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.

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

An Unforgotten Heroine Fights to Reclaim Her Memories in REMEMBER ME

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

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

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

Rating (out of 10): 8.5

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

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

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

images111

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

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

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

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

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

Remember-Me-02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating (out of ten): 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUSE_Dalton_Solo-1024x576

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

Fuse_Jacob_2

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

Fuse_Izzy_2

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

WOW!

WOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kicking ass and taking names

kicking ass and taking names

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

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

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

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

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

Image References:

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Childs storms a Castle or two in the new Halo 4 Multiplayer DLC

 

Hailed as the last multiplayer DLC for Halo 4, Castle contains three new maps for War Games.

Daybreak is a map that is rather odd and for a number of reasons. Initially, upon first glance, the map seems quite small, but upon wandering about the map for a minute or so without another player in sight, one will begin to immediately realise the sheer size of the map. Daybreak in that sense is best for those who wish to experience the game online, rather than through a split-screen setup.

The map can be efficaciously used for both deathmatch oriented battles and for team games the likes of CTF, with two easily recognisable basses allocated to the map. Each base contains a jump pad of sorts; the base to the north contains a pad that leads up a vertical chamber that allows one a great vantage point to snipe unwilling foes, whilst the one at the opposite base allows a player to quickly converge on the location of the turret, to ensure that nobody can easily escape their grasp.

Both bases contain a heavy machinegun emplacement that allows for a wide area of cover, with additional Warthogs, Mongoose and Ghosts positioned about the environment to bridge the gap between one base and another. The right side of the map is more open; the terrain a more green in colour, with a great ledge over to the side that one will probably rather not take a swan dive off. To the left, the map is more enclosed, with a cave system that one can easily become lost inside due to its repetitive structure.

On the right side moreover a Banshee can be found, which provides an unfair advantage to whoever takes control of it. However, the map seems to be ill catered for such a vehicle, because one is unable to fly to high, else they risk receiving the ‘return to the map in the next 10 seconds or get blown up’ message on their screen. This allows the Banshee to be quite easily commandeered by those on the ground who wish to rid the current pilot of their enjoyment.

On top of this, the default weapons that will be deposited into the map include none other than sniper rifles and fuel rod cannons that will prove to be of worthy assistance.

All up, Daybreak seems like a combination of many ideas randomly strewn together that altogether proves effective, though the entertainment can really only be enjoyed with a wealth of players to fight against.

The second of the three maps is Outcast, which is set within a mining installation. On the far side of the map, a vessel will often appear to escort miners from the fallen installation to safety, before returning to acquire more. However, very rarely will one have time to admire the view.

To the right, the map has a number of fantastic vantage points, some of which are additionally equipped with turrets. This allows players the opportunity to get the drop on others, which proves to be a necessary part of this particular map. The wealth of vehicles stored in this environment, from Warthogs to Ghosts, and the vast number of open roads one can drive though means that guns are not the thing you need to be most frightened of; it’s the deranged lunatics behind the wheel of a vehicle intent on splattering other players across the surface of these mean streets that one needs to keep a close eye out for.

Additionally to the right there are a couple of small buildings that one can hide inside for some brief moments of cover, and there are plenty of rocks and other pieces of debris lining the roads for one to hide behind. This becomes a necessity for when certain players decide to take control of the Wraith; you read that right, the Wraith over on the left side of the map. Much like the Banshee in Daybreak, the Wraith offers an unfathomably unfair advantage to those who seize control of the vehicle and thus, take control of the roads, for when this happens the match basically becomes a struggle for survival rather than anything else.

The last of the three maps is Perdition, which is no doubt the smallest of the three maps and the easiest to navigate around; a city where the primary reactor has gone critical, an imminent explosion however being the last of anyone’s concerns as they rush about the complex. The continuous alarms quicken the pace of the map and constantly provide the player with a feel of urgency. The centre of the map is a terrific circular platform that is shrouded in a great red light, furthering the sounds of the frequent alarm. One may wish to be careful here for although these is a railing, falling off the edge proves to be very easy – as Ron, a player who I versed discovered when he tried to run me down in a Ghost and instead found himself flying over the edge and down into the drink. I certainly hope he enjoyed the swim.

Much like the other two maps in this particular DLC, Warthogs and Ghosts are present, and the paths are very easy to navigate through, making vehicular combat an obliged necessity rather than a choice. However, those who choose to hoof it additionally gain the advantage of the default weaponry, which includes a fuel rod cannon and an incineration cannon, both of which can quickly turn the tide in any game. The inclusion of the energy sword however feels almost obsolete in an environment where one may garner very few chances to use such a devastating piece of Covenant weaponry.

For those who wish to escape the roads, there are a couple of rooms to be found on the sides, some of which are used for storage and others for high tech computer equipment. Unfortunately, these rooms prove to be the locations where weapons are deposited, so don’t expect to be able to find yourself alone in these rooms for long when the weapons start falling down around you like hail stones.

All up, Perdition especially feels like a parallel environment, with both sides of the map being reminiscent of each other, which, as previously mentioned makes it easy to navigate can also make it difficult to find where all the action is when so much of the map looks the same.

In conclusion, Castle provides the player with some frenetic vehicular combat, however I believe that the previous two Halo 4 DLC’s were more entertaining than what 343 Industries has included in this particular map pack.

Killing the Pain: Hell and Damnation is loosed on console

PKHDGame-2012-08-17-12-29-47-71

Title: Painkiller: Hell and Damnation
Developer:
The Farm 51
Distributor:
Nordic Games
Release Date:
April 5th, 2013 (PS3 and XBOX360 versions),
October 31st 2012 (PC)
Duration:
Between 4 and 6 hours

Pros:
New weapon

Cons:
-Repetitive, old levels
-Dull graphics
-Very little violence
-Cliché storyline
-Pathetically short
-Voice actors seem out of their depth
-One: the average IQ of your opponents

Less Entertaining Than: Painkiller

More Entertaining Than: Bonking a hammer over your head

Rating (out of 10): 2

In Summary: To call Painkiller: Hell and Damnation entertaining would be like suggesting the act of putting a red hot iron down your trousers, or running a cheese grater over your genitals, were genuinely smart things to do.

The original Painkiller and the first mission pack that spawned from it, Battle out of Hell, which Hell and Damnation is very loosely based upon were originally designed by People Can Fly and distributed by Dreamcatcher. Sometimes when a new developer takes the seams one must question whether or not they will pay homage to the previous titles by making a game deserving of the franchise. Sometimes, much like Halo 4, the developers can surprise you by constructing a stunningly gorgeous game with a breathtaking storyline, fantastic action sequences and an alarmingly entertaining experience. Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is not one of these games, and is in fact the reason why many new developers are looked at so skeptically when taking command of a fantastic franchise and by the end of the game, the only thing requiring a painkiller, or ten, will be you, the player, after having to endure such a soporifically torturous experience.

The story picks up after the events of the last mission pack, with Daniel Garner returning to the graveyard where he originally began his pilgrimage back in 2003. Having been denied the right to see his beloved wife Catherine in Heaven, he is stuck in the hellish land that he has set to ruin over the past few titles. All of a sudden, Eve, who had betrayed Daniel back in Battle out of Hell, and who Daniel is unable to entirely trust throughout this campaign warns him that ‘he is coming’, the ominous ‘he’ being Death.

Although Hell and Damnation is, I guess, supposed to be a brand new storyline, it uses old levels to tell its tale, with a very loose, cliché and predictable storyline playing out during the cinematics that infrequently occur over the course of the campaign. On that note, you are basically forced to fight through areas and enemies that you would have already cleansed and punished previously.

Right from the very beginning you can see the differences between the previous Painkiller titles and this new addition. Fans of the original franchise may remember that the cinematic moments were utterly sublime, the graphics being beyond fathomable, with the characters, whether they be humanoid or demonic looking so utterly realistic that the movie experience these cinematic scenes brought to the game aided in absorbing the player further into the compelling story. True, Painkiller has always been a brainless action shooter, but there was a story worth telling none the same during the cinematic sequences and it is a shame that such cannot be said for Hell and Damnation.

The graphics of the cinematic cut scenes in this game are the same visuals that will be presented to the player during the levels. Now, I will be the first to admit that the graphics of the original series were a little dull and dark, but on top of this I might remind the player that the games were using an older engine. With the use of the Unreal 3 Engine to power this particular game, one may assume that the graphics would be near astounding, with titles the likes of Gears of War 3, Bioshock Infinite and Mass Effect 3, just to name a few, being powered by this graphically gorgeous engine. Now, even though Painkiller is indeed set in purgatorial realms and hellish domains, one might assume that the engine would make the environments more beautiful than they were in previous titles. Wrong! If anything, the graphics are incredibly off putting, dull and hazy, and make the graphics of the original game continue to look fresh and lively today when in comparison.

On occasion, for instance in the level Cathedral, the bright colourations of some of the environments and castle features are a welcome change. They are not stunning per se and are in no way up to the standard of today, but are still much more engrossing than the usual grays and blacks that the game seems to more often than not rely upon. At times, such as in the level Opera House, the environment is so black that it is literally pitch, and by pitch, well, you’ll see for yourself if you decide to suffer through such a level; at times you will be unable to see an inch in front of you, let alone the enemies attempting to rid you of your health. A torch would have been supportive in such a level, which actually is used later on in the Orphanage level, which, ironically, was an unnecessary attachment.

painkillerhd

Moving on, upon Death entering the cinematic, if you are anything like me you will be a bit at a loss as to who you are looking at. I mean, how would Death appear to you? Would this terrifying reaper be a skeletal monster with a sheath and a horse of like comparison? In Hell and Damnation, the designers obviously opted for a unique look to the harvester of souls, and with that, have basically turned him into an aquatic terror. Death basically looks like a chubby octopus with some green algae hanging from his shoulders.

In fact, a number of the characters in the game look as though they spent the hiatus between the last Painkiller and this one down at the local McDonalds, where they refused to leave, instead opting to eat their fill and then some. Eve herself, who later appears in corporeal form once more, who was originally a babe of unimaginable beauty, has decided to cover up with a few additional layers of skin. Now, I have no problem with a woman, who, unlike most models these days, actually decides to eat, so before you start sending in your hate mail and stipulating that I am a vulgar bastard, please, allow me to finish. Eve (this is the Eve FYI, who happened to have a thing with Adam at one time) is the kind of individual you would imagine to be quite special. I mean, women are naturally beautiful, so it would be natural that Eve be beautiful too, which was reflective in the previous games, but not in this one. Her hair; her face; her choice of attire; even her voice, all of this is completely different and you will in no way recognise her character.

That is the other factor you will notice. The original voice actors do not return to voice the characters, and so a bunch of new individuals have been hired on. The biggest difference here is Jon St. John who voices Daniel Garner. When it comes to voicing Duke Nukem, I would want nobody else but Mr. John to voice the character because he does an unfathomably brilliant job portraying such an action hero. As Daniel Garner though, Mr. John seems out of his depth, his deep voice being unable to convey the emotional power that was originally orchestrated in the prior titles, and it sometimes seems disturbingly humorous to have such an actor portraying a broken and defeated character. If you want someone to be taken seriously, one should hire an actor who can portray a serious part. Mr. John does a terrific job at articulating humorous one liners and other such comedic dialogue, but in Painkiller, he seems about as wooden as a tree stump.

Now, Death has not magically appeared in front of Daniel out of the goodness of his heart – he has a proposition for him. If Daniel gives to him 7,000 souls, Death will grant him his wish to finally rise up to Heaven and be with his wife. Upon this deal being struck, Death grants Daniel a new weapon, which is the only new feature of the game. Like every other weapon in the Painkiller universe it is a two in one kind of deal; the primary fire is the buzz saw, which launches a relatively strong saw blade in the direction of your target at a rather slow speed. The secondary fire is much more entertaining, and is the soul snatcher, that will rip soul’s right out from your opponents and give them to you. Additionally, you are able to aim the gun in the direction of a soul that has erupted out from the body of a fallen opponent and drag it into your character.

Old weapons, from both Painkiller and Battle out of Hell make a welcome return to the game, including, but not limited to the Chaingun Rocket Launcher, the Battle Rifle Flame Thrower and the Stakegun Grenade Launcher. On top of this, you not only begin the game with the brand new weapon that Death provides to you, but with the Painkiller device and the Shotgun Freeze Ray.

Much like in the previous Painkiller games, the goal is to go from level to level defeating the terrific amount of enemies that come in their droves to stop you. As usual, after collecting a certain number of souls, Daniel will enter demon mode, where you, the player, will be able, for a temporary period of time, to eradicate enemies with but a single shot. The enemies however are as brainless as they come, and if you can find more incompetent AI anywhere, I am almost certain that Hell and Damnation will beat that by an extra few per cent. Enemies flock towards you as though wanting to be eradicated, with no flight complex and no way to defend themselves against your attacks. On several occasions I came across enemies that ran into walls and became stuck; enemies who became stuck in corners; enemies who became stuck on the corpses of other enemies; enemies who decided to kill other enemies; the list of the blatant disregard of AI in this game is overwhelmingly never ending. On top of this, since a majority of your enemies can be eradicated with but a single shot on many an occasion, and since more of them only come equipped with melee attacks rather than long range weaponry, a lot of combatants will be annihilated before they are even able to touch you.

To make the game easier, as with previous titles, Tarot cards can be collected by completing certain objectives during the map; use only this particular weapon to vanquish the hordes of Hell; find every gold coin; find every secret area; complete the level in under a certain time constraint, etc. Due to the shortness of the game, in some levels one will discover there are in fact two cards that can be unlocked, each of which has a unique objective that needs to be completed.
Once more, the gold that is collected is used to power the cards, each one costing a certain amount to be used during a map. Each card can only be used once per map, although, like the last games, the ability to use more than one at the same time empowers Daniel considerably. Although the act of attempting to acquire the cards, along with the ability to use them can add some much needed entertainment to one’s experience, the Tarot cards are not essentially necessary, and one can efficaciously complete the game without any undue assistance.

Of course, with 7,000 souls to collect and a mass of opponents to destroy, you might imagine that, much like the previous titles in the series that Hell and Damnation will be incredibly violent; wrong again! The reason why there was such a considerably lengthy delay between the PC version and that which is on console is due to a German classifier, who stated that the game was unnecessarily evil in its violence. It is at this moment that I could make a vulgar and rather racial joke about this, but I will avoid the urge. I however did have a go at the PC version after playing the one on XBOX, and really, there is not much difference in the amount of blood and gore; both versions have very little of it. In previous Painkiller’s you almost needed to bring a towel to wipe the gore from your screen as it oozed across every surface of the environment, but in this particular game you see a quick spray of red from the bodies of those that are blown to smithereens and nothing else. Classified MA in Australia for Strong Horror Violence and Blood and Gore, if a game is going to have such a classification attached to it, then I will very much appreciate seeing all of this supposed ‘blood and gore’. Now, I am not necessarily a Satanist, but I prefer my games to have a bit of arterial red in them, and Hell and Damnation more often than not refuses to bathe the player in the bright red bodily ooze of fallen opponents.

All of the opponents you face moreover are replicas of those that you would have fought during the original campaigns, with a few changes here and there. Often when playing through a level, different opponents than the ones you remember initially fighting will appear, but the change is barely worth noting. Some minor alterations have additionally been implemented with some of the combatants, including providing the skelebones with arms and a blade to wield in each, and reducing the Skeletore, who was a terrific 8 foot tall badass with a double barreled shotgun in the original Painkiller, being strong, dangerous, and capable of using other enemies as demonic shields, to a four foot delinquent incapable of inciting fear into an ant, let alone the player.

Additionally, a couple of the original Boss monsters return for the slaughter, including the Necrogiant and Alastair. In the case of Alastair, like with the Skeletore, the developers decided to ‘improve’ upon the original design, so instead of the boss being a gigantic fire breathing monstrosity who would make even Godzilla wet his pants, they have sent him off to Jenny Craig, where they not only took off some of his muscle, but much of his height as well. The end result is this flimsy, 6 foot tall creature with goat legs, the body of a hairy chimp, two bat wings and the face of a gorilla; not exactly a fire breathing dragon now, is it?

Moving on, the levels you will fight through are from the original Painkiller game, and the mission pack, Battle out of Hell. Players may remember that Painkiller came with 24 levels, and Battle out of Hell was equipped with 10, and so it is blatantly obvious that 20 of them have apparently disappeared into the ether in this particular campaign comprised of 14 levels. You begin the game in the Graveyard level, as the player would have in the first game, and will continue on through other known maps the likes of the train station and the theme park. Other fun maps, the likes of the Military Base, the Tower of Babel, the Town, the Labs and Dead City are not included, and so, if you are anything like me, you are going to be adversely disappointed by the game’s content.

An interesting new addition to the levels though are the Boss monsters, who reign over these lands, and sometimes you see then moving about the environments in the background. When you begin the game in the Graveyard, you might suddenly experience a moment of pause as you look up to see the Necrogiant walking about the place, and later still, you may see him interact with the world by shoving his huge hand through the ceiling of a building you happen to be standing in.

Throughout the game, from the cinematics to moments during the levels themselves, random hints are provided as to what the ending will be comprised of, and the developers do not disappoint by leaving it wide open for a sequel. The ending, although rather unlikely, makes it seem as though brand spanking new content is just waiting around the corner to be explored in any potential new games that are to be made in this new franchise, I must wonder – why would anyone want to persist in this experience?

On that note, all of this combined makes for a very short game, and if you are in anyway interested in purchasing this particular title, I would recommend that you perhaps borrow it from your local video store and complete it over the course of a night, for I cannot imagine anyone wanting to experience this campaign twice.

If the developers of Painkiller: Hell and Damnation should feel anything after having completed this project, it is shame. Painkiller has been an abundantly popular series over the years, and what this game does is take everything that made the series entertaining to play and completely ruin the enjoyment for everyone. I would be seriously surprised if this dreadful excuse for a sequel manages to spawn another, and if it does, I only hope the developers do a better job than they did this time around. If Farm 51 want my opinion, it is this; if you want to create an appalling, pathetic excuse for a video game, I ain’t going to stop you; I do however recommend that you do not destroy a perfectly good franchise in the process.

IMAGE CREDITS:
http://www.nerdly.co.uk/2013/01/23/review-painkiller-hell-damnation/

http://www.tgrealm.com/blog-posts-137/tgr-blog-hands-on-painkiller-hell-damnation/

Kiss your Majesty goodbye in the new Halo 4 DLC!

Map Pack: Majestic

Size: approximately 400 megabytes

Levels: 4

Release Date: 25th of February in the Northern hemisphere, 26th in the South

Landfall:

This medium sized map has unbelievably detailed graphics which efficaciously cause the city to come to life in mythic detail. To further accentuate the overall feel of the city under dire threat, Covenant forces have attacked in full, with capital ships visible in the background decimating buildings left and right. Huge fires cover the horizon, with mushroom clouds of smoke gliding across the air. Human civilian transports rush into the battlefield to pick up stranded refugees, before moving out as quickly as they arrived, with two Broadswords located just outside the map, ready to help reinforce the depleting numbers of hardened marines battling for the safety of the planet.

Photo-0004

Within the realm of the map, the word ‘evacuate’ moves across computerised screens in bold yellow letters, furthering the idea in the mind of the player that the city is under massive threat. But so too are you, the player, within the multiplayer map. There are many tight corners and corridors across the map which will inevitably cause one too many close calls and tight fight sequences to take place. Explosive ordinances are left lying about the map, which can advantageously assist players in dispatching weakened opposition. The lack of any good vantage point, with the exception of two separate corners prevents those who would normally prefer to camp out the inability to acquire those perfect head shots from the view of a sniper scope.

Landfall is one of those rare few maps that is great for any occasion, whether you are into hardcore deathmatch or team based games the likes of capture the flag.

Monolith:

For its name, Monolith is not quite as gargantuan as one might have initially believed upon seeing its title; in reality it is a moderately sized map that is suited to almost any specific game type.

Reminiscent of previous maps in the Halo 4 game the likes of Erosion and Impact, this particular map is located within an asteroid field, with two specific bases located at either end, even the rocky surface of the ground you fight upon changing colours to alert you to which base you happen to be stumbling into. The walls and general feel of the entire map is reflective of a forerunner facility long abandoned and left forgotten in the vast blackness of outer space, repurposed now for the means of terminating battling Spartans.

Unlike other maps, upon entry into the game, vast quantities of ordinances appear immediately to help accommodate the player lusting for a better weapon than the conventional AR5.

There are a number of jump pads located in front of either base, which can be used to effectively avoid enemies and quickly move from one location to the next without fear of being targeted for assault. Jump pads positioned at the rear of either base are perfect for sneaking up on opposition undetected, which can hinder those attempting to snipe targets making their way towards their base. Although the map offers fantastic vantage points to overlook the surrounding area at either base of operations, the rear jump pads offer your opponent the potential chance of assassinating you just as effortlessly.

Skyline:

For those familiar with the Citadel in Mass Effect, in particular, the second game of the trilogy, Skyline will no doubt make you feel right at home. The distorted sound of the voice over crackling over the communication transmitter beckons you into this futuristic civilisation in the dead of night. Looming over the city from one of the many far corners of the civilised planet, the player is given the spectacular vantage point to see a vast quantity of choppers and other like transport gliding through the air in the distance, whilst other vehicles quickly rush across the freeways below.

The sound of beeping terminals and the flashing of computers further immerses you into this living, breathing civilisation yet to be touched by the malicious hand of the Covenant war machine.

halo 3

This relatively small map which is suited best for accommodating players interested in participating in deathmatches, comes equipped with two floors, the upper providing the player with the unfair advantage of easily targeting the opposition running about on the lower deck. Although stairs can be used to defeat the purpose of the advantages of the players who occupy the top most floor of the structure, jump pads are just as easy as getting this done.

Additionally, for those on the lower floor, you will more often than not feel more like a rat in a maze than a Spartan super soldier, whilst those who overlook the lower floor can quickly jump from one side to the next due to the vast number of objects which stick up that can be used as unconventional bridges to help those on the upper floor track those on the bottom.

Vortex:

This is the only large map accommodating vehicles which comes in this particular DLC. Unfortunately, you the player may feel somewhat cheated, for the map will no doubt remind you of Solace in more ways than one. Unlike the former map mentioned, where at times it was difficult to spot enemies in the vast number of vantage points within the map, Vortex has a more structured feel to it, and is especially great at supporting those wishing to play a team based game the likes of capture the flag.

As previously mentioned, this map supports vehicles, however I did not specify how many; safe to say, if you love Halo vehicles, then this map is for you, because if you can’t find a vehicle in this, you are certainly not looking hard enough. Warthogs are positioned in front of either base and along the sides, with additional Ghosts and Mongooses to support these. In the centre of the map a Warthog with a rocket launcher attachment is up for grabs to either team, whilst the strongest vehicle on the battlefield is the Wraith, hidden away to the side.

The building in the centre positioned over the top of the central Warthog is reminiscent more of Covenant technology than the bases which are representative of historical Forerunner facilities. Here at the central compound, weapon turrets overlook the bases, with the red base in particular being in sight of one of the turrets, which can be used by the opposing team to wipe out the enemy forces as they waltz out from the base and onto the map proper. With this particular building and the sheer size of the map in general, this particular battlefield is a great place to hone those sniper skills of yours upon a long distance rifle being deployed into the map.

For those unfortunate enough not to have a vehicle (for instance, those running about the map with an enemy flag), the few jump pads can be used to increase the distance between Spartans running about the map on foot and those in hot pursuit in vehicles. Of course, the side passages, especially one covered with cacti on the right side (the left when moving out from the red base) are perfect for avoiding vehicular manslaughter and a vast majority of foot traffic in the process as well, with most of the firing taking place in the centre of the map which is essentially a kill zone for any not fast enough to outmanoeuvre stronger combatants.

On a final note, entering enemy bases is relatively easy, and judging by their abnormally small size, acquiring whatever is mandatory for successful completion of the game is just as simple – it’s getting out alive that is the hard part. Safe to say, this is one match worth playing for anyone wishing to participate in a Halo team building exercise.

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

Team up with Aria and Nyreen to take back Omega

Size: 1.99 Gigabytes

Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Games, Religion and Politicians – Not good bed fellows

 

What  people who don’t play video games say: ‘I don’t know about video games. They sound awful complicated.’

What people who don’t play video games would say if they played them: ‘Da! I shoot u ya BaSTarD! i kill u d00d, u r DOA lama!’

Maybe that is not what people inexperinced with the gaming world would say, but still, gaming has changed an awful lot since its orchestration. But I ain’t here to talk about the history – no, I am here to talk about the possible future. Films today in general are, can we say ‘not very good’? So many are total blow outs at the cinema. Creators and story tellers are running out of original concepts it might seem and are looking towards books for ideas. I mean, how many days was Twilight out before someone said ‘I could make a movie about that!’

When might this unfortunate occurrence hit the world of the video game? Perhaps it has already happened? We might be living in such a world right now. How so? For one, the sequel; almost every single game now-a-days comes with a sequel. And it ain’t like in Hollywood where you watch a film and the entire storyline plays out and then they create a brand new story line for the following title. No – games have sequels because the story gets to a certain point – and then gets chopped – only to be revisited in the following two games. Yes my friends, I am talking about the trilogy! Mass Effect, Gears of War, maybe even Crysis and Rage – all have elements of the sequel. Bearing in mind I am not complaining about the content – they were all equally awesome in their own way – but they were chopped off at points where they leave the gamer crying out ‘Oi! WTF!’, before forcing them to wait a cool 2-3 years for the next installment. I mean, who here has heard the rumor that a possible Doom 4 will come out in December of this year? Id and Bethesda have been awful quiet, but still – that there is the sequel at work. We gamers are but slaves to it, for if we liked the predecessors then of course we are going to buy the sequel – even though by the time the sequel comes out it is twice as expensive as the game that came before it in the series when released a few years before!

Secondly, there is the HD version of games. When people run out of ideas, they plan to remake the old!
Recently the creator of Alone in the Dark specified how he wished to create a HD version of the original concept that was designed back when games were but new and people looked at them with suspicion. Halo HD, Silent Hill HD collection, Serious Sam HD…Duke Nukem, released on XBOX360, PS3 AND PC 2010, but in old graphics format (never released in Oz though). The problem with the HD versions of games, or the re-release of them is…that they never offer anything new or exciting. No new weapons. No new levels. In fact, they often take segments out. Serious Sam had no Split Screen function on XBOX360 and several movie clips were removed from the campaign. Halo HD had no new weapons or abilities and almost all of the original multiplayer maps failed to make a return. However, imagine what Doom or Doom2 would look like in HD! Now, that is one wet dream of mine I would like to see become real…

…then there is the whole concept that video games are the root of all evil; that they cause violence in society and turn children into uneducated delinquents. Of course, the people who always make these comments are those of whom in society would not know a video game from a glass of water. Take Australia for instance. No ‘R 18+’ rating all these years, and on January 1st 2013, they intend to have a ‘test run’ of this rating system. That don’t sound all too ominous to me, but if it means I will temporarily have no restrictions on my games, then I am fine with it for as long as it lasts. For years Australian gamers have been craving such a rating as to be treated like adults rather than little children who desperately need protection. There is such thing as too much protection. Most gamers are between the ages of 18-32. Don’t tell me they require parental protection?! When will these restrictions begin to grow more lenient? Or are they to grow more fierce as the years go by?

The politicians are in constant debate over this notion for an ‘R18+’ rating, yet no politician plays video games, so what is the point of having people with no knowledge on such subject matter making choices that ultimately affect the world of gaming in one entire country? All be it, not a very large one, but a country all the same! According to gaming specialists who accuse games of being violent, ‘Doom’ was basically the beginning of the end for our society, yet none of these speculators have any actual evidence to support their ridiculous claims that gaming causes intense violence amongst its community. Apparently earlier in the year a known gamer defecated in the hall of the hotel they were staying in. Yes, that might not be the smartest thing to do when travelling the world, but still – I have not played a game where shit was used as the primary weapon.

What really shits me (pardon the pun) is when groups who have no real say in the world about games decide to put their bib in. Before March, when it was decided an ‘R18+’ rating would be allowed in Australia, the last meeting on the subject occurred in around August of 2011 in Brisbane where the members of parliament involved in the meeting came together for three hours. There are a cool couple million people in Oz who play video games, and the government decides to give away three hours of their precious time for video games? They spend more time giving each other additional surpluses of money on the general public’s dime! After this meeting occurred and it was said that the politicians left without an informed decision – a Melbourne Christian group came out and said this decision was a win for them. Why did they need to comment anyway? Not one of them had ever played a game, yet they were frequently accusing games of spreading the root of sin!

On top of this, it is almost ironic for a Christian group to come out and accuse video games of being the excuse for the world’s problems. Video games it would seem are nothing more than a scapegoat in the eyes of such organisations that wish to change the world to that which they want. Why can’t it be that some people are just naturally arseholes? Why does it have to be that everyone began as ‘good’ people, and then played a video game and then, and only then, did they turn into raving nut cases? It’s rich that Christian groups like the one that saw video games as an antagonistic evil labeled it as such, specifying that they should be banned and restricted. Now, what I am about to say is going to seem quite controversial to some, but couldn’t religion and Christianity be viewed in the exact same light as video games?…

Now, I may be an atheist, I will admit it, but that does not mean that I naturally despise religion. It simply means that I can look at it, discuss it and interpret it without being blinded by personal religious bias. But, I digress.

 …Seriously – if video games are responsible for but even one death, and I ain’t saying that they are – I can assure you, religion is responsible for more deaths in the entire human history than anything else combined. Video games are considered harmful to the people – they promote violence supposedly. Couldn’t religion be articulated in the same light? The Crusades – hundreds upon thousands of people slaughtered by armies of Christian soldiers just because they chose not to believe in Jesus Christ. And what about extremists? Are not their causes religious too? On top of this, Christianity reaffirms the idea that a person can kill and kill again and not feel at all guilty for their crimes – hell, a person could kill a million people, go to Church, ask God for forgiveness, and it shall be granted to them. Then, they will not only feel free of guilt – but will probably go out and kill another million people and feel the same exact lack of guilt immediately afterwards.

Moreover, video games are seen as been dangerous for children. Here’s a question for you – how many times have you heard a report on the news that a child has been grievously injured by a video game? Has been influenced to bring harm to another individual because of a video game? Now, with those answers in mind – how many times in the news have you heard reports that a priest or member of the church has sexually assaulted a young boy?

If you intend to ban video games, or restrict the content within them, then why not ban every single thing that is potentially hazardous to one’s health, regardless if there is verified proof to back up the allegations or not. This not only includes religion, but what about driving one’s car around? Having a shower? Walking down the street? Joining the military? Becoming a law enforcement officer? When will it end? Almost every single thing in the entire world can be seen as a tool for violence if it is interpreted that way. My idea – if we removed every single supposedly violent thing from our society, we would no doubt be relegated back to the Stone Age for anything and everything can be used aggressively if placed into the hands of a violent aggressor. On top of this, I would recommend that one does not quickly judge something before they have all the facts to make a substantial case. Not only is doing this foolish, ignorant and boring because one is simply copying every other group or person like an army of brainless sheep – it is also blatantly rude to prevent people from experiencing their entertainment just because a couple people here and there have a supposed ‘problem’ with the product. If every single thing the church had a problem with was forever banned, there would be nothing but the church left in this world.

Is this the future of gaming – a restricted world where content is blocked and games are banned? Where restrictions reign supreme? I certainly hope not, and if so, it ain’t the kind of world I want to live in!

Thank you for reading