Batman: Arkham Asylum Review 11/05/2010

Ignore the “comic book nerd” vibe, this is one seriously awesome game.

Superhero games, especially ones based on their comic book sources, have often not been great. It’s all very well making a game that will please a select group of virgin teenagers but nothing will ever come of it and normal gamers won’t give a crap. Batman: Arkham Asylum takes directly from the comic book version of Batman, so it has nothing to do with the awesome Christian Bale films, and, thank Christ, it has nothing to do with the Val Kilmer and George Clooney era of films either. Paul Dini, who writes many of the original Batman comics actually penned the script for this game so its influence is purely comic book based and has returned Batman to its original source. Wiping the slate clean and starting again is often a good way to go, so does this Dark Knight game give the Batman experience that fans will be expecting? In Batman: Arkham Asylum you of course play Batman, in a third person perspective and the game opens with Batman, having just captured the Joker, speeding towards Arkham Asylum to incarcerate the laughing lunatic once more. It turns out the Joker attacked Gotham’s Mayor’s office but was foiled by Batman, albeit suspiciously easily. Added to this fact is that many inmates of Gotham’s Blackgate Prison have been moved to Arkham temporarily due to a fire, many inmates of which are part of Joker’s crew. It all of course seems all to convenient and Batman knows this, fearing the Joker is up to something. However, Arkham is the largest most inescapable, heavily armed, super secure asylum for the nuts ever, how could he escape? Even though Batman escorts him almost all the way to his cell, the minute he is left alone in the hands of the guards, the Joker escapes with the help of Harley Quin and, having bribed one of the most senior guards previously, ends up taking over the Asylum, releasing all the inmates and killing anyone wearing a uniform. The Asylum can’t be reinforced as Joker promises to detonate a load of secret bombs hidden round Gotham if anyone is seen entering or leaving the island. It turns out the Joker is after a secret chemical called Titan that was being researched by medical staff in Arkham, for use as a biological weapon. Titan has the same effect on people as the chemical used on Bane, only much more potent and longer lasting, and Joker intends to create his own Titan army from the inmates of Arkham, and dump the waste products into the Gotham river reeking unknown havoc on the city’s inhabitants. Batman, single handed, must stop the clown at all costs, fighting through the many members of his crew, helping surviving guards and doctors, finding the Titan chemical and finding a cure. He must also be weary that all the most dangerous psychos in Arkham, Bane, Poison Ivy, Harley Quin, Zsasz, Scarecrow, Killer Croc to name a few, are all here and are free, or could be freed at any point, and Batman is the first name on their hit list. He is basically in for one hell of a night.

What’s good?

Arkham Asylum is one of those games that doesn’t necessarily excel in one particular area, but manages to be an excellent all rounder in just about every aspect of it. Most predominantly and most obviously though, this game is an almost perfect mix of action/combat and stealth:

Firstly the combat. I am taken aback by just how good the combat system is in Arkham Asylum. It is unbelievably good. Like all the greatest combat systems it is simple, easy to get to grips with the basics, looks fantastic, flows super smoothly, but will require some serious skill to master. You simply attack by hitting the square button, and counter by using the triangle button. That will get you through the game on “easy” and “normal”. The skill comes from the timing of these buttons and using directional input to pick out targets. You have to anticipate when to strike, how many times to strike, and pre-determine attacks to tie in your counter. Although I am in no way a “fighter”, I imagine this is not too far off what professional fighting (Boxing, UFC etc) is like. This enables you to string combos together which is the key to victory, as if you string enough together you can perform savage unblockable finishing moves and throws. This generally involves snapping bones and lobbing thugs into other thugs knocking them out. You can also throw “Batarangs” to slow enemies down mid-fight, and on several occasions you will have to battle a Titan, a giant oversized thug who you can jump on the back of, after dealing some punishment to its mountainous frame, and use to batter the normal peons all over the place. The smoothness and fluidity is outstanding when fighting 20 muscle bound thugs at the same time, and manages to be hugely satisfying, seriously good fun to play and totally glitch free. It constantly moves between slow motion and normal speed throughout the fight as well which is a really nice touch, and it gives you a movie style view when the final crunching blow is made. It is seriously one of the best combat systems I have played so far on my PS3.

Now the stealth. Only about half the game is spent exchanging fists with Joker’s henchmen as the rest of the time you will be taking out guys silently. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not on a par with the “Metal Gear” games, as it is far simpler, but as with the combat it still works very well. Stealth attacks will nearly always have to be performed against guys with guns, and, unless it’s on easy, guns will kill Batman very quickly, so the key is to not be spotted. Batman, fortunately is highly skilled in such things. You can take enemies out from behind silently by crouching, sneaking up behind them and choke holding them for a minute. You can also use air vents to sneak around terrain and suss out who to take out next, and most importantly, you can use gargoyles. These are what they are, but Batman uses them to swing between and get around silently and unseen. You can hang down from them and when a thug walks under you, swing down, grab them and leave them strung up and helpless. Rather annoyingly this attracts a lot of attention but you need only to swing to a few other gargoyles and the henchmen will lose track of you. There’s also a myriad of other things you can do, such as swing between most things unseen, hang from ledges, glide using your cape and of course knocking people down with Batarangs. Batman is a very capable chap and it is hugely enjoyable stalking armed thugs from the rafters and watching them gradually getting more scared as you swoop in for the takedown.

There’s lots of kit to find and upgrading to do. The game starts off fairly simply, with Batman having just a Batarang and his fists. But of course the further you progress the more experience points you will gather, by beating up people and finding things, which unlocks upgrades. This will enable Batman to perform finishing moves, throws, give him harder armour, the ability to throw three Batarangs at once and all the usual stuff. Upgrades to the combos are essential as you have to string hits together to perform the mightier moves, and there are upgrades to allow you to perform them quicker. You can also upgrade Batman’s tools and kit, which is where Bruce Wayne shows himself to be a veritable human Swiss army knife. You will find various bat based tools throughout the game, such as Batclaws, a sort of grappling hook used for pulling off vents and things, explosive gel, used for blasting through weak walls, a scanner, used for short circuiting fences and gates, and a very handy alternative grappling device, used for traversing large gaps in the landscape. Most of this stuff will be used to overcome an obstacle that previously could not be solved and it just adds to good pacing and never lets things go stale. Firing a Batclaw at a thug on a lookout tower and pulling him off is rather good fun to say the least and all tools are way more versatile than you might at first think, plus they can all be upgraded to make them even handier. Finally, I must mention the excellent detective mode. By hitting L2, Batman can use this perspective which basically darkens everything and highlights only things that can be moved, broken, swung on to, and generally are of use to you. There are also several points where you will have to follow a trail, finger prints etc, to find out where to go next or for viewing a room full of armed thugs from the ceiling and it is essential then. It is, again, a simple but generally very well thought out tool that should be used frequently.

There is a hell of a lot of things to keep you playing. Although the story is pretty linear, despite the fact you get free roam of Arkham island, there is so much stuff to find and seek out. Mainly, you have the Riddlers puzzles and trophies to find. There is 250 of them scattered all over the island and will either need to be found or scanned, using detective mode, to uncover them. Despite how big Arkham island is that is a hell of a lot to uncover, and nearly all are hidden away and require some serious investigation to uncover. Then there is the Arkham Asylum Warden’s transcripts again scattered in a load of secret places, which reveal how and why the Asylum was founded, and then you have all the interview tapes which give interesting conversations between the most infamous inmates and their therapists at Arkham. If you are a fan of the comics you will be playing this for weeks and loving all of the unlockable content. If your not a fan, but just want to experience fighting and taking down people stealthily, the best part of the game, no problem. There are many challenges to unlock that will involve having to take down wave after wave of thugs, or stealth kill a room full or armed henchmen, getting more unlockable challenges the faster you do them and the less damage you take. If you just want to quickly beat the crap out of some thugs or see how high a combo string you can get then these are excellent. If you like the comics or have to complete every game to 100%, you will be trawling through Arkham Asylum for weeks.

The encounters with Scarecrow are fantastic. For those not in the know, Scarecrow is one of Batman’s nemesis’, who is a deranged doctor who wears a scary mask and pumps his victims with “fear gas” which makes them hallucinate violently and eventually go mad as a result. Batman’s iron will and ultimate coolness stops him from losing his marbles completely but he still gets affected, and the crazy acid trips he goes on are awesome. Firstly they slip seamlessly into the game, and you really won’t notice Scarecrow is near until normal stuff around you in the level starts to go really weird. Cockroaches will swarm from the walls in their thousands, it will start raining, even though you are indoors, the wind will pick up, Batman will encounter his dead parents lying on the floor, in body bags, you will turn into the Joker or Scarecrow when lightning flashes, and then you will be sucked into Scarecrows world. This is an immensely creepy level, each time you encounter him, where the game turns into a sort of side scrolling platformer, with Scarecrow, huge and satanic, suspended in the back ground. You basically have to make it to the end of the level without being spotted, which is accidently stepping into the pale orange light coming from his eyes as he scans the dark level for Batman. It is like going on the most evil of drug induced mind trips and it’s easily a highlight of the game.

It’s a stunning looking game. Of course there’s lots of awesome looking games on today’s mighty consoles, and having recently played God of War III I can see the competition is extremely high. What is interesting about Arkham Asylum is that it still manages to be fantastic looking and cross two platforms. Play other games that are on the Xbox and PS3, such as Bayonetta, and you will notice they often struggle to be on both. Batman doesn’t, and in HD it really is a good looking game. The most impressive thing has to be the character animations. On lots of other pretty recent games this is often a tough one to pull off but they really are amazing. They manage to move and flex like a real person, but still maintain that comic book-esque look about them. Batman is particularly well defined having every bit of stubble, eye and facial movement enhanced perfectly and even his cape flows realistically and smoothly when reacting to his movements. The cut scenes are identical to the gameplay in quality and the level detail of the Asylum itself is immensely high. It really is flawless and one of the best looking games on the PS3.

What’s bad?

The boss fights are a little unimpressive. There is not a lot to criticise here, but one thing that did play on my mind was how unspectacular the boss fights are. It’s probably the fault of the industry as everything these days has to have epically huge boss fights, but the ones in Batman are a bit tame. Killer croc is a particularly intimidating enemy but he is defeated so easily, by simply lobbing batarangs at his electrified collar and them making him fall down a hole. Poison Ivy is probably the most impressive boss fight, as she puts herself into a massive flower, but again its over a bit too easily and, lets face it, it’s a flower! The game seems to prefer throwing many normal enemies at you whilst dealing with a boss, rather than a proper boss fight, a good example of which is your final duke out with the Joker at the end. You don’t really fight him directly at all, instead you have to fight 3 big waves of normal henchmen. Don’t get me wrong, they are not a walk over and having to dodge a charging titan whilst fighting off 20 thugs is pretty tough, and it is still pretty good fun as you get to use the excellent combat system, but I cant deny they are a bit easy and a bit subdued.

You don’t get to keep any of your upgrades and there is nothing really, other than the satisfaction of victory, to reward you if you play again. I will always have a criticism of games that don’t allow you to keep anything hard earned during gameplay, the upgrades in Batman being one of them. As is always the case with such things, you can’t keep everything as it will interfere with the story, allow you to go to places you shouldn’t in context, etc and all the good stuff you only get to use for the last third of the game or so. I’ve earned it, and I want to keep it basically. Plus even if you do unlock everything you only get one decent bit of kit, which is an armoured Batman costume, but you can only use it in the challenge mode, not the story. So that’s a bit useless, and everything else is just character bios, literature or trophies. They offer relatively interesting information on the characters, but it only really appeals to fans, and if you are a fan you probably know it all already. So despite the huge amount to unlock, it really only offers self satisfaction as a reward for completion.


Batman: Arkham Asylum is easily one of the best games I have played so far on my PS3. It really is good and I know next to nothing about the comics. It’s just such a flawless game with so little to find fault with. The combat is truly excellent, so smooth, so satisfying, so awesome to look at, as is the stealth tactics of taking down armed guards silently. It’s simple but works well. By doing these two forms of attack you will use an arsenal of gizmos and gadgets, all of which unique, very handy and upgradable. It really has captured the comic book world of Batman as well and it looks fantastic. There are many things to find that will unlock further character info and trophies and expand the otherwise linear game further. There are a few things to whinge and gripe about, the boss fights, for example, are a bit tame, and rewards for completion are pretty slim or pointless, but the whole experience is so much fun you really wont care. If you have not played this yet, you are missing out.CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 9.0

Very simple to get started, and it generally eases you in gently to everything.

Is the story any good? – 8.0

It’s a little predictable and convenient, but does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

How does it look? – 9.5

It’s a fantastic looking game, especially considering it crosses two platforms. Character animation and level detail stand out.

How does it sound? – 9.5

All background music and sound effects are excellent. The thudding of fists against skulls is sickeningly satisfying. Voice acting is borderline perfection, Mark Hamills Joker is absolutely spot on.

Is it good to play? – 9.0

Free flowing combat works so very well, easy to get into, satisfying to master. Stalking armed thugs silently also works well, as does unloading Batman’s arsenal of gadgets. Boss battles are a little underwhelming, but you really won’t care.

When will I get bored? – 8.0

Potentially you can lose months of your life doing this, as there is the sizeable main story, and hundreds of Riddler puzzles, secrets, character bios and trophies to unlock. Then there is challenge mode for those that simply want to beat up henchmen and stalk armed thugs. But you don’t get to keep any upgrades, if you’re not a comic book fan the unlockables won’t mean much to you, and if you are, you will probably know them all already.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

Bayonetta Review 04/05/2010

It has its moments but its hours and hours of dull, skill free button mashing, stupid story telling, awful pacing and repetitive boss fights. The worst thing I have played on my PS3 so far.

I must instantly state that I wasn’t that fussed on the Devil May Cry series, the creator of which, Hideki Kamiya, directed Bayonetta, and his influence is very noticeable throughout this game. I didn’t necessarily dislike Devil May Cry but the pacing is pointy and the combat is too overblown, too complex and too unrewarding for gamers who’s skill levels are anything less than elite. Don’t think of me as an opinionated ignoramus though as I’m not fussed on RPG’s either but I tried and loved Fallout 3, so I am always more than willing to experiment. I did however pick up Bayonetta with a suspicious mind set, regardless of how critically acclaimed it was, so did it manage to prove to me that my cynical nature is well and truly unjustified? Hundreds of years ago, in an ancient town called Vigrid, there were two factions preserving the balance between light (Paradiso/Heaven) and dark (Inferno/Hell): The Umbra Witches, which drew their powers from the dark, and the Lumen Sages, that drew theirs from the light. The two factions had two powerful gems called the left and right eyes of the world which they used to oversee their just passage of time. But at some point way in the past, these two gems went missing and the two factions disappeared from society. Bayonetta comes into the story after awakening from a 500 year sleep with no memory at all and a small red gem in her possession. In the twenty years after her long sleep she has become quite a notorious angel killer and figure of dark powers, and although she has flash backs from time to time, her memory has not really returned at all. She still has the red gem in her possession and believes it is the “left eye” from the “eyes of the world”. When she discovers that someone may have found the “right eye” she goes off on a mission to find that someone and hopefully regain her broken memories. Things, as always, turn out to be not that simple, as angels are constantly trying to kill her, as are the Cardinal Virtues, 4 huge angelic beasts, and she uncovers a heavenly conspiracy that could bring about the end of the world. Plus she also wants to find out who she is and where she came from etc.

What’s good?

The action and combat is easily the highlight of Bayonetta. If you like you’re combat to be visually creative and over the top, with little skill required, then this will probably be what you are looking for. Bayonetta punches and kicks and uses her four guns to spin all over the place like a death wielding merry go round. Firstly the sheer number of combos has to be noted as it will feel infinite. You can combine the square and triangle buttons (punches and kicks) in so many ways, mostly resulting in ludicrous and big moves, that you won’t know where to start. Then there’s the most impressive thing which is the use of Bayonetta’s “wicked weave” technique, where she uses her hair – yes it sounds daft, but stick with it – to form shapes of enormous feet and fists to perform pulverising mighty finishing moves that will splatter the largest of angelic beasts into little pieces of halo’s. She also uses her mighty mane to perform finishing moves that involves her using her hair to form even more outrageous hellish beasts, such as massive wolves, spiders and birds, to tear the larger bosses into many bloody little pieces. She also performs individual moves such as a powerful punch, that blasts enemies away, a handy heel slide, where she zooms along the floor blasting away and a break dance move where she spins all over the place firing wildly. It is crazy. She also gets some additional weapons, like some shot guns instead of her pistols, a very impressive samurai sword and a whip, that unfold a whole new set of combos and death moves. All weapons dropped by enemies can also be picked up, such as huge lances, axes and claws, that will unleash more combos still, that generally involve slicing and dicing angels into little pieces. Bayonetta cant block attacks (more on that in a bit) but she does have the rather excellent “witch time” counter. Just before an enemy lands a blow you can hit the R2 button and she will evade and trigger “witch time” which slows time to a crawl, for a limited period, and you can use this time to batter the slow moving enemies as they feebly miss you completely. It is totally vital when evading and doing damage to many enemies at once. She also shape shifts to deal with certain environments, such as turning into a panther to give her super speed and agility. Finally there are my favourite torture attacks. When Bayonetta has enough magic built up she can summon various enormous torture devices, such as guillotines, chain nooses, iron maidens, epically huge chain saws, and various other implements of torture with spikes and chains on them, to cut and slice enemies into taking huge damage and get turned into a bloody pulp. You will charge through the action in this game with all these enormous feet, fists, beasts and torture devices blasting from portals all around you wondering how in the hell you are performing them. It is a visual treat and ideal for those who like hugely over the top action.

The enemy and boss fights are unique and on a grand scale. The enemy in this are really interesting and although compromise the armies of heaven, they look like nightmarish creatures from the depths of hell, but painted white. You have normal angels which look like evil eagles, but also huge clawed fast moving beasts, creepy looking bright white female figures, with no eyes, that fire lasers at you, and giant axe wielding ogre type things with cherub faces. “Weird” is one way of describing them, but I found them very unique and thought they looked fantastic. These guys are mere appetisers for the boss battles though who are huge in scale. Everything seems to have an enormous boss battle these days, so it’s nothing new, but it will please those who like grand scaled boss fights. They will come at you in all sorts of crazy ways, ranging from pretty standard lunges and punches, to sprouting huge green eyes on purple tentacles that fire lasers at you. You will fight an enormous upside down head, with two dragon heads attached to it with wings, a huge face with massive arms and rotating fire spouting fingers, huge flying boats with oars that fire enormous missiles at you and all sorts of truly deranged but seriously impressive angelic monsters. It’s like going on the mother of all acid trips at various points.

There’s all the usual customising and weapon purchasing. Where would an action game be these days without a shop to buy new skills and weapons? Probably not very popular, so Bayonetta is no different. Halos are the currency for weapons and skills in this world, along with heavenly LP records and other jewels and things you can find by having a mooch around. Rodin owns the shop “Gates of Hell” where you can purchase and upgrade your weapons and skills as you go through, the more expensive they are, or the rarer the item is, the more damage it will do. Bayonetta is already pretty well equipped before you buy anything anyway, so it’s not vital to buy stuff but the option is there if you like that sort of thing. You can also buy lollipops, enchanted gems etc to give Bayonetta more health, make her deal more damage for a time and all the usual stuff you would expect from any game these days.

What’s bad?

The load times and screen tearing are interminable. Never have I seen a game struggle so much to be on a Playstation 3. It cannot do anything without a good 5 to 10 second load, literally. Every time you pick up an object, a book revealing some story, go into a cut scene or even press the sodding pause button it will have to load. Out of the several hours it takes to complete the game I reckon a good third of that time will have been spent staring at a load screen, in silence. I had previously read it was quite bad and I made the mistake of thinking “a few seconds here and there can’t be that bad surely” but I assure you, having been through it, you cannot possibly live with it or at any point not be annoyed by it. There is a screen tearing issue as well. The graphics are generally pretty good, and the in game graphics work just fine, but the cut scenes, to which there are hundreds, are awful. They just stutter, fragment, pause, lose quality and never ever look how they are supposed to. There are far too many cut scenes for a start (more on that a bit) but all these problems simply make an already crap part of the game even crapper. I hear the Xbox 360 version isn’t as bad, but still suffers quite a lot.

The button mashing combat gets dull very quickly. There is obviously a market for button mashers, an aspect of gaming I will never understand or appreciate, as there seems to be so many of them churned out, but Bayonetta easily takes the gold medal home as king of the button mashers. It definitely looks good, but you can quite literally do this game with a blindfold on by just hammering every button at your disposal. What makes it worse is that it seems to discourage learning moves and combos as the enemy will give you no chance to attack using logic or calculated combos, and if you get stuck at a certain place you are far better off just switching your brain off and battering those buttons. You will soon be victorious by doing so, rather ridiculously. How does that make sense? Its even worse on the “automatic mode” which will literally do everything for you, you need only control the movement of Bayonetta, plus you will destroy every enemy by lightly sneezing in their direction, as they get killed so quickly and easily, and it is just so utterly pointless and ludicrously easy. There is an even easier difficulty but I didn’t bother with it. What’s the point in playing a game you don’t have to play? Who could this possibly appeal to? There is also far too many combos to get to grips with, you simply don’t need that many as it’s far too overwhelming and far too easy to perform a combo you didn’t mean too, as some can be completely ineffective at the wrong time. God of War III doesn’t have that many individual moves but manages to be one of the best combat systems ever made. Like everything in Bayonetta it’s just far too over the top. The fact she can’t block either gets very frustrating and such a fighting heavy game really needs some sort of block action. I found myself constantly going for a block button that wasn’t there and simply taking damage instead. Although the witch time counter is quite good it’s not instinctual in the slightest and not at any point did I get used to it. There are also mini game sections where you have to input specific buttons at certain times, just like God of War, but only a super human that can stop time itself will have reactions quick enough to deal with them. Even if you know what’s coming it’s unbelievably difficult to get the timing just right and you will always have a million goes at each one before success. The action and combat is a perfect case of all style and no substance.

The story is monumentally stupid and told in a monumentally stupid way. Not only did I not understand the story in any way, but I didn’t really like it either after I looked it up on Wikipedia. It’s basically identical to the story in Devil May Cry 4 where some deluded powerful being is trying to create a deity that will bring about the destruction of earth, but will usher in a new Eden in the process blah blah blah. Then there’s something about a left and right eye, one for light and one for dark, that I also never really fathomed, some sort of festival on an island, or something, I didn’t really get it. It ranges from very familiar ground to total confusion, and then they had to chuck in an utterly stupid and pointless love interest, some amnesia, the ultimate plot detail of choice for writers who are totally out of ideas, and a small girl which, even though I’ve had her explained to me, I still don’t understand. This unoriginal, confusing and cheesy tale wouldn’t be so bad if it were told well, but it is most definitely not. Everything is told in cut scenes which come thick and fast persistently interrupting the game after every little battle, which are still images (so its like looking at photos) in a film strip style. They are about as visually appealing as wallpaper samples, just as informative and you will care as much about the story as a result. You learn very little until the very end as well, and when it finally all stops you won’t feel like much has been explained, or that much has been achieved, and you are only marginally better informed. After the credits you are then treated to one of the most awful and pointless music video cinematics, with Bayonetta dancing to a techno beat with angels in the back ground as back up dancers. It is squirm inducing, sphincter tightening bollocks, has no relevance whatsoever and you can almost hear the noise of a thousand masturbating teenage boys whilst it’s on.

The characters are total rip-offs and their dialogue is overly cheesy and irritating. The various other characters are rip offs from other more renowned characters, such as a Danny De Vito look a like called Enzo, who even sounds just like him, and a Morpheus rip off who constantly comes out with lame stereotyped babblings, such as “right on baby” in a Barry White styled tone. Bayonetta herself is the queen of talking shite throughout the game coming up with such crap as “as long as theirs music, I will keep on dancing” and the awful cheesy dialogue between her and another Umbra witch, called Jeanne, is even more excruciating. It’s like they are both Bond movie villains. After not too long the rubbish script and persistent gobshite all the characters spout gets very dull very quickly and you will instantly be skipping all cut scenes on your second play through, after a good long loading screen though of course.

The pacing is awful. My main issue is that the action and story telling just stops and starts constantly, so frequently and without warning. It generally goes that, after half an hour of loading, you will have a long and laborious story based cut scene, followed by another long and laborious cut scene describing what enemy you are about to fight (twenty minutes of loading in-between them as well), you have a 5 minute battle (or if its on easy, a 5 second battle), walk up a road for a few seconds and then another long and laborious cut scene. Rinse and repeat thereafter. Occasionally a puzzle is thrown in, but they are all insultingly simple. You are never allowed to simply just get on with it, or fight a few battles one after the other and it constantly just stops and starts. After not too long you will start getting really impatient with the persistently interrupting cut scenes, and compared with games such as God of War III, where combat and story telling flow seamlessly into each other, it is infuriating.

The enemies and boss fights are constantly recycled and very repetitive. Despite the originality of the enemies there is really only a couple of different types, the only difference being how many they throw at you at once. “So what” you may think, all games do that, which is true, but the problem is Bayonetta does it with bosses as well. Despite the impressive size and look of the bosses they are constantly re-used. There are only a couple of bosses but tons of boss fights so the same boss will be thrown at you again and again, often with two of them instead or something equally uninspiring and lame. When you defeat the massive thing with long arms and spinning fingers for the third time, you start to wonder how many times you have to kill the dam things. They are all defeated using an identical technique as well, as they all have tentacles or multiple heads, and you have to hammer away at them for a bit, then run up their arm and slap them round the face a bit, and repeat. Then later on you will have to do the same thing again as they will be recycled. Why do they keep getting brought back to life? Of course there is no explanation. Why not come up with another boss, it’s not like the game or its creator is short of creation? It just makes the unique and fantastic looking bosses repetitive and dull.

The camera angle is constantly facing the wrong way. How hard can getting a camera angle right on a computer game be? All it needs to do is show you what’s going on or what’s coming at you and give you enough space visually to react. The camera in Bayonetta seems to be on a mission to obscure as much as conceivably possible as often as possible, by constantly focussing on her face. This isn’t so bad about half the time when in combat areas, as you move all over the place attacking enemies, but when in an action scene where you are running away from something. It will automatically focus straight on her and you can’t see a bloody thing, and considering most things come at you from the front in such situations you get hit all the time and you can do nothing to avoid it. You can move the camera angle, sure, but it is so slow that ice ages will have come and gone by the time it is facing in a decent direction, and if you are, for example, trying to outrun a lava tidal wave, you do not have time to move the view at all and you have to resort to trial and error. It sucks!


This game feels like it was designed by a load of 40 year old men, who have never had much luck with the ladies, where clearly unpopular nerds at school, have never been cool or had many friends, and were asked to design what they believe is a “sexy” and “sassy” game, for 14 year old virgin boys. It’s trying far too hard to be cool and stylish, which will always make it an automatic failure in that department, and it is just cheesy and irritating. Regardless of how cool it is, my main issue is there just isn’t that much to like here. I’m not a fan of button mashing games at all, but this is really the pinnacle of requiring absolutely no thought, skill, talent or anything at all to play through, especially on the automatic mode. You can quite literally do it with your eyes closed, and often you are better off that way, as long as you keep battering those buttons. Little to no directional input is required, only the slight pausing occasionally of mashing buttons and Bayonetta will do something ever so slightly different. Added to the fact the story is mindlessly confusing or “an explosion in an Edam factory” cheesy, then there’s constant intrusive cut scenes that are no fun to watch in anyway, as they are not even proper cinematics, the repetitive boss fights that all manage to be exactly the same to fight regardless of shape and size, the awful stop and start pacing and the infinite amount of time the game spends loading every conceivable action you can think of, makes me really struggle to think of reasons to bother playing it. Plus the graphics tear and jitter constantly and the music sucks. Yes the combat looks good, visually, and the bosses are huge but I assure you it is a case of all style and no substance. The “Witch time” counter is quite good, but it really needs a block as well. To make it even worse still is that the competition has it well and truly beaten. You want to play an action game, with hundred-hit-combos, epic boss battles and in this perspective? Then play God of War III. Kratos is still the king and it is one of the best action games ever. Not a fan of Kratos? Then you have Batman: Arkham Asylum, again, a relatively similar but far superior game in every way. Not a fan of Bruce Wayne and you absolutely have to button mash and fight demons and angels? Then you have the hugely impressive Darksiders. Not only is it very similar to Bayonetta, but it is again a far better game in every conceivable way, especially in button mashing combat and story telling, plus, I personally would rather play as “War” the horseman of the apocalypse, than a Barbie doll from “the dark side” with magic hair. Do you like the Devil May Cry series and reckon Bayonetta is a worthy heir? Definitely not. It looks similar but the combat is nothing like it and she isn’t nearly as cool as Nero, neither is her story as interesting. Bayonetta may give you a quick, cheap thrill, but that’s where it will end and even if your heart is absolutely set on this game, despite all that sucks and the many far superior titles, I would still only recommend giving it a rent as it will get dull quickley.CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 8.0

It’s easy to get into, yes, in the same way it’s easy to saw off your own legs. Simple things are not always pleasurable. Will be very familiar stuff for most gamers.

Is the story any good? – 5.0

No. The whole witches vs sages thing is mildly interesting, but it’s ruined by total confusion and cheesy crap. A seriously lame love interest coupled with amnesia, for Christ’s sake, will put a bored uninterested expression on your face throughout.

How does it look? – 7.0

The enemy and bosses look really unique and most in game graphics look really good. Cut scenes tear, jitter and generally dick about though. It really struggles to be on the PS3.

How does it sound? – 7.0

Sound effects of battle and boss fight’ music is really good, proper dramatic, but all normal fights are accompanied by the same awful jazz song with a techno beat. It’s not of a bad quality it is just a seriously lame tune that irritated me constantly.

Is it good to play? – 5.0

The combat looks impressive, the bosses are huge, and it may initially please, but after not too long you will realise this is the ultimate in talentless, unskilled, repetitive button mashing. Ray Charles could complete this game, no problem. Very little directional input required, far too many combos to learn, all not distinctive at all, the few puzzles there are, are infantile in their simplicity, coupled with constant loading, constant interruption through awful cut scenes, constant recycling of bosses and several ridiculous action set pieces, such as riding a missile, makes this a far too over the top game with all style over substance.

When will I get bored? – 8.0

Potentially there is a lot to keep you playing as there is lots of expensive skills and weapons to buy that you cannot get after just one go, and lots of secrets to find. I got bored half way through my second go, personally, and the competition has it well and truly beat.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

God of War III Review 22/03/2010

God of War III 22/03/2010 – It’s easily the most stunning, brutal, bloody and epically huge entry in the series, but, it pains me to say, its not the best.

If you type in “greatest game ever” into Google you are more than likely to come across Kratos and “Santa Monica Studios” God of War series (that’s how I found it many years ago). The tale of a bald, pale, burly killing machine has got to be one of the greatest in gaming history. It had outstanding, smooth, flowing combat that was easy to get into and rewarding to master, the graphics also pushed what the PS2 was capable of and you were guaranteed vast monsters, titans and gods to battle, the size of which no one had ever encountered before. Now wielding the power of the PS3, this is the third and final chapter in the tale and fans, to which there are millions, will be expecting, nay, demanding the ultimate in the franchise. We don’t have to consider whether this game will be bad or not, as it of course amazing, but given the weight of expectation, does it pay true homage to one of the best series of games ever, does it become the ultimate finally and the ultimate God of War game, as it should be? In this third game you play Kratos once more, the cursed Spartan general who inadvertently murdered his own wife and daughter, as he joins the mighty titans in their assault on Mount Olympus to eradicate the Olympians once and for all, in particular Zeus, the king of the Gods who betrayed Kratos and will stop at nothing to see him tortured in the pits of the underworld for an eternity (if you want to know how Kratos got into this situation I highly recommend you play the first two PS2 games). After Kratos and Gaiya (the leader of the titans) fight Poseidon, whilst climbing mount Olympus, they get within firing range of Zeus, who then shows them why he is the most powerful of immortals, blasts them with a particularly potent lightning bolt, and Kratos gets tossed from Mount Olympus and into Hades’ realm of the underworld. Having had his powers and weapons stripped off him by his quick swim in the river Styx, he meets Athena once again, who is still a god but without physical form, who tells him that Pandora’s box still exists and still holds the power to kill a god, but it is now protected by the Flame of Olympus, a power source from which Zeus draws his mightiness and something that neither a mortal or god can touch. Athena gives Kratos the Blades of Exile, to earn his trust, and he now has to escape Hades and the underworld, find out how to eradicate the flame of Olympus, open Pandora’s box once more and use its powers to kill Zeus, the whole time slaughtering any Olympians or titans that stand in his way. It’s business as usual with the God of War franchise as it’s another epic Kratos quest, where you will have to traverse a world nestled in Greek Mythology, kill a hell of a lot of enemies in ludicrous hand to hand combat, solve puzzles, meet other characters along the way and have some seriously huge boss battles.

What’s good?

It’s hard to pick one thing that is the best in God of War III, but probably the most impressive, at least the most jaw dropping, aspect is the sheer epic scale of it. It’s ridiculous in places. God of War games have always pushed the boundaries of having vast settings and battles and fighting monsters the size of sky scrapers. Now with the power of the PS3, Santa Monica Studios have gone mental. Fighting titans such as Kronos and Olympians such as Poseidon put the piffling tiny little Colossus of Rhodes, from the second game, to shame. One of Kronos’ finger nails is the size of a mansion for example, and don’t think for a second he is just in the back ground, as he is actually a fully interactive boss fight, where you will have to dodge his massive attacks (understatement of the century) and climb all over his city sized frame, that constantly moves, to defeat him. From the word “go” you are straight into a boss fight riding on the back of the titan Gaiya, who is an entire level on her own and you will traverse her arms fighting enemies whilst the titan is moving all over the place forcing Kratos to fight hanging from a ceiling one second to climbing a wall the next, the whole time Olympians are fighting titans in the background. The labyrinth is also a particularly impressive and difficult level, as you have to go through room after room that’s laden with horrific booby traps, as well as zooming up the path of Eos, a giant windy tunnel that goes up through Mount Olympus, along side the stupidly huge “Chain of Balance” that links mount Olympus to the underworld. The views of the pits of Tartarus are jaw dropping, as is the whole underworld/Hades realm, and Mount Olympus itself, which you have to scale, is ludicrously vast. The camera will zoom in and out regularly at particularly vast action set pieces to really give you the epically biblically huge scale this game is based on and it does not once stop to load, pause, or stop for a cut scene or have any interruptions whatsoever. It is honestly beyond any boundary you will have seen before in terms of enormity and it will blow you away.

It has the best visuals ever seen in gaming. They are stunning. Think how good looking several PS3 titles have been, such as Uncharted 2, Resident Evil 5, Dead Space, all hugely impressive visually and they have nothing on God of War III. They have all these incredibly vast beasts and bosses, a lot of them made of fire, water and various textures that are hard to simulate digitally, and not one has the tiniest detail missed. You can even see the finger prints on the titans hands whenever you get picked up by one, or grabbed. That’s the level of detail this game has. Kratos himself is possibly the best looking character in gaming with every muscle, hair, vain and tooth digitally sculpted to perfection. As he is slaughtering enemies their blood will splatter over him, which is done in drip by drip detail, I kid you not. The particularly gory “brutal” kills/finishing moves are unbelievable as you will literally spill intestines, bladders, lungs, you name the organ, in a splatter on the floor and they are all flawless visually. The fire effects are perfect, the water effects are perfect even when a water beast the shape of a horse with crab legs is attacking you it never once loses its visual perfection. The level design as well is eye watering with fine detail and brilliance. Just take a look around every temple you set foot in, it is brimming with detail, to the shadows cast, the light effects a torch has on surrounding objects, even the reflection in shiny floor surfaces. It is unbelievably good and is without doubt the new graphical benchmark for all PS3 games.

The action, combat and fighting is just as full of combos and has a few neat additions. Those of you familiar with Kratos’ moves will be instantly right at home from the start. Even after his dip in the river Styx, and has to build up his skills and moves once more, its still pretty familiar stuff. The light (square) and heavy (triangle) attacks remain the same as does the ability to combo with them, and combo you will. You can toss enemies into the air as before, perform a “cyclone of chaos”, grab enemies mid-air and smash them into the ground and generally splatter ghouls and demons all over the place. You can also upgrade everything with souls as in all other games which unlocks new moves and skills and does more damage etc. There’s a few pretty decent additions now though, such as using “L1 + triangle” to grapple enemies from a distance and shoulder charge them. This is really good for knocking bigger enemies back or stunning them and it’s absolutely vital when trying to get at foes that fly. It also allows Kratos to stay in the air longer whilst slicing enemies up, a very vital part of Kratos’ skills when trying harder difficulties. When you grab enemies you now have two choices, punching them in the face several times then ripping their heads off (by repeatedly pressing circle) as before, or picking them up, running round and using them as a battering ram to damage many enemies at once (pressing square). This is a particularly useful new skill when swarmed by many enemies at once, which happens frequently. Another addition is Kratos, with a select few beasts such as a three headed fire breathing dog or massive club wielding Cyclops, can now jump on such monsters and use them to attack other enemies. Again it’s very vital and quite satisfying to use a giant Cyclops to batter a shit load of smaller enemies all over the place, before ripping its eye ball from its head. There are some new weapons as well (more in them in a bit) but a particularly useful and satisfying one is the Nemean Cestus, two huge gauntlets that are basically used to pummel all enemies to death. Some of the moves associated with the gauntlets are such good fun and regularly smash and batter enemies all over the place when used at the right time. Ploughing into a huge swarm of enemies with a few powerful strikes with the Nemean Cestus really sends them all flying and splattering against walls, floors and ceilings, particularly enjoyable when in the Labyrinth as most surfaces are laden with spikes. Kratos has new magic attacks as well that are assigned to weapons, making them much easier to use, such as an attack that surrounds you with shields and spears and rains arrows from the sky. Not only does it make you temporarily invincible but does huge damage to many enemies at once and is often a life saver. You will also blind enemies with the head of Helios, and summon souls to attack enemies for you. You can also use the sword of Olympus but it is now a special move that you have to build up over time, and, when ready, you press L3 and R3 and you get a short stint of Kratos going ballistic with it slicing the living crap out of everything (its identical to the “rage of the gods” from the first game and “rage of the titans” ability from the second game). It’s good for when the chips are down. If you have not played God of War before then you are in for a treat as it is easily still one of the most satisfying combat systems available in gaming, as all God of War games have been.

There are treasures to find and a battle arena to keep you playing. This time round you don’t get to keep your weapons you pick up throughout the game (more on that in a bit) but you do get treasures as an alternative. You find these as you play through the game, such as Poseidon’s Conch and Hercules’ armour, and you can activate them when playing through the same difficulty a second time round (you have to complete the game on a specific difficulty before you can use them). They will make Kratos more powerful by making enemy attacks do less damage or giving you unlimited magic for example. You can also play through as Kratos in a different costume (called “Fear Kratos”) which makes you deal quadruple damage, but also receive quad damage yourself. None of these things are particularly necessary (and I would rather have the gear I collect to be honest) but they will give a bit of incentive to play through a few times on different difficulties. You also have the challenges and battle arena which basically give Kratos some objectives in a small arena, such as killing a load of enemies with just your bare hands or making sure the number of constantly spawning enemies doesn’t go over 50, a particularly fun and mental challenge. They are all particularly tough, but pretty good fun and will add to the length of playing time and value for money.

It is easily the most brutal, bloody and gory instalment so far. With Kratos you expect a vast amount of blood but he really does himself proud in this title. You will frequently rip heads from bodies with your bare hands, tear beasts in two with your blades, pull eye balls from heads, slice open beasts spilling their organs on the floor, amputate limbs, snap necks, pull wings off harpies and generally perform any and all brutal kills you can think of. Of course he has done similar things before, however with the new visual detail it really does seem more horrific. This is nothing compared to the wrath he saves for the Olympians. Obviously he is out to get these guys mainly, Poseiden, Hades, Helios, Hermes and Zeus (with a few other mythological figures thrown in), and the manner in which he slaughters these guys is truly horrific. He rips heads from bodies, gouges out eyes with his thumbs, severs legs, chokes to death, pummels their faces so hard you can see their skull, stamps on heads, knees in faces and gives Zeus one of the most almighty pummelling’s I have seen an enemy take in a game for a while. At a few occasions you will get a first person view of what its like to be an Olympian that Kratos is pounding into the ground, and it is very haunting being on the receiving end of his wrath for a change. Every time you defeat a boss hold on to your stomach as you are in for a truly blood soaked finally.

What’s bad?

The extra enemies on screen at one time are not a good idea. Of all the additions to this game, most of them good, one that really does not work is the vast amount of enemies on screen at one time. You can get up to 50 enemies vs Kratos now, which sounds cool and Santa Monica boasted at length about this, but it just doesn’t work. The previous titles were forgiving with their attacks, to an extent, as the combat system can’t cope with such intensity, and rightly so as it worked perfectly. This time round they totally swarm you. Literally you will be bombarded from every conceivable angle, constantly, without pause or allowing for a single error. You simply can’t deal with it. Whilst you’re attacking 4 or 5 enemies in one direction, another 10 will stab you in the back, the whole time a massive centaur is running round trying to skewer you with his lance, whilst archers shower you with arrows, flying harpies dive bomb you from above and fire breathing beasts attack you from afar with flame moves that cover most of the ground you are fighting on. It’s ridiculously over the top and maddening in places, I don’t know what they were thinking! What makes such a thing even worse is that if Kratos was well equipped to deal with such ludicrous amounts of attacks it would not be so bad, but he isn’t. There are some moves to allow you to deal with this sort of thing but not enough to fully counteract the total number of enemies on screen and you certainly won’t have the necessary weapons or upgrades until about a third of the way through for such skills to be of any use. You only have a few attacks that hit many enemies at once and I only reckon two of these are actually useful: the grapple where you use them as a battering ram, which you can only do to a select few enemies, and the gauntlets’ spinning attack. The blades of exile’ cyclone of chaos combo is just too weak to be useful and the various heavy attacks with the blades take too long to charge up and are too slow. By the time Kratos has got round to swinging a heavy attack he could have been stabbed at least ten times. I’m sure having Kratos battle 50 enemies at once seemed like a good idea on paper, but it really doesn’t work, and they should have left the combat alone.

Sticking pins in your eyes is preferable to some of the fights in this game. They are utterly interminable! Remember the huge rotating spiked pillars in the underworld from the first game, where if you get touched you fall and have to start again, and it takes around 3 years of your life to do and you would rather live in hell for that time? Remember that infuriating circular room that Kratos has to lower by hand from the second game, whilst a spiked ceiling comes down on you, the whole time skeletons are attacking you and grinding the lowering mechanism to a halt? Remember that room in Persephone’s castle, from the PSP title, that’s very small with two massive armour plated Cyclops’ smashing pretty much every inch of the limited floor space, the whole time harpies are dive bombing you and you can’t hit them as they are constantly in flight? Remember how much you screamed in fury? Remember wanting to attack your console with a meat clever, or saw your own legs off rather than persevering with these horrible, shitty, bloody awful, rage inducing, agonising set pieces? Well the sadists at Santa Monica Studios have kept that theme going here, with a few extra servings of fury added on top. Some of the fights in this third one are going to make you vomit blood. Such as towards the end when you have to fight a massive fiery three headed dog, that spits hundreds of smaller fiery dogs at you, at the rate of a fiery dog producing mini gun, that run after you and explode dealing massive damage, the whole time it either claws you or fires enormous fire balls that have huge range and both do loads of damage, meanwhile two goat things with massive scythe weapons (the hardest non-boss enemy in the game) are trying to turn you into luncheon meat. Also taking into account the fact that the massive sodding dog has to be killed three times as you have to hack off each head individually, each severing of which makes the dam thing a whole new boss battle again. Trying to deal damage to anything is unbelievably difficult, let alone stringing combos together, let alone constantly doing your counter, let alone evading the enemies’ attacks, and your space to manoeuvre is pretty limited. There is another on top of the labyrinth where two Minotaur’s are trying to cut a chain that’s suspending the platform your standing on, and you have to stop them otherwise its instant death, the whole time a million enemies are attacking or literally holding you back, including medusa’s, that love turning you to stone (to which you die instantly if you are in the air or get hit once), further Minotaur’s, archers shooting from a distance, the lot. You are going to want to tear every hair on your body out. Don’t even get me started on the end of game fight where you have to fight about 20 Zeus’s all with the same “thunder clap” move that can kill you in two hits, if you’re lucky, or the final fight in the labyrinth where literally every enemy in the game will be hurled at you at once, 10 times over. It’s almost as though the developers sat down after making a fight sequence and thought “well, we have made this one practically impossible, so what can we do to make it even harder?” It is more than likely a trade mark thing as all God of War games have some fight scenes in them that are horrible, but it doesn’t make them fun regardless. I know I should just do it on an easier difficulty, or simply switch it off and not bother, but that is admitting defeat, defeat is a weakness, and I am a man dammit! We can’t show weakness. Dam you Santa Monica Studio’s for preying on my pride, ignorance, stubbornness and lack of skill once more. Dam you to hell!

There are too many enemies that are so hard to kill it is ridiculous. Not only do they do things like become invisible so that they can still hit you but you can’t hit them (for fucks sake!), disappear into the floor and only popping up to do Kratos heavy damage and then disappearing again, the whole time you cant touch them (for fucks sake!), but they can take so much punishment it seems like they are indestructible. You will honestly be battering away at these guys for a ludicrous amount of time and often you will get a lot of them at once, along with other weaker enemies all looking to get a hit in when your back is turned, as well as a few minotaur’s charging around. Obviously there are things you can do to counteract their overwhelming strength and numbers but opportunities to do so are slim and if you make a mistake they will kill you very quickly, especially on your first play through and on a harder difficulty than “easy”. The first time I encountered the hooded things with dual curved blades, I spent so long hacking the crap out of them and yet they kept coming, that I thought they were indestructible and had to be fled from or trapped or something. There are moves you can do to counteract these infuriating enemies, such as pulling the hooded dudes out of the ground, but, as always with God of War games, it is not clear at all what moves will work on specific enemies and what ones wont, as some moves don’t have any effect on certain enemies at all. You can’t throw a lot of enemies, for example, and a lot of enemies block all your heavy attacks, so it’s a bit of a lottery. Why could they have not ironed such things out? I can’t see how someone at Santa Monica Studios played through this and thought “yeah that’s fine”. They don’t need to be that tough; there is too much going on elsewhere for it to be necessary.

As in all previous games, there are far too many situations where enemies can hit you and there is nothing you can do about it for my liking. This generally happens when you’re grappling an enemy and attempting to finish them off, performing a counter or cinematic move in general or when the enemy “dog-pile” you and you have to wiggle the analog frantically, which will take at least a few seconds. They can still hack away at you in many different scenarios and there is nothing you can do about it until Kratos has finished his movement and you regain control. It’s infuriating! Whenever you try and throw or do anything that isn’t constantly battering all 50 enemies on screen at the same time, which of course is impossible, they are going to slice you up at some point. This isn’t so bad on easier difficulties of course, but on the harder ones it pushes your sanity to the limits as the only way to get through such difficulties is to not take damage. To be fair, those familiar with God of War will be unsurprised as it is a problem in all games (except “chains of Olympus”), but why has it not been fixed? This should be the ultimate in the franchise, surely?

The story is more questionable than any other title and the characters are all less admirable. Despite the grander apocalyptic story this time round it is easily my least favourite in the franchise. They have re-introduced Pandora’s box from the first game which again Kratos is trying to open, then there’s the seemingly totally unnecessary flame of Olympus, which Zeus draws his power from, which isn’t touched on very much at all and then just gets kind of forgotten (why could Pandora not just be the key to the box on its own, the flame really is not necessary? Kratos kills Zeus in a way that has bog all to do with it). Kratos also starts off with powers yet again, that he then loses by falling into the river Styx and going into the underworld yet again, and he has to build up his powers yet again. Don’t argue that this is necessary as the underworld is a vital part of the God of War gaming experience, which it is, as there are reasons for him to go into the underworld later on in the game, such as to confront Kronos, so why bother killing him again? It’s literally jumbled together from bits of the previous games and I was wondering why Santa Monica Studios didn’t come up with something better, or at least more original. Kratos himself is different this time, as despite the fact he is a total butcher, slaughtering all he comes across, you always felt sorry for him, as he was a tortured pawn in more powerful hands and always the underdog. He isn’t this time, he’s too mighty and powerful, he dispatches Gods too easily and just comes across as an arsehole who wants to screw everyone over in order to get his own way. You don’t really feel sorry for him much at all (until right at the very end) and he is definitely just a bad guy rather than a good guy with a tragic history (Darth Vader style). Some people may like this, but it’s certainly not the same character I enjoyed playing as in all the other games. Zeus comes across as a school bully as well, rather than a mighty Olympian, as he does in the second game, and he just laughs at Kratos all the time and constantly says how much of a failure he is (why is he failure? Zeus wants him dead as he sees him as a threat. What’s that got to do with failing?) It’s more pathetic than intimidating. Hercules is a bad guy in this as well, which just seems wrong in this Greek mythology based world, and Atlas, the largest and possibly the most interesting titan that’s been in all but the first of the previous titles, isn’t in it at all. It does end rather well, and its definitely not a happy ending (how could such a story end happily?) however, they still leave a bit of controversy after the credits and it so isn’t worth it and if this is supposed to be the end why did they just not end it without question? The story is just an example of how bigger isn’t always better, and I really thought it was the weakest in the franchise so far, as though they were running out of ideas.

You don’t get to keep anything after completion. This one really puzzled me as that had always been a feature of God of War (except the first one), that all health upgrades, magic, weapons, skills, you name it, could be kept and played through again from the beginning, thus adding to your reasons to play again. You cant this time though. You lose everything if you have another go and you have to build it all up again. Why have they decided to get rid of this feature this time? Well I know why, as you have to back track some levels this time round and there are various areas that you can’t access in context with the story and if you had all the weapons/tools, you could, and cut out a huge chunk of story or a boss battle which obviously doesn’t work. But why not just don’t allow the weapons or magic to be used, or not be used, in the context of advancing the story, but allow you to still beat the crap out of the enemies you encounter? Why not just have a tab stating “you can’t access here right now” or something? We will understand, considering we have just played through the bloody thing. It really is baffling. Plus, unless you are incredibly anal and willing to shag Aphrodite a hundred times (long story) you wont have enough time to buy all skills and max everything out anyway, leaving you to only upgrade the blades and gauntlets (as they are the most useful in battle) every time making it repetitive, dull and ultimately pointless. Even if you do get every conceivable soul you won’t have the best skills until right at the very end. Another tinkered with feature that simply didn’t need tinkering with.

The other weapons are not great again. This will come as no surprise to any Kratos fan as, other than the gauntlet of Zeus in the PSP’s “Chains of Olympus”, nearly all his alternative weapons in all the games are pretty crap. This game is still no different as you get some cool new weapons, that look as though they would be excellent, but they are pretty much the same as your blades of chaos/exile. The Nemean Cestus are brilliant and quite vital, as are the blades of exile but Hades hooks (huge purple hooks that Hades uses to take souls) and the Nemesis Whip (triple bladed whips that blast everything with electricity) are nothing special whatsoever. They are just far too similar to the blades of exile but with a few flaws that make them not worth using. Hades hooks are too slow and almost identical to the blades of exile, but with less moves, and the nemesis whip, although deals lots of damage, cant hit many enemies at once and often leaves you open for attack mid-combo. They are not bad, but not that great either and certainly don’t add anything to the game.


When you first switch this game on you will be blown away. It is on a scale more huge and epic than anything you will have seen before, the visuals are mind blowing, and you will be right at home with Kratos, instantly performing all his awesome combos, throws, air attacks and some really good additions to the combat and magic attacks. The battle with Kronos is truly jaw dropping, as is the first fight in the game with Poseiden, and the flight up and down the path of Eos is adrenaline pumping stuff. Plus you really will have a serious duke out with Zeus, that up’s intensity to mental levels. However, and it pains me to say, after you get used to the epic-ness, the stunning graphics, the brutality and the blood you start to notice that all the flaws, problems and infuriating fight sequences that are affiliated with all God of War games, are still there. Most added features are quite good, but not at any point do you think “how did I ever cope without this skill?” The sheer quantity of enemies is a new problem, which may have seemed like a good idea, but Kratos hasn’t really been upgraded to deal with this and it leads to several battles that will make you want to insert your Playstation into someone at Santa Monica Studios. In addition to such new problems is the fact you don’t get to keep anything you earn or upgrade throughout the game, quite why they decided to get rid of this after the last two titles is beyond me, and the story feels a bit collaborated. Then there is all the stuff that has always been there, and has yet to be rectified, such as having too many enemies that can take a ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous, amount of punishment, the opportunities to harm them are rare and it’s a total lottery of what moves will and won’t work. Plus the stupid amount of enemies on screen at one time can hit you at every conceivable opportunity, whether you can help it or not, and there are still several battles in this that make you want to simply not bother and turn it off. It is not worth the anguish and it often becomes an infuriating, overwhelming, total button mashing chaotic nightmare. Yes, I am being harsh as it probably sounds to you like I really didn’t like it, which of course couldn’t be further from the truth, however, I feel it is harsh but fair. Saying “you will be disappointed” is not true, as it’s very similar to all previous, hugely popular, games, but being a fan means I was a bit let down, personally. If this was the first in the franchise I would have been hugely impressed, but Santa Monica Studios have had three titles to get this perfected, which, considering how spot on it was to start with, I reckon they should have done by now with this third instalment, and they just haven’t. If you’re a fan of God of War this will be essential gaming, but don’t expect it to be 20 times better, or better at all, than any previous title: It isn’t (I still think the first game is the best one). If you have never heard of Kratos, this will probably blow you away, as in many ways it’s unbelievable, but may I recommend you wait a little longer as Sony will be releasing the trilogy for the PS3 (HD versions of the PS2 games for the PS3) soon and this is a trilogy that has to be played in its entirety to be fully appreciated. CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 8.0

Should feel right at home for God of War fans, and all new moves will become familiar quickly. It doesn’t do much to nurture you if you have never played it though and you are straight into a fairly tough boss fight. No mercy for the weak basically.

Is the story any good? – 7.5

It does what it needs to do, sets up a quest for Kratos and a final battle with Zeus, but it’s a bit unoriginal, a bit woolly, and Kratos has become a self centred bastard rather than a tragic hero.

How does it look? – 10.0

They are the benchmark for all PS3 games from now on. Stunning and flawless in every conceivable way.

How does it sound? – 10.0

All the usual full orchestral background music and choir and it’s generally an assault your ears. All voice acting is excellent.

Is it good to play? – 8.5

It is mostly excellent free flowing multi-combo combat and most additional moves are really enjoyable. Plus it’s horrifically gory and quick time events are little more forgiving than before. But none of the new stuff adds anything that makes it better and the huge number of enemies and enemies that are way too tough make it more of a frustrating button masher than it has been before. Maybe it should have stayed on the PS2.

When will I get bored? – 7.0

It takes a decent amount of time to do initially, but it’s the shortest in the franchise, and you don’t get to keep any weapons or upgrades. There are treasures you can find and use that give certain powers during a second play through, and an additional costume that makes Kratos do quad damage, but it’s not the same. The combat arena and challenges are quite good fun but short lived as your not going to spend hours of your life doing them.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

Aliens Vs Predator Review 25/02/2010

It’s not bad, with a lot for fans to enjoy, but it just feels out of date, simplistic and gets dull quickly.

You would think anything associated with possibly the two greatest killing machines in science fiction history would be of a high quality and a great experience all round. Sadly this is not the case as when the two have clashed on film it has been, without any shadow of a doubt, rubbish! They had glimpses of what should have become of this gore splattered union, such as a couple of pretty decent fights between the two other worldly beings, but generally poor acting and low budget stopped them being anything like the original legendary separate films, that spawned both the franchises. The two have met in a game before as well, back in 1999 (the same guys, “Rebellion”, that made this 2010 version also made the original), which sadly I have never played but I have read it has glimpses of what it should have been but it was too clunky and repetitive to play, and simply not that great. So why does the combination of these franchises always result in mediocrity when individually they generally achieve greatness? Well “Rebellion’s”, latest crack at the franchise intends to answer those questions and produce a decent gaming experience for “Alien” and “Predator” fans. It is a first person shooter with a lot of hand-to-hand/melee combat, where you will play through as a human colonial marine, an Alien and a Predator all with interlinking stories. The story takes place on a planet called BG 386, where a human colony, funded by the company “Weyland-Utani”, has set up camp. This planet is also an ancient and forgotten Predator hunting ground where they store Alien queens in giant temples and breed the Alien in order to do battle with it (pretty much an identical plot to the AVP films, just in a different time and place). Discovering this, the company (as always) wants to breed the Alien and sell it as a bio weapon, but on the sly, they have also discovered a particularly large, ancient and intriguing Predator temple that holds a secret that Weyland wants very badly. When Weyland eventually opens the temple it sends out a shock wave that shuts down the colony and as a result all the imprisoned Aliens escape, slaughtering all human life. The colonial marines are called in to mop up the mess, which is where you come in as a human, but there is more going on than a simple “bug hunt”. As an Alien you have to escape your prison and help free the queen from the colony, whilst helping your species breed along the way. Again, things turn out to be not that simple. As a Predator you are sent to the planet to find out why a previous troop of “Young Blood” Predators never returned, only to discover the human’s plans. You must find out what Weyland is up to and set about stopping him from breeding the Alien, as if left in the hands of humans, all life in the universe will succumb to the “crawling dark”. You will also have to discover what is so important about the temple and why it is not simply a holding chamber for Alien breeding.

What’s good?

It has totally captured the “Aliens” and “Predator” universe. This is mainly why it leans so much towards being appealing to fans of the franchises rather than casual gamers, and why not? There is a seriously large amount of fans out there, myself included. So in that respect, “Rebellion” has really hit the nail on the head. Everything you would expect from the films is in this game: alien queens, pulse rifles, motion sensors, chest bursting, face huggers, Predator camouflage, killing people with your Alien toothed tongue, collecting skulls as trophies as a Predator, terraforming, drop ships, ancient Predator temples, Weyland Bishop, I could go on. They have managed to cram almost everything you would expect from the films, bar “Ripley” or “Dutch”. The sound effects of a marine’s pulse rifle is absolutely spot on, as is the death scream of an alien and the weird voice throwing thing a Predator does, the space craft are spot on as are the dark corridors and feeling of dread. It definitely captures the strengths and weaknesses of the three species as well and enables to them to fight relatively entertainingly with each other in hand to hand combat, which you would expect from an Alien and a Predator. If you get the various fight techniques right you can perform signature kills, the Alien generally slicing people in three with their tails or biting chunks out of them with their tongues and Predators use their claws to severe heads and spines. It is an absolute blood bath and without doubt does exactly what fans will be expecting, and if you are a fan of either franchise this will push all the right buttons.

The different styles of gameplay are really interesting and unique. Playing as a marine, Alien or Predator is as different as it gets and “Rebellion” has done an excellent job in capturing the strengths and weaknesses of the three species:

Human: The colonial marine campaign will be the most familiar, and the species you should handle first, as it is basically a typical first person shooter. From the word “go” it is really frightening, with lots of dark space station corridors to navigate and very scary Alien hives to go through with xenomorphs springing from all sorts of corners, ducts and vents. You often don’t have any clue they are there, other than your motion sensor going nuts, until they jump at you from the shadows. Although you definitely feel more vulnerable as a marine, you are by no means defenceless, with their biggest strength coming from their guns. You have pistols, shot guns, sniper rifles, the legendary pulse rifle, the fantastic Smart Gun, flame throwers, grenades and generally the full armoury seen in all the films. You will basically go through the campaign doing only what humans know best and shooting everything. You will mostly shoot Aliens, but there’s loads of androids to kill, Alien queens, and a Predator (although he was disappointingly not as tough as you might think). They can also do a bit of melee combat, such as blocking an Aliens slashes and clawing, bopping them away with the butt of your gun and shooting them whilst they are dazed on the floor. If you have ever fancied yourself a “Hudson” or “Vasquez” then you will love the marine campaign.

Alien: The Alien was my favourite. It was quite empowering to play as the thing that’s been scaring the crap out of you for 4 hours as a human, plus they are the most effective killing machine when you get used to it. I loved stalking marines from the ceiling, observing their movements, and running in for a quick silent kill whilst their back is turned. Aliens have only melee style, hand-to-hand combat, which includes your powerful claws and knife like tail, which you will combine with light and heavy attacks. The xenomorph’s will claw and bite their way through enemies, meaning you will always have to be up close and personal to make a kill. They are excellently prepared for such strikes though, as they are lightning fast, can grip on to any wall or ceiling and utilise darkness as their ally. Taking out lights, attacking from the shadows, from vents or from above is the key, whilst trying not to attract too much attention to yourself. The Alien also has heightened senses and can see all living things through walls and round corners as long as they are relatively close. This is good for setting up signature kills which are really good fun. You can hiss at a marine round a corner, attracting their attention, then run up a wall and on to the ceiling and after they have walked under you, drop down, sprint up behind them and grab them, impaling them with your tail so that it comes out their mouth. You will also use your tongue to bite a chunk out of their head, tear bits off them, snap necks and generally make very gory, but very satisfying kills. Or, if you grab an unarmed human, you can help the xeno cause by holding them down for a face hugger to latch on to them. It only takes one or two bullets, or one slash from a Predator to put you down, but that is a true characteristic of the Alien. The Alien gameplay has its flaws (more of that in a bit) but it is really unique and really good fun when you get the hang of it.

Predator: The Predator is similar to the Alien but uses a much more stealth like approach mixed with technology and single powerful strikes. Cloaking and taking out targets silently is his asset when fighting marines, but Aliens can see through your camouflage, so quick reactions and good hand to hand combat skills are needed. You have the same light and heavy attacks as the Alien using your wrist blades, as well as excellent signature kills by grabbing, but you can also take out enemies from afar with your plasma caster, spinning disc or spear, which is all one hit one kill options. You also have proximity mines, but opportunities to use them are fairly infrequent. The Predator is the most powerful character to play but you will have to be a lot more tactical and use surveillance to become efficient with him. He doesn’t have too many flaws being super strong and tough but keeping an eye on energy use is tough and being overwhelmed by Aliens will also be the Predator’s undoing.

The colonial marine campaign is absolutely terrifying. Quantifying fear is difficult as it is entirely opinion based. Personally the only game that genuinely frightened me was EA’s excellent “Dead Space”. The feeling of isolation and dread was huge. Aliens Vs Predator is easily on a par with this though. Ever since seeing Ridley Scott’s “Aliens”, at the young age of 12 and consequently not sleeping for around six months afterwards, H. R. Giger’s “Necronom IV” has truly petrified me. There’s just something so immensely fear inducing about the Alien to me and this game really brings that fear out. From the word “go”, the marine campaign is a scary one. You have to navigate some very dark corridors, with just a pistol, trying to find your way to a fellow marine, who’s giving you guidance via your radio, and all you have is your flash light and your motion sensor. The tension builds for so long, the dull beat of your motion sensor is the only thing you hear, and upon the first “blip”, as your motion sensor detects movement, my rectum instantly prolapsed (not literally). I know it’s just a game, I know its just one alien, I know I will kill it (as it’s the intro to the game) and yet I was 12 years old again, watching the marines go into the hive for the first time and watching “Hudson” looking at his motion sensor and shouting “their all over us man!” and absolutely crapping myself, fearing, yet knowing, what was coming round the corner. You will have to venture into several hives yourself in this game and they are equally as intimidating as they are in “Aliens”. Xenomorphs will come out of the walls, totally camouflaged against the background. Your motion sensor will picks things up but you won’t see anything, and of course you will encounter queens. It’s obviously not as scary being the Alien, but the Predator campaign has its moments as well and if you were ever frightened by any of the films, this will probably bring out that child like fear in you once more.

What’s bad?

The story isn’t that great and is told in too much of a disjointed small portioned way. My main issue with AVP is the story as, although it’s relatively interesting, it is totally unoriginal and in far too much of a hurry to set up a sequel. It doesn’t really dwell on any of the most interesting aspects of it and you generally race through everything so quickly it’s far too easy to miss things. You also have to pick up audio transmissions throughout, which again, is ok, but they are scattered everywhere and it’s too hard to decipher what’s going on from them. It comes across as more of a story to accommodate the title, rather than the other way round, as though Rebellion acquired the rights to the franchise and didn’t have very long to come up with a script, so mashed some things together quickly. It’s a lot like the films in many respects, does the job, but does not inspire or captivate in anyway.

The Alien and Predator gameplay isn’t particularly great either. I can’t imagine getting hand to hand combat to work well on a first person shooter is particularly easy, and AVP is a good example of this. It’s really simple for a start and is incredibly “old school” and arcade like. You have light and heavy attacks and blocking but there is not much in terms of fluidity and smoothness and it does not require much, if any, skill. If someone attacks with a light attack, block and do one back. If someone is blocking use a heavy attack. Its far too easy to stop heavy attacks as all you have to do in the small decade it takes to charge up is perform a light attack and your knocked to the floor. It doesn’t really get any more complex than that, and even that does not work too well. You will always end up blocking, hitting an enemy to the floor and then grabbing them to perform a signature kill. These are good but they do get dull after a while, as it’s the same button action again and again, they take far too long to perform and other near by enemies can still attack you whilst you are doing them, to which you can do nothing about. There are few things worse in gaming than being punished for something that you can not avoid. You just generally end up running up to an enemy and hammering the attack and blocking buttons. As a result it’s totally chaotic, constantly interrupted by signature kill cinematics and is generally uninspiring. Being totally mellee combat based, the Alien suffers from this simplistic gaming the most. The Alien moves so ludicrously quickly that you often sprint right past your victim by accident so they see you and start shooting you in the back. As an Alien this will inevitably result in your death. It’s also too easy to get stuck to surfaces and it’s seriously disorientating when traversing ceilings and walls. There is some enjoyment to be had from the combat but it’s so repetitive and simplistic and I reckon more depth and a more expansive combat system is needed. It will basically feel a bit out of date compared to other games. “Uncharted 2” shows that an incredibly simple hand to hand combat system can work very well, so there is not much excuse.

The graphics are also not that great. Possibly a harsh criticism this, however when compared to other visual treats available on the PS3 it doesn’t look brilliant. The Aliens look good, but environments and in particular characters and cinematics look really wooden, bland and not very detailed. They are by no means terrible but not particularly awe inspiring either. Graphics are so highly rated on the PS3, with several titles being utterly jaw dropping visually (Uncharted 2 for example), so with a big name title such as this you really expect more.


The game, rather unsurprisingly, is very much like the films. They have all the trademark Alien and Predator stuff, lots of gore and fighting, and if you switch your brain off there are moments that you will enjoy. But it never really blows you away at any point or makes you keep coming back for more. It’s pretty good, but not that great. If you’re a fan, there will probably be a lot for you to like here. It has totally captured everything you would expect from these franchises, from the noise of a pulse rifle, to the death screech of an Alien, to infiltrating hives and stalking people using stealth camoflauge, it really does hit the nail on the head. The fear induced by the marine campaign is the pinnacle of this. It’s terrifying. There is also lots of cheap thrill signature death moves that although shallow, will inevitably tweak all the right knobs for fans. If you are not fussed on this universe, however, there are many much better games out there. It is quite good fun experiencing the different species, but the first person combat is seriously old school and retarded-ly simple, and the marine campaign is just a normal shooter. If Modern Warfare can be likened to the “I-phone” of the computer games world, AVP feels more like two empty bean tins tied together with string. It works, but it is too simple, doesn’t look great, and is generally far from brilliant.CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 8.0

A very simple game will always result in it being very easy to get to grips with. The marine campaign is a standard shooter, but the Alien and Predator will take some getting used to. The Alien is too disorientating and the Predator has too many tools. Tutorials at the beginning are pretty good at teaching though.

Is the story any good? – 6.0

It’s ok, and does what it’s supposed to do: tie in all three species into a story and set it up for a sequel. It really only does that though and it feels far to woolly, fast paced and as if it was quickly collaborated together in someone’s lunch break.

How does it look? – 8.0

It’s pretty good. The Aliens all look good as do hives, but environments are a bit bland and character animations are really wooden and unconvincing. When compared with other titles it does not have that extra fine detail that would make it look awesome. Not bad though.

How does it sound? – 9.5

The sound goes most of the way to making this game appeal to fans. Pulse rifles, Alien screams, Predator voice throwing all the sfx you would expect are perfectly re-produced. Voice acting is a bit stereotypical but it works.

Is it good to play? – 7.0

Lots and lots of shooting, hacking and beheading to be done. Marine campaign is truly scary and stalking people as an Alien was very enjoyable for me. The stealth and signature kills are all quite impressive as well. The hand to hand combat is very chaotic however, very crude, simplistic to the point of sleep inducing and it will bore quickly.

When will I get bored? – 6.0

It takes a fair amount of time to complete but not too long. The Alien campaign is literally an hour or so. The simplistic combat gets repetitive quickly and even the signature kills get old at speed as well. The online stuff will keep things going, as it is unique if nothing else, but has all the same cheap thrills followed shortly by tedium of the single player. I got bored of it pretty quickly.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review 04/01/2010

Many have given it the accolade, “game of the year”, and it certainly makes a strong case for such a title.

I feel like in the two years I have been playing my PS3 that I have spent 95% of that time playing first person shooter action games. Many are of course very good, such as Killzone 2 and the mighty Modern Warfare, and all are proper balls out unrelenting action games. This is why it was a bit of a relief and a huge pleasure to get my hands on Uncharted 2, which, although inevitably action packed, offers something a bit different. I didn’t know much about Naughty Dog’s action adventure title having never played the first one, “Uncharted: Drakes fortune”, as it seemed to slip under my radar amongst all the other launch titles for the PS3. However, many have said it is not only the best title at launch, but still one of the best experiences available on the system, coupled with the fact that the sequel has won a quite a few “game of the year 2009” awards from several highly rated sources, means that my expectations are high. So how good can it be? You play, in a third person perspective, a professional thief called Nathan “Nate” Drake, who is hired, along with his mate Harry Flynn and a new comer Chloe Frazer, to steal a Mongolian oil lamp from an Istanbul museum. Although initially sceptical, he is convinced to take the job when he is told that this lamp could reveal a way to find the lost treasures of Marco Polo’s doomed fleet in its final voyage. In a nutshell: Marco Polo, who lived around 1292, spent 20 years in Mongolia with Emperor Kublai Khan, and then decided to pack up all 18 of his ships and 600 crew and leave for Persia bringing with them a rare mysterious treasure that supposedly makes it’s wielder immensely powerful. Only Polo reached his destination however, a year and a half later, with only one ship, just a fraction of his crew left and he never revealed what had happened to his fleet or what the mysterious treasure was. After stealing the lamp, Drake then goes on a vast adventure across all sorts of countries, such as Nepal, Borneo and the Himalayas hunting down this artefact, looting ancient temples and underground tombs to find all the clues that will lead him to Marco Polo’s treasure. This may not sound too hard or that great, however not only does he have to tackle what ever devious booby traps await him at every temple he finds, plus he has to be wary of characters he meets along the way who are more than willing to double cross him for this prize, but he is in a race against time to find the stone before the particularly ruthless and unpleasant Zoran Lazarevic finds it first. Zoran is not only a war criminal, that most believe to be dead, but he is more than willing to kill and blow up all and everything in his way using his own personal army of heavily armed soldiers. He only wants the treasure for his own gain and for the rumoured power it bestows upon he who claims it.

What’s good?

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The gameplay is the best thing here. Uncharted 2 has a various array of gaming formats/elements, all of which are executed very well indeed. It has a mixture of lots of fast paced action and gun fire, like Call of Duty or Killzone 2, stealth elements and skills, similar to the king of stealth games: Metal Gear Solid or Assassin’s Creed and lots of exploring, climbing and puzzle solving, very much on a par with tomb raider, God of War or Assassin’s Creed, again. None of these three really stand out above all else, for example its not a far better shooter than it is a stealth game, as you really have to embrace the whole experience and become a pretty decent player at all three to fully enjoy and appreciate:

Firstly the action – Predominantly this game has mostly action and gun fire at its heart and there are a lot of guns to fire, soldiers and beasts to kill, tanks and helicopters to destroy and a lot of varying weapons to use in order to do it. This is made really good fun by the excellent cover system when under fire, which by the simple use of the circle button makes Drake snap to literally any surface in the level, pop out and fire. He can also jump between cover and pick up/swap any weapon dropped by a vanquished foe. Although you can only carry two guns at a time and very little ammo, so don’t bother holding on to a favourite gun, there is a surprising amount of fire power here. There’s an array of machine guns, AK47’s for example, but also different hand guns with varying power, like 9mm pistols and Desert Eagle 5.0’s, shot guns, sniper rifles, grenades, grenade launchers, RPG’s and at various points you will use massive mini guns and gun turrets. You will need to use all of these at one point or another as often there are situations you can’t sneak around and you will have to blast your way through. The action set pieces are pretty spectacular as well, a truck chase through the mountains was a highlight, as you have to jump from truck to truck whilst under fire and teetering on the edge of a snowy cliff face, as is the mission on a train where you will have to get to the front carriage, killing soldiers and avoiding being blown up by attack helicopters. There is not really a level or action set piece that doesn’t stand out and all are hugely good fun and exhilarating to play, with explosions, car chases and gun fire aplenty.

The stealth and sneaking – There is a large stealth element to this game as well and often you are far better off sneaking and skulking around taking down enemies silently, rather than opening fire immediately. You are often far better off doing so if you can help it as well, especially on the harder difficulties. Generally you will enter an area unnoticed and there will be a group of soldiers patrolling around, often looking for Drake. You have to use the terrain and blind spots to take cover behind things and use the square button to take enemies by surprise and silently finish them off. You have to have your wits about you at all times and keep lots of eyes on all the patrols, their movement patterns and choose your moment to strike very carefully. This is always entertaining as you pull them or push them off ledges or cliff faces, smack their heads off a wall or boulder they may be sitting on/leaning against, simply land a decent punch in their face or on their neck and, mainly, a quick grapple and snap of the neck (you cant necessarily choose these actions, but the game applies the most appropriate at the time). The noise it makes when you do sever a spinal chord is excruciating. It is gruesome. It’s quite difficult at stages but it adds a really entertaining tactical element to the action and gives you an alternative in how you play the game. Plus if you ball’s it up, with the exception of the first mission, you can just whack out your machine gun, start blasting and hope that your gun slinging skills are adequate.

The exploring and puzzle solving – There is a lot of exploration to be done in this game. Although essentially the game is very linear, as there is always one and only one way in and out of area, it always makes you feel like you figured out the method of advancing. In order to explore you have to climb, jump and swing round the most vast levels and Drake demonstrates that he has the free climbing abilities of the most skilled glue handed spider monkey. He will climb walls, rocky mountain cliffs, snowy chasms, collapsing bridges and moving trains. There is nothing he can’t climb. Climbing is one of the most fun aspects of the game and doesn’t require any additional knowledge or extra skill. Like in Assassin’s Creed you just have to point in the right direction and use the X button accordingly and Drake does the rest. The clever part is that it never feels like it’s doing everything for you, even though it so very obviously is. Whenever you swing across a bottomless chasm, or escape a train carriage hanging over a cliff or generally climb something where one slip would lead to your certain death, you feel like you did it and it was your skill that overcame that particular peril. It is brilliant. The puzzles are also pretty good fun. Often when in a tomb or trying to find clues to the next piece of the quest you will have to solve a puzzle. This generally involves pushing the correct things on buttons, turning specific switches in certain ways and aligning symbols in the correct way to unlock doors. There won’t be anything unexpected to anyone that’s played such games before. You will often have to consult Drakes Journal for information and although some will seem quite hard, you should eventually figure them out without too much trouble.

The story is really good and Drake is an immensely likeable chap. The plot on Uncharted would put most Hollywood dross to shame. There’s lots of action, betrayal, love, excitement and unexpected moments, with a bit of the paranormal thrown in for good measure. It’s not weak or quickly put together and all details have been thought of. The characters are all brilliantly executed, necessary and none come across as annoying or pointless (unlike 90% of the cast of Transformers 2). Zoran, for example, may as well have a top hat, twiddle a moustache and tie women to rail way tracks due to his “big bad guy” persona, but his merciless nature and savage actions overcome any stereotyping and he never comes across as comical or ludicrous, just a proper bastard who is there to be hated. Drake on the other hand is one of the most likeable characters in gaming. He manages to be funny and cocky without being annoying or arrogant, acts bravely all the time but always showing he has compassion and generally manages to be a top notch good guy throughout. He often comes out with little comments and quotes whilst playing some action set pieces, such as when a giant heavily armed helicopter starts firing missiles at him on a train, he shouts “how am I supposed to take out a helicopter!” It really made me laugh as how are you supposed to take out a helicopter single handed? He shouts with fear whenever traversing a terrifying gorge or cliff, which of course you would, or says stuff like “what now!” or “give me a break” whenever a heavily armoured soldier comes into view with a giant mini gun and generally comes across as the reluctant but brave and ultimately human hero. It’s a pleasure playing as him.

The graphics push the boundaries of “unbelievable” further still. It seems every time I pick up a game these days it has the sharpest, most colourful vibrant visuals I have seen so far, but Uncharted 2 has advanced my expectations even further still. I was taken a back by the visuals in Resident Evil 5, which are amazing, but Naughty Dog has blown my mind with this epically beautiful title. It is unbelievably good, especially in HD. Everything is so detailed and so vibrant with colour and no matter how large a tomb is, how populated a small town is or how vast an icy canyon is, it doesn’t miss a beat. It never slows, or lags either, at any point and the load times are very few and short. I know bluray’s can hold a lot of information but I’m still flummoxed as to how they fit this on one little disc. All the cut scenes look cinema ready as well and even the snow moves realistically when you walk through it. It has to be one of, if not the best looking game I have ever played.

What’s bad?

The cover system does not always work perfectly and is a bit “clunky”. In order to hide behind things you have to use the analog stick in the right direction and press the circle button. Then to switch to different cover you have to hold the analog stick in the direction you wish to go (towards the cover you wish to jump to), press the circle button and he leaps to this different covering position. But if you don’t get it 100% right Drake will do some stupid things. For example, he will jump to the other side of a wall and stick their like discarded gum and be hiding in full view of the heavily armed enemy, who will inevitably blast you into biscuit crumbs, the whole time you’re trying to get him to unglue himself from a totally uncovered position. To perform a roll whilst running you simply press the circle button on its own, but if you don’t get the directional buttons quite right he will simply leap out from behind cover and roll out in to the open, and inevitably get blasted into atoms once more. It does not happen constantly but often enough, and it is very infuriating to have to concentrate on so much stuff firing at you, avoid grenades, and ending up jumping in front of a giant gun turret even though you so clearly don’t want to do that. I know its human error but the system, although easy to use, relies on you getting your directional input spot on and sometimes you can get very disorientated, which of course mucks it up. You also have to press circle to stop hiding behind cover, and move normally to avoid a grenade for example, but sometimes he will simply take cover somewhere else very close by if you try and input the controls too quickly and you get blown up. As you hammer the circle button in panic he simply cements himself to other nearby walls or general cover and gets blown up by the grenade regardless. The controls are just a bit clunky and all actions have to be done really distinguishably from each other or errors will inevitably occur and on the harder difficulties this results in swift death. I appreciate that this system would be hard, bordering impossible, to make flawless by it doesn’t stop the fact that you will get infuriated at various points with it.

It’s so hard and unclear to figure out what you’re supposed to do a lot of the time. When your not unloading bullet after bullet you will generally be in an area that requires you to find a way out of it, because a door is locked, or something has collapsed and blocked your path. You really have to have an eagle eye in these scenarios, and they are frequent, as there will always be a slightly jutting out brick, or bent girder or one little thing that Drake can climb up like a chimp and move on. This is relatively fun most of the time, a bit of a brain teaser, but about 30 – 40% of the time these things are too hard to spot, especially the sticking out bricks as they look just like a normal wall. For example, on one level you are completely trapped in a market square with no way out and you are expected to know that you have to climb the sign in the middle of the area, a slightly skew whiff wooden lamppost with knackered looking advertisements hanging on it. It doesn’t look in anyway like it could be scaled, when compared to the stuff you normally look out for, so how are you supposed to know that? Some of the things that can be climbed are so subtle and indistinguishable from things that can’t that practically everything looks like it can be climbed. If it can’t, however, Drake simply doesn’t hang on. So if you think a cliff face on the other side of a bottomless gorge can be latched on to, the only way to tell is to jump across and if Drake plummets to his death, you thought wrong. Naughty Dog are clearly aware of this problem as if you spend a long amount of time in one area, basically showing that your stumped, a “helpful hint” pops up and tells you what to do or where to try and get to. It is of course good that it lets you know, but I was annoyed that I didn’t/couldn’t figure it out for myself, plus isn’t that just rectifying a problem they created? It does seem a little pointless and it can be irritating as you are constantly wondering where the hell to go next.

There’s an enemy in this game that is far too hard and tough and they will drive you mad on your first encounter. When you get fairly far into the game you will come natives of the secret city of Shambala. I won’t go into details about who they are or why they are in the game, as it will spoil the story, but they are big, fast moving and absolutely lethal. On the harder difficulties they will kill you with one or two hits, which they do have to dish out in hand to hand combat, but they are so fast it doesn’t take them long to get you, rugby tackle you to the floor and, if you get the on screen prompts wrong, kill you with one blow. This may sound hard, but its far worse still than that. They are also armed with the best weapon in the game, a golden double crossbow that can kill in one direct hit, that also has an unlimited supply of ammo (but you wont when you pick it up) and, trust me when I say, they are very good shots. Even worse still they are incredibly tough and able to take a huge amount of damage. You will unload magazine after magazine, shot gun shell after shot gun shell, bullet after bullet and an untold amount of grenades into their faces, at point blank range, before they eventually fall. It’s ridiculous and they are so superior to poor mortal Drake that you really do wish they had some sort of flaw to give you the slightest break or chance. Of course they can be defeated, and the key is to “run and gun”, which is running in one direction and using the analog to shoot in another (but it is quite inaccurate), and basically never stop moving or take cover. You just end up running in circles every time you encounter one, which is fine in terms of a method of defeating them, but it just looks stupid. It’s really hard though and even though you wont have to kill them all the time, as sometimes you simply have to survive a certain amount of time, these guys, especially on your first play through, will test your patience and your skills.

There are not a lot of reasons to play again and again. A minor gripe would be that, despite the huge length of the single player campaign, there is not a lot to keep you coming back to it. The game is enjoyable enough so that you will have a few goes at it, but there is nothing in terms of any customising, weapon purchasing and upgrading or anything like that. There are a lot of guns to fire here but the game really try’s to discourage you from holding on to a favourite weapon, or having a weapon at all. You can hardly carry any ammo at all and often, even if you ended an action set piece with a good gun, it will remove it from you after the cut scene. In Resident Evil 5, you collect weapons throughout and all are customisable and upgradable, so when you tackle the game for a second time you have all this marvellous weaponry at your disposal, making earlier levels hugely fun, and the more times you play through the more money you can get for upgrades, such as unlimited ammo or more powerful weapons. I felt like Uncharted 2 really needs something like that and there does not appear to be any reason why it couldn’t be incorporated. There are treasures to find, 100 of them scattered throughout the game, but it is really only worth finding them all if you are a trophy collecting junky or wish to play online. The online stuff is pretty good, and you can play through levels with two friends, helping each other shoot and climb through the level, or fight against them, but it is online only and not a split screen two player. But as far as the single player campaign goes, which is the games main appeal; there is not a lot to keep you coming back again and again other than the joy of the gameplay. I appreciate I am being maybe overly harsh; however I feel it’s harsh but fair. Once the intrigue of the story had gone I only played it a couple more times to test my abilities on harder difficulties but then I tired of it.


There is not really much to dislike with Uncharted 2. It does so many things so well and I loved the combination of action set pieces, stealth/sneaking and exploring and climbing. Some of the scenes in this game are utterly brilliant, particularly the train ride, truck chase, helicopter chase in Nepal and every tomb you uncover. The puzzles are all good fun, if a little obvious, and the death defying free climbing that Drake does will have you on the edge of your seat. The story is really interesting, with lots of intrigue and entertainment and all the characters work well, especially Drake who is one of the most likeable and funny hero’s in any game. Plus the graphics are outstanding. The cover system works well most of the time, but it can sometimes trip over its own feet. Your also going to have tough time trying to fathom where the hell to go or what to climb quite a lot, although on screen help generally dissolves this in the best way it can. There are also a few enemies that are overly tough to take down which will get frustrating, but none of these minor gripes spoil the experience. It is a hugely fun and well executed title and you are quite a blithering howling mad buffoon if you don’t stick this in your PS3 at some point. Game of the year? Well the competition is tough, with the likes of Modern Warfare 2 in the market, but it is easily in the top 3 and a “must buy” for PS3 owners. CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 9.5

Very easy to pick and play, and despite the shooting, covering and free climbing looking complicated it really isn’t, and you will be leaping over canyons, climbing vertical cliffs and blowing up soldiers in no time.

Is the story any good? – 8.5

It is a little cheesy in places, some lines are a bit cliché, and it’s a little predictable, but generally it is all you would expect from an adventure story line. Action, humour, intrigue, intensity, twists, love and betrayal. You will enjoy it.

How does it look? – 10.0

Amazing, awesome, brilliant etc. The best I have seen on the PS3 (until the next game I’m sure).

How does it sound? – 9.0

You don’t really notice the background music to be honest, but all voice acting is excellent as are all sound effects.

Is it good to play? – 8.5

Mixes several gaming styles and they all work very well together. The cover and firing system works well, although it is a little clunky. Climbing is very thrilling and very easy to do, but it’s hard to figure where the hell to go a lot of the time, and if you don’t get it right, the majority of the time, you plummet to your death.

When will I get bored? – 8.0

The single player game will take a long time to complete as it’s massive. The re-play-ability of the single player campaign is a bit thin, as once the story is unveiled the intrigue has gone and there is no customising, upgrading or weapon purchasing, for example, to be done at all. Trophy collecting and treasure finding addicts are the only ones that will get huge amounts of game time from the single player. The online stuff saves it to an extent, as its good fun to play with online friends, but it’s not a lot different to the single player campaign.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review 01/12/2009

It’s too focussed on multiplayer modes for my liking, but, rather expectantly, it is amazing.

Well how do you follow an act like Modern Warfare? It was never going to be easy, especially to myself as I still maintain the first Modern Warfare is the best first person shooter ever made (it is not “Doom” or “Wolfenstein” you rose tinted spectacled fools). Well of course it is rather predictably amazing, how was it ever going to be anything else? In the same way you just know every computer game timed to coincide with a film release will be an appalling shameless quick buck making diseased anus of a game, you just know anything affiliated with the words “Modern” and “Warfare” and done by Infinity Ward will be awesome. However, it does do some odd/different things that some may not be expecting and may not like, and I will of course explain why. It’s pretty similar to the first Modern Warfare, bordering on identical, and picks up pretty much where the first one left off, bar a few years. You will not just fight a load of ultra nationalist Russian terrorists in this game, but also defend a Russian invasion of the United States (yes, you heard that right). In the few years since the events of the first game the terrorist nutters have taken control of Russia and the bastard from the first game, that you killed, Imran Zakhaev, is made a national hero. The “baddie”, initially, is now one of Zakhaev’s generals, Vladimir Makarov, who goes on a terrorism binge across Europe, the last act of which is the massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians at a Moscow airport (a massacre you will take part in) and frames the Americans for it. With the new ultra nationalist rage bending the ideals of its people, and believing it was an American supported terrorist attack, Russia seeks revenge and invades the US. You spend the whole game switching between seeking evidence that Makarov was the killer and terrorist leader and defending the US against Russian attack, playing various characters in “task force 141” (a special anti-terrorist unit consisting of SAS and US army elite soldiers, including “soap” from the first game) and the US Rangers in these conflicts. The story is ludicrously over the top, but properly action packed and totally unrelenting and intense until it’s done, with several plot twists that not only will baffle you further but also set it up for the third game. Story mode is only a third of the game however as you now have “Spec Ops” mode and the usual online stuff. Spec Ops is a load of missions where you have various challenges such as defending a base, taking out a target and generally lots of proper elite soldier black ops style stuff .

What’s good?

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The absolute best thing about Modern Warfare 2 is that it takes action packed intensity to new levels. The gameplay is practically identical to the first game, but it takes the shooter style action and just goes ballistic in its epic-ness, intensity and action. You will have to literally kill everything that moves, and there is a hell of a lot that moves and needs killing, so you are never at any point allowed to take a breather or slow things down as it will absolutely not let up even for a second the entire time you’re playing. You may have a couple of seconds on a few missions to prepare, but it will be followed shortly by around half an hour of action packed anarchy. There are some stealth missions, of course, sniping etc, but they inevitably descend into total Armageddon as well. Although the incredibly annoying eternally respawning enemies has been got rid of now, they have compensated for it by having a stupidly vast amount of enemy troops. It is ridiculous in places. For example, there is a mission in Brazil and in particular one in Washington that have such an obscene amount of enemies, soldiers, tanks, helicopters etc, and bullets flying absolutely everywhere you really are quite overwhelmed. There have been several additions to the gameplay that make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable, such as when you have to “breach” a room. You place an explosive on a door, stand back, and as it explodes you launch in and in super slow motion you take out every bad guy before they shoot you or before they kill any hostages. It’s proper swing in through windows, gun ho, commando style aspect of the game and really good fun. There is also the infamous mission where you have to take out an airport full of unarmed civilians which is actually quite shocking, dark and unnerving. You don’t have to actually shoot anyone but you do have to watch and it really does add a creepy evil tone to the game. You will also snipe from helicopters, infiltrate oil rigs from submarines, fight through suburban areas of America picking out targets for a “Striker” (a massive 8 wheeled tank thing), gun down hoards of terrorists with mini guns onboard Humvee’s, blast helicopters from the sky with missile launchers, sneak through enemy bases in snowy mountains, launch and detonate a nuclear missile, take back the White House from enemy control before it is carpet bombed, set off an EMP so that fighter jets and attack helicopters rain from the sky (a particularly crazy mission), and generally pull off every military assault and action set piece you can think of. You even get to, briefly, control a NASA astronaut in space. It is unbelievably exhilarating and exciting that if this doesn’t get your heart racing there’s something wrong with you.

The weaponry and technology is very plentiful and good fun to use. Although practically every weapon from the first game has been copied over here, and there is a shit load of them, there are some notable really good additions. The favourites from the first game remain of course, such as the “javelin” missile launcher and you still get to man the mighty C-130 gunship, although it’s a spec ops mission now and not in the main story. The one that stands out the most are the predator drones. These are remote controlled missiles that hover round a target area and upon your command, through a lap top, descend upon the enemy and blow it pieces. You have to control the missile though upon launch, and when it makes an impact you instantly switch back to your character and you can see the explosion, debris, smoke and dust kicked up by it. There’s also a mission in a snow storm where you have to use a heart beat monitor (the one showed in all the previews and demos), as you can’t see a bloody thing, which detects the enemy’s heart beats (obviously) for you too avoid or take down. You also get riot shields, which are bullet proof plastic shields that you can hide behind, but will replace a weapon. It’s really good fun getting your pal to use these shields as you follow them and use them as cover, but the enemy also use them which makes them difficult foes to take down. Using grenades is the key and they generally add an extra tactical element to the abundant fire fights in this game. There is also guns with heat detecting sights, excellent when a level is shrouded in smoke or fog, and you can shoot two smaller guns at the same time now, such as uzi’s or desert eagles, although using double guns makes you hideously inaccurate despite the fun factor. You will use lots of vehicles this time as well, including a mental mission through Afghanistan in the first level where you have a mini gun in a Hummer and have to take out hundreds of extremists whilst being chased through the streets and being shot at, a lot. You also blow up and escape a terrorist mountain base on a couple of snow mobiles, a crazy vehicle chase in an aeroplane scrap yard (reminiscent of the final chase at the end of the first game) and the final boat chase at the end is real fast paced stuff and every scenario has an insane amount of troops permanently trying to blow the crap out of your vehicle, increasing the intensity beyond it’s already very high levels. There is also an obscene amount of guns in general, far more than the previous game, and all enemies’ guns can be picked up and swapped with your own at any time. Considering the amount of enemies you slaughter there will be a biblical amount of guns to choose from. If you love fire power and shooting then this will be your nirvana.

Spec ops mode adds more to the experience. Infinity Ward were clearly aware the main story was a bit on the short side, and a lot of missions that were the most popular in the previous game, such as the sniping mission through Chernobyl and the mission were you use the C-130 gun ship, were not included in the story this time round, not at least in any similar form (which is a shame really). Fear not Modern Warfare fans as they have simply pasted in the new Spec Ops mode, which is a full set of small missions that don’t have any story or relevance tied into them, just simple honest action sequences and soldiery. They generally revolve around defending a stronghold or position while a set amount of enemies attack, evade and sneak through some enemy territory without being seen by enemy patrols and getting through a level as quickly as possible as enemies attack you. They are not particularly complicated, just quick easy scenarios where you can challenge yourself to beet your best time, or, more importantly, take them on with a friend (discussed in a bit). They are not quite as engaging as anything story related, but they are clearly supposed to be “a bit of fun” and add some more challenges and trophies to your game time.

There’s lots and lots of multiplayer gaming. Infinity Ward have put most of their effort into the multiplayer action of this game as clearly lots of market research shows that this is what people wanted the most from the game, which is to be expected in the current market. Firstly, all the spec ops missions can be done as a split screen two player. It’s actually better this way to be honest, as several missions, ie the most fun ones, can only be done in two player form. You can do this either by using two controllers or over the internet with a pal. Two player spec ops missions are a bit easier, so you can try them on harder difficulties, and its really good fun having your friend circling the battlefield in a C-130 over head and your on the ground as a regular soldier, both fighting off the enemy to get through the level. Or one of you has to use predator drones to eliminate enemy vehicles, whilst you cover them with sniper fire, or one is in a minigun armed helicopter circling above as you try to evade militia through a slum town. It certainly demands team work and harmony if nothing else. The online stuff is immense as well, for those who like it. You have the usual team battles, last man standing etc but there is additions such as one team member can man a C-130, but opposing team members can shoot it down with RPG’s. The levels are huge as well and there is kill streak rewards that, if you kill lots of people without dying yourself, allow you to upgrade your soldier to have extra skills, such as being able to take a “last stand” after you have been downed. It adds a little more tactics to the battles and some variation. It’s not really my thing, to be honest (I don’t really like online gaming in general: too elitist, too repetitive, too competitive) but if online or multiplayer is yours, and there is a lot of you out there, there is a lot here to please you.

The graphics and sound are of an incredibly high quality. The graphics in the previous game where pretty spectacular, with the exception of the characters faces and movement being a little wooden. But they have managed to revamp it to even further extremes this time round. It’s not awe inspiring in its epic battle fields or enemies, such as “Resistance 2”, it’s the level of detail that really astounds, especially in the level design. Firstly the characters in the game are now pretty flawless, with very realistic facial movements, winks, head nods, mouth movement etc, and movements in general. In the mountain mission, for example, you can see “Soap’s” beard slightly dusted with frost, not important I know but it just shows the level of detail Infinity Ward has put into it. For another example, whenever you’re in a vehicle or car just have a little glance around and spot the attention to detail. It is outstanding. You will see the keys in the ignition, the air vents, the stitching on the steering wheel, some used drink cans on the floor and all sorts of minute details, that individually make bugger all difference but when put together make one seriously immersive experience. Every town you enter is bustling with people, who scatter at the sound of gun fire, and the missions where you go through various housing developments in the USA defending the Russians attack, are particularly impressive and have all the trade marks of a town that was deserted quickly such as bicycles left on the lawn, broken locks on front doors, burning trees with ash coming off in the wind, little things that make all the difference when trying to add atmosphere, which it has in heaps. Speaking of atmosphere, the sound goes a long way to helping this aspect as well. It’s pretty much loud full on orchestral stuff that intensifies as action comes and goes and it goes bananas whenever a scene of epic proportions is encountered. It’s very much like a John Woo film. The battle scenes in Washington, with the wrecked White House in the back ground, will emphasise this. All character voices are excellent as are all noises of gun fire, explosions, vehicles, everything. It does not miss a beat.

The control scheme is 100% perfect. I have mentioned this in previous Call of Duty games, so I won’t go on, but the control scheme is absolutely perfect. It has not changed at all from the first Modern Warfare, or “World at War” for that matter, and I’m glad to see they haven’t felt the need to change it here either. If it ain’t broke etc. Everything is just so easy and instinctual to use, and even if you have never played a FPS before you will not need any instructions. They are that good. You would be surprised how easy it can be to not get control schemes quite right, Killzone 2 for example, an awesome game, but it tried to fiddle with the controls and it doesn’t work as well as Call of Duty.

What’s bad?

The main story is a bit of a let down, as it’s far too short and ludicrously over the top and confusing. My favourite part of the first Modern Warfare was the brilliant story, that gave you a lot of gaming time and generally really satisfied action fans (that mission where the nuclear bomb is detonated is one of the greatest I have played in any game ever). Unfortunately if you’re expecting a similar experience with no. 2 then you are going to be let down, as it is literally over in a few hours and will leave you with many unanswered questions. I completed it for the first time in around 4 to 5 hours, but as it’s so fast paced the time goes quickly and it feels even shorter. The harder difficulties will take a bit longer, “veteran” mode, for example, is unbelievably hard where even the simplest easiest levels will take many attempts, but generally it wont take too much of your time to complete. Don’t get me wrong it’s engaging, and the action is so intense if it were longer it might be too much, but I really felt like I needed a lot more and I was pretty disappointed upon completion. It is also ridiculously over the top and ludicrous as you’re just expected to take for granted that the Russians invade the United States? Do me a favour, how would that ever work? I was slightly confused as to what was happening the first time I played it, as the concept of a Russian invasion seemed way too far fetched. Plus it’s quite hard to ascertain exactly what’s going on as you are not really told much, you just have to rely on random radio transmissions and brief conversations that set up a mission. How did thousands of Russian air craft packed with para-troopers manage to fly un-noticed into American air space, take over the White House and various stupid things like that? It’s apparently down to the Russians using a code from a downed American satellite to make all their other satellites useless, but you cannot ascertain this from the game. It’s like a Michael Bay film with its stupidity: action packed, yes, but mind numbing with it’s brainlessness and style over substance. It really is daft. Saying “you will be disappointed” is probably too harsh, as, despite its briefness, its really good fun, and there is something wrong with you if you don’t fancy having more than one go at it on different difficulty levels. But the game as a whole is clearly much more focussed on multiplayer modes, which I’m sure is what most players will want, but if you, like myself, have the main story down as this games, not only but, biggest appeal then you have very much got the wrong end of the stick.

The spec ops missions are not that great. Don’t get me wrong they are by no means bad, but, firstly, taking on these Spec Ops missions individually is a bit rubbish and, secondly, although your better off taking them on with two players, they are still a bit short lived and unimpressive when compared to the main story. Don’t think for a second either that its like doing a whole new story or set of missions as nearly all the spec ops missions are clones of the missions in the main story, with ever so slightly different objectives. You will have to do things such as kill 40 enemy soldiers in a specific place, get through a level as quickly as you can without being killed or, defuse some bombs scattered around a town and, weirdly, doing the snowmobile mission whilst being timed. Why in the hell would you want to do that? This isn’t a racing game. Trust me, it is not even remotely as exciting if you don’t have enemy helicopters and soldiers blasting away with guns and missiles at you, or without any dramatic background music, which that spec ops mission doesn’t have, so its pretty crap. They are generally light hearted good fun, but most are very short, unrewarding and I didn’t have more than one or two goes on each before I got bored. You might as well play the story as it’s pretty much the same just better, more engaging and dramatic. What annoyed me further still is that the only missions that do stand out, such as a revamp of the Chernobyl sniping mission from the first game, a mission where you man the C-130 gun-ship (the C-130 is included in every aspect of this game except the story, which is really annoying!) or a quick fast battle across a collapsing suspension bridge, could have easily been incorporated into the story bulking that out a lot more which it really needs. Spec Ops is basically just a check list of achievements and trophies, and the only point to them is to try and beat your best times or play with a mate. Taking them on with your friend is the point of them really and in that respect they are pretty good fun, if a bit short lived, but I personally tired of doing them individually very quickly and would have much preferred a longer story and less spec ops stuff, if any at all.

It is way to overwhelming and confusing in places. The intensity of the action is just too much at times and it becomes impossible to figure out where you are supposed to go and what you are supposed to do, especially on your first play through. The fourth mission in the story, in Brazil, suffers from this badly as you have to chase a guy who is a lead to the terrorists through a slum town, and it is just total chaos. There is militia on every roof top, in every building, behind every wall, all shooting the crap out of you (and I know the respawning enemies have gone but it certainly doesn’t feel like it in this mission), whilst this informant legs it and you are expected to chase him through the town which is a ludicrous impossible maze of small houses and dead ends, the whole time your commander is screaming at you to hurry up or the informant will escape (although there is no time limit your certainly not led to believe this). Trying to figure out where the hell to actually go is hard enough, even if the ten thousand militia where not trying to turn you into a colander. Another example is when you have to defend a house later on in the game, and even worse escaping it, which starts off easily enough, but then the enemy swarm the house from every conceivable angle, and there is loads of openings and doors they can infiltrate from, and such a ridiculous amount of flash bang grenades are tossed in every window that they are unavoidable and you will be blind for a good few minutes, whilst the enemy pile in and gun you down. You then have to escape the house and run down a hill, but there is an obscene amount of enemy troops shooting at you, from all angles, nothing to hide behind, whilst the area is being mortared, so you can’t sit still or you are blown to pieces. Avoiding taking shots in these circumstances is unbelievably tough as it is, bordering on impossible on “veteran” mode, let alone not being able to stray too far from the computer you are protecting, as if you do the enemy destroy it very quickly, and the mission is over. A lot of the spec ops missions suffer from this as well, again, particularly when it comes to defending a strong hold, as wave after wave of enemy just gets too much and it is seriously tough to keep cool and stay on top of things, especially when going solo. There is also little stupid things like exploding cars and red barrels, which are often unavoidable and when they explode vaguely in your vicinity you are killed instantly. This game has enough going on already to have to concern your self with the colour of specific barrels, for god’s sake. This is possibly more of an indication of my crapness, or unawareness, but I really fail too see how even the most skilled “switched on” gamer wont be overwhelmed at some point during their time with Modern Warfare 2, and I reckon they should have toned it down a little, not everywhere, just some of the few occasions when it goes a bit overboard.

Shooting from the hip is ludicrously inaccurate. I have never shot a real gun so I’m not sure how hard it is to aim and fire when not looking down the sights (which is called “shooting from the hip”), but I really struggle to see how it can be as ridiculously bad and inaccurate as it is Modern Warfare 2. In the tutorial you are of course told that you should never shoot from the hip and always aim down your sights, especially in order to use the excellent target snapping system, however, there will be various points in the game where you will turn a corner or open a door and there will be a gun wielding bastard ready to unload bullets into your face. There is no way you have time to aim down the sights in such circumstances so you are forced to shoot from the hip, however, I guarantee you, even standing inches from your enemy and aiming at point blank range in his face, you will empty the entire magazine and hit nothing but air and scenery. If you’re on a harder difficulty you will inevitably get your head cored like an apple by a shot gun. It’s even worse on the larger machine guns and I refuse to believe a gun will be that inaccurate at such a close range, and even if it is, I think it’s far too harsh for the game to punish you for it. Realistic or not, it sucks, basically.

The friendly AI is a bit crap and simplistic. This only effects the story mode, as there isn’t any friendly AI in spec ops or online, but I’m surprised this is not something Infinity Ward would have concentrated on a little more, as your AI pals are a bit thick. They are not as intrusive and irritating as they are in “World at War” (although they still can be), where they will stand on your face or leap in to your firing line, they are just not really any help and pretty much act like you are not there. It by no means ruins anything in the game but despite the intended realism you don’t at any point feel like part of the unit. You pretty much have to do everything on your own and they simply don’t really ever help you, have to be led everywhere, otherwise they don’t budge, will promise to “cover you” and stand there doing nothing whilst an enemy shoots you in the back, and generally don’t add a lot to the experience. They are only really good for following to the next action scene. They also occasionally jump in front of you when your aiming down a scope as well, which is particularly annoying, and you inadvertently kill them. This frustrates because, as always, “friendly fire will not be tolerated” and you have to start again. It is very frustrating to get punished for something that is not your fault. It’s by no means awful, but by no means particularly good either.


Rather expectantly it is of course, as a whole, very very good. The story is far too short and stupid for my liking, but it’s just so engaging, particularly exciting to play, and you will definitely want to have a good few goes at it, let alone on each difficulty. If you want a challenge, “veteran” mode will seriously test the most hardened and sharp gamers. I wouldn’t say you will definitely be disappointed if you buy this game only for the story campaign, as that is a bit harsh, but you probably won’t feel as though you have had your fill or got the most out of this title if you do. However, if you love multiplayer stuff as well then you will get a lot of satisfaction from it. It is a proper bullet ridden balls out hairy chested intensely unrelenting action packed manly experience, that is a bit short on subtlety and intellect, but who cares when you can mow down multiple terrorist scum with a massive machine gun! The spec ops missions are not that great to be honest, but they are something else to do when you get bored of the story, and, most importantly, they are by no means bring the game down. Plus, you can even tackle them with a pal if you so choose, which is good fun and really the point of them. I don’t find the spec ops stuff as engaging as the story, therefore not as good, but the enjoyment and same ludicrous intense action remains. Further still, you have the vast multiplayer online stuff. All this playability is coupled with outstanding graphics and sound, particularly the level design and details, and it makes for one of the best experiences available on a PS3. I wouldn’t say it is better than the original Modern Warfare, it’s just about the same, as it improves on it in several areas but loses out to it in others. But, to be fair, being about as good as possibly one of the best game of the decade is not really a bad thing. It does not really blow the competition away either, as there are lots of high quality titles in the market, past and present, but I cant deny it is definitely a bit taller, fitter, and more muscular, if a bit less intelligent, than the other kids in the playground. CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 9.5

Menus are all very simple and very obvious and it’s easy to get straight into whatever or who ever you fancy killing today. Control scheme is perfect and very easy to use and get used to.

Is the story any good? – 8.0

It is a good story, definitely entertaining, dramatic and a little dark, but very ridiculous, very over the top and just a bit stupid. Those of you that have a more cynical and logical outlook on life probably wont be won over very easily.

How does it look? – 9.5

It is a particularly stunning game and the level detail and design is awesome, and everything just generally looks outstanding.

How does it sound? – 9.5

Really dramatic orchestral background music that rises and falls with the intensity and suits the action and gameplay perfectly. All voice acting and sound effects are also superb.

Is it good to play? – 9.0

It can be too overwhelming in places, and too intense, but it is certainly incredibly exhilarating, huge fun and very variable so it takes a long time to get dull, be it playing the story, spec ops or online.

When will I get bored? – 8.0

If you are only interested in the single player campaign, you may not get as much game for your money as you might be expecting. Despite how much fun it is, it is just very short. If you want to do everything though, you have lots and lots of Spec Ops missions that can be done on your own or with a mate, and masses of online multiplayer stuff. So you should potentially not be bored any time soon, depending on your preferences.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

Need for Speed: Shift Review 07/10/2009

Not perfect, but (at last) a really decent NFS game.

Now I have been playing Need for Speed games even before the PS2 days of “Underground”, the game of course that made the franchise as well known as it is today, and threw it into the world of customising and tuning. Before that came titles such as “Hot Pursuit”, a game I spent many hours as a young lad on my PC, being the police car and chasing down naughty boy racers. At the time it was awesome! Need for Speed is also the most successful racing franchise ever, would you believe, having been around since the 90’s, however, I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard fan-boy of the franchise, being that several titles in the franchise have been total crap. Un-flushable turd’s such as NFS “Carbon” and “Undercover” spring to mind which were just so lame, short-lived and shallow. I didn’t even like “Underground 2” as it was too easy and also far too short. These titles are not necessarily awful, but just played like they were designed very quickly, in an EA developer’s lunch break, and put together simply in an effort to make a quick buck, rather than a desire to make a joyful celebration of vehicle, tuning and track. I even abandoned the franchise for the first time when “Undercover” was released and bought Midnight Club: LA, a good game, but not a great one, and it left me wanting for a better racing, customising and tuning game. EA can do good things, as they produced the brilliant original “Underground”, which at the time was unbelievably good, the hugely entertaining “Most Wanted”, which I particularly liked, and the controversial “Pro Street”, which, I must confess, I really enjoyed as well despite the weird handling of the cars. “Shift” is easily the most mature in the franchise as it is a proper track racing and tuning game designed by real enthusiasts, with many cars, many upgrades, many unlockables, many trophies and many tracks. You basically spend the whole game experiencing the career of a pro racing driver, starting from scratch with minimal cash and amateur rides, such as Honda Civic’s and VW Golf’s, on small tracks, to becoming the ultimate pro racer earning millions in sponsorship, racing Pagani Zonda’s and Mclaren F1’s on the worlds most famous and difficult circuits, such as Laguna Seca, Spa and the terrifying Nordschleife. Now there is no story here, like previous NFS titles, and there is no street racing or having the free roam of a city to drive around in. It’s all track based. Here is where I assume the fan boys will pipe up, but if you don’t like the racing, upgrading, customising, tuning and blistering sensation of speed delivered by Shift, simply because it doesn’t have “free roam”, then you really need to ask yourself if you are a racing game fan at all.

What’s good?

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Well of course, it’s the racing. The racing is nothing unexpected to anyone that’s played racing games before, but the driving engine is really good, where you will genuinely feel the weight, down force and speed of your vehicle and feel it differ and change between classes and models of cars, and to what extent you tweak and tune them. The cars all handle really realistically but it wont slap you in the face with a giant hand of realism. The different types of vehicle will all feel very different, for example, an M3 BMW will feel tail happy and vastly different to a front wheel drive Ford Focus ST, which is different again to a four wheel drive Nissan GTR, all of which will feel different again the more turbos, nitrous injection or spoilers you add to your vehicle. All have varying gifts of speed or grip/handling until you break into the hugely expensive works converted cars that mesh the two in a ludicrous bundle of speed, cornering g-force and noise. Taking a highly tuned Corvette Z06 to a fairly tough track, like Spa, manages to be challenging yet rewarding, and exciting yet terrifying at the same time. You will have to get breaking distances, oversteer, understeer, cornering speed, everything correct or, generally, you will lose a lot. You will face many opponents in every race as well, up to 20 opponents, which are all intelligent enough to know where you are and have varying degrees of aggression and pace. They also have accidents on their own and are just as willing to fight it out with each other as well as you, giving the full on racing experience. There are varying forms of racing as well, as it will jump between all sorts of events, from your standard track race, time trials, one on one battles, drifting, manufacturer events (where everyone has the same car), race series, invitational events (where your given a car to compete with) and generally never lets the racing become stale. This, coupled to the blistering feel of speed and the full on attack on your ear drums by the sound, makes for one seriously exciting racing game.

There is huge satisfaction derived from your progression through the career mode. There’s something so fundamentally satisfying about starting a racing career with bog all money, buying a beat up car and turning into a full on apex kissing racing machine. This is exactly what you do here, and after a quick intro in a BMW and a few laps round Brands Hatch, you are given some cash and off you go. There are 4 tiers of events, upgrades and cars, each one, predictably, harder, better and faster respectively, but the rewards are higher. 4 tiers may not sound a lot but bare in mind that the tier 2 races, for example, consist of around 10 events, with around 6 to 10 races in each one. Plus I guarantee you, if it’s not set on “easy”, you will have at least 2 or 3 goes at each race before you claim the top podium, and probably a lot more at the higher tier championship events. Each tier of vehicles has around 10-15 vehicles in each list and every one can be customised and tuned to your exact racing style. You will unlock various upgrades, vinyl’s, and cars throughout the game and you will await with eagerness what each unlockable will do to your beloved vehicle. It rewards you for hanging on to a favourite vehicle and adopting a preferred driving style, but has just enough alternative events, such as a European or Japanese manufacturer only race series, in order to make sure you vary your cars and skills. The achievements don’t stop there either, as they have incorporated a point’s and stars reward system that gives you bonuses for the manner in which you overtake, your aggression or precision during the race and generally how well you did, rather than just what place you came. This of course unlocks further cars, upgrades and gives you further cash. There is so much money to win in this game so don’t think for a second you will ever be strapped for cash, or have difficulty buying a favourite vehicle. I only got half way through the tier 2 races, around a quarter of the way through the game, and my bank balance was already in the millions. For anyone that’s a fan of career based racing games will like a lot here.

The sensation of speed in this game is unbelievable. There’s one thing that EA have definitely cracked in this latest NFS title is the thrill of speed. It will feel fairly fast in the tier 1 cars, but as you progress through the different tiers of vehicles the faster they get, and when you hit the more complex tracks, it will blow your mind. Firstly, to truly experience this you have to drive in the perspective of the cock pit, and secondly put yourself in a car with maxed out stats on a tight fast track, such as the Nordschleife. There’s several cars that have a maxed out “speed” stat, like the Bugatti Veyron for example (but it cant go round corners), but the one that delivers the most mind blowing speed sensation is the Pagani Zonda R, simply because of its savagely rapid acceleration, cornering ability and ear bleeding engine note. You hit 6th gear in this V12 beast and the madness starts. The noise of your engine escalates to deafening levels, the roar of the wind as you car carves through it increases, the vibration of the your vehicle starts to become uncontrollable, your vision starts to blur, your palms start sweating, whatever horizon you were once pointing at has rushed to meet you and just before it gets too much and you contemplate pressing your unused trembling left finger hard into the break button, the racing line goes red and its time to slow down, or become one with the crash barrier. “Fast” doesn’t come close to describing what it’s like hitting top speed in a car with maxed out stats. It’s literally a perfect 50/50 blend of the ultimate thrill and sheer unadulterated terror.

The sound is ear scorching and brilliant. The game has little to no music whatsoever. What you get instead is a full on racing car related assault on your ear drums. From the cock pit view the tyres are going to scream in rubber burning agony through every corner you go round and on every straight the engine, especially in the larger engine faster vehicles, such as the Koeniggsegg CCX, is going to bellow, roar and shout in your face the entire time your finger is on the accelerator, and in a supercharged vehicle, such as a works converted Viper SRT10, the wine of the supercharger is relentless and ear piercing. It is without a doubt immersing to say the least and “Slightly Mad Studios” has done an awesome job in capturing and enhancing the attack on your ears whilst driving a highly tuned race car. Even in the menus you don’t get music just sounds of engines at full throttle as they flash past, and tyres at the very limit of a blow out. It’s atmospheric and tense and petrol heads will love it.

There is, of course, a load to customise and tune. The customising and upgrading of your car boils down to several menus, all of which are very obvious, very clear and really easy to access. Firstly, your upgrades: each vehicle has 3 levels of upgrades, which, through one way or another, will make your car faster, accelerate quicker, have more grip, etc. However there are lots and lots of them, and the more you upgrade an aspect of your car, i.e., suspension, gear box etc, the more you can fine tune/fiddle with it in the tuning options. Once you have applied all possible upgrades to your vehicle, you will then have the option of “works converting” your beloved car. You can’t do it to all vehicles, but if you’re struggling to decide which car will serve you best in an upcoming tier, it’s generally a good bet to buy the vehicles with a “W” next to them. (Just so it’s clear) You have to apply all conceivable upgrades to the car first, then it will give you the option of pressing “select” in the upgrades menu, and your car will receive a ludicrous but awesome body kit and have all its stats increased further, often maxed out. It’s very expensive, be warned: you will be spending in the region of $1,000,000, but you will have one seriously tuned, awesome looking and fast car as a result. You then have the visuals menu where you can add an eternal amount of paint jobs, around 50 different rims and lots of vinyl’s, none of which at any point you will have to pay for, so go nuts. The vinyl options are not anything more or better than previous NFS games but there is still enough to satisfy the customising junkies. If you cant be arsed to do your own vinyl’s there are 5 racing paint and vinyl jobs already set up for you, just pick your favourite free of charge. Finally there is the tuning menu where you can adjust tyre pressures, break callipers, suspension stiffness, gear ratios, downforce, the lot. All the menus are very accessible and simple as well so nothing will be overwhelming and all tuning options have a tutorial/description, encase your wondering what the hell camber angles do. For anyone who likes customising and tuning you can spend hours doing it here. It certainly doesn’t add anything that the NFS franchise hasn’t had before, other than the fine tuning, but they have just simplified and made everything easy to use and rewarding to do, when you get it right.

There’s lots of tracks and cars. NFS has gone all grown up with its tracks this time, as instead of racing randomly around an open city, you have actual race tracks such as Laguna Seca, Spa, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, the mighty Nordschleife and all sorts. Each one has been perfectly re-produced and has various colours and backgrounds enhanced to make them a bit more exciting and interesting to behold. There are 18 in total but each one has several smaller versions of the same track plus a few make believe ones such as a circuit through central London and Tokyo. There is a lot to get your head round and you will have to race a hell of a lot to master every one of them. For the cars, although there are some missing favourites/NFS classics which may put fans off slightly (more on that later), but you have to bare in mind that there is still 72 cars to be had here, and each one, especially the works converted or tier 4 cars will take a very long time to build up enough cash to purchase and fully upgrade. Admittedly around a third of these cars can’t be used in career mode, but cars are cars and it does have that many to be fair. The list is enough for any car fan.

The game is as “arcade like” or “driving sim like” as you want and will accommodate any racer of any skill level. The racing is a mixed bag to be honest, in terms of its handling and driving. But fortunately they have managed to be very broad with its appeal, as there is definitely a lot of interest here for the hard core racing and tuning fan, the sort of person who lies awake at night debating the stiffness of his rear suspension and length of his gear ratios, and the casual racer, the sort of chap who goes “which ones the accelerator pedal?”. You don’t have to know anything about cars to play this, unlike, of course, Gran Turismo, as you can set up traction control, steering, braking and tuning assists to help you or turn them all off completely, and become a pure racer. This will remind you though of just how far away you are from a real racing driver. For most it will lean mostly towards the arcade style of racing games as, although you can’t just sling vehicles into corners at any speed (like you can in Midnight Club: LA or previous NFS games), it is forgiving to an extent. It really depends on how hard core or easy you want it, and the game can provide all variations. Bare in mind it is still a long way off Gran Turismo and Forza though, even if you make it as realistic as it allows.

The drifting is really good fun, when you get it right. Slightly Mad Studios have got rid of the various forms of racing that previous NFS gamers may be used to, such as drag racing (but honestly you wont miss it), but drifting has survived. It has also been seriously revamped and made to be a lot more realistic and will feel vastly different to any drifting you may have done before. It is incredibly difficult (more on that in a bit) as you have to be spot on perfect with every aspect of steering, throttle, braking and angle but when you nail it is supremely satisfying and good fun. Plus after lots of practice you will start to get the hang of it. The cash rewards are huge as well considering it can take barely 2 minutes to do a drifting event.

What’s bad?

It’s far too easy to earn money. This game gives you way too much cash and points for your efforts so you very rarely have to do races again for the sake of funds or try too hard to buy a car you particularly want. You can get money, points and stars, for finishing last in some events! As a result there is little incentive to “go the extra mile” to gather enough funds to buy a favourite car, or the best car in the tier. Whenever you get to a new tier or event you will always easily have enough cash for the best car in the tier. For example, I had gained enough stars and unlocked all tiers of races when I had barely started the tier 3 races, which is only about half way through the whole game! Plus I had about $4,000,000 in the bank which can buy the most expensive car in the game twice over. You also get money when in “quick race” which is basically an arcade mode, so the opportunity to make ridiculous sums of cash is overly frequent. I think it should make you work slightly harder, do races more than once, ultimatley making it more satisfying when you do purchase that Mclaren F1, for example. To rub salt in this wound, EA have done this ridiculous thing where you can go online and use your credit or debit card to purchase in-game cash, encase your struggling. I find this so insulting, as who in the hell is going to be so awful, as if it is set on “easy” its really really easy, they don’t earn enough cash in this cash filled game, and stupid enough to use your real money when you have already used your cash to buy the sodding game in the first place! It’s such a pathetic extra money making scheme, showing EA’s money grabbers still have a say in quality games such as this. It’s very underhand and devious, and I don’t like it.

You can’t upgrade the tier 4 cars! It’s seriously disappointing to get as far in the game to warrant the unlocking of the tier 4 races and cars, and finally get enough money to buy a tier 4 car and the consequential upgrades, and, after relinquishing a good $1,000,000 for it, when you go to customise your ultimate ride this message flashes up: “There are no upgrades available for this car”. That’s right, you can’t improve the performance, you can’t add aerodynamic aids/body kits, you can fine tune them, but the options are pretty limited, and you generally can’t make your tier 4 car any better than it is already. You can change the paint job, but that’s where your customising will end. This annoys and disappoints me on several levels: Firstly, this game is predominantly about customising and tuning cars, the tier 4 cars being the ultimate goal (or at least your led to believe that), and they decide to take away that aspect for the most expensive, rewarding and fastest vehicles in the game. Secondly, the majority of the tier 4 cars’ stats, which you cant change/improve, will be worse than several works converted tier 2 and 3 cars. The Corvette, Viper, Nissan GTR, Murcielago, Skyline GTR, BMW M3, Mustang GT500, Mitsubishi Evo X, for example, are all more worthy of your cash, ultimately making the tier 4 cars worse but costing about the same. Thirdly, real life GT racing versions exist for nearly all the tier 4 cars available (with the exception of the Veyron, Reventon and Carrera GT), as I have seen them race with my own eyes, so it is not as if such racing paraphernalia are not applicable to these cars, they are just not applied. Fourthly and finally, you have to go through most of the f*****g game, having these machines as your goal, only then finding out that there is no point in buying them whatsoever, as they will be worse than cars you already own! It really feels like these cars are only in the game so EA can gloat about the car roster on the box and fool people into buying it for their love of the Bugatti Veyron, for example. Maybe I am in a minority, and most players wont care, but it really really f****d me off. They are still pretty fast, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just not the same and it doesn’t feel like it’s your car if you can’t tune and customize it. The Pagani Zonda R is worth buying (but it is the most expensive in the game at $1,200,000), as its stats are maxed out (top speed is not quite maxed out, but close enough) making it one of, if not, the best car in the game, but all the others have a flaw that makes them too tough to drive. This ranges from being incredibly fast but unable to go round corners and needs brake, suspension and aerodynamic upgrades, that you cant add (Veyron, Koeniggsegg), twitchy as hell and needs down force, that you cant add (Mclaren F1, Pagani Zonda F), or just comparatively not that good and needs all upgrades in general, which you cant add (Mercedes Mclaren 722 edition, Lamborghini Reventon, Lexus LF-A, Porsche Carrera GT). Other lower tiered vehicles have such flaws as well, sure, but the difference is you can tune and upgrade these cars to suit your driving style.

The customising is definitely a step back from previous NFS games. Despite the fact there is still a lot to customise it is noticeably not as detailed or as plentiful as previous games. For those that played Pro Street, you will easily notice the difference especially in terms of your cars vinyls and wheels, as there is considerably less choice on both fronts, and far less choice in terms of what you can customise about them. For example, most wheels will have a set size and if you fancy putting 20 inch rims of a wheel design on instead of 16 inches, then that’s tough luck. You can’t. There’s no more “auto sculpt” anymore, which sucks as I liked fiddling with your cars aerodynamics and visual appeal. The real kick up the arse for me is that there is no option to mirror your cars vinyl’s at all on different sides. This really wound me up as for anal people like myself that want symmetry on their vehicles racing colours, which I firmly believe is not unreasonable to expect, there is no option at all. How could “slightly mad studios” have missed this? It seems such an obvious, simple and vital part of an otherwise good customising system. The fools! Also, you don’t get full control of the view of your vehicle when adding vinyls. You can move the camera but it’s overly sensitive, quite limited and never really makes the view any better, making the necessary DIY vinyl symmetry even more of a pain in the arse. Another irritant, is that you have several options of pre-made racing vinyls that you can apply to your car, which is fine, but you can not make such paint schemes yourself at all, as you simply do not have enough options and resources. For example, you can’t change the colour or, in any way that’s worth it, the size of the manufacturer vinyls, where often the in-game paint jobs will have such vinyls of all different shapes and colours. Your often better off using the predetermined racing colours as you wont be able to make such paint jobs yourself. How hard would it have been for them to allow you to change the colour of the manufacturer vinyls? It’s really annoying. You also have to unlock the vinyl’s as you go but you wont have all of them unlocked until you have nearly completed the game, and its annoying when you want to add simple things such as numbers to your beloved vehicle, and you can’t. There’s a lot to unlock other than vinyl’s so I cant ascertain why they bothered with this in terms of incentive to play. It honestly feels like they have been doing the customising lark for NFS games for so long, that they are just bored of it now and can’t be arsed.

The car list is not as robust as previous NFS games either. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of high performance machines here to keep you interested, however it’s not as plentiful as “Undercover” or “Pro Street”, and there is some odd choices in what was introduced this time and what was discarded. There are noticeable missing favourites from the car list, such as the tuners favourite, the Toyota Supra, and all classic muscle cars are gone. No classic Charger, Stingray, GT500, Hemi Cuda or Chevelle at all I’m afraid. In fact the choice for muscle car fans is a bit thin on the whole. The only true muscle cars are the (modern day) Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang GT500. To a lesser extent there is the Corvette Z06, Viper SRT10 and Ford GT but they are more firmly a member of the supercar family, and all have been around in NFS games for ages. There are some strange cars now introduced such as the original 1960’s Nissan Skyline 2000GTR, which, despite the fact it’s the worst car in the game, I don’t particularly have a problem with, but why at the cost of a way more awesome vehicle such as a Dodge Charger or Toyota Supra? Seems a strange choice to me. They also have several iterations of the same vehicle, for example, there are two versions of the new Nissan GTR and three versions of the BMW M3. Of course they have different variations of age, power, speed, etc, but they are not vastly different from each other. The only thing that really separates them is whether they can be works converted or not, but lets be honest, you really want to works convert all your cars anyway. Considering some of the missing NFS favourites, there doesn’t appear to be a particularly good case for the inclusion of some of these vehicles, especially the totally useless tier 4 cars. For those foolish enough to have played “NFS Undercover”, that one game’s perk was the awesome vehicle list, which is just not as good in Shift I’m afraid.

The drifting is really hard. It’s not all simply track racing in Shift as you can still do drift events, the only reprise from track racing mind. Although it is good when you get it right, and there is not many of them, the drifting events are really really tough. The same mechanics of the drifting will be vaguely familiar with NFS veterans, however they have made this a lot more realistic, and just like everything in real life, it’s much harder. The steering and throttle are so insanely delicate and if you put the tiniest amount of either in too much it will spin, instantly. Even going in straight line, even in 4th gear, it’s really tough to keep your vehicle from spinning, and if you are in a high powered vehicle, car control becomes impossible. Your line, angle and speed into the corner also have to spot on perfect or the entire remainder of the course is buggered. You simply cannot make even one mistake and it’s just far too hard to get it 100% perfect, and if it is not your in for a hug with the crash barrier. The tracks don’t help either as some of them are a ludicrous maze of chicanes, tyre walls and hair pin bends. It’s a lot more realistic, yes, but at the cost of having 20 goes at each event and it generally frustrating you into boredom makes you occasionally wish they had simply left this one out. The key is smoothness, throttle control and never ever using a powerful vehicle (seriously, don’t ever upgrade your drifter too much, you wont be able to handle it), despite how tempting it will often be. Fortunately, there are so many points, stars and rewards in general available elsewhere you can simply just not do them at all and still progress through the game just fine. That does kinda defeat the point though and, although it is satisfying despite the extreme difficulty, I did think it could have given you a bit more of an easier time with it.

Several cars are a bit too “twitchy”, “slidey” and “skiddy”. Apologies for using words that don’t exist but its quite frustrating trying to drive some of these cars. It seems like several vehicles, no matter how much you tune them or fiddle with their handling you can never really truly sort them completely. Several cars will still fling the back out wildly or understeer into a wall no matter what you do. The works converted BMW M3 is a good example of this, as it is ludicrously tail happy, constantly, and no matter how much downforce you add, how much you deflate your tyres or how much you stiffen the suspension it will still be a nightmare to drive. It literally feels like it’s constantly driving on sheet ice. Any tuning you do will be futile and furthermore, are works converted racing vehicles not supposed to eliminate such handling difficulty? Isn’t that the point of slick tyres and spoilers? Do you see the grid of the Japanese GT Championship or Le Mans sliding and skidding round every corner? In Shift’s defense this is what modern racing cars are like, as every conceivable tiny aspect has to be working in conjunction with every other part, otherwise it will simply spin off the track. It’s the difference between “Mclaren” and “Force India” in the Formula 1 world championship, but several cars will make your tuning efforts feel so futile. Most vehicles you will probably manage just fine and some feel very planted and predictable, such as the Mitsubishi Evo, Nissan GTR, Dodge SRT10 Viper and Audi R8, but quite a few will drive you mad. For example, the Subaru Impreza has the most appalling brakes and understeers like a b***h, no matter how much you tune it. The Corvette Z06, although one of the best cars in the game, will be ridiculously tail happy until you add loads of downforce, but it will seriously effect the top speed, and the Lamborghini Murcielago has a serious “twitchyness” problem, making it a real handful and tough to keep on bumpy track. Nothing you can tune on any of these cars is going to make much difference to its handling, whilst still being able to use it in a race. It is possibly down to my crapness at tuning, but I know a lot about cars and how they handle, and besides, I have spent hours tweaking and fine tuning every conceivable component for it to make no difference at all. HINT: whenever you works convert a car, don’t ever use the “quick tune” option for your car as it will seriously muck up it’s handling. Always use “detailed tuning”, press “L3” to switch everything to default settings and simply make small adjustments to these settings, if needed at all. On some vehicles, though, you are wasting your time.

There’s no where to practise. The tracks are so variable you really want some practise space before you race, to get used to the track, figure out its tricky corners, its breaking zones or, if you have just been fiddling with your cars set-up, to figure out if it’s all working in conjunction with each other or if it is now uncontrollable. But there is no option to do this. If you want to practise on a track you have to race on it, full on with all opponents, whether you like it or not. It’s kind of irritating especially when tweaking your cars set-up, as you are not really ready to race, that’s the whole point of experimenting with the handling of your vehicle. I fiddled with the stiffness of the suspension on my BMW M3 only to find out in the race that it was far too stiff and the car simply bounced off the track every time it went over bump. I would rather have found this out by practicing, not in a full on race. Shift does compensate for this by having a racing line on the track with breaking zones, and the fact that everything rewards you whether you suck or not, but I reckon having an option to do some warm up laps or something is not to much to ask.

You win cars throughout the career mode, but you can’t use them. Yet another bizarre decision in the way this game rewards you is that while going through your career you will, amongst other things, unlock several cars as prizes. These include a “Falken Mustang GT”, a “Le Mans Audi R8”, a racing “Porsche 911 GTS”, the BMW M3 GT (the car on the box), a “Maserati MC12 GT” and various other high powered exclusive vehicles that you would love to have at your disposal in the career mode. But, as a lot of things in this game, you simply can’t. You can use them in the “quick race” mode but that’s it. Why? Yet again, why would it have been so difficult to allow you the use of these cars in career mode? What’s stopping this? They would be of use to you in career mode. “Quick Race” does not really serve any purpose, other than winning some extra cash, and has nothing to do with the career mode, so why did they have to give you this limitation? What makes it worse is that you can’t works convert an Audi R8, Aston Martin DB9, Porsche 911 or the 2009 BMW M3 in career mode, so it rewards you with works converted versions of these cars that you can not convert or use in career mode. Why could they not allow you to simply works convert these cars in the sodding career mode, rather than rewarding you with something you can’t really use? It is utterly incomprehensible as to why they would do this, almost as though Slightly Mad Studios were being deliberately obtuse. Again, I may be in a minority here as you do get to race them, but I just reckon it’s yet another strange decision in this games production.

You can’t view your vehicle how you want too. This is admittedly a “nit pick”, but I don’t care as it still bugged me. You can’t control the view of your vehicles in your garage, or anywhere at all in fact. If you have just spent hours customising your car with awesome visuals, wheels and body kit etc and want to look at it, your only option is a weird tilted orbit of your vehicle, that shows it through various angles that don’t really show it that well. Why would it have been so difficult to allow you control of the camera view? Another odd decision.


If you like cars, there is a lot to like here. There is loads of fast paced edge of your seat racing, loads of cars, loads of tuning, lots of customising, lots of tracks and it will deliver a seriously rewarding career mode for those who enjoy the thrill of turning road cars into snarling speed machines. The sound is an assault on the senses and it will deliver the most amazing thrill of speed you will have ever experienced. The game will also accommodate almost any driver of any experience and help you as often as you want it, or don’t want it to. It does a lot of things well, but rather expectantly it does things badly: the vinyls and cars are noticeably more limited than previous games, you cant mirror your vinyl’s, which really is proper stupid and annoying, the drifting borders to finely on “too hard to bother with”, there’s some odd decisions in the car line up, you cant upgrade or tune the best cars in the game (tier 4 cars), several cars are very “twitchy” and “slidey”, no matter how much you tune them and generally some really odd decisions and pointless thought processes that they really should have contemplated a lot more. As a whole though “Slightly Mad Studios” have done the most important parts very well and as a result, have made a really decent NFS game, but with a few cons that stop it being perfect. It will inevitably put off the hardcore fans, as there is no street racing or free roam aspects, but I certainly didn’t care, and I’m confident next years title will return to the streets, as that seems to be EA’s thinking at the moment, one on, one off etc. If you like cars and racing then this is a “must” for purchase at the moment. How does it stack up against the competition? There is not really a lot of competition to be honest, however, it easily better than any previous NFS game and much better than Midnight Club: LA, although they are much older games to be fair. Race Driver: Grid is really good, if slightly simplistic and short, and although Shift is very similar to Grid, it expands on a lot of areas that Grid doesn’t, I suppose, ultimately making it the best racing game available right now. At least until Gran Turismo 5 comes out, that is. CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 8.0

Very easy and simple menus throughout. Will accommodate all drivers of all skill levels and technical knowledge. Will underline the joys of the career racing driver. Couple of unclear menu choices and missing customising options though.

Is the story any good? – 0.0

There isn’t one, but it doesn’t need it.

How does it look? – 9.0

Won’t exactly pop your eye balls with visual brilliance (but what racing game can?) but tracks and cars look really good, with lots of details.

How does it sound? – 10.0

No music, but a full on attack on your ears, through roaring engines and screaming tyres, without any SFX ever sounding poor. Any car enthusiast will fully appreciate.

Is it good to play? – 8.5

Exciting and seriously exhilarating. The sensation of speed is mind blowing. Lots to upgrade and customise, but less than previous games, you can’t touch the really fast metal (tier 4 cars) and several cars will be impossible to drive and un-tuneable.

When will I get bored? – 9.0

It gives you far too much reward for your efforts, but if you want to win all races and get all trophies then there’s a hell of a lot of racing here for you. The fact that you won’t have to however, kinda takes away the sense of achievement.


Review created by C. Armstrong.