Battling Mutants Beneath the Sunset in Insomniac’s new Open World Shooter

Title: Sunset Overdrivesunset-boxart
Developer: Insomniac
Distributor: Microsoft
Platform: XBOX One
Duration: 12 + hours

More Entertaining Than:
Ratchet and Clank Q Force

Less Entertaining Than:
BulletStorm

Pros:
-Gorgeous visuals
-Acrobatic fun
-Uniquely awesome weapons
-Entertaining upgrades
-Good use of humor
-Enjoyable soundtrack

Cons:
-Occasionally annoying controls
-Moderately restrictive environment

Verdict: 8 (out of 10)

Insomniac’s more recent titles, including Resistance 3 and Fuse, might cause some gamers to question their faith in this developer. The quirks in the above mentioned games however have certainly been ironed out when it comes to Sunset Overdrive, a game which, much like Ratchet and Clank, seems to make a habit of taking the piss out of the gaming industry. Many titles today seem to be obsessed with realism. In 2009, a developer working with id software discussed people’s first impressions of Rage, a strong focus been on the weapons. Apparently, having spent brass ejecting from the left of the weapon caused criticism from gamers, who said the bullet casings were a distraction, however, when the casings sprang out from the right, people complained it wasn’t realistic. Clearly, a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. In the case of their new product, Insomniac take the guide book on how to create a video game, and kindly tell it to fuck off (excuse the expletive, however, if you play Sunset Overdrive, expect to encounter as much profanity as you do mutants).

This is evidenced throughout the entirety of the game. Right from the start, you can change the appearance, physique, sex and attire of your character, and can continue doing so as you progress through the story. Unlike a certain game I played recently (*cough* Destiny *cough*) which refused to show the player how an attire looked upon their person before they bought it, Sunset Overdrive happily does, and for good reason. Despite having access to contemporary attire, you may also equip, if you happen to have the same tastes as I, a jester hat, spider web face paint, a corset, drivers gloves, a biker’s jacket, loose jeans and red sneakers.

Additionally, whilst playing, there are moments when the character might hear a narrator discussing how to use the controls, before wondering how a disembodied voice is talking in their ear, and later still, when things aren’t properly explained, the lead says ‘don’t poke holes in how we present the story.’ Although NPC’s and the player alike may question the legitimacy of the environment or story in general, Insomniac constantly reminds the gamer that this is a work of fiction, and thus, seriousness should therefore be the one thing that’s lacking. While games like Call of Duty go above and beyond to provide an in-depth world which feels and reacts much like the military does, Sunset Overdrive doesn’t care about authenticity. Rather, it works similarly to the film Cabin in the Woods, where a genuine horror story is instead told with ridiculousness and humor. Despite monsters running amok through the streets and the plentiful amount of violence, the game often appears bright and inviting. The physical layout is reminiscent of XIII meets Fuse, with comical graphics ensuring stunningly bright environments, which the player is drawn into via the action oriented soundtrack. On one occasion, the character asks that a spy theme begin to play to help set the espionage mood of the mission, and immediately, the game grants the request, the themes helping the gamer feel like a regular action hero.

Fizzco, a shady drink developer, may have created the ultimate thirst quencher, however, their beverage has the undesired affect of turning those who drink it into mutants, and unfortunately, the town in which you inhabit, much like Resident Evil’s Racoon City, is suddenly in the midst of an apocalyptic disaster. The mutants the player encounters come in a variety of flavors, from the common OD, which brainlessly chase anything resembling a human, to Blowers, a more intelligent life-form, which eject a pile of glop at enemies from the leaf blower attached to their arm. Larger enemies, like the Spawner, which aptly do as their name suggests, require specialized attacks from the player, who must switch between weapons in order to take them down. Unlike in many games, where the stronger opponents often appear later, the player finds themselves in front of a massive ugly not even half an hour into the story. As more enemies appear, players are forced to adapt to creature’s attacks. Where some use ranged weaponry, others pounce, or attack from above, a combination of styles being required to achieve success.

Mutants are not the only threat in the city though, with Scabs, a human gang, who seem to have adapted to the epidemic a little too well, rampaging through the districts. Apart from looting and kidnapping, they arm themselves with a wealth of firepower and explosives, to inflict maximum casualties. On top of this, Fizzco themselves have a lot to answer for, and will go to any lengths to stop their dirty secrets been made public, which the player is unfortunate enough to often confront. Despite the mutants been a massive threat, Fizzco’s mascot, Fizzie, is the true masochist of Sunset City. Zenya Amo in Akiba’s Trip Undead and Undressed was very entertaining for being such an eccentric villain. Fizzie however takes this a step further to become quite possibly the funnest antagonist this year. ‘It’s the apocalypse, bitches!’ he cries, while doing all manner of horrific atrocities, before resorting to using lines from contemporary media sources when things don’t go according to plan. If a mutant were to say ‘we have destroyed the world’, Fizzie would surely be there to retort ‘and I’m going outta my way to make sure the world stays dead.’

Fizzie may well be the apex of the game’s deranged characters, however, he is not alone, with those who survived the pandemonium making up a collection of rather funny sorts. With the exception of Floyd, who is the master of wisecracks, the men in the game who your character teams up are either, insane, nerdy, LARPers, or lacking in limbs or common sense. The women on the other hand are the most well adjusted to the end of days, with a combination of intelligent babes and kick-ass cheerleaders accompanying you for the ride.

The game itself operates much like a Greek tragedy and a comedy of errors, all combed into one. In one instance you find a certain someone to help craft an item. This someone has friends who are needed to build said item, each of whom need motivation to work, requiring you to fulfill jobs for each of them. Once complete, and the item in question is in the process of been built, the machine crafting it breaks down, and you are required to find spare parts, which just so happen to belong to a person who has a mission of their own they want completed.

Unlike in Gears of War Judgement, where all you really ever did was kill Grubs, Sunset Overdrive makes the continuous slaughter of mutants fun by providing the player with a collection of weirdly unqiue objectives. In one instance, you are required to go to a bottled water plant to find several liters of refreshingly overpriced spring water, while on another, you go to a hot dog factory to find a missing acquaintance. However, as the game progresses, the missions become even wackier. At one point, you are tasked with killing hundreds of pigeons, while on another, you are required to bounce across a set of drums in order to achieve an intended result. Near the conclusion, the lead character decides in their wisdom, that although threat of an imminent cataclysmic event is on the horizon, they will instead form a rock band, and even I, at this point, began to question the general sanity of the storyline. If there is a line separating the deranged from normality, Sunset Overdrive not only crosses it – the game leaps over it, before turning around with a laser gun and pulverizing the line into oblivion.

The serious lack of authenticity begins to be displayed from the start with the armaments you find yourself using. Reflective of the gadgets in Ratchet and Clank (people may remember Mr Zurkon), the guns you use are both original and unqiue. These include the High Fidelity, or Nothing But The Hits, weapons which fire records at your opponents, or the Flaming Compensator, a shotgun with flammable buckshot. There’s the Acid Sprinkler, which lobs a grenade which acts like the kind of sprinkler you may find in your yard, but instead shoots noxious acid at your foes. On top of this, there’s The Dude, which fires an onslaught of bowling balls, the Murderang, which lobs a metallic boomerang at opponents, which almost always hits its mark, if not the first time around, then certainly on the return journey, and the TNTeddy, which fires an explosive teddy bear. At the end of the game, if you have the cash, you can reward yourself with the Charge Beam, a weapon that makes even the mightiest mutant do pee pee in its pants. These are just a few of the entertaining armaments, however, this isn’t all, with a selection of traps also available at the player’s discretion. Such include the Hack N Slay, which produces a propeller that renders your enemies shorter, and the Pyro Geyser, that when bounced on, emits a burst of fire upon all enemies in the vicinity.

Additionally, the environment itself constantly reminds the player this isn’t the conventional experience some gamers may be used to. You can bounce on cars, use fans to reach higher altitudes, run on walls, swing on lampposts, and grind across rails and power lines, among other things. The fact your character’s health is unable to survive much attack is the game’s way of incentivising the player to use the wealth of acrobatic options available to them in order to survive.

Occasionally though, as the ‘x’ button is used to not only enter grind mode, but swing and wall run as well, sometimes the character might inadvertently do something the player did not intend, or perhaps even begin moving in the wrong direction. Although the character is able to grind without the player holding down any button, the game will automatically pick the direction you grind in (although this can be changed). On top of this, despite the openness and interactivity of the environment, restrictions do apply. The character may climb up some buildings, but not others, which instead requires you to bounce up them, and if said bounce pad is located on the other side of the building, and you are presently on the other, being chased by mutants, this makes chances of survival less plausible. On top of this, some plants can additionally be used as bounce platforms, however, on occasion when I leapt in the direction of one, I passed right through it rather than ricocheting upwards. Again, the inconsistencies and restrictions are a little annoying: it’s a bit like going to a camp where the instructor announces ‘there are no rules’, before providing a list of regulations.

Using the acrobatic options moreover, along with killing enemies whilst grinding or leaping through mid air, increases the character’s style gauge. With each part of the style meter that is filled, abilities the gamer has attached to their character become unlocked. Abilities can include Amps, to increase the character’s effectiveness in combat (as an example, you can set enemies on fire with your melee weapon, create a shield around your player which activates after an enemy attacks you, or leap down onto your foes, emitting a shock-wave in the process). Amps can additionally be applied to weapons, many of which allow for an influx of explosive capabilities, however, there is no guarantee they will work every time, with the game insinuating there is a chance the Amp may be activated.

Many of the Amps moreover, the player needs to build, by using a combination of items, including smelly shoes, toilet paper, cameras, or even balloons. What is a little annoying though, is that the game makes it a requirement for you to build the Amps, rather than an option. Although it is not mandatory to play online (unlike Destiny), or compete in Buck National (an arena where you verse mutants to score points), it is rather restraining the game presumes the player wants Amps in the first place. The fact they are difficult to create, as you are forced to hold off wave after wave of mutants as the Amps brew, is perhaps a deliberate strategy by Insomniac to make the game last longer.

Moreover, upgrades can also be applied to your character, which can increase the amount of style points you acquire from using acrobatic skills, how much spare ammunition you can carry, or the damage done by your weapons. Rather than increasing the overall health of the protagonist, the game offers the player the option of decreasing damage taken by certain enemies. Some upgrades do however come with a price. An example might be, inflict 5% extra damage to mutants, but suffer an extra 1% damage from them, and in a game where a single hit from a mutant can take off a significant portion of your health, increasing that particular damage is the last thing you may want to do.

Although death is a common occurrence in the game, unlike during other titles where gamers may find themselves grunting  a number of choice words afterwards, Insomniac alters death from an unwanted hindrance, to a welcome occurrence. If simply running around town, or undertaking a side quest, the game will automatically respawn you where you fell, however, it is always different. Maybe you’ll hatch from an egg; erupt like Dracula from a coffin; be deployed from an alien mother-ship, or materialize out of the air; the possibilities are as vast as they are fun to watch. On top of this, unlike in Fuse, for instance, when, during the final boss encounter, you were forced to repeat the grim ordeal time and time again if you failed, checkpoints are commonly found in the game’s main gigs, which limits the amount of repetition in difficult areas.

As with many games these days, the conclusion is left wide open for a potential sequel. Though the ending doesn’t necessarily fall flat in contrast with the rest of the game, it certainly leaves a lot of unanswered questions, again, perhaps doing so to pave way for future titles. Moreover, although your character is frequently referenced as a hero by your fellow peers, at the end, unlike conventional story lines, there is no gorgeous dame who launches herself into the arms of the lead character, which I found to be a little limiting.

In conclusion, Sunset Overdrive reminds consumers of the pure, fictional entertainment once experienced in games when they were been conceived over ten plus years ago, with suspension of disbelief and realism having no sway over the game’s events. Frequently ludicrous and often lacking in sense, rather than questioning how something occurred, you simply go with it, in a game that plays by no rules – not even its own. Where so many gaming companies today seem to care only about making money, and this desire flows into their titles, Sunset Overdrive appears to be filled with the same passion games were once injected with; fantastical environments, unexplainable, often delusional story lines, and energetic fun.

The Evil Within is Aptly Named – for it Awoke the Evil Within Me

Title: The Evil Withinthe-evil-within-logo
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Distributor: Bethesda

Pros:
-Devilishly bloodthirsty
-Simplistic controls
-Upgrade system
-Exploration yields fruitful rewards

Cons:
-Vague storyline and plot
-Bland graphics
-Excruciatingly limited resources
-Occasionally unresponsive and slow
control system
-Camera can prove frustrating

Verdict: 5.5 (out of 10)

This year’s Destiny had a lot of hype, but after completion of the short campaign, what remained was a series of frequently repetitive occurrences that made about as much sense as an ashtray on a motorbike. The Evil Within is not necessarily in the same boat, but it certainly originates from the same dock. After watching several astounding trailers, and reading the verdicts of professional gaming companies online (Ausgamers gave the Evil Within a 10), I was expecting something considerably more entertaining. Australia’s newspaper The Age noted how The Evil Within was ‘a grand rebirth for survival horror’, and had this been 1998, or 2002, I probably wouldn’t bother voicing an argument. Today however, I would presume gamers want a little more from their games than relentless chase scenes and inexplicable gore, with an almost non-existent plot. For me, on the most part, I found the Evil Within annoying, for reasons I will explore in this post, the scariest part about the game quite possibly being its price.

Perhaps I might have found more enjoyment if the protagonist was someone a little different than Sebastian Castellanos. Although I won’t deny, I’m sure he’d make a great detective, but the lead in a horror game? He is out of his league in this alternate universe. Although he proves himself courageous in a fight, his delicate body is quite the contradiction to his character, and the fact that he, at the beginning, cannot run more than a couple dozen feet without becoming crippled with exhaustion, is frustrating. He doesn’t just stop running though – usually he has to bend over, panting like someone who just ran a  marathon, all the while, whatever thing you were running from, draws ever closer, and when battling boss monsters, who can kill you with a single hit, the distance between you and the bad guys, is precious.

Moving on, throughout the game, a majority of the levels are an incoherent mass of hysteria, and reminded me a fair bit of Painkiller, in that one level does not exactly continue on from the other, and you rather find yourself going from one random location to the next, and this similarly occurs during levels as well. Often in games, locations are meant to yield information on the plot itself, but such is forfeited by this peculiar technique. Again, like Painkiller, the environments are rather drab, with a mixture of browns, blacks, grays and (of course) reds, making up a quantity of the environment, and although everything is well constructed, the lack of any lively color makes the game look and feel like a graveyard, which does nothing to exploit the power of the new systems (I myself played this title on the XBOX One).

While exploring these strange environments however, you are able to find news clippings, audio and doctoral files from other individuals, and a back-story regarding Sebastian, and from chapter five onwards, you begin to piece together the kind of life that Sebastian has experienced. It is sub-plots like these that make you want to continue, in order to alleviate your quest for answers, however the slow pace the answers are provided means there is a lot of trekking through strange territory, that on more than one occasion seems to have no real pertinence to the shadowy storyline.

The most hectic part about the game though, is the lack of resources. This is where upgrading becomes most paramount. At the beginning of the game, the amount of reserve ammo or health-packs your character can carry is pitifully low, and you are forced to choose between making your character’s life line stronger, or upgrading the number of resources you can hold. Upgrading is done by acquiring glop from around not only the environment, but from the bodies of deceased enemies, who (rarely) drop something you can use. During each level, you may hear the sweet melody of music serenading your eardrums, which means that by walking through a mirror, you are able to enter a safe haven, which seems to exist between not only the game’s worlds, but time itself. Here, you can save the game, find information on certain back stories, restock on supplies (during the Evil Within you may find small statues which internally contain keys, that then unlock cabinets containing goods), or upgrade your character by shocking yourself in an electric chair (yes, you read that right).

Continuing on with regards to the lackluster resources, I have no problem with a challenge, as long as I receive a reward afterwards that will incentivize me to persist with the unending struggle. The reward that is received however is hardly agreeable compensation – often, a collection of new antagonistic monsters appear, sometimes even in areas previously cleansed of enemy combatants. As previously noted, enemies drop very little in the way of loot once deceased, and been forced to waste valuable resources dispatching these new creatures is a frustrating hindrance. What is most annoying though, is that you receive, early on in fact, an arsenal of powerful weapons, but you can hardly ever use them, and rather, your character seems to spend more time running from the enemy in a vain attempt to avoid as many encounters as possible, rather than using the weapons for the reason they were made. The frequency of these chase sequences reminded me somewhat of Prince of Persia, Warrior Within, in which a great portion of the game is spent running away from the monstrous Dahaka.

The addendum that enemies don’t normally stay dead unless set alight is another conundrum faced, and since matches are even more scarce than ammo, you are forced to choose who you purge with fire delicately, as you never know what lies around the next corner. That is even if Sebastian lights the enemy up at all. On several moments, the game refused to let me set an enemy alight unless I stood in a certain position, and by that time, the target had already begun to drag its gory remains to its feet, forcing me to repeat the entire process all over again. If you happen to die moreover, upon returning to the game (there is a checkpoint system, alongside the opportunity to manually save your progress), resources will either be different, or not available at all. There was one moment when I uncovered several bullets from inside a container, but when I returned after having died, it was completely vacant.

On this note, a number of the resources are hidden in boxes, containers and cabinets, and you are forced to demolish these, making unnecessary noise that alerts nearby foes. Occasionally, you are also required to work with an NPC (non-playable character (for the uninitiated)), and their clumsiness in knocking over items is aggravatingly brutal. They might as well put up a neon sign. On the subject of lighting, Joseph is allowed to carry a lantern with an unending shelf-life, however the light is just as much a monster magnet as the unfortunate onset of sound, which can be triggered by bumping into a table, or stepping on some glass, which adds a good deal of realism to the game. Sounds can however, when properly employed, be used as devices of distraction, which can allow you the opportunity to sneak up on unsuspecting foes, and stealthily kill them without the use of ammo. Going into a fist fight with an enemy is seldom a recommendation judging by the amount of damage a single combatant can inflict, but stealth kills offer a solution to this quandary. Stealth kills are not impossible, but the chance that the enemy will turn and see you is very likely, so careful precision is always a requirement. Of course, the fact that the crouch button needs to be held down, alongside the addendum that Sebastian cannot use firearms while crouched, makes this all the more complex. Additionally, with regards to stealth, Sebastian can, rather than kicking a door open, slowly push it forward, the eerie squeak of the door being questionably loud. The point I’m making by including this assessment is with regards to the camera angle during this stealth tactic. As Sebastian opens the door, for several seconds, you have no control over the camera’s location, and instead of seeing what threat exists in the following area, you have to wait until Sebastian is in the room to regain control, putting the character at unnecessary risk.

Returning to the subject of checkpoints, occasionally, they fail to reboot the player where the checkpoint was received. There was one moment in particular, where I received a checkpoint behind a condemned building, but after having died, I rematerialized atop a flight of stairs, in plain sight of an enemy, who then proceeded to hurry after me. With regards to the enemy in general, although they are capable of detecting the player by sight and sound, they don’t appear largely intelligent. On one occasion, I was chased into a room by a cluster of creatures, who then proceeded to run amok, bumping into one another in a frenetic attempt to acquire me. Not only was I able to escape without taking any damage (which was a rare occurrence, I must say), but witnessing the creatures blindly bumping into one another like a gaggle of brainless bots was certainly something to behold.

In general, most enemies appear much the same; humans who have endured a wealth of torture, with bits and pieces hanging off their bodies. Although the graphics render their mutilated forms in vivid detail, which you cannot help but admire (when you are hidden, at least), most enemies are simply reminiscent of zombies, and after having seen one, you have, on the most part, seen them all. Although on occasion you find creatures that are very different, and the boss encounters are certainly reminiscent of this, such is rarely commonplace, rendering the excitement of been pursued by yet another zombie-like creature moot after it occurs for the sixteenth time that hour. Despite a lot of creatures requiring little more than a wealth of firepower in order to have their existence brought to a close, sometimes creatures require a degree of strategy. Not long into the game you encounter a certain enemy that has the habit of becoming invisible, and so you are required to watch the environment; if a puddle of blood is disturbed, or an item is inexplicably knocked over, the chance the creature is near is very high.

Besides enemies, there are also traps that players need to be on the look out for.  One is unable to stroll confidently into a room, else the chance they will be turned into a pile of bloody innards from an unexpected device is quite likely, and these become all the more frustrating when you are been pursued. Bombs, bear traps, electric wires, retractable spikes, among other contraptions, await you in every single level, and unless you have your wits about you, a lot of cheap deaths await the novice traveler. Alongside traps though, there are also puzzles, the act of solving them moreover proving to be quite fun. Occasionally dire ramifications await those who, for instance, happen to incorrectly put things in the required order. Puzzles can involve applying knowledge found in a picture or diagram into a real world scenario (like looking at the picture of a body, and then cutting open the mutilated flesh of some poor sap in the location specified by the drawing).

Occasions like these, not to mention the inexplicable wealth of blood, appears to be the frightening scenarios players were promised upon purchasing this title. Unlike in Alien Isolation, where the terror is in your face, watching Sebastian being torn to shreds by creatures is hardly anything to become squeamish over, and for the most part, I found myself chuckling at the sight of limitless violence. When other ‘frightening’ scenarios are produced, they are normally cliched and predictable, and it is nothing you wouldn’t have seen before. In conclusion, as the title of this post suggests, the only ‘evil’ I found was my own, after becoming rather angry with myself for having bought this particular product. Although I won’t deny, there are some impressive moments, these are so fleeting and minor, that between the lacking resources, pathetically weak protagonist, and bland locations, they are unable to satisfactorily save the Evil Within from itself.

The Most Difficult Murder to Solve is Your Own in the New Square Enix Thriller, Murdered: Soul Suspect

Title: Murdered: Soul SuspectMurdered_Soul_Suspect_Artwork_Logo
Developer: Air Tight Games
Distributor: Square Enix
Platforms: XBOX 360, XBOX ONE,
PS3, PS4, PC
Rating (out of Ten): 9

More Entertaining Than: Condemned: Criminal Origins

Less Entertaining Than: Beyond: Two Souls

Duration: 6-7 Hours (not including completion of all
secondary objectives)

 

 

If you are interested in a violent shoot ‘em up, filled with outrageous explosions, I recommend you avoid this title. If however, you are interested in a character and story oriented drama (the game is quite similar to the 2013 PS3 title Beyond: Two Souls, and if you enjoyed that, it is more than likely you will enjoy this too), I would recommend you look no further than Murdered: Soul Suspect.
At its core, Murdered is a love story, about Ronan, a detective with a criminal past, who, in order to be reunited with his wife, Julia, on the other side after he is violently killed, must solve his murder, in order to move on. On top of this, Murdered is a dramatic paranormal thriller, which has features reminiscent of adventure games.

The game begins with Ronan’s murder; an over the top death at the hands of the notoriously antagonistic murderer; the Bell Killer (aptly named for the bell symbol left at the site of all his murders); a man Ronan had been investigating prior to his death. The Bell Killer is responsible for putting a number of Salem’s residents into the ground, the roots of these murders dating back into the region’s history. There are still more victims on the Bell Killer’s list, and Ronan must bring this ritualistic killer to justice.

Stuck in a purgatorial realm, Ronan must travel from one scene to the next in order to uncover the truth. As a character, Ronan comes off as a rather tough as nails detective, his criminal past often being revealed in flashbacks as the player discovers memories located across the city. This potential darkness is counteracted with Julia’s thoughts of him, which are additionally found scattered across the environment. Although these thoughts are written down, and thus need to be read by the gamer, the actress who voices her, and the words themselves, are both as equally powerful at revealing a beautiful romance. This is not told in contemporary order, and as Ronan travels from one location to the next, he discovers memories of his past, and that of Julia’s, which shape his character into a man with a hard exterior, but an incredibly warm heart.

This is strengthened also with the opinions of his brother in law, Rex, a fellow detective investigating the Bell Killer, who is grieving the loss of his best friend, his opinion of Ronan being rather contradictive; although he loved Ronan like a brother, he is worried about his criminal past, something that officer Baxter is not. To say he loathes Ronan would be an understatement, believing that he represents everything a police officer should not.

Not long into the game, Ronan meets Joy, the daughter of a medium who has additionally acquired the gift, however, unlike her mother who assists the police during investigations (including the Bell Killer), Joy is apprehensive about communing with the deceased, wishing instead to have a normal life. With her mother missing, and she been the only living person who can actually see Ronan, the two form an awkward partnership, as the two become better acquainted with one another over the course of the game.

Set in the town of Salem, which has a long history of war, pestilence, and a wealth of other colourful occurrences (which can be found by visiting locations and exploring the environment), the game is a very open world, where the player is able to either freely explore, or head straight towards the next objective, which is always marked with a waypoint. On the subject of the town, I found it strange that 95% of the residents were Caucasian, and although the town comes attached with its own history and culture, the lack of other cultural backgrounds and ethnicities seemed mightily peculiar. Though this does not affect the game, it does fail to contribute a further sense of realism to the environment the gamer temporarily inhabits.

The purgatorial realm of Salem is a mixture of real world environments, and ghostly effigies. These residual spectral visages are strangely corporeal, and cannot be passed through. A benefit of the game is that Ronan is able to pass through almost any structure; how many times in other games have you become stuck on an object? This annoyance is almost non-existent in Murdered. Ronan is unable to pass through buildings that are locked, however, once inside, either through a partially opened door or window, movement is fairly unrestricted, with the exception of aforementioned objects linked to the deaths of others. These however can often be navigated around, and if not by walking, then by using ghostly portals. These residual shadows are tied directly to the existences of ghosts, and can be jumped to and from. Later, when Ronan discovers the ability to teleport, this additionally serves in getting around solid objects or other like obstructions.

Moving on, when travelling towards a destination, Ronan bumps into literally dozens of other ghosts, who can either be conversed with, or ignored. Furthermore, near every major mission location is a ghost in need of assistance regarding a side quest. These often involve a poor soul who is trapped in this purgatory through either regret, or from not knowing about their death, which can include all manner of people; from a young woman who believes her ex-paramour cheated on her, to a man who believes himself responsible for the car crash that killed his friends. Around these ghosts are fragments that can help provide answers, from pieces of the past that can be reformed to tell a portion of their story, to living people, who can be possessed.

When possessing a living character, Ronan can influence them to think about a certain topic or theme, which provides him with valuable information; he can additionally read their mind, or listen in on conversations. Unlike in last year’s Remember Me, in which the character Nilin’s abilities are rarely used, in Murdered, Ronan is frequently using his powers, either pro bono for the benefit of others, or to assist in finding his killer. Although no justice can be bestowed upon the dead who were murdered, the fact their deaths have been resolved and they discover that any guilt they feel is unnecessary, their movement from this world and into the next, provides the player with a certain satisfaction.

Major quests offer a similarity, with the exception that they are on a much larger scale. These locations range from a church to a graveyard; a police station (which strangely enough has a lot of Just Cause posters) to an asylum, each coming attached with its own historical significance to the region. After exploring the area, gamers are able to locate their objective, and scour around for clues, piecing things together from the environment, before enlisting the assistance of living people, who, once possessed, can help provide a consensus on the topic at hand with their own thoughts, memories, or even their eyes, which you sometimes have the option of looking through. On that note though, some clues are unable to be found unless Ronan interacts with the environment. Turning on equipment (or as the game calls it, being a poltergeist), like a fan to blow pieces of paper around, may reveal photos and other documents that were initially invisible beneath layers of other pages.

On occasion, Ronan is forced to visit the same region twice, and even when this does occur, the environment loses none of its atmosphere, the sheer gruesomeness of the murders, and the conversations which take place during these ‘missions’, offering a source of unstoppable intrigue. The issue however when exploring these major areas, is that almost each of these locations are often infested with demons.

These demonic creatures come in two flavours; the kind that hover about like ghouls in a particular territory, which they have carved out as their own, or as large, bright red puddles on the floor, and drag you in when you step into proximity (similar to the floor creatures in F.E.A.R: Perseus Mandate). Although these demons can temporarily be avoided, more often than not, confrontations inevitably ensue, however, unlike Condemned: Criminal Origins, where you beat up your enemies with whatever piece of equipment you come upon, these demons require more nous and tactical proficiency. By possessing people (and on occasion a gorgeous kitty), gamers can make their way around areas, and this is additionally possible by using those ghostly portals mentioned earlier. When in close proximity to a demon, Ronan can execute them (only ever from behind) with a combination of keys that are frequently different. After successfully dispatching one (there is unfortunately often more in any area), the gamer can hide again, and then move on to attacking the next. On a side note, the occasional existence of deceased crow can offer the player a distraction, with demons charging at them the moment Ronan requests that they provide a raucous ‘kaw!’

The graphics of Murdered are powered by the Unreal engine. In the past I have occasionally being sceptical of this particular engine, with some games (I’m looking at you Singularity) occasionally not cutting the mustard when it comes to how it looks. The game is set over the course of the night, the streets becoming darker and slightly emptier as you progress. This darkness often follows the player into the levels, and can provide a rather drab colour swatch, with a vast quantity of darkness merging together. With this said, there is just as much light as there is dark, with the locations you visit all looking and feeling very realistic, with a combination of old and new fighting visually for dominance.

This being said, the graphics are perhaps not outstandingly brilliant (considering that I was playing this on the XBOX ONE), however, at the same time they are really nice to watch. Never is there a part of the environment that looks as though it needs further rendering. With the exception of images, and some portions of text, the game felt and looked like an actual town, and although many ghosts had particularly smooth features, the living cast members, Joy in particular, looked very lively. Her face, with a number of freckles and a couple of moles, along with the jewellery that she decorated herself with, gave to her a unique sense of character.

On a further side note, the controls during the game are incredibly easy to learn, and after roughly 10, maybe 15 minutes, the gamer will have efficaciously adapted, and they will simply become reflex actions.

The conclusion, which seems to come racing towards the gamer faster than I may have initially imagined when beginning Murdered, is about as predictable as it is surprising. When I was almost 90 minutes away from the conclusion, I had already begun to postulate theories on who the killer might be, and although some of my assertions were accurate, there was much I did not count on, and was at the same time thoroughly surprised with the final revelations. Although the conclusion does successfully offer closure to all of the storylines that are written into Murdered, at the same time the gamer (or maybe this is just in my case?) is left with a slight remaining thirst. On this note, despite a slight degree of disappointment at the length of the primary storyline, I have not being so captivated by a title since Beyond: Two Souls, and will happily play Murdered again in the future.

Image obtained from the following link:

 

An Unforgotten Heroine Fights to Reclaim Her Memories in REMEMBER ME

Title: Remember Meremember_me_capcom_game_-_cover_art1
Developer:
DONTNOD
Distributor:
CAPCOM
Platforms:
PC/PS3/XBOX360

Pros:
-Beautifully detailed environments
and graphics
-Uniquely interesting, psychologically
powerful and captivating storyline
-Personally customisable upgrades
-Fight scenes are fun
-Entertaining puzzles
-Nice, digitally inspired musical score

Cons:
-Camera angels can occasionally
be irritable
-Controls take a while to learn
-Limited availability to exploration
-Vast quantity of hints take away
from one’s general enjoyment

Rating (out of 10): 8.5

Summary: A character oriented, powerfully gripping sci-fi oriented title with a terrific, lead female protagonist who pushes the narrative forward until the very end.

This particular review is based upon my experience with the XBOX360 version.

‘My name is Nilin, and this time, you will remember me.’

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Female protagonists; in movies they are a dime a dozen. It isn’t everyday a warrior woman comes blasting through the doors, but in games, every so often a woman of unfathomable grace comes exploding through the screen with unparalleled charisma, potential and power. Remember Me’s ‘Nilin’ is certainly soon to join the ranks of these prior heroines. Unlike the stereotypical dragon slayer, Nilin exhibits emotions. She does not like the idea of innocents being caught between her and her target; she feels empathy towards others, and she is concerned whether her actions are helping those around her or if she is simply another antagonist. This alone makes her an incredibly well rounded character that you immediately begin to enjoy playing as. Of course, the fact she can take on a large group of fighters all at once and get out reasonably uninjured and is additionally a gorgeous minx with the body of an hour glass does not hurt her alluring appeal either.

I apologise if I come off sounding like a sex crazed loon – that is not my intent. So often in games, female characters are objectified as sex symbols. Take Angie from Psychotoxic for instance – she spends the game running around flaunting her thong. This decision by the developers takes away from the experience when portraying a certain character. In the games industry, often female characters are visualised as being unable to acquire the same large audiences as games where males play the lead role. Epic Games for instance back in March admitted that they would never have the leading protagonist in any Gears of War game be a heroine. Adjunctively, according to online sources, it has been speculated that Dontnod Entertainment had some difficulty attempting to acquire a distributor for Remember Me as it was doubted that the game could acquire such a mass audience, with the review on Gamespot going so far as to say that Nilin was focused upon too much, which prevented the other characters from coming to life. Many of these characters are men, and in this particular title the men take the back seat whilst Nilin drives the narrative forward.

After each Episode (level), Nilin reminisces over what has happened thus far and thinks about the ramifications of her choices and the kind of person that she is. In most games the player shoots first and never contemplates the consequences of their decisions or the loss of their humanity from taking another life, which is a major difference about Nilin; she does. This vulnerability of hers is perfect at showing her humanity. True, she is a hero and there is the expectation that she is to be big and strong, but she also comes off as the kind of young women you could totally be BFF’s with. This assists with her becoming such a likable and very understandable character, for the player does not just see her physical appearance, but her emotional interior as well, and it is very enjoyable to watch such a real character coming to life before one’s eyes.

Nilin herself, although as previously mentioned is physically beautiful, her physicality is not what is focused upon. Many other games seem quite  misogynistic when developing women as pure sex objects, whereas Nilin is fully clothed. Sure, her cleavage is partially visible, but unlike in many games where a woman’s breasts stick out from her chest like two cannons on a pirate’s ship, in Remember Me, the lead female protagonist is not exactly flat chested, but her lady parts are not the focus of what draws the gamer to admire her so – it is her character as a woman; her emotion; her charisma; her attitude. The actress who voices Nilin, Kezia Burrows, does a fabulous job at bringing the character to life, but her mannerisms also assist with this. When she is splashed with water, Nilin sighs and grunts, throwing the water off her body and wiping it from her face. She shields her eyes from fire and she looks behind her when running from enemies as to know exactly where they are. She gasps and sighs in all the right places and when she is anxious she reassures herself ; ‘okay, get up Nilin! You can do this!’ These small aspects make her so much more human, and although I will admit that games are simply designed to entertain, sometimes sheer action is not enough to do just that. Sometimes a person can be as entertaining as an action scene, and Nilin herself is a real pleasure to watch and control throughout the entire experience.

Okay, first things first; Remember Me is powered by the Unreal Engine. I don’t know about others, but I on occasion cringe when this is revealed to me. Either, the graphics are going to be really good (Mass Effect, Bioshock) or they’re not (Gears of War (1), Singularity). Luckily, Remember Me is the former, rather than the latter. The cinematics often move from Nilin walking into a new environment to broadly showing the entire region in all of its futuristic appeal. Towering skyscrapers, large flying ships and intricate holographic advertisements are just some of the marvelously detailed creations the player will bear witness to, each of which is beautifully conceived, showing the impeccable vision that is Neo Paris 2084 in all of its glory.

Remember-Me-02

The characters too are well detailed, especially their clothes, which look amazing upon each of the individuals, whether they have a pivotal role to play or are simply civilians you happen to walk by. The robots too that live amongst the humans are additionally well designed to such an extent you can see the detail in each and every one of their parts, from their wires to the metal casing that surround their exterior.

Walking near businesses and other such buildings and like places will cause holographic screens to immediately appear around you, articulating what the place is and what is on offer. The developers have gone to a great extent to make the player feel as though they are a part of the world, and by God they have done an amazing job at making the world welcome the player with open arms into the future.

Of course, although I have described how beautiful the future of Paris is, it ain’t exactly a Utopia. SENSEN, a massive monopoly in the future is in the business of memories; buying, selling, changing; you name it. This here is the most lucrative venture in the future. Memories are knowledge which in itself is power, and SENSEN dominates it all. A person can for instance purchase a happy memory rather than living it, and happy memories can be stolen just as easily. A world where your thoughts; your feelings; everything you are is free to the highest bidder? Now that is something else entirely!

Errorists on the other hand are a small group of people fighting to keep their memories to themselves and to bring SENSEN to its knees. These people seek to remove the unjustly error of creating such a tyrannical business. Nilin herself is one of them; one of the best as well.

The game begins with her memories unfortunately being sucked right out from her skull. The sound of her screaming in excruciating agony as her brain is wiped of all knowledge is almost too much to bear as shudders no doubt run up and down your spine. The game itself is not violent in the sense that blood is sprayed across the walls; all of it is psychological. People plead for their lives as you go to rip into their minds; people scream as their brains implode from the inside. This game may not be in your face violent, but it certainly ain’t for the faint of heart either. Today we live in a world where our thoughts and memories are sacred, but the very idea that they are not and can be stolen is unbelievably frightening, and the developers cash in on this particular ideology.

The opening cinematic of Nilin losing her memories immediately causes the player to feel a great deal of sympathy towards her. Although initially we do not know this young lady, we will be playing as her and almost feel her pain as our own. She stumbles out of her cell, being led down the hall, told that her pain has only just begun and there is one final process to completely eradicate all of her thoughts that she is yet to experience. Nilin is forced into a queue and is then made to watch as people have their final thoughts sucked out, their screams ricocheting about the halls.

Safe to say not everything goes according to plan, with Edge, the brother of Nilin contacting her and efficaciously assisting her to break out. With little knowledge of her surrounds, the player and Nilin form a quick attachment, for neither of us know anything about the city, who we are, or what we are supposed to do, which further helps us adjust to her as not just a character, but as a human being. Nilin is initially scared and freaked out beyond belief, and although it is not typical to see the heroine losing it, this moment works unbelievably well.

Nilin however cannot be too freaked for long because soon enough she needs to get dirty. Although Nilin lost all knowledge of her fighting skills and her abilities, she is a fast learner and can adequately reacquire them. At the beginning of the game Nilin is unfathomably weak, and the combat scenes seem a bit of a drag – they take time to complete and the fact that the keys take a while to learn additionally doesn’t help matters. Nilin’s health is unfathomably low and if you are anything like me, you feel as though Nilin will be unsuccessful initially in the first few fights. In fact at one point a cinematic causes Nilin to lose most of her health and then forces her to go up against a good five combatants; not very fun!

Nilin as previously mentioned does reacquire her skills, which is only too good to be true! In the BACK menu, the player is able to enhance Nilin’s abilities. Her fighting skills come down to three separate flavors; damage, regenerate and recharge. Now, each attack does ‘damage’ per se, but the player is able to increase the overall efficiency of each attack. Regenerate on the other hand (Y in combat) will provide the player with a small boost to their health with each critical hit. Lastly, recharge provides an extra boost to Nilin’s abilities, enabling her to use them more often. A mandatory cooling down process is activated after each use, and by using the recharge ability, Nilin is able to quicken its pace.

During the game, the player is able to personally customise their abilities, to a certain degree of course, but they do have a little leeway denied in other games that strictly state ‘you must follow this particular upgrade tree.’ In Remember Me, the player can create their own. With each attack combo, the player is able to select what benefits Nilin will acquire. For instance, the player could create an attack that does ‘damage, regenerate, damage, recharge, recharge.’ There are a multitude of other options of course; this here is just an example.

These combos however are not quite as easy to perform, as one needs to remember which keys to press. One can always return to the skills screen to see what is needed to successfully pull off a particular combo. Nilin will still acquire the benefits of each key that is successfully hit in the appropriate order, however, as soon as the player hits the wrong one, a new combo immediately begins.

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When Nilin’s abilities are used however, which is where the ‘recharge’ comes into it, none of this really matters. The player can more often than not press any key at any time depending on the power they have selected (only one can be used at any given time) and these do an unfathomable amount of reliable damage. When going up against groups of opponents, well, let’s just say they never stood a chance! When this happens, it is incredibly fun to watch for the enemies are basically helpless to even halter the attacks that Nilin devastates them with.

Nilin can increase her attacks effectiveness and decimate her opponents. She can toss in a grenade that will destroy enemy defenses, or she can render enemies temporally incapable of standing up for themselves, allowing her to attack them whilst ensuring they cannot fight back.

During combat, Nilin can flawlessly dodge out of an enemy’s reach (A), with the game alerting the player to an enemy’s attack before it takes place, giving them fair time to efficaciously move Nilin from one location to the next before she sustains damage. On top of this, Nilin can jump over her opponents, allowing her to continue her assault, or even her combo, on her opponent’s back, front or wherever she damn well pleases. Or, hell, she can just as easily jump to some new prey and inflict pain and suffering upon them too.

If this is not enough, Nilin can perform a devastating finishing touch (B) on some particular opponents that have been defeated, but not yet decimated. These often involve destroying one’s mind, and the player cannot help but cringe and smile at the exact same time as they watch enemy’s minds being invaded as Nilin thrusts her fist through their heads.

The issue with combat has nothing to do with how it is orchestrated, but more along the lines of how easy the scenes eventually become. As soon as the player becomes accustomed to the controls and Nilin begins to reacquire much of her old capabilities, she can smite her enemy with ease. Even when going up against a number of enemies at once, the chance of Nilin falling becomes less and less likely, which renders the originally challenging atmosphere moot.

However, even with this said, sometimes the game does go to the extreme, and the player finds themselves up against a large mass of bad guys. True, these scenes are not always terribly challenging, but on a few occasions you cannot help but stare in awe at the sheer amount of enemies the game has just thrown at you, and it’s even more ludicrous that the game expects you to survive. Of course, Nilin has to, but in reality, it is doubtful even a well trained militarian strike team would come out without a scratch.

Boss battles too are not genuinely terrible to face down, although all of them do originally appear incredibly powerful, each of which always presenting something new, not two battles being alike in nature. These battles often are a little time consuming as you attempt to discover the appropriate methodology needed to eradicate the threat, each boss being a fun challenge to decimate. Some bosses are best eliminated by being in close proximity to them as to keep from allowing such combatants the use their long range attacks, whilst others are the exact opposite, and it is best to keep as far away from them as possible until Nilin has the advantage of striking a vicious blow.

One part of the battles that is entertaining is that not every opponent can be efficaciously eliminated in the same manner as the last. Robots for instance can only be eliminated by blowing them into smithereens. On other occasions, some opponents carry shields that must initially be broken before the enemy themselves can be attacked, and other opponents are immune to all attacks until their defenses have been temporarily taken offline. Simply put, the player is forced to adjust to every fight differently, which keeps the fighting fresh and invigorating which ensures it does not become stale.

As entertaining as these fight scenes can be, and I am not denying that they often are very fun to fight through, the game often works best when it is not a pure fighting experience. There are a few occasions when it is just fight scene after fight scene after fight scene, and on a couple of those occasions I personally felt like saying ‘okay, enough is enough!’ More often than not I acquired more enjoyment when Nilin was evading security, climbing through areas or taking out a couple bad guys every so often, not when she was forced to go up against entire armies time after time.

However, moving back to the topic of complete and utter destruction, every opponent killed delivers points that unlock additional upgrades to help with combat performance. Additionally, there are bits and pieces of upgrades available across the world for one to acquire. Collecting five health upgrade devices will permanently provide Nilin with another health bar, which is damn well necessary in preserving her existence. Power upgrades can increase the longevity of her abilities (again, five are required) and memory fragments too are placed about the environment which allow her to recover her memories about the futuristic world we inhabit.

For these to be acquired, the player needs to explore, and a problem can be encountered here. Although environments are large and beautiful, they are also restrictive. As soon as a player goes in the direction of their objective (more often than not unintentionally because the game doesn’t exactly say which way is which) a cut scene will often begin to play, after which Nilin will not be allowed to venture back because often she is sealed into the next area. On top of this, the game often checkpoints when this occurs, preventing the player from reverting to their previous automated save to ensure some further exploration can be achieved. Basically, if you miss an item; you miss it permanently, which is just frustrating.

If the game can be relied upon for one thing, it is checkpointing, which seems to happen quite frequently. On top of this, after every major battle, often Nilin can find a health kit around the corner which will replenish all of her lost vitality. If this is not enough, the game also babies the player a little more often than it probably should. Whenever something is unlocked, the game provides helpful hint after helpful hint, explaining every little thing in great detail. Although this proves to be of assistance, since every rookie Remember Me player is initially a layman on first play through, the wealth of information can sometimes make one feel a little as though the game is belittling your general intellect; if something is explained, it doesn’t need to be reiterated with alternate words or phrases. This is not only a little insulting, but also takes time away from kicking ass and taking names, and after acquiring a new upgrade the first thing you want to do is test it on the first poor sap you can lay your fingers on, not be told all about it over and over and over.

Although as previously mentioned, the game is initially very beautiful, the first level (not including Episode Zero) is set in decadent slums, which although look finely crafted, do not reflect the gorgeous visuals which can be procured later. The fighting is not nearly as fun as it is later when going up against SENSEN Security, for it feels wickedly sick to outsmart a large cluster of well trained soldiers. For the first hour, although the visuals are stunning and the storyline is captivating, the gloomy atmosphere and surrounds, along with the enemies you encounter is blatantly dark and grim. The game in fact seems to lag at the start, but by the second episode you are finally introduced to a far wealthier area and the game does what it does best; entertain your socks off! If only the first hour could have been just as effective, then I might have been hooked right from the start, but instead, the player is forced to wade through a wee bit of the game before discovering how much of a gem Remember Me truly is.

Although one will no doubt spend a bit of time admiring their environment, visuals themselves play a large role in the game. While moving about the world, image files can be uploaded to certain locations that show where an item can be found. If the player wishes to later find said item, they need to study the environment the photo showcases. Visuals again have a large role to play when shifting through a player’s mind and altering their memory. When this occurs, the player is able to rewind a character’s memory back, and as it begins to play once more, they have the opportunity to alter certain aspects of the world the memory occurred in; they can move items, exchange objects, turn things on or off; there are a vast quantity of actions that can be taken. Visual cues are provided to help show when the player is able to take action, however these are fast and can be easily missed, hence the mandatory need for the player to pay particular attention to their surrounds. Of course, dire ramifications can occur if the player inadvertently changes something in the memory they shouldn’t (there is always a set mission directive when altering a person’s memory, and it is not always as simple as changing every single thing). On occasion the player will need to repeat the process several times to acquire the desired effect, the game being alarming kind to the player and allowing them the opportunity to continuously repeat the process until they have succeeded without the need to return to a checkpoint, et al. These particular puzzles are genuinely fun to solve, and the challenge they bring adds another unique fixture to the game. Although such can prove a little annoying (due to the fiddly controls), they never lose their appeal, and if anything, the only really disappointing factor about these are the significant lack of them, being an incredibly rare puzzle to find in the game.

Breaking into a person’s mind and kicking ass and taking names are not the only occurrences which transpire throughout the campaign, with Nilin adjunctively climbing through numerous sections. Climbing is very similar to other games (Enslaved: Odyssey of the West, Fuse, etc) and is often hardened with certain difficulties that Nilin must on occasion cross. These obstacles can include navigating around hazards, or even timed sequences when she must hurriedly move across a piece of the environment else she becomes knocked off. Climbing however is not without its hindrances, for it is in these moments that the camera decides to take over, the player no longer having any control where it decides to settle itself. On more than one occasion the camera decides to place itself in the most inconvenient location; either being extremely far away or at an odd angle. Whenever this occurs, on occasion the player is forced to venture a guess in which direction they may be forced to navigate in if what they are forced to jump to cannot be acutely seen. This is not always the case mind you, but when it does happen, it is certainly limiting to one’s enjoyment and is thus not as flawlessly articulated as other games where climbing sequences are engineered to a higher standard.

But don’t let any of these potentially negative issues remove any of the positive ideologies I have previously discussed, or even cause you to immediately fathom that the game is not worth procuring. Although original in its nature, the main reason a player will perhaps participate in such a campaign will be due to the character of Nilin herself. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Nilin has had her memory stolen from her and is thus made to reacquire all that once made her who she is. To do this she is forced to help a number of characters, from her brother to other Errorists fighting to bring down SEMSEM. Due to this, over the course of the game Nilin wonders if she is really doing the right thing, and if she had her memories, would she actually be participating in such actions? Fearing that she may very well be working for an enemy organisation and is being manipulated; the constant fights she has with her own consciousness; and the journey she must undertake to discover the truth about who she really is, is an adventure in itself as amazing as the actual game.

In conclusion, despite a couple of issues, such do not take away from the player’s enjoyment, and Remember Me will ultimately prove to be a fun, futuristic experience quite unlike anything the player has discovered before.

Image References:

http://apa340.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/the-creepy-cull-of-female-protagonists/

http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/remember-me-review-caught-between-prescience-and-commerce/

http://www.gamingadvance.com/new-remember-me-gameplay-shows-off-innovative-combat-system/

http://www.justpushstart.com/2013/06/remember-me-review/

Insanity is catching in FarCry 3

FarCry returns on an island paradise corrupted by Hellish warlords and the scum of the Earth

FarCry should most definitely be a common gaming title on the ears and lips of players who are eagerly enthused with First Person Shooters.

The original game in the franchise (released in 2004 on PC, with the HD reboot unveiled in 2010) offered the player a new experience in the First Person video game genre, with gorgeous visuals and an island paradise setting that was ruled over by merciless mercenaries and shrouded in a horrific conspiracy that could forever change the world. Going up against tyrants, soldiers of fortune and monsters that were known only as ‘Tridents’, the player travelled through twenty levels of strategic combat scenarios, covertly annihilating enemies and encampments, whilst neutralising and demolishing enemy structures and key support services.

If there was one thing that FarCry did thoroughly well, it was to convince gamers that a tropical paradise was not all it was cracked up to be, and the next time I found myself in Bali, I looked around the tropical paradise, expecting mutants to jump out at me from one corner, and mercenaries from the other.

The sequel (released in 2009 on all consoles) went in a completely different direction. With Crytech, the original designers of the game shifting their gaze to focus on the promulgation of the ‘Crysis’ franchise, Ubisoft, the game’s producers, kept the rights to the game’s name and began to develop the sequel.

Set in Africa, the player was immersed in an action role playing game experience, where their actions would inevitably result in what conclusions came to fruition. A great number of changes went into the development process of the second installment in the FarCry franchise which inevitably separated it greatly from the original, with the action oriented RPG becoming best known as the game that S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl attempted to be.

FarCry 2 was met with both skepticism and appreciation. Some enjoyed the new scenarios, the unbelievably gorgeous visuals of the savannah and the overall evolution that the game had gone through. Others however preferred the original, and were somewhat irritable that the game had changed so drastically.

On that note, FarCry 3 offers the players the ability to once more return to an island paradise. Instead of providing a synopsis of the story, allow me to quickly begin the analytical process of dissecting the game’s qualities.

Before I do that though, here is one of the more recent videos for the game which outlines the overall storyline the gamer will be involved in experiencing. For those who are unfamiliar with the overall storyline, I urge you to watch this trailer. It only goes for approximately two minutes and thirty seconds and will efficaciously fill in the blanks. I would like to note that I am not the original author of the work at the following site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJpBeBllyxA&feature=fvst

The first major change to the gaming franchise is the character. Not the name or anything, but the heroic traits that he possesses. Upon the instigation of the game, the character that you portray has absolutely no survival skills; he is a virgin in regards to violence and murder; and is a novice in any and all strategic militarian battlefield supremacy techniques.

This is a significantly different scenario than what was produced in previous titles in the franchise, with the lead characters being polar opposites to the new hero. This adjunctively helps the player become further immersed in the world for they will instantly feel very comfortable, or uncomfortable as the case may be in the shoes of the game’s protagonist.

Our hero in FarCry 3, Jason Brody, is literally a tourist. Luckily however, he learns extremely fast, and so does not remain prey for very long. To upgrade your character to a suitable standing upon the island, you need to spend experience points in one of the three key areas; the Heron, which presides over abilities consistent with long range weaponry, aiming and the accuracy of any and all firearms; the Shark, which is fitting as an image of destruction for it presides over one’s ability to survive, giving rise to greater health bonuses, healing properties, potential damage immunities and brute strength, allowing you to become fit for a full combat experience. Lastly, there is the Spider, which presides over one’s stealthy capabilities, allowing you to move faster, go undetected, and covertly evade and neutralise threatening forces.

The point system does not however work the way it does in games the Likes of Mass Effect and Dead Space, where you must level one section of your character’s particular skills as to level up the next. In FarCry 3, much of the player’s skills are unlocked by completing missions and other quests, or by achieving certain tasks; for instance, one skill asked that five enemies be killed by grenades; another asked for ten opponents to be killed by machine gun emplacements; and another asked for a Bull Shark to be neutralised. On that note, the way to acquire higher levels is to play the game, rather than gain points from achieving certain goals.

However, acquiring points is not exactly easy, as the player only gains one every one thousand skill points, which are attributed to the player from kills (special kills such as head shots and covert strikes having greater rewards), the successful completion of missions (you can acquire more by not being detected, having no friendly casualties during the operation, etc) and by acquiring many of the secret artifacts located randomly about the island.

Finding said artifacts proves to be a valuable, rewarding and fun experience, providing to you free reign to do whatever you please and explore the wide open terrain. Other games the likes of FarCry 3 might have loading sequences as the game renders new areas and prepares for new segments, but this is not the case, the continuous freedom playing an incredible part in the player’s general ability to do whatever it is that he or she may choose.

Additionally, some items, the likes of plants, or more accurately, the leave of plants, prove to be some of the most efficacious and necessary parts of the game. All leaves can be mixed together to create powerful potions, the likes of health vials, the ability to absorb more punishment from certain attacks, the ability to domesticate certain animals for a certain time period, et al.

On the subject of health, your health bars will naturally regenerate – unless you have being poisoned or crippled by some other means. In that case, health packs and other like items are necessary to ensure one’s survival.

Moreover, the controls in FarCry 3 are different again than from previous installments in the franchise. Learning these controls will alone take a couple of hours to successfully master, and even then you are likely to every so often make a costly mistake. Not long into my play through, I accidentally clicked the grenade button whilst looking for the switch weapons reticule, and thus alerted every enemy in the base I was assaulting to my presence. Switching weapons is also a bit of a hindrance, for many games that include a weapon wheel will often pause the game whilst you select the next weapon – not FarCry 3. Whilst switching weapons the world around you will continue to move, and if you are under attack , the enemy will proceed in their attempts to eliminate you.

This leads to the next aspect of the game – the difficulty. The game in general is not terribly challenging per se, but the health of your player is incredibly weak and is depleted at an alarmingly rapid rate. Jason is not up for much punishment, and even after you upgrade your health and overall strength, a good couple rounds from any weapon will remove a cube of health, and when you are being shot at by an assault rifle, you can easily imagine how quickly your life line can be reduced from maximum capacity to absolutely none. A single swipe or bite from a predator will often remove a single cube, and when under attacks from herds of animals, or a larger beast the likes of a tiger, the chance of survival is limited exponentially.

As mentioned previously, you can easily restore your health with kits which you develop on your own or find scattered across the island, however, these will prove useless whilst engaged in a firefight. You cannot actively heal whilst you are running for your life, and when you pause to heal you allow your enemy not only the opportunity to reach your position, but allow them to take pot shots at the bulls eye you inadvertently place upon your back. On top of this, if you continually receive punishment from your opponents whilst you are healing, the hit points you lose will be immediately taken away, so by the time you have healed, you may only gain a fraction of what you were supposed to receive.

However, moving back to assigning points and the overall strength of the protagonist, not everything is quite as enjoyable. At its heart, the game is more of an RPG experience than that of the second game. What that means, is that you will be continuously picking up random pieces of grot, looting the bodies of your enemies and their places of residence and completing random missions for the occupants of the island. This would not be such an intolerable hindrance at times if not for its annoyingly realistic scenarios.

The loot sack your character has at all times needs to be expanded over time else you will continuously be alerted that you have officially run out of room for the forty seventh time in the past half an hour. This can be done by skinning animals that you find across the island – you read that right. As mentioned in the last paragraph, the game is incredibly realistic when in contrast with its predecessors, but one may have to wonder if it has gone too far. True, the realism in games is often what the general public wants, but suspension of disbelief plays a powerful role in fictional pieces of media and players are well accustomed to occurrences transpiring which would be unbelievably impossible in reality – take the ability to carry objects. In games the likes of Gothic, the player is capable of carrying as much as they choose without becoming over encumbered. Basically, the billions of items the player carries weighs nothing more than a feather upon their shoulders, when in reality it would consist of a nice 3,999,999,999,999 kilograms.

Adjunctively, the character’s wallet is in need of expansion if you wish to carry more money, and your ability to carry arms is also in need of an upgrade, with the character initially only being capable of carrying one weapon, which can thus be boosted to accommodate an additional two upon the body of the protagonist.

So, with that in mind, the player will constantly be seeking out wild animals to assist in their ability to carry that which they require to successfully survive the island, which inevitably results in quite a bit of bloodshed and a fair bit of repetition. Safe to say that animal activists will not be impressed with what Ubisoft have done here.

True, it is not every day you can fight a Komodo Dragon or go head to head with a Bull Shark, but if you skin one animal you have basically skinned them all. Of course, any and all skins are applied to your inventory, so that which you require to build your inventory is also one of the major factors which reduces its size – ironic. It is natural to assume that an animal skin could take up one block in one’s inventory, but the idea that a leaf could do so is simply absurd. That’s right – one leaf shrinks your inventory by one, and since you will no doubt be cutting down a lot of them, expect half your inventory to almost always be filled with random leaves.

In regards to the island moreover, the environment is incredibly detailed, and to say that the graphics are gorgeous would be one of the greatest understatements ever conceived. The faces of characters are brilliantly exposed with a detail that will leave you mesmerised as your converse and dispatch your opponents, and the island in general is graphically flawless, the vibrant colour of the scenery and atmosphere drawing you in with beautiful, unflinching effects.

Errr, do you wish to go out for coffee later?

Like with the last game, the island will move from morning, noon and into the night, none of which lasts a particularly long period of time, but will ultimately affect your experience all the same as battling at night time is very different than what it is during the day.

Of course, just a note – do not be shocked by the sheer size of the island. The map you are provided generally makes the number of islands that the player is stranded upon appear to dwarf even the United States, which might suggest the longevity of time you will be stranded there. The main mission is made up of enough jobs that will probably keep you playing for around 10 – 12 hours, but the additional side quests and the continuous freedom will keep you engaged for quite a bit longer, the general length of the game being determined by the general style of game play the player chooses to exhibit.

The environment has being upgraded from previous experiences furthermore and can benefit you at times rather than prohibiting you from successfully navigating an area. When falling down a cliff, your character will immediacy begin to slide, which reduces the damage you sustain from the fall. The game will adjunctively tell you when to interact with the environment, which can include leaping up to higher ledges, and the use of vines (which players might remember from FarCry Instincts) adds an environmentally interesting approach to clambering up mountains and other such areas.

Missions in FarCry 3 are more constrained than what they were in previous games. In both of the predecessors in the franchise thus far, the player had free reign to approach mission objectives any which way they wanted, and although FarCry 3 is more free and open than any of the games before it, this specific aspect of the game has not being carried over. When playing through missions, players are forced to go about them the way the game wants. There is always one direction; one method; and sometimes even one type of weapon that must be used to ensure successful completion of the operation, else you will automatically fail.

Upon failure of an operation, the game automatically reboots the player at the last checkpoint. If that is not annoying enough though, any vehicle you had with you at the moment your last checkpoint was activated will have subsequently vanished without a trace and you will have to pursue any and all objectives on foot, which is, as one can easily imagine, often a slow and grueling process.

Furthermore, unlike in FarCry where the player was forced to discover checkpoints in order to safely secure their progress thus far, or in the sequel where the player could only ever save the game by making their way to specified save stations, in FarCry 3 the save system has changed again.

When happily navigating the islands, the player can save the game whenever they wish. This is disabled during missions, and it is then that the player is forced to rely upon checkpoints.

However, there is only one save slot, and every time the player chooses to save their progress they are subsequently overwriting their last save, so often you need to be vigilant and careful when it comes to saving your campaign else you might find yourself in a problem that you cannot escape from.

Returning to the concept of missions, in general they range from a wide assortment of duties, some of which will require significant travel arrangements to be made. Vehicles again make a helpful asset throughout the campaign, a long list of jeeps, regular old fashioned cars and sea worthy vessels being at your disposal. The new ability to fast travel to locations which you have previously conquered adds an additional helpful application to the game and allows you to go back to a store (or a locker, as both serve the same purpose) to sell and buy products before travelling back to where you were beforehand.

As a side note, just like in FarCry 2, enemy vehicles patrol the roads, and will attack you if they spot you.

On the mention of ‘conquering’ areas, this is a new part of the game. The map itself is bare at first, although certain points of key interest are displayed, everything else from routes, to the locations of certain animals and places of interest are not available. The locations of radio towers are however, each of which have being supplied with an inhibiter which prevents them from sending a signal to your map which will display everything that an adventurer will need to survive. Taking out the jamming transmissions upon these towers is a necessity in that sense to progress through the campaign.

Towers are not all that requires conquering though. There are two ‘teams’ upon the island who are fighting for its dominance and control. There is the Rakyat, the people who your character sides with at the beginning of the game, who have the banner of a blue flag presiding over their territories to symbolise their control over the area; and then there are Vaas’s Pirates, the enemy, who run beneath a red banner. Segments of the map outlined in a red colour reveal areas occupied by the enemy, and parts of the map clear of any red show where the Rakyat have dominance.

Like in a tournament, one of the game’s goals is to seize control of the enemy controlled sectors by invading them, killing the enemy occupants and in doing so, seizing control and having the Rakyat officially move in. Once an area has being cleared of hostiles, the enemy do not secure dominance in that sector again.

Die you rotten bastards!!

The enemy in general is rather intelligent moreover, but the AI can be easily beaten if you covertly evade their actions. Enemies patrol encampments and other such areas, but do not bother to turn around if you silently creep up behind them, allowing you to progress through entire areas without even using a bullet.

However, the sheer volume of certain groups can sometimes make this almost impossible and additional strategies need to be implemented. On occasion enemies will even call in reinforcements, which you certainly do not want occurring.

When in open combat the enemy will take cover, throw grenades to draw you from the cover you have taken, and flank your location, Your compass however, which shows the locations of pissed off bad guys is so good at doing its job, that you can always clearly tell where the enemy are flanking you from, which makes them so much easier to dispatch.

Depending on the weapons that you have unlocked (or are at present using), these will primarily be the arms that the enemy take up, which, much like in the second game is FarCry’s way of giving back to you what you use to dismiss the enemy. The magazines your opponent’s drop though are not worthy of mentioning, for a couple of rounds is not nearly enough to sustain you through a war, and replenishing your ammo at stores and lockers is often a frequent quest.

In regards to the weaponry, there is a wide assortment of pistols, SMG’s, assault and sniper based rifles and other equipment which can be used at your leisure. Although slots need to be developed to accommodate for more equipment, the player will often feel most at home with that which they no doubt initially equip upon their character. Some items can additionally be upgraded with equipment the likes of scopes, silences and additional attachments to enhance the general accuracy of the weaponry at hand to make your character more dangerous in battle.

Moving onto the driving force of the game, the major goal is to secure the release of your friends from the island. Although Jason and his friends believed the islands to be a beautiful paradise, the sudden realistaion that it certainly fails to live up to their original expectations is present by the fact that they have each being captured and are subsequently scattered about the island and are in dire need of rescue. This in turn is the primary mission for the player, but like with all games, the general notion of ‘I’ll help you if you help me’ plays a significant role whilst interacting with the inhabitants of the islands.

What I will say about the storyline is that it can at times be more emotionally in-depth than the previous experiences in the franchise, and over the course of the game you learn about the lives of each character and how they each came to be in the situation they are in now. The story is driven by themes of friendship, family and love, which influences Jason in attempting to save his friends, even at the cost of his own life.

The fabulous orchestral musical score which on occasion rumbles through the game enhances this experience and empowers these emotional moments and themes with an incredible sense of urgency.

In conclusion, FarCry 3 appears to combine aspects of FarCry 2, Red Faction 3 and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic to create an experience which is better than James Cameron’s Avatar (the videogame) but perhaps not quite as enjoyable as FarCry 2.

Image References (Harvard style)

-Andog Hype 2012, Far Cry 3 unveils two new characters: Dennis and Citra, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://www.analoghype.com/video-games/playstation-3-news/far-cry-3-unveils-two-new-characters-dennis-and-citra/>

-Cheat Code Central 2012, Far Cry 3 Preview, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://www.cheatcc.com/ps3/rev/farcry3preview.html#.UKvuqYaDfIU>

-Wikipedia 2012, Far Cry 3, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Cry_3>

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>

In the world of video games, the end doesn’t always justify the means

 

Although some may refuse to believe this statement to be true, games have indeed matured since the days of their orchestration. Initially beginning as nothing more than experiences which required the gamer to run and gun their way from the start of a level to its conclusion, additional storylines, character development and in-depth background of locations, scenarios and occurrences have modified gaming into an experience which can easily rival the enjoyment ascertained from reading and watching films.

As the title of this piece suggests, my belief, and a factor of gaming that I especially enjoy, is as follows; although a game may more often than not require a gamer to potentially blast their way from one side of the game to the next, the ending does not necessarily have to end with such violence; nor does the game as a whole.

Nowadays, a majority of games have cinematics and other such occurrences which separate one action sequence from the next which adds depth to the fictitious piece as a whole. In an RPG, this happens more often than not when in comparison with a shooter, a great comparative example being that of the Halo franchise and the Mass Effect series; both are entrenched with an amazing character driven narrative which immerses the player in futuristic alien environments against vile, antagonistic opponents who seek the destruction of humanity. Shrouded with other themes, the likes of friendship, family, love, betrayal, redemption and revenge, these games offer the player a gratifying experience that is worth experiencing again and again.

On that note, if a game has being leading the player through a substantially powerful storyline amidst the many action sequences, the conclusion could no doubt carry the same weight. The days when an ending to a game was simply a mix of explosions, mixed with the demise of the end boss is indeed still apparent, but more is conveyed during the moments that follow on from this particular occurrence, and it is that which I am aiming to discuss.

When I am playing a game and find myself at its conclusion, more often than not I would like to experience an ending which is incredibly emotional; a simpler way would be to say a real tear jerker.

The first time I finished a game which ended in much the same way I have described above the year was 2003, and the title of the game was Unreal II The Awakening. Since that time, it has again happened in regards to titles the likes of Bioshock and its sequel Bioshock 2, Halo Reach, Halo 4 and Mass Effect 3 (especially when played with the Extended Cut DLC).

Adjunctively Gears of War 2 and 3 moved me emotionally, but these moments occurred during the games rather than at their conclusions.

If a game has already proved itself capable of delivering unto the player an experience that is consistent with the kind of powerful storyline you would expect from a genuine blockbuster at the cinema, then an emotionally charged ending is no doubt an inevitability by the game’s end.

Of course, the stereotypical feature only runs for a period no less than two hours, where as the shortest stereotypical game one is likely to experience today will go for approximately three times that amount. So, if I am going to immerse myself into a fictitious world for that amount of time, then I would very much like for the ending to be as passionately powerful as the overall experience from start to finish was for me.

I can only speak for myself, but I very much enjoy being fully immersed into the world of a video game to such an extent that I will genuinely feel something; I will become sad if a protagonist who I had befriended and fought beside dies; I will smile if the vile antagonist who caused such pain and suffering is defeated by game’s end; I will feel contempt at the evocative nature of any relationship that I manage to instigate between my character and a possible paramour.

With that said, certain readers may find it interesting that I would rather be brought to tears by the ending of a specific title, rather than find an epic amount of explosions dazzling across the screen before the credits gradually start rolling. True, I don’t believe that people in general enjoy crying, but that rule does not apply in my opinion when you are viewing fictitious content. To be moved in any which way; to tears; to fits of hysterical laughter; to glances of awe, is not always possible with every title, no matter the content, and to become emotionally distraught by a tragic ending is not something to be horrified at, but something to be ecstatic with.

If a feature has moved the viewer in the way that the writers, director and developers originally intended, then they have successfully achieved that which they had set out to do. If I had not being moved to tears by the game’s ending then that would have being an issue for I would not be acquiring the experience that I had paid for. Game’s in general often cost three times the amount of a film, and to be moved by the conclusion is well worth the one hundred odd dollars that the campaign was valued at.

In conclusion, I would very much like for more game’s to have an emotionally charged ending after playing through the campaign, or, like the Mass Effect series, build up on that possible ending through a franchise. After all, if I am going to be fully immersed into the world of a video game, I would genuinely appreciate the ability to be moved by an ending that has being developed by people as passionate for the game as I am, rather than end on the stereotypical explosive scenario that many game’s to this day conclude upon.

To be moved to tears by a game’s ending is not something that people should look down upon; it simply means that the player is human. As a species, humans are more often than not affected emotionally when something tragic happens. All I ask is that this in-depth feeling of humanity is written into the game’s that I play.

Thank you for reading.

If you have any comments on what I have written, or opinions of your own in regards to the subject matter, please, feel free to discuss them in the comments section below.

Going Deeper into the Darkness: Analysing the Call of Duty Black Ops II Single Player Campaign

The name Call of Duty in the gaming world today contains significant weight, with the franchise having a global monopoly on multiplayer gaming, not to mention being able to convey incredibly brutal and action packed single player campaigns.

After the Modern Warfare franchise officially came to a close, one may begin to wonder where COD could efficaciously go next. They have explored a multitude of the wars that have torn across the world over the past century, so what else can they do to show the militarian expertise that they thrust upon players shoulders?

COD Black Ops 2 provides the answer, by sending the gamer into the year 2025.

Now, the original Black Ops was considerably different than the other titles in the franchise, and its sequel is no different. The graphics of Black Ops were nowhere near as good as the Modern Warfare franchise, appearing to be a little outdated. The story did not follow a stereotypical chronological path, and could on occasion temporarily lose the player within the continuous battles. The fact that the lead character, Alex Mason, was additionally losing his mind throughout the story did not exactly help matters either.

Black Ops 2 however manages to bypass some of these issues as it attempts to clamber to the top of the many games that have already graced our screens this year alone. The graphics alone rival that of the Modern Warfare games, however, with the unfortunate release of Halo4 last week (unfortunate for Treyarch), the graphics are unable to measure up to that which 343 Industries threw at the player in their new addition to the Halo saga.

The storyline, like its predecessor, is just as confusing, but just as compelling at the same time, and even if at any point you feel overwhelmed or lost, the action alone will keep you wanting to experience more of the game play.

Returning to the screen is Alex Mason, whose story picks up in the 1980’s. Here, the story of both him and Frank Woods continues as they attempt to go up against many oppressors, their story inevitably affecting the future, where Mason’s son David, takes up the flak and becomes the lead protagonist for that specific part of the campaign.

With voices from actors Sam Worthington, Michael Rooker and Tony Todd, just to name a few, the characters alone are eccentric enough to keep you wanting to experience the campaign till the very end.

However, the voice acting alone is not all that compels you forward. A game that could perhaps have being called ‘Blow Up’ rather than Black Ops, you will continuously find almost all of the environment being blasted into smithereens at one point or another. From the very opening of the game, you take control of the turrets on a chopper and lay waste to an array of enemy tanks that are attempting to seize control of the battlefield, and from that moment on the explosions continue, with more blasts than a fireworks display frequently lighting up your screen.

Additionally, a new feature in the game that makes it more exciting are the load outs that grace you at the beginning of each mission. A lot like Soldier of Fortune, you are able to select from a wide variety of armourments, many of which will gradually become available as you continue to play. For each specific character, there are different weapons depending on the time period that you happen to be in.

On top of this, many weapons can be equipped with an additional piece of weapon tech, from either a scope, an additional few rounds, etc, that will make combat more effective.

One great aspect of the load outs is your ability to not only take some pretty heavy fire power into the map with you, or the ability to change the weapon skins, but the ability to take an additional kit on the mission. These will also be unlocked as you move through the campaign, each one coming with its own unique factors that will help you through the mission. One allows you to move faster whilst you are looking through your scopes. Another allows you to reload significantly faster. The most interesting would no doubt be the access kit, which allows you to hack/pick the locks of certain doors and crates which gives you access to what is inside. When playing as Alex, there is a particularly good moment where you can acquire a sniper rifle and some animal traps within a locked storage room. On the other hand, whilst playing as David, you can acquire a cloaking device inside a locked crate that allows you to be almost entirely invisible, which is beyond cool.

Yes, you read that last line right – a cloaking device. By sending the game into the future, Black Ops 2 not only gives you access to new equipment and weaponry, but other interesting pieces of technology. This can include the ability to take control of remote robotic devices the likes of cannons, sentries, turrets and other gadgets across the maps that enable you to defeat the never ending swarms of enemies that attempt to defeat you at every turn.

With that said it is obvious that, much like the original, approximately half of the game is going to be spent on your back, with your legs and arms in the air. A single bullet is enough to cause significant trauma, your screen continuously being a bright red in colour as the heart of you dying character beats in your ears. Although this may sound sinister, the game alone will take around 6-8 hours to complete on the ‘Hardened’ difficulty setting alone, so don’t expect the campaign to last you for the rest of the month.

On top of this, the realism of the game is just as intense and further draws you into the environment surrounding your characters. Rushing water propels you backward, pushing you in the direction of the current if you refuse to move with the tide. Pieces of debris shower you from all angles as explosions tear through the environment. Smoke and other particles arise from walls and other such aspects of the maps as your bullets connect with the area around you. This and more allows you to feel right at home on the battlefield.

Apart from the general length, which is often an issue with many games of today, the other two issues are as follows; one is the game itself. Too often the game will automatically take over. During the first level, there is a particularly sweet part where Alex leaps out of a helicopter, lands on a boat, and just as an enemy proceeds to jump atop of him, he slits the throat of his opponent, almost severing his head entirely, with blood profusely spilling out across the screen. The issue with this gloriously bloody scene? You, the player, have nothing to do with it – the game does this for you. On another occasion in the future, where you use ‘Nano Gloves’ to walk along a rock wall, the game does this for you again, with a few scenes in-between where you need to swing your fellow partners in crime along with you, before swinging yourself to the next segments of the terrain. After this, there is a pretty beautiful flying scene where you don a pair of wings and go flying through the jungle. Again, the game does most of the work here, and all you need to do is on occasion turn the right thumb stick and you will graciously avoid flying into trees (unlike me on my first attempt). Later still, there is a time when the game will automatically put your character into prone, and crawl under a fallen tree. Can’t the player be involved in completing any and all of these objectives on their own? There is something incredibly fun with doing many of these kick ass moves on your own – for one, you become more fully immersed, and you feel impressed deep inside that you yourself were involved in successfully completing that objective. If the game takes over, then that feeling is non-existent. In fact, the game baby’s you so often, that when it comes time for you to take control, on some occasions you will narrowly miss hitting the key that you are acquired to hit and fail the operation.

On other occasions, the game does seem to make up for its lack of providing the player with full control during scenes that do not involve continued gun fire. These moments however are as rare as they are short. During one scene, you are forced to continuously press the ‘X’ key (XBOX 360 controller reference, may be different for other platforms) so many times that you eventually lose count as to keep your character under control and to stop them from blowing away the antagonist you are attempting to interrogate; a process that is not made easy by the suspect’s stubborn resolve.

There are a number of entertaining moments that indeed occur throughout the storyline however which make up for this, including storming luxurious villa’s; spying on enemy targets; manoeuvring through ravaged landscapes whilst attempting to outmanoeuvre technologically advanced sensors; blasting through enemies with an amazing array of powerful weapons, and not to mention the availability to now pilot and control vehicular transport.

Whilst playing as Alex, you are provided the opportunity to travel on horseback across a colossal Middle Eastern battleground that is reminiscent of Stallone’s First Blood Part 3. You work side by side Middle Eastern Comrades, which is a first for the entire Call of Duty saga, as you rush around on horseback, taking out enemy gunships and anti-armour defences, all of which is as challenging as it is exhilarating.
Of course, David is additionally provided with the availability to use transport, with an intensely fun buggy cruise through a ravaged city. Anti-air defences fly down on you in the shape of drones as they attempt to blast you off the road, whilst fellow enemy buggy patrols fire volley after volley of bullets from their turrets. Defenceless? I think not! Simply boost your vehicle in the direction of the opposing forces and watch their vehicle flip and fly across the map, before exploding as easily as everything else in the game.

If there is any problem with the vehicular battles, it would be the controls. At times your vehicle may suddenly go faster than your fellow characters, and during other instances may be hopelessly unable to catch up, both of which could lead to dire ramifications for your character and the progress of the mission. Adjunctively, in certain intervals it can be very easy to run your vehicle into random parts of the environment for the twists and turns that you may need to perform seem to not come as easily as you would wish. These issues however are unable to outweigh the fun that you will easily gain from these moments, and you will most likely be feeling upset that the vehicular combat aspects of the game did not involve as much longevity as you would have wanted.

The other issue (as discussed five paragraphs back) you might find is another new aspect of the game. In the future, there is a new game type that, although it does not have much pertinence with the overall storyline, necessitates completion all the same. In this new game variant, you, the player, are able to place the game into a RTS (Real Time Strategy) camera mode and control characters from above. You can move your teams to certain locations, target them to attack certain enemies and/or targets, and complete basic level objectives. Of course, if you at any period of time feel that the general AI is wavering in its competency, you can easily take control of either a player or potential robotic device and go into first person mode once more where you can attempt to complete the many objectives on your own. Upon dying, you will either automatically be sent into the body of another soldier, or be sent back to the screen above, where you can overlook the map. You needn’t worry so much about the death count of your team, for new members are continuously being shepherded in, but the quick way the map can change from being in your hands to being in jeopardy is quick, if not annoying, and will keep you guessing as you attempt to overpower the impressive numbers of the enemy’s forces. Survival is obviously not necessarily guaranteed. Although new ideas and aspects are always well appreciated in games, it feels odd to change up an already well defined first person shooter franchise with such a new course of game play.

Challenging, bloodthirsty, and riddled with profanities, COD Black Ops 2 does strengthen the Black Ops franchise, but have some of the changes gone too far? The continuous action scenes will keep you mesmerised, and the twists and turns of the story as it is slowly but surely revealed to you in dribs and drabs will keep you committed unto the end.

At A Glance: Halo 4’s Multiplayer

 

The last post I published upon my blog was my impression on the single player campaign found within the new addition to the gaming franchise, Halo. Now, I wish to take a look at the multiplayer features. True, single player is an important part of the franchise, but multiplayer compatibility has become one of the single most popular and addictive aspects of gaming today.

For those of you who remember the multiplayer matches that were associated with Halo Reach, you will clearly remember that they were, in a word, disappointing. The maps were clear cut designs taken directly from the game. One however does not have to fear the same issue appearing in the new Halo game, with 343 Industries focusing especially on the multiplayer aspects in many of the interviews and previews they were showcasing before the game’s official release.

In Halo 4, the multiplayer can be found under the title of ‘Infinity’ the name of the UNSC Spartan super carrier. The multiplayer features of this new instalment are surrounded by a back-story; to keep their skills sharp, the Spartans on board the vessel continuously engage in ‘War Games’; where they upload themselves into holographic interfaces and fight one another in tactical game play, so they are expertly prepared for whatever is awaiting them on the battlefield.

Now, not only is this a new addition to the multiplayer system, but adjunctive changes have being applied as well. One, is the system of altering your general character. In Halo Reach, one had to earn credits to purchase new bits and pieces from the Spartan Armoury to beef your Spartan up with new pieces of equipment to make their physicality more, in a word, awesome. Playing the campaign and the multiplayer features of the game allowed the gamer to acquire points to spend, and additionally allowed them to ascend to higher militarised ranks which further unlocked new equipment, from helmets, to leggings, and even voice talent.

In Halo 4, the credit system no longer applies, but the rank capability certainly does. One will immediately find that almost everything is locked off, and by successfully completing multiplayer based battles, the gamer will be able to ascend to higher militarised ranks within the Spartan Program, and hence unlock new equipment and features that can then be applied to your character.

Another new feature are load outs. Players who couldn’t get enough of Firefight in Halo Reach might remember the automatic load outs that one could select from upon spawning. In Halo 4, one can gain access to load outs by completing sections of the multiplayer campaign, and can even design their own, which makes the game far more hands on and therefore, more fun, allowing you to begin any match any way that you want.

Now, on the subject of Firefight, that is another change which has being implemented; simply put, there isn’t one available with this particular new instalment. This may be considerably disappointing to some gamers, however, the replacement is the newly formed Spartan Ops, an XBOX Live only game where players sign in and complete operations together in teams, many of the missions having some reminiscence of the single player campaign. Although I myself have had very little experience with this particular game type, 343 Industries is promising much more variety in the coming weeks as other matches become available on Live, and the general speculation from many reviews is that such content will be unbelievably awesome.

Moving back to War Games, there are an additional three new game types; Dominion, Regicide and Extraction, along with the return of the Flood game type from Halo 3. Flood has being altered however, and now when someone officially becomes a member of the parasitic team, they completely change into a creature, rather than continuing to retain their Spartan appearance.

Other changes include small new designs with game types, including the ability to carry the flag with a pistol in Capture the Flag, and have unlimited ammunition for your side arm, allowing you to blow away bad guys from afar, whilst smacking them with the flag if they wish to pry it from your fingers. Oddball also comes equipped with the ability to throw the ball to team members, which means that when one is near death, they can attempt to throw it to fellow team members as to ensure it stays on their side for a period of longevity, rathe than having it fall immediately into the hands of the enemy. There is also of course the many new weapons, which add a new flavour to the fight. Trying to dodge rounds from the new Promethean weapons which can eviscerate you with a single hit (especially from the Incineration Cannon and Binary Rifle) is incredibly challenging, and the new ‘no grenades in the map’ policy (unless you specifically alter your map capabilities and change such a fixture), makes grenades more precious than ever before, the days when you could throw them around willy nilly being long gone.

Another change, like with the grenades, are the weapons themselves. As previously mentioned, grenades in Halo4 multiplayer can become incredibly scarce, and so too can the ammunition. Throughout each match you will frequently hear what can only be described as explosions – this is the sound of new weapons being dropped into the map, the HUD displaying the distance between you and these items. Players who enjoyed Firefight in Reach will see how this is reminiscent of the weapon drops in that game type.

On top of this, a player can be rewarded for their accomplishments, anything from ending a player’s killing spree, killing a large allotment of players or extracting vengeance upon someone who killed them being ways to gain access to one’s own personal weapon drop. Note however, this is only available in select game types. Each time this occurs, by using the D-Pad, a player is able to select from a rare few items to be immediately blasted down in front of them for pick up. This can efficaciously turn the tide of a single battle.

Back however to the lack of ammunition. In many circumstances, I found that weapons and grenades began to stop being deployed back into the map, and instead each player was forced to use all that they had at their disposal. For instance, in the level ‘Adrift’, my fellow gamers and I were eventually down to nothing but pistols, with absolutely nothing left to scrounge, and our only hope was to eventually bonk each other over the head, before respawning with enough ammunition to give players unfair advantages over those who were not newly endowed with fresh artillery.

Additionally, in regards to unfair advantages, in maps the likes of Exile, where players were given access to a vast majority of vehicles, those who had access to the Scorpion were especially capable of devastating the opposition. I myself managed to acquire a cool 350 points whilst driving around in the metallic beast before accidentally blowing myself up  because a certain enemy decided to fly her Banshee too close to my turret. True, the tank does indeed make winning far easier, and I’m not saying that to win is a bad thing, but it certainly lacks a challenge when your opponents, whether they have a Warthog with a Gauss Cannon, a Ghost or a Spartan Laser are unable to prove themselves a significant threat because at the press of  a button you can successfully decimate them all. My point is that to win without challenge fails to constitute an amazing win that one should be entirely proud of.

Moving on, as with previous games, the Energy Sword and Gravity Hammer make fighting up close and personal unfathomably fun, with bodies being tossed about the map with unparalleled power. Explosive weapons the likes of the Rocket Launcher and Spartan Laser will again make you flee like a Grunt if you are not as well accommodated in the map as your opponent, and the vehicles continue to add that special flavour that some games have not yet being able to replicate.

Continuing on with the weapons, on frequent occasions, weapons the likes of the Battle Rifle, the Rocket Launcher, Spartan Laser, Sniper Rifle, Sticky Detonator, Gravity Hammer and Energy Sword failed to make huge appearances within the campaign. With the influx of many new weapons into the game, thus could be understandable. What multiplayer does effectively well is allow the player the use of these amazing pieces of equipment more often, which is unbelievably fun to experience because such weapons desrve a far larger place than what 343 Industries provided within the single player storyline.

With other new changes to the game, along with maps that have being specially designed for this new installment in the Halo franchise, the multiplayer feature is looking to be an exciting new look on one of gaming’s most popular shooters. Can’t wait to experience what other secrets the Halo 4 multiplayer is dying to reveal. Additionally, any DLC that 343 Industries chooses to bring out in the future will be really well appreciated and enjoyed, because the designs for the maps in game are not only unique and well designed, but continuously add new and exciting challenges.

Thank you for reading!

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Halo returns to reclaim its title as an impressive action shooter

 

The following review is based upon my personal opinion of the Halo 4 single player campaign.

Let’s face it – 343 Industries have some pretty big shoes to fit into since Bungie officially decided to move on from the Halo franchise. Leaving behind an incredibly successful campaign of single and multiplayer compatibility, it is very easy to assume that many gamers may be stricken with fear with what they might find upon bringing the next generation of the Halo story home with them.

Safe to say, after two years of being without a new Halo game to play, it has been absolutely worth the wait to have this new game added to the Halo collection.

Halo Reach, the prequel to the Halo storyline, was an incredibly great game for Bungie to leave their saga on, with a beautifully epic and emotional single player campaign that was as challenging as it was captivating.

Halo 4 dares to push that daring storyline even farther this time.

From the very moment the game begins, you know you are onto something special. Swept up in the complete awe of the graphics, not to mention the high definition sound quality that explodes out from your television set, the music immediately sets up an emotionally charged moment, and you cannot help but shed a tear to be glad to finally be back where you belong – in the loving embrace of the ever imaginative Halo universe.

Halo 4 is the first in a trilogy of new Halo games that are known as the Reclaimer Trilogy. The game immediately picks up after the events of Halo 3. For those who played the game on Legendary, they might remember seeing Chiefy and Cortana’s vessel, the Hammer of Dawn being pulled into the atmosphere of an unknown planet.

It turns out that this occurrence which transpired at the end of the Halo 3 credit’s is set four years after the Ark’s devastation, and the gruelling end to the antagonistic foes which dominated the original Halo trilogy. The game starts out with Cortana fulfilling the promise that the master Chief granted to her at the conclusion of the last game – ‘wake me when you need me’, and sure enough, the first words that come out at you are those of Jen Taylor, reprising her role as Cortana asking you to awaken from your slumber.

Now, the reason for your slumber being broken is, funnily enough, not because your ship is plummeting towards the alien planet below – no; it’s because you have some unwelcome visitors on board. The remnants of the Hammer of Dawn has been boarded by Covy’s (Covenant forces), and it is your job to punish them for coming aboard your vessel.

The planet Chief and Cortana find themselves falling towards is Requiem, or, in Layman’s terms, the world of the Forerunner’s. This is the beginning of the story, and the primary one which shall flow throughout the franchise. Chief and Cortana crash land on the alien planet, and subsequently need to leave. Seriously – this storyline could have been completed in one game, and it is here that the major issue of the game comes into play – its length.

One can complete the game on the Heroic setting in around 10+ hours, which makes it far shorter than previous campaigns. You may notice that I have not dared to mention the length it might take for you to complete the game on the Legendary skill setting. Safe to say I did try such a skill, but I do believe, and the Halo guide (valued at an average of $38.00) agrees unanimously with me, that one should not play the game on the highest skill setting immediately upon entering the game. The aliens will make certain that you do not enjoy your experience, as they punish your every breath with immediate destruction. One should probably stick with Heroic, and learn the layout of the land before daring to progress forwards, but I will go into more detail about this later on.

However, 343 Industries further envelops the primary storyline with a wide variety of additional stories that spread it out, and will keep it alive for the following two sequels. The major plot one will immediately find is the relationship between Chief and Cortana, and how much longer this is going to last for. Being an A.I, Cortana only has an 8 year life span which is on the verge of being fulfilled. As one can imagine, this leaves a lot of questions open, including whether she will outlive such a span unlike other A.I constructs, and whether all that she has been through in the previous Halo franchise will in any way affect her life.

For me, I have always being kind of wishing that Chief and Cortana will suddenly realise their feelings for one another and begin a romanticised relationship, so I guess this indeed may pose as another legitimate question to Halo fans.

The other new addition to the storyline is the enemies. The Prometheans are in no way friendly, and will prove to be a challenging adversary for the Chief to fight against this time around. However, one should not be disappointed, because previous enemies, including Elites, Jackals, Hunters and the ever lovable Grunts whose heads explode like confetti (if you want them to) make appearances along the way as well to remind gamers how great it felt to blow these Covenant bastards out of your jurisdiction. These guys are different this time around; more fanatical, and as Cortana early on says ‘perhaps you could ask them real nicely (to borrow one of their craft)’, and the Chief replies rather pluckily ‘asking has never been my strong suit’, and the fact that the alien bastards can’t speak the Eng will further endorse this. Long story short, expect them to be covered in a different set of armour, and for them to be a little more bad ass than their previous Covenant buddies who are choir boys in comparison to what 343 Industries have cooked up.

That is not to say that Halo 4 is difficult – in fact it is quite the opposite, which poses another issue. I have always played the Halo games on Legendary, and this new title in the franchise perfectly suggest why. Going back and playing the first level on Normal, I found myself blasting away through lines of Covy’s with little trouble, the aliens falling at my feet before my endless slaughter, whilst I made my way out from each and every battle relatively uninjured.

Playing the game on higher difficulties is in this sense recommended, not only to ensure the further longevity of the title, but because it is here that the really challenging atmosphere, not to mention the amazing nature of the AI of the enemy combatants can be truly garnered during game play. Enemies will duck and weave their way out from your attacks, and shall suppress, flank, snipe, toss your grenades back at you, defend fellow soldiers, call in support and do all manner of other tactical combat strategies as to annihilate you with extreme prejudice. During Halo Reach I was impressed with the way the Elites successfully manoeuvred across the battlefield, leaping like jumping jacks out from the line of your fire, only to return fire with alarming accuracy. Halo 4 further pushes this impressive nature, and will continuously leave you breathless as the enemy AI does an alarming excellent job at defeating you time and time again, which only furthers the enjoyment you receive upon successfully triumphing over them.

Even during these battles though, Halo not once loses that feeling which was found during fights back in the original Halo franchise. Feeling is an incredibly powerful aspect of games, and I can happily say that it has not changed under the new management. Blowing large groups of enemies up with grenades and charging through them with your battle rifle is just as fun as it was back in Halo’s past, and the new affects including new sounds for all weapons and challenging new combatants add additional pleasure to the action.

The vehicles too are much the same as with previous games. The first time you find yourself behind the wheel of the Warthog you will be unable to do anything but smile in glee as you go bumper to bumper across the ‘roads’ that stretch out before you. Upon coming face to face with uglies, you will often find yourself switching the minigun turret for your wheels as you happily run over your hapless victims as they attempt to leap out of you way.

The little upgrades here and there – the additional spiralling colours on the Ghost; the fresh coat of paint on the Warthog; the brand spanking new designs of the weapons; the new HUD and general physical design of Chief’s outfit, not to mention the unbelievably gorgeous physicality of the sexy Cortana; the way the Forerunner technology is working in synchronicity with one another; everything makes the game come to light like never before.

However, the Covy weapons you will find often lose their charge at impeccable speed, and the ammunition with weapons the likes of the favourite Needler and the not band Covy Carbine is downed like pop corn, which will keep you switching weapons throughout the campaign. This adds an additional flavour to the challenging atmosphere, especially on higher difficulty settings where this becomes especially noticeable.

As with Reach moreover, special little devices can be picked up to aid you in your battle. The ‘run’ ability that could be grabbed in Reach is an automatic attachment, and when you push down on your movement stick you will find Chiefy propelling across the ground at great speed. Other new attachments can include anything from cloaking gadgets, to shields and other bits and pieces to help you in your struggle. Believe me when I say – these will prove effectively helpful.

Battling against the Knight will leave you having to use all manner of combat strategies as to defeat the alien menace, and the Crawlers will keep you checking your tail in case they have once more managed to sneak up behind you, because they do not get their name for no reason – they really will crawl about the battlefield.

Now, Halo is not just an all out action blockbuster. Returning to the story, the game maintains an emotional connection with the gamer from the very beginning, and focuses on the past histories of both John 117 (Chiefy to some) and that of Cortana. Players will be glad to find that the original voice talents of Chiefy and Cortana have returned to reprise their roles, and both do admirably effective jobs at making the story more vibrant and alive. This develops into a story about friendship, love, compassion, loss, redemption, vengeance and freedom, and is filled with terrific moments that you will wish to experience endlessly again and again.

Additional new characters, including the crew of the Infinity, a fellow UNSC vessel that was unfortunate enough to crash onto Requiem as well, the Librarian, and the new antagonistic Forerunner force known as the Daedric, that is not only very interested in Chiefy – but in the complete and utter eradication of all human life, add additional sustenance to an already engaging storyline.

Now, even though I have played all of the previous Halo instalments, including the original Halo reboot, gamers like me, who have focused less on the fictional stories and other such narratives that have been introduced to tell the Halo story may at times experience information overload. It would seem that 343 Industries at times caters for the true Halo Geeks by presenting them with a genuine reward for reading the fiction by making many references to that which can be found in such books and other mediums. Long story short – at times one may sometimes think ‘what?’ as the story unfolds and you are introduced more and more with aspects, titles and creations that were never brought up in previous games – but were brought up in the books.

This aside, none of this ever gets in the way of harming the primary story – the connection between Chiefy and Cortana. Armed with an ending that you will not see coming, Halo 4 is a definitive new edition to one of the greatest FPS franchisees around and boldly makes you fall in love again and again with that which made the Halo franchise great. 343 Industries calls this the ‘Reclaimer Trilogy’. One look at the unfathomably gorgeous visuals, powerful storyline, impressive enemy combatants and the wide open spaces in the glorious level design and you will know why; Halo is back to reclaim its throne as one of the greatest games of all time.

Halo 4 is a bona fide masterpiece in the making. A 10+ in my book.

Later today, I will unveil my critique of the Halo multiplayer – if I find someone worthy to fight me that is…

To keep up to date with me:

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Thank you for reading!