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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Golden era of gaming: Sega Megadrive

Back in the day, Sega was responsible for making some great games machines. The Master System had been well received, selling by the bucketload - but it was the sleek, black, curvy Megadrive that grabbed the attention of gamers such as myself.

It reigned supreme in the late 1980s and was the company's most successful console. I've already rambled on about some of its top titles; Sonic the Hedgehog, in particular, was among the best - giving Sega a much-needed mascot a la Mario on the Nintendo. Other greats included Toejam & Earl, Streets of Rage, John Madden, Fifa - the list goes on...

Here is the first part of a nostalgic nod towards some of the other greats that kept me occupied all those years ago!

(Photo credit: amrufm)

David Robinson's Supreme Court basketball may not have had an official license from the NBA but it was great fun nonetheless - and knowing very little about basketball back then, it didn't matter to me one little bit that the players and teams were entirely fictional! Great fun.

NHL 94 was perhaps the best ever version of EA's homage to ice hockey. It managed to get me completely engrossed in a sport I've followed ever since, with it's fast-paced play, end to end action and fight sequences! Come on you Maple Leafs!!!

Road Rash was the ultimate racing game. Not only could you rocket about the countryside on the back of a motorcycle... but you could do it while swinging a baseball bat at your opponents' heads. Combining bikes with violence, the recent Lost and Damned DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV brought back many a happy memory of Road Rash on the Megadrive!

I pumped many pound coins in the arcade machines to play Shadow Dancer, the successor to Shinobi. I was over the moon when the white clad ninja leapt onto the Megadrive with his trusty dog.

Atmospheric and fairly scary for a young lad, Alien 3 - although not that faithful to the film - was a great movie tie-in and one of the only ones I ever remember enjoying. Run about the place, climbing ladders and crawling through tunnels to rescue prisoners - while blowing away the acid-spewing aliens.

Agree/disagree with my choices...? Leave a comment.

Click for Part II.

Head2Head: Syndicate Wars vs Grand Theft Auto IV

The second semi final of our Head2Head contest pits Syndicate Wars against
Grand Theft Auto IV. We've already seen some gaming heavyweights fall (the other semi final matchup was particularly cut throat... and mighty close)...

Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride!
  • Originality - I love Grand Theft Auto. The feel of the game is quite unlike anything else bar Fallout 3 - you can't help but get sucked in to the seedy world of Niko Bellic and his good-fa-nuthin' brother, Roman. Liberty City literally lives and breathes, just like any real-life metropolis... Nevertheless, the cliche-ridden series is anything but original; our protagonist, an East European immigrant, is pursuing the "American Dream" - and characters just like him have appeared in a multitude of movies and games over the years. Syndicate Wars - and more importantly, it's predecessor Syndicate - broke new ground and spawned a whole new style of gaming. Not only unique in style and substance, but having to control and upgrade four characters at any one time added man-, and almost resource-, management to the mix. Winner: Syndicate Wars

  • Longevity - The enduring appeal of both titles is unquestionable. Syndicate Wars remains a classic in the eyes of many, although it now looks sadly dated when compared with today's releases. Nevertheless, it is still fondly remembered and should there be that much talked about sequel in the coming years, it will no doubt be a huge hit. GTA, meanwhile, remains almost timeless thanks to strong plots, numerous sub-missions and sequels - each sufficiently different from its predecessor. From its top-down origins to its most recent incarnation, GTA has also stood the test of time. Draw

  • Graphics - Syndicate's environments are dark and stylish, with a distinct feel of Blade Runner or the Matrix. Explosions are suitably large and impressive, while your agents - although minuscule - are pretty well defined... you can almost feel their muscles tense under the weight of all that weaponry and their bodies spasm as enemies unload machine gun fire into them. But although it is thoroughly appropriate to the gameplay, darkness permeates from the screen and the minimal use of the colour palette soon takes its toll - it may look nice but it's soooo dreary. Conversely, GTA wins this one hands down. The next-gen graphics and perfectly-sculpted cityscape means that everything is very believable and thoroughly engrossing. In fact, you'll be hard pushed to notice all the attention to detail as you race around the streets trying to evade the cops! Winner: GTA IV
  • Sound FX - The pulsating background noises of Syndicate's futuristic environment are perfectly suited to the game, adding to the atmosphere and drawing you in. In the distance, there's the sound of an uzi - no doubt ripping through some hapless civilian who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's clearly far less elaborate that the incredible voice cast drafted in by the GTA developers, or the sounds of the city that seamlessly blend into the background as you run about searching for a car to steal. The Grand Theft effects are extensive and unparalleled. However, the effects are extremely well-suited to each respective game - and for that reason... Draw
  • Replayability - Syndicate will forever remain among my gaming greats but after all these years of nostalgia, I'm a little bit fearful of revisting it; I must confess that I've replayed the various levels on only a few occasions. The multiplayer game added some replayability but as most Syndicate fans will atest, this was a great game that nowadays just doesn't cut the mustard. It's desperately in need of an overhaul and update. With a bit of a facelift, I've no doubt it would be a smash hit. The fourth Grand Theft Auto, on the other hand, has bags of replayability. From the various sub-missions, to the multiplayer options, downloadable content (more out later this month!) and the hunt for all of those elusive achievements/trophies... there's plenty to keep you busy. Winner: GTA IV

The premise of Syndicate Wars was fantastic: take a cyborg agent, replace his legs to make him faster, add heftier arms so he can bear more powerful weapons,
and then tinker with the rest of his body so that he can withstand all manner of bullets and bombs. Add an uzi or gauss gun to the mix, and give him a persuadertron (to tranform him into a kind of modern Pied Piper of Hamelin), and what have you got? An awesome title, that's what!

Unfortunately, it met its match with Grand Theft Auto IV. More like a Hollywood blockbuster than a typical game, it is a fantastic example of how a series should progress, and move with the times and gaming hardware.

A decade ago, it was inconceivable that any game could offer so much or look and sound
so great... GTA IV heads to the final!

See also:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Crackdown 2 gameplay footage

It's not been a bad end to the week... a brief update about APB the other day was closely followed by a glimpse of some new Crackdown 2 screenshots (pics courtesy of

...and just when you think things couldn't get any better, then Joystiq goes and shows off some actual gameplay footage - a deathmatch to be precise. It's still very much a work in progress but it's certainly enough to whet the appetite!

First impressions suggest Crackdown 2 is largely going to be more of the same - with not too much changed aesthetically and nothing particularly revolutionary in content. I even read somewhere that the city will remain pretty much as before...

On paper, at least, it seems more like an update than a proper sequel.

There appear to be the usual orbs, explosions and super agile agents... but who would bet against Ruffian making this even more of a must-have title than the cult original? As the video footage shows, multiplayer mode makes a welcome return but promises to be even bigger and better.

Cartoony-looking Crackdown was the first game I completed after getting my Xbox all those years back and I've spent many an hour since then looking for all those orbs and racking up the achievements. Even today, amidst the latest blockbuster titles, it still manages to hold its own.

Sandbox gaming is certainly looking promising in the year ahead!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Head2Head: Street Fighter II vs Call of Duty 4

So here it is, the semi final of our Head2Head contest to determine the world's greatest game! This is the match-up between Streetfighter II and Call of Duty 4... with the victor making
it through to the final to face Syndicate Wars or Grand Theft Auto IV.

  • Originality - A 2D beat ‘em up with special moves versus a first person shooter swimming with real world and pop-culture references? Let's be honest here, neither one can really claim to have broken new ground. That said, the degree of polish found in Call of Duty 4 - from the carefully paced beats of it’s story through to several thoroughly unexpected and unconventional set-pieces - add enough gloss to the staid FPS format to make it the clear winner in this category. Winner: Call of Duty 4
  • Longevity - Another tough category to judge. Call of Duty 4 has been on the market for two years now, but is yet to slip from the bestseller charts or the Top 5 Most Played lists. After two years, people haven’t moved on, they’re still buying it in droves, and still playing it in droves. If it were up against any other game, that would be the description of a winner, but Street Fighter II, amazingly, trumps it. It went through no less than six arcade versions, not to mention numerous dodgy cracked cabinets, before being ported to 18 other PC and console formats and finally getting a new lease of life via XBLA and Virtual Console. Even it’s newest iteration, Street Fighter IV, is treading old ground, albeit in a deeper, glossier fashion that would rather worship the wheel than reinvent it. Winner: Street Fighter II
  • Graphics - Street Fighter’s devotion to 2D gameplay displays Capcom’s refreshing desire not to mess with a good thing just because it’s a little outdated. The Beatles didn’t need autotune (well, except maybe Ringo) and Street Fighter doesn’t need 3D. Admirable though that may be, however, it falls short of Call of Duty’s gorgeous detail. It's always tough to appraise games from so many years apart, but the ambition of CoD4, the number of different environments and lighting effects it attempts, from night time at sea, daytime in the desert to the horrifying afterglow of thermonuclear conflagration, allows it to walk this one. Winner: Call of Duty 4
  • Sound FX - While there’s not one thing wrong with the audio performance of COD4, it doesn’t even match the visceral thuds, whistles and thwacks of its criminally underrated sequel, let alone the sound effects array of Street Fighter II, a selection that’s withstood the test of time, been sampled incessantly and embedded itself firmly in the minds of nerds of a certain age. Winner: Street Fighter II
  • Replayability - Street Fighter II has proven how replayable it is simply by remaining popular for all these years. At first glance Call of Duty 4, with it’s extremely short campaign mode and reliance on shocking set-pieces, doesn’t seem to have what it takes to call you back again. But just think of the feeling in your guts when that bomb goes off, or the tension in your shoulders as you sneak around the Ukraine, or even the worrying omnipotence of controlling the armaments of a flying support plane, and ask yourself how long it will be before you play it through again. Add to that the hugely popular multiplayer, with it’s perks, custom classes and tenth level prestige, and you start to see a full picture. This is a game with a single player mode that packs more emotional punch than most movies, yet it’s still outstripped by a multiplayer so popular that it’s been suggested that nearly 80% of CoD4 owners don’t even play the single-player mode. To have both those modes in a single package far outweighs the diminishing returns of a few surprise scenes. Winner: Call of Duty 4
...another tough battle, but one with a well earned victory for CoD4. The knowing use of lines from The Matrix or the story’s clever merging of 1970s Iran and modern Iraq are impressive enough, but it’s the perfect juxtaposition of the sharp, stealthy SAS investigating a stolen nuke while the gung ho yanks battle their way through ever-stiffening resistance that really builds that sense of dread and inevitability in your guts.

A game that can do that to you deserves to take the honours here. The winning title - that races ahead to our final - has to be Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

See also:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

APB looks like it's going to be a blast - trailer

Remember a few months back that I was waxing lyrical about APB (All Points Bulletin) from Realtime Worlds? Well, I've just come across another trailer for what promises to be one of the biggest releases of 2010!

It's a sandbox game with a difference... the huge virtual cities contain 100 players, in a gaming world filled with 100,000 players!

Create a fully customisable team, hunt down rival gangs and wipe them out. It's looking like a cross between Crackdown and a bigger, better version of GTA IV's online modes - and I'm sure it will be an absolute blast!

Fifa, Pro Evo, GTA, Modern Warfare 2... and poverty

It seriously looks like I'm going to be brassic over the next couple of months.

Not so long ago, I moaned about how dismal this year had been for gaming... but now the traditional summer lull is out of the way, it's looking like there will be plenty of great titles tempting me in the run-up to Christmas.

The new Fifa is released in a few weeks (played the demo - it's looking superb!), closely followed by its fiercest competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer... which despite my best intentions, I always end up buying. Then there's Football Manager - another must-buy, especially after yet another disappointing instalment of Championship Manager.

Left 4 Dead 2 is hitting the headlines right now - and looks fantastic, building on the success of the gory original (which is about to see some fresh DLC content). Again, it's going on my list... closely followed by the next installment of DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV.

Here's a new trailer for The Ballad of Gay Tony, due out late October.

...and if all that gaming goodness wasn't enough, there's the imminent return to the front line for Infinity Ward with Modern Warfare 2! Whether it will be able to live up to, and surpass, the awesome original remains to be seen. Judging from this trailer though, they're planning to give it a pretty good go.

The next few months are certainly looking promising... and my wallet's looking bare. Should I be feeling guilty that my loved ones won't be getting gifts this Christmas? Nah...

(Photo credit: Matthew Cachia)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Left 4 Dead DLC is long overdue

It's been a long time coming but good old zombie shooter Left 4 Dead - and possibly one of the best co-op games EVER - is finally getting some more DLC!

I'm fairly new to the Left 4 Dead scene, having only recently got hold of a copy (read my full review), but I'm already a huge fan. Granted, longevity is perhaps an issue but this DLC may at least address my main bugbear that the cam
paign mode is ridiculously short.

The new level - Crash Course - will be available from 29 September... but will sadly cost Xbox users a few hundred points (PC users get the update for free).

There have apparently been a few tweaks to the versus mode - helping to make some of the match-ups a little less gruelling time-wise. Anyways, it shoul
d keep fans going until the sequel wings its way to the High Street.

A playable demo for Left 4 Dead 2 will be available at the end of October!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bungie hits the right cord with Halo 3: ODST

It's only a matter of days before the much-anticipated launch of Bungie's Halo 3: ODST, and the BBC has just had a sneaky preview.

Judging from the footage, it's looking mighty tasty and seems to have improved, at least graphically, upon it's previo
us outing, Halo 3, in 2007.

It's pretty standard fare - except that the story is now a little more complex, Master Chief is no more and a new Firefight multiplayer mode pits you and a few friends against wave after wave of alien bad boys, the Covenant.

Here's the scene setter from the developers:
"Halo 3: ODST allows players to explore dangerous new ground, search the dark, abandoned streets of New Mombasa for clues, and fight back against the Covenant invasion from multiple perspectives. Dropping in as "the rookie," a new member of an elite squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers sent into New Mombasa on a classified recon mission, you'll be armed with specialized weaponry and upgraded technology, including silenced weapons and a VISR enhanced vision mode.

Separated from your squad, you'll have
to scour the city for clues in order to learn what happened to Buck, Dare, Dutch, Mickey, and Romeo. As you collect new clues, you’ll experience the story from their perspectives, fighting through the occupied city hours earlier."

Halo 3: ODST is released on 22 September.

(Picture credit:
Bungie, video: machinima)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Huge 250GB hard disk inbound for 360

You wait for one announcement about a bigger hard disk and then two come along at once!

The Internet is awash with stories about Microsoft's special edition Xbox 360 bundles right now. It appears that flush gamers will not only soon be able to get their grubby mitts on a specially-designed
Modern Warfare 2 Elite but for the racers among us, a Forza 3 bundle will also be available. Both come with all the usual sundries (headset, two(!) wireless controllers and a copy of the respective game) plus a whopping 250GB hard disk!!!

On hearing the news, I was pretty excited and ready to consign my
paltry 20GB premium version to a well-known auction site... but after the initial euphoria had passed, I wondered what the point of upgrading would be.

Both bundles will no doubt sell by the bucket load - and granted, the limited edition machines in the past have looked pretty stylish - but why will the gaming public see these as a must-have addition to their living room?

I must admit that my 20GB gets full fairly often, and that I have to occasionally sift through my installs and save files to free up some space. Perhaps a 60GB drive should be on my shopping list to give me some breathing space and save those vital minutes...

... I can even see the point of the 120GB for some die-hard downloaders who populate their hard disks with all manner of trailers, music videos and demos; even more so now that the (hugely overpriced!) Games on Demand service is in full swing.

But who on earth NEEDS 250GB???

The downloadable films you can rent only remain on your machine for a matter of days before being scrapped. Games bought online just occupy a few measly GB so unless you're rolling in cash, that shouldn't be much of an issue either.

Microsoft made a big song and a dance about being able to fully install your games when the new dashboard launched - but the fact that you still require the disk to be in the drive, and notice only a minimal improvement (in my eyes) with loading times, makes this largely redundant too.

Perhaps only those who use their beloved Xbox as a multimedia hub, interacting with a PC and storing all kinds of photos, films and files, would need such a generous amount of space?

There are suggestions that the mammoth 250GB peripheral won't be available on its own but only with a shiny new console, which is slightly disappointing. But at around £249, with the game, controllers etc...I guess it isn't bad value for money.

Ultimately though, it's all very well that yours is bigger than everyone else's... but remember, it's what you do with it that counts!

(Photo credit: Yoppy)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Golden era of gaming: Amiga 600 - Part II

The sad demise of Commodore in 1994 pretty much marked the end of the Amiga dynasty. During its heyday, the Amiga successfully bridged the gap between a casual games machine and a PC, and made an indelible mark on gaming history and my gaming life.

During its lifespan, publishers spewed out a series of awesome titles, many of which have never been surpassed - even on the super consoles of today. There are too many great titles to mention, but the likes of Speedball 2, SWIV, Pinball Fantasies, Putty and Championship Manager are still revered. Here are my final five must-plays... (click here for part one).

I stumbled over this completely by accident but grew to love HistoryLine 1914-1918. A sequel to turn-based strategy game Battle Isle, HistoryLine (surprise, surprise) focused on the events of the First World War. Take control of the allies or axis and all manner of tanks, trucks, cannons and infantry, carefully positioning them across your map and emerging victorious!

Alien Breed - one of my all-time favourites... and soon to get a facelift on Xbox Live Arcade. Great co-op, great atmosphere, and plenty of acid-dripping aliens.

A game based on the American Civil War can't be much fun, right? Wrong. North and South was cartoony, colourful fun. Various mini-games centred around a Risk style map. Brilliant.

Released on pretty much every computer or console that's existed over the past few decades, Lemmings is a cult puzzler. Everyone knows that the aim of the game is to guide the suicidal critters to the exit, saving as many as you can. These little guys have the added bonus of being able to build, dig and parachute themselves out of trouble!

Still recognised by many as THE football game. I wasted countless hours on each update of Sensible World of Soccer, making my superfast strikers run rings around the opposition before lobbing in a ludicrous pass and volleying the ball home. Fantastic!

Do you agree/disagree? Share your views...

(Photo credit: Kuba Bozanowski)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Playstation 3 or Xbox 360?

Which is better: PS3 or Xbox 360?

It's a debate that's been rumbling on for years and there's little sign of either side holding their hands up and admitting defeat! And does anyone still care? Taking a look at some of the forums, it seems many people do!

Although I'm the proud owner of an Xbox, I've been an advocate of Sony's machines since the original Playstation whirred away underneath my television all those years ago. I must admit that I've been a little disappointed by Sony's latest incarnation; in my mind, it's just not managed to live up to all the hype and still has some way to go until it meets its obvious potential.

I've no doubt that the PS3 has plenty more under the bonnet and will, eventually, win this generation's epic battle. But never underestimate Microsoft! Next year will be pretty interesting with its dalliance into motion capture with the equally-hyped talk of Natal. And whenever Sony announces some triple-A title or a price cut initiative, Microsoft is quick to better it.

In the meantime, take a look at this article from Eurogamer... check out the differences between the two consoles with some of the most recent releases - for example, Wolfenstein, Battlefield 1943 and UFC: Undisputed.

It makes for fairly interesting reading. There seems to be very little between the two gaming giants right now... I really think Sony needs to pull something out of the bag fairly soon, otherwise the PS3 may follow the likes of Sega's Dreamcast, Commodore's CD32 and the many others that have failed to fulfil their potential!

(Photo credits: William Hook, A Hermida)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bubble Bobble is back

Finally, Bub and Bob are bouncing back on to our screens this week!

News of Bubble Bobble's return was announced ages ago but it's all been pretty quiet on the news front of late. Never fear! According to our friends over at Shacknews, their latest outing is heading onto Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday.

The brightly-coloured update will offer a four-player mode and come in at a very respectable 800MS points. I've many fond memories of the original Taito classic and I'll definitely be buying this one!

Don't remember the game???? Then click here!

Review: Sega Megadrive Ultimate Collection

Is nostalgia a thing of the past? I didn't think so until I acquired a copy of the Sega Megadrive Ultimate Collection. On the face of it, this is a fantastic package to add to your collection... 40 classics crammed onto a single shiny Xbox disc.

But despite the volume of games that had wowed me all those years before, I couldn't help but feel a little deflated after I started playing. Some things are better left alone.

Quite whether anyone wo
uld enjoy more than half the games on offer is debatable.

Buyer beware... this isn't a selection of the best the Megadrive (perhaps
my all-time favourite console) had to offer. There's no Toejam and Earl, no Road Rash and no Desert Strike! Instead, it's a pretty eclectic mix... ranging from the Streets of Rage trilogy to Golden Axe and Columns. Nevertheless, it's almost guaranteed there will be something there for everyone's taste.

Here's the list in all it's glory - and a mini 10-word review for each:
  • Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle - cutesy Mario clone. Enjoyable back then and not bad now. HIT
  • Alien Storm - side-scrolling Golden Axe wannabe. An enjoyable shoot-em-up. HIT
  • Altered Beast - abysmal game. Kick and punch your way through each level. MISS
  • Beyond Oasis - top down RPG - apparently pretty decent but not my thing. MISS
  • Bonanza Bros - great co-op game, funny and colourful. Brings back fond memories. HIT
  • Columns - classic puzzle title, which kept me glued to the screen. HIT
  • Comix Zone - innovative and unusual. Play through a comic book! Great game. HIT
  • Decap Attack - fun platformer also known as Magical Hat Flying Turbo Adventure. HIT
  • Dr Robotnik's MBM - very similar to columns and strangely addictive. Great puzzle game. HIT
  • Dynamite Headdy - nothing to write home about - really wants to be Sonic. MISS
  • Ecco the Dolphin - boring back then and boring now. A dolphin game? Please! MISS
  • Ecco II: The Tides of Time - see above. Sequel to a dolphin game, for goodness sake. MISS
  • E-SWAT - it's not too bad - reminds me of Robocop. Very playable. HIT
  • Fatal Labyrinth - yet another RPG - looks dated but really not too bad. HIT
  • Flicky - love this. Cute and addictive. Rescue all the little birdies. HIT
  • Gain Ground - Really used to love this and it's still a blast. HIT
  • Golden Axe - great years ago, it's an enjoyable trip down memory lane. HIT
  • Golden Axe II - ...but do we really need another version? Don't think so. MISS
  • Golden Axe III - ...stop it already. Another sequel is too much. Looking old. MISS
  • Kid Chameleon - the Megadrive was certainly the platform for platformers. Good fun. HIT
  • Phantasy Star II - yawn, another RPG but plenty to play through. Don't bother. MISS
  • Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom - more of the same. Sick and tired of this now. MISS
  • Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium - why have so many versions on one disc? Bored now! MISS
  • Ristar - you control a star. With hands. Weird but strangely playable. HIT
  • Shining in the Darkness - another RPG... but a classic. Remember this from years ago. HIT
  • Shining Force - RPG. RPG. RPG. Where is Road Rash? Was fun though. HIT
  • Shining Force 2 - meh, am not surprised. RPGs and platformers fuelled the Megadrive! HIT
  • Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master - great ninja action. Really enjoyed playing this. Still great fun. HIT
  • Sonic 3D Blast - awful rejig of great Sonic series - different perspective doesn't work. MISS
  • Sonic and Knuckles - classic Sonic fare. No real surprises. Good for a laugh. HIT
  • Sonic Spinball - nice for a change. Decent pinball game with Sonic twist. HIT
  • Sonic The Hedgehog - absolutely brilliant. Everyone must have played this before! Love it. HIT
  • Sonic The Hedgehog 2 - another good outing for Sonic. Decent graphics and great fun. HIT
  • Sonic The Hedgehog 3 - meh, starting to lose its appeal a little now. Dull. MISS
  • Streets of Rage - a great co-op game. Still fun but now looking dated. HIT
  • Streets of Rage 2 - the series got better and better. Graphics have been updated. HIT
  • Streets of Rage 3 - still fun with new characters and enemies. What a game. HIT
  • Super Thunder Blade - over 20 years old now and looks it too. Poor. MISS
  • Vectorman - liked this. Side-scolling platformer with cool main character. Cool. HIT
  • Vectorman 2 - not much different from before. Nothing special. Original was sufficient. MISS

So all in all, I actually liked well over half the content. It really is great value for money... you can pick it up for about £13 from so it's really very difficult to criticize cost-wise.

I just question whether anyone would really spend much time playing it; think I'd much rather put my hard-earned cash towards a new release.

Reckon some of these Megadrive games are best remembered rather than replayed!

(Photo credit: PhotoPuddle)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Golden era of gaming: Amiga 600

This little beige box was my most prized
possession during the 90s, and marked my overdue transition from the archaic cassette tape to the 3.5inch floppy disk.

Compared with my decrepit old Amstrad, my Amiga 600 (the successor to the popular A500, but with fewer bells and whistles than its bigger brother, the A1200) throbbed with power and brought with it a catalogue of games that oozed quality.

Sensible Software, Bullfrog, Gremlin, Infogrames and the Bitmap Brothers produced some of the best titles ever to grace the home computer. Here are my perfect 10!

Let me know if you agree/disagree...

(Photo credit: shinnfean)

The graphics were nothing special, and for ages I couldn't even land my plane but Wings of Fury was sooooo much fun. Take off from the sanctuary of your aircraft carrier and fly back and forth, firing machine guns and rockets towards the enemy soldiers below.

After Monkey Island came Simon the Sorceror... the purple-clad wizard who uses his puzzle-solving abilities and spellcasting to make his way through a fantasy world. Very funny and, to this day, still really good looking.

War has never been so much fun. That was the mantra of the controversial Cannon Fodder from the stable of Sensible Software. Starring the same tiny characters that had been running about a football pitch (Sensible Soccer) for the previous few years, this was just as memorable for the fun level design and great title music!

Before Command and Conquer there was Dune II. Take control of three factions, Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos, build a base and blow your enemies off the sandworm-infested planet.

The Chaos Engine - co-op play at its best! From the Bitmap Brothers - the guys who brought us futuristic sports classic, Speedball II - this was a top-down shooter with great characters, fantastic graphics and great tunes. Could really do with a re-release on Xbox Live Arcade, I reckon...

Click here for Part II...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review: Left 4 Dead

The Official Xbox Magazine ran a feature a few weeks back, claiming that Valve's Left 4 Dead was the console's greatest ever game. I baulked at the idea and told them so on their forum pages.

What of GTA IV or Fallout 3 - perhaps the most praised titles in the history of gaming?

But zombies are big business... just look at Dead Rising, Resident Evil 4, Wolfenstein and Call of Duty World at War - all seminal titles that have raced to the top of the charts.

Dead Rising was the reason I bought my Xbox 360 a few years back... the notion of re-enacting George A Romero's 1978 Dawn of the Dead movie drew me away from a PS3 purchase... and I don't regret it one bit.

The fact of the matter is, the undead have breathed new life into gaming and revitalised some tired genres; the zombie maps were arguably the most popular part of the latest Call of Duty!

Despite my comments on OXM's for
um, I must admit that I'd never had the opportunity to try Left4Dead so decided to head out and grab a copy to give it the once over. And after a week-long playtest, I was pleasantly surprised.

The plot is of little relevance... all you're really told as the game boots is that it's been a few weeks since the infection (!). From that moment on, you're thrown in at the deep end like a diver bobbing up and down amongst some hungry sharks.

Pick your game mode - campaign, versus, survivor or single player - and then choose your character - Bill, Francis, Louis or the love
ly Zoey .

Then all you have to do is make your way through a series of well-thought out (albeit linear) maps - woodlands and city scapes - to reach "safe rooms" that mark the end of each level.

The controls are incredibly simple and intuitive, and the game is instantly accessible; there's no real learning curve, you just dive straight into the action.

Along the way you'll come across the infected. These consist either of the typical shuffling undead types that feature in many of Romero's films, or the superfast sprinting breed that made an appearance in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later.

Then there are the special infected, which are an altogether different kettle of fish. Each has varied attributes and a trademark groan:
  • The bloated Boomer staggers about the place and spews on our unsuspecting heroes - his vomit is massively appealing to the zombie hordes and attracts them from every conceivable direction. He's pretty easy to destroy though - a single gunshot bursts the grim-looking bulimic into oblivion.
  • Smokers are wily foes blessed with a massive tongue that ensnares a victim from distance and drags them away to their doom. Still, a couple of well-placed rounds quickly sees off these guys - Smokers are pretty stationary when their tongues are hanging out!
  • Slightly more threatening is the Hunter, a ravenous wee beastie who can leap huge distances, pinning his prey to the ground as he rips flesh from their prone bodies. Fellow Megabits blogger Ibwib has a nasty habit of getting eaten by these guys and it's usually up to me to blow them away (not that I get much thanks for it!).
  • The Tank, meanwhile, is a tough old bugger. A giant lumbering hulk with enough strength to throw large chunks of debris in your direction or pummel you to submission. It often requires you and your cohorts to unload several rounds to take him down.
  • And finally, we have the Witch. She's the one you'll often find sobbing in the corner... as you approach, you can make out her frail form - she looks pretty harmless. After all, she's just sat there, crying, head in hands. Let her catch sight of you, however, and it's curtains! After letting off an almighty scream, she pins you down and is guaranteed to quickly sap your health. Definitely the most dangerous of the special infected - but you do gain some decent achievement points if you're able to blow her head clean off!!!
It's not just the decent level design, eerie atmospherics and characterisation that makes this game stand out though... no game is ever the same thanks to the inclusion of the brilliant "AI Director".

I must admit to being a little disappointed that you can run through all of the campaign missions in only around four hours... but the fact that the game actually reads your progress and skill level, before spawning more zombies accordingly is genius. The AI truly makes a difference to the game!

Spend too long in one area and the artificial intelligence decides to liven things up a little by sending loads of the flesh-eating beasties in your direction. Apparently, the music and sound effects adapt to your individual playing style and ability too... a very nice touch and something I've never seen before.

Ultimately, this is a clearly a fantastic release. Playing online in both the campaign and versus modes (the latter allowing you to take the role of one of the special infected) provided some of the most fun I've ever had with a co-op game. The pace and fun factor is phenomenal and I can understand why Left 4 Dead is often talked about with fondness.

However, over time I could see myself getting more than a little bored by the lack of variety from level to level; to date there are no map packs for the 360 and although one is rumoured, Xbox owners will apparently have to pay for the pleasure unlike our PC-playing cousins.

Its popularity also gives it another black mark! Despite being launched almost a year ago, it's one of those titles that has retained its high price tag. At around £30 for the console version and £20 for the PC, it's still pretty steep for such a short and repetitive game.

At around four hours on the easy setting, the campaign mode is painfully short - and I'd argue lacks much replayability. Granted, the harder settings will greatly extend your playing time but will it really keep you coming back for more? Even with the great AI and the ability to play online with your friends, the campaigns are all pretty formulaic and uninspiring after the first or second runthrough.

Hopefully, the sequel (due out in November) will address some of these issues, but despite it being an absolute blast in the short term - I can honestly only recommend it as a rental!

(Photo credit: JamesCalder)

Head2Head: Semi final draw

Well, it's been emotional. After many tears and some tough decisions, here is the semi final draw for the Megabits Head2Head contest. Which will emerge as the greatest game EVER?
  • Syndicate Wars vs Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Streetfighter II vs Call of Duty 4
Watch this space...

(Photo credit: A National Acrobat)

See also:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Head2Head: Syndicate Wars vs Metal Gear Solid

So, if you wanted to rule the world, what would you use? A mind control device or a giant dinosaur-shaped tank that shoots nuclear warheads from a railgun? (Personally, I’d always hoped to ride a wave of violent proletarian dissatisfaction to power, but it's not looking likely.) In any case, our two games in this quarter final match up offer these two options.

One is Metal Gear S
olid - the game that defined the stealth-action genre despite the presence of a decidedly unstealthy mech called Rex, while the other, Syndicate Wars, allowed you to subtly influence people’s behaviour whilst unsubtly running them headlong into cannon fire whilst cackling maniacally. Ooh, the irony.

  • Originality - Perhaps the toughest criteria to assess these two games on. Sure, there had been top-down tactical games before Syndicate Wars, and stealth games before Metal Gear Solid, but it was these two games that took what were really the first inklings of two genres and defined them, writing the conventions for what was to come. However, we’re going to give this one to Syndicate Wars by just a whisker, primarily because it maintained the purity of the concept throughout, while Metal Gear Solid did throw in a pitched battle on a stairwell that broke the stealth conceit without actually being a boss battle. Winner: Syndicate Wars
  • Longevity - Syndicate was great, wasn’t it? ‘Wasn’t’ being in the operative tense. Gamers loved it, and still talk fondly of it, but Syndicate and its sequels have been nothing but nostalgia for years, occasional rumours of a remake notwithstanding. Metal Gear Solid, on the other hand, has spawned three sequels, a comic book, a radio play, action figures, ports to numerous consoles and handhelds and soon it’ll have an Xbox spin off as well. No contest. Winner: Metal Gear Solid
  • Graphics - Even back in 1996 Syndicate Wars didn’t quite stand out for having top drawer graphics - it was more good than great. Metal Gear Solid, on the other hand, was very impressive, full of clever designs and good looks, all as impressively realised as was possible at the time, albeit with a few juddering issues with the frame rate on occasion. Occasional blips aside, the winner is crystal clear with only an acceptable-for-the-time hint of aliasing. Winner: Metal Gear Solid
  • Sound FX - Metal Gear’s attempt at a cinematic soundtrack was certainly impressive, and contributed immense amounts of atmosphere while you were playing the game, but with the exception of the grating yell of ‘Snake? Snaaaaaake!’ every time you died, none of it really sticks with you the way that Syndicate Wars synthesised music and blaring tannoys do. Winner: Syndicate Wars
  • Replayability - Metal Gear Solid is great, its one of those games that gets into your guts, weighing you down in front of the TV and making it impossible to stop playing, and you’ll definitely be looking forward to your second go once you’ve finished your first. But will you want a third? The fact is, apart from annoying the dogs and wearing a Bond tuxedo, there’s not much change between run-throughs, and despite it being one of my favourite games of all time, I’ve still never managed to keep playing all the way through a third go. Syndicate Wars, on the other hand, offers endless options for fighting, sneaking or terrorising your way through each level. The option to change tactics or re-customise your cyborg-self gives you a huge amount of replay variety. Winner: Syndicate Wars
...So, another hard fought battle, one that came perilously close to be a draw thanks to the originality of both games, but in the end, Syndicate Wars takes it. Hurry up with the remake please Peter (after Fable III, of course)!

See also: