Bioshock Review 19/05/2009

It’s a fairly good game, but I really didn’t get it’s huge critical acclaim.

As far as I know, Bioshock is the first main stream game to break away from initially committing itself to one system, as it has now expanded from just the Xbox to the PS3 after several years as an Xbox only title. This is strange, especially considering how aggressive Microsoft’s marketing tactics are but I assume the reason is mostly cash related. Anyway, who cares, as I’m glad it has crossed over as this game has got such huge critical acclaim I was always curios about it, but not willing to buy a whole new system just for one game (I don’t think a game exists that’s worth that price, as you should just be more tactical when purchasing a system). First of all this is first person shooter (FPS,) yet again, but this definitely differentiates itself from the competition. The concept is incredibly unique as is the combat and use of weaponry, with lots of dense story line, superb voice acting and memorable moments in general. To draw a comparison, and to be informative, this game definitely doesn’t go head to head with shooters such as Resistance 2 or Call of Duty, as i’s simply not a similar game. It’s much more a survival horror/role playing game that’s played in first person, so don’t expect an explosive action title. It’s much more intelligent and subtle than that.

What’s good?

The story here is the most intriguing and impressive aspect. I doubt you have ever played through a story like this one before. You play “Jack” a passenger on an aircraft flying to a mystery destination. Your plane crash lands in the sea and you are the only survivor. You swim to what looks like a like a lighthouse but it turns out to be the entrance to a secret underwater city called “Rapture”. This city is built and inhabited by a community of scientists, artists, free thinkers and generally brilliant minds that wish to hide away from modern scaremongering, god fearing and politically correct society. Unhinged by such moral obligations the idea is to create a utopian community of brilliance and creativity. However, when you accidently arrive you find the city is a leaking decaying ruin, the only inhabitants are crazed genetic mutants hell bent on killing anything and everything and there are small girls wandering the hallways feasting on the dead with giant mutated companions that protect them (Big daddies). What follows is a journey through this incredible city where you must constantly fight for survival, find out what the hell happened here and ultimately escape with your life. However, you discover things are not that simple and Jack is not that unfamiliar with Rapture. There is so much more to it than that, as you learn of advanced stem cell research experimentation, a civil war/rebellion, a battle between Ryan and Fontaine, the cities two founders and 3 alternative endings, but I won’t spoil it. It’s such a ludicrously unique and amazing concept I am curious as to how it ever actually ended up being made. There’s so much detail in the plot and every possibility has been explored as to how it would actually work. As a result the game is plastered in depth and atmosphere and every single pixel is there to enhance the feeling of fear, dread and isolation. It’s not quite as scary as “Dead Space” for example, as the enemies are not as intimidating, but it will send shivers down your spine. It is very much like playing through a film plot.

The plasmids are good fun. The unique selling point of Bioshock’s combat is the use of plasmids. These are bottles of glowing fluid, scattered around rapture, that diddle with your DNA in order for you to gain a super power, a remnant of the genetic experiments in Rapture. These vary from firing electric bolts, setting people on fire, a sonic blast that sends your foe flying, to telekinesis which enables you to pick huge objects up and hurl them at people, or the people themselves, or throw their grenades back at them. They simply add to the games normal weapons, such as shot guns, pistols, machine guns etc and give you many many different ways of dealing with the different enemies. For example, if a group of enemies are standing in a pool of water send a blast of electricity into that pool and fry the lot of them. Is an annoying splicer lobbing grenades at you whilst standing in some gasoline? Wack out your incinerate plasmid and light the bastard up. Simple stuff, but very good fun. There are a myriad of normal guns such as pistols, shot guns and machine guns but all have different ammo, such as armour piercing rounds, electro shock buck shots and anti personnel rounds. All expand on the many options of taking out a foe and gives the often bloody and savage kills a lot of variety.

The enemy AI is very advanced. Your foes are seriously tough sods in Bioshock. They will always get themselves into the best positions to best use their weapon and will frequently try to outflank you when there are several of them. If you set one on fire, it will immediately run for water and throw itself into it to snuff out the flames. If you damage one quite badly it will run to a medical station to try and heal itself. Sometimes they will play dead and jump up just as you get near them and some of them pretend to be statues, same colour and texture, and jump out at you. They are not daft and you have to be seriously on the ball every time you encounter them.

As expected, there is lots of character customising to be done. Not only can you arm yourself with various plasmids and weapons, but each plasmid and weapon can be upgraded, ranging from increasing its strength, the speed of reloading, whether its effects harm you, or how many people are hurt by it in one go. All are very influential. You can also pick up and use various tonics and gene upgrades that will affect your ability to heal, hack items and increase your strength. There are 5 slots in all four of the upgrade aspects and all need to be bought in order to add the huge amount of varying upgrades. There are also U-invent machines that enable you to put together all the crap you find, such as rubber tubing or a brass casing (they all seem pointless but everything you can pick up has a use) in order to make bullets, explosives, and yet further tonics. There is a hell of a lot to fiddle with if you like customising your character and weapons.

The visuals are pretty good as well. The whole city is plastered in detail and every aspect of a rusting, leaking under water ruin is placed here. The water effects are particularly impressive. The whole city has been so very finely constructed and every aspect of an underwater ruin has been thought of. You will discover that there is a garden area for trees and therefore oxygen, a market for food, hospital, engineering deck and all sorts. Nothing has been missed and Rapture is easily one of the most interesting and brilliant in-game cities I have played in. There is also a visual treat every time you set someone on fire or shock them with electricity and there really aren’t any flaws or bad graphics anywhere. Lighting is noticeably atmospheric and I haven’t seen a game use it to such great effect. It’s not the most stunning game I have ever seen, “Resistance 2” is better for example, however, to be fair, it is quite considerably older than most of today’s modern visually flawless titles. As you probably know, this game was released for the Xbox several years ago and the PS3 version is simply a clone of this. Therefore, credit has to be given when it’s due.

What’s bad?

The computer hacking gets really tedious. Every time you get to a droid, safe, or machine of some kind that you want to control/infiltrate then you have to hack it. That sounds fine, but it actually involves playing a mini game. It’s basically a puzzle with a time limit where you have to swap around and reconnect lots of pipe work that slowly fills with blue fluid, so that the blue fluid is transported to a designated place at the edge of the puzzle. Yes, it is a stupid as it sounds and has absolutely bugger all to do with bypassing circuits and re-connecting wires. This may be more of a reflectance of my intelligence or IQ but I really struggled with them initially. It’s hard to perform these puzzles under pressure, and it’s easy to muck it up, especially on your first play through. To make it worse, they are not much fun and if you fail it takes a huge chunk of your health away, as it electrocutes you. They suck. Hacking in Fallout 3 managed to be challenging, puzzle orientated and relatively entertaining to perform, but this just irritates me. Even if you like them, there are far too many to do in the game, plus they get harder and harder, so they will inevitably end up winding you up regardless.

It’s too complicated. Firstly the menus suffer from this as there is too many of them and lots don’t seem to have a point. It’s not badly presented and you do get used to them but it’s really unclear what you have to press in order to view things. You can look at a map, your weapons and quests but the map is really the only one worth looking at. You can view weapons, ammo, plasmids and quests but they are not helpful at all as you cant even do anything to them, just view them. There are other menus when playing that allow you to view weapons, ammo and plasmids and in these you can actually select what you want to use. Why give the option twice, but further still make one of those options absolutely useless as you can’t even do anything with the information? It’s just arbitrary and confusing. Which brings me to my next point: The vending machines are too numerous in number and complexity as well and add to this menu issue. There’s vending machines for bloody everything. For example, you can’t do anything about your plasmids until you reach a special vending machine that enables you to swap gene upgrades and plasmids. It doesn’t sell you anything or do anything at all, except allow you fiddle with your various powers. Why? Surely your character would already have all applicable plasmids etc on him, so why do you need to go to a vending machine to do it? If you want to buy gene upgrades or plasmids you need to go to a different vending machine. Why would it have been so difficult to have the machine do both, or even better let your character have his own inventory to sort it out yourself? Further more, you can’t just use normal dollars in the plasmid machines, you need “Adam”, but you can’t get “Adam” from just anywhere you need to harvest it from the little girls, but you can’t harvest them from little girls until you take down the toughest foe in the game, their giant protectors, the “big daddies”. It really does seem overly complicated. I appreciate that the story is complex and all of the above is necessary in underlying that, but don’t think for a second you will be able to just pick up and play. It’s just not that simple. To make it even worse, each gun has three different types of bullets that generally explode, electrocute or set fire to something, in addition to the normal bullets. It’s relatively entertaining to stun your foe with electric buck shot but it simply delays shooting him normally and doesn’t really make a lot of difference. Normal bullets or nearly always the best way to kill something anyway, plus you have to reload every time you change the ammo which can take from a very long time, to a really frustratingly long time, depending on the gun. It’s not interminable, and you do get the hang of it all eventually, but I really do think they just went too far and you won’t start to get your head round it all until much later in the game. It’s basically not idiot proof, and, being an idiot, this is what frustrated me.

The combat is total chaos. Whenever you encounter enemies, especially several at once, it just becomes total anarchy. The majority of the time the only option is too sprint around all over the place firing wildly. The problem is the only way to avoid your enemy’s attacks is to jink and dodge, which is fine. But the enemy does the same thing, and they and you move so fast it’s really difficult to aim correctly and make the kill. You have plasmids and things that can alter this but most of the time you will simply be blasting away with a normal gun and it’s impossible to switch between guns and plasmids quickly enough to be effective, and reload them. Even if you are the fastest reacting most skilled gamer, there is always an automatic delay when switching weapons and plasmids and arming them. Plus, you are permanently having to calculate the eleventybillion different ways to kill an enemy, the different ways they attack you and the different effects the different bullets have on the different enemies, as some have no effect at all, whilst sprinting in every direction, to avoid getting sliced in three, and trying to aim for the head. You could argue that it’s more realistic this way, which it would be, and you’re not fighting other armed soldiers on a battle field, which you are not, but I don’t care. It does fit with the game and its story, but it just doesn’t flow smoothly enough and it’s too chaotic. I’m sure it adds to the atmosphere, realism and scare factor of the game but it just didn’t do it for me.

The harder difficulties are far too hard. Those of you that want a challenge will probably want to set this one on the hardest difficulty as I found it to be impossible. I played through on easy first, which I highly recommend as there is a lot to get your head round, and it was, unsurprisingly, fairly easy but still entertaining. So naturally I attempted the normal mode afterwards and the huge leap between the two difficulty settings is ludicrous. You take damage a hell of a lot more easily to the point where you can literally have your entire health bar wiped out with one hit from a particularly powerful enemy, and the enemies are far harder to kill. The chasm between the two difficulties is so vast I’m curious as if anyone at “2K studios” actually played it during development. The big daddies in particular are ridiculously difficult to take down, as they can absorb so much fire power, deal out a lot damage and often have attacks that disable and stun you so you can’t even dodge if you wanted, or fire your weapon. You can easily relinquish a full compliment of shot gun shells at point blank range, or around 8 grenades, and it is unlikely to kill him, bearing in mind this is on “normal” mode! The hard difficulty I found was even harder, to the point of not enjoying it, and I didn’t even attempt the new “Every bullet counts” difficulty, the only exclusive aspect of the game on the PS3. I’m confident I would not have liked it. They have complimented the difficulty in that every time you are killed you are instantly regenerated in these blue chambers scattered around that basically work as check points. You have all your weapons and everything as if you never died. The enemy you were fighting will be left in the last state you left him, i.e. damaged, so you can have another pop at him. The problem is that it kinda takes dying out of the equation as it’s so easy to regenerate and just press on, so you start to simply not care. Death basically has no repercussions here so you develop a very care free strategy when taking on a foe as it doesn’t really make any difference whether you die or not. This reduces the fear factor quite a lot. You can turn them off, where it turns into a normal “go back to your last save point” game, but why give the option? It just seems to flit from the far too easy, to the ridiculously impossible and never ventures into the middle ground.

You don’t get to keep any of your upgrades once it’s completed. This is not a surprise really as when you play through you start to realise that it simply wouldn’t work in the context of the story line. But I’m not convinced. You spend the 20 hours or so building, customizing and upgrading your character, plasmids and weapons, most of which you don’t really get to use until right at the end, and then they are gone. It’s just very unrewarding. Considering that so much expense has been spent on the customising aspect of the game it seems odd that they would choose to take it away from you. It makes the lasting appeal very short.

It’s not quite as action packed as you might think. Although this is undoubtedly a first person shooter (FPS) it’s not quite as manic as “Killzone 2” or “COD 4: Modern Warfare”. True, they are not really similar games and they both lack the complex story line of Bioshock, but it is much more on par with “Fallout 3” in terms of combat. There are a lot of genetically modified nutters to kill here but it is not as fast paced or action packed as you may expect from the previews or other reviews. Nothing is ruined, I just feel I should warn those expecting such traits as it does feel a little slow, especially on your first unfamiliar play through.

Conclusion:

This is a pretty good title, but I just can’t see why it’s got the huge critical acclaim that it has. Maybe it’s just me. It does have a fantastically unique story and weapons, lots of character customisation to perform, it looks really good and there is a lot of stuff to kill. However, I found it to go a bit overboard in its complexity, mainly the weaponry and vending machines, the combat is chaotic and random and once it’s been completed it becomes tiresome quite quickly. I would say that is worth playing if you like such genre’s however, my biggest problem with this game is the current competition. I have recently played “Fallout 3” and “Dead space” and both are not only very similar games, but they engaged me a lot more, were more fun to play, and ultimately gave me a more enjoyable experience. They are both better thought out, more engaging, prettier to behold and generally better experiences, particularly “Fallout 3”. The story lines were not quite as unique as Bioshock’s, but that doesn’t make a game. Is this a good game that’s worth your time and cash? Generally yeah. Are there better games out there that are worth more of your time and cash? Definitely. CA.

Summary:

Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 7.0

It’s generally presented well, but the complex menus, vending machines, plasmids and controls will take some getting used to. Don’t expect to simply “pick up and play”.

Is the story any good? – 10.0

Incredibly imaginative story. One of the most intriguing and interesting ever in a game.

How does it look? – 8.5

Not the best I have ever seen, but still more than competent. Excellent use of lighting, fire and water effects.

How does it sound? – 9.0

Very atmospheric. No music as such, but the insane shouts of the mad splicer’s, the deep groan of a big daddy, and the creeks and groans of the decaying structure around you all add to the experience.

Is it good to play? – 7.0

It’s interesting and different, but mad and chaotic. The guns and plasmids open a whole heap of methods in which to kill the enemy, but very tough to stay cool when under attack to use them effectively. Don’t expect smooth game-play or an easy time.

When will I get bored? – 6.0

It will take a long time to complete the first time round, but I tired of it quickly afterwards. Game-play is not enjoyable enough to keep you playing again and again, you don’t get to keep your upgrades and once it’s done, it’s done basically. Plus there’s nothing for it online.

OVERALL – 7.5

Review created by C. Armstrong.

Killzone 2 Review 10/05/2009


It’s excellent and flawless, but nothing unexpected.

At last, the much anticipated, PS3 only, Killzone 2. I say “much anticipated”, but it’s more of a “it took so unbelievably long to develop, that people long forgot anticipation for such a game and just generally forgot” kind of situation. Regardless, it is here and has it been worth the wait? Yes and no, but much more “yes” than “no”. It is yet another first person shooter (FPS) but this is a proper shooter, with guns, kills and explosions aplenty. It is weirdly the third instalment of the franchise, however there was a PSP production in between Killzone 1 and 2 called “Liberation”, so despite the deceptive title it is in fact the third. What happens is, way in the future a planet of warrior soldier types, called the Helghast (what a cool name) invaded an innocent little planet called “Vecta” that was looked after by the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA), a United nations (UN) of the future, but much more powerful. The ISA managed to fight them off (the story of Killzone 1) but now wishes to take control of the Helghast’s home planet, Helghan, to wipe out the threat at the source. Believing the Helghast have been hurt badly enough from the invasion of Vecta, the ISA invade Helghan hell bent on taking their inspiring commander, Scolar Visari, capture and subduing the helghast threat from the galaxy. You play regular ISA grunt soldier, Thomas “Sev” Sevchenko, as the invasion of Helghan commences. However, the Helghast are not nearly as badly damaged as the ISA believe and are definitely not going down without a fight. You are almost immediately thrust into the invasion of Helghan and it is a most epic struggle, hugely immersive and action packed.


What’s good?

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If you want to shoot guns, kill and blow stuff up then this is for you. Killzone is possibly the most accurate name for a game I have ever encountered, as that is exactly what it is – a kill zone. You have to kill, kill and kill again, and when you have killed everything that can be killed, make sure you kill them again, so that you know they have been killed, or you will be killed. The Helghast are numerous in number and heavily armed and they often pour out of bunkers and buildings firing away and you will always have to slaughter every single one of them. Even on the easiest difficulty setting every Helghast soldier will take a lot of bullets to put them down permanently, but it is a very satisfying process as they react to where they have been shot and blood splatters out of whatever part it is you have shot. You will fire with normal rifles, gun turrets, tanks and all sorts of rapid fire weapons as you race from set battle to set battle. You will very rarely have time to gather breath between fire fights as you are forced from fight to fight. It is truly action packed exciting stuff and if you’re a fan of any shooter, “Resistance: fall of man 2”, “COD4: Modern Warfare” or “Halo 3”, then this will be right up your street.



The cover system works very well. An interesting touch to Killzone 2 is the cover system which enables you to press and hold L2 when near a wall or something similar and your character will automatically snap to it. If you’re in open space you will simply kneel. This enables you to hide from gun fire, and pop up and shoot when you hit the fire button, or stay “popped up” by holding the left analog stick in the up direction. You can also do it on pillars or round corners and peek round and fire, using the analog stick in the appropriate direction. Plus you can literally do it to all surfaces just like a real battle field. It’s a bit weird at first but you get used to it quite quickly and start to wonder why the millions of shooters out there have never made such a system work as well before. You have to be careful though as you can take cover behind things that don’t really offer any cover and as a result you will get your ass shot off. You can’t really take this thing is a just a game as you have to anticipate all scenarios and contemplate all covering techniques, otherwise, as the AI is super intelligent, the Helghast will blow your head off. This is seriously real warfare so beware when poking your head from behind cover, especially on the harder difficulties.



The AI is very advanced and has scarily accurate human traits. The Helghast are not idiots. The AI of the enemy is more than ready and crafty to deal with anything you throw at them. They will always move from cover to cover, as you do, try to out-flank you, take up or move to the best positions for firing and generally act like real soldiers. The harder the difficulty the more crafty they become. They will scale ladders to avoid you if you set up a flank or strong hold, try and attack from behind and generally will act like proper soldiers. It is amazing and I have not ever seen it work as well. This makes it one of the most realistic shooters I have ever played, despite its setting/story, it is without doubt a proper fire fight and not very arcade like at all. Luckily, its not you vs. the Helghast as you have many ISA fellow troopers helping you out constantly. Plus they are just as devious as the enemy and will help you out as well as your human mate could. What makes it even better still as these two groups of soldiers will go at each other just like they would in real life, i.e., the Helghast don’t focus on you and are more than willing to duke it out with your AI pals and ignore you if you choose to cower somewhere until it’s over. You wont get very far if you do that though, as your fellow soldiers get hurt, so you have to heal them, and are not nearly as effective as you will be. This is one of the things that annoyed most about “Resistance: Fall of man 2”, a brilliant game, but the chimera would always attack you and only you, and ignore the hundred other troops shooting the crap out of them. It was just stupid. Further still, unlike Call of Duty games, the enemy will not re-spawn forever either as when they run out of reinforcements they are done for.



Despite the fictional story it’s incredibly realistic warfare. Another thing that struck me is that this is in no way an arcade style action game as it is way more advanced. On your first play through you will quickly learn that you will not ever be able to simply be “gun-ho” and run into combat screaming and firing. You will be killed instantly, even on the easiest difficulty, and I think it’s a good lesson to learn. A lot of other shooters lull you into a false sense of security that you can jump in guns blazing but this is real warfare. You will quickly learn to not ever reload unless behind cover, not to ever leave your team mates side, not to ever try and fight out of a situation if you’re covered from an elevated position and all sorts of realistic proper warfare tactics that would serve you well in any reality battle.



The graphics and sound are absolutely top notch. Are these the best visuals I have ever seen? Yes and no (more on the “no” in a bit) but they are definitely up there with the best. It’s the character detail and animation that stands out the best as it is practically flawless. Every one of your soldier pals has his own distinguishable facial features that contort and move incredibly realistically, as do the Helghast soldiers, as do all the vehicles. Every level you traverse is brimming with details and I did not experience one bit of lag or slow down. It pauses very briefly occasionally to load but it’s so short you really don’t notice. You can even see your shadow cast on to walls and floors when sun light hits you from time to time, and look in mirrors. It’s crazy. You really can’t fault them and they are some of the best I have ever seen. Added to this you have excellent background music and sound effects. The orchestral back ground music will increase and decrease in intensity depending on your current fighting situation and really adds to the drama. All voice acting is excellent, particularly Scolar Visari who is voiced by the brilliant Brian Cox, if at times they do say something stupid (if your fellow drop ship is blasted out the sky by a missile would you really feel the need to shout out “this is fucked up!”? I’m not so sure). The Helghast will shout things like “die invaders” and “burn Vectan scum” while shooting at you and have panicked shouts when you lob grenades in their vicinity. Its all very well thought out and detailed.


What’s bad?

The thing that stuck out the most for me was, although it’s technically brilliant, it does absolutely nothing new what so ever. There are no crazy weapons, the enemy are just people, the story is pretty basic and the cover system, despite it working very well, has been done before. If you have played any shooter you will have fired all these weapons, driven these vehicles and fought these fire fights before. It is a little disappointing and not as engaging as other titles. It depends what you are anticipating but I feel I should warn anyone expecting any unique combat traits, as it really does not have anything.



Despite the fantastic graphics it never really challenges itself, visually. Don’t get me wrong the graphics are very good, but you never view anything spectacular enough to be truly appreciative of them. You spend almost the whole game mooching around industrial looking buildings, alley ways and desert and you don’t really get to see anything that blows the mind, as you would expect. In “Resistance: fall of man 2” you view giant fleets of space ships, monsters the size of building’s, and several scenarios that will make your jaw drop, but this just doesn’t have anything like that. Maybe that’s why they are so good as there is nothing particularly challenging for the processor. The cut scenes are good and there a few small scenarios in the game that are awesome, such as a level on the ISA flag ship, the “New Star” towards the end, but, despite the obvious brilliance of the visuals, there is nothing to see here that will blow your mind. It’s a case of what is there is excellent, but there really is not that much there.



You can only carry one gun at a time and they take an eternity to reload. You can only have one main weapon and a pistol at any time and you cant plonk your pistol down to pick up something else, so you’re sort of stuck with it. It sucks a bit because there are a lot of situations where you need a rocket launcher but you really don’t want it as your main weapon. It would have been nice to have two main weapons and a pistol so you could have a main rifle/machine gun of some kind with maybe a shot gun or sniper rifle as back up, with the pistol for emergencies. I’m pretty sure a soldier could handle that in reality couldn’t he? Nothing is ruined except you regularly get stuck in situations where you are stuck reloading and have blown all your pistol bullets, as it is not very effective, and you will inevitably be killed. You have a knife that is possibly the most useless weapon I have ever encountered in a game. It will often take several slashes and stabs to bring down the enemy and there is not a single stealth aspect or level in this game. Plus considering you have a pistol and the ability to smack them with the butt of your gun which are far quicker to use, it does seem a little pointless. The flame thrower is also rubbish in terms of killing Helghast and it looks awful as well. I’ve seen flame effects much much better than this and in much older games as well. It’s surprisingly terrible. Furthermore, it takes so unbelievably long to reload some of the weapons, especially the shot gun. You will have to learn that you really can’t ever make a break for cover, or do anything really if it requires you to reload half way through. To be fare though, that is fairly realistic and I doubt anyone could reload as quickly as they do in some shooters I have played.



Your AI pals can get you into a lot of trouble. Despite how necessary and effective your fellow soldiers are in Killzone 2, they can often get you into stupid situations that result in your death. When your comrade takes too many bullets he gets injured and drops to the floor whilst wearily calling for help. This is where you have to run up to him and press circle which blasts the poor bugger with some sort of electrical bolt that revives him. This sucks as they often don’t get hurt unless they try some ludicrous kamikaze style sprint towards the enemy whilst shooting wildly. The Helghast are prepared for this and gun him down leaving you to run into the same baptism of fire and try and revive him before you’re turned into a human colander. As it does not really take too many bullets to put you down you will almost certainly die trying to do this. It doesn’t happen frequently but often enough, especially in the later levels, that it becomes annoying. You can just leave them there to die but you often require their help, so it is not advised. Plus, when you reach a check point or load screen, and you have left them to perish, they suddenly spring back up and are absolutely fine and ready to integrate into the cut scene. Nothing is ruined, but it’s bizarre and slightly pointless.



Finally, it is really quite hard. Even on the easiest difficulty there are going to be lots of situations that you will need to have a several goes at, particularly the final battle where you are ridiculously outnumbered for a very long time. You are stuck in one big hall fighting off a constant supply of Helghast for which seems like forever. As an example to emphasise this, you receive a trophy for completing it in less than 20 minutes! For one constant fire fight it’s a hell of a long time. The levels towards the end, when you storm the palace of Scolar Visari, are proper hard as they are huge and Helghast are absolutely everywhere, which makes it really difficult to find cover and not be outflanked. Then there is large heavily armed flying robots called ATAC’s that are really best to be avoided. You don’t encounter many of them but they are lightning fast and will constantly blast you with machine gun rounds and missiles. There is a stage where you have to fight one single handed and as it is so hard I really think the ATAC could have at least one or two weaknesses to give you a bit of an edge. It doesn’t though, but maybe that just makes it more satisfying when you do blow it up. ATAC’s are nothing though when compared to the end of game boss, one of the Helghast commanders, Colonel Radec. He is a seriously tough bastard, with deadly accuracy, super toughness, blistering speed and “Predator” like stealth. He is a most formidable foe and you will need lots of goes at him before your done. You never really encounter a scenario that’s impossible, despite how it may seem, but you will need to have a lot of attempts at some stages even on easy. Be warned.


Conclusion:

With games that take so long to produce, such as this, you do often wonder whether it’s worth it. But with Killzone 2 it makes sense as it really is pretty flawless, showing full detailed development and production. The fighting is intense and action packed, the enemy are heavily armed and highly intelligent, the visuals are excellent, as is the sound, and it really will teach the art of soldiery properly. If you don’t treat it as real warfare you will be killed a lot. There really isn’t anything new or unexpected here, but honestly, the only negatives pointed out are really just “nitpicking” so I wouldn’t take them too seriously. This is because overall it is a most excellent game and anyone who is a fan of shooters or action games would be wise to spend their cash on this. Personally, I reckon “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” threw the gauntlet down for all shooters last year and I have not seen a game top it yet. Killzone 2 comes seriously close; however, I reckon most have COD4’d them selves to death by now leaving Killzone 2 to take the crown as today’s king of the shooters. Buy it PS3 owners; it is easily the best shooter out right now. CA.


Summary:


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

Everything is easy access here and simple to use. The controls are not the best ever but you will quickly adapt.


Is the story any good? – 8.5

The story is not the most engaging ever either but there are still a lot of heart string tugging and dramatic scenes.


How does it look? – 9.5

They are almost perfect, some of the best ever seen, despite not challenging themselves to hard.


How does it sound? – 9.0

It cannot be faulted. Excellent voice acting, especially Brian Cox, with dramatic background music and sound effect’s of battle.


Is it good to play? – 8.5

It’s fast paced, action packed, realistic and very entertaining. Cover system works very well. It can get a little repetitive after many weeks of play and it is quite tough, however.


When will I get bored? – 8.0

You will definitely have several goes at this, as the better you get at fighting the more you will like it. Lots of online stuff for those who like it. As I said, it gets repetitive though.


OVERALL – 9.0

Review created by C. Armstrong.

Fallout 3 Review 06/04/2009

I’m not a fan of RPG’s, but I absolutely loved this.

I must straight away state that I generally do not like role playing games (RPG), and normally avoid them. They normally involve wizards, goblins etc, talking to people a lot and the gameplay is normally slow and more tactical. There is nothing wrong with this of course it’s just not my sort of thing. I’m a fairly shallow gamer, preferential towards flashy graphics big explosions etc, so I much prefer games like Resistance 2 and Dead Space, action packed and fast paced. However, I had heard such good things about Fallout 3 (game of the year 2008) I decided to try and approach it from a neutral perspective and with an open mind. Despite the way this game looks (first or third person shooter) it is definitely an RPG. Some people have said it is a hybrid of a FPS and an RPG but it really leans a lot more towards the RPG side of things. Its set several hundred years into the future and the earth has been ravaged by a nuclear war between the USA and China. You were born and raised in a bunker underground, called vault 101, protected from the radiation outside until one day, when you are around 19 years of age, your father flees the bunker, for unknown reasons. The inhabitants of vault 101 turn against you (long story), you are forced to escape as well and search for your father and some answers in the nuclear devastated waste lands of Washington DC. What follows is an epic quest across the largest and most detailed in game world I have ever seen (literally) where mutants, raiders and giant radioactive bugs are constantly trying to kill you whenever you venture into the unknown. Although it took me time to get used to it, and it is a bit slow initially, you start to really get involved. No matter what your gaming back ground is or what your preferences are, you can not help but be impressed with this one.

What’s good?

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The best and most impressive thing about this game is the sheer size of it. If people remember the old “Grand theft Auto: San Andreas” game, which allowed you the free roam of an entire state, it’s on a par with that. It is (apparently) 16 square miles of waste land to venture in and you can literally go anywhere, within reason. But it’s actually much bigger than that as you can go in almost every building, through a huge labyrinth of subway systems within the city and many underground bunkers and vaults. It’s so unbelievably big I don’t know how they managed to cram it on to one disc. Bethesda Studios have squeezed on most of central Washington DC, with all the famous landmarks which are ripped and torn from the nuclear holocaust, and an even larger wilderness that contains many towns and settlements. To walk across it in its entirety takes hours, and to discover all elements of the map will take many months of solid gameplay.

With huge size comes a huge amount to do. You can spend months of your life in this post apocalyptic world. The main quest to find your father would be enough in itself but there are hundreds of side missions, quests and goals to obtain on the way. There are many town’s, settlements and gatherings scattered around the land, all with unique communities and hundreds of different people to trade and talk with. Each town has its own problems and enemies, which incorporates their own missions. For example, Rivet town is based on an old gigantic air craft carrier. Megaton is a shanty town built around an unexploded nuclear bomb and there is Underworld which is based in an old museum and is entirely inhabited by mutants called Gouls, a remnant of the nuclear apocalypse. These are but a few. In every town there are at least half a dozen people who will ask favours of you which will in turn start further quests. The person who completes everything in this game does, without doubt, have too much time on their hands.

Don’t think for a second that all this vastness will mean they have scrimped on the visual details, as they have not. The graphics are very impressive. They are probably marginally not quite as good as “Dead Space” for example, a particularly pretty game, but Fallout is about ten times the size, and the visuals are definitely not ten times worse. You won’t find a single bland texture, dodgy surface or crap visual anywhere. Each collapsed building and nuclear war torn area is brimming with details on every surface of its broken concrete and twisted metal and on every character you meet. If you blow a mutants head off (which you will do) you can see the blood spurt out of the decapitated limb along with any jutting bone and entrails. Each famous landmark, such as the Washington monument looks like it was genuinely placed in a nuclear blast and Bethesda Studios have not missed a beat. The days cycle through each other as well as it turns night and day (dawn being particularly impressively simulated), although weather has been left out. Considering what has been crammed into this game I can easily ignore such missing details. The movement of your character when in third person is a bit rubbish to be honest, but you are much better off playing in first person regardless, so who cares. When you first step out of vault 101 you will be taken aback.

There is a large amount of freedom of choice. Although freedom of choice in a game is not exactly entirely unique it works very well here. You are pretty much free to play the game as you like either as the nicest chap in the wastes who tries to help everyone or the biggest bastard ever who tries to screw everyone over, or both, or neither. You really don’t even have to bother doing missions. You will need to choose your words carefully and think through your actions as the interesting “Karma system” in place will punish or reward you depending on your choices. Every time you speak to someone you generally have several options in what you can say, normally from being nice to being aggressive. However, sometimes you need to be aggressive or you will not extract the information you need so it is often a tough call. Contradictory to that though, you often need to be nice to gain favour with someone or they will try and kill you. It’s all about choice and making what you want of the game and your character.

There is a lot of customisation and personalisation to do. You can customise the crap out of your character. You can choose your sex, facial feature arrangement, facial hair, hair, eye colour, your armour/clothes, everything. Everything you do in the game adds to your experience. Every thing you kill and every mission you complete adds points in order for you to evolve your character’s skills and abilities. You can make him/her linguistically suave, very strong, a good shot, a good trader, a lock picking expert, a computer hacking genius, improve your healing ability, the list goes on. Plus, there are 20 levels of this each with it’s own set of “perks”. Everything you pick up or find can be sold or traded for money or ammunition, so never leave any stone unturned etc. There’s also a million “chems” (drugs) to take that will increase your strength, action points, health, hit points, damage resistance, radiation levels, accuracy, everything. The depth and detail of choice here is immense.

V.A.T.S is one of the coolest most satisfying things I have ever used. The Vault Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) is one of Fallout’s unique combat systems. Whenever you encounter an enemy you have the choice of, simply by the push of a button, to enter this mode which allows you to pick an enemy and then choose what part of him you want to shoot at. If you shoot a leg, it will disable the enemy, shoot an arm and he may drop his weapon and if you choose his head you will likely blow it off resulting in a “critical strike” (I’m sure you can guess what that means). You have an unlimited time to choose these targets, once in VATS mode, but it is restricted by your action points (AP’s) displayed in the lower left hand side of the screen. You only have a certain amount, so you can’t use it indefinitely, and they slowly build up over time. You can also take various chemical concoctions that will increase their regenerative ability temporarily. Once your chosen target is selected it will zoom out and show you a slow motion replay of what the kill looks like. Although its not quite as effective as you might think (more on that in a bit) I have come across few more satisfying experiences than watching, in slow motion, your character blow a mutants head clean off with a double barrelled shot gun, blood and limbs splattering everywhere. It is so very rewarding, in a slightly disturbed way, and I have yet to get tired of it. It is often the best method of killing and you should use it a lot.

There is a lot of fire power here. The guns in Fallout are nothing new at all, however there is so many different types and each one can be damaged and repaired which will improve their effectiveness, which is an interesting touch (I assume RPG fans are familiar with such ideas?). Although I loved the mini gun the highlight was a rocket launcher called the “fat man”. Despite looking like a piece of junk this thing launches “mini nukes”, which are exactly as the name states. They are small nuclear missiles that vaporise anything in a glorious, yet miniature, mushroom cloud. Its particularly entertaining to launch one through VATS and watch it in slow motion, as your target feebly tries to leg it, blow everything sky high. You need to be fairly careful when using it as it wont necessarily obliterate all targets but it should give you many hours of miniature nuclear strike fun. The power armour is also particularly cool and very effective.

What’s bad?

Glitches are the bane of this game. I had read that it was more notorious for glitches than many other games but, typically, I thought “how bad can it be?” Unfortunately it is quite bad, although I hear that is a result of having a PS3, and Xbox does not suffer nearly as badly (for gods sake Sony! – sort it out!). Glitches happen all the time in gaming. A game can sometimes crash or freeze and a simple restart will sort any problems. I encountered many in this though that almost ruined it for me. It crashed and froze at several points, which started to get irritating, characters will freeze and re-appear by magic somewhere else, doors will open once but then refuse to open again, random things will fall from the sky, like empty tins for example and the list goes on. The worst aspects though are when normal parts of the game simply don’t function. The best example was after about 9 hours of play, during a main story mission, I had managed to gain a satellite dish and place it on top of the Washington monument to transmit a radio station for a guy called “Three dog” (long story). All I had to do to complete the mission was go back to the building he was in and speak to him. But for some reason it said I could not go in the building, as I had done a million times before, as the door was locked and I needed a key. Why did I now need a key? The intercom simply states that the door is open and that I should “stop bugging him” (mother f****r!). I spent hours searching for any key but to no avail. I spent hours trying to find a back door, which I did, but it was out of reach on a ledge, which is worse than not actually finding it at all. I was fuming. I tried doing some side quests but the whole time I was thinking “what’s the point if I can’t do the main story?” I tried starting again from previous saved games but it was the same situation. There was no way I was ever getting in that building. After losing about a day, I switched it off. Upon some internet research I found that this was a common glitch and the whole game had to be restarted. As nothing had worked I deemed this to be the only option. However I was not sure whether I should bother as I had lost so much time already. What if it did the same thing again if I restarted the whole thing? I would have doubled the amount of time wasted. After a couple of days I decided to persist and start again, only do things much quicker and, low and behold, at the same point in the same mission it worked fine. In this day and age of gaming this is inexcusable and should not happen. If the same thing had happened for a second time I would have given up and never played it, which, from a marketing perspective, is not good. Maybe I have a particularly bad/bugged copy of the game, but, as I found out, it is not uncommon amongst Fallout players.

V.A.T.S. are not as affective as you would think. Although I love using VATS, and watching your character blow mutants and giant bugs to pieces, it is really only effective at close to point blank range. Any further and you will more than likely miss completely. The problem is that you are not really fully in control of whether you make direct hits on your enemy or not. As you pick which part of the body you want to shoot at it displays a percentage number next to it which indicates how likely you are to actually hit. Obviously the bigger the body part, like the torso, the more likely you are to hit it. If it’s not anywhere near around the 80% mark then I would not bother, as you will more than likely miss. This also throws the percentages into question. Surely at 50% it should be 50/50 whether you hit or not, but you will miss every time I assure you. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but it does seem to encourage VATS to only be used for particularly close up messy kills. VATS also encourages you to target limbs for the best killing effects but it is so inconsistent. I have unloaded many double barrelled shot guns at point blank range in the enemies face and he is fine and continues to attack you. I have also shot pistols from a mile away, at an enemies’ leg, and it hits him straight between the eyes for a “critical strike”. The inconsistency does take a lot of the skill out of the game and can often involve luck more than anything else. Although you could argue that’s what it would be like in reality, but I prefer to rely on my skill. If I miss it doesn’t bother me as much if I know it’s my fault, if you see what I mean. It does not ruin the whole game but it is disappointing.

This brings me on to shooting in general in Fallout. Aiming and shooting is very difficult, not in the sense that it’s hard to do, but it’s hard to be effective at. Just because the cross hairs of your rifle are lined up at an enemies head does not mean you will incur a head shot, as unless you’re close, aiming and not moving you will almost definitely miss, whether you like it or not. If you are very close, aiming and not moving then the enemy will shoot you way before you even knew he was there, or started to aim, or even had your gun drawn! Plus, trust me when I say, the enemy is a much much better shot than you. Your gun’s accuracy and damage dealt are affected by its condition and your skill abilities but generally you will not have full accuracy skill and not a hint of damage on your weapon until the closing stages of the game, so you basically miss a hell of a lot. It is frustrating. You can take cover behind things but you have to jump out to shoot at enemies, who will inevitably shoot back, and it nearly always comes down to who has the more powerful weapon or the best armour, not skill. You can jink, duck and dive, but, as I said, you will definitely miss if you shoot whilst doing this. Plus, the enemy is, again, much more accurate. It’s not terrible, it’s just so simplistic and out of date by today’s standards. I know the game is going for realism, which is fine but I just found it annoying, especially as I am doing everything right and it is still not having the desired effect. I keep telling myself that it’s not a FPS as such and that I shouldn’t expect such traits, but there is far too much shooting and killing to be done, in first person, to let this fact go.

You can get impossibly lost. One downfall of the games huge size is it is very easy to get completely lost and lose all sense of direction. This is not much of a problem in the waste land areas as you always have your trusty “Pip boy” on your arm which has a built in map. However, when you enter the dense ruined urban areas of Washington DC, which takes up about a third of the map, or a vault or a mine, you have to venture underground where it becomes tricky. The central city is impossible to traverse on the surface as there are too many knocked down and crumbled buildings, as you would expect after a nuclear holocaust, and as a result you are forced to take to the subway systems beneath the city. These are really cool to look at, as they are eerie, dark and full of wrecked subway trains, but are an impossible labyrinth of doors and tunnels. You cannot work out where you are going down here as your map does not work, because your underground, and the game does not give you any help or hints at all. It’s the same situation when you search bunkers and mines as well. It is really exploration and chance to get to your desired areas and I was stuck trawling through the subway system for days. You really do have to pay attention and have a good memory. Maybe the mapping system could have included a subway map (you can acquire one but it is useless)? That could possibly make it to easy, however its better than being totally lost.

The weapons are a bit of a let down. This is a minor gripe really, however I feel I should warn anyone who expects an impressive roster of futuristic weapons. Despite the weird, but very cool, 1950’s feel and style of the game, this is set hundreds of years into the future. So why has it filled the game with perfectly normal rifles, pistols, shot guns etc? Surely there must have been some crazy new fangled ultimate weapon of destruction invented at some point in the distant future, but no? You have the “Fat man” which is awesome but that really is as about as inventive as it gets, and that is just a rocket launcher really. There are also laser pistols/rifles, laser Gatling guns and plasma rifles, but again they are not in any way anything new, and not really vastly different to the games normal pistols, rifles and mini guns. I find the bog standard “Chinese Assualt Rifle” (basically an AK47) is the most effective gun in the game. There is an alien blaster to be found somewhere in the wastes (I advise you seek it out near a crashed alien space ship) but the ammo is incredibly limited. Plus it’s still nothing new! Play any game in the “Resistance: Fall of man” franchise and you will see what inventive weapons are. Basically, if you have played any shooter, action game or any game with guns, you have used all of these before. Yes, I know it’s not a FPS but that should not stem any inventiveness or fun.

It does get rather repetitive. Despite the huge waste land to explore and mass load of tasks and quests it really always boils down to the same simple thing. Travel across the waste land for hours, killing raiders/mutants/bugs along the way, find something or someone, take it, kill them or talk to them and return to the point of origin. It really does not differentiate from that too much. The story, characters, enemies and the detailed landscape do postpone the monotony for the majority of the time but as you draw the game to a close, have done almost every side mission, you do start to grow weary of the repetition, in particular the travelling.

Finally (a warning to all!), when you have completed the main story quest, it’s all over. This I did not see coming. The first half of the main quest takes a considerable amount of time, as there is lots of exploring and shooting to be done. But then it races through the rest far too quickly and before you know it you have finished. “Oh well” you may think, “I have all these awesome weapons and powerful armour, it will make doing further exploration and side quests all the more fun”. Wrong! The game will finish, whether you like it or not. Although this ties in with the story, (spoiler alert) that unlimited pure water can be produced which kills off the mutants and re-unites humanity, it would not be instantaneous. I was very disappointed as I had only accumulated some particularly wicked weapons at this point and had barley used them. Basically don’t do the last mission until you are completely satisfied with your gaming experience as afterwards it will all be over. As I felt un-nourished by the sudden ending I did it again and was a total bastard to everyone, which also changes the outcome of the game (very interesting).

Conclusion:

If you’re looking for a “balls out” action game then this is not for you. Again, despite the way it looks it is most definitely not that sort of game. There is a lot of shooting and killing to be done, but it won’t feel like “Killzone 2” I’m afraid. I personally reckon they should have made it a better FPS as, like I said, there is a hell of a lot of bullets to fire. More importantly though, nothing is ruined and you will quickly adapt to it. Fortunately, Fallout 3 offers so much more and despite it being more flawed than other titles out right now it also manages to be more loveable, immersive and engaging. If you fancy exploring an incredibly detailed, post nuclear devastated, mutant infested Washington DC, then this is for you. There is so much to do here, the main story is dramatic and engaging, there’s hundreds of other side stories/quests, so much detail in the huge map and on every person you meet, so many towns to discover, things to customise, weapons to fire and so much freedom of choice in order to choose how to do it. Plus, anyone who likes shooting games will love the VATS. It is as a whole, a most impressive title and well worth playing no matter what your gaming preferences. It is all things to all gamers and it is the best game I have played on the PS3 yet. If you haven’t played this yet, do it now, otherwise you’re a prat. Just prey that your version of the game is not as full of glitches as mine was. CA.

Summary:

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

Your “pip boy” manages to cram in all the information you need and make it so easy to use. Will be a little overwhelming at first though. Very well thought out, you don’t need to be an RPG fan to get the hang of it and the controls will offer you nothing unexpected or unpleasant.

Is the story any good? – 9.0

Main story is very engaging, intriguing and can alter depending on your in game decisions. All side quests range from tragic to hilarious, but never dull.

How does it look? – 8.0

Considering the games size they are most impressive. There is a lot of detail. Character movement animations look a bit rubbish though.

How does it sound? – 9.0

No music as such but all voices and eerily quiet wasteland sound effects are very atmospheric.

Is it good to play? – 8.0

VATS are awesome but combat is a bit “old-school”. It’s not bad, but not brilliant either. Character interation and general exploring is excellent and addictive. Very very immersive. Glitches for PS3 version may ruin things slightly.

When will I get bored? – 9.5

Many seasons will pass before you get bored of this one. Huge amounts to do while never getting boring. Excellent for those who like to get their money’s worth.

OVERALL – 9.5

Review created by C. Armstrong.

Street Fighter IV Review 09/03/2009


Good fun, addictive but very tough for beginners.

I have never ever played any of the street fighter games. Although I am very much aware of the impact no.2 had on the gaming world, I never had the necessary system to play it/never really got into it etc. So Street Fighter IV is completely new to me, and this is why I had issues with it. The problem is that I was raised on Tekken, and Dragonball Z Budokai so the whole fighting process and button configuration was alien to me for street fighter. It took a considerable amount of long painful infuriating hours to get used to the controls, and I had to utilise several online sources for help and guidance, but after much perseverance things started to “click” and you very slowly start to see what all the hype is about. There’s a lot of disappointment here but if your punching thumbs are itching for a good brawl then it is very much worth your cash.


What’s good?

Back To Top

Well luckily the fighting is the best thing about this game. If you want anything more than a one on one fighter then you will be let down here, as that is all its about. There’s a variety of different stuff for you to do, like story, versus, time trial, survivor and online modes, but they are all basically a simple one on one fight, and nothing new to anyone who’s played fighting games before. But that doesn’t matter as Capcom have solely focussed on the said genre, and you can tell. It is very difficult to get the hang of it if you have not played a previous street fighter game but when you start to nail combos and special moves more consistently it is a very satisfying process. In combat, you have pretty standard light, medium and heavy punches/kicks, throws, a “super” bar and “revenge” meter that represent your ability to power up normal moves, perform super moves or the most powerful ultra combos. You fill up the super meter by constantly pounding your opponent and fill up the revenge meter by getting your ass kicked. These add brilliant balance to the fighting and generally allow a battle to be 50/50 for most of the time. All special and ultra moves look awesome, are very satisfying and never get dull. There is also a counter move, called a focus attack, and a fairly unlimited ability to perform combos. Combos are brilliant here and not a set selection of moves, ala Tekken. The genius is that there is really no pre-defined method of stringing moves together which leaves you pretty open as to which moves can and cannot combine together. It’s very good at leaving you open to develop your own technique and combinations with your chosen character, which is excellent. What will work for one character will not work for others, so master your chosen fighter. There is real depth and focus here, and, like I said, when you get it right, when you nail your first special move etc it is an incredibly satisfying process. There’s a definite feeling of weight and impact when your fist contacts your opponent, which makes pounding the crap out of someone very satisfying. The lasting appeal of this is very high as there are further techniques that develop you into an expert, such as “focus attack dash cancelling” and “buffering”. When these are mastered there will be very few out there who will beat you.



The visuals are very impressive. To be fare though, they should be as it is in spirit a typical 2D fighter, on a system as powerful as the PS3. Each character is so very finely inked as you can see each finger and each bulging muscle on all of them. The character “Rufus” is particularly odd and well animated as he has a huge stomach that wobbles and ripples as he moves. It’s stupid but very well done. The animation is incredibly smooth and I have yet to experience any glitches. Your chosen fighter will contort his/her facial features when dealing out pain or receiving it. The backgrounds are a bit lame and I’m not convinced to the point of a lot of them (why would you be fighting in a brewery or laundry house?) but luckily you really don’t have time to notice the backgrounds. Overall, it is a very good looking game.



The legendary fighters are all back. The names that made the franchise famous in the first place, Chun Li, Ryu, Ken, E. Honda etc are all available, most of them from the start as well. There are some unlockable new characters but not many. Again though, this was to be expected especially as they had created all of these guys about 20 years ago and if they had altered/fiddled with any of the normal line up it would get badly received by fans. The point is however, fans won’t be disappointed, and new comers will be presented with lots of variety. Each character has their own signature moves, feels and fights differently. For example, Ken feels light on his feet and fast whereas Zangief feels heavy, slow and solid. Also, for example, someone like Sagat can pepper you with fireballs and other attacks whereas as Guile is a more defensive character, whos moves are based on tactics/reacting to the other opponent’s attacks. You reap the rewards for developing expertise with a specific character, and it encourages you to stick with and master them.


What’s bad?

The worst thing is that, if you are new to Street Fighter, the game is absolutely no help at all. If you’re a newcomer you can learn to play the game in the training arena, but it doesn’t really teach you how to do much. When first presented with the moves they do seem incomprehensible and it totally relies on symbols rather than words to display the skills. When displayed on a screen the symbols used don’t make a lot of sense, plus the displays are far too small so it’s too hard to ascertain in which direction your analog stick has to move. As an example of the move lists being crap, to perform Ken’s ultra move it says you have to move the analog stick from facing down, diagonally upwards to towards your opponent, twice, and press a punch button three times. When I first got the game I had to research on the internet how to do this as it did not work. It turns out that when three punch symbols are displayed it means you have to hit the “all” button (L1 and L2) for the punch or kick and that triggers the ultra move. It seems fairly obvious when it’s been explained to you but it is incredibly unobvious when sourcing information purely from the game or manual, especially if you are unfamiliar. I assure you, on that site alone I was not the only person asking that question. How hard would it have been for Capcom to explain that in a small caption somewhere? It so easily could have just said L1 or “all punch button” instead of fooling you with 3 punch symbols! I know they have to be universal linguistically to cut down on production costs, which explains the symbols, but they really are not good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting to be spoon fed but this is almost like Capcom thought “sod the newcomers” or “if you don’t know don’t try” when developing this. I still cant figure out some of the moves such as Sagats “fake kick”. It simply has the hard kick symbol with an arrow next to it pointing up and down. What the hell does that mean? I can assure you that using hard kick in any form of up or down achieves nothing. I have (again!!!!) researched on the internet and a few guys have explained how to do it, but I am yet to succeed. I have mastered practically everything else in the game so I’m not totally sure it’s entirely down to my incompetence. If you are new to Street Fighter, learning to play really really sucks.



This brings me to my next point about the challenge mode that teaches you move’s. It teaches you, precisely, sod all. There is a mode, in challenge mode, which enables you to enter the training arena and prompts you to perform various moves and combos, depending on the character, to make sure you have got them right and teach you possible combat techniques. Despite what a lot of reviewers have said, I don’t see how this helps you in anyway. Instead of teaching/progressing your skills it simply tells you if you have correctly done the move or combo or not. If you are unaware of how to do it in the first place this is not, and never could possibly be, any help whatsoever. It’s like a teacher at primary/elementary school not teaching you how to perform multiplication, then demanding an answer to “3 x 4”. You can’t possibly know the answer as you have not been taught anything and even if you get it right its still guess work. It’s all very well saying “medium punch” then “hard punch” but simply performing these two moves together will not allow you to progress, as if your timing is off, even by a millisecond, then it won’t work. As the timing of performing moves is a mystery/not explained anywhere it becomes an almost impossible game of guess work that infuriates and disappoints. Why would have it been difficult to give you an option of the computer performing them as an example so you can see how it is supposed to be done and get your timing right? Tekken managed it. Maybe I am just too impatient, but at least if the option were there it would negate a lot of the frustration for such players.



The learning curve is massive. Apparently if you have played the previous street fighter games then this should be a piece of cake. I have not and initially I found it interminable. All the professional reviewers have stated that if you’re a newcomer to the franchise you can simply pick up and play, but its absolute rubbish. If you are a newcomer you are going to struggle first of all, a lot. The only way you can really improve is by fighting, not training, which means you will basically get your ass handed to you, even on the easiest difficulty, pretty much constantly for hours and hours, before things start to sink in. Plus the chances are you won’t have figured out any of the games cool moves either by that point, let alone perform them under pressure, and it draws a seriously fine line between being satisfying when you eventually master it and being just too annoying to bother with. I would recommend you stick at it, however, I would totally understand if gamers didn’t bother. It’s the sort of 50/50 Capcom should have avoided. I’ve been playing for over a month now and I am only just starting to beet opponents on the “medium” setting. How degrading is that? I really don’t see how hard it could have been for the game to give you a bit more aid.



HINT: If you are a newcomer and are interested in this game, and you should be, then I highly recommend you simply start off with either Ken or Ryu (I prefer Ken but Ryu is a better character). Put in some hours in the training room and learn to master their relatively simple moves. Don’t attempt at all to try other characters until you are consistently kicking butt with either of these two, as their moves form the most basic functions and timing for all other characters. Most others, Like M.Bison, are way more complicated. When you become competent with these two then you are ready to delve into everyone else.



The music is really annoying. The sound effects are really good and I even don’t mind the announcer, but the background music, in particular the intro song, is quite bad and irritating. It’s not of a poor quality it’s just awful, and sounds like it was produced by a middle aged balding guy on a Yamaha keyboard. Listen to the intro song and you will understand. It is truly diabolical. To cap it off you can’t turn it off; you can only turn it down to quite a low volume.



The Story aspect of the game is rubbish. The beginning and end of each characters story is played out in a short anime scene before you begin and after you defeat Seth (the big bad guy). These look quite nice and are very “anime-like” but tell you very little about the characters story. They are utterly pointless. I like the story aspect of games and character development, but if you (and I mean Capcom) really don’t have a decent narrative just don’t bother putting one in. It makes it worse by having a rubbish story than not having one at all. It does not really spoil anything, but I really don’t like half arsed efforts, especially where so much effort has been dispensed into the combat.



The big bad guy, Seth, is such a cheap character. The final boss in story mode, and one of the toughest characters to beat, is a guy called Seth and he is interminable. All his moves are designed to be irritating and unfair. I know he is supposed to be tough but often you literally don’t stand a chance. For example, he will warp anywhere randomly (you can’t predict it), normally right next to you and instantly perform a spinning pile driver throw. Although such a move is hard to pull off the CPU doesn’t need to waste time entering a command, so it’s far to quick to possibly react to. As I said he’s just cheap. There is no originality to him either. He looks almost identical to the silver surfer and has exactly the same background as “Cell” from “Dragonball Z”. He is a robot formed from data collected on all the other fighters and consequently uses all their moves etc etc. That idea has been done so many times its ridiculous and I would rather M. Bison was the main bad guy again, rather than this Seth idiot.



The game has too much of a hint of “button basher” about it. This is probably more personal preference than anything else, but I hate button bashers. I can’t stand trying really hard to learn moves and skills and having your ass whipped by your mate, who’s never played it, because he just hammers all the buttons. There’s no skill in that! Do not fear, as it is definitely more biased towards skill than button luck. However, for example, to perform Guile’s ultimate combo you have to hold diagonally down and backwards for an amount of time (the amount of time is totally non-specific), then move it diagonally forwards and down, then back to diagonally backwards and down, then straight to diagonally forwards and up and hit the “all” kick button. That does seem a bit overly complicated for my liking and unnatural for performing fighting moves via your fingers. I get it right about 60% of the time but you can very easily accidently perform something else which could leave you open for attack. In Tekken this very rarely happens as if you don’t do it quite right, it simply doesn’t happen. In Street Fighters defence though, I have got better at it and will probably get better at it as I continue.


Conclusion:

I know I have slagged it off but, in its defence, all criticisms are based on the fact that I have never played Street Fighter before. But after a few weeks or so of practising, playing and losing, things start to sink in. You then start to create your own combos and nail the special moves more consistently and it becomes very satisfying and very very addictive. It has a very intrinsically well developed fighting system that, although simple, will take a lot of time to master, but will ultimately satisfy you when things start to “click”. Plus it looks brilliant. It’s just a shame Capcom couldn’t put in as much effort as they did for the combat as they could have done for other aspects of the game, and I don’t like the fact they just assume you’re an automatic expert. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you won’t be reading this, you will have got a copy ages ago and will be beating the crap out of someone on it right now, as it is pretty much overly and squarely aimed at you guys. If you’re new, like me, then I do recommend it as the more I have been playing the more I have begun to get addicted to it. It’s just so annoying that Capcom couldn’t provide more in terms of help or training. I really do not see how hard it could have been. I had to utilise a bit of online research and help but when you get over initial confusion and difficulties you will start to enjoy it. CA.


Summary:


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 5.0

No, basically. Most things are easy to navigate. However, the “moves” menu’s and combo training (challenge mode) are no help at all. The game is designed assuming you have played all the previous games. If this is not the case you are going to struggle.


Is the story any good? – 5.0

The character’s stories are all really crap, uninteresting, and very short. They are not offensive, just not interesting.


How does it look? – 9.0

Backgrounds suck a bit, but everything else is truly stunning and all animations are super smooth, as it should be.


How does it sound? – 7.0

Love the fighting SFX and character voices. Music is really tacky though, especially the intro song. It is truly diabolical.


Is it good to play? – 8.0

The best part (luckily). So many moves, combos and methods of fighting, you wont know where to start. Should have been easier and more helpful for beginners, however, and button mashers will prosper, which I hate.


When will I get bored? – 8.0

Although I’m not sure I will ever have the patience to truly master this one, most people will have many months of fighting before they even get close to mastering it. Fight people though, not the CPU.


OVERALL – 7.5

Review created by C. Armstrong.

Resistance 2 Review 09/03/2009


It is brilliant, but different from the first one.

First of all (encase you have no intention of reading my two cense) Resistance 2 is an absolute blinder. All PS3 owners should purchase and thank Sony that they have secured another exclusive franchise that makes you want to own a PS3. For those who want to know why, please let me explain. The first Resistance: Fall of Man was the first game I ever played on the PS3 and I really liked it. The story and depth where really interesting, the graphics where (at the time) spectacular and although it was a pretty standard FPS it had plenty of action, crazy guns and intrigue to keep me interested for months. I have, as a result, been long awaiting the sequel and Insomniac have not let me down, or any fan of the franchise either. However, it is not your typical bog standard first person shooter anymore as it has been tuned, tweaked and harnessed to become a very different game, so be warned. Although it is bigger and better, it is definitely not overly familiar territory for fans of the first game. The game starts off exactly where the first one left off (play it to find out the details. It’s worth it I assure you). Nathan Hale is taken back to America, after a brief struggle in Iceland, and 2 years later he is now a member of the “Sentinels”, a squad of super soldier commandos who share similar Chimeran infections to Hale and are almost as tough and fast as he is. The Chimera where believed to be defeated, however vast space ships, the size of cities, arrive on the shores of the United States and start attacking forcing Hale, the Sentinels and the US army in general into battle on their home soil. Although you are led to believe the Chimera are simply on a mission to take over planet Earth, assaulting Europe in the first game and now invading the US, but, as you find out, their plans are far more devious and secretive.


What’s good?

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The first thing you really notice is that Insomniac has worked wonders with the visuals and representation of this game. I know its cliche and shallow to go on about graphics as the best thing, but some of the scenes and battles in this game will absolutely stupefy you. They are incredible! In particular they have worked on the “big stuff”. You have to fight beasts and war ships larger than the biggest sky scrapers and they have not missed the slightest detail or imperfection on any of them. Every gun, every Chimeran enemy, every tree, everything is absolutely beautifully simulated, including character animations, explosions, bullets, like I said, everything. It is achingly good looking and easily one of the best looking games I have ever seen. No matter how vast the monster your fighting or how many troops are on the battlefield, firing an untold amount of firepower, it wont ever falter. This game has to be seen to take in all its visual brilliance.



The action and battles are epic in size and intensity. Although the first game was very much a fairly solo effort from Hale this time he has an army backing him up. The game does vary in its action, but some of the battles in this are so vast you have to ponder that Insomniac used witch craft and magic to cram so many friendly and enemy AI into one game. The battle in Chicago is a particular highlight with at least a good 50 troops per side going at it, with tanks and stalkers in the background, as well as U.S fighter jets making bombing runs overhead. It’s so intense with literally thousands of bullets flying in every direction and if you blink or sneeze you are dead. The battle fields are vast places with more enemies than you can handle individually. Every city and town shows how badly humanity has taken a battering and enemies’ spring from everywhere. The intensity does raise the bar of difficulty, and where the first one was fairly easy this sequel is going to test you and you are going to die a hell of a lot – be warned.



Insomniac’s mad weapons are back. If you loved the hugely unique and variable weaponry from the first game it’s just as good and better in ways here. Old favourites such as the Bulls eye, Carbine and Far eye are back but all have been revamped and upgraded to become more efficient killing machines. The Auger II for example, now allows you to see all enemies in bright green whether they are behind a wall or not. This of course is perfect as this particular weapon can shoot through anything. It’s such a simple yet brilliant touch. There are also new ones, such as a medium range sniper rifle (Marksmen) that fires off several shots at once and is excellent for close quarters sniping. The Bellock, which is basically a grenade launcher, the Splicer, which fires saw blades for lots of limb amputating fun and the pulse cannon, which fires a large concentrated beam of energy good for taking down the larger beasts. My favourite though is the manic mini gun (Wraith) which holds 300 rounds and is perfect for gunning down hoards of troops, possibly the most fun thing you can do in any game. The Bulls eye II is now available much earlier on and is often carried by regular Chimeran ground troops/hybrids. Plus all guns dropped by fallen chimera can be picked up and changed whenever you want so their use and frequency is fairly limitless. If you like fire power then you will love this game.



The Chimera are back and packing WAY more heat than ever. The previous Resistance game didn’t stray too far from standard troops/hybrids. There was the odd big lad to take down but it was generally gunning down the same Chimeran hybrid after another. Now they have new, bigger and more heavily armed troops. They also have robotic help as well, through the incredibly frustrating turrets and little hovering drones and attack droids (God I hate them!!!). The new Chameleon Chimeran hybrid is going to be a shock to the system when you first encounter it, as it is invisible (like the “Predator”), very fast and armed with long sharp knives on his fingers. You will need the fastest reactions with this guy, as all you here is the ground shake then a roar and your sliced in two. Another new enemy that stood out were the Grim’s. These guys are a result of the new Chimeran conversion process (they look like the zombies from the “I am Legend” film). They look very creepy and will swarm at you very quickly, in vast numbers and without warning. There is a scene in a cinema, for example, that is haunting to say the least. Again, many wits about you are needed. The real highlights are the big bosses of course which include the ridiculously large “Kraken”, which is about the size of a house, and the “Leviathan”, that is the size of a sky scraper, literally. They are awesome to behold and fight but are a bit of a let down, but more on that in a bit. The Chimera have upgraded a lot since the first game but luckily your not facing them alone this time. Hale now fights with the Sentinels, as I said, and you regularly take on the enemy with these guys by your side and they are more than capable of taking down many foes without your help. Most missions cannot be done without these guys, and unlike a lot of AI help in games these days, they genuinely help you.



The story/Resistance universe is now even more intriguing. Although there are downsides to the main campaign of the game (which I will get on too) it is quite an incredible story which has become a lot darker and creepier, with new plot twists that will boggle the mind. Anything you thought was explained about the Chimera is now obsolete as they are far more advanced and devious than you could have possibly hypothesized in the first game, and if you liked the intrigue of the first game, its ten fold here. It’s hard to talk about without giving stuff away, and I really don’t want to give anything way as its vital you know as little as possible. It is now also told from Nathan Hale’s perspective, rather than the external source from the first one, so you will get a handle of Hale’s opinion on things and you will feel more in touch with the character in which you play. Some aspects it loses as a result of this but I imagine a lot of fans will much prefer it this way. Either way it’s not a bad thing.


What’s bad?

The most disappointing thing I found was that manoeuvrability is too slow in this sequel. In the first game dodging and jinking was a very necessary part of combat, as it would be in any proper FPS, as you have to dodge incoming enemy fire. It’s either that or have a cover system, such as the one found in Killzone 2, which it does not have. But Hale is now really quite slow, which is definitely more realistic, but the game still plays like a proper FPS, like the first game, where dodging and jinking through enemy fire is still necessary. However, Hale has now lost all of such movement, so basic side to side movement is ridiculously slow. This makes taking cover and fighting a beast such as a Titan stupidly difficult. The titan fires large fireballs at you, and if they hit vaguely in your vicinity you are killed instantly. As Hale is now so slow this becomes an incredibly frustrating process and you are constantly running for cover or hiding behind things. As there is no cover system you sort of have to run out, fire, then scamper back behind something or continuously run and shoot. It just does not work particularly well and it really needs a cover system, or have more old school gameplay as in the first one. I know this is more like a real battle, but I don’t care. That doesn’t make it more fun. Insomniac is clearly trying to heighten the concept but it was simply not necessary and movement feels more like a burden, clumsy and slow, when compared with the first game. You will get used to it but it will feel weird initially.



You are now limited to just two weapons. Yes. That’s it – 2. Instead of having all the wonderful weaponry at your disposal as in the first game Hale can now only have two at any time. This basically brings you to having only one option of a standard rifle and a sniper rifle or shot gun. It annoys me that Insomniac is arguably the kings of weaponry, and they limit you to when and where you can use them. They also conveniently place a gun that you are going to need before you enter a particular battlefield. I find that condescending and I would rather have my pick of the weapons and figure it out for myself. You basically can’t hold on to a favourite gun and then get told when to use a particular weapon. Bad form Insomniac, we can figure these things out for ourselves.



The Chimera really really don’t like you. Despite the epic battles with many troops on both sides going at it, there are points where every single Chimeran enemy on the battlefield will stand up and aim straight for you. It doesn’t matter how many other soldiers are firing at them they will run straight at you and won’t be satisfied until your dead and to hell with the hundreds of other troops firing at them. It actually borders on the ridiculous at times as a horde of Chimera will run out of a building and go straight for you, despite many of your pals blasting the crap out of them. You can run away from them all the way back to the beginning of the stage and they will follow. Why did Insomniac put so much emphasis on Hale being the target? The sheer amount of troops on each side may make it too easy to sit back and let your mates take the fire, but they will never progress anywhere unless you make it do, so I can’t see much justification for it. It is very hard, very stupid and very annoying.



There are no vehicles in this one. I thought that driving the tank and jeep in the first game were the more fun aspects of the game, but there is nothing like it in Resistance 2. Neither the enemy nor your friends use them at all. The only vehicles you get in are in the cinematic cut scenes, which you can’t control. I’m curious as to why they left this one out, but maybe my love of the vehicle aspect of it is in a minority.



The large enemies are far too easy to kill. Despite the spectacular visual thrill of fighting some of the larger beasts they die so easily it’s almost disappointing. In particular the “Leviathan” that you fight in Chicago, the biggest and baddest of them all, goes down after a few well placed LARK rocket shots. Considering this big fella could easily squash you with a little finger your left with a very big feeling of anticlimax. If he goes down that easily why didn’t the air force just take it out with missiles? The final boss, a huge floating brain, is strangely the easiest enemy you fight in the game. It really doesn’t do much except feebly try and slap you with its tentacles and float around after you. It uses its telekinesis to take control of you and throw bits of metal at you as well, but both attacks are woefully crap and easy to avoid. I was not impressed.



The campaign is too short. On my first attempt it didn’t take me any longer than a day to complete and I died lots of times as well. You can go straight through it in around 9 hours, which sounds like a long time but it really isn’t if you think about it (Insomniac spent too much time on the online stuff if you ask me). I know it is supposed to leave you wanting more (which it does) and I know the online stuff is immense, but upon completion you are left feeling a little undernourished. You will definitely have several goes on each difficulty, and it does get more fun when you work out what to do and with what guns, but it does leave you feeling very hollow.



The story is left too wide open at the end. I like a game with a brilliant story line, I like plot twists, I like open endings and I even like not really fully understanding what’s just happened, as it adds to mystery and intrigue. This story however, is left so ridiculously wide open with so many unanswered questions and much confusion you don’t feel like you have achieved anything. Obviously I can’t wait until the third one now, but some sort of indicator or direction would have been nice. Prepare to be baffled is all I say.



This might be personal preference, but I didn’t like the story being told from Hales perspective. He’s a man of few words and there is now no inner monologue. You don’t know what he’s doing, planning or thinking until you do it or it happens, and despite the attempts to make you feel more attached, it actually feels more detached as you never really know what’s going on. It definitely misses the external source story telling from the first one, and the curious mystery surrounding Hale is completely lost.



The final “nit-pick” is there is no way in hell this game feels like it’s based in the 1950’s. I thought it was a brilliant atmospheric touch in the first one, but this feels far too modern and technologically advanced. Apart from the odd vehicle (tail finned Cadillac’s etc) or radio transmission the retro feel of the game has completely gone.


Conclusion:

If you have a PS3 you would be a fool not to pick this one up. It is like playing a big budget sci-fi movie. I highly recommend you play the first one before Resistance 2, as the story will make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it is easily worth your cash. I don’t like some of the changes such as the weapon limiting, slow movement and daft enemy AI, but they have upgraded the franchise in other areas to make it a whole lot more. It is definitely not perfect, but the flaws I pointed out really are “nit-picking” as it is an outstanding all round package. From visuals that will take your breath away, to the intense and epic battles, to the new meaner Chimera, this is simply bigger and better. The main story will leave you with many unanswered questions by the end, which I’m not convinced by, however if you totally “get” the whole Resistance franchise and the Chimera story then you will be chewing through many finger nails until Resistance 3. If you have never heard of this game, trust me on this, you will be very impressed and it is definitely one of the best shooter/action games out on the PS3. CA.


Summary:


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

Everything is logically presented and easy to use. Easy to simply pick and start blasting, whether online or doing a campaign.


Is the story any good? – 8.0

The story is dark, complex and intriguing, but you will be left unnourished by its many unanswered questions.


How does it look? – 9.5

There are a few small parts where detail is a bit rough, dripping water for example, but generally the visuals in this game will blow your mind! Some of the best I have ever seen.


How does it sound? – 9.5

Outstanding. Guns all sound good and all voices and dialogue are well produced, the radio transmissions in particular adding to the intensity. Atmospheric orchestral back ground music also adds to the whole experience.


Is it good to play? – 8.0

It’s intense, vast and action packed, if slightly linear. Bullets flying everywhere and explosions a plenty. Movement does feel very slow and cumbersome and it’s much harder than you may be expecting.


When will I get bored? – 8.0

The online appeal of this game is its saving grace for lasting appeal, with huge amounts of players per team battle, co-op team stories etc. The single player campaign is very short though.


OVERALL – 8.5

Review created by C. Armstrong.

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift Review 09/03/2009


Proper big loud simple fun. Brilliant!

This game is basically exactly the same as the original launch title for the PS3 where every little detail has been enhanced and refined. This means to say there is nothing ground breaking here, but it is one giant explosion of crushed metal, broken bones, huge jumps, rugged rides, big fun, mud and chaos. It’s not a game that demands attention, has a plot etc, but when you simply want to pick up a controller, have a race and smash things there are few better alternatives. It’s basically big simple laughs. Whereas the first game was based in the rocky mountains and desert, the racing is now on a volcanic island covered in dense jungle, raging waterfalls and sheer cliff faces.


What’s good?

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The tracks are the most impressive thing here. They are ridiculous. They have stuck very firmly to the ideals of the original by creating big open tracks with many routes for all the different vehicles. Whereas in the first game there were only 6 tracks, there is now 16 in Pacific Rift, albeit only about 6 of them are memorable. You drive round erupting volcanoes, through breath taking waterfalls, smashing through dense jungle and jump cliff faces with drops that would result in absolute certain doom. It’s crazy. The key is still finding the best route for the particular vehicle you are in, and even when you have played all the tracks you still have a lot to learn. Some of the volcano levels are particularly impressive as dodging burning lava becomes part of the race. The tracks are split up into 4 different sections: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. I think you can guess what each one is going to be like, but the brilliant thing is that these are all different environments that will affect your car in different ways. Boosting near lava on a volcano level will of course heat up your vehicle quicker, which results in exploding, and driving through water will of course cool it down. This adds a slight tactical element to the race. I have a love for the ludicrous jumps, which makes the air levels my favourite, and believe me when I say some of the jumps are massive and you fall an extremely long way.



The visuals have been revamped very impressively. The different textures and surfaces from dried up volcanic rock to thick rainforest are incredibly detailed. The water effects are not the greatest (I’ve seen very few games whose graphics can master water effects???) but there is so much detail here you really don’t notice. Even the vehicles are very detailed as you can see each suspension spring and wheel spoke as it is ripped from your vehicle in an accident. When you have a particularly violent head on crash the metal crumples and distorts, just like those slow motion crash test dummy films. It is quite stunning.



The racing is much more aggressive and generally even more total and utter chaos than before. The computer AI is very aggressive and will often try and ram you off a cliff or something similar. There are extra attack buttons now included but they only work for the bikes and quads and are fairly useless. The key is to smash as many things as possible but not at a cost of your momentum, especially in the larger vehicles. In the lighter vehicles, bikes and quads etc, you are better off avoiding contact altogether. Your opponents are just as eager to kill each other as they are you, so don’t worry about the AI ganging up on you. You can never really escape the action as it does not matter how well you race or how little you crash, you will never be that far in front of your opponents. This adds to the adrenaline rush as most races will be won on the final few corners. I think its a very fine line to draw, but its been nailed perfectly in this game, as even if you crash a lot its never worth giving up, and if you race perfectly you can never afford to relax.



You will need to be a more skilful driver this time. In the original game it was basically floor the accelerator, turn right and left. Although entertaining it was a little monotonous. Now “Evolution Studios”demands more of you. You will have to use the brakes a lot more than you may expect and constantly adjust the angle of your vehicle when you fly over jumps or bumps, as messy landings will result in a wreck, or flying off a cliff face, or into some molten lava. Don’t worry though, it’s no “Gran Turismo”and still very arcade like.



The different vehicle classes are back. You can still choose from a bike, quad, buggy, rally car, racing truck, mudplugger, big rig, and now, monster trucks (more on the monster trucks later). Although there are more variations on the different paint jobs or models of vehicle, it makes no difference to their performance. Bikes are agile and fast but explode with a slight gust of wind, whereas the big rigs are practically indestructible, but a bit short on acceleration and handling. Although it’s not a new idea to have different vehicle types you really can notice the difference in all of these rides and none can be approached similarly. It basically adds to the element that racing needs more than anything: Unpredictability. Each vehicle feels very different and it is actually difficult to pick a favourite. I tend to go for the rally cars if I can help it but such a vehicle is useless on some tracks, so you really have to vary your racing skills. Different surfaces effect the different vehicles as well as mud and water will slow down the faster and lighter vehicles but the larger ones can plough through all surfaces. Again, it’s nothing new but what’s there works very well and adds to the unpredictability of the race.



There are more aims and objectives in the general racing this time. Although there is mostly your standard first to the chequered flag race, there is also time trials, wreck limits, eliminators and the incredibly frustrating check point events. These are used alongside normal racing to further unlock points, and therefore vehicles, paint jobs and races. Although nothing new, these elements add new aims and goals to stop you from getting bored as easily. For time trials you have to finish in the top 3 under a certain time, for wreck limits you must finish in the top 3 without crashing a certain amount of times and eliminators mean the guy in last is blown up every ten seconds or so, until only one driver is left. The check point races are very frustrating but it all adds to the lasting appeal and keep the interest up (more on them in a bit).



You can have multi player racing now, something that was surprisingly left out of the original. You can have up to four other players all racing on the same track (like a psychopathic Mario Kart) and is huge laughs for you and your mates. The online stuff is also good, if your into that sort of thing, and has all the usual races you would expect.


What’s bad?

I suppose the worst thing is often you will crash/flip over/get re-set for no reason whatsoever. Crashing is hugely important and entertaining part of the game but, basically you can be bowling along quite nicely, nobody is near you, and your car will suddenly flip over upside down and explode, or hit an invisible wall crumple up and explode, or simply get re-set as if you have crashed, but you didn’t. It doesn’t happen constantly, but often enough to be annoying. I’m guessing that its small rivets, bumps or contact zones in the tracks that have not been ironed out in development. You could argue that that is what off road racing would be like, but I don’t care. You cannot see or predict when said problems will occur so don’t punish me with a big demoralising slap of reality across the face. What part of this game could be deemed realistic anyway? It could have done with a bit more development on this aspect.



The computer AI is aggressive to the point of stupidity at some points. For example, on occasion I have come up behind an opponent and tried to ram him off the track, as you do, only for him to slam his breaks on and basically grind him and me to a halt. On a narrow track it becomes impossible to pass and you are forced to reset your vehicle. Surely you would be better to take evasive manoeuvres and try and get a few hits back? If you lock wheels with an opponent in a buggy, quad or monster truck (as they have exposed wheels) then your opponent will do everything in his power to keep you stranded stuck together unable to accelerate or steer. Again you have to reset your vehicle. You could be hammering over the dirt with no problems, when a computer opponent will hurtle in from the side with the suicidal intention of taking you and him out. They often succeed and are frequently more intent on removing you from the competition rather than winning themselves. I know its AI being told to be aggressive, and you can’t blame a game for doing what it’s told to do, but it’s sometimes just stupid and it doesn’t stop it from being annoying regardless (the online nerds are worse though).



The monster trucks are disappointing. This could be a result of me expecting too much (like Grand theft auto 4) but they simply failed to impress me. As soon as I unlocked them I was expecting to crush all my opponents beneath my mighty wheels and plough through any jungle or obstacle, like the big rigs do. However, the reality is that they are slow, surprisingly fragile, and very unstable and, despite being smaller, big rigs will eat them for breakfast. They have good grip, steering and can go through all surfaces without a loss of speed or traction, but as soon as a big rig touches you, all the wheels fall off and it flips over upside down and explodes. You can easily run over the smaller opponents, but instead of crushing them and moving on you are catapulted into the air, when your wheels make contact (even with bikes) in a huge bounce which ultimately slows you down or often stops you completely. They are very unstable as they like to turn upside down as often as possible, and it’s also far too easy to tangle wheels with your monster truck opponents as well. This results in a total loss of steering or traction and you will mostly only have the option of re-setting your vehicle. Or you flip upside down and explode. They are basically not nearly as good as you might expect and should have been a lot more satisfying than they were.



The check point races are not good. I like the idea of expanding on the basic racing but these check point races are far too overly complicated. They often do not even require you to race round the track normally and you will often have to make 180&#176 hand brake turns and go in the opposite direction to get the checkpoints. You will end up having a million goes before you are successful, and considering the most fun aspects of the race have been removed (actual racing, the opponents and ability to take different routes etc) I can’t see why this was included. A step too far I reckon.



The difficulty level goes too far towards the end. On the single player, as you get further to the end of completing all the races some of the tasks asked of you are too much. You don’t really realise this until you try them, for example, you are expected to complete a race in the top 3 under a certain time. I’m confident that some of them simply cannot be done as I have had a flawless race, boosting constantly, avoiding contact with the opponents, not one crash or loss of speed, come first by some margin and I’m 40 seconds over the time limit. 40 seconds! If it was 5 seconds I would persevere as I could easily shave a few seconds off here and there but 40! I really don’t think it can be done and I have given up completely with that particular time trial. There are several others that have defeated me also and I think they took things a little too far here. I’m not a particularly outstanding or talented gamer but I’m pretty confident even the most skilled drivers will struggle to achieve all that can be achieved here.



I’m pretty sure this is personal preference/”nit picking”but it just doesn’t feel fast enough. Burnout gives the ultimate perception of speed, and makes you feel like you are travelling at a million miles an hour, but this honestly feels sluggish to me. It doesn’t ruin the whole game but you can be boosting along in the fastest rally car (which is the fastest vehicle) and it just doesn’t give you the sensation of speed that you might expect. You can be at top revs flying up to the foot of a jump, boost button pressed through the controller, flames pouring out of the exhausts, you’re expecting to blast out of the game!!!………..and it just doesn’t happen. To be fair if you made the vehicles faster it may make the game unplayable, as there is already much opportunity for crashing and generally making a hash of things, but I would have liked more of a rush (personally).


Conclusion:

In defence of Motorstorm, I am really clutching at straws with the downsides of this game as none of the flaws are important or influential enough to spoil the whole experience. Some are ironically as a result of attempts to improve things. The AI can be annoying, the monster trucks are surprisingly rubbish, it doesn’t give as much of a speed sensation as I would like, however, fortunately Evolution Studios seems to have realised that the difficult second album is not necessarily down to adding new things but simply improving and polishing what was already there. What we have here is the original Motorstorm that’s simply been enhanced and improved in every aspect. The tracks are huge and stunning to behold with many different routes for the many different types of vehicle. Its big action, big crashes, big explosions and, most importantly, big laughs. There’s nothing new or ground breaking here, it won’t win any “game of the year”awards but if you liked the first game or are just after some fun action packed racing in general there are many far worse things you can do with your cash. CA.


Summary:


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

Menus are simple and getting to a race is easy. Controls are as simple as. The new garage function for your vehicles speeds the selection up a hell of a lot – its all what you would expect.


Is the story any good? – 0.0

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


How does it look? – 9.0

It’s a very good looking game. All environments, tracks and vehicles look brilliant with no glitches or flaws.


How does it sound? – 9.0

Again, I can’t fault the sound. The music selection is awsome and the SFX are all impressive. Increased wind speed when falling from a great height is particularly impressive.


Is it good to play? – 8.0

Nothing new or unfamiliar but solid and easy to use. Anyone can pick this up and play it. The different vehicles, tracks and chaos add to the unpredictability and therefore the excitement. Does get monotonous though.


When will I get bored? – 7.0

You will start to tire of the action after not too long, I’m afraid. Although it is really good fun its simplicity provokes monotony, and inevitably boredom will set in. Online stuff doesn’t really add anything, as you are always doing the same thing.


OVERALL – 8.0

Review created by C. Armstrong.

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review 09/03/2009


It’s a quality game, but it will frustrate and annoy.

Two fairly big franchises are going to head to head at the moment: Midnight Club and Need for Speed. I’m a huge car freak/fan and have a deep love of racing games and customising cars I will never own in real life. In the past I’ve always gone straight to NFS games when I need my racing fix, as they churn so many out and the, now legendary, NFS: Underground games really impressed me. Recently though EA have made NFS: Undercover and, although I have not played it, it’s supposed to be pretty pants. The critics, never really fans of NFS games anyway, have slated it even more than other crap NFS games which must mean it is truly diabolical and I simply do not wish to waste my money. Luckily there is an alternative that has been around for a while, but generally sneaks under the radar of NFS fans like myself and its called Midnight Club: Los Angeles. The people that brought you the hugely overrated “Grand Theft Auto 4” have made a racing and tuning game, the second of this franchise, and I must state it’s pretty good. You have the whole of central LA to drive around in and around 30 cars to buy and customise. It’s good but it’s not fantastic however and I will endeavour to explain why. There is a story here but it is pointless me explaining it. You basically play a guy who’s new in town and wants to make a name and money for himself in the street racing scene in LA blah blah blah….. The more you win the bigger and better the opponents etc. There is really not any point on elaborating on it but, lets face it, who cares. It’s not why you play such games.


What’s good?

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The absolute best thing about this game is the sheer amount of racing to be had. There are so many races to go to, drivers to meet up with and challenges laid out to you, it will take a long time to get bored of it. The city is jammed full of other street racers and race meetings, all marked on the map, and you can simply drive around flash your lights at an opponent and the race is on. It’s that simple and you will never run out of competition or beat everyone as you can race anyone and everyone as often as you like. All tracks are based round the streets of LA but there is a hell of a lot of them and even if you race the same track twice it will not be the same as the traffic and light levels are always changing. You will also have different tasks to do, not just simple races, such as delivering other peoples cars in a time limit, smashing other cars off the road, time trials, etc. You also race for other cars and not just money all the time as well. It is a tiny bit overwhelming in parts but I much prefer a game that will take you a few months to do than a couple of weeks. I’m not big on online play (because I don’t like having my ass handed to me every time by a spotty nerd who lives in his parents basement, and has nothing to do all day except play online) and so many new games these days take focus off the one player, the core of gaming. Fortunately for those that disagree, this provides plenty for both opinions so either way you will never be bored.



You have the whole of Los Angeles to drive around in. The city of LA is impressive and detailed and you really get the feel that you are immersed in this city and making a living out of racing illegally. The city is also very life like and doesn’t feel empty or devoid of bustling city life at any point. The town is thriving with people walking the streets, plenty of other road users, all the famous landmarks are there and the fact that it fades to night and day really absorb you into the whole experience. I love the way that you zoom in and out of the city when you view maps showing just how detailed the city is, and its really a proper huge spaghetti of concrete highways, freeways and back streets, which of course means there is a lot to explore. It is so engaging and large it encourages you to just go driving around, meeting up with other racers, pissing off the police and generally exploring. Like I said, you will not be bored.



The customising is immense. A lot like the game play there is so much you can do with your various rides. The combinations of vinyls, paint and body kits is massive and no one design will ever be the same as another. You can change lights, hoods/bonnets, trunks/boots, spoilers, wheels, tyres, brake callipers, side skirts, ride heights, doors and the list goes on. That’s before we even get onto the inside where you can change steering wheels, seats, internal neon, dials and all sorts. It’s really deep and if you love customising, you can spend hours doing it here. It doesn’t offer anything like NFS’s excellent “Autosculpt”, but it’s not worse its just different and offers a few more options such as side exhausts and superchargers that stick out of the top of your bonnet/hood, like a 1950’s dragster. There’s lots of very cool small additions that anyone who likes customising will appreciate. Im not sure its better than NFS’s autosculpt, but it’s certainly on a par with it.



The racing is very much “edge of your seat” arcade style stuff. Even with the slower cars you hurtle down streets with traffic flashing past and it seriously gives you the sense of speed you desire. The way the cars handle is very arcade like and easy to get to grips with. The cars handle how you would expect them too and are very forgiving to an extent. You can just jump in and race and the learning curve is not savage. You can sling your car into a 90 degree bend at stupid speeds, slide round it, and come out fine on the other side. Although it is ridiculous, and nothing like Gran Turismo (obviously), it is very fun and rewarding. All cars handle differently as well, as a rear wheel drive heavy dodge challenger will feel completely different to a light on its feet front wheel drive Ford Focus ST. It’s detailed basically, and you can tell there is a depth in this, created by genuine car enthusiasts. If that wasn’t enough it also has motor bikes. There is only three options for the motorbikes but the fastest, the Kawasaki Ninja, is very very rapid and seems to heighten the ridiculous speeds as, because you can fall off them, there is more risk.


What’s bad?

The most obvious and worst thing is that this game is really really seriously infuriatingly difficult! I can guarantee you right now you are going to lose a hell of a lot if you play this. You are going to crash a lot. You are going to be “smack talked” by your opponents a lot. You are going to be arrested a lot. You are going to have victory snatched from you, on the last bend as a bus comes out of a blind side turning and stops you dead, as your opponents flash past, a lot. It is incredibly frustrating and heart breaking and I have never hurled my controller across the room as often as I did for this game. Ultimately, this does make it rewarding when you eventually win but it is a fine line to draw and Rockstar have gone slightly overboard with this one. It is just too hard for my liking and it is mainly due to several things. Firstly, your opponents are always much much better than you. It doesn’t matter how much NOS you have or how big your turbo charger is, your opponents will always be better than you. If you race someone on a “hard” difficulty they will simply drive away into the distance regardless of whether your in a Lamborghini Gallardo and they are in a Mitsubishi Evo. It feels totally futile a lot of the time. They also do not come under the same rules as you either, as I have seen an opponent slam into an oncoming vehicle and he just careers through it as though it was not there and boosts off into the distance. I know there are special abilities that allow your car to do this, but your opponents can’t use them. It really doesn’t give you a chance and I know you can try easier races, but then you win bugger all cash. Secondly, it’s just too overwhelming in places. There is so much traffic and things to avoid and be aware of you just cant react to all of them at once. You often blast round a corner and there is literally solid rush hour traffic, which you cant avoid. Your opponents always do however. And thirdly, the races are mostly check point races and it’s far to easy to miss a turning as you have to constantly keep one eye on the map in the right hand corner of the screen, which is far too hard considering what you are already having to concentrate on. There are few things more infuriating than having to stop and reverse back to a turning mid race. You are basically always one step behind and playing catch up the whole time and it does add to the frustration factor and is very unrewarding. Rockstar have compensated for the extreme difficulty by ensuring that everything you do in the game counts, as whether you lose or not you will earn money and “rep”. That doesn’t make it fun though and you are going to lose your rag a lot. Be warned.



The gear changes are appalling. Obviously I chose to have an auto gear box for all my cars, as there is far too much other stuff to worry about than changing gear, and it is ridiculous. It never seems to know what gear to put you in, and so often I have been on the rev limiter for about 4 or 5 seconds before the sodding thing actually changes gear! It is so annoying. Then, if you’re in 6th gear at high speed and need to break briefly, it will slam it into 1st gear and you will screech to a halt to simply crawl along whilst your engine screams with high revs for another 4 or 5 seconds. It’s maddening! It will change up when you are at low revs, it will change down when you’re at the rev limit and will generally drive you insane. It’s not even an infrequent occurrence as it happens most of the time. I know the answer to the problem is to switch to a manual gear box, but I simply do not have the time to learn its use or the skill level, and I’m fairly sure I’m not alone. It’s absolutely appalling and it’s not as if it’s not frustrating enough already.



The special abilities are crap. You can equip your ride with various special features that allow you to cheat in order to gain advantage. These are an EMP, for shutting down your opponent’s car, “Agro”, that allows your car to plough through anything oncoming for a limited time, “Zone”, an ability to slow down time to make tricky or tight turns, and “Roar” which sends out a blast to send your opponents flying. You can also slip stream someone and hit the “boost” button for a burst of speed. It is not so much a boost button, as a suicide button. Hit it and you will be sent flying at warp speed into anything that is oncoming, steering and braking become irrelevant. It’s only actually useful when your destination is a perfectly straight line away and there is nothing in front of you, which, coincidently, never ever happens. It is therefore utterly useless and one of the few things that gives you an advantage in the game is taken away from you. Furthermore, the EMP doesn’t really do anything, as it only very briefly and vaguely slows down your opponents but it also slows your car as well! The Agro ability does allow you plough through other cars on the road but it also sends your car flying as well and is impossible to control! The only actual useful one is the Zone but often you have already crashed before you need it, as there is no human on the planet that can react that quickly. You have to predict when you’re going to use it and how in the hell are you supposed to predict something you don’t do on purpose? They are awful. I have read that previous versions of this game always include these abilities, so it’s a kind of trademark but this game simply doesn’t need them and they are too much of a “gimmick” and useless for my liking. It is also yet more things you really don’t need for taking up your concentration.



The car line up is not fantastic. It’s good enough, but not great. The vehicle list is a little limited and (having seen the line up) it does not look as good as the one in NFS Undercover. It obviously depends on what you like but there are not a lot of options for those who prefer the exotics/super cars. I of course do. It’s not that I don’t like a dodge challenger, or Nissan Skyline GTR, I just prefer a Koenigsegg or Porsche Carrera GT. The most extreme thing in this game is the Saleen S7 and Lamborghini Murcielago. There’s also the Audi R8 (download only) and Aston Martin Vantage, but the quantity is not in the same super league as the Veyrons and McLaren Mercedes of NFS. Its mainly muscle cars and tuners, which again is fine, but I would have liked some Porsche’s, BMW’s and basically more choice at the extreme end of the vehicle scale. Who the hell wants to customise cars they could pimp in real life anyway, like VW Golf’s?



The customising is good and there is lots of choice for paint and vinyls, but it’s a little limited for the more extreme body customisations. You only get one wide body kit per car and they are all pretty hideous, plus you can’t add your own spoilers or exhausts to them, or do anything to them whatsoever. So you are left with simply changing bumpers, lights, side skirts etc if you actually want to customise but the choices are fairly limited to around 5 per component and, despite some neat additions, it’s not as good NFS’s auto sculpt or customising options in general.



The cops are very tough to shake. It’s easy to keep from being arrested, however it’s very very hard to lose the LAPD altogether. It’s easier to lose them on the highways, but I have been hacking around the city for ages trying to shake them and they stick to me like glue. You are supposed to be able to lose them once you are out of their sight, but I have been in situations where they are not even on my mini map but somehow they can still see me and are still chasing me. Eventually, a few times, I have given up as I got bored and wanted to go racing instead, so decided to pay the fine. The police are made visible to you by showing them as markers on the map and you have a radar device on your car that “bips” when one gets close. It is best to avoid them altogether, as occasionally I have been stationary and one will swing round and arrest me for no reason at all. You get a lame little scene, which looks like the film from a “Police Camera Action” TV show, and you can choose to drive off but it’s really not spectacular and pointless.



The bikes are better to drive to the extent that you will stop using the cars. The bikes are really rewarding, to the point that when you buy one you will eventually come to the conclusion that they are actually much more fun and easier to use than the cars. They also cost a fraction of the price to buy and tune and are faster and easier to drive than their same tier four wheeled counterparts. The chances are you won’t go back to the cars at all for the rest of the game once you have raced one. Every time you jump back into a car it feels sluggish and slow, so does that not defeat the point of the game? Why not make it about bikes and tuning if the game is better off that way, rather than cars? A car racing game that makes you not want to own the cars is very strange indeed.


Conclusion:

The problem is, is that this is a good game, it’s just going to drive you mad. As much as there is too enjoy, there is to hate. I like the fact you have the whole of LA to race around in, I like the cars and especially the bikes. The visuals are pretty good, and once you get on a winning streak the racing is really fast and exhilarating. But the difficulty, the gear changes (in particular), the police, the limited customising etc really do test your will to play. Rockstar are clearly trying to muscle in on EA’s NFS franchise and they have done a good job, but not a great job. Considering how EA is slowly choking the NFS franchise game by game, each one crapper than the last, then you would expect this to blow NFS out of the water. But it just doesn’t. If you liked any of the previous Midnight club games then you will like it. If you love cars and customising, you will like it, although you won’t love it and it will drive you mental. If you are a diehard NFS fan, you will hate it. If you don’t like really challenging games, you will hate it. If you lose your temper easily, you will hate it. If you (like me) are 50/50 on NFS or MC, then you should probably rent both before making a decision or get neither, and wait for either franchise to make a better one. Take from that what you will. If you simply have to tune and race, and considering the current competition in the market, this is the game to buy. I personally however, would recommend “Race Driver: Grid” if you really want to race cars, as it is much better than NFS and MC. It doesn’t have street racing, free roam and customising as such but if you are an appreciator of cars and racing you will enjoy Grid a lot more. Either that or wait for what the future holds for racing games. CA.


Summary:


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

The city of LA is vast and detailed. The maps all look good, especially the zooming in and out of them, and in game menus are easily navigated. Controls and car handling is easy to “pick up and play” as well.


Is the story any good? – 5.0

The story is pretty pointless here, and adds nothing to the experience. None of the characters you meet are engaging and there is nothing to really grab your interest. It doesn’t really matter though as it’s not the reason for playing.


How does it look? – 7.5

Generally good quality. Occasional slow down, but all landmarks and cars are detailed and look how they should. Take a close look though, and you will see that details and quality are a bit bland.


How does it sound? – 9.0

You don’t really get a chance to notice the sound, but the tune line-up is excellent, and you can choose which songs are played and when. Vehicles all sound good and it really sounds like a bustling downtown LA.


Is it good to play? – 7.0

Cars are easy and fun to handle, but the difficulty, the gear changes, the relentless cops and crappy “special abilities” will drive you mental. This is not one for the intolerant.


When will I get bored? – 9.0

There is a huge amount to do, race and tune, and (if your dedicated enough) you should not tire of it quickly.


OVERALL – 7.5

Review created by C. Armstrong.