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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Redemption stories - from chump to champ

Some characters are cut from heroic cloth. From the very start of Halo, Master Chief was all shining armour and against-any-odds heroism. As soon as you start Just Cause Agent Rico is a paragliding, carjacking secret agent from James Bond school of driving. Captain Shepherd knows one end of the galaxy from the other the moment you start playing Mass Effect. It must be nice to burst forth into the game world as a well rounded and fully realised paragon of coolness and capability, but just like in real life, not everyone gets a lucky break. Some guys have to work for it.

For every lead character that exemplifies heroism and selflessness, there’s another whose moral compass has got a bit too close to the speaker magnets. For every character who displays an effortless sense of style and grace under pressure, there’s another who’s panicking, shrieking and begging for someone to explain what’s going on. Obviously, we at Megabits are all effortlessly cool and competent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sympathise with the guys who take some time to find themselves. Here are our favourite chump to champ, crook to paragon stories.

Starkiller/Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Starkiller tops our list because he fits neatly into both categories. He starts out as a whiny brat and ends the game as a whiny brat in a long coat, which for a Star Wars character represents a massive leap up the coolness food chain. More importantly, he starts out as Darth Vader’s apprentice and carries out numerous murderous missions for his master, but by the end of the game he’s instrumental in founding the Rebel Alliance which will go on to liberate the galaxy from the asthmatic space samurai. You don’t get much more redemptive than that.

John Marston/Red Dead Redemption
Ah, the western, the natural home of the redemptive tale, the place where you expect to find a killer come good. In John Marston, Red Dead Redemption hits all the bases: a man with a history of violence, murder and robbery, whose known associates include outlaws, banditos and the crazed Dutch van der Linde, a man who appears to be trying to halt the march of progress with ever increasing acts of savagery. The fact that all Marston wants is to return to his wife, son and drunk uncle shows just how far from his rotten roots he has come.

Gordon Freeman/Half Life
Granted, physicists are the coolest of all the scientists, but really, that’s not saying much. After all, Gordon Freeman starts Half Life as a goatee’d nerd too nervous to even speak to the ladies, but by the end of Half Life 2 Episode 2 he’s a crowbar wielding saviour, a gravity defying agent of ineffable forces, on a quest to save the Earth. And he’s still too nervous to even speak to the ladies. Maybe in Episode 3?

Travis Touchdown/No More Heroes
At every Comicon or gaming convention you can find an anime-collecting, pornography-loving geek who thinks that a lightsaber will alter his status in life more effectively than, say, personal hygiene. The brilliant thing about No More Heroes’ Travis Touchdown is that it turns out to be true. Winning a lightsa...sorry, Beam Katana in an online auction sees our flamboyant nerd step onto the ladder of coolness, bringing him wealth and status. Now when he rubs one out in the toilets it’s in order to er...charge his weapon.

Isaac Clarke/Dead Space
Putting Isaac Clarke in the same room as Gordon Freeman would be amusing. Much like Sheldon and Howard in The Big Bang Theory, Gordon would be able to console himself that even though he may be a nerdy scientist, at least he has one up on Isaac, who is equally nerdy, but only an engineer. An engineer whose girlfriend was so committed that she disappeared off into deep space without him. Still, from these inauspicious beginnings does coolness and heroism eventually grow, as Isaac dissects monsters, blasts asteroids and eventually disposes of an ancient and incredibly evil space-totem. Not bad for a guy with pocket protectors and polyester trousers, eh?

Perhaps the ultimate patsy, Jack’s whole life was someone else’s power play, and his presence in Rapture has been engineered by external forces. Even his actions when he gets there are not his own. But instead of being everybody else’s mug, Jack emerges from the experience stronger, wiser and, depending on your choices, the saviour of seven sweet little girls who would otherwise have suffered a terrible fate. Nice comeback.

Ezio/Assassin’s Creed II
While Assassin’s Creed had a fully trained badass in the form of Altair, players of the sequel have to start out with Ezio, a fop so far down the coolness pecking order that his first lessons in assault and evasion come not from an actual hardcase, but from a fellow renaissance dandy. When you’re getting lessons in toughness from a fey Florentine, you know you’ve got a long way to go in the coolness stakes. Luckily, Ezio climbs the coolness ladder with the same speed and efficiency that he scales European landmarks.

Andre Bishop/Fight Night Champion
At the start of Fight Night Champion, Andre Bishop is an ex-contender, a con with anger management problems and the marks of a serious prison beating. Not many people come back from that, but by the end of the game, when you’ve defeated a boss so difficult you’ll think you’re playing a game from the 1980s, you’ll find that your sense of achievement in real life matches that of Andre in the’re the Champ.

Grayson Hunt/Bulletstorm
Sure, Epic Games and EA pulled one out of the bag with their new IP Bulletstorm but questions must surely have been raised by the execs in the boardroom at the decision to cast a violent drunk as the protagonist. However, the transition from heavily imbibed assassin to loveable rogue proves pretty seamless as the game progresses, Hunt discovering that all those nasty no-hopers he’d so happily been dispatching were, in fact, innocent civilians and he was nothing but a pawn of his former boss General Sarrano. He’s therefore determined to right those wrongs and kick Sarrano’s ass.

Cole MacGrath/Infamous
A humble courier just minding his own business gets caught up in an almighty firestorm when Empire City spontaneously explodes, leaving him able to shoot electricity from his fingertips. Suddenly, Mr Ordinary is tasked with saving not only the city but the entire world, and making some pretty mammoth karmic decisions along the way. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Characters you really wouldn't want to date

If ever you’ve been present in a game lobby when a woman joins the game, you’ll have noticed how bad some gamers are at dealing with the opposite sex. You’ll be lucky if ‘Make me a sandwich, b*tch’ is the least offensive thing you hear. No wonder games are full of buxom beauties and musclebound hunks - it’s not as if some of those gamers are ever going to get near a member of the opposite sex in real life so this is the closest they will come.

Of course, not all game characters make ideal fantasy partners either. Here are the 10 gaming characters who really aren't dating material...

Ashley/Resident Evil 4

We can forgive her jailbait era Britney looks and tendency to alternate between inane questions and cries for help. We can forgive her near constant need to be rescued. We can even forgive her Presidential parentage, but what we can’t forgive is that damn sweater. Bright orange polyester was bad enough 35 years ago when it was in fashion, but when you’re skulking around in the darkness trying not to attract the attention of chainsaw-wielding Spaniards accompanied by what appears to be a busty blonde belisha beacon, it’s unforgiveable. Her fashion sense rules her out of the romance running.

Duke Nukem/Duke Nukem Forever

Duke is an anachronism, flying in the face of all the new age men out there who treat their partners with respect and decency. Anyone who spouts so much verbal silage, smokes Cubans like a chimney and isn’t adverse to fishing around the toilet bowl and then daubing the walls with an old turd isn’t exactly the type of guy you want to take home to meet the folks. And he’s not exactly punctual either - despite promises to the contrary he couldn’t even be bothered to turn up for his own sequel until 14 years had passed!

Mario/Super Mario Bros

The pint-sized Italian lothario isn’t exactly the ideal man... not only does he keep allowing his friends to get kidnapped, he’s clearly not fond of animals (note the fish, turtles, beetles and caterpillars he happily kills in his many games). Not only that but he’s got a penchant for magic mushrooms!

Otis the janitor/Dead Rising

Talk about needy. This guy just won’t take the hint, will he? No matter what you’re doing or what’s distracting you at the time (typically hundreds of crazed flesh-eating zombies), he just keeps on calling your phone. If you don’t answer he gets shirty, if you do pick up he warbles on and gets all demanding - normally wanting you to go somewhere sharpish. And then if you don’t make it in time, he just gets even more irritable. STOP CALLING ME!

Roman Bellic/GTA IV

Looks aren’t everything but he clearly takes little pride in his appearance. What’s more, all he does is talk about girls like a horny teen. It’s just damn inappropriate. Then when he’s not thinking of carnal pleasures, he acts like a little puppy always needing attention... come play with me, pleeeeaaase - game of pool? Fancy some darts? Drink?

Sheva/Resident Evil 5

Have you ever been to a restaurant with a woman who only orders a salad and then eats half your chips? Well Sheva in Resident Evil 5 is just like that, except instead of a restaurant it’s a third world hellhole full of rusty spikes and angry monsters. And instead of chips, it’s medicine and ammo. So, quite a lot worse, really.

Rico/Just Cause

Got some pretty porcelain nick-nacks? Maybe a nice glass vase with a single flower in it? Well you won’t have it for long if you start dating Rico. The man just lives to smash your sh*t up. We don’t know if he has a destructive nature or is just a klutz, but either way, he’s bad news. Worse still, he’s playing three factions against each other. If he’s faithless at work, could you trust him the rest of the time?

Niko Bellic/GTA IV
Unlike his cousin, old Niko is quite adept at putting it about a bit and working his magic on the ladies. When not roaming downtown Liberty City, filling bad guys full of lead or driving at breakneck speed along one way streets, he’s chasing ass and having his way with any buxom broad who invites him up for coffee. Have you seen his internet dating profile?

Solid Snake/Metal Gear Solid 4

By the time you get to MGS 4, stealth hero Solid Snake is a sneaky, grizzled old man with a greying moustache and mullet, prone to ‘restoring himself’ with a quick flick through a dirty magazine. If he were a real person there would be a court order preventing him from going within 500 yards of the nearest girl’s school and local children would have made up rude songs about the creepy old goat.

Grayson Hunt/Bulletstorm

Rugged and good looking he may be, but he’s certainly not dating material. Set aside his bad career prospects, this guy is always searching around for hard liquor and can’t handle his drink at all, just a sniff of the strong stuff sending him stumbling about the place like a hobo. And we haven’t even mentioned all the profanities: “Here comes Butterdick Jones and his heavenly asshole machine!” Tsk Tsk.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An homage to sweat effects

We all like realism, right? And we all love being able to emulate our sporting heroes, imitate our favourite characters and get as close to the action as we can? Recent years have seen so much time and effort invested in assuring that virtual reality is as plausible as possible, allowing you step into the characters' shoes and score that winning goal, basket, home run, whatever...

Game reviews are forever waxing lyrical about superb graphics, sublime motion capture and advanced facial scanning. Hell, in most cases, besides a rejigged fixture list, it's largely only the aesthetics that are really changed in each annual update of a sports sim.
Appearance is pretty much everything in the world of the humble sports sim and the FIFA, Madden, NBA, NHL titles have really upped their game in the past decade. In some cases, games and the characters within can look almost as good as the real thing (if you squint a bit)!

But let's not forget another vital element to the sports sim: sweat effects. Yeah, yeah, I hear you grumble - whatever! But hear me out. Remember the first time you saw Kobe Bryant booming down the court just before pulling off an absolutely amazing dunk? Amid all that crowd noise, thumping music and that excitable commentary, you must remember the camera panning round for the close up of the triumphant Bryant? Some of you must surely have been wowed by just how damn accurate the sweat looked as it gathered across his brow??? No, only me then? Anyway, here are a few picks of some of the best and worst sweat effects in gaming (an article many of you thought you'd NEVER see)...

UFC Undisputed 2010

Sure the blurb on the box talked about "Enhanced Combat" and the extensive "Fighter Customisation" but that paled into insignificance against with the awe-inspiring perspiration that appeared after a few seconds of fighting! Who could argue that those beads of sweat didn't add greatly to the proceedings - without them the overall package would have been somehow less realistic, less complete. Anything that makes a gamer forget that they're gaming because it looks so damn real, is a great addition in my book.

NBA 2K11
Basketball is a fantastic, fast-paced sport. And what better way to capture the speed and absolute exhaustion of the players than capturing those beads of sweat dripping off their heads?!? Man does it looks impressive that the players actually appear more tired as the timer ticks down.

Fight Night Champion

EA Sports games are benchmark for sweat effects, don't you think? Pretty much every game on their schedule features the often forgotten bodily fluid spilling from some of the characters. Take a look the picture below - sweat at its very best!

Virtua Tennis 4
While the perspiration effects in this game are certainly not worthy of praise - afterall, they do make some of the superstars of tennis look like they're either melting or an extra in a zombie movie - they are a fairly prominent graphical attribute. What's more, the effects on screen - no matter how awful - reflect the tiredness of your thumbs after a particularly gruelling match against the seemingly unbeatable cap-wearing champ, King!

...and last but not least, it may not be sporty but sweat plays an important honorable mention goes to...

L.A Noire

Now here's an inventive way of incorporating sweat effects into a game. These little beads of perspiration actually play a purpose and determine whether you'll send someone to the slammer or let them get away, quite literally, with murder! The Motionscan tech is pretty impressive during the interrogations; shifty eyes, twitching and sweat all helping to establish someone's guilt. Inspired.

Megabits’ Batman: Arkham City Wishlist

We loved Batman: Arkham Asylum. The combination of smooth combat, clever puzzle solving and exploration kept us hooked for hours, and the seamless way in which it blended esoteric pieces of batlore with a plot that would make perfect sense even if you’d never read a Batman comic meant it served an audience of gamers and fanboys equally.

With Batman: Arkham City on the horizon we thought we’d come up with a list of tweaks and improvements we’d like to see in the sequel. We had to think for a long, long time, but eventually we hit upon a few....

Discreet Detecting
About the only real complaint we were ever able to make about Batman: Arkham Asylum was that there was no compelling reason to exit the infra-red detective mode. We wanted to. It seemed a waste of some really gorgeous environment and character design to view it all through those funny goggles. But you know what pigeon-shooting, orb-hunting, feather-collecting purists gamers we are, we didn’t want to risk missing anything. We’re hoping that this time round the detective mode will be some sort of discreet overlay on the main view rather than a completely separate visual setting.

Mental Agility
On the subject of detecting, a lot of Arkham Asylum’s detective tasks basically involved following a trail of chemical breadcrumbs identified by the detective mode. It was a combination of automated mass spectrometry and walking. Not really what we’d call detective work. This time round, we’re hoping to see more puzzles that require genuine deductive reasoning and the ability to string together several pieces of evidence whilst identifying and discarding red herrings.

Cut the Combo-Count
The four-buttons-and-a-joystick combination resulted in some of the smoothest combat we’ve seen in a game for many a year, and it was a joy to occasionally abandon stealth and dive into a room full of hoodlums, all lycra and knuckles. The only drawback we found was that the need to string five to eight uninterrupted blows together to enable a special move meant that you very rarely got to use your special moves. We’d never suggest that the combat should be simple and unchallenging, but this is a Batman game, so we’d like to be able to feel like a superhero with a little more frequency, please.

Fanservice, please...
No, we don’t mean more shots of Poison Ivy in her knickers. One of the best things about Arkham Asylum was the amount of cameos by characters from Batman’s history. We’re really hoping that continues in Arkham City, with two characters in particular. Firstly there’s Deadshot, the marksman with a death wish who provides a perfect counterpoint to Batman. Formerly one of the coolest looking characters in comics, he’s recently been given an awful, generic armoured guy redesign by DC comics. We’d love to see if Rocksteady’s excellent designers can redress the balance by restoring his cool. Secondly, we’d like to see Orpheus, the protector of Gotham’s ghettos. He’s never been one of the most popular characters in the comics, but he’s strong, smart black man who’s trusted by the coolest characters and doesn’t speak in cliché. Gaming needs more characters like that.

Holy co-op
Online challenge rooms and leader boards were ok, but we’d like to see some sort of playable co-op, wherein two characters can combine to progress through a series of environments. Perhaps one will need to use detective mode to find an exit while the other uses combat to keep the baddies at a distance. Maybe one person needs to be gliding around providing air cover while another player uses the batzip line. Seriously, just give us a chance to work together and we’ll be happy. Heck, I’ll even be Robin if I have to.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is DLC the scourge of gamers?

Remember the old days when you’d head down to your local game store to pick up the latest must-have title (before the days of ebay and internet shopping)? And remember the excitement as you played it relentlessly and finally made it through to the final boss? Remember how even when you’d completed the game you would still happily wring out countless hours of enjoyment by replaying each and every level?

Sadly, those halcyon days are but a distant memory now. Is value for money a thing of the past? Certainly, the world of gaming has changed; longevity has been replaced with brevity. Call me cynical but nowadays the full retail version of a game seems almost a temporary stop gap until some costly DLC or the inevitable annual update becomes available.

The games of yesteryear used to last until the cartridge or disc broke, or at least until you opted for a newer, flashier console. You didn’t even contemplate having to spend more money to upgrade the game after a few months, or worry that it wouldn’t be too long before its multiplayer options would be switched off (yes, EA, I'm looking at you!). Back then, a game was for life.

Sports sims are perhaps the exception as they’ve been annually updated since the beginning of time. Even in the days of the Megadrive, you could expect a new iteration of FIFA Soccer or NHL hockey, but at least the next version was suitably different from the last.

Nowadays, everything is temporary. Take Call of Duty, for example, and the eagerly anticipated – and record breaking – release each and every year from Infinity Ward or Treyarch. Granted they included new storylines and environments but they both regularly fail to really tread new ground or innovate. Each developer recycles the tried and tested formula, and just does enough to outdo the another.

Very seldom does an entirely new IP hit the shelves, largely because production costs are too great and the potential losses are vast if it fails to excite the gaming public. Sequels are commonplace. Just look at some of the big releases this year... Portal 2, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Dungeon Siege III, Red Faction Armageddon... the list goes on.

And what about DLC and all those episodic updates - L.A Noire has been churning them out lately, and Fallout New Vegas has seen some new content too. Then there are the "ultimate" or "special" edition games that hit the shelves soon after the original - Capcom recently released yet another special edition of Street Fighter IV!

All these updates and DLC have clearly become big business but are gamers getting a raw deal? Shouldn’t a game that hits the shelves be a comprehensive package and not need all these add-ons? It really grates when DLC is released so soon after a launch and makes you question whether the extra content should have been bundled with the game in the first place.

When I pay all that money - and have supported that company throughout the years buying all their wares - I'd like to think that I'd get a little DLC thrown in for free. I'm not asking a lot, maybe just a regular patch or a few free maps every now and again? Shouldn’t in-game costumes or weaponry be awarded for free, perhaps depending on progress or hours played? Wouldn’t it be great if you could be awarded DLC as you reach a landmark in your gamerscore?

And why couldn’t a new version of a game detect that you own previous editions and give you some sort of bonus content or allow you to carry over your hard-earned skills or abilities (Mass Effect 2 successfully did this – shouldn’t others incorporate this feature?).

Us gamers are already paying through the nose for content. When I buy a game, I want it to last, I want it to be complete and I don't want to have to double my outlay within a few months with add-ons. I'd suggest you probably can have too much
of a good thing!

Megabits' Pick of the Best Gaming Demakes

Countless games get an overhaul every now and again - a remake that often promises improved graphics, more levels, some extra gameplay content or at least, makes use of the new technology available to the developers.

Well, there are plenty of fans out there who have wanted to do exactly the opposite, reimagining their favourite games on a classic console - often with a nod to the glorious 8-bit, 2D days when 1080p and hdmi cables were but a distant dream. Megabits of Gaming has therefore scoured this very internet and picked its 10 favourite demakes...

Left 4 Dead
Arguably one of the greatest co-op games ever - and a Megabits favourite - Left 4 Dead has been given the demake treatment and actually makes the transition pretty seamlessly. Just watch out for the Tank!

With the recent sequel definitely our tip for Game of the Year, we love how the premise of the game has been reworked. We also came across this pretty great playable Flash version, which should help to keep you occupied until Portal 3 makes an appearance (we hope!).

Fanboy favourite Halo has been lovingly recreated and the results are fantastic. Master Chief may have seen better days but there's still plenty of shooting to be done.

Final Fantasy VII
Many still claim Final Fantasy VII to be the best in the series - so there are plenty of you who would love to revisit the escapades of Cloud Strife...

Team Fortress 2
If Valve should be praised for anything, it's making co-op games thoroughly awesome. Here's Team Fortress 2 - now available to play free by the way - in all its demake glory!

Alan Wake
Survival horror fans loved Alan Wake and guiding him through the sleepy town of Bright Falls. Anyone else think that this demake with its basic graphics and sound make the whole thing seem a little creepier? A great nod to an overlooked game.

Mortal Kombat II
It's not that long ago that the series made a much-needed comeback, accompanied by its trademark blood, gore and finishing moves. If you didn't care for the new swanky graphics, check out this retro version of the 1993 classic, Mortal Kombat II.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Some remember it for the controversial airport level, others for the Juggernauts and Special Ops missions. Fans have made this tribute, which should remind us of what to look forward to until the next instalment later this year.

Silent Hill 2
Soundless Mountain 2 may not be as catchy a name as Konami's classic but this Silent Hill 2 demake is still strangely eerie.

Resident Evil
It's all about horror in this list, isn't it? Remember when the game burst onto our PlayStation screens in 1996 - or more specifically, when those zombie dogs burst through the windows in that big old house? Here's a blast from the past.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Preview: Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine

THQ is set to launch the latest in the Warhammer series, with the forthcoming title 40,000: Space Marine soon slated for the coming months. Gamers will get to see the hugely anticipated return of the original chainsaw-wielding supersoldier and the world he now inhabits...

Warhammer 40,000 is set in a very grim dark future setting in the 41st Millennia. Basically mankind is surrounded by this immense alien horde that’s bent on its utter destruction.

Space Marine has such an interesting and compelling setting. “Everything is immense, everything is larger than life. There’s a sort of beauty in the world, but there’s also so much darkness and death and destruction. And those contrasts create such an interesting sort of canvas for us to paint on,” says Game Director, Raphael van Lierop.

This game has all of the elements of a really traditional fantasy, like Orcs and that kind of stuff, but it’s set far in the future where they all have guns.

In this game, developed by Relic Entertainment for THQ, you’re sent down to an industrialised world on a small lonely planet, with a sole purpose of designing and manufacturing weapons of war. The Orcs are there to get their hands on the Warlord Class Titans, which are gargantuan beasts of metal bristling with weapons that can level whole cities. If the Orcs manage to get their hands on these weapons they could ravage countless worlds. And they would be a true threat to the Imperium, if it were not for the Space Marines.

The Space Marines started out as human beings but they go through a rigorous process of training and physical transformation that really elevates them into almost demi-gods. Their bodies are actually implanted with new organs, and both their strength and resistance is substantially increased.

In the latest episode, the Space Marine is as huge and powerful as ever but he is no longer limited to one form of combat over another. Today, he is a master of all combat and you join him in this tight game of combat, melee combat and ranged combat with a thrill ride of experiences built on top of it.

This is really not a game about hiding behind cover, cowering and taking a couple of pot shots at the enemy. This is about striding into the middle of the battle, being surrounded by Orcs at all times and just killing them.

In this game you will have very little down time. “Enemies are always all around you, and you will have to make snap decisions between ‘I need to cut through this guy here, there’s another guy coming from over there and I need to shoot him.’ It’s a blood fest,” says Raphael.

The whole basis for achieving this combat system is the animation engine. It is the ability to transition between two different animations and make them blend seamlessly.

Raphael explains: “In animation we are accountable to every movement that the Space Marine does, that the player does, that the enemies do.

“Everything has to connect and be choreographed in a way that is fluid and connected. Our camera system is very versatile in its ability to switch from ranged combat to melee combat and back again in a very short amount of time.

“That combination of the really up close and personal melee combat that we have in our game combined with the devastating ranged weapons we have creates this very unique combat experience that you have never played before.”

For instance, in Space Marine the quickest way to regenerate your health is to stay in the fight, pulling over-the-top execution moves. This will restore your health much quicker than avoiding the battle. Fury is the epitome of a ‘visible, violent death’. The more violent you are, the more Fury you get.

Fury allows the player to control the battle using ranged or close combat moves. Ranged Fury slows down time, allowing the player to pick-off enemies and to perform those ever so satisfying headshots. Then, when you are in the thick of the fight and you are overwhelmed on all sides, Close Combat Fury allows you to clear the area and to take out many enemies at once. If you use Close Combat Fury effectively you’ll destroy those smaller enemies while stunning the larger
ones, giving you enough time to deliver that final brutal blow.

The weapons in the 40,000 IP as a whole are pretty much in order of magnitude, greater than anything we have had before, or even conceived. The player starts with basic weaponry, a ranged weapon and a melee weapon, but as the game progresses the player unlocks new abilities, new upgrades and new weapons.

In this Space Marine we have the Las Cannon, which is a huge energy laser which burns giant holes through armour. We have the Plasma Gun which you can charge up, and it fires these sort of little mini-nuke plasma bombs, and we have got the Heavy Bolter, which is basically like a giant gatling gun – it is so powerful that when you hit enemies they will just disappear into mists
of blood!

Space Marines like to get up close and personal, and the weapons are meant to be as lethal as possible, which is why players can discover a Power Axe, and even a Thunder Hammer – which is really over the top in terms of the damage it can do.

The game itself is a pure combat experience when you look at it from a gameplay perspective. The developers say that the core promise of the game is to ‘unleash visible and violent death’. There is a lot of blood, a lot of gore and limbs flying everywhere - so the gore junkie is going to love this title for sure.

Relic Studio GM, Jonathan Dowdeswell, delves a little deeper into the story behind Warhammer: 40,000. He says: “Captain Titus is the protagonist in this story. He’s the main character. He has the ability to take the rules and sort of interpret them in his own way. And some of the other characters in the story have different viewpoints on how that should be interpreted.”

The main threat in Space Marine are the Orcs. They are a brutal, animalistic, barbaric race of beings. Although they are just one of the many races found in the fiction, the developers felt that the Orcs best complemented the Space Marines. Space Marines are very serious, very controlled, whereas the Orcs are sort of messy, vicious, violent, and so it adds a nice contrast. Additionally, there are other shadowy forces that are sort of lurking in the background.

And Titus and the player will have to confront those if they are able to save the Forge World. James McDermott, Studio Marketing, adds: “We have some which are like shamans. They have magical powers. We also have the Gretchin, who are these little, tiny minions, and we have the Nob, who matches the Space Marine in size and bulk. In fact he’s even bigger!” Raphael concludes: “It’s not just a simple story about an Orc invasion of the Forge World. There’s much more depth going on. There’s lots of twists and turns in this story. There’s betrayals. The action is amazingly intense. Really, anybody who likes Science Fiction, or likes any kind of blockbuster entertainment, is going to love Space Marine.”

  • 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 August issue.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Ten Most Inspiring Gaming Locations

It says good things for the state of gaming that our list of the ten least inspiring gaming locations was a struggle to compile (see them after the jump), while our list of the ten most inspiring locations quickly grew out of control. In fact, the hardest part was cutting the list down to size. In the end, the only way to do it was to make some swinging cuts, along with some rather fickle ones too.

First to be removed was Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City for the simple reason that we just couldn’t bear to type the words “living, breathing city” one more time. Simply scratching Liberty City off the list didn’t finish the job. We removed the Collossi from Shadow of the Collossus because we thought of them as characters as much as environments.

We wanted to include locations that created a mood, added to the story or were interactive, not simply ones that provided a cool backdrop. With that in mind, the Green Hill Zone had to go, despite our fond memories of it blurring past.

Eventually, we had to make the hardest choice of all, and limit our list to games of this generation, saying goodbye to Shadow Moses and, worst of all, Raccoon City, the cartoonishly named but incredibly evocative setting for Resident Evil II and III.

Finally, we were left with our list of the ten most inspiring locations in gaming-the places that changed the mood of the game, or offered hours of interactive fun, or downright made us want to settle down and live in a videogame.

If you missed the list of the least inspiring locations, click here.

Giles’s Farm / Fable II
Albion is a strange land, far less baroque than most RPG settings, yet still filled with dramatic venues ranging from pirate towns to sunken cathedrals filled with Balverines, but amidst all the excitement and exploring it was a sun dappled glade in the woods of Bowerstone that really left us smitten with the game. Giles’s Farm offers you a pair of quests, a unique weapon and a moral choice, but more importantly for a game that wants you to build an imaginary life as you play, it offers you an idyllic home.

Bright Falls / Alan Wake
For a brief period during its notoriously lengthy development, Alan Wake was intended to be an open world game. Thankfully the finished game chose instead to unfold its story in a series of neatly placed plot points that gradually up the excitement, an effective piece of pacing that would have been impossible in the baggier, player-driven layout of an open-world game. Nevertheless, the town of Bright Falls retains the size and variety of a game world that was once conceived as a single sprawling entity. From the timber yards to the abandoned mines, the farmlands to the trailer park, the watch towers to the small town high street, the many separate parts of Bright Falls fit together to create a convincing town. Granted, it’s a town flavoured with a touch of Twin Peaks, a dollop of Stephen King and a dash of Silent Hill, but the knowing winks at other properties are more homage than rip off, and add to the character of Bright Falls.

City 17 / Half Life 2
Yeah, we know, it’s technically a last gen game, but the last direct comparison of sales figures had The Orange Box doing half as many sales in a single year as Half Life 2 had managed in four. The logical upshot is that more people have experienced the spartan metropolis on current gen hardware than anywhere else. And what an experience it is. City 17’s stark, wintery sky, grubby brickwork and faded colours make a striking change from moody darkness of most urban game settings, but what’s even more impressive is how distinctive a city it is- City 17’s stripped out, deprived feel is so well realised that before the first bit of Cyrillic appears, you already know you’re in a rundown part of Eastern Europe, somewhere that flowered and faded as a satellite soviet state before being conquered by the combine.

Rapture / Bioshock
What do you get if you combine self-serving objectivist claptrap with brassy art deco architecture and 800 million metric tonnes of seawater? Rapture may not be the sort of place where we’d want to live, but it’s an incredible place to visit. Bioshock’s gorgeous graphics work wonders with the glow of neon reflecting on brass and the warp of running water, but re-imagine Rapture as 8-bit renderings and it would still stand out, thanks to its towering structures, all repetition and streamline moderne curves. The clever conceits of Bioshock’s story demanded an equally striking setting, and in Rapture, it gets one.

Williamette Mall / Dead Rising
The ghoul infested Colorado mall in which Dead Rising takes place may owe a massive conceptual debt to George Romero, but in practice, it’s more like an enormous overflowing toybox. It seems like every single inch of the Williamette Mall contains something new to wear or play with. And by play, we mean kill zombies. You can skateboard over them, bash them with one of their buddies impaled on a roto-rooter, if you’re feeling sporty you can off them with footballs, boomerangs or tennis balls. There are hidden psychos and a car to be found as well, but the real joy of the Williamette Mall is in its profusion of very ordinary stores, each one tantalising you with the possibility of more weapons to be put to crazy uses.

Mars / Red Faction Guerrilla
The ability to leave a lasting impression on the environment is one of the holy grails of gaming, a stepping stone towards perfect immersion. The lasting change all gamers want to leave on the environment is the ability to build a nice rockery, with some shrubs and a water feature to twinkle in the sunlight. No, wait, that’s what gamers wives want. Gamers just want to see how many pieces they can break $h*t into, and Red Faction Guerrilla offers the answer: more pieces than you can possibly count. There isn’t a structure on the map that can’t be smashed to bits, and the game combines an excellent grasp physics with a hilarious ignorance of structural rigidity to make the smashing such glorious fun. There are hundreds of different structures that can be blasted with bombs, battered with rockets or even deconstructed on a molecular level with a squad of angry Von Neumann machines. If all that sounds a little hands off, you can just drive a truck through them, or wade in Thor style and smite them with a hammer. There’s a very enjoyable game attached to all this mayhem too, but you’ll only notice it when you’re trying to open up new areas to flatten.

The Holy Land / Assassins’s Creed
Assassin’s Creed was dull and repetitive compared to its significantly more enjoyable sequel, but what it lacked in variety it madeu p for in beauty. From the top of Al Mualim’s mountain you venture forth into a beautiful recreation of the middle east. Rather than settling for cliched deserts, Ubisoft offer mountainous vistas, gentle scrubland and bustling 12th century cities, beautifully rendered and lit with a low, white sun. The soft lighting is complemented by a sparse, spacious audio presentation notable for its silences and echoes that add to the feeling of an empty, pre-modern environment. It’s strangely moving. Perhaps that’s why they thought it would be a good idea to have us trudge through it so many times.

Arkham Asylum / Batman: Arkham Asylum
Drawing on everything from comics and cartoons to movies and graphic novels, Arkham Asylum feels like a seamless merger of all the portrayals of Gotham City’s most famous home for the criminally insane, and retains the most distinguishing aspect of all of them: if you’re not mad when you get there, you will be when you leave. Gothic buildings, grotty cellars, oppressive prison corridors and freaky gargoyles abound. This is not architecture intended to sooth. It is, however, architecture intended to entertain-from grappling off gargoyles to blasting your way into secret chambers and gliding over the whole estate, every inch of Arkham Asylum contains things to do and secrets to be revealed, fully justifying the criss-crossing you’ll do as you attempt to foil the Joker’s lunatic scheme.

Cyrodiil / Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
We’re sure that Cyrodiil will have been eclipsed by Skyrim come 2012, but right now it remains our favourite RPG environment simply for the joy to be had in exploring its open, unrestricted vastness. In the far North you have looming mountains and frosty foothills, in the midlands you’ll find forests and grasslands, while the south contains marshlands. Scattered across this developing environment you can find Viking style settlements, sprawling marble cities and rural hamlets. Forget the horse, ignore the quest, in Cyrodiil, sometimes it’s best just to pick up your sword and set off to see what you can see.

Panau / Just Cause 2
Panau is a tropical island known for its bustling cities, lush jungles and an abundance of heavily armed military helicopters. Oh, and for some borderline racist accents, but we’ll ignore that for now. While Panau might not match Red Faction’s Mars for detailed destruction, it exceeds it in terms of volume. The largest game world yet created, Panau is liberally sprinkled with villages, towns, army bases and even nuclear power stations, all begging to be destroyed with a few well placed rockets or a hastily hijacked fighter jet. Not only does Just Cause 2 bring you a gigantic playground of devastation, but it presents it all beautifully-it’s a wonderfully detailed, brightly coloured island paradise so delightful it could take your breath away. Pause a moment, take in that flat, blue ocean, and rich green hillsides, the charming native villages and venerable temples. Right, now go set light to it all-good looks and interactivity blending in sick and seamless fashion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Character skills you wish you had

For most of us, gaming is pure escapism - an opportunity to lose yourself for a few hours and escape all the trials and tribulations of real life. But wouldn't it be cool if you could actually transfer some of those skills earned onscreen to reality? Here are our picks of some of the greatest gaming abilities that we wish we had beyond the comfort of our living room...

Here at Megabits we were big fans of SEGA's gem Vanquish and loved nothing better than sliding about in our super suit to dispense with all those Russian bad guys. There was an awesome array of weaponry on offer but it was the ability to fly about the place on your butt that made the game exciting and different from other shooters. Gears of War 3 and plenty of other upcoming releases could take a leaf out of Mikami's book... every game - and indeed, real life - should have jet packs readily available!

Just Cause/grapplehook
While writing this I have the great pleasure of exploring the delights of Panau in Just Cause 2, and guiding Rico about the vast islands causing as much destruction as humanly possible. This isn't a story that's about robots and monsters, it's a good old spy caper like the Bourne and Bond films. Plenty of big, powerful guns and loads of vehicles certainly add to the enjoyment and make exploration and the various missions an absolute joy. But the most important addition to Rico's armoury is his trusty grapplehook - a device attached to his left arm that helps to give him that extra edge. Whether it's hitting enemies from a distance, climbing tall tower blocks or hijacking passing cars, the grapplehook is one gadget that every self respecting gamer would love to own.

Sonic the Hedgehog/spin attack
Some argue that SEGA's Sonic is getting a little long in the tooth nowadays but right from his debut some two decades ago, his spin attack has been right up there with some of the best character abilities of all time. While Mario was able to bounce on baddies to see them off, Sonic's spin move allowed him not only to move even faster(!) but he also wiped out evil critters on his way - while being able to break through those vital power up monitors as well. Not a massivley useflul ability in real life perhaps - but it would certainly get you from A to B faster. Just ensure you take care to avoid innocent pedestrians as you speed about the place.

Crysis 2/cloaking
The much anticipated shooter Crysis 2 hit our screens earlier this year and was pretty well received. If the fact it were possible to actually play the game without it frying your consoles innards wasn't reward enough, then being able to use the fantastic nanosuit was an added bonus. Some criticised its time-limited powers, and the strength ability was a little uninspiring, but the invisibility cloaking was 100% awesome. Who, at some stage in their lives, hasn't wanted to be able to become invisible? You could cause a bit of mischief, spy on people, get around completely undetected... put the nanosuit in high street stores and you're guaranteed a best seller!!!

Many derided Prototype for its linear gameplay, drab graphics and repetitiveness. Me? I loved it - largely because of the free running. Parkour is nothing new to the world of gaming and it remains a much-loved feature of the Assassin's Creed games, but it a key component of Prototype and used to full effect. Running up the sides of buildings was hugely liberating and added immensely to the sense that this truly was a sandbox game - nothing in the virtual New York cityscape was sacred - it was access all areas. Don't get me wrong though, I know parkour is entirely possible in real life, so I'm adding the caveat that the character skill I wish I had is free running with sticky shoes to get me anywhere I want to go!

Fallout 3/VATS
Forget slow-mo, let's just pause the game entirely and carry out some lead surgery! An inspired part of the Fallout games was the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS), which allows you to take a breather, zoom in on some unsuspecting victim and decide which limb you'd like to shoot off. It was innovative and enjoyable, offering a more tactical element to your usual run of the mill gunfire battles. Wouldn't this be cool if the army had these kind of skills? I've no doubt the weaponry and accuracy is available... but pausing time - now that would be a character skill that would be great to have!

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed/The Force
It's the freakin' Force. 'Nuff said.

Max Payne/Bullet time
Rockstar's Max Payne not only boasted revolutionary graphics and some pretty cool facial scanning, it also introduced the world to Matrix-like slow-mo gameplay. Bullet time was a really nifty feature that allows Max to react before every one else, bursting into a room and unloading his clip into all those hapless goons. Just imagine how cool this would be in reality... spilt some hot coffee? Dive out the way before it scalds...

Just like Prince of Persia's Dagger of Time, the ability to stop and rewind events in Braid was inspired and really added to the overall game. Plunging to an untimely death? Not a problem, just rewind and attempt that leap of faith again. Not only is it a fun game mechanic but ultimately it removes some of the frustration from not being able to get past a particularly tricky section. Bring this into real life and all those moments of regret and misery could be avoided... crashed your car... just rewind and drive more carefully, said the wrong thing to your partner... skip back in time to avoid a bust up! Brilliant.

"Bloody, brutal, fast paced and foul mouthed. Welcome friends to the World of Bulletstorm." Stepping into the worn shoes of Grayson Hunt, the leash is one of his most effective tools. Much like Rico's grapplehook in the Just Cause games (see above), the electric leash allows you to grab an enemy, pull them towards you and then give them a good kicking or finish them off with a well-placed head shot. It also allows you to connect directly with the weapon pods dotted about the place for ammo, power upgrades and special skills. Wouldn't it be lovely to grab pretty much anything from distance without having to leave your seat?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Wishlist

As something of a Deus Ex fan, I consider it one of the best games of all time. So, with the next chapter in the series - a prequel: Deus Ex: Human Revolution - due out in August (YAY!) here are five things I want to see....

(SPOILER ALERT for the previous title, Deus Ex).

(5) JC Denton
It would be remiss of the next title in the Deus Ex series not to mention the hero of the first title in the Deus Ex series – JC Denton, augmented messiah of 2052. Born from a test tube, Denton went on to take down the organisation he was born to serve, and made a choice that went on to change the world. Of course, Human Revolution being set in 2027, 25 years before Deus Ex, JC won’t be there himself, but it would be cool to run into the clone child in a test tube somewhere, even if it has nothing to do with new hero Adam Jensen’s story. The fact that JC’s voice actor has gone on to star in a huge number of You Tube poop videos is a funny side-effect…

(4) The birth of MJ12
One of the many big organisations trying to run the world from the shadows, Majestic 12 (MJ12) is a conglomerate of international corporations, nations and men who have ideas above their station- and by the time of Deus Ex pretty much control everything.

I’ve already got the feeling, judging from the pre-release trailers, that MJ12 will feature in the prequel, but exactly how the group comes together would make for a fantastic addition to the plot, as well as a truly deadly opponent for Jensen and his friends (or are they his friends? Should you trust anyone in the world of Deus Ex?)

(3) Ridiculous augmentations
The original Deus Ex was full of ‘augmentations‘ of all shapes and sizes, from a small, remote control spy drone that floated out of a recess in your head, to muscle boosters that let you hurl crates half a mile, hyper-accurate target tracking, and a nano-particle shield that detonated incoming grenades and missiles before they his the user.

I’m hoping this wide selection of ridiculous ‘augs’ will continue into Human Revolution, and early signs are that it will, judging by Jensen’s apparant ability to survive very high falls, see and punch through walls, carry heavy weights and turn invisible. This is great news, naturally, as using augs to their full potential is a big part of Deus Ex’s myth.

As a mini top-three, here are my top three Deus Ex augmentations:

3:Radar transparency –
In later levels, when Deus Ex hurled loads of robots at you, being invisible to said giant robots came in useful. Sure, you weren’t invisible to humans, but that doesn’t matter – they’re far more squidgy.

2: Microfibrial Muscle –
As simple an aug as there can be, this little number increased the player’s strength, adding more power to melee attacks, as well as the ability to hurl oil drums around like confetti.

1: Spy Drone –
Capable of long range recon, and featuring a mini EMP charge for disabling robots, I used the spy drone all the time for checking out an area before infiltrating. A great little toy.

(2) A wrist-mounted, multi-ammo crossbow
By far my favourite weapon in Deus Ex was the wrist-mounted crossbow, which could be loaded with any number of EMP, gas knockout or lethal rounds, and fires almost silently. Far easier to use than a silenced pistol, the crossbow was the ideal tool for my stealthy way of playing, and I became quite adept at using it in a pinch, dragging up JC’s arm and spearing an MJ12 soldier in the throat from five paces.

It would be great to see the crossbow make a return, especially as Jensen seems to be a little too happy to use those giant arm-blades of his, and should probably take a leaf out of the JC Denton guide to infiltrating international corporations..

(1) Choice
The best thing about Deus Ex? Choice. From the very start, the game took pains to offer you choices – do you take the big, tank-killing rifle, or the sneaky stun prod? Do you disable the power and pick the lock, or blow the door off its hinges? Do you trust your employer, or investigate its shady dealings?

Through the aspect of choice, the true freedom of Deus Ex shines through – you’re in control, your choices make the difference in the game world, and though many other games have gone on to do this (Mass Effect, for example) Deus Ex was the first game that really left its mark on me.
Here’s hoping that Deus Ex: Human Revolution keeps this element of choice, and thankfully, it seems the developers are aiming to preserve it.

Fingers crossed that the game turns out to be what all the long-time fans like me are hoping for…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ten improvements needed for FM 2012

Football's a funny old game. With the season now over, fans across the globe all feel a little lost with plenty of free time on their hands. We're not glued to our televisions waiting for the final whistle to blow, there's no tension as the clock winds its way down those final few seconds, no one is left biting their nails to see if there team can stave off relegation or manage to cling onto their title challenge.

Several of us on the Megabits team are avid fans of the beautiful game and there's some healthy rivalry going on through our support of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and, of course, the champions and most successful English club ever, Manchester United (Come on you Reds - Bojeeva). But now summer is here there's a huge void that needs to be filled...

Thankfully, that's where Football Manager comes into play! Our FM 2011 game discs will once again be whirring into action until the annual release of the Megabits' favourite is inevitably released in the next few months. To help out those guys at SEGA and Sports Interactive as they work on the next edition, BaseAllstar and Bojeeva have come up with a few suggested improvements...

These ideas are in no particular order - and, as ever, let us know your views below.

10. Virtual trophy cabinet
Football Manager is renowned for its vast database of stats and figures. Every aspect of the game is accurately captured, allowing us to pore over each minute detail. We love it - but wouldn't it be nice to show off your managerial achievements a little more. Sure, there's the manager stats page and points table that shows how you compare to the greats. You can even see all your player purchases and win ratios. What would be great, however, is a virtual trophy cabinet.

A screen where you can gather all of your medals, trophies and even newspaper cuttings(!) to show your successes over your career. More should be made of your movements between clubs, the players you've discovered and cultivated, and your growing reputation. As a result of your efforts, there should be more clubs sniffing around and trying to tempt you away and world class players should be throwing themselves at you so they can learn from a legend of the game.

9. Players appreciate in value better
You finish a season well, having helped one of you strikers become the most feared finisher in the league. He wins the golden boot, player of the year and is coveted by clubs around the world. Thing is, his value hasn't edged up much from when you discovered him in some small Latin American club. In fact, the clubs that are now approaching you are offering a laughable transfer fee. The sad fact is, he's actually interested in moving on and even when you turn down his request to leave, he sulks, upsets his team mates and leaves you with no option to get rid. For a paltry sum!

All too often, players lose value rapidly if they're played out of position or have a barren spell in front of goal. But even if they do well and play like a God for an entire season, their value barely moves up at all. Sort this out SI!

8. Online play
Play a friend online...

7. More adaptable players
Any member of your team should be capable of playing out of position without fear of losing their transfer value or their skills being eroded! Remember John O'Shea playing in goal for Manchester United and not doing too badly?

6. Make players less sensitive - more realistic

Even when you lavish praise on a player in a press conference you can upset them! It should be made more obvious when you're likely to cause offence - how the hell can saying they're a brilliant purchase and an asset to the club make them hate you??? Shouldn't it also be worthwhile to occasionally criticize them? Some carefully timed criticism could make them improve their game, buckle down more in training and generally make them play as you want them to.

5. Regular and licensed updates
All these years, all these annual updates yet we still can't have all the player photos, kits and logos from every league. It's just plain annoying! What's more, if you can track them down online, the download is usually massive and installing the damn things is a right pain. For once could we please have a complete game out of the box? If I want to manage Manchester United, I want to see all the players' cheery faces when I change my tactics. And why can't transfer updates be a bit more frequent - smaller, more frequent updates would be a great improvement.

4. More scope during interviews
There is of course already a good number of responses to choose from during both press conferences and one to one player chats but it's never quite enough and there are inevitably times when none of the answers available really cover what I want to say. Add to that the amount of times over the duration of a season I must've repeated myself to the gathered press bods or said the exact same thing about five different opposition managers and it just detracts a little from the realism for me. Give us a larger array and variety of answers, and problem solved.

3. More graphics
Just a few shots of the training ground, dressing room, a slightly animated press conference maybe or a couple of snaps of the teams arriving before a match, any of these and more besides could all do their bit in terms of helping you to lose yourself within the game and breaking up the pages of text and stats.

2. Bring it back to console
I know, I know, it is a better game on PC, plus it's more accessable and the navigation around screen is far superior but, I would dearly love the option to grab it for my 360 or PS3 once again. The combination of achievments and any future possiblities for online play would make FM a cracking addition to the console games library.

1. Better crowd animation and real chants
The match crowd within the current incarnation of FM does a very simple job of jumping up and down when their team scores and erm....that's about it really.

What I would love to see would be a little bit more detail in there, flags waving, banners held aloft, maybe even the odd balloon or two (no beachballs please!) Again I'm just looking for more ways to add to the illusion of FM being a living, breathing football world. So, I'd also love to see some real life songs and chants from the various clubs incorporated into the game, in fact it doesn't even have to be crowd chants. It'd be just as cool to see your team running out to the correct song, Liverpool to 'You'll Never Walk Alone', Everton to 'Z Cars' etc.

(Photo credit: doug88888)