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, June 29, 2010

Was Heavy Rain a step backwards?

Don’t read the headline and rant… read on – I’m not bashing a great title, just questioning whether repetitive strain injury, sore thumbs and dependence on amazing reflexes – otherwise known as Quick Time Events (QTEs) – should have a place in today’s games!

Although Quantic Dream's epic thriller Heavy Rain was heralded as a landmark title and won countless plaudits, was it really a huge step backwards?

It was clearly an unequivocal success in terms of storytelling and suspense - achieving a very respectable 87% from score aggregator Metacritic - but did its over-reliance on well-timed button presses and onscreen prompts sully things somewhat? Opinion appears divided on the matter if you look at the multitude of forums and reviews out there. It's the Marmite of games - you either love it or loathe it.

I’m by no means slating Heavy Rain – personally, I think it employed QTE in an extremely inventive and effective way, but will its success send out the wrong signal and spawn loads of poorly thought out imitations?

What’s the big deal about QTEs anyway - and why the sudden surge in their uptake?? There really seems to be a worrying trend of late towards the lazy control mechanic.

Since QTEs were introduced in Dragon's Lair way back in 1983, the games industry has evolved rapidly and significantly. Sadly though, the use of "playable" cutscenes is still commonplace. SEGA’s Shenmue (1999) really brought it to the fore - with a graphic regularly popping up onscreen, urging the player to react as quickly as possible
with a button press to further the story. It was clunky but original at the time – although even then, it rubbed some reviewers up the wrong way.

I personally hate being forced to sit through lengthy cut scenes; for those of us who just want to dive back into the action, a non-skippable cut scene is like purgatory. For me, they slow the pace of a game to an absolute crawl and are often dull as hell... but being forced not only to watch the damn things but have icons pop up intermittently urging you to smash the aforementioned button are a complete pain in the ass. You can’t even put down the controller and use the time to go and get yourself a drink or have a toilet break – damn developers!

Heavy Rain is by no means the only offender in recent years either... There's Bayonetta, the Bourne Conspiracy, Prison Break, WET, Ninja Blade, God of War III, Uncharted and Sonic Unleashed to name but a few. And what of Dead Rising, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil 5?

Whether you're cutting wood in Fable II, commandeering a tank in Prototype or trying to force open another infernal grille as Batman in Arkham Asylum, the repeated use of QTE can prove bloody irritating.

My major beef is with titles that have extreme penalties for a mistimed button press. We've all seen them... Press Y, then R2, Y, X, L1, and X… or DIE!

End of level bosses who can only be beaten due to dexterous fingers and memorising the predefined sequence absolutely suck. One misplaced button press and a death scene ensues. Not so bad the first time, but five attempts later and it jars a little.

Don't get me wrong, when QTEs are employed effectively, they can really enhance the gameplay. Many PS3 fans adore Heavy Rain for the way it cleverly uses button presses and stick gesticulation to immerse you into the game. With the current generation of consoles boasting realistic graphics and great audio, Heavy Rain was just like taking part in an interactive movie. And it actually worked.

I’d suggest that Heavy Rain was not a step backwards at all – it broke new ground in the way that QTE was used – and did it very well indeed. It may not be to everyone’s tastes but even haters can appreciate the results.

With the advent of Sony and Microsoft's new motion controllers, perhaps the days of button mashing will soon be long gone, replaced by arm waving and jumping about the place (especially if Peter Molyneux has anything to do with it!)… but will it make QTE a bit more bearable? When the novelty has worn off, I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Golden eras of gaming: Macintosh part II

We continue our look at the best games for Macintosh users with a rundown of our five favourite games for the one-button brigade... Check out part one after the jump...

5. Civilization 3
III as the Macintosh highpoint of Sid Meier’s series as it’s the one where all the elements come together in one epic whole-long, drawn out planning and management meets on-the-fly responses meets borders and cultural relations. The ability to take over enemy cities by force, persuasion, economics or even culture bombing is just one factor in the addictive race from the stone age to the space age using a look and set of game mechanics so perfect they’When people talk about really good games, they talk about the ones where they were still playing at 4AM on a work night, and when people talk about games when they were still playing at 4AM on a work night, they’re usually talking about Civilisation. We’ve picked Civve barely changed since the very first version of Civ. Oh, and sneaking a nuke into an enemy city? Still one of the most morbidly satisfying achievements in gaming.

4. Marathon
Bungie already got themselves an entry in part one of this list, and in part two
there was quite a tussle for this spot between two Bungie games: Oni, the merger of third person shooting and melee combat that had hugely enjoyable mechanics but a sadly anaemic plot and levels, and of course Marathon...aaah, Marathon. The first person shooter where Bungie cut their Halo creating teeth, Marathon remains popular even now, and has been ported both to PC (as a fan project) and to Pippin. You don’t remember Pippin? It was Apple’s spectacularly unsuccessful attempt at making a games console. These days it would be painted white and named iPippin and would sell in the millions, which would be great as it would provide a home for Marathon’s varied levels in which you complete your objectives whilst battling aliens, avoiding crushers and desperately seeking a top up for your oxygen bottles.

3. Diablo
Good old Diablo, the epitome of the action RPG. All those stats and levelling up that sound so good in theory but can be so offputting in practice? Diablo unfolds them in real time, never letting them interrupt the flow of the monster battering action as you explore a series of sixteen randomly generated dungeon levels. The random map generation combined with the reshuffling of in-game items and the presence of more villains than can be encountered in a single play through means that Diablo isn’t just great on one playthrough, it’s great on every playthrough.

2. Myst
Until The Sims came along, Myst was the bestselling game of all time. Yeah, take that haters, the game that everyone wanted to play was originated on a Mac. It has to be said, Myst hasn’t aged well-it plays rather more like a choose-your-own-adventure novel accompanied by pretty pictures. You explore individual screens, working out what needs to be clicked, carried or read to get to the next one, and in the process a story unfolds that will eventually present you with three different game ending choices-your ability to affect the narrative eventually boils down to merely choosing which ending you get. These days that must sound a little feeble, but the imaginative graphics and audio, interesting and morally nuanced story and convincing worlds mean that Myst remains a venerable Macintosh classic.

1. Portal
If there’s ever been a time when every PC and Console owner envied Macintosh gamers it came on May 12 2010, when Valve announced that Portal was coming to the Mac and everyone realised how lucky the Mac owners were to be able to play Portal for the first time. It’s a lovely idea for a game-a first person shooter where the shooting is used to solve puzzles rather than kill bad guys. The gentle learning curve allows you to get to grips with the basics of creating portals that alter position whilst conserving momentum-place one on the floor and one on the wall and you’ll find that jumping into the former sees you come flying out of the latter with all the momentum your jump created intact. The scope for solving puzzles and navigating complex environments is reward enough in itself, but the promise of cake from a decidedly eccentric computer adds a touch of gentle hilarity to proceedings and makes Portal as funny as it is addictive.

Megabits' pick of... football games

For all those lofty ambitions harboured by our football World Cup teams, the tournament has so far been a bit of a damp squib and has failed to live up to expectations. Fans glued to their television sets, awaiting some magical moment to transform their team's fortunes, have been left wanting... (I say this as an England fan after a few absolutely dismal performances).

But what better way to cheer yourself up than to change the course of history yourself and boot up your console and your preferred football game? If those overpaid players can't get their grubby mitts on the Jules Rimet trophy themselves, then perhaps we should give them a helping hand, eh?

Here is our pick of some of the greatest soccer games from the annals of time... Our winning eleven, if you like...

World Cup Italia '90 - the first official World Cup license on the Sega Megadrive was one of the best, worst football games ever. From the dodgy animation to the thudding sound of the ball, it wasn't a patch on today's crop of games but proved fun nonetheless. No complicated control systems here, just a few button presses stood between you and an eight-nil win. And it didn't feature any vuvuzelas!!!

Actua Soccer
- Gremlin's soccer sim burst onto the Sony Playstation/SEGA Saturn scene in the mid-nineties and sported the sagely tones of famed pundit Barry Davies. Not only did it include some pretty decent commentary - arguably the best of the time - it also made the seamless transition to 3D. It wasn't the greatest gaming experience though; the controls weren't up to much and the camera angles often riled, but a good effort in any case.

FIFA Soccer
- the FIFA series transformed the world of football games. Even from its first isometric appearance in 1993, it amazed with its graphics, sounds and fluidity. Widely recognized as the football game on the Super Nintendo and SEGA Megadrive, it's gone on to achieve great things, taking the mantle as THE footy game of choice on today's platforms. Check out the video below and look at the real shift from 1997-1998 [about 2 minutes in]. Anyone fancying an alternative should check out EA's FIFA Street too.

Microprose Soccer
- C64, Spectrum, CPC 464, Amiga, the Atari ST... all home computers back in 1989 welcomed Microprose Soccer with open arms. Developed by the guys who would later go on to develop Sensible Soccer, it rivalled Emyln Hughes soccer as the game to own. Colourful top down graphics, World Cup tournaments, League games, changing weather conditions and two player options... what more could you ask for?

Pro Evolution Soccer
- known as Winning Eleven in its native Japan, Konami managed to produce a real contender for FIFA's football crown back in 2001. Building on the success of its International Superstar Soccer, which started life on the SNES way back in 1995, Konami quickly grew a following. Fans regarded this as the most accurate football simulation to date; if you win a match in Pro Evo, you really deserve the victory - you have to learn the game and hone those skills if you want to get anywhere with this one. The lack of real player and team names was a slight annoyance but the game itself was fantastic. The Pro Evo series ruled the roost for years, boasting the most accurate rendition if the game... unfortunately, it's lost its way in recent years and has been overtaken by a rapidly improving FIFA franchise.

Sensible Soccer
- No game -football or otherwise - has ever sapped as much of my life as Sensible Software's cutesy top down offering. The players are minuscule, but the ball - like the players' heads - is oversized. The goals were out of proportion and you could regularly lob the goalie with ridiculously optimistic shots from the half way line. None of it spoiled the enjoyment factor one iota though. The series reached its pinnacle with 1994's Sensible World of Soccer, which allowed you to play in various leagues and buy and trade all your favourite players from around the globe. The series also spawned a Cannon Fodder tribute where the players kicked a live grenade about the place instead of a ball, and a low gravity version that took place on the moon! Inspired.

Kick Off
- the grand daddy of the genre, Dino Dini's Kick Off won many plaudits back in the day (1989). It was a tough game; it was fast and one of the first where the ball didn't actually stick like glue to your players' boots. Mastering ball control was therefore essential and it took a while to develop your skills before you could compete properly with the better teams. Goal (1993) built on its success and was released in direct competition to Sensible Soccer... unfortunately, Goal couldn't compete with Sensible Software's masterpiece and it marked the beginning of the end of Dino Dini's dominance.

Championship Manager
- Paul and Oliver Collyer brought this glorified database to the market in 1992 as Sports Interactive. Quickly the game attracted a horde of die hard fans. Championship Manager was huge in the 1990s - the football management game of choice for real footy fans, despite the fact it was little more than a giant excel spreadsheet. The graphics were laughable - the screen filled with numbers and statistics and little else. Future sequels featured the occasional picture of a goalkeeper or football as a background but the game was bereft of any kind of animations or match engines until Championship Manager 4 in 2003. Sports Interactive and publisher Eidos eventually parted ways, with the former going on to form the Football Manager brand while Eidos retained the Championship Manager name. From that moment on, most fans concur that the series went rapidly downhill...

Football Manager - The result of the Sport Interactive/Eidos split that in many eyes, has become the management sim of choice. The Collyers retained all but the Championship Manager name and joined forces with SEGA. They hit the ground running, with their first Football Manager game in 2005 welcomed by the legion of fans they'd attracted in their previous incarnation. Football Manager and its subsequent updates have repeatedly trounced the efforts of rivals Eidos and Championship Manager.

Premier Manager - Another management sim makes the list. By no means is it the most concise or indepth simulator but it was easy to get into and addictive as hell. Up to four players could take control of a club in one of the English leagues, and decide not only on the squad and tactics but the more intricate ins and outs at the club such as who sponsors the hoardings around the ground, capacity expansions and the price of tickets. Big, bright and colourful, the game started life on the the Amiga, Atari and PC in 1992 and was ported successfully to the SEGA Megadrive and later, Sony's Playstation.

This is Football - Sony's stab at rivalling FIFA and ISS Pro was a worthy effort but never quite made it to the big time. This is Football first arrived on the Playstation in 1999 before also being transferred to the PS2 and PSP. Peter Drury provides the commentary, helping to round off a pretty decent football game. The 2003 PS2 version was particularly strong, featuring over 13,000 players and teams from around the globe. Decent player animations and fun, fluid football made this a worthwhile purchase and a good title if you're bored with the long running franchises from from EA and Konami.

(Photo credit:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crackdown 2 demo hands on

I waited with baited breath for the 1GB Crackdown 2 demo to download last night... and waited... and waited... but was it worth it?

It promised not only to provide a taste of the much anticipated sequel to one of the Xbox's most loved titles, including its new weaponry and four-player co-op options, but it also allowed me to start racking up the achievements... Any earned while playing the demo would be added to my gamerscore should I buy the full game in just a few weeks' time. What a way to get me hooked! Sadly, my time spent playing the demo provided no such accolades - but I was left wanting more after my 30 minutes of gameplay.

It was the promise of tougher enemies and bosses, more destructive weaponry, new vehicles and that all important four player mode that had left me longing for the sequel
, and I wasn't disappointed. But by the end of my playthrough, I wasn't sure whether I was enjoying it because it was a great update or because I loved the original so much.

For all those who bemoaned the fact that everything takes place in the familiar surroundings of Pacific City (myself included), it does sully the game somewhat. Although the environment is a little worse for wear this time round thanks to the hellish virus that's doing the rounds and the return of the rampaging gangs to the streets, little seems to have changed from the Pacific City of old; I quickly recognised the same old streets and landmarks, and was retreading old ground. What I wouldn't have given for a brand new city to explore and run riot in. To be honest, it's a bit of a shame.

My first dalliance with the demo proved that the graphics had indeed been tweaked, character animations have been improved, and helicopters and new weapons were now available (the UV shotgun is great against the infected), but otherwise, there was little that made me sit up and go "wow"!

Pick up and throw cars, chase orbs, scale tall buildings and take pot shots at passers-by, everything we grew to love in the first game is still there.
The most noticeable change - besides the decay of the city - is that transformation as the evening descends: by day gangs roam the streets but by night, the freaks (introduced towards the end of the original) are in control - and there are lots of them about.

In some ways, it seems to have lost a little of its charm from the first game. It just doesn't appear as colourful and lush as the original's cel-shaded loveliness; I'm convinced too that characters appear a little more diminutive this time round.

I'd forgotten how weedy the agents were before you maxed out their abilities too. Start playing the demo and you quickly realise you can't climb buildings or pick up and throw the larger vehicles. It's not a complaint by any means - especially as you quickly achieve power ups by beating up the bad guys or running them down in a car - but I imagine the demo (and the full game) will become a whole lot better when you've upgraded your agility, firepower, strength, driving and explosive skills.

Ultimately, the demo was great fun - not quite the revolution I'd hoped for - but certainly enough to get me down the shops in a few weeks' time to pick up a copy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ten reasons why Kinect will flop

Love it or loathe it, motion control is here to stay. The question is, will Microsoft's much vaunted Project Natal - scratch that, Kinect (!) - really be the success it hopes? Having trawled the websites and forums following the recent E3 event in the US, there seems to be plenty of thinly veiled criticism about the EyeToy and Wii wannabee.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, are no less than 10 reasons why Kinect will not connect with the gaming public... Let's hope we're wrong...

Cost. Although there's still no official announcement, there's been plenty of conjecture about the cost of the camera. Reports suggest prices could vary from a fairly reasonable £50 to an astronomical £199 - effectively the price of the soon-to-be-launched Slim Xbox. This could be the dealbreaker for Microsoft. There can't be many of us out there who are genuinely optimistic that it will be an inexpensive purchase - especially as the gaming giant has already set many a precedent by wrenching cash from our wallets over the years (Xbox Live Gold membership, wireless adaptor expensive downloadable content and addons...)

[UPDATE 22/06/10 - the Microsoft Store has now listed Kinect at a $149 pricetag (around £100). This includes the sensor, power cable manual and intriguing sounding Wi-Fi extension cable]

Weak launch games. After all the hysteria and hyperbole in the lead up to E3, you can bet that most people now feel hugely underwhelmed at the 15-strong lineup of launch titles. There's the obligatory sports mini-game title, the Wii Fit clone, an irritating creature simulator designed to appeal to kiddies who want a pet... and then there's Joyride, a driving game that doesn't actually seem to feature much driving. There's a Michael Jackson dance sim on the cards apparently, which appeals to my inner nerd a little, and equally there is a Star Wars game that puts you in charge of a virtual light saber... but they aren't due out anytime soon. The disappointing launch titles not only fail to showcase this revolutionary new technology but they don't come cheap either... rumoured price of these is around £30. Let's hope the developers get their collective fingers out and create a few triple A titles as soon as possible, eh?

You look like an imbecile. I saw a video from the event the other day that was meant to show a "typical" family enjoying the device formerly known as Natal. Mum and Dad were flailing about the place like they were at some rave while their two little sprogs were stood in front of them completely non-plussed (probably dying of embarrassment in fact). My point is... who in the heck is this contraption appealing to? It got my juices flowing initially but if it costs a bomb and the games are rubbish, it's really going to struggle to find an audience. The very notion of motion control on the Xbox has already alienated the hardcore gamers... parents and the older generation won't want to look like complete cretins, surely? It's much easier to get up in front of people and perform actions and gestures when you're holding something (you could imagine waving a
light saber about if you were holding a Wiimote, for example), but who wouldn't be self conscious wafting their empty hands about the place?

You apparently have to stand up. Gaming is not going to be a relaxing past time any longer. There has been mention that to play with Kinect you have to be standing - I guess so the camera can pick you up and detect your every movement! So not only are you going to become completely self conscious if you attempt to play this in front of people but you'll be knackered by the end of it too. Gone are the days of all-night playing sessions - especially for all you unhealthy ba$tard$ like myself... any more than 20 minutes playing your favourite game may result in you keeling over from exhaustion.

What kind of gamer are you? Currently, it seems that Kinect is very much aimed at the casual gamer. You know the sort, those who don't chomp at the bit to get hold of that exciting new sandbox game, or aren't that bothered about reaching Veteran status in Modern Warfare 2. No, these guys are the sort that like to congregate after dinner with their friends or families to play a game of charades. The problem is, casual gamers aren't going to fork out for both an Xbox and an expensive new peripheral to play games. Nah, if anything, they'll opt for Nintendo's little box of tricks instead: it's cheaper and has an vast catalogue of party games available already. Hardcore gamers are unlikely to want to touch this with a bargepole either.

Have you got a big room? It may have escaped your attention but all the smiley, happy actor types in the Kinect trailers seem to dwell in gargantuan houses, with big old living rooms and plenty of space to jump about the place... not, like the majority of us, in pokey little houses with furniture and children's toys strewn everywhere. I do wonder how accurate the camera will be if players are stood only a few feet away and there isn't enough room to swing a cat.

Step in front of sensor to turn it on. It sounds great in theory, doesn't it? But what about when you're sat watching television with the family and you get up to go and get some food or go to the bathroom, and your Xbox springs into life? Will it mistake everyday movement for the "turn on" gesture? Sounds like a feature many people will be turning off if you ask me!?

Lack of backwards compatibility. Wouldn't it be cool if you could plug in the sleek black camera and instantly use motion control for all of the games that line your shelves? Take control of Master Chief and actually lob grenades and melee your alien enemies, launch a Sonic Boom as Guile, scale a mountain side alongside Soap or help Tito Ortiz get that submission... Fact of the matter is that to really take advantage of your new gadget, you're going to have to invest a hell of a lot of money in new software...

Will it be little more than a glorified device for quick time events (QTEs)? Peter Molyneux has already spoken about including "Natal" in his forthcoming threequel to Fable. I love Fable. I love Molyneux. But is the integration of motion control really going to amount to much more than an alternative way to take part in mini games as a blacksmith or woodcutter? Plenty of other games have featured QTEs in recent years - Ninja Blade, Force Unleashed, WET, Bourne Conspiracy etc... so what's to stop future releases suggesting you wave your arms about rather than mash the A button?

And most importantly, lag. Kinect sounds phenomenal and could, when it's launched later this year, be a must-have purchase in time for Christmas. But a lot depends on the lag factor. Will your actions be conveyed to the screen quickly and effectively or will you move and not see your avatar copy you until seconds later. Too much delay and the enjoyment factor will be nil.

Despite the big unveiling at E3, there are still so many questions surrounding the imminent launch of potentially one of the most significant peripherals for years. Clearly, it doesn't seem to have met peoples' expectations. On paper, at least, it sounds fantastic, but unless these issues are addressed, Kinect could be Microsoft's biggest blunder...

(Photo credit: Dekuwa, Colony of Gamers)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Can you recognize the gaming greats?

For all you nostalgic gamers out there, try this challenge for size... Can you find 56 classic video games hidden in the picture? Can you recognize the gaming greats?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Golden eras of gaming: Macintosh

In the days before Apple started using Intel chips and offering Boot Camp, gaming on a Mac was a different proposition than it is now. Instead of switching back and forth between OSX and Windows, you only had OS, and had to wait for game developers to create games for the Mac or port Windows games across, and the Mac had a small enough share of the market that neither option was a top priority. The funny upshot of this was that it made compiling a list of the ten best games for the Mac a less troublesome process than most of our top tens. The games that got ported tended to be the nine or ten star games, rather than the seven or eights, so this list not only avoided having any dross to choose from, but we even avoided having dilemmas over the great but not spectacular games. Us Mac users may have had to wait a little longer, but we got good games in the end and, you know, our computers worked properly, and intuitively, and without fifty dialog boxes and a paper clip every time you wanted to rip a CD. On that smug note of simplicity, we found the one rule for this list-you have to be able to play these games on a widely available Mac OS. Sorry to those recent PC games that can be played on Boot Camp, and sorry to the wonderful likes of Syndicate which needs a very specific third decimal point version of an old OS, but to come to this party you need to be accessible.

10. Rise of Nations
Given the Mac’s reputation for attracting black polo neck wearing chin strokers, it’s no surprise that our list contains a few click-happy strategy games. Rise of Nations is the first of several entries on the list, and it’s the ideal real time strategy game for those who like things nice and complex-it has all the usual resource gathering, troop management and climb up the technology tree found in most RTS games, but adds in a few items more commonly found in the slower, more complex turn based arena. Your military and cultural strength affect the size of your borders, and armies that cross into enemy territory suffer attrition damage unless kept well equipped by supply vehicles. Offering a staggering array of unique units throughout the ages, ranging from war elephants through to paratroopers, Rise of Nations gives you options aplenty, and only the most capable players will be able to keep their armies from turning into a rabble as you throw your artillery, armour, infantry and airforce into the fray. Or, of course, you could just do what the chap in the video did, and go nuclear...

9. Deus Ex
First person shooters, eh? You can’t get away from them, and they just funnel you where they want you to go, doing what they want you to do, using the almost superhuman powers they give you...except not this time. In Deus Ex you’ll find that you’re picking tactics to suit your style of play or the needs of the moment, and that the game is adapting to those choices rather than simply slapping you down. What will slap you down, of course is the baddies, who are much, much tougher than you, at least until you polish up your skills and weaponry. Wait a minute, genuine player choice? Levelling up your skills? Upgrading your weapons? That’s right, the reason why Deus Ex has been called the greatest game on the Mac and even, according to one magazine, the greatest PC game of all time, is because it takes the tried and tested action formula of an FPS and bolts it onto an RPG. Marvellous.

8. Halo: Combat Evolved
Xbox fanboys may not like the fact much, but it’s well known that their console’s darling was originally developed for the Macintosh. To be fair, it was also intended to be an RTS as well, but that’s by the by. The fact is, Halo on the Macintosh has been a consistently rewarding experience. The clever AI, the wide open spaces, the vehicle levels are all just as much fun on the Mac as they are on the Xbox. On top of that, the age old anti-console cry is true, mouse and keys really are the best way to control a shooter. Finally, there’s multiplayer. As Combat Evolved predated Xbox Live, there was no way for Xbox players to enjoy multiplayer games without setting up a local system link or using third-party packet tunnelling software. Not so for Macintosh users, who got quick, easy multiplayer straight from the box and, until very recently, could always find a good clean or modded game online.

7. Age of Empires 2
Developed be Ensemble Studios and released for Mac and PC in 1999, AoE II used the familiar RTS template of gathering different food and construction resources using villagers, and constantly making decisions about whether to invest those resources into more villagers for increased gathering, into technology that would make your resource gathering more efficient, or into military units, because eventually either you’d be making a grab for the opposing player’s territory, or you’d be defending his grab for yours. So far, so familiar, but Age of Kings had more up its regal sleeves than an economy to micromanage and pretty villages to build. The rock-paper-scissors system that made each type of military unit vulnerable to the skills of at least one other added an incredible amount of fun to the game, as long as you and your opponent didn’t cheat and look up the appropriate counter measures. Ah, the joy of building a huge army of rapid-firing Chu Ko Nu Chinese Crossbowmen and marching them into enemy territory to turn their soldiers, villagers and fields into pincushions, and the yelps of frustration they’d let out as they tried to build an opposing force of skirmishers in time. And with so many unique units, the pendulum could swing back and forth. It took me ages to figure out the rather obvious counter to War Elephants, and until I did all my city building efforts were ground to rubble by the tusks of those armoured Persian Pachyderms.

6. Unreal Tournament
For some strange reason, Unreal Tournament has long been the Mac shooter of choice. We say strange not because it doesn’t deserve to be, but because all the competition it had on PC was still in contention on the Mac, it just didn’t manage to split the audience as much. Instead of competing groups of Quake or Halo fans, all the attention on the Mac, at least back then, went to Unreal Tournament. It’s not just the well known appeal of an arena shooter that makes Unreal a winner, it’s the meticulous level design and perfectly balanced selection of weapons, not to mention the chance to record your best kills.

Part II after the jump...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Which COD map pack - Stimulus/Resurgence?

Those canny fellows behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 have left us with a dilemma. Another map pack has emerged on Xbox Live - and will soon come to the PS3 - to prolong our addiction to the much-lauded FPS... but once again, it's priced at a stupendously high 1200 points. Most gamers out there only have finite funds with which to fuel their unhealthy dependence on video games and cannot afford both this and the previously released content. So, unless you want to sell a kidney, which one should you choose - the Stimulus package or shiny new Resurgence DLC?

Having completed the game several times, grabbed all the achievement points and played the online multiplayer maps to death, Modern Warfare 2 has sat untouched on my shelf since January. But the news of the add-on packs have given me the impetus to once again pick up my trusty Carbine and TAR-21 and get fragging.

If I'm going to part with most of my Microsoft points in one foul swoop, I want to make the right choice. So what are the differences?

Well, after a quick gander on various websites and forums, Resurgence appears to be a much more inviting prospect and has initially received some very positive feedback. Hell, one of the levels features a giant open-mouthed clown and bumper cars. How could you not love that?

Something that held many people back from buying the Stimulus package when it came out in March was the fact that Activision had recycled some of the maps from Call of Duty 4. Although COD veterans loved the first game and spent many hours roaming around "Overgrown" and "Crash", no one really wants to have to pay for them again - even if they are "graphically enhanced" and tweaked for the new game engine.

Frankly, it all caused a bit of a furore and although the DLC has gone on to sell by the bucketload, many gamers are left feeling a little cheated. Remember, the game itself was priced at a premium when released anyway… to pay half as much again for a few maps – some of which are recycled – smarts a little, doesn’t it?

Not only that but the general consensus seems to suggest that the Stimulus Package levels were all fairly uninspiring; the new maps offered environments not too dissimilar from those that were included with the game itself. There's the shell-shocked apartment complex of "Bailout", the industrial wasteland of "Storm" and the snow strewn junkyard in "Salvage"; none of which particularly stand out or offer anything different.

It’s of little surprise that the new DLC plays the same dirty old trick and only a couple of the levels are actually new. “Vacant” and “Strike” make a comeback on this occasion! Still, it just so happens that these two were among my favourites in their previous incarnation so that’s no bad thing at all.

Perhaps though, the powers that be have sat up and taken a little notice of the feedback they’ve received as the Resurgence pack seems to offer a great deal more variety and imagination.

"Carnival" particularly catches the eye, with the deserted funfair split into various zones, the rides providing a nice blend of choke points and vantage spots. Aesthetically, it is more than a little reminiscent of its namesake level in Left 4 Dead 2. "Fuel" is a vast map set at an oil refinery with its plume-spewing chimneys. This really does seem suited for people of all skill levels and tactical preferences. The final new addition is "Trailer Park", which is a complete contrast to the others; small, tight and restrictive, requiring quick reactions and good close quarter combat skills.

As we’ve come to expect from Infinity Ward, visually the maps all look fantastic – but most people seem to have a particular penchant for Carnival, which is a refreshing change from the tried and tested warehouse/wartorn town themes.

I may not have been "stimulated" by the notion of the first pack, but the new DLC has certainly resulted in a "resurgence" of interest in a game I'd otherwise sidelined. For that reason, Carnival and the new maps get the Megabits vote. I'm off to rid myself of some points... see you on the battlefield!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Video: Red Dead rap

Took a break from riding around the Wild West today in Red Dead Redemption and instead came across this great machinima...

TEAMHEADKICK have pulled together a video of some of John Marston's best bits from Rockstar's epic... and combined it with some catchy toons.


Every girl in town wants to hug me
Some are good, some are bad, some are butt ass ugly
I'm the outlaw, like the dirty dozen
Can't keep a girlfriend, wasn't into my cousin
Like Josey Wales, I live my life on the run
Hunt for my dinner, punch bears for fun

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review - Prison Break: The Conspiracy

Film and TV show tie-ins are invariably disappointing. And countless reviews have said just that of Prison Break: The Conspiracy for the PS3 and Xbox 360. This reviewer, however, looked beneath its obvious flaws and actually found the title quite enjoyable.

That's not to say that if you fork out full price for this you won't feel hard done by - this is definitely one to pick up from the bargain bins.

You take the role of agent Tom Paxton, sent to the very Fox River penitentiary that featured in the first - and best - season of the TV series. Your mission is to discover how fellow inmate Michael Scofield is plotting to free his falsely accused brother. The plot is hugely convoluted, meaning it's actually quite an accurate representation of the TV show.

Most of your favo
urite characters are featured in the game (Bellick, Sucre, T-Bag etc), and many are blessed with the actual voices of the actors, which is a nice touch. Graphically, I was pretty impressed too. The prison environment, from the cells to the doctor's office, the kitchens and the grounds, is lovingly recreated and the characters look as they should - although perhaps a little last gen in places.

Clearly though, it's the gameplay that lets it down. There's little variety from level to level, and no freedom whatsoever. Trudge from mission to mission, go from point A to point B, avoiding guards along the way.

And therein lies another fault; the AI is dismal. You'd imagine that a convict skulking about in an area where they're not supposed to be would raise a little suspicion among the guards but most of the time the NPCs are blatantly unaware of you even if you're stood only a few feet away. On the harder difficulties, however, a guard can see you from a mile off - and occasionally through walls.

There's plenty more that's broken in Prison Break too. It sports a cover system of sorts - not exactly a match for Gears of War or Red Dead Redemption - but a clumsy way for the protagonist to dive behind an object in an attempt to avoid the gaze of a guard. The game relies on stealth elements too but it's not in the same league as the likes of Splinter Cell; shadows offer little protection and obstacles appear almost see-through for guards on occasion.

The fighting elements of the game are incredibly basic, with only a couple of punching options available and a blocking move. Finishing moves consist of a QTE, which soon becomes tiresome. Occasionally the "action" is broken up by a kind of mini game that sees you picking locks to gain access to new areas. You quickly develop a knack for this though and it's hardly taxing.

Don't get me wrong, Prison Break is certainly not unpleasant to play - especially if you're a fan of the show - but there's nothing really of note here... It's playable but exceedingly linear.

Reviews have been scathing. Score aggregator Metacritic rates the
PS3 version slightly better at 47% while the Xbox received a paltry 39%. Nevertheless, fans like myself will be able to gloss over its major failings and see a reasonable game underneath. For achievement whores, you'll be in paradise as the accolades pop up on screen with amazing regularity.

Nothing exceptional and hardly likely to offer any replay value whatsoever, it's still a decent game if you can get it cheap, or even better get it as a rental!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Golden Era of Gaming: N64 part II

Often described as the beginning of the end for Nintendo's dominance of the gaming market, the N64 was a far better console than that simplistic description would suggest, with stacks of excellent games making use of a box that arguably exceeded the power of it's Sony rival. We've run through the first five of our favourites in part one, and now we bring you our top 5.

Super Mario Kart 64
The accepted wisdom is that Mario Kart 64 wasn’t quite up to the standards of its SNES predecessor, but that’s not entirely fair. The fact is, we expect sequels from new console generations to take a massive leap forward, and that didn’t happen with Mario Kart 64. Sure, it made the seemingly massive leap to 3D, but the sprites remained 2D, and even the semi-3D didn’t seem to make any noticeable difference to the gameplay, which remained largely the same as its predecessor despite the addition of drifting. Yet none of that matters the second that there’s more than one person in the room. The combination of skilled racing combined with playing field levellers like the shells, mushrooms and rockets mean that up to four players can enjoy taking each other on, regardless of their skill levels or gaming experience-the best players will always win through, but novices will never feel like they don’t get a fair twist of the steering wheel. Arguably the best multiplayer experience on the N64.

Resident Evil 2
You know what it’s like by now. If it’s my list, there’s going to be a Resident Evil game on it somewhere. One day I’m going to write a Best of The Atari 2600 and I’ll find a way to get a Resident Evil game on there. The fact remains that along with REmake and RE 4, this second instalment in the series is one of the indispensable three Resident Evil games no matter which console you play it on. The N64 retains all the balance and pacing of the PS2 original, but adds a few interesting extras. A variable resolution that can, when there aren’t too many baddies to render, run at 640x480 makes it at times the best looking version of RE2, while a randomizer reshuffles the in game objects to ensure that each playthrough differs from the one before. Beyond all that, Resdient Evil 2 is just one of those games that doesn’t age: fixed camera angles and tanker controls quickly become unnoticeable as you swiftly become utterly absorbed in a game that always demands that you just keep on playing until its done.

Banjo Kazooie
Another game from Rare, who are fast coming to dominate this list, but in a break from the pattern, Banjo Kazooie isn’t a shooter built around multiplayer action. It’s a puzzle solving adventure game built around nine non-linear worlds in which you collect potions and gadgets that allow you to progress through the game and carry out new tricks such as walking on water, flying and shooting eggs from your backside. Er...did we mention that it’s got a slightly crackers sense of humour? The laughs combined with the sense of purposeful exploration make Banjo Kazooie an irresistibly absorbing N64 game.

Yet another game from Rare makes it onto the list. It’s almost impossible to find anyone who doesn’t hold Goldeneye in high regard, and it’s frequently credited with turning first person shooters from the loner's murder simulator into the all conquering multiplayer genre it is today. Despite some neat movie tie-ins and clever stealth sections, Goldeneyes singleplayer mode is barely remembered by anyone. Like its FPS descendants Call of Duty 4 and Battlefield Bad Company, no one plays Goldeneye for the singleplayer. Remember when we said MK64 was arguably the best multiplayer experience on the N64? Well Goldeneye is the game that keeps it from being a lock.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda is one of those few games tagged with the title ‘Greatest Game of All Time.’ Rarer still, it’s one of those games that might actually justify it. Little Link’s fifth adventure goes 3D,introduces context sensitive actions and target lock ons, and builds dozens of themed environments and dungeons located off the central field of Hyrule. New gameplay mechanics and a precursor to todays open worlds were only a fraction of the games appeal, however. The puzzles were absorbing, the complex mixing of timelines was a headbender, and the frisson of excitement as you ventured in each new direction, uncertain of whether you’d discover a forest, a cave, a hidden lake or heaven knows what else remained the standout feature of the Zelda series.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Review: Red Dead Redemption

Not since the release of Rockstar’s 2008 magnum opus Grand Theft Auto IV have I personally lusted after a game as much as Red Dead Redemption. And after a few week's play, I can safely say there was good cause for such enthusiasm and I now feel right at home in the Wild West.

You take the reigns of reformed bad boy John Marston who is coerced by federal agents to help track down his former gang members and their head honcho, Bill Williamson.

Switching from the hustle and bustle of a modern day cityscape in GTA to a more rural setting of the American frontier circa 1911 has been a genius move by the developers. Once again, they’ve come up trumps with an awe-inspiring game worthy of a place in anyone's collection. But that's not to say that things don't start off fairly slowly when you first wonder into the plains…

After a brief tutorial - during which I was mainly gawping at the luscious vistas - you're left to explore the vast game map, sat astride your trusty – and particularly lifelike - steed. Along the way there are the usual missions that we've all grown accustomed to in these kind of sandbox games. These typically consist of assisting Mr X, or going somewhere to speak with/get something from Miss Y. It's all pretty standard fare.

But after you’ve been led by the hand through some of these early tasks, you soon start to realize the freedom afforded to you and the sheer scale of the environments. From the small town of Armadillo to the bandit stronghold of Tumbleweed, or the rather ominous sounding Thieves Landing, the locations are many and varied.

And you certainly get value for money too – the main quest and its 50-odd missions can easily sap around 30 hours of your life, and then there are all the side tasks and multiplayer options to explore.

During the main story you’ll come across some extremely well-scripted characters, ranging from the wily old chancer Nigel West Dickens – peddler of all manner of elixirs and potions, Irish – a cowardly drunk who knows a thing or two about guns but shies away from confrontation, Seth – a mad old soul with a slightly morbid fascination with the recently deceased, and of course, Bonnie Macfarlane – the rancher who rescues you at the start of the game and Redemption’s “eye candy”.

The controls feel reassuringly familiar, and anyone who’s been traipsing the streets of Liberty City will instantly be able to pick this up and play. Besides being put in charge of mules and horses rather than fast cars and bikes, the only real change is the addition of an improved cover system and the dead eye meter that transforms you from gun shy to gunslinger.

The Texas Hold ‘em poker, horseshoe throwing and five finger fillet mini games are also a great distraction, helping you to earn cash to upgrade weaponry, replenish health or invest in a faster, more resilient horse. Treasure hunting is also thrown into the mix, Marston finding maps which lead to gold bullion or other bonuses, and then there’s the hunting – with some 30+ critters to shoot and skin for pleasure or profit.

Morality, fame and honour play a major part in the gameplay too. Each decision has consequences, which helps to draw you deeper into the story. You could opt to help the helpless hogtied woman screaming in the distance as some unscrupulous soul rushes off with her – shooting her assailant in the back and untying the grateful victim… or, like me, you could shoot him in the head, ignore her pleas to free her, hoist her on to your horse and ride to the nearest railway track. Place her down, stand a safe distance away and watch as a train runs over her.

Morally wrong perhaps, but worthy of a 5G achievement score or a bronze trophy. It’s the little touches like this that make Rockstar games such a pleasure to play – and the reason why they court a fair amount of controversy.

Just like GTA IV, the multiplayer will certainly add to the game’s longevity. Starting out in Free Roam mode, you’re provided with the opportunity to find likeminded souls to form a posse. From then on, you and your newly-found compadres can take an enjoyable romp through the usual deathmatch and capture the flag-type co-op modes. There are plenty of maps and game modes on offer, all teeming with weaponry. Good times. Not only that, but Rockstar have already said that some free multiplayer DLC is scheduled for release later this month.

The inevitable comparisons with GTA IV aside, the two Rockstar epics are a complete dichotomy.

The Grand Theft series has always had a place in my heart and its latest incarnation – along with the fantastic DLC – saw it labelled Megabits’ greatest game of all time in our inaugural Head2Head contest. I loved the characterization, atmosphere, variety and freedom in Liberty City… but Redemption seems to boast these very same traits... and then some.

Some of the missions may be a little monotonous or repetitive, riding between tasks can become a little tiresome and Marston’s inability to set foot in water without drowning is an irritant, but ultimately, the game is thoroughly enjoyable.

As mentioned above, after only a few short weeks riding about the Wild West, it already feels like home. It’s like I’ve been transported back in time, finally able to relive the movies I watched as a kid all those years back.

There have been countless attempts to capture the flavour of the American frontier in gameform in the past, but only this incarnation really does it justice.
A must have title if ever there was one!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

25 essential titles for current gen consoles

So you've frittered away all your money on a shiny new console but now what? What are the top titles that you, the discerning gamer, just have to buy? And which are the best games to show exactly what your machine is capable of?

Since the current crop of consoles were introduced in 2005/2006, there’s a vast catalogue of games to choose from. Megabits of Gaming aims to end all your headscratching and confusion with its unbiased opinion on the 25 essential games for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii...

Clearly such lists are subjective and there will no doubt be many games you won't believe we've forgotten... but let us know - have we neglected a gaming great? Leave a comment below with your recommendations.

Assassin's Creed II (PS3/360) - 2009 - Metacritic aggregate score: 91/90%
The sequel to a massively-hyped ori
ginal rights all the wrongs of its predecessor and is an absolute joy to play. The missions are well-structured, the characters are nicely fleshed out and the varied environments of renaissance Italy simply ooze atmosphere. Assassination, feather hunting and flinging yourself off tall buildings has never been so much fun. (Alternatively, you could check out:Batman:Arkham Asylum)

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3/360) - 2009 – Metacritic: 91/92%
Voted best game in this year's BAFTA Game
Awards, the Caped Crusader's bid to thwart the Joker and his pals in taking over the world is undeniably good fun. Dark and brooding, the Dark Knight is the finest example of the transition from comic book to console so far. Spiderman and Superman should take note. (Alternatively…Splinter Cell: Conviction)

Bioshock (PS3/360) – 2007 – Metacritic: 94/96%
Water effects have never looked so good. Exploring the creepy, claustrophobic underwater world of Rapture certainly keeps you on your toes. Fight off the crazed locals, while keeping an eye out for the eerily sinister “Little Sisters” and “Big Daddies”(!) as they look for vital resources. The game received rapturous acclaim and was followed by a sequel in
2009. The way the original took the gaming world by storm, however, with its moral choice system, multilayered story, unreliable narrators and authentic world means it deservedly takes the slot in this essential games list. (Alternatively…Bioshock 2, Dead Space)

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PS3/360) – 2007 – Metacritic: 94/94%
Infinity Ward and Activision took the tried and tes
ted shooter by the scruff of the neck and brought it from its traditional World War II setting to the present day. With so many alternatives available, the success of CoD4 just goes to show how right that decision was. New weaponry, technologies and environments – and an absolutely fantastic online mode - make this an essential purchase. (Alternatively…Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

Demon's Souls (PS3) – 2009 – Metacritic: 90%
A PS3 exclusive RPG, Demon's Souls sounds like just another stat-based
dungeon crawler, but where the setting may not be all that innovative, some of the ideas that underpin the game are. For starters, it’s hard - like, 1980s hard. This is a game that harkens back to the days when you didn't automatically expect to get to the end of everything you played. On top of that, Demon's Souls cleverly integrates online co-operation into its single-player game. You can leave messages in your game that will be seen by other players in their own, so you can share tips on tackling the game’s puzzles and monsters. Even your death can be an example for others: when you die you leave a bloodstain which again appears in other people's single-player game and lets them watch your final moments as a lesson in what not to do. (Alternatively…God of War III, Fable II)

Fable II (360) - 20
08 – Metacritic: 89%
Another much-hyped game from the stable of Peter Molyneux and Lionhead. On this occasion, however, it actually manages to live up to most of its promise. The fantasy wo
rld of Albion is again the setting, and with it comes an array of comedic characters and weird and wonderful creatures. Accompanied by your loyal dog, you can decide whether the path you take is good or evil, and can become a property magnate, a bigamist, or a feared killer along the way. (Alternatively…Overlord 2, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion)

Fallout 3 (PS3/360) – 2008 – Metacritic: 90/93%

Arguably the best RPG to emerge for years! Escape the relatively safe environs of Vault 101 and roam the post nuclear wastelands in search of your father. The vast landscapes and varied characters you’ll meet on your travels will keep you absorbed and prov
ide you with hundreds of hours of gameplay. There are now five add-on packs available: Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt, Broken Steel (generally considered the best DLC), Point Lookout, and Mothership Zeta. (Alternatively…The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Metro 2033)

FIFA 10 (PS3/360/Wii) - 2009 – Metacritic: 91/90/75%
EA's annual update yet again improves upon its prede
cessor and consigns long term rival Pro Evolution Soccer to the bench, sulking. The official FIFA license means that players, team strips and stadia are lovingly recreated. The introduction of 360 degree ball control is another nice touch allowing you to make all those intelligent runs and throughballs. (Alternatively…Pro Evolution Soccer 2010, FIFA Street 3)

Fight Night Round 4 (PS3/360) - 2009 – Metacritic: 88/87%
Tyson versus Ali. 'Nuff said. A huge roster of fighters and sublime graphics and atmosphere make this a favourite for fans and newbies to the world of boxing. Whether you're playing single bouts, match-ups online or take part in the new Legacy M
ode - where you can carve out a career. There’s an old boxing maxim that says ‘styles make fights’, and thanks to the stats, physics engine and genuine use of size and reach in each fighter, this is the first boxing game to capture that. (Alternatively…UFC 2009, WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2010)

Forza Motor
sport 3 (360) - 2009 – Metacritic: 92%
The Xbox alternative to Gran Turismo on the Playstation, this is the driving simulator for enthusiasts and
petrolheads. Building on the success of Forza 2, this edition features more cars, more tracks and more polygons... Enhanced multiplayer options and a new single-player season mode have also helped Forza take pole position in the racing genre. (Alternatively…Project Gotham Racing 4, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue)

Gears of War 2 (360) – 2008 – Metacritic: 93%
The second in the series from EPIC Games is anoth
er third person shooter that is both bigger and better than its predecessor. Largely, it’s more of the same – playing as Marcus or Dominic, you take on swarms of the dreaded Locust in a vain attempt to stop the alien horde taking over your world. Famed for its cover system, co-operative play and multiplayer modes, Gears of War 2 has a legion of dedicated followers – all eagerly anticipating the recently announced sequel sometime in 2011. (Alternatively…Gears of War, Army of Two)

God of War III (PS3) - 2010 – Metacritic: 93%
Baldy powerhouse Kratos makes a comeback in the conclusion to the massively successful Greek mythology series that first made its appearance back in the days of the
Playstation 2. This is your typical God-slaying fare, pitting you against the likes of Hermes, Poseidon and Zeus. Nonetheless, the processing power of Sony’s flagship PS3 platform shows the huge leap both graphically and technically from its predecessor. Highly recommended. (Alternatively…Dante’s Inferno)

Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3/360) – 2008 - Metacritic: 98/98% Rockstar North's controversial sandbox game was the fastest selling game ever for a time, with revenues rivalling even those of the Hollywood blockbusters. With a cast of hundreds populating the living, breathing streets of Liberty City, this really makes use of the resources offered by this generation of consoles. Some fans of the series say it pales in comparison to earlier titles (particularly San Andreas) but for sheer ambition, it's definitely worth a punt. Also holds the mantle as one of the most controversial games of all time! The two add-ons – The Lost and Damned/The Ballad of Gay Tony – are also essential purchases, adding countless hours, characters and missions to an already fantastic game. (Alternatively…Saints Row 2, Just Cause 2, Crackdown)

Halo 3 (360) - 2007 – Metacritic: 94%
Although it is soon to be superceded by the launch of Halo: Reach, Bungie's Halo
3 is still a fine example for the FPS genre. Besides the nine excellent single player missions that can be played solo or co-operatively, the online multiplayer maps had apparently seen over one billion matches by March 2009. (Alternatively…Gears of War, Resistance:Fall of Man)

Heavy Rain (PS3) - 2010 - Metacritic: 87%
Yet another PS3
exclusive and perhaps the title that even 360 fanboys crave more than any other. It's a unique take on a console game, a kind of interactive thriller centring around four characters on the trail of a serial killer. Critics were quick to point out its flaws but its originality seemed to win most over and it was showered with praise. An innovative take on storytelling, albeit with a little too much reliance on quick time events – the majority of the game plays like a giant cut scene. Forgive that though and you have a landmark title with multiple options and endings that will keep you coming back for more. (Alternatively…Alan Wake, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)

Killzone 2 (PS3) - 2009 – Metacritic: 91%

Yet another FPS makes it onto the list, except this time players take on the enemy forces from the planet Helghan as Sgt Tomas Sevchenko. Praised for its next gen visua
ls, it has commanded some excellent reviews – and showcases some of the best graphics ever seen on a home console. Beyond the single player game, the massively popular class-based online element continues to keep gamers hooked. Dubbed by some reviewers as the best FPS of all time, as well as most improved sequel! (Alternatively… Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Resistance: Fall of Man)

Left 4 Dead 2 (360) - 2009 – Metacritic: 89%
Quite simply one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time. Played alone, it's a fantastic way to spend a few hours but played online with a few friends, it really comes alive - even if you're playing as a zombie. These undead are not the traditional shuffly minions seen in the likes of Resident Evil… think 28 Days Later and then some. With loads happening onscreen at any one time, plenty of guns and melee weapons to play with, and a diverse ra
nge of flesh-hungry zombies, this really is a blast. Very little plot, just a good old fashioned shooter! (Alternatively…Gears of War, Team Fortress 2)

LittleBigPlanet (PS3) – 2008 – Metacritic: 95%

Charming, colourful and innovative probably best describes this PS3 platformer and the adventures of the inimitably cute Sackboy. Bucking the trend of most modern games from the genre, it returns the player to 2D levels – all be it with a current-gen sheen. The aim is simple, run through the various levels and get to the end – a la Mario and Sonic. Nothing special there, but its most notable perhaps is the focus on user-generated content. The ability to build your own levels has spawned a huge community on
line, with users keen to share their creations. (Alternatively…Kodu Game Lab, New Super Mario Bros Wii)

Mass Effect 2 (PS3/360) – 2010 – Metacritic: 96%
Only released a few months ago, Mass Effect 2 is already seen as a must have title for the Xbox 360. It’s your typical epic space adventure set in the 22nd century – and is among the most praised titles released so far this year. Reprising the role of Commander Shepard – after his untimely death(!) – you take on insectoid alien abductors. (Alternatively…Borderlands, Mass Effect)

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3) - 2008 – Metacritic: 94%

Since the debut of Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear in 1987, the series has gone from strength to strength; many would argue that this iterati
on is the greatest yet and it’s been lauded for its storyline and aesthetics. Set in 2014 - five years after Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Snake and old pal Otacon have to scupper the plans of Liquid Ocelot who is up to his old tricks again. (Alternatively…Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Killzone 2)

Street Fighter IV (PS3/360) – 2008 – Metacritic: 94/93%
Perhaps the most significant beat ‘em up series of all time and proof positive that one spanning more than two decades can still top the charts and appeal to gamers of all ages. Since the original hit the arcades in 1987, Ryu and Ken have made countless console comebacks, showing off their famed Hadouken special move. It may have undergone a graphical overhaul, with backgrounds in glorious 3D, the core gameplay still takes place in two dimensions. (Alternatively…BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Virtua Fighter 5)

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) – 2007 – Metacritic: 97%

You can never underestimate Nintendo’s aging moustachioed Italian plumber; pretty much everything that bears his name is massively successful and highly rated. Super Mario Galaxy – a 3D platformer - is no different. Taking place in space, guide Mario around the solar system in search of the stolen Power Stars. One of the best-selling games for the Nintendo’s uber-successful console, a sequel is already in the works. (Alternatively…New Super Mario Bros Wii, Mario Kart Wii)

The Orange Box (PS3/360) – 2007 – Metacritic: 89/96%

No other title has ever offered as much value for money as Valve’s Orange Box. No fewer than five top games are included on the shiny disc: Half Life 2 - with its two expansion packs - is a first person shooter that follows the trials and tribulations of scientist Gordon Freeman as he barrels through City 17 and confronts all manner of alien creatures. The much lauded multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2 and puzzler Portal complete a fantastic package. (Alternatively...Fallout 3, Metro 2033)

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) - 2009 – Metacritic: 96%
This Indiana Jones-style adventure swept the board at the recent BAFTA awards, and deservedly so. Score aggregator Metacritic dubs it last year’s most critically acclaimed game. Protagonist Nathan Drake has replaced Lara Croft as gamers’ adventurer of choice, as he goes in search of Marco Polo’s lost treasure, hidden tombs and crumbling temples. Renowned for its epic storyline and engrossing missions, it boasts a plot Hollywood would be proud to have appear on the big screen. (Alternatively…Tomb Raider: Underworld, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune)

Wii Sports (Wii) - 2006 - Metacritic: 76%

It's sold more than 60m+ copies - thanks largely to it being bundled with the console - and although it is getting on a bit now, it remains an essential title. Work up a sweat as you try your hand at five sports - bowling, baseball, golf, tennis and boxing - all showcasing Nintendo's motion control technology that has literally shaken up the world of gaming. It's been such a success that Sony and Microsoft are attempting to grab a share of the market later this year with their Move and Natal peripherals. (Alternatively…Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit)

*Honourable mentions:

Split/Second: Velocity (PS3/360) - 2010

Red Dead Redemption (PS3/360) - 2010

Dragon Age: Origins (PS3/360) - 2009

Bayonetta (PS3/360) - 2010
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii) - 2006

Dead Space – (PS3/360) – 2008

Braid (PS3/360) – 2008

WarioWare: Smooth Moves (Wii) - 2006

Flower (PS3) - 2009
Trials HD (360) – 2009
World of Goo (Wii) - 2008

DiRT 2 (PS3/360) – 2009

Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3) – 2006

The Beatles: Rock Band (PS3/360/Wii) - 2009