January 31, 2014

Level Review: Dead Center (Left 4 Dead 2)

Ever played one of those levels which are just too amazing to forget? This weekly column is devoted to those levels that go above and beyond the call of duty (pun firmly intended) to craft richly replayable and highly memorable experiences. So sit back, have a drink, and let me level with you.

So after reviewing Left 4 Dead 2 last week, it didn't quite feel that complete when it came to the review. I wanted to add a lot more detail, but due to time constraints, I left it. Instead, I'll review all the levels of the second game in these weekly posts. If you guys like it, I'll do more in the future.

The first up is....well, the first level!

Dead Center:

Overview: Normally this is where you get warned about spoilers, but since Left 4 Dead 2 is not plot-based, you don't have to be.

The levels in L4D2 are comprised of stages, ending in a safe house and starting the next stage in the same safe house where you can recuperate and discuss strategies with your friends before grabbing your frying pan and heading out the door. Most of the levels are divided into 4-5 stages. Dead Center is four stages, and all of it acts as a very fun and elaborate tutorial on how to play the game.

The first stage, Hotel, is very linear in nature, especially when to compared to the rest of the game (all of them are linear, but here it's very noticeable). It works very well to introduce you to the mechanics of the game. For instance, one of the newest enemies in the game, the Charger, is able to, ahem, charge through survivors like meaty bowling pins, knocking them apart and grabbing one of them, beating him/her on the ground until they are flatter than a pancake flattened by steamroller crushed by a falling skyscraper squashed by a meteor (Pretty flat, basically), which carries across the message that hallways and tight spaces are very dangerous.

The second stage, Streets, is a bit more open and introduces you to some of the variations that take place when you replay the game. For example, you meet a Gun Store owner who requests that you go get him some Cola from a nearby store in exchange for his help. The dialogue between him and the four survivors starts the same but always ends differently on each playthrough. This stage also shows you that noise attracts the Infected horde, when you have to open the door to the store, triggering an alarm.

The third stage, Mall, mixes the gameplay of the first two stages, combining open spaces and linearity to create an unpredictable mix. Here, the game's AI Director, which generates Infected in new locations every time, is given a chance to shine. For example, you may encounter a swarm just before the safe house at the end of the level, or not. You may come across smokers up the escalator near the beginning, or not. You may come across a very hugsy Hunter at the bottom of a staircase whilst you're running away from a freakin' Tank!*

Or not.

The fourth and final stage, Atrium, isn't a long level, more resembling a final standoff. Players have to collect gas cans to fill a stock car as a means of escape. The gas cans are spread out all over the level, which takes place in one big open area. The game's random nature means that you'll encounter new enemies every time, but one thing stays the same: The more gas cans you collect, the more difficult it becomes.

*The Tank is a huge gorilla-like Special Infected with a humongous upper torso and very small head (braun over brains, man).

Gameplay Tips:

Hotel: The game does a good job of helping you through this level, so let me just give you a general gameplay tip: While it may be nice feeling like a samurai swinging your Katana at every living (dead) thing, it's an unreliable technique against Special Infected. Rather use your melee weapon to shove enemies away and then whip out your Primary to shoot them. And never, ever, melee attack a Boomer!

Streets: This is where you learn to stick together. Always. When grabbing the cola, make sure that only one person is the carrier, while the rest defend him/her and move as one unit to deliver the item. Don't spread out, the horde will get you. Stick together!

Mall: Not much else to say except: You have to stick together. Here, it's crucial. Tanks and Hunters are incredibly lethal in this level, because of the tight spaces and difficulty to run away. Also, beware of smokers. They are a real pest in this level.

Atrium: Try to gather all the gas cans first and place them at the stock car before pouring them in. Now, you have to be careful, because shooting the cans will result in fire. If you shoot one of them and they're all bunched up, you got a huge fire and no gas cans. Back to square one! To avoid this, place the cans underneath the overpass behind the stock car, so they're out of the way.

You still might send a stray bullet their way, but thankfully they don't SEEM to instantly ignite when hit once. Otherwise, you really have to stick together, especially on higher difficulties. Running away will get you killed by the various amounts of Special Infected, who seem to spawn every 15 seconds on Advanced difficulty (I haven't worked up the guts to try it on Expert yet).


In spite of it's linearity and First Level-ishness, this level is always fun on multiple playthroughs. My most recent run, whilst writing this review in fact, had some very memorable moments, like the discovery of how to make hordes of Infected commit suicide by jumping off a building (Hint: Use Boomer Bile). 

Valve did a knockout job with this game, making every level a hugely replayable affair and Dead Center is no different. It's always nice to replay this level in order to try new techniques before using them on harder levels, like Hard Rain or The Parish. With that, I can safely say that this is one of the best first levels I've ever played.

Now, if you don't mind, I've got a carnival to go attend. A DARK carnival...

What do you guys think? Did you like the Level Review? What did you think of Dead Center?

January 29, 2014

Ryse Son of Rome Content Rundown

...I got nothing. That box art is just too epic.

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg (Head Writer)

Verdict: (C) Caution Advised (For Brief Strong Suggestive Content and Frequent Bloody Violence)

Release Date: November 2013

Developer: Crytek

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Platforms: Xbox One

Genre: Hack and Slash

January 27, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 24: New Verdict!

Okay, so one last change: I added a new verdict in light of retiring the Banned rating. If you go the about page, you should see that we added a new verdict called Teenage Gamers (T), bridging the gap between Parental Guidance (PG) and Caution Advised (C).

I've yet to design an image for it, but I'll post it first thing when I've got it ready. Hope you guys like the new verdict!

Ryse Son of Rome: While the game may be graphically stunning, it's story falls far flat. The bulk of the Content Rundown has been finished, so I'll post it this Wednesday.

That Article: I didn't post an article last week. You may have noticed because I said I was going to. I didn't post it because of being burnt out and I was trying something new so I decided to take some time to get it right. You'll love the new article when it gets posted Friday, and I'm pleased to say that it has a 95% chance of being a weekly column.

Half Life 2: Review inbound. Hype train engage. Leaving from the station. *toot toot*. Oh, and that new kind of article I was talking about? It will probably feature a Half Life 2 version leading up to the full review. Enjoy!

StarCraft II Wings of Liberty: Either another Content Rundown will be posted next week or I'll be able to finish this sucker before then to add another epic review to our collection. So far, it's really kicking my butt, but hey, I'm persistent. :) 

EDIT: Oh, and by the way, check out CheapShark. They track prices on games, showing the cheapest versions, and even have giveaways from time to time. Recommended.

January 22, 2014

Left 4 Dead 2: Full Review

Those zombies never saw that frying pan coming...

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg (Head Writer)

Verdict: MA (Mature Gamers Only)

Release Date: October 2008 (Left 4 Dead 1), November 2009 (Left 4 Dead 2)

Developer/Publisher: Valve Software

Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, OS X, Linux.

Genre: Cooperative Shooter

January 20, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 23: Review 4 You

Well, things are coming to a close for the Left 4 Dead 2 Review. I hope to have it up this Wednesday, providing nothing else comes up to interrupt it, but I think you'll see the review this week.

StarCraft II Wings of Liberty: I'm making good progress with the game. It's quite challenging, which is a good thing, but also surprisingly violent for a T-rated game. Lots and lots of gore is shown when enemies are blown apart. Some suggestive content as well, but nothing explicit.

Retro Game Review: I'm going to do a review of one of my favourite games of all time when there's a gap between more recent game reviews. It should be pretty cool, and I'll try to do an extensive review of all three campaigns. (Note: It's not StarCraft.)

Scribblenauts Unlimited: While I initially dismissed this as just a kiddy game (shame on me), I've started to warm up to it. Sure, it's pretty basic, but it's also got a surprisingly dark sense of humour and some hilarious sequences. I'll see where I can fit this in.

F.E.A.R Trilogy: Okay, so in the words of the great Tommy Wiseau, I'm just a "Chicken, cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep!"

No wonder he never got big in Hollywood, but anyways: I'm considering jumping into the tail-end of the series again with FEAR 3 and doing a review of it. I'll proceed backwards, since I hear FEAR 2 wasn't as scary as FEAR 1. When I'm done with FEAR 2, I'll consider doing FEAR 1. Please note that I'm not promising a review of the FEAR games, I'm just saying that I'm considering it.

Half Life 2: In spite of how famous this game is, it never once crossed my mind to do a review of it. So, I don't know, should I do a review of it? Anyone who considers themselves a gamer has probably played the game by now, but then again, can't hurt to have a nicely detailed review, right?

January 17, 2014

Verdict Change: Dead Rising 3

Yeah, so after almost giving myself a concussion after facepalming so hard at my OWN verdict, I decided it's time to change it.

Initial Verdict: Not Recommended

My original verdict was decided based on two minor scenes in the game (Warning: Somewhat graphic).

1. A female police officer with a clothing deficiency and a habit of groping herself (I'm not kidding).

2. A man dressed in a S&M costume who has a very phallic looking gun he positions near his crotch, and when he is defeated, a thin stream of liquid spews from it.

You can probably see why I was so quick to stamp the N rating on this, right? But the preceding is actually is very brief and takes up very little of the otherwise rather large game itself...

Reasons for Change:

...Which is why I decided to change the verdict. Those scenes are insubstantial, especially when compared to the rest of the game. I'm usually quite harsh on suggestive content, but in this case, it's pretty easy to ignore. So that's why I decided to change my verdict to:

Verdict Now: Mature Gamers Only

Agree or disagree, I personally think this change is for the better. Games need balanced verdicts, not based on knee-jerk reactions and a desire not to get into trouble with your peers, but on what your gut tells you. (My gut tells me that I'm hungry, but that's beside the point!)

So there you go, that's my new verdict. The Content Rundown of Dead Rising 3 has been changed somewhat to reflect this. I hope you guys like the new verdict!

January 14, 2014

Last Minute Delay!

How appropriate: A review of a Valve game has been delayed!

So I was just about to finish editing my Left 4 Dead 2 Review when two things occurred to me, first of which is that it's actually freaking 2014! Changes need to happen on the blog. From now on, Full Reviews will be posted once every TWO weeks, not every week, to save me the exhaustion of having to hammer one out every week.

Content Rundowns, however, can be posted every week because they are a lot easier to write. So I'll try to alternate between the two in order to have new content every week. I've been wanting to do a Content Rundown of Ryse and now I'll have the chance.

Second thing is, the review of Left 4 Dead 2 doesn't feel quite finished yet. There are a few things that still need to be done, and I don't think I'll get around to the multiplayer anytime soon because of our poor internet.


While Valve is known for their constant, abrupt delays, it's always for the better, resulting in higher quality games. Here, it will be the same with my review. The delay will only do it good. I don't want to release a halfhearted review, as I'm sure you can understand.

So sorry for the delay, but I hope you can understand why. I'm going to post a short little article on Friday detailing something that's been on my mind for a while now. See you then!

January 13, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 22: Left 4 Dead!

Left 4 Dead 2: It's a race to the finish to get this guy done! I'm almost finished with the campaign, but it's without a doubt only the beginning for many subsequent playthroughs. Tune in Wednesday for the review!

Fallout 3: Yeah, this one is still gonna take a matter of weeks before the review goes up. Fallout 3 is a massive game and it deserves to have an extensive review.

Dota 2: Same thing with this guy. There's so much content here, it's hard get all in one review without writing the equivalent of geographical textbook!

Indie Games: Since I recently bought a couple of indie games, I've been thinking about reviewing them sometime. So for the people who always wanted To The Moon reviewed, you'll get that soon!

January 10, 2014

3 Changes....

Hello everyone! Since I forgot to talk about it in my update post on Monday, here the 3 changes that the blog will go through pretty soon:

3: The Banned Rating

After lots of thought, I've finally decided to retire the Banned rating. The decision was based on several factors, the first of which is thus: The blog's vision is about giving people choices, giving people the necessary information to make their own purchasing decisions.

With the single stamp of a Verdict, our entire mission statement is destroyed. The Banned rating is our oldest rating, having existed through multiple changes, even when the preceding verdicts were introduced, the Banned rating was not modified at all (save some aesthetic changes).

That's why I'm sad to see it go, but really, it has to. I've been thinking this through for a long time and finally feel 100% sure about it's deletion.

2: Review Style:

Notice the changes to the Review Style? The new Context section? Placing the verdict at the top? Jump breaks? If you do, that's good, because those will be the LAST changes we make to the Review Style.

It's over and done with now. We are going to focus on reviewing games. No more changes to the style. The energy I put into that will now be directed towards updating the design of the website.

So yes, you can relax now. Our current template is here to stay for at least a couple of years.

1: Optimism:

I don't know about you, but I'm personally sick and tired of so much negativity in the realm of gaming. It's time to be more positive. I, for one, am very excited to see what the future of gaming holds.

Years ago I really wanted to have a Virtual Reality gaming experience, but gave up on the idea as being too unrealistic. Now, with the invention of the Oculus Rift, unreality is becoming reality. While I've yet to try the system out for myself, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for gaming, especially when it comes to Virtual Reality.

I want to do more articles on the future of gaming, this time from an optimistic perspective. Not "Top 5 Things That Will Ruin Gaming", "Why I hate Xbox One", or "Top 5 Reasons Why I Hate KVR Gaming". Because the last one would just be weird. Seriously.

So that's it! I hope you guys like the new changes. I've got a review or two to get back to, and I'll start work on my next article soon. See you guys next week!

January 08, 2014

Hotline Miami: Bloody Review

...You might not want to pick up the phone on this one...

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg (Head Writer)

Verdict: MA (Mature Gamers Only)

Release Date: October 2012

Developer: Dennaton Games, Abstraction Games

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Platforms: PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Windows, Mac OS X, Linux.

Genre: Action

January 06, 2014

Blog Journal Volume 21: I'm Back!

Hello everyone! I'm back in business, with quite a few reviews inbound. Believe me, there is NOT any shortage of games in my collection....

Hotline Miami: Yeesh, this game's gory....and it will be the first game I'm reviewing since my break last year. I'm still trying to decide on a verdict, because I did have fun with it initially, but now the extremely over-the-top violence is bothering me. Whatever I decide will be revealed on Wednesday.

Left 4 Dead 1 + 2: So I booted up L4D2 after getting it for free on Christmas Day (Thank you Valve!), and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the original Left 4 Dead campaign had been patched into the sequel.

So for the first time ever, we're going to have two reviews in one! Stay tuned....

Fallout 3: Epic fun! But the actual review may take about a month or two to complete. This is a massive game and it has a lot of content I need to cover, so while it may be convenient to have the review up quick, it would be far better in the long run to make it complete.

The Walking Dead Season One: I recently acquired this game on Steam, and decided that a ReMix Review was in order. After all, my initial review of this wasn't very good, so let me make it up to you. :)

The Walking Dead Season Two: Also recently acquired the Second Season. Of video games. Confusing, I know. But that means I can put up much more informative reviews even faster, so whenever a new episode is released, stay tuned for more info on it!

StarCraft II Wings of Liberty: Just my luck. I finally had my computer formatted, so that means StarCraft has to download the mother of all patches from the beginning, again! So yeah, this game is going to be reviewed, just not before the end of the month.

Dota 2: This game appears to be a huge time commitment, but don't worry. I'll get to it eventually when the other games on my list are completed. It's a free game after all, so you lose nothing for downloading this game regardless of whether the review goes up or not.

Blog: Since the blog has to grow, I decided that every month, I'm going to try something new. I don't know what, I don't know if it will work or just be plain dumb, but we're going to try new things.

Stay tuned for more reviews right here, on KVR Gaming!