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.

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Assaulting the Covenant in the new top down Halo Shooter

The following review is for the XBOX360 edition of Halo Spartan Assault.

Title: Halo Spartan AssaultHalo_Spartan_Assault_HD_Cover
Developer: Vanguard Games and 343 Industries
Distributor: Microsoft
Cost: $20 on XBOX Live

Length: Between 4 and 6 hours

Rating (out of 10): 6

Pros:
-Nice graphics
-Frequent action
-The return of some sweet firepower
-Kick ass vehicles

Cons:
-Frustrating glitches
-Vehicles often handle like a double-decker bus
-No checkpoints

Who reading this remembers that McDonalds advert about a decade back with the slogan ‘things that make you go Mmmmm’? In the case of Halo Spartan Assault and the many glitches that can be associated with it, the slogan should most definitely be ‘things that make you go Arrrrrrrggggghhhh!’

Now, normally I begin a review by discussing the finer points I enjoyed about a title before moving onto the more irritable aspects, but with this particular Halo game, I simply cannot. When it comes to this gaming franchise, to say I am an adoring fan would be putting it mildly. So when another Halo game with 343 and Microsoft written all over it was released, I had expected to play something that was going to enthrall me for days on end.

Upon downloading this game from XBOX Live I knew there was trouble. The download kept freezing and shutting down, forcing me to restart, and after consulting a number of forums, I found I was not the only one who experienced this annoyance. However, the hits just kept on coming.

Spartan Assault is separated into six chapters, each containing five levels. For the first four chapters I was continuously followed around by a shroud of darkness that came in the shape of an error which caused the game to freeze, lock-up, and then automatically shut down. Any progress I had made in the level was irrefutably lost, and what made matters worse was the irritable fact that the problem happened to almost always occur whilst undertaking the final mission in a level.

From chapter five onwards the errors became less frequent, but lost none of their annoyance when they did occasionally happen. Other issues included the use of the left trigger, used to initiate a power up. Now, I did acknowledge that a cool down period was required after every use, but even after that had expired, I could press the button until my hair grew long and bushy and still see no affect. There was one moment where I lost my entire shield as I kept hitting the key, hoping for something to occur.

On a less than paramount note, there were additional issues with the sound and music, which could occasionally grow softer, and even drop out entirely for a short time period.

Moving on, as previously mentioned, the game itself is not terribly long, going for between 4 and 6 hours, however, if you include the hours in which you are pulling out your hair and shouting profanities at the screen, it might go for a little longer.

The graphics look pretty darn attractive, especially when you consider that this game was originally made only for a mobile device. Everything stands out in gorgeously vivid colour, which aids in bringing the environments and enemies to life, and if you’re anything like me, you may in fact be pleasantly surprised.

Furthermore, the controls for this title are fairly easy to master; the left stick is used for movement and the right controls the aim, and whatever direction you point in is where your firepower will be focused. The same goes for vehicles, however I noticed that these controls are especially touchy, and more so when using Covenant class vehicles, the Ghost moving a full 180 degrees with the tiniest of nudges.

Although this can be annoying, the vehicles have lost none of their firepower, however their strength and armor is considerably less that you may remember from other titles. New vehicles, including the Wolverines and a double barreled Scorpion though are incredibly impressive, and must be seen to be believed.

You will first notice when beginning the game the lack of any difficulty setting. Although the first couple levels basically play themselves, the game becomes exponentially challenging as your proceed, and the lack of checkpoints becomes almost painful in the later levels. Although every level is not exactly long, the sheer number of enemies you encounter further into the game, and their vehicular and turret allies, do not make this any easier. On a lighter note, the challenge does make it all the more enjoyable, and causes the relatively short experience to last just that little bit longer.

The challenge can be further beefed up by initiating skulls, much like in other Halo games, although the number available are very limiting. Spartan Assault does come equipped with two new additions, including Hollow, which allows players to have only a shield (when it drops, so too do you) and Pacifist, where every bullet you fire also depletes your shield. Two skulls can be active at any given time.

Over the course of the game you encounter a mass of Grunts, Jackals and Elites (including Commanders and Zealots), along with the occasional Brute and Chieftain (whose hammer works a lot like a nuclear bomb – there’s no survivors when it comes crashing down). There are however no Hunters, and perhaps the player should only be too glad for that, although funnily enough, on the front cover of the game, there is, you guessed it, a Hunter. False advertising much?

The human weapons include every kind found in the original Halo, with newer varieties including the Battle Rifle, Rail gun and SAW taking a day off, although dual SMG’s are occasionally available. Covenant weapons offer very little in variety, and include only the Plasma Pistol and the Needler, along with two weapons from Reach; the Plasma Rotator and Focus Rifle, a number of the weapons sounding exactly as they do in the Halo franchise.

Strangely enough there is no reload key, and the weapons will continue to fire until all ammo has been exhausted. On top of this, Covenant weapons which ran on a battery during the other Halo games can be rejuvenated of their ammo supply simply by walking over a dropped weapon – nifty!

Along with the weapons, players are able to use a power-up, including known favorites; sprint, active camouflage, auto-sentry, etc, along with a couple of new ones, such as the stun blast (which does as its name suggests), seeker drone (which chases after an enemy and blows up), over-shield (fans of slayer will know of this gorgeous thing) and rejuvenation (a bubble shield device).Moreover, there are the boosters, which can temporarily increase the health or damage implemented, or even increase the number of points received.

Yes, you read that right – points. In every level the player acquires points for everything they do, which is greatly increased from receiving awards (fans of Firefight will know of these). At the end of each level these are tallied, and you can receive one of three awards (bronze, silver, gold), which increase the number of points that you have for the next level. These you can use to buy items that will last only for the following level, and you can swap these out for credits to upgrade the general proficiency, however you need to be online to enact this ability.

Over the course of Spartan Assault, you play as both Sarah Palmer (from Halo 4) and Spartan Davis, as you attempt to thwart a new Covenant threat from a rogue faction that have ignored the Human-Covenant cease fire enacted after the events of Halo 3. The game predominately takes place on Draetheus V, and its moon, X-50, and is told from the point of view of Roland, the Infinity AI, who is providing this information as a guide to future Spartan soldiers to learn from, so, rather than happening in real time, the game is basically a history lesson that you experience inside a simulator.

More often than not you work alongside a group of both Spartan and human marines, although during the most difficult stages of the game you are almost always alone. Missions are occasionally repetitive, and range from killing or destroying specific targets; defending an area from attack; protecting particular individuals; or assaulting an enemy stronghold, to name a few.

There are a couple of occasions which are specifically unique to Spartan Assault. As an example, I personally had always thought that seeing an Elite wielding two energy swords would be pretty awesome. After having to fight an epic boss that utilised this particular skill, I can assure you, it surely is not!

However, even these few unique moments to this top down shooter are often overshadowed by the negative aspects of the game, and half the time when your heart is racing as you fight the fourth Wraith you encountered in a level, it is not because you are afraid of dying; it is because you are afraid the game is going to automatically shut down. Although this is a nice attempt at a new Halo experience, fans of the series do not want nice; they want amazing, and frankly, so do I. Halo has proven itself time and time again to be a franchise that will continue to live on, but this game here does little to strengthen this notion.

Image link: http://static2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130812032133/halo/images/a/ac/Halo_Spartan_Assault_HD_Cover.jpg

Become the ultimate Dragon slayer in the new Far Cry 3 Mod

 

Title: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragonblood dragon
Developer:
Ubisoft Montreal
Distributor: Ubisoft
Cost: 1200 Microsoft points
Size: 1.35 Gigabytes
Length:  4.5+ hours (dependant on how
many side quests etc one takes)

More Entertaining Than:
Duke Nukem Forever

Less Entertaining Than:
Rage

Pros:
-plenty of humour
-relentless action sequences
-entertaining missions
-nice graphics
-chock full of explosions
-reasonably challenging

Cons:
-occasionally slow and unmanageable controls
-game doesn’t save during missions

Rating (out of ten): 9.5

Synopsis: This is quite possibly one of the single most stupidest games I have ever played; I loved every minute of it.

Move over Jon St. John, Michael Biehn is here to command the screen as one of the most humorous action heroes in video gaming.

Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon has absolutely nothing to do with the game that this mod is crafted from – with the exception that it is set on an island. Based upon the old retro oriented games in the ‘80s where ideas on post-apocalyptic futures commanded by mechanical-cyborg organisms were postulated, Ubisoft uses this connotation and completely takes the piss out of it to create a riveting action experience.

Set in 2007 after a terrifying war between Russia and the U.S has left Canada completely irradiated from nuclear warfare and Australia invaded by enemy troops, the world is attempting to come to terms with the word ‘peace’, which seems to be something that may in fact never come to fruition. To fight these wars, humans, who are brought back to life as war machines, are commanded to annihilate the enemy with extreme prejudice. Kind of gives new meaning to the term ‘no rest for the wicked.’

The character the player takes control over, Rex Power Colt, is a Mac IV soldier. With the hiring of Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, the Abyss, et al) to voice the central protagonist, Ubisoft is apparently attempting to accentuate a futurist type of feel to the game and the use of music that is similar to that of the terminator soundtrack further empowers this ideal. Mr. Biehn does a flawless job at voicing the character, his voice being incredibly husky and coming out in a growl and the sheer patriotism of his character is further empowered by such talented voice acting.

Moving on, Rex has been replaced with the all new Mac V, a tougher, more advanced killing machine. This however does not necessarily mean that he has been disposed of; the U.S does not remove what they can still use. After a threat is discovered on an island, Rex and his fellow Mac IV, T.T (Spider) Brown are sent in to exterminate the enemy.

As a Mac IV, Rex comes attached with many benefits that the human body is yet to master. For one, Rex can survive basically any fall, whether it be from ten meters or ten thousand. Moreover, he can hold his breath under water for an indefinite amount of time and can run impeccably fast without having to take a moment of pause.

The cinematics displayed between levels are reminiscent of a comic book and those familiar with Star Hawk may see some resemblance here. The graphics in these movies have been purposefully designed to have an ‘80s appearance to them, much like the arcade games that this particular title is loosely based upon. Although these cinematics are nothing terribly special, they certainly get the job done in showing the audience what is happening.

The game begins with an amazing aerial battle in which almost every single thing is capable of being blasted into oblivion, before you land and continue the battle on foot. It is now that the tutorial begins, thanks to your good friend Spider who believes you are in need of a basic refresher. Right from the start when the tutorial states ‘running is like walking, only faster’ you genuinely know this is not going to be a serious experience. On top of this, your character is prone to spout some pretty humorous one-liners. Shoot a man in the head and it’s either ‘he’s heading for hell’ or ‘now that’s my kind of head job.’ Wield a shotgun and it’s ‘he called shotgun’, use a grenade and it’s ‘I like the part when they blow up.’ The lines are endless and even after they have been repeated several times they never grow old. Furthermore, Rex will additionally have quite comical conversations on occasion with his HUD, who proves to be quite an annoying specimen over the course of the campaign.

Rex immediately has the ability to assassinate enemies and execute chian kills. Additionally, one is able to assassinate an enemy and then toss a ninja star at their next unsuspecting opponent just to change things up a bit. On top of this, the player begins the game with a pretty impressive arsenal of kick ass weaponry, including a semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, an assault rifle that fires lasers and a sniper rifle. For me, the sniper rifle handled much like a double-decker bus and half the time when I held down the sights I was barely able to hit the target, let alone what happened to be behind it. Then again, maybe this was just my general incompetence. After all, the game did say in the statistics that me general aim was worth a whopping 15%. Not exactly something worth throwing a party over now, is it?

Each weapon in the game can be upgraded at stations found in camps (which shall be discussed later), these upgrades including anything from the ability to carry more ammunition, a larger magazine, silencers, etc. Later during the game, the player will have access to other weapons which are reflective of the fire power found in the game this mod is based upon, including a bow (which is far more impressive than the one in Far Cry 3), a flame thrower and an alternate version of the original assault rifle, just to name a few. Of course, the one weapon that you, much like myself, will probably come to love the most is the minigun, however this weapon is unable to receive upgrades. Then again, why would it need to when it kicks ass just fine without any.

On top of this, the player has access to the usual grenades, Molotov cocktails, mines, etc. These do some impeccable damage, however seem to take an unfathomable amount of time to throw. If you wish to launch a couple, one after another, you will find that the game will not respond at an adequate speed, which proves to be a little annoying. Adjunctively, the weapon wheel takes some time to master and half the time the player may incidentally select something that they never wanted in the first place, from acquiring the wrong weapon, to, more than likely, incidentally exchanging their secondary weapon (grenade) for an alternate explosive ordinance.

Moreover, much like in Far Cry 3, the player is able to level up and become stronger, the game allowing the player to reach the rank of level 30. Unlike in Far Cry 3 where the player had the option of choosing what skills they gained after levelling up, the game does this automatically. Each level provides the character with a new skill, whether that be moving faster whilst crouching; the ability to drop down on unsuspecting prey; the ability to reload whilst moving, etc. Additionally, almost every second level the player reaches will increase the player’s health by one slot. Trust me when I tell you; you are going to need it!

By the end of the first mission, the player discovers the ruthless antagonist who runs the island is none other than Rex’s former leader; a champion Colonel named Ike Sloan; a patriot turned delusional nutcase who believes that bringing death and destruction to the world is the only way to facilitate peace. But we’re not gonna let him go through with this plan, are we? No! I’ll tell you what we are going to do! We are going to blow him! Wait, that didn’t sound right. Let’s try that again; we are going to blow him away! (Better).

After meeting Colonel Sloan, who realises that Rex will not co-operate, he apparently decides that it will be reasonably hilarious to throw him into a Blood Dragon pit. It is here that the game acquires its name. The Blood Dragons are incredibly dangerous monsters that are nearly invulnerable to harm. Although their eyesight is reasonably deteriorated, they can track their enemy efficaciously with their other sensors. Immune to fire and capable of discharging a radioactive beam of energy from their mouths that causes massive trauma upon their victims, the only thing that is capable of temporarily acquiring the attention of these vile brutes are the hearts of fallen cyborgs. Much like in Far Cry 3 where one could loot the bodies of the dead, in this particular title, Rex will rip the hearts out from enemies and use these to distract the Dragons who will more often than not run in the direction of the food and gobble it up quick smart. Such a tactic can additionally be used to lure the dragons towards enemy cyborgs and have the two duke it out. More challenging however are the Dragons that are successfully under Sloan’s command via a device on their heads that identifies his men as friendly units, which such Dragons will not dare attack. These particular monsters are invulnerable to the lure of cyborg hearts; of course, if one were to shoot at the coupling device that keeps them as Sloan’s bitches; yeah, you see what I’m getting at!

However, much like with the weapon wheel, attempting to lure the Dragons is no easy task. On the XBOX controller, the button used to lure the Dragons is on the left of the D-pad. Why is this so much trouble you might ask? Well, the top of the D-pad is reserved for the binoculars. This particular device allows the player to zoom in and see everything in infra-red. Even enemies hiding beneath the water can be efficaciously seen. The button on the right moreover is used to toss dice, that will temporarily distract cyborg opponents. My point here is that although I hit the left side of the D-pad, I more often than not inadvertently activated the binoculars when attempting to toss hearts out at the Dragons, which significantly impaired my ability to survive, and when you are, for instance, going up against two Dragons at once, which later happens during the game (in a rather enclosed space mind you) this can become considerably annoying. Safe to assume a few choice words will no doubt be said during these moments.

Of course, it is not just Blood Dragons that the player will need to look out for, with Ubisoft having a few extra surprises in store for the player…

Furthermore, it is from this moment on that Rex works alongside Dr. Elizabeth V. Darling, a scientist who worked with Sloan who has realised how deranged he is and has turned against him in an attempt to halter his madness. The six major quests that the player undertakes (after the original, bringing the total count to seven) are provided to Rex by the good doctor who assists him in helping to take down Sloan.

Although quintessentially an action experience, it is from now on that the player is given leeway to explore the island. Much like in Far Cry 3 there are enemy encampments which the player can capture and thus make their own. Of course, much like in Far Cry 3 also, enemies at these camps can call in additional strike teams to suppress your attempt to take out the enemy stronghold. Once captured, the player will have access to the weapon station (as mentioned previously). However, not all weapon upgrades will immediately appear and thus need to be unlocked by completing side quests that appear at the camps which have been captured. These come in two flavours; one is the stereotypical hunt down a particular animal quest, which was found in the game this mod is based upon. Unlike Far Cry 3 where the game was blatantly cruel to animals (half the missions involving the killing of animals I never bothered to undertake because they made me feel sick at the thought of hurting sweet, sweet creatures), in this game the animals are all cyborgs, much like your opponents. Cyber sharks, alligators, dogs, tigers; you name it, they are, all of them, either robotic in nature, or in serious disrepair (take a look at the goats and you’ll see what I mean) which means that killing them will probably not cause any great deal of distress. The other mission variation available to the player is to save a nerd. In each quest, a nerd has been captured and needs to be rescued. Although the game recommends the player does this stealthily, you can actually be as raucously loud as you wish. Go in all guns blazing; I certainly did most all the time. The nerd however can only sustain so much damage before they expire so it is recommended that you eliminate the enemy post haste.

As for the main quests on the other hand, these are often random acts of incredible violence, with enough action and explosions for several video games. These include anything from decimating a hydro-electric dam; descending into the depths of a Blood Dragon research facility and even making one’s way into an alternate world (no kidding!) which players may find symbolic of one particular moment from Far Cry 3. Each mission ends with a relatively challenging scenario that is sure to test the player’s genuine skill, but the real test of one’s skill is their patience. Although missions checkpoint, much like in Far Cry 3, they do not save. The game can only be saved when the player is not on any mission. Whilst undertaking a job, Rex must successfully complete it, for if the player quits during a quest, all of their progress will be cancelled, so when the player returns, they will be forced to grudgingly do everything all over again.

Upon reaching the sixth mission moreover, the player will no longer be allowed to explore the island again until successful completion of the main campaign, so be sure to be stocked up before moving forward marine! As for the ending; if I could use one word to describe it, it would be this; SPECTACULAR!

Filled to the brim with action, suspense, sex, humour and more fire power than you could possibly poke a stick at, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is not just the kind of mod that you simply must play; it’s the kind of mod the Far Cry 3 should have been in the first place. A worthy instalment for any action gaming fan!

Image Credits:

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/400322/far-cry-3-blood-dragon-announced-with-bonkers-trailer/

The Nuts and Bolts of Gears of War Judgment

GOW-Judgment_Horiz_32x18_FINAL_rgb-300x168

Developer: Epic Games/People Can Fly
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 18th March (US) 19th March (Everywhere Else)

Duration: approximately 6 hours

More Entertaining Than: Gears of War

256px-Gears_of_War

 

 

 

 

 

Less Entertaining Than: Gears of War 3

250px-Gears_of_War_3_box_artwork

 

 

 

 

 

Pros:
-gorgeously stunning visuals
-fanciful new equipment
-fun and challenging choice avenues

Cons:
-unbelievably short
-repetitive action oriented scenarios
-stereotypically predictable storyline

Rating (out of 10): 8

Gears of War Judgment is a brainless action shooter that will entertain you as often as it disappoints you.

I won’t lie. The first Gears of War game did nothing for me. I found the graphics to be unfathomably dull and lifeless, I felt the story lacked any substance and the action scenes put me to sleep.

The sequels though, well, they were completely the opposite. If Gears of War bored me to tears, then the following two sequels left me feeling incredibly content with their frequently thrilling action scenes, dazzling graphics and emotionally powerful storylines that pushed the franchise in a brand new and stunningly beautiful direction.

That is probably what makes Gears of War Judgment, that is a prequel to the events of the original Gears game so disappointing, for much of what made me enjoy the previous two games is entirely absent from this particular title entirely.

Judgment is proof that even though a game comes equipped with beautiful graphics, doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to enthrall you. Right from the very beginning you are able to stare in wonder at the gorgeously beautiful environments and sigh at how everything looks as stunning as an oil painting.

The game starts off at the end, with the members of Kilo squad, led by known Gears character Damon Baird, who is a Lieutenant during this particular campaign, being placed on trial for war crimes.

The trail is led by Colonel Loomis, who is the stereotypical high ranking militarian Gears leader, in that he is a complete arsehole, and is out to crucify Kilo squad because of his very own entrenched beliefs.

Over the course of the trail, each of the members of the team provide testimonies on the events which led to their capture by the COG, through which the player takes control of the characters as they narrate what transpired.

Although at first this seemed a little off putting, this is done surprisingly well, and is probably one of the most fun aspects of the game, for the player doesn’t just simply take control of one character over the course of the storyline, but all four.

‘Private, what do you see?’
‘Grubs sir, lots of ‘em!’

Throughout the game you work in a team, and never are you separated from the other members of Kilo.

After initially beginning as Baird, you are then provided the opportunity to play as Sofia Hendrick, who is without a doubt the most entertaining character in all of Kilo, and through her character, you will probably have the most fun. Voiced by the always entertaining Ali Hillis, Sofia is the stereotypically gorgeous Gears woman, with an unbelievably fabulous body and – sorry, what I mean to say is that Sofia is a by the book cadet who fights with honor and courage. She is well mannered, and not only is she the heart and soul of the group, being able to put the others in their place by notifying them when they are doing wrong, she is also the one character who expresses the most entertaining one liners.

The issue with playing as Sofia, is that her campaign is the shortest, and no doubt has something to do with what Epic games said back in February; how they personally believe that female characters in the Gears universe are basically not worth focusing on because gamers will not be interested in them. Basically, Epic made the point that women are boring. But in a game like Judgment, Epic officially contradict themselves. Sofia; the only woman in the game, is probably the most un-boring aspect of the entire campaign and thus deserved a far more influential and inspired role.

The next character you play is Paduk, who is in fact not associated with the Gears, but is their rival enemy. Initially fighting them in battle, the emergence of the Grubs has caused him to join sides with Damon and follow him into battle, for he knows that if they do not end the Locust, then there will be no more wars for any of them to fight, for everyone will be extinct. Paduk speaks in a deep Russian accent and is quite the honorable character. He stands by his beliefs and does not change for anyone, and thus is an incredibly inspiring trait to have in a character. A good friend to Damon, he is an exceptional soldier and is truly dependable for whatever situation you are going into.

Lastly, you have the opportunity to play as legendary Gears character Cole Train. In Gears of War 3, I was honored to have the privilege to play as Cole, even if the time I spent controlling his character was limited, it was incredibly fun. That is probably why it is so disappointing to see such a stellar character reduced to such a pathetically small role. Cole has the least to say throughout the game, and his usually entertaining self has been exchanged for a more subtle character. A character like Cole deserves a far larger role than that which Epic designated for him during the game, and they should damn well know it too.

If Epic does anything especially well with the characters, it is without a doubt the fact that players will be incredibly depressed as they play through the game. Male gamers will feel as though they are not muscular enough (as all of the male characters make even Vin Diesel look positively skinny) and all the women gamers will not think they are skinny enough. Basically, if you have issues with your body, avoid this game at all costs!

Furthermore, although you are able to experience the game through the eyes of different characters, the game offers nothing stunning via story. You learn very little about each character and the connections between the each of them seem to start and end with their general loathing of the Locus horde. As previously mentioned, the last two Gears games provided great emotional storylines, and yet very little is found in this game; even the banter between the characters seems to have been reduced in exchange for more action.

Epic does however manage to redeem itself here with the introduction of declassified missions. The game is separated into small sections, each of which ends with a quick cinematic. At the beginning of each section, the player is able to click on a glowing red Gears symbol on a wall that will open up and provide an additional aspect to that particular section. If the player chooses to play with this added bonus to the section, the character will testify to this during their court proceedings. This element of choice is incredibly fun, the challenges including, but not limited to; time based assaults; alternate and additional enemy units and weapons; player visibility; player healing, etc.

Although these are often incredibly short, there are so many of them throughout the game that you will more than likely have the opportunity to experience something more than once as you progress.

Not only do declassified missions provide you with additional challenges, but with more stars. During the campaign, you acquire points for killing the bad guys, and lose points every time you go down and need reviving. Each section provides you with the opportunity to earn three stars, and you are easily able to do this with the declassified mission active more often than you can without it, making it a mandatory fixture to the game if you wish to acquire as many stars as possible.

Although stars will only provide beneficial traits to those who especially enjoy the multiplayer aspect of the game, they will additionally unlock ‘Aftermath’, which is an additional game that takes place in Gears of War 3, that will provide an additional hour of game play. I will go back and talk about this later in the review.

There is never anything else to do in Gears of War Judgment except kill grubs.

Moving back to the action, that is all Gears of War Judgment is; one action scene after another, many of which seemingly become repetitive over time. There are after all only so many ways that you can kill a Locust, and since there are literally hundreds of thousands of them throughout the game, you are likely to become a little bored along the way, regardless of how entertaining killing them can be.

The environments however will provide you with some added differences to the scenery, as you fight your way through abandoned homes, desolated streets and even a Normandy Beach Head reenactment. However, after a while even the environments themselves on occasion seem to blend together and you get the distinct feeling of déjà vu.

None of the scenes are separated by vehicular assaults or anything else, and you always find yourself on foot rather than using any other tactic. Players will be happy to learn however that old favorite weapons, the likes of the scorcher, retro lancer and sawed off shotgun are featured during the game, along with a few new ones including the Booshka grenade launcher (which is nothing special I might add and does a better job at killing you than it does at killing your targets) and the Markza sniper rifle, which is incredibly fun to use, although you seem to spend more time reloading it than you do firing. Additionally, a retro version of this weapon is available than has an even smaller magazine.

A trip wire crossbow is found in the game as well, which will allow you to set traps for your enemies (I like to call this puppy the Trip Shot, but that’s just me) and gun turrets that come in many different flavors are also available which are very fun to use in the field, the player being able to openly move them whenever or wherever they are needed most.

These two pieces of equipment especially come in handy when you are required to hold off waves of enemies. On several occasions you are forced to defend an area against wave after wave after wave of enemy opponents, which is no doubt a ploy by the developer to make the game longer else it would only have gone for half the length. Enemies will more often than not keep coming from the same direction, which again makes the scenes brainless and easy to exploit to your own advantage, regardless as to how many Locusts there are or how much firepower they are wielding.

On top of this, one new enemy, the Rager, is an impeccably fun combatant to face. Although initially appearing as a skinny little thing that looks truly pathetic, after being shot a couple times the  creature goes berserk, much like the brutes in the Halo games, but to a far more alarming extent. These guys become about twice as big as they once were, become covered in heavy armor and go red in the face, chasing you around roaring at the top of their lungs, a single swipe having the power to knock you right on your arse – safe to say, these guys are as challenging to fight as they are entertaining to watch.

Epic concludes their new Gears game with a boss battle that ends as quickly as it begins.

However, the Rager does nothing to make up for the final pitifully weak boss battle. The goal of the game is to bring an end to Karn’s assault, Karn being the warlord of this particular army. Paduk speaks of how powerful Karn is; how he has swept through many cities, completely eradicating them, however, when you fight him at the end, you feel incredibly disappointed to find that Karn is very underwhelming. Basically, a stereotypical Locust bad guy on a really big bug, Karn offers nothing spectacular to the mix and the battle with him is reminiscent of something you might have played through before.

Moving back to the Aftermath game which is unlocked after earning forty stars, this particular game takes place 24 hours before the imulsion cure is implemented in Gears of War 3. During this campaign, Baird, Cole, Carmine and Paduk fight their way through a ravaged Locust occupied area to find a way to transport an excess amount of troops towards the final stage of the game.

Although this game is attached to Judgment the graphics do not look quite as refined, and are more reminiscent of Gears of war 3, which now seems a little outdated when in comparison to the graphics of today. Additionally, the areas you fight through are rather bland and don’t offer anything new environmentally speaking.

On top of this, Aftermath fails to offer any new in game concepts, and seems to repeat a number of the fun experiences that players would have gone through in previous Gears games. Much like the Lost Missions in Doom 3 BFG, Aftermath is an explanation to something that needed no storytelling, and so has the constant feeling that it is considerably pointless.

What is worth a mention however, is that even though Aftermath comes up with a couple plot narratives, it fails to build on them, and thus leaves you with more questions than answers; questions you would not have had if Epic had not decided to make this unnecessary installment.

By the conclusion of Aftermath, it proves only one thing; Epic appears to be running short on ideas for the Gears of War franchise. Although there is plenty of action to go around, gamers in general are an incredibly mature bunch, and after experiencing many games with in-depth storylines would be after something a lot more dazzling than what Epic is providing them with this incredibly short addition to an unbelievably popular franchise. At times Judgment feels as though it was developed purely to make Epic a couple extra bucks, and to remind gamers that they are still alive. If they continue to make games like this though, I must question; for how much longer?

IMAGE REFERENCES:

http://epicgames.com/community/2012/11/gears-of-war-judgment-available-for-pre-order/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gears_of_War_3

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

Say Goodbye to the crew of the Normandy SR-2 in the final Mass Effect 3 DLC – Citadel!

 

DLC Title: Citadel (Parts 1 & 2)
Developer: Bioware
Cost: 1200 Microsoft Credits
Size: 4GB
Length: approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes

Pros:
-incredibly entertaining
-hilarious banter and one liners
-terrific boss encounter
-challenging opponents
-many great twists and turns
-the return of all fabulous Mass Effect characters
-Wrex is back! YAY!

Cons:
-stealth scenarios give you the heeby jeeby’s
-little health and ammunition during fight scenes

Rating: (out of ten) 9

Blogger’s Note – Over the course of this review, I will often refer to Commander Shepard as a ‘she’ because I more often than not play through the Mass Effect campaigns as a female protagonist.

What are the best Mass Effect DLC’s you can think of off the top of your head? Lair of the Shadow Broker? Stolen Memory? Well, almost certainly, Citadel will soon join those ranks as well.

If Citadel is anything, it is a reminder to all the fans of the franchise of what made Mass Effect so amazing. Perfectly orchestrated and well designed, Citadel is a story of team work and love, but most importantly, it is about the strength of friendship, and what separates Shepard from the many opponents that she faces.

‘Few people know what Shepard’s been through – I’d like to think I’ve come pretty close’
-Admiral David Anderson

Mass Effect often focuses on the battles that Shepard and her team members are forced to face and the strength of the loyalty that combines them and makes their team so efficient. Often this is shown through some rather morose and dire scenes of battle, so it is a welcome relief to see the honorable members of the crew being who they are in a more playful, enjoyable environment.

Citadel begins with a message from Admiral Hackett to your e-mail, requesting you to bring the Normandy into port on the Citadel so the old girl can be looked after by some mechanics as to ensure she is operating at proficient levels. The second and more prominent reason for this invitation though is for some active shore leave, so that all the crew can officially recharge their batteries before the final showdown.

Upon arrival, Anderson welcomes Shepard to his humble abode on the giant space station via extranet link, notifying her that his place is now hers for the taking. Immediately you have the option to explore your new residence, and can delve into the history that is Anderson’s past by listening to the many recordings scattered around his now former residence.

gorgeously atmospheric

gorgeously atmospheric

 

in-door gardens, fire-places, water features and plenty of places to explore make Shepard's new residence one helluva place to visit!

in-door gardens, fire-places, water features and plenty of places to explore make Shepard’s new residence one helluva place to visit!

 

...and yes, I play as Fem Shepard...

…and yes, I play as Fem Shepard…

You could very easy look over the three bedrooms, many bathrooms and other amazing features that the apartment comes equipped with over and over again, but eventually you will need to reply to your new message from Joker, who invites Shepard down to a revered Sushi restaurant to discuss some important news with her.

As soon as you arrive at the Silver Sun Strip, you'll never want to leave

As soon as you arrive at the Silver Sun Strip, you’ll never want to leave

Making your way through some of the Citadel’s more attractive locations is incredibly fun, with the graphically stunning environments, realistic sounds and fun conversations to listen in on easily bringing this beautiful location to life.

'the best restaurant on the Citadel' is what they call this place - and everybody blames you when it gets attacked

‘the best restaurant on the Citadel’ is what they call this place – and everybody blames you when it gets attacked

‘Only had to save the universe twice to get a table’ announces Joker upon your arrival to such a luxurious restaurant. This line however is only one of several that are quite humorous, for unlike much of the Mass Effect titles, the writers of Citadel were apparently not without a sense of humour. ‘What do we know about these mercs?’ asks Liara over the comm. when the shit hits the fan, and Shepard’s reply is ‘they have guns and they don’t like me’, and after incidentally setting off a security system, Garus questions ‘was that an alarm?’, to which Shepard replies ‘thought I’d make things a little more interesting’, and again when antagonising the leader of the mercenary band, Shepard threatens ‘the last guy who trash talked me was a few kilometers taller than you.’

After Joker’s one liner, it is then that he asks ‘what did you want to talk to me about?’ Apparently, he was NOT the one who sent you the e-mail, and one it seems was sent from you to him. Someone has hacked your account, and has forced you to this location for a reason, which Mira Brooks, an Alliance employee who spends her days sitting behind a desk quickly rushes over to tell you.

Mira Brooks is not the stereotypical heroine, and so it is quite humorous to watch someone who obviously does not belong in an action oriented environment attempt to not only fraternise with arse kicking legends, but attempt to navigate through such hostile environments. She is an incredibly awkward young woman, and often says something totally un-heroic, the likes of ‘might throw up a little bit now if that’s okay with everyone?’

Brrooks contemplates on whether everyone's opinion of her will suddenly drop if she runs for her life

Brooks contemplates on whether everyone’s opinion of her will suddenly drop if she runs for her life

Long story short, Brooks rushes over to explain ‘someone is trying to kill you’, and funnily enough, this time it ain’t Cerberus, nor is it the Reapers. This is a brand new enemy who has an unbelievably large, and well armed mercenary band who are well prepared to inflict maximum casualties to ensure the successful promulgation of their endeavors.

As soon as Brooks enters the Sushi restaurant however, everything goes horribly wrong when that same enemy mentioned in the above paragraph? Well, they happen to stroll in as well, and after shooting up the place, Shepard finds herself blasting out through the glass floor, through an aquarium filled with fish and onto a docking level below.

The graphics during this scene, with the pieces of broken glass and the droplets of water coating the commander’s hair is terrifically effective, and immediately helps to pave the way for the other scenes that will, as always, capture your attention with the vivid imagery.

‘That pain you feel – that’s me kicking your ass!’
-Commander Shepard

It is now that the fighting officially begins, however, the initial battle sequences are not quite as enjoyable as what players would have participated in during previous downloadable games. Armed with only a silenced pistol (which is considerably effective actually), no health packs and very little ammunition, you are forced to covertly make your way through a docking structure teeming with opponents in the hopes of eventually locating your team members who are contacting you over the comms and notifying you of their willingness to help eradicate the new found threat.

These few areas where stealth is a necessary component to the fighting (else you will alert a mass of bad guys to your location (they don’t call it MASS Effect for nothing!)) are very much unlike what you would have previously experienced in other Mass Effect missions, where they are predominantly action oriented. In my opinion, the stealth sequences temporarily reduce the sheer amount of fun that the player could have enjoyed from the mission, and is a very peculiar addition to the storyline. It would be like going to a strip club, only to watch the women put their clothes on – very peculiar indeed.

Eventually though you are lucky enough to meet up with the stunningly gorgeous Liara and the always entertaining Wrex (who is bored of general Council business for which he was brought onto the station to consult upon), whose opening scene is so mesmerizing you will want to play the mission all over again just to witness this moment once more!

Liara proves how effective her communication skills are - and later, Wrex gives you a weapon that you will never want to part with!

Liara proves how effective her communication skills are – and later, Wrex gives you a weapon that you will never want to part with!

From now on the experience is more often  than not filled with explosions, gun battles and tactical supremacy, and in-between the action you find yourself talking with your team at your apartment in regards to what must be done next.

Shepard and her partner in crime Garus at the 'cool secret hideout' discuss how they hope 'the bad guys don't look through a window' and discover them.

Shepard and her partner in crime Garus at the ‘cool secret hideout’ discuss how they hope ‘the bad guys don’t look through a window’ and discover them.

One great aspect of this particular mission is the challenging opponents. Much like in Omega, which introduced a number of powerful new villains, Citadel packs a whopping punch with the artillery that they dare to throw at you. Known only as CAT 6, who are former members of the Alliance militarian division who have been dishonorably discharged for one reason or another, each member of the team is well protected by shields. The Heavy is especially well armored with a shield that makes that which some of the Cerberus units carry around with them appear like nothing more than flimsy pieces of tissue paper. These particular shields are immune even to Disrupter ammo, and so attempting to take these guys out becomes quite a hefty challenge, especially when they come at you in packs.

If that is not enough, these guys don’t just throw grenades when from afar – no, they throw several at once, which makes avoiding them all the more difficult for they are able to spread their explosive ordinance out.

On top of this, another new opponent is the Disruption Drone, which is a little holographic guy who flies around anonymously, before chasing after you, its goal being to get close enough before it discharges a massive EMP bomb which neutralises your shields.

new and old friends unite to bring an alternate flavor to the fight!

new and old friends unite to bring an alternate flavor to the fight!

 

Forget about following the yellow brick road - follow the little blue cord. During the second stage of the mission, you crash a party in order to discover who your opponent is. To do this, you must covertly infiltrate through the massive building whilst avoiding the many security parameters. Fun times!

Forget about following the yellow brick road – follow the little blue cord. During the second stage of the mission, you crash a party in order to discover who your opponent is. To do this, you must covertly infiltrate through a massive building whilst avoiding the many security parameters. Fun times!

Moreover, unlike the other missions that you have previously experienced, in this particular DLC, everyone is involved, and by everyone, I mean EVERYONE! True, you still run about with two team members to carry you all the way through the mission, however, the rest of your team split up into two – Hammerhead and Mako, and make their way through the facility along with you, providing advantageous fire support.

‘That’s why I love hanging out with you guys. Why shoot something once, when you can shoot it forty six more times?’
-Urdnot Wrex

whilst fighting through the Citadel, you can discover video logs on the history of the universe and battles long forgotten...

whilst fighting through the Citadel, you can discover video logs on the history of the universe and battles long forgotten…

 

...and learn about more coverups at the hands of the Council in regards to the Reapers

…and learn about more coverups at the hands of the Council in regards to the Reapers

After the mission is complete, and the final boss, who is an unfathomably challenging and very entertaining opponent has been eliminated (and you will never guess where this final, breathtaking scene takes place!), the DLC is not yet over, for celebrations are to be enjoyed. Joker has already begun sending out invitations to members of the crew, and you are able to continue doing this – you can invite some, or, like me, invite every single team member who is able to attend.

With shore leave having been interrupted, now is the time for you and your team to officially have some time off from the strenuous fighting that continuously occurs. Before the party happens, you are able to run around the Silver Sun Strip, which is a beautifully elegant and fun loving location on the Citadel. You can play games at the arcade, gamble at the casino and fight in the areans at the Armax Arcade, and can even do so alongside fellow team members who later become unlocked as you continue through the scenarios that may remind notorious gamers of the Firefight mode in the Halo games.

In the Armax arenas you can choose what opponents you fight against, the enemy classes that will spawn in the map, the possible bonus points, and much more!

In the Armax arenas you can choose what opponents you fight against, the enemy classes that will spawn in the map, the possible bonus points, and much more!

Additionally, you will receive messages from the crew, each of whom wishes to spend some time with you. These segments are unfathomably pleasurable, and include meeting Blasto the Jellyfish whilst on the set for the eighth feature film in the franchise with a morose Javik; helping Garus flirt with a foxy Turain woman at the local bar; meeting Jack’s new pet; and hearing about the adventures that Grunt and his Krogan pals have been up to on the Citadel – all of which has left C-Sec in a very bad mood.

Rarely does Miranda venture out in Mass Effect 3. But she finds the time during the mission to tell you how disappointed she is that you destroyed her favorite Sushi restaurant.

Rarely does Miranda venture out in Mass Effect 3. But she finds the time during the mission to tell you how disappointed she is that you destroyed her favorite Sushi restaurant.

 

Garus discovers he ain't quite the ladies man he once thought he was

Garus discovers he ain’t quite the ladies man he once thought he was

All of this is both hilariously funny and very moving as you experience time off with each of your friends on board the Normandy, before proceeding to buy the necessities for your soiree. Again, this is especially entertaining, for during the event you are able to move from one group to another as they discuss what has happened and their general thoughts, opinions and feelings. The conversations are very fun to take part in, and so too are much of the other occurrences that later transpire, with the adorably cute kleptomaniac Kasumi appearing every so often to either say or do something incredibly fun to watch. Furthermore, you are able to consult Glyph, the resident host, and either tone down the festivities, or, if you are anything like me, tone them up, until many of your crew become highly intoxicated on booze and begin to go about doing some pretty outlandishly hilarious things. Moreover, with two Krogan running about your apartment, you have to wonder if your residence will even be in one piece after the night’s festivities have ended.

The party has only just started. But, just you wait. In a few scenes time, many will have armed themselves with guns in a drunken stupor to see who is superior, biotics will be levitating their friends, and EDI will question what Operative Traynor meant when she said she found her voice so attractive and wanted to, what? She wanted to do what to her? Wow! Hot Stuff!

The party has only just started. But, just you wait. In a few scenes time, many will have armed themselves with guns in a drunken stupor to see who is superior, biotics will be levitating their friends, and EDI will question what Operative Traynor meant when she said she found her voice so attractive and wanted to, what? She wanted to do what to her? Wow! Hot Stuff!

 

Don't look now, but everyone is about to side with Estevez...and ask Joker to participate in a shooting competition - whilst drunk out of his mind!

Don’t look now, but everyone is about to side with Estevez…and ask Joker to participate in a shooting competition!

However, much like the franchise itself, the fun eventually comes to an end, even if you do not wish it to. Whatever the case, it has been a fabulous 7 years of Mass Effect, and if this particular DLC does anything, it proves that there is still a lot of life left in the series, and although it is doubtful we will ever see these amazing characters again in future Mass Effect games, Citadel allows us to say goodbye to some of the most memorable characters ever conceived in video game history.

A terrific end to a terrific franchise? Certainly, that is what Citadel is, and on that note, I officially change my ‘9’ in my overall rating of the DLC, to a ‘10’, for Citadel is much like the entirety of the Mass Effect series; undoubtedly fabulous.

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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