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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Head2Head: Call of Duty 4 vs Medieval II:Total War

Here are two heavyweights, which - for the first time in this Head2Head contest - are actually based on the same theme!

War is big business on computer and console, spawning hundreds of tactical shooters and real-time strategy games over the years... but which of these will win the ultimate battle?

Released in November 2007, Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4 shot off the shelves, and still managed to snatch the mantle of best-selling game of the year! CoD 4 epitomises pick-up-and-play brilliance.

The solo game is pretty decent, nicely paced with plenty of variety... but you could argue that it's since been surpassed by the plots of Battlefield: Bad Company or Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway.

However, it's the multiplayer where this really comes into its own. It's a pity only one official map pack was released for it (CoD 5 in its relatively short lifespan already boasts three map packs!). Nevertheless, whether you love skulking around China Town, hiding behind trees in the Creek or causing carnage on the Broadcast television studio map, there's rarely a dull moment.

Medieval II, on the other hand, requires a little more concentration and dedication to get to grips with the multitude of complex commands and tactics. While it's undoubtedly a classy game, it requires an absolute behemoth of a PC to get the best out of it.

It looks and plays well, and oozes authenticity. The scale of the battles is incredible, the depth and tactical options are immense and the feeling of complete control over your armies is, as yet, unsurpassed. But for me, the actual battle sequenc
es all seem a little haphazard and seem to denigrate into giving a series of random orders and hoping for the best... this isn't a game for the faint hearted or a newbie.

Nevertheless, whether it makes it any further in this competition is not based on my personal preference... let's pit them both against the five criteria!
  • Originality - Call of Duty 4 is hardly original, but hones an already successful series and grabs all the best bits from other first person shooters. Medieval II was also the fourth game in its respective series (Total War), but arguably offers the gamer something different and larger in scale than anything else on the market. Winner: Medieval
  • Longevity - Both keep you coming back for more as there's plenty on offer. Medieval has its many campaigns and factions, while Call of Duty offers variety through its fantastic online multiplayer, which means no two games are ever the same. Several years after their release, you still have to wrestle the controller or mouse away from fans of each game. These are fully immerive titles that lose little as the months and years roll by. Draw
  • Graphics - As mentioned above, Medieval requires a PC with some grunt to run properly and look as good as it should. Even then, upon closer inspection, armies and battlefields can look a little shoddy. The number of soldiers onscreen at any one time is extremely impressive... but Call of Duty looks perfect out of the box, and is absolutely immense on a large HD-ready screen. The various maps mean that the environments do not all revolve around a sandy Middle East setting with all its browns and yellows either; CoD's Creek is lush and green, for example, while China Town perfectly resembles the real thing. Winner: Call of Duty
  • Sound FX - Battle cries versus explosions and bullets pinging past your head. Medieval has some decent narration and a great soundtrack, which succeeds in getting the blood pumping. The sound effects during the battles add some realism and work very well too. CoD boasts all the effects you'd expect and develops the key characters nicely through some decent voice acting. One nice touch is being able to hear the footsteps of your foes creeping up behind you... just before they stab you in the back. Draw
  • Replayability: Mmm, tough one this. On paper, Medieval has plenty to offer and fans will not tire of the vast array of battles and scenarios on offer. However, for me, the pick-up-and-play nature of CoD means that even after completing the game on single player (Veteran difficulty is notoriously tricky!), you can still head online with a few mates for a few minutes of carnage. It never gets boring! Winner: Call of Duty many ways, this was a pretty close-run contest. Each title can be justifiably referred to as a classic...but Call of Duty makes the biggest impact.

See also:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Head2Head: Gears of War vs Street Fighter II

Honestly, doesn’t it make you
sick? If I were less honest, I could have given this Head2Head the final result that I wanted it to have, but noooo, muggins here had to try to be objective, to weigh each game on its respective merits according to the previously established criteria, and come up with an honest answer.

So... Gears of War versus Street
Fighter II.
  • Originality - Heavily armoured meatheads with guns, or single screen 2D fighters? At first glance, neither game can claim much originality. Yes, Gears of War has made third person cover shooters the trend of the moment, but it wasn’t the first implementation of a set of ideas that seemed likely to blossom regardless. Meanwhile, the combination of evocative sounds, the tidy implementation of a rock-paper-scissors system of special moves and the strangely unfolding back story were among the many genre-defining conventions formalised by SF II. Winner: Street Fighter II
  • Longevity - Gears of War is fun. Huge, drooling dumb fun, it’s the gaming equivalent of a horny Labrador. And like a horny Labrador, it’s eventually going to become tiresome and a little disturbing, and you’ll want to have it put down. Street Fighter, on the other hand, has survived a near endless series of ports and emulations, and while its latest iteration, SFIV, is the first to truly feel as at home on a console as it does in an arcade, that hasn’t stopped the polished versions of SFII from being an ever present gaming option. Winner: Street Fighter II
  • Graphics - It’s actually quite nice to see Street Fighter’s modern incarnations resolutely resisting a move into 3D in order to stick with the formula that was a quintessential part of SFII. The fact remains, however, that SF II’s selection of lightly animated backgrounds and blurring limbs can’t hope to compete with the benchmark setting detail and depth of Gears of War. Winner: Gears of War
  • Sound FX - The grunting meatheads with their chainsaws and whistling bullets are perfectly realised, but the ‘Shoryuken’, ‘Hadouken’ and ‘Sonic Boom’ of Street Fighter have been sampled in pop songs, imitated by other games, and have become a recognisable touchstone amongst Generation Y. Winner: Street Fighter II
  • Replayability: The short, snappy nature of a Street Fighter bout lends itself perfectly to the one-more-go mindset, and can easily eat up entire evenings even before you’ve passed a spare controller to a mate. Gears, on the other hand, has a brilliantly implemented online multiplayer and co-op that encourages you to chug your way through the story with your friends like a pair of angry bipedal tanks. They have two different but equally powerful types of pull. Draw

I weighed each criteria in turn, honestly expecting Gears to finish in possession of the field, but it soon became clear that while its certainly one of the games of the moment, the long term appeal of Street Fighter II has been proven beyond doubt, and it wins this one with surprising ease.

See also:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Toejam and Earl - welcome back!

Finally, the gaming Gods have listened to me. To mark the 20th anniversary of Sega's Megadrive/Genesis console, one of this blog's favourite releases is making a comeback. Yes, Toejam and Earl - the alien, spaceship-hunting rappers are soon going to be top of my download queue on Xbox Live Arcade.

No release date or pricing has been mentioned as yet but let's hope that there's not too long a delay.

Back in the day, this was one of the sleeper hits of Sega's flagship console... I'm salivating at the prospect of two player co-op online!

Remember the hula girls in the pool, the mad professor, the little devil and the Super Hi-Top running shoes?? You don't? Then make sure you buy this! Highly recommended A+

(Photo credit: PhotoPuddle)

Review: Prototype

Massively-hyped games rarely live up to their potential. Assassin's Creed is a case in point, and you could argue that Fable II - and previously Black and White from the stable of Mr Molyneux - are also prime examples. For this reason, I didn't have high hopes for Activision's much-touted blockbuster, Prototype.

Taking on the role of Alex Mercer, you have to roam New York streets that have been infected by a bizarre plague. Your mission is to uncover the truth about what in the world turned the populace into zombie-like creatures and what gave you special powers and the ability to absorb pretty much anyone, taking on their guise and abilities! Story-wise, there are no real surprises here.

But throw together a hint of Crackdown, a touch of Grand Theft Auto, smidgen of Saints Row and a lot of comic book inspiration, and you have one hell of a game.

I'm a little bemused by the mixed reception Alex has had since he hit our screens in June for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Most critics slate the graphical appearance of the game, claiming they're underwhelmed by its aesthetics, while others aren't too fond of the fiddly control system or the convoluted plot. Me? I think it's brilliant - and haven't been so hooked on a game since guiding Niko around the streets of Liberty City in GTA IV.

Right from the start, you're thrown in at the deep end; a fully powered-up Alex, blessed with all manner of over the top attacks and powers having to fight his way out of trouble.

Not only can he consume his foes
to gain their appearance and powers, but he can glide through the air like Batman, launch a long-range web-like attack like Spiderman, or beat his enemies to a pulp with a huge fist like Hellboy.

What's more, our protagonist can destroy those around him with tendrils that emanate from his body, or skewer the bad guys with giant spikes that arise from the ground... I lost count of the number of power-ups and special abilities you gain during the game but there's plenty to keep you interested.

And let's not forget the addition of Parkour - the free-running that was central to Assassin's Creed is even more effective and well-used in Prototype, and far more enjoyable.

The first few minutes have to be among the most exciting introductions to a game I've ever seen. After a bit of mindless destruction - trying to get to grips with this super-charged
character - the screen fades to black, and a cut scene fills you in on how he found himself in this predicament in the first place. Then, just as quickly as you had all those awesome powers, they disappear!

From then on, it's a pretty steep learning curve as you chase key characters, hijack tanks and helicopters, and confront snarling beasties dotted about the city.

This really is a great example of a sandbox game. The environment is recognizable thanks to a decent rendition of the New York streets (Times Square looks great), and there is plenty of freedom to hack and slash your way through the salivating hordes of zombies or to take part
in the numerous side missions on offer. There's nothing more satisfying than grabbing a tank and ploughing through oncoming traffic, or running over the military forces that try to stop you!

And it all sounds pretty great too. From the screams of the locals, to the gun shots ringing through the crowded streets, or the radio transmissions of soldiers calling for urgent as

The explosions are big, bold and noisy - and the gore is plentiful... blood splatters all over the place when Alex hacks at people with his vicious-looking claws.

Missions are fairly well paced but, I admit, can get a little repetitive. The difficulty is pr
etty random too: some levels are a breeze requiring you to kidnap a bystander and absorb them for their abilities or knowledge, whereas other levels see you protecting a tank or laboratory, destroying countless swarms of bad guys and then confronting a massively tough boss.

But I forgive all its little quirks. For me, it was completely engrossing and fun. Being able to scale skyscrapers, leap off and glide about the city added a whole new dimension to what would otherwise been pretty standard fare.

I played it solidly for my week-long review but even then there was plenty I hadn't seen or done. For the sheer entertainment factor, I have no hesitation in suggesting that everyon
e go out and buy a copy! Even now, weeks later, it still resides in my disc drive.

(Video credit: masoale93)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Head2Head: Grand Theft Auto IV vs Tetris

I m
et an old friend for lunch the other day and told her about this blog and the Head2Head contest. She wasn't too interested, to be honest. Not that I was surprised by her indifference... afterall, she's no gamer and argued that she'd never really been into computers or consoles.

Over the course of lunch it transpired that she'd actually been scarred by video games many years earlier after a particularly embarrassing incident
, and had lost her love for them.

So what better place to air it than on this blog, eh?

My friend - who shall remain nameless - was hooked on Texas Instruments' Munch Man... the poor man's Pac Man. The objective was simple: negotiate mazes, avoid the bad guys and form a c
ontinuous trail around the screen before advancing on to the next level.

She became so addicted to the little yella fella that he often filled her dreams when she went to bed... a giant Munch Man chased her through the woods! So terrified was she, that occasional bedwetting occurred. Admittedly, nightmares can be terrifying so I wasn't going to ridicule her... that was until I realised that the game was released in 1982, which meant she was well in her teens when this was happening!

I admit that I've been through the same as her - not bedwetting (!) - but dreaming about video games. As I said on the blog only a few weeks ago, this happened most recently with GTA IV, but Tetris has also been culpable on many occasions.

So it makes this matchup for the quarter finals of the Head2Head contest even more difficult for me. Grand Theft Auto IV versus Tetris... two gaming greats, both of which have gotten under my skin.

On the face of it, they're like chalk and cheese... completely different genres, and both graphically and sonically they are at completely different ends of the spectrum.

Tetris - along perhaps with Nintendo's Italian plumber Mario - is responsible for attracting probably more people to gaming than any other title. It was a winning formula, simple and addictive.

According to Guinness World Records, Gamer's Edition -
Tetris is the most ported video game ever, appearing on 55 different platforms.

Conversely, GTA has had many incarnations and after various levels of success, I maintain that the fourth version is the most complete and, in my humble opinion, the most engrossing of the lot.
GTA IV achieved 98% - the highest ever score - from website Metacritic, which pulled together the average score of 86 critics' reviews of the game.

Their respective rep
utations precede them and neither title needs much more of an explanation... so here's my judgement. Sadly, one of them has got to go!

  • Originality - There's no two ways about it, Tetris has to win this one. It started the whole "blocks falling down the screen" puzzle genre while Grand Theft is simply a more polished version of its predecessors. Winner: Tetris
  • Longevity - It's pretty tough to gauge GTA's longevity seeing as it's a relatively new release but with DLC content adding an entirely new dimension to the gameplay and introducing new, colourful characters, it could be argued that GTA will still stay in our hearts for some time to come. Even after all these years, Tetris is still a classic - and will always remain so. Draw
  • Graphics - This doesn't really need much explanation, does it? Tetris was monochrome and basic. A few differently-shaded blocks tumble down a single screen... GTA on the other hand is so immensely lifelike and varied that it's a clear winner. From the character animations to the vehicles, explosions, sunsets and buildings - it's gorgeous and difficult to comprehend when you consider the original top-down Grand Theft Auto from 1997. Winner: GTA
  • Sound FX - Featuring hundreds of voice actors, a plethora of specially-recorded radio shows and all the sounds that make Liberty City as realistic as possible, GTA is streets ahead of the albeit catchy tunes featured in Tetris. Winner: GTA
  • Replayability - Again, pretty tough to call. On the one hand, you've got the timeless nature of Tetris, its simple addictive format and the ability to pick up and play decades later. Granted it will keep you coming back for more but a lack of variety may be its downfall. GTA, however, is vast with so much potential. Not only is there to main mission to get through and all the characters to meet and interact with, there's the challenge of obtaining all the achievements (blooming pigeons!), the online multiplayer missions and now the DLC add-ons that add a whole lot more to the game. Winner: Draw

...There's not denying that Nintendo's Tetris is a classic and truly deserves an honorable mention... but against Grand Theft Auto, it just can't compete. GTA is such a complete game, and quite unlike anything I've ever seen before.
GTA IV charges through to the semi finals!.

Let us know your view, take part in the poll below...

See also:

Fable III - here's how you make it a hit

I never knew I was such a nasty piece of work but Peter Molyneux's Fable 2 made me show my true colours. By the end of each playthrough, I was pure evil - blessed with red eyes, horns, a tail and a swarm of flies!

Despite normally hating this kind of game - and needing plenty of coercion to actually take the plunge and buy it - I found the whole thing totally engrossing.

It looked gorgeous, sounded fantastic and had a really great storyline with plenty of side missions and some memorable characters.

And now that there's news of a third game, I must admit that I'm rather excited! The trailer below looks intriguing and Eurogamer outlines some of the new features here... but with the game still some way off, here are a few of my suggested improvements.

  1. I loved the array of achievements in Fable II. From kicking chickens to arranging a sordid orgy, there was plenty to keep you entertained. I even enjoyed traipsing through the world of Albion to find all those blooming gargoyles! But please, in the next game, don't bother with challenges that require you to either buy a rubbish Live Arcade game (Pub Games) or approach random strangers asking if they have a ragdoll they could swap with you.
  2. Co-op play was welcome but pretty pointless... both players were restricted to the same screen so it limited what you could do. Firstly, Fable III could really do with a split screen feature and secondly, you should be able to import your own characters and not use generic avatars. That way, whatever money you collect or missions you complete will be factored in when you're playing a single player game, and help you to power up your character.
  3. Much though I hated my annoying dog, and enjoyed killing him off at the end, it was hugely frustrating that his demise meant I couldn't complete certain missions or gain some of the achievements! Make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again please!
  4. Perhaps the fighting elements of the game could be improved a little to remove some of the inevitable button-bashing? A bit more strategy perhaps, or more varied skills?
  5. I think that more of the items you purchase/acquire should be needed during the game. All too often I bought something only for it to stay unused in my inventory. Why would I need to buy all of those clothes, dyes or books if only one or two actually have any bearing on the gameplay?
  6. And finally, while it's a nice touch to become wealthier even when your machine is switched off, it can wreck your gaming experience. By the time the DLC was released, for example, I'd become a millionaire and could afford absolutely everything, hugely reducing the challenge and incentive to earn more cash.
So come on Mr Molyneux, make me proud, and address some of these issues. And get a wriggle on... I can't wait for this.

Anyone else got any suggestions to make Fable III a surefire hit?

(Video source: TheGamerz01)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Championship Manager fails to bring me back onside

Summer's painfully boring without any football to watch. Thankfully, the English Premier League kicked off again at the weekend and even better was news that updates for the greatest footy management games ever to grace our screens were imminent.

While I'm salivating at the prospect of another fantastic version of Sports Interactive's Football Manager, which is due to hit the shelves on 30th October, I can't help but feel hugely let down by Eidos and it's Championship Manager series... and I haven't even played it yet!

Championship Manager has had a lot of publicity over the past week following the announcement of its innovative Pay What You Want initiative... but I'm none too impressed so far.
They claim that after a simple sign-up process you can buy the game from as little as a penny. Sounds great, eh?
"From the time the shop goes live today (August 18th) until midnight on September 10th, you can pre-order the digital download version of Championship Manager 2010 from and on the day of release, September 11th, you can then download it direct from the website.

This is a first in the videogame industry and echoes a similar initiative launched by rock band Radiohead in 2008 with their album “In Rainbows”. We’re keen to see as many people as possible playing Championship Manager, and think this is a great way to get people playing.

There is a small transaction fee to cover costs encountered in delivering you the game and a 1p minimum charge, but the cost for the full version of Championship Manager 2010 is yours to choose..."

What they don't tell you though, is that the web site is abysmal and no matter how many times you try, it's nigh on impossible to actually register your details.

I've tried countless times in the past few days, with different browsers and have even provided different usernames and passwords. Each time I am faced with an "Incorrect Login Details" message!

It's not really the best way to get all those who defected to the rival Football Manager series back on side is it? And if they can't get a simple website - and heavily promoted PR campaign - to work properly, it doesn't bode well for the actual game!

After 10 or so attempts, I even contacted the support team via email but several days later have still heard nothing.

Looks like my allegiance will remain with Sports Interactive for the coming season... and I've saved a penny!

(Photo credit: Katie@!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Review: King Kong

There's something to be said for the summer gaming lull; few top titles are released and there are seldom any major announcements. However, it is the perfect opportunity to revisit some of those oft-neglected games. And last weekend, I did just that!

On my shelf, caked in dust, sat Peter Jackson's King Kong - which coincidentally was shown on prime time television on Saturday. Seeing the giant ape bounding about Skull Island trying to (understandably) eat a very irritating Jack Black planted the seed in my head that I really should give the game a go. Before I knew what I was doing, the disc was already in the tray...

I must admit, I never expected the game to be much good - film tie-ins rarely are - and being released in the Xbox 360's early days didn't fill me with much confidence either. Sadly, it pretty much lived up to my expectations. This also made an appearance on the PS2, original Xbox, Gamecube and PSP but, I'm reliably informed, the 360 version was the best example.

I'd not bought this at full price, in fact I'd found it for £3.99 second hand...but after the first few missions I wondered if I'd paid too much.

It's not that it looks too bad, especially given its 2005 launch. In fact, referring to a few forums while writing this, the general consensus is that everyone thought it was a really good-loo
king game. Kong is suitably large, hairy and angry looking, the environment is moody and atmospheric, while the dinosaurs and insect beasties are pretty well drawn. Collision detection isn't all that though, and many a time I found myself plunging off a cliff to my death, or getting stuck on some scenery as I tried to evade a hungry creature.

For fans of the movie there are plenty of cut scenes - and because this is an official game, many of these are apparently the genuine voices of the cast - albeit coming from slightly ropey character animations with abysmal lip sync. These sequences do tend to warble on a little too long and there's no option to skip through them (probably a cunning way of extending its pitifully short lifespan of around six hours!).

Sound effects are decent as well. As mentioned before, the voice acting isn't half bad...and there are many rumbles, shrieks, screams and Kong-like bellows to accompany you on yo
ur quest.

But none of this really matters, does it? Everyone knows that the main reason most people play this is to get their grubby mits on 1,000 easy achievements. There are no challenges or colle
ctibles here, simply make your way through each mission and by the end sequence you'll have totted up a healthy gamerscore.

I may have been overly critical when I started playing this. As I made my way through a few levels I actually kind of enjoyed it. Granted, the puzzles aren't exactly taxing... but
there are some nice touches, like lighting a torch and setting bushes and bracken on fire to clear a path, or distracting a charging dino by throwing some bait in its path. However, all the backtracking required to find a small piece of wood that blends into the scenery so you can open a door proves more than a little frustrating at the fifth time of asking.

Unfortunately, King Kong just oozes linearity and there's little chance to stray off the beaten track and explore... It's not a tough game, and you'll be sat in front of the screen for only about twice as long as the actual movie - and then you'll probably never replay it!

Ultimately, for a few quid it was enjoyable fare... but there are so many other gam
es out there that are far, far better. I honestly couldn't recommend it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Split/Second - Driven to destruction

I sat down to watch the remake of Death Race on DVD a few days ago...not a bad film, and not a bad leading lady either.

But I digress, it got me thinking that it's been years since a decent driving game was released where racing round a track came second to some good, old-fashioned violence.

I'm talking about the likes of
Carmageddon, Twisted Metal, Destruction Derby and the lesser-known Roadkill on Amiga's ill-fated CD32!

Well, my prayers could be answered with the arrival of Split/Second early next year on the Xbox and PS3. Surprisingly, it's from Disney...but don't for a second think it's going to be all cartoony and cute. It first impressions are anything to go by, old Walt will be turning in his grave.

On the face of it, Split/Second appears much like Burnout or Flatout, except that each race is going to be punctuated with lots and lots of gorgeous-looking explosions!

Race round the track, fill your power meter and trigger enormous blasts to take out your rivals. Why not blow a bridge, destroy a building or rupture the road? All's fair in love and racing!

Developers are doing their utmost to bring realism to driving titles right now so it's refreshing to see some of the more technical aspects of racing put to one side and replaced with an element that I often think is often missing from the genre, fun.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gaming greats to make a comeback!

Economies are floundering, swine flu is all about the place and the weather has been typically disappointing this summer... but life isn't so bad, especially when some of gaming's best ever titles look likely to make a welcome return!

Frequent visitors to the blog will already know my feelings about Electronic Arts' Syndicate. It remains one of my all-time favourites...and now there's news that Starbreeze Studios is working with EA to revive the series.

I was an avid fan of the original on the Amiga and also when it later made an appearance in the guise of Syndicate Wars on the Playstation. Syndicate is one of the select few to make it through to the quarter finals of the Megabits' Head2Head contest, which will resume on this very blog in the next week!

The thought of the moody shooter being updated for Xbox or PS3 is fantastic, especially if the developers not only manage to refresh the graphics and sound effects that made it so atmospheric in the first place, but also to harness the potential of online play! Can't wait.

Anyways, there's more good news to be had. Populous and Road Rash are among those also set to make an appearance, if rumours are to be believed.

God games are now ubiquitous but designer Peter Molyneux really broke the mould with what became one of his defining creations; Populous was simply fantastic and fantastically simple.

This is a game I've wanted to be re-released for some time...

Aesthetically, the isometric view wasn't exceptional and aurally, the constant and eerie sound of a heartbeat in the background as you created a world for your followers was nothing to write home about - but the formula proved really effective.

The main objective - and pretty much your deity's only power - was to raise and lower land so your minions could settle and expand. The flatter the terrain, the more elaborate their dwelling and the stronger your people. As your population grows, so does your "mana" - a gauge of your power - that allows you to wreak havoc on your enemies by generating plagues. Wipe out all opposing forces and proceed to the next map to face a tougher foe. Simple premise but hugely addictive.

Conversely, Road Rash was hardly a thinking man's game. I remember buying this for the Sega Megadrive and thinking it was revolutionary...ride a bike and beat your opponents in more ways than one. All you had to do was race through each stage while kicking, punching and clubbing your rivals - an idea imitated fairly well in the recent GTA IV add-on The Lost And The Damned.

I've always been a huge EA fan and am salivating at the prospect of these and other timeless classics coming back!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Forget realism, I miss top-down racers

I like realism as much as the next man but whatever happened to the top-down racer?

Remember the days when games of this ilk were everywhere - and you never tired of them? Sadly, with all the advances in technology, graphics and processing power, those days seem
long gone now...or so I thought.

I saw a demo of PixelJunk Racers on the PlayStation Network the other day...and I want it!

From Super Sprint in 1986 to Super Cars II five years later, or Super Off Road - aka Ivan Ironman Stewart's off road racing - and Skidmarks, these were the ultimate in pick up and play gaming. Clearly, they'd still have an appeal to the mass market these days... Come on Microsoft. Why not bring back one of these classics as a download on Live Arcade?

Cramming several players around the keyboard, all struggling to keep their cars on track as they slide all over the place - fantastic fun.

I think that modern gaming sometimes loses some of that enjoyment factor. There's only so much I glean from changing tyres or tweaking my transmission...I just don't get the terms, I don't get the technology and I don't get any enjoyment from these modern "simulators".

There's a lot to be said for not being able to upgrade your vehicle (aside from having the ability to drop oil slicks or gain a nitro boost - like the good old days!).

Any of those titles would be amazing with slightly updated graphics and sound, and the ability to cram in a few more drivers both with local and online play would make it a must have.

Come on...bring them back!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Head2Head: Quarter final draw

So here they are...the matchups for the quarter finals of the Megabits Head2Head contest to find the best game of all time:
  • Grand Theft Auto IV vs Tetris
  • Gears of War vs Streetfighter II
  • Call of Duty 4 vs Medieval II: Total War
  • Syndicate Wars vs Metal Gear Solid
These will be contested over the coming weeks...only the greatest games will remain standing!

WARNING: This could get nasty!

(Photo credit: 96dpi)

See also:

Games on demand will make me a recluse

I predict that the gaming scene is bound to get a bit more stick in the coming weeks...

Microsoft's Gamed on Demand service is finally about to launch and it's just another reason for us gamers not to interact with one another. I don't even have to don a coat and wander down the street to my favourite games store any more... downloadable games are here and I know I'm going to become a recluse.

The initial lineup isn't particularly exceptional but it should quickly populate with some more recent titles soon. Nevertheless, at first glance there does appear to be something for everyone...

First up we've got the big hitters such as Assassin's Creed, BioShock, Mass Effect and the epic Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion...all worthy titles in anyone's collection.

Other highlights include a couple of shooters (Rainbow Six Vegas and Call of Duty 2), the classic Fight Night Round 3 and Rockstar's Table Tennis.

But it's driving games that seem to dominate, with Need for Speed Carbon and Most Wanted, Test Drive: Unlimited, MX vs ATV Untamed and Burnout Paradise all on offer.

Among the others on the list, Sonic the Hedgehog, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Viva Pinata appear the most family friendly.

A few older titles are thrown in for good measure too - namely Perfect Dark Zero and Prey (good for a few easy achievements, apparently).

More good news is that it sounds as though prices will be a little lower than the boxed versions in the High Street, check this out for details.

But I'm
not entirely convinced it's a good idea - I still prefer physically buying a box containing a disc and manual, my hard disk is paltry...and I don't think I'd ever leave the house again!!!

(Photo credit: Dekuwa)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Head2Head: First round winners

It's been fiercely contested but after week
s of elimination, the quarter finalists have been decided.

Here are the those who have emerged from the first grueling round (winner in bold):
  • Call of Duty 4 vs Football Manager 2009
  • Gears of War vs Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
  • Tetris vs Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Grand Theft Auto IV vs Fallout 3
  • Gran Turismo vs Streetfighter 2
  • Metal Gear Solid vs Fifa 09
  • Syndicate Wars vs Halo
  • Medieval II: Total War vs Fantasy World Dizzy

Head2Head: Medieval II vs Fantasy World Dizzy

They say variety is the spice of life and here, you have games at either end of the spectrum...

On the one hand we have
Medieval II: Total War, an epic battefield simulator, recreating some of the largest and most devastating confrontations in history. And on the other, Fantasy World Dizzy, which tells the story of a little egg man who wears bright red boxing gloves and embarks on a weird and wonderful adventure.

In 2006, Medieval 2 not only made an appearance on our PC screens but was so accurate and good looking that it also took top billing on a prime time BBC history series.

This was the latest in the long line of Creative Assembly's Total War games, which tell the story of different periods of history and highlight various fighting styles and strategies. From Japan's shogun dynasty through to Ancient Rome, this title moved forward to the 11th century and concentrated on the next 500 years.This really was a thinking man's game.

Taking control of knights, archers, cavalry and the like, you could control every aspect of the war machine and send your armies in to battle. Whether or not they were in the correct formation or using the correct tactics would be entirely down to you...every minute detail was at your fingertips, making this the enthusiasts' dream.

The graphics, just like the battles, were of epic proportions...allowing you to zoom into the battlefield or pan out to hove
r in the sky above your armies. However, aside from the soldiers, the actual landscapes were somewhat lacking.

And then we have Dizzy, the prince of the Y
olkfolk. The happy little fella from the house of Codemasters returned in 1989 for his third - and arguably best - adventure.

Joining Dizzy on his escapades this time were Daisy, Denzil, Dozy, Dylan and Grand Dizzy but largely it was more of the same... a series of barely animated screens littered with puzzles and intriguing characters to interact with.

Sound effects were minimal and the colour palette was basic but it made pretty good use of the meagre power of the Spectrum, Atari, Commodore and Amstrad home computer systems - and remained a firm favourite of mine back in the day.
  • Originality – This wasn't the first Dizzy game and brought little that was new to the genre. Medieval on the other hand, although also a sequel, added scale and substance to an already winning formula. Winner: Medieval
  • Longevity – Like all games back in the 1980s, Dizzy was never going to be a massive 30 hour+ title but it was tricky and had loads of screens to explore. Medieval, however, offers so much more. Winner: Medieval
  • Graphics – Reds, greens and occasional yellow...Dizzy was never going to win this matchup now, was it? Winner: Medieval
  • Sound FX – A decent soundtrack and accurate sounding battles versus very little indeed. Winner: Medieval.
  • Replayability – All these years later, I remember Dizzy very fondly but just can't see a revival anytime soon. Like many games of that generation, it was very much of its time. I loved it back then but it's not really stood the test of time. If you get hooked on Medieval, however, why wouldn't you keep coming back for more...what's more, there are certain to be further editions in the years ahead. Winner: Medieval
...Sadly, it's somewhat of a whitewash. Of the two, my personal preference would be for Dizzy and it remains one of the highlights of my gaming youth. Nevertheless, it's clear that under these criteria, Medieval is the victor!

See also:

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Review: 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

I'm not into the whole hip hop scene, don't follow the world of rap or care much for bling...but I was really keen to dip my toe in the water with 50 Cent's second dalliance with gaming, Blood on the Sand.

I wasn't expecting too much, thanks to a smattering of pretty lousy
reviews out there... but it just looked kinda fun. And I wasn't too disappointed.

The hackneyed plot is pretty laughable: 50 Cent is doing a gig in the Middle East's all going well but as he comes off stage he discovers someone's reneged on his $10m payment. Luckily, he's happy to accept a rather nice jewel-encrusted skull instead...except some swine then runs off with that too! He's not a happy bunny and, assisted by a member of his G-Unit crew, embarks on a revenge mission to retrieve what is rightfully his.

Cue a chase across all manner of dusty
environments as 50 chases his foe, knocking off hundreds of henchmen in the process.

The graphics are big and bold, and the whole thing is pretty good looking but nothing revolutionary. Sound effects are nothing particularly special either but it's a nice touch (if you're a 50 Cent fan) that his toons
play constantly in the background while you shoot, kick and punch your way through each mission. A quick press of a button also allows you to throw in a few taunts too - although parents beware, Mr Cent has somewhat of a potty mouth.

More taunts can be "bought" along the way, using cash accrued by smashing the hell out of boxes you find dotted about the place, rapidly disposing of selected ene
mies before the time depletes (much like The Club), picking up posters or simply by progressing through each level.

Similarly, bigger, badder guns can be purchased, as can counterkills - typically a kick and punch combo that is triggered by pressing buttons in quick succession. Take too much time or press the wrong button and the counterkill fails, leaving you open to a good kicking instead! Although this has already been seen in other titles such as The Bource Conspiracy, this actually works quite well and breaks up some of the gameplay.

Ah, the gameplay... Boasting a poor imitation of the cover system from Gears of War, it all very similar to the many other third person shooters available on the Xbox and PS3. It's actually not too far removed from Terminator Salvation, which was reviewed on this very blog a few weeks back.

Wander around each level, take out a few baddies and then progress a little further, hide behind some debris and shoot someone else. Repeat the process, picking up ammo and cash as you go.

The aforementioned timed challenges that require you to take out a specific bad guy before the timer ticks down, and occasional boss confrontations, add a little variety but it's all pretty standard. There's even a simple driving or helicopter-flying segment thrown in for good measure which, again, minimises the monotony.

I must admit I got quite engrossed in the game during my week-long trial and I imagine that if I'd had longer, and could be bothered, tracking down all the collectibles and progressing through the mission with a friend rather than the AI would increase its replayability.

It's got a little bit of Gears of War in there, the feel of an official movie license like the Bourne Conspiracy and Quantum of Solace, a hint of The Club and the light-heartedness of Army of Two. However, I couldn't help but think this imitated these titles but fell just short of each.

Still, if you keep your eyes peeled, a copy of the game can now be bought for a measly £15-18 - half the price it launched for in February! At that rate, you only need a few p
lays for it to pretty much pay for itself - and I reckon you could do a lot worse!

(Video source: TMONEY163)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Head2Head: Syndicate Wars vs Halo

Yet another Head2Head that pits two beloved games against one another, in this case the cynical yet absorbing Syndicate Wars and the massively popular yet still strangely divisive Halo: Combat Evolved.

Produced in 1996 by Peter Molyneux at Bullfrog, Syndicate Wars was the second sequel to the incredibly popular Syndicate, and combines elements of tactical shooting real-time strategy and RPG into a single, cyberpunk package in which your futuristic and decidedly immoral Eurocorp does battle to stop your brainwashed civilians from being re-brainwashed by a corrupt religious organisation, The Church of the New Epoch.

It’s essentially badguys vs badguys, and you’ll find yourself stealing buses, bombing city centres and using your ‘persuadertron’ to recruit mobs of innocent people and hurl them, unarmed, into battle with the Church’s heavily armed agents. Mission by mission you’ll shoot, bomb and brainwash your way through confrontations with the Church, and depending on how you do you’ll have the money to upgrade your team of agents with better weapons and bionic limbs, as you progress towards a battle with giant robo-spiders and a final showdown with the Church of the New Epoch in their base on the moon. That’s right, bionic mercenaries battle giant religious robo-spiders on the moon! How can anyone not love Syndicate Wars?

I still remember breaking the game’s 12 missions up over a week of co-op evenings back in 1998, with everything else taking a backseat to the desire to buy better robo-legs or send another mini-riot of brainwashed drones charging into a laser fence. It has to be said, Syndicate Wars hasn’t aged that well.

The character designs, particularly those of the church’s caped agents, are brilliant, but the whole affair is presented in isometric, semi-top-down view, and the tactical element of the game largely consists of making sure that your outnumbered agents are positioned to only ever engage a few agents at a time.

Rumours abound that an updated Syndicate Wars is in the works, which is enough to get us incredibly excited, but until that materialises, you can still find the original game, Syndicate, as abandonware. Try abandonia for starters…

And then there’s Halo. Mighty Halo. Conceived as a strategy game for the Mac, Halo’s beginnings couldn’t have been more offputting for it’s eventual audience, but when developers Bungie were bought by Micrsoft, Halo mutated into one of the most popular first person shooters ever seen, one that has attracted so much praise amongst it’s devoted followers, the Ha
lo Nation, that the backlash now insists that it’s really not that special at all. As always, the truth lies somewhere between both versions.

There’s no getting past the fact that Halo’s decision to limit players to carrying just two weapons added a degree of agonising choice to your inventory management, as you’d never be quite sure if you were equipped to tackle whatever the game planned to throw at you next, while the much vaunted '30 seconds of fun' design ethos combined with the recharging shields made for a repeating stream of brief, furious and thoroughly satisfying engagements.

On top of that, Halo frequently abandoned the corridors or arenas layout of most first person shooters in favour of wider spaces-the first chapter of Halo seems comparatively commonplace as you battle aliens within the corridors and vent shafts of your ship, but it’s all a ruse designed to make your first taste of the wide open spaces of Halo all the more impressive.

Just to add polish to the idea, the enemy AI takes advantage of the extra space, with the villainous Covenant charging one moment, flanking the next and even retreating if you pick off the leaders.

Add to that a coherent universe, a genuine sense of threat to humanity from the strangely cartoonish Covenant, and the wonderful array of vehicle levels, full of skidding Warthogs, lumbering Scorpions and swooping Banshees, and you’ve got a thoroughly enjoyable game that stands above the average shooter and has understandably influenced the genre.
  • Originality – Parc Xerox were rumoured to have had an FPS running way back in the seventies, and we’d all seen Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein and the like before Halo ever came along. It may have polished the genre, but it didn’t create it. Syndicate Wars on the other hand, offered a unique merger of tactical, shooter and strategy gameplay in a unique universe. Winner: Syndicate Wars
  • Longevity – Neither game is a massive time-muncher. Halo clocks in somewhere between six and eight hours, while Syndicate Wars will take much the same, but while there will always be other shooters out there to play, it’s Syndicate Wars that still produces wistful sighs and instant bonding amongst gamers. Winner: Syndicate Wars
  • Graphics – Even for it’s time, Syndicate Wars was good rather than great, while Halo’s use of lighting and lens flare along with some great designs give it the edge here. Winner: Halo
  • Sound FX – From the comedy shrieking of the grunts to the deadly crack of the sniper rifle, Halo’s sound effects are a vital part of the game, but Syndicate Wars midi-synths for the music and the faceless voices barking orders over the tannoy’s of this dystopian future mean that Syndicate Wars is just a bit more evocative. Winner: Syndicate Wars.
  • Replayability – At first glance, Syndicate Wars should walk this one. After all, you could replay to try out completely different enhancements and weapons, or replay to see if you could have accomplished with a rifle what you accomplished with a bomb, whereas a shooter really only has one long linear stretch of gameplay, right? Well, technically, yes, but Syndicate does show it’s age, and much of its original variety now seems to come down to little more than engaging two or three troops while keeping a building between you and the rest. On the other hand, even when you’ve played through it once or twice already, Halo’s string of fast and furious encounters still provide that same visceral buzz each time, and for every interminable corridor sequence there are three or four great fights for territory. Winner: Halo
...I really didn’t know how this one was going to turn out, and even now I’m a little surprised, but where Halo can be divisive, just mentioning Syndicate Wars in the company of gamers will set everyone off on a nostalgic ramble. Syndicate Wars takes it.

See also: