Episode Six: Crysis 3 and Halo 4 Spartan Ops!

Even more Halo news incoming! This time I take a look at the Spartan Ops CG videos which are rammed with those juicy details and extras we all crave! The CG effects on the videos are incredible and you’ll get to see Sarah Palmer amongst others making an appearance, these videos come tied in with the Spartan Ops missions you can find on the Halo 4 disk. They’re also released periodically every week by 343 Industry’s so don’t panic if you don’t have a copy of Halo 4! Crysis 3 is making a big techy return with its mammoth list of requirements to run… Will you be building or upgrading your PC to play this beauty? Maybe you already have? Let me know in the comments box below!

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Review: Android: Angry Birds Star Wars

Aaaaaaand they’re back again! Sporting the Star Wars theme this time around those Angry Birds are flocking to our itchy little fingers once again to test our patience with a brand new set of birdy powers that mimic some of the most loved aspects from the Star Wars universe.

The Angry Birds themselves are fashioned in the image of the main characters from the books and films; Chewie, Princess Lea, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and many more of the characters you’ll know. These characters also have a set of powers and have upgrades too, meaning the game goes that little bit further and is ultimately set-up to be more of a challenge, Which it is. The chapters are set across five locations one of them being a bonus chapter. Tatooine, Death Star, Hoth and Path of the Jedi are the four chapters you’ll play through trying to nail those three star ratings. There’s new elements to consider too like gravitational pulls, moving stages and objects that are placed to create timed throws. These elements all combine to keep this new spacey instalment of Angry Birds as challenging and fun as it could be but you also steadily unlock other powers and super tricky bonus levels which gives it a better life span.

It’s a very testing game once you get stuck on that level that just simply defeats you every time. Angry Birds often requires a good eye for physics and trajectory to get the best out of it and these new level designs will test those aspects even further than before. I’ve invested over five hours into it and that all whizzed by very quickly, it’s a very good game and continues to offer a worthwhile experience again thanks to the Star Wars universe additions.

While playing it, the noises that you get from the birds, pigs and random objects are very amusing and helps create a childlike atmosphere while you play especially if you have ear phones in for whatever reason. These details really sets the game off well as soon as you pick it up, making it one of my favourite additions to the Angry Birds series. You can immerse yourself rather easily into it and there’s 80 force filled levels to get stuck into and challenge your friends on. Rovio Games seems to have their birdy niche perfected once again, so why not get involved? There’s a free version and a HD version for around £1.99 so there’s no arguments just those ones between the you and the those pigs!

Score: 4.5 / 5

Requires Android  2.2 and up

Angry Birds Star Wars Google Play Link

I also recorded a short video about Angry Birds Star Wars on The Frag Mentality YouTube Channel, You can check that out here!

On Second Thoughts… You better read this!

Fancy a little hand finding those great games you’ve missed? Need someone to steer you away from the past stinkers? Well why didn’t you say?!

Check out my new mini writing feature “On Second Thoughts…” which will take a look at some of those gaming beauties you left behind.

It WILL go live every week or so, unless I’m stopped from delivering my messages of good will gaming by the forces of EVIL.

Oh! and suggestions are always welcome.

Hope you enjoy it a smidge.

CK

Review Xbox 360: Bayonetta

This is a dark and gothic tale of a paranormal fight between good and evil with an amazingly witty but yet sassy female lead, Bayonetta. The game is steeped in witch mythology, epic mythical creatures, beautiful and action filled environments which creates a flawless gaming experience. Compared to past projects such as Devil May Cry and Okami, Hideki Kamiya’s instantly recognizable anime style shines through in this game. Combined with many other elements’ Bayonetta look’s set to create a new benchmark for action titles this year.

The story of Bayonetta revolves around the two ancient clans who harness the power of light and dark, each clan has a mutual respect for one another but the two clans are lead into war by an unforeseen event. Bayonetta is an Umbran Witch, she harnesses the dark demonic powers of the netherworld but is not necessarily 100% evil herself. Alongside this there is the Lumen Sages who draw energy from the light and the same notion applies, there not necessarily 100% good, this makes for an interesting and smart storyline if a little complicated at times. Above this the bigger picture of the story revolves around a universal balance of good and evil. Because of this and the fact that Bayonetta is neither 100% good or evil adds a unique depth to her character. This produces an intriguing depth while watching her making choices but at times the game is insanely random, depending on what kind of person you are this can subtract or add value to the game.

The game is separated into chapters and verses, these are scored by how much time and damage you take while completing that verse, following this you are given the corresponding medal depending on how well you have achieved. Bayonetta is also set in some amazing environments which creates an array of beautiful levels to explore, these two important elements makes the title action packed and captivating all the way through to the end. Bayonetta at times is very creative especially  when it comes to the combat and the monsters you fight, the style, beauty and attention all create an epic atmosphere. Not only do you have your level based fighting but something very unusual happens, you will get odd random verse’s, for example riding a huge missile or riding along a motorway shooting and sliding underneath vehicles. Levels like these are actually quite good fun and help break up some of Bayonetta’s chaos, granted they don’t make much sense but this is a video game partly about  sexy witches…. it’s not going to make sense all the time.

Bayonetta’s combat system is balanced very well, the four slots on your arms and feet give you enough combo customization to be more than happy with, and along with the array of weapons this helps you create your own preferred style and helps keep things fresh when playing through multiple times. It also offers you the change to cross weapons, mixing certain weapons together can be devastating to enemies and helps keep you on your toes, it also gives you a huge amount of attacks to master. A lot of items can be bought using Halo’s (Currency) combos are the same, they can be bought from Rodin your arms dealer at The Gates of Hell, and though the attacks visually are varied the button combinations are all very similar which means using all of the attack moves can be tricky. You can also put off Torture Attacks with punch and kick (Y + B), these are beautifully animated special attacks that you use to inflict serious damage by tapping the right prompted button, some are astounding and all are incredibly entertaining. There is a rhythm to the combat in Bayonetta, you can dodge attacks and if done correctly can cause a slow down period (Witch Time) where you can get more hits onto your target, all these small details add up to an almost flawless combat system.

You are challenged often in Bayonetta by the likes of giant end of level boss’s that seem invincible or impenetrable, but Bayonetta has a way of seeming invincible herself and this can create some epic boss battles. The fact that a massive stone demonic “thing” doesn’t even startle Bayonetta portrays a warrior like attitude and most of the boss battles will feel like this, it’s an incredible feat to achieve and get across to your audience and improves the atmosphere of these fights as Bayonetta’s personality adds so much to certain aspects of the game.

The game has more secrets than Pandora’s Box and after you’ve played the easy modes and have some incredible weapons and combos at your disposal you can try normal mode and above. Normal mode offers more to you in the way of collecting items, like broken pieces of witch heart or broken pieces of moon pearl to increase health and power for Torture Attacks. There are bonus levels involving you completing a certain task called Alfhelm’s, most of these stages are incredibly difficult but only because they take some thought to accomplish. After your first play through you should have collected a good number of Halo’s to spend, accessories are important later on as they hold unique powers that can be used to further your progress, Selene’s Light accessory has the ability to trigger Witch Time when you sustain damage, these are very handy especially when you’re getting your ass handed to you by a group of demons, so purchasing these is a big help later on.

I should mention again the biggest part of this game is insanity, an unbelievable amount of random but uber cool scenes take place throughout the game and will have your jaw hitting the floor in shock at how crazy and unpredictable the title is. This is a very unique selling point to me as you don’t see this much chaos in games being released today or to the extent it has been taken to here. Video Games used to be a lot more farfetched and random back in the day, which just makes Bayonetta stand out even more (If it’s at all possible).

The graphics of the game are better than I expected, especially with the amount of strange “things” in the title like walking up walls, chaining up enemies till they pop, along with the incredible monsters you fight. It’s not just the overall amazing look of the game that’s impressed me but the creative way they have illustrated attacks and Bayonetta’s movements, there’s a lot of attention to detail in every part of the game not just the combat.

This game has entertained me, shocked me, confused me and thrilled me. I haven’t played such an incredible action game in a long time and this is the  same story for most people I’ve spoke to who’ve had the pleasure of playing Bayonetta. The only problem I can see is the story, it isn’t delivered in the best it could have in the first half of the game but when you play the latter half it starts to make more sense and is incredibly good. It has good longetivity too as it has an amazing amount of things and secrets to explore, along with really challenging difficulties will have you returning to play often.

This game is not to be missed out on, even for gamers who aren’t into Bayonetta’s apparent style and humor there’s alot of other things to keep you very happy.

Score: 9.3/10

Published by: SEGA
Developed by: PlatinumGames / SEGA

Review Xbox 360: Left 4 Dead 2

The zombie hordes return as Valve hand us their next instalment of the Left 4 Dead series.

Last year Left 4 Dead arrived on the gaming scene giving everyone a taste of the two sided fight for life and death that is Left 4 Dead, it was incredibly popular with great previews and reviews, also the aftermath of tournaments and competitions online kept everyone excited about it after its release, but will Valves much anticipated sequel quench that urge for brains again?

For those who are not familiar with Left 4 Dead campaign, the aim of the game is for you and your three other team mates to survive various challenges and hordes of zombies to get to the safe point at the end of the level, obviously there is more to the game than that but that basically is your goal. You start with four brand new characters, Coach, Ellis, Nick and Rochelle, there aren’t any differences between these characters so it doesn’t really matter who you pick, there aren’t many improvements to characters apart from some better dialogue shorts when you fight zombies, which isn’t a bad thing the formula of the game works very well but maybe a little customisation where the characters are concerned as it would be nice to add your own personalising touches to your chosen player as they do seem hollow.

Your character will have four item slots controlled using the D-pad, these slots are very important as they hold everything you will need to help fight the hordes. Your starting equipment will consist of a mêlée weapon and a flash light, weapons are cycled through using the Y button but you’re only allowed one mêlée/pistol and one primary weapon, so choose carefully. You can also pick up medic-packs to heal you or your buddies, you can pick up pain pills too which will give you a temporary health boost, items you can pick up will glow blue making them easier to see in the dark. There’s projectile weapons to be found scattered around the levels and these are great when things get very hectic and can help you create strategies to overcome challenges. The rest of the HUD is easily seen and understood so when things get chaotic you can still see health bars and equipment, Valve really have made a game that is accessible to a lot of people because of simple yet effective design.

The chapters are themed much better and levels are more interesting this time around, almost are like walking around on a zombie film set. The campaign Dark Carnival is one of my favourites, the dark damp look with vicious zombie clowns just adds so much suspense, and I have jumped once or twice unexpectedly. The objectives in levels however are a little disappointing, there too straight forward it’s just the zombies that make it hard, more of a stronger puzzle element would have been welcome. The campaigns are a little longer than before but they still don’t seem long enough, I did get through the Normal campaign rather quickly even though the game is tricky at Normal difficulty which is why the other modes are very welcome, there almost better than the campaign its-self.

This time around you’re given a good selection of modes to hack your way through from a hardcore campaign mode called Realism, to battling constant waves of enemies in the Survival mode which seems to be the in thing at the moment with some of the bigger developers.  There’s some cleverly thought out game modes aswell as the more familiar ones, Scavenge mode is an example of this creative but subtle thinking from Valve, it gets you to communicate and work better with the people you’re playing with in an exciting zombie killing manner. The aim of the Scavenge mode is for the four survivors to grab as many fuel canisters while the other four infected try to stop them, simple yes but different and very enjoyable to play with friends. The way you find games online is unique and effective on L4D2, the search results for lobby’s are set out differently to other online menu systems that I’ve seen, having the maps as the category’s means you can easily see the games being hosted on that particular map by selecting the map, no long lists of rooms to scroll through making it a lot easier to navigate online if you’re not playing with friends and especially for people who aren’t totally familiar with online multiplayer side of gaming.

The Survival mode offers a bit more customization in the way of group strategies and is a great way of getting to know the areas you fight in and utilizing it to the best you can, the point is to survive as long as you can, there will be no rescue. You must survive to the maximum allotted time if you want the gold medal and to do this you must really work hard as a group, if you let another team mate die their time stops there giving you a different incentive to help your friends more urgently when in trouble. If you and your friends are still looking for more of a challenge other than the Versus mode then the Realism mode is even more addictively anal, common infected are even harder to kill making headshots a must to save ammo, you must also proceed to the end of the chapter like in campaign but it takes a lot longer to inch your way through the levels and to conserve ammo and health giving you a more raw exciting experience.

These modes are hard, time consuming and challenging, there also thought out well and help direct play in unique and familiar ways for you and your friends. These modes are basically impossible on your own which is a big shame as not everyone plays online all the time and the choice should be there for you, but L4D2 is made for co-op and multiplayer and fails badly to give you the same feeling on your own, the game does depend on your input.

Versus mode can offer some great hours of play with a good variety of characters to pick including the infected. You can take control of an infected if you are on the right team and use their gruesome attacks yourself, this is a lot of fun as the infected ability’s are a great change from firing weapons. Most of the maps work well with Versus mode apart from the smaller maps, they seem to just create chaos especially with common infected running around, the survivors side is equally enjoyable with the array of weapons and equipment you can have, balancing the two teams.

Overall it’s not the best sequel I’ve played, it offers a lot of the same with some minor game-play changes and new modes and as I played the first L4D a lot L4D2 was harder for me to stay involved with as it’s exactly the same and the some excitement wore off prematurely. As games go its polished and unique making you work harder with friends to overcome the horde threats and improve your skills in a very enjoyable way, but I can’t help feel this is what the first title should have been like and with the second title we should have seen some great progression in the series which is a little disappointing, otherwise it’s still a game to adore if you love the zombie game genre.

Gamer Rating: 8.8

Published by: Valve
Developed by: Valve

Review Xbox 360 Arcade: 0 Day Attack on Earth

You will battle through the seven final days that will determine earth’s fate and fight over futuristic metropolitan city’s as you take on the alien scourge in this joystick arcade shooter.

The game has a very original but plain feel, music and menus brings back memories of arcade games on actual arcade machines I used to play and these types of games where, and still are released on the Dreamcast to this day as it’s something I’m interested in, so the market is competitive. The games layout is also very original and plays original, with your tiny band of mini attack craft flying round your screen while large groups of random alien scum try scupper your fight for freedom.. ok, so yeah I like these games a lot and think arcade games are still important in developing original and unique ideas on a small-scale to visualise bigger ideas, but in reality it still has to offer a purpose and entertainment value, especially these days when money is still tight.

You have four different ships to choose from at the beginning and all have various unlock able looks and a bigger meaner looking model, normally named Type-B. Your ships are displayed in the Customise menu option, all eight different models are shown here but locked ships with be blacked out. The chart your ships are displayed in makes it easy to choose your desired vehicle as five different liveries can be unlocked for all of the eight ships and one will have to be selected for use, this also has an addictive quality as the vehicles look like tiny cool Thunderbird Esq toys with a 64 bit vibe. The four different styles of ships ( not counting the Type-B models ) have four different ammo types and these are shown underneath the floating model, they vary well from the Helicopters back and front flamethrowers, to the WW2 Fighter Planes machine gun spray fire (The Jet is slightly weaker than the rest as it has a very slow fire rate) Most vehicles are balanced well enough and have two upgradable attack levels in-game, you get three bombs that can also be triggered  causing extreme damage to everything in a 360 degree radius, adding more action to the battlefield.

The aim of each level is to wipe out the larger alien creatures that have invaded earth within the time limit, these appear on your radar at the bottom left of your screen in red and the other secondary enemies appear in green on your radar, the view-point you have does make it a little hard to find enemies so using your radar to save vital time is necessary but easy. You have a shield which is the green bar at the bottom of the screen, you can refill this by killing enemies and picking up the green crystals they drop, helping you not to die so much. Controls are simple and effective, you fire with the Right Analogue stick as you can fire in a 360 degree radius, bombs are deployed with RB button and Boost is used using the LB button, fighting can get hectic sometimes so the simpler control scheme helps you navigate through the chaos more effectively but does come at a price, it will become very painfully repetitive after a couple of hours, which I find is stupidly addictive but others may find  too much or not interesting enough to hold their interest. I was pleasantly surprised at the enemies you fight as they do have some challenging attacks, like exploding pods firing tiny floating… creatures? Things maybe? I’m not sure but they were tricky, keep your eyes peeled as you progress as different units will be introduced to you ( Larger enemy ground units stay the same each stage )

The levels themselves are designed and polished off very well, very clear and detailed in places. The overall look of the maps adds so much arcade flavour to the fighting, adding more of a quality feel. The different city’s/stages you visit also have different looks, the enemies and units are different for each stage too helping to create that “next stage” feeling as some joystick shooters I’ve played can feel like one long level.  

The levels do get much harder as you progress, normally giving you more of the larger enemies to kill before the times runs out, this gets more and more tricky as sometimes the game will just throw more of the smaller enemies at you, the smaller ones are normally the most dangerous annoyingly. These games are normally frustratingly hard but this title has four player co-op, making it a little bit more accessible to gamers who haven’t spent most of the early hours of the morning listening to repetitive music and playing the same level of PacMan over and over. It is online co-op only though and the connection to the host can be unstable at times unless you have a signal above three bars, which leads to lag if you don’t have a good connection, which inevitably causes death. There is also the Capture the Flag and Control Point multiplayer modes you can take part in, again the same problems arise with lag but there are some players online playing an arcade title for once. You can unlock liveries in most of the modes giving them all a reason to be played but there isn’t enough incentive to keep you playing other than collecting the ships, so the co-op mode is much-needed for this game to be enjoyable for long.

Though the game looks good and is, I guess, developed well with no problems or glitches it doesn’t exactly have much to offer apart from what I’ve already stated which is a run of the mill joystick shooter but with a few perks. After a couple of hours here and there it can become a bit of a chore to play, to me it’s something I will beat myself up with and enjoy for a while but I can see gamers getting rather bored with it and left feeling unchallenged. It’s 1200 MSP which is a big ask and though it is good, it’s not good for long enough to constitute 1200 MSP, for people who love this sort of thing it’s practically perfect but I think this formula of game needs tinkering with for the gamers of today.

Gamer Rating: 6.3

Developer: Gulti CO.LTD.

Publlisher: Square Enix.

Review Xbox 360: Divinity 2 Ego Draconis

This is a tale of a broken land, the people of this world are fighting for peace and prosperity, fighting against evil to free Rivellon of the evil that has risen once again. You are a dragon slayer a highly trained individual spliced with dragon memories to bring you closer to your foe, you are born to slay dragons! This direction is original and Divinity II has an extra dimension, not only are you born to fight dragons you can posses dragons to control and fight with them, making this RPG very tempting for Role playing fans, and fans of mystic creatures and magic.

The first title Divine Divinity was released on CD-ROM in 2002 developed by Larian Studios, Divine Divinity also had a spin off called Beyond Divinity which was released in 2004 on PC , and the difference being with this title is the player could control two characters with full equipment, an interesting direction for Larian to take. Finally Divinity 2: Ego Draconis was released in 2009 on Windows and Xbox 360 platforms after extra time had to be spent to create a full and intriguing game for fans that had patiently waited. I’m relieved to say in the introduction to the game you can feel the mystical RPG vibes even at the start menu, and the game does have an epic ancient feel, the story and voice acting is implemented well and helps bring this long awaited sequel to life. There is however only so much a studio like this can accomplish, even though it’s an incredible feat to release a charming RPG like this it does have drawbacks and problems.

As you begin there is a quite beautiful cut scene with a strange old man on some hovering ship, then it takes you to a warrior chasing a dragon down at ground level, not the most informational cut scene ever created and not the longest either but I’m guessing it’s trying to tell you there is pending danger in the sky’s. After this slight wobbly start you will create and customize your slayer, there isn’t much to customize at the beginning and more work here would have been appreciated, it does feel awfully plain and you may start to doubt if this is a game worth investing time into. Not soon after this your worries should be calmed a little as the game starts to unravel its charm, after leaving your epic flying battle ship you will be introduced to Rhode. Conversations in Divinity 2 take place in boxes, voice acting is great but the constant “over acting” from the characters will make you laugh, it is pretty extreme.

After this unsteady start the game will pretty much let you do what you want, you don’t even have to take the tutorial as it’s optional and tucked in a corner of the first village you will visit, leaving you with a whole world at your finger tips. Camera position is good and camera views aren’t much a problem but not always effective, leaving most of your adventuring a nice and smooth experience as well as general movement being easy to master. Sadly right from the word go there is some rather bad frame rate issues, no doubt because of the amount of detail that has been packed into this title, you can learn to live with it but obviously no frame rate issues would have been better, there are also some sharpness issues which cuts into the quality of the world around you, objects standout because they look sharp and untidy, these two problems don’t spoil the game play just takes away from the whole visual experience.

The beginning of the game is challenging and will make you hunt for anything you can sell to get better gear and you will have to train for long periods of time before you take on any quests as they are a challenge. It’s not objective of the quest that’s the challenge its fighting groups of enemies, its basically suicidal and you will have to plan your attacks carefully as it gets very tricky to execute plans as the combat is better for fighting one enemy at a time not groups, and enemies will just mob you making death inevitable, It is irritating at times but other times it just seems like more of a challenge, saving often helped me progress quicker and overcome this. The game does get a little easier when you get above level 5, skills and stats can be improved slightly also by now you should have some half decent equipment for your level of character from caves and quests and more visual customisation options are available as you come across different styles of equipment.

The aim of the game is basically to proceed through the story improving your character and your skills along the way, you can also collect random things running around on your adventures with the obligatory crate searching which is what adventuring is all about. There isn’t a great deal of items to collect off the ground compared to other games I’ve played in its genre but there’s enough to keep you content, also variety of armour and weapons is rather slow at first and trying to proceed through the first parts of the game is a challenge so expect to invest a lot of hours to see some cool equipment. The enemies you fight aren’t the best looking enemies you’ve ever fought and don’t show a great deal of creativity in design compared to the incredible beings I’ve seen in other games which makes running around training a little stale at times. The problem for me with the combat is camps of enemies don’t respawn bringing gameplay to an uncomfortable crawl when training, this means if you don’t find new same level training areas you can’t proceed as you will be killed by higher levels of enemies very quickly, this isn’t making the game more of a challenge it’s creating a problem for gamers to proceed enjoyably through the game.

Just as you get proficient at what you’re given so far the gameplay takes a slight twist and you will be shown how to control a dragon but only for a short period. You can only fly and attack with the dragon you can’t run around with it so you are directed through these parts when they’re triggered, it’s really quite fun and makes a unexpected and exciting change compared to working hard on improving your character. There are more CG story scenes too throughout the game but because they’re short they don’t help explain what you’re doing or help build the story up, watching dragons fighting is cool but a bit more story telling wouldn’t go a miss. It takes a long time to get to these more exciting parts but it is definitely worth it, it’s such a great direction to take in a game where you invest a lot of time.

As you gain experience you can upgrade skills and attributes, all equipment and skills can be found in the pause menu, which becomes tiring quickly as flicking through tidy but slow menu systems isn’t much fun. Skills are presented well with small circle symbols representing the certain skill and all these are in an easy to use table that separates your mage skills from your warrior skills. When you go to upgrade skills and you’re not sure what they do, a small video is available so you can get the best out of your skill points as levelling up is hard work. Your equipment menu system basically does the job but is a little boring, same is to be said about your logbook, your logbook stores important information about quests and conversations but is hard to navigate and read. You can access your map with the select button but you will find missions hard to track as they’re hard to spot on the map, the map does help you navigate and irritates you at times. Thankfully the waypoint system is decent and they are well placed too, easing the pain of epic journeys but the point of Diversity is to explore your world and investigate every nook and cranny. There are a good amount of caves to venture through and tombs to pillage from so exploring is enjoyable, also there’s alot of objects to look into for valuables in caves making them a bit more rewarding, like tombs should be. 

As with most RPG’s when you progress more power is given to you and your skills become wide spread. Wandering around smiting enemies is enjoyable at this point in the game even with the dodgy targeting system, and you will have a lot more loot to sell opening up more things to enjoy and upgrade. Quests become better as you proceed, killing a ghost in a church basement isn’t totally boring but more exciting quests are open to you as you progress. World design in general is reliable, set out well and combat areas can be navigated through without too much irritation but as the game isn’t polished well another minor irritation is you might occasionally fall through the floor old school glitch style, there’s a lot of these minor irritations that bring the game down slowly. Though to help direct those long hours of gameplay and ease the pain of these little problems you will be given a place to come back to after epic quests to use and create items with those ingredients you have collected, and to buy and sell equipment to the various merchants that will be there. This whole home side to the game will give you something to work on while you do side quests and adventuring and is very welcome after hording a lot of loot.

With a game like this it is going to have its problems but as you spend more and more time you might feel more and more disappointed, it has its enjoyable parts but not enough to keep you battling through to the end, even with the cool possessing dragons slant Larian Studios took. It could have been something different for RPG fans, bringing back some of the older more enjoyable PC RPG element’s for console gamers is a great idea but the Xbox 360 console version is too inconsistent leaving you feeling robbed of your time. If you’re really into this type of game and like spending silly amounts of time beating one game id still give it some thought, it would be a lot wiser to invest in a PC version of the game, but as for everybody else, well they will become bored and lost in the game it is too much of a challenge to overcome its problems and enjoy what’s there, which is a shame it shows a lot of hard work but with a couple of more weeks polish up time this could have been enjoyable and not so irritating.

Gamer rating: 6.2

Buy, Rent or Pass: Rent

Publisher: CDV Software
Developer: Larian Studios

Review Xbox 360: Risen

Risen is a third person clumsy RPG with some basic gameplay features but look close enough and there is the start of some good ideas from piranha bytes, just none of them explored fully or used in a constructive manner.

The starting story cinematic looks good but is incredibly random, doesn’t tell you anything about where you are, who you are, or who the guy is with the ruby stuck in his eye. A huge monster appears and the man with the ruby eye tries to attack the creature but fails miserably then vanishes, a huge wave knocks over the ship you are travelling on and smashes it into many tiny pieces. This is where your frustration begins.

You’re washed up on a beach with multiple dead bodies around you, your tutorial will start here but is no help what so ever. So I’m stumbling around trying to get used to the movement of my character which is pretty poor, you can’t change the sensitivity either so swinging the view around violently will happen quite often. The only positive thing I can say about the movement is the side stepping, it’s useful when you pick up multiple objects on the ground but otherwise expect to fight with the character view often, which is especially annoying when in small rooms and not open spaces.

You will also get your first taste of combat if you venture left along the beach, combat is extremely poor and quite unfair. Fighting one enemy isn’t so bad, just takes a bit of thinking and guessing when the enemy is going to dive forward to attack you but when you parry enemies’ attacks you still take damage, I do not understand this myself and it really isn’t helpful. When you’re confronted with more than one enemy almost certainly expect death, multiple enemies just run round you attacking you at will, the view point makes it almost impossible to change direction to face a foe and the movement makes it extra hard to set yourself up to just fight one enemy, never mind five.

The start of the game is also not user friendly, I wouldn’t expect the main stream audience to be able to play this at all as I had trouble locating myself on the map and even finding the map in the first place, you aren’t told any advanced controls leaving you stranded and lost in the game. There’s a woman you know washed up on the beach too you go up to her to start your quest, the way the conversations are set up is pretty old school RPG but done in a cheap vulgar way, some voice acting can be appreciated especially if it’s funny in a stereotypical RPG fashion but otherwise you will be pressing skip alot. When you skip conversations you miss out on important detail to get you submerged into an RPG world, Risen having very poor voice acting and dialogue means it will suffer almost immediately in the way of depth and a decent story line, you don’t feel part of the Risen world you just wander over the top of it trying to force yourself to enjoy some terribly designed old RPG elements.

So I got used to these problems and continued to play just to be confronted by more problems, I did think the gameplay would become hollow/boring for a while after the initial tutorials and starting story but it isn’t for the simple fact you’re barraged with a multitude of problems even during just relaxed play, exploring is a key part in RPG games and the way the area’s are set out is just confusing and misleading especially when your map is unusable and quite frankly pointless, even games with a small budget can get the level layout to a certain standard with a little bit of level testing and thought.

As you explore round the areas you can pick up random objects up off the ground, there’s not a huge variety but enough to ease the stress a little from the combat. You can check these in your inventory, your inventory works well enough for you not to get angry with it every ten minutes but because the menu system is small and fiddly you might have a problem seeing and reading when you have which is not great, I ate something random thinking it was a life potion, it wasn’t a life potion and I died because of this clumsy fault. I do however like the basic idea of the inventory you can bring it up while you’re running about getting your ass kicked and I like the little squares, it makes everything accessible and easy to use it’s just a shame they didn’t spend more time refining it.

Not only does the game lack some much needed thought it also makes you jump through it’s ridiculous hoops as you try to do the simplest of tasks in the menu. You can bring up the map using the D-pad, you can also bring up the quest information menu but it brings the world map up alongside the quest info making reading quests out of tiny boxes very irritating and hard work. When you bring up your equipment screen you can see what armour you have on and what advantages/disadvantages some items have, you however bizarrely cant change your equipment here it makes you bring up your inventory to equip an item, then you have to open the equipment info tab up again just to see what effect it has on you…. this is a major annoyance and takes all the fun out of changing weapons and armour.

This game either makes you go without RPG elements or forces you to do things the hard way, travelling round the Risen world is time consuming and difficult, and not in the rewarding way either. There are no waypoints making travelling well just about impossible, wasting time running from one place to another is annoying but not the biggest problem you will face. When you run from place to place no doubt you will be set upon by multiple foes that are much harder than you, you can’t gain exp to get to a higher level as enemies are too hard and are in too greater number, this is a really nasty gameplay hole you will end up falling into, training your character is supposed to be enjoyable it’s not supposed to be neon impossible and irritating.

The fact the game looks pretty messy and below average doesn’t help, character models look ancient and very stereotypical and the maps and areas around you are quite despicable. There are odd patches of grass on top of flat texture less ground and the loading of level detail like the grass and bushes is very poor, they fade into shot when you’re just two steps away from them. The screenshots I saw are hard to believe now I have the title, I haven’t seen anything as beautiful or interesting like it has on the box, which annoys me as customers could be mislead. All the vegetation and trees look flat from every angle which makes the game feel flat and boring and the lack of texture on most surfaces adds to this problem further making the visual experience very poor indeed.

I did read into the history of the studio Piranha bytes and it sounds like they are trying to bring their old Gothic series back under another name, I also read this series was popular back in the day and I have come to the conclusion they just haven’t improved the layout of this series and have failed to evolve the game so it would fit this generation of gamer. I am disappointed, this studio has obviously produced games that are playable and people have enjoyed, it just seems like they haven’t tried too hard with this title and there are alot of great and epic RPG’s out there which just put this title to shame.

Some aspects of this game do remind me of the online 2D MMORPG Tibia, the way you can cook food, join guilds and the inventory system also reminds me of some of the old school features that Tibia has, which is a different direction/slant to bring to the 360 but Piranha bytes fail badly in making a game you can play and enjoy as the basics and foundations of the game just aren’t right and you can see this quite clearly from the start of the game. Everything is either boring for example quests, wandering around and talking to other characters, or faulty and difficult to even perform, like the combat, equipping of items and movement.  Overall it’s a pretty irritating experience with many fault’s which is a shame as I love Sacred 2 and Elder scrolls for the original Xbox, and Risen had some of the same vibes and I thought there might have some parts I could have enjoyed, however I didn’t and I can’t see anything apart from achievement’s that would keep you playing this for more than a day.

Gamer Rating: 3

Buy, Rent or Pass: Pass

 

Review Xbox 360: Ghostbusters the video game.

Terminal Reality developed this title and with many of the old cast from the movies gives this title a sense of excitement with what it could have to offer for 360 gamers and also fans of the series in general. It’s basically the third movie but it has been docked and shaped to fit this third person action video game.

Many of the original cast members from the films were involved in the game’s production. Each of the actors who portrayed the Ghostbusters in the films, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson have their film characters in this game and have lent their voices and likeness to the game, which brings a good whole original feel for the games story to be built upon. I’m not going to get into the story too much but its solid and believable from the movies prospective, which again helps this title have that big heart and humour the films had. The humour is very original and works very well, had me laughing and smiling a lot which makes a nice change from brutal humour or serious drama, it hits that friendly funny comedic genre which is defiantly what a game like this, with the background it has, should be aiming for. You are portrayed as the newbie, a recruit in the Ghostbusters ghost fighting team, which helps bring your character into the story so you’re not left out and frees the other four for dialogue and humour.

When you start you’re introduced to the gang as the rookie, after the initial starting cut scene you have your first taste of ghost hunting. You have a third person view where you can use your proton pack, and a first person view where you can look for signs of ghost and paranormal activity using your goggles and PKE meter. In the first person mode you can find signs of ghosts which get saved in the pause menu but you can also look for artefacts, random haunted objects famous through time, these are also saved in the pause menu. This view also helps to spice up game play by giving you a usable different view point, so it is basically a 3rd and 1st person game as it pulls both views off well.

The object of the game is basically play through each level dispensing of ghosts and getting to the bottom of this disturbance in your reality, which can lead you to parts of the plot and the more famous enemy characters from the movies. When you fight ghosts there are a couple of stages you must put them through to capture them but it isn’t that difficult. You must first sap the ghosts health away with your proton pack then, when your ghost is on low health you must lasso it and slam it off walls to stun it, then drop a trap with the X button and move your ghost over to the trap and wrestle with it until it is sucked in, it’s not that hard and you can become rather good at it capturing many ghosts quickly but after a while does become a bit old constantly capturing ghosts, but the fact you can collect information on them if you can scan them helps keep you focused on collecting information than constant ghost bashing.

The levels are nicely layered out some with limited space to fight and some levels in the street with a lot of space to fight in, you can also damage everything around you and the damage you do is totalled up in the pause menu when you look through your stats, it’s always nice to see how much or little destruction and havoc you cause in a game. The game has a lot of fun detail as well from funny banter not just between the four famous characters but they also joke with you as well, you rookie character become one of the team and you do see it and feel it. Levels have a good lot of detail especial when you can destroy just about everything you can also pick objects up and move them with your proton pack, adding a small puzzle element.

The bosses are epic but either are seriously hard or pathetically easy, which gives the game inconsistent level endings, which is a big shame that the levels flow well and are consistent, to then have a hit or miss boss. The bosses are entertaining especially when you encounter one from the movies and there is a lot of good humour between the bunch. There are also a good variety of enemies to capture and kill as not all enemies are ghosts, which is a must as you collect data and helps keep the game entertaining.

Your proton pack come with a few perks as well, you can upgrade your proton pack with points you collects from artefacts, ghost data and just from capturing ghosts (with your trap not a team mates). You also unlock other types of steams with your proton pack, from slime (which is brilliant for covering your friends with) to stasis streams. These different streams do a number of things, a stasis stream is made up of dark matter and can slow down or even freeze enemies, which is good for super fast ghouls. You also have slime tethers which are exactly what they sound like, slime string, which they use in game very well. You must use a variety of weapons not just on ghosts but in your surroundings too, adding depth to the levels, and you have a secondary attack for all four different streams, which again helps to keep it fresh and take out multiple enemies when over whelmed. The only problem I have with this whole system is it can get very confusing having four characters in one level with proton packs, especially in smaller areas. You can often knock yourself down or hurt others, so you have to run over and save there Ghostbusters rump from peril… again… and again. Also your main proto stream is very bright, again especially when you cross a friends stream but Iam not entirely sure how they could have got past this problem except for all levels to be huge, which wouldn’t have worked with the story. No game is perfect unless you love it to bits but this problem will become more apparent when you progress through the game, big shame.

The game looks better than I was expecting it to be, I was expecting some quality to be cut somewhere but all is above the normal 360 standard. In fact the faces of all characters including your rookie character have great emotion detail, making the jokes even funnier! This makes all the characters feel real and almost movie like which adds a good overall quality to characters and the story line. The level quality is good but you can tell a lot more work has been put into the more important story and character detail, which is nice to see as game play and feel should always come before anything else, I game is supposed to be enjoyable overall not a chore to play.

Voice acting is brilliant, and I’d like to say as someone who has enjoyed this title, thank you. The humour really does add a lot of Ghostbusters heart to the game which fills me full of joy as I loved Ghostbusters when I was younger and was a little hesitant to buy this as it’s a game of a movie and that genre hasn’t particularly held up its side of the deal with rushed and empty games, but with your favourite loved characters making (maybe) a last appearance on our screens just makes you glad you bought/rented it. To go out in style in a computer game is a brilliant way to say thanks to all the fans, which you will pick up on playing this title even if you weren’t a fan or haven’t seen the films.

Like most 360 games sadly Ghostbusters doesn’t really take that long to complete on normal so it doesn’t have a long life a head of it, but that doesn’t mean I will be trading it in, I won’t be. I was really hesitant with this title and was very hard on it but it has given me so much joy and fun I have seen what it truly offers, fun, laughs and some good action. The fact it has four play co –op over Xbox live gives it an even better twist, Xbox live its self breathes community like life into all 360 titles and shouldn’t be underestimated. Story is very enjoyable and is the backbone of this game (makes a change) but along with steady and challenging combat and bosses, leaves you satisfied, not ecstatic but happy. It has a lot to offer to a lot of people but doesn’t come without its flaws, Ghostbusters however could please a much bigger child friendly market, I can see groups of kids enjoying this over Xbox live with four player co – op and with no hint of violence, which the 360 need more off as not all its customers are over 18. Ghostbusters shouldn’t be missed even with its flaws as it offers something that people have been asking for, entertainment!

Gamer Rating: 8

Buy, Rent or Pass: Rent

Published by: Atari
Developed by: Terminal Reality

Originally posted at www.xboxliveaddicts.co.uk

Review Xbox 360: Wolfenstien

You are Allied agent B.J. Blazkowicz, you’ve been sent into the city of Isenstadt deep behind enemy lines to stop the Third Reich from developing mysterious powerful artefacts. These artefacts hold huge power and use Black sun energy which unveil secrets and hidden paths that you will need to use to become successful in stopping the Third Reich from global domination. Agent Blazkowicz will need to work with the resistance in this city to stop the Third Reich; pockets of resistance will be found throughout the city and will be marked on the city map. This structure helps support the incredibly farfetched story and gives a free play element with the games story’s detail as you can talk to members of the resistance for information on several different things, but most is dialogue filler to add depth to other characters in game. 

There are little story events as you play through in certain areas along with more pointless dialogue. The script is structured well but is too heavy for the average shooter fan. The story is often overpowered by the constant action and violence but is interesting and necessary to move the game along to its ending.

The controls are just like COD 4 making the game very easy to play from the start. You don’t get much of a tutorial apart from certain points in the game where certain artefact powers are explained to you. Your thrust into the city and your soon on your feet as the compass at the top of the screen is easy to follow and movement is quick and smooth. You will notice straight away it has a lot of shooting action, Nazis are killed very easily but there are plenty of them, it’s the stranger more powerful possessed enemies you should worry about as they have weaknesses that need to be exploited to kill them, giving two different experiences in combat which is everywhere on the streets.

You also get a puzzle vibe from Wolfenstien as you have an artefact yourself which gives you a unique insight into another dark dimension. You have various powers giving the levels more depth and gives it another side other than the fantastic bloody gore, it also helps introduce a collection side to the game as you can collect large amounts of gold and intelligence round the city and in individual levels and even more so by using your powers. There is a lot of gold to collect in the whole game bit too much and you have to read the intelligence you get which gets very old very quickly but your are rewarded with the chance to upgrade your ability’s or buy weapons whenever you are back in the city. Some of wolfenstien’s puzzle elements work really well like the Viel Sight, look for a sun like symbol on painted onto walls then activate the viel power (Down on D-Pad) and the wall will disappear, this gives the game a good twist and is very useful. You also have the Mire power which slows down time allowing you to overcome obstacles and creates good puzzle sequences and outcomes. The Shield power is also used in different ways to progress through the game, protecting you from dangers or multiple enemies.

The guns are somewhat varied from traditional WW2 weapons to strange high tech but large crude weaponry like the Particle cannon, can change the feel of the combat completely from WW2 shooter to rampaging violence. There are also the regular mounted weapons and explosive barrels to use and good old smash boxes for ammo trick, though grenades are disappointing as the explosions and special effects aren’t great and leave a lot to be desired as most 360 titles are up to a certain standard.

The look of the levels are good but that’s it…. just good, but level design does fit well with the WW2/alien artefacts style that is Wolfenstien and it does portray a dark gothic style. There is a lot of gore, there is a lot of body dismemberment but the blood effects aren’t great either which is acceptable but slightly irritating as it wouldn’t have taken much to polish of a few sides of Wolfenstien to give you more simple pleasures like bloody headshots.

The fact that secrets could be hidden round you constantly keeps you on your toes looking for gold and has the 1st person shoot side, feeding you gore and action when tired of robbing Nazi gold. You can also upgrade your weapons sometimes making them look strange…. this helps to keep you interested and rewarded but finding every piece of gold? Good luck. The game itself is incredibly easy, a small amount of enemy’s are challenging but the puzzles aren’t challenging just different and your objectives aren’t hard either but you can still get a lot of fun out of the split personality wolfenstien has.

With all of this thrown in together in a Nazi like blender, the overall game play is interesting and entertaining for long periods of time but I can’t help feel they have brought it down with too much dialogue and too little emotion when the story scenes occur and can leave a bit of a black smudge on the title for its portrayal of its story, it is very boring to sit through. The offline campaign is too short especially with the free play and level style wolfenstien has and could make better use of its overall structure. It does however give you a different shooter to get your teeth into and attention has went into the multiplayer as well the online gives this title a longer life. You have varied modes to choose from and is set out like a simplified version of COD 4’s online but with Bad Company’s soldier classes, however the lag is appalling but you can get a good amount of decent online matches (a lot of the achievements for this game are online)

Overall Wolfenstien gives you two different shooting experiences between Dark dimensions and advanced ancient technology, and the WW2 bolt action rifles and grenades theme, both play well and merge seamlessly to give you instant access to each, creating interesting puzzles and interesting ways of solving them. Sadly it is too short and the great fighting and level structure goes to waste as there isn’t enough to play, along with most of the enemy’s are really easy to kill and a small amount of bosses, leaves the game flat and it has the same feel start to finish but with really good game play elements and ideas. The online multiplayer is much more rewarding with many more interesting modes and features to explore, which is good don’t get me wrong but should not have sacrificed the offline campaign for a better shooter online experience as COD 4 soaks most of the online user base up then followed by Bad Company and others, so it’s only worth a rent even for the online, for the simple fact it’s far too short but great ideas and cross world gaming experience.

Gamer Rating: 7.2

Buy, Rent or Pass: Buy 

Published by: Activision
Developed by: Raven Software

Originally posted at www.xboxliveaddicts.co.uk