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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

30 Minute Playtest: Uncharted 3

Sublime. That's how best to describe our time-limited playtest of arguably one of the most anticipated games of 2011. Nathan Drake is back - a little chubbier and older than before, but still sporting his trademark wit, acrobatic tendencies and puzzle-solving skills. It's testament to the brilliance of the game that we became so engrossed that we forgot all about our self-imposed 30 minute manacles, instead playing into the night.

Nevertheless, for the purposes of this article, the first half an hour was thoroughly memorable so it's no problem relaying our experiences here (mild spoilers ahead).

Importantly, shove the shiny disc into your PS3 and Uncharted 3 instantly feels comfortable - fans of the series will quickly realise that little appears to have changed from Among Thieves... and that comes as somewhat of a relief.

The graphics are typically crisp, with the screen awash with colour and detail. It looks absolutely awesome and draws you in. Naughty Dog combines this striking aesthetic with incidental music to create a thoroughly cinematic experience. Once again, they have perfectly captured that Hollywood feel; cut scenes explain the back story but merge well with the action sequences, the scripting is tight and the story is strong enough to draw comparisons with the plot of a whip-wielding Harrison Ford movie.

The first few levels that fell within this playtest combined fist fighting, gunplay, puzzle solving and lots and lots of climbing, shimmying and ledge leaping. It's all very Uncharted 2 - but you can't have too much of a good thing, can you? Even the QTE - the bugbear of many - is discreet and well worked.

The game starts with Nate and his trusty sidekick Sully propping up the bar in some London pub. What starts as a pleasant meeting with another purveyor of antiquities quickly turns into a brawl - giving players an insight into the hand to hand combat. There's very little time to pause for breath in the opening scenes and before long you'll be throwing people out of windows, slamming heads into toilet seats and getting shot at!

Besides the strong visuals, it strikes you from the start that the voice acting is once again perfectly cast - from Nate's usual banter to the cheeky cockney chappies who fill the bar.

The brief flashback level that followed was a particular favourite of ours, whisking us off to Cartagena, Colombia, where we fill the shoes of a young Nate. It explains his first meeting with Sully after a chance encounter while scoping out a museum. It's all very well done and within no time, you're running along the rooftops trying to escape some gun-toting hoods. It's fast, exciting and great fun. There are even nice little touches with the interactive backgrounds and environments, like when Nate clatters into a box of lemons; it's things like this that really suck you in. Similarly, the character animations are spot on - and you'll take great delight in watching as you dive from ledges or swing to nearby lamp posts.

To question whether Uncharted 3 was worth the wait is ludicrous. It's an awesome game and suffice to say, 30 minutes play time is barely enough to scratch the surface. Should you continue after the first half an hour? Don't be daft... you'd be a fool not to.

Dark Souls: Beginners Tips

Part of the brilliance of Dark Souls is that it’s hard to find something new to say about it. It is a game that divides opinion, but provides a unifying experience. Everyone who has played it has felt the same sensations in pretty much the same order: bewilderment, amusement, tension, frustration, despair and triumph. And all that is long before you reach the open world area where the game actually begins.

In many ways, that’s part of the fun. Dark Souls is a great leveller, if you’ll pardon the RPG pun. From the hardened RPG player to the twitchy-thumbed teen who’s been lured away from Call of Duty by all the Dark Souls hype, to the ‘jobbing gamer’ who tries a bit of everything, all of them will have the same experience: Dark Souls will kill them. And they’ll want to talk about how it killed them.

They’ll talk about the how painful it was the first time they lost more than a 1000 souls. They’ll talk about how painful it was the twentieth time they lost more than a 1000 souls. They’ll talk about how they got so despairing that they devoted several hours to level grinding, only to discover that it makes no difference if you haven’t mastered the fundamentals of Dark Soul’s extremely tricky, pattern-and-patience based combat. Gamers often have big, fragile egos, and they bristle easily in defence of their choice of console or favoured game. Dark Souls does away with all of that. The best players in the world will find some common ground with the worst.

I speak as one of the worst. I love games, have done for years, but I’ll admit that my slow, barely dextrous thumbs prevent me from being a power player. I get through games using perseverance and patience rather than panache. Which is fortunate, as that’s exactly what you need for Dark Souls.

I often talk about the sensation of progress being the most important part of gaming. The sense that you’re getting somewhere, that your ability to do things opens up new and interesting things to do. My benchmark for this has always been Resident Evil 2 - a game where you go from streets to cop shop to sewers to waystation to lab. Your efforts are given a constant in-game reward: you’re no longer where you started, you have progressed. It’s funny then, that I have fallen head over heels for Dark Souls, a game that revels in stalling your progress.

I have been playing for nine hours so far. That’s not very long, but think of it this way: I finished the last two Call of Duty’s combined in less time than that. I finished Medal of Honour in less time than that. And Bioshock. And Batman: Arkham Asylum. And the last three Fight Nights. And Split/Second Velocity. Obviously, RPGs always eat up more time than any other genre, but eight hours is long enough that you’d expect to be some distance into the game. I haven’t got past the second boss. My current spawn point is two courtyards and two stairwells away from said boss. In terms of travel time, my character could reach the boss in barely a minute. I’ve been stuck there for about six hours. I’ve tried level grinding. I’ve tried backtracking to explore other areas. I’ve tried half a dozen different weapons, from ranged, to explosive to melees. The end result is that I’ve died dozens of times, and made only modest progress.

With any other game, that would be enough to make you jack it all in, but while Dark Souls pays rough, it also plays fair. Each time you die, you learn something new. You pick up on the timing of an opponent’s thrusts and parries, or you find a shortcut that allows you to strike from afar and behind. Inch by inch, millimetre by millimetre, you win small victories, you master a formerly unbeatable foe and improve your ability to locate the next challenge. The feeling of triumph you get from these moments are what keep you playing. The game is an arduous, frustrating grind, but it never hits you with a cheap shot: when you die, it’s because you got something wrong. Equally, when you win, it’s because you got something right, unlike many games where you progress because the lead developer is a frustrated film director who wants you to lead you by the hand to his next cutscene. In a game that refuses to tell you what various items are for, which hits you with a convoluted menu system, and won’t let you pause, the knowledge that you’re making even incremental progress in the face such obstruction is deeply rewarding.

I’m going back in now. I’ve spent several hours failing to reach a boss. I’ve now learned how to reach him every time. Next I’ll spend hours being defeated by him. Then I’ll learn how to beat him. And my victory over only the second boss of the game will give me greater satisfaction than every FPS I’ve ever finished.

So, if I’ve got you convinced, here are my Dark Souls Tips:

1. The internet is your friend
Researching games before you play them usually leads to spoilers and a lack of satisfaction. Not here. This game is so hard that failing to prepare will mean that you get nowhere. You need to know the basics going in-what character to build, how the levelling works, and what not to do. For example, never, ever attack anyone who isn’t trying to kill you. Other RPGs will let you work around an inadvertently killed quest giver or merchant, but in Dark Souls, if you annoy a merchant that’s it-no arrows or firebombs for the rest of the game.

2. Watch your weight
Your character has an equipment load that dictates the maximum amount of weight you can have equipped. That’s a limit, not a threshold. If you’re using a quarter of your equip load, you’ll slow down. If you use half of it you’ll be sluggish and barely able to dodge. Forget the RPG tradition of wearing the heaviest armour you can find and selling when something better comes along, that extra weight will mean extra deaths. Only equip what you're strong enough to use. Keep the rest in your inventory or the bottomless box, you need to travel light until you've buffed your stats enough to use that Zweihander without paying a speed penalty.

3. Magic early, melee late
Unlike most RPGs, choosing a character type doesn’t restrict you from rebuilding them as the game progresses. You’re not stuck with the old wizard, thief or soldier template. This is handy, as the early stages of Dark Souls are best played using magic, while the later stages suit a more melee oriented character. Start as a Pyromancer, spend a couple of levels buffing your basic skills, then gradually switch to rebuilding yourself into a nimble sword swinger.

4. Restore your humanity early
Your character in Dark Souls is Undead, cursed to constantly return to life after death, while slowly deteriorating into a hollow, inhuman shell. Dotted around the game you’ll find crystals that can restore your humanity, which will allow you to summon other players for help, leave messages and advice for other players and, most importantly, increase the chances that foes will drop items. This can be hugely important. Turning human at the Firelink Shrine allowed us to snaffle a far better shield than we should have had at that early stage of the game. We lost our humanity a few deaths later, but we’re still using the shield.

5. The internet is NOT your friend
When you’re reading messages left by other players, the rating is almost as important as the content. There are places in the game where, for example, you’ll find a message advising you to jump off a precipice. Do so and you’ll find a ledge, some loot and a new route. Great. Half an hour later a different precipice will bear the same advice, only this time it will be a lie, and you’ll plunge to your death, losing souls and humanity in the bargain. I like to think these malicious messages are left by CoDbrats despairing at playing a game that won’t let them be instantly ‘733t’. In any case, the ratings left on messages are vital in helping you decide whether to trust them or not.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preview: The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin has been adored across the world since he was created over a century ago by Belgian artist Georges Rémi (who wrote under the pen name of Hergé). Today the intrepid detective and his pet dog begin a new adventure with a blockbuster movie and game adaptation.

Megabits' Michael Gordon - editor of Charged Middle East magazine - spoke to the men that reanimated the tale...


Hergé’s famed comic book detective Tintin finally gets his ten minutes in the limelight with the launch of Paramount Pictures movie adaptation and Ubisoft’s themed game. Both movie and game are entitled ‘The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn’ and producers Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy ensured that the movie and the game were developed simultaneously and in close collaboration. Both Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson explain why they got involved and how they realised Hergé’s weird and wonderful world.

Spielberg said: “I first became aware of Tintin when I finished filming Raiders of the Lost Ark. Although it was all in French, that didn’t matter as I still understood it.” Whereas, Jackson said: “I was first introduced by a friend of my mothers and over the course of the next 12 years I managed to collect every single Tintin book. “The game has that same exploration quality to it and you literally enter the world of the characters.”

When asked about the game development team Jackson said that working with Ubisoft was terrific. “We thought we would let them show us a thing or two about how to create a great game and how to honour a great artist like Hergé,” added Spielberg. Jackson said that while the world of the game was based around the film it also allows the player to expand the universe further than the movie. “Sometimes games can take you on new adventures that aren’t even part of the film. To me, that makes a really great companion to a movie.

“One of the keys to The Adventures of Tintin the game is the fact that each character has their own abilities and skills and you use those abilities to further the game and to help other characters. So often people think of video games as being a solitary activity but that is not the case and they can be a lot fun for the whole family and that’s how we approached this.” The resulting game will give old and new Tintin fans the opportunity to relive the key moments of the movie as well as to enjoy fun cooperative adventures and multiplayer challenges. It features high-quality graphics, environments, characters and gameplay in line with the movie’s innovative graphics and production.

The game features three different modes: Solo, Cooperative and Challenge, for more than 20 hours of total game time. The Solo Mode of the game follows the events of the movie that blends, in one great adventure, various elements of Hergé’s original Tintin comic books The Crabe with Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Players will re-discover the movie’s enchanting environments, such as Captain Haddock’s ship the Karaboudjan, Ben Salaad’s Palace or the exotic city of Bagghar. The solo game is a unique blend of platforming, exploration, puzzle-solving and “exotic gameplays” such as swordfighting, ace combat and side-car driving. Players will embody Tintin, the intrepid reporter, and other main characters, each having its own personality and skills. Other sidekicks will appear when help is needed.

From start to finish, the Cooperative Mode is staged in Captain Haddock’s dream world. In the space of a few days, the captain has been transformed from an ‘old wreck languishing at sea’ to the direct descendant of a famous knight to the king. The captain’s dreams are pretty hectic and he has to try to get his thoughts in order. Players get to play Tintin, Captain Haddock, Snowy, Bianca Castafiore, Thompson and Thomson or Sir Francis Haddock and have to help each other to solve new mysteries. They have to combine their skills and collect treasures to unlock new exciting levels.

The third mode is the Challenge Mode, dedicated to all who are looking for a little extra competition. Leveraging the sword fighting, side-car driving and ace combat gameplays, it allows players to confront themselves to the AI and try to beat each other’s scores.

Last but not least, the Xbox 360 version supports Kinect while the PlayStation 3 version supports Move, and specific features have been developed to take advantage of both accessories’ intuitive controls.

To understand the nuts n’bolts of the game’s development we sat down and had a chat with Drew Quakenbush, Senior Producer. Drew is an avid gamer who pursued his passions by joining EA Canada in 2004 where he has produced titles such as EA Sports Rugby 2006, Fight Night 3 Facebreaker and Fight Night 4. In 2009 Drew became the Senior Producer for The Adventures of Tintin, The Game, and so he was the ideal man to quiz. Quakenbush began by explaining the game follows the style of the movie over the comic books: “We really wanted to give the player the opportunity to relive most of the key moments of the movie, so most of the characters and environments are the same. “The game was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, and that development team has extensive experience working on quality ‘movie games’. They have worked on the official game of Peter Jackson’s King Kong the movie.

“All the elements of this game have been developed by Ubisoft but as we are the game of the movie, we have had the chance to work in close collaboration with the film makers. They shared with us the elements of the movie we needed to develop our game and we had regular meetings with them to show the early versions of our game. “But our game is of course longer than the movie, so we added inspiration from the comics to enrich the solo game and for many gameplay elements. We introduced new environments, new characters and a fun cooperative mode, based on Captain Haddock’s dreams.”

According to Quakenbush, pretty much all the game developers were fans of the comic books! He added: “Ubisoft Montpellier is a French studio and most of the developers have grown up with Tintin. It was a real pleasure for us to dive into the universe of our childhood hero. It was demanding because in order to work on the game properly we had to do a lot of research to understand precisely Hergé’s universe. It was also full of good surprises because — as grown-ups — we rediscovered Herge’s work, its depth, and how it is universally understandable and appealing for both adults and kids. The game has been designed to appeal to all age groups, as well as fans and newcomers to the Tintin world, according to Quakenbush.

“Our game can appeal to anyone. Those who saw the movie and enjoyed it will be pleased to dive again into its universe, and play as Tintin, the intrepid reporter and hero of the action-packed movie or his quick-witted dog Snowy. If you’re looking for an action/adventure game that is both immersive and interactive to share with friends or family, then this game is made for you. We also believe that fans of the Tintin comic books will enjoy it because we respected Hergé’s work and values.”

Quakenbush stated that it has been a real pleasure to work with the huge talents of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, and that they were very much hands-on in the development of this game. He said: “We had various meetings at the Weta studios and in L.A. with the filmmakers and were given access to the movie script, 3D models and environments. They gave us very constructive feedback on the visuals, animations and script throughout the complete three year development. “We often had ‘expert’ conversations such as: should Haddock’s moustache cover all of his mouth? It was so funny and weird to discuss this with Peter Jackson! Same thing regarding the size of the noses of our characters! These may seem to be small details but our objective was really to find a perfect balance between Herge’s characters and the artistic direction of the movie. We feel we’ve accomplished this and are very happy with how well the video game adheres to the creative direction in movie and in the original comics.”

Quakenbush added: “But, our biggest challenge was to create a fun, interactive and immersive game that would respect both the content of the movie and the spirit of the comics. “But more than a challenge, working on this game has been a great and exciting adventure. It is not that often that developers have the chance to create a game based on an icon of their childhood and on a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy.”

  • 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 November issue.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Games that should be scary...but aren’t.

The horror genre is a Frankenstein’s monster stitched together from some very disparate parts. For every inventive effort like Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, skin crawler like Limbo or out-and-out pants wetter like Amnesia, there’s a gun-toting mis-step like Resident Evil 5, a horror game that forgets to do anything scary. Now that it’s Halloween the TV is full of scary movies and the internet is full of scary game lists, so we thought we’d buck the trend and bring you our list of horror games that just aren’t scary. Some of them are bad, some of them are brilliant, but all of them could happily be played in the dark without unease...

Dead Space 2
You know how we said that some of these games were brilliant? Well Dead Space 2 certainly qualifies. Isaac Clarke’s second battle with the mutated undead features many improvements over the already impressive original; there’s a greater sense of purpose, new weapons, more variety to the environments and some excellent zero G sections. Despite all that, however, it never musters the fear that Dead Space managed. Both games rely on excellent sound design and the diminishing returns of shock value, but where Dead Space pulled unstoppable bosses, wandering tentacles and claustrophobic stalker sequences from its sleeves every time the old it’s-not-really-dead trick wore thin, Dead Space 2 seemed content to be a little more action-oriented. We actually preferred it to Dead Space, but it didn’t give us the fear.



Condemned 2
First person melee combat is rarely a success, and the Condemned series deserves some recognition for pulling it off effectively. Filling the city first with homicidal hobos, then with homicidal anybodies is a grand idea, one that leaves you feeling constantly threatened, while the visceral thuds and splats of the combat get you right in the gut. Sadly, the other thing that gets you right in the gut is the head-bob effect. We at Megabits have hardy stomachs, we think that curried seafood and espresso is a perfectly acceptable breakfast, our guts can take whatever you want to dish out, but ten minutes into Condemned 2 and we felt like we’d drunk a bottle of engine oil. Between shoddy textures, lifeless environments and the inability to play for more than ten minutes at a stretch, Condemned never had a chance to wrap us up in its grubby, rag draped horror.



Dead Rising
It’s actually to Dead Rising’s credit that it’s not very scary. When your setting is so clearly paying tribute to the end-of-the-world classic Dawn of the Dead then you need to find a tone of your own in order to avoid being a rip-off rather than an homage. Dead Rising has the irresistible odds, the inescapable setting and the unpredictable humans that made Dawn of the Dead so terrifying, but it also has a photographer in a summer dress and sunhat bludgeoning mall zombies with a cash register (how meta). The endless combinations of silly outfits, colourful characters and ridiculous weaponry constantly defuse the tension, and the game is all the better for it.



FEAR 2

Ah, F.E.A.R. An unexpected classic, a game that took that most gung-ho of genres, the FPS, and replaced all its bombast with spooky apparitions, convincingly human and crafty AI, and a general sense of dread. Such a shame that F.E.A.R 2 decided to do away will all the spine tingling dread and replace it with Mech-Suit battles in which your miniguns and rockets mow down entire rifle brigades of enemy cannon fodder. It was fun, but it wasn’t scary. Also, and all developers need to take note of this, there comes a point when blood might as well be red paint. If you want gore to still be bothering me by the end of the game, it’s better not to inure me to it in the first five minutes.



Metro 2033
A rusting, frozen post-apocalyptic world. Dark, half-collapsed tunnels, and howling skinless mutants, radioactively booted off the evolutionary ladder at a point somewhere between animal and human. With humanity already on the brink of extinction, the stakes, setting and monsters of Metro 2033 should have combined into one terrifying whole. Maybe they did, but you’ll never notice, as you’ll spend the entire game working the bicycle pump that powers your insubstantial air gun, rather than using the real bullets that double up as currency and therefore must be saved. This tension adding concept must have looked great on paper, but in practice it knocked the game’s balance just far enough off kilter to become irritating, and that constant annoyance was enough to distract you from any potential scares on offer.



Rise of Nightmares

Our hearts were certainly pounding throughout SEGA's Rise of Nightmares but that was largely due to the frustration of trying to use Kinect to navigate those dungeons. Walking into a wall repeatedly while being chased by a blood splattered nurse, only to turn randomly and walk into her repeatedly had an almost Benny Hill feel to it. What is scary is that some people still believe that FPS games could eventually be controlled using Microsoft's clever camera. We hope it's true but based on our experience with the beasties in Eastern Europe, we have our doubts right now. (Make sure you watch the video below!).



(Photo: Pedro J. Ferreira)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gaming Smut, Filth And Depravity - A Top 10

Gaming stirs up a fair amount of controversy and it’s safe to say that it has stolen more than its share of column inches. From Custer’s Revenge and Leisure Suit Larry to the more depraved releases such as Rapelay, there has been some pretty questionable subject matter over the years (check out our Bad Taste Gaming article after the jump).

The likes of Jack Thompson and Carol Lieberman are forever blaming games for the state of society, and highlighting the fact that perpetrators of crimes may once have played Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. Still, for us level headed gamers, sex, violence and video games are a perfect combo that don’t make us want to go out and perform some heinous act.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you our ten picks of some of the games that contain their fair share of naughtiness.


10 - Dirty magazines - Deus Ex: Human Revolution
When not hugging walls or crawling through ventilation shafts, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone’s favourite augmented protagonist to get some light relief by sifting through the endless pile of dirty magazines that litter Detroit, Montreal and Shanghai. Good to see that even in the near future, the ailing magazine industry is still going strong though! Jensen and Solid Snake had a lot in common, eh?



9 - Hot Coffee - GTA: San Andreas
This hidden minigame caused a huge furore when it came to light, with CJ and his beloved getting down and dirty. Rockstar’s game may have been aimed at a mature audience but the inclusion of sexual intercourse didn’t go down too well - oo er.

8 - Toilet humour -
Duke Nukem Forever

Duke didn’t waste much time in raising a few eyebrows upon his recent return. Earning the Turd Burgler achievement in his latest game distracted our hero from making lewd comments, taking steroids and getting hammered for a few minutes and instead saw him reach into a toilet and take a turd. That’s plenty to get the industry’s critics moaning.

7 - Gratuitous violence - Manhunt
Now how could tracking down enemies and dispatching them in uber-violent ways upset anyone? I know, right? Some people will moan at anything - but apparently, there were quite a few politically-correct people out there who didn’t like the idea of extreme executions. It resulted in the game getting banned in numerous countries. Spoilsports!

6 - Full frontal nudity - GTA IV
As if this epic sandbox title didn’t get enough people moaning, The Lost and Damned contained full frontal nudity. And not the good, female kind! ...And that’s not to mention the strippers and hookers who make an appearance in the game too.

5 - Having alone time - Beat ‘Em & Eat ‘Em

In the early 1980s, the developer Mystique released a series of adult porn games. Custer’s Revenge is perhaps its most infamous title but Beat ‘Em & Eat ‘Em from 1982 was the title that beggared belief the most. The premise is simple; some guy is sitting atop a building and pleasuring himself, while two women that you control run about below hoping to gobble the fruits of his labour. Certainly, this game was an acquired taste!

4 - Profanity - Mafia II
Mafia II almost didn’t register on my radar when it came out but fortunately those of us who did pick up a copy were greeted with an involving and hugely entertaining romp through Empire Bay in 1940s America. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted, however... with the characters spewing all manner of profanity from their lips over the course of the game. It proudly holds the record for using the word f*ck more than any other with 397 mentions, according to Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. If that's not enough to get people riled, there’s also an achievement for finding all the hidden Playboy magazines littered about the map!

3 - Nudity - The Saboteur
The Second World War has spawned more games than probably any other period in history. From the Call of Duty’s to the Brothers In Arms games, they’re always gritty affairs that highlight the nastiness and violence of conflict. Perhaps then, this is why the developers of The Saboteur decided to make the subject matter a little more appealing by making a DLC code available that not only increased the number of brothels you could wander in to but also stripped the ladies within these premises of their tops.

2 - Tasteless violence - Modern Warfare 2
A game about shooting people is always going to court controversy but a mission where the objective is to slay innocent civilians ensured Modern Warfare 2 would dominate the headlines for some time after its launch. Sure there was a warning that popped up on your screen that suggested those of a nervous disposition skip the mission... but intrigue got the better of most of us and we carried on regardless, walking through that airport and gunning down helpless civilians to maintain our cover. In the current climate, this was perhaps a step too far for gaming?

1 - Lady cadaver - L.A. Noire
Any game so heavily influenced by James Ellroy and his understandable Black Dahlia obsession is bound to have a few uncomfortable moments (see review). An early case in which you discover the torn off underwear of an underage starlet tips you off that this isn’t going to be a comfortable police procedural, but it’s your stint on the murder desk that’s really uncomfortable - three consecutive cases start with you inspecting the fully exposed and horribly mutilated bodies of a number of women. Oh well, at least you don’t have to make the ‘y’ cuts yourself. Maybe there’s scope for a Coroner’s Autopsy DLC...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Seven Deadly Sins: The Gaming Edition

The seven deadly sins have popped up in just about every medium you can think of, from movies to music to TV – even games (just look at Dante's Inferno – which ironically didn't make it onto this list.) But what about games that embody the sins themselves, whether through their own actions, those of their producers, or just how it made me feel when I was playing them.

Here's our pick of The Seven Deadly Sins: The Gaming Edition...

Pride
Duke Nukem Forever (Xbox 360/PS3/PC, 2011)

“Damn... I'm good.” No, Duke, you're shit. I hate to be blunt, but that was my reaction to Duke Nukem Forever upon its release, some 11 years after its development cycle began. Boy, were Gearbox Software proud of Duke's latest outing: “We've finally finished Duke! The King is back, baby!” their posters screamed from every bus stop. And what did we get? A badly made, ugly and outdated mess of rubbish graphics and worse gameplay, stoked with so much pride it was ludicrous. Get back in my rose-tinted memories, Duke, where you belong.

Envy
Risen (Xbox 360/PS3/PC, 2010)

Risen, a half-arsed RPG which fell flat in the retail stores, wanted so desperately to be loved like Oblivion that is was, frankly, hilarious. The developers were so clearly envious of Bethesda's greatness that they figured making a game in its image would allow them to bask in their reflected glory. Yeah... no. Risen was rubbish, pure and simple – dull, unimaginative combat, a stilted story (and an unhealthy obsession with potion making.) Bargain bin material indeed. At least the Xbox 360 jewel case was the right colour...

Gluttony
Call of Duty Modern Warfare (series) (Everything, 2007)

Sure, the original Call of Duty blew everyone away – and for good reason – but following that game's greatness, Infinity Ward has managed to distil their company policy to one often-used internet meme: “OM NOM NOM!” For what is the Call of Duty of today but a gluttonous monster, happily guzzling up gamers' cash in millions of sales year on year - and providing the same experience with a slightly different gloss (and a steadily worse story – 'No Russian', anyone?) Bravo to the developers who fight against this gluttonous monster and it's powerful puppeteers to release games of equal or better playability (Battlefield ho!).

Lust
Resistance (series) (PS3) (PS3, 2006)

'Want'. 'Want audience, want good gameplay, want to drag gamers away from Halo and Call of Duty and make them play! PLAY ME!' If Resistance games had a voice, that's what would be issuing forth from their cases (probably in the ever-irritating voice of Haley Joel Osment...). While the games themselves weren't bad, the Resistance series was lusting over the Halo and COD audiences from the start. Sure, it had a tough time at first – being released on the statistically less-popular PS3 console, and with some release dates that were hardly flattering (and it didn't help that the games' Chimera bear more than a passing resemblance to Gears of War's Locust), but the series wanted the limelight something fierce. Did it succeed? Partially – but Resistance never really hit it big, and it's been lusting for a number one spot ever since...

Anger
Gears of War (Xbox 360, 2006)

Five words: “Woah, lookit all that juice!” If you've played the first Gears of War, you know that phrase – because it was grunted at you over, and over, and over, and over, as you died time and time again, trying to take that damn imulsion pumping station! But, that aside, the sheer anger that I feel when I play Gears of War - “Bloody chainsaw hoover!”, or “Sodding shotty!”, or “How did he headshot me when I was in the middle of a sodding forward roll!” - is a problem. It brings out the bloodthirsty part of me – the predator. It's a shame, then, that the leaderboards are populated entirely with 10-year-olds who play all day every day, and are too bloody tough to beat because it's ALL THEY SODDING DO! GAH!



Greed
Halo (series) (Xbox, 2001)

Yes, the games are brilliant, but what makes Halo – and by extension, Bungie (and Microsoft) so greedy is something that you can spot in any good toy store, book store, corner shop or supermarket. Merchandise. The Halo series is a massive moneyspinner for the big-names, offering (as well as the 1,000+ games) books, films, live-action TV spots, playing cards, action figures, toilet roll, bread and bake-your-own cupcakes. The franchise is sickening in its greed and deplorable nature. That said, bring on Halo 4! (and pass me a cupcake with Cortana's face on it...)

Sloth
Belief and Betrayal (PC, 2008)

Lazy. Lazy. Lazy. Everything about Belief and Betrayal dripped in sloth. The writing was shoddy, the gameplay was soft, the voice acting made me want to gouge my ears out – or rather, those belonging to the bum who came up with this frakking nonsense! The game itself, ostensibly an old-fashioned point and click adventure, was in reality a half-finished morass of crap, topped off with some hilariously shite challenges – such as combining a half-melted ice lolly with water to make fake red wine (how's that work...?) to lure a bum away from a photobooth – only to find it doesn't work. What the heck!?! I played this game once, for an hour. Never again since have I encountered such a lazy, half-arsed waste of time. Good riddance.

Gaming Makeovers:The Good,Bad And Ugly

Ever since Sonic and Grand Theft Auto went 3D, games have been reinventing themselves to howls of discontent from faithful fans. But while some games make missteps simply from their desire to keep up with the times, others cast off tried and tested mechanics simply to ape whatever is in fashion at the moment. This time next year we’ll be playing a version of Syndicate that replaces isometric brainwashing with first person shooting. Until then, here are some well established gaming properties that cast off their familiar duds in favour of some sharp new threads - in some cases the clothes made the man, and in others the emperor was starkers.


Fallout 3
Immensely popular, enormous, deep and hugely rewarding, Fallout 3 is one of the games that really blossomed in its reworking. Few people thought that would be the case when it was originally announced that Bethesda would be taking over the franchise, however. Moving from an isometric layout and turn-based RPG set up into a real time, third- or first-person action story had the entire internet disgustedly yelling ‘Oblivion with guns!’ As it turned out, they were right, but it was nothing to be disgusted about. Still, there's part of us that fondly remembers it in its original form.

Red Faction Guerrilla
Volition’s long standing wall-boring, floor-digging FPS underwent a massive change with it’s third installment, Red Faction Guerrilla. While previous versions used Geo-Mod to allow some basic tunnelling, Guerrilla upped the ante with Geo-Mod 2, which combined realistic physics with unexpectedly flimsy building materials in a way that let you destroy just about every item on the map. Of course, with those sort of toys on offer, a point-to-point first person shooter was never going to cut it: you needed to be able to go forth and destroy, hence the game’s retooling as a sandbox style 3rd person cars-and-guns adventure - a sort of Just Cause 2 on Mars. Unlike many of the games on this list, the change was extremely successful, reinvigorating a declining series. Which makes it all the more surprising that they went back to linear shooting for the latest disappointing installment, Red Faction Armageddon.

Command & Conquer: Renegade
After Dune II, Westwood Studios decided to move from Frank Herbert/David Lynch’s sandworms and spice harvesting and turn its hand to Tiberium, terrorism and world domination. The result was Command & Conquer, the first of 12 top games that sold by the bucketload. There were still rival factions, all similarly powered and fighting for land, resources and victory. Nevertheless, the powers that be decided that the winning formula needed an overhaul and in 2002, Command & Conquer: Renegade was born. The black sheep of the series, Renegade was like the antithesis of Halo Wars, taking the trappings of Command & Conquer’s top down real time strategy game and turning them into a mediocre first/third person shooter. Suffice to say, the dalliance with the new style didn’t last and the follow up returned to the format we all know and love.

Syndicate
Back in 1993, Bullfrog’s isometric shooter brought cyberpunk gaming to the masses. A cult hit, it spawned several sequels and successfully made the leap from home computer to consoles including the Mega Drive and PlayStation - the controller proving as adept as a mouse at causing carnage and controlling your enhanced cyborg agents. Many of us were pinning our hopes on rumours of its return. Starbreeze Studios were said to be behind the project and confirmed the news. We’ll have to wait until next year to pass judgement but the revelation that its revival will be in FPS form has left me numb.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

To be fair, no one could have expected Castlevania to remain a side-scrolling adventure in these modern days, but of it’s many attempts to reinvent itself, few rankle more than Lords of Shadow. It was gorgeous to look at, and lengthy enough to be great value for money, but Castlevania’s name was so distinctive it had become a byword for a certain type of gameplay. To see it jack all that in to become a pale imitation of God of War with a touch of Shadow of the Collossus thrown in was shameful. When little studios with unknown IPs jump on bandwagons it’s enterprising, but a series that’s 26 years old should be a leader, not a follower.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: Football Manager 2012

Sports Interactive and SEGA never disappoint with the annual update of their Football Manager series - and FM 2012 is the latest to be added to my burgeoning collection. Combined, all these well-worn and much-loved discs have consumed a staggeringly high percentage of my free time over the past few years. It’s no wonder the series has repeatedly been cited in divorce cases!

And there are few major surprises in store this time round... just some really important tweaks. As ever, Football Manager allows you to take charge of your favourite football team and put your managerial skills to the ultimate test. As soon as you don that virtual sheepskin coat, you're engrossed in the greatest game of all time.

Whether you want to oversee Manchester United’s path to the Champions League title, take the reigns at Russia’s newest mega rich superclub Anzi or help Quilmes Atletico Club win the Argentinean League, you quickly learn that absolutely anything is possible. The beauty of Football Manager is that you can control everything - thousands of clubs are at your fingertips, and tens of thousands of talented players are waiting to be discovered.

But why should you buy what amounts to yet another annual update? Well, just when you think you’ve mastered the beautiful game, they only go and add another 800 new features to keep you on your toes. Even playing this flat out for several weeks, I’m still encountering subtle changes. And of course, the rosters, fixtures, strips and budgets have all been fully updated…

The initial setup is the same as ever; enter your details, choose your playable leagues, pick your team and then take them to glory. Difference is, this time round, you can switch leagues on and off - and on again - as you desire. What this means is that your managerial destiny isn't constrained by your computer anymore or those choices you make when first setting up your game; there's no need to activate all those leagues from the start on the possibility you may want to manage there in the future - and therefore wait ages while your aging computer processes all the data. Now you can speed through the game and then pick new countries should you fancy taking a helm at a club in an entirely new nation. These new leagues will then kick in from the following season. It's a minor change that makes a huge difference to the seasoned gaffer.

Anyways, when you've chosen your team and settled in your sparkly new office, you need to take charge of every aspect of the club’s running – from signing new talent and managing your team to match preparation - training, tactics and set pieces – and dealing with the press.

There's absolutely no excuse to be baffled by the interface and the torrent of information at your fingertips either. Virgin managers can learn their trade by running the new standalone tutorial add on, while it will also help outline some of the new additions to even the most grizzled gaffers. There seems to be so much more information and data crammed on to every screen in this version, which means there's no excuse to not be in complete control.

Social networks are again used to publicise your achievements, with Twitter and Facebook account synching allowing you to share your progress with friends. Should you need further encouragement to keep on playing, the achievement counter pops up on Steam as before too – much like the Xbox achievements and PS3 trophy system.

Should you want to improve your team, take on those tricky agents or dabble in the transfer market, then you’ll soon see this has been enhanced since last year as well. The pursuit and eventual capture of that star player is just as exhilarating as before. This time, however, the addition of loyalty bonuses and the ability to lock parts of the deal that you just won't budge on will make it easier to keep the Board off your back if debts spiral out of control!

Scouting is as comprehensive as ever, with squad analysis, tactics information and information about a player’s history, preferred positions and mentality all at your fingertips. Then, once you stop messing about with the teamsheet, the real work begins. Afterall, winning matches is what it’s all about.

The overhauled tactical overview screen shows your squad, preferred formations, player instructions and just about everything else you'll need. Shouts are a pretty cool option - allowing you to customize multiple instructions that you can choose to yell at your players on the pitch in one easy button press. Quick substitutions and tactical changes can be made at a whim during a match, with all kinds of stats and analysis available in floating windows while it all plays out.

And importantly, it all looks much better than last year too.

Remember all those years ago when reams of text popped up on screen during a match and you read what your players were up to. Then Sports Interactive made the big switch to 2D blobs that moved about the pitch and gave you even more insight before the inevitable leap to a 3D match enginer. Well, for the 2012 season, there's a whole heap of new animations to keep that smile etched permanently on your face. There are improved weather effects and more stadia too, the crowds have been tweaked and new goal celebrations! Not to forget that two new camera angles have been included – the new Behind Goal and Director Cam options giving you more ways to analyse your team’s performance. There's no way you'll be able to use Wenger's much-loved "I didn't see it" excuse the next time you concede a goal!!!

If it is all going wrong, you can gee you players up with the half time team talk, or inadvertently rile them with an ill-placed comment. A brilliant new addition is the way you can now decide your tone to ensure that your players get the message. Is it best to be calm when you’re being thrashed or might a slightly more aggressive stance be appropriate and improve their performance? There are six different tones available, each with specific comments – meaning a raft of options that put you more in control. After a match, the press conferences have also been improved with more answer options than ever before. You can also target other managers to nurture friendships or rivalry, comment on transfer targets or take your players to one side for a private chat.

There’s no other game that so easily wrestles money from my wallet than Football Manager. It’s perhaps the only series I can guarantee I'll update each year. FM 2012 is an absolute no brainer for any football fan - it's just as addictive, thorough and brilliant as before but does more than enough to be different. This truly is the undisputed king of football management.

Buy it immediately!

The Most Awful Accents In Gaming

Ever since Mario added his first unnecessary vowel to the end of a word, the scripts and voice actors of the gaming world have revelled in the ability to trot out dialogue and deliveries that would have performers in any other industry up in front of a tribunal, or at least hung out to dry in the court of public opinion. In gaming, however, they just keep on coming, and they range from those that are inappropriately hilarious, to those that are just inappropriate full stop.

Here is our pick of some of the worst accents ever to bless the gaming world:

Sean Devlin - The Saboteur
It would be silly to expect subtlety from a game that offers you the option of paying for nipple-tassell removing DLC before you even start playing, but really, Sean Devlin’s Irish accent goes beyond unsubtle and deep into cartoonish territory. “Thad’ll boof roight out,” he yells after a fender bender, “Bleedin arl orvir,” he yells when shot, and when he dies, it’s usually with a heavily accented exclamation of “Chroist!” All delivered by the actor Robin Atkin-Downes, a British boarding school boy best known for the role of Byron in Babylon 5. To be fair to him, his British accent in that was terrible, so maybe it’s just his voice?

UNSC Marines - Halo
In 3001, Arthur C Clarke proposed a future in which skin colours had mingled to a hazelnut shade, exotic names no longer gave any reliable hint as to nationality, and accents had merged into a mid-Atlantic tone. In Halo, Bungee simplified this by proposing a future in which everyone was Australian. Okay, maybe not everyone. Captain Keyes and Sergeant Johnson sounded Brideshead Revisited and Miami Vice, but everyone else? Pure Home and Away. When later Halo instalments started trotting out players with diverse European accents and names, you couldn’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to water down their much mocked vision of a future where Australians were as good at space soldiering as they are at sports.

Duvalle Mingo - The Saboteur
Another entry for The Saboteur, and a more depressing one this time. You meet three resistance leaders in the course of the game: Luc the leftist intellectual who values the cause above all and has you working to free fighting men, Margot the elitist who has you running violent errands to protect French culture, and Duvalle Mingo, the leader from the ghetto, who sends you out to murder his ex-girlfriend because “she couldn’t keep her legs shut”. Up until then, The Saboteur has been entertaining enough that you could ignore its dubious sexual politics, but Duvalle Mingo’s clichés delivered in a bad James Earl Jones impersonation suddenly takes away a lot of the fun.

Bolo Santosi - Just Cause 2
Ah, Just Cause 2. When it comes to awful accents, Just Cause 2 is a mess of outrageous performances but one woman stands out above all the rest...



Bolo Santosi has gained a cult internet following for her ridiculous accent, composed of two parts Singapore, one part Botswana, and ten parts exaggeration. Strangely, her character starts out as cagily flirtatious, but ends it making blunt come-ons that wouldn’t sound out of place after dark in Kings Cross. I wonder why she abandoned all subtlety? Perhaps she was having difficulty making herself understood.

Everyone - Dead Island
The tropical island of Banoi, just off the coast of Papua New Guinea, is not only home to a horde of ravenous zombies but also some rather panicky hotel staff with shocking Antipodean accents. Sure the whole plot of Dead Island isn't exactly believable but throw in some absolutely appalling accents and any semblance of realism goes completely out the window.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Gears of War 3

There's an old adage – 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Gears of War 3 is that expression in videogame form. Basically the same as Gears of War 1 and 2, Gears 3 is another fun blaster that's light on plot and heavy on action, ticking all the boxes long-time Gears fans have come to expect from their muscle-bound heroes.

Picking up some two years after the end of Gears 2, Gears 3's singleplayer dumps the gamer unceremoniously into the action, seeing Marcus and Dom et al battling to force the lizard-like Locust and their Lambent (and exploding) cousins off the deck of one of the many battleships that has become humanity's home. Basically, if you've played either of the previous games you'll feel right at home with Gears 3 – shoot, chainsaw, win, move location – rinse and repeat.

Sure, there's a few cool bits later on with miniguns, and a few set-piece battles so intense that they leave you short of breath, but the majority of the singleplayer game is same-old same-old.
Not to say that this is a bad thing – the game's campaign is a considerable length, filling some ten hours or more on hard, but it doesn't really push the envelope. That said, get a few mates round and boot up the four-player (and very long-awaited) co-op action on hard difficulty and you're in for a riot.

Outside of the singleplayer, the game's popular and varied multiplayer is on fine form, offering a dizzying array of modes to keep you playing for hours. Horde - the seminal survive-em-up mode pitting you and four others against 50 waves of the Locust Horde - is better than ever, having had something of a tune-up.

This time around, you can build defences, turrets, decoys and even mechs to keep the horde at bay, and regular 'bonus waves' and 'boss waves' keep the action fresh and intense – and really bloody hard too... my record was wave 43.

Competitive multiplayer has also seen a tightening of its belt, and now includes team deathmatch mode, as well as all the old favourites, such as execution and warzone. Thankfully, the lag isn't as bad as it used to be, though one-shot shotgun kills are still a constant irritation - and as usual, American players (being closer to the servers) typically win shotty battles. However, the addition of a sawn-off shotgun (which is very short ranged, but also blows everything to shreds instantly) cheapens the experience somewhat. I tended to stick to distance shooting – I felt less cheated that way...

The addition of a new co-op mode, 'beast', is a surprisingly fun change of pace. Placing the player in the boot, claws, armoured skeleton or chitinous centipede body of one of the Locus Horde, you and four others have to kill 12 waves of human players and COG heroes, spending the cash you earn destroying fortifications to upgrade to bigger and better members of the Horde. There's something to be said for crawling around as a ticker, eating rifles, battering razorwire and earning cash, before finally earning the moolah to become a berserker - and demolish everything. It's just a shame that you can't drop in as a member of the Horde on someone else's game of Horde – Epic missed a trick there.

Graphically the game looks good as ever, and both sound effects and score are second to none, bringing the gritty, dark world of Gears to life on your screen.

If you're a longtime fan, buy it. If you're new to the series.... buy it anyway.

Life Swap:10 Characters We'd Like To Swap

Thanks to the likes of Super Smash Bros, Dynasty Warriors and Kingdom Hearts it no longer feels weird seeing characters from one game show up in another. We’re always amused when we see Gears of Wars Marcus and Dom pop up in Lost Planet 2, or when we can pit Link against lumbering Bowser in SSB:B.

Sometimes, however, the idea of character swapping goes further than just an amusing cameo: we at Megabits like to ponder the changes that would occur if you completely swapped characters in certain games. Sometimes the outcome is amusing, sometimes disturbing, and very occasionally you hit on a mash up that would create a game you’d really like to play.


10 Gordon Freeman in Mass Effect
Mass Effect is so longwinded it could make even Hideo Kojima roll his eyes and make the ‘Yakety yak’ hand signal. Often we’d find ourselves embroiled in half hour discussions of intergalactic politics where the only concession to the notion of interactivity was a dialogue selection that would allow you to decide if the next half hour of waffle would be on the subject of cosmic quantitative easing, or Adam Werrity’s inappropriate relationship with the Salarian defence minister. Amidst all that unceasing prattle we found ourselves thinking: “What this game needs is a mute with a crowbar.” Step up Gordon, the galaxy needs your steel alloy conversation-stopper.

9 Commander Shepherd in Half Life 2
Of course, the flipside to seeing Gordon Freeman cut through the crap in Mass Effect would be to see Commander Shepherd take on the brook-no-argument fascists controlling City 17.

Combine: “Put the can in the bin, human.”

Shepherd: “The pan-Galactic treaty signed after the fourth Kuboobrian exodus destroyed the Flogrian fleet prohibits the arbitrary dispensation of menial tasks on the basis of species discrimin...urk...”

Combine Truncheon: “Thud. Thud. Thudsplat.”

8 Sparrow in Dark Souls
Ah, Sparrow, the chirpy protagonist of Fable 2, running around Albion with a faithful canine companion and treasure shovel, levelling up his skills after every encounter. Pretty much standard behaviour for the RPG genre, no? Sparrow is such an RPG archetype it’s a wonder no one asked him to take care of the town’s rat problem, but RPG’s aren’t what they used to be.

Nowadays they seem to be at the forefront of a movement to restore gaming’s long lost difficulty, and no game typifies this more than Dark Souls. Imagine plucky Sparrow, coming from a game where dying means nothing more than the addition of a small scar to your character, then put him in the death dealing Dark Souls, a game where you can die six times before breakfast. And then your breakfast kills you.


7 Kratos in Castevania: Lords of Shadow
Just imagine how different the fixed-camera slash-em-up would be if you replaced gloomy, dead-wifed, chain-blade wielding Gabriel with Kratos, a gloomy, dead-wi...oh, hang on. Oh well, at least the game offers some originality in those bits where you have to clamber up giant monsters and atta...sorry? Shadow of the what? For shame, Castlevania, for shame.

6 Chris Redfield in Just Cause 2
Sometimes you come across a character swap idea in which one side is so brilliant you can’t believe no one has done it yet, while the other side is so disastrous it’s laughable. To wit: Lumbering, inventory challenged, can-only-aim-when-standing-still Chris Redfield being transferred from the grubby world of Resident Evil to the towering kinetic playground of Panau, a world in which you can parachute onto moving motorcycles whilst shooting at helicopters and chain-whipping soldiers. It would be an unplayable mess, but we get a nasty thrill of amusement at the thought of Resi’s leaden hard man standing bewildered in the tropical sunshine, sobbing softly at his inability to function in this nimble new world.

5 Agent Rico in Resident Evil
The flipside, of course, is Resident Evil with Agent Rico. It wouldn’t make much of a full game, but as a piece of comedy DLC it would be inspired. An entire game built around the idea of a shambling menace slowly building up the tension as it inches towards you, upended by the presence of an acrobatic CIA man with a machine gun and an elastic grappling hook. Granted, the zombies would become easy prey, but a million Chinese-style hack and slash games have proven that defeating scores of easy opponents can be fun, and just think how enjoyable it would be to unleash Rico’s grappling hook on Resident Evil’s glorious but formerly static environments-whipping up the central shaft of the Raccoon City Labs, riding atop the cable car in Resi 4. Mint.

4 The Vault Dweller in Oblivion
When we first saw Fallout 3 it bore such an uncanny resemblance to Elder Scrolls IV that the majority of the internet took to calling it Oblivion with guns. Yes, one took place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and the other in verdant fantasy world, but their playing styles were hugely similar.

There was one huge hidden difference, however. In Fallout 3 levelling up increased your chances of meeting tougher baddies. In Oblivion, all the baddies levelled up with you. The end result was that every time you levelled up and spent points on anything other than your combat skills, you technically became slightly weaker than your opponents.

By the time you had a level twenty thief who could sneak past any guard and pick every lock in the game, you’d find you also had a character who could be killed by a glancing blow from an angry hobo. Oops. Just once, we’d like to insert our character from Fallout 3 into Oblivion. A level 30 colossus with top marks in all the toughest categories, violent perks falling out of his ears, a rocket launcher that fires eight nukes at once and a seemingly indestructible suit of power armour. If they thought the Daedra were a lethal scourges, just wait till the Vault Dweller lays waste to a few towns.


3 Marcus Fenix in Deus Ex: Human Revolution
It’s all about choice, they say. Kill or pacify, fight or sneak, persuade or intimidate, Deus Ex will let you choose your own methods. Until you get to a boss fight, that is. A boss fight where you can’t sneak, subdue or schmooze your way past. Choice is out, violence is in, and suddenly you’ll wish that your super-charming semi-pacifist agent had the personality and hardware to deal with things directly. I revelled in the gleaming futuristic world of Deus Ex for a good two hours, then I got bored and annoyed, and wished I could replace Adam Jensen with the moronic but direct Marcus Fenix and just smash my way through the rest of the game.

2 Batman in Dead Rising 2
Dead Rising 2’s big selling point was the sheer, stupendous number of zombies you could have on the screen at once, while Batman: Arkham Asylum made great play of its beautiful, Guinness-smooth combat. For all the joy to be had battering zombies with novelty weapons in Dead Rising 2, it did eventually start to feel a bit stodgy and clumsy. If only there were a more acrobatic, lively, speedy way to carve through them. Frankly, we’d give our last Zombrex syringe to be able to unleash Batman’s brand of combat-gymnastics onto the undead. Hmm...combat gymnastics, now there’s a gameplay concept waiting to be exploited...

1 Dominic Santiago in Tomb Raider
You know how we said that the character swapping train of thought sometimes leads to disturbing places? Well, we thought of missing family members, awkward running gunfire, and a tendency to vault over small, incongruously placed obstacles, and naturally enough, we ended up with the most horrifying vision in gaming: Gears of War’s Dom, in Lara Croft’s wetsuit. That fizzing noise you can hear is your brain corroding under the caustic assault of that image.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review-El Shaddai:Ascension of the Metatron

More often than not a gamer has bought a game based on the amazing looking cut-scenes shown in the advertisements that accompany new releases, only to find the in-game graphics and gameplay little to be desired. The problem is also that new games that come without the fanfare, bells and whistles are sometimes overlooked – and this can be a great shame, particularly if that game you miss is El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.

Of course, you would be forgiven for not having seen it; even when I was initially given El Shaddai, developed by Ignition Entertainment, to review I was a little confused as to what sort of game it was – and in some ways I still am. All I know is that until El Shaddai I hadn’t been enchanted by a game for a long time.

Although it encapsulates a mix of gameplays, at the bare bones El Shaddai is a third-person platformer. The main character is Enoch, a human who initially worked as a scribe for the council of elders in Heaven, now chosen to save humanity. His mission is to capture a group of renegade fallen angels, called the Grigori, in God's last attempt before he forms a great flood to destroy the earth and everyone in it.

As random and bonkers the storyline is, its one of the most beautiful games I have played this year.

The landscapes in the game are truly stunning, each level changes seamlessly with the well choreographed music and you’re taken through colourful and psychedelic levels which you can’t help but appreciate and get lost in.

The thought put into the levels is very refreshing to what you get from most platformers available at the moment as you guide Enoch through ever-morphing worlds from neon platforms to misty caverns. The game’s development was led by Takeyasu Sawaki, who was a character designer in both Devil May Cry and Okami. To those who have played these games, it gives some idea how well crafted El Shaddai is.

El Shaddai also surprises with its change in gameplay. The majority of the game is a third-person hack’n’slasher, but throughout the game you divert to a side scrolling platformer and at one stage you even play through a high-octane bike chase and I found myself genuinely interested in what would happen next.

Within the game you have three holy weapons to choose from (apart from your fists): an arch, veil, and gale, with which the player can perform combos with the rhythmic use of one button.
The arch is a curved blade which can be used as a fast melee weapon that also allows you to float for short periods; the veil is a shield as well as a pair of gauntlets; while the gale is a weapon which fires small diamond-shaped darts and provides quick dash ability.

Every weapon has strengths and weaknesses, and selecting the right weapon in certain fights and areas you traverse is crucial. You are also able to disarm other enemies and use their weapon against them, which adds depth to combat. In addition, during battles, your weapons become corrupt and weaken and must be purified. This can be easily achieved with a press of a button but timing is important when fighting as you become vulnerable for a brief period of time, which does mean you put thought into how to approach a fight.

Another nice touch is that throughout the game you have a friend in the way of Lucifel, a mobile phone carrying archangel who acts as a save point and offers advice and encouraging words along the way.

If I have one negative thing to say about the game is that it is too easy and will only take you around 10 hours to complete. It is also almost impossible to die and the religious/mystical monsters bosses you face do become repetitive.

However these are small niggles to the enriching and unique experience El Shaddai provides. If you’re someone who likes having a selection of games then this is a must for your collection. But if you are someone just plays games for the moment then at least rent this game and see the magic for yourself.