Ridge Racer Unbounded; Grade: *** 1/2; Platforms: PlayStation3, Xbox 360; Genre: racing; Publisher: Namco Bandai Games; ESRB Rating: T for teen.
I love tapas -- you know, small plates of little bites that take one on a journey of culinary delights.
I thought of this often during my play of Unbounded. Although it's a racing game in the "put a label on it" sense, it offers tastes of other successful ventures.
Too often games take elements of successful titles and jam them together like an overstuffed hoagie, hoping consumers will enjoy the overwhelming flavors while ignoring the lack of quality ingredients. OK, enough food metaphors.
While drifting through the numerous tracks in the game, it's amazing to see how deftly features from competing titles (Blur, Burnout, and MotorStorm, to name a few) are incorporated. The heads-up display is uncluttered, allowing a more cinematic and immersive driving experience to unfold around each turn. The slow-motion crashes and automotive dismemberments are long, but never disappointing. You'll remark yourself, "Hey, I've seen this in [insert game] before," but it's not a complaint, more an appreciation of the melting of racing flavors together. Seriously, I'm done with the comments de cuisine.
The game stalls with its track creation system. Most racing games have long had this option, dating back to the original Excitebike NES title. You build custom racetracks to share online, but in this game the system lacks an intuitive feel. If you're not willing to spend hours learning its nuances, you'll be frustrated.
It's not lick-your-lips perfect, but it's a solid game from appetizer to dessert (Sorry, you're tough. I knew you could handle one more).
Armored Core V; Grade: * *; Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation3; Genre: Action; Publisher: Namco Bandai Games; ESRB Rating: T for teen.
It doesn't take long to recognize that the makers of Armored Core V aimed for mecha devotees. Newbies to mecha -- or robot -- gaming and others are certainly welcome to dip their metallic toes into the waters, but only those determined to wade through useless missions and challenges are truly rewarded.
Building a mecha of ultimate destruction wouldn't seem terribly difficult -- defeat some enemies, get paid lots of cash, buy upgrades and other new parts, and off you go to global domination. AC V goes too far, with many missions taking only minutes to complete. The constant string of upgrades and perks is comforting, but it takes quite awhile before you get to a mini-boss challenge or anything more.
The puppeteers of this game pull the right strings to keep you committed to the ultimate goal of playing online. That's where the true meat of the game is, but it takes so long to build a mecha suitable for combat that only the truly devoted will see it. Customizing a lumbering machine of weaponized devastation should not be this mind-numbing before getting to the good parts.