actors have too little to work with. Keener’s Ugga, for instance, is a strictly standard-issue caring Mom, while much of the humor built around Thunk’s obtuseness is soft. And like Betty White’s raunchy oldsters, Leachman’s ornery crones are starting to get as tired as those funky rapping grannies from ‘90s New Line comedies.

With his weary rasp, however, Cage makes Grug a touching figure — a knuckle-dragger at first and then steadily more resourceful as he sees the light. Stone’s smoky-voiced sweetness is nicely paired with the character’s butt-kicking physicality (it’s refreshing to see an animated teen girl more strapping than the cookie-cutter slender-princess model), and Reynolds brings the right note of earnestness to his forward-thinker.

Basically a journey tale with its erratic momentum pumped up by Alan Silvestri’s hard-working score, The Croods has its share of rambunctious episodes and frantic narrow escapes. Notable among them is the threat of a tornado-like flock of vicious Piranhakeets, razor-toothed birds that can strip a beast to its bones in seconds. “Stay inside the family kill circle!” warns Grug as they descend.

There’s a large assortment of fantasy animals to keep the merchandise division busy, among them parrot-hued giant felines, dogs with crocodile jaws, land-dwelling whales, monkeys with killer right hooks and owl-headed bears that owe a debt to Maurice Sendak. These critters give the film more in common with the slapsticky Looney Tunes era than with animation of recent vintage.

The Croods mercifully refrains from leaning too hard on anachronistic dialogue for laughs, settling for the occasional “awesome” or “sucky.” And it’s light on pop cultural cross-referencing, which also is a blessing. But especially after so many animated movies have raised the bar, the shortage of sophisticated humor likely will narrow the appeal here chiefly to the 4-to-10 age range.

There are some decent gags built around inventions and accidental discoveries, such as snapshots, shoes (“Aaahhh!!! I love them,” squeals Eep in her prototype Uggs) and popcorn, in a crowd-baiting wink to the multiplex populace. Other touches, like the birth of the hug (rhymes with Grug), tap into an innocuous vein of schmaltz. But another polish or two to punch up the script wouldn’t have hurt.

Aside from teen dreamboat Guy, the character animation is not the prettiest; even Eep is slapped with rough-hewn features on an ultra-wide face. But there’s considerable imagination in the rendering of the landscapes, ranging from barren rock to lush jungle vegetation full of vibrantly exotic flora. Cinematography luminary Roger Deakins is credited as visual consultant, his influence perhaps discernible in the glow of stars, sun and fire, which is fitting given the thematic centrality of stepping into the light after hiding in darkness.

Premiering in Berlin ahead of its March 22 rollout via Fox, the film screened with incomplete credits, indicating that its final running time might gain a few minutes.

 

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm review(Hail to the queen)


StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is what every expansion strives for: more of the same, only better. As the expansion to 2010’s Wings of Liberty, HotS delves into the ickier, slimy side of the Zerg-Terran-Protoss conflict. But regardless of your affinity for those revolting Zerg critters, HotS is the complete RTS package. Whether you’re invested in the overarching single-player story or you’re determined to climb the ladders of the online arena, HotS renews a well of deep gameplay that could easily entertain you for years.

HotS spins an engrossing tale of vengeance and the price one must pay to attain it. The one-time queen of the Zerg, Sarah Kerrigan, is a total boss; you’ll be far more engaged by her vehement seething, especially when held up against the blue-collar musings of Jim Raynor and company (who make appreciated cameos without overstaying their welcome). The StarCraft II writers still seem to struggle with believable dialogue between humans, leaning too heavily on cheesy one-liners–but the conversations amongst alien races are much more interesting, offering a look at just how the Zerg think.

“Sarah Kerrigan is a total boss.”

Playing as the Zerg for the majority of single-player supercharges the campaign’s pacing, thanks to the race’s fundamental qualities of speed and aggression. Whereas the Terran battalions in Wings of Liberty built up slowly and methodically, having a mass of larvae at your disposal lets you spawn an army in moments or adapt to changes in the blink of an eye. This makes missions feel much more streamlined and exciting, letting you continuously churn out units instead of waiting around for your production facilities to pump out soldiers. There’s also plenty of refreshing variety to the missions, which can task you with base-building in one skirmish and launching a small-scale tactical assault in the next.

The other major improvement to the story missions comes in the form of Kerrigan herself, who now acts as an almighty spell-casting hero unit that imbues a sense of continuity into the overall campaign. Taking the time to complete bonus objectives will level Kerrigan up, giving you access to an ever-increasing suite of cool abilities and offering you a satisfying, permanent reward for exploring each mission. Also of note are the achievements, which actually feel like worthwhile, attainable goals to extend the campaign’s lifespan.

“…missions feel much more streamlined and exciting…”

But StarCraft would be meaningless without multiplayer, and when it comes to online play, HotS delivers. The new units create space for innovative builds and strategies without overhauling how any of the races play. For instance, Protoss get early air harassment in the Oracle, Zerg can now siege with Swarm Hosts, and Terran land attrition is even easier using the Widow Mine. It won’t take you long to grasp how these units function, and how best to utilize and counter them, giving you more strategic choices without burying you under a mountain of new information. Of course, given StarCraft II’s prominence within the pro eSports community, expect those strategies to evolve faster than a six-pool Zerg rush.

For those of you that aren’t top-level players (and if you’re reading this instead of finishing your 50th match of the day, we’re guessing you’re not), HotS offers the best user experience yet. Years of iteration have developed the menu-based online interface from a confusing mess to a clean and comprehensible layout, letting you search for custom games or hop into matchmaking with ease. There are plenty of small-scale changes that will improve your SC2 quality-of-life, the niftiest of which is the ability to assume control during the middle of a replay (though you’ll need two or more players for this to actually function).

“HotS offers the best user experience [for online play] yet.”

If you’re feeling a bit rusty or you’ve always wanted to conquer your ladder anxiety, HotS does a fine job of preparing you for the killers you’ll encounter in the online jungle. The fine-tuned training progression coaxes you into a comfortable familiarity with your race of choice, where you’ll gradually get a sense of the timings and build orders that will lead you to victory. This is far preferable to Wings of Liberty, which dumped you into the online lion’s den and wished you good luck. That said, the matchmaking is still a bit iffy at times, and it’s neither fun nor enlightening to square off against a superior player who crushes you with ease. Thankfully, these mismatched battles are few and far between, and will likely become increasingly rare as the ranked ladders sort themselves out.

Heart of the Swarm transforms the StarCraft II landscape in all the right ways–enough to surprise and excite you, while still being amiably familiar at its core. As with its predecessors, it offers fast-paced real-time strategy with a great amount of accessibility and no skill ceiling in sight. Rather than feeling like an ugly middle child between Wings of Liberty and Legacy of the Void, Heart of the Swarm is a star in its own right.

BioShock Infinite review (You’ve got a friend)


Companionship. It’s one of the strongest emotions you can feel in any work of fiction. Your connection with an imaginary character seems real, born organically through a shared experience and the challenges you overcame at each other’s side. It’s the presence of companionship that elevates BioShock Infinite from being a great game to an astounding one, imbuing the exhilarating FPS gameplay with a sense of genuine humanity. Elizabeth is your only friend in the airborne city of Columbia, a twisted vision of a utopia floating in the heavens. And seeing the sights in an unfamiliar city is always more fun with a friend.

The year is 1912. You’re Booker DeWitt, an ex-Pinkerton agent with the machismo of Harrison Ford, sent to extract a woman from the dizzying heights of Columbia’s aerial metropolis. As with the previous BioShock games, this fantasy environment is stunning to behold and layered with an incredible ambience. The simple act of walking its cobbled streets and browsing through gift shops turns into a mesmerizing experience, where propaganda posters, eavesdropped conversations, and children’s toys all give you a glimpse into this society’s warped sense of patriotism. Columbia feels like an inhabited world, and your curiosity into its inner workings will be rewarded–and built up–at every turn.

 

“…this fantasy environment is stunning to behold and layered with an incredible ambience.”

You’ll also find yourself in awe as you explore Columbia. The city is downright beautiful, with striking colors and brightness in some vistas and an ominous duskiness in others. Going from a cheerful, vibrant street fair into less congenial settings (like a church of raven-worshipping cultists who idolize Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth) is surprising in all the right ways, and no two environments feel alike. The pacing of the level design is excellent, never dawdling on any one set piece for too long but giving you just enough time to appreciate their magnificence.

Blended into these gorgeous locations are messages of repugnant bigotry, and the stark contrast between the idyllic cityscape and the prejudice that pervades it tells a story all by itself. Racist caricatures aren’t used for cheap shock value–they help sell the idea that most citizens in Columbia think that skin color dictates status. But Infinite’s narrative stretches far beyond a mere face-off between the forces serving the self-righteous Father Comstock and the freedom fighters of the zealous Vox Populi. The 15-to-18-hour campaign doesn’t limit itself to the ideas of right and wrong, or force you to make dichotomous moral choices; instead, it’s the kind of tale that subverts your expectations time and time again.

“…the stark contrast between the idyllic cityscape and the prejudice that pervades it tells a story all by itself.”

Central to this story is Elizabeth, your strong-willed, super-powered ally who dreams of escaping her life in captivity. Through a combination of affecting voicework, convincing facial animations, and brilliant AI, Elizabeth feels like a completely autonomous companion–a friend. Her body language delivers emotion without words; a glimmering smile at Booker when he makes promises, an averted gaze and crossed arms if he breaks them. Elizabeth’s behavior makes you forget she’s a video game character: She’ll explore environments all on her own, humming to herself or beckoning you over to point out something you might’ve missed. When patiently waiting for you to finish surveying a room, her gaze will shift to sights beyond the player, rather than fixating on your head like so many video game NPCs. Once you’ve grown accustomed to Elizabeth’s mannerisms, the vacant stares and limited reactions from lesser characters can make them feel lifeless by comparison–though no worse than any other great game.

Her incorporation into the FPS gameplay is downright ingenious. Too often, companions become a detriment in combat, in constant need of baby-sitting or instructions. But Elizabeth is the polar opposite, able to fend for herself and assist you with her supernatural abilities. You’ll be grateful when she opens inter-dimensional tears in the environment, altering the layout of a level to give you cover or create an enemy-attracting diversion. When you die, it’s Elizabeth who worriedly revives you. It makes the bond between you and Elizabeth feel that much stronger–when she’s happy, you’re happy. When she’s hurt, you’ll want to personally slaughter whoever it was that hurt her.

“Elizabeth feels like a completely autonomous companion–a friend.”

Elizabeth’s presence also brings the tone firmly into action territory and away from survival horror. Knowing that you won’t have to face your enemies alone will make you feel empowered–quite the switch from the original BioShock’s desolate, chilling atmosphere. Elizabeth is a reliably helpful partner, seeking out the items you need and tossing them to you just in the knick of time during an intense firefight. Her companionship acts as a lifeline instead of a liability, and effortlessly generates thrilling moments during battle.

Picture this: you’re nearing the bottom of a machine gun clip, heart pounding as swarms of Comstock’s goons charge at you. Then you hear Elizabeth shout your name, spin around to catch the ammo she’s thrown, quickly reload, and blast your assailants in the face with hot lead. These moments will overwhelm your adrenal glands, and feel like incidental heroics instead of manufactured, scripted events.

Speaking of adrenal glands, Infinite’s combat will be satisfyingly familiar for BioShock veterans. The gun-in-one-hand, magic-powers-in-the-other formula delivers exciting shootouts one after another, and lets you play to your strengths and approach enemies however you see fit. In place of Plasmids are some imaginative Vigors, which open up even more avenues for combo-based traps, and the gunplay offers a satisfying range of close-quarters firepower and long-range artillery.

“…Infinite’s combat will be satisfyingly familiar for BioShock veterans.”

But sky-lines, the suspended tracks you can use to ride through levels like a rollercoaster, turn the first-person shooting into a first-person thrillride. It delivers a new FPS experience entirely, where you hold your breath at the apex of a sky-line before screaming down the rail so fast that no bullet can touch you. You won’t have access to sky-line mobility in the lion’s share of the fights–but when you do, it’s an absolute rush.

Incredibly, BioShock Infinite delivers on your years’ worth of expectations, then exceeds them. Regardless of your affinity for the FPS genre, Infinite deserves your attention, and it’s the kind of landmark experience that happens only a few times in a gaming generation. Even after the game is over, Elizabeth–and Columbia–will stay with you.

This game was reviewed on PC.