Remember Me reviewed

Capcom's game has many memorable moments!

7.1 Surround Sound for the masses

Want cinematic sound quality? Then Mad Catz 720+ may be for you

DayZ: a new approach to survival horror

DayZ, a mod for Arma 2, is unlike any other horror game that came before

Best of the worst bad habits in gaming

Megabits of Gaming takes a look at five of its favourite gaming characters who have bad or slightly seedy habits.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My five tips for the top in 2010

Many of you may disagree with me but I think 2009 has been a stinker for game releases. According to the Official Xbox Magazine, there were 187 of them for Microsoft's console alone. Granted, we've seen the likes of Modern Warfare 2 leap to the top of the charts, smashing all known records along the way. And yes, the much anticipated Forza 3 has improved on its predecessor. PS3 exclusive Uncharted 2 also built on the success of the original, and no doubt tempted many shoppers to open their recession-hit wallets and part with their last few pennies.

And next year there are plenty more games heading to the High Street. There's Bayonetta, Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, Army of Two: The 40th Day and Halo: Reach to name but a few - and I'm certain that they're all going to fly off the shelves. But seeing as this is my blog, indulge me for a moment as I highlight five others that have really got me salivating!
  1. Top of my list has to be Crackdown 2, the sequel to my most played disk on the Xbox 360. It takes place a decade on from the original and the gangs are back, as are all manner of mutants. Harness your superpowers, leap buildings in a single bound and chuck cars about with aplomb - it's more of the same... but bigger and better. Sure, it takes place in the same city - which many, including myself, keep on whinging about - but what a city! A true sandbox title with plenty to do and many miles to explore, this will take some beating at next year's awards ceremonies. A glance at the trailers suggest that the multiplayer option will be beefed up somewhat too as it looks like you'll be joined by many more agents in your quest. The difficulty may be ramped up a little as well - but hopefully with some new weapons and vehicles on the cards, it shouldn't be too much of a problem!

  2. Next up is Fable III - and being a Molyneux fan, I really can't wait for the next visit to Albion. Mr M has had more hits than misses over the years - and although I really despised Black & White, the appeal of controlling a giant cow and crushing villagers to make my cow more evil was an inspired idea. And that's what he does! He comes up with ideas that make you want to try his games because they sound innovative and fun. I spent countless hours on Fable II and loved it from top to toe: the graphics were cute and colourful but managed to create a vibrant and believable world, and the characters were well thought out and earnt the players' fondness as the various quests progressed. Aside from the bigamy and orgy elements, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a title to be enjoyed by the younger gamer - but there's plenty of adult humour here! There are scant details about the next version right now, but there are suggestions that it may make use of the revolutionary(?) Natal motion control peripheral, which should also emerge next year.

  3. Driving games rarely get my motor running but I am really looking forward to Split/Second. Remember how fun racing games used to be? Few boasted realism and millions of cars a decade or so ago... instead, there were some that allowed you to drive around a track blowing stuff up or ramming rivals off the road. Carmageddon and Roadkill were inspired ideas! With Split/Second it looks as though this fun factor has again been cranked up a notch; you don't just race around a track - nah, you destroy the track as you go. Drive well, power up and you soon get the ability to trigger events that can take your opponents out of the race. Blow up a building, drop something on top of your rivals to crush them, or set off an explosion to open up a shortcut. This release could be a massive hit... or it could crash and burn!

  4. I've been going on about APB for ages, and for good reason. I loved some of the heist missions in GTA IV - running about the city with your fellow thieves while being chased by the boys in blue... it was absolutely fantastic. It transferred well to online play too - the cops and robbers mode was great fun and never got dull. For that reason, I'm expecting APB - or All Points Bulletin - to achieve great things. Create a character, pick a side and then join hundreds of players online to wreak havoc or clean the streets. Could this perhaps be the next decade's equivalent to massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft?

  5. All of which brings me to Brink. A few months back Borderlands emerged to little fanfare but highlighted the fun that can be had with a shooter that allows other players to join you mid-game. Brink will offer much the same; you can be playing alone one minute, only to have your friends leap into your game the next... no slowdown or loading screens, just instant co-op action. Fantastic!

None of these of interest to you? Why not check out Kotaku's picks for the year ahead....

(Photo credit: ArtBrom)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Crackdown trailer tempts me back

Talk about longevity. I've just embarked on my fifth playthrough of cult classic Crackdown on the 360 - and once again I'm thoroughly hooked!

As if bounding about the place collecting those infernal agility orbs wasn't addictive enough the first time round, resurrecting all the gangs and scaling the tallest towers to find the final few glowing green globdules is still consuming my every spare moment. It just never gets dull.

As news of the sequel finds its way into the public domain I've come to realise just how much I loved the original and had to go back for more.

And I've just discovered the delights of co-op play - and now share the experience with fellow blogging cohort Ibwib (apologies for the many friendly fire incidents!). The dip in, dip out mechanic works superbly, allowing a fellow agent to jump into the middle of your game to offer assistance.

Despite the many hours already invested in this fantastic game, I've still only gained around half the achievements and am yet to impound the required vehicles, complete the many rooftop races or max out my driving skills.

Unlike other games in the sandbox genre, there really is a sense of freedom in Pacific City - and racing around each of the three districts offers plenty of variety. The gangs are suitably varied too and there's a noticeable increase in difficulty as the game progresses. Try tackling some of the tougher bosses without taking out the lesser guys first - no matter how souped up your agent is - and you'll soon find yourself regenerating with irritating regularity!

No doubt I'll keep on replaying Crackdown even after my latest stint - and will probably complete it a few more times over the coming months - until the sequel makes a welcome appearance.

I'd been pretty critical on some forums in recent months, bemoaning the fact that the aptly-named Crackdown 2 will be set in the same old city, with no new streets to roam and no new buildings to climb. But having read the latest teasers on numerous websites and watched the new trailer below, I'm starting to come round to the idea. Why change a winning formula anyway?

This was the first game I played to death when I pulled my shiny Xbox out of its packaging for the first time all those years ago - and despite investing many paypackets in a glut of heavily hyped titles since, nothing quite comes close to the enjoyment I've experienced with Crackdown.

Looks like the sequel will offer more of the same gaming goodness but with larger explosions, a bigger emphasis on online play and of course, zombie-like locals! It's been a long time coming but I've no doubt it will be one of the hits of 2010... and I'll be first in the queue to pick up my copy!

In the meantime Agent, why not chase down those final few achievements?

(Photo credits: DavidHT, Major Nelson)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: Bioshock

(Submitted by Ibwib)

Poor old Bioshock has become the Tiger Woods of gaming in the last few weeks, its formerly glittering fa├žade apparently showing some signs of tarnish. Why is that? Because of the internet, of course.

A digit in the year is about to change and consequently every real and wannabe journalist (and on the internet, who can tell them apart?) has decided to mark the end of the decade with a list. Personally, I think the end of the decade should be marked with an insightful and wide-ranging article full of relevant interviews and research that seeks to encapsulate and learn from the preceding ten years, but I haven’t got the time to write it and nor does anyone else, so lists it is.

Anyway, despite having praise liberally heaped upon it ever since its debut in 200
7, Bioshock’s presence in the never ending stream of best of lists which we’re using to finally smother the noughties out of their embarrassingly named misery has got a lot of people’s backs up. “It’s not revolutionary enough.” “It didn’t change the way we play games.” “It holds your hand to much.”

To be fair, those aren’t inaccurate criticisms. At its heart, Bioshock is just another first person shooter. It’s easy to be a little underwhelmed by it, but seriously, don’t write it off the big lists just yet. This is the decade that saw the likes of Madworld and Far Cry 2 hyped to the rooftops. That’s what happens if you don’t keep a firm grasp on the concept of what a good game is.

There’s more to Bioshock than what Yahtzee memorably described as objectivist folderol, although it has to be said, the folderol is a huge part of the experience. Hearing a paraphrase of Ayn Rand’s self-serving philosophies dished up by the game’s Andrew Ryan in a voice that resem
bles Charles Foster Kane at his most contemptuous is a huge part of the game, as much of the Bioshock atmosphere comes from the contrast between the contorted justification of greed and selfishness with the horrors it has led to. While Ryan booms out Zeus like pronouncements from the tannoy and Atlas charms you over the radio, the reality of the situation is revealed by Rapture’s many audio diaries that paint the real picture of the city’s decline through the fears of its citizens. There aren’t many games that craft such a nuanced, layered story or unfold it with such perfect timing, and all with barely a cutscene in sight.

If the story isn’t enough for you, what about Rapture itself? All gilt and neon, art deco at the bottom of the ocean, Bioshock is one of those games that constantly makes you stop to just look around. Remember how you loved the wide open environment when you first played Halo, but it soon wore off? Remember the way the pre-rendered backgrounds of Resident Evil gave a real sense of place and progress, but they soon wore off too? In Bioshock, Rapture never wears off. Even after several hours of play you’ll still be stopping in rooms and corridors to marvel at the view

Then there are the achievements. Few games ever get the balance of achievements as right as Bioshock does, and its responsible for my final conversion into a scorewhore. It’s almost as if Bioshock is grateful to you for playing it, the way it constantly drops little 15 and 20g gifts into your score, whilst holding in reserve some slightly tougher rewards designed to make you play more, and harder. Even Bioshock’s big achievements are perfectly balanced between not being instantly attainable, but not being so difficult that they ever reduce the game to the drudge of pigeon-hunting or ingot-collecting.

Sure, Bioshock does have it’s weaknesses. For all the nuance of its story, the games famed moral choice aspect is a blunt and unsophisticated either/or proposition, and don’t get me started on the difficulty. Having heard time and again how tough the Big Daddies were, how I’d feel amazing when I finally beat one of these dangerous behemoths, how they’re among gaming’s best bosses, I naturally erred on the side of caution and set the difficulty a little low for my first Bioshock
playthrough. I spent the game with medical kits raining down on me like manna from heaven, got to the point here I was killing Big Daddies in a nonchalant, offhanded fashion (can you wield a rocket launcher insouciantly? I certainly can.) and only died once in the entire game.

Of course, that’s a minor complaint. When a game offers character development and plot material right to the very last, it would be a terrible shame to miss any of it by turning the difficulty level up to the level of a brain aching slog.

No, Bioshock may be ‘just another shooter’, but it’s a brilliantly realised one, full of wit and clever asides, set in a beautifully degraded environment. It doesn’t reinvent the way games are played, but it’s mix of inventiveness and excitement reminds you of why you play them in the first place.

(Photo credit:
Hot Grill)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Alien Breed in bitesize chunks

The good news is that Alien Breed Evolution is
nearly upon us. The bad news? The much-anticipated Team 17 update is coming in bitesize chunks. That's right, episodic content has struck again.

Why would anyone want to buy a book, only for you to get half way through and be faced by blank pages and a small disclaimer instructing you to fork out more cash to find out how it ends? Well, it seems that this is the way gaming is going... and I hate it.

Wallace and Gromit was split into four segments on Live Arcade recently, each costing 800 gamerpoints - buy them all and that's the price of a full-blown new release... Granted it looked faithful to the original TV series and retained its cutesy humour but for fans who wanted to experience the entire adventure, they needed deep pockets...and didn't even get a box or manual for their money!

Anyway, rant over. Alien Breed is coming - and from what I've seen it looks great. It's been revamped graphically but seems to retain the same charm as the original all those years back. It's going to be split into three episodes, which can be played independently but fit neatly together to form a single narrative. According to an interview in OXM magazine, each boasts its own aliens, weaponry and environments.

Release date for the first installment is reported to be 16 December...

(Photo credit:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quick, make sure you snap up Qix

Downloadable arcade games are a funny mish mash, aren't they? On the one hand you have the likes of Shadow Complex, Braid and Command and Conquer Commander's Challenge - meaty, innovative, graphic-heavy titles that really push the boundaries of your little grey console... and on the other, you've got the old classics from yesteryear: Speedball II, Sensible World of Soccer and Worms.

While these old favourites appeal to the likes of me, a 30-something gamer who enjoyed them the first time round, I wonder how well they actually sell nowadays? I imagine your average teen wouldn't get the same enjoyment from them somehow?

Still, I couldn't be happier with this latest addition, Qix - a real old school favourite that I used to play on my Nintendo Gameboy almost 20 years ago!

The premise is fairly simple: a kind of line thingy moves about the screen in a haphazard fashion and you have to move about the place creating shapes and reducing the amount of space for the aforementioned line to move about in. Clear? Once you have eaten up the required amount of space or trapped your erratic foe, then you head onto the next level - and have a few more beasties bouncing about the place trying to make your life even harder! You have to see it to understand it...

Anyways, even though my explanation may be somewhat lacking, this is well worth a download and will no doubt eat away at your spare time. Qix is a great pick up and play game and perfect for the realms of Live Arcade!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Best buys from the bargain bins

It's a good thing that most of the gaming industry opted to delay their big releases for fear of getting trounced by Modern Warfare 2 in the Christmas sales rush. Besides Assassin's Creed 2 sneaking up on us all stealthy like, few other major releases have seen the light of day in recent weeks.

Don't get me wrong. It's not as if I don't want to get my grubby mitts on some blockbuster hits - in fact, I've found this year pretty dismal for new games and would welcome it... but the fact is, I'm a little brassic right now. The pockets are empty, the wallet is bare - and I'm sat in front of my console twiddling my thumbs. B-O-R-E-D.

Microsoft's Games on Demand service could have been the answer had it not been for the exorbitant prices. I was expecting big things when it appeared on the Xbox dashboard - full games available to buy from the comfort of your own living room - brilliant, I thought. Hell, I even considered splurging some cash on a big old hard disk to store all my future purchases. But the gaming giant's decision to go and slap a hefty £20 price tag on all the downloads, no matter how ancient they are, left me cold.

But then I discovered bargain bins! Get yourself down to your local shops and take your pick from hundreds of classic titles. You can acquire the majority of the titles Microsoft offers online for a quarter of the price - and some of them are absolute gems.

Here are a few I've found in the past few weeks that have consigned my boredom to a distant memory... Each of these are available for a mere £5 if you look hard enough.
  • Kameo - similar to Fable - multiplayer options
  • The Darkness - great storyline, innovative idea
  • Crackdown - an all-time great solo and co-op - sequel imminent
  • Project Gotham Racing 4 - king of the arcade racers
  • Just Cause - vast sandbox game - a bit last gen but fun nonetheless
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld - Lara's greatest outing?
  • The Club - online shooter - unique idea
  • Mirrors Edge - the Marmite of games - freerunning
  • Army of Two - good for a laugh alone or with a mate. Poor man's Gears of War
  • Endwar - huge multiplayer options
  • Prince of Persia - good-looking and imaginative
  • Gears of War - one of the Xbox's major brands and still a great shooter online and off
  • Civilisation Revolution - strategy fest transfers really well to console
  • Rainbow Six Vegas 2 - for those who want a break from Call of Duty Modern Warfare
  • Forza 2 Motorsport - Gran Turismo for the Xbox - lovely looking and engrossing

...that should be plenty to keep even the most morose gamer busy until more games fill their stockings on Christmas Eve!

(Photo credit: PhotoPuddle)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 certainly hits the target

There's very good reason for the lack of blog entries in recent weeks: Modern Warfare 2!

I see little point in writing a review of what is undoubtedly one of the greatest titles of this generation (although some would argue t
hat it's more of an add on than an entirely new game!). Suffice to say, it gets a hearty slap on the back from me - and those foolish enough not to snap it up on release day should rush out to the shops immediately and stump up some cash.

Midnight Release Of New Call Of Duty Game Draws Crowds Of Gamers

Since I posted my initial thoughts a few weeks back, I'm no less enthralled by the scale and diversity of the game. Granted, it's much the same as the original Modern Warfare - which departed from the exhausted Second World War environments and cliched storylines. And therein lies its brilliance.

The game is not only instantly accessible to anyone who's played before but is equally easy to grasp by the newbies out there. Run about, stare down your gun barrel and unload at unsuspecting bad guys. A winning formula!

Must admit that after picking up my disk, I pretty much neglected the single player campaign and immediately went online to try my hand at the multiplayer maps. There's huge variety and I'm loving the new death- and killstreaks that Infinity Ward have added to shake things up a bit. Nevertheless, the game does seem a little generous compared to the last edition... I'd only
been playing a short time but found myself shooting up the ranks. Hell, after only a day or two since its release I bumped into players who had already made it to Prestige level - am sure it took longer to reach such high rankings in the original Modern Warfare?

Last night I decided to take a break from shooting and stabbing people online and sat down for a few hours to play the solo mode.

Right from the off, the pace is frenetic - from running through the snow to jumping about the rooftops in Brazil, scurrying around the streets of some
suburban US town to storming a prison complex. The story is bewildering and a little disjointed, the gameplay formulaic and not that tough - even on veteran difficulty.

I can understand the moans from those in some of the forums who argue that MW2 isn't much of a step forward but I say, what the hell? It does what it says on the tin. There's lots of weaponry, plenty of explosions, a smattering of blood and some gorgeous-looking visuals - all of which amounts to a mighty fine game. And there's no mention of zombies, for once!

Add the fantastic Special Ops mode to the mix and, even th
ough Infinity Ward have cheekily raised the price a little, you'd be hard pushed to argue that you're not getting value for money. There's plenty of replayability with all these challenges too as you try and beat previous scores, and you can also join forces with a mate.

I'm loving this - and it seems that the gaming public do too. It's literally taken the world by storm - I've overheard people talking about it in the street, at bus stops, on the train and in the pub! It may not be very original, it may not advance much on its predecessor - but it's almost certainly a dead cert to be Christmas number one this year!

Saying that thought, could Assassins Creed 2 sneak up on it and take the mantle instead?

(Photo credit:bigdigo)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crackdown on graffiti

Fancy making your mark in Ruffian Games' upcoming surefire hit, Crackdown 2? Well, here's your chance as the developers announced on their blog a few days ago...

"Pacific City, to be completely frank, is in a bit of a mess. Ten years have passed since the tumultuous events of Crackdown and during that time the forces of chaos have claimed the streets for their own.

It's in a right two and eight and no mistake. Deranged freaks roam the landscape, buildings have been wrecked beyond recognition, burnt out husks of cars litter the highways, there's dog mess and graffiti everywhere.

Well, not quite graffiti everywhere yet as we haven't quite got round to drawing it yet. And that's where you guys come in."

Graffiti artist decorates a segment of the original Berlin Wall

Got an idea for some street art? Ruffian promises to reward those with the best sketches by featuring them in the new game, with the winners' names also getting an airing in the credits. Better get "cracking" though (geddit?)... entries have to be submitted by December 9.

And while you're waiting for inspiration, why not check out this site for some lovely new screenshots of the new game?

Must admit that I'm getting a little twitchy now and can't wait until the sequel to what I reckon is one of the top Xbox 360 titles of recent years makes an appearance. Can't count how many times I've replayed the original - and I still can't find all those damn agility orbs!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Review: Tomb Raider Underworld

What is this fascination with Tomb Raider - apart from the obvious? Quite why the femme fatale of video gaming became such a big draw, I'll never understand. Replace typical male protagonist with a buxom lass, strap some pistols to her thighs and squeeze her into a tight top and some skimpy shorts - hold up, I've answered my own question there!
The New Face Of Lara Croft Revealed - Photocall

But while it certainly seems to tick all the right boxes, the actual gameplay in the Tomb Raider series always disappointed me somewhat and I found it deathly dull. Run from point A to point B, climb a pillar, swing on a vine, find a lever and use it to activate a switch. Repeat.

It was with trepidation then that I rented Tomb Raider: Underworld on the Xbox 360, following a friend's recommendation. But after a few weeks of playing, I'm really rather pleased I gave Lara Croft a chance to redeem herself.

I'd lost count of how many times Ms Croft had starred in her very own game but - so says Wikipedia - this 2008 release is apparently her eighth outing. And mighty fine it is too.

It's still your typical run-of-the-mill puzzle game, there's still plenty of wandering about and it's still incredibly frustrating having
to scour each and every room for some discreet ledge or tiny clue so that you can progress. But it is actually far more fun and addictive than her previous adventures.

The environments look lovely and boast enough variety to keep you interested. Perhaps I'm more engrossed this time round because of the array of well-thought-out and challenging achievements that are available?

It's taken me some time to get only about half way through the game too, so I'd say it's definitely value for money (particularly now it's been re-released as a budget title). The maps are huge and take some time to fully explore - especially if, like me, you try to track down all those lost treasures and relics. There's some DLC available too if you want even more Lara Croft goodness.

The fight sequences still leave much to be desired and most foes can be easily dispatched by combining a few shots of your chosen weapon while somersaulting about the place so that you take
minimal return fire. But then, it was never claiming to be a fighting sim, was it?

What you get is a decent - and enoyable - puzzler, with the added advantage of decent graphics, nice sound effects and an exceedingly supple and acrobatic character to control.

The current generation of gaming system really does Ms Croft some justice and finally, after all these years, I'm starting to understand why so many people have enjoyed watching her bounce about the place.

I'd certainly advise a rental - although I've if you can spare the £5-10 I've seen second-hand copies available for, it's definitely worth a punt.

(Photo credit: Bludgeoner86)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Five things to love about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

What a complete load of overhyped rubbish - I wish I'd never wasted my money!!!

There's a phrase you won't ever hear in the same breath as the words "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2".

It's now just over a week since Infinity Ward bounded back into the record books... A
ccording to The Guardian, it sold 1.23m copies in the UK on its first day - double the previous record holder Grand Theft Auto IV. If, like me, you didn't preorder then you too probably had to keep contacting your local store to find out when the next delivery was due; queues were lengthy and any available stocks sold like hotcakes. Not only that but it didn't come cheap either - some time ago it was announced that the retail price was going to be higher than your typical release, leaving many eager fans feeling slightly shafted!

Nevertheless, the wait was well worth it - as was the slight premium price-wise. Here are five reasons why...

Midnight Release Of New Call Of Duty Game Draws Crowds Of Gamers

  • Improved graphics and sound - Aesthetically, players will be chuffed to bits with the new release, The environments are many and varied, ranging from the blizzard stricken wintry wastelands where you have to wade through thick snow, to the sun-drenched and balmy setting of a Brazilian shanty town or desolate landscape of Afghanistan. I was really impressed with the looks of Infinity Ward's latest offering and think it's a great improvement on the original. Lots is happening onscreen and, if you can spare a few moments to stop running away from the enemy, stand still and take in your surroundings, then you'll be pleasantly surprised by the level of detail. Sadly, you'll quickly be shot too.
  • The blood splatter - This could probably be covered by my previous point but I think it's such a nice addition that it deserves to be highlighted! There's a trend in the current generation of games to use a Heads-Up Display (HUD) and each edition of Call of Duty manages to harness this perfectly. Whether it's a map, ammo, stance or mission, all the information is nicely captured on the screen. Get injured and the screen may flash or judder - it's all very effective. Modern Warfare 2, however, adds a very simple element to the screen: the blood splatter. Should you suffer the indignity of being pumped full of shells, then the screen is covered in the red stuff - chronically restricting your vision and adding confusion and a sense of panic to the mix. Simple, effective and somewhat gory.
  • Multiplayer - I think I heard somewhere that most of the people who have bought the last few Call of Duty games barely dip into the single player missions, preferring instead to dive straight online. The multiplayer portion of the latest game is again probably its biggest selling point - it's fantastic and more than a little reminiscent of the original so you'll instantly feel at home. The major difference this time is the huge array of perks, challenges, add-ons and accolades there to unlock. Therein lies the addiction - even though you've been playing for hours, it's the middle of the night and you've an early start for work next morning, there's always the temptation for "just one more game". The maps seem bigger and better than before, there's plenty of variety and it all looks gorgeous. There's even rumour of a map pack in the offing - which bodes well seeing as Infinity Ward's last offering was very poorly supported by downloadable content.
  • Mission variety - For those who do venture into the single player missions, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. While the plot is slightly contrived, it doesn't really matter. Locations are varied and there's plenty going on. Ultimately, it's more of the same but with Veteran difficulty setting likely to tax even the most ardent of gamers, this will keep you going for hours. There's even a bit of controversy thrown in for good measure regarding an airport mission, some gun-toting Russians and a few hapless civilians. Some would argue what follows is bad taste - but it does allow some of the plot to unfold and the actual level design is quite brilliant.
  • Special Ops - My final highlight is perhaps one of my favourites. Special Ops mode is a great new addition and could possibly have been repackaged as a whole new game in its own right. A series of increasingly taxing challenges take place across various missions and difficulty settings - more than a little reminiscent of the infamous Mile High Club level in the first game. Each mission can be attempted alone or with a mate - adding an entirely new dimension to proceedings. With 23 levels to play, and 69 stars to earn (stars are earned depending on difficulty setting), there's plenty of replayability and it's a nice distraction from the usual solo campaign or online play.

So there you have it, five things to love about Modern Warfare 2. Any doubters out there really should take the plunge and part with your hard-earned cash. There's a reason this is a best seller already - and I imagine it's going to top the gaming charts for some time to come!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Golden era of gaming: Atari Lynx

Way back in
1989, when Atari was in its pomp, the Lynx was launched! Granted, it wasn't exactly a looker - but unlike Nintendo's Gameboy, the huge grey plastic brick boasted a swish colour screen.

Not only that but there was also the slightly superfluous ability to flip the console and controls so left-handers could play too. Wonder why this never caught on??!?!

Unfortunately - thanks to a pretty poor games catalogue and its tendency to sap batteries in an instant - it was pretty much a flop and sales were dismal. Even its redesign a few years later did little to reignite interest. Nevertheless, the system did have some decent titles... Here are five of my favourites. (Photo credit: Falvarez)

Every handheld console needs a flagship puzzle title and Chip's Challenge was perfect for the Lynx. Guide the little guy around a series of mazes, picking up coloured keys to open doors, avoid the monsters and collect the microchips.

California Games
was one of the Lynx's greats. Pick from various sports, including surfing, skating and BMX and ensure you don't wipeout while picking up a monster score!

Looking back at Pit Fighter now it looks absolutely appalling - but back in 1990 it was revolutionary with its digitized characters. Pick from three characters - each with different attributes and fight styles - and kick and punch your way through a series of bad guys. A fun beat-em-up back in the day.

Ever fancied taking on the role of a giant monster, scampering up the side of a building and ripping off the walls in search of people to eat? Well, Rampage is for you! The measure of its success was perhaps that it was ported to just about every computer and console known to man.

APB - All Points Bulletin
. You're Officer Bob... and your asked to drive about the place, completing tasks within the time limit. Basic driving with awkward controls but still good for a giggle.

Agree/disagree? Are any other Lynx games lodged in your memory?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: Football Manager 2010

As sure as winter arrives - and regular as clockwork - Sport Interactive's latest iteration of its award-winning Football Manager series appears. It's been almost permanently emblazoned on my computer screen since its launch a few weeks ago - and I'm a very happy gamer.

I'm not one for change. I fear it, in fact. But suffice to say, after a few days of fumbling my way around the screen discovering how I can scout a player or tweak my tactics, I'm starting to feel at home with the new edition, and am becoming increasingly addicted!

I really did try to lov
e its fierce rival Championship Manager (which I snapped up a month or so earlier through its much-hyped pay what you want deal) - but despite a facelift and plenty of TLC, I thought it was an absolutely shocking game. Much like cheating on your wife (I imagine!), it's kind of exciting at first but after a while you realise that the grass isn't always greener and you want things to go back to how they were. It all just feels kinda wrong.

My dalliance with Championship Manager left me feeling dirty. So after a
good amount of metaphorical scrubbing and the removal of the offending article from my hard disk, I had high hopes for FM 2010. Although only a few days in to my inaugural season, I'm not disappointed.

You know that feeling when you're lying in bed and the pillow feels absolutely perfect? It's moulded to the contours of your head, ready to take you off to the land of slumber (to lottery wins, fast cars and beautiful women) - but you know that if you shift even slightly then you'll be fa
r less comfortable and never get that happy place back? Well, that's my fear with every year's update of Football Manager. I play each version to death, get used to the controls, menus and tactics, and then the next version comes along and messes up my moulded pillow! It usually takes me at least a couple of weeks to get comfy again.

Not so with this version. With all th
e news that FM 2010 boasted a completely new interface, I wasn't expecting great things. Much to my surprise, however, its overhaul is fantastic and everything quickly becomes second nature.

Rather than the multitude of buttons and banners that used to transport me from one screen to another, a nifty series of tabs along the top of the screen now take me wherever I want to go. Everything appears very logical and fresh looking - and I think it deserves a big thumb's up!

Unlike Championship Manager, everything feels very natural and I was immediately engrossed; it felt like I am in control of MY club and MY players. And there are absolutely thousands of them for you to scout and sign within the game's bulging database (if your PC is up to the task).

It's damn tough though. The new game has so many options and you can get hugely involved in every aspect of the day to day running of your team. There see
ms far more to do than in previous versions: tactics can be tweaked in great detail both before and during matches, players can be instructed to do whatever you wish, and berated accordingly if they fail to perform.

The graphics and match engine have been overhauled but are still nothing to write home about. The player animations are a little more detailed and the goal ripples with every near miss - but it still puts the graphics card under little strain.

Sounds are much the same as last year, consisting of crowd noise, chants and the occasional referee's whistle - but ultimately, it doesn't really matter... it's the gameplay that counts.

Addictive as ever and sure to test you until a newer version inevitably appears next winter, FM 2010 certainly trumps previous efforts. I can't recommend it highly enough!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

First Impressions: Left 4 Dead 2

If the enormous amount of lag was anything to go by, I wasn't the only one to download the Left4Dead 2 playable demo today. While 30,000 boycotters may still be keeping up the pretense that they're not going to play the game, the magically vanishing, twitching, reappearing state of play today suggested that a heavy load was being placed on the game by everyone who did want a go.

Personally, I've never been particularly bothered by Valve's decision to go for a sequel rather than DLC for the original game. Yes, the four campaigns in the original installment can't help but become overfamiliar very swiftly, despite the best efforts of the AI director.The recent addition of an extra DLC map didn't do much to compensate, as it's hard not to cast a grudging eye at the PC players downloading stacks of user generated maps such as the brilliant Coal'd Blood and feel that the console version is looking a little tired. More DLC would have been nice, but a sequel is just as good, its not like we haven't had a year to save up for it. The fear for me was never that L4D would be abandoned, but that the sequel wouldn't be able to create the same cinematic excitement offered by the first installment.

So, based on the demo, how's it looking? Well, the addition of melee combat has brought the expected mild whiff of Dead Rising, as you trade in your second pistol for frying pans, machetes or even a guitar. It works, and provides a comedic, ammo-conserving alternative to firepower, but it doesn't really seem to add that much to the game. Explosive bullets, on the other hand? They look pretty handy, not that I managed to lay hands on any today. The new special infected are pitch perfect, with Jockeys,acid phlegm and Chargers all providing new varieties of peril and creating new flavours of havoc, without being powerful enough to detract from the games uber-threat, the Tank. Yes, you'll still get dreadbelly when that distinctive roar and ominous music kick in.

Best of all, the environments seem to be greatly improved. While there were lots of side paths and rooms to explore in the original, they were always just bolt ons, you never lost sight of where you were going. In Left 4 Dead 2, however, it's easy to stray off the correct path, and should a team member become seperated and incapacitated, you'll embark on a heart-in-mouth trackback through lengthy, meandering maps to rescue them, expecting the horde at any second. It was at times like this that I began to feel like L4D2 might even surpass it's predecessors ability to crank up the tension. Having only had 'The Parish' to play so far, it's to soon to tell, but if the other levels are as good at forcing splits in the group, then L4D2 is going to exceed it's predecessor.

(Photo credit: Fanboy30)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fallout 3: Game Of The Year - about time!

It's official, Fallout 3 is Game Of The Year. Not too much of a surprise to anyone really - and neither is the fact that Gears of War 2, LittleBigPlanet and Call of Duty: World at War were among the other titles scooping accolades at the Golden Joysticks gaming awards.

What does surprise me, however, (as is always the case with these awards ceremonies) is that these games were released recently enough to qualify.

The winners always seem to have been around for ages, don't you think?

LittleBigPlanet was big news what seems like years ago; I remember friends discussing how they were going to decorate their sackboy, and reviewers waxing lyrical about the cutesy graphics and simple but engrossing gameplay.

And what about Call of Duty? That's been around forever too, surely? And Gears 2, for that matter!

Always strikes me as slightly confusing that games released well over a year ago are only now receiving the trophies and rosettes! By now, they've now probably undergone countless updates and facelifts, or been enhanced by a multitude of user-generated levels and expensive DLC map packs. In most cases, I can bearly remember what the original game was like before all these add-ons.

Maybe it's just me but
shouldn't the criteria make it necessary for the game to be released in the same calendar year or something? At least then all the shortlisted games would still be fresh in my memory.

Still, Fallout 3 is a worthy winner - although it's so long since I played it, I may have to dust of the disk to remind myself why!

(Photo credit: p liu)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Molyneux mulls over the gaming greats

Old favourite, and gaming guru, Peter Molyneux was wheeled out last week to address the great and the good for the BAFTA lecture in London, UK. I'm a big fan and was on the brink of grabbing a ticket but couldn't make it in the end... thankfully, the guys over at the Guardian Games Blog have very kindly printed a transcript of his speech (click for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).

I've loved pretty much all of his creations at Bullfrog
and Lionhead, from land-shifting God game Populous through to Theme Park, the absolutely awesome Syndicate and more recently Fable II (Black & White wasn't much good, mind).

Anyways, it's great to see that he took a few moments to give a well-deserved nod to some landmark titles that broke new ground and shifted the boundaries of game design...

Dune II (1992) - the RTS from Westwood Studios sapped hours of my life. Without it we wouldn't have seen the likes of Command & Conquer. Good choice, Molyneux!

Super Mario (1985) - Nintendo's classic platformer. Still brings back fond memories. Alex Kidd and Sonic have a lot to thank Mario for. Still good for a few hours gaming some two decades later.

Tomb Raider (1996) - having a buxom female character as the protagonist was certainly a shift in the gaming world and Lara Croft went on to become a gaming icon - and the dream girl of many a young lad. Sad but true.

World of Warcraft (2004) - one of the biggest online games ever, with a huge cult following. It's even in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Many gamers have been treated for World of Warcraft addiction!

Halo (2001) - still one of the main selling points of Microsoft's Xbox consoles, with countless sequels and spin-offs. Any game with Halo in the title is sure to sell well.

(Photo credit: FT Techfeed)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 - demo tomorrow, new trailer now

Not long to wait now... according to Digital Spy, the demo for Left 4 Dead 2 is going to be available tomorrow.

"Valve has confirmed that any PC gamers who pre-ordered Left 4 Dead 2 will be able to access a playable demo of the game on Steam tomorrow.

For the people who have not pre-ordered the highly anticipated first-person-shooter, the demo will be opened up to everyone a week later.

Xbox Live Gold members will get access to the taster on November 3, with Silver members having to wait until November 10."

The full game should be out mid-November. In the meantime, here's another video teaser to keep you going!!!

(Photo credit: Miyaoka Hitchcock)

Borderlands is here...without the hard cel

Without almost any fanfare whatsoever,
first person shooter Borderlands snuck its way onto the shop shelves the other day. A few months ago this game was heralded as one of the hottest prospects for game of the year... but with Forza 3 and Unchartered 2 making their heavily-hyped appearance at the same time, and pre-orders for Modern Warfare 2 coming in thick and fast, you could almost be forgiven for forgetting about Gearbox's latest effort.

I must admit that some of my enthusiasm had waned a little for this. I'd been tempted by all those screenshots a little while back and been positively salivating at the prospect of four player co-op, numerous online modes, a healthy quota of weaponary, and the customisable characters and vehicles... Sadly - but all too inevitably - it just can't compete with the other big releases right now.

Saying that though, I could have told you before it achieved a pretty decent score on review aggregating website Metacritic that it was going to be well received!

How could I possibly know that you ask?? Simple. Cel-shading...

Borderlands showcases the much-loved graphical style that almost without exception seems to be warmly received by gamers. Cel-shading really makes a game stand out from the crowd, with the graphics rendered in such a way as to make them look almost cartoonlike - an interactive comic book if you will.

Remember PaRappa The Rapper way back in the day? Kick, punch, it's all in the mind... this was the forerunner to the dance mat revolution, and today's flood of Guitar Hero-type games.

And how about Jet Set Radio Future - the 2002 Xbox sequel to the Dreamcast's Jet Set Radio?

or the fantastic looking XIII? How on earth did this never get a sequel?

Good old Wikipedia has handily listed a few others too - but these three are the cel-shaded titles that have cemented themselves into my gaming memories. Question is, will Borderlands be joining them? I reckon so!

(Photo credit: Psycho Al)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Head2Head FINAL

...So here it is. The Megabits of Gaming Head2Head contest ends here.

The aim when we started this all those months ago was to pit some of the greatest-ever games - spanning several decades and genres - against one another (gaming Top Trumps, if you like).

After much discussion and deliberation, literally hundreds of classic titles were whittled down to the final 16.

Completely at random, we held a series of face offs and they fought it out against five key criteria - originality, longevity, graphics, sound FX and replayability. Only the best would make it
through to the next round.

The 16 were:
Grand Theft Auto IV, Tetris, Fallout 3, Call of Duty 4, Sonic the Hedgehog, Syndicate Wars, Halo, Football Manager 2009, Gears of War, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, Gran Turismo, Streetfighter 2, Metal Gear Solid, Fifa 09, Medieval II: Total War, Fantasy World Dizzy.

There were some surprises... and some disagreements... but now we're left with the final two.

Which is the Megabits greatest game - Grand Theft Auto IV or Call of Duty 4? There can only be one winner...

Let us know your thoughts...

See also: