Remember Me reviewed

Capcom's game has many memorable moments!

7.1 Surround Sound for the masses

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

DayZ: a new approach to survival horror

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

Best of the worst bad habits in gaming

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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My five tips for the top in 2010

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

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



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



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



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



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



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

(Photo credit: ArtBrom)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Crackdown trailer tempts me back


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




(Photo credits: DavidHT, Major Nelson)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: Bioshock

(Submitted by Ibwib)

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit:
Hot Grill)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Alien Breed in bitesize chunks


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

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

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

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

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



(Photo credit: Videogamer.com)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quick, make sure you snap up Qix


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

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

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

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



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


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Best buys from the bargain bins


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: PhotoPuddle)