Review: Xbox 360: Test Drive Unlimited 2

Test Drive Unlimited 2 is the tenth instalment from the Test Drive franchise which originally began its run in 1987. Test Drive Unlimited (1) showed great progress ultimately with the theme of open world racing and Eden Games have implemented this information into the new foundations of TDU2 giving this title a slightly better structure and feel compared to its predecessor.

TDU2 generally follows the first titles direction of racing around streets you can openly drive around but has intertwined MMO styled features to try to create more of an expansive angle or view to the game. It’s still set in the same places (Ibiza and Oahu) like the first title but with the benefit of the maps being crafted from accurate satellite data and there’s on and off road routes to race around in the many different classes of vehicles TDU2 has to offer. Last but not least those online features that were in the last title are back, bringing with it more online challenges, better club houses and more of that open online race world that the first title was appraised for.

They’re some CG scenes throughout the game to help introduce and make sense of the new MMO features but the scenes themselves seem staged and the characters come across more like puppets than people but they’re normally short snappy keeping you just up to speed with what’s necessary. Tess is one of the first people you meet at your birthday party which is where the game begins and, just by chance, she has a gift for you in the garage. When you arrive there’s a shiny new Ferrari just for you… You can walk around your new wheels and interact with any vehicle in your garage with the D-pad; your options pop up on the left hand side of the screen as logos, indicating the action you can use. TDU2 has a more than fair amount of customization built into it but these interactions with vehicles become enjoyable rather than just becoming “something to do on the side”.

When you decide to take a spin in your new dream car the game will run you through the HUD and some basic details to do with the D-pad and compass after that the fun sharp ends when you slam back into reality and you’re actually just some chauffeur that’s managed to infuriate your clients father by “borrowing” that lovely Ferrari. Safe to say Tess isn’t too pleased either but sees the light and gives you a chance to prove yourself as her new race driver as her last didn’t fair too well anyway, after this you will purchase your first vehicle to race in. You will have to choose from a small selection of second hand vehicles, you can get a hold of some good favourites this way but it will be dreadfully slow to begin with until you earn enough cash for upgrades or a new vehicle. TDU2 does provide Driving Aids; Full Assistance, Sport or Hardcore but as the game is balanced very well in-between racing simulator and arcade experience the driving aids themselves don’t make a great deal of difference to the overall experience they just may help you in the beginning of the game to get used to the style and control TDU2 has to offer.

Before you can participate in Championships you must obtain the driving license that corresponds with that championship’s category, these are scattered throughout the islands. When you decide to acquire a license you will need to complete that licenses objectives, the objectives will explain what you need to do in that certain test when you highlight it with your curser and what the driving conditions will be. After acquiring that license you are now able to take part in the corresponding championship, also after completing the first blue colored championship you will unlock another golden one to complete which will help you earn more cash with the same vehicle.

You’re first pad isn’t too fancy either but you can change some of your Caravans features by going to the laptop placed on the desk, there is one of these in every apartment you buy and you can change the furniture or photos on display here in the MyTDUHouse menu. You can also check out your overall progression, take a photo of your avatar and change logos in the MyTDULife menu and scout over your photos and leaderboards. While you’re taking a quick breather in your gaff you can change your clothes with the walk in closet feature and create a new you to go with that new car you bought. Garages, houses, shops and club houses are free roam areas allowing you to interact in a basic way with the character or items in front of you, the game does seem to flat plain slightly in these moments creating neither a solid positive nor negative to the MMO side of the game but are a small break away from the adrenaline.

TDU2’s leveling up structure takes these side objectives and the actual game progress and incorporates it into several different targets to concentrate on in game, Competition, Discovery, Collection, Social and Global Level. These different targets enables you to keep track of your progress with ease and get small rewards at the same time for things like; covering all the roads or collecting the scrap vehicles hidden around the maps. These separate scores are also totaled up it to give you your Global Level score, however they are still small for the amount of effort needed to cover all these areas of the game and can easily slow the games pace down by changing the balance in-between good flat out racing and those MMO features. These loose connections or seemingly dead ends between the two sides of the game means it’s sometimes a plus and then a negative again and gives neither side of the game something truly special to place, secure and show all of the great features and previous endeavors TDU2 has to offer but does a damn good job of trying anyway.   

When you get halfway through completing the first island you’ll notice all TDU2’s greatest elements and features and how they come together with the MMO styled play alongside, this mix creates opportunities to take constructive breaks whenever you like which means driving over miles and miles of road can be broken up so it becomes less mundane. This pattern arises a lot on TDU2 once you get submerged into it and can have you not wasting but enjoying hours of game time and with TDU2s huge online feast will have you doing the same only just with friends. They’re several different types of races to be had like Time Attack, Race, Eliminators, Speedtrap, Speed and many more which will keep most racers happy but if you want an extra buzz these types of races can also be found online too with some additions for club orientated races like Keep your distance and follow the leader. 

 

Club Houses are one of TDU2’s authentic and immersive online features, it also has a bundle of customization and upgrades enjoy alongside the races, challenges and general banter. When you create a Club House it will initially set you back 50k, it’s not a lot in game but the upgrade price for the next stage of Club House is in the millions mark, so be prepared to get your members donating at the Office desk. You can choose a club name, logo, nationality, entry level, favorite brand and even a club description to help you recruit members and as the creator of the Club House you get full control and rights to all privileges and hierarchy decisions, you can issue out four other titles to your members for when you are not online or just to keep the rabble happy. There’s a Bar to set up races and challenges and the Billboard to keep track of the clubs statistics, ranking and history basically setting up an easy to use system for you and friends with a nice custom finish.   

TDU2’s mix of race and MMO features and ultimately pliable controls and physics means it easily hits the benchmark for a great quality racing title and creates a large amount of accessibility to help bring everyone in. It’s structured well for the different classes, licenses and time you will be spending, meaning the game continue to open up as you play but it also helps filter through opponents to help to connect with players closer to your skill level and style of play. TDU2 offers a solid range of cars from many known dealers and the customization for vehicles will keep fiddlers happy and keep the creativity going, sounds effects for the vehicles are nothing but a pleasure to listen to and the radio stations aren’t too intolerable eventually either. TDU2 is a more than acceptable sequel to the first title and expands on the features that where popular before, the game also looks crisp and as colorful as ever but with a few improvements. The game does look better than good but there’s nothing majorly eye catching about TDU2s graphics apart from the higher priced vehicles and the occasional sunset will have you taking the odd photo. TDU2 doesn’t provide much of a reward for hardcore racers and is an issue but overall TDU2 is a great game for new comers and steady racing fans who fancy testing each other’s skills online.

Score: 7.5/10

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Eden

Review: Xbox 360: Top Spin 4

Top spin returns bringing with it an absolute blinding performance especially tailored for gamers into their tennis simulators and also caters and creates possibilities for newcomers to enjoy the series thanks to some tight controls and excellent physics.

The Practice Ground is where you will begin, in the PG you be able to get to grips with the basic controls, basic shots and how this all comes together when to start to familiarise yourself with the gameplay. Feel free to come here whenever you feel the need as TS4 does take you to the PG before you get to the main menu, you can skip this at any time by pressing start. The PG isn’t where the actual games tutorial is, the Top Spin Academy section is where you’ll find the basic tutorial and other tutorials that gradually build in difficulty depending on what you’re learning and what style fits you best. Top Spins tutorial is excellent for newcomers as its simple to follow and the tutorials interface is easy to get to grips with. Neil Rally (your trainer) will then run though some chit-chat which thankfully you can skip at will and after the niceties another box will appear clearly stating your current tutorials objective along with some simple bullet points to follow. This makes the games tutorial section worth playing and coming back to whatever skill level you’re at as TS4 does have a few improvements throughout which you can learn first in the tutorial section and most of all this part of the game is simply enjoyable which is rare as most tutorials are just asking to be skipped.

The character creation menu can be found in Player Zone in the main menu along with My Player and the Practice Ground. Creating players is always quite fun in most games, depending on what you’re given. Top Spins player creator is a little quirky with faces though it is a good player creator all-round and the level of items and options you get to mess around with in the beginning is refreshingly varied, you could go for the cool green haired look that so many tennis players sport in real life or go for gold with some tattoos.

The characters movements and interactions while playing is something to appreciate, you’ll notice you’re given a hand with player positioning and have more control and choice into what shots or strategy you want to take because of it. Your player, all-round, reacts better and sooner to shots leaving that slow tug at when you begin moving to counter a thing of the past, also footwork is more advanced and help any newcomer become a formidable opponent or help those pros reach a higher, more rewarding level of gameplay.

After a bit of practice it’s time to face some proper competition in Career Mode. The main objective in Career Mode is to increase your player’s status; it represents your current progress. You can unlock new titles by completing objectives along the way, obviously your final objective will to be ultimate ruler of the tennis universe… so to speak but you will begin as a lowly Newcomer. This mode is based on twelve month seasons and each month you will be able to choose one Preparation Event and one actual tournament to increase those player stats which in time unlocks an amazing amount of tennis gear and other such marvellous events to participate in.

You have a Career Card which shows your players important ranking information and what level you’re currently at, this is always useful to just keep tabs on what needs improving. There are two things you’ll want to keep track of on your Career Card and these are your season ranking and Top Spin ranking. Season ranking is the sum of points you’ve earned since the first of January which decides who the best player of the season is and Top Spin ranking is the sum of points you’ve earned in the past twelve months which decided who’s the world’s number one champion is. Ranking is always important but you will also need to improve your skills and stats using other ways than just tournaments as earning and spending XP’s will allow you to evolve your player as well.

To unlock your next status you will need to complete some objectives along the way, this is visible on the main career screen and has the reward for completing the objectives too just underneath. After you’ve upgraded or changed into some groovy clothes from the many different clothes company’s Top Spin has to offer you can start or get back into the action using your Calendar. With your calendar you can browse what events you have coming up in that year but every month you can only play one Preparation event and one Tournament. With Preparation events you have two options, play against a sparring partner or complete a Special event from the many you will acquire along the way. Sparring training is a friendly short match (depending on what difficulty you chose at the begging of the game) and you can choose what type of your opponent you want to help with your weaknesses or strengths  regarding certain aspects of ball play like base line or net play. Special events are everything in-between practice matches and tournaments like Exhibition matches, physical training or some cool extra activities like jet set parties; Special events are a great way to earn easy XP and/or fans.

On the left side of the calendar shows your up and coming tournaments, some of them will only become available to you once you have reached a higher player status or ranking, the bigger the tournament the bigger rewards you will receive. All information you will need will appear in the Addition information box after you highlight an event, this makes planning your season a lot easier than coming in and out of menus, Top Spins overall interface works very well because of additions like these. It might seem like there’s only a couple of options to choose from in your calendar but most lead onto other things and unlock items, all of which is good fun thanks to Top Spins control scheme. There’s also the option to replay a tutorial section at any time using the start button if you can’t remember something, there’s a lot more to get to grips with Top Spin and this feature will help anybody overcome any navigation or play issues.

Once you’ve got a bit of weight behind you the game will introduce coaches to you. You can hire coaches from the locker room and having a coach will grant you several bonuses like XP bonuses, attribute bonuses or gameplay skills. To have access to a coaches bonuses you will have to play some matches to complete their objectives for you, the more you complete the more help you get constantly with the attribute and gameplay bonuses. Coaches also have levels themselves (bronze, silver or gold) and according to your player’s development, new coaches will appear as you progress, obviously gold coaches are what you should be aiming for. You can change coach whenever you please in the coach page but you have to keep in mind that once you do you will have to complete the new coaches’ objectives to receive the bonuses as the past coaches bonuses get deactivated and the new coaches objectives become your new targets, all info for coaches is available before you choose and you can even compare coaches side by side by using the X button. This helps create movement within the games smaller areas and keeps you customising and aiming higher and higher without really trying to.

At the end of the season, if you are the player with the highest number of wins you will be rewarded extra XP. The season recap screen will pop up and will scroll through your positions in each tournament and afterwards a table will appear showing you how much the bonus was and what for so next season you can try set your sights a little higher. Overall the Career mode is filled with many a thing to accomplish throughout your play and has several fun activities to participate in, also these normally lead onto other things and rewards which keeps the games pace nice and fresh. The amazing array of clothing is always something to mess with and unlock and for a small feature of the game, it creates bundles of things to customise and keep you occupied. The courts are all great to play on from grass to clay and the learning curves inside of Career mode could make the biggest tennis novice into a considerable treat, balancing a lot of players together always creates good online/multiplayer possibilities and Top Spin does so, with class.

After you’ve finally pulled your head out of Top Spins engrossing Career Mode you do have some other options as far as gameplay is concerned with the likes of Exhibition mode, King of the Court and more. Exhibition mode consists of Single and Double matches which you and three A.I. can play or three human players, you can choose your created player or many of the tennis stars that play today, for example; Federer, Nadal, Murray, S.Williams and many others are available to select. You can change the difficulty and match duration in the set-up sequence if you fancy some really testing opposition or want the A.I. to give you more of a challenge while playing with friends and also you can select which court/surface to play on from Melbourne to Rome and they all look superb.

There’s also King of the Court mode for party games made up of several players, A.I. or human (human players need to be local). This mode basically is based round a number of short games that knock players out who lose and have new players come in to challenge the leader/winner and after three players have been defeated the winner is crowned King of the Court. This brings a singular experience to Top Spins total experience and helps create more opportunities for mixing the type of matches/gameplay up as there’s only so many ways to play tennis especially in a simulator without losing its original direction or feel. 

Xbox Live modes are available and Top Spin has some good old familiar options to choose from and has a couple of extra rewarding games alongside these, not all online modes are completely predicable. Player match is a quick online exhibition match where the matches rules and venue are open choice, whatever you fancy. World Tour mode is an online Career mode where it’s basically set out the same as the offline career but with a few tucks for ease of use online. You’ll build your online Player Card by playing online watches versus other Xbox Live users in a series of different tournaments, they’re certain rules to the online career, for example; you can play each tournament only once per season and you either win or get eliminated. You also have the option of quick matches and training with a sparring partner like you do in the offline but all your efforts ultimately go to your online player card. This brings a worldly open stage vibe to Top Spins online play and with it, a good sense of accomplishment as you progress as matches are lag free and rather competitive with the extra players thanks to the games accessibility, this also means matches are balanced well often when the right online filter is enabled to get paired with a player closer to your skill level.

Top Spin 4 is a completely safe bet as far as just a game is concerned but it does absolutely demolished this year’s other tennis opposition in its genre in so many different ways. Top Spins online and offline structures and modes work very well and with a great control scheme that ceases to stop helping your learn and adapt your style only keeps adding to the experience, it would be a great title to help most people crack or get into something new and rewarding, and, last but not least, fans can enjoy the old with the new.

 

Score: 9/10

 

Developer: 2K Games
Publisher: 2K Games

Review: Xbox 360: Virtua Tennis 4

One of Sega arcade classics back in the day and now a nicely refined game overall, Virtual Tennis is back and hasn’t changed its pace or mix of vibrant settings, cool mini games and excellent court play.

Virtua Tennis never did really change in leaps and bounds, Sega pretty much struck gold with its design of VT from the beginning and as time has passed it has created something original and loyal to its roots but at the same time hands you formidable challenges. The fluidity of the controls have been improved slightly, there’s no more dodgy moves made when returning shots, you can get round the court easier and the games arcade style is apparent in most of the game and because of it VT is very easy to pick and play but like most games it can be a bit harder to hit that 100% completion mark.

Before you begin your journey onto the road of Tennis stardom there’s a Practice tier on the menu screen to catch up with some of the basics or if you’re new to VT to learn the basics of the game. There’s a Serve Lesson and five other lessons that teaches you the necessaries but in a more energetic fashion. These training lessons or mini-games which you will learn to become the best from are not tedious or boring like you could initially think, most training challenges are good fun throughout the entire game if not a little bizarre at times.

After a little dabble in Practice you can chose from the seven options given in the menu, World Tour, Arcade, Exhibition, Practice, Party, Motion Play and Xbox Live. They’re self-explanatory but the most enjoyable bit about VT is its World Tour mode, there is an options tab for any tweaking you’d like to do as well.  When you select World Tour mode you choose from four difficulties Easy, Normal, Hard and Very Hard and choose a character from the array of stars VT has to offer or you can make a custom character. Custom characters are always fun to play with and bring you further into the game and there’s a fair amount of options to create your character with, characters faces visually look vibrant and fresh but I’ve seen some monsters custom or otherwise but most look the part and if not there’s always Headwear to buy to cover your face up with in World Tour mode.

The aim of World Tour mode is to travel around four areas with the aim of competing in the four major events eventually. Coach Health is by your side, an obvious pro in his field, to help you achieve ultimate tennis fame but do watch out for his cheesy cheers and compliments in-between the actual things you need to hear. Moving around the map is a little different this time and overall works better; you use numbered tickets to move the allotted amount of spaces. Players should be wary at what tickets you have in your hand as not to land on anything bad but you can buy extra tickets from the Management Offices which are the purple logos dotted around the map you just have to land on one. As you proceed you’ll need to collect stars to get into the larger tournaments, the key is to perform well in matches and other tournaments but there’s other ways of earning these stars. These activities include interacting with fans, public training, interviews and charity events.

Next to your players start count is the Health Condition Gauge which basically shows your players physical standing. This gauge drops every time you do something like training, playing games and publicity activities. Resting restores your condition so your character plays better again, you can do this by landing the hotels and luxury holidays and you can also buy Restoration Tickets at Management Offices which take up one day to use but if you go into the red you will pick up an injury and these bring games to an end – quick. This gauge grows longer when your condition bar (notice these rise after training) gets to a certain level, it will also changes colour when you’ve earned different stages to your condition.

After you’ve made a move or come out from a match you’ll always end up at your schedule menu, this helps you navigate your characters skills, clothing and doubles partner it also shows key information about you next tournament. If you get through to one of these larger tournaments you can be given a seed if you have a high total, if you score a seed position you’ll be given a favourable spot on the tournaments chart. Best strategy is to earn as many stars before you encounter a tournament. The smaller tournaments where you usual start are called Satellite tournaments and are small scale tournaments. These are open to anyone as they have no star entry requirements and are a great way to test your skills and shots in preparation for the harder tournaments and matches that lay ahead.

At the end of a season players with outstanding records in specific categories are presented awards, these are like secondary awards and awards are given for six categories in all. The mini games at this point become a lot harder as you proceed through the levels 1-6, they’re in all 8 mini games to build up your character with. Each mini game trains a certain skill type like Stroke or Tactical and as you progress higher and higher with your skills Advanced Play Styles will become available in the Locker Room in the Scheduling menu. The first four are easy enough to achieve and are a doddle to utilise in matches, after selecting one the purple bar that appears at the top right of the screen can start to be filled with the correct type of play. This bar is your Concentration Gauge and once filled you can pull of a near perfect shot by pressing the B button, beware these are also quite hard to defend from and will test your defensive and recovery skills. After further training your skills more advanced techniques will be unlocked, these help you learn about other shots and help with your footwork, drop shots and volleys and can draw you further into the game for a few more hours.

When you eventually become tired of the World Tour mode there is Arcade mode to make your way through and try to score the best you can. You play through four of the biggest championships on your own or with other people as single and double play is available, again you choose from the four difficulties Easy, Normal, Hard and Very Hard. You can choose from all of VT tennis stars like Federer, Nadal, Sharapova and you can load your custom character if you think they can beat the best. Courts are easy to look over as they look quite simplistic and the atmosphere from the bigger arenas gives Arcade mode a different more lively quality to it as you play. There are also Exhibition matches to set up and play if you fancy some single matches with up to four friends, these are just like the Exhibition matches you will have played in World Tour mode and you can try out different shots free from the worry of screwing up your season as well. You can play all of the mini games again too in the Party tier on the main menu, the only difference is from World Tour mini games is you advance through the levels one by one upping the difficulty the higher you go, you don’t get to choose what level you start at it’s always level one.

For gamers who have Xbox Live set up VT has a good completive vibe to its online play as there’s virtually no lag or connection issues just the occasional slower response time from your character which doesn’t impede play enough to spoil the experience. There’s Ranked Matches and Player Matches, Ranked Matches are normally set up quite quickly but you can play while you’re waiting for a challenger. You collect SPT Points, player EXP and cash after Ranked Matches but it’s separate from your World Tour score apart from the cash and you can check your SPT rank, online experience bar and what Level you are currently at by looking at your online card in the menus. When playing Player Matches you can enter other players Clubhouses which appear after you’ve searched or if you can’t find any you can create your own. When you’ve entered the Clubhouse setting page you can name your clubhouse but only with house titles that have already been pre-selected, you also have the option to open all four courts up at the same time or just the one. You can select what people have to play like singles, doubles and even mini games on each court in the set up process and If you don’t have enough friends who own VT to fill one court don’t fear! Other online players are always near as there always seem to be a room set up with space anyway you just play by their rules.

Virtua Tennis 4 is another great game in an already niche beating series, as always there aren’t many changes but the few tweaks that have been added work very well to bring the whole experience together better than last and is worth investing in a copy. However the lack of progression is noticeable now and will be again if the series doesn’t implement change, hopefully the next title will change Virtua Tennis’s structure to create another distinguished game.

Score: 7.5/10

Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega AM3

Review: Xbox 360: Operation Flashpoint Red River

Codermasters reignites the Flashpoint series with its new first person shooter OF: Red River implementing a daring “off the hook” attitude this time around. This creates a clear image of fighting middle eastern terrorism as a whole comjoined with the comedic values associated with the likes of Battlefield 2 & 3 and improvements on previous game play puts Red River in reasonable stead to be a refreshing experience of simulated war.

Red Rivers introduction is rather blunt, Bin Laden and 9/11 get a mention in the fast paced edgy and slightly humours intro video which does slide awfully close to some already hard to approach issues but does just miss some really awkward moments using this type of harsh storytelling manner. It also, surprisingly, has a lot of bad language – trying to deliver a more gritty design to the dialogue which projects a very heavy US glory march theme through the entire game.

Prepare to enter Tajikistan, a big rocky dusty bowl of terrorist trouble. You and your team have been sent in to deal with these trouble makers and basically have to make your way through the worst of the worst which have been forced to retreat here after previous operations by American troops. Safe to say they aren’t too easy to shake hands with, the A-I does have a crazy-streak to it when it’s attacking you as the A-I can quite annoying but justifiably pop you one in the head, which is a relief to see as the A-I is a bit crumby in OF Dragon Rising. The games tutorial section which takes place at the base camp where you initially start your campaign is clear and easy to grasp, along with its mission markers, optional objectives and basic squad commands. Soon enough you’re shoved into the action when the base camp takes a royal pummelling and you and Bravo team have to bundle into the back of a transport Humvee to retaliate.

From here the game gets going and the action gets good though you may find it still takes a little longer to be able to fully manipulate the controls to rain hell on these terrorist guys which in itself is a good learning curve for harder missions and situations that lay ahead for you and your men. The physics are more on the genuine side with some weight to guns and apparel and also to your character; these can be improved upon in the games new upgrading section for the four different classes later when you have acquired a medal or two. The running has slower feel and bounce to it and some pad rumble kicks in when you’ve given it legs for too long, some tweaks and touches like this pop up during Red Rivers gameplay adding a little depth and enjoyment here and there when getting around.. However when you’re on foot or in transport the dialogue can be too full on in these in-between moments, which makes humping your ass over long distances or taking a ride to the next objective a bit too hardy.

Amongst all this the combat does stand out to be something different and gets you strategizing as much as you’re pumping away at the trigger as you have access to overhead maps, command options and some brilliant weapons (thought they are limited in number) during combat, this creates great moments when things go right and come together leaving you often panic stricken. The fact you bleed out and can become injured means you won’t just be running forward to rage fire at the A-I, you’ll normally duck and dive and patch your wounds and then get some supressing fire on the target as a couple of wrong moves and your friends get to watch you bleed out in the middle of the battlefield.

Co-op campaign is available if you have Xbox Live and can bring heaps of better engagements as you’re not constantly commanding Bravo team and you can chat freely but you can still shout things at your team mates just for the fun of it using the D-pad full of commands. You can also just work on the one class you’ve chosen safe in the knowledge another friend has another class covered and is unlocking perks, the classes go up in levels and unlock certain weapons and apparel as you go along creating a rewarding building element into Red River as you continue through it. The length of the levels and the element of Co-op play can lead the way to some great game-play in Red River and will have you interested for hours just making your way through the chaos, upgrading and picking your friends up off the ground and gloating just before you get downed too. The maps are boundless and enables you to flank your enemy, gain a height advantage or just generally create options for strategizing with what you have. The level design also blends these expanses with villages you need to seize and the mud looking huts around them are perfect for the enemy but not so perfect for you. The design of villages and these situations especially makes the action a bit harder, it gets you rapidly checking through your options and gets you on high alert because of just that. This mix creates can some hairy moments when you come toe to toe with a terrorist unexpectedly, that on edge feeling is rare to find so readily in simulation games.

Another distinguishing and gratifying part of Red River is the fact you don’t always have a clear shot, you have to take into account there’s the hills and mounds, dust being kicked up and even poor lighting to contend with, so make sure you double check who you letting rounds off at especially on the harder difficulty when your stripped of all the advantages you would normally rely on to tell apart your men from the enemy’s. RR is still as hard as its predecessor to completed but with you mates at your side becomes more of a beckoning, so light hearted gamers beware this isn’t your cup of tea by a longshot.

There are ten large levels to get through in the campaign and if you fancy something different while you make your way through it you can try the Fireteam Engagement missions. These are bonus missions to set up online or off and have four different types of objective; Rolling Thunder, Combat Sweep, Last Stand and CSAR. Also downloadable content for RR shows up here so you can set up many of these shorter games with ease, you also have multipliers in these missions as there’s points to be hand for things like headshots and destroying vehicles which with Xbox Live you and your friends or A-I team can try scramble up those Leaderboards. You can check your overall progress in the Player Progress menu and fix any Core Skill points you’ve acquired. Here you can upgrade your skills and general fitness to make you into a more versatile and deadly soldier and at the right of the screen you can check how many medals you’ve acquired in campaign and Fireteam missions.

Operation Flashpoint Red River is a definite improvement on the series in many ways and offers a more accessible game but keeps a lot of what was original from the past title. The blend between the action and the strategy is so well made and placed sometimes its creates something that engages you as much as you engage it and also builds on this to offer some more unique and interesting points to the game for example when you call in air strikes, these moments gets those hands sweaty as one wrong move and you’ve hit the wrong side. All of these things come together to create an atmosphere and image of how wars like this could take place and as harsh as the dialogue is it’s probably close to marine speak and overall is a more genuine portrayal of war.

 

Score: 7.5

  

Developer Codemasters
Publisher Codemasters

Review Xbox 360: Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat is one of those fighting games that is instantly recognised as something special, something different which strives and continues to do so in its own way. We’ve had a couple of shaky titles here and there over the years granted but this new bloody chapter of Mortal Kombat will have you desperate to pull of fatalities, plunder secrets and unlock hidden characters all over again.

When you get to the title screen you just know you’re in for some insane violence when Scorpion plants an awesome upper-cut on Sub-Zeros gob, that’s when you hear that bone crunching, flesh ripping squelch that you’ve heard before but in glorious high definition quality. The game looks rich as soon as you start a round, blood is portrayed brilliantly and looks wet and gooey especially when it’s been splattered everywhere in the typical MK fashion, character detailing looks cared for and the maps themselves are great to go back over and revisit as they’ve been resurrected in 3D loveliness.

The combat has been simplified to create more speed and fluidity to MK’s overall 2D fighting experience which is good news for newcomers but there’s still a heap of features to get stuck into though if you’re a fan. There are various fatalities for all characters and the simplified control scheme means there are more combos to pull off or defend from which balances matches well online or off. The combat configuration is leaning more to what side or limb you want to attack with like Tekken and fighting is 2D also. Front punch, Back punch, Front kick and Back kick are your four main attacks and quick fingers are still sometimes needed to pull of some of the moves even with the added changes MKs fighting experience.

One of the games new added combat features is the power bar at the bottom left of the screen which leads to some great opportunities to cause creative harm to your foe. First tier of the bar once filled allows you to use Enhanced moves which are your characters special attacks but an extra kick is added by holding the right trigger when executing the move, making it just that bit harder for your foe to dodge or block. The second tier opens up Breakers which are used midway through your opponents combo to break it and comeback with a counter attack, these are always good to practice as they can easily help you change the tide of a match. The third tier unlocks X-ray moves, these beauties show off some splendid images of bones and skulls being broken in an X-ray type vision, internal organs getting mushed and much more in a high visual display of violence. You pull of X-ray moves using the two trigger buttons but to pull off correctly some need your opponents guard to be down or to be performed after a combo as they can be blocked. There are some down right crazy and flamboyant moves to be had from all characters but some just go the extra mile like Johnny Cage’s nut cracker.

You can get straight into the action by selecting fight mode which will take you to some of Mortal Kombats offerings in the form of Ladder mode which is the Arcade mode, Tag ladder and some of the challenges you’ll encounter first in the games new Challenge Tower mode. Ladder is arcade mode where you’ll take on 10 opponents and get a short ending for your character after completion though these aren’t anything to applaud. However the creators of Mortal Kombat,  NetherRealm Studios have stepped up and adopted more storytelling quality’s and adaptations that are not normally associated with fighting games. These are mostly discovered in Story Mode where you initially play as Johnny Cage and then go onto play as other characters and find out the other fighters motivations into taking part in the tournament though a manner of staged fights and cut scenes.

Another new part of MK is the Challenge Tower and this will have you spending hours going through these towered mini fights and enjoying a bit more of MK’s strange side. Some challenges involve just taking out opponents with special rules to the match, some are tests of strength and sight and some use a characters ability to complete certain requirements. After you have completed one you get rewarded with Kombat tokens, you get rewarded these tokens after completing fights and numerous other things throughout the game and are spent in the bonus Krypt section which you can get to in the Extras menu. 

The Extra menu section holds a host of unlockable content to gouge your eyes on, the Krypt section unlocks a variety of things with your Kombat tokens from cheats to extra fatalities and is rather addictive once you get going. You can view character bios and 3D models in the suitably designed Necropolis section which displays all the characters one after another around the room, the centre of the room holds a portal which is your gallery where you can view all of MKs character and level concept art.

If you have Xbox Live connected you can also explore MKs online experience and give your Xbox Live friends or strangers some grief with its 1 v 1, TAG and King Of The Hill modes. 1 v 1 and TAG modes are self-explanatory, King Of The Hill is a nice little addition to these two modes and allows players to take part in a tournament online where the winner stays on. Though sometimes games can take a while to set up if you have a good connection there aren’t any serious problems with lag in fights and after joining a lobby full of players you don’t really need to go searching for another one as players can be taking part in different game modes in the same lobby which leaves you more time to crack skulls.

It’s bloody, violent and in tune with its former self, Mortal Kombat is a surprisingly well thought out game and takes its past and mixes it with the present to create a game which many gamers can get to grip with. Though after a couple of days play some of the actions and fatalities can give the game a bit of a samey feel to the combat after a while but there’s plenty to chip away at and online play to keep you interested. If you’re a fan of the genre or just looking for some insane gore then Mortal Kombat is for you, everyone else I suggest just keeping your eyes and ears shut as Mortal Kombat isn’t for the squeamish.  

 

Score: 8.5/10

Developer: NetherRealm Studios 
Publisher: Warner Bros.