Lighting a Fuse: Analysing Insomniac’s new Third Person Shooter

Title: FuseFuse-Box-Art
Developer: Insomnia
Distributor: EA
Platforms: PS3 and XBOX 360
Genre: Team oriented third person action

Pros:
-Relentless action sequences
-Powerful upgrades
-Captivating action oriented storyline
-Awesome take down moves
-Incredibly fun

Cons:
-Graphics seem a little outdated
-Been there, done that

Rating (out of ten): 8

Synopsis: A solid, entertaining action shooter that ought to have been released a year ago.

If some of the best ideas from games the likes of Gears of War, Vanquish, Enslaved: Odyssey of the West and Brute Force were all meshed up into one title, that game might very well end up being this new creation from the developers of Ratchet and Clank and Resistance.

Fuse is a futuristic third person team oriented shooter in a time when the governments of the world are attempting to discover a new form of renewable energy. An energy source, capable of unquantifiable levels of destruction is unfortunately discovered in the process, but its consequential power is not exactly energy, as it is so much militarian, with limitless potential for building an unstoppable army to bring an end to any other force on the planet.

Raven, an antagonistic military group that have gone beyond rogue have seized control of this unimaginably powerful energy source and God only knows what they intend to do with it. Burgess, a man contacted to help apprehend Raven and destroy the Fuse energy, rallies his team, consisting of four unique operatives from around the globe, each with different backgrounds and skills that can advantageously take care of this diabolical situation that is slowly but surely spiraling hopelessly out of control.  

Taking down choppers is not quite as easy as one might imagine...

Taking down choppers is not quite as easy as one might imagine…

Over the course of the campaign, each member of the team who the player has the option of playing as during the game, hold three weapons, originally beginning with just an ordinary pistol (if you acquire the Fusion Pack DLC you can upgrade your pistol to immediately use Fuse based technology) and additionally having the ability to carry another weapon of their choosing, whether that be an assault rifle, a sniper class weapon or a shotgun. The third weapon each character is able to wield are their unique Fuse empowered devices which they acquire not long into the campaign. When this occurs, each team member begins to address a certain function that the team needs to survive and complete their objectives.

Dalton, the team’s leader, who has a past with Raven and is now doing his best to shut down their rogue operation, acquires a Magsheild, which allows him to generate a well, a shield (obviously?) that will halter any firepower from injuring him or any team member standing behind it. Additionally, enemy rounds will be plucked out from the air by the device and launched back at the one who fired them. Simply put, Dalton becomes the conventional shock trooper.

FUSE_Dalton_Solo-1024x576

Jacob, the voice of reason and quite possibly the heart of the team acquires himself a crossbow of sorts, which is capable of launching Fuse empowered rounds that can burn through enemy combatants. These can be fired from a hefty distance which allows him to become the team’s stereotypical sniper.

Fuse_Jacob_2

Izzy, who is seen as the brains of the outfit, being both cold and lethal at the same time, acquires herself a weapon that will crystallise the environment and her opponents and cause them to explode. The opposite affect will happen to her team, as she is able to launch crystals with a healing serum in the direction of her fellow comrades which will advantageously benefit their progress and keep them alive longer and heal them over time, thus making her the team’s medic.

Fuse_Izzy_2

Lastly, Naya, the team member I played as, an assassin with a foxy British accent (meow!) whose father has become caught up in the exploits of Raven, found herself carrying a singularity shock weapon that allowed black holes to appear and suck enemies into oblivion. The more enemies hit by the rounds meant that the implosion would become more devastating, a chain reaction taking place which sucked in everyone within the vicinity and blew the others around like rag dolls. This adjunctively came equipped with the phantom cloak, allowing Naya to become invisible for a short duration, enabling her to become the team’s scout, and further empower her lethal assassination skills.

WOW!

WOW!

Unlike in Brute Force, where during the single player campaign the player had to physically activate each particular squad member’s capabilities, the AI will naturally do this during the game, which sufficiently aids progress and makes the action even more fun to fight through.

This was not all though. Larger enemies found throughout the game who are basically the champions of Raven; often being large hulking mechs with extraordinary weapons can have their firepower ripped away from them once they have been relegated to a cadaver. Although these weapons impede movement, they are incredibly powerful and only come equipped with a limited amount of firepower so ought to be utilised whilst available.

Moreover, the weapons the characters were equipped with, along with their health and abilities could be upgraded over the course of the story. Every so often, the player went up a level which presented them with not one skill point, but four; one for each member of the team. Unfortunately the team members do not naturally assign their own skill points and so this is up to the prerogative of the player. Since this is the case, the player is then able to choose what to upgrade and what special abilities the characters will use. The more abilities the characters have at their disposal, the more the AI will be able to use over the course of the game. For instance, in the case of Izzy, she does not automatically begin the game with her healing ability, and this subsequently needs to be unlocked. Once it has been, she was use it when applicable.

Additionally, there are team perks; beneficial upgrades which unanimously assist each of the squad members. Unlike the points acquired by leveling up, these particular ones are acquired from Fuse credits found throughout the game. Fuse credits are small stacks of gold worth 500 each, however, when each upgrade costs 10,000 credits, well, safe to say one needs to scour the maps up and down in an attempt to find them. These abilities are often similar to the traits assigned to each player, however they often, as the title suggests, come with their unique perks. For instance, the marksman ability allows the player to acquire ammunition each time they pull off a successful head shot. Other perks increase damage resistance, or simply resistance to one particular offensive attack; the ability to level up at a faster pace; or even the chance to not consume so much Fuse energy when using special player capabilities.

That’s right, each player ability does run on ammo; the same ammo that each of the player’s Fuse based weapons run on, which is rather annoying, and at the end of the day it comes down to whether or not the player wants to use their ammo to assault the enemy from afar, or for tactical superiority.

Apart from being a babe, Naya's combat abilities and amazing weaponry make her absolutely ruthless in combat.

Apart from being a babe, Naya’s abilities and amazing weaponry make her absolutely ruthless in combat.

Firepower is not the only weapon in each character’s arsenal though, with the team able to pull off special melee moves. Sneaking up behind enemies, players can break the necks of their opponents, drag their bodies over crates, or slit their throats with knives. During combat, the players are able to perform a wild manner of exciting kick ass combat moves which look really extraordinary. Just keep hitting the melee button and the player will automatically continue to perform admirably on the battlefield.

There is of course one addendum to all of this Fuse energy; since Raven has stolen the technology, your team are not the only ones capable of using such amazing technology. Over the course of the game you will run into opponents who are cloaked, who sneak up behind you and take you hostage, using you as a human shield as they assault the rest of your team. Enemies who have Fuse shields covering their person; enemies who are able to heal their comrades if they happen to be in a certain vicinity of them; the list goes on, and thus the player needs to accommodate themselves for any situation and prepare accordingly, adapting to each combat scenario.

Boss battles are especially deranged when it comes to this; not in a bad way, but the limits of the imagination are diabolically stretched, these particular battles often being a time consuming process in which the player needs to adopt a particular strategy as to efficaciously beat their opponent, who of course is never alone, with a number of friends coming to assist them as they wage their private war against you.

Moving on, as with many games today there is no traditional health bar per se, and as soon as your character takes too much damage they are out for the count, temporally at least. Much like in Gears of War, the player is left to crawl across the ground crying out for assistance, a person needing to physically revive you, vice versa, before a timer on your screen runs out. If you or any other member of your team dies, the game officially comes to an end, much unlike Gears of War when your fellow team members could crawl around the floor for days asking for assistance and never require any; in Fuse, you either help your team or help hinder your own progress, which makes your friends far more important to you than in other titles where they are basically invincible.

The AI of your team furthermore is not bad, although like with many games they do on occasion get in your way when you are firing and complain about how terrible a shot you are, even though they clearly ran into your line of fire. In the campaign, as per usual, you need to do almost everything, which is kind of odd since you would think that the others would be able to push a button just as well as you can. There are moments when the team needs to do something in synchronicity or all at once and will automatically perform their tasks, but other times it is left solely up to you. This includes shutting off gun turrets, hacking computers, demolishing walls, et al.

The enemy will additionally more often than not act in a manner that will ensure a challenge. There is no skill level so in the end it really comes down to the sheer number of bad guys thrust upon you and their general skill. Enemies will flank, throw grenades to flush you out and take cover. A number of them come equipped with jump packs and hover devices which allow them to expertly fly from one location to the next, allowing them to acquire a better vantage point or avoid fire. However, as soon as the combined effort of your team is placed onto a number of targets, the single most intelligent bad guy alive would be unable to succeed in surviving such an assault, sometimes making fire fights move by at a steady, quick pace.

As for your own intellect – as previously mentioned, Fuse is a straight forward shooter, and thus the player is normally not required to think too strenuously about what to do. As long as you know where the fire button is and can master the controls in a short duration of time, Fuse will most definitely become your oyster.

As amazing as it might seem, although the game, much like Gears of War Judgment is one great big kill fest, unlike in Epic’s newest shooter, never did the action get old. Environments, from bunkers, to forests compounds and locations in the snow ensure that the scenarios the player fights through are frequently fresh and invigorating.

kicking ass and taking names

kicking ass and taking names

When your team are forced to interact with tasks alongside you, one can clearly see how Insomniac are attempting to showcase the importance of the team, and are embodying a large number of occurrences which real militarian groups strategically do together as to create a strong realistic vibe and to make certain that you never feel alone.

However, don’t let this idea of realism put you off for there is plenty of healthy banter that goes on over the course of the game. Since Dalton has a past with Raven, often he becomes the brunt of some of the jokes made about this terrorist force. On other occasions, the jokes have some sexual reference that is not deliberate as much as it is stereotypical. At one point when climbing, Dalton says to Naya ‘I just love to watch you climb’ and in response to this she says ‘Izzy, if you catch (Dalton) staring at my arse, you have my permission to shoot him.’

As entertaining as the game can be though, sometimes I personally wondered ‘hasn’t this been done before?’ Reviving your team and having to be revived, symbolic of Gears of War, and also reminiscent of the team oriented combat found in Epic’s shooter. The ability to switch players is very much reminiscent of what could happen in Brute Force, and the need to on occasion climb obstacles is representative of Enslaved and other like titles. I did previously mention that Fuse seemed to take many of the great ideas from previous games, and if this be the case, at the end of the day it seems blatantly obvious where much of the inspiration is derived. Of course, if these are original ideas, then I am sorry but it would seem that Insomniac is a little too late, which can also be partially said in relation to their graphics.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the graphics of the game. Levels are often incredibly beautiful and vibrantly bright. The characters and the enemies they face are just as beautifully detailed as the environments, however, in comparison to games the likes of Crysis 3 that have already been released this year, Fuse seems rather outdated by at least a year. Explosions especially often look like a number of lines spiraling in all directions with a bright mixture of colour overlapping them.

In conclusion, Fuse is a fun action oriented shooter where the fighting almost never stops. There is always another mission to accomplish; another enemy to eliminate; and another level to acquire, and you will only be too happy to succeed in each of these objectives.

Image References:

http://gamerant.com/fuse-screenshots-insomniac-games/fuse-naya/

http://www.insomniacgames.com/games/fuse/#/news/detail/fuse-update-3-6-13

http://www.newgamernation.com/fuse-the-dalton-rules-trailer-released/

http://www.psu.com/a019403/

http://www.rocketchainsaw.com.au/interview-brian-allgeier-creative-director-fuse-insomniac-2367/

New York goes native in the legendary final instalment of the Crysis trilogy!

Review of the Crysis 3 campaign

Developer: Crytek
Publisher: EA
Available: as of February 21st (in Europe and Australia) (19th in USA)
Consoles: PC, PS3 and XBOX360

 

More Entertaining Than: Crysis

256px-Crysis_Cover

 

 

 

 

 

Less Entertaining Than: Bioshock

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Rating (out of 10): 9

Length: Between 8 and 10 hours

Pros:
-Gorgeous visuals
-Intense storyline
-Frequent entertaining action sequences
-Powerful weapons
-Advantageously beneficial upgrades

Cons:
-Disappointingly short
-Easily exploitable AI
-Unchallenging scenarios

crysis3_298x168

Since 2007, Crytek have been dazzling gamers with the Crysis franchise, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Like Halo, Gears of War and Mass Effect before it, Crysis is a trilogy, and Crysis 3 sees the game come to a close.

Once more you put on the legendary Nano suit and take control over the character Prophet, who effortlessly commands the screen in this relentless action blockbuster.

As always, you go up against the insidious Ceph alien force, whilst additionally facing CELL, the human organisation wishing to use the alien technology to dominate the planet.

Crysis 3 is set over 20 years after the events of the game before it, and is once more set in New York. However, time has not been nice with what is hailed as one of the single most beautiful cities in all the world; CELL have encased the once proud state in a gigantic sphere to separate it from the rest of society, whilst commanding the awesome power of the Ceph from within to seize control of the American capital and force all into enslavement; working to help them further dominate the planet. But, as we all know, utilising alien tech is traditionally never a smart thing to do, and so inevitably everything is bound to go terribly wrong.

Believed to be extinct, the Ceph wait to once more rise up from beneath the Earth to complete their master plan; to send a message out to their own galaxy, and alert their forces to come to planet Earth to bring an end to the human species with one swift act of global extinction.

Prophet knows the plans of the aliens, for when he upgraded his Nano suit with alien technology he managed to connect himself to the Ceph hive mind, and communicate with the villainous leader of the Ceph forces; the Alpha Ceph, who communicated back to him his plan; and how Prophet would fail to stop it from coming to fruition.

After been captured by CELL, who wish to rid Prophet of his suit in exchange for the power it contains, he is saved by his old friend Michael Sykes; known to Prophet as Psycho, a former Nano super soldier. He however has not been so lucky, Psycho’s suit having been torturously ripped from his body, reducing him once more to his humanity.

Because of this, Prophet remains the only soldier wielding the power of the mythical Nano suit; and so is the only human being alive capable of stopping not only CELL, but the horrifying Ceph forces. It is here, that Crysis 3 begins.

Unlike its predecessors, Crysis 3 offers an emotionally in-depth experience. In a few of the cut scenes that separate the action sequences, the sheer intensity of the scenes will really get to you, and they proudly display not only human’s will to survive, but the immense power of humanity’s spirit, and the human heart.

These moments are triumphantly executed with beautiful acting and outstanding visual effects that will ultimately leave you breathless.

Graphically, Crysis 3 is unfathomably superb, and has, hands down, the most gorgeously fabulous visuals of any game released this year. The flawless graphics allow the characters to come to life and the environments you fight through look all the more stunning, drawing you deeper into the storyline and the frequent action sequences.

When not eliminating hordes of enemy opponents, you will most likely be admiring the beautiful effects that Crytek have efficaciously installed into their product.

Psycho returns for the action

Psycho returns for the action

Joining Prophet and Psycho this time round is Psycho’s girlfriend, Claire, who appears much like Ashley Williams/Kaiden Alenko in Mass Effect 2 and 3 after the discovery that Sheperd had briefly forged an alliance with Cerberus; except Crytek further accentuate the animosity. Throughout a majority of the game, Claire sees Prophet as nothing more than a machine, referring to him as an ‘it’ and as ‘hardware’, going so far as to say that he is not even human. She is unbelievably emotionlessly zealous, and I will not be surprised if you come to loath her character as much as she hates yours for a considerable portion of the title.

Another character who joins the team is Resch, who is the former founder of the Hargrave Institute and the designer of the original Nano suit, whose knowledge on its design could very well be unfathomably wealthy.

Moving on, the Ceph have additionally upgraded their ranks, and you will discover that there are not just grunts and heavies roaming about the fields, with a few friends coming to join the war effort to halt your progress. One new opponent is the Incinerator, who uses a terrific flame thrower to heinously devour you in fire. When been fired upon, it borrows its head, its only vulnerable point, into the ground as to keep you from taking it offline, which is a wonderfully unique experience.

Some may recall that in the original Crysis, although the period was short lived, you were given the opportunity to wield an alien weapon. In Crysis 3, this ability is in vogue once more, with some awesome hardware the likes of the Balt Sniper, Incinerator, Reaper Cannon and the predominantly found Pinch Rifle, just to name a few, all been up for grabs.

However, alien tech can only be equipped for a temporary basis, and cannot be fixed into a slot in your inventory. Running on a singular power cell, once all of the energy has been spent, the weapon is rendered redundant, and you return to wielding human weaponry.

An annoying feature of the alien weaponry is that not always does an alien opponent drop a weapon after been eliminated. On many instances I obliterated an alien antagonist, only to find that it failed to drop anything for me to take. Bigger enemies always drop something though, but grunts only provide you with a nice little gift every so often, so don’t be continuously expecting a reward for taking a few of them down.

Alien technology aside though, the human weapons at your disposal are just as entertaining as they always were in previous titles, with the return of the much loved Scar, Feline, Marshal, Jackal (and my personal favourite) the Grendel.

Additionally, the Predator Bow makes an appearance into your inventory, been an addition to the other three weapons that you choose to carry (one primary, one secondary, and explosive ordinances). The bow effectively allows you to fire, whilst remaining concealed in cloak mode, and you can retrieve basic carbon impact arrows from the bodies of your enemies.

The arrow types include, as already mentioned, carbon impact, which is your typical day to day arrow; the super thermite arrow, which will stick to any surface before detonating when an enemy enters its proximity; the airburst frag, which detonates upon impact, and is great for dealing with groups of opponents, and lastly the electric charge arrow, which decimates all technology with an EMP burst that fries anything electronic.

Crysis 3 screen 1 - Prophet the Hunter AU_656x369

All weapons can once more be upgraded, however the system works differently than it has in the past. No longer are the potential upgrades simply beneficial, and on occasion upgrades will limit your weapons as much as they empower them.

For instance, employing a larger magazine will limit the total amount of rounds you can carry for that weapon, whilst attaching a fore grip will limit a weapons’ overall efficiency.

This is additionally the case with some of the upgrades that can be attached to your Nano suit. Unlike in Crysis 2, where you acquired what was essentially needed to upgrade your armour from the bodies of the deceased Ceph, in Crysis 3 you need to discover small packages which each contains a single credit which can be spent towards an upgrade.

Upgrades require between 1 and 3 credits each as to be successfully unlocked, and so you need to choose what it is that you intend to spend your points upon. Unlike in the second game where there were four separate categories to choose from and you could only purchase one from each to use at a time, in Crysis 3, all upgrades can be attached to your armour to make you unbelievably powerful.

However, as previously mentioned, some of the upgrades additionally limit you as much as they benefit your character; for instance, by increasing the potency of your suit’s armour capability, you additionally cause your body to move slower. This is simply one of several examples to be found. Safe to say, you need to make choices as to what you wish to be made stronger, and what you are willing to sacrifice to be all that you must to defeat the alien menace.

Another new addition to the game is the ability to hack enemy turrets, mines, doors and other like devices, which on occasion is a mandatory aspect of the game. Hacking in general is not immensely difficult; you must align the signal wave so that it all connects to the same circuit – honestly, it sounds more difficult than it is. The difficulty can sometimes be that you might be under pressure from enemy fire, and if you fail the hack, your suit’s energy is automatically fried and you must begin again.

Furthermore, the enemy AI is something that the Crysis franchise has always had difficulty delivering. In previous titles one might on occasion find an enemy running into a wall and refusing to budge. Once more, this is one such occurrence that transpired a number of times during the game. If you happen to be on a higher ledge than an enemy, more often than not they will run up to the corner of the building you stand upon and stand there as though waiting to be shot.

Although easy to exploit, the enemy AI also does have its moments. Enemies do take cover and will call in support (they do this unbelievably well) and take notice if members of their team are killed. If they see you, find a body of a deceased member of their team or believe something is wrong, they will immediately begin to make your life a misery by alerting everyone to the presence of an enemy combatant.

Stereotypical enemies are not very powerful and can be dispatched with ease, however, so can your character, even with the legendary Nano suit, and so much of the game is spent ducking in and out of cover.

Because of this, Crysis is not very challenging, and you will often find yourself flying through the campaign, even on the ‘Super Soldier’ difficulty setting.

Many a moment can be easily conquered with the use of the awesome abilities of your Nano suit and the raw firepower of your weapons. If anything, the Predator Bow further increases the effectiveness of your inventory, and even the strongest opponent can be taken down with but a single arrow (on occasion).

When fire power is not working, one can simply run around the opposition, all the way to the next area and continue on from there, avoiding whatever it was they were having difficulty with in the process.

For example, one particular moment that looked particularly gruesome to me was when I had to make my way to Claire’s location and provide her with cover fire. To get there however I had to cross several battlefields rife with unimaginable enemies. Suddenly, I discovered a tank in the corner, and I let loose with the trigger and haltered the enemy rampage with such unbelievable ease that I even surprised myself when even the biggest enemy of all came crashing to the ground with very little struggle.

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Due to the game’s ease, it will not take long for you to eventually complete the campaign which you could finish off over the course of a day (yes, even on the highest skill setting). Previous Crysis titles offered considerably challenging scenarios and (especially the second game in the franchise) offered a rather massive campaign. With that said, the general size of the game, and the knowledge that this is the last in the franchise, will leave you feeling a little deprived as you lick your lips after your final battle in the hope for a little more.

However, even though the campaign is ridiculously short for a Crytek game, the ending brings to a close the series and leaves you feeling content with all that you have accomplished, from the original Crysis, to the conclusion of Crysis 3.

All in all, Crytek should be proud of their legendary accomplishment, and someone should most certainly by these guys several rounds of beers.

Image References:

http://www.ea.com/crysis

http://www.ea.com/au/crysis-3

http://gameplot.net/crysis-3-hd.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crysis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BioShock

http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/11/15/crysis-3-trailer-and-screenshots/

Lock up your kittens and put on some mittens, cuz it’s gonna get very cold in the dead of space

Review of Dead Space 3

Developer: Visceral
Publisher: EA
Release Date: 7th February 2013

More Enjoyable Than: The Thing

Not as Enjoyable as: Dead Space 2

Pros:
-Beautiful graphics and environments
-Incredibly dark and atmospheric
-Amazing weapon customisations and combos
-Enjoyable co-op experience

Cons:
-Story and characters require further development
-Limited enemy AI
-New aspects don’t necessarily have consistent ‘Dead Space’ feel

NOTE: Please excuse my laziness if I sometimes use shorthand – DS3 stands for Dead Space 3!

Dead Space 3 continues a few months after the events of the second game. Earth Gov forces are on the verge of complete eradication by the Unitoligists, the religious fascists who worship the unholy Markers that spawn the hellish alien menace which has plagued our hero, Isaac Clarke, since the beginning of the series. Joining him on this mission is a team, consisting of Dead Space 2 heroine Ellie Langford, and newcomer Robert Carter, along with an assortment of others.

Carter’s significance in the story is pertinent; for it is he that another player will take control over whilst in co-operative play. For a man who still has a beating heart within his chest, his character has about as much life in him as a piece of broken glass, and often he and Isaac find themselves clashing heads in both the single player campaign, and in co-operative play, which I will discuss later.

The first seven chapters of the game are set in outer space, and provide the same feel as the previous games did when on the USS Ishimura in the original, and on Titan Station in the sequel. From chapter eight onwards, you experience the game on the alien world of Tau Volantis. Once presided over by small groups of humans during the wars, the planet has many rundown buildings which are in need of power, which adds to the overall feel of the aged environment. The decadent skeletal remains of fearsome beats that once roamed the land makes the past of such a world even more disturbing, but not so much as the fact that this is the planet where the horrifying Markers were conceived; and thus, in theory, can be the planet where the disaster can be concluded.

For those who have not played the previous titles, you needn’t worry, for a ‘previously on DS3’ begins to play the moment you select your difficulty, and can be viewed again in the ‘extras’ menu. However, whether you have played the prior games is basically irrelevant for the game can often feel considerably different when in contrast with its predecessors, especially when in comparison with its story.

The game plays more like the original Dead Space rather than the sequel. Like the first game, you often repeat certain sections on a frequent basis as you make your way through them again and again as to complete objectives scattered all about the environment, unlike in the second game.

The story in itself furthermore whilst on the subject, is actually quite peculiar. From the beginning, Visceral shows its audience that after the second game, Isaac and fellow character Ellie Langford began a relationship together. At the beginning of DS3 though, the relationship has officially collapsed, and as Isaac puts it; people are often attracted to those who are broken because they believe they can fix them; in his case, he is irreparably damaged and is beyond help.

Isaac is quickly revealed to still have strong feelings for Ellie, even though they are no longer romantically involved, and it is later found that he is unfortunately caught in a heinous love triangle with Ellie and another character. With the almost immediate announcement of this occurrence in the early stages of the game, one would have assumed that this could have been easily built upon over the course of the campaign.

However, for the most part, the game plays as though there are no romantic attachments whatsoever. Unlike in the previous two instalments where Isaac was haunted by the ghostly aspiration of his then girlfriend Nicole, which heightened the emotive and terrifying realities of the story, DS3 appears to more often than not pretend that no emotion connections are taking place over the course of the story at all. On many an occasion when Ellie and Isaac are communing over radio or in person, there is plenty an opportunity for romanticised ideologies to be discussed, but more often than not Isaac appears to attack Ellie judging by the way he verbally conveys his sentences. A great example of this appears at the end of the seventh chapter.

On the rare occasion when emotions are briefly discussed, they are thrown in as though Viscreal entertainment felt that they were literally forced to put them into the conversation, rather than wishing to convey such emotional, passionate dialogue to its audience. Long story short – nothing ever really flows. This ultimately makes the relationships, at best, feel odd – if not fake, and even when that rare occasion does occur, the dialogue is clumsy and stumbles pathetically across the subject as though with child gloves.

Another example of this is of course the crew that joins Isaac on this horrifying adventure. With the introduction of so many new faces, you might imagine that somewhere within the story you might find out a little about them? Wrong! Apart from catching their names near the start, any personal history fails to be brought to life, and the only thing you, the player will come to conclude is that most of the crew inexplicably hates your rotten guts – and you never exactly learn why. Funnily enough, the only person who seems to care about Isaac is his ex, and judging by the previous paragraphs you get the gist of my opinion on that relationship.

In fact, the only person you learn anything about with the exception of the lead protagonist and heroine is Robert Carver. At the beginning of the game it is mentioned that his wife and son were killed by the Unitoligists, and apart from that one mention, it is never brought up again fro the duration of the game. If Visceral decided to open the door about a certain character’s past, would it not have proven effective to discuss it later in full?

Basically, it just seems odd that Visceral open the door for relationships and past lives to be discussed, and yet fail to openly discuss them, and thus are left with a wasted opportunity to further enrich the development of the central characters.

As per previous Dead Space titles, the third game in the franchise utilises marvellously terrifying sounds impeccably, with the roars of monsters and the grunting of mechanics blasting through the walls around you. The sound of a ventilation shaft exploding open puts you on edge as you look through the darkness in the hopes of spotting your enemy before it discovers you. The sound of enemies coming towards you is as gruesome as ever, causing endless shivers to run down your spine. Even the sound instigated by the sudden activation of a pinball machine of all things caused me to jump several feet out from my chair from the raucous noise it produced, my head slamming into the ceiling above me.

There are of course some new changes to the game, the first of which being the saving process – the game has an auto-save function, and half the time you are more likely not to notice the saving icon in the corner than you are to have your attention drawn to it. In this sense if you ever happen to perish, more often than not you will find yourself shuffling your feet and biting your nails as you attempt to fathom where you might reload from, because in DS3 the game has full control over where it decides to save your progress. This is very different from the previous titles, where you could save the game whenever you liked – as long as you found a save station located within the maps.  With this method at your disposal, you could kill a room full of bad guys without taking any damage, proudly save your progress and continue forwards. In DS3, this availability is no longer an option to you.

Additionally, not all missions that take place across the game are mandatory, with optional missions for you to complete as you progress, which can have advantageous beneficiations if you choose to take them.

Moreover there is a new assortment of bad guys for you to pulverise. One new enemy in particular, who happens to be the first enemy you encounter, is the Shambler, who is much unlike the monster in the original Quake with the same name. This particular bad guy is more like a conventional zombie with yellow eyes, who will shamble towards you (hence the name) with any weapon they can find at their disposal, from axes to machineguns, in an attempt to inflict pain. A unique aspect of this particular bad guy is that by cutting off either the top most portion or lower most part of its extremities, they will immediately be replaced b y three tendrils. It really is quite a sight the first time you see a pair of legs running about with a spinal cord, accompanied with two other tendrils on either side waving about in the air in an attempt to slap you with.

Like Gears of War 3 and Resident Evil 6, there is always the chance of having something else eject itself out from the body to replace what you hacked off, with several enemies going through a number of stages before being officially rendered dead – again, since all Necromorphs are literally undead hordes.

Another new monster is the feeder, and you will have to find out for yourself why this terrifying pack hunter gets its name, and of course, there is the gargantuan snow behemoth that you are hunted by for a considerable portion of the game before engaging in open battle with.

Moreover, the moth creatures from the games predecessors which spread the seed of decay by injecting their evil into the heads of their vessels are no longer a part of the franchise. Instead, small bugs will often appear, and these burrow into the brains of the deceased and take them over at an alarming rate, before on occasion jumping out from the body whilst it is been pulverised, only to infect others.

Apart from the expected monsters, the religious Unitoligists themselves have additionally taken up arms and make those terrifying Jehovah’s Witnesses look like a collection of choir performers. These new additions to the long list of enemies are hunting Isaac Clarke down, believing him to be the primary antagonist against their religion. Funnily enough, although they have dedicated themselves to praying to the Markers and the Necromorphs they spawn, this has not made them immune to the attacks of the undead, and on occasion it can be easier to simply let the two sides fight it out, and in the end just take out the stragglers that managed to survive.

The use of gun toting enemies adds a new flavour to the fight in DS3, and thus, due to this, Isaac has now been allowed the ability to crouch behind cover to avoid incoming fire, before returning it in kind.

Enemies will on top of this happily throw grenades in your direction, which you can toss back in theirs with the use of your telekinetic rig. Another addendum with regards to their grenades is the fact that they are by no means against taking their own lives, and much like the Grunt suicide squads in the Halo games, these guys will arm their explosive ordinance and then chase after you with a smile before detonating themselves when in close proximity.

Of course, just because the newly conceived human opponents throw grenades, flank your position and take cover does not necessarily mean they are endowed with an over abundance of brain power. As with the Necromorphs, the humans will have a proclivity to charge, which makes them easy opponents to dispatch, and the fact that the armour around their neck is not exactly impenetrable, means that decapitating them is more often than not a fun way of getting rid of these pesky cultists. Of course, this is adjunctively made easier by the fact that the top portion of the Unitoligist soldiers heads are always visible when behind cover, which makes them that much easier to terminate.

Enemies are not the only thing one needs to be wary of, with a number of sequences occurring over the course of the story where you need to hit the appropriate key or quickly move your character from left to right as to avoid imminent death. There is one particular moment where you must pilot a space craft through a whole horde of debris down towards the alien planet whilst at the same time blasting pieces of metal that are headed for your ship as to keep your crew alive. Moments like these are usually not that difficult to pass through, but will more often than not result in a number of cheap deaths.

Another part of the game which has completely changed is the undying need for minerals, which are scattered throughout the environments. Money is no longer a concern and does not appear in this particular title. No longer do you purchase items, but instead you create them from the range of minerals that you acquire. It does not matter if you are developing a new weapon to add to your arsenal, or are conceiving medical packs; everything requires a certain number of parts and pieces.
Minerals range from scrap metal, to tungsten and semiotic gel, just to name a few, and appear to be more difficult to recover than credits ever did.

In previous titles, the ability to find hard earned cash came as easy as breathing, however, when it comes to the minerals, you will often find that you on occasion discover a terrific amount of one particular variety, and a very sparse amount of another, which will inevitably cause you to continuously think carefully about what you want to create.

This task is however made easier by scavenger bots, which over the course of the game you have the luxury of collecting. These cute little guys automatically begin collecting samples of minerals upon deployment, and upon meeting their quota will terminate at a bench where you can collect their fill.
The use of sound efficaciously aids you in this task; an ominous beeping noise alerting you to particular stockpiles of minerals which will add considerable amounts to your tally and up build your supply unbelievably faster than you ever feasibly could.

Of course, the rarest mineral, and the most sought after would have to be tungsten, which is something you are physically unable to acquire until the first optional mission near the conclusion of the fourth chapter. Almost everything requires tungsten at either one stage of the developmental process, or all of them entirely, which means the discovery of it is unbelievably precious.

Another particular aspect of the game which has been altered is the ammunition. In previous Dead Space games, every gun ran on its own form of ammo, which meant that you would more often than not find plentiful amounts of one kind of ammunition, and lesser amounts of others, which could limit the number of weapons you inevitably used. In the third game, there is one unanimous ammo crate which can be collected, and this refills every weapon in your possession.

One thing you will never need to worry about in that sense is ammo. For a great portion of the game every weapon will have an ammo count of well in excess of three figures, giving you more leverage to shoot with little concern. The same could be said for health packs as well, with a sizeable amount of medium packs being a frequent delicacy through a majority of the game which can consequentially keep you alive for longer periods.

On the subject of ammunition, your weapons have also changed considerably, and not just in the ways that EA has frequently mentioned in their presentations on the game. In DS3, you can only hold two weapons at any given time rather than four like with previous instalments. However, since you can upgrade your weapons to basically become two separate tools of destruction in one, this addendum is barely worth mentioning.

With regards to the construction of your weaponry, this is an incredible improvement from the previous games in the series because you have a lot more room to do what you want rather than to do what the game wants you to. As long as you have the minerals, you can develop a line gun with an attached carbine; an incendiary grenade launcher with a force gun/shotgun; or if you are a fan of the plasma cutter, place an additional plasma cutter beneath your original; the options are yours and they are as limited as your imagination. If you can think it (and you have the parts) you can most certainly build it.

One issue with the development of weaponry however is that it is not quite as easy as the DS3 demo made it out to be. Those who either watched the demo online or participated in it personally would have noticed how unbelievably easy it was to discover parts and pieces for your weapons. This is not the case in reality, with parts been secretly hidden across the environment, and if this is not enough, the difficulty is made more so by the fact that the parts and pieces are incredibly limited and may on occasion take an extraordinary long duration to eventually find the one blueprint you were after all along.

On top of this, you can basically choose the way you intend to fight throughout the game. With the expansion of more engineering equipment and additional militarised weaponry, you can either wage war with military hardware or go at it the way you would have in the previous two instalments. At the beginning of the game Isaac is handed an SMG to accompany is plasma cutter, and you may choose to disregard whichever weapon you do not wish to have in your arsenal later on in exchange for what you believe will be your primary weapon. Some people will feel safer with a cutting tool, and others may feel safer with roar firepower – it is ultimately up to the prerogative of the gamer.

In previous games in the franchise moreover, the titles were all about surviving the Necromorph outbreak, but in DS3, the game is basically all about guns, guns and more guns, and your general lust to conceive as many as possible. For gamers such as myself, you may have originally believed that you would own a fabulously powerful weapon come the end of Chapter Five, and have the capacity to kill Lucifer, Iblis or whatever name your anti-god chooses to go by without so much as a bead of sweat dribbling across your forehead. As with the paragraph before, this is unfortunately not the case, and delivers quite the negative blow. By the time you make your way to a bench for the sixth or so time and still do not have in your possession the necessary minerals or parts to complete your dream weapon, if you are anything like me you may begin to feel just a little bit hopeless.

In regards to the graphics on another note, well, what can I say? Graphically, DS3 is flawless, and captivates you visually with its stunning environments; in space, aboard cruisers or on the icy planet itself, DS3 is graphically perfect from the very beginning.

Enemies appear greasy, with what looks to be bodily liquid coating every inch of their gory bodies. Smoke rises out from the sides of ships as the room pressurises and reacts to the dull thuds of the internal processors. The silky soft snow on the planet’s surface crunches beneath your feet, and you watch as pieces of fluffy snow coat your entire armoured suit, with footprints left in your wake from where you have stepped. The gorgeous coloration of the flashing computers and technological devices draws you further into the futuristic environment. The faces of characters are marvellously in-depth and captures more facial movements than ever before. The explosions which take place are gorgeous to comprehend, and the rising sun makes the environment seem even spookier with the blood red sky looking down on you like a demonic figurehead.

However, on that note, occasionally, especially when on the planet Tau Volantis, the environments can seem a little too large. In space, the corridors are thin and you frequently have little room to manoeuvre, which causes your enemies to press down on you, punishing you every time you get caught in a corner with barbaric attacks. On the ice planet though, you are granted a terrific amount of room, and sometimes the biggest fear is not that of the creatures, but that of getting lost. The snow pounds across the screen, and coats everything in a beautiful white foam, which fails to scream ‘evil’ the way the depths of space does.

With such a large portion of space available to you, you will often spot enemies coming, and before they can bridge the gap between them and you, their cadavers are lying upon the ground from the punishment you bestowed upon them.

On the subject of killing, the co-op mode that has been attached to the game is incredibly fun. One player is able to draw attention away from the other, which allows them to then get in those crucial shots to take the monsters out. Weapons are able to be traded to other players by sending them blueprints of the amazing pieces of hardware that you have created, and you never need to worry about health or items within the game either. Additional upgrades to weaponry can allow a health pack used by one character to miraculously heal the other, at no expense, and different items from the bodies of the dead show up on player’s screens so that never is there a confrontation on who gets what.

Additionally, with a character by his side, Isaac becomes incredibly more loquacious, as he and Carter share in their wins and talk about what is happening around them. More often than not they bump heads due to their conflicting personalities; Isaac being a veteran of knowledge in regards to the monsters and being basically a scientific engineer; whereas Robert is a full-fledged marine who frequently believes that more militarised actions need to be taken to ensure mission success.

On another note, the co-op is not a permanent fixture, unlike Firefight mode in Halo 3 ODST, in which if one player decides to drop out of the game, it immediately comes to a head. In DS3, if a player is having trouble getting past an area for instance, another player can drop in, help them out, and then drop out, the original player continuing onwards unimpaired.

The drawback of playing co-operatively is that the terror of the game is lessened due to the garrulous nature of the characters, which inevitably drowns out the terrifying sounds and heightened music which plays throughout the game. On top of this, since you are no longer alone, you never feel as though you might spontaneously lose because you always have back up to accommodate you in every situation, with the game automatically adjusting to configure itself to the co-op style game play.

In conclusion, Dead Space 3 does indeed bring back much of what made the original games so popular, but at the expense of story and characterisation. On occasion, the game may feel as though Visceral entertainment is trying desperately to fit in as much as possible into the game, which will take anywhere between 12 to 18 hours to complete. However, even with this said, the intense action sequences, weapon medications and spooky atmospheric conditions will no doubt provide you with plenty of enjoyment.

My opinion:

7.5/10

 

Shepard and Aria team up to slap Omega out from the Illusive Man’s greedy little hands: Analysing the Mass Effect 3 DLC “Omega”

Team up with Aria and Nyreen to take back Omega

Size: 1.99 Gigabytes

Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points

It was not long into the Mass Effect 3 campaign that Aria, the so called ‘Pirate Queen’ of the ominous Terminus station Omega sent a message to Shepard’s private terminal, requesting the player to meet her in Purgatory on the Citadel and to not keep her waiting. After running around the centre of Galactic government, Shepard successfully unified the three primary mercenary bands in the universe under her command, whilst at the same time she specified why she was on the Citadel; how the Illusive Man, the ring leader of the circus that is Cerberus, a pro-human splinter group comprised of terrorists and other antagonists, was now ‘at the top of her shit list’, and was thus going to pay ‘for every minute (she had) spent in this bureaucratic hell hole’ for stealing Omega away from her.

After helping Aria twice during the second game, once, by unveiling to her how the Blue Suns, the Eclipse and the Blood Pack were planning to unanimously destroy her after the death of Archangel; and again by helping to save her former adviser, Patriarch, it was rather obvious that once more Shepard would be required to perform another duty for the powerful Assari this time around.

The campaign, which consists of four levels of game play with additional cinematics, begins with an e-mail from the illustrious Aria, asking Sheppard to return to the Citadel and meet her in Dock 42 so they might discuss her ‘pet project’. After several weeks of preparing the counter offensive assault to take Omega back from Cerberus, Aria is officially ready to take back her station, and although Aria relinquishes control and allows herself to be bossed around by Shepard during the game play, she still does have a few addendums; the least of which being that none of your crew are to accompany you during the game.

Having little trust with regards to your affiliates, you will instead find yourself braving the fight against Cerberus with a team consisting of none other than Aria herself, and a Turian Huntress named Nyreen, who is additionally the leader of a rebellious group on Omega titled the ‘Talons’, who have being attempting to fight Cerberus for the right to control the station.

Primarily the game will be played with Aria, who you are able to personally level up in the Squad menu, with new abilities the likes of Lash, Flare and Biotic Protector being readily available for use. To say that Aria’s powers are extraordinary would be a terrific understatement, with whole garrisons of enemy troops often being literally wiped out by but a blast of her biotic capabilities.

Nyreen on the other hand randomly assists you as often as she goes off on her own, and so half the campaign will be spent without her personal assistance as she wages the battle in other areas across the station.

Over the course of the game you are able to find out about the background of both unique squad members and their in-depth history together, however, if you are interested in discovering bucket loads of information on Aria you are going to be terribly disappointed, the information being slim at best.

Additionally, over the course of the campaign, Aria will come off as a cold, manipulative and unemotional monster who is willing to sacrifice innocent lives for the sake of her vengeful mission against the Cerberus forces. Nyreen on the other hand is the polar opposite, and instead worries frantically about the lives of civilians, and during conversations when you are forced to make paragon and renegade choices, will be the voice of reason, whilst Aria maintains her freezing cold demeanor and criticises many of your paragon choices.

However, if you successfully keep up a paragon reputation throughout the campaign, you may be able to slightly tweak Aria’s lack of consciousness so that she becomes a little more, well, civilised, but again, this comers at the price of her criticism.

Moreover, unlike the Extended Cut, this particular DLC is not an emotionally powerful experience, so players will only have to bring themselves to the fight, rather than additionally bringing a box of tissues (or in my case ten). In fact, emotions of any kind (with the exception of hate and loathing) are not focused upon in the slightest. The entire campaign is basically a grudge match between Aria and the Cerberus forces. Even on the occasions when saddening occurrences transpire, the amount of in-depth concentration which is applied is barely significant, and even though during the rest of the game these emotional scenarios were focused upon quite strongly, these instances are severely overlooked during this DLC package.

Moving on, your primary enemy throughout the campaign comes in the form of General Oleg Protrovski, who unlike other Cerberus Commanders does have a seemingly militarised code of honor, although, at the same time he is still very willing to make horrific sacrifices to achieve victory, and thus the goal of the campaign is to seize control of the station from him.

The Illusive Man rather unfortunately does not make an appearance of any kind, and some may feel the levels are incomplete without his unfathomably egotistical personality and antagonistic wit.

Every Cerberus opponent you have faced before, from the basic foot soldier to the dangerous Nemesis; from the agile Phantom to the incredibly powerful Atlas will make a number of appearances though throughout your efforts to retake Omega. At times, the number of enemies who stand against you are considerable, and potentially outnumber the strength of the army protecting the Illusive Man’s base which you assault at the game’s conclusion. The number of Atlas’s you will face is greater than that of any other fight and dwarves previous encounters.

Although the campaign, yes, can be challenging, this is also contradicted by the notion that you will frequently find yourself drowning in medical packs, and so you will rarely find yourself without a full collection of medi-gel in your power wheel (on a side note, the amount of medi-gel is almost drowned out by the sheer number of credits that number in the tens of thousands which can be found over the course of the campaign). Additionally, your team is incredibly competent to the extent that during my play through, not one of them fell at the hands of the Cerberus soldiers.

On another note, a new addition to the Cerberus army, the Rampant Mechs, are very fun to go up against, and are more capable than the basic mech artillery you were forced to frequently endure during the second game. These Mechs are well armored and carry powerful shotguns that do considerably damage at close range, and if that is not enough, they come equipped with powerful Omni-tool based weaponry which can shred your shields if they come within an inch of your body. Even in death these Mechs are a nuisance, and it is frequently best to keep a good distance between both your character and them whether they are running around on both legs or have them pointing up in the air.

Another opponent that makes a debut in the campaign is the Reaper creature known only as the ‘Adjutant’. These (often) failed Cerberus experiments look a lot like a cross between both the Cannibal and the Brute, and can literally tear into you with their sharp claws and leap considerable distances to close in on your location. From afar they are able to shoot moderately potent biotic powers from their right arms which can temporarily disarm you, their attacks continuing to affect you for  a few seconds after you have being hit (much like the biotic attacks by the Banshees). However, these creatures only make a couple of appearances, and it is disappointing that they appear infrequently throughout the campaign due to the challenging nature of such an opponent who deserved a much larger role.

The Omega DLC will provide you with somewhere between three and five hours worth of additional game play, and by the end your character will be granted some powerful war assets that could potentially tip the scales in your battle against the Reaper menace.

If there is one thing that the campaign does well it is build your interest and keep you entertained, and judging by the hype and excitement that has being attributed by the online media that is no surprise. However, this is also the campaign’s weakness.

Although you will recognise a couple of the surrounds that you fight through from your original trip to the station back in the second game, you will be barred from exploring most of it. On top of this, the amount of the station that you do fight through feels considerably small when in contrast with the sheer enormous scale and size of Omega. Due to this, you, the gamer, will often continuously ask for more; more action; more places to explore; more in-depth character driven narratives; more of the exciting Mass Effect experience; the issue is that the Omega DLC whets your appetite, and nothing else. By the campaign’s conclusion you will be left with an insatiable hunger for more, and thus will be unable to satisfy your appetite.

Omega is an entertaining addition to the Mass Effect universe in its own right, with a couple side missions to complete for some of the folks in Omega, and additional objectives which include fighting through a mine dripping with Ezo deposits (which may remind gamers of Dead Space 2 and Doom 3), destroying shields and defenses, deactivating land mines and neutralising garrisons of Cerberus combatants.

However, when in comparison to Mass Effect 3 as a whole, the Leviathan DLC, or even the Extended Cut, you will find your lust for the Mass Effect universe remains, and your wish for an incredibly potent experience goes unfulfilled.

On a final note, since the Bioware team who developed the Mass Effect franchise are primarily beginning to focus on new ventures, and Bioware Monteal has now announced they will be working on the new Mass Effect game, fans of Mass Effect 3 may wish to smoke this DLC while they have it – for there may not be another DLC for this game again. Judging by the fact that in four months time the game will be celebrating its one year anniversary since its release, and DLC’s for previous titles were discontinued half way into the following year respectively, this assumption is made even more likely.

In Summary:

Good:
-New entertaining and powerful enemies
-Challenging atmosphere
-Never before seen environments
-Plenty of credits are left lying around
-Aria’s powers are beyond amazing
-Potential war assets can be acquired by campaign’s end

Bad:
-Entire campaign is an unemotional experience
-Relatively short
-The four levels can feel small in comparison with the significant size of the station
-Exploration of both the station and characters is limited
-Adjutant Reaper enemies deserve greater role
-Sheer amount of medi-gel dissolves many of the challenges
-You, the gamer, will be left wanting more

Image References:
-Mass Effect Wiki 2012, Mass Effect 3: Omega, viewed 26th November 2012
< http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mass_Effect_3:_Omega>