Remember Me reviewed

Capcom's game has many memorable moments!

7.1 Surround Sound for the masses

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

DayZ: a new approach to survival horror

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

Best of the worst bad habits in gaming

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preview: Bodycount

It’s your duty to track down and take out the ‘Target’ before you find your world totally shredded. The developers of Bodycount explain what is was like to produce an unashamed all out gun fest of a game...

Bodycount reboots the First Person Shooter with a single-minded focus on delivering best-in-class gunplay. Gamers will experience the intense satisfaction of spectacular close-quarters combat in a shredable world as players and opponents tear through cover to execute explosive kills.

Bodycount is being developed using the EGO Game Technology Platform, an evolution of the award-winning EGO engine, and it will be the first game from the Codemasters Guildford Studio.

Ensnared in a clandestine global power struggle that rages under the cover of conventional war zones in Africa and Asia, players must eliminate a relentlessly evil enemy known only as ‘The Target’ on behalf of the ‘Network’. After being dropped into chaotic areas of operations, gamers deploy a mouth-watering selection of contemporary firearms to tear through environments and enemies, chaining kills and earning power ups. Complimented by co-operative and multiplayer modes, Bodycount will set new standards for intense, outrageous arcade action and put the fun back into the FPS.

The new standards include:

• The gun, reloaded –
The core Bodycount experience is all about the bullet and its impact on the game world. Whether it’s the bone-jarring devastation caused by firing into an enemy or shredding scenery with a hail of bullets, the game perfectly crystallises the moment of pulling the trigger of contemporary weapons into a sensory overload of power, violence and exhilaration.

• Rip it up! –

Amplifying the core gunplay experience, Bodycount’s environment shredding technology lets players stamp their own unique footprint of destruction on the world, with unparalleled density and detail of the shreddable elements. The dynamically changing environment is a means of defence and attack, creating tactical options for players; rip through cover to get at the enemy or shoot through the environment to create unique escape routes.

• Every bullet counts, every body counts –
Players put together combat chains, skill kills and gather intel from dead enemies to earn and unlock abilities to wreak havoc on the battlefield. Devastating air strikes, powerful ammo upgrades and adrenalin shots all help gamers rack up their bodycount in both campaign and in multiplayer modes.

• Intense arcade firefights –
Combining best-in-class gun play, chain and skill kills and a class based enemy AI who will work together to hunt down the player, Bodycount’s core gameplay comes alive in exhilarating and intense firefights. Gamers complete multiple objectives amid the chaos of civil warzones with the choice to decide how and when to attack; light-up anyone and everyone who stands between the player and their target or use stealth to conceal movement across raging battlefields.

• Hunt The Target –
Ensnared by ‘The Network’, players become a powerful combat asset, greenlighted to eliminate targets with extreme prejudice. Players are drawn into the mysterious labyrinth of a covert conflict where operatives are encouraged to leave no witnesses as they pursue a relentlessly evil enemy – ‘The Target’.

• Multiplayer gun fun –
Bodycount’s shredding, intel and combat chain features combine to deliver unique co-op and competitive multiplayer experiences. Death Match and Team Death Match maps become dynamically changing killing grounds, which uniquely evolve over the course of each game as players shred through cover to eliminate enemies, create line of sight or peek holes and blast escape routes.

• It’s an EGOlution –
Being developed on the EGO Game Technology platform enables Codemasters' development talent to share tools and technology across Studios and Central Technology teams, empowering game designers to realise their creative visions across multiple platforms featuring cutting edge graphics, powerful AI, advanced physics systems and integrated network play.

Ulitimately, Bodycount puts the fun back into the gun with a focus on exhilarating and stylish arcade gunfights. From the chaotic battlefields of Africa to the dangerous streets of Asia and monolithic Target bases, which the player must infiltrate, Bodycount’s gameplay comes alive as gamers shred their way through destructible cover, and carve a unique wave of destruction through each level.

Equipped with a mouth-watering arsenal of weapons, grenades, mines and airstrikes players rip through cover and enemies as they leave no man standing. By performing skill kills, chaining kills and collecting intel dropped by downed enemies, players can unlock a series of upgrades and abilities,including an adrenaline shot, explosive bullets and radar. Every bullet and every body counts, with replayability extended by the scoring of a player’s skill in each level, which can be compared against online leaderboards in the game’s Bodycount Mode.

The core gunplay experience is central to Bodycount’s outrageous arcade firefights. Codemasters Guildford Studio team members explain how gun handling, VFX and level design combine to deliver a “crazy, over the top” experience, where players can shred through cover, blow enemies through walls, and perform spectacular stunt deaths.

“FPS fans are going to enjoy Bodycount because it actually feels impactful to fire a weapon. It’s got a consequence, something always happens. We’ve spent a lot of time crafting that and making it feel really violent,” says Andrew Wilson, Game Director.

“Firing a weapon in real life is a visceral, dynamic experience,” adds Chris Healy, Weapons Designer. “We try to emulate that as best we can through the synchronisation of things like rumble, pumping the field of view, rising the camera during the recoil. Really trying to get that sense of that punch, in the weapon coming through the TV , through the pad.”

Bodycount’s high-octane campaign is complimented by online co-operative and competitive modes where destructible killzones create new options for defence and attack.

Bodycount’s art direction, class-based enemies and setting come together to deliver the perfect platform for chaotic firefights. The key elements of this “different territory” includes cover-lean mechanics and AI,as well as shredding tech. And they all work together to deliver aggressive, distinct and exaggerated arcade gunplay.

“You feel like you’re really kicking the ass out of the world,” said Max Cant, Art Director. “There’s so much environmental destruction, you’re never going to get the same playthrough twice, each building will be different.”

Wilson added “Bodycount’s AI is completely class-based. On top of that we’ve got three factions, the army, the militia and the Target. Whenever these factions meet, they’ll fight in a completely dynamic way and that class-based behaviour on both sides will dictate how the battle plays out. It’s different every time, and it’s going to be a different experience each time you go in and attack.”

  • Michael Gordon is editor of Charged Middle East magazine, a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games title that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics. For more about the magazine, visit its Facebook page after the jump. Check out this article and many more in the September issue.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

30 Minute Playtest: Space Marine Warhammer 40K

After recent posts on comic book adaptations and the need for a good Conan game, you might be thinking that there’s no limit to my nerdery, well you’d be wrong. Just about. I tried to like traditional roleplaying games when I was younger. All my mates liked them, it seemed only fair to join in, but I could just never get into all that dice rolling and note taking.

For all my distaste for traditional RPGs, however, I’m pleased to see Space Marine: Warhammer 40K on the Xbox 360. Warhammer 40K was the roleplay universe of choice among my boyhood chums, and while I never liked the games, the universe itself always intrigued me. All the baroque industrial-gothic environments littered with architectural adornments that couldn’t disguise the cold and hard nature of the universe. The teeth grinding hardcases built like tractors waging an endless and brutal war in defense of an Empire and lifestyle that looked too miserable and despotic to be worth it, how could you not get behind such a distinctive look and feel?

Space Marine: Warhammer 40K gives me the chance to chug around that universe without having to roll dice or forever renounce the touch of a woman. Score. Except it’s not really worth it. Space Marine is a decidedly middling game from what I’ve seen in half an hours play.

Your heavily armoured character has a chainsaw in one hand and a gun in the other, and the game mixes up the melee and ballistic combat nicely. The single shot nature of your pistol gives every gunfight a sense of trigger pumping urgency as you bury shot after shot into your surprisingly durable enemies. The chainsword takes out opponents rather more speedily, but does entail getting close enough to be swamped.

This dichotomy appears to allow a player choice, but the sheer number of opponents combined with the need to restore your health using special melee execution moves means that you almost always end up fighting at close quarters, swamped by huge numbers of opponents. It’s a little like one of those far Eastern slash-em-ups, Dynasty Warriors or 99 Nights, where the joy is had in whipsawing your way thorough ludicrous numbers of enemies, but where those games offer the protagonist eough speed to compensate for the numerical disadvantage, in Space Marine you’re a plodding musclebag dressed like a Volvo and with a tendency to get stuck on the scenery, meaning the hack and slash action gets ponderous and tiresome almost as soon as it starts. You’ll find yourself desperately triggering your rage mode to repel opponents in order to thin them out with grenades and gunfire. You know you’re in trouble when one of the game mechanics is compensating for the core gameplay rather than complementing it.

It’s not an entirely charmless game. There’s an enjoyable jetpack that lets you battle for the high ground, and the dialogue, although repetitive, is amusingly delivered: the Orcs all come from Sarf Lahndahn and yell “Kill the Space Marines” in a tone of voice better suited to cheering on Crystal Palace. The marines, meanwhile, have a laconic upper crust delivery that’s unfazed by what’s happening around them. With voices like that they should be called Toby and Sebastian, and be offering you cake at a garden party. Instead they have names like Drogon and Antioch, and spend their time disembowelling space-goblins with powertools.

Sadly, the hilarious voice acting and rich universe can’t compensate for the tedious gameplay. After our half an hour try out, we’d give this one a miss.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

VIDEO: Portal - The (Short) Movie

Making the leap from the small screen to the big is fraught with difficulties and rarely successful. How many times have you sat in front of your console thinking a game would be fantastic as a Hollywood blockbuster, only for it to happen and ultimately disappoint.

If ever there were doubt there could be an adequate adaptation of the classic game Portal, here's proof it would be possible.

A short film - Portal: No Escape - is doing the rounds on the internet right now... and man, is it cool. Hats off to filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Megabits Column: LEGO Pirates

Megabits of Gaming contributes a monthly column in Charged Middle East – a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games magazine that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics.

Each month, Megabits takes a look at a new release in a gaming franchise and considers how its evolved over the years and what makes it great!

Here’s the latest of the articles from the August 2011 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.

Movie tie-ins are generally disappointing; a hotchpotch of ideas bundled together to promote a new release on the big screen. Review scores are often laughable, with critics questioning what on earth the developers were thinking. So much so, that the very mention of a new release that shares the name of a film has almost become a running joke among gamers, who quiver at the very premise.

Fortunately, the LEGO branded video games never fall foul of these traps and instead provide a comprehensive adaptation of the big budget movies – in building block form.
The latest to be given a LEGO overhaul is Pirates of the Caribbean, and it proves to be a great game both fans of the franchise and newcomers alike will relish.

LEGO Pirates takes all the best bits from the four films, with 70 characters crammed into the game as yellow-headed figures to make their way through its 20 levels. The virtual Captain Jack Sparrow is a perfect rendition, right down to his trademark swagger. Other characters are “collected” as you progress, each having their own set of skills and abilities to help you in your quest. Everyone’s favourite seadog is armed not only with a cutlass but a compass to help him seek out treasures, whereas others have guns, tools or the ability to crawl through tight gaps and leap to distant ledges.

Coins spew from scenery and soldiers as they’re destroyed, allowing you to buy upgrades and abilities. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of swashbuckling and puzzle solving thrown in for good measure too – and the two player co-op option returns, allowing friends to drop in or out of the action. Then when you’re done with the extensive story mode, there’s the freeplay option to mop up all those hidden achievements, hard-to-find coins and undiscovered pathways. The puzzles are never too taxing but certainly require some degree of headscratching to work out how to progress. Even when stuck trying to fathom how to move some stubborn animal blocking your path or get across a collapsed bridge, there are plenty of boxes to smash or things to climb. Fortunately, it seems there’s been little change to the winning formula seen in the previous LEGO titles.

Arguably Denmark’s most famous export, LEGO has taken the gaming world by storm in recent years - the colourful building blocks making a successful switch from the toybox to the console. From the numerous Indiana Jones chronicles and the epic space battles in Star Wars to the magical world of Harry Potter and crime fighting capers of Batman, developer Traveller’s Tales has managed to capture the very essence of these popular tales in LEGO form.

So why are other developers unable to work their magic and release games that are faithful to the films but enjoyable to play?

While opinion remains divided, the general consensus suggests that the likes of King Kong, Jumper, Quantum of Solace and Avatar all fell short of expectations and paled in comparison to their blockbuster movie namesakes.

Jumper, for example, could only muster a meagre 29% review average on score aggregating site Metacritic. It was roundly criticised for its “monotonous gameplay and lacklustre visuals”, while another review labelled it a “typical movie tie in game, in that it follows the tried and trusted formula of being completely rubbish”.

Thankfully, it’s not always been the case and back in the old days some licensed games were hugely successful. Remember Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker on the Sega Megadrive (1989) or the Die Hard Trilogy on the Sony PlayStation and SEGA Saturn (1996)?

Here’s hoping that those halcyon days will soon return. Looking at new releases like Rockstar’s LA Noire, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that games could once again be both accurate renditions of a film and entertaining. With decent motion tracking, face scanning and voice acting, the film element should be pretty easy to pull off, it’s just up to the guys behind the programming to ensure the fun part.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review - Transformers: Dark of the Moon

After the muted success of High Moon Studios' previous Transformers game, expectations were high for Dark of the Moon - a prequel to the movie currently showing at cinemas. War for Cybertron had helped to make the mutating robots cool again. Sure, the plot was rather run of the mill, pitting the Autobots against those pesky Decepticons in a bid to save the world. However, the inclusion of campaign co-op was a nice touch and the various online game modes offered plenty of replayability. For some reason, some of these elements that made Cybertron so popular have been removed. What you're left with is only a reasonably enjoyable game that could have been so much better.

It's been over two decades since the cartoon series first appeared on our screens but the recent films have revived the franchise and made Transformers cool again. Many of our favourite characters make an appearance, with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide and Sideswipe taking on the evil Megatron and his cohorts. They're all nicely animated and the transitions between their different states are done well.

The new much-heralded Stealth Force mode offers a mid way point between robot and vehicle form, the hybrid state decking you out with both heavy weaponry and decent shields. Besides the weird, floaty movement, it looks nice enough and proves highly effective against the waves of enemies - problem is, it's just too damn good. During our playthrough, we found very little incentive to ever switch out of Stealth Force mode.

Robots may look cool but they're slow and the guns don't seem as good, whereas when you're a car/plane you're nice and speedy but hardly much of a threat to the bad guys.
In fact, being a vehicle is a pretty unpleasant affair. The handling is shocking and the brakes seemingly make no difference when trying to take a corner, even if it's not too sharp. As a result, you'll find yourself relying on hitting a nearby wall to slow you down and change direction. It's frustrating at best!

Time-wise, the campaign mode will only offer a few hours gameplay and there's little reason to come back for more unless you want to mop up some of the easy achievements/trophies. It would have been so much more fun had it retained Cybertron's ability to play with a friend.

Fortunately, the multiplayer mode online is still good fun and although it's been stripped back, it will provide hours of enjoyment. Before you dive into the action, you're given the option to customise a robot in one of four classes: Scout, Commander, Hunter or Warrior. As you'd expect, they all have their benefits and downsides, some with better armour or bigger, more destructive weapons. Sadly, there aren’t many game modes on offer, just the usual Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch games, or Conquest mode, where you have to capture and protect power nodes dotted about the map.

Other than the Transformers themselves, the graphics are nothing to get excited about. Even though the environments are varied, taking you through cities, jungles and military bases, they are uninspiring and won't be winning any awards. The sound effects are well done, with the robots' voices suitably booming, the guns making decent enough sounds and the noise when transforming is great.

Dark of the Moon is not a bad game, it's just a mediocre third-person shooter. Fans of the cartoons or movies will lap it up but I've a feeling those who played Cybertron will be fairly disappointed. With the short play time and lack of replayability, this is one to rent.

*Reviewed on PS3

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Ed.

Capcom's recent release of the Arcade Edition of Super Street Fighter IV offers a comprehensive package that fans of the series and newbies alike will relish. Should you already own one of the previous versions, however, it's questionable whether spending your hard earned cash on what is effectively a pretty tiny update is worthwhile.

Available on both PS3 and 360 in downloadable and boxed form, it includes four new fighters, some balancing tweaks and changes to its online play. There are now 39 fighters includes on the roster, all accessible from the start.
Evil Ryu is the headline act - returning after his debut in Street Fighter Alpha 2. As you'd expect, he's just like the Ryu we all know an love - but with some evil-looking red eyes and flames covering his muscly frame. Oh, and he's got a hole through his chest too! He’s effectively a hybrid of Ryu and Akuma - and is all about the fireballs and kicks, with new ultra and super combos thrown in for good measure.

Next up is Oni, another guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. You might guess from his wild hair that Oni is a powerful demon-type beast who’s all about energy moves and smashing opponents to bits. His air dash move is particularly impressive, and combined with his various fireballs and smashes, he’s perhaps the most formidable new character. A firm favourite.

Last but by no means least, the final two additions are the Lee brothers. Yang (the one with the spiky hair and rollerblades) and Yun (the one with the cap and skateboard) are fast but perhaps don't pack as much of a punch as the others.

But what else is included I hear you ask? Well, there are some balancing changes but during our play test these proved pretty subtle and all but the most hardcore of Street Fighter fans will notice. More obvious is the revamped replay mode that makes it easier to check out the abilities of some of the elite players and track their fighting prowess. It allows you to “follow” five other players and their replays, show off your own fight replays to up to 50 players, and tap into the Elite Channel where you can watch the greatest matchups of those who have earned a rating of at least 3000 PP. Quite cool if you want to see the best players and learn some new techniques.

So in summary, this is a fantastic game. A must have classic that's had its awesomeness level pushed up a notch. Problem is, anyone that owns one of the previous editions from the past few years will find this version an expensive luxury. Assuming you don't already have Street Fighter IV in your collection, however, we've got to recommend a purchase.

*Reviewed on PS3

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ten of the best hoods, helmets and headwear

Think of some of the most iconic characters in gaming and many of them probably sport some type of stylish headwear. Mario has his trademark red cap, Masterchief his helmet, and what of Zelda's Link, the most famous Hylian of them all? Forget his leather boots or green tunic, it's that elf-like hat that sticks in the mind.

Most of us focus on the weapons or superhuman abilities of our favourite heroes and villains but let's take a moment and give some thought to the often overlooked hoods, helmets and hats that proliferate our games.

There are plenty we could mention: Metroid’s shiny red headgear, Metro’s helmet/gas mask combo, Le Chuck’s pirate hat in Monkey Island, Nights into Dream’s jester hat, and what about Mega Man or Viewtiful Joe?

With so many to choose from, we limited ourselves to the current crop of consoles. So in no particular order, here’s our homage to hats...

10) Assassin's Creed 1&2/Altair & Ezio
Everyone’s favourite assassins can launch themselves from spires, scale tall towers and free run about the rooftops. But would they look quite so good doing it if it weren’t for their pointed hoods? Not only does it help them blend into the background when they’re hunting one of their targets, but when perched atop a building, they look almost eagle like. A coincidence? Nah.

9) Dead Rising 2/Chuck Greene
Note to self… in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, forget conventional weaponry to protect yourself from the ravenous hordes. Instead, just stick some antlers on your head and run about a bit. Carnage is guaranteed.

8) Brink/The Resistance
Set in the not too distant future, Brink takes us to a vast utopian city known as The Ark. Sadly it’s brimful of crime and violence, with two rival factions at loggerheads. Just goes to prove that even in the future, hoodies are the headgear of choice.

7) Captain America: Super Soldier/Captain America
Not so much a useful piece of headwear – besides concealing his identity a la Batman – but in a practical sense, it’s always handy to have your initials etched on your clothing. Can you imagine what would happen if he took his hat off while getting changed after the gym perhaps(!) and someone else thought it was theirs and picked it up by mistake? That giant “A” emblazoned on the front will ensure no mix ups. Nintendo’s Mario had much the same idea it seems.

6) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2/Ghost (spoiler ahead)
Sporting an eerie skull balaclava, Ghost is a tough bastard and firm favourite in Modern Warfare 2. Sadly, his headgear doesn’t make him impervious to gunshots as evil old Shepherd fills him full of holes. Pointless perhaps but the hat/mask combo sure looks cool and has become synonymous with the game. (Five reasons I'm dreading Modern Warfare 3).

5) L.A Noire/nearly everyone
Certainly we couldn’t run such a list without a nod to Rockstar and its love of all things hat-like. Red Dead Redemption had its fair helping of them and even included an achievement for shooting them off heads, while there were a few hidden in the mean streets of its Grand Theft Auto series too. But for us, it’s one of this year’s big releases, L.A Noire, that bigs up the hat best. You’re no one in 1940s Los Angeles if you don’t have a Trilby (as Kotaku noted in this article)

4) Halo/Masterchief
We could have chosen one of the cool helmets modeled in Crackdown or Iron Man but for its iconic status, we simply had to include Masterchief’s specimen. A nice green hue with its bright orange visor - nice.

3) Dead Space/Isaac Clarke
Isaac the engineer didn’t say much in the first game – he was the moody, silent type – but his helmet made him look like a badass that wouldn’t take any crap from those Necromorphs. Now this is a kickass helmet, the hulking metal look and blue slits getting it on this list ahead of Bioshock’s Big Daddy and Fallout 3’s Brotherhood of Steel.

2) Crysis 2/Alcatraz
The shiny nanosuit worn by Alcatraz just pips that worn by Sam Gideon in SEGA’s brilliant Vanquish. Its integrated HUD is nifty and the red visor sure looks cool too. It's certainly among the most sleek and stylish of our choices. (Check our Character skills you wish you had article).

1) Batman Arkham Asylum/Batman
Batman’s cowl is legendary and had to be included – shielding his identity from everyone and accentuating his vision with x-rays through “detective mode” to highlight the bad guys and clues. Who’s to bet that that smart-looking cowl won’t be crammed with even more gadgets and gizmos in the upcoming release of Arkham City? Check out our wishlist after the jump.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Three is the Magic Number

Apparently three is quite a big fish among the ranks of the numbers. Screw things up twice? Don't worry, as it's third time lucky. All good things come in threes, three sheets to the wind (always pleasant at the time), three strike rule, three wishes, musketeers, blind mice, little pigs, and as Primal Scream's seminal track 'Loaded' pointed out, 'we wanna be three, we wanna be three to do what we wanna do, and we wanna get loaded, and we wan......wait wait, forget that, I think I've got that wrong.

Still, I believe three, as rumour has it, actually is a magic number, and if 2011 is to be remembered for anything in video game terms it'll more than likely be that it was the year of the threequel.

By the end of August a lot of us will have sampled the fully expected brilliance of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, interestingly a game that happens to be the third in the Deus Ex series, we've already had Dirt3, Mortal Kombat 3, The Sims 3, Killzone 3, and things are about to really step up, with some of gaming's biggest and most loved franchises preparing to unleash their own third installments.

By the time the Christmas turkey has been devoured and we're sat in front of the festive afternoon movie all full bellied and satisfyingly drowsy we'll probably all have made our minds up about which game truly delivered the goods in a bumper year for triple A titles.

Much has been made of the scrap between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 for FPS top dog, many believing that the time has finally come when a Battlefield title can dethrone the all powerful Call of Duty series, honestly, despite the fact that from what we've seen so far Battlefield 3 does look a damn sight more impressive I still have huge doubts it can topple MW3. As we know the Call of Duty franchise is more than just a series of games, it's a global phenomenon and has been the must have title for many a gamer year upon year. The chance of gamers that only buy a few titles per year leaving MW3 in favour of BF3 are surely slim to none and that could end up being key in the battle for the top.

Here's my own prediction though, if we leave genres aside for a moment and use the all encompassing title 'video game' then both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 have their own exclusive titles that could very well take on Modern Warfare 3 in both sales and hooking the player plus they can, almost certainly, more than compete when it comes to gameplay and story.

For the 360 that game is Gears of War 3, Epic's third person shooter is not only a huge franchise in it's own right it's also a game that single handedly made 360's fly off the shelves. The simple story of Earth's struggles and War with the invading Locust hordes, smooth as silk gameplay and strong, yet stereotypical characters was an instant hit with 360 owners looking for action and a game to show off the power of their console.

Back when Gears first arrived, depite having competition from Call of Duty, my own friends list was utterly dominated by Epics game. After experiencing the brilliance on show during the recent beta test I won't be remotely surprised if both Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are dealt a sucker punch by Marcus Fenix and his COG squad. Not only is it looking like a return to form for a much loved flagship 360 game it's also the return of one of the most played games amongst clans, and we can expect many a clan war to be waged within the new Gears world. I have a feeling Epic may have just saved their best for last.

While over on Planet PlayStation, PS3 owners also have a Goliath of a game on the horizon, a franchise that captivated audiences with it's first two installments, a franchise that I can honestly say has given me some of the most amazing moments and memories in my long gaming life, a franchise that is potentially as close to video game perfection as is reasonably possible, a barnstorming 10 out of 10 franchise.

Of course I'm talking about the long awaited return of PS3 icon and hero Nathan Drake and the wonderful Uncharted series of games. 'Drakes Fortune' took us on an adventure straight from the realms of Spielberg, Indiana Jones and the silver screen, it was part Tomb Raider part Gears but all it's own game. 'Among Thieves' somehow managed to ramp the action, storytelling and beauty of the game up another few notches and thenthrew in a wonderfully slick and playable slice of multiplayer action to enhance the longevity no end. A masterstroke. Things are shaping up incredibly well as Nathan Drake prepares to dust himself down and once again embark upon the adventure of a lifetime and in terms of what has me salivating in anticipation of some time in it's company then Uncharted 3 is streets ahead of the competition.

Whatever floats your own particular boat there's certain to be something to get excited about, did I mention Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Resistance 3 or Saints Row 3, no? Oh well I just did there. At the end of the day, or year may be more apt, 2011 has been a special one for video games and the fact that over the next four months we'll be treated to at least four huge franchises releasing their third installment is something to be savoured and enjoyed.

In fact on second thoughts maybe three isn't the magic number after all, maybe it's actually 2011. Hallelujah!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Megabits' 10 Greatest Ever Boss Battles

There’s something majorly special about fighting your way through 15+ hours of a game, doing all the side quests, unlocking the best weapons and armour and finally taking on the final boss – the big cheese, number one, el capitan.

While some games have a huge build up for a rather disappointing payoff (I’m looking at you, Fable 2), some leave a mark on you that endures, long after the boss is vanquished and turned to dust. To that end, here is our pick of the ten greatest boss battles.


10: Saren Arterius/Mass Effect
As the primary antagonist of the excellent sci-fi space RPG Mass Effect, Saren Arterius is something of a tragic figure. Fooled by a synthetic, battleship-sized artificial intelligence called Sovereign into doing its bidding, the rogue agent of an interstellar government finds himself unwittingly the pawn of an ancient civilisation - and driven to madness.

In the final battle with Saren, I was sadly unable to use my charm to convince the Turian that he could end this peacefully, and then spent a good 20 minutes dodging his psionic attacks and pistol rounds. Then, even after he fell through a glass ceiling five storeys to the floor below, I was forced to obliterate what was left of his body, as Sovereign took control of his cybernetic implants. Even as his bones turned to dust, I still felt a bit sorry for the fallen agent.

9: The Chandelier/Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation
Less a boss battle and more a struggle for survival, the fight to destroy Ace Combat 6’s ‘Chandelier’ - a massive, city destroying railgun - was a final battle that left a considerable mark on my gaming psyche, as I and my wing of jet fighters fought around and inside its massive frame.

Taking control of a pilot and squadron leader known as ‘Talisman’, the final battle of Ace Combat 6 saw me and my fellow pilots penetrating enemy airspace in an effort to destroy the Chandelier, before its main cannon destroyed the country I’d worked so hard to defend.

After firstly taking out the massive cannon’s point-defence guns, I then flew inside the huge weapon, taking out its cooling elements and performing quite a feat of flying - stalling the aircraft on purpose - to be able to drop into the rear air vent and escape as it exploded around me.

It was a Death Star trench-run sort of moment!

8: The Kreon/Vanquish
Similar to The Chandelier, the Kreon - a massive, new-Russian battleship-cum-six-legged death machine - was less a boss battle and more a struggle to stop it in time, but since the battle played out over several missions, and took place both outside (dodging the Kreon’s considerable firepower) and inside (ripping the mighty beast apart one bolt at a time), it sure as hell felt like a traditional boss battle.

As the flagship of the Russian fleet, the Kreon was the key ploy for the invaders aiming to destroy Vanquish’s US-held space station. One man stood in its way – Sam Gideon, chain-smoking and zipping about in the slim-line confines of the ARS suit.

The only downside to this battle is the way Gideon finally stops the ‘unbreakable’ Kreon – ripping out a couple of power cables. A pretty crappy payoff after the battle to board, gut and demolish the mighty walker’s defences.

7: Makaan/Homeworld 2
The final fleet battle in the epic tale that is Homeworld 2 - the battle to finally defeat Makaan, a master strategist, and his Vagyr cohorts - was supposed to be the ultimate in head-to-head engagements. With both sides using the ancient Progenitor dreadnaughts (incredibly powerful anti-everything cruisers), I had no doubt the game’s developers wanted to make the engagement a brutal, drawn-out battle lasting a fair old while.

As it was, I instead used my guile and sneaky nature and struck from the flank, in an attack that left the massive Vagyr fleet reeling. By sending in a small force designed to draw the Vagyr out into the open - and deploying stealth drones in an arc around the side of the galactic plane - I managed to sneak heavy battlecruisers, the dreadnaught and my fleet of frigates around the back, targeting Makaan’s flagship and destroying it in one fell swoop, ending the fight before it even began. Classic moment.

6: Makron/Quake 2
Quake 2 was a damn good game in its time. Combining decent action with rock-hard beasties to melt (who remembers the ‘Tank’?) the game provided a challenge to even the most hard-bitten gamer, and a good slice of morose, edgy level design as well – I remember freeing marines trapped in the Strogg dungeons, as others were boiled alive around me.

The mastermind behind the nefarious plan was the ‘Makron’, the supreme leader of the Strogg - and as bio-mechanised as they come.

As the final boss of a rock-hard game, Makron was impossible to kill at first. Starting out in a bio-mechanical suit, a lengthy battle ensued, until the true creature came out to play – and with his BFG on full blast. With only a couple of columns to hide behind it took a good ten minutes, and hundreds of rounds from my hyperblaster, to finish the metal monstrosity off. Good riddance.

5: Metal Gear Rex/Metal Gear Solid
As the creation of madcap inventor Hal ‘Otacon’ Emmerich, Rex was designed as ‘bipedal tank’, armed with a ‘stealth’ nuclear missile launch system in the shape of the railgun on its right ‘arm’. As well as this, of course, the Metal Gear was designed to defend itself, with heavy machine guns, rockets and a neutron laser (unfortunately mounted between its legs...).

In a battle which took a good 30 minutes (and the sacrifice of an old friend) I finally managed to stop the mighty machine by taking advantage of its ‘character flaw’ - the exposed cockpit that opens once its sensors are disabled.

A truly epic battle, and one which wasn’t to conclude until 10 years later, in the events of MGS4: Sons of the Patriots...

4: Jerec/Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight

Man, did I hate this guy. Qu Rahn’s murderer and former Imperial Inquisitor Jerec had a lust for power - and the means to take it, and only ballsy Rebel agent turned Jedi Kyle Katarn could stop him. Damn annoying then that Jerec was a double-hard bastard who kept using the power of the Valley of the Jedi to heal himself every few minutes in a lightsaber duel that took forever.

When I was playing my way through Dark Forces 2 at the age of 11, I remember being infuriated by Jerec. Despite my lightsaber, despite the arsenal of heavy weapons I could apparently fit into my pockets, the old blind git just wouldn’t die, soaking up punishment like a pain sponge. It wasn’t until I eventually figured out that I needed to cut off the source of his power that I finally downed Jerec, and unceremoniously cast his soul to the void.

3: The Tentacle/Half Life
This boss, about a third of the way through the original Half Life, used to terrify me. Basically, the Tentacle is an alien beast that relies on sound and vibration to hunt. Once it’s found its prey, it squashes it with one slam of it’s mighty ‘head’-mounted claw, and feasts on the remains. Emitting a terrifying groan now and then, three of the beasts infested the Black Mesa rocket test chamber, leaving PHD turned commando Gordon Freeman needing to reactivate the rocket pod above the beast to fry it to death.

Of course, the fact that any noise, any gunshot, any footstep, would lead to Freeman being flattened in one blow made the long process of reactivating the booster a terrifying endeavour. I cheered as it burned. I had good reason to. It took me hours to finally kill it.

2: The End/Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater
I love sniping. If it’s a shooting game I’m probably armed with a sniper rifle, crouched in a bush, striking down the ringleaders with bullets between the eyes. So, to be put in a huge forest area hunting for and being hunted by the ‘father of modern sniping’ made for a brilliant boss battle, and one which took all my concentration to complete.

As ‘Naked Snake’ - before he took the name ‘Big Boss’ - I spent about an hour stalking and gradually sapping the stamina of ‘The End’, a sniper so old that his ghille suit has bonded to his body, allowing him to become one with the forest, and who could use photosynthesis to survive on sunlight alone. Pretty handy.

Fighting The End was a singularly thrilling experience. Not a boss battle filled with explosions and flying bullets, the battle played out over an hour or more of stealthy sneaking, watching the trees for movement and trying not to embarrass myself.

By the time I finally tranquilised the great man, and he thanked me for a challenging final battle, I felt relief and gratitude in equal measure. Especially when he gave me his rifle, before finally going to that great firing range in the sky.

1: Sephiroth/Final Fantasy 7
If you hadn’t guessed this boss battle to be number one when you read the name of the article, then you’ve never fought the one-winged angel.

Sephiroth’s final form proved to be one of the most challenging opponents I’ve ever faced. Majestic and terrifying, he bashed his way through my barrier magic over and over, forcing me to use all my guile (and carefully linked materia) to beat him back. Then there was his signature attack: ‘Supernova’ - where the big man summons an asteroid from the depths of space to flatten your small group, in an animation that took so long a friend joked that he could clean his room while it played.

It took me almost an hour of constant battle to wear him down, to weaken him enough that everyone’s favuorite amnesiac, clone, cross-dressing hero, Cloud Strife, could level his sword and omnislash him to death. A true monster, Sephiroth's final defeat brought joy to my heart, and signaled an end to the five weeks of fantastic gaming Final Fantasy 7 bought to my 13-year-old self.

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