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Barrel Smashing


Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2007-02-19 08:32:35

Barrel Smashing


Barrel smashing is a staple of any video game even remotely associated with the RPG genre. It transcends stylistic and cultural barriers, from Zelda and Dragon Warrior to Baldur's Gate and Jade Empire. I've been playing Jade Empire, and despite the uniqueness of this American RPG about AZN kung fu masters, there was something just universally familiar about smashing Oriental vases for pocket change.

Now that I've quit World of Warcraft again, I've been using my gaming time to catch up on older games I missed. There are newer games I'm itching to play, like God of War 2 and 360 releases, but I've decided I don't want to pay $50-$60 a pop anymore. I'm going to pick up used games once they're more financially palatable. I'll report on these; I figure there are plenty of web sources that critique the new stuff, but I'll share with you inexpensive gems you might have missed.

Jade Empire is an Xbox kung fu epic from Bioware, the makers of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. KOTOR just might be my favorite RPG of all time, and Jade Empire's pedigree does not disappoint. I understand that some people don't care for Bioware's outings, just like I understand that some philistines don't care for Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books. You guys are simply missing out. The only complaint I have about Jade Empire thus far, is that the combat system could be improved upon. You can string slick kung fu combos and styles together if you choose, but for the most part, you can just jump around and mash one button with success. It also runs great on the 360.

I picked up Hunter: The Reckoning for five bucks. It's essentially Gauntlet meets Smash TV set in the White Wolf universe, which is good and bad. It's exponentially more entertaining the more people you have to play with, but fairly dull and repetitive solo. If you have three buddies over, it's more than worth the five bucks. Unfortunately, it doesn't run on the 360. I understand there are other versions of the game, but you'd need a multi-tap for four player action on the Playstation 2, and apparently the GameCube version sucks for whatever reason.

The last game I recommend today is Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. This game is a blast. It's somewhat repetitive, in that most of the missions are quite similar: you trash stuff while the military tries to stop you. What redeems the game is that it's tons of fun to be the Hulk, and whenever the novelty of destroying vehicles and buildings starts to wear off, you get a new move that makes it fun again. For example, early in the game, you have to pound away with charged up attacks to bust up tanks. Later on, you develop the technique of grabbing it by the turret, and tossing it into another tank or chopper or mech.

I'm surprised this game didn't make any politico's watchlist; it's extremely violent. You kill hundreds of military personnel and civilians over the course of the game, even if inadvertently. For example, in one side mission, you need to deliver a patient in an ambulance to the hospital. On the way there, I must've blown up a dozen cars on the road by accident. You can pick up and smash or throw or wield as a weapon just about anything in the game, including enemies. The Hulk is akin to a force of nature, and it's quite cathartic to let loose his rage. (Somehow, it's okay, since you're the Hulk and not just some wannabe gangster in Grand Theft Auto.)

There was one mission in Ultimate Destruction that had me chuckling: you grab a military convoy truck, and smash it onto yourself and wear it. This enables you to sneak around a military base, like Solid Snake in his cardboard box. The green legs tromping around under the truck was just entertainingly silly. The game's full of awesome moves, like super bomb pile driving military mechs or ripping a car in half and smashing the parts around your fists: Detroit steel boxing gloves to inflict more damage!

I highly recommend this title if you're looking for an action title where you demolish everything. It runs great on the 360 and can be had for under $20, or also on all the last-gen systems.



Now Playing - Indigo Prophecy and Jade Empire (Xbox, both 360 compatible).

Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce

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