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.

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)