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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: DiRT Showdown

Whereas its predecessors have focussed on rally driving and how the cars handle, Codemaster’s new slant on its DiRT series is an altogether different beast. DiRT Showdown is clearly aimed more towards the casual racer, with far more arcadey handling and events. Besides racing, you also get to try your hand at the good old Demolition Derby and the stunt-based Hoonigan events – similar to the Gymkhana modes in DiRT 3.

The main menu presents various options including the main Showdown Tour – a series of solo events where you fight for first place and earn money to buy and upgrade vehicles. Then there’s Joyride – consisting of huge arenas to show off your skills – as well as Challenge mode and the all-important Multiplayer.

Each event is quite a spectacle; sharp graphics and satisfyingly booming music spill from your speakers from the onset. There’s a decent variety of cars to control and batter, and a heady mix of pyrotechnics, a brash US commentator and varied weather conditions thrown in too.

All the backgrounds and environments are lush and vivid, lighting effects are great, and the music and commentary add nicely to the proceedings. The damage modelling is suitably satisfying, while the replays – highlighting bits hanging off your car and the crumpled bodywork - show just how close you were to retiring from a race early. If you’re particularly proud of your efforts, you can capture the action using the integrated You Tube functionality.

The controls are reassuringly simple with the obligatory accelerate, brake and handbrake buttons. A handy nitrous boost is also available whichever chariot you choose, and is slowly replenished during each event. A Crashback rewind feature gives you five opportunities per race to have another go should you really screw things up too.

The handling is very forgiving unlike some of the rally games of the past and each car feels suitably different, which makes skidding round corners incredibly satisfying. The controls are a piece of cake to master and everyone is quickly on a level playing field no matter how many hours you’ve invested into the game – again making this an ideal party game.

The Showdown Tour consists of more than 50 events, spread across four championships: Pro, Allstar, Champion and Legend. Only a small selection of races are available initially, with the others locked until you conquer a required number of events. Prize money is earned depending on your final position, which you can use to buy vehicles and upgrade their power, strength and handling attributes.

After picking your desired car and decals, you’re ready to participate in the diverse range of events. Race Off is pretty traditional fare, requiring you to shunt your rivals, catch some air over ramps and avoid obstructions to cross the finishing line first.

If it's more destruction you crave, 8 Ball should get your motor running. The track is laid out in a figure-of-eight with plenty of cross over points... collisions are inevitable and victory is as much down to luck as it is skilful driving; a well-earned lead can be easily lost thanks to a collision on the final straight that sends you awry.

Next up is Domination, where the circuit is split into sectors and you're awarded points for setting the fastest time in each. The racer with the most points at the end of the race wins.
Keeping ahead of your rivals is the name of the game for the Eliminator events, where the timer ticks down and kicks whoever is in last place out of the place. Careful use of the boost button is essential to keep you in front.

Then we get down to the really good stuff. Harking back to the good old days of Destruction Derby on the PSOne, Rampage puts in an arena with other drivers who are baying for your blood. Take the lead by outscoring your opponents by T-boning, swiping and head on collisions. More points are awarded for heavier hits or destroying a rival. As the event draws to a close, double points are awarded to keep things interesting – which means that even a decent lead can be overcome, keeping you on your toes until the timer ticks down.

Even better are the Knock Out matches, which place all the cars on an elevated platform. Much like a Japanese Sumo match, the aim is to push your rivals off the edge without plunging off yourself. Besides the huge bonuses awarded for nudging them off, you can also accrue a healthy score by smashing into them. You’re not penalised for falling off yourself but it does waste vital seconds as you make your way to a nearby access ramp to get right back into the action. It's great fun and probably the mode we revisited the most.

If you're getting pretty confident with your driving and evasive manoeuvres, then try out Hard Target where survival is the name of the game. You're the prey and start in the centre of an arena, having to avoid being destroyed by all the other cars for as long as possible. Tricky and addictive.

For those of you craving a little more skill to your racing, Showdown’s Hoonigan fixtures will satiate your hunger. Head 2 Head matches see you compete in a series of time trials with another racer, drifting, smashing and donuting your way round the obstacle courses in the quickest time. Trick Rush, meanwhile, requires as many tricks as possible to be completed within the time limit. Finally, there’s Gate Hunter, where it’s all about smashing coloured bricks in a certain order.

There’s plenty to see and do – but when you’re done with the career mode you can always turn your hand to Joyride – which as the name suggests allows you to drive around a bit and hone your skills. Featuring a couple of arenas, these are proving grounds that test even the most competent racers. The huge expanses feature barrels strewn about the place, carefully positioned cranes and handy ramps that are perfect for pulling off drifts, donuts and other tricks. Besides the lengthy list of objectives and challenges on each level, there are also hidden items to find. No game these days gets released without collectibles, eh?

When all’s said and done, games like this thrive on the multiplayer element and Showdown does a rather nice job in that department too. Besides two-player split-screen, you can also dip into eight-player online races. The lobbies are nice and full, and when you're waiting to join a match, you can watch the destruction as a spectator.

Arguably, the online modes will provide far more longevity than playing solo. Entering lobbies is simple and quick and no matter how skilled your opponents, you’ll never feel outclassed. The all-new RaceNet system allows you to track and compare achievements and statistics. What’s more, you can also throw down the gauntlet to friends and challenge them to beat your times.

You probably get the impression we were pretty keen on this game. Ultimately, DiRT Showdown will appeal to many – although it may upset a few diehard fans by straying from the roots of the series. Personally, the arcadey feel is welcome and the slant on destruction and carnage is refreshing. It’s perfect for dipping in and out, just as much as it is for a prolonged gaming session. There’s plenty to keep you occupied with oodles of replayability both alone with the decent AI or against real players. It's entertaining and recommended!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bits and Bytes: Mobile gaming is covered


Finding a cover for your iPhone can be just as important as choosing the actual phone itself. We've stumbled across a website which has some fantastic gaming-oriented ideas which we think you might quite like. Here are some of our favourites.

Check out the Zazzle.co.uk website for more fun ideas.




Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Awesomenauts


Well, this one’s aptly named. I don’t usually bother with arcade titles - not because they’re below me or anything, but because I’d rather spend my cash on ‘proper’ games. So the fact that Awesomenauts shackled me to the screen for a couple of hours from the second I turned it on is pretty telling. It really is awesome(nauts.)

 
Belonging to a game genre known as the ‘multiplayer online battle arena’, Awesomenauts plays like those old side-scrolling shooters you spent your pennies on down the bowling alley as a kid, crossed with a 90s cartoon – crossed with a vat of LSD.
 
Putting the gamer in the magnetic boots/floating robe/jetpack of a cast of crazy characters, Awesomenauts challenges the gamer to blast his/her/monkey’s way along an insane 2D map with the aim of blowing up the enemy’s base.  It’s annoying, then, that wave after wave of AI robots, massive defence turrets and three AI or human-controlled Awesomenauts stand in your way.
 
The game’s plot is utter craziness, which sees two massive opposing space navies fighting over a resource known as ‘Solar’. To break a deadlock that’s lasted forever, the Awesomenauts are brought in – teams of highly unstable nutters which include a massive robot with a serious overbite, a Russian, jetpack-equipped monkey, a French assassin lizard called ‘Leon’ and a brain in a jar.
 

Each of the teams in the 3vs3 game pick their Awesomenaut – which starts with no upgrades – and has to work as a team to take down the robots, turrets and enemies together, while defending or rebuilding your own.
 
Each of the player characters has his/her/monkey’s special abilities, which can be upgraded throughout the match by spending both Solar and gold coins at the in-game store. The characters all compliment each other really well, and a clever team will play to each character’s strengths, while looking after their team as a whole.
 
While you need to unlock some of the characters - as the entire roster requires a little grinding to grab - the game is such fun that you’re unlikely to notice.
 
The worlds offered by the game’s 90s cartoon-inspired graphics engine are colourful and varied, stretching from a giant robot graveyard to the depths of space and time, and the maps are all large enough to make each match a challenge.
 
The animation is excellent, with nary a hitch in frame rate, despite the frenetic action on-screen, and the music and sound effects also hold up really well, especially some of the voice acting, which is fantastic and funny.
 
The game’s matchmaking throws up a few issues, however, as it often falls flat on its robotic arse in the middle of a tense game, kicking friends and opponents alike for no reason.
Sure, the game replaces said lost friend with a bot – but what use is a bot when a giant turret is blasting you apart and you desperately need a brain in a jar to heal you.
 
And while there is a singleplayer component, playing against the bots gets old fast – so don’t invest in Awesomenauts unless you want to get online.
 
Come heal me as my Russian jetpack monkey hurls himself at the nearest turret - it really is awesome!

Reviewed on PS3

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Sniper Elite V2

The shot is 200 meters. Wind is south-southwest and gusting. Your enemy’s eagle-stamped helmet bobs as he smokes and laughs with his friend. You move the crosshairs up to the left, estimating the bullet drop and wind resistance. You breathe in. The world slows around you. You squeeze the trigger. The rifle bucks, sending the bullet spinning towards the Nazi soldier. He falls, his brains spraying his friends in a squirt of pinkish red. You run.

This is Sniper Elite V2 at its best – and although the game features many such stand-out moments like this, a number of bugs hold it back from reaching true greatness.

Putting you in the boots of OSS sniper Karl Fairburne - a gnarled, weary soldier with years of experience - V2 drops you smack-bang in the middle of the end of World War Two. Set in Berlin and its surrounding environments, the game sees Karl hunting down the Nazi scientists behind the deadly – and world-altering – V2 rocket, Germany’s last-resort terror weapon.

However, as the Russian army – ostensibly your allies – are also looking for these boffins, Karl quickly finds himself fending of both Nazis and Reds as he works alone to take down or recruit his targets in the final days of the conflict.

V2’s plot isn’t great, in all honesty, acting simply as a way to string the game’s decent-length campaign together. This is a shame, however, as it would of been nice to play both Ruskis and Nazis off against each other in the name of the US of A. It does have a couple of twists, but nothing deep.

Thankfully, the game’s considerable singleplayer campaign has more than enough mileage in it, putting Karl through a variety of war-torn environments and challenges as he races to stop an evil plot.

The majority of the game plays like a cross between Splinter Cell and snipe-em-up movie Enemy at the Gates – a mix which it pulls off easily. While the game offers a selection of tools to make your job easier – lower difficulty levels offering target marking, ballistics helpers and no wind – the real challenge is found on Sniper Elite difficulty.

Pop the game in on this difficulty and you suddenly finding yourself playing a game apart from the run-’n-gun shooters than infest the market – V2 is a thinking man’s shooter. On this difficulty, there’s a minimal heads-up display, wind and bullet drop can throw your shots off, the enemies are eagle-eyed and a couple of bullets can put an end to your sneaky approach.

While the difficulty certainly leads to some angry, very tough moments, it’s never overwhelming – although sometimes the enemy will spot you without any chance of them actually being able to. Such as the time an enemy rifleman killed me after seeing me (somehow) while I was prone on the fourth floor of a tenement block – in complete darkness.

The enemy AI, while mostly adequate, does have its moments. After you’ve been spotted, the enemy will attempt to suppress and flank you one moment – then get run over by one of their own tanks the next.They also seem to have a serious problem with doors...

The tanks are – as you’d expect – utterly deadly, and can ruin your carefully chosen vantage point instantly – it’s good then that they come with flashing red petrol caps for you to shoot at, blowing them up easily. This is a bit odd, and ruins what was a pretty immersive experience.

That said, the game’s 3D kill cam never gets old. If you pull off a particularly fantastic shot, the game follows the bullet’s trajectory to – and through – your target, giving you a gory, slow-motion view of the kill. It’s creepy, but compelling.

While you can play the game by running around with a sub-machine gun, you’re going to miss out on all the fun of being a dangerously isolated sniper if you do.

The game also features a selection of co-op and competitive multiplayer modes, including a co-op campaign, ‘overwatch’ - where one sniper covers an on-foot trooper – and a score attack mode. While the matchmaking is fast, the lack of people actually playing the multiplayer is telling, however.

Graphically the game isn’t the best-looking. The low-res textures on Berlin’s ruined streets (of which there are loads) are a little jarring to the eye – which is a shame, as some of the game’s locations are spectacular to explore. These include infiltrating a German ‘Flaksturm’, taking a shot from the top of a church tower at the heart of a flattened city park and sneaking through the wreckage of a V2 factory, silenced pistoling the patrolling guards.

In a side note – V2 is one of the only games to ever make me feel ‘bad’ for my actions. If you snipe a trooper in the thigh, sometimes he’s left in a pool of blood, calling for a medic, sending his friends mad with worry as he bleeds out, trying to take cover from you. Do you put him out of his misery? Or could you have sneaked past and left them alone?

Then there was the time a pair of soldiers were discussing “Will you be going home after the war? Are your kids safe?” – all while sitting in the centre of my crosshairs. It was a humbling moment of rare thought in a world filled with games that don’t question the killing.

Overall, Sniper Elite V2 is a very different type of shooter. While the bugs sully the experience somewhat, the game’s emphasis on stealth, caution and patience is refreshing, and well worth a look if you fancy using your brain over your brawn.

Reviewed on Xbox 360

Friday, May 18, 2012

Megabits of News: Weekly Roundup


Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to...


Walking Dead hits one million sales
While us fans wait for the third series of the hit zombie TV show, we now have the option of diving straight into the action with Telltale's episodic version. It's received some pretty favourable reviews and is proving popular; in the first two weeks since it went on sale, The Walking Dead has amassed sales of over one million, says CVG.


Saints Row success
According to MCV, THQ has revealed sales of over 4 million for Saints Row: The Third. The company's financial report said that the series had therefore amassed total sales in excess of 11 million.


The Last Of Us gets new trailer
There aren't enough post apocalyptic games out there, right? Well, as far as we're concerned The Last Of Us looks like it will be one of the better releases when it finally emerges. Naughty Dog doesn't often let us down, eh? Check this new trailer:


BBC Sports App for PS3
Not enought to do on your console? Then you should be happy with this new app from BBC, which will give you access to loads of sports, such as F1 racing and the Olympics!


Bits and Bytes: Mario goes mental


Check out this video for proof that it's not just characters like Asura from Asura's Wrath who might be considered a little on the grumpy side... even loveable old Mario has been known to have a bad day once in a while!



Preview: DiRT Showdown



DiRT Showdown is the “new dive in and drive” adrenaline rush of speed, style and destruction from the creators of the multi-award winning DiRT series.

There are three broad categories to DiRT Showdown’s stunning world of action-sport racing. Players will use nitrous to blast past rivals and negotiate courses filled with ramps, multiple routes and obstacles in racing events. Gaming’s most advanced damage engine is pushed to its limits in demolition derby events, where players smash and crash their way to victory in jaw-dropping, bone-jarring style. Finally, in Hoonigan events gamers can demonstrate their freestyle driving skill in huge free-roaming stunt parks with new accessible controls.


DiRT Showdown is Codemasters’ most connected game ever - split-screen multiplayer, eight player online racing, on and off-line quick-fire party games, and YouTube integration all come as standard. Players can also issue new ‘Showdown Challenges’ to compete with friends in on and off-line modes.

Players jump into a new world of arcade racing with pick up and play controls, speeding, tricking and smashing their way to ‘Showdown’ finals to compete against rivals in front of thousands of fans in a vibrant festival atmosphere.

In the career mode, globe-trotting Showdown players will travel from Miami to San Francisco, London to Tokyo and other famous locations earning the adulation of the crowd at hyper-energised, frenzied, unsanctioned race events. Over 50 different events across four championships challenge gamers in a variety of conditions – sun, snow, and rain - through the day and under the floodlights at night.


With an exciting mix of licensed and bespoke cars and powered by the EGO Game Technology Platform for phenomenal graphical performance and stunning damage, DiRT Showdown could well be the new standard for arcade driving delirium.

Codemasters’ Iain Smith, Associate Producer, and Mike Chapman, Senior Games Designer explain how this was achieved.

How does Showdown move the series forward?

IS - Whilst the game is grounded in reality and still has all of those key DiRT traits, Showdown actually contains lots of fundamentally new content. From the inclusion of the more aggressive destruction derby content such as 8-ball races and Rampage events to the inclusion of obstacles, split-routes and nitrous boost to the standard racing events. The whole complexion is quite different.

MC - As Iain has mentioned, DiRT Showdown will be offering something new in the series. From a game play perspective we’ve tried to really focus in on what will give players the most enjoyable experience. From the choice of vehicles, the overhauled handling model, the variety of modes, the inclusive multiplayer options and arguably even the music selection, we’ve endeavoured to put ‘fun’ at the very forefront of the game.

How did you involve the feedback of real drivers?
IS - We’ve made big improvements to how Gymkhana works, so much so that we’re rebranding that part of the game to Hoonigan Gymkhana to tie in with Ken Block’s lifestyle brand. To make sure we got that right, Ken was obviously involved in the development. We’ve made the various tricks; donuts, drifts, jumps and so on a little more intuitive for the player to pull off. In particular, our physics programmers have worked on a new ‘auto aim’ for donuts, which works fantastically well. It’s a real ‘play it to appreciate it’ mechanic.


How have you made everything more realistic?
MC - Since we were keen for DiRT Showdown to feature its own unique look and feel, we approached both the vehicles and tracks with this direction in mind. We’ve made huge improvements to our vehicle damage model to reflect the more destruction focused game play as well as offering a more pick up and play feel to the handling. In terms of our tracks and general visuals, it was important for us to really define the DiRT Showdown experience in terms of a festival atmosphere. Detailed skylines with fireworks, lasers, hot air balloons and flame bursts really make this game stand out of the crowd. Visuals aside, we’re also confident that our tracks offer an exciting game play experience too and our eclectic selection of vehicles certainly look fantastic but more importantly, they feel great to drive as well.

Has the garage of cars increased and how?
IS - We’ve included some of the most varied vehicle types ever in the DiRT series in DiRT Showdown. You’ll have licensed Hoonigan gymkhana vehicles to drift, donut and trick in, such as the Ford Fiesta HFHV and the Mini Gymkhana. These sit alongside our Race cars, which range from the Beliveau Gasser lowrider to the ultra-fast Lombardi 336LM. Finally, the most outlandish vehicle class is the Demolition class. There’s everything from an event-ready hearse to pickup trucks and tiny European hatchbacks. The choices of liveries and upgrade options are just as diverse – there’s definitely something for every kind of player out there.

What is the new accessible handling system?
IS – Fundamentally, the game is operating on an improved physics model from the same engine we used for DiRT3’s realistic rally handling. However, we’ve intentionally worked on this handling model a lot – focus testing, tweaking, making changes and testing again - to ensure that we have a handling model that allows players to get to grips with the game more quickly. We feel that there’s longevity for those fans who already know how to handle a DiRT game in the more rowdy, fast vehicles, but we wanted to make sure that less familiar gamers could also get into DiRT Showdown. For example, in the HOONIGAN gymkhana areas of the game, we’ve added a simple mechanic that allows players to aim their drifts more easily.


What's behind the launch of Codemasters Racing?
IS - Over the years the studio has built up a heritage and reputation for delivering really great racing titles. Now, with such diverse and strong teams within the company and the bandwidth to explore numerous new avenues within the genre, it made sense for us to make it our complete focus.

Will this label incorporate F1?
IS - Yes. All of our forthcoming games will be published on the Codemasters Racing label.

What is RaceNet and what will it mean for gamers?
MC - We envisaged RaceNet as an online hub for all Codemasters Racing fans that would encourage and support the sense of a wider community between players. One of the key goals was to offer unique and compelling content through RaceNet that would extend and add to the experience of our games. Players should expect a whole range of exciting features that are tailored for each individual release, all presented in a visually striking and highly polished style. It’s also important to mention that RaceNet is a free service and so will be adding real value to Codemasters Racing titles and more ways for players to enjoy their games.

How long was development?
IS - We began work on the title a little before we released DiRT3, sometime early in 2011. And whilst we usually bring people on and off of projects depending on the necessity to have them working on things, the main team for Showdown is around sixty to seventy developers.

What were the greatest development challenges?
IS - Some things were completely new, for example, the Racing Studio here in Southam were accustomed to programming circuit or rally-stage AI, never anything like the seek and destroy AI seen in the destruction modes - so that was a new challenge. We had to think about how AI drivers should plan attacks, avoid and defend and use the space in the arena, this type of thing. Getting that to the high quality level we did was a really big achievement.

MC - We knew at the start of development that we wanted to make DiRT Showdown the complete package. From our career mode, our expansive multiplayer options, our player challenges and all the connectivity through our new RaceNet service, we definitely faced a significant challenge in achieving it all with the same commitment to quality that the studio is known for. Thankfully, I’m happy to say that not only did we meet this goal; we all had such a great time in the process.


What are you most proud of?
IS - I really like the overall vibe of the game, although that’s a slightly intangible thing to say I’m proud of, it’s really the culmination of everything that went into making DiRT Showdown feel right. It’s a much more brash, over-the-top game. The combination of tongue-in-cheek liveries, wild car designs, more edgy, high-tempo music tracks and everything that went into presenting that outlandish, action-sports, festival or carnival atmosphere is really amazing.

MC – I’m extremely proud of the sheer variety that features in the game. We have a whole host of fun game types that not only offer an exciting experience when playing through the career mode, but also offer a compelling multiplayer experience when playing in split screen or online.

Will there be future DLC?
MC - We can’t rule anything out but we certainly have nothing planned for the time being. Indeed, we’re confident that the game already offers a significant amount of variety with all of our numerous game types and styles. Our plan is to offer a great deal of longevity through our RaceNet events, where players can unlock in-game rewards for taking part in weekly community events. We also expect our player challenges to be especially popular. These challenges allow players to send their best and times and scores to friends and therefore encourage a sense of active competition.

Will you launch a global Dirt challenge online?
MC - Players will definitely be seeing all kinds of global challenges through RaceNet after DiRT Showdown launches. In fact, we’ll be adding new DiRT Showdown features to RaceNet in the months following release so it’s definitely the place to go to look for the best competition.


*This article appears in the June issue of Charged Middle East.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Prototype 2


Forgive the fact that its name is an oxymoron, or that ultimately Prototype 2 is more of the same albeit with slightly glossier graphics and a new protagonist, and I'll wager that you'll really enjoy this latest outing.

Leaping buildings in a single bound, sprinting up walls and swallowing people whole soon becomes second nature in this uber violent, parkour-loving superhero sequel. And, compared to the first game, it's better in pretty much every department.

The follow-up to Radical Entertainment’s 2009 open world epic is bigger, badder and better looking than before, this time putting you in the shoes of war veteran Sergeant James Heller. Taking place 14-months after the events of the original, he returns home from war to find the plague that blighted New York City is rife, and his wife and child have been murdered. Heller decides to take matters into his own hands and track down Alex Mercer, the anti-hero from the first game, who he thinks is responsible. Trouble is, when he confronts the shape-shifting menace, Mercer infects the good Sergeant and gives him equally awe-inspiring powers.

So it's up to you to negotiate the disease-riddled streets to uncover the truth about the latest outbreak and track down those no good Gentek scientists who are behind the virus. Heller is consumed by thoughts of revenge - not a nice way to be but better than those poor passersby who are all too often consumed by Heller.

The city is split into three distinct zones, each affected by the virus to a different extent and boasting varied challenges and opponents. You've got to feel for the poor old inhabitants who live in perpetual fear, well aware that they're highly likely to be killed by you, the military or the weird beasts that now roam the streets.

The graphics have clearly been enhanced since the last outing and New York certainly looks a little livelier than the previous drab rendition. Heller is a nicely-drawn colourful character and is well animated, while pedestrians and the evil Blackwatch all look the part too. The creatures that you'll face look suitably gruesome, which adds to the malevolent feel to the game.

A lot of care and attention has been paid to the atmosphere and the environment this time round. There's a real sense of foreboding and doom amid the military clampdown, the civilians being controlled by a ruthless regime.

Thing is, for all the positives, Prototype 2 is slightly flawed. Despite all the efforts to ensure the AI runs away when all hell breaks loose, it seem pretty nonchalant when you start to run up sheer walls in front of them or glide just metres above their heads. It's all a little weird and disrupts the "realism" somewhat. One minute gunfire can erupt and screams ensue... fair enough. The next, you're running up a 10 storey building before their very eyes, jumping from the summit and plunging hundreds of feet to land safely amongst them, before absorbing one or two to replenish your health... and they don't even bat an eyelid. Perhaps they're a little numb by the whole ordeal and it's just a usual day at the office but I know for damn sure I'd react if a normal-looking guy cut someone in half right in front of me and ran up a wall!

At the start of the game you're armed with only a few abilities that mean you're able to consume people, run up walls and air dash short distances. But you're quickly able to call on a new hunting skill too... a swift click of the thumb stick emits a sonar pulse that sweeps the terrain and returns to you, highlighting the location of your target. It's a great addition and a much better idea than the usual handholding and signposting that features in most games nowadays.

As you progress through the game, you'll be awarded new mutations that significantly upgrade your abilities. You can choose new superpowers from a fairly substantial list and tailor your character to your needs. These range from the more mundane, like improving your speed or gliding skills, to taking more damage or being less noticeable to the pesky bio scanners that litter the city. There are also, of course, a plethora of powers that you'll earn as you complete missions and fight the increasingly tough bad guys. From claws and tendrils to hammerfists and blades, these are brilliant fun and instil a real sense that you're a powerful killing machine.

The powers are fantastically diverse and well animated - looking great when you're slicing and dicing your way through a crowd of bad guys, before speeding away from the scene to evade the incoming strike force. Finding collectibles in the form of hidden BlackBoxes and Field Ops teams that are dotted about the map also allow you to boost your skills and increase your repertoire of moves.

However, as we said above, it's not without its faults. Besides the slightly weird AI, the missions and plot are much improved on the original but are ultimately run of the mill and quickly feel repetitive. These largely consist of receiving a phone call from an ally or watching a brief cut scene, and then having to get from A to B as quickly as possible. Once there, you typically need to find a commander, head scientist or some Blackwatch bigwig and absorb them to take on their appearance or abilities. It's usually then a case of using some heavily-guarded hand scanner to gain access to a generic looking laboratory. Kill some more people or creatures and escape when the alarms go off. Job done. It does seem a little formulaic at times. Thing is, it's all still great fun - especially when you're powered up and have some blades, claws and tendrils up your sleeves.

Another minor gripe - but quite a common one in games of this type - are the camera angles, which can be somewhat frustrating at times. There's nothing worse than being in the heat of battle with several hungry-looking creatures bearing down on you, and the camera refusing to give you a decent view.

It's a decent sized game that will keep you enthralled for a good few hours. Besides the story objectives, there are numerous Blacknet missions to get your claws into as well. These start by accessing terminals dotted about the map and then meeting various objectives. It's a nice distraction and often a little less linear than the main plot.

There's plenty to keep you occupied around the streets of New York but even when you're done with the main campaign, the RADNET retail edition comes crammed with 55 nuggets of additional content. For the seven weeks following its launch, gamers can test their mettle at various challenges, unlock new mutations and powers, and gain access to new avatar items, themes and videos. It's a good idea and may encourage a few more people to buy the game at launch.

Okay, so Prototype 2 has not revolutionised the series to the extent that Assassin's Creed 2 did with its predecessor but it does address many of the moans of the original. It's more fun to play, the environments are more lifelike and fun to traverse and it has a much more likeable protagonist. I found myself caring more about Heller's missions and his quest for revenge than I ever did with Mercer - although I did find myself clicking through the many cut scenes and ignoring some of the story to get back to the action as quickly as possible. But that's no bad thing.

This is everything the first game wanted to be - but there is still plenty of scope for the next follow up to be even more spectacular. Not quite a classic but well worth picking up.

Reviewed on Xbox 360
  • This review was first published on Gamingbolt.com. Check out more news, reviews and articles after the jump.

VIDEO: Space Invaders Invade...


A few weeks ago we posted a video showing what would happen if Tetris building blocks fell from the skies... well, not to forget classic 1978 shoot 'em up Space Invaders, here's another showing those alien critters making their presence felt.

Space Invaders certainly has a proud legacy and has proven pretty influential over the past few decades. Check this rather cool video... Space Invaders in Real Life...



And here's another from the Game Over poject:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Top Ten Gaming Starships (Part 2)


And here’s part two of our Top Ten Gaming Starships, the behemoths that roam the skies. If you missed part one, click here... Otherwise, sit back, relax and read on...


5) Ebon Hawk 
(KOTOR)
Formerly the pride and joy of smuggler Davik Kang, the Ebon Hawk became the iconic starship of the excellent Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic RPGs after a Jedi-in-training nicked it and left him to burn. With a solid acceleration and several powerful gun turrets (and a passing resemblance to the Millennium Falcon), the ship’s importance to the game series can’t be overstated.


4) ‘The ship’ 
(Asteroids)
Although Asteroid’s spaceship is nothing more than a triangle sprite, slowly turning in a screen of black, its importance in gaming can’t be overstated. Sure, the game it stars in is considered ancient by modern terms, but as a survival horror-in space title (relatively) its challenge kept gamers coming back for more. Triangle sprite, yes – but an important one nonetheless.


3) Arwing 
(StarFox series)
“Do a barrel roll”. Now I’ve got that out of my system, the Arwing is probably a very fond memory for 20- and 30-somethings for one reason- Starfox 64. This nippy little starfighter could hurl itself through the debris-strewn planets and spacelanes of the Starfox series’ many, many missions with ease, pulling off a barrel roll without breaking stride, spitting green laser fire and dropping bombs with wild abandon. A classic spaceship for a classic series.


2) TIE Defender 
(TIE Fighter)
After having endured cutting his teeth on the unshielded, pretty weedy form of a standard TIE Fighter, for Imperial Ace Maarek Stele the first flight in the TIE Defender was utter bliss. Weighing into space battles in a huge, powerful spacefighter armed with six laser cannons, ion cannons, powerful dual-shielding, its own hyperdrive, a tractor bean generator and a torpedo launcher, the TIE Defender was the dog’s proverbials. Now if Lucasarts will just re-release TIE Fighter...


1) Cobra MkIII 
(Elite)
Although there were other space-games around before Elite, this title was the first time gamers were allowed any freedom on the final frontier. As the first of the gamer’s may starships, the Cobra MkIII was freedom with engines, allowing millions of gamers the freedom to be excited/bored by trading commodities in space, trying desperately not to crash into the space station you’re trying to dock with. As the primogenitor for the longrunning ‘X’ series and dozens of other excellent space sims, the Cobra MKIII is unsurpassed as the victor in important gaming starships.




Honourable mentions: ‘The ship’ (Defender), Apocalypse Battleship (EVE Online), Pillar of Autumn (Halo),  Aggressor-class destroyer (SW:FoC)

Top Ten Gaming Starships


Those of you who’ve known me a while know that not only am I a techie/gaming geek, I’m also big on sci fi and general science. So, without further ado (and if you can handle even more gaming and geeky sci fi nonsense in one article than the average human should study in a week), here’s my Top Ten Gaming Starships.

Also, spoiler alert...

10) Halcyon Carrier
(Sins of a Solar Empire)
The first time I played Sins of a Solar Empire, I naturally gravitated towards the fleets of powerful battleships and cruisers, with al their heavy weapons and special abilities – and ignored the fighter craft and their carriers. So, when the Advent turned up in orbit over my home planet and disgorged wave after wave of ‘anima’ fighters and bombers - which promptly ripped me to shreds – I sat up and took notice. Needless to say, when I play as the Advent, I have five of these. Deadly.


9) Eclipse
(SW Empire at War: Forces of Corruption)
What’s cooler than a Super Star Destroyer? A Super Star Destroyer with a massive laser on it. The battle for the Eclipse – an incredibly massive battleship with a superlaser built into its spine - formed the last mission of Lucasarts’ fantastic Empire at War: Forces of Corruption add-on pack, and boy was it a battle and a half. Sneaking into the Kuat Drive yards, I gleefully took control of the Eclipse’s powerful weapons, before unleashing hell on the Empire and Rebellion alike. Great fun.

8) Progenitor Dreadnaught
(Homeworld 2)
The Hiigarans are not having a good time of things. Having been forced from their homeworld by marauding enemies, they settled on another world – which was promptly attacked by another enemy force bent on dominating the galaxy. Forced to flee once again, the plucky survivors discover the wreckage of a massive Progenitor worldship – and buried in its dock, the Progenitor Dreadnaught. Sure, the initial firing of the Dreadnaught results in it disabling itself, but once it’s back on the line, it becomes the crux of their advance – and looks awesome to boot.


7) Forward Unto Dawn
(Halo 3)
No doubt there will be some Halo fanboys who cry bloody murder at me including the Forward Unto Dawn over the Pillar of Autumn, but this plucky UNSC frigate won its spot for one reason only – the level in Halo 3 when it flies in from orbit, settles in front of Master Chief and his troopers - and disgorges a horde of tanks for you to control. A brilliant moment in gaming – even if the first time the ship came roaring in its jetwash sent the remains of a Covenant Wraith tank flying into my face, killing me instantly...


6) Normandy SR2
(Mass Effect series)
While the Normandy SR1 was a fine figure of a frigate, the Cerberus-built Normandy SR2 eclipses it in every way. As a personal transport for Commander (insert first name here) Shepherd, it’s taken on Reapers, Collectors and angry fans moaning about Mass Effect 3’s ending (myself included). As an icon of truly great gaming, the Normandy has served its masters well, and though its small size means it’s unable to take on the bigger fights, its stealth drive more than makes up for it.



Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Megabits Column: Twisted Metal

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

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

Here’s the latest of the articles from the May 2012 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.



As an avid, thirty-something gamer, the words "ice cream" evoke two cherished memories. One takes me to a futuristic sports arena with the Brutal Deluxe players in the Bitmap Brother's seminal Speedball 2. And as I launch that small metal ball into my opponent's goal, I can just make out a vendor calling out "ice cream, ice cream" somewhere in the distance. The second bout of nostalgia involves a flame-haired psychopath dressed as a clown driving an ice cream truck in car combat game Twisted Metal. Thanks to Eat Sleep Play and Sony, it's the latter that being revived on the PS3... and it's a worthy return too.

Compared to its last outing on the PS2, it looks phenomenal thanks to the current gen capabilities, with the sharp graphics and sound combining with the supersmooth gameplay. There are eight huge maps, all of which are delightfully destructible so it's quite a spectacle when you get a few like-minded friends together who hellbent on causing havoc.

Besides stepping into the oversized shoes of killer clown Sweet Tooth, you also get to play as ex-stuntman Mr Grimm and disfigured model Krista Sparks - aka Dollface. They're all chasing the ultimate prize - a wish granted by the sinister Calypso. All they have to do is win his Twisted Metal tournament.

The latest in the Twisted Metal series brings with it the usual armoury of weapons and souped-up vehicles - including that infamous ice cream truck, motorbikes, juggernauts and even a helicopter. All entrants to the competition have one objective, to be the last one standing and to have their wish granted.

Vehicular combat is clearly nothing new. Twisted Metal itself dates back to 1995, making it the longest exclusive franchise in PlayStation history - but there have been plenty of other examples of games that have seamlessly merged the driving and shooting genres in the past few decades. There are of course the well-known cutesy titles such as the Mario Kart series, Crash Tag Team Racing and Blur - all light-hearted arcade racers that encourage rivalry and are just good clean fun. Twisted Metal is right at the other end of the spectrum.

It's a really macabre affair. Each of the main characters is unlikeable, their malevolence and hatred for others creating a dark overtone that means you relish wiping out your rivals. And there have been plenty of other similar games that have tapped into our deep-seated desire for virtual road rage.

Among the most famous of its predecessors was Carmageddon in 1997 - a game so violent that it was heavily censored in some parts of the world. Replacing human roadkill with robots may have watered down the impact a little but there was no escaping the gratuitous nature of the game.

Also among the favourites was Acid Software's Roadkill on Amiga's ill-fated CD32 (1994), a top down affair that was one of the best releases for the short-lived chunky grey console. When you weren't driving your opponents into spikes, you were firing rockets in their general direction.

A few years later and its namesake on the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube (2003) also summed up the feel of the car combat genre perfectly: a lone driver battling various gangs in a lawless, post-apocalyptic world. It wasn't half bad and either. It told a similar kind of tale of an unruly world, beset by plague, violence and gang warfare, with one man taking everyone on in a bid to survive. Typical fare really.

As Twisted Metal goes to show, the genre is still hugely popular today. In March, Wrecked: Revenge Revisited made its way onto XBLA and PSN - albeit to mixed reviews. Still, in all but name, it's a revamp of Supersonic Software's popular Mashed (2005). Not only was that a great racer in its own right but it was praised for its multiplayer back then. And that seems to be the common denominator with this genre, playing alone is fine but get some friends involved and you'll literally have a blast!



Left 4 Dead 2 DLC incoming... finally


Good news for fans of zombie kill-fest Left 4 Dead 2... the much anticipated Cold Stream DLC is soon to make its way on to our screens. It's been one hell of a wait but it sounds like it's going to be worth it. If you've had your fill of wandering around a Witch-infested mill or galloping across that crumbling bridge in the finale, then you'll be please to hear that the new add on will include Cold Stream, Blood Harvest, Crash Course, Dead Air, Death Toll, and No Mercy. Besides these shiny maps, there's a new weapon thrown in for good measure apparently.

We're still waiting for the release date - the official blog (www.l4d.com/blog/) said this in mid-April:

We have released a pretty big update for Left 4 Dead 2 that includes map bug and exploits fixes. These changes will be coming to the Xbox 360 with the title update that will accompany Cold Stream’s release. Before we send the game off to certification, we want to test these fixes on the PC. So please, give these maps a play through and tell us what you think.

The Cold Stream DLC will include 21 maps in total - the Cold Stream, Blood Harvest, Crash Course, Dead Air, and Death Toll campaigns. Besides the massive amount of new content, 360 users will also be getting many of the bug fixes and changes we have implemented since the last update.

We don’t have a release date yet, but we will make sure to post the minute we do.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Achievements: The Five Most Tiresome


You either love them or you hate them, but it seems that achievements and trophies are here to stay. Personally, I love the little critters - that welcome bling as they pop up on screen and the sense of satisfaction when you're awarded one of the more substantial accolades like a 100G or a Gold Trophy. It makes you feel that it's almost worthwhile spending all those hours playing; it's a congratulatory slap on the back as well as a badge of honour.

But for all the good things about achievements, there are some that really wind us up at Megabits. I'm not talking about the ones that require you to complete the game on the hardest setting or kill a boss without taking damage... there are some that are even more frustrating than that. Here are our five most hated types:


5) Kill, kill, kill

Megabits has just been fighting its way through Army of Two: The 40th Day and has to admit that it's pretty good. We've completed it on its toughest difficulty, freed all the hostages and collected enough weaponry to start a small war... but the achievement that is likely to forever elude us is appropriately called "The Beast" and will only ping after we rack up 6,666 enemy kills in the campaign. Seeing as we only mustered 1,500 when we completed the game, this means we'd have to replay the thing at least four times. And at the end of this tedium? A measly 50G. Still, at least it's not as ballbreaking as Gears of War 2's ludicrous Seriously 2.0 - again for a meagre 50G! We hate these kill achievements.

4) Don't die!
Vanquish is a prime example of this one. Its "Living Legend" achievement is worth a Gold Trophy/50G but is an absolute stinker. "Complete the game without dying, regardless of difficulty level" - really? It's not an easy game by any means and boasts some pretty tricky giant enemy robots. Unless you're an absolute god at sliding around on your backside, this is one that's best gained by taking the coward's way out and quitting to the title screen to restart if you even look like dying.

3) Alternative endings
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Fable II, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Army of Two: The 40th Day... the list goes on and on. There's nothing more infuriating than getting to the end of the game, having to make some decision and then sitting back to watch the credits scroll down the screen, and only then realising that the game wants you to play all over again so you can take one of the other choices to see a slightly different cut scene and get another achievement. Of course, the less moral amongst us will simply replay from the last checkpoint... but that's not the point.

2) Online achievements
To me, the words "online achievements" translate as "never gonna get 1000G or a Platinum trophy". Single player games and their accolades, no matter how tricky, are always obtainable - even if you do have to kill ridiculous numbers of bad guys (see above). But when the developers decide to throw in a couple of online achievements, I immediately concede that I'm probably never going to get them all. They generally involve taking on some random opponent and winning several times or getting to the top of a leaderboard after meeting certain criteria. There are several reasons for my misery: a) other people out there are infinitely more skillful than me and I'm unlikely to come out on top, b) the online challenges typically require you to play - and win - each map numerous times (it's tedious and repetitive), c) the servers will probably be shut down before that trophy pops up on screen! We loathe online achievements!


1) Collectibles
Our biggest pet hate has to be collectibles. More often than not, you're required to find loads of orbs, feathers, skulls, weapons, pigeons etc... that are hidden away so well that they're almost impossible to find without the help of a game guide. And even then it requires you to retread old ground countless times and pore over ever pixel. It's just annoying and drags a game out excessively - possibly spoiling something you'd otherwise enjoyed during the first few playthroughs. You know who your are... Crackdown, Assassin's Creed 2, GTA IV...



Portal Parodies and Paraphernalia


We loved Portal 2, so much so that we played it to death to get all those pesky achievements. To mark the release of the map editor today, we thought we'd highlight five of the best videos we'd found that pay homage to one of most devilishly fun co-op games ever.

Here's our selection of some of the best parodies and paraphernalia for Portal 2.












Monday, May 07, 2012

VIDEO: How Games Should Have Ended...

Ever get to the end of you favourite game and just think, "Meh, is that it?". I know we have - but we stumbled across these videos that suggest alternative endings. Some of these are arguably better than what was released (!) - yeah, we're looking at you Call of Duty... these could almost be a DLC add on, eh?


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2



Halo:Reach



Super Mario



God of War



Resident Evil



Mortal Kombat


Friday, May 04, 2012

Bits and Bytes: Art to brighten your walls



Moving house? Redecorating? Or just looking for something to brighten up a dull room? Well how about this fantastic piece of computer game art?

It's rather on the cute side but we think it's also very cool and a brilliant celebration of computer gaming past and present.

You can buy one for your walls by clicking on this link. It's available at a very reasonable price too - from $17.50 to $49.50 depending on size!