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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: Resident Evil 5

It’s probably unfair, but I’m blaming my current state of disgruntlement on Bojeeva. It was his PS1, way back in 1997, that happened to have a copy of Resident Evil in it one afternoon when I sat down for a game. I became a Resident Evil fanboy that afternoon, and if I hadn’t become such a fan of the series I’m sure I wouldn’t currently be feeling this disappointed at having finally played Resident Evil 5.

I left it for a long time, so disheartened was I by the game’s poor reviews. I wanted them to fade, to give my beloved Resident Evil series the benefit of a fresh, unbiased play through. I shouldn’t have bothered. Resident Evil 5 is tripe.

It’s not like every Resident Evil has been particularly outstanding. The Gun Survivor and Outbreak games left me completely cold, but they were spin-offs, experimental titles that didn’t use the main game’s tried-and-tested formula. The fact is, Resident Evil, its remake, its prequel, its three sequels and it’s Dreamcast Deviation, Code Veronica, have all been on a scale somewhere between very good and excellent.

Just so you know that I’m not an uncritical appraiser, I’ll admit that Resident Evil 3 was a bit short and, despite the innovations of live choice and the Nemesis itself, a tad by-the numbers. And yes, Code Veronica was strangely blocky and cartoonish. I’m also well aware that Resident Evil 4 abandoned the series survival horror roots by arming you to the teeth and letting you blast away at hordes of villagers. But you know what? It didn’t matter, all of those Resident Evil games had a few vital factors in common: a sense of progression through a series of changing environments that reflected the unfolding of the story-from diner to cop shop to sewer to lab, for example. And a sense of lonely, uncertain intensity. You didn’t know you’d be able to deal with what the game threw at you, but you knew that you were the only character available, with no external help on the way, against impossible odds, so you’d better just get on with it.

For me, these are the key traits of Resident Evil games, and they’re sadly missing from Resident Evil 5. It’s bad enough that the loneliness is destroyed by the presence of a partner that plinks away at baddies with a popgun whilst using all the health, but at one point the arrival of a squad of soldiers saves you from some marauding bikers. All the intensity of being alone and far from help disappears at this very early stage of the game, and all of a sudden you’re playing something that feels like it’s trying to be Resident Evil and failing.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the logical progression of environments doesn’t work. Instead of feeling like each new locale is the obvious next place to look for the solution to the story, here it feels like a random string of cookie-cutter constructions. Shanty town leads to crematorium, leads to generic tribal village leads to lab leads to incongruous subterranean ruins etc etc. It’s like the developers understood the importance of variety, but not of verisimilitude.

Of course, I was almost able to overlook all of that. If this had been game named Plaguebusting PseudoCops and I’d bought it expecting a Resi knock off, I’d never have had such high expectations and would probably have enjoyed it more. Or would I? See there’s one last thing...this game is cheap. I don’t mean it’s easy on the wallet, I mean it likes cheap shots, and doesn’t play fair.

It’s bad enough that developers use quick time events to turn gaming into Simon Says, but when they implement them in such a clumsy way that you only get the warning three quarters of the time? Criminal! On several occasions I’d get swiped by a boss for no other reason than the absence of the usual ‘press ‘x’ to dodge’ warning. I don’t mind getting battered through my own ineptitude, but losing health because the game has arbitrarily decided to successfully hit me no matter what I do? That’s not on.

Of course, thoughtless design is evident throughout the game. Giving you a partner but not giving her a strong enough AI to understand basic gaming priorities is one clear example of that, but there’s one that is far, far worse.

Think about Resident Evil and what comes to mind? Bad translation? Yep. Low ammo? Sure. Only being able to shoot when you’re stationery? Of course. Having to stop to shoot is key to the games ability to increase tension, every time you stop to fight you’re gambling that you can dispose of a foe before they close the distance to you.

So, what happens in the game’s final boss fight then? You face a villain with a weak spot on his back. A villain who faces and follows you 95% of the time. A villain in near constant motion. My character’s inability to move and shoot simultaneously is fundamental to Resident Evils’ gameplay, to end the game with a villain that demands that you constantly reposition yourself before shooting is yet another cheap shot, a moment where the designers couldn’t be bothered to come up with a something that was genuinely challenging for their customers, and instead opted to come up with something that would bitterly frustrate them instead.

Bitter frustration. That sums up Resident Evil 5 perfectly.

Syndicate remake finally on the cards?

Speculation is rife that Syndicate, one of the blog's all-time favourites, is going to make an extremely welcome reappearance in the (hopefully) not too distant future. EA and Starbreeze Studios are said to be behind the project and apparently trademarks have been filed. EA are so far keeping schtum though…

For some time now the internet has been awash with rumours
about resurrecting the old classic from the stable of Peter Molyneux and Bullfrog. Just look up Project RedLime in Google and there’s plenty of news about…

It still appears to be early days and the series' reincarnation is far from certain but there are scores of gamers out there that hope to get their hands on a gauss gun again!

It's been all too long since the o
riginal Syndicate (1993), its American Revolt add-on pack and Syndicate Wars (1996) were emblazoned upon our monitors.

This gamer just prays that the team behind it leaves a winning formula well alone. Enhance the graphics by all means, tweak the sound FX and throw in a few new weapons but please keep the style and substance of the original's gameplay. An online multiplayer mode would be most welcome though!!!

Personally I hope it remains an isometric top down experience too... I'd hate it to be dramatically overhauled with some sort of first person perspective added – all too common these days.

Who knows, maybe the use of Microsoft’s much-vaunted motion control device Natal or the Playstation Move could put you in the actual shoes of genetically enhanced cyber agent intent on destruction.

Cool or what?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Death of the floppy disk - R.I.P

Much to my chagrin, I learned today that the final death knell had rung for the humble floppy disk. Sad days indeed.

Sony has announced that it plans to lay this historic storage media to rest by March 6, 2011, after nearly 30 years of service.

The company proudly states on its website that it launched the world's first wafer thin 3.5-inch disk in 1981. It sold millions and millions of them over the next few years - many of which now lay dormant and dusty in my loft.

Floppies are largely forgotten about and neglected nowadays thanks to the continued success of the more versatile CD and DVD. The huge uptake of the internet and its downloadable content added the final nail into the coffin of the lowly plastic square.

I remember my move from cassette tape to floppy all those years ago with my Amiga 600. Think my first game was Putty. I couldn't believe that I no longer had to listen to the shrill scream of the cassette as it loaded all that 8-bit data... floppies were the future; silent, reliable and with vast amounts of storage space (!)... Happy days.

Floppy disks, I salute you. You will be fondly remembered...


(Photo credit: vnoel)

Friday, April 23, 2010

What a difference a year makes!

2010 is certainly living up to its billing as a great year for gaming. Just a few months in and I'd argue that we've already seen more quality titles than we did in almost the whole of last year. What, I hear you say? But 2009 was the year of Modern Warfare 2, Left4Dead 2, Infamous and Resident Evil 5. Yeah, but just take a look at some of the games that have filled our screens of late...

It's certainly not been a slow start to the year: Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain, Bayonetta, Bad company 2, Bioshock 2, Just Cause 2, God of War 3, Alien vs Predator, Army of Two: the 40th day, Splinter Cell: Conviction... All big releases, and all well-received by the gaming public and critics.

IgroMir interactive entertainment exhibition

There's a huge proportion of sequels but it's not bad going in just a few months... granted, some of these titles were delayed from late 2009 to avoid the usual scrum for the Christmas number one spot and their inevitable trouncing by Modern Warfare 2.

And it doesn't end here; the rest of the year is looking pretty tasty too. In May alone, there's the spiritual successor to Grand Theft Auto, another open world epic with shotguns, this time set in the Wild West -
Red Dead Redemption (tipped for big things by fellow blogger Ibwib)! Gorgeous-looking racers Blur and Split/Second: Velocity are under starter's orders too, and Alan Wake is finally set to emerge from the shadows after years in production.

A little further down the line is Crackdown 2. Fable 3, Halo Reach, Dead Rising 2, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Brink to name but a few...

There's certainly plenty to spend your money on. Shame we're all in the midst of the worst global recession in history and don't have any, eh?

Man playing a video game

Update: 20,000 gamerscore challenge

I feel a little ashamed at my dismal achievement-hunting efforts this past month. It all started off well as I polished off the final few challenges in Assassin's Creed II to reach 1,000G but it's been downhill ever since.

A brief dalliance with Gears of War 2 and Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 - both of which added barely anything to my score - was followed by a few enjoyable romps with Left 4 Dead 2, a fantastic game but a little stingy pointswise. NHL 2k7 also failed to reward me with anything, although a few more hours and yet another winning season and I should be eligible for a big points payoff. Check out next month's update...

It wasn't until I started playing Batman: Arkham Asylum just over a week ago that I redeemed myself a little. Having completed the main story the other night, I'd racked up a respectable 500+ points. Thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable game but I've spent many an evening in search of hidden riddles - time I could have perhaps spent more fruitfully gaining points with another game.

Sadly - with just over a month remaining for my challenge, my 20,000G target is looking little more than a dream. I have only recently surpassed the 16,000G mark so time is not on my side... Watch this space.

Anyone out there got any suggestions for enjoyable games that offer decent points - not the likes of Avatar though please... am not that desperate, yet...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My virtual life takes over real life

I dreamt I was Batman last night. You know, the Caped Crusader, Dark Knight, the silent sentinel who protects Gotham from harm. Well, that was me, right down to the cape and cowl.

Admittedly, it wasn't a long dream as I was quickly wrenched from my slumber by the shock of being set upon by Killer Croc in the sewers I was investigating. Only a few hours earlier I had been trawling those virtual sewers to find an antidote to the rather
Superhero sleeping
unpleasant Titan concoction doing the rounds at Arkham Asylum.

Despite these pretty hairy moments during my sleep, its the sign of a good, immersive game when you dream about what you've been playing! And despite my initial reservations about Batman: Arkham Asylum, I enjoyed the entire experience.

It's not as if I'm playing on my console every spare moment right now either - frankly impossible with an incredibly active 18-month-old toddler to run around after. But even after a few stolen hours of an evening, the characters and environs have been indelibly etched on my brain.

It was much the same with Assassin's Creed II a few weeks back, when I had a very vivid daydream... Out for a walk with my family, I realised I hadn't been listening to my very understanding wife's very interesting chatter for the previous 10 minutes. Instead, I'd been considering how best to scale a very tall tower in the distance and then how I would pounce upon an enemy were one to be standing below. My escape route was also being planned.

Who said games don't influence behaviour!?!

And this isn't the first time my real and virtual lives have merged either - Grand Theft Auto IV and Tetris were the culprits before...
Anybody else out there had similar experiences... Or is it just me???

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Split/Second video released

Those nice guys at Disney and Black Rock have sent Megabits a shiny new video showcasing their upcoming racing game Split/Second: Velocity...

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to get a little bumpy...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Batman hype initially leaves me puzzled

First impressions can be all important to a gamer and - after all these years of experience(!) - I consider myself a fairy good judge of what is, and isn't, a decent title.

Imagine my disappointment then, having snaffled a copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum - BAFTA's best game in this year's awards, and highly recommended by fellow Megabits blogger Ibwib - to think it an overhyped box of boring old tosh.
Adam West Is Batman

Looking beyond the obviously gorgeous graphics and appropriately-voiced comic book characters, I spent my first few hours trudging aimlessly around Arkham, unable to fathom the controls, the Riddler's puzzles that kept popping upon my screen or the storyline. The deluge of information, tips and pointers put me right off a game that has been universally adored by critics. I just didn't see what set this bog-standard tie-in aside from the countless other cash cows that have previously been churned out on the back of a popular brand. Remember Terminator Salvation, King Kong and Avatar?

This was yet another perfect example of style over substance and was quite prepared to consign it to the pile of unloved games purchases in the cupboard beneath my console.

But thanks to a decent night's sleep and my renewed impetus to give it just one more go, I've had a change of heart. After a stint as the caped crusader last night, I can confirm that I was a little too quick to judge and Rocksteady's vision of Gotham is actually, absolutely ace.

Having got to grips with my freeflow combat moves, inverted takedowns, my batarang and hugely useful detective mode (for spotting all those hidden clues), I'm starting to see why it won so many plaudits.

Yeah, my status screen tells me I'm only 7% into the game right now, but I've a feeling that figure's going to increase somewhat in the coming weeks!

Expect a review on this very blog in the not too distant future... Ibwib, my apologies for doubting you!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Which racer for pole position? Split/Second vs Blur

Whatever happened to fun racing games? You know, the ones where you were more concerned about leaving your opponents in a big smouldery mess rather than tweaking your transmission or switching your suspension? I'm talking about the classics like Carmageddon, Roadkill and Twisted Metal... the arcade racers that filled you full of adrenaline and made your eyes bleed because of the relentless speed. Oh, and allowed you to knock seven bells out of everyone while making your way to the finish line.

Too often, developers focus on the boring stuff like realism these days. I repeat, whatever happened to fun racing games?

But wouldn't you know it? You wait ages for a super destructive, force-your-opponents off the road kind of racer and then two come along at once. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Split/Second: Velocity and Blur. Both are expected out towards the end of May.

You've gotta love Disney. As a child I watched their cartoons constantly and now, as an adult, I can race round a track in a souped-up sports car, detonating massive explosions and doing my best to wipe out my friends. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Split/Second: Velocity.

This very blog has already explained the basic premise of this little gem, but not only has it gained the Velocity tag in recent weeks, but a new trailer has also come to light - and, I think you'll agree, it's all looking pretty tasty...

...and what about Blur from Activision - you know, the guys that created the biggest selling game of all time, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? Licensed cars, power ups including mines, shocks, shunts and (old favourite) nitro, co-op multiplayer for up to 20 gamers and four player splitscreen...

Here's what the game's official site says...
Travel the globe from L.A. and San Francisco to Spain, the UK and more to take on the best the streets have to offer. Utilize an arsenal of Power-ups like nitro speed boosts, shock attacks, defensive shields, and landmines to beat your rivals across the finish line. You choose how and when to use your armory of Power-ups for ultimate impact in a race where the outcome is never certain.

The hands-on multiplayer Beta certainly seemed to go down pretty well with the guys over at teamxbox!

Now that's what I'm talking about!!!

Me? I'll probably buy both...

(Photo credit: Disney)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Red Dead Redemption hits the target

May 18th. Mark that date on your calendar! That's the day that Red Dead Redemption hits the shelves - and it's already looking rather special.
Cowboy riding horse through water

Rockstar Games have just snuck another trailer into the public sphere - this time showcasing the multiplayer free roam mode. Must admit I was a little disappointed by Grand Theft Auto IV's multiplayer options and thought it would just be more of a same for this cowboy-centric epic... Judging by this video I'd say it sounds a lot better.

Its free roam concept hopes to "reinvent the idea of open world online gaming", says Rockstar.

Go it alone or band together to form a posse and explore the entire gaming world. Up to 16 players can fight it out, gaining experience points along the way and allowing you to level up to unlock improved weaponry and horses, as well as new characters and challenges.

All in all, sounds like this will be dominating most of my summer months.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Games record destroyed after 58-hour session

Sadly, as a 30 something year old I find that I really suffer if I don't get a good night's sleep. For that very reason, my heart goes out to the 41-year-old guy from Seattle who stayed awake for a whopping 58 hours to become the highest-scoring Asteroids player of all time. Bloody lunatic!

Personally, I like Asteroids (the classic 1979 Atari title, not large lumps of space rock!) - but like a lot of games from yesteryear, playing it for any longer than hour in a single session was a fairly painful experience. Dismal graphics (see left), irritating sound effects and woefully boring gameplay with little variety left me cold... Rotate your tiny spacecraft left and right, occasionally propelling yourself across the screen to avoid incoming debris while shooting haphazardly in a vain attempt to hit something. Fun, but only in short bursts.

For that reason, I can only assume that this US resident is slightly crazy for even considering playing for so long. Nevertheless, he did it - and amassed a monstrous 41,338,740 score... 2,300 points higher than the previous record that had stood for 28 years. Better him than me!

(Photo credit: drewish)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Golden era of gaming: Gamecube Part II

Like its descendant, the Wii, Nintendo's Gamecube was frequently derided as being too family friendly to offer any gaming sophistication, and, like The Wii, the charge was unfounded. Yes, you have to dig through an awful lot of swine before you find the pearls, but as part two of our rundown of the ten best Gamecube games shows, the pearls are most definitely there.

Eternal Darkness Sanity's Requiem
Another game that could arguably be placed at the top of this list, Eternal Darkness stands out as game that gets all the basics of survival horror right, the builds on them, as you take the role of a dozen members of the same family at different times throughout history and attempt to unravel a centuries old Lovecraftian conspiracy. Oh, and did I mention, you’re going mad? No, really. As you’re exposed to more and more of the game’s horrors, you’ll find your grip on reality becoming ever more shakey, and unless you find a way to settle your nerves you’ll soon find the world starting to twist and distort in endlessly inventive and disorienting ways. While the need to maintain mental health as well as physical strength is a new one for games, and brilliantly illustrated as well, Eternal Darkness doesn’t stand or fall on one mechanic-its action-packed debt to Indiana Jones is enough to carry it.

Ok, so you could play this on the Xbox 360 if you wanted, but it looks like a relic when played on up-to-date hardware. No, Gun’s natural home is on the Gamecube, where its simple graphics and bright colours can find their natural home alongside the smiling mushroom people of Super Mario and the Ocarina playing fairy boys of HOLY SHIT! Did that preacher just kill a hooker with an axe?!? Make no mistake, for all its bright colours, Gun is a brutal revisionist western in the mold of Unforgiven or Once Upon A Time In The West, rather than the lurid technicolour romp of the Magnificent Seven. An early entry into the ranks of sandbox gaming, Gun presents you with an open world to explore, and while it’s populated with little more than a set of identical side missions and collectibles, you’ll still want to explore every inch of it. Once you’re done, you can get on with the job of taking down the bad guys using an array of upgradeable weapons and skills and a thoroughly enjoyable slo-mo mechanic from back in the days when such things still felt new and inventive.

Resident Evil II
If Resident Evil (or Biohazard as it’s called in Japan) perfected the tension generating mechanics of the survival horror genre, Resident Evil II married them to a compelling setting. In place of the hokey old mansion, Resi II takes place in a zombie infested city, a besieged police station, a dark, dripping sewer and a pristine yet corrupted lab. It felt like a set of real places, and the sense of progress as you criss-crossed environments solving puzzles, unlocking doors and opening up each new environment gives you a sense of progress and achievement that will make you keep playing well into the early hours.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I’m tempted to shove this to the back of the list out of spite - hugely difficult and frequently frustrating, the only thing that stops you from swearing at the screen is the bright, sparkling innocence of Link and the gorgeous Kingdom of Hyrule, a cartoonish fantasy world so beautifully realised that you’d feel barbaric for letting slip with curse words as you yet again fail to negotiate the dive in the water dungeon, or are again incinerated in a volcano. Another game in contention for the greatest of all time slot, Ocarina of Time is huge adventure, full of cleverly diverging and recombining timelines and a slowly aging hero who will need to grow into some his greatest challenges. The joy of exploring Hyrule is enough to make this a worthy addition to your games shelf, but the immense satisfaction you’ll feel if you actually finish it? Well, I imagine it must be immense...

Resident Evil (REmake)
Incredibly similar yet obviously different from the original, Resident Evil on the Gamecube is the definitive version of the game that kicked off the Resident Evil series.Yeah, that’s right, up yours PSOne! It trades the original’s awful low-res video cutscenes for some superb graphics that would almost pass muster an entire console generation later, it adds new rooms and subplots, but keeps the original storyline and scares, and while it has the traditional and occasionally infuriating tank-style character control that the series is well known for, it does at least incorporate the quick turn option seen on later instalments. The improved graphics and controls bolted to an expanded version of an already brilliant adventure make REmake an utterly addictive game. The tension levels built up by limping back and forth around a mansion, half dead, pursued by Zombies, rotting Dobermans and cruelly deformed children as you look for the next piece of a puzzle and wonder if your three remaining bullets will get you to the next save point...its breathtaking and bordering on being genuinely scary.

Agree/disagree? Leave a comment...

(Photo credit: Beto sound!)