The Stuff of Legends: Rayman Legends Review

Before we get our hands dirty in this, our latest review, let’s just get something stated loud and clear. Rayman isn’t for everyone. Most animals, for example, will struggle with the dexterity and cognitive procedures required to successfully navigate even the game’s lovingly presented menus, never mind the levels themselves. Inanimate objects, plant life and crustaceans will all find a similar impenetrability getting to grips with Ubisoft’s latest platformer and frankly, our advice is that you give up and save your energy for photosynthesis. Or whatever. That in mind then, if you don’t count yourself among these groups, have got eyes and aren’t some sort of outright fun Nazi, then really you have no excuse to not raucously enjoy every last drop of Rayman Legends. Here’s why.

If you’re familiar with Rayman Origins, the series’ previous entry, you know what to expect from the off. That’s not to say there’s nothing new however, and in any case, changing the formula too drastically would have been largely unnecessary. Origins was a joy to play and those core mechanics all remain stubbornly in place. That said, Legends appears to be paced slightly slower than its predecessor, though it’s by such small amounts, that may well be something to do with the two years’ worth of alcohol-sodden brain cell steam rolling I’ve been at since the last game’s release.

And so, Legends, like Origins, is an indisputably adorable affair. Those beautiful hand drawn graphics make a triumphant return and immediately have you taking your most painfully yearned for loved one by the hand and proclaiming dramatically ‘my darling, of all the beauty I see in the world, you are second to this game.’ Probably. It’s pretty lovely, anyway.  The full cast of characters, both playable and NPC, the enemies that belong to each individual world, and every aspect of the luscious and involved dynamic environments have been amorously crafted to elicit a genuine smile when you get a moment to look closely.

Of course, those moments are few and far between if you’re raring to get into the action. The more challenging sections see you commanding your tiny green partner in crime to affect the environment by ceremoniously pressing B. He’ll move platforms, cut ropes and tickle (yep) your enemies at your beckoned call. Which is nice. This becomes not entirely dissimilar to patting the dog, rubbing your belly, making cheese and bacon on toast and balancing an upside down fedora on your nose all at once. The trickier parts pit you against the clock (or against a scrolling wall of fiery death) and have you timing Rayman’s jumps, ducks and running whilst simultaneously making these environmental changes. It’s not uncommon to attempt a jump, move a platform in a blind panic, land on the wrong section and plummet to your untimely death, inadvertently spilling cheese everywhere and losing your fedora down the back of the sofa. Somehow.

The last level of the first world ‘Teensies in Trouble’ is a majesty of platforming fun. With an outrageously captured rendition of Ram Jam’s Black Betty playing in the background, you smash scenery and baddies in time with the cymbals and race through to the finale. It’s a congratulatory break for finishing the world’s previous levels; something that will leave you grinning from ear to ear, if you’re made of cardboard and aren’t already doing so, that is.

After you finish your first level, you’ll realize just how jam-packed with content Legends is, as the game immediately takes to voraciously loading you up as many trinkets as you can carry, all whizzing and making disorienting noises at once. With playable characters, daily currency dispensers and even levels from Origins to unlock, we really only scratched the surface in our playthrough. (Though that’s also because we’re not good enough to find all the BITS, of which there are many). There’re daily and weekly challenges if you’re still not full after all that, and of course there’s a multiplayer component too. There’s a fun Vs footy game that works surprisingly well but might not hold your attention much farther than the five minute mark, and of course, co-op. Though, disappointingly, there’s no online co-op, which’ll put a few of you off, no doubt.

Sadly, the game still only dishes out achievements to the ‘Primary Player’, which, for a game with its heart so desperately set on you playing with your friends on the couch next to you, is a shame. Legends would be the perfect platform for local co-op achievement hunting. That said, Origins had the same restrictions, so you might well be good and used to all this by now.

Ultimately, Legends is a fine title; delivering all its predecessor promised and followed through on, and piling on the reasons to keep coming back for more. We had an absolute riot with it, and if you’re after some wholesome, side-scrolling platform fun, we don’t understand why you’d think of going anywhere else.

89%

Rayman Legends is out the 30th August for WiiU, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC and Playstation Vita!

REVIEW: Anarchy Reigns

Anarchy Reigns

Anarchy Reigns (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Mad worlds go to hell.

So I want to tell you a little story, about a company called Sega, who published a 3D brawler developed by Platinum games, did almost no marketing for the game, released it in Japan, and decided to not to release it in America or Europe. That’s a brief oversight of what happened with the release of Anarchy Reigns. The new kind of a sequel, but not really, but uses some of the characters from the “Mad World” game release. This game as I say was not scheduled for a release outside of Japan. Much to the consumer’s (and developer’s) confusion. After a lot of  “Oh please Sega! We’ll be your friends again! We’ll talk about how awesome Sonic was, and not how shit you’ve made him”, Sega decided to go ahead with the release in the USA and Europe. And Sega wonders why no one wants to hang out with them, or invite them to parties anymore.

So in the same vain as Devil May Cry, or Bayonetta, this is a game whose setting sits in the medium of the “not too distant future” where everyone with so much as a small amount of loose change in their pocket can have their bodies transformed into cybernetic killing machines, because why not? You know? The game sets you up with one of two characters either the “Black Side” where you play as Jack, a chainsaw-for-a-hand mercenary out for his his next pay check and revenge, or the “White Side”, in which you play as Leon, who’s kind of like Robocop, if he’d listened to a lot of Funeral For a Friend and had heard a girl he liked was really into skin-tight suits. He’s looking for a criminal who just happened to be his mentor (and the drama ensues.)

Visually the game isn’t anything particularly special. Using all the same textures and renders we’ve seen before on this generation. And a few from the last. The characters are made to look slightly exaggerated to the point where Jack is hilariously larger than any person you would consider to be non-gargantuan height, and there are even some characters who are taller than him. However being a game that lets Bayonetta be a pre order bonus character, it’s probably safe to say that human proportions are the last thing on anyone’s mind. But that’s not to say that the ridiculous looking characters make this game poor, quite the opposite, I found it quite entertaining. It brings a real comic like quality to the whole game, and gives you, the player, a feeling of ultimate power by being the biggest, baddest, impossibly muscular dude out there. Visually your attacks are a spectacle to behold, producing every colour you can possibly imagine and literally tearing enemies in half. It’s pretty bad ass.

The general gameplay is really positive. The controls are basic enough so that you can just pick it up and get going as soon as possible. The key is to create combos and time your moves correctly. Your basic attacks are quite unimpressive, but combining them with your special attacks is what creates the interesting content. And the gameplay is kept balanced by only allowing you to use your special attacks a few times, until your generic “Special Attack Meter” builds back up. So spamming your special attacks isn’t an option and never using them is going to make it very hard for you to progress. The attacks for each character are different enough and behave differently enough for you to be entertained in the multiplayer. The problem with the campaign is you are locked in as one of the two characters you chose at the beginning. You get the occasional chance to choose a different character for certain battles, but these are very far and few between so the fighting of mutants and weird, semi naked borg thugs can get stagnant. Unless of course you’re replaying, but I’ll mention that later.

The side missions and some of the main missions do also offer you the ability to mix it up a bit, with the occasional protect mission, race or even a football game. While these pop up and cause you a chuckle they feel very last minute. Like one of the game designers got wasted one night and said

“Hey, you know what we could do? Add a bunch of unrelated missions!”

“But Dave, the game’s due to be released in a week!”

“Shh shh shh! It’ll fine!”

Or something like that, I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

The difficulty curve builds up at a pretty reasonable level. Not making it feel too easy whilst not leaving your rear end feeling like those guys from Deliverance just paid you a visit. The final boss in fact has enough craziness going on it feels like the world could be ending, whilst leaving you with a sense of control so you’re not flailing your thumbs on the controller like some kind of fish who was given a hand and doesn’t quite get how they work just yet. The different environments give the impression of diversity, but soon begin to feel about as different as your standard FPS map; it becomes a case of just figuring out the best way to use it, and that isn’t the most time consuming thing.

The campaign is decent enough, albeit short. Of course they try to extend it by offering their scoring system for each mission, giving you an incentive to try and get a Platinum rating for each mission and level. It even offers an achievement that will force you to back to square one and choose the character you didn’t before, even though the normal campaign lets you play that same character anyway, and this isn’t the same as picking a chapter once you’ve beaten it and selecting any character and ARRGGH! Moving on. Typically for this genre, Anarchy Reigns is all about trying to out score yourself or your friends.

The multiplayer will offer you a lot more in terms of game play and of course the addition of none AI characters will always spice things up. Like almost every multiplayer game there are several different modes. Capture the Base types, flying helicopter types, team, solo, and a type where everyone puts down their weapons and just sings happy songs. Ok I made that last one up. The multiplayer can seem very one sided. As is expected with this kind of game there are people who will do nothing but master all the combos, unblockable attacks, weapons, etc. whilst suckers like me are left there waiting to get touched by these behemoths mega champions. Probably nine year olds. I know I should be complaining less about them and more about my obvious lack of practise, but it was like this from day one! Characters and weapons should be balanced enough so that there is even a slight chance of winning; some friends and I got through to the end of one game without killing a single person on the other team. This is all redundant of course, as most of the time, you can’t join a game with your friends or the population of the game’s online community is non-existent.

Seriously, one day one it took us 20 minutes to get onto the same game because there is no pre game lobby option, so the gaps we had left for each other were getting filled with random people we had no intention of playing with. On the flipside I’ve spent half an hour waiting for other people to join the god damn game. I can only assume there’s something wrong with the multiplayer servers and perhaps it’s going to get fixed, but it’s hard to tell at this stage. There is a lot wrong with the multiplayer and it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. It’s like eating anything in Rob’s house. It all just tastes of dust.

The writing in this game is fantastic. It’s clearly been written by a team who know this game shouldn’t be taken too seriously. They weren’t trying to create a new Metal Gear Solid in terms of a layered and saturated storyline where if you don’t know what happened in that one of a kind comic about this one NPC you’re not going to know what’s going on. They were writing one to try and keep some kind of cognitive interest for the player to know why they’re brutally murdering anyone who so much as looks at them funny. This isn’t the stuff that will have you rolling out of your chair, wetting yourself to the point where everyone around you isn’t sure if you’re dying or just doing it out of boredom. But it keeps everything on a light-hearted note. In fact the moments where it tries to get serious, you begin to feel a little uncomfortable. Like when a friend misinterprets your trust level and starts talking about the technique he employs when he has a wank.

Overall this game has a lot of crazy stuff going on. The pleasure aspect of it is bouncing all around the god damn place. You’ve got some great visual stuff going on with the sawing and chopping people in half. And you’ve got some pretty poor and frustrating multiplayer. I won’t hold that too much against it as multiplayer to me is just an added bonus. This likes to keep you busy, you’ll find only a few moments where you’re feeling a little bored. The perfectionists will enjoy trying to out do their own scores or achievement hunting. Completing the game once will let you be able to select chapters with any character, really giving it replay value. It’s probably worth mentioning that this game costs about half the price of most new releases. I’ve played a lot of game that were NOT worth that £44.99 price tag, and maybe should have been discounted. I don’t feel burnt about paying the price that I did for Anarchy Reigns. This isn’t going to blow your mind or be in your top ten for any extended amount of time, this is one of those games you’ll play a lot for a few weeks, toss aside to play something else, forget about, and then rediscover it with almost as much joy as the first time you played it. Should you get it? Yes,if you are a fan of this type of crazy, ripping in twain action game with a bit of goof on the side. No if you prefer reading books about dated tactics about how to fight a war using muskets and hate anything that even looks remotely cool.

 

Respawn in… 5 score: 71%

 

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REVIEW: Resident Evil 4 HD

With the release of Resident Evil 6 looming on the horizon, less than a month away in fact, here are Respawn we’ve been casting a reminiscent eye over the mother of survival horror. Fighting Nemesis on the PSone, lusting over jaw-dropping visuals in the Resident Evil remake on the GameCube, filling in the gaps in the Umbrella backstory with Resident Evil Zero and, of course, hurling Resident Evil 5’s disk at the wall in an indignant rage are all fond memories we have of the world-famous franchise.

Number six looks to be a better return to form with more atmospheric Leon sections hopefully overpowering the ‘chest-high cover’ combat Chris sections that look all too reminiscent of Gears of War for our liking. The expectations of these more ‘classic’ survival horror sections is testament to the quality of Resi 4, when the series took a diversion from the awkward-to-control fixed camera perspective style of things and opted for a more gritty, heart-pounding, panic/fear combination with its gameplay.

The only way to describe Resident Evil 4 these days is that it’s exactly like Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Both are revered as being among the greatest games ever made and are routinely shoved through the Port-O-Matic 5000 to grab handfuls of cash from nostalgic fans who, time and time again, await each inevitable re-releases firmly clutching their ankles. But it works, because owning and playing through a fantastic game in a new light and with new extras is by no means bad (but that doesn’t mean we can’t be cynical about seedy intentions of them nasty corporate corporations).

And it’s certainly not a bad thing with the (convenient) fourth release of Resident Evil 4 on the Xbox 360. For one thing the whole thing’s been upscaled to HD – to take one of the best looking games of the last generation and make it look even better is icing on an already delicious cake. The character models and environments look pin-sharp, and to top it off loading times are almost non-existent (which is helped by loading from the hard drive). Most of the textures are applied at a higher resolution too so even the pre-rendered stuff doesn’t suffer from pixilation, though there are a notable handful of instances where lower-resolution stuff has been used which is slightly disappointing.

For 95% of the game, though, things look noticeably much better than any of the other three iterations; everything’s smoother than the jagged PS2 version, more detailed even than the GameCube original, and benefiting from the 16:9 widescreen mode that the Wii version brought to the table.

Gameplay wise there is nothing new here at all, unless you never played the additional extras added to the PS2/Wii versions – there’s still all the same bonus Ada missions like Separate Ways, and of course the Mercenaries mode (which Capcom will charge you a wallet-penetrating £35 for on the ThreeDS). This isn’t bad; shoehorning in even more extra modes and content purely for the sake of adding something new would be like covering a rib-eye steak in ketchup under the guise of adding flavour.

If anything the fact that the game has been left untouched (aside from HD resolution and improved textures) is a good thing. It is often considered the best Resident Evil game in the series, and an example of the gaming perfection we got to enjoy in the last generation. There’s the obligatory addition of achievements, which you’d think would have been exploited more than simply getting more Gs for progressing through the game. There’s no ‘100 headshots’ or ‘Looked Up Ashley’s Skirt’ achievements; just a few token ones for beating certain bosses or finishing particular chapters LIKE YOU WOULD HAVE DONE ANYWAY.

I mean, I’m sure reaching 100 headshots and frequent attempts for a peek at some jaggedy digi-clam are inevitable, if not necessary, elements of the game just as defeating one of the many-tentacled bosses is.

But again, this lack of tacking on new stuff for the sake of doing so is perfectly fine – such achievements might have ruined what is a truly immersive and cinematic experience with the incessant pings of notifications.

Instead, the game has been left virtually well alone and only tweaked in places that matter, which makes it the perfect re-release. There’s no dodgy control scheme (like RE4: Wii) or eye-bleedingly intrusive visual effect (like Ocarina of Time 3D), just the game that was rightly deserving of all its critical acclaim and fan-driven legendary status, encompassing all of the best elements of all iterations. And what’s more, Capcom aren’t raping our wallets for it either – as it’s a download-only release it clocks in at a reasonable £15, which isn’t too much to ask for a game that everyone must play.

Ok, so it’s nothing groundbreakingly fresh, and the graphical update isn’t anywhere near the scale of Resident Evil on the GameCube but it’s a perfect package of one of the greatest games ever looking rather sharp on our fancy new tellys we all got in the last eight years. And there’s literally nothing wrong with that.

It is genuinely the perfect blend of action and survival horror that Resident Evil 5 totally missed the mark on. It should be a benchmark for all future Resi games, and we can only hope that Capcom have used RE4 as a template for six, rather than number five.

With remakes being all the rage these days, Resi 4 is actually the best of the bunch and quite possibly the most perfect remake. It’s not stretched into a full-price title, and it’s not so outdated and clunky that all memories are shattered beyond recognition. It competes with, and easily trounces, some of the best games of this generation in terms of gameplay and value. Graphically it doesn’t do a bad job either, thanks to the extra power of the 360 helping push sharper character models and higher resolution textures.

Right now, there is no finer game to download on the 360’s marketplace. So grab your points and a spare pair of undies and get ready to experience one of the best gaming experiences of all time.

@tbmcshane

 

 

REVIEW: Transformers: The Fall of Cybertron

It can take a lot to recreate a much-loved nostalgic memory into a game that old fans and new fans alike can enjoy. You don’t want to alienate the new fans by being all like “Unless you’ve seen the seventh season’s super secret episode from the 1989 VHS of which there were only 200 copies ever made, get lost. We don’t need you’re kind here!” But in the same boat, you don’t want to anger the old fans by being like “So, how would anyone feel if I put Robocop on a unicorn, with a talking pickle sidekick?” It’s a very fine line that would be a daunting task to even the most experienced game developer.

With this new instalment of this alternate Transformers universe, it shares a lot of aspects of the G1 series, and almost none with the Michael “No one will notice if I replace good film making with big explosions will they?” Bay. It creates a wonderful mix of nostalgia and great new ideas. A mix that when poured down the throats of gamers everywhere creates a nerdgasm so large it could tear the very fabric of space. But enough of how I reacted to it, let’s talk more about the nitty gritty.

So to continue in the same vein, let’s talk about the narrative. This is most certainly not a game you will understand without playing its predecessor, as it takes off only a little while after the first game. The way the story telling takes place is done in a much better way. It’s a story you feel very involved with, with lots happening in quick succession. The cut scenes seem to work well with it, the scenes don’t outstay their welcome, but are entertaining enough to let you sit back and enjoy. There were moments of slight awkwardness, and the occasional moment of wishing they’d tied parts of the story up differently. There were also some interesting glitches, one I found where instead of talking to Prime over a hologram intercom, Grimlock appeared to be speaking to himself. Whilst hilarious, it made me restart the level so that I didn’t miss anything good. There were also a couple of times the game completely froze on me, but that could be more due to my console playing up. It’s old.

When it comes to the banter between the Autobots or Decepticons, I was not left disappointed. The brief conversations during the gameplay left me chuckling to myself, and one exchange between Slag (I don’t care that they decided to rename him “Slug” for obvious reasons. His name is SLAG) and Grimlock left me reliving moments of the Dinobots, reminding me why I loved them. So if you’re playing the game or are even just spectating, the narrative will have you thinking, “OK, one more hour, THEN I’ll go to bed.”

As far as the gameplay is concerned, it has been tailored to the gamer who doesn’t want to stick to one style. As this game features the Dinobots, Bruticus AND Metroplex, it was never going to work with the previous style. These levels give you their brief in-game tutorials to show how to use your new characters, and doing so becomes second nature soon after. A very nice new feature is the ability to change which hand your gun is in, as in this game they don’t offer the “Press A to hide behind this cover and pretty much cheat” option. It allows you a better chance at hitting your targets from your manual cover. I did however find that this ability was far too forgettable. I pretty much stopped using it after the first level. And similar to the last game, it can be easy to forget which controls do what in which form.

Speaking of changing forms, there was a massive improvement there. Instead of making it painfully obvious where you should be a car/plane/tank, it felt like you had a bit more free reign in regards to when to be a robot, or death machine. This means you can perform stunts whilst transforming that leaves you thinking about how awesome you are. So the variety in game play really adds a lot to the experience. The only downside is that it’s maybe not a game to play when you’re not feeling 100% with it. Like if you’re hung over, or have eaten too much. With all this variety it’s not difficult to become a little flustered and confused, causing you to die over and over again, which can be incredibly frustrating. So it’s a bit of a high-risk high reward sort of system. Risk being throwing your controller out of the nearest fucking window, reward being thoroughly entertained.

Visually the textures look as impressive as they did before, but then again with the current state of consoles it seems most developers are working with limitations. Don’t misunderstand, it looks great, just as it did before. The little details they’ve added are a nice touch, like individual parts of Megatron’s back raising and falling when necessary. Little contraptions spinning, and the way they all transform, it’s very slick. They have even taken the time to animate the cars and planes more when they use turbo speed, they even have the trucks and cars tilt slightly on their suspension when turning corners at speed. It’s all just a wonderful treat for the eyes.

The only really negative things I can say, is that it is once again, far far FAR too short. This is a problem I have with many shooters, they all rely far too heavily on the multiplayer side of things. Where I being an old school RPG fan, like going solo. Ahem. As far as a shooter goes, it offers a lot more than your Call of Duty’s “Let’s release the same game over and over again”, I was however, left yearning for a little more.

I was also disappointed that I couldn’t play as some characters; sure I get to play as Grimlock, and VERY briefly, as Swoop. But I wanted to play as all of them. There may be a chance to use them in multiplayer as DLC later down the line (as the booklet would have me believe) but this is something I feel should have been available in the game from day one.

Overall, I found this game a delicious layered cake of nostalgic awesome with a slight bitter sweet aftertaste of disappointment. This game is worth playing, without a doubt. However there is no hiding from the fact that you will enjoy it more if you’re into the Transformers franchise. You see, its like coming over to a friends house to watch the new Spiderman movie, it may be interesting, look great, and be an entertaining jaunt, but unless you’re interested in that universe, you just won’t believe it’s as good as all your friends believe. I would love to say this game is an instant 100% but I’d be lying to myself and anyone reading this (yes both of you.) The game has come on a lot since the first instalment, but still has a long way to go to reach Transformer perfection. I enjoyed playing it and will return to it, likely time and time again for the multiplayer, and occasionally to enjoy the campaign again.

Till all are one.

Respawn in… 5 score: 87%

 

@Guestyunplugged

Max Payne 3: Review

When first I was told that a THIRD Max Payne was readying itself to perforate the realms of existence, I met the concept with vague intrigue. Intrigue, but also nonchalance and expectationless acceptance. The first was an irrevocable staple in my gaming history, one of the few games I used to own on PC, when I was (still) playing Half Life and trying to survive for longer than forty seconds on Counter Strike. I’d sit absorbing every word of Max Payne’s over-blown, hyperbolic yet incessantly poetic narrative, before slow-mo jumping down a flight of stairs emptying several clips of uzi into anything that moved. Especially the book case. And not necessarily the bad guys.

Whilst I gave the first game the time and attention such a world beater clearly deserves, the kind of pathological dedication usually reserved for the mentally unsuitable, the second was one of those I never got round to really throwing myself at. Perhaps because by that point my computer laughed, spluttered and wheezed when I casually dropped the idea of games into conversation, and because I didn’t want to play it on PS2, as that would be akin to watching Danny Dyer on telly and expecting not to suddenly attempt to tear off your own finger nails with a spoon half way through. A b-line to disappointment. And pain. So I played bits of it, but nothing close to the hours I’d poured into Max’s first peculiarly versed adventure.

Soon after being informed of Max Payne 3’s eminent birth, and soon after the handful of shrugs I warranted that news with, I was introduced to the Max Payne 3 Design and Technology videos. And I fell off my seat. So much so I wrote a barely legible, hurriedly excited scrawl about it right here on this site. In typical Rockstar fashion, it seemed like they’d taken every aspect of the core mechanics and brought them thundering into this generation with such awe-inspiring accuracy that it knocked several onlookers to the ground, injuring three children and an elderly citizen.

Well. They did that.

Although as far as I’m aware, nobody was physically injured in the process.

 

The opening hour of Max Payne 3 is a thoroughly rehearsed exercise in making you feel like an utter incomparable badass. And the rest takes that idea and barges you through a pane of glass as it runs with it.

From the opening cinematic it’s clear that Max Payne 3 is the alcohol soaked tale of noir-ish detective mystery and revenge that we were promised. Even the case looks like a mess. An angry, drunken mess. That demeanour that made the first so great is back, although you might not recognize it entirely. It’s certainly had a facelift, but every bit of that gritty overtone remains.

And the mechanics. A true achievement and a testament to Rockstar’s word, as, similar to the grounded, solid feel they claimed Max would have in those design and tech videos, the second you start playing, the system feels lithe and malleable, but proportionately weighted at the same time, and is constantly compelling to use. Watching Max scramble about as you manipulate the sticks is enough to get a nearby animator all flustered and moistened, from the way he throws himself into cover, to the post-bullet time rolling around on the ground, there’s something in the way you control Max that makes getting shot in the face no longer a problem, partly because it still looks cool, but also because it means you get to do that bit again. It’s these animations and worldly physics that take Max Payne 3 far beyond the confines of the typical third person shooter.

And speaking of sticks and control, my apprehensions about finally moving Max onto a console were null and void the moment the game planted me in control. Losing the mouse was something I was afraid to do for this series, but they’ve certainly found the balance; that sweet spot that makes it challenging but ultimately fun and instinctive to use, and sitting a third person game so well on the 360 pad is just another developer achievement.

With the glitzy Brazilian setting, we’re seeing Max a few years on, with the alcohol sodden tremors of the past still all too hauntingly habitual in his mind, he’s hired as a body guard to protect a family that ranks among the richest of the rich in Sao Paulo’s flashiest estates. We’re given a slew of playable flashbacks that send us back to the familiar streets of New York throughout the game to reconstruct the bits of the story that end up missing, and eventually uncovering a festering hive of hideous criminal activity deep in the Brazilian favelas, the underworld. From the flashy restaurants and bars of the first half of the game, to the suburban slums of the second, the environments are inescapably pretty, brilliantly constructed and ultimately believable, despite the abundance of carefully placed cover opportunities.

The action is absolutely relentless, as is the break-neck pace, which makes for hour after hour of bloody ratatating, complete with slo-motion jumps and dives and headshots, all punctuated by the final-kill bullet cam, which follows your last bullet as it soars through the air, splintering the face of the last goon in the room and framing his beautifully inert body as it drops to the floor dispensing blood like a ketchup-filled garden sprinkler.

One of the later flashbacks, involving a New York graveyard and a load of mob goons, is undoubtedly one of the most poetic and gymnastic bits of firefighting I’ve ever accomplished in any game ever, leaping around in slow motion amid a thunderous storm of bullets, the whole piece cushioned by a fitting and brilliant soundtrack. It’s really moments like that that make the game so inherently memorable, and a rollercoaster of air-punching segments that make you want to dodge dive out of your own window.

Whilst there’s been a few complaints circling the internet about the length of the game, they shockingly cite the main story as too long and too difficult. Max Payne 3 is certainly no four hour Call of Duty affair, and whilst it could be argued the battles become repetitive, Rockstar have accomplished a similar trick to the one they pulled with Red Dead Redemption, where just before you begin to wonder where it’s all heading, they reel you in for the big finish. And whilst I don’t claim to be especially good at any game, and in fact often lose to particularly tenacious inanimate objects, and even taking into account the last mission that is as tough as a conversation with any cast member of The Only Way is Essex; I managed it, and enjoyed it. So I couldn’t find equal faults where others had.

In fact, as a forty quid package, Max Payne 3 is worth every penny. The latest third person shooting technology makes it a joy to play and every gun fight an unholy, never-ending hail of slo-mo bullets, whilst the narrative makes it captivating and compelling and really bloody difficult to put down. And to top it all off, even the multiplayer isn’t bad. With its cleverly inter-twined bullet-time effects that only affect the gurgling morons in your field of vision when you engage it, it certainly makes for some interestingly paced online play, along with the mute button in the lobby.

For all that, I couldn’t find a bad word to say about Max Payne 3. That’s not to say it’s perfect, and certainly its more stylized, Earth-centric expressions shed the previous efforts’ intent on occasional sardonic humour, presumably that’s something to do with the modern era of typically terrible shooting games and marketing, but in no way does this distract from the game as a whole. A thoroughly enjoyable, must-play racket through the alcohol and painkiller-soaked tortures of Max Payne’s new life in the most glamorous parts of beautiful Brazil that are destined to drag him back into the only world he knows, the world in which he’s the hard-boiled, gritty cop that just can’t get enough jumping down flights of stairs.

And if my word isn’t enough for you, try Kerrang Radio’s Alex Baker on for size:

                                             “HAVE I PLAYED IT? MATE I LOVE IT!!!”

This is another fine feather in the cap, Rockstar. Well done.

Mass Effect 3: Review

Somebody, and I’m not mentioning any names, chiefly because I don’t know who it was, told me that the first Mass Effect game wasn’t very good. And they lied to me. Through their shiny, Satan-gifted liar-teeth. That’s right, I’m throwing personal opinion, judgement and individual perspective right out of the window here, because I didn’t play the first Mass Effect up until last year, and the release of its sequel I met with an indifferent, limp-armed attempt to move it out of the way of the TV.

 

But eventually, somewhere along the line, I was convinced to try it. And like many that had come before, it consumed me to the point that I couldn’t be expected to do things like go to work, or cook or stand up.

 

The first Mass Effect had a narrative clearly written by some sort of deity, in many ways it brought back an almost dormant feeling of progressive excitement. When, piece by piece, your passage through a story-driven game involves you uncovering a secret, a mystery, and its revelation is woven into the plot with the loving attention of a pathological cardigan manufacturer. A genius in climactic narrative design that takes some truly epic moments usually reserved for cutscenes, and plants you right in the middle of fighting your way up the outside of a space station as an impossible deathrobot and his brainwashed friends attack. It was breathtaking.

 

The second game then, brought with it a sense of grounded controllability that meant Mass Effect would really compete with third person shooters, as well as sci-fi RPGs, and it bridged the original game’s storyline across yet more cavernous troves of questionable descent. It didn’t work out quite as well, speaking solely in regards to the plot, but it was an adrenaline-encumbered slice of gaming grandeur that earned the series a place in many gamer’s hearts through and through.

 

So on to the third and final instalment then, and this one I met with the unquenchable anticipation of Justin Bieber’s prospective executioner. Or, someone.

 

In the trilogy-by-numbers book of How to Make an RPG, Mass Effect 3 is every bit the THREE you’d expect. Refining those gameplay mechanics that made the second so enjoyable and painting over the HUD a bit, whilst reinventing a few of the more general core aspects. The scanning of planets for resources? Yep, as with each game in the series, it’s been tweaked to be slightly more of a cumbersome inconvenience.

 

The controls feel similarly responsive, though the added ability to do a dramatic directional roll mapped to ‘A’ alongside the usual ‘run/sit behind a rock/open a door’ does often leave Shepard leaping and bounding around next to scenery instead of running away from it/cowering under it/correctly using it as an inter-spacial-segregation-divide.

 

Meanwhile the visuals are of course, lovely. Especially the character models of your culturally and aesthetically diverse friends, who are, naturally, all in for the jaunt. Or mostly. The ones who aren’t dead anyway. Environments are spectacular, and your intergalactic adventures are all offset by the series’ trademark heterogeneously mesmeric, colourful planets detailed with their own three-book novelistic background and the funny statues to prove it. The sight of full-scale Reapers sat happily on the horizon in amongst your interplanetary adventures is one that never gets less jaw-dropping.

 

SO.

 

My third Mass Effect outing didn’t exactly start smoothly, in fact, it started with a big ol’ jagged ‘angry refusal to put the game back in the tray’. Why? Because I’m over-actively irritated by pretty much anything these days? Well, yes, but also because my character, my Shepard, my long standing, two-game spanning hero WOULDN’T COPY to ME3.

 

Yes, the issue that plagued Bioware’s inbox before anybody had even started the game, never mind finished it, shone its irksomely angled light right in my eyes. After an abrupt and stubborn refusal to ever look at the game again, I eventually tried my hand at recreating my trusty old hideous Shepard.

 

My customized Shepard looks like he’s attempted to bludgeon his own face into the shape of a downward arrow with a bookend, and oddly that effect wasn’t too hard to recreate. I settled it in my own mind by concluding he’d change a bit, naturally, over time. Right? Right?? He would. He totally would.

 

I couldn’t stay mad at Mass Effect for long anyway. Similar to putting on the second game for the first time, half an hour in and Mass Effect 3 had re-enthralled my senses in every manner, suckered back into its enigmatic universe like a Krogan to a UV light. Or a barely sensical joke to this review.

 

From the off, you’re on a mission to literally unite the galaxy, forging alliances, wiping out entire species, meeting old friends and inviting creepy ‘uncanny valley’ victims onto your ship to be suspiciously familiar embedded journalists along the way.

 

It’s a riot. And whatever anybody says about the ending, the journey and the destination are two distinct, different faculties with ME3, and I enjoyed every second of my time traversing the universe, interacting with its inhabitants, visiting its strange and wonderful worlds and uncovering its mysteries. By and large, it is a must-play experience.

 

Even the multiplayer, which I only bothered trying due to the game’s inexplicable convolution in regards to upping your GALACTIC READINESS rating (if you’re confused about this, ask in the comments and I’ll explain… God knows Bioware aren’t going to do it) I actually enjoyed. As opposed to pitting you against other players online, you’re simply given a horde mode. Or firefight. Or whichever prestigious series you want to imagine spearheaded the rehash phenomenon. You’re fighting waves of AI enemies, completing simple missions (defend this, attack that one poor guy, hack this node etc etc) and the fact your successful excursions count toward an element in the main game actually makes it worthwhile, if slightly annoying when you realize this confluency of modes, moments before you’re about to embark on the final mission.

 

Here’s the hinge though. I’d find it invariably difficult to recommend Mass Effect 3 to someone who hadn’t played the first two games. And by invariably difficult, I mean I wouldn’t. At all.

 

For all EA’s press-garnering arm flailing, pointing excitedly in the direction of this third game, that the other two were ‘just a build-up to’, and is a ‘perfect entry point for new-comers to the series’, Mass Effect 3’s real appeal, the heart and soul that drives the player to the point of complete immersification, which isn’t even a word, is the universe and experiences the character, your character, has grown up with. The allegiances made, the friends and enemies divided, evil aliens sentenced to death or allowed passage to alternative universes, and secrets discovered, the references to events fondly remembered by those who have fought at the very clashes in question. The fleeting appearance of Major Kirrahe brought an actual redolent smile to my face; Garrus, one of the game’s most likeable, memorable and all-together excellent characters, spends half his time reminiscing about old battles won and lost and the friendship that has formed, been tested and reinforced between your Shepard and himself. If you don’t have that emotional bond with the world’s characters, and as such don’t receive these imperatively superb slices of narrative in such a way, Mass Effect loses its main hook. The chorus. The lead vocal. The gaming equivalent of listening to The Enemy. The musical equivalent of severing your own ears with a bicycle pump.

 

To be totally honest, I’m unsure just how to put this last bit into words. Without a doubt, Mass Effect 3 is an unmitigated rollercoaster of emotional circuitousness, a culmination of the effort, of the work that has gone into your previous games. At times, it feels like you’re watching a montage of famous ‘call-to-arms-to-the-death-or-glory’ film speeches that make you shout at the TV and scare other people in the living room.  But more than that, it’s a world with which to immerse, engross and lose yourself in. I’ve tried my utmost to skim past the finer details, because the less you know about the twists and turns of this epic, the deeper you’ll fall into the allure of Mass Effect’s inspiring, evocative universe.

 

So, if you’re going to embark on this prestigious voyage, do it right. Get the first two, read everything, talk to every NPC, do every mission. Then, and only then, do Mass Effect 3.

 

Oh and the ending? That’s a different story altogether. Regardless, you need to play Mass Effect.

 

 
Rob Vicars

Batman: Arkham City Review

HOLY GAMING DREAM COME TRUE BATMAN!

If you were able to read my preview article on this game, you’ll understand I wasn’t exactly dreading Batman: Arkham City’s release unto the world. But here, right here, is an ACTUAL review, and due to me covering the premise of the game in said preview, I can take a little more time going on and on about what exactly Rocksteady have done to be able consume my life so effectively with their latest release.

So, Batman: AC takes an interesting turn straight off the bat, ‘Arkham City’, the expansion of the Asylum prison into a full, cordoned off area of Gotham, is in full effect, and all of the city’s most evil and feared are all rounded up into one, EVIL district. But Batman isn’t there out of choice, his alter ego Bruce Wayne has been incarcerated into the very facility. He comes face to face with Hugo Strange, a man who knows Batman’s true identity and the perpetrator of the building of Arkham City . He speaks of something called “Protocol 10”, throws you into the arms of Penguin’s thugs, and then you’re on your own. This was a great way to start the game off, already you’re buzzing with questions and in the deep end of the pool of jeopardy, with only the basic gadgets you had from the last game to offer buoyancy.

The gameplay itself feels almost flawless this time around; somehow improving on the near-seamless experience that was Asylum. You have so many ways to travel around the city, although the fastest way (like in most cases) is to fly. Simply use the grappling hook to scale a building in unprecedented time, take a leap of faith and let your cape and stupid gravity do the rest. To speed up, all you’ve got to do is free fall and pull up before hitting the ground. This, the first time you use it, is tricky to pull off to any impressive effect, but stay patient with it, because once you have, hot DAMN do you feel awesome, your cape begins to feel like an extension of your own body. You feel a lot less confined, and it seems easier to leave your foes wondering where you’ve scampered off to, should you realise you haven’t nearly enough health to take on their fire power. It’s the way Batman is always supposed to have been, surveying the night’s streets from the view of some ferocious looking gargoyle.

The combat has a received a jolly bit of finely tuning as well, in the last game, whilst fun it felt almost too easy. Hit x. Again. Again. Again. Now Y. This time it feels like everything is knitted together so much better. You’ll take on a group of three thugs and think, “that was pretty cool”, but when you take on 20 or so, you pull off all sorts of moves that make you shit your pants and believe in God. Apologies for the bluntness, but it feels that way. It becomes so intoxicating that you pray for a large group of henchmen to come and assault you, carrying that unholstered arrogance in knowing that not one of them is going to be walking home. Your counters are so much more impressive, nothing gives you a thrill bigger than seeing three counter indicators pop up around your head. The moves just flow from one to the other so seamlessly that you’ll run the risk of being hit simply by being mesmerised by the onscreen action. On the flip side however, you have to be very careful to watch that you don’t become too excited, because if you hit attack or counter and there is nothing to hit, you lose your entire combo, which almost takes away from the fun you were having. It’s a strategic affair, coercing you to watch what’s happening and react specifically and accordingly, which is what you have to do if you want to look like a badass. Which you do. The integration of quick triggers, shortcuts for your gadgets, feels very polished, and allows you to maintain your combo and take out a couple more of the assailants if you’re becoming overwhelmed. These combat improvements have actually made me want to do the combat challenge maps, something I veered from in Asylum. It’s an aspect of the game that really keeps you thinking, “OK, just one more hour.”

The stealth element comes into full swing here too, whereas previously the stealth levels became so repetitive you really didn’t fancy taking them on anymore. Whilst you are going up and up and up through your levels, the thugs get almost as kitted out as you to try and bring your fancy-dressed ass down. We’re talking heat vision goggles, a signal interferer to take out your detective mode, all sorts of tomfoolery. It means you have to think smarter, you can’t just sit on top of the gargoyles and do inverted take downs over and over again. This creates a much more rewarding feel to the entire stealth aspect. My only real complaint is that during the main game stealth levels, even with these suped up convicts, it can be just a bit too easy; the only times I died were when I became impatient and decided to experiment with a couple of particularly risky moves. Within the challenge maps however, you can set different hindrances to make it that much harder, such as an impenetrable attribute that moves from villain to villain. So if you feel the stealth in the game isn’t giving you the challenge you’ve been hoping for, just jump into the challenge maps for more behind the shadows fun. And I don’t mean that in a Roman Polanski kind of way. Or do I.

Arkham City really feels never ending at points, with so many high-ranking super villains wandering around, the wealth of dynamically appearing side missions and the AR training challenges, you end up doing a juggling act to try and keep on top of everything. At one point, I was heading to the museum to solve a riddle a Riddler informant mentioned to me in passing whilst we were discussing the political ramifications of the conflicting Governments of Gotham; but due to pesky phones ringing, assassinations and faceless corpses, it took me two hours. So if you just perform the main story missions, I imagine you’ll charge through the game in a handful of hours, but where’s the fun in that? I set out to try and do as much of this game as possible, and was greatly rewarded, by seeing Mr Freeze, Penguin, Deadshot, Mad Hatter, hell, I even found Scarecrow’s hide out. This is a game that rewards you in exploration, in digging a little deeper. The Catwoman levels offer up even more substance and an interesting change of pace. I enjoyed her combat and stealth levels, but if I’m being honest, I hated moving through the city as her, it seemed so much more of a pain, you can’t just whip to the top of a building, you have to whip part way up, and climb. You don’t have the ability to glide, to have to hope a building is near by to grab onto. Now this was very much accurate to how Catwoman would do things, but to me, it took away from the momentum I’d had building throughout the rest of the game prior to her levels. It was a great addition as far as adding variety, but I found the moving from one part of the city to another as her hard to gel with.

Over all, Arkham City has improved on a game that, essentially, wasn’t in desperate need of improving anyway. It’s expansive by acres and somehow more poignant. The leap to an open-world dynamic is a difficult one, and it’s easy for such a game to become diluted amongst an avalanche of disorientated options. City doesn’t do that, it keeps tight hold of its assets, assures you see it all, rewards you for your inquisitive, explorative nature and wraps the whole package up in a thrilling narrative and ‘liquid combat’ infused gameplay. It has made the combat feel so slick and fluid that you want to make it harder for yourself, the stealth are even sneakier, and the riddler trophies a damn site harder. I must say, I loved tracking down that green rat, but was disappointed that after taking out all of the riddles, trophies and breakable objects and didn’t receive an achievement, but hey, maybe I’m just being petty. Overall if you’re after batnerdgasming yourself into an early grave, this game is for you. If you like to throw yourself into a challenge when you think you’ve done it all (‘Newgame+’, the option unlocked after your first completion, lets you do just that – it hurts.) Click that “Buy Now” button on all good websites. Whatever your juxtaposition with game-related mayhem this Holiday season, Arkham City is worthy of a place in literally everyone’s game collection. Ever. Get it on your Christmas list.

Respawn in…5 Score 96%


Mark Guest

Wireless Speed Wheel: Accessory Review

Whilst this article is largely about the supplement to Forza 4, the arbitrary accessory that’s got everybody’s lips forming widely-spaced, aghast shapes, the wacky, wireless, whimsical racing wheel, I’ve taken the time to also include an in-depth Forza 4 review. Here it is:

Buy it.

Happy? Good. If you have even a passing interest in racing games, that is, realistic racing games, then there is nothing better. And that is the length and breadth of that argument. One which I might take up with you another time, for, as previously mentioned, today, we’re discussing the WIRELESS SPEED WHEEL.

Several months ago a Microsoft rep brandished a picture of the accused accessory in my face with the vivacity and enthusiasm of an excitable child. I reacted in the very manner one should always react with when faced with an excitable child, dismissing his badgering with a wave, before drowning him in a nearby water feature.

Undeniably, the first time you lay your eyes upon the wheel you laugh and presume whoever has shown it to you is joking. Of course, they’re not, and the idea of using a wireless steering wheel, a Mario Kart accessory, on the stern-faced, knife-edge simulation that is Forza 4 is like hearing that our military’s armoury has been replaced with water pistols and feather dusters, and their new initiative is to entertain the Taliban to death.

Risky metaphors aside, I specifically remember being offended when the idea was suggested to me and I’m sure you, upstanding reader of Respawn in 5, would have felt the same.

One thing lead to another however and I ended up with one in my possession. SO. What is it like? Does it work at all? Does it turn Forza’s suit and shades into a clown costume? We’ve given it a good, hard playtest and even got some forza newbies and some forza oldbies in to really put it through its paces. Nice eh. Don’t say we never do anything for you.

The first thing you need to know is it’s smaller than it looks in all the promo pictures, and as such, is an ergonomic dream. It fits snugly in your hands, and the slightly questionable shape has none of the negative draw backs you imagine when you see it beforehand. The face buttons on the right hand side are downsized to sit right where you need them, and the triggers are flatter and wider than their controller counter-parts, making them perfect for easing that acceleration in and progressive braking. Better yet, when you do use the triggers, the green halo lights that edge either handle glow, proportionate to the intensity you’re pressing down with. It’s like Christmas. Only faster.

With an air of slight veneration after finally getting to grips with the wheel, the meat of the show lies, of course, with how it changes Forza. And the very first thing it does is dispel the wishy-washy premonitions you’re likely to have had initially. Mario Kart this is not.

The gyros encased within the wheel are balanced with the idea of turning a steering wheel. Even simply moving left to right as you burn off the starting grid (as seemingly everybody does) instantly attunes your senses to the accuracy of the wheel, despite it being wireless.

After giving it a thorough test, initially finding it like writing with my right hand, eventually overcoming the learning curve, and in the end I actually found myself preferring to use the wheel in some instances. With the controller, getting those corners just right can be a case of adjusting your steering bit by bit. With the wheel, it’s possible to get a clean, smooth turn to successfully pull off corners, and when you do that, it feels great.

From the eyes of a hardened Forza and racing game specialist, the wheel added that extra sense of ability, once you were used to its nuances, opposed to the controller. Opposite to that, for a Forza newbie, whose experience with racing games in general was comparably minimal, it provided a new sort of physical feedback, and largely removed the slight monotony that simulators have to the less-invested.

Whilst it’s far from a flail your arms about Wii-a-like accessory, it still doesn’t really compare to the tactile immersion a real racing wheel, with steering column and pedals, would contribute to the experience, and for the true fanatical, it’s unlikely to be the low-price salvation on the road to real racing glory.

But if you’re not in the market to spend £100 upwards on racing gear, and looking to extend your Forza experience, then this surprising accessory cannot be recommended enough.

Or can it. Let me try.

I recommend you buy this.

Think that did the trick actually. In fact, I could have just stuck with that sentence all along.

Anybody else tried it? Has it enriched your racing career as it has ours? Or are you left strongly disagreeing with every word Rob just tapped out, likely staring with increasing incredulousness at the centre of your screen before popping a blood vessel in your eye and spending the night in A&E?

What were we talking about again?

Lego: Pirates of the Caribbean Review

You sit at home play Lego? You really need to find yourself a girl, mate.

I think it really goes without saying that the Lego series of games are an awful lot like a case of herpes, when it may seem like it’s gone forever and you can move on, it’s really only a matter of time until it finds a new strain of micro-organisms so it can return, just as tenacious as before. However the Lego games are a lot more welcome, and a lot less disgusting, excluding maybe Lego Harry Potter. So yes, this time the lovely gents and lasses at TellTale games have wrangled Captain Jack and friends to take you on a highly alternative journey through the four films, filled with imagination. The problem with reviewing a Lego game, is it never differs terribly from any of the previous Lego games, but god damn it I’m going to try.

If you’re unsure on how the Lego games work then quite clearly video games aren’t your thing, you might well play sports, and shower with other like minded people and you’re kind of on the wrong website. But allow me to offer a brief synopsis. Like the other Lego games made from Tt, this has been designed to allow you to experience a pop culture film series in the form of plastic toys with interchangeable limbs and heads. It also means that it works from a more comical sense as opposed to getting the storyline like for like. The main reason to play a Lego game is to bring back delicious nostalgia. Either for the franchise its recreated, or for the days when Lego was the only thing you had to play with. This game is no different.

What I have always loved about playing any of the Lego games is the little things you notice, like how certain popular aspects of the game have been constructed. Such as vehicles. You can see how it would work as a toy, while maybe some aspects have been cheated, you can see the dedication to the whole idea of Lego, creating a super complex toy with something so simple. This game offers a similar trait of important character selection. Certain characters can do certain things. Jack uses his compass, Will throws knives, and for some reason as usual, all the women can jump in the air, I’ve never really understood how that works, but there we go.

One aspect of this game I didn’t like was the dual split-screen mode it offers in co-op. Previously, before the advent of Lego Indiana Jones 2, the Lego games would let you share the screen, wander too far from your partner and it would zoom out, meaning sticking together would really be useful so you didn’t miss too much. However in these latest versions of the game, you share the screen, but when you wander away it splits in the weirdest way, with a black bar which shifts around the screen depending on your position from the other player, it then tries to meld the two screens in a seamless manner, however, this kind of plays a weird trick on your eyes. Like looking directly at Simon Cowell’s teeth.

Once again, a massive positive point to Lego POTC is the achievements, the majority of them being quotes from the films. Seeing “hello, poppet” pop up in that annoying little box that always positions itself in the single worst place ever was a better feeling than the time I went to Disneyland. In fairness, there was a big breakout of E-coli when I went to Disneyland, a lot people died. Very sad.

It would be a pointless endeavour to try and discuss the negative points too heavily, as the positive points always make it worth playing. Even something like the replay value, there are so many little tasks hidden amongst the main story line you’ll drive yourself insane trying to complete them all. And the fact you get to play every level in “free play” without any restrictions set by the story line makes it feel like an all-new game again.
This is one of my shortest reviews, but come on, it’s a Lego game. What else is there to discuss?

Respawn in… 5 score : 87%

Duke Nukem: Forever Review

In 1997 someone mentioned they were making Duke Nukem: Forever. That’s an entire FOURTEEN years ago. That’s right. ENTIRE. Not a second missing. The problem with delayed games is their hype. The problem with delayed Duke Nukem games, is that no one can remember what was happening fourteen years ago.

But that’s not quite as derogatory as it sounds. Allow me to explain why Duke ISN’T the smiling apologist for a decade’s worth of video game rubbish. That was ISN’T. You hear? IS NOT.

If you’re one of these internet readers, you’ll likely have noticed the abominably low dredge of scores that are being hauled in for DN:F this week. It’s become something of a talking point for the various relevant corners of internet discussion. Why oh WHY is a game that took fourteen years to hit the shelves such an insufferable disappointment.

There are, in fact, two reasons.

Number 1. The reason a game, that took fourteen years to hit the shelves, is such an insufferable disappointment is because it took fourteen years to hit the shelves. Even if DN:F had been the splintering edge of modern gaming everyone inexplicably expected it to be, it wouldn’t have been good enough. The kind of hype and expectation a game amasses over such a long period of time far outweighs anything it could actually amount to. Look at GT5.

And with this being over a decade, a development time that outlived a generation of consoles, the majority of components and ideas were changed several times. But not all of them. They changed all sorts, the engine, the team, by and large the amount of digital nudity, but there are some things here that irrevocably seemed to stay the same.

That many changes, and that many half-jobs, with different developers picking up other developers half-finished work is going to have pretty dramatic effects on the final, overall package. Effects that will likely claw up decade-old issues, mixed with fancy new technology to make a bizarre Frankenstein-esque zombie of a game.

But so far this is just a list of excuses. The meat of the show is exemplified in this second point.

Number 2. Duke Nukem was never a good game. And if you think it was, you need to play something else. Quickly.

Whilst people amass expectations over a long period of time, they also manage to forget things they used to know. Things like the original Duke Nukem games were rubbish. Certainly console efforts like Time to Kill, but yes including Duke Nukem 3D. It stood apart for its humour, and interactivity with the environment, but it was a daft shooting game at its core with a crass, titular testosterone-bulging protagonist, who was about as likable as getting stabbed.

And this never went away, because ladies and gentlemen Duke Nukem: Forever is not a good game. The animation is poor, some of the textures are highly questionable and the build mechanic feels like the world is held together by matchsticks and those tiny rolls of tape.

But in that essence, DN:F is charming. Charming because it is bad like the old ones were, funny like the old ones were, ridiculous like the old ones were. The gameplay sends echoing reminders of days when games weren’t the trillion-dollar budget raking film-fests they are now.

Genuinely, the idea that Duke Nukem: Forever was going to be some sort of time-altering, life-affirming ripple that would staple the games industry a different place for ever is baffling. It’s like there being mass outrage when Cooking Mama 3 hit the shelves because it was lacking character development, and the level structure was poor.

Seemingly Gearbox kind of picked up DNF and put it on the shelves, made it playable and put to rest one of gaming’s longest running parodies. Far from any sign of technical extremities or innovative leaps, DN:F is good for one thing, a slightly amusing, ridiculous, over-blown blast that it is entirely possible to love.

If you’re anticipating the latest in modern shooters, a Call of Duty with somehow less likeable characters, then you’ll be heavily disappointed with Duke Nukem. I, however, had no such expectation, and with that, I’m largely enjoying revisiting the insane, nonsensical adventures of Captain Dribble and his limited vocabulary. And with the same mind-set, you will too.

It’s Duke Nukem. What were you expecting? …Baby.

Portal 2 Review

You know, I’m pretty sure I’d have beat level 14 of Silent Bomber had I had a delightfully accented comedian guiding me through the game. I didn’t though, and as such Level 14 still haunts me like a giant floating illuminated ‘14’ sign that cackles when you try to shoo it away.

Fortunately though, Portal 2 provided me with the aching stardom of RICKY GERVAIS’ MATE to softly literate my short comings and point out the screaming obvious with his incessant quips. And it worked. Well probably. I don’t know that it actually helped in any way, but what I do know is that the opening five minutes of Portal 2 had me guffawing like the easily amused chubby man in the pub more so than any game I can recall. Although Giants: Citizens Kabuto might have come close.

And I’m not even talking the kind of accidental hilarity lots of games portray without ever meaning to. If you’ve ever watched Ladder Goat you’ll understand what I mean by that. Character’s doing things they’re not supposed to with hilarious consequences. Sometimes it’s the writing. Every line in the Metal Gear Solid series, perhaps (with the greatest of respect). But Portal WANTS it to be funny. And it definitely, definitely is.

So with Stephen Merchant taking the reigns as helpful AI Personality Core Wheatley, you jump back into the shoes of Chell, star of the first omnipotent Portal game. After several years in cryostorage, wherein the Aperture Facility has become over run with decay, Chell is awoken by Wheatley, who intends to help her escape. A daring removal of her cryostorage unit ends in the pair reawakening the dormant GLaDOS. And she’s mildly annoyed.

Of course, one particularly poignant difference between Portal 2 and its predecessor, is the more evident storyline. Whilst the first was more than happy to let you sidle on through its test chambers admiring the Apple-like aesthetics and trying to coax to Turrets into conversation before finally attempting escape, Portal 2 introduces new characters, new settings and takes you through the history of the Aperture facility on a journey loaded full of references to the first game and the Half Life series it takes place within.

The twists and turns of the story itself are good. The writing is brilliant. Paced, hilarious, solid and charming at every leap. Genuinely gripping, less in the sense of high-octane-shoot-stuff-rip-your-shirt gripping, more a case of, what will Aperture throw at you next, and just how have you ended up partnered with a potato.

It is visually a treat, and not just in a watch me flex my ripped graphical capabilities kind of way (I don’t know) The environments are impressive, be that the first time you recognize an overgrown chamber from the first game, now looking more like the aftermath of a party involving Boris Johnson and the contents of a green house, or gapping at the unimaginable vastness of the structures you encounter visiting the original Aperture test sites. There are warning signs and environmental touches littered about the place that magnificently capture the charming, tongue in cheek nature of the game.

That in mind, Portal 2 is a game to take in. Like a wandering homeless cat scratching at your door. Or a large t-shirt. And whilst neither of those analogies bare any relevance to the statement, or even make sense, rushing through this game will leave you feeling empty, disgusting and dead inside. Stop, take it all in, look at the environment. Marvel at the enormous cavern you just portalled across, read all the signs, refuse to do as Wheatley instructs and listen to him splurge more funniness all over the screen. Do it, and get the most out of your game. For reals.

If you’re a Portal veteran, and have braved several of the Advance Maps from the first, you’ll likely glide over Portal 2 in a couple of sittings. It isn’t the largest or most difficult game. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, which is preferable to having a fourteen hour game with ten of those being utter gutter dribble, and whilst the difficulty is invariably easier, you’ll still marvel with delight at the true unstoppable genius you must be when you complete a tricky one. Reminiscent of Little Big Planet, Portal has this level design that just makes you smile. And that smile will turn into a grin. And that grin into a chuckle. And that chuckle into a huge, booming, floor-thundering laugh. Probably.

Co-op is an entirely separate affair. It has its own story, areas and characters. All are as delightful as the single player components, but in their own, new, co-operative sort of way. Whilst I haven’t splintered the co-op mode with quite the same pathological insanity as the main game (which is because not only do I despise inane babbling children on the internet, I also hate all of my friends) what I have tried works brilliantly. Each level is specifically engineered to require you to work together, and all come packaged with that Einstein-level victorious feeling upon completion, urging you on to the next one. Oh, and those robots you play as are brilliant too. The one called P-Body’s a little unnerving at times mind.

We like Valve for many reasons. One day maybe we’ll tell you about them. Right now, the only thing on your mind should be getting out there, purchasing your copy of Portal 2 and spending the next few hours soaring through the air like an incredulous inter-spacial ball of confusion, hurtling through the laws of gravity like Richard Hammond driving a Segway through a loop-the-loop. So there.

Brink Review

Brink is a Greggs lunch. It looks delicious. An unmitigated tray of salacious gaming prospects laying sizzling under that glass counter waiting for you to devour them all in the most animalistic, and above all disgusting way possible. Disgusting. That’s you. You’re disgusting.

On top of that, it even smells good, and all those shiny hanging banners depicting people scarily overjoyed to be holding in their very grasp an unfathomably delectable looking steak bake, only make the temptation grow increasingly unbearable. Above all though the Greggs lunch holds one, always consistent, omnipotent, undeniable feather on the wing of its commemorative pigeon. Disappointment. And Brink? Brink is disappointing too.

Just so you know, Bethesda, to over sell a game is to cause impossible damage to it. And boy did you do that. You sold me Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory, and gave me a Kinder Surprise. That’d been trodden on. By Chris Moyles. In fairness that’s a little harsh. Chris Moyles would have surely eaten a stray Kinder Egg. But to drag ourselves away from yet another food based metaphor, and to put it bluntly, Brink is teeming, bursting at the edges of its vibrantly coloured box, with potential. But that’s about it.

What Bethesda’s class bass shooter appeared to be, and what it actually is aren’t a million acres apart. The problem is, it does those things it promised, but it does them wrong.

The premise is an aforementioned class based shooter, with as much emphasis on completing objectives as actually piercing the exaggerated faces of the opposing team with hot lead. More so perhaps. There’s no sign of your team deathmatch here, it’s all a defend this, blow up that, hack into this, escort that guy, kind of affair. And whilst it might sound like I’ve merely covered the online play in that sentence, that is infact the single player too. Sort of. Allow me to explain.

There are three modes in Brink, Campaign, FreePlay and Challenge. Campaign levels are punctuated on either side with short cutscenes that are apparently some vague indicator the game actually has a story line. Freeplay allows you to set up a game with your own objectives and parameters, whilst Challenge, shockingly, confronts you with several set pieces, each with its own theme and the premise of wasting your t- sorry, developing your skills.

Each mission has an attacking team and a defending team, essentially, and those teams are populated by either the real deal, flesh and bones, utterly insufferable git foundation of the entire world (online) or by computer controlled bots that nine times out of ten would be outwitted in a battle situation by a set of Homebase own-brand garden furniture (offline).

The issue offline arises from the bare bones style gameplay, a handful a side, red Vs blue, Resistance Vs Security, and success is all on the structural integrity of the team. And your team, whichever side they may be, simply aren’t up to the job, spending most of their time running backwards into oncoming gunfire, wandering off to questionably discrete locations of the map by themselves, and saying ‘excuse me ma’am’ to bits of scenery they happen to have walked into. Above all, they concentrate on the most menial objective, as opposed to the single main one that is required to finish the level. It’s like trying to play with a team of easily distracted poultry. Except with more clucking. Somehow.

For a game that advertises its ‘parkour’-enabled engine, the SMART system, as its big middle-8, the interlude, the sing along part that makes you nod in coerced agreement, it sure seems like they forgot they’d promised us that bit until the last five minutes. There are two games that might spring to mind when you say ‘parkour’ or ‘free running’, or ‘pretentious non-sport’, and they are naturally, Mirrors Edge, and Assassin’s Creed. Whilst both do it differently, and have individual styles of gameplay to marry the element to, they both pull it off, arguably, impressively lithely. Brink does not.

It’s a fumbled implementation that works to some degree initially, but manages to dispel any idea of fluency by way of its own Parkour Challenge mission. Oddly, a perfect example of how often it doesn’t work quite the way they told us it would. Agreed, both aforementioned games fall into similar pits frequently as well, but when you get it right in say, Assassin’s Creed, it feels natural, and compelling. It’s fun. It’s simply not as thorough or fluid in Brink. That said, other than that particular parkour mission, there’s no absolute necessity to use it elsewhere.

Online is where the game finally starts to fit into that tight suit that Bethesda managed to convince the press to stitch together for it. At the very least, your team are making a slightly more significant and concerted effort to accomplish the essential tasks, and if you can get a few mates who actually want to play the game in to the fray too, you’ll definitely get the most out of it.

You can switch between classes during matches to complete certain tasks, but deciding between your friends who will do what, and making on the fly decisions to lock down several objectives can be a menial bakery full of fun, and when you find a game that’s balanced, it finally feels like Brink is working the way it was supposed to.

To conclude, Brink feels like a Lionhead game. That’s not to say that it feels quirky and different. It’s to say we were lied to. Sort of. Don’t get us wrong, there is an excellent game buried within Brink’s shiny turquoise case, beneath the compelling curvature of its brilliant art style, further down than the flaws that sometimes seem to relentlessly mar the experience with a pathological intensity, lower even than the practically absent single player. Because when it works, it works well. The problem we find is that the main thing Brink does right, is done better by Team Fortress 2. So we’ll probably just play that. And put up with all the hats.

Respawn in …5 Score: 69%

Homefront: Review

I was immensely worried about Homefront. Nail-bitingly concerned. Like that sudden bolt of apprehension reserved especially for you realizing you’ve overslept something incredibly important. Like lunch. Or the moon landing. Or Katie Price having her hair cut. Thing is, this badgering anxiety didn’t come from the pre-release build up. Oh no. Nor did it come from the impressions of better gaming websites that’d already played it. Not even did it come from an MCV interview, in which THQ practically announced they were planning on invading Europe right after the game’s release, rolling in on tanks made of solid Richard Branson, wailing into megaphones about their upholstered success. Nope, not even an overbearing forecast from a typically questionable publisher could sway the promise I’d made myself about Homefront.

The source of all my doubt didn’t in fact come until my copy arrived. There it was, lying starkly on the desk, it’s cellophane wrapper gently reflecting a desk lamp, its neat packaging perforated by an intriguing cover. And on that cover there was a sticker.

ZOO – 9/10.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a handful of cat vomit smeared on the cover of my game over any recommendation the moron catalogue that is Zoo could offer up. I understand its entire readership to consist solely of congealing, gutter-gobbling idiots whose personality consists of enjoying football and tits and disliking anything that doesn’t involve either of the former two.

Ahem. Hauntingly questionable review’s aside, Homefront is a first person shooter full of promise. It has an excitingly malleable narrative concept that could pin the story in as many circumstances as it sees fit, they hired one of those PROFESSIONAL writers with accolades and everything, and whilst it has a difficult market to abseil into, it is also one not so difficult to differentiate yourself once you’re in. And that market is currently BEGGING for it. It’s got winning written all over it, and that’s not just because Charlie Sheen threw up on it.

So here’s the premise. Quickly. North and South Korea unite to form the Great Korean Republic, getting all full of themselves, they then try to take over the world. And to some extent they succeed. The game takes place about 20 years from now in Occupied America, the Koreans have long since rolled in and started to wreck up the place. They’re rounding up civilians and viciously slaughtering them, generally doing all sorts of no goodery. It’s all very Third Reich and so on. You play as part of the resistance, the citizens of America that aren’t standing by silently whilst Korea ruin all their stuff.
After being freed from the 1942-present day Auschwitz Tour Guide bus, you join a desperate struggle to deliver fuel to the US Army, fuel needed for an operation to win back the Golden Gate Bridge. Why not.

To me, this is a potentially solid and refreshing shooter, with a large hinge on its single player and storyline, the opportunity to further explore the ideas and ramifications of war through an up-to-date and technologically advanced video game. A breath of fresh life for a coughing and spluttering genre.

Regrettably though, Homefront isn’t any of those things.

What Homefront IS, is a Call of Duty fan pandering, band wagon jumping, fall in line shooter that you won’t be able to recall until they sneeze out the bitterly received sequel.

It amazes me how some games shamelessly get away with using the COD formula to such extents. The compass, the grenade indicator, the button layout, the ‘hit’ reticule, the weapons, the general presentation. All straight from the Activision book on How to Make a Fast Selling, Soulless First Person Shooter Pretty Fast. These aesthetic touches are the first indicator, however before long it is obvious the general pace, the flow of the gameplay is largely on a Call of Duty spinner, desperately trying to get itself some of that salacious audience.
I’m well aware developers feel they have to do this sort of thing if they are to survive, certainly in the current climate. But here that element is hugely noticeable, and there’s not enough of the game’s individuality for it to shine through. It’s like covering a Susan Boyle song. Except… wait no, nothing could be worse than that.

If you’re going to get one of these movie-types involved with your game, (John Millius also wrote Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn…) and then rake his name onto everyone’s eyeballs several times, it’d be an idea to get him to write more than about four lines of narrative. Bulletstorm was short, Killzone was short. Homefront is like watching a speeding single-carriage train tear by. Except less happens. The campaign will last you five hours at a push. On top of that, the characters have the individual personality of a potato peel, a potato peel that could probably do a more convincing job of the voice acting. Probably. And this was supposed to be the great leveller, the thing which made the game stand out from its current peers.

The gameplay elements transfer well to the multiplayer, if in a bit of a bog standard fashion. XP earnt in online matches can be spent instantly, allowing you to spawn in vehicles, or become better kitted out for your next go. It’s an interesting idea that, with the introduction of remote controlled drones and other gadgetry, is definitely a step forward. Enough to make it stand apart from Battlefield and COD online? No. But if you enjoyed either of those, you’ll get a good chunk of your money’s worth in Homefront online, and it’s definitely worth a look.

My initial reaction to Homefront was that it wasn’t actually bad. Just a little short-shaven in places. But it slowly occurred to me that it is bad. And it is bad because we shouldn’t have to put up with this copycat bandwagoning from publishers and developers who should be above diving into the unoriginal and uninspired for the sake of banging out another game. Homefront clearly takes influences from all over. Which is good. As well as Call of Duty, there are elements in the presentation of Fallout, there are no cutscenes as such, it’s all Half-Life-esque in-game occurrences. Rather than marrying these games’ unique ideas into a force of its own though, it merely made me want to play those other games instead.

THQ told us Homefront would spearhead a release schedule that would carry them into the esteemed land of the ‘Top 5’. They lied.

I desperately wanted Homefront to be everything I promised myself it would be. I lied.


Respawn in…5 Score – 63%

Homefront was developed by Kaos, published by THQ and is out now on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, RRP £39.99

Bulletstorm Review

I don’t need to explain why Bulletstorm is great. You’ll know if you’ve seen the advert, or if someone’s recently backed you into an awkward corner of conversation and brandished it at you aggressively wailing about skillshots or shooting people into the sky with fireworks. It doesn’t really matter though, because I’m going to anyway. So sit down and be quiet. Good.

Bulletstorm is a twisted invention clearly first conceived in some dream-like manly utopian world populated entirely by Chuck Norris and the Gunnery Sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. If you thought Gears of War or Killzone must have had testosterone literally punched into the game at every stage of development, you AIN’T SEEN NUTHIN’ YET.

Grayson Hunt, the game’s main protagonist, who’s about as likeable as a T4 presenter and almost as articulate, and his gang of incredibly lucid and gentlemanly Space Pirates attempt to take out their former, corrupt (and brilliant) General Sarrano, by kamikazing straight into his Space Mansion. The problem is said Super Space Cruiser is several thousand times larger than Hunt’s puny attacking thumbnail of a ship, and so it should have had as much effect as dribbling at a house fire.

That said they somehow manage to bring it down and the pair crash-land on planet Stygia, a delightful destination full of apocalyptically ruined architecture and crumbling cityscapes, populated by cantering, screaming insane idiots in masks. Or in simpler terms, a Potins Holiday. It is then your job to systematically eradicate the population of Stygia in the most inventive way possible, locate General Tossrag and beat seven shades of shinola out of him. Oh, and your sole surviving pirate friend is now half-robot. Simple eh.

Whilst every character in this game is clearly seven notes short of a tune, perhaps none more so than General Sarrano himself, whose main personality trait is hilariously inventive, made up swear words. It’s certainly more than a little odd having a treacherous, war-hardened, potty-mouthed teenager as an arch nemesis. That said, Sarrano’s variety and succinct ability to form a slur of obscenities out of ordinary phrases such as, ‘I say, would you perhaps wish to accompany me on an evening stroll’ is nothing short of genius. Certainly along with Hunt’s eloquent dialogue, including such rich and versatile reflections as ‘You scared the dick off me’.

Whilst, so far, this all probably sounds as appealing as licking a used dishcloth, it’s worth noting that somehow Bulletstorm actually manages to pull it off. Sure, all the characters are straight from the Vin Diesel school of How To Be A Snivelling Cock, but the game knows that. And as such, doesn’t take itself even an ounce seriously. Not even once. It continually parodies its own acute ridiculousness. I think. Epic created Bulletstorm fully aware of it being an overblown train wreck ride, and purposefully made it as outrageous and ridiculous as possible. And it’s all the better for it.

The gameplay revolves around ‘Skillshots’, which basically means the game gives you points depending on how inventively you can turn your Joey Jordison look-alike foes into something you’d feed to your cat. Some of these are inspired, most of the time you won’t even realize what you’ve done before the screen is scattered with points markers and there are little bits of leg stuck to the walls. A time-altering leash with which you can whip your enemies close before diluting their innards with some unfathomable piece of machinery, as well as allowing you to kick, make up your basic moves. Booting an enemy off a tall standing ledge really doesn’t get old.

That said then, the basic moves are a bit of a let-down, the amount of times there were no ambient environmental factors to indulge and so I would merely whip an enemy, boot him and then shoot him in the face. Admittedly, it takes a while for that sort of thing to get old, but it definitely happens. If there’d been a few more melee options it could have really sped up these slower sections of gameplay and made it slightly more fluid too.

A lot of the time you’re concentrating more on the environment, wondering what explosive you can pull onto your enemy’s face next, and it sort of detracts from the actual combat, the raw, outlandish action that’s occurring before your eyes.

Fluidity is something that the engine tries so hard to maintain but just isn’t polished enough for. My playthrough probably wasn’t helped by it being immediately preceded by Killzone 3, a game that’s core engine is practically sublime.

There’s a vast array of weapons, or more accurately, seven. The Flail Gun is amongst my favourite, shooting two timed or remote grenades chained together. This can be stuck to walls, wrapped around trees, lampposts, scenery, your enemy’s face, your enemy’s legs, your enemy’s friend’s face… Wrapping it around an explosive barrel and kicking into a congregation of charging foe redeems results that would impress the A Team. Or the Iranian Government. Occasionally the carnage is mesmerizing, chaotic and utterly brilliant. It just doesn’t happen that way enough. If you’re going to make it ridiculous, I don’t want to have to master the art to make things blow up, I just want to FEEL like I’ve mastered the art. Maybe I’m just rubbish at it.

The campaign is shorter than Charlie Sheen’s temper, and about as volatile. And, (this isn’t a spoiler, so be quiet) there’s going to be a sequel. The cliffhanging ending only inspired a sigh from me though. Bulletstorm seemed like the perfect one-off. A new IP that was a bit of an explosive canter and then it’d be done with. Apparently not. Why can’t we, just once, play something that isn’t part of a hideously drawn out, on going series, which is going to lose its novelty three iterations in anyway, and the resulting 74 are just going to irritate everyone in the same relentless way supermarkets advertise at Christmas. Disappointing Epic.

I’ve gotten much more out of the ‘Echoes’ mode than I thought I would. Essentially you’re doing segregated campaign missions but with a point-scoring ideal in mind alone. They’re fun, and the perfect platform to jump on to and have a bit of a blast with once you’re all done with the campaign. I like to see developers putting in that extra ore for a bit of replayability.

The game was originally a co-op adventure, however reportedly the mode ‘broke the game’ and so to a large degree of disappointment, it was removed. Co-op can still be undertaken in the game’s own Anarchy mode, a ‘Horde’-esque set up where players are pitted against increasingly difficult waves of charging mental patients. Although I don’t know what that’s like because I’d rather eat my own sofa than try it. Check out the forums for a run down. Probably.

Bulletstorm’s an arrogant, swaggering, substanceless jerk. The fact it knows it, and takes that very fact into account is enough for it to survive that, and its only short comings fall to a bit of under-development on the basic attacks side, and the fact the campaign is predictably short. It’s worth the price for the stylized gameplay, which is a full-scale, on-going explosion; you’ll shell away a few hours of fun and might even call back once in a while. Good for a blast.

Respawn in… 5 Score : 85%


Trust us, you won’t regret it ^ This, above any other argument, is why Bulletstorm is great.

Marvel Vs Capcom 3 Review

I’m going to hadouken you right in the Spidy sense.

That’s right boys and girls! This very popular game has made its third epic instalment where you get to pit an ultimate dream team of Marvel super heroes and Capcom video games against each other in a bloody battle to the death with millions dying in the wake of war. Ok I may be over stating it a bit. But you certainly get the picture. This is a long loved classic that brings the comic book and video game nerds together, and finally answers the questions like “if Captain America and Chris Redfield got into a fight, how long would it take for Chris Redfield to die?” but in all seriousness, this game has a lot to offer to even the most casual gamer.

One reason I’ve always liked Capcom, is because they make games which are just fun. It’s something I think a lot of game developers can forget, with trying to make games that are more movies than games. And I feel that MVC3 is kind of a game you can just jump into. Unlike something like Resident Evil, where it really helps if you know the story line, especially with the absolute spider web of confusion they created for that. And unlike Street Fighter, it isn’t the worst thing in the world if you have NO IDEA of all the crazy combinations to do any of the good moves. It’s also easy to jump into, because even if you don’t read comic books to forget about how girls don’t talk to you like I used to, you know who Spiderman is, who Wolverine is. Hell, you might even have an idea who the hulk is. It’s no secret that this game is a button basher in the fighting games division. This means that no matter how long you’ve played the game, someone who’s never even heard of the game could beat you if they have fast enough hands. This is a bit of a double ended sword, it’s quite an annoying game based on the last point I slewed out, but it’s great for the person who likes to jump in and out of fighting games like myself.

Visually, this game looks better than it has done in the past. It’s a great mix of the Street Fighter style we’ve been used to, and the awesome comic book style that Marvel must have simply insisted went into this game. When the characters come out, the bright colours of their costumes and their super charged powers really draw your eyes to the screen. It means you always want to see more, see what that other character’s special move might be. The backgrounds are fantastic, there is nothing dull happening, and with each background you see another reference to your beloved games or comics.
The game itself is very much the same as the others, in most aspects. One thing I think is letting it down is when you run out of characters to use. I love swapping characters after every match, it makes me feel warm and gooey. Now obviously there comes a time within the game where you just don’t have anyone new to pick. Yes there are unlockable characters, a couple of them I thought were great choices. One of them I kind of thought “really?” and with the last one I unlocked, I honestly asked “who?”
I’m sure there are super fans of the game who could explain to me who that last geezer is, and what the birthmark on his ass looks like, but that’s not the point. I want to connect with these characters; I want to play as my favourites. So giving me people I don’t recognise is not the best method. I was also disappointed with the lack of more characters to unlock. I thought it was a bit strange. Then it hit me like a “drill claw.” Downloadable content. This is where we’re going to get a lot more characters, and I think in this game, it really is wrong to charge the same price as something like Red Dead when it came out, and not just give us lots of unlockable characters. Rather than charge us for them in DLC. Don’t get me wrong, I thought there was a decent original range to choose from, but it’s still wrong to make me pay more to get some extras. I’m just speculating there. But I’m sure it will happen.

Now some of the characters are a little over-powered. And due to some of their attacks, they can appear a lot stronger than others. A good example of this is long and short-range characters. It seems to me, that if you choose to have a character with short range, you may find it tough to fight someone who can take half your health away from the other side of the level. This seems to me like a poor choice. Because rather than being beaten due to fighting someone who’s just better than you, you get beaten because they got the better character. This can be said for most fighting games but for a game which adapts to pro’s and novices alike so well, it seems like they could have really done something to make the sting of this wound a little easier to bare. If of course you really like the team you’ve put together there is always the online system. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, you go into one fight and get bent over the nearest table, the next fight, you win, but you have some 8 year old screaming about how you cheated. Admittedly, this will happen a lot less than other fighting games due to its ease of play.

In arcade mode, you get the standard fight fight fight, and then boss fight system, but of course, the last boss is pretty tough. Not quite the same way you pretty much painted a target on your chest for Seth from Street Fighter IV to kick but I still struggled with it a bit. But, if you just keep fighting and fighting, you’ll eventually find that you unlock more and more cool things, like being able to scroll through the voices of your characters, look at artwork, and so on. So this is a game that offers a lot.

For me, this game is certainly worth a bash on, even if it’s not normally your kind of thing. I love it. But I know in a couple weeks, I won’t play it, unless I have another real person to play against, to enjoy the banter. But I’ve always found that with games like this, and hey, maybe it’s just me. But back to my point. It’s exciting, takes you back to your childhood and old favourite games, and is a must for any fans of this series.
It’s fucking awesome.

Respawn in…5 score : 89%


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Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Review

It would appear that fun has risen from the grave…

 

This may seem a little bit late, but due to my tremendously busy schedule of alphabetising my books (both of them) I’ve been struggling to find myself time to play games. I did finally however find the time to buy, play, and complete Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. I was very much looking forward to playing this game after enjoying the original so much. I would be lying however if I said I was a little sceptical on how it would come out, as it seems that the thing most video game developers seem to love at the moment is making a zombie game. It’s just like the rules of the school playground. The child/video game developer, sees another child/video game developer has his back pack on with only one strap/has made a zombie game, and the first child/video game developer feels like he has to do the same otherwise all the other children/video game developers will think he’s weird. But I digress.

Now this game does something a bit strange, most people believed it was going to be a sequel, however  those who have completed its prior game would know that it would be rather difficult considering its angular ending. This story line hasn’t much to do with its older brother, all the characters seem to know each other, and some of the events in red dead’s story line have happened, so it’s kind of a lot like the parallel world idea from Back to the Future 2. But with the Western idea in mind, it’s probably more like Back to the Future 3. But I may just be muddying the waters there. The game starts off straight off the bat, none of that “take this cow here” or “guard these crops” missions we had to power through beforehand, to get the real western stuff. Your wife and son turn to zombies almost immediately. It’s up to you to find a cure and you ride off into the nearest town, shooting as many zombies as your heart can handle. This game has a real feel of a classic zombie game, as you have to preserve all of your ammo as best as you can (I learnt that the hard way) as none of the shops are in business. And it’s head shots only I’m afraid, this does of course make getting the 250 headshots necessary to gain the achievement remarkably tangible.

It’s surprisingly serious in places, and feels like they wanted to make a genuine zombie feeling game, it’s creepy and combine that with the sandbox gameplay you are on to a serious winner. You could travel from the snowy hill of the “tall tree’s” to the most southern part of Mexico and guarantee, there would be something you wanted to stop and take part in, whether it’s helping a poor soul in a DIY anti zombie fort, or a poor fool who’s caught the sickness. It’s really refreshing to see the world and characters you know so well, after playing Red Dead, hurled into this apocalyptic world. Which leads me nicely onto my next point. The good old Rockstar humour. Within the game, you can actually catch, break and ride all four horses of the apocalypse. No, that was not a typo. There are several mythical creatures within the game, just to show you that Rockstar decided not to forget the light hearted side of things. There is also a Sasquatch in the game, along with a unicorn, all good fun.

As I’ve made mention before, it’s the little things that make the game what it is. You’ll often find that more often than not you’ll become distracted by little “don’t have to do” side missions, as opposed to the story line, other times, you’ll enjoy catching zombies, hog tying them and making a little pile to set on fire. And nothing can really beat the feeling of riding into a town under attack, climbing onto the nearest roof, and blowing all their fucking heads off. Even the zombie hordes can be impressive; one moment there will be one or two zombies stumbling their way to your position, the next you’re running as fast you can, screaming for your horse with like 30 of them chasing you.  Wrap it all together and you have a ticking time bomb of zombie killing goodness.

Now this wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t mention its few problems. One huge problem I found was it got very VERY repetitive in places. It became a case of “go to this town, kill the zombie. Go to this graveyard, burn the coffins, repeat.” It all becomes a bit tedious and for lack of a better word, boring. It seems that perhaps I went off on tangents and side missions in the game just to avoid having to save a bunch of useless NPC’s and their little smoking ash heap of a town. I feel a bit of variety would have really spiced this up, while the actual missions were different from each other, it was just the mundane tasks they also threw at you that let it down a bit.

Overall, I think that Undead Nightmare was a well thought out, well put together, exciting game that put a twist on essentially an overworked genre, with only a few faults. To anyone who enjoyed Red Dead Redemption, this add on is an absolute must! It takes the game you loved and makes it delightfully tainted with evil. Also, there is a nice little bonus for you, when you complete the main story line. I’ll leave you with that.

 

Repsawn in… 5 score: 92%

ilomilo Review

If you haven’t heard of ilomilo and think I’ve merely leant on the keyboard then it’s time to CRACK OUT THE MICROSOFT POINTS. Y’hear? Stop buying Call of Duty maps and for two thirds of the price you can have a perpetual awh-inducing headache. That you won’t stop playing. Until you go blind. Which is infact, entirely possible.

ilomilo is a dimension creasing puzzler that has you reuniting our two loveable heroes, ilo and milo, who are stranded on opposite sides of some bizarre cube-based structure floating in a reality straight from the slightly disturbing planes of kids TV. It’s odd. And for the large majority of the time you’ll be wondering if that week-old half cooked bacon sandwich was such a good idea, secreted with the idea of occasionally wondering if this is all REALLY HAPPENING. Or maybe I’m getting carried away.

The games levels take place across four chapters of frequent lunacy, each setting somehow pertaining to the story (I’m promised it even makes sense) and with the same goal; navigate the level with both ilo and milo, collect all the pieces and meet up! Simple! No it’s not. Like all puzzler’s the game lowers you in gently, caressing your intelligence by handing you the answer to the straight forward introductory stages and clapping like a primary school teaching seal when you succeed, and just when you stop to think GOOD GOD I’M AN ACTUAL GENIUS, it kicks you on to some unforgivingly twisted world and slaps you with a puzzling structure that M C Escher would be proud of. And confused by. If that’s even a possibility. Before long you’ve spun the world around, ascended, descended, used all the special cubes, become dizzier than a terrible British rapper and defied gravity more times than a celebrity red-carpet tube top, and still have no idea how to make ilo find milo.

The problem that here arises then, is that a several hour ilomilo session often gets cut a bit short. It’s not a marathon sort of game, unless you enjoy the idea of dizzying vomit-inducing difficulty. But, to play in bursts, it’s a challenging puzzler that won’t take you forever to finish, but has enough meat on its bones to last longer even after that.

It’s a colourful and vibrant affair, with mismatched patchwork and all sorts of lovingly textured detail. From the levels, to ilo and milo themselves, it’s luscious, visually charming at every corner. And speaking of charm, you’ll find that by the planet-full in here. From the tune it plays when you finally reunite and the way ilo and milo walk, to the sound the cow-like creature makes as it waddles along. The story, the characters and the overall aesthetics can only be described as adorable, constantly urging you to burst into harmonious d’awwh’s. Refreshing in comparison to the testosterone fuelled macho nacho military jaunts of big releases currently heading out at retail.
The references in the level detail to other video games (see if you can spot Super Meat Boy and World of Goo) and to itself and the developers all echo a teeming of substance.

The game is best enjoyed in (local only) co-op, perfect to lure the girlfriend into playing games with you, though there’s just as much to be had out of the single player experience if you’re a regular Professor Layton (and by that I mean you enjoy puzzle games, not you’re a questionable old man in a trench coat who hangs out with minors.) There’s a host of collectibles to have your brain explode in the process of procuring too, most of which give you rewards in the form of gallery pictures, music and there’s even a retro-style 8-bit game to unlock. The pieces you collect are memory fragments that coincide with the story and the more of those you get, the more story, and avatar items you can get your grubby mits on.

We thoroughly enjoyed ilomilo, start to finish it’s an enigmatic, thought-provoking puzzle game full of varied and interesting challenges, quirks, references and undeniably cutesy visuals that’ll have even the most battle-hardened war veteran sobbing tenderly into his camouflage hanky. 800 points well spent. The end.

Respawn in…5 Score: 90%

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – Review

In 2007, Assassin’s Creed was, to me, a game that did little more than encourage idiots to ask, in the loudest and most moronic tone they could muster, ‘have you got ‘dat Assassin game on ‘de PeeEssFree?’ To which I would silently wander off in search of the case, in the vague hope I’d be able to beat myself to death with it before I made it back. Its premise alone made it incredibly popular. And on top of that, it was rubbish. Whilst Ubisoft managed to forge a fancy-looking, appealing concept, they forgot to forge anything else after the first mission, and then evidently leant on the Copy and Paste function 24 times.
That in mind then, you can imagine everybody’s surprise when, last year, Ubisoft did the UNTHINKABLE. They listened. People said Assassin’s Creed was a bit repetitive in the same sort of way they said The Nazi’s were a bit mean. But people have complaints about games all the time, and their inevitable sequels rarely fulfil previous pitfalls and relevant expectations, however glaringly obvious they tend to be. But ACII did. Just about. It wasn’t repetitive; it was fun and fresh and importantly, still kept hold of the few engaging qualities of the original. Christ, so developers have ears? And the base ability to action simple requests? Who knew.
And here we are, a year down the line, and the build up to Assassin’s Creed: BROTHERHOOD’s release would indicate that Ubisoft quite clearly found a multiplayer component lying about in their wardrobe, sellotaped it to ACII and skimmed Brotherhood all the way to the distribution centres. Laughing. Probably. They seem like cheerful people. Either way, there are two rebuttals to such comments. The first was my initial reaction, one I’d sort of prepared myself for before even playing the game. The second is quite different, and only came apparent a sizeable chunk of the way through the Campaign. So is Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood merely Assassin’s Creed 2.5, as all the evidence would suggest? Or is this a full-blown threquel? Or is it neither? Let’s look.

So to say Brotherhood ‘picks up where you left off’ would be to say something immensely accurate. Well done. You start in the same room, literally moments after the culmination of ACII. You’ll remember the heaps of armour you amounted, that’s all back. You’ll fondly recall the sharp-edged weaponry that spent more time in other people’s necks than anywhere else, you get those back too. You may even remember your villa, your sprawling settlement you built from the ground up. Even if you don’t it all quickly comes flooding back, as your first moments are spent lavishly wandering around your estate, meeting the locals and showing off about your big house and your moustache, and making jokes about how poor they probably are. Course, this lasts for a solid 17 seconds before the non-fictional Borgia army roll in and start wrecking the place up, waggling their size tens everywhere. Before you know it, you’re without armour, weapons or even a home. The Apple of Eden you worked so hard to procure has been stolen by Cesare Borgia, who also happens to have flailingly killed your Uncle in the process. Back to square one. And pretty pissed, by all accounts. After tracing Cesare back to Rome, you find the city in ruins, whilst your Assassin buddies are regularly getting a bit of a hiding by the Borgia boys, who control huge parts of the city with their towers and their red capes and their pushy attitudes. Laboured with the task of sorting out everybody else’s shit, as was evidently per in renaissance Italy, you set about not only hunting down your Uncle Mario’s killer, Apple thief and general worst enemy Cesare Borgia, but also rebuilding Rome and attempting to reassemble your incompetent band of useless no-hoper Assassins. There ain’t no rest for the wicked. Or for swaggeringly athletic historic Italian contract murderers. Apparently.

Brotherhood reunites all the old core mechanics, the blending in with crowds, the endless parkour, the interesting yet robotic combat system. Whilst perhaps being tweaked, no noticeably large changes have been made here. Although this is essentially a super great thing, it does also mean that no one’s even attempted to iron those niggles out. Perhaps they were afraid they’d burn it if they tried. At times, the controls are lithe, a nimble pleasure to use that let you easily leap across the map, ascending buildings and fluidly cascading rooftops as though you were a 14th Century Italian Spiderman. With a somehow larger chip on his shoulder.
Sometimes, however, the controls perform a bizarre temperamental mood-swing, and go from allowing you to jump from obstacle to obstacle with precise, flowing movement, to wildly deciding you didn’t really want to grab the next pole, rather in fact jump in the opposite direction and plummet 100 feet to your hilarious untimely death. It’s a little odd that they’ve managed to nail a control system that works beautifully 70% of the time, wearing a slick suit and doing party tricks that impress everyone, whilst the remainder toddles around being an arse and getting in everyone’s way, knocking things over and making crude jokes about awkward situations that involve you randomly leaping off a ledge for no apparent raisin, and breaking both your legs.

The story is, in places, just as mind-meltingly topsy turvy twirly as it ever was. It being based in true historic locations and times adds a certain hook to the proceedings of the narrative, and the game’s portrayal or certain characters is interesting in comparison to how they’re depicted in actual history. Some famous characteristics are clearly conveyed, whilst there’s a large degree of artistic license used elsewhere.
‘You’d be arrested for the largest mass-poisoning since Lucrezia Borgia invited 500 of her closest friends for a wine and anthrax party’

Points if you recognize the quote.

This then all lead to my conclusive initial reaction. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is simply Assassin’s Creed II, with more story and a multiplayer that will likely leave me unfazed regardless of how mesmerizing it is (I don’t play well with others.) And this (aside from my personal perspective on multiplayer) is no bad thing. In fact it’s a very good thing. Because ACII is a solid game, with a storyline engaging enough to warrant a continuation, and gameplay addictive enough to make you want to revisit it and play with it all over again. Brotherhood is nothing more than a furtherance, a Series 1: Episode 3 sort of affair, but this is perfectly acceptable. Well done Ubi, you’ve released a game you already made last year, and somehow it’s STILL GOOD.

Of course, there are several additions to the general flow of the gameplay. Additions that, initially at least, seem rather vague and nondescript. You know, like the G-Man in the first Half Life, or James Cordon’s acting career. Easy to forget it’s there.
First noticeable addition comes early on, when you’re politely informed that it’s going to be your job to make the city look less like Tom Selleck’s been living there, and more like the presentable town that renaissance-era hit-men would openly reside in. And that sort of thing costs a lot of money. Once you burn down a Borgia tower, its surrounding area is liberated, allowing you to reconstruct broken down shops and similar buildings. Each time you wap out the hammer and start going to town with it like you’re an incessantly annoying C4 home-improvement presenter, Rome’s income is increased, a revenue which is apparently entirely yours, and available to pick up from the bank. I don’t quite understand why the banks are content with giving all of Rome’s money to a hooded stranger with a passion for parkour and mending things, but hey I’m not arguing. At first you’ll be fixing an odd tunnel here and there, perhaps a blacksmith or a bank depending on your funds and what you need. Before long though, you’re strolling into town with the manly bluster and stride of Charlie Dimmock, fixing up every building in sight, taking your money, buying an extravagant new chest piece of armour and riding off into the sunset, leaving the town’s bewildered inhabitants in a shell-shocked gaze of awe. Whilst at the outset its presence is met with a bit of indifference, once you’ve got the cash to do it with extreme financial disregard, it becomes a fun and interesting new aspect to perpetually killing Borgia captain’s, burning down their towers and rebuilding Rome. Aside from just shops, you’re rebuilding bridges and aqueducts, landmarks and helpful fast-travel points.

Another, and perhaps the most interesting of the sporadic extras Brotherhood provides, is the ability to recruit Assassin’s, train them up, send them out on missions, and then have them run in and save your sorry un-stealthy behind when you’re in trouble. The process is simple, find a stumbling peasant cornered by Borgia, begging for his life. Impressively slaughter all the Borgia, and induct your newly found brethren into your Brotherhood. Job’s a good ‘un. Problem is, all your would-be Assassins are still stumbling peasants, and are likely to just get stabbed. Like someone living in London. From here on, you must use a menu system to send your faithful assassin’s out on missions, each with a difficulty rating and the real time it’ll take for your boys to do the business. Each time a mission is completed; your recruits will earn XP and will level up, eventually being given the title of fully fledged Assassin. I found this all strangely engaging. For hours I sat in the menus, sending my band of fresh-faced trainees out on increasingly difficult missions, mainly so that when I called them into action during the game, they didn’t all run in and immediately get their eyes stabbed out, leaving me to replace them. The point is though, an aspect that sounds relatively plain and run of the mill, generally due to fact ‘menu system’ sounds as exciting as ‘Powerpoint presentation’, gripped me, and kept me playing longer than I thought I would. And that doesn’t happen very often these days.

These additions, along with Leonardo’s War Machine’s, which are essentially extra missions of stealth and capture and escape, as well the Guild Challenges and the several other less central side missions, individually seeming more like fancy little touches than actual gameplay hinges, add some sort of management aspect to the game which, although present before, didn’t excel like it does in Brotherhood. Instinctively looking at your position in the map, calculating what you can do whilst you’re there; story missions, side missions, restoration, recruitment, go to the bank and get your well-earned cash out, burn a Borgia tower, you plan these things and work out what you’re going to do next. This varied gameplay in that sings to the tune of; go here, do this, but also do this and this, and then go here, and maybe do this, but leave this till later, for want of an analogy that actually makes sense, engrossed me in Brotherhood in the same sort of way I became entangled in the world of Red Dead Redemption. The kind of experience you think about when you’re not playing, about what you’ll do next and how you’ll do it. The kind of experience that has you doing everything but the main missions that you specifically decided you’d do that day.

And it was that little lot that lead me to my second reaction to Brotherhood. Disguised under the blanket of looking exactly like its predecessor, playing exactly like its predecessor, and generally being exactly like its predecessor, there are enough movements under the bonnet of Brotherhood for it stand on its OWN TWO FEET. It is a different, better game, you just have to look at it really hard. For a long time. And a magnifying glass will probably come in handy too.

Regardless. Brotherhood drew me in and gave me a strong 15 hours of gameplay without doing ALL the extras, or the ones I managed to not get sucked into, screaming and clawing against my will. Even the multiplayer’s had an interesting, angular screwdriver taken to it, and although suffering one or two fundamental flaws (one of them being you have to play with other people) its appearance in the series is a thought-out one. I had almost presumed they were going to make it purely combat-based, and that would work in multiplayer as well as Chris Moyles would work in comedy. Not at all well. But it’s different and most of the time it works. Especially if sitting in lobbys or getting stabbed by people disguised as NPCs is your thing.

SO. Should you get it?

If you enjoyed the second one, yes, what are you doing without it. If you didn’t, no, stay away, this isn’t for you, what are you even doing here, get out. If you haven’t played ANY Assassin’s Creed, get the second, it’s a good place to start and is deliciously cheap these days. It’s a must play series, or at the least, a must-try series, and one of my favourites of the year.

In news; Ubisoft have recently stated that, with Assassin’s Creed being one of their most popular series’ (more so than Imagine Interior Designer, surely not!?) they plan to keep it going for the next TEN YEARS or so. I don’t know about you guys, but that has the distinct smell of overkill to me. You’ve gotten away with it this time Ubi, don’t turn this into Assassin’s Duty: Modern Brotherhood Ops. Shiver.

Now, all of you. Get out.

Fable III Review

So Rob and I both undertook the assumedly treacherous journey that is most commonly known as “playing a game made by Peter Molyneux.” Full of disappointments and dirty, dirty little lies. However when I began to partake in this ticking time bomb, I decided to go in expecting to be disappointed, in the hope that in some bizarre manner I would make it all the way to the end unscathed, and with that warm buzzy feeling that a real thrilling RPG gives me. This is my Fable III journey.

So the basic idea behind this chapter of what seems to be a life long journey, is that you are the prince, or princess of a troubled steam punk aged Albion. Your older brother Logan, is the king. And he’s a bit of a dick about it. He has caused the entire kingdom to fall into famine, poverty and general unhappiness. The game starts off by telling you that there needs to be a revolution, and guess which sucker has to pull that off all by themselves. That’s right, you. You are urged by your peers and girlfriend (boy friend if you opted for two X chromosomes) to talk some sense into your killjoy of a sibling. As you can probably guess, he doesn’t take your criticism on the chin. He throws a hell of a choice your way and BANG, you’re straight into the moral choice system.

After this ordeal you are ushered off by your trainer, Walter (Combat tutorial) your butler, John Cleese (I think his name is Jasper, but I’ve called him John Cleese since I started) and your faithful companion, Dog. Your plan overall is to gain a way to bring about a rebellion by imploring people to follow your noble cause. From that you are given a somewhat tacked on reason to suddenly start doing quests for a bunch of lazy villagers you’ve never even met. That’s the basis of the game, an intriguing story line. Like its predecessor, this game has you fighting an authority figure that wronged you. However, what differs with this game is that you are a direct blood relative of said foe. This offers an interesting twist from square one, and one that will affect your decisions later in the game. The job role your brother was lucky enough to be born into also offers an interesting turn, you don’t really have a choice about trying to kick him out of the thrown, but it’s up to you your reasons why, because you believe the world will collapse if he has his hands on it too long? Or because YOU want to call the shots, classic Fable.

Visually, Fable III looks outstandingly exactly the same as it did the second time round. At first look I thought the only slight change that may have happened with the looks is that your character’s hands don’t look stupidly bigger than they should. But even now I’m unsure that’s even the case. I hoped that maybe if they didn’t want to touch up the graphics, perhaps they had spent more time on the physics. As we know, Lionhead haven’t always taken their time with such matters. Surely they had taken special care to iron out the weird way NPC’s hands move THROUGH their legs. Tragically, they did a giant load of nothing to it. So looking at it, you would be forgiven for thinking it was downloadable content for the second game.

One huge way they have in fact changed the game is they seem to have put in as few menus as they possibly could. When you hit “start” you are no longer brought to a sprawl of numbers and letters, you are in fact sat in something called your “sanctuary”. Apparently the place your father built before he died. Whilst here you can change your costumes in a designated room, weapons have their own room too, as well as this you get a whole room for your money. The more you have the more it piles up, so that you can have a MOUNTAIN of money, and feel like Scrooge McDuck. This whole revamp of the menus actually, for me, made that whole aspect of the game a lot more fun and interesting to do, it felt a little less like I was organising my insurance. It does take some time to get used to it, and figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, but you get the knack fairly quick.

As far as the quests go, they seem pretty standard, go here, kill this thing, fetch this person, blah blah blah. One thing that was weird is that you don’t actually see many evil quests for a while, in some of the good quests you have to make a decision towards good or evil, but there are far fewer quests that allow you to be the arse you really are. The writing in this game is top notch; the acting talent (John Clease, Simon Pegg and Stephen Fry to name a few) perform their lines with impeccable comedy timing. Fable has always had a knack for comical writing, and this is no exception. There is even one quest that takes the Michael out of the game itself. If you haven’t completed this quest yet, I implore you to stop reading, do it now, and then come back. I have found that they have decided to return you only to a couple locations from the previous game, instead of doing the “OH LOOK OH LOOK! YOU’VE BEEN HERE! REMEMBER????” that I expected from them. The new places really give you a feeling of true expansion.

After you have kicked your brother’s ass out of the throne, the crown now belongs to (you guessed it) you. Now this is a strange new field for the average Fable player, as you have officially been given power. Without giving too much away, you end up having to make some pretty serious choices, not like previously when the biggest decision you had to make was “shall I take this whiney villagers sodding letter for them?” this is some really hardcore stuff, the kind of things where the moral choice system really comes into play. And all of these decisions lead you on with the story line, and after you have completed it, you can see what else there is to do. However I warn you, if you’re like me and have been doing a lot of side quests during the story, it’s not a lot. It seems like every time they release a fable game they forget to add more quests because they’re too busy with their “life simulator thing. For me, the king aspect of the game was what I picture really being a king to be like. Boring and a big bone shattering kick to the balls.

Overall, this game has got a little something different to bring to the table; it’s a different set up as far as story line or the usually boring menus RPG’s are famous for. The new areas make you giddy and explore until you wet yourself with glee. Visually the game looks precisely the same; I have however managed to play the game through without being TOO disappointed. If you can go in with an open mind, I think you will find you have as much as I did.

Respawn in… 5 Review score 72%

FReview: Fallout New Vegas

The mere idea of wandering a post apocalyptic, desolate wasteland wherein buildings had been uncraftingly demolished to rubble, and the majority of people had been reduced to some sort of powdery cake-like mix, always struck a chord with me. Of course, the large disappointment that came shattering home in Fallout 3 was that the remaining inhabitants of Washington DC appeared to have the collective intelligence of an intoxicated moth, and speaking to them was as fun as peeling off your own nails. That said, its art style and charm, setting and concept all cornered me and threatened to do something really bad, like sing, if I didn’t LIKE it. So I did. Fallout 3 was my GAME OF 2008. Those things mean a lot don’t they?

Several thousand expansion packs later, and Bethesda decide to release the follow up. The first thing you’ll likely hear when asking an ill-informed gurgling buffoon, pardon the French, about New Vegas, is that it is NO MORE than an expansion pack, a money spinner for a developer clawing at your wallet. And, unfortunately, they are wrong. While New Vegas’ presentation is identical to its predecessor, this is an undeniably huge game, a practically impossible add-on, with a map so large you could nearly put a scale drawing on Ant and Dec’s combined foreheads. But not quite. Its wealth of new missions and quests will reportedly extract 50-60 hours of gameplay from the keen player’s life, and that expansive explorative draw that comes from being let loose on an impossibly large game map will add to that impressively. If you have a lot of time on your hands, New Vegas will see you your money’s worth, certainly comparing that to the 4 to 6 hour jaunts of recent releases.

Whilst the majority of our first 12 hours of gameplay have involved joyously ransacking towns and cities, telling cowboy robot’s to DO ONE, and running away from an endless amount of those snappily infuriating little ankle biters GECKO’s, it hasn’t all been a honeymoon in Vegas. If you haven’t heard already, you’ll notice from the off New Vegas is a sticky and buggy piece of software. Fallout 3 was never the smoothest runner, but it seems this vision of future America got hit by several nuclear bombs full of irritating glitchiness. Constantly sticking for half a second, often not recognizing controller input messages that result in you mashing about with the pad wildly whilst several ghouls touch you to death, and three times now the game has completely crashed on me, freezing and causing me to hard reset the console with the button.
If that weren’t enough, there’s often times the in-game mechanics break in a variety of different ways. In a mission roughly a third of the way through the game, my indicator instructing me where to go decided to malfunction, telling me to stay put when I, in fact, had to head miles down the road to a different building entirely. Occasionally this can lead to hilarious NPC antics. I watched a lady officer greet every other NPC in the room with the same ‘hello’, before sitting at a desk and typing on an invisible typewriter. Sound effects and all. When I tried to interact with her, she told me she ‘had business here’. Genius.

The main gameplay qualm I’ve found, synonymous to the Fallout series’ in general, more so in New Vegas, is that the combat constantly seems to consist of using all your AP in VATS and barely scratching your assailant, before comically jaunting backwards taking potshots at an enemy who is wildly lunging at you, with no regard for his own safety, as you pray your AP refills in time for you to re-enter VATS and stand a chance of killing the thing. Maybe I play Fallout wrong, but I’ve asked, and people have told me of similar stories. I might be dreadful, but at least I’m not alone.

If Fallout New Vegas arranged itself to present you with quests that don’t laugh at your hilariously tiny XP as you die for the 800th time doing the same thing, it could solve the perpetual problem that, for me, levelling up feels like a task you might not be able to complete all the time. Then again, maybe I’m a boring old git. I’d rather be a boring old git with a game in which I can grasp where I am though, than extremely clever and stuck out of mind.

Despite ALL this, New Vegas is still very good. The pull of the wasteland is enough to make the game stand up on its own two feet so far. There’s an injection of fresh ideas with the additions to the series, mainly in form of a reputation system, where different factions and towns will recognize the work you’ve done for or against them, and treat you differently upon arriving. If you’ve pissed off the Powder Gangers (the roughest, toughest group of gang-homosexuals to walk the wastelands?) then you won’t be able to stroll freely into their camps without them feeding you a delicious bullet sandwich. Fight for Novak for long enough, and the people there will ‘Idolize’ you, and give you discounts on buying their useless garbage.

Also, Caravan is a great card game. Though the game would seemingly rather you didn’t know. Whilst at first you’re not even introduced to the game, even when you are the page-long tutorial does about as good of a job explaining it as a picture of someone mashing the cards into their mouth and then spitting them at you. Search YouTube for it, and watch one of the how-to videos, you’ll get it, and at that point, not only is it fun, but it’s a great way to earn MOUNDS OF CAPS.

This is our First Review of the game, as is mentioned in the name, which essentially means we’ve got it, and played it, but we haven’t finished it. Check out our Reviews on Respawn Explained page for more info on how this works!

Whilst we plough on to finish New Vegas, it’s safe to stay we’re still having a lot of fun with it, despite its plentiful flaws. Whether this will iron out in the future or remain a potentially game-breaking niggle to the end will remain to be seen. We’ll be back with our full review once we’ve hammered the game into a fortnight on Friday*.

FReview Score – 78%

*That’s an expression, don’t expect it to be up by then, Rob is rubbish at games and can’t finish them quick enough.