Review: Xbox Live Arcade: Pinball Arcade

It’s Pinball Arcade Time!

It’s been a while since I picked up something in my own time, just browsing the Xbox Live market place I came across something that caught my eye as I’ve seen it launched on many platforms and that’s Pinball Arcade.

It’s available on PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, iphone, ipad, Mac and Android devices. That’s a serious amount of platforms to launch just one game onto but you can see a Pinball game is one of those games that fits the bill to make it instantly compatible for all of these platforms and because of this it also reaches out to an amazing assortment of gamers new to old. This is what actually took my interest, it must already by incredibly well established.

It’s time to get flipper happy!

Pinball tables attract allsorts of different people if you think about it. They’re normally placed in corners of pubs or in various establishments who also have Arcade machines and other similar machines. They’ve been around for a while in physical form but sadly have disappeared from view in various places, however like many well timed balances in this world when one thing goes down another comes up. There’s now an increase in virtual items online such as Pinball tables making an appearance! Pinball Arcade has also attracted some of the biggest names in the history of Pinball tables like Williams, Bally and Stern Pinball and you get to play these real tables on your console or portable device.

Pinball Arcade does an amazing job of capturing the lights, noises and challenges you associate with pinball tables so well and brings you some brilliant and sometimes complex challenges to boot. It whips your attention span right into the game as soon as you pick it up as it’s a game that requires straight-line thought and focus to play. The gameplay can get rather speedy too once you start timing you shots right and you need to be ready to return the ball at a moments notice. That’s the basic way you play Pinball, it’s remembering the different angles you hit the ball to with the flippers that gets you those high-scores and also a bit of luck too! That’s what keeps pinball games interesting and the element of random occurrence or when you don’t exactly know what your next objective is. You’ll will quite happily play Pinball Arcade for hours simply because of these well developed elements making it a time gobbler and a good one at that.

One of the hardest tables you’ll get to try… Concentrate!!

There’s several tables to choose from and each curbing your tactics by introducing a different table layout. Each table has it’s own history there for you to read too and they have a some cool themes like ‘Tales Of The Arabian Nights’. This makes the tables quite rich compared to say the Windows Pinball game where you have a lot of the same features but with no creativity or care unlike the original creators of these tables and Pinball Arcades developers, FarSight Studios. The challenges for the tables are relative to the theme too; like there’s a lamp in ‘Tales Of The Arabian Nights’ that you can hit to increase multipliers or to keep hitting until you obtain a certain level of spin to finish the challenge, it’s not too hard to wrap you head around but hard to accomplish. Simply, you can see what you need to do just not always how you do it.

There’s also Goals to achieve while you play, Standard and then Wizard after you have cracked the Standard. These are another fun way to challenge yourself in Pinball Arcade, you get into all the tables secret areas and learn how to hit some serious high-scores and these then end up on the Online Leaderboard along with everyone else’s scores across the world. So it’s like playing in a giant amusement arcade or pub with all these tables and scores that build up! You can also grab a look at the Flyers for the tables which sit in the Extras menu section along with the History of the table. They have some information on the challenges, this really just adds more detail to the history of the table itself. You’ll be able to see why these Pinball Tables where the best back when they where released too, they’re really quite the marvel when you see these pieces come together. I felt lucky that I could still see the history of the Pinball Table movement, I was also surprised that it would have that effect on me but then I realised myself these where all the pieces offline and on coming together while I played it.

Beautiful looking tables.

There’s ten tables altogether on Xbox Live, six of those you will have to buy from the Marketplace but luckily they come in packs of two. Considering that this is a lifetime purchase, not one or two goes in the street but for life, 800msp is a fairly reasonable price to pay for something that has disappeared under other interesting ways and means of spending our time with machines. This is why I like virtual items along with the physical, you can freely move the virtual and bring life into the physical which is exactly what I see happening in Pinball Arcade. FarSight Studios have captured what we love about these machines to an incredible standard that it shows instantly, especially through the sounds of the ball hitting various aspects of the table, it just perks your ears up but isn’t over amplified either. This is what you want from a game that simulates something you’ve already come across and Pinball Arcade also gives you plenty to do in the way of challenges, goals and Leaderboards to drive your mates crazy with!

Go pick it up today if your an Arcade game fan, you’ll simply enjoy it as it’s very well made. If you like your Pinball you’ll just love it (and its noises!) and if you generally like your memorabilia I reckon if you gave Pinball Arcade some time you’d also see all of it’s history it has woven into it!

Review: Xbox 360: Halo 4

So it has landed and with a massive retail entourage in the form of that trusty steed, the Warthog and even the chief himself turning up to impress the eagerly awaiting crowds… But does the game itself pull through and offer anything worth dying for? Let me run through just a couple of its amazing attributes!

Well, 343 Industries, I can safely say, has delivered a fine and solid Halo experience for fans and newcomers to enjoy, and that’s what I really like about Halo. It’s always had its proverbial arms open to the public just like most big hitter titles but Halo sets up this atmosphere of bravery, commitment and community really well in the fourth installment to the main series.

You’re looking at a healthy campaign, not too short, not too overly long or drawn out either. Cinematics which move you due to the new emotion being portrayed through the characters you may or may not know and love, that never mattered as you do really fall in love with the two; Cortana and John. There’s also the new weapons, new vehicles and new enemies as you’d expect but most of all it offers a more intense ride through the Halo universe and brings you to an amazing close you won’t forget… One I cannot give away either! (Over my dead body!). You can co-op in the campaign and up to four players (all play as chief) to take on Halo’s infamous Legendary difficulty where one misplaced tactical move can cost you your little spartan life. Co-op is always great fun really, Halo 4 is no different but the whole four player split-screen in the campaign mode can get a bit hard to focus on, one would propose linking over Xbox Live to be a much better idea.

There are secrets to look for in the campaign, I guess 343 Industry’s picked up on the whole Skull collecting phase from Halo 3 and carried it a little bit further (Try to find all the Terminals, they’ll hold some juicy knowledge!). There’s also the fact that you can add your long (Or short) running spartan career to Halo 4 using the Halo Waypoint feature which also coughs up some extra rewards for Halo fans and users. This will push you to polish off the campaign, it usually does! Then it’s onto the Multilplayer and 343’s new shiny offering in the form of Spartan Ops!

Halo Multiplayer… A place where many of us grew up, fighting each other with Plasma Swords and sticking grenades to each other… Those were the days! And they’re back and packing some interesting additions like the new Perks addition. This pops up in campaign but truly comes optimizable in the multiplayer elements of Halo. They really can liven things up on the battlefield a bit… Spray and pray is right out the window when you deploy a Hologram, tactics are shaken up and brought together because of the perks. I think this is a fifty fifty feature for previous fans, it brings the dimension further forward which creates better combat but not all will agree… Until you find YOUR favourite that is, then you’re laughing!

There are the new Multiplayer modes and some oldies to get stuck right into and you also level up your spartan using the Multiplayer element and the Spartan Ops modes. There’s a pile of armor to unlock which just looks so bad-ass when you equip it, you can colour your spartan too and create a flashy logo for yourself. The customisation is superb this time around and the different sets of armor can give you a little sense of individualism to top it all off with. Overall I really enjoyed the Multiplayer, you can get some crazy set-ups and insane fights… You can also record all of the fun and upload it thanks to the fantastic Theatre feature Halo has built in. Theatre mode lets you upload your favourite spartan fuelled moments to the internet, where you can then share them with internet goers. There’s a ton of great films and screenshots so if you’re browsing… Take a look at someone else’s moment of glory or in fact, failure (Both are just as hilarious as each other!).

Right, Spartan Ops! This is a new element that has been added to the overall Halo experience and has been referred to being a little like CoD’s Special Ops missions. These are paced differently from the other two elements, and it shows. Though this pace isn’t a bad thing, I’m just not sure how to evaluate it apart from it being right smack bang in the middle of the other two elements which brings them together rather well! You get an objective, you then complete said objective… Sounds simple right? Well I’d kick the difficulty up a bit and invite some friends… It goes from quiet small time mission to knees up spartan bash! It really flexes well like that and can fill some gaps if you’re feeling weary of the other players or the campaign itself.

Overall it really is well polished off with the faster mechanics and combat speed along with the crisp new look it’s sporting. It’s energised with new perks and filled with maps, weapons and more than one element to explore multiplayer-wise which was a massive fear of mine and probably to other fans. It offers you everything you’d want plus a couple of surprises and even gives you the option to record your experiences and cut them, giving everyone a chance to share the best moments to go on to make more.

I am a Halo fan, I do favour this installment above the third but not because of the flashy advertising that came before its launch but because it does deliver and it does deliver all of the above well. I just wish the story never had to end… Till next time I guess!

Review: Xbox 360: Binary Domain

I’m going to get right to the point… Binary Domain really does have the crappiest looking box art that I’ve seen for a good while, very generic for a first person shooter. The whole strutting guy thing got old a while back too and I over looked it for that one fact alone. I then however saw a couple of comments on twitter basically saying it was a bit of alright.

I picked a copy up and began to play and realised the controls worked pretty well, the environment was rather impressive and character roster in a cliche way was fun and familiar. Binary Domain revolves around a two sided struggle between humans and A.I. It’s up to you to start pushing back against these metal menaces!

You proceed through various parts of the city taking out various squads of robots to reach objectives and goals to ultimately uncover the fate of humanity. This is simply great fun when you first begin as you can blow various parts off the robots in various ways. There are various characters that accompany you though the game, all having different strengths and styles of combat. The classes don’t create a huge amount of difference and your buddies can be a bit clumsy. They’ll start to dislike you as well if you clip them with fire. A blue bar will appear that indicates whether you’re on their good side or their bad side. If you stay on their good-side characters fight harder or by answering their questions right, they’ll try and be that harder to kill when push comes to shove. This is a feature that runs through the game and often links into button prompted scenes too which gives Binary Domain enough action and pace to carry the slightly predictable story of man vs. machine.

As you progress through the levels you’ll hit the boss. They normally require you to hit certain weak spots and dodge there series of tactical advances. These parts of BD are especially rewarding as you get to hammer the bosses with everything you have in your arsenal and with what’s scattered throughout the area around you. The designs of the bosses look really cool too, you get to see exo- skeletons while you’re ripping parts right off them. They’ll usually go rampant after a few good hits, which ups the pace and will have you ducking and diving. However your ally’s seem to think this is the best time to try spark up a face to face conversation with you, they really aren’t the sharpest bunch when it comes to fighting a giant, armed to the teeth, rampant robot. When you suffer too much damage you’ll hit the dirt and require medical assistance. You and your ally’s can carry medi-packs and can administer them to each other but you will have to shout for help before an allay will heal you on the ground. Your allays can also die, which will end the game. This can become a bit of a drag especially when bosses are concerned, your allays can pretty much end the game for you if you can’t get to them in time.

The best part of Binary Domain is the robots! You’ll take your time picking them apart, watching them crawl across the rubble with their glowing red eyes. The special effects from the sparks to the smoke are well done for such a quiet game, you really will get engrossed in shooting them. A lot of enjoyment is in the detail, having panels blow right off to reveal more underneath is strangely addictive and will draw you in. There are some car chase scenes (which are good) and a couple of spots where you can interact with the figures around you… But that’s it! The game would have benefited greatly from more additions like these and maybe a couple of other idea, it’s just such a shame that there isn’t necessarily anything worth going back for

You can upgrade your weapon and your ally’s but not much else after that. It lack in the upgrade department but does offer a nano booster feature where you can add several ability boosting nano chips within a 6/2 grid. Sadly the game does lack badly in some areas, leaving parts of the game too thin or bare which is a total shame as I think the game would have benefited hugely from some mini-games or a more interactive areas in the game.

The story isn’t too bad and not too badly told either, it even holds a little bit of romance too! The characters expressions do portray the urgency of some of the scenes rather well and the character designs make them come across like a right rough rabble… I just can’t completely escape the repetitiveness and the game gets too thin too quickly in places and shows that it’s in need of more detail to fill it out.

Binary Domain is a good game and has potential but lacks the diversity other bigger more expensive titles have right now, however if you like your robots and you like your action don’t walk past it next time in store. Maybe take a look at the back of the box!

Review: Xbox 360: Dirt Showdown

Codemasters have unleashed another Dirt upon us but this time it’s damaging, hurtful and more about destruction and chaos compared to its cleaner and sharper predecessors. Dirt Showdown takes itself in a different direction, it’s less about traditional racing and more about putting on a show! Showdown is a fabulous balance between racing and destruction sporting a variety of vehicles that look more at home on an American scrap yard than on our British roads. You end up trashing most vehicles making them unrecognisable against other drivers across new and exciting race modes and you get rewarded for doing so, Dirt is definitely all about the confrontation this time!

You have the usual Tour Mode to burn through, Joyride and the Multiplayer world to nose dive right into. The only weak aspect about Showdown is the Tour Mode as it has no background story, so it doesn’t necessarily have a great way of delivering it’s different race modes and other features initially but when you get over that tiny hump you’ll be in for a concentrated dose of brutal annihilation!

The biggest difference in Showdowns overall control scheme is it’s manipulated to be extra easy on those wheels and more forgiving so you’re able to pull of some huge drifts and bonkers doughnuts. You also get deeper and wider cornering which means if you don’t hit curves at the right time and angle you can end up all over the joint, this new perspective and feel of the game works really well the the fireworks, ramps, obstacles and even the A.I have a bit more of bite with their new attitudes on the race track. You even have access to a Boost feature which gives your vehicle a heck more momentum, this also causes bundles more damage to the opposition. It’s really quite different from the faster paced ‘grit your teeth’ racing we’ve seen from Dirt 1 & 2. Showdown really feels a lot more inviting as it requires less super rigid skill for more creative and flexible reactions instead. Alongside showdowns slightly altered gritty attitude is the new set of excitable tracks, which brings heaps of glorified mayhem to each race. There’s tracks that cross over one another, ones that box racers in with each other and much more to burn through.

There is some small weather effects and conditions, though this is for Dirts track conditions so they don’t end up too samey, there’s some weather that obstructs your view but it’s not majorly menacing to your races. Licensed cars aren’t available but expect some creatively designed machines to have the pleasure of destroying instead. In fact, I can’t actually begin to remember how many of my own vehicles I’ve totalled or how many I’ve denied the A.I of. Different vehicles can be unlocked and then bought with your hard earned cash from those races and the statistics of your vehicles can be improved before races too; Power, Strength and Handling can be improved to raise the grade of the vehicle. You can also select different liveries before you jump right into the action, they’re designed by company’s that each have there own unique theme or particular design they follow.

Dirt Showdowns Tour mode is pretty standard, within it is the different race types you’ll get running through Showdowns different difficulties. The race types carry a lot of destructive type races where you’re either trying to aniline as many opponents as possible to score points in a giant raised platform or boxed right in with a few bends to swing round and hold on to be the last wreck standing. The roaring crowds gives these events a nice buzz, a good sharp edge to get you right into these scrums. It’s as much fun as it sounds and failing a few races wont have you retching with shame, you’ll just want to have another bash at it. As exciting as the destruction is, it is a step back from your incredibly sharp blind bends and terrain that’s strict to navigate through, it wont push you even nearly as hard as the other two but offers up a more than suitable alternative direction if you like your action orientated racing games.

If you’re more of a trickster, those tricky obstacle courses are back from Dirt 2 when you start to progress into the other tier of difficulty’s; Pro, Allstar, Champion and Legend. Smash hunter is a particularly enjoyable test of handling, precision and hand eye co-ordination. The courses and objectives are also well laid out and creates some wonderful opportunities to utilize the built in YouTube recorder to upload your best runs to impress your community! You have to drive around the course and hit the coloured bricks as you’re prompted to on screen, the blocks are coloured and are easy enough to see but there’s some slants and angles that blind you to just keep you on your toes. You can use the Flashback feature if you fail to hit the required amount of blocks so you don’t screw up your near perfect run with that one annoying mishap, though upping your difficulty will limit the number of Flashbacks you will have to begin in each event.

After you’ve had a good thrash around the Tour mode, Dirt offers up a fun, open and challenging mode apply named Joyride. Here’s where you get to drift around two open locations with other unlockable areas while completing certain challenges in or around your environment. Joyride is definitely a more balanced aspect to Dirt Showdown and Dirt 2, it’s not so much the destroying or maintaining elements like your velocity that you utilize here but simply just thinking, reacting and then finishing with some amazing balancing acts and tricks combined together. You’ll drift under lorry’s near perfectly or Salem round the narrowest gaps and then pull off two jumps and a donut just to get right down to the last missions on your list. Dirt has some very rewarding unlockable and challenging elements scattered through it modes which brings you further into Dirts experience as a whole but it also lacks in a nice sharp competitive edge which the last two titles did have due to their rallying nature. What you’re looking at is a straight swap from a sharp nimble racing game to destructible high octane one and the transition between the two comes across very well in Dirt Showdown.

Alongside Dirts online aspects it also has a Challenges section you can find on the main menu screen. After each race you can send invitations to your friends to beat your time or score and you can check any expired or pending submissions in the Challenges menu tab. You can also see how many challenges you’ve beaten and kept and who with, in a clear and efficient online menu system. There’s an Options and Extras section just below Challenges which has all of your bits and bobs to tinker with including your Driver Details where you can edit your name, audio name, horn, difficulty and your YouTube setting so you can upload your best smashes.

Xbox Live mode has a handy tier’d menu system to help you into Multiplayer matches. You can set up your playlist first by selecting which types of matches you’d like to compete in, these being, Everything, Demolition, Hoonigan, Racing and Party and all these have a neat little descriptions and bar that lights up all the relevant info. There’s also different Bonus’s to aim for while playing the Multiplayer mode like the Underdog Bonus where you can grab extra fans for beating the higher level players. You can also organise party’s to run around online with, if you can get the players together you should definitely give it a good bash as the fun is only amplified with friends and that good ol’ banter you can find in a good group of gamers.

Racenet Events is part of Dirts extensive online experience. Sign up to Racenet to access this feature, go to extras & options and check the Racenet tab there and you’ll find all the instructions you’ll need including the website you sign up to. It even comes with a little gift as you’re a new comer and some in game cash!

Overall Dirt Showdown has a had a good crack at the action orientated side of the racing genre but has also kept its distinguishable features from the past titles at the same time. It’s also given the games’ new direction a place to shine and really draw you in with it’s bendy tracks and jumps and along with the whole destructible side of the game only brings it to life online and off. The only thing it lacks is a podium or background structure to show it’s Tour mode off with, it’s really quite enjoyable but lets the rest of the game down with it’s lack of enthusiasm. It’s one to add to your collection if you’re a Dirt fan or you favour your brutal action.

Score: 7.5/10

Review: Xbox 360: Ridge Racer Unbounded

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the name Ridge Racer surface, and when it did I bet a lot of gamers, including myself had some fond memories to whizz through before we sat down to play it. As soon as you’ve completed just one race you’ll start to recognize some similarities to the style of racing from other next-gen titles; the fact you can smash through most of the environments round the track to fill your action bar reflects the spirit of Split Second and even a bit of Burnout, but that’s not Ridge Racers defining quality.

Ridge Racer Unbounded is a game that stands on its own two feet, sporting its own racing colours and waving its own flag – and to be honest I wasn’t really expecting anything less. Unbounded is definitely not a game to underestimate; even at the beginning of the game It takes time to figure out what Namco are trying to get you to achieve: fluidly working with several driving balances alongside the destructible elements of the game. The game stubbornly doesn’t give everything away to you in the first couple of hours but persevere and eventually it will give you every button and feature you need. You will need to get to know Ridge Racer inside out once again if you want to master it and utilize the multiplayer aspects.

Boot up the game and there’s a nice, clean menu design to greet you but no tutorial in sight, anywhere! It makes for a peachy change if you’ve been playing video games for longer than you can remember but for everyone else – just take your time, it’s not going to drive away without you. And in the long run tutorials don’t make a huge amount of difference, only helping you in the short term to initially grasp the control scheme so you don’t seem like such a novice when you begin a game.

The single player mode has you racing through Shatter Bay and inside this racy city you’ll experience the games various race types. The first handful of vehicles are a little on the slow side but you’ll unlock more as you earn XP. There are no models of actual licensed cars though you can still pick out certain influences from their real life counterparts – that’s if you want to stop to take in detail like that. If not, don’t despair! There’s a plethora of different vehicles to unlock and use across all race types alongside other odds and ends to unlock through the XP bar to keep your mind on the road.

There are several modes to enjoy including Domination Race, Drift Attack, Shindo Racing, Time Attack and Frag Attack. All of these differ greatly from each other which makes a sizable change from the usual types of tournament or exhibition races you see in other games. Domination is the standard race set up for Unbounded: you’ll use your action bar quite a bit to frag and create shortcuts while you race. Drift Attack will need some mastering as you will need to use the drift button (B button) nailing the art of entering drifts at the right speed. Anything below or above this speed will cost you drift points and maybe even a place as you mess up a bend and slam straight into a wall.

Shindo Racing just has the nitro boost, with no short cuts, no anything, just a clean race set-up. The A.I will still test you but it’s a much fairer race for those who deal more in sportsmanship than huge amounts of car-crashing catastrophe. Time Attack and Frag Attack sell themselves and are massive bundles of fun. Time Attacks are set on levels with some interesting hurdles and designs. You’ll need to pick up the blue floating tokens for extra time and plot right through to the end. With this type of assault course in front of you the Time Attacks don’t get heavily repetitive, in fact you’ll be much more inclined to complete them even if you’re not a fan of this type of race. Frag Attack is super destructive so just be prepared to take a hammering while you’re handing them out yourself. The A.I. are stupid brutes too which is bad news for you, but it does makes it easier to take them out and you can have heaps of devastating fun in this race type.

When you’ve raced through a good few streets and courses you’re much more able to hold your own especially when you make friends with that drift button, learning to not brake but drift. Namco have tried to bring this drift element out, they really did well to incorporate more of this against the other overdone dimensions you can usually find in action orientated racing games. You can smash right through some walls and buildings, these are Rider Racers short cuts – try and find as many as you can to be in a better standing to beat your rivals. The short cuts are placed all around the tracks and you will be notified of them when your full action bar is ready but there are one or two that are craftily placed so you can’t really become too complacent.

It’s not a particularly easy game to complete either, often you’ll end up in fragging fights almost deadly sure you’re in the clear just to get taken out by some plucky A.I with a grudge. As I mentioned the A.I can be a right pain and is either bashing the life out of you or getting stuck on various things but most times this brings the game to life by creating possibilities you can’t really plan for; chaos ensues but you still have fun. That’s the awesome thing about Ridge Racer, it starts to put other elements in front of you while you play like fragging, drifting, smashing into shortcuts and other XP and point related objectives till you’re not just racing – you’re also trying to hit all these targets.

The experience bar will hold a lot of the items, cars and extra bits of track for you. You can gain experience in several ways too; event placing, event goal bonus, frags, collateral damage (damage to the environment), and target awards (smashing through certain target buildings). As you progress through the game most unlockables come free and easy, you just have to keep wrecking your way through anything and everything you can get your rubber on. Everything breaks apart rather effectively in Unbounded bar the odd physics mishap; objects can sometimes get stuck on or around your vehicle but this doesn’t reduce your speed or affect your view point. The streets are designed relatively well, there aren’t loads of edges you can crash into or get caught on. They’re generally interesting too and have plenty of colour and points of interest which also help you mind map the tracks better.

Multiplayer mode ‘The World’ is a well balanced online experience offering a rounded off structure that keeps the multiplayer action bubbling away. Basic multiplayer play consists of Quick Match, Domination Match and Create Friend Match. In Quick Match you play in Shatter Bay tracks while Domination Match is played in user created cities. Both are enjoyable and it’s easy enough to get into matches online. Gameplay can be a bit harder to handle with the A.I players replaced with human players as they can kick a lot harder than the A.I. You can get into some right fights too; once you have a rival to revenge you pretty much revenge everyone else till you get that one racer back. It’s a rather lively one to tame online but worth it for just for the japes.

World Cities allows you to play on user created cities. Scroll through thousands of published cities and have a good root around for the best challenges, there are some very smart designs but some are, frankly broken. You can get some terrible tracks where users have thrown all sorts together and these can clutter your experience and dampen those good multiplayer vibes. Unbounded will also offer up 1, 6 and 24 hour challenges, these changing once the timer runs out with the winner receiving XP.

Create mode eases the hardship for a bit of customization. You’ll get to build your own tracks here in your own customized city. Name your city first, place some blocks on the grid and browse through the different pieces of track that you have accumulated. As long as your track loops you can publish it; there’s a tutorial that will guide you through all of this and some extras when you unlock highway blocks or elevated sections for bigger, more impressive tracks. The Advanced Editor section enables you to add jumps or other smaller obstacles for some sweet tweaks – all these elements adding up into a rather enjoyable track creator giving you time to steady your nerves before the next round of wasting begins. Create Mode also ties in with the online multiplayer side of the game as you can choose to visit other players cities to challenge them on their own turf or have them challenge you on yours.

Overall Ridge Racer is a bit deceptive, you think it’s not going to work before you grasp that drift button but when you do the game just shines right through. Features work well along with the friendly menu system and opens up the multiplayer cities element really well, maps circulate and players have fun. There are a couple of issues to watch out for: hitting walls and corners can be devastating, especially when you were screaming along in first place. There isn’t too much you can do about this apart from improve your game but I feel that’s still not fully acceptable and this is Ridge Racers true weakness. Otherwise it clears the way for a much cleaner and fuller action orientated racing game.

Score: 7/10

Xbox 360 Review: Dodonpachi Resurrection Deluxe Edition

Dodonpatchi Resurrection is the fifth title in the DonPachi series originally created by Cave a Japanese video games developer. Cave have a bit of a thing for side scrolling shooters as they have extensive experience in the arcade games industry back when amusement centres where hubs of activity for gamers around the world. The studio consists of mostly Toaplan employees who were successful with their ventures, producing games like Batsugun and Truxton. Cave now also produce similar games for ISO platforms which have often over-shadowed efforts from other Japanese studios, they are a damn reliable bet when it comes to scoring with this shrinking niche as they’ve also had success with their more newer titles Progear and Nin2-Jump.

This installment comes with several modes along with the arcade original for you to enjoy in the Play menu section. It also includes Score Attack mode which makes use of the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live feature so you can compete with the world, Training mode for the rookie flyers and even an option to reel over your Replay Data. There’s also the added benefit of additional content in the Downloadable Content menu section which gives the game a lot more relevance to be picked up today. This is what a lot of the ports extra features stem from along with an intertwined arcade design and feel which overall creates a well rounded experience.

Dodonpatchi Resurrection is a rather lively side scrolling shooter game with tons of sounds, animations and action stuffed in. The story revolves round the past wars that the human race had got themselves into with the A.I in the DonPachi universe. Something surfaces and is creating a war in the past as the humans won the war in the future, this thing is a virus. This virus is a left over bit of the program which the humans destroyed and has infected human technology in the future to send huge amounts of materials and resources back to certain points to create these gigantic robotic space dolls that you end up fighting. The aim of the game is to cut right through the onslaught of enemy waves while you crank up the points till you get to the end of level boss which will be one of five dolls that were originally created to serve mankind. There’s for modes within the Arcade mode and there’s the Score Attack mode to try and master, both with have you upping your game often as Dodonpatchi one of the easier side scrollers to get into thanks to its fluid layout and structure.

When you’ve chosen a mode to play you’ll select a ship and power and/or even bring in a friend for more military strength! There’s three to choose from; Type A is a light faster fighter, Type B is your mid-range ship and Type C is your heavy option, all have changeable Shot Styles which have unique abilities and strengths associated with them. These options can help you set up strategies to overcome the harder waves of the game you might have trouble with, also enemy ships and units do attack differently and in different patterns on every level to try throw you off balance. The game plays very well this way, very smooth but also lively enough to keep you focused and enjoying the bit trip. You also have the Hyper Counter System and the Counter Lazer attacks to utilize along the way once you’ve filled you Hyper Meter. Basically the Counter system takes care of the spray and pray the A.I. can sometimes throw at you, it’s normally the smaller units on the ground and is very effective against them. Your Lazer attack is much stronger though and can stop the bigger harder hitters from firing at you and you can change between these two firing modes anyway to distinguish patterns that work against ones that don’t. The controls are incredibly simple and there’s the Training mode anyway just incase your not feeling your usual kickass self.  Obviously Dodonpatchi is really fun and stratifying to just play this way, it gives you enough of that itch to scratch without screwing up its original rhythm. This is a great strength for a game to have and it also has these accessible learning curves to do with the A.I. patterns and new attack options, this opens up other variations of play for gamers when they start to improve which is actually admirable for such an old port.

All of these details and structure change in each of the arcade mode creating different obstacles to overcome; plotting you way through or all out destruction. The game also has a built in Invisible Multiplier and rises in level once you’ve brought all of the basics together to get those higher combo chains. This is when the competition will heat up and is a really good way of nailing some amazing scores to challenge other gamers with around the world, it also can be very rewarding when you whiz right through a stage you’ve already excelled in and have created strategies for. Dodonpatchi has hours of play assembled around this and all it takes is a bit of time invested with its old and the new features… and then heaps of practice! That’s the thing about side scrollers, someone always has a better score that you. It’s quite a hard feeling or urge to describe if you haven’t felt challenged by someone online; to put all of your skills together to get that amazing run through can just feel so simply rewarding.

When you begin to play if you’re new to this niche you’ll probably find Dodonpatchi confusing or disorientating to play as there’s a barrages of bullets and lazers heading for you and of course the enemy units on and off the ground to watch out for. Don’t worry! We’ve all been there and the way to play these games anyway is to keep your eyes focused mainly to the middle of the screen and gauge the gaps in the bullets, ships and lazers to get your ship through them. You can only take so many hits as well until you pop your little space ship and use a life up to respawn with full equipment but no Hyper Attack bar, you’ll pick these little rules and tricks up in your first few attempts but be prepared to stick some effort in to really squeeze all combos and points you possibly can. Dodonpatchi is a really competitive game too due to the nature of it, it’s fast paced, unpredictable and fun which all together can get you hooked for a good few hours in one sitting – if you can stomach it that is. That’s the deal with arcade games, they just suck you in and then… BANG! An hour has just vanished before your eyes! But because they’re so simple and ultimately fun from any angle it can get most gamers itching to stick a high score up, Dodonpatchi is no different and has Xbox Live Leaderboard functionality for extra arcade excitement.  

After you completed a full run and have stopped the rewiring of time, you’ll get some small story boards to look over. They aren’t anything incredible just some tail ends of storylines to do with alternate or parallel outcomes. In the Xbox 360 version you also get a soundtrack CD which is great to stick on while you play, you can get some very calming and nostalgic vibes coming through all 23 tracks. There’s also different versions of Arrange A, B, Black Label and version 1.51 available for download which adds more paths and modes to voyage through. Dodonpatchi is limited when it comes to any bigger features, the downloads themselves are different versions of the modes you already have and it ultimately doesn’t bring anything super new and exciting to you for your MSP. This is really the only disappointment in Dodonpatchi, it’s really hard to expect so much from a port that’s had success and changing it too much could have be fatal. The fifth installment offer players a great experience with added features that tie in with Xbox Live, it also offers alternative modes amongst its original modes which is a great comparison to play with it just doesn’t offer anything more, nor does it lie about what it is.

If you like a challenge, Dodonpatchi has it. It’s one of the better organized side scrollers, offering better customization options than most other titles which gives the gameplay a good stir whenever you need it. It’s many mode ensures hours and hours of play and the Leaderboard functionality give the player something to aim for while firing lazers like its no body’s business. The pace is fast enough and it’s hard enough to get the pros sweating too, additional items and attacks also have you learning and executing patterns and tactics with ease. Overall it’s one for your arcade collection (If you have one) and will keep any side scrolling urges under control, no problem.

Review: Xbox 360: SSX

Think wide open spaces, feel freshly laid snow and experience some dizzying heights in the brand spanking new instalment in the SSX series!

The Rockies… The extreme begins here with you and your board at the top of your first run. Right at the beginning of the game you’ll be thrown into a tutorial just so you can pick up the basics and then into a race. SSX won’t take up too much of your time this way, it is just the speed and velocity you need to get used to especially if you’re going hurtle down runs at silly speeds. You’ll start out with some basic equipment, SSX does allow for some interesting additions in equipment as you progress and it’s all unlocked at certain times keeping the game nicely balanced.

There’s three modes to explore all together but if you work on the World Tour mode to get warmed up then onto exploration and online world it sets you up much better for a freer experience of the game. It’s because it’s structured really well, more runs and equipment are unlocked as you progress and the online challenges become harder. This natural escalation in the difficulty will give you a clear indicator of where you need to be to keep beating the game, SSX has some neat balances if you simply enjoy what’s infront of you but it doesn’t pay off as much as you might initially have thought.

SSX also comes with a cool set of online functions to do with the RiderNet feature, these will keep you sharp if you have an Xbox Live connection. The feature will recommend challenges to you that your friends have set or completed so you can have a good crack at their times, there’s a varied amount of rewards to gain from completing them too. There’s a ton of ranges to unlock all over the globe when you play the single player mode and with these come the different missions you’ll get to compete in; Race It!, Trick It! And Survive It! All three are challenging and create different styles of play so you’ll just simply enjoy them for what they are.

The differences in strategy between the three helps create different tactics; like Race It! Gets you to find the fastest path through the course and you start cutting jumps or missing them all together. As the difficulty rises you will adapt to win more and also discover secret areas and extra Geotags along the way; or you’ll be looking for the best ramps and the best line connecting them for the Trick It! Stages. Completing some blazing combos and getting to the bottom of the run in one piece is basically your challenge.

Survive It! Is one of the trickiest love/hate stages I’ve played in a while, it will test you but not with your actual SSX skills but instead your hand eye co-ordination. Prepare to eat tree once, twice or even thrice before mastering this mode itself.

There’s a catalogue of moves to pull off while riding and then there’s the even more extensive pairing of moves you can do in mid-air to get a higher combo multiplier. If you get it high enough you can activate TRICKY mode. You’ll start glowing and the music will start picking up pace to urge you to use that unlimited boost to get some sick air. You can also pull off special combos and get bundles of points while you’re in TRICKY mode anyway, the trick is to keep it going through the whole level and score into the millions. You pull off tricks by holding the A button when approaching a slope then release to get some air, press X,Y or B to start making some shapes! Watch the points collect as you do, watch how they double or triple when you put other tricks alongside as this will get you to the top of the leaderboards (which are incredibly competitive).

There’s also new bits of equipment to gain when you complete ranges and unlock more, they come in the forms of pick axes, oxygen tanks and wingsuits amongst other things. You’re really going to need these and the best versions you can buy as the Survive It! Mode does demand skill but if you’re the daredevil type, then go right ahead and knock yourself out as the environment will probably do it to you anyway.

With the games new equipment editions comes the new SSX team, these special types of equipment are unlocked when team members become available. They also have different stat balances depending on which character you’re looking at, these help create a small amount of strategy but only small. SSX doesn’t really need a plot but the story revolves around Griff and his money-hogging ways. He basically runs off with the team’s cash and challenges team SSX to conquer the 9 most deadly descents. So it’s up to you to start gaining levels, earning credits and ultimately beating your rivals to all that glory, then you can shove right in Griff’s face!

There’s some new characters to enjoy like Tane Mumea and Ty Thorsen who hold their own against the old SSX crew but it is always good to see old faces make a return in a series as these little things have a tendency of making you smiling. The funky design of the players brings new vibes and a visually attractive edge to the group and it also works very well alongside the soundtrack to the game and the bonus equipment (some even glow!). So you’ll be starting right from the bottom of the run compared to the other riders and teams, it’s time to push back and climb… Just as much as you drop!

In game credits unlock most of the content you can equip to you character, you can earn them several ways too and some ways are even quite ingenious. Geotag’s which you place in Explore mode, can become good earners if they’re not picked up by another rider. This adds a 3D element to the game which keeps refreshing itself whenever you return to the online mode, you can also earn medals, beat times to earn those credits. There isn’t a particular reason or pull to earn credit really fast as the game revolves around the game play but it offers enough tit bits to keep you chomping away merrily.

The environment is something to behold once you first set your peepers onto it; when you start at the top of a run you can basically see into the course and plot the best line down through it. There are hardly any changes to the climate though I could see that becoming a nuisance anyway but some runs are very dark and laden with trees. This makes the speed of your rider seem so much faster than it actually is and these levels are normally the more dangerous Survive It! Stages. This takes the difficulty up a notch but when you’re familiar with SSX and in the zone you’ll put together some awesome moves and combos without even noticing the technical side of the game play, it is actually that fluid.

While your earning crazy leaderboard crushing scores you can slide off hidden slopes, drop from fallen trees, grind wires and poles while you break these records which is incredibly good fun. The developers have also taken care to place slopes and objects correctly around the runs to create multiple paths that don’t conflict with each other. Sometimes I wished I could have jumped off my board and had a good explore but Griff and his mates where to busy provoking me into another Survive It! for me to stay on that thought too long. SSX will leave a funky impression on you thanks to the way the game was generated and built, the maps are generated using NASA scans of these mountains, the developers then stepped in and created the playground of snow-like delights. The soundtrack to SSX will have you bouncing and you can create your own custom playlists and SSX also features a dynamic music remix tool that will automatically remix licensed tracks and custom music based on the player’s actions and performance in-game.

Compared to the past four SSX titles the fifth does follow the overall design of the series and desires of the gamer to a higher degree but seems to think that’s all it needs to do, open up a path and let you fly, roll or jump to create game play. It’s a good job, there’s a strong online support available as SSX could have sank like the stone it seems to be at a distance, however bring everything together and it plays, moves and entertains very well, just not well enough or long enough to be a massive hitter.


Review: Xbox 360: Forza 4

Think about all of those 8,460 bolts it takes to make just one car run on the road and then think about a racing simulator that could reflect that exact engineering vision but with crisp and easy to navigate menus. Take an options system that’s capable of filtering difficulties for maximum accessibility include the considerable growth from a widespread community and merge them all together. You have the world of Forza 4.

Forza 4’s instantly crisp impressions touch the vehicles too and will have your engine roaring for a good long dose of racing simulation action. The edges of vehicles look slightly smoother compared to F3 but keep those recognisable details and features which always finished off Forza’s cars making them look so damn good! The most exotic vehicles drive even more beautifully and you can take them onto some of the most famous (and infamous) roads you can imagine experiencing. Forza offers this and more to its gamers as its smart and smooth layout takes you right into this world of speed and beauty without any hiccups.

Forza 4 begins with a proper petrol head intro with Jeremy Clarkson providing the voice over for gritty clips of some beautiful cars belting it round multiple tracks It then shows you the power Forza has when it brings a sparkly new virtual Ferrari up close to the screen for you to get a bit steamy over. Soon after that you’ll get your first chance to experience that smooth feel to the driving with a quick lap round a circuit before you choose your first vehicle and get stuck into the majority of the game. When you first stick your foot down you can feel the grip of the tires as they grab the track, you can really feel this coming through into your hands. Then there’s the entourage of sounds that accompany you round the track, the revving engine tones and collisions being particularly enjoyable. Forza’s soundtrack isn’t too outrageous either, which leaves more of these sounds to be picked up during game play and when all of these little delights come together you have one of Forza’s characteristics, and that’s outstanding quality as standard.

Forza has always had a great talent for showcasing its in-game vehicles (it even has its own showcase mode in AutoVista) and when you pick your first car you’ll notice this attention to detail and the amazing lighting effects that go with them. When you start World Tour mode the vehicles for the first races are already optimised – you can learn about that later in the game. You’ll start with the lower tier cars and work your way up either buying them from dealers with hard earned cash or with Microsoft Points, you can also earn them as rewards for completing certain requirements through-out the game. Forza’s lighting effects can make even the smallest hatchback look like a Mini Cooper, even watching your opponents pass you is actually enjoyable. The lower tier cars are good fun to practice with but they’re a little tail happy and will flick and spin if you push way too hard round corners. There’s an option to tinker with the difficulty so you can hammer the brakes and corners if you wish but when you add these aids they will cost you experience and credits as punishment for your shortcomings.

In World Tour mode you’ll start in a division and within that divisions they are a certain amount of races to complete to get to the next set of races. This is all World Tour mode essentially is but you have a huge amount of tracks, vehicles and objectives to complete within it and it’s a great way of earning extra cars and other such goodies quickly. World Tour mode is Forza’s base, its foundations, and from this point you’ll get lost in Forza for a good few hours as it can quickly become a deceptively captivating experience. Forza has a great selection of vehicles to compliment all of its circuits too, there’s over 500 vehicles from manufacturers like Volkswagen, Toyota, Ferrari and more. It does lack some more serious exotic cars, with Porche is conspicuous by its absence, but Forza has more than enough to compensate.

You can paint, tune and generally tinker with you purchased vehicles in the Cars menu, these features help keep you looking like a boss on the track and help you create a near perfect racing balance and load-out for your four-wheeled friend. If you like to fiddle around under the bonnet or want to take your vehicle into another higher (or lower) tier you can upgrade the parts and change the performance of the vehicle in this menu tab. You can adjust the tyre pressure, gear ratios, wheel alignment and more while there are lots of parts and manufacturers for the more advanced drivers to get choosy over. You can even change the colour of your rims too or even tint your windows! There is an instant option for gamers who find this a little unsatisfying or too difficult with the A.I. building you a better set-up depending on what tier you want. Forza offers you some cool stuff to mess about with in-between races and you can and up with some amazing results if you go all out on your chosen vehicle!

To unlock extra items you’ll have to get winning races and improve your driver level and your current chosen manufacturers affinity level. You improve these levels by racing on a higher difficulty, not using the rewind system which makes a return from Forza 3, and taking no damage to gain extra credits. This experience system will unlock most of what you need or want during your game time and gives you something else to aim for while your collecting your cars and defeating every racer who fancies trying it on. If you want to capture and relive these moments when you overcome your rivals you can save your replays at the end of the race and then view them at your own leisure – maybe even take a nice photo to show your mum. For online gamers you can upload your favourite photos or replays to the Storefront.

The circuit list is impressive with many recognisable names surfacing and as always the Nürburgring circuit steps-up to offer some of the best driving to be had in the game. World Tour mode’s different classes make certain tracks a pleasure to drive every time and can be used to create some ferocious competition online as well. Forza’s Xbox live features means your times can be uploaded to the leaderboards and you can receive recommendations in the Message Centre menu. These recommendations offer you a specific challenge where you’ll need to beat your friends or online rivals times for certain locked rewards.

When navigating anything Forza 4 always keeps you informed; sets of information like Circuit locations and reward types appear neatly on your screen, organised in rows, sometimes within boxes helping to give Forza 4 a more laid back appearance. It is much easier to navigate the menus this time around and is kinder on the eyes; no blinding white menu just cool gray shades with a crisp linear design.

There’s a healthy selection of race types to choose from online or off which gives most players a chance to win or improve their driver level. Challenge Events consist of events like World Championships and Autocross events; World Championships will require you to compete through a whole day of gritty racing in two heats. There’s the Multi-Class races where two different classes of vehicle are placed on the track together but with a distinct margin between them, a race type which makes a return from the previous title. Finally there’s the Top Gear Bowling Events which frankly strike me as being a little half arsed at best. These events provide a small challenge if you want to spar it out and beat your friends’ times.

Event list mode and Rivals mode are available just underneath the World Tour mode and smartly round up all of the available events and records for you to view in a easy to use system where you can explore other information and driving aspects. Events lists lets you browse all of the races easily in a neat grid organised by class and race conditions; you can also select races here to complete separately from World Tour mode so gamers have a quicker way to get into the action with all experience and rewards still given.

AutoVista isn’t incredibly useful but a nice feature to have anyway. With AutoVista you can explore every inch of your chosen vehicle and interact with various parts too, you can move around it and open doors to climb inside. When you get inside the vehicle you’ll be able to see the great amounts of detail Turn 10 have added to the cars, you can also see this detailing when you’re driving in the cockpit view which adds a touch more class to Forza 4. The attention to detail is staggering as Forza seems to improve on this every time, with the developers adding little touches to bring the series up to speed without destroying the structure within the Forza series.

Forza 4’s online world always seems to have something going on within its walls and the multiplayer lay-out is similar to World Tour with the section tabs being laid out down the left side. Amongst other things here, you can read the news – do it every day and you’ll receive a free complimentary random credit bonus from Turn 10. Races are normally set up without any problems and you’d be surprised at the quality of sportsmanship found in the Forza community (do watch out for the odd hot head though) and you can create a car club if you want to get involved further. If you are the founder of the club you have control over who gets into your club, who’s in charge when you’re gone and create the clubs identity, this can provide groups or clans with an ideal set up to create rivalry online with other clubs. There are online Leaderboards to climb as well as an Auction House where you can bid on cars or sell a few of yours. Forza 4’s online hub caters to a lot of people and does a great job structuring its game for its community. Storefront

Forza 4 is a pretty impressive game all round as it can offer so much for so little effort but if its not appreciated for what it is (a damn good driving simulator) it will leave you behind and lose your attention. However if you look past its slightly cold exterior Forza can offer you streams of activity thanks to its excellent Xbox Live integrated features, all of which work superbly well. I’m starting to wonder if the Forza series will ever truly have a bad title, it wont falter on the technical side of itself anytime soon and will be around for a while yet.

Review: Xbox 360: Need For Speed The Run

150mph down a busy highway, police on one side of you and your rivals on the other, Need For Speed The Run takes its chances on the open road but this racing title uses the Frostbite 2 engine; the engine known for its amazing ability to create human looking humans (I know, human looking humans?). This isn’t normally grounds for criticism but it’s the fact that Black Box have made such a big deal out of the Frostbite engine as a selling point while not using it to its full potential that’s makes it an issue in this racing title. NFS Shift and Hot Pursuit both made good ground with their different directions and were well received by fans and critics alike, which makes the direction Black Box have chosen for The Run a little puzzling.

The Run is structured around a story, an almost transparent story which sets you on a path to play through stages which eventually get you to Las Vegas; a coast to coast dash but in sections. This limits the games one player mode dramatically compared to the previous NFS brethren even though TR has a shiny new engine and a longer development time. However there are still some neat online features to be had, not all have been replaced and there’s the array of cars and unlockables to acquire which the NFS titles usually come up trumps with.

You begin with a rather empty cut-scene where Jack Rourke the protagonist is waking up in a sporty looking number with a few cuts and bruises and is about to picked up by a crane by some unidentified evil men and, well, crushed, Mafia style. Most characters in NFS:TR have some really good textural effects on their skin, and other human details like hair are cleanly displayed without any difficulty. Unfortunately the story only delivers instant disappointment as dialogue is poor and characters seem wooden, thus the interesting idea of creating an overall direction to the experience through a coherent and semi-interactive story is whittled away. This inconvenient story structure also brings some dull and irritating button prompts into the mix, very dull and irritating button prompts in fact, that try and act as filler for Jacks transparent tale of “’urban’ male down on his luck forced to fall back on his sociopathic tendencies to rescue himself from an unfortunate predicament” or rather; “criminal freeing himself from crime with crime”.

You’ll begin you first taste of driving in TR when you scramble into an Audi while some evil bozos are chasing you, instantly you’ll pick up the feel for your car which isn’t great, it has far too much drift. The vehicles don’t seem to have a good weight to them which alters how well your vehicle moves around corners and traffic (or doesn’t) and spinning out (if you haven’t compensated) will occur in the most inappropriate instances if you slightly misjudge a corner or traffic. A more exciting aspect of racing in TR is when your opponents or the police start to get heavy with you, it starts to give you something you expect, driver brutality. The race lines through the courses are built around this aspect and you’ll end up flying through barriers, hitting flimsy objects into the air, trying to avoid a big pile of explosives on trucks; TR does offer some small fork in the road type challenges within your actual objective. After you’ve been introduced to the controls, physics and general layout through this brief initial race, you will meet an old friend of yours, Sam Harper and she’ll get you to pick your first car.

Initially you can choose from five vehicles, two more can be unlocked if you have the limited edition copy of the game. You have most of the big manufactures to choose from, BMW, Nissan and Ford are just a few of them. All the cars you choose form here are classed at tier 4, in other modes you can choose lower tiered cars but for now it’s just this tier and you can check other specs like Drivetrain, handling and performance when and as you view them. You get the three standard view points to choose from when you’re out on the road, dashboard, bonnet and behind car view, the exterior view point is the only usable one as the handling is rubbish and causes too much swinging for an inside view, unless you like feeling nauseous that is.

As you get into the game you will familiarise yourself with the games experience system to level up while racing and unlock some cool extras like Nitrous, Cop Eliminator and many others. Also you’ll get to grips with NFS Autolog feature which takes your best times and posts them online so friends can have a good crack at them. Autolog will also inform you when your friends beat course times and will grant you rewards for slapping a time back at them, this is one feature that offers gamers simple enjoyment as it ties in well with the online capabilities of the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles. When you put these features together you get the basic experience and reward structure of TR which isn’t that bad or good, it just doesn’t move on from these features to open up bigger and better ones, it just adds and adds items and unlocks to your seemingly eternal battle to reach Las Vegas. This makes some middle sections of the game very blurry and uncharacteristic, which isn’t what we’ve been shown from the past titles. NFS titles are normally filled with mad scenarios, awesome sound quality and plenty of driver brutality but it’s hard to find those qualities in TR which is a shame as the promise of a good story to place yourself into was a big draw when it was first announced.

The productivity of the roads and environments you are placed in and around vary as you proceed from urban streets to rural settings. The weather will change occasionally too, creating an environmental type challenge alongside your current one and some of the more rural courses are much better at creating fun and challenging situations and look pretty good too; they get that blood pumping as you miss falling boulders and heaps of traffic by just a nip. There’s crazy jumps to bound over, they’re normally hidden in and around short cuts and there’s a small amount of off road tom-foolery to be had too. There’s one quality TR has down to a T and that’s its sound effects; crashes, traffic and tire squeals all sound sublime and create a nice bite to your best crashes and accidents. Some accidents however can put you out the action for good, there is a rewind feature that doesn’t so much rewind time but resets you to the last checkpoint you passed and half the time you end up behind the A.I you’ve already beaten. Frustrating indeed.

If you need a break from the continuous prologue there’s a couple more sections of the game which open up TR that little bit more, one of those sections is the Challenge Series section which basically involves you earning medals on certain courses. There’s quite a few to get through and they have a range of different restrictions on them too, you’ll work your way down the list of challenges unlocking them as you go and try to earn the most experience so you can to nab all those platinum medals and get your gloat on. Overall it’s a nice time filler but it isn’t mind blowing either, however the Autolog feature does try and keep it fresh by offering you challenges and rewards.

If your looking for a more human challenge TR does offer a healthy multiplayer option to gamers but offers no private lobby feature or slit-screen mode, which limits the games brotential on the sofa. You start by selecting a playlist; playlists contain several unique race sessions of three-five races each and can earn you extra rewards. Playlists can offer a distinct experience as they mix up different locations with vehicle types and performance tiers, here you get the change to mess around with other tiers of cars but with the less powerful ones come some handling issues which ultimately brings the fun down a notch. As always with online modes there are a couple of things to watch out for; disconnecting from the EA servers happens from time to time but not enough to ruin the game online. You can also choose races which promote more sportsmanlike racing for those who like a clean fight and but there’s the Mixed Competition mode for the masochists.

Need For Speed The Run doesn’t even get off to a good running start, it stalls terribly. It does try and make an effort here and there but ultimately the design prevents the title from achieving the things it set out to do and what you’re expecting from the series.

Score: 6/10

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Black Box

Review: Xbox 360: Goldeneye Reloaded

Remember the days when all you needed to do to simply enjoy a game was to either take your pad round a friends house or invite them all over to your gaff? Not that GR needs the nostalgia to help you revisit those times as it builds upon the previous N64 performance by illuminating, evolving and re-animating certain previous elements with a smart 3D infrastructure to the level design.

This ultimately enables the gamer to receive the best experience possible whatever the difficulty, mode or level of skill the gamer has; and it’s because of the carefully implemented tweaks that give Goldeneye a layer of modern polish. These changes have been implemented with obvious love and care which ensures the original action and stealth elements of the beloved Goldeneye are intact throughout the remake but with the added features that you normally associate with the more modern consoles. This brings heaps more of the game-play you love and would normally associate with the N64 classic.

The story isn’t anything special in itself but it helps create the right environments to utilise all of Bonds tasty skills and equipment, there are also slight changes to the character line-up but this doesn’t effect the actual balance of the game. You’ll start off with a little dab of training in a small MI6 training room and if you’ve played the Wii or N64 version(s) you will instantly recognise certain areas and reflect what changes you can see through the previous versions. The control scheme isn’t anything out of this world, most of the commands you will already associate with FPS’s and the new gadgets can be used with the d-pad, this allows even newcomers to create a little bit of pace and fluidity to their in-game combat ability. The only control issue I can see gamers having misgivings with is the rather abrupt and odd button prompt scenes, which create a slight pot-hole effect in the games pace.

You can ultimately play the campaign in two ways, either using the stealth ability of several foam-wrapped mute ninjas to take out unsuspecting evil henchmen or run in like Rambo and watch the mayhem unfold. Both are perfectly viable options to enjoy either way and both bring you a different view and vibe on the campaign, even when you replay levels multiple times. The campaign also has some fitting action orientated cut-scenes which takes you further into the game and keeps the story intact, no plot-holes or seemingly thinly stretched cut-scenes here just added benefits to an already solid experience. The A.I isn’t that dimwitted either even on the easiest difficulty, you can be creeping away and get spotted if you are too brazen, they also dive behind cover and have other oddities to their behaviour to make them that little bit harder to nail in the head.

A welcome addition to the games campaign is the action-packed but sadly brief vehicle sections, these tie-in with parts of the previous version but improve upon and open up some impressive sequences instead. The Tank especially is hordes of fun and incredibly easy to control, you’ll be rolling along firing at buildings to scatter men on foot and then lock-on to some airborne targets as you chase Ourumov through the streets of St. Petersburg. The array of weapons you have access to straight away is a delight, you’re normally made to skimp on ammo or keep your favourite weapons till you need them, thankfully not for Bond though. There is a small amount of collectables in the campaign, not many at all in fact, but the replay value is found when changing the difficulty as this affects your health, objectives and certain features are removed to create an uber hard test for you and Bond to get through. The campaign is about 10 hours of play altogether, throw in the other difficulties plus collectables and at best your looking at 10-15 hours play, however as this is a remake, Bond has a few more tricks up his sleeve thanks to the MI6 mission mode and the return of the mouth-watering multi-player mode.

MI6 Missions basically require you to do one of three things: Elimination, Defence or Stealth your way through the challenge maps. You are scored on many aspects, though it’s mostly speed and you can change several options and stats before you start your challenge, if you change the amount of health you get or the aggressiveness of the A.I in the option menu it changes the overall difficulty rating bonus you will receive at the end of the challenge. There are some bizarre Mission Modifiers to activate if you wish like; Paintball mode, Golden gun and Ragdoll mode which can spice things up on the battlefield… just a little! They are several maps to complete and these add a miniature sense of accomplishment whether completed on some silly hard difficulty or not; this is all user friendly and changeable. The optimisation of the customisation elements of Goldeneye helps accommodate lots of different ranges and levels of skill gamers have and can satisfy even the oddest or most hardcore appetites, also maps are designed so you can get into different positions and utilise certain weapons to complete the mission quicker.

Goldeneye offers up an impressive multi-player selection, the next selection being the split screen mode. You and three others are able to play on 14 maps, with 6 game modes and a staggering 56 characters (including favourites from the bond series) to choose from. Having a four way with Blofeld, Scaramanga and Oddjob is extremely funny, especially if you’re familiar with the characters or the actual bond movies and this wide range of guns, modes, characters and maps creates a Pandora’s box of funnies. Some of these modes are quite creative, modes like ‘You only live twice’ are fun and challenging; as to win you’ll need to be the last gamer standing after everyone has lost their lives and can’t respawn. Eventually, if you’ve had enough of ruining your mates day in your own home you can always take a trip to multi-player land where the boisterous mayhem hits its critical point and you can ruin people’s day online instead.

Multi-player mode as a whole is solid, it gives you a good range of maps and weapon load-outs and the experience system helps keep your attention on getting as many kills as possible in matches. The best way to describe the game-play at times is to compare it to Counter Strike, when everyone is running round with shotguns or smaller more powerful weapons things can get very fast paced. Online games can also start at the other end of the scale on more evasive maps with multiple objects or buildings that create cover, players pick there other long range load-outs and other players take the lead on the scoreboard. When you create your first weapon load-out, you will find some gadget slots that remind you of the perks feature from the COD series. These work really well with a smaller more compact multi-player mode, the differences are more noticeable and can help gamers easily create a better fitting class that can kick-ass. You have 3 gadget slots altogether, one is for proximity, timed or remote mines along with grenades if you wish, proximity mines are especially crafty which makes them a must for gamers that like to be creative. Gadget slots 2 and 3 are for your character and weapon perks, Fast-Forward; increased speed or Snap-Shot; improves accuracy and you have a acceptable amount to switch between. You can get a lot of good game-play from the multi-player side and you can team up with friends too which makes Goldeneye’s multi-player experience an all round brilliant one. The only slight issue is with the amount of players online; you might have trouble filling rooms for Escalation and any modes that differ from Team Death match and One v all.

Goldeneye Reloaded is totally packed with the stuff you really want, it’s filled with the improvements gamers maybe wanted when it was first available on the N64 but had no way of ultimately picturing this dream. Though we, as gamers are used to being spoilt these days with hogs of extras and DLC to comprehend buying, Goldeneye Reloaded takes all of these previous after thoughts, issues and evolution that is achievable and incorporates it into the original design but with vastly improved level design and pace. This is definitely a title to pick up for good if you and your friends are looking for a solid remake of the N64 classic, re imagined by modern minds for current technology.

Score: 7.5/10

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Eurocom Entertainment Software