Slender is not an experience you will soon forget, and at $10, is priced just about right for its short length. Just be sure to play at night with headphones for full effect. Good luck. Before he was the wisecracking private in Delta Squad, Damon Baird was a wisecracking lieutenant in command of Kilo Squad. Just about a month after Emergence Day, Baird finds himself in Halvo Bay, a coastal city that looks a lot like every other Locust-ravaged city. With him is series regular Augustus "The Cole Train" Cole and two new characters. Sophia is an Onyx guard recruit who does things by the book, offering resistance to Baird's crazy plans and sporting an unfortunate hairdo that looks like molded plastic. Paduk is a former enemy of the COG conscripted to fight Locust, and his disgruntled anti-COG potshots are the highlight of the otherwise unremarkable squad chatter. Aria has a few tough-love moments of her own, but in a series that explores complex personalities, she is disappointingly one-note. When she finally gains the opportunity to encourage her subjects with a rousing speech, glitches take over, with the pirate queen teleporting and pirouetting as if the laws of physics and common sense no longer apply. The shallow characterizations continue with Omega's other primary personality, a female Turian called Nyreen. She and Aria have a complicated past--one that could have used some development. Unfortunately, Nyreen has a limited amount of screen time, which is a shame, because she provides a moral balance to Aria's consistent egotism. Should you find good matches, there's great satisfaction in pulling off a silent kill--and great heartache in axing a civilian to death because you mistake her for an opponent. If you feel more cooperative than competitive, you can try Assassin's Creed III's Wolfpack mode, which takes the competitive mechanics but pits up to four players against the AI and pushes you to rack up points as quickly as you can to add seconds to the countdown timer and progress from one sequence to the next. It's an action-focused mode in a franchise whose multiplayer modes usually rely more on building suspense, though the pressure of the countdown timer gives the mode a welcome sense of urgency. You know you're playing a truly awful game when, after just one mission, you're wondering what on earth possessed you to buy the thing in the first place. Maybe it was the lure of a story-driven four-player co-op campaign? Or the promise of classic capture-the-flag and deathmatch multiplayer? Or perhaps there was simply a vast hole in your life that only a generic third-person shooter could fill? Regardless, if by the time you reach the second mission you're praying for your Xbox to spontaneously combust, just so you're absolutely sure that the game never graces your television again, chances are you've picked up a lemon. And boy is Scourge: Outbreak a big, fat, awful lemon. Thunder Wolves runs pretty short--two to three hours in all. There's online and local cooperative play and the challenge of setting new high scores, but there's nothing in the way of competitive multiplayer. Even so, this game is more than the sum of its parts, creating something refreshing among so many modern military games' imposed political undertones. Insubstantial, fun, and politically insensitive, Thunder Wolves would feel more at home in a different time. It doesn't last long, and there are not a lot of complex or nuanced mechanics, but those aren't really needed here. Helicopters, explosions, and swearing. That's what you're going to get. Sometimes, shallow is nice. All is not lost, however; repair shops are all over the city, and driving thr
You can't bring your companion back during combat stages, either, so once he's down, you're on your own. And bear in mind: you don't earn any experience unless you complete the mission, so losing your companion can be a real setback. Gabriel's adventure is linear and action-packed, and is dotted with bits of platforming and puzzle-solving. God of War veterans will recognize familiar patterns in its combo-heavy fighting system, and Shadow of the Colossus players will identify with the giant-scaling duties during the monumental Titan battles. If you're hoping to explore a sprawling map in search of secrets and long-lost treasure, as in the past, this isn't the game you're looking for; Lords of Shadow stands out from the rest of the series, even against previous 3D entries, such as Lament of Innocence and Castlevania 64. The narrative is more ambitious, the combat hits harder, and platforming incorporates high-wire acrobatics to great effect. The action is bog-standard shooting, and the encounters are tame when compared to previous Lost Planet games. New this round is a cover system, though you rarely need to use it in the single-player campaign, and it's bizarre to see non-humanoid life-forms sticking against cover and rising up to fling projectiles at you. Yet there's still joy in watching orange thermal energy burst from an akrid's vulnerable wounds when you shoot it, not to mention the sense of relief that comes from smashing its iced corpse to smithereens. In the first case, you see the lifeblood leaking from your foe; in the second, you prove your superiority by vanquishing all remnants of it. The combination makes for a rewarding power trip. You have no choice. His mind is made up. When you begin The Last Door, each click of your mouse brings a tortured soul one step closer to taking his own life. There's little you can do but reluctantly click forward, knowing that each click will bring poor Beechworth one step closer to the end, as he gets the chair in position, and the noose, and then himself. Your participation in this tragic and desperate act makes for a harrowing opening to this point-and-click adventure, and though pixel hunts and antiquated puzzle designs sometimes pull you out of the moment, The Last Door largely manages to sustain an unsettling atmosphere of psychological disturbance throughout its currently available first two chapters. As diverse as these locations are, they all have one thing in common: they're crawling with monsters. In the early stages of your quest, on normal difficulty, most monsters fall to your attacks without putting up much of a fight, though if you get swarmed, you might still need to keep an eye on your health. (Unlike in Diablo II, you can't spam health potions to immediately counter any damage you suffer; potions have a cooldown timer, requiring you to play a bit more cautiously.) Your attacks look mighty and effective, which makes the simple act of unleashing them feel empowering. The demon hunter's huge chakrams weave through the air, blades spinning; the barbarian's hard-hitting strikes can send foes flying. A steady stream of citizens and foreigners come up to your inspection booth, waiting for you to decide whether or not they will be granted access to your country, whether you'll stamp "Approved" or "Denied." And that's the crux of what you do day after in-game day, making sure documents are current, making sure the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted. You aren't typically solving puzzles or progressing through dialogue trees; you're merely checking facts. At the end of each day, you decide where to spend the money you've earned in a rather Oregon Trail-like checklist of family necessities. If you don't make enough to afford everything you need, tough choices might have to be made between food and medicine. This DLC can last upward of five hours, depending on how thoroughly you explore every nook and cranny. Purchasable favors give you an extra incentive to look around, letting you pay money for someone to leave a stolen rune behind, or for a worker to scrawl a safe code on the wall. Favors are a small addition, but one of many that contribute to the feeling that you are playing as a distinct character and having a new adventure. The Knife of Dunwall ends with an interesting choice (and foreshadows the next planned downloadable chapter in Daud's story), but the real payoff of this DLC is how it takes the cocktail of discovery, exploration, and combat that made Dishonored so delicious, and adds an engaging twist. What a vivid world it is that these characters are constantly soiling. A visit to a druggies' haven bursts with psychedelic colors; beaded doors flutter as you walk through them, and a bathroom's deep blue lights and sparkled walls usher you into the New Age.