Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Review

Title: Call of Duty: Advanced WarfareCall-of-Duty-Advanced-Warfare
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Distributor: Activision
Platforms: XBOX One, XBOX 360, PS4, PS3
Approximate Campaign Length: 8 hours

Pros:
-Frequent action scenes
-Beautiful visuals and audio quality
-Beneficial upgrades
-Great equipment, and an outstanding arsenal
-Kevin Spacey
-Kevin Spacey
-Kevin Spacey

Cons:
-Many similarities to previous titles
-Conclusion falls short

More Entertaining Than:
Haze

Less Entertaining Than:
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

Verdict: 8 (out of 10)

The following thoughts are based on my experiences playing the XBOX One version of the game.

Arguably, Call of Duty is a franchise that continues to provide an endless source of entertainment. After 13 years and 11 games, has the oil well that was tapped to produce these iconic games begun to dry up? By the end of Advanced Warfare, the answer is of course, no, but even with that said, there was so much more that could have happened to make this title more impressive, and there could have been so much less devotion to the previous entries to make it stand out more on its own.

Advanced Warfare begins in 2055, and Atlas, a private military, yields an impressive collection of technological sophistication and weaponry, that no enemy could ever dare triumph. At the helm of this militarily force is Jonathon Irons (voiced by Kevin Spacey (squeal!)), a man whose ambition is outmatched, with countries frequently turning to him for aid, rather than the United States. The character the player portrays is one Jack Mitchell, a Marine, deployed along with his friend, William Irons (Jonathon’s son), and a wealth of other brave serviceman, to enter South Korea and put an end to the North’s attempt at seizing full control.

Despite the success of the mission, Mitchell loses a lot in the concluding battle, including his left arm, but a chance meeting with Jonathon Irons gives him access to a second chance; not only a new arm, but a new opportunity to continue being a hero in the military. Besides Irons, there are a host of other great characters you meet, including Cormack, a dedicated, powerful, combat hardened marine; Gideon, a worthy companion in a fight, with a preference for destruction, and the beautiful Ilona – but don’t let her looks fool you – she’s harder than nails, with an unflinching resolve and impressive fighting skills.

The antagonist you face is Hades, the code name of a terrorist who believes technology has corrupted the planet. Appointing himself the savoir of the people, he is convinced that technology’s desolation will lead to freedom, the ends justifying the means, even when those means are diabolical. Alongside this grave threat, there are still questions that need answers; what is Sentinel? And what’s more – when you hand over the keys of the world to one super power, are you exchanging freedom, for a cage?

Over the course of the game, depending on the Exo (skeleton) you are wearing, the player will have access to several unique abilities. You can deploy a drone (and wreck havoc from the air), activate a shield, use a stim (boost) to replenish health, use mag gloves to crawl along walls, fire a grapple (hook) to quickly move from one location to another (this is incredibly fun, especially when you used on unsuspecting enemies), or activate overdrive. For those who have played Mass Effect, do you remember Adrenaline? Same thing applies, Overdrive makes everything move slower, allowing you to adeptly take out enemies.

Alongside these tactical benefits, the rig itself can come equipped with the ability to leap great distances into the air, hover over an area, or even cause massive melee damage. You can get up close and punch someone’s lights out, or you can jump into the air, and come crashing down with enough force to knock opponents out of the way.

When it comes to grenades, you can lob either the tactical variety, which include an EMP, a flash-bang, or a new addition, which detects threats by painting their locations, causing them to brightly stand out. On the other hand, you can use the lethal kind, which include the always useful frag, or the new smart grenade, which will fly in whatever direction your cross-hair is aimed towards.

When it comes to the weapons at your disposal, despite several decades separating our time from Atlas’s, carbines, assault rifles and shotguns often react in similar ways, regardless of how attractive some of them may appear. On the other hand though, there are a couple of new additions that really deserve mentioning. The stinger Missile, is now capable of deploying several rockets at once, dealing greater damage than before. The sniper rifle feels like a hand-held rail cannon, launching a turquoise round at impeccable speed towards the target. But the best weapon, would have to be the self-regenerating laser. You only have access to this gorgeous creature a couple of times during the game – but she never disappoints.

At the end of each level moreover, your kill count, the number of head-shots, grenade kills and intelligence received are calculated, and if you prove yourself to be a valuable asset by acquiring each levels prerequisite, you receive a certain number of points, which can then be spent on obtaining some of the 22 upgrades. These include more health and a larger grenade capacity, increased speed, reduced recoil, resistance to explosions, or more energy for your exo-skeleton, among others, some of which need to be unlocked as your progress.

Although these entertaining additions to your arsenal makes the game all the more immersive, what is really impressive is the quality. The graphics are a step-up from Ghosts, with environments appearing and feeling so very real. Smoke wafts across the battlefield, as rich fires burn. Debris flies through the air, trampling across the man-made structures. Sparks erupt as bullets slam and ricochet off environmental objects. But what is most immersive, is the sound quality. The ground squelches beneath your feet after having rained. Glass creaks, and you shudder for a moment, wondering if someone heard the noise. Gun fire and explosions are hurled around you, as though possessed by extraordinary digital quality.

All of these combined come together to effectively ground characters into their environments. One particular highlight is Detroit, when a fuse blows, and for a moment you think you’re under attack, before you and Gideon alike share a smile, glad it was a false alarm. In the same level, you patrol dark hallways, constantly encountering threats, and upon turning a corner, quickly rush for the trigger at the sight of an opponent, only to realize it was a mannequin all along.

There are other impressive moments, which include running across the road that perhaps inspired AC/DC to write Highway to Hell, for not one of the drivers has a problem with running you down. On another occasion, you traverse through a frozen cavern. The walls close in around you and icicles hang on the ceiling. The Earth rumbles, and you wonder for a second if an icicle might fall and impale you in this unexplored paradise, as your team discuss how the cold is almost unbearable. There is another moment, when you must jump from one bus to another, and let’s not forget the hectic highway chase, with an awesomely powerful cannon mounted on top of your vehicle, or the moment you run along rooftops, which may remind some people of Gordon Freeman, at the beginning of Half-Life 2. Furthermore, the penultimate fight scenes will surely be remembered by all who play this game, however, as with all positive comments, there is almost always a ‘but’, and Advanced Warfare is no exception.

Despite the entertaining arsenal, and the amazing moments you encounter, and there are a great many of them, a number of the environments are very similar to previous Call of Duty games. Cities, slums, military facilities, secret bases, environments entombed in ice, highways, ships; sometimes you may find yourself wondering – have I done this before? If not in this game, then certainly elsewhere, for that is Advanced Warfare’s fatal flaw. COD Ghosts allowed the player to fight, not only in the depths of the ocean, alongside aggressive sharks, but in outer space, taking the player to areas never before explored in the franchise. Advanced Warfare never seizes this same opportunity.

Despite having a new developer taking charge of the game’s directionality, it still retains the same feel Call of Duty has in the past, and though this should not be viewed as a criticism, Sledgehammer Games had an opportunity to experiment even more with this particular title, and yet, have deviated little from former games. Even some of the technological gadgets have been ripped straight from Black Ops 2 or Ghosts. Due to this, it occasionally has that ‘same old, same old’ feeling, or perhaps even ‘been there, done that’, which may also be why the storyline often felt very predictable. If the deja vu is not enough, the ending is no where near conclusive, and if anything, after so many ordeals, and the loss of so many innocent lives, one might expect something more rewarding than what you eventually receive.

You are left with so many questions, characters and their relationships that were never truly fleshed out, and several moments in the game that fail to make comprehensive sense because of the lacking answers. In conclusion, Advanced Warfare’s campaign is destined to provide you with a wealth of action scenes and enjoyable moments. If you are a die-hard fan, you will surely not be disappointed. If however, last year’s Ghosts left you feeling as though it was awfully similar to previous titles in the franchise, don’t be surprised if that exact feeling begins to resurface yet again.

Advertisements

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.

Lo Wang Returns to Fight Demons in the new Shadow Warrior

Title: Shadow Warrior73af76807e737e8f3ffa2817c36f6d25
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Distributor: Devolver Studios
Platforms: XBOX One, PS4

The following review is based on the
XBOX One Version of Shadow Warrior, HD.

More Entertaining Than:
Painkiller Hell and Damnation

Less Entertaining Than:
Serious Sam Gold Edition

Pros:
-Beautiful graphics
-Serene soundtrack
-Deliciously bloodthirsty
-Occasional humor

Cons:
-Concept seems outdated
-Repetitive game-play
-Long-winded
-Lackluster storyline

Verdict: 6.5 (out of 10)

When it comes to the argument that games these days need to be longer, I am often at the forefront. In the case of Shadow Warrior however, ironically, I am of the opposite opinion. Don’t get me wrong, Shadow Warrior is great when it works, but, so much of it doesn’t. The opening of the game is borderline fantastic. The humor is immediate, as is the volume of blood, and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing as my katana turned vicious soldiers into hapless pieces of meat.

Not long into the opening, lead protagonist Lo Wang is introduced to Hoji, a spirit banished from the Shadow Realm, who joins the player on their quest to find the mystical sword, that will inevitably bring an end to the horrific demon invasion, that Wang unwittingly helps start.

This premise is well conceived; it is what comes after that unfortunately falters. For one, the game is attempting to balance seriousness with humor. The back-story involving the Shadow Realms and Hoji’s exile is incredibly deep and meaningful, however it does not have the attention it deserves in order to spur any prominent reaction from the player. The tranquilly serene soundtrack which plays when you are not drowning in the blood of your enemies is very nice on the ears, and conveys the depth the developers obviously wanted for the title. This soundtrack though lasts about as long as a bar of chocolate does around me, and before long, the general rock anthems which too often occur in shooters, is blasting out of your television.

Instead, the developers tend to focus more on Wang’s and Hoji’s punchlines, which blur the line between ridiculousness and hilarity. The humorous fortune cookies which can be found, alongside the bunnies which are often discovered fornicating somewhere on the battlefield, only furthers the idea that this is not a game the player ought to take too seriously. This seems to contradict the locations which Wang traverses though, each of which have been made void of life after everyone has been slaughtered by demons. Rather than acknowledging the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people who have been murdered, he strolls over their mutilated corpses as though they aren’t even there at all. On top of this, the human opponents you encounter seem to be as equally unaffected as Wang, regarding the unquantifiable level of death that surrounds them. Strangely enough, the developers found enough time to push their own wheelbarrow, with games like Serious Sam 3 and Hard Reset been frequently advertised, to the point that I occasionally had to remind myself what game I was even playing.

What is most annoying though, is the repetition. After the beginning, almost every level is a carbon copy of the prior. You kill a bunch of monsters. You find a locked door. You find a key to open said door. You kill a bunch of monsters. You find a door locked by a sigil. You kill a bunch of monsters. You destroy a statue which breaks the sigil. Then, you repeat. Hold the phone though; sometimes, you need to destroy more than one statue, or hit a switch, in order to open a door.

But it’s not just the game-play which is repetitive; it’s the environmental setting. There’s a moment when you are fighting in a ship yard, and perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if it hadn’t gone on for five levels, many of which begin to look exactly the same after a while.

Now, although the visuals are gorgeous, and cannot be faulted, the length of time it took to navigate an area, like the ship yard, does nothing to effectively show the attention that has been provided to the graphics. A dull atmosphere like this one takes away from several of the other locations you visit, which brilliantly take advantage of the new system’s abilities. Furthering this argument, in games like Halo 4, there is one primary mission per level, which continuously keeps your attention. In Shadow Warrior, you may have one primary mission for several levels, and after a while, you begin to wonder if you are ever going to accomplish your mission objective at all.

The addendum that in many levels the player is forced to go backwards and forwards to complete objectives only intensifies this nuisance. There’s one level later on when you must retrace over your own footsteps three times in a row, and what would have made this laborious task slightly less agitating, is a compass. No aid however is provided to finding objectives, and on more than one occasion I found myself waltzing around an area trying to find the exit. Additionally, the sub-missions, including turn the valve, or find the key, are about as interesting as they sound, and the fact you need to repeat them several times over during the campaign takes deja vu to an all new level.

The continuous onslaught of demons and sigils moreover, eventually feels less like entertainment, and more like speed bumps, which deliberately cause traffic congestion. In a game spanning 17 chapters, it is unnecessary to hold the player up in a vain attempt to make the game last for longer than it probably should. Although I have no qualms with defeating a barrage of enemies, the fact the demonic legions only come in so few flavors does nothing to enthrall. After killing the 100th enemy in a level, which looked remarkably similar to the previous 99, even I begin to lose the urge for battle. The massive, yet infrequent boss encounters tend to shake things up, and the challenge of fighting an enemy the size of a tall building is the breath of fresh air the game is hopelessly lacking.

Furthermore, the fact that the player is unable to govern many of the choices that Wang makes over the course of the campaign seems rather restrictive. There are numerous moments when Wang makes what can only be described as a rather douche-bag move, and instead of having the opportunity to choose an alternate path, you either act like a douche-bag, or, you act like a douche-bag.

Fighting agaisnt the enemy though is made somewhat more entertaining with the wealth of upgrades Wang can apply to both himself, and his weaponry. While cash is used for the armaments (and the player needs to suspend their disbelief, for I find it hard to believe that cash can literally be found every couple of meters on the street), chi is applied to Wang’s abilities, and Ki crystals are used to strengthen demonic powers. Although Chi can be found, a great amount of its energy is siphoned from the demons that you kill, and much like in Uber Soldier, the more violent you are, the better the rewards.

The opportunity to use demon hearts, and even their heads agaisnt opponents, proves advanetgous in battle. Additionally, been able to block incoming projectiles with a shield that surrounds the player, and having the ability to heal your wounds are fantastic bonus features agaisnt the unending waves of monsters. The key combinations however (for instance, to heal, you need to tap the movement key to the right twice, and press the left trigger) can occasionally be more of a hindrance. The abilities you earn are more mandatory than optional, and when you are battling a wealth of massive creatures, like warlords or crystal demons for instance, you are less concerned with the buttons you are pressing, and more on taking out the opposition. The addendum that the keys need to be pressed in just the right manner (not to quick, but not to heavy either) means there are numerous times when you don’t execute the ability you were after, resulting not only in failure, but occasionally in death as well.

Weapon upgrades on the other hand prove to be just as unreliable, but for a completely different reason. Although each weapon can have alternate firing solutions and damage boosters applied, and true, in the case of the rocket launcher and shotgun, these are quite apparent, more often than not, the katana seems to be the most reliable weapon. As an example, there was a moment when I fired a torpedo from a rocket launcher at the wings of a boss monster, only to have the round go right through it! This was not the only time this particular incident occurred either, which repeated during battles with other creatures as well. However, for those who grow bored of Wang’s default sword, they can wield either the classic katana from the original game, the hammer from Serious Sam BFE, or several other melee armaments available from the options menu.

With the Halo Master Chief collection on the horizon, alongside Doom 4 arriving sometime this century, it would seem that remakes are in vogue. What makes Shadow Warrior quite disappointing is, rather than rejuvenating the franchise, it seems so outdated. When the original Shadow Warrior arrived, mindlessly killing monsters, finding key cards, and traveling through one level after another with no real goal was common practice. Today however, where gamers (I presume) are interested in enjoying mature story-lines, portraying detailed, well imagined characters, alongside the opportunity to choose how their story ends, these lacking opportunities cause Shadow Warrior to fall short.  Though there is some enjoyment to be found in the game, much of it is buried beneath unnecessary occurrences, that cause what little plot there is, to become lost amidst mindless repetition and an over-excessive, unjustifiable quantity of violence.

Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed Review

Developer: Acquire
Distributor: NIS
Platform: PS3, PS Vista
Release Date (Australia): 16th October, 2014

Pros:
-Lovable characters
-Witty, humorous dialogue
-Outstanding soundtrack
-Gorgeous cinematics
-Uniquely fun and original

Cons:
-Awkward camera movements
-Outdated in-game graphics
-Frequent loading screens
-Unfair combat scenarios
-Difficult fight mechanics

Verdict: 9.5 (out of 10)

For over ten years, I have been a fan of Anime films and television programs, but until now I have not attempted to become involved in an anime video game. Perhaps some may question why my first foray into anime gaming would be Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed, however, the originality of the product, not to mention its attractive atmosphere, gorgeous female warriors and hilariously witty and intelligent dialogue, is sure to captivate a vast quantity of people. Right from the opening, the game feels a lot like an Anime television series, with a beautiful introductory movie clip introducing each of the major characters, while an entertaining musical score and impressive vocal talent delightfully peaks your interest at what awaits you on your journey.

The graphics of the cinematics however do not last. Although cinematics play a large role in the game, which is an incredibly loquacious piece of fiction, they are an alternate variety than what you may have come to expect from other titles. The game itself fades out into the background as the characters are displayed in front of you. Only their eyes and mouth move, and their faces employ a wide array of emotion, conveying embarrassment, happiness, grief or anger, with their dialogue textually appearing beneath them. After these occurrences, the game returns to normal, the graphics experienced during the exploration and fight scenes being rather dull in contrast with games today, the eyes of the characters especially, when visible, appearing rather alien and lifeless. Despite the graininess of the image, it does retain a great depth of brightness and vibrant beauty, although the fact the game was originally released in Japan a year ago clearly illustrates that by today’s standards, it is unable to compete with the flare that games are displaying now on the new consoles.

When walking down the street, despite the comic style setting, you cannot deny the feeling of reality which coats the world around you as you explore and take in the sights. This however comes with its own limitation. Unlike in FarCry 2 and 3, where the entire world was explorable, and very rarely did you even see a loading screen, in Akiba’s Trip, you frequently bump into areas which require loading (you also bump into a lot of people too, but that’s a different story). The city is separated into districts, and each one requires a short period to load before you can gain access. This can be somewhat avoided with the use of fast travel, however, as with many titles, these areas need to be initially unlocked.

Set in the technologically profound, and entertainingly captivating location of Akihabara, Akiba’s Trip is one of those titles that falls into the love or hate category. It also requires the gamer not to ask many questions, for even suspending your disbelief over the course of the game will potentially leave you with a variety of queries. Providing a unique take on the vampire genre, Akiba’s Trip, rather than conceiving the normally unsettling atmosphere one might assume for a game in this genre, throws you into a world which is always bright and sunny.Referred to as ‘synthisters’, the man made vampires you encounter, rather than consuming blood, devour energy, and how they were made, and for what reason, alongside how they can be possibly stopped, are three of the major plot points which push the game forward. Moreover, rather than the stereotypical stakes and garlic one might expect to find attached to our company of ‘freedom fighters’, sunlight is the primary weapon of choice, and apparently, the best way to stop a vampire’s rampage, is to strip them down to either their panties, or their tighty whitey’s, and watch the exposure to the sun obliterate them.

When battling agaisnt an enemy, often they come equipped with head gear, a top, and bottoms, each piece of their attire having to take substantial damage, before it is capable of being ripped clean off. If several enemies have weakened attires, the player is able to chain strip, meaning, by following the key prompts, the character can automatically strip several pieces of clothing one after another, rendering the enemy less problematic. The way in which clothing is entertainingly removed can be altered by applying different combat skills to your person, which can be obtained from reading material. The best possible comparison I can think of is The Matrix, where knowledge on fighting is uploaded to the character’s minds. Additionally, you are, later in the campaign, able to activate special combat styles after attaining enough juice from battle, which deals extreme damage to enemies, and often reverberates onto others in the immediate vicinity. How a vampire can run around without a top and suffer no excruciating pain from the sunlight is beyond me though. How the bodies of the attackers are not damaged by the excessive blows they take, or how exactly the clothes can be removed in the fashion that they are, all very interesting questions that come equipped with no answers. Like I said; this is a game that you are meant to enjoy, rather than consistently analyze.

Fighting during the game is very basic, with each attack connected to a single key on your controller. To attack head gear, press the triangle; for the torso, use the circle, and for anything beneath the belt, use the ‘x’. However, what makes combat an unnecessary challenge, are the camera angels. Although you can personally pivot the camera anywhere you want, during combat this becomes a nuisance, when your primary focus is the deterioration of your enemy’s attire. On more than one occasion, the enemy fell out of the frame, and I was unable to see how much damage, if any, I was inflicting. On top of this, if you happen to begin moving out of a general area, say, into a side street, off the beaten track, the position of the camera will become similar to a bird’s eye view, something which cannot be manually altered unless you move out of the immediate area. Additionally, battle mechanics in general can appear rather difficult, and although the controls are easy to master, employing them appropriately is a different struggle altogether. On countless occasions, when attempting to confront one particular enemy, the character instead attacked another. It would have been an idea to have a way to aim your attacks at a specific target. Instead, over the course of the game, you inevitably, inadvertently, attack, on occasion, complete strangers. This happened a number of times to me whilst patrolling the streets, in which I accidentally happened to find himself in a fist fight with an officer of the law, rather than an enemy synthister, an act which subsequently led to my arrest.

Combat in general is already made quite challenging by the fact that rarely is there only one opponent you face down, with often, anywhere between four and eight plus assailants getting in your way. Although you usually enter a fight with an NPC (non-playable character (for the uninitiated)) beside you, even the assistance they provide is unable to quell the steady advance of the opposition, who appear to, on many an occasion, be equipped with better equipment than you. Moreover, during combat, you are unable to alter what weapons or clothes you happen to have on your person, but you are able to repair your attire at the press of a button to replenish all that was lost to damage. However, this slow process always leaves you vulnerable. Although some could argue this is equal to a healthy challenge, there is a point when a challenging scenario becomes intolerably unfair, and appears to be a developer’s way of making a game last for a greater period of longevity than it would without the frequently overbearing battles.

Attempting to thwart the threat of the synthisters however occasionally seems to be not as pertinent as building relationships. During the game, you portray Nanashi, and rather than being the quintessential hero one may expect, he is rather, a geek, unfortunate enough to be transformed into a synthister. He, along with his friends, who form the Akiba Freedom Fighters, their base of operations held at the gaming venue MOGRA, take it upon themselves to try and save the city. Although the player’s name can be altered, and during conversation, when subtitles appear, the other characters refer to you as the name you provide yourself, the physicality, and features of Nanashi cannot be changed, which I found a little restrictive. If it is any conciliation however, your character is able to frequently alter their chosen attire.

Over the course of the game, there are a number of (gorgeous) female characters, including the mysterious Shizuku, the multi-talented Rin, the athletic Tohko, the well presented Shion, and the foreign Kati, either of whom your character is able to form a romantic attachment with, as long as you don’t stuff up. In Mass Effect, it was mandatory to have conversations with people you wished to romance, and a similar, albeit, more difficult concept is applied here. Rather than alerting you with what is possibly the best response when prompted to say one of three possible sentences, the game challenges you to realize which statement or answer would best attract the woman you are attempting to woo.

The dialogue options the game provides to you are not necessarily separated into good or bad, but often have varying degrees of sarcasm or sexual innuendo attached, and it is up to you to decide how you want to be viewed. In Mass Effect, the most positive comment was always located at the top, while the most bad ass were at the bottom. Such a technique is not applied here, with options always been randomized in their location. Occasionally you can appear humble, violent, or even laid back, but again, many a response comes equipped with its own pros and cons. Luckily, the game does assist you in tallying how well your rapport is with each available woman. By communicating with Yuto, a young man who considers himself an expert on the female psyche, he notifies you where each woman stands, and appears only too happy to admit when they feel nothing at all – sick bastard!

At times I felt constrained by the often lacking opportunity to speak, and I occasionally wished to be granted the option of retaliating agaisnt attacks directed towards my character. This was especially true with regards to the character Kaito, who not only had sarcastic quips to make about my efforts, but was trying to move in on my territory and steal my Shizuku! That dirty mongrel! I hiss inappropriately in his direction!

On the other hand, there was something undeniably poetic about much of the dialogue, for not only Nanashi and the other freedom fighters, but for the enemy as well, with a beauty that swept you up in the motivations and passions of the characters. At times, even the player could not help but relate, and understand the reasoning behind antagonist’s decisions, which not only made them enjoyable as bad guys, but an interesting contrast to the heroes.

One of the best characters however had to be Nana, Nanashi’s ‘adorable little sister’ as she called herself, who, apart from having some of the best witty punch lines and responses, was also capable of advantageously crafting new material. Been able to splice together several garments to create a more durable outfit, or even merge a number of ‘weapons’ to make them more efficient in combat. The fact there was no limit to how many items could be merged into one, ensured these upgrades could immeasurably assist in making your character’s offensive abilities more powerful, and their resilience to attacks exceptionally impressive. On a side note, notice the quotations around weapons? Well, the equipment you offensively use to smite your enemies in Akiba’s Trip are not the stereotypical variety one may be used to seeing. Although there is a collection of boxing gloves, balls, bats, swords, sticks and umbrellas to choose from, there are also brooms, guitars, posters, monitors and laptops, with basic home made appliances and everyday utensils been customized for combat. Depending on the size and shape of the weaponry will also weigh heavily on how your maneuverability is affected in combat.

Unlike in other games, upon finding a new dress or weapon, you can instantly fix it to your person without having to worry about the level you are on. Taking part in the main quest is only able to progress you so far, and it is during the side quests and the battle arena, that the player is able to acquire better equipment. Side jobs, including hunting down synthisters, communing with everyday citizens, and helping people with basic dilemmas, not only provides you with money, and a degree of popularity amongst the locals, but almost always results in some kind of fight that allows you an opportunity to find equipment. The same goes for the battle arena, and as you progress forward, you are able to fight stronger opposition. If finding items becomes a little strenuous, you can simply buy something from one of the many stores, however the prices do seem a little exorbitant, although as I live in a country where we use ‘dollars’, I’m unsure how much the ‘yen’ is actually worth in contrast.

Annoyingly enough though, side quests come equipped with a time limit, and you are only made aware of this by checking on social media. During game, you are provided with an e-mail account, which people use to contact you, and a Pitter profile, that allows you to keep up to date with public opinion. The level of detail which has been applied to the social media spectrum of the game is amazing, with there been a huge abundance of Plips, each one feeling as though it could have easily been written by a real world individual. On top of this, Akiba’s Trip makes use of apps, with one such nifty gadget you are provided having the capacity to tell who is a synthister. By taking a picture with your camera, you are able to tell the fake people from the real, and attack the enemy on site, wherever they may hide.

Moving on, the game’s ending happens to arrive very fast, so much so, it is almost unexpected. One second you are attempting to decipher how you might thwart the enemy, and the next, you are in the midst of the final boss encounter, striving to secure a resolution. In a game running for ten plus hours, the conclusion seems to settle out of nowhere after experiencing a storyline which seemed to indicate it would build to something considerably longer. This however is not a criticism, the ending maintaining the same consistent feel as the rest of the product, and unlike many American games, does not leave you up in the air, but ends conclusively, although I might recommend you invest in a box of tissues. Once the game has been finished, a wealth of benefits are unlocked, which resolve a number of the quandaries that some gamers (myself included) may have had with the original play through. If anything though, it is sad to say goodbye to the characters, who were excellently and wholeheartedly conceived. But like any good friend, the characters never truly leave, and at the insert of a disc, they will gratefully return.

Akiba’s Trip is a uniquely fun experience, and although some could refer to it as a perverted storyline, the unyielding humor consistently reminds you not to take yourself too seriously when embarking on this adventure. Moreover, despite been occasionally predictable, and although revisiting the same locations, and fighting in similar areas can become repetitive, the wealth of options at your disposal regarding what weapon you could use makes almost every encounter different. Additionally, the option of choosing which NPC to accompany you (something which is occasionally provided) allows you to not only experiment with who is the most physically adept team member, but grants you the opportunity to potentially get even closer to the Goddess you are trying to ensnare. If you are looking for a fun, comedic adventure, with little emphasis on explanation and contemporary issues, and a strong emphasis on romance and butt kicking, look no further than Akiba’s Trip, which is sure to quench your appetite for all things crazy and unreal.

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

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

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

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

Verdict: 5.5 (out of 10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

More Entertaining Than: Condemned: Criminal Origins

Less Entertaining Than: Beyond: Two Souls

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image obtained from the following link:

 

Being B J Blazkowicz Again in Wolfenstein The New Order

Title: Wolfenstein: The New Orderwolfenstein_the_new_order_art.0_cinema_640.0
Developer: Machine Games
Distributor: Bethesda

More Entertaining Than:
Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein_(2009_video_game)

 

 

 

 

 

Less Entertaining Than:
Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Bj_return_to_castle_wolfenstein

 

 

 

 

Rating (out of ten): 8

The following review is based on my experience with the Xbox One version of Wolfenstein: The New Order over the course of 8 hours worth of game play.

As with the previous Wolfenstein games, id software have little to do with the overall production of the title, Raven and Grey Matter Studios in the past having control over the game that was created, Machine Games being left to pick up, in my opinion at least, the mess that Raven left behind. I have always been a fan of their products, but the 2009 version in the franchise seemed to go in an unfathomably absurd direction, before falling flat at the conclusion with a less than riveting reveal, testifying that a sequel could very well be developed.

I had begun to believe that the best possible strategy to improve the series would be to send it kicking and screaming into the future, as to allow the vast futuristic powers the Nazis have seem less than unbelievable. Originally beginning in 1946, the war still raging onwards, Blazkowicz finds himself amidst a team of men selected to neutralize Deaths Head, a character who, for me at least, seems to be getting tirelessly old (as a character, as well as physically), the technology at the disposal of him and his men being incredibly poignant. Much like the beginning moments of Mass Effect 3, The New Order opens with our heroes failing, however, rather than fleeing, Blazkowicz is badly injured, and finds himself carted off to the funny farm, of all places. The game quickly fast forwards to the year 1960, with the Nazis having notoriously won, and now ruling over the remnants of the planet, using the asylum he was transported to as a ‘candy store’, where Deaths Head takes subjects for all kinds of malicious projects, the 14 year slumber Blazkowicz was in coming to a sudden and violent end as he cuts the jugular of an enemy agent, and sets about killing Nazis all over again right, left and center.

wolfenstein___the_new_order_wallpaper_by_ashish913_by_ashish913-d7e8zbr

Upon meeting up with other individuals during the early hours of game play in Nazi 1960, having to work alongside old Grandpa Moses (or just about) paints a strong picture that very few resistance members are alive, these dire straits needing amending, the primary mission to build an effective counter insurgence team agaisnt the Nazi regime. The fellow characters you work alongside each have equally interesting back stories that are convincing, and often emotionally in-depth, painting further horrifying images of all the suffering that has occurred. Caroline Becker (from Wolfenstein) makes a surprising return, along with several new soldiers, specialists, and innocent civilians, just trying desperately to survive. The feel of the base camp the resistance later occupies has a similarity to it reminiscent of subway town in Rage (with the music, sound, and general happenings) and the Atlantis in Unreal II, this being further strengthened with themes of family, honor, retribution and love. Although Blazkowicz is still a Nazi killing machine, his usual bluntness shares the screen with a softer side. There is one side quest where the player has the option to help finds toys belonging to a mentally disabled young man, the care displayed during this being very considerate. The emotional depth additionally gives the character something to fear losing, and thus is potentially a more powerful motive than the typical mundane storyline attributes that have been previously showcased. On that note, it is fair to say the game does often become quite adult, and I mean that in all sense of the word.

the growing intensity during this particular scene was especially well delivered

the growing intensity during this particular scene was exceptionally well delivered

The graphics in the Wolfenstein games have always been rather ahead of their time, yet, the same cannot always be said for The New Order. True, they are very attractive, the facial construction in the cinematics to the in-game environments all being beautifully detailed, however, a blandness seems to hold sway over much of the world. This could no doubt be due to the bleakness in the game’s atmosphere, and the general want to make the sheer weight of the war fall upon the gamer. If so, this is furthered again by lead protagonist, Blazkowicz himself, who not only narrates the storyline, but mutters beneath his breath during the game, his sometimes poetic, sometimes vengeful, but always brutally honest depictions of the happenings, further immersing the gamer into the world. Moreover, the musical score adds to the explosive sounds of bullets slamming into walls, and shrapnel falling all about, much of the music being less than serene, and having a resemblance to the sounds of the game itself, a shrill warning filling the airwaves whenever danger is around. When the music is not accompanying a battle, much like the softer aspects of the game, the music too envelops this theme and further draws the gamer in.

this was an especially fun area to fight in

this was an especially fun area to fight in

As with all of the previous titles, The New Order is primarily a violent shoot ’em up, with an endless wealth of battles taking place over the course of each level, the gamer only demolishing one group of bad guys before having to confront the next.  The human opposition are reasonably weak, but then again, so too is the character portrayed. Each injury takes away a good portion of health, however, even when health is in short supply (this includes meals, dog bowls, medical packs, etc), the game will automatically level the player up to the nearest even 20% (as an example, if you have 51% health, the game will automatically charge you up to 60%). Furthermore, health can be ‘overcharged’, at least for a short duration, any health points accumulated that takes Blazkowicz’s health line over 100% slowly burning off. This is beneficial during a head-on battle; say you have 136% health, there is a chance you may lose that extra 36%, but still retain your regular allotment.

Armor too is located all around, in the shape of helmets (that can be dropped by the enemy), flak jackets, riot shields, etc, all of it adding to the percentage. The quality of protection can be further increased through upgrades that can be found in maps, or by building upgrades at the work bench situated within HQ. Ammo is another quantity that is wealthy in the world, however, no matter how much is acquired, it always seems to get burnt through like popcorn, and on more than several occasions I found myself suddenly deprived of any and all magazines. This means that you need to be quite conservative, The New Order offering gamers the opportunity to be stealthy and assassinate the opposition.

There are many moments in the game when commanders happen to be present, who set off the alarm and rally more men to the area once you are spotted. Dispatching them silently, or before anyone else has the option of getting the drop on you, minimizes the number of enemy tangos. However, at the same time The New Order has no problem with the gamer being all loud and proud, with a number of gun turrets, which can be ripped from the world and physically carried around, existing in a number of areas. These, much like the other armaments, run out of steam quite quickly, and are automatically dropped the moment Blazkowocz interacts with the environment, whether it be opening a door or hitting a switch. This can potentially be annoying, however, adds to the realism.

Furthermore, when it comes to acquiring items, unlike in previous titles, Blazkowicz does not pick these up simply by walking over them, and the gamer is constantly clicking ‘x’ in order to garner as many goods as possible. For me, there was a constant threat hanging over my shoulders that I might well accidentally miss a number of items; at least when the game is in charge of obtaining ammo and health, there is no chance that it shall be inadvertently left behind. I also found this to be reasonably annoying, since every single combatant dropped something or other, and I felt I was clicking ‘x’ more than I was pulling back on the trigger. On a side note, I do presume this again strengthened the realism of the game, however, in  a purely fictional title, is realism even a requirement?

Continuing with the theme of realism, Blazkowicz later has access to a laser cutting tool which is used to slice away at wire fences, the gamer having to physically move the torch around in a square shape in order to make a hole large enough to waltz on through. This time consuming process became boring after the first time I did it, there being however a wealth of similar scenarios to come; however, the ability to upgrade weapons during the campaign, including the cutting blade later rendered this concern moot, and you too will find out why.

pic1

Returning to the theme of antagonists, although the humans could be dispatched with reasonable ease, the new robotic creations, which are introduced right from the start, certainly are not. Dogs (yes, they too are robotic now), although far easier from afar, up close, the continuous snapping of the jaws as you attempted to prod them with your knife seemed to be a constant gamble as to see who would win. Other robotic monsters included flying gizmos and larger assault mechanisms, which although slow, packed a wealth of fire power, and boasted an epic amount of protection that made killing them a real challenge. In previous titles there has been a continuous move towards actual monsters, or X-creatures as they were once called. This movement towards more robotic opposition makes the futuristic world The New Order occupies come alive in a more sophisticated way, by showing the ingenuity and strength of the Nazi war machine.

Continuing on, during combat, the game would automatically level Blazkowicz up with additional skills, depending on the methods I used. By using dual wielded weapons, Blazkowicz learned how to reload both weapons simultaneously; by throwing grenades, he learned how to throw them back at the enemy; by assassinating opponents, he was educated on throwing knives, etc. This assisted in benefiting my personal experience with the game, however, what did not was the frequent lack of any actual guide. In many games, a way-point or arrow is provided so the player knows the direction they are meant to move in. Although there was one on occasion, when there was not, I sometimes found myself moving back and forth in a vain attempt to find the exit.

Focusing more specifically on the game itself, the significant lack of the 1940s feel, and the removal of aristocratic castles in exchange for technologically proficient societies perhaps may well have been a necessary change to breathe new life into a series that could have rhapsody being at an end. Sometimes this change feels as though it were forced a little too strongly, however, when the game works, there are moments when you forget you are at the helm of a video game and are simply experiencing life itself. During these amazing scenes, you just know that Machine Games have valiantly done their job.

 

Image Links:

 

 

Is Godzilla (2014) King of the Screen?

Title: Godzilla
Running Time: 123 minutes
Rating (out of 5): 3.5

When I was much younger, I was a massive fan of Godzilla; I had two toys of this triumphant lizard, two Mothras, three Rodans, three Hydras, two members of Godzilla force, a Godzilla force fighter jet, and a set of trading cards, not to mention several pairs of clothing depicting this massive creation.

Where Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla failed, due to repetitive action sequences, immature dialogue, and certain aspects of the storyline which were unable to make coherent sense, I was hoping this particular reboot would find a way of telling a far superior story.

Now, if a feature happens to be named after one of the major characters (Riddick, the Bourne franchise, etc) you expect said character to play an incredibly pivotal role. Although many in Godzilla believed this terrific behemoth was the only hope in stopping other ancient predators, his entire screen presence lasted probably ten minutes (excluding the moments you see his fins as he swims through the oceans).

Much like in Alien Vs Predator Requiem, the human characters have the more significant roles, and although at the beginning this was of little concern, for the remainder of the film was still yet to transpire, by the end, there is this disgruntled sense of unquenched entertainment that settles over the cinema, as you come to realize the shocking absence of this tyrannical monstrosity.

Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) was a scientist at a Japanese power plant when it was inexplicably destroyed by an unexplainable force of unparallelled proportions. 15 years later, and his son, Lieutenant Ford Brody (Araon Taylor-Johnson) who has discovered a career for himself in the Navy, is officially over his father’s wild conspiracy theories that lead him back to Japan.

There, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his team of scientists who have existed since before the events of the Japanese power plant, have been running experiments on an unidentified creature located at the epicenter of the destroyed reactor.  But when the creature is released from its egg-sack and begins to run, or more aptly, fly rampantly across the terrain in search of food, the military, including Jason Strathairn as an Admiral and Richard T. Jones as a fellow high ranking commander, are brought in to help bring an end to the chaos that is only escalating.

This particular version of Godzilla returns the frachise back to its origins, with these triumphant ancient beasts having a high tolerance, and general appetite, for all things nuclear, the male Rodan-esque creature released from the egg thus making its way from one potential source of radiation to another in the hopes of finding food. When another creature of the same species eventually erupts out from its burial chamber, this particular creature identified as a female, you can begin to imagine what their intentions are, which can only spell further catastrophic trouble for humanity, unless something of equal strength can fight them. Some believe nuclear arsenals are the answer, whilst others, especially Dr. Serizawa, believe firmly in Godzilla.

Although the Rodan like creatures, which are initially introduced as some kind of ancient monstrous parasite, receive considerably more face time with the audience than Godzilla does, it is still not nearly enough to satisfy one’s thirst for special effects. These creatures look almost robotic, with rather square block heads and a red nuclear light pulsating across the underside of their bodies, and along the tips of their elongated clawed fingers. This is no criticism however, the special effects being exceptional in this creature feature; I only wish that the creatures had a far greater screen presence.

What further fails to fill my appetite are the fight scenes between the monsters, a number of them being cut short; at one point the fight scene takes place over a couple of incredibly quick frames on a television screen hundreds of miles away, Moreover, on the occasions when you are in the thick of it, the blanket of night fall does all manner of annoyances. Although you can often make out what is happening, daylight would have been preferable in illustrating these magnificent creatures in their truest form.

A story of family at heart, it seems the developers of this particular feature on occasion forgot that Godzilla was supposed to play a paramount role, and for this reason the audience suffers greatly. If this studio plans on making a sequel, which may prove unlikely (think what happened last time America decided to create a spinoff), hopefully the creators may consider having any further incursions taking place during the day.

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