As part of a new wave of "next-generation" 360 games which are short on content, questionable in structure, and passed off to the public at a high retail price, Bullet Witch is certainly a title to be cautious of for gamers on a budget. If I could only afford to buy one title in a store full of choices, Bullet Witch wouldn't be it.

I'm not saying the game is bad, but Dan's observations in the main review are all spot-on.  Not only can Bullet Witch be finished in an afternoon, it's a small-scale game with small-scale goals, and doesn't hold up well to repeated playthroughs. I actually admire its focus in a way, but it's the sort of adventure that goes down better at $20 used. (Crackdown and Earth Defense Force, I'm looking at you, too.)

However, putting the issue of value aside for a moment, Bullet Witch isn't without its charm.  The post-apocalyptic setting is pulled off reasonably well and serves as the proper frame within which to mow down demonic soldiers. The main character Alicia has a strong design, and integrating witchcraft with gunplay is like mixing chocolate and peanut butter. Calling devastating bolts of lightning down from the sky thrilled, and the Raven Panic spell is one of the most interesting and useful powers I've encountered in a while. When a mass of summoned birds can make enemies stop firing at me and leave them flailing around to being picked off at my leisure, I have to smile.

The disappointing thing about Bullet Witch is that for every time I smiled, there were two or three things to make me frown.

Bullet Witch Screenshot

Despite the level of interactivity afforded in the witchcraft, the environments aren't very destructible (a magical hurricane gets blocked by a chain-link fence?!?), most areas are burdened with invisible barriers, visible barriers, and small vertical structures that Alicia can't jump over. A general feeling of limitation pervades the entire experience.  Besides this sense of being reined in, the urban environments are jumbled and confusing, and I often found myself wandering around, retracing my steps and trying to find the correct way to go.

Looking at the enemies, Bullet Witch features a pitifully small selection of creatures-literally just a handful. I quickly grew tired of taking out the same pinkish zombie wearing a skin cape over and over again in each area, and kept waiting for new and interesting horrors that never appeared. I should also mention that the developer who thought including snipers with the ability to kill Alicia with one hit should be promptly fired.

… And while I'm on the subject of bad ideas, I'm appalled at the way Bullet Witch tries to nickel-and-dime players by offering "features" through online micro transactions that should have been open and available from the get-go.  The money-grubbing tactics on display here are some of the most egregious I've seen, and I deeply hope that other developers choose not to go down this slippery, slippery slope. Offering bonus content and small perks to enhance a game peripherally is one thing; shipping an already-thin product and then intentionally making it thinner with the intent of cashing in later is unforgivable.

With Alicia's enigmatic looks, poignant backstory, and interesting world, I'd be very open to seeing an expanded, developed and more rounded sequel to Bullet Witch. That said, the developers need to either put out a complete, full-scale product or just be honest and charge a fair price for what they've produced if they choose to go the no-frills/low-frills route again. Videogaming is already an expensive hobby, and it's just getting spendier. Getting taken for a ride by overzealous developers and games that really can't justify their price only makes the situation worse. Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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God of War II  Screenshot

God of War II is a fine game, and definitely one of the most polished, playable titles available for the PS2. However, it suffers from the same significant (and possibly unavoidable) problem as its predecessor—an unlikable hero.

Technically speaking, the game is nearly beyond reproach. Besides an occasional awkward camera angle or the way the graphics suffered from minor "tearing" in certain areas, there's nothing to improve. As Brandon said in his review, it seems as though God of War II squeezes every bit of juice that the PS2 has to offer, and then squeezes a little more. I may be wrong, but I feel confident in saying that Sony's Santa Monica studios have maxed out the hardware and I'd be surprised if another house could make it do more.

From an artistic perspective, it's superb. Quite breathtaking at times, the adventure is stuffed with stunning vistas and fantastic imagery like the seething lava found boiling near a Gorgon's temple, the horrific Sister of Fate spinning life-threads, and the stony battlefield nestled among the clouds in the game's final confrontation. It's clear that these people have done their homework and have a love for what they're doing…the sense of scale and larger-than-life feeling that permeates every aspect of God of War II feels like a genuine fit for the mythology surrounding Zeus and the entire Olympian pantheon.

However, despite being so accomplished both technically and artistically, my feelings for Kratos the first time around still hold true. To be perfectly blunt, he's not a very sympathetic character, nor a hero that I feel any significant connection to. Constant anger and snarling every line of dialogue aren't elements that strike a chord with me. Although I can understand his motivation and the events that led him to each of his adventures thus far, Kratos doesn't even manage to feel like he's fighting for justice or righting a wrong—he comes off like a bloodthirsty villain, and although he may be a lesser evil compared to what he's up against, I find it hard to root for his victory beyond the context of achieving my immediate goals as a player. I was more motivated to solve the next puzzle or see the next monster than I was to help Kratos win the day.

God of War II is as solid as solid can be and will undoubtedly provide a weekend of thrills with the kind of cyclops-gouging, Pegasus-riding, and god-killing that most developers could only dream of producing. But, I see such an unsavory main character as a real barrier towards pushing the game into the upper echelons of super-stardom. Kratos may be able to dispatch any foe gruesomely and with extreme prejudice, but it takes more than raw brutality to capture my imagination and inspire loyalty. Instead of a glowing sword or a golden key, what this Spartan needs is a shred of warmth and humanity. Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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I tend to disagree with almost every one of Brad’s reviews myself. But I still read them. He’s sort of like the anti-reviewer to me – I read the reverse into what he says. That doesn’t mean he’s an idiot, it just means we have consistently opposed opinions.

To be perfectly blunt, he’s not a very sympathetic reviewer, nor a reviewer that I feel any significant connection to. However, I don’t hold those qualities against him. I guess that’s us disagreeing again.

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You seem pretty keen on letting me know what a bad reviewer i am… fair enough. Would you like to provide some reasons as to why you disagree, this game or any other? By the way, if you’ve read four and think i’m an idiot, all i can say is to go back into the archives and read some others… i’ve done a couple hundred, so maybe you’ll agree with at least one or two of them. If not, i guess i’m just not going to be your favorite reviewer. that’s OK, opinions differ… one thing we suggest at this… Read more »

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This is the fourth second opinion/review I’ve read from you and all I can say is you are an idiot. I have not agreed with one thing you have said. The problem with this game is there is an unlikeable hero? Are you kidding me? The things I have read from you are a joke and I hope you are not getting paid to review games.

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I find it really sad that this game has been given such a single minded review. The main character is the “god of war”, maybe its me..but i dont suppose he’s meant to be portrayed as a fluffy, lovable character. Most games focus on making their main characters lovable and easy to identify with. Is it such a problem that this game does’nt do that?

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i second that.

Kratos is the definition of an anti-hero. That’s the point right there really isn’t it?

You’re not meant to admire much about Judge Dredd either. He’s a fascist, brutal policeman who dispense judgement and punishment unmercilessly however there’s usually only one admirable feature that we empathise with.

Judge Dredd’s blind sense of justice in a chaotic world.
and Krato’s sense of fury, betrayal and revence by unjust Gods.

Who never sided with the robber’s when they were playing cops and robbers on the school playground?

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Kratos isn’t just any ordinary anti-hero; he’s the supreme nihilist who quite literally defies the order of the universe and, in doing so, paradoxically (but not unexpectedly) comes off as the only consistently idealistic character in the game (kind of like Shakespeare’s Iago…but for obvious reasons more closely resembling Milton’s fallen Satan). All the other gods follow their various whims, desires and conflicting loyalties in that tiresome, predictably messy and distinctly Olympian manner, while Kratos on the other hand follows only one guiding principle – revenge – and thus embodies the very essence of defiant unbelief. To me, the opportunity… Read more »

Every Extend Extra Screenshot 

Although I can certainly understand Andrew's sentiments regarding Every Extend Extra, I'm not sure that I can echo them. Not having been familiar with the freeware source material, I approached the game knowing almost nothing about it besides the fact that it was another signature Mizuguchi piece, and it is. Familiar with Rez and Lumines, I found myself quite at home with EEE's sights and sounds.

As expected, Mizuguchi does not disappoint. The graphics are hypnotic, almost overwhelming with their intensity. The music is a fitting compliment. I don't think that the bursts of sound emanating from each explosion succeed in the sort of "create a dynamic sound" effect the game was going for, but then again, I don't think the same mechanic was successful in Rez, either. Clearly one of Mizuguchi's pet projects, I'm sure he'll try his hand at synesthesia again.

Audio and visuals aside, my main issues with Every Extend Extra are twofold: the length and the core play mechanic.

The length (seven standard levels and two hidden) wouldn't be an issue if the game was priced a little lower, but the sole retail copy I managed to find clocked in at $30. I managed to get through the game a few times the first day, and I had little motivation to go back and improve my score. That's a pretty steep buy-in for a couple of hours with a game that I don't feel has legs—a direct result of my second complaint, the core play mechanic.

Clearly positioned as a "puzzle" game and not as some sort of psycho-shooter the way the similarly brief Rez was, Every Extend Extra can be frustrating due to the apparent randomness of enemy patterns and their frequency. The point of the game is to set off chain reactions, but if the enemies never appear or appear in awkward configurations, chain reactions are impossible. It's clearly stated that picking up the "quicken" items will increase the appearance of said enemies (and they do), but the overall tone comes across as too heavily based in luck, and not something able to be controlled with skill the way a board can be worked by a seasoned Lumines or Tetris player.

This random aspect to scoring opportunities is especially aggravating during the "boss" sequences when players are supposed to attack by scoring a combo chain with the enemy on the receiving end of the explosions. It doesn't feel enjoyable or fair to try and rack up a 12-combo pointed in a certain direction when the only enemies available are drifting across in clusters of three on the wrong side of the screen with the clock counting down to game over.

As an experiment of sorts, Every Extend Extra brings an independent sensibility and definite auteur flavor. I like the concept and I like its energy, and I certainly don't mean to come off as someone who's wanting yet another variation of the falling-block formula. However, in its current state it seems more tailored towards being a demo or download—in fact, the game is slated to be available on Xbox Live Arcade shortly. In that arena, I think EEE will probably succeed. As a retail-release game asking for my investment, it comes up short both figuratively and literally. Rating: 6 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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Brad knows how much I like this game, as I believe I’m partly responsible for talking him into the purchase. That said, despite my love-affair with the game, I do admit that Brad raises some very fair concerns about the core mechanics of the game. I know there are times when I would get frustrated watching an impeccabe performance be ruined by an unlucky draw during a boss battle. That said, I never questioned the mechanic though. I never felt it was cheap, only unlucky. I would suggest thinking about it in terms of how people view Culdcept. You had… Read more »

I haven't written a "ditto" review in a while but after completing Yakuza and re-reading what Dan had to say about it, I can only agree in every way.

Simply put, the game is fantastically entertaining. I had doubts as to whether or not a brawler could keep my interest for any length of time, but Yakuza not only went the distance, it had me coming back post-completion and smacking down fools after the credits rolled—something I rarely ever feel compelled to do.

Kazuma Kiryu, the game's star, is by far the toughest bad-ass I've seen in quite some time. His stoic strength and formidable presence make other so-called videogame heroes seem like flaccid cosplayers. Sam Fisher? Those guys from Gears of War? They're total pansies compared to the pure machismo Kazuma gives off with a glare.

The robust fighting engine has enough juice to back him up, too. The huge battles never got old, and I found myself constantly looking forward to the worst the game could throw at me. Six-on-one? Don't make me laugh. Twelve-on-one? Twenty? That's more like it.

Kazuma is an engine of destruction, his punches connecting with palpable force and his kicks routinely smashing the skulls of downed opponents. Yakuza's system of upgrades constantly gave me something to look forward to, with each new ability earned opening up all-new cans of whoop-ass. By the time I unlocked Kazuma's final combo upgrade, he was an unstoppable monster. Watching him effortlessly knock over a thug and then snatch him up by the legs and toss him into an oncoming group was like watching a bulldozer demolish a ramshackle tarpaper house. More, please.

Yakuza Screenshot 

However, even though I'm completely enamored of the group combat, some of the technical elements in Yakuza's fisticuffs bring shame upon the house of Kiryu. By far, my biggest disappointment was a point Dan raised—the way the game doesn't seem capable of handling one-on-one fights. For some reason, it felt nearly impossible to land punches on one person when I was cleaning house on eight just a few minutes earlier, and because of this problem some of the boss fights are real hair-pullers.

The camera is disappointing, too. The developers have completely taken control out of the player's hands and assigned specific camera angles based on Kazuma's position in the environment. Most of the time this isn't an issue, but in a game where the core of play depends on being a good fighter, not being able to see enemies is an annoying, avoidable handicap. It shouldn't ever happen, but it does.

The other area where the camera lets the game down is in exploration. As Dan mentioned, Yakuza is frequently compared to Shenmue—and rightly so. Although Yakuza is more like a "lite" version of Yu Suzuki's masterpiece, finding clues, exploring nooks and crannies of the city, and being very aware of the surroundings is highly important. When running down the streets, the camera is often too high and too far away to let the player take in any detail. Not being able to look around at will is also a barrier, and I found myself stuck a handful of times because I simply couldn't see the thing I needed to move on to the next part of the game.

With those weaknesses noted, it's not overstating the case to say Yakuza scores direct hits everywhere else. The story is just as good as the combat, and though it was extremely convoluted throughout all its twists and turns, it did an excellent job of fleshing out the characters and giving them solid motivation. The voice acting is excellent, starring many luminaries that will be familiar to fans of quality work, and the number of side missions was surprising. Yakuza made me work harder to dig them up than Shenmue did, but they're often worth tracking down for their amusing content, if nothing else. A class act all the way, this is by far the best game Sega's turned out in years. It's a shame the rest of their current software isn't as good.

Oh, and Sega… if you're going to put in a crossdressing assassin, at least make it a cute one. I'm surprised the alternative community hasn't risen up in protest already. Rating: 8 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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Andrew is correct in stating that LocoRoco is hard not to love, but it's a love that's difficult to maintain.

My fellow Critic is entirely on the mark when he describes the game's sharp visuals and catchy melodies. I'd be very hard-pressed to pick another game on the PSP which is as memorable in terms of audio and visuals as this one is. It stands out, has its own style, and is impossible to mistake for anything else. LocoRoco has personality in spades. What it does not have is gameplay.

Don't get me wrong-rolling happy blobs through cheery landscapes is both pleasantly simple and warmly engaging, but only in very small doses. Within the span of a few brief levels, the initial attraction wears thin while the expected introduction of new elements needed to keep the experience fresh never occurs.

LocoRoco Screenshot

On one hand, I think that more games should take the LocoRoco approach by being easy to grasp and very welcoming to a wide spectrum of players. Far too many games require previous experience speaking the abstract, idiosyncratic language that lifelong gamers learn over the course of years. On the other hand, LocoRoco never goes anywhere after introducing itself and fails to capitalize on its significant potential by remaining as basic and effortless at the end of the game as it is in the beginning.

It's not that I necessarily want a higher degree of difficulty, but the formula of rolling here, jumping there and collecting LocoRoco bits along the way is not enough to sustain an entire adventure. Even a brief game completed in a matter of hours starts to feel overlong and tired when the developers don't ask me to do much more than avoid spikes and keep moving.

I give the game all due respect for its visual and auditory creativity, and it also gets high marks for being so approachable, but its goal for the gameplay was set too low. I fully believe that even the greenest newcomers will be able to grasp LocoRoco's core mechanics by the end of the first set of levels, and it's a shame that the developers felt simple repetition of the beginning segments would be sufficient for the entire length of a project that's attracting as much attention as it has.

I sincerely wanted my LocoRoco love affair to last longer and to burn brighter than it did, but it wasn't meant to be. It's fine for a brief fling, but personality and charm can only get a game so far…without anything under the surface, LocoRoco is an experience that's as shallow as it is charming. Rating: 6 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Although Kameo: Elements of Power has definitely had a rough ride making it to retail, I'm going to chime in and say that Mike's being a little bit too hard on it. It's clear that the title has some issues, but there's a lot to like and this colorful fantasy adventure serves as a nice respite from the 360's too-serious library. As Mike says, it probably won't be remembered in 10 years, but Kameo occupies a niche that will likely go underrepresented on Microsoft's new machine.

Experienced platformer or character action players can expect a smooth and visually-pleasing experience that never gets very taxing or difficult. The graphics definitely have that early "next-gen" look to them, and the developers included ample advice to prevent anyone from getting stuck. I happened to be in the mood for something colorful and light, so Kameo fit the bill perfectly.

On the other hand, I finished the game in two extended sessions and was disappointed to find that most of my time was spent collecting the different monster forms; after grabbing the final one, it was just a few short segments until the credits rolled. This kind of play structure might not have felt so hollow except that there wasn't much else to the game— earning the creatures shouldn't have been an end unto itself. It would've been nice to have full access to the creatures earlier and then be set loose in levels that required their use in a more proactive or exploratory way.

Although Mike's comments about the repetition in structure are accurate, there are short bursts of excellence that occasionally pop up. Sinking ships from beneath the waves as the tentacled Deep Blue was a favorite segment, and being able to unleash fiery doom with Thermite's lava grenades was a satisfying bit of comeuppance. Simply transforming from creature to creature alone almost justifies the price of admission. However, outside of the occasional thrilling set piece, most of Kameo's menagerie goes underused except for Major Ruin, the game's armadillo clone. For some reason, the developers had a pulsing hard-on for this rolling bastard and felt the need to include his "Look, I'm a ball" ramp-jumping in every single area, whether it made sense or not. Less of this Tony Hawk wannabe next time, please.

There are other rough spots I could talk about like the bad-idea control system that relies too heavily on the triggers, or the way the game's vibration can't be turned off (boo!), but outside of the small annoyances and general lack of content, Kameo: Elements of Power is a decent little outing that could be the beginnings of a great new franchise. Kameo herself is fairly appealing, and the concept of being able to transform into several different types of monsters resonates strongly. After all, hasn't everyone had a similar fantasy at one point or another? With ten different beasts at her command, Kameo's sporting a whole zoo just bursting with gameplay possibilities; Rare just needs to expand on them in a more purposeful way. It may not stack up against Rare's greatest hits, but I enjoyed my time with Kameo and look forward to a stronger sequel. Rating: 7 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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While Justin may be a new face here at GameCritics, after reading his review of Liberty City Stories I have a feeling that he's going to fit in just fine. Frankly speaking, I couldn't agree with him more.

As predicted, I applaud Rockstar's technical department for being able to squeeze a very close approximation of the PlayStation 2 GTA experience into the PSP. However, even though I do recognize it as a technical feat, it's hard for me to get very excited about it. After playing three games in this series and especially after the tour-de-force that was San Andreas, Liberty City Stories just can't stack up.

Although the franchise turned the world on its ear, the free-roaming open-ended design has been copied, recopied, and tweaked so much in recent years by Rockstar and others that it's not enough to deliver more of the same, even if it's on a handheld. Granted, it's not exactly fair to compare this title to the console competition. But, it comes so close technically and delivers practically all of the same gameplay that it's impossible not to. The feeling of "been-there, done-that, seen this three times" just can't be shaken.

Furthermore, Justin's observations about the story are accurate. This by-the-numbers tale of a random goombah means practically nothing, and isn't even a fraction as interesting or motivating as it was rolling with the Grove Street Families.

With a dull plot, flat characters, and the exact same gameplay that I've already been through several times, my eyes kept glazing over and my mind was constantly wandering—not good qualities in any game, let alone a handheld. The fact is that Liberty City Stories feels completely phoned-in and creatively bankrupt.

While it's true that I did hand out my one and only ten to San Andreas, it's safe to say that Liberty City Stories is no San Andreas. Newcomers to GTA might get some mileage out of this UMD, but it'll offer nothing to anyone who's already had their fill of Rockstar's premier franchise. In fact, this game is the perfect example of why porting and one-offing PS2 games to the PSP is a poor strategy. I don't want the same kind of experience that I already get at home, I want to see ideas that take advantage of this new platform. Lukewarm software that rehashes old offerings ain't gonna cut it.Rating: 6 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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I remember playing Gunvalkyrie when it first came out in 2002, and my initial reaction at the time was that I hated it. I loved the idea of having a cool-looking character boosting around in a high-tech jetpack, but the controls seemed harebrained and I gained nothing from it but frustration. Admittedly, I didn't spend that much time with it because my initial distaste was so strong. However, enough people whose opinions I respect had continued to speak highly of the game, so I felt compelled to pick up the case and look at it again (and again) every time I went to my local shop.

Enough time had passed since my first go-round and the game itself had become so cheap that I felt like I should give it another shot. I'm not above going back to see if my initial impressions were correct, and once in a while I'll change my stance on something. So what do I think of Gunvalkyrie after all this time has passed? Well, I don't hate it as much as I used to, but I still think the thing needs a lot of work.

The good points are that the characters do look very cool (and I'm a sucker for good character design) and the idea of shooting around alien skies with wings on my back still appeals to me. The bad points? After seeing credits roll and taking in everything it had to offer, Gunvalkyrie felt like a very rough, half-finished experience.

The developers were obviously pretty high on the jetpack control scheme they had designed. The entire game is built around it, though not really in a way I appreciate. From the "civilian base" levels which would be impossible for any normal human being to navigate, to the teeny-tiny floating platforms in the alien landscapes, it's pretty obvious that mastering the controls is what the game is all about. Instead of thrills or adventuring, most of the time I felt like I was performing some kind of reflex skills test.

It also really bugged me that you can't reconfigure the controls. I did get used to them (like Mike B. says, the intro video that rolls after the title screen helps a great deal in demonstrating how the game is supposed to be played) but I still think it's possible to use the Xbox controller a little more effectively than it's being used in Gunvalkyrie. My left thumb was burning after fighting the last boss with the insane amount of stick-clicking going on, and my tendons were crying for mercy. At the very least you should be able to invert the camera controls.

Besides mastering flight, there isn't much to gain from playing Gunvalkyrie, an impression supported by the completely nonsensical paper-thin story and the way the game threw twitch-testing levels at me in a random, disconnected fashion. I prefer the kind of game that revolves around what you do, not how you do it, so the touchiness of the controls and the crushing emphasis on getting them exactly right came at the expense of accessible, enjoyable gameplay.

I will say that I did have a bit of masochistic fun with Gunvalkyrie, though I still think it's the concept I like more than the actual game. It's just doesn't feel as well-rounded or polished as it should be, though it does have a certain perverse charm. For under $10, it's an interesting niche-title oddity.Rating: 6 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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It's interesting that Scott mentioned my quote about preferring games that revolve "around what you do, not how you do it" in regard to Devil May Cry 3 (DMC3) because I think this is one of the rare times when my usual stance doesn't apply. Frequent readers of the site will know that I have no love of this series, and I'd say that the original Devil May Cry is one of the most overrated games in recent memory, its numerous flaws and rough edges granted a complete "pass" by fans the world over. However, after playing through Dante's Awakening, I think I can finally see what people like about this series… though I would argue that it wasn't really there until now.

Before going further, my second opinion is based on the Special Edition of DMC3, released domestically under the PlayStation Greatest Hits banner. There are a number of differences between this version and the version that Scott reviewed such as a new boss encounter, the ability to play as Dante's twin brother Vergil, and a bonus mode with a 100-floor dungeon. However, all of those things pale compared to the most significant addition: adjustments to the difficulty level.

I tried playing the first release of DMC3 and was completely put off by the absurd challenge present. I know that Scott said it wasn't very much different from any other action game, but I would have to strongly disagree. I don't mind some difficulty, but I'm also not in the market for a stress anxiety disorder. I thought that Capcom was crazy for some of the choices they made, but everything I didn't like the first time around has been completely rectified.

With the simple inclusion of mid-mission checkpoints that should have been there in the first place, almost all of my frustration was completely eliminated. Besides that, the Easy difficulty is now even easier than it was before (for those who want it) and the new Gold Orb restart system lets players continue the battle exactly where they died. Since all of these changes are optional, the same level of challenge is there for players who crave it, but it's only a good thing to have more options. I can't stress enough what a significant improvement in design and accessibility these new changes are, so huge kudos to Capcom for that.

Now that my thumbs and blood pressure can finally take a break, it was a lot easier to appreciate the things that Dante's Awakening brings to the table. The variety in weapons is excellent, and Dante has butter-smooth animation to bring his ferocious attacks to life. Like I said earlier, this game is one rare example where "how I do it" actually takes precedence over what I'm doing. Switching on-the-fly from whirling nunchuks to sparking pistols to flaming uppercuts and finishing a group of reapers with a french kiss from a rocket launcher is entertaining enough on its own to make up for the simplistic goals of each level, although I must say I am a bit surprised to admit it.

Impossibly, the cutscenes are even more over-the-top than the action, and while I don't usually appreciate this sort of Goes-To-Eleven approach to videogame virility, I have to disagree with Scott and say that it works here. Similarly, I thought that the game's attitude towards characterization and storytelling were equally effective—neither will win any awards or stand out as an example of excellence in writing, but there is a strange release in experiencing something rabidly, offensively gonzo and being okay with it.

Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening still has some issues. Regardless of the difficulty, I don't think I will ever be a fan of going back and repeating stages for the sake of collecting upgrade points, and the developers should invest in a copy of God of War to learn a few things about good camera placement. However, I can't deny that DMC3 is a runaway freight train crashing through the walls of moderation with a load of nitroglycerin and testosterone in tow. And besides, I thought that purple bat-shooting hooker-guitar was pretty cool. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclaimer: This review is based on the re-released special edition of the game.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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Well, I certainly feel like a jackass. The first GunGrave was simple stuff, but it had a kind of low-rent charm. Its jazzy soundtrack hit all the right notes (how could you not like those blasting horns at the end of a level?), and it was amusing to send undead hero Grave into a bullet frenzy and see him spew hot lead over every inch of the screen. Besides, the cutscenes were honestly good enough to keep me playing until the end, despite the lack of pizzazz in the gameplay.

So where does the jackass part come in? I actually paid money for the sequel before seeing what Mike had to say. He was lucky in that he got the review copy and kept his green where it belonged—in his wallet.

Thinking that a sequel could only improve on what the first GunGrave offered, I figured that swiping my debit card for a small-scale budget release would be a two-fer; I'd not only be supporting an underdog publisher, but I'd also be supporting a studio that put out a not-bad original game and hopefully keep them going until they could move on to bigger and better things.

I want my money back.

The graphics are worse than the first game's (not that they were ever really that great to begin with), and the cutscenes have been pared down considerably. Instead of wall-to-wall animated action sequences, more often than not the game shoves talking-head / text-box tediousness onscreen and expects me to not fall asleep.

The level designs also look and feel worse than the original. Long drab hallways filled with pop-out, pop-up hordes of identical twin enemies are not what I'd call "entertaining," and every area felt longer than it needed to be—much like the game as a whole. I was looking at the to-play pile on top of my TV for something else before I'd even finished the third level.

There's just nothing else to say. GunGrave: Overdose does nothing that the first game didn't already do slightly better. It's also longer, looks worse, and feels less involving. It's a shallow effort with nothing to recommend it, and Mike's entirely right in saying that it's not worth the cash, even at the rock-bottom price it's likely at by now. If you absolutely need to play something low-cal with lots of bang, at least go for the first GunGrave or something else along the same lines. In the case of Overdose, you certainly get what you pay for—not a lot.Rating: 2 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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In the main review, Matt makes the statement that Hideo Kojima is one of the best game designers working today. Without question, I agree completely. In my mind, Kojima is a visionary; possibly even a genius when it comes to making games. Nearly everything he's created has turned out to be a masterpiece with very few exceptions, and I freely admit to being an unabashed fan of his work. But with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the magic wasn't there for me. Despite it being an excellent game dripping with interesting ideas, a strong main character, and countless subtle touches that most games lack, I found it be strangely hollow and unable to draw me in the way his other pieces usually do.

I think the primary reason for my dissatisfaction is one that I felt Matt had glossed over in the main review—the game's camera system. He called it "esoteric," but I call it archaic, outdated, and ineffectual. In fact, there were very few times when I was ever able to take in my surroundings in a satisfactory way, and immersion was impossible. I never stopped wanting to get a better look around, and to do so with less difficulty. My first time through Snake Eater, I was constantly surprised or caught off guard by enemies that would have been plain to see in other games.

In the past, the Metal Gear series compensated for the limited overhead viewpoint by including a radar screen that indicated locations of enemies offscreen. The radar is now gone, replaced by a variety of other detection gadgets that can be used to suss out the surroundings. Kojima has stated in interviews that he felt people were relying too much on the radar and wanted to create a situation that made gamers use their senses instead of this game-world shortcut. The goal of a more "realistic" interface is an admirable one, but it's hamstrung from the start by the fact that in the real world, it's usually possible to see more than five feet in front of you. Given the current state of the game's mechanics, I have to say that this particular tradeoff was not a very successful one, especially since the replacement gadgets are tedious and cumbersome to use, and slow gameplay down to a crawl.

Besides the camera, I also felt that the characters—usually one of Kojima's strengths—were a bit lacking. The central themes between Naked Snake and his mentor, The Boss, were excellently illustrated, possessing both significance and emotional weight. However, the rest of the plot lacked impact and came off like filler since I felt no connection to the supporting cast or the events. For example, the boss battles were flashy enough, but didn't feel very relevant or connected to the plot, and many of the cutscenes missed the mark between good taste and excess.

Despite those issues, I don't want to say that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a bad game, because even when Kojima is off, his work is still leagues beyond most of the competition. His sense of humor is spot-on, his attention to detail can't be denied, and his love of the medium is quite obvious. I also respect his move to take the traditionally indoor franchise outside, even though I don't think it was entirely successful.

Snake Eater feels different than the other games in the series, and clearly has its own identity. It doesn't come together as effortlessly or as gracefully as the previous iterations did, but despite it all there remain many aspects to enjoy and savor, as Matt has eloquently pointed out. It definitely isn't my favorite Metal Gear game, but my hat remains off to Kojima and his team for attempting the things that they did, and for bringing Snake back into my living room. The game's rating is 8 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Disgaea is great and has a lot going, but I love and hate it at the same time.

The humorous story and crazy characters really appealed to me, and gave me a strong incentive to see the next cutscene. There are dozens of (literally) laugh out loud moments, and the words "horse wiener" will forever be burned into my memory.

However, the gameplay in Disgaea is really love-it-or-leave-it. I like Strat-RPGs, but I don't like all of the micromanagement and minutiae that bog down the FFTs and Tactics Ogres of the world. Disgaea takes all of that busywork and multiplies it by 100.

I simply could not finish the game due to the amount of leveling up and character building that was necessary. If replaying levels for experience and fighting a lot of extra battles for the fun of it are your thing, then Disgaea is the game for you. If you're like me and need forward progress and a minor sense of achievement after each session, you may want to think twice. Oh, and if you don't have hours and hours and hours to devote to it, don't even think about taking it on.

As much as I wanted to like it, the fact is that it was far too dense and intense for my taste, but I absolutely loved everything about it. besides the gameplay. Casual gamers and people with busy lives need not apply, but it'll be heaven to RPG devotees. Rating: 8

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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As a critic, I don't like to admit that I'm wrong but I can, and do. Still, that doesn't mean I like it. Naturally, I try to be wrong as little as possible—but today, I need to 'fess up big-time. See, I used to think Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg was a bad Sega game, but that was only until I played Sonic Heroes. Now, I see lil' Billy as a virtual masterpiece by comparison, practically the digital equivalent of a Guernica, or Starry Night. Why? Because Sonic Heroes has so much wrong with it, that three lefts couldn't make it right.

I think they started off on the right track, and the use of "team" is a great concept. But, I'm going to have to disagree with Jason and say that the implementation just doesn't work. In essence, the level designs aren't conducive to using all three character styles effectively. Since Sonic's speed clearly overshadows the rest of the trio, every time you actually need to use strength or flight, it feels like the game stumbles over an unwanted speedbump. More annoying than justified and valuable, the three-way mechanic seems highly unbalanced, and not very well thought-out.

The levels are also far too lengthy, as Jason mentioned. I consistently found that there was plenty of road left to travel after the novelty of each area had long worn off. Besides that, the patented Sega "BrokenCam" (originally debuting on the Dreamcast) is still with us today, showing that even after Billy and the other Sonic platformers, it's still impervious to any repairs no matter how badly needed.

Sonic Heroes looks like a good thing on paper. It's a fresh concept and seems like it should work, especially given the characters involved. However, the fact is that Sega still hasn't managed to polish their 3D skills to an acceptable level despite several disappointing attempts. If you really need a Sonic fix, pick up the GameCube's Mega Collection instead.Rating: 3 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Mike did his usual great job covering the nuts and bolts of Gladius, and I agree with most of his observations. However, there was one line of his that caught my attention: "While Gladius doesn't do anything to redefine the strategy RPG subgenre, it does do just enough things well to keep players interested for the duration." This is where Mike and I part ways. In a nutshell, it would take nothing short of a miracle for Gladius to remain fresh and interesting from start to finish. Needless to say, a miracle has not been performed here.

Right off the bat, I want to state for the record that I did not complete the game. It's ungodly long, and when I say long, I mean long. After twelve hours I hadn't even cleared the first chapter yet, and by that time my will to keep playing had been exhausted. I could easily imagine the game stretching out to more than a hundred hours if a person was so inclined, though it's doubtful that anyone would want to devote that much time unless they were stranded at an arctic research station or something.

Part of the reason is that Gladius gets off to a bad start by failing to properly set up the long road ahead of the player. After picking a main character, you're free to walk around a large area and basically do whatever you want. But at that early point in the game, it's a bit overwhelming and confusing. Rather than use the plot to ease you into the world and how it works, the developers immediately open the deep technical elements they've created. Without much of an introduction period or any dramatic weight, it was quite hard for me to get immersed or excited by Gladius' tedious, dry experience.

To be fair, Gladius's combat (and especially the "swing meter") is interesting, but the events where you use the system are both too drab and too plentiful. This is a problem since the game can't fall back on its story to keep you tuned in.

As an example, my "favorite" scenario was the "points battle" where every gladiator on the board is suddenly invulnerable, and the goal is to get the highest numeric damage total through combos and heavy attacks. I fail to see what the point of such an event is, since such a contrived "videogame-like" goal is completely at odds with the setting. The frequent repetition of that battle and others like it (king of the hill, some requiring specific warrior types, etc) all feel completely artificial and never blend in with the plot in a believable, organic way. Rather than crafting these clashes to build on the narrative or and illustrate your champions' struggle to the top, Gladius relies far too heavily on repetition of abstract technical situations for hours and hours and hours. Gamers who crave nothing but a deep combat system might find enough to sink their teeth into, but those who like more rounded titles might find themselves left hungry.

It's a shame, since as Mike noted, the whole gladiator theme hasn't ever been done very often, let alone done well. Quality strategy role-playing games are equally rare, and I had hoped that Gladius would score a meaty two-in-one. However, Gladius hamstrings itself from the start by not bothering to tie its story and combat together, each part having almost nothing to do with the other. On top of that already-significant hurdle to overcome, the insane amount of busywork tournaments you have to enter only magnifies the feeling of spinning the world's dullest grindstone. By all rights Gladius should have been a champion, but this round goes to the lions instead.Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Disclaimer: This review is based on the GameCube version of the game.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Mike B. is right in saying that Evil Dead: A Fistful Of Boomstick is better than the previous Evil Dead attempt, but that's sort of like saying that eating eight pounds of crap is better than ten. Technically, it is better but when you get right down to it, so what? It's still crap, and no amount of embedded sweet corn can make it tasty.

It's a crying shame that this particular license got trashed again. The films are great, I'm a huge Bruce Campbell fan, and by all logic the movies should be a natural fit for interactive entertainment. It's a lot easier to fall in love with a cheesy movie than it is with a low-quality videogame, though.

Put simply: the graphics are totally undercooked, the fetchquests will drive you nuts, and it's no fun getting mobbed by hordes of undead freakazoids when you're struggling to stay alive. Despite the chainsaw on Ash's severed stump and the double-barreled shotgun on his back, at no point did I ever feel that I was a match for the continuous gangbangs I found myself caught in the middle of. I'm going to have to disagree with Mike when he says that hacking and slashing will get you through. My advice is to prepare to die a lot while you wander aimlessly up and down the drab streets of Michigan.

Given that the game itself is rotten, I was hoping that Bruce Campbell's voice acting would help dull the pain of play. No dice. Honestly speaking, it sounds as though ol' big-chin didn't have his heart in the line readings. The spark and verve that comes across so clearly in his on-screen performances just isn't there. I'm sure he must be tired of milking the Evil Dead gravy train after all these years, but something needed to carry the game and it sure ain't the gameplay. Bruce does get the game minor points just for showing up, though. Once that's noted, there's not much else to say. The game's a total washout, and only of interest to people who are extreme hardcore fans of the source material (and maybe not even then.)

As an extra, the disc contains a neat little "making-of" featurette where the creators share their enthusiasm and ideas about working on Evil Dead: A Fistful Of Boomstick. Seeing them look so positive and excited about this terrible product is quite jarring, and I could hardly believe they were talking about the substandard game I was playing. Do yourself a favor and rent the outstanding Evil Dead film trilogy or anything with Bruce Campbell in it instead of wasting time and money on this sad little affair—hopefully the third time will be the charm for Evil Dead if Fistful Of Boomstick hasn't already killed off the franchise. Rating: 3.5 out of 10

Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Mike is definitely correct in saying that Breath Of Fire: Dragon Quarter is a huge departure from the previous (and very formulaic) games in the series. The new formula it introduces may not be perfect, but it's safe to say I had a better time with the game than he did. The "traditional" role-playing game has been done to death, and typical cliché offerings bore me to tears. Perhaps I'm playing the role of Jaded Critic to the hilt, but I graciously welcome creative breaks from the norm in this genre. Instead of Fire, I find Dragon Quarter to be a Breath of fresh air. (Terrible pun most definitely intended.)

Before getting into the areas where we differ, I did want to say that I'm with Mike about the game's learning curve. Due to the abysmally poor instruction manual and the lack of in-game tutorials mentioned earlier, getting comfortable with the intricate and unorthodox structure takes longer than it needs to. As an example, I had questions about the finer points of the Trap system that weren't answered until several hours in—a bad way to make a player feel welcome in my opinion. Learning by doing is fine in your standard fifty-hour save-anywhere RPG, but with such an unusual structure and high stakes play, the developers really should have handed out a bigger bone.

On the issue of game length and replay, Mike and I seem to have had significantly different experiences. Dragon Quarter offers players two choices when enemies get the best of you: Restart and Restore. Restarting does indeed send players all the way back to square one, but Restore puts you back at your last hard-save point. As long as Ryu hasn't expended too much of his dragon power, Restore will get you through the game without ever losing too much progress.

Keeping that in mind, it took me about thirty hours to see the disc's ending, as opposed to Mike's ten. Taking the game to completion once was enough to satisfy me without even taking advantage of the bonus content during repeat sessions. Granted, my time was inflated by experimentation and an extra Restart that wasn't totally necessary, but my gut feeling is that the main quest will prove substantial enough for most gamers without multiple playthroughs.

In any event, the concept of New Game Plus (starting a new game with your previous stats, weapons, etc.) isn't a new one, but this is the first time I've encountered it as a central play mechanism. At first the old-time gamer in me was put off by the notion of starting over, but in essence Dragon Quarter uses the difficult boss encounters and paucity of items to increase playtime instead of tedious and time-consuming random battles. It's debatable whether or not this system is better than endless waves of imps and orcs, but I wouldn't call it flawed for two reasons: First, Dragon Quarter is really a dungeon-crawler, not a typical RPG. Since the point of this genre is to collect better equipment and gain higher levels, it seems to me like a natural fit. Second, the only time a player needs to fully Restart is if they've squandered Ryu's unbelievably potent Dragon abilities (Like I did. Twice.). Conservation of this resource is the absolute heart of the game, and once players catch on in spite of the rotten manual, the rest of the pieces fall nicely into place.

Besides the general confusion players can initially expect, there are a few other irritants that could have been ironed out. For example, the camera control for a game taking place entirely in underground passages and hallways has no business pointing straight downwards in doorways or being so skittish when peeking around corners. I was also somewhat taken aback by the lack of voicework during cutscenes. Videogames are at the point where this level of production is practically a matter of course, so a non-vocal approach felt out of place. Finally, the game's Scenario Overlay system doesn't seem to keep track of which cutscenes you've already seen and which you haven't. A minor point to be sure, but a strange omission for a game that was meant to be replayed several times.

Those quibbles aside, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Quarter from start to finish, and found the experience to be deeply compelling in a visceral way. The typical "save the girl" portions didn't resonate much, but characters trapped miles underground in a decrepit, dystopian maze of tunnels surely did. The concept of struggling to gain the surface for a reward of sunlight connected with me at the core, and despite all the gameplay decisions that could have potentially turned me away I was determined to see this ragtag band of scrappers make their way out.

Obviously Dragon Quarter is not going to be for everyone, but it does have a very unique appeal. The decision to make the game a "Survival RPG" with sensibilities borrowed from another of Capcom's franchises add a serious amount of tension to a genre that can usually be played in your sleep. The strategic nature of combat ensures that your brain won't take a vacation during battles, either. The project as a whole may not be successful on every level, but I'll take an eccentric game with spark over a well-polished "me-too" title any day. I'm not just praising simply for its differences, though. Aside from the bold, untried formula, Dragon Quarter has the added benefit of being a solid and satisfying game. You've got to respect it for that. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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Primal looks great, and there's no debating it. Anyone into graphics is going to need to change their underwear after seeing the lighting effects, shadows and marvelously realized environments. If I were scoring based solely on visual appeal this game would be taking home top marks. But much like Matt says, graphics certainly aren't everything. Primal is a perfect example of why all the eye candy in the world can't rescue a wretched design.

Something hinted at in the main review but not specifically addressed was that every action in the game (except walking) is totally contextualized. While situation-specific actions can lend a streamlined and natural feel to control schemes, the developers have taken it to a ludicrous extreme. Jen and Skree can literally do nothing unless they're in the proper place to do so. Want to practice up on your fighting combos? Sorry, but you can't draw your weapons unless you're in the middle of a tussle. Want to see how athletic Jen is? You won't be able to jump unless you're standing at the edge of a gap. By keeping control out of the player's hands, it's impossible to get a sense of immersion or ownership. Allowed no freedom over the characters you're allegedly in charge of, the only option is to trudge your odd couple to a push-button "hot zone" and wondering why anyone ever thought this was a good idea.

Along the same lines, the characters' puzzle solving abilities are so limited that there is absolutely no satisfaction when progress is made. For example, Skree can cling to stone and climb walls, but only on the walls you're supposed to climb—not the ones you want to. What good is this idea if you can't have fun with it? He can also make statues do his bidding, but first you need to collect chunks of "local" rock before he can work the mojo. (Insert scoffing here). As anyone with half a brain can guess, they're hidden inside crates and barrels. I might have found this to be a totally original and creative concept except for the fact that searching breakable objects is not only the oldest, most tired trick in videogames, it's just about the shabbiest busywork I can think of. Forget about the joys of discovery or experimentation, because Primal ain't havin' it.

I find Matt's comparison to Crystal Dynamics' Soul Reaver 2 to be dead-on. The two games are more similar than they are different with their nu-goth themes and "teen angst" dark imagery. They're also basically set up like long, linear hallways interrupted by cutscenes, and their warp-gate systems are nearly identical. However, at least the plot and characters in Soul Reaver 2 kept my curiosity piqued. I can't say as much for Primal. If you're going to force me to walk levels several times over in a feeble quest to smash dry-rotted barrels, at least make the payoff worth my while. I may have found Jen and Skree's jibes marginally more entertaining than Matt did, but the material doesn't deviate enough from the norm to make it engaging or addicting.

These are just a few (out of many) examples of why Primal keeps players disconnected and disinterested. With immersion prevented by tightly restricted freedom and a story that can't cut the mustard, the remaining menial puzzles can't compensate for the disc's overall weakness. Primal's lack of backbone is exposed after only an hour or two, and all the work to create such breathtaking visuals is for naught when there's nothing to do but be aggressively bored.

I had high hopes for Primal since I was a fan of SCEE's earlier MediEvil games, but I guess those were a fluke rather than a real representation of the studio's output. Primal goes in the complete opposite direction that modern games should be going by stripping away years of advancements in interactivity and replacing them with empty-calorie eye candy. Little more than the cutting-edge equivalent of an old-fashioned FMV game, Primal is so immensely tedious and backward that I can't even think of any humorous comments to close out the paragraph-I just want to be done with it. Rating: 3 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

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What is it with developers these days? It seems like going for a high level of style makes them totally ignore the substance. Note to developers: the two elements are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, the "great-looking, weak-playing" game seems to be a new genre that's here to stay.

Mike's right on target in his writeup, but I don't think it's fair to single out Gungrave, though… Devil May Cry is just as guilty of being all flash. The only difference between the two (and I can already see the emails coming in) is that Capcom's game tries desperately hard to portray itself as cool, whereas Gungrave avoids the fake, manufactured flavor by actually being cool (at least as far as the graphics and style go, anyway).

You've got to give props to any game that's brave enough to name its lead character "DEATH: BEYOND THE GRAVE" in all caps. He's dark, his weaponry is immense, and he's got a sweet jazz soundtrack. Sign me up. The cutscenes between levels are astoundingly good, the in-game cel-shading is masterful, and the disc's overall appearance literally drips with ultimate badness. Each stage starts completely balls-out with a blazing "Kick Their Ass!" so there's definitely no confusion about what's going down. It's easy to get hyped with such strong visuals and bold manner.

However, much as Mike suggests, the allure of an adrenaline high and tight visuals can't carry the entire game. Instead of a fast third-person shooter, the controls are slow and cumbersome. That huge coffin full of ammo on Grave's back is pretty heavy, I guess. In fact, Gungrave almost feels like Time Crisis or House Of The Dead as you methodically plod along hallways and mow down everything (and I do mean everything) in your path. Enemies, cars, cement pillarseven furniture. It's all evil, and it all needs to go. I don't think there's ever been a game with such a massive amount of gunfire, and when Grave goes into his Burst mode he makes Dante look like a complete pantywaist. But as much fun as it is to take on an entire city and shrug it off, there just isn't anything to sink your teeth into.

Walk and shoot, shoot and walk. Dive and roll, while occasionally unleashing huge special attacks. It looks great and even feels great for a little while, but Gungrave is the kind of empty calorie dish that leaves you craving meat and potatoes an hour after dinner's over. Fans of suave games with sharp aesthetic design (like me) might want to check it out because it really is artistically outstanding. But in terms of delivering the kind of interactive experience that keeps you coming back, Gungrave is barely more than a warmed over shooting gallery.Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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Shenmue II Screenshot

While I didn't grow up in a culture like Ryo's (or Gene's), I have lived in places with many similarities. I can definitely relate to elements in the game that are signatures of non-Western cultures, and appreciate their genuineness. Gene's comment stating "This is a foreign game with foreign concepts" has legitimacy and weight, and it would be wise to keep this in mind before entering the world of Shenmue II. Its flavor and pace are its own, and some gamers may find that many aspects of it chafe against their own sensibilities and expectations.

With this cultural caveat noted, the experience provided by Shenmue II is nothing short of a masterpiece, albeit an uneven and somewhat flawed one. The game gave me some of the most amazing moments I've ever had in front of a console, but also contains some of the most disappointing design choices imaginable. It's not that the problems are outrageously bad, but the heights of greatness Yu Suzuki achieves makes the missteps seem even worse by comparison.

As Gene noted, Suzuki has clearly made numerous concessions to players, most noticeably tightening certain areas and abbreviating the "realistic" passage of time. As a result, the game's flow is smoother and less haphazard. With regard to the main objectives and goals, things are far more cohesive and focused than in the original Shenmue. For most of the adventure, things are perceived as relevant and necessary because most of the minigames and sidequests are set far from center stage. This is great news for people who want to enjoy the game's story without any tangents or distractions.

However, I think it's possible to tweak the Shenmue formula just a bit more while retaining its unique, nontraditional character. Similar to Gene's feeling, the disc's money-collection requirements brought the game to a painful halt and annihilated my level of immersion. What made this drudgery especially bad is that there weren't any alternate solutions to the problems except to earn the money like a dumb mule. In comparison to other games and in light of the generally "open" design, I felt there should have been more choice in advancing the plot. It's obvious that Suzuki's master design borders on genius, but this tedium brings the narrative's linear inflexibility into an undesirable spotlight. In these instances, Shenmue goes crashing down from transcendent experience to being "just a game," and it hurts.

One last trouble spot to note is that I found the game's Free Battles to be the worst part of the tripartite interface. Granted, Ryo's character is a martial artist and much of the story revolves around this theme, but the truncated version of the Virtua Fighter engine still feels completely incongruous. All of the combat segments could be handled more effectively and dynamically through use of the QTEs alone, and in fact, many battles already are. Sparing gamers the terrible camera views and boring buttonmashing action would be a move towards greater excellence.

No game is perfect, and in spite of Shenmue II's shortcomings, it remains an extremely bold and ambitious project with an immense scope almost beyond comprehension. Gene is right on the money when he characterizes it as "epic," and it's almost an understatement. After two complete games, the gripping story is just getting past the prologue! The rest of the game is just as stunning regardless of its origins on the now-defunct Dreamcast. From the near-limitless amount of distinct townsfolk to the excruciatingly detailed environments, the game goes above and beyond in creating a world to explore and experience.

Shenmue II may not be successful at everything it attempts, but no medium is ever recognized as truly great until daring, difficult works come along to challenge perceptions. They may not be great successes or even well liked, but they are a necessary and vital catalyst towards the advancement of any genre. The game's stunning final chapter alone is a clear example of such groundbreaking thinking, and must be recognized as such. From this perspective, Shenmue II is undoubtedly going to stand as one of the greatest achievements in videogames, as well as being one of the most intense love-hate relationships on record. Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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Half-Life Screenshot

Anyone who reads GameCritics.com regularly will know that I'm not a big fan of first-person shooter (FPS) games. I don't hate them, but I don't think it's particularly fun to just run around and blast things, either. Most of the games tend to be very repetitious and unimaginative, and the genre has rarely captured my attention. Being the non-fragger that I am, I was particularly interested to check out Half-Life. It has received an obscene amount of awards and accolades in the years since it was released, and my curiosity has been piqued for quite a while. Often billed as the "thinking man's FPS" and credited with being the first game of its type to seriously implement a strong storyline, I thought there might be enough here to make it worth looking into.

While it may have been something extremely special when it was younger, Mike is right when he says the years haven't been too kind. While I was interested and engaged enough to finish the game (which is not true of most FPSs that I've played), I didn't walk away feeling like a changed person or like I had a new appreciation for the genre. I didn't even think the story was especially creative or original. My overall impression was that it was basically a pretty decent FPS adventure, but that it didn't offer much more. I suppose since I'm used to games that regularly incorporate large amounts of story on consoles, the pioneering steps Half-Life took on the PC didn't seem worth a whole lot to me. Keeping history in mind however, I can see how it once would have been viewed as a huge step forward compared to most of its contemporaries.

Looking briefly at the technical aspects, I thought the voice samples were of a very poor quality. I often couldn't hear what was being said to me by the rescued scientists, and I kept my remote control close at hand so I could blast the volume whenever some dialogue came up. The framerate was smooth enough for the bulk of the game, and controls were not a problem. Graphics, as Mike said, are fairly blocky and stiff. In general, the game doesn't look nearly as polished or attractive as more recent offerings, on either console or PC. Despite the fact that it's a port of an older title, things come across pretty adequately with no major complaints. Everything was pretty standard overall.

However, an area that I thought brought the game down significantly was the multiplayer options. Always a crucial part of any FPS experience, this was a bit surprising. While the simplistic deathmatch mode wasn't anything special or unique, the "Decay" two-player cooperative mode I had been looking forward to ended up being quite lacking. I invited my brother over so we could tackle this together, and we ended up putting Half-Life aside and popping in a movie DVD before we even completed all the missions. The first problem was that the missions' briefings are set at various time periods during the main quest. The idea here is to "fill in the gaps" of what other scientists were doing while Mr. Freeman was saving the world. While this sounds like a good idea, if you haven't already finished the primary story mode, these missions don't make a whole lot of sense. You can forget about continuity from level to level as well. Secondly, they are incredibly difficult and spring far too many cheap shots on the players. This mode wasn't very much fun at all, and led to more frustration than high-fives. The thing came off like an inchoate concept pasted onto the disc quickly, rather than a real attempt to add quality content building from the primary narrative.

If you view Half-Life as a game that has historical significance (I feel a bit funny saying that, given the relative youth of our industry) and can understand what the game achieved, as well as where it was coming from, its easy to see why it was labeled "revolutionary" and "best ever" so many times. However, videogames (especially consoles' in general) have surpassed the high-water mark set by Valve many times over in the years since Half-Life's debut. As a result, it's still worth a spin to those who enjoy a basic action or FPS game, but it doesn't really stand out or even stack up to the competition as much as it once did in days gone by.Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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It pains me dearly to score a Tecmo game so low, but in all good conscience I just cant let them slide. Theyve always been known for extremely fun, solid and original games despite (generally) not having cutting edge graphics. Breaking with that tradition in Fatal Frames case, the graphics arent that bad but they seem to have gone astray when it came to the gameplay department. Very, very disappointing.

I definitely agree with Matt when he said the magical camera system is fresh and unorthodox. No argument there. In fact, its the games strongest asset. However, outside of Fatal Frames unique spin on combat, it clings to the other long-established contrivances of the Survival Horror genre like a man to the Titanics last life preserver.

Using the mystic Polaroid is fun, but flawed. Trying to find a floating apparition through a viewfinder puts a more up-close-and-personal element into your survival, which isnt usually present in other games of this type. On the downside, its too easy to be picked off while trying to switch between the camera view and the third-person view. Your character also moves like molasses, so you are effortlessly caught and munched by the ghosts while trying to run and flee. The fixed camera angles switching views as you move dont help the situation.

One other thing that really annoyed me during fights was that you use the left stick to move in third-person mode, but movement is re-mapped to the right stick while looking through the camera. It makes no sense at all, and took me a very long time to get accustomed to. Finally, the life-ups are in fairly short supply, especially since some of the ghosts can easily chop off half your lifebar with one good attack. With the combat being as clunky as it is, the stingy amount of health items wasnt a good idea in my opinion.

Looking at the structure of the game besides combat, you enter the house and proceed to travel from locked door to locked door, finding short pieces of text along the way. Thats literally all there is to it. The graphics do a good job of setting up the atmosphere and the ghosts and camera system are interesting enough to keep you on edge for an hour or two. However, once you catch on to the fact that the game is just a huge string of keyfetches the fun factor drops significantly. Things are far too predictable with no variation throughout the entire disc. The story never builds up any serious tension, either. Find a key, open a door. Find a notebook page, read some story. Sometimes its a puzzle instead of a key, but its basically the same tasks becoming stale, boring, and repetitive all too soon.

Fatal Frame is definitely scary for a while, it has a good premise and I like what they tried to do with the combat system. Sadly, it just falls so incredibly short in every other area that I cant wholeheartedly recommend it. For fans who cant get enough of the genre, its a decent entry. For gamers who want the boundaries of Survival Boredom to be pushed, theres arent enough new ideas here to make the game more than a quirky addition to the pile of "me-too" games out there. Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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Playing Gungriffon Blaze, I definitely agree with Chi when he said that almost everything is done wrong here. The offenses taken separately by themselves aren't anything that would ruin a normal game, but there are just so many individual pieces that don't work. When you add them all up it makes for a pretty miserable experience, and a game that does not deserve to be purchased under any circumstances.

In terms of graphics, it's extremely bland as Chi already mentioned. While the visuals are fairly solid, who cares? It comes off as an unimaginative PlayStation game using the PlayStation 2's much-lauded power only to eliminate clipping and severe pop-in. It's a bunch of unremarkable generic robot designs running through featureless fields and pixel-flat trees, with only the occasional blocky bunker or slope to break up the monotony. For most of the game I felt as though I was playing the one copy of Krazy Ivan in existence which didn't include the obscene amount of fog. The only thing out of the game's entire visual display which caught my eye was a 12-second snippet of the intro movie. What's the point of this game being on the PlayStation 2 if they aren't going to take advantage of the machine by making it artistically and visually attractive?

Another thing which annoyed me to no end was the horrible control layout. Any game which uses the shoulder buttons for major functions like, oh, let's say "jump" and "shoot" while LEAVING FACE BUTTONS UNUSED in the default setting needs to go back to the design team and be redone. There are alternate setups offered, but they're all clunky in one way or another with none satisfying, mostly due to the two-stick control scheme. With such a supposedly powerful machine, it's sheer laziness to not offer the player the option to re-map the buttons and switch the functions of the sticks.

Far and away, the thing in Gungriffon Blaze which destroyed my enjoyment beyond any hope of salvation was the complete and utter lack of a map or usable radar device. While the areas you fight in are unexpectedly small and surrounded by the infamous "you are leaving the area" invisible walls formerly found in Star Fox or WarHawk, at times it was extremely difficult to locate the enemies you're there to annihilate. While relying on line-of-sight is fine in some situations, having no map of the area to look at for reference points was either an incredible oversight or one of the worst decisions in game design I've seen in a while. While I appreciate certain elements of challenge in video games, having the designers take away all informational resources while I'm in a warzone is not one of them. With no way to tell where you are on the battlefield, the next best thing would be to have some way of locating your enemies. Unfortunately, your only locating device is a yellow version of K.I.T.T.'s eye from Knight Rider, which is so woefully inadequate and nonfunctional that I was making wombat noises in frustration. Even the most basic PlayStation game had features which solved these unnecessary problems.

I could go on and on and on about things in the game that didn't work, but to make a long story short there was nothing at all here that I liked or which merits hard-earned dollars from hard-working consumers. In the hour and a half it took me to complete the game's paltry five stages, I was assaulted by one unsatisfactory thing after another, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The game doesn't even have any next-generation features which couldn't have been done on the PlayStation. It's a short, boring and unimaginative game which offers absolutely nothing to the genres of giant robots or mecha warfare that hasn't already been done better by a dozen other games, including its own predecessor on the Sega Saturn. Any gamer would be much better off just buying a DVD and some popcorn than wasting any time with this sad disc, and that's the problem with the current lineup of PlayStation 2 software in general. With all the hype, Sony sure hasn't delivered on their promises quite yet.Rating: 2.5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
Brad Gallaway

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