Battling Inhuman Opposition in Alien Isolation

Title: Alien Isolation
Developer: Creative Assembly
Distributor: Sega
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBOX One

Verdict: 9 (out of 10)

The following review is based upon my experiences with the XBOX One version of the game.

The motion tracker picks up movement, though there is no discernible location. The erratic pings indicate whatever life form is nearby is coming from all directions. I cannot see it, but I can hear it – in the walls. The ceiling quakes as foot steps are heard on the floor above, dust falling before me as the light flickers, interrupted by the weight of whatever is upstairs. I can only imagine what is pursuing me, but I would rather not, as an animalistic scream, like nothing I have ever heard, broaches the atmosphere. Remaining crouched, to minimize the sound of my feet, I finally get to the elevator, a raucous noise emanating from within as it begins to make its descent. The elevator nearby suddenly opens, and as I approach, two humans make their way out into the open, each suspiciously observing me, their fists raised. We stand off, waiting to see who will blink first. I raise my motion tracker, noticing there are not three life forms in the vicinity of the elevator; there are four. Lowering the device, I spot the tail of an alien life form dangling in the vent shaft behind the humans in front of me, which is retracted as quickly as it appeared, the animalistic cry again piercing through the air. The humans run, the elevator still yet to arrive. The sound of something being torn open is heard over the creaking of the elevator doors, as I rush inside to push the button that will raise the lift, the sound of heavy footsteps approaching reverberating across the walls. The sound of Ripley’s heartbeat is erratic in my ear, and I cannot help but wonder whose is beating faster; mine, or hers? As the elevator moves onward, I heave a sigh of relief. For the moment I am safe, but in less than thirty seconds, the process will repeat again.

This is just five minutes of Alien Isolation, a game which perfectly thrusts you into an atmospheric nightmare, where the hiss of a pipe, the drip of liquid, or the clanging of a ventilation shaft, could be sure signs of the xenomorph’s proximity. This is intensified by the foreboding soundtrack, the unsettling ambiance indicating that something terrible is approaching. That tight knot you feel in your stomach as you find yourself moving down a corridor, is fear, and Alien Isolation cranks up the juice until you’re retreating into your chair, and temporarily forgetting how to control your bladder.

I didn't know tongue was optional on the first date...

I didn’t know tongue was optional on the first date…

For me, I have always been a fan of intelligent horror movies, including recent additions to the genre: Insidious, The Conjuring, Dark Skies and Mama. What makes Alien Isolation so terrifying however, is that you are not watching as a temporary visitor to this fictitious world; you are instead, up to your eyes in it, and in a game that is capable of spanning more than twenty hours, the tension is certainly enough to unnerve even the most hardened horror veteran. I actually had to laugh when my father, who is often bored by horror movies, leapt several feet into the air, the first time the alien came charging down a corridor towards him.

Upon beginning the game with the Kinect attached moreover, I was notified that if I wanted, the Kinect sensor could detect the sound in the room. As an example, if I were to sneeze, speak, or suddenly receive a phone call, the alien would track the noise, rendering the safety of home, obsolete.

What makes Alien Isolation even more disconcerting, is the immense difference it has when in contrast with other survival horror titles, including, The Suffering, The Thing, Cold Fear and Dead Space, where the character is bestowed with a wealth of fire power. In Alien Isolation though, the severely limiting resources and lack of offensive armaments ensue flight rather than fight is the most common response. Again, unlike in these other titles, Amanda Ripley is bathed in fear as she constantly fights for her life, the sound of her heavy breathing or thumping heart bursting through your ears. In this sense, you truly become the character, and in doing do, you not only witness evil, you feel it, crawling up and down your skin.

This is made even more hectic by the situations you are frequently placed in. Occasionally you need to memorize codes to unlock doors, or use a blow torch or specialized device to hack into a locked area (people who have played the Dead Space games will witness a similarity here), all the while attempting to operative covertly and quickly to avoid being detected.

The graphics additionally assist in developing the terror. Sweat covers the faces of human characters during game and in cinematics alike. Locations appear and feel as they have previously in the first two alien films, but especially the original. The cloaking darkness fills you with a sense of despair as you attempt to fathom what could be hiding in its depths, but light itself also fails to provide you with a sense of comfort. Despite been armed with a flashlight (although batteries in the future are apparently no where near as powerful as they are today), I infrequently found myself using it, with even the darkest areas becoming visible after my eyes acclimatised to my surrounds. Unlike in traditional horror movies where the dark is never your ally, in Alien Isolation, if you are anything like me, you will feel marginally safer when in darkness, rather than traversing around with a source of light accompanying you, which serves as the perfect tool to be spotted sooner.

Furthermore, similar to an adventure title, there are lots of opportunities to scavenge random items about the environment which can then be used to build an assortment of pieces, from health packs, pipe bombs, to EMP grenades (which unfortunately require eight separate items to be constructed). Ripley can only carry so much of each item, however, none of it is unanimous, with your character only carrying three of one item, while having the ability to hold five of another. In this sense, your choices on what to craft, are as essential as your choices on which corridor you move down next.

Occasionally though, it is imperative to explore other locations where checkpoints may not be available, for in these areas, equipment blueprints may be uncovered, and if you do not find one, then that particular item will be henceforth unavailable to you for the entirety of the game. Similar to a number of the survival horror titles I mentioned above, rather than the game automatically check-pointing your progress, Ripley needs to do this for herself by finding save stations on her journey, which are normally only located in the direction of primary objectives (hence straying off the path to find items becomes quite the gamble). I know GameSpot in their review mentioned there were few checkpoints available, however I would argue against that. Checkpoints are often spaced rather close together. What makes it so difficult, is that an area that might normally take four minutes to travel through, may take up to twenty, when you are attempting to sneak around an enemy. This leads me to another disagreement I have with the statements made by GameSpot. Their claim, was that you infrequently see the alien. I strongly disagree. Although every person’s experience will be different, there were several missions, one after another, in which all I ever did was see the persistent life form as it proceeded to hunt me down, time and time again.

Bulletproof, and equipped with a very bad attitude, the alien tracks the player not only by sight, but by sound and smell as well. You would think Amanda would have this knowledge herself, and yet, when going to hide in a locker, she violently flings it open, before slamming it closed, and anyone in the vicinity would have to be tone deaf not to hear the ruckus. Hiding, in this sense, as you are sure to discover, is never a permanent solution.

Distractions, including flares, smacking walls with your equipment, and creatable machines that make random sounds, can be thrown to temporarily lure the alien’s attention. The alien however adapts to the tactics that you use, and after a while, rather than choosing to investigate the flare, the creature will instead choose to investigate where it originated. It certainly is no fool, and although the motion tracker helps give an approximate location, not only is this device loud, and very bright, but it isn’t always accurate. On more than one occasion, I confirmed the alien was moving in one direction, but, without my knowing, it double-backed, and I ran right into it.

Humans and synthetics alike also prove a common threat (though there are exceptions, with the occasionally helpful individual), with synthetics especially proving to be a difficult foe to dispatch. Despite having the capacity to be thwarted (you can escape into a vent and travel out the other side without a synthetic knowing), the amount of damage they can take is astronomical, and unless you have a shotgun, or an EMP, it is perhaps a recommendation to avoid acquiring their attention at all costs. Later still, there appear synthetics immune to EMP grenades altogether, making the journey even more strenuous, so even after having mastered a specific technique to defeat a particular combatant, you are then required to again, alter your tactics.

Alien Isolation is a terrifying descent into a stress-provoking environment, and if you happen to suffer from an anxiety disorder like I do, the game does nothing but unnerve you further. Although sometimes environments might feel repetitive, and on rare occasion there may even be a graphical anomaly, Alien Isolation captures vulnerability and terror perfectly in this sci-fi horror masterpiece.

Ghosts Among Us: Analysing InfinityWard’s new Shooter

Title: Call of Duty Ghostscall_of_duty_ghosts-hd
Developers: InfinityWard, NeverSoft, Raven
Distributor: Activision
Platform: PC, PS3, XBOX360
(and later XBOX One and PS4)
Length: Between 6-8 hours

Pros:
-Terrific action sequences
-Fun vehicular combat
-Great locations
-Flawless controls
-Riley!!!!!!!!

Cons:
-Sometimes a bit of ‘been there, done that’
-Disappointingly short

Brainless action shooters are a dime a dozen, but I don’t think many of them do what Call of Duty does, which is to highlight the overall strength and proficiency of the armed forces, and the heroism of those who put their lives on the line to bring an end to the violent tyranny of oppressive forces.

Ghosts continues this tradition in what is quite possibly a game where half of the time everything is exploding around you, and you cannot help but stare in awe at the amount of things that go ‘BOOM!’

During the campaign, you predominately play as Logan Walker, the son of Elias, a revered military commander and brother of Hesh, a man who is just as capable, who is thrown into an extraordinary situation when the Federation, a powerful conglomerate of South American forces decide to strike the United States with an unbelievably powerful payload of advanced weaponry. Ten years on, Logan and his brother, who you predominately fight beside, must complete missions of a paramount importance in order to win the crippling war.

Over the course of their journey they happen to bump into the legendary ‘Ghosts’, an elite task force of warriors who put fear into those who would otherwise be afraid of nothing. Teaming up with these agents of tactical destruction, you discover that the leader of the enemy has a past connection with the Ghosts, and his quest for vengeance is almost as bloodthirsty as his quest to destroy everything else.

Graphically, depending on the environment, the game generally looks very nice. People may remember last year, that COD Black Ops 2 was released after Halo 4, the Black Ops graphics being unable to compete with what 343 Industries had concocted. Again, it may seem that COD cannot take a break, for graphics of recent games the likes of Beyond are superior to that which Ghosts offers. That is not to say the graphics are in anyway unappealing; no, not at all. Environments the likes of forests, military facilities, Antarctic grounds and ruined cities all look quite nice; an issue with the game however is that you spend so much time running and gunning that you rarely have the opportunity to stop and survey your surroundings. However, the graphics truly come to life during both the underwater segments, and the battles that take place in outer space (yes, you read that right!).

Apart from just traversing through natural environments, there are creatures that on occasion players are forced to interact with, from wolves, to sharks, both posing considerable problems. (For those who were eaten by sharks in FC3, you will feel right at home in Ghosts’ oceans).

Additionally, weapons especially look very nice. In the past when a player has put down their iron sights, the butt-end of a weapon has, in my opinion, always looked a little graphically flawed, but in Ghosts, this is not apparent, every weapon being an attractive piece of destructive hardware.

On top of the weapons, the vehicles and other pieces of interactive equipment, from automotive turrets to drones are just as fun as ever to pilot. From the very first jeep scene where you run through an ocean load of enemies to reach your goal, you just know that all of the vehicular combat situations will leave your jaw on the ground. There is a later moment where the player is able to pilot a tank, which rushes across the battlefield faster than any other heavily armored assault vehicle I have ever had the honor of playing in a video game.

Not only are vehicles there to assist, but another addition to your team is Riley, a military trained German-Shepperd who is quite realistic; he barks, pants (his tongue literally moving in and out), wags his tail, sniffs the environment and scouts ahead. Not only can you order Riley to attack enemies, but there are moments when Logan can sync with the camera on Riley’s back and temporarily take control of our beloved pooch and help him navigate the field. Apart from being exceptionally fast, Riley has the fantastic combat technique of violently ripping the throats out from enemies necks, an attack which never gets old.
The only issue with Riley is that his screen time is limited throughout the campaign, only appearing in a couple of missions, and a character of his performance deserves a far larger role than the one he was provided.

Adding to the combat, the player is now able to slide (in XBOX, it is holding B while running), which allows the player to quickly navigate from one section of cover to the next and avoid getting their head blasted off, which could on occasion be a problem in previous titles. When hiding behind cover moreover, depending on where you are, upon holding down your iron sights, the game will automatically tilt the character’s head out so you can take some shots at the enemy, and upon releasing the iron sights you return to the safety of cover. There are a number of battles which take place in tight corridors and environments that are quite closed off, and these new tactical abilities assist the player immeasurably.

Despite the appeal of Ghosts, there are moments in the game which, if anything, feel like extracts from recent movies; the introductory scene where the bombing is commenced reminds me of the new Red Dawn when the invasion is instigated. Additionally, there is another scene where an enemy plane links up to a military jet via cables, with enemy troops rappelling down these cables into the body of the plane and extracting a captured antagonist (the Dark Knight Rises anyone?).

On that note, some moments from previous COD titles, such as the carrier being attacked during Black Ops 2, the destruction of the harbor in MW3, invading a rocket facility in the original COD, and being in the unfortunate position of flying in a plane which is destroyed (original COD Expansion Pack) are all somewhat repeated during this campaign.

However, after so many successful titles it is no surprise that InfinityWard may repeat some of their better moments, or try to recreate some more; besides, there are so many action scenes someone can create without eventually doubling up. At the end of the day though, despite the fact the game is so very short, the general appeal to go back and fight the battles again is  incredibly overwhelming.

Rating: 8.5/10

Image Reference:
http://naijabambam.com/call-of-duty-ghosts-release-date-gameplay-trailer-download/

Going Beyond the Beyonds with Quantic Dream’s new emotionally charged thriller

Title: Beyond Two Soulsimages
Developer: Quantic Dream
Distributor: Sony
Platform: PS3

Length: Between 12 – 15 hours

Pros:
-Amazing storyline
-Emotionally powerful
-Dramatically thrilling
-Outstanding graphics
-Brilliant choice options

Cons:
-Occasionally difficult controls
-Awkward fighting scenes

Beyond Two Souls is a masterpiece just waiting to be explored. Every moment of this journey is a well scripted, gorgeously detailed combination of video gaming genius and cinematic enjoyment. In fact, to call Beyond Two Souls a ‘masterpiece’ is perhaps an outright lie, for it is far more impressive than that. Having never played Heavy Rain, I had never actually partaken in a game which is less of a game, and more of a cinematic experience, which is exactly what Quantic Dream’s new title is all about; making the player a part of an interactive movie. In this sense, the player is responsible for all of the choices, and are forced to live with the repercussions, the emotions and the challenges that come with them as you shape the life of the protagonist, Jodie, all of this making the game even more emotionally potent as you continue through the course of her unfathomably unique life.

The game is not orchestrated in chronological order like many video games, and instead crosses from one moment of the character Jodie’s life to another, and although one may initially think this to be both convoluted and difficult to keep up with, this is one of the unique elements which makes the game so appealing. Say, the player goes through a moment in Jodie’s life when she is eighteen and there is mention of something that happened earlier; originally, the player will have no knowledge of this, which shall spark an assortment of questions, which will later be answered when the game travels back to this specific time, hence keeping the player intrigued and on their toes.

Jodie is an incredibly well rounded character, and where many women in video games are reduced to sex symbols with very little opinion of their own, Jodie is the exact opposite. She is almost always in a vast amount of clothing; she becomes emotional when horrific occurrences transpire in her life; she is anxious around strangers and slow to trust; she becomes envious of the opinions of others; spiteful of those who attempt to do her wrong, and has the want to be morally good. Jodie seems like a real, flesh and blood woman, and the acting of Ms. Ellen Page is beyond extraordinary in bringing this amazing character to life, which assisted me in caring not only about the game, but especially for her brilliant character.

Not only is Jodie gorgeous, but she is strong, in both mind and body, independent, romantic, adventurous and very capable. What sets her apart the most from other characters is her connection to Aidan, a ghostly aspiration who has been tied to her for as long as she could remember by an invisible tether. Aidan goes where Jodie goes, and over the course of the game it is questioned as to who really is the dominating figure in this obscure relationship.

The other pivotal character in the game is Nathan, who is a doctor that looks after Jodie for most of her life. Voiced by Mr. William Dafoe, much like Ms. Page, Mr. Dafoe’s acting is exemplary, and he helps bring his character to life on so many levels; as not just a professional individual, but on a brilliantly developed emotional level as well, and although Jodie is the primary character fixated upon, Nathan’s character and the pain he has been through is fabulously represented in Mr. Dafoe’s voice.

On top of this, the acting of all actors involved in developing their characters is just as outstanding, and goes to show that the talent must have been as passionate about the game as the developers were.

Moving on, at any moment in the game, the player can enter the view point of Aidan by hitting the green triangular button, and can then survey the world through Aidan’s eyes. Not only can Aidan see things that other people cannot, but he can travel through walls, interact with the world through telekinetic abilities, he can choke the life out of unsuspecting enemies, and he can possess certain characters and make them do all manner of things. Of course, there is only a certain distance that he is allowed to travel, for the tether that binds him to Jodie acts like a leash, and thus, it has a limited range.

While the player controls Aidan, at times, Jodie can provide him with advice, or tell him not to bother her or to halter his actions entirely, and the player has the option of doing what they are told, or doing the exact opposite. This can lead to quite nefarious occurrences, and the repercussions often affect the life of Jodie herself; you can, at one moment, ruin a date she is on, which will emotionally demolish her, and leave the player, well, me at least, feeling incredibly crappy with myself.

Unlike in other games, the likes of Brute Force, Fuse or Remember Me, where characters are bestowed with special powers and abilities which are unnecessary for the player to successfully complete the game, each of the mentioned titles predominately turning into shoot ’em ups, or, in the case of Remember Me, a continuous punching match, in Beyond Two Souls, Aidan’s ghostly abilities are a necessity in every single level. You may need to open a locked door; distract a guard; navigate an area filled with hostiles; knock items out of the way; the number of possibilities are endless.

Not everything goes according to plan all the time though, but the game will compensate for this. There was a moment in the game when Jodie wanted to leave her accommodations and go out, even though she had been told repeatedly that such was against the rules. However, being the bad boy that I am (to this day I still refuse to eat my broccoli), I helped Jodie by using Aidan to sneak her out of the building, but was unfortunately caught during the process; brilliant escape artist I apparently am not. Instead of bringing up a ‘mission failed’ sign though, the game continued, with Jodie being lectured to about her actions and how everything could have gone hopelessly wrong.

There are a vast number of moments in the game when, if Jodie does not do something properly, the game will continue regardless down an alternate path which will still, inevitably, lead to the intended conclusion. At one point, Jodie was captured by the enemy, and instead of being killed, the cavalry eventually manage to mount a rescue before anything went terribly wrong.

One of the reasons why things may on occasion go wrong, could very well be the controls. Now, I admit, I am more of an XBOX 360 kind of guy myself, and when the PS4 comes out I will not be rushing out to my local game retailer to procure a copy; what I am saying is that perhaps my lack of experience with the PS3 controller partially lead to my downfall on a couple of occasions. When it comes to Aidan interacting with the environment, the player will, more often than not, pull back on the left and right thumb sticks for something to happen, and additionally need to move them in a certain direction. Depending on the occasion, this may include moving an object, healing either Jodie or another character, or even physically moving the memories of an object or a deceased individual into Jodie’s mind so she can glimpse what they witnessed. Some of these occurrences can be downright annoying, for not only does the player have to fight the awkward controls into the right position, but then has to maintain them in that same position for a set duration of time for anything to happen. On occasion, there is a time limit, and if the player fails, then the game will simply take over.

On that note, the game will on many an occasion do everything for the player, including fighting. Fighting in general is another issue with the game; the camera is often in a difficult location as it follows Jodie and will constantly change from being on her back to being on her front. Additionally, in most games, the player needs to pay particular attention to enemy combatants to see what attacks they are doing so the player may avoid them; in the case of Beyond Two Souls, the player needs to keep their eyes predominantly on Jodie. Depending on the direction Jodie moves in, the player moves the camera stick in that particular direction for Jodie to successfully attack or block, and if she fails, this does not result in her demise, for the game will eventually have Jodie beat her opponent regardless of the outcome when the player was at the helm. Safe to say there was more than one occasion when the game saved my sorry ass, however, there were other times when even I managed to surprise myself by helping Jodie kick ass and take names with ease.

This is adjunctively made easier by the fact that the game in general is not terribly difficult. There are two skills levels; one for novices to games, and one for veterans, and even on the latter difficulty, the game posed very little trouble for me.

Moreover, although Beyond Two Souls is at its heart, a ghost story about a young woman haunted by a spectral entity, the game is more of a drama  than a terrifying thriller, and it is several hours into the game before there is even any hint of something spooky. The first time we see Aidan I admit, I jumped into the air because I was not expecting anything creepy to go down, which is one thing that sets the game apart from other titles which have horror elements within them; instead of initially introducing Aidan as this scary creature, he is illustrated as an actual, understandable, recognisable being, rather than a monster, which helps the audience not only adjust to having him around 24/7, but even like and care for his character as well, so by the time a creepy occurrence happens, we do not resent Aidan for it; he cannot help being what he is, and by that time, we have accepted him regardless.

After the first jump there are some other scary moments, and these are just as well managed as the first. Although at times the spooky moments seem a little odd as they are few and far between for the most part, they are beefed up by the continuous mentioning of ‘monsters’, suggesting that there are other ghostly creatures out in the world, and not all of them are as nice and homey as our boy Aidan, and the occasions when Jodie is unfortunately forced to face them are delivered beautifully upon the screen. I will say no more about them, but although they are rare, they are an awesome highlight of the game and remind the player that Beyond Two Souls is just that; a game, one which is deserving of being played.

Beyond Two Souls is a fantastic, unique experience which is not only emotional and passionate, but is is brilliantly written, intelligent and continuously entertaining. I will say this though; if you intend to play Beyond Two Souls, you may want to have a box of tissues handy; many scenes are delivered to such an emotionally high caliber that I for one was deeply affected by the emotion dripping forth from the screen, the ending especially is a real tear-jerker, and one that will stay with you long after the game is over.

Quantic Dream’s new title is, without a doubt, one of the best games I have played all year. Will I play it again? You can count on it!

Rating: 11/10 (even with those occasionally irritable controls)

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy the Beyond experience as much as I did!

Image Reference:

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcREcVr_lD5t162HalBC_UfQjkna9BLyE7lDFG066OC7kXjvzWa3

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

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

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

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

Rating (out of ten): 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUSE_Dalton_Solo-1024x576

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

Fuse_Jacob_2

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

Fuse_Izzy_2

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

WOW!

WOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kicking ass and taking names

kicking ass and taking names

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

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

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

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

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

Image References:

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

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

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

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

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

An Infinite amount of entertainment awaits in Columbia

First Impressions of Bioshock Infinite: The following post details my opinion on this particular game after having played it for approximately five hours

Developer: Irrational Games
Distributer: 2KOfficial_cover_art_for_Bioshock_Infinite
Platforms: PC, PS3, XBOX360
Release Date: 26th February

Pros:
-Exemplary storyline
-Stunningly beautiful graphics
-Upgradable abilities
-Powerful weapons
-Incredibly fun Skyhook segments

Cons:
-No multiplayer functionality
-Vastly different than predecessors

In comparison to the previous Bioshock games, many hardcore fans may be disappointed with the wealth of changes that have occurred since the second game. As a standalone title though, Bioshock Infinite is spectacular, and is well worth the wait since the release of the last game.

Unlike in the previous Bioshock games, where you, the player, were a little dissociated with your character due to never seeing your character’s face and discovering very little about their life or identity, Infinite is, well, infinitely different in that you learn more and more about the lead protagonist, Booker Dewitt, over the course of the game.

Dewitt, who has more debt than he has money to ease his burden, is recruited to extract a young mysterious woman, Elizabeth, from an unknowable city known only as Columbia, located, where else, but in the clouds. Built in 1893, and having being floating around for the past 19 years, the entire city and its founding is shrouded in complete mystery, and so are the reasons behind why your employers are so intrigued in this particular young woman.

However, it would seem that although forces outside of the city wish to have Elizabeth, so do forces from the city within, who revere Elizabeth as being their ‘lamb’, who is prophesised to lead their city when their founding father of creation, Father Zachary Hale Comstock passes away.

On that note, it is prudent to notify the gamer that the storyline behind Infinite is extraordinarily religious, with an incredibly detailed back story being generated to accommodate said religion. As with all religions, there are its heroes, and in this case that would be, you guessed it, its creator Father Comstock, and its nemesis is, well, we’ll get to that…

Upon arrival into the city, you will find yourself unable to look away from the incredibly vivid detail of every surface and each construction. There is so much going on in the world all at once and often there is a lot to take in that you will more often than not find yourself staring admirably at what Irrational Games has accomplished. Every single piece of the gorgeous artwork looks as though it is a necessary part to the storyline, and not a thing seems out of place in this fictitious world that will enthrall you to the very end.

With this writ, there are often many areas to look through, and searching around the environment is a mandate to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything. There is much to explore and even more to find, with the additional support of side quests that will cause you to deviate from your current path in order to find something that will efficaciously assist you, whether it be weaponry or other such offensive and/or defensive capabilities.

Safe to say not everything is in plain sight, so it is often prudent to stay sharp and keep all eyes open. Much like in the previous games though, you can open up cabinets and chests and look inside to discover the loot they contain.

Furthermore, like in the previous titles, much of the back story of the city can be found in the recordings, these particular one’s labeled as Voxophone’s. Although not a necessary mandate to the game’s completion, these recordings provide an invaluable amount of information on the culture and the climate of the city that you stumble into.

There is plenty of money to be found moreover, which comes in the form of Silver Eagle coins, which can be found in purses and prizes, but unfortunately often come in singular pieces scattered about the environment. You’ll be unwittingly surprised by how much money people seem to simply leave about their city. Astounding!

Adjunctively, there is health to be found about the city, which comers in both medical packs and tasty, tasty food. To better protect you, your character later discovers a shield that, much like the shield used by the Spartans in the Halo games, will automatically replenish itself during portions of the game when you are not under attack. This shield you will often find is unbelievably beneficial, and will assist you greatly.

Unlike in the previous titles where you could accumulate an assortment of health packs and hold onto them until a time was critical enough to use them, in Infinite, this is not allowed. You will either pick up an item and use it immediately, or you will simply not pick it up at all. The lack of a storage system ensures that you are kept on your toes more often and pay closer attention to your health bar, because in this game, the only way to save yourself is through finding an item rather than hitting a key and immediately becoming rejuvenated.

The same goes for salt; yes, you read that right, but this ain’t the white specks you put onto your meat for additional flavor – this is the blue stuff that powers you abilities, known in Infinite as Vigors, and as the expression goes on their advertisement, ‘a life with Vigors is a life that’s bigger.’

Vigors are the titles given to the powers that your character is able to wield (think back to the powers in previous Bioshock games, but with different names). In this game, by simply clicking the activation key, you are able to send out a quick offensive attack in the direction of your intended target, but by holding down the key, you are able to conjure a more powerful attack, resulting in a tarp that will heinously harm your attacker.

Each Vigor can be upgraded twice by accumulating such upgrades from a vending machine (bearing in mind the prices are unbelievably frightful). On top of this, your Vigors, your health and your shield can be upgraded with Infusion. These bottles that are scattered about the game can be applied to only one of the three upgradable options at a time, so it is up to you whether you become the healthiest character alive, the most well armored, or the most incredibly powerful.

On the subject of armor moreover, you are also able to equip clothing; not to say that your character runs about stark naked beforehand, not at all. You can exchange your character’s clothes for different shirts, pants, hats and boots, which each come with their own powerful attachments. These can range from defensive abilities activated upon coming under attack, to offensive strengths. Either way, the assistance these clothes will provide is incalculable.

bioshock-infinite-elizabeth-artwork

Moving on, upon arrival in Columbia, not only is the city highly religious and stunningly beautiful, but incredibly peaceful and charming to boot, making it a paradise. Columbia is a city of music, dance, joy and love; at least for a short amount of time. There’s just one little problem – earlier I mentioned that like all religions there was a bad guy, remember? Well, you see, the problem is that you, the character, are the supposed bad guy. Father Comstock predicted that you would one day come to steal their blessed lamb from their city, and upon being spotted for the suspected pariah that you are, the entire city goes from a place of zen and peace to a place of madness and horror, and you finally see the city for what it is; a body of lies, mangled with the disgusting ideologies of racism and hatred that have mirrored society below, only far more intensified. Designed for the privileged, white upper class, anyone who does not fit such a limiting constraint is not treated kindly at all.

Upon being discovered as the enemy to this zealous regime, the game turns into a sudden explosion of blood as you violently attack your oppressors, and in this moment you cannot help but be entertained as the action finally heats up.

You immediately acquire yourself a Skyhook, which is the unanimous device in the city for quick movement. You can hook yourself up to a rail line suspended above the ground and go for a ride, or you can use the magnetized device and leap from one section of metal attached to the side of a building to another as to quickly move about your environment and accomplish your objectives. Or, you could always use the device to bludgeon your opponents to death with, the melee capacity of this weapon being unfathomably astounding.

From above, when attached to a rail line or other like piece where the Skyhook is necessary, you can pounce down upon unsuspected enemies below and instantly kill them in a comical style attack that will leave you breathless.

As for your other weapons, that is one of the disappointing factors of the game. True, you acquire them at an incredibly fast pace, but since you only ever have two weapon slots, you have to choose which ones you intend to carry into combat, unlike in previous titles where you could carry all of them at once. Irrational Games also tend to provide you with a limited assortment of ammo, and you are often forced to resort to using your abilities and being quite tactical. Those who have the bull at a gate syndrome may sometimes find that the more subtle approach is often recommended in defeating large groups of bad guys out for your blood.

Another part of the game you will need to change up and rely upon are your checkpoints. Again, unlike in previous installments where you could save your progress whenever you deemed necessary, you are forced to rely upon the game to checkpoint every so often as you continue through the campaign. Although most games in general today rely upon such a saving technique, it is annoying to be denied something of such great import after having the luxury in the past.

Lastly, as previously mentioned at the beginning, the goal of making your way up to Columbia, was not only to marvel at your surroundings, but to find and extract Elizabeth.

As with all stereotypical video game heroines, Elizabeth is unbelievably gorgeous physically, however, is not just limited to standing around and looking pretty. Having been locked up for most of her life with nothing to do but read up on a wealth of knowledge, she has become alarmingly resourceful, and her intellect is borderline unrivalled. Elizabeth has the ability to pick the locks of doors, and, much like your own character, will be able to search about the environment and scavenge for supplies that she will gladly give to you. However, these environmental interactions don’t stop there, and Elizabeth will also interact with controls, look at videos, talk to the people of the city and even sit down every so often when there is a chair near her location. All in all, the realism of her character is astounding, and efficaciously assists in making the game even more powerfully realistic.

Although I mentioned that Elizabeth’s character is highly intelligent, years of being locked up inside a tower like a prisoner have also caused her to become quite ignorant of the world outside. She is alarmingly sweet and her views are incredibly innocent, heightening her evocative character’s features and causing her to be even more desirable, not just as a sumptuous looking woman, but as a human being.

On a last note, I should mention the lack of multiplayer functionality. I was never entirely rapt with the Bioshock multiplayer and only ever played the games because of their alarmingly fantastical single player experiences. However, this decision to chop out such a popular gaming aspect may well come back to bite Irrational where it hurts and they may well be doing themselves a great disservice for such a feature was available in both of the previous titles.

One may suspect that perhaps multiplayer was dropped as to focus more on the single player campaign. Time will only tell if this is true, and if so, if such a decision was well worth it.

In conclusion, although a vast number of changes have being implemented since the last game in the franchise, and although a number of these changes may initially seem difficult to come to terms with, Bioshock Infinite stands alone as an extraordinary piece of fiction worthy of any gamers’ collection.

IMAGE CREDITS:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BioShock_Infinite

http://www.entertainmentfuse.com/video-games/pc/pc-news/bioshock-infinite-trailer-certified-gold.html

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>

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…

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Thank you for reading!