Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.
Recommended age: This game is quite gory (gibbing included); the battles and bosses are huge in scale and very intense; many of the enemies verge on horrific; and there is a moderate amount of language (including a few uses of the f-word).
And although this isn't quite as gory or horrific as Gears of War (nor does it have nearly as much language) it's still moderately more graphic and intense than Halo 3. And devoid these issues, it's plainly too difficult for younger age groups. So, I recommend this game for ages 17+.
Pros & Cons:
While not the best around, the graphics are clean; the framerate holds up even during huge battles with dozens of enemies on-screen; there's very little noticeable pop-in; the load times are brief; many of the forest areas and wide vistas are quite stunning from a distance; and the water effects are fantastic, with very accurate displacement (meaning things floating and bobbing in the water move realistically).
The gameplay itself is extremely action-packed and full of suspense; The battles are constant, fun, frantic, and keep you on your feet; the controls are smooth, streamlined and accurate; enemy AI is quite clever, and they know how to flank you, take cover when they're low on health, and relocate when you're putting too much fire on their current position; and although allied AI die quickly, sometimes get in the way and never seem to give you enough support fire, they're adequate enough to distract the enemy.
But, probably the best thing about this game is its scale. There are constantly dozens of enemies and explosions (sometimes dozens upon dozens) on the screen at once; huge sweeping vistas of destroyed skylines, as gigantic Chimera ships edge through the sky slowly but surely; and the bosses are a sight to behold; huge, scary, and overall awesome, particularly the Leviathan (a twenty story high Chimera) battle, where you're flung across rooftops, as you fight it with a rocket launcher.
However, for all of the bosses' grandeur, they go down far too easily, making it often anticlimactic--you just blast at them repeatedly until they're down, there's very little strategy involved; and although the graphics have their strong points, most of the textures don't hold up under close scrutiny, and at their worst, they're honestly more akin to an original Xbox game than a full on PS3 game. This carries into the particle effects, (explosions, lasers, muzzle flash, etc.), which are surprisingly blurry and plainly low-res--including a pretty strange PSP-like gridded pattern within effects.
And although the story is somewhat intriguing, it's really unoriginal (grotesque tumor-like mass and his legion of aliens taking over the galaxy, while you try to stop him), and the characters and eventual ending fall flat--it brings up more questions than it answers. Many aspects of the level/art design (like Chimera interiors, etc.) seemed ripped straight from games like the Halo series, including the last three minutes of gameplay, which have you running through the dilapidating alien facility while you try to outrun the bomb you set to destroy said place--how many times has this been done before?!
The last issue--not a negative per say, just a fact--is even on the easiest setting, this game is more than moderately difficult, and although the new regenerative health system is far less frustrating than the healthpack system in the last, some areas still get ridiculously overwhelming, resulting in frustrating trial and error (thanks to the far and few between checkpoints)--this game isn't for FPS newbies.
But overall, it's a good length (10-12 hours) and if you like the core game, there's plenty of replay value, with a level select; multiple difficulties; an extensive co-op mode; and plenty of unlockable extras--if you have a PS3, liked the original, and are into the multiplayer modes, this is the game to get.
Blood and gore: Blood spurts in thick and moderate to heavy amounts when an enemy or ally is shot or hit. Blood does linger, splatters on walls/floors, gradually pools around dead bodies, and there is static blood smeared and splattered on floors/walls throughout. Bodies do linger, and you see many bloodied, burned, and dismembered (entrails included) human and Chimera (alien) bodies throughout the game.
Gibbing is present, meaning when you use grenades or shoot enemies in the head with a powerful weapon (which also results in a sickening squishing sound on impact), they'll explode into large bloody chunks (representing their brains, entrails and limbs), which then stick to walls and ceilings, and slowly slide down and/or drop off, leaving trails of blood.
In addition, the Splicer weapon you receive later on can lop off Grims' (who resemble zombies and emerge from large, pulsing egg-like mounds of flesh) arms, legs (they'll keep running and/or crawling anyway) and heads, which results in a large jet of blood spurting from what's left of their necks. There is no option to turn blood off.
Specific scenes of blood & gore:
Intense violence: Set in an alternate 1950's, and two years after the first, Nathan Hale is the lone survivor of his unit (his natural resistance to the Chimera virus saved him, but it's still gradually taking him over). The story opens with Him stumbling deliriously through the snowy wastes as he comes across an allied helicopter, and fearing the progression of the Chimera virus, the soldiers subdue him. When he comes to, the squad leader introduces himself, catches Nathan up on the current situation, and after a few very close run-ins with the Chimera, they take him to their facility to treat the progression of this virus. After his virus is temporarily subdued, he joins the special Sentinel force, and sets out to stop the once human, now Chimera, Dadeulus (main villain), and his forces from taking over earth...
The base gameplay consists of shooting your way through massive battles from point A to B, while taking cover; clearing out enemies; protecting and holding areas; escorting allies; infiltrating and sabotaging enemy facilities; fighting huge bosses; and ultimately reaching evac points to your next destination. There's also some light platforming elements, and you'll often be jumping from ruined cars and bridges over pools of water (and/or quickly trudging and swimming through it) in order to avoid instant death by the indestructible Furies (aquatic Chimera).
You'll solely be fighting the alien Chimera, which resemble lizard and toad-like humanoids with spider-like faces (as in, multiple eyes), and their robotic hovering and walker-like sentry Drones. You can carry two weapons at any given time (not including grenades) and you'll be combating these enemies with weapons like the Magnum (handgun with explodable bullets); Rossman (shotgun); Wraith (gattling gun); Carbine and Bullseye (automatic rifles); Fareye and Marksman (sniper rifles); Auger (shoots through walls); Bellock, LAARK and Pulse cannon (rocket launchers); and a variety of grenades (like frag, napalm, etc).
The combat system is hectic, chaotic and intense and often represents your character with nearly insurmountable situations, overwhelming odds and constant gunfire/explosions reigning down from the enemy. Other than killing the Chimera with guns (including your own men, if you so choose--friendly fire is enabled), you can use many of the explosive objects in levels (like barrels, cars, etc.) to destroy multiple enemies nearby; Hedgehog grenades to impale them with multiple spikes; Spider grenades to set them on fire; and in close quarters you can dispatch enemies with the butt of your weapon or use a quick knife swipe. When you shoot and kill Chimera enemies, they'll growl in guttural tones and fall dead (fly if you use a grenade), but beyond this, it isn't too impacting, as they are essentially, mindless alien monsters.
The game does present some light horror elements in the form of Grims, Chameleons and Leapers, with many sequences involving you going into dank, dark caves and ruined houses (with a flashlight) filled with pods (large egg-like mounds of pulsing flesh) of Grims, who then pop out unexpectedly and try to tear at you with their claws--sometimes in gigantic numbers; Chameleons, who are equipped with invisibility camo (you hear their pounding footstep before they attack) and jump out at your character--if you miss, they kill you in one hit; and Leapers, large scorpion-like enemies who leap onto and try to stab you to death in droves.
In addition, the boss battles are scary and larger than life in scale, ranging from a chase with a strange tornado-like, and electrical entity called the Swarm (which is apparently indestructible), to the Leviathan (a twenty story high Chimera) that parades through the Chicago skyline, tossing you around like a rag doll. You'll be represented with more of these on-edge situations and suspenseful pursuits by the enemy in the destruction filled environments, and since you're most often on your own, it adds an isolated, heart-pumping sense of urgency to much of the game.
When it comes to younger teens, this isn't quite as gory (gibbing is present, but less detailed/frequent) or horrific (there's far less over the top, horror-like scenes) as Gears of War (nor does it have nearly as much language), but it's also quite a bit worse than the Halo series, with more than enough gore, very intense battles and bosses, some mildy horrific enemies and situations, and a moderate amount of language (including a few uses of the f-word). And on top of this, the game is plainly too difficult for younger age groups--it's just more suited to older teens and adults.
Strong language: There are over a dozen uses of hell and d*mn, under a dozen uses of sh*t and God, under three uses of bastard, Jesus, and the f-word, and one use of the words God d*mn, a**, p*ss, and bullsh*t.
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