Archive for the ‘First impressions’Category

First impressions #03: Mortal Kombat

Lyndsey Mosley

Lyndsey Mosley, editor

Welcome to First Impressions No. 3. This is a feature focusing on games that we’re trying for the first time and our immediate knee-jerk reaction. Be prepared for some interesting feedback on old and not-so-old games.





Game: Mortal Kombat (2011)

Developer: Netherrealm Games

Publisher: Warner Bros.

System: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3

Played by: Lyndsey, Jamie (for Xbox 360)

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say this from the beginning: I used to be a serious Mortal Kombat enthusiast. Mortal Kombat is and was the first series I got heavily into way back when in the 1990s. If you follow GI regularly, there’s lots of references to my past with the MK series strewn over the site.

I fell in love with the series in 1993 with the release of the second game. That’s partially why there’s a tournament going on here at GI. MKII sucked me in with interesting story, characters and gameplay that I’d never really given a thought to before. I wasn’t playing Street Fighter II and it didn’t appeal to me as much. But as time progressed and I grew up, my feelings about the quality of the series diminished. The high point for me was probably MK3/Ultimate MK3/Trilogy. Afterward, nothing particularly warrants any play for me. Until now.

When I first heard about the MK reboot, I was severely skeptical. I had been burned by the awful movie sequel, and the fourth through seventh games weren’t good and had gotten away from what it meant to be Mortal Kombat. It had several objectives I felt needed to be completed for me to even begin playing it: The first was to recapture the feel of Mortal Kombat; the second was to get rid of the cartoony distractions; and the third was to update the gameplay to the level of modern-day fighting games. Mortal Kombat has had some growing pains to be sure but I’m happy to say I’m in love again.

The first thing I noticed about the game was the level of detail. MK is gorgeous. The fighters get progressively worse as they’re battered about and it’s surprisingly well done. The gore is unbelievable, and that’s saying a lot even for Mortal Kombat. It goes a long way that the originator of gore has updated in a tasteful way one of the many things that made it famous. Now, my feelings about Dan Forden’s soundtrack are still out. I haven’t heard much of anything in the game yet and since this is preliminary, I may or may not care for it. Forden is one of my favorite game music composers, having gained my ardor with Mortal Kombat II. I’m anxious to see what he came up with for the reboot in terms of new and remixed compositions.

Looking at the controls, I am impressed. As someone who has consciously avoided the series for five games, it felt like old hat to pick up the game and jump right into doing moves. No changing of moves for the sake of changing moves to be different. No random move sets that don’t make sense for characters. To put it another way, Scorpion feels like Scorpion. Kitana feels and plays like she did in Ultimate. Everything felt comfortable and fluid once I got a little used to the new timing. The mistakes of MK4, Deadly Alliance and Deception have been rectified for me. I was ready to take it back if Scorpion’s moveset had been changed again; it was that crucial that he be playable and familiar.

My biggest question about the game’s lineage was answered, however: Does Mortal Kombat recapture the feeling of old? Yes. Everything I loved about the first three games is present but updated. It’s as if Netherrealm had to throw off the shackles of Midway to make the Mortal Kombat sequel that should have been made nearly 20 years ago.

The character models for Mortal Kombat are well done. Photo courtesy of

I couldn’t help but notice the combination of its past and hopeful future. The graphics are easily on par with Tekken 5/Dark Resurrection/6 – a benchmark in video game graphics, in my opinion – but still retain the MK feel. The music, from what little I’ve heard, is remixed in some places but entirely new in others. The characters are all combatants that appeared in the first three games; no one after except for Quan Chi has made appearance yet. Though I realize that it can be argued that Quan Chi was a central behind-the-scenes character of MK1 that hadn’t been realized yet. Also, the gameplay feels like Ultimate MK3 updated without a Run button.

All of this adds up to a feeling of coming home with MK. I feel this is the game that I should have been playing in 2002 when I was desperate to hang on to my nostalgic love for the series. If you’re an old-school MK player like myself, don’t hesitate to buy it. It is quite possibly one of the best reboots ever achieved in video games.


04 2011

First impressions #02: Test Drive Unlimited 2

Lyndsey Mosley

Lyndsey Mosley, editor

Welcome to the second issue of first impressions. This is a feature focusing on games that we’re trying for the first time and our immediate knee-jerk reaction. Be prepared for some interesting feedback on old and not-so-old games.





Game: Test Drive Unlimited 2 (2011)

Developer: Eden Games

Publisher: Atari

System: Xbox 360/PlayStation 3

Played by: Lyndsey (for Xbox 360)

Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a strange beast. It’s several games wrapped up into one: A racer, off-road driving simulator, life simulator and collector’s dream. There’s plenty to do and discover in the course of the game, and it will undoubtedly be a while before anyone finds every single thing that’s hidden.

What drew me to the game, initially, was the promise of the off-road, drive anywhere premise. I didn’t play the original game so I wasn’t aware that this is standard in the series. I’d read a preview in Game Informer and found it interesting because I like the sandbox exploration types. This is why Animal Crossing is so fun for me and why I spent a lot of time playing it. Keep the sandbox element and throw in cars and driving, and I now have a game that I REALLY want to play. So TDO2 succeeded in that respect.

Once I got into the game, selected a character model – whom I can’t really make look all that much like myself – and got to exploring, I found a great deal of enjoyment waiting. I love the fact that I can buy a car from the beginning. The controls took a while to get used to but eventually I was zipping around Ibiza easily. The other immediate thing that I love about the setup is the GPS. While I don’t use it in real life, it was IMMENSELY helpful in the game. I usually found myself setting a course for some random spot on the island and driving to it in hopes of adding to my discovery points or finding a photo assignment (more on this later).

As I was exploring, I came across quite a few of the shops that the game offers. I love virtual shopping so this was one of my favorite parts: Dressing up my character randomly with money I earned. I can safely say my character is a classy-looking racer. I also bought another car, specifically for the dirt racing championships: A Land Rover. While I will probably never own one in real life (they are luxury vehicles in the U.S., after all), I do love the car. It’s gotten quite a few miles on it since I’ve been tooling around the island.

One of the things that I like about the game is the fact that I can enter championships at any time after I’ve earned the corresponding license. I love literally roaming around the island and jumping to a championship site whenever I feel like it. Same thing goes for the photo assignments I mentioned earlier. The premise is that you have to take shots of landmarks on Ibiza because some photographer hired a dimwit to take photos who didn’t know what they were doing. So off you go to fix the problem and get paid per shot. I’ve done seven so far at $5,000 a pop.

I’ve bought property also, another part of the collection aspect of the game. I have two homes now, though I really wish more of it

The car models in Test Drive Unlimited 2 are gorgeous. The people? Not so much. Photo courtesy of

were customizable. Sure, you can change wall colors, tables and chairs, but that’s about it. I really wish I could purchase my own stuff from a store and have it put inside the houses.

While I love a lot of the game, there are some things I’m not fond of. The character models are terrible. I don’t really care about graphics that much, but I do have a line of pretty and not pretty in games, and this is one on the wrong side sometimes. The car models are awesome and I like the look and detail put into them, but the people look like a huge mess. They animate strangely, which was one of the first things I noticed. The other thing I noticed immediately was the reusage of models. It’s like there were only about six or seven models created so Eden reused them constantly throughout the game. Also, the voice work is terrible, too. Most of the time it doesn’t match visually with who’s saying it. In other words, my characters voice doesn’t really match up with what she looks like. Those gripes aside, I can really get into the game and spend a lot of time running around doing absolutely nothing.

The game did have a rocky launch and the online service is problematic, but that’s not what I play the game for anyway. I like the single-player experience just fine so far, and I think I’ll probably be sticking with it for awhile.


03 2011

First impressions #01: Yakuza

Lyndsey Mosley

Lyndsey Mosley, editor

Welcome to the first batch of an expected new feature: First impressions. This is a feature focusing on games that we’re trying for the first time and our immediate knee-jerk reaction. Be prepared for some interesting feedback on old and not-so-old games.



Game: Yakuza (2006)

Developer/Publisher: Sega

System: PlayStation 2

Played by: Lyndsey

I’d heard nothing but good things about the Yakuza series. Countless gaming publication have lauded the series as a good adventure if you want to get into that side of the criminal life, a lot like Grand Theft Auto. With the fourth game approaching release in America, I decided to give it a shot and hunt it down. As I was preparing a drawn hunt for the game, I lucked upon it in a GameStop not far from my apartment for about $10. It’s slightly rare so I bought it when I could and let it marinate on “The Shelf” for a few weeks until I could get some time to devote my full attention to it.

Booting up my ancient PlayStation 2, one of the first things I noticed was the long Sega introduction. It is quite possibly the longest game developer/publisher introduction I have ever seen in a game. It’s probably bad of me to say but I thought to myself, “Sega if you spent as much time on your games as you did this intro, Sonic might not be dying the slow painful death he is right now.” Just a thought. Moving on, I let the game boot up and scrounged around for my 8MB memory card, something I haven’t had to use in a long time with the newfangled systems out such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Once I got the game rolling, I immediately went into the options screen. A rule of thumb for me is to check out the options first thing just in case there’s a difficulty setting. I can’t stand trying a game for the first time and dying a million times because I forgot to set the difficulty. After searching around for a bit, I found no difficulty option and created a new game.

Yakuza is easily a cut-scene heavy adventure. And this is something that annoyed me immediately. The game starts off with a flashback, then jumps to 1995 to show how you got to the point of the flashback. OK, fine, but can I actually play some of the story? It moves toward that with the tutorial fight against mobsters but then it’s back to more cutscene. So the basic structure is lots of story exposition, brief fight, a lot more story exposition, brief fight, story exposition ad nausea. I don’t mind a little bit of cutscenes to move the story along but I want to do more fighting, less watching. Pull me into the game with fantabulous game mechanics; don’t drown me in story.

The story that you do watch unfold is actually pretty good. It’s written well and while the voice acting could use some work, it’s not so bad that you can’t get wrapped up in the saga of Kazuma Kiryu. The fact that most of the soundtrack is in English with obvious syncing issues is interesting. If you care about that kind of thing in games, it will irk you. If you don’t, you won’t even notice it. I’m on the side of not caring. What I did notice was usage of the words f—, f—–, motherf—– and every variation in between. Not that I have a problem with profanity in games. I curse like a drunken sailor on leave so the usage is not an issue, but in a game that supposed to be about Japanese gangsters, it’s in every sentence just about. Or so it seems. The audio loop is crazy in the game, so much so that you’ll hear the same noises repeatedly in the brief time you’re allowed to run about in the district. So I literally was called a f—— 20 times in the tutorial fight. Hilarious.

Kazuma Kiryu's fight mechanics are awkward in Yakuza. Photo courtesy of

The game isn’t exactly pretty either. I had to remind myself that this was a hot property in 2006. It wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that I’ve seen better from about the same year. I mean, you’ve got Tekken 5, which was released the year before and then you have Yakuza’s visuals. Two different genres, I know, but on the same system. It also handles awkwardly and the repetition of the fight mechanics are disappointing, but it’s not really that bad of a game.

Really, the game seems very Crazy Taxi-like in its handling and feel but with more profanity. And so far, I’m enjoying it albeit in a different mindset than something that would be released today. If they’ve fixed this stuff in the sequels, I’m more than open to trying them. I’m a huge fan of Japanese culture and it’s trying to capture that aspect of the seedy underbelly … in a game. I can’t knock Sega for trying.

Verdict: Playable and worth looking for.


12 2010