Thursday, 27 January 2011

A small note

I've moved my blog to blogspot because I like the layout and it's much better to use. I have published all my articles from IGN blog in chronological order here. So feel free to read everything from my first entry. I have also added review scores from 1-10, even on the first reviews where I didn't even have scores.

Enjoy your stay and keep checking back for updates!



Looking back: Metal Gear Solid

So, somebody on a forum linked me to this tune:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5DCrVmLvfo
The nostalgia! It’s like a time warp back to the 90’s. It’s bringing tears to my eyes right now.

I was 16 and the year was 1998, that’s right, the epic gaming year of ’98. Half-Life, Resident Evil 2, Starcraft, Tekken 3, Gran Turismo, Rainbow Six, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Thief and Unreal and that’s just mentioning some of the games released! The best gaming year in the history of mankind.



Hideo Kojima’s game Metal Gear Solid was to become a masterpiece in gaming history and a huge selling success exceeding six million sold. It was a new leap and direction in the Metal Gear series from the old MSX and NES days and changed how I looked on games forever. It shortened the gap between gaming and movies with a mile. No other game told a story so well until then and no other game had voice acting in this league before it.

My first encounter with the game was through a demo that came along an issue of the fantastic UK edition of the Official PlayStation Magazine. I remember sitting down and playing through the demo. I was first met by the haunting melody behind the Konami logo I linked to at the top here and one hour later I was literally screaming at the “To be continued” screen asking for more. I don’t think a demo ever sold me as much as that one did.

The technical side of MGS looks dated today, and the controls clumsy by new standards, but it’s one of the absolute finest PS1 games you’ll find. The true power of MGS though, lied in the story and presentation. Everything from the brilliant voice overs, especially David Hayter’s voice as Solid Snake and the cinematic way the game presented dialogue and sequences all using the ingame engine, without switching between FMV and gameplay like other games at the time and keeping a perfect flow. This impressed a lot considering the hardware limitations of the time, in fact it was amazing the way they weighed out the polygons to a point of detail that was just enough to make both the characters and the environments great. Hell there weren’t even proper faces on the characters, but still I remember them so well!

Speaking of the characters, the sheer variety in them, their interesting personalities and all powered along by a heavy plot with many underlying meanings. The way the story had several twists and the fact that they brought political issues into the mix and blending it into a situation that could have been reality was unheard of in gaming before MGS. It felt real, it touched something inside you with its clever plot and it kept it to a scale that wasn’t going to far, yet showing a large scale of a terror attack on a US military base.

The atmosphere in the environments just has to be mentioned as well. The way you sneak in and climb out of the water and especially when you reach the top of the base and lean against a container while the snow and wind blows past you and no one knows you are there, is intense. You feel alone and you feel you are on a stealth mission. Scenes throughout the game touches you, from the psychotic encounter with Psycho Mantis (he “reads” your mind and fucked with your vibration in your DualShock controller!), to the flirting and love interest between Snake and Meryl, to the really sad death of Sniper Wolf and the brutal brother to brother fight at the end. The sheer variation in the story, characters and of course the gameplay set MGS far beyond its competitors.

MGS 2 and 3 went on from here to a new platform and generation, these also have fantastic stories to tell and characters to meet, and while maybe taking things a little too far they are also games that truly are some of the best I’ve played. MGS1 however, will always stand out as the winner, it truly perfected the formula from the get go.

God I miss the nineties.

(This article was first published on Thursday, January 13, 2011 on my original IGN blog.)

Three is lucky!

It’s soon Christmas folks! I’ve pretty much played through all the important Christmas games already, before I’ve even got my pressies! Since this is probably my last entry of reviews this year I’ll go through three games in one post.


Metro 2033



First game; Metro 2033. It’s set in the post-apocalyptic world of 2033 after the nukes have wiped out mankind, and yes it does sound like a Fallout game, but this has a slight difference. Firstly its not an RPG and it may remind you of games like Fallout 3 or the STALKER games in looks and setting but actually it is a fairly straight forward first person shooter.

So while the game pushes you mostly from A to B in an old, but fairly wide, corridor fashioned FPS and trying to introduce some stealth sort of missions, what Metro 2033 truly is about is the atmosphere and the feeling of desperation underneath the surface of a nuked-out Moscow. The story is simple, you must deliver a message to a far off subway station while dealing with mutants that have grown out of the radioactive ruins of mankind. This makes for some hideous looking enemies and many scares, but what is truly creepy is the main story of a mutant creature that is rumoured to be the next step in evolution, humans are therefore no longer the furthest. This eerie creepiness and flashback scenes of this creature build a lot of Metro’s fantastic atmosphere.

Metro 2033 has a minimal HUD as you fight your way through subway stations, abandoned halls, sewer systems and hideouts. You even encounter battlefields beneath the surface. This lack of HUD helps keep you focused on the reality of things and what’s even more exciting is the fact that you have to wear a gas mask on the surface. Believe me that when you are breathing heavily inside a mask in a snowstorm with a a gas mask with huge cracks in visor while shooting at creatures and generally having a hard time surviving you truly feel sucked into the dark and dismal scenario. This is the games strongest point, it truly submerges you into the feeling of begin hopeless and having to fight your way to survive.

The game plays well, with a precise gun feeling and small things to consider. Like changing filters on your mask or recharging your batteries with a manual pump to use your torch and night vision goggles. The environments look fantastic and ooze atmosphere, even though you mostly are in underground settings. Sadly the animation of people, enemies and the voice overs are very bad. They are stiff and lack a lot of fluidity. This is such a shame since the rest of the graphical side of Metro is great.

I really enjoyed the dark and desperate moments of Metro 2033, and the underlying fear of the next step in evolution. I also enjoyed the fierce firefights combined with the desperation of changing gas mask filters or recharging my night vision goggles. I felt like I was there and it was frightening. However the bad animation and the very disappointing ending left me a little put out at the end. Of course looking back i was a fantastic ride, but I would have liked something amazing at the end and I would have maybe liked some more flashbacks to a time before the nukes fell from the sky. All in all it ends as a game with potential that could have gone so much further.

Rating

★★★★


Assassin's Creed Brotherhood



Assassin's Creed Brotherhood up next. This is a direct follow-up of the story and main character from AC2. If I haven’t mentioned it before I will now; I absolutely love the AC series. I’ll happily admit that AC1 was flawed in many areas but the general idea was amazing, and so the sequel last year blew me away. Not only did it fix small nuisances of the original it added so much, much more. Sidequests from the main story, the ability to upgrade not only your armour and weaponry, but also rebuilt your local town. Brotherhood in other words had quite a bit to live up to.

AC:B is not a true AC3, it’s more like a sequel to AC2. Don’t get me wrong, it isn't an extention pack, it’s a full game with the same if not more length than AC2. It continues closely to the AC2 story, and if you still haven’t begun on any AC games then begin with AC2 before delving into Brotherhood. AC:B only lets you roam in one town, but the size of Rome is incredible and actually makes it seem larger than any AC game to date. In fact the sheer amount of things to do in Rome is amazing and will take you ages.

The main quest is to bring down the Borgia dictatorship in Rome, but along the way you can encounter in many exciting and historical sidestories. Everything from finding Romolous’ armour, to experimenting and trying out Leonardo Da Vinci’s many strange vehicles and machines. You will also get the choice to invest in shops, banks and buildings to help build Rome from ruins and have to take over the city one part at the time as you assassinate local leaders and take control yourself.

If you really enjoyed AC2 without hesitation take part in Ezio Auditore’s rebuilding of Rome, I guarantee you’ll love this game.

Rating

★★★★★☆


Pac-MAn Championship Edition DX



Last game for this time: Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. It’s a deluxe version of 2007’s Championship Edition which I never played. So far I have really enjoyed this game. It is addictive, very addictive. The game takes a twist on the traditional Pac-Man gameplay and lets you try and get as many sleeping ghosts in the maze to wake up and follow you while collecting the traditional dots. Each time all dots are eaten a fruit will appear and this again will unlock a new route of dots and sleeping ghosts.

This makes you press your self really hard to collect as many ghost behind you before eating a pill and turning around and eating them. The latter of course giving insane amounts of points. Combined with flashy and neon coloured HD visuals and a thumping, fantastic  techno soundtrack will give you great value fro money. For an entertaining arcade game this Christmas, go for Pac-Man!


Rating

★★★★★☆


That’s it for reviews of 2010, it’s been a good gaming year and I’ll be back next year with more reviews of new games. I may write a Looking back feature or a top 2010 list of something, maybe, maybe not. Until next time though; have a great Christmas and a happy new year! \o/

(This article was first published on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

Looking back: Resident Evil

Do you remember picking up the cover of Resident Evil at a shop for the first time? Remember seeing this screaming guy on the cover with a giant spider in the background asking yourself; what the fuck this game was about? I do. I remember being halfway scared of the cover, the pictures on the back and the description, and the other part of me was very intrigued.



Before you say it; I know Resident Evil wasn’t the first horror game and I’m not trying to make out it was. But for me it was the first time I’d sat down and played a game that scared me. Well ok, Doom also scared me a few years before, but Resident Evil was made like a horror movie. It featured a real movie sequence in the intro with actual actors and left you abandoned in an old mansion. It didn’t take long before you realised it was something seriously wrong going on. I bet you are thinking the same as me now; that first FMV with the zombie eating at a dead guy and turning its head. I remember just shouting out; what the hell is that?!

At the time I played this the movie sequence at the beginning seemed cool and especially the atmosphere building the story around it. Looking back it seems very cheesy, but the main story behind it is still excellent. This goes for the rest of the game too, today and even partially in 1996 the voice overs are bad, but pick up the main lines, read all the notes found around in the house and soak up the atmosphere of every room and your imagination will fill over the cheesy parts and help make the story of the mansion in Resident Evil seem excellent and of course creepy.

What I find unique about the original Resident Evil, and not the remake which misses the following point; is that it didn’t go too far out lengths to make the mansion creepy. It was just an old abandoned building, complete with old furniture and horrid wallpaper and a hidden, dismal research facility underneath. There weren’t stupid candlelight rooms, oh-so-scary dungeons and ridiculous over-the-top scary characters or any sort of overnatural phenomena. The game told the story of a company experimenting with bioweapons at an old Victorian-like mansion and something going horribly wrong.

While the controls were sluggish and the combat often frustrating, it helped build a tension for the first game, sadly it was kept in the later games and never progressed. But the gameplay was never really pushing boundaries in RE, it was there, it worked fine for its purpose, and it helped keep you at your toes fighting down the zombies, dogs and other hideous creatures. Add the fact that it never ever let you have stacks of ammunition; in fact it’s probably the most balanced survival horror game you’ll ever encounter in this regard. The gunplay felt satisfying though, and while slugs were sparse, the shotgun gave for some of the most satisfying headshots in any game. It balanced out the weapons perfectly and always gave you them at a slow pace, making you really enjoy the moment you got your hands on a new one.

The zombie killing and scary moments when dogs jumped through windows etc, would not have been so great had it not been for the environment and setting. This is the truly genius part of Resident Evil in my opinion. Firstly let us look at the build-up of the game; RE didn’t make you travel through the game from A to B, it just left you in a house and so the environments were used in a manner that made you familiar with them. You would find short routes through the mansion; often you would go a longer route to avoid enemies because of sparse ammo. As you progressed you found new keys to unlock doors further and further into the whole building. It helped build a familiarity with the mansion and it helped build tension as you realised it was far larger than your first impression.

All this combined with some truly amazing designed rooms and interiors, each and every room felt and looked unique in both colour scheme and layout (this was also missing from the remake). I could just walk around and look at all the details and combined with notes and diaries written by the people living there you could picture yourself how it was before everything went wrong and how it was to live there. I can close my eyes and see all these creepy, yet fascinating, rooms in front of me. The blue marble room with the green statue in it, the bright lit art gallery with the crows, the hidden lift to the library, the dining hall with the bloody fireplace, the room with a collection of middle age armours, the guardhouse with it’s cracked up wooden floor, the secret lab entrance beneath a fountain, the white tiled morgue, the steam filled orange power generator rooms and so on. Truly one of the best designed environments in the history of gaming. No, I’m not going too far saying that.

The RE series went on to become one of the biggest gaming franchises ever from this, and it was indeed well deserved. While not actually outdoing it’s first outing, RE2 and RE3 followed the same style and are well worth mentioning as beautifully realised Raccoon City settings. Taking the story of how the T-virus spread to a larger and more shocking, yet not too exaggerated scale. RE: Codename Veronica took a new direction and placed the RE formula on an island, it too was cleverly designed but gave up halfway and became far fetched  From then on the series lost me. Surely we got a remake and a Zero iteration, which held the style of RE1-3, but did we need a remake so soon and made like a cliché fun park horror house? The series then went into the action genre and while good games on their own, RE4 and RE5 for me have nothing to do with the original trilogy. The atmosphere, the setting and style were lost completely.

I’ll raise a shiny, blood-red glass of wine at the end of my dining table in the flickering candlelight and give a toast to Resident Evil 1 to 3, but of course mostly to RE1 and say: You changed my deception of videogames, introduced me to survival horror in its true form and amazed me with your atmosphere, tasteful design and clever plot. Now I’ll grip hold of my Beretta, load it with 9mm lead and blow some zombie brains out!


(This article was first published on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

It's freezing in the cold war!

As usual there has been serious gaming going on! It’s building up to Christmas now and I’m well into the big releases for the holiday season. This post will be my review of Call of Duty: Black Ops, but before we delve into the cold war let’s check out some other titles. I’m loving Assassins Creed Brotherhood and will be back with a review soon with that too. I also got news that the second episode of the fantastic 2D platformer Blade Kitten is coming out mid-December, only to find out it’s next year, but still I’m really looking forward to that!

By the way, I tried out an older title again recently; Far Cry 2. I wanted to give it a spin again, try and understand what disappointed me and what intrigued me in the first place. The annoying spawning of enemies is still there and it reminded me of how annoying passing each road crossing in the game is. The gunplay is alright, not fantastic but does its job. However the small nuisances, I still love the atmosphere. The environments are simply amazing and it’s just so fun to walk freely around in the African landscapes with a sniper and seeing the weather and day cycle change. It’s one of those games that could have been a revolution, but ended up flawed on the gameplay side. I wonder if I will give it any more time though, there are so many other titles to play.


Call of Duty Black Ops



Well then, the next Call of Duty game. This time from the Treyarch team, can they outdo last year’s Infinity Ward marble that was CoD: Modern Warfare 2? In multiplayer: hell yes, in singleplayer: well, yes here too! Let me make this clear from the beginning, the game is fantastic! Both the singleplayer and multiplayer deliver an awesome experience and if that’s all you need to know then go out and buy the game now!

First the singleplayer storymode; it’s all set during the cold war in the sixties. It’s in my opinion a fantastic time to take on in a Call of Duty game. It’s a time where technology, superpowers and government conspiracies raised. It is easy to make a story around actual events like Kennedy’s death, The Vietnam War and the Cuban missile crisis and incorporating imaginary characters and events. It feels very believable and it gives an interesting political insight to the arms race between the USA and the USSR. The game even takes a flashback mission to the very end of the Second World War, after Berlin has fallen, to give us a glimpse of the race from the allies to get hold of Nazi scientists and technology. I loved the setting and hope that Treyarch revisit it!

Gameplay wise it familiar territory, it’s the 60 frames per second goodness of the later Call of Duty games. The gunplay feels right and its super smooth thanks to the high framerate, once again CoD proves it’s a head higher than most of the competition in the genre! This time around there are many experimental and early versions of classic rifle and weapons. The crossbow with explosive tips gives way for some awesome and rather violent kills (by the way, there is some really strong violence in various scenes in this game). The amount of effects and details in the environments is jaw dropping and make for some awesome action sequences. It feels like you are playing an awesome Hollywood action movie with a believable setting and gun realism.

However at times all the action can prove a little too hectic and it gets kind of unclear what to do. They should pace down the game a little and let you fight in areas for a longer time before quickly moving on and changing location so often. You can pace things down yourself though and go slowly forwards. Although the zombiemode included is fantastic, I would have liked a coop mode like the one in MW2.

Minor complaints aside though, it’s a fantastic and rather lengthy game too, well compared to most FPS games these days anyhow. The variation is fantastic and the dialogue and story are interesting and will give you more than one twist. For me it actually outdoes MW2 story wise, I just find that the plot doesn’t go too far out there and the ending missions really round everything up to a great climaxe. Any FPS or CoD fan should pick up the game without hesitation. A landmark indeed and Treyarch just gave Infinity Ward a real run for it's money!

Rating

★★★★★☆

Although it’s also a fantastic I’d like to mention a few great details about the multiplayer, especially considering how much I hated MW2 online. Black Ops is much less orientated on insane killstreaks, and it tones down the amount of aircraft called in by annoying, screaming teenage boys considerably. In fact it’s rather easy to shoot down attack choppers and package deliveries. This focus on taking back the cheap kills (that includes stupid knife perks btw) and putting gun skills higher has made Black Ops the multiplayer follow-up Call of Duty 4 really deserved. I didn’t stop once to play through all the 50 XP levels to earn my first prestige. In fact I loved every minute of it and my blood pressure never once really went anywhere near the frustration of MW2!

Until next time, have fun!

(This article was first published on Friday, December 03, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

In Russia Singularity plays you!

Another update folks! My impressions of games are flying on my blog lately. So many games, so little time! At the time of writing I have started playing Assassins Creed Brotherhood and completed Call of Duty Black Ops on veteran difficulty. Impressions of those games later on though. This week’s update is about Singularity.



Actually you may have missed Singularity, I sure almost did. It was released very anonymously earlier this year. Strangely enough I heard Activision weren’t happy with the sales of this game, but I blame them for not promoting it enough. This game simply passed by me, and only lately I picked it up really cheap.

Singularity takes place on the fictional island of Katorga-12, an earlier Soviet owned island. I doubt it exists at all in real life, but then again neither does the new super energy source the Soviets have found in the games storyline either! The new element found is called E99 and has given the Soviets enormous powers and abilities. The game is set in 2010, but there are many flashbacks to the cold war and the development of E99. The game largely revolves around the concept of time travel. This gives room for some really good plot twists and scenarios along the way.

You arrive at the island as an US elite force, going to the island to investigate what is happening there. However a large explosion grounds the team and you are quickly stranded alone. I like how a game again dares to put you alone, instead of with a gang of retarded AI teammates. This helps build the dark and creepy atmosphere of the island. You see the island inhabitants aren't exactly human anymore!

To compare this game with other first person shooters I would say it’s a cross between Bioshock and Half-Life 2. Actually I think that comparison is spot on. The story and atmosphere, combined with the juggling between traditional firearms in one hand and special abilities in the other is clearly borrowed from Bioshock. While the puzzle elements are from HL2 and are all built around physics and the way you need to use the time and gravity element to change the environment. You can pick up objects to climb on and you can send objects back and forwards through time to either destroy or build them up.

This combination of shooting against varied and different types enemies, combined with the storytelling, special abilities and environment puzzles make a really solid game. While it never goes to the heights of Bioshock complex story or the depth of HL2’s gameplay it does a great job of combining both. It was an unexpected experience for me, and took me by surprise as being very entertaining since my expectations were low. The game even lets you collect E99 “cash” to buy upgrades and abilities, making it even more varied.

All in all if you enjoyed Bioshock and Half-Life 2 I would have to say that picking up Singularity is well recommended. The shooting is solid and should give gamers quite a challenge. At times the difficulty is rather challenging. In fact I would not recommend the game for people who simply play FPS games for the shooting. You need to get the story, atmosphere and variation in singularity to really enjoy it, play it steady and don’t rush it. As with most shooters though, it is a short experience, and you are really just getting into things when it’s over. I would have liked it being longer, can’t FPS games learn this from the Half-Life games about length?!

Rating

★★★★


I'll be back in a short while with my impressions on CoD Black Ops and maybe a look back at an old classic.

See you around!

(This article was first published on Friday, November 19, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

Kittens with blades and boys of meat?!

I'm taking a break here on my blog from the main release games and taking a look at Xbox Live Arcade games I've played lately. Just want to mention that the whole idea of the Arcade store which Microsoft started with the Xbox 360, later used by Sony in  PSN store and Nintendo in WiiWare, is fantastic. It gives small developers a change to sell games on a huge scale. Some of the most inventive titles are in fact released this way, and it lets games take a break from the mainstream ideas. 2D games, which are more or less gone from the main market, get to live freely on the online game market. I love the fact that Xbox Live Arcade lets you try every single game before purchase too!



I’ll start off with a look at Blade Kitten, a 2D platformer and beat ‘em up featuring a cute pink haired girl with cat ears as the main character. It kind of takes the fun out of Japanese anime figures in it’s  funny cutscenes, with some cool small touches like every time you open a secret treasure the main girl says something the line of “win get” etc.

The plot is simple, the main heroine gets a vital item for her spaceship stolen and she goes on a manhunt to get it back. She’s kind of a mercenary and gets tangled up in missions along the way. The game has a cellshaded style to it and the cutscenes really look cartoony and flashy.

Gameplay wise it’s a 2D platformer with fighting elements. Add in the ability to climb vertical walls, ceilings and double jump and the game controls great! The levels are huge and have a ton of side routes and treasures to find. You can play the game like a Sonic the Hedgehog beginner by just racing through the maps, but then you are missing the point. You should can play it calmly like a true platformer and explore and find secrets, this is where the true entertainment of Blade Kitten lies.

I like the artstyle, the comic and funny storytelling, the controls are good and the exploring is rewarding and exciting. The game lets you upgrade your abilities with treasure money and the levels are actually very varied. There are some issues though; the framerate is low and sometimes it dips considerably, I would also have liked more variety to the fighting and variation of enemies. All in all I was surprised and impressed by this game. It feels like a 2D platformer from the old PC days rather than an old console platformer, mainly because of the more advanced exploring, animations and control style.

Rating

★★★★




You know a game is good when the title screen shows a huge red smiley face and the words: SUPER MEAT BOY are shouted through your speaker system! This game is really simple. Super Meat Boy, a bloodsoaked, square piece of meat with tiny legs and arms and a huge smiley grin of a face, needs to get his girlfriend Bandage Girl back from the evil Dr. Fetus. It sounds bizarre, and it is! The cutscenes have this early 2000’s internet flash player cartoon style and violence to them, and they are very funny.

The simple story aside though, this game is about the gameplay. Except the left right buttons, there are two things meat boy can do. Jump and run, these two combined make up for some insane long jumps. The aim of each level is to get to bandage girl without dyeing. A simple, yet sometimes , impossible task.

You see SMB (that abbreviation isn't a coincidence by the way!) probably has some of the most nightmarish levels for any 2D platformer fan. It’s like that “Mario from hell” video off youtube. The controls are fantastic and they make this game so addictive. SMB is ultra-responsive when you control him and it doesn't take long before you are doing impressive platforming around on the really difficult stages. When you finally reach Bandage Girl on the end of a level you are shown all your previous failing attempts. Which is a nice touch, since you will constantly be dying and giving each difficult level that “one more go before I give up”.

SMB is addictive, the controls are fantastic and the cutscenes and story is hilarious. It shows modern gamers what classic 2D platforming is about in a unique, yet classic way. Try out the demo and I’ll guarantee you’ll love SMB.

Rating

★★★★★☆

(This article was first published on Friday, November 12, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

An honourable game of medals

Medal of Honor (2010)

The Medal of Honor (yeah, that’s the US honour without the u) franchise has been around for years. I remember being totally hooked on the first game on PlayStation 1, and it was one of those titles that really put WW2 on the gaming market. Eleven(!) years later and many (far too many) WW2 games later, both from the MoH and the Call of Duty franchise, the time period is finally being moved on from.  The new thing now is Modern Warfare, and the new MoH is wanting in on some of that cake.

First off though, the development has to be mentioned; the main singleplayer is developed by an inhouse Electronic Arts team called Danger Close and they use the Unreal Engine 3 for that mode. The multiplayer however is developed by DICE and uses their Frostbite engine. In other words the two modes look, play and feel different, they are in fact two completely separate games! I will review each one separately.



The singleplayer. Moving away from WW2, this MoH game takes place on a two day campaign in Afghanistan. You fight the Taliban as various US soldiers. The game starts off actually quite tame, and I wonder why they chose this mission as the first. It has a far too long and non-interactive intro, at least they could have had a training mode before it! However, the game quickly picks up pace after this. You attack and old Russian airfield, take part in large fire fights in mountains, go on a shooting run with an Apache AH64D and do some really exciting sniping and night missions. The variety is excellent, but they are short-lived. A lot of the more varied missions could have been longer, because they are original and have a huge entertainment level. You get a feel and taste of them and then they are over and never revisited.

The team have captured the look and feel of Afghanistan perfectly; the texture work on mountains is particularly fantastic with a natural colour and tone, the lighting and the weather effects are great too. The animation on enemies is a little sloppy though, especially annoying is the way enemies take far too many bullets to take down. The sound in the game is fantastic, so are the voiceovers and military radio chatter.

The game controls well, it lets you duck, crawl and even slide into cover. A great plus to the fact that you can alter the fire rate of weapons. The weapons look and feel heavy, but they don’t take down enemies as powerful as I hoped for. The freedom is another downside. While all the environments look fantastic, they all feel very restricted. There’s always a route to follow, in our days with huge free areas in most games this feels restricted. It probably appeals to beginners on FPS games, but if I've got a mountain in front of me, I want to go where I want! EA needed only to take a look at the Battlefield Bad Company games to know what I'm talking about!

All in all the game is solid, it feels like an authentic Afghanistan experience and it’s impressive that EA have dared to let the game take place in a conflict happening today. In fact it makes the game a must to play now, so you can experience and understand what is going on in a real-life conflict, rather than some old war you've only seen black and white photos from. Regardless of this though, the game is far too short, you are finally getting into the controls and getting used to the fighting when it’s over. At times the experience is a four star game, at its lowest it’s a three star game. I’ll give the singleplayer a benefit of its great ideas.

Rating

★★★★

Bring on the multiplayer! I don’t have much positive to say about the multiplayer. It’s a frustrating experience. In principle it’s not a bad idea, it takes a shot at being something between Call of Duty 4 and Battlefield Bad Company 2, but it falls kind of in-between the two chairs. It feels like a sloppy Bad Company 2 at times with terrible spawnpoints, incredible amounts of lag and a weird way of detecting who kills/dies first. The open mode of the multiplayer with the largest maps isn’t really anything up to BC2’s similar mode and therefore you simply should play that game instead. The close combat maps and more CoD-like maps suffer from the sluggish feel of the shooting and the terrible way it spawns you up in areas where the enemies are. Kudos however, to the fact that there are no annoying perks and other stupid “super natural” abilities. It’s a clean old-school shooting game.

The gameplay controls completely different from the singleplayer game. This is BC2 gameplay and for people only familiar to the singleplayer of MoH it’s gonna make them learn everything from scratch again. You can’t even crawl on the ground on the multiplayer! The design choice for this is so strange and questionable. Compliments for the use of sound and sheer amount of action though, DICE’s Frostbite conquers this perfectly again.

All that said, the multiplayer does work for a few hours, it has an incredible steep learning curve and beginners of online gaming should stay far away. It will give you a few great rounds and it has a few different modes to play around in, but beware of frustration in the long run.

Rating

★★★


As a package I would recommend either the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles or the Battlefield: Bad Company titles over this game. Go for it if you like more authenticity and actually want to get some knowledge on how the Afghan war looks and feels. Buy it for the singleplayer in other words, not the multiplayer. Next time though, EA, I want a longer game and I want the multiplayer to be the same engine/developer as the singleplayer!

(This article was first published on Monday, November 01, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

Hello Halo!

I'm still in space and still fighting aliens! Doing a little Halo-roundup here, namely Halo Reach and Halo Wars. I've played Halo Wars a while back, but decided to put it in here together with one of this year’s biggest titles:


Halo Reach


We’ll begin with Halo Reach. It’s apparently Bungie’s last Halo game, however I guess Microsoft is going to continue the franchise with another developer. What Bungie have done is modernise the Halo series, make it more accessible, very varied and they have also taken influence from other games. The result is kind of short, but a fantastic experience.



If you are a brand new Xbox 360 owner and have never touched the Halo series before, this is probably a great place to start. Even if your interest is just to get a FPS shooter. If you end up loving this game; I would recommend you move on to Halo 3 and Halo ODST.  Halo 3 is actually longer, but requires you to be little more of a fan to really enjoy. Halo Reach perfectly blends the spectacular environments from Halo 3 and adds some of the dark mood from ODST. What’s more, it is graphically modernised to be right up there with the best FPS games and makes the worlds much larger and more open. The sense of being part of a large war is evident, the guns all look and feel more satisfying this time around and the environments ooze atmosphere!

The older Halo games could often have a lot of repetition and dragged on for too long with certain areas. Halo Reach however is really varied. Each environment looks distinctly different and the objectives and missions you take part in are something new in each chapter. I mean for crying out, one level you fight an open beach-landing fight, then some close combat in a building, then you jump in a spaceship, travel into space and fight in a large scale spaceship battle only to end up on board a huge mothership and battle it out in low-gravity. It simply blows you mind away. Add the more realistic approach to the cutscenes and the more gun orientated influences from Modern Warfare, you have got yourself an amazing FPS game.

Sure I have some complaints. The framerate drops at times, and it’s noticeable that the graphical overhaul on the Halo 3 engine has been a little too much for it to take. The length of the game is also clearly made to compensate for inpatient random gamers, Halo 3 felt much longer! It’s like many FPS games these days; you’re just getting into it when suddenly the credits roll. The length can be helped with the coop mode and playing the game on a harder level though. Coop being really fun and the way I’ve played all the Halo games.

Even though you are a Halo fan or new to FPS’s and the series, you should pick this game up without hesitation. It misses the top slot for covering a lot of old ground, and being too short.


Rating

★★★★


Halo Wars



“Halo Wars, it’s a lot like Command & Conquer with a Halo theme!” was the first thing that came to my mind playing this game. In a way that sentence sums it up well. Playing RTS games on consoles isn't really something I'm very fond of usually, but Halo Wars proved to me that it does indeed work out well. The menus and steering is highly optimised for the Xbox 360 controller and the simple nature of upgrading units and building your base makes  Halo Wars enjoyable as a console RTS.

This isn't a Bungie produced game, but the Halo “vibe” is very present. The vehicles, old and new, all look great and look exactly like they do in the Halo FPS games. The cutscenes are fantastic and bring together an exciting story set in the Halo universe.

I actually played through the game coop with a friend, and it really should be the way to play it for everyone. You can share units and the best strategy is for one to build and uphold the base and units, while the other person concentrates on the battle against the enemy. The game is quite challenging at points and gives you often very little time for decisions. So you’ll most likely end up replaying a lot of the missions.

Being familiar to the Halo universe lets you easily understand which units are best towards the enemies. However as the game progressed I felt the number of units and availabilities for upgrades were limited. It felt like C&C “light”. I'm guessing the amount of memory and such on a console kind of holds this variety back, RTS games are kind of perfect for the PC platform.

All in all though I enjoyed the game, the story was interesting and kept me going. The gameplay is easy to learn and is probably the best RTS controls I've tried on a console before. It’s a perfect game for anybody looking for an easy to pick up C&C-like game for their Xbox 360 and of course if you enjoy the Halo series and want something different. I have not tested the online multiplayer modes.

Rating

★★★★

Until next time, goodbye!

(This article was first published on Friday, October 22, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

In space, no one can hear you cutting off limbs.

I have been playing through quite a few games since my last post, but haven’t got the time around to write about them. I will just kick-start it by talking about Dead Space. Yes I know, I’m really late to the party for this one, the game was out a couple of years ago already. I watched the first part of the game back then when a friend played it, so I’ve been holding back to buy the game myself.

Dead Space


Dead Space starts off onboard the bridge of a spaceship. The crew is going to find out what’s wrong with a mining space station which has sent out distress signals. Being a horror game, the alarm bells rang in my head, and I must stress this: If you ever find yourself in space and get a distress signal from anybody, DON’T FUCKING GO THERE! It always ends up in nasty aliens and horrible deaths!

Of course you end up at the space station, and it doesn't take long time before you realize the place if seriously messed up by horrible creatures. These alien life forms take over dead bodies and roam around with sharp, claw-like, long arms and legs. To kill them you need to cut of each limb off with your gun. This is the genius gameplay part of Dead Space. You need to kill enemies in a different way than just headshotting them like in a typical zombie game.

Dead Space is made up of chapters, which represent different parts of the space station. Each chapter presents you with a different task to do; starting up generators, restoring power etc. There are some backtracking chapters, but it helps to give a sense of familiarity to the environments. There are doors to unlock, items to find and help you upgrade your spacesuit and guns.

Visually the game is stunning; it shows a dark and modern space station in glorious detail. The outside views of space and planets, together with the lighting really look superb; in fact the lighting plays a huge part indoors too. It casts shadows from fans and enemies, helping to build up a fantastic atmosphere. If there is a downside though, I would have liked more “outdoor” views, less corridors and more colour variety. From trailers I’m guessing Dead Space 2 is fixing this.

I've already explained the gameplay part about how to take down enemies. However great idea this is it wouldn't help if the controls weren't good. Luckily they are awesome in Dead Space. The game controls like Gears of War; over the shoulder view and free aiming. This game is a lesson to developers like Capcom; there is no excuse to have slow, stagnant controls that won’t allow you to move freely while shooting. I hear people say: “but then the game gets too easy”. Bullshit. Dead Space never  has very many enemies onscreen, and lets you control it like a FPS game and it’s still hard and puts you in many stressing, disturbing and tense moments. I went into many rooms SWAT-style with my gun aimed up high and cautiously turned each corner. I was scared as hell and the free controls only added a sense of it all being under my control and skill to survive.

I have to make a small note of the outdoor sections which had no sound except your heavy breathing and the rooms without gravity. They really spiced up the game and felt great!  They made fighting a little more tricky and added variety to the gameplay.

These intense moments of enemies attacking you, either in a locked room or sneaking up when you don’t realize it added with the sheer amount of extreme gore make Dead Space one of the best survival horror games I have played. It’s right up there next to Silent Hill and Resident Evil. I don’t really watch so much horror movies, but I love horror games. They give you this intense fight for survival which just gets harder and worse during the game and it really feels good when you get to the end and can breathe out. You get the feeling you've taken part in surviving and fighting for your life.

Rating

★★★★★☆

And oh, a little note to the developers: Next time don’t add a shitty asteroid mini-game. That was just terrible.

(This article was first published on Monday, October 18, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

Looking back: WipEout

For my first entry in the series of “Looking back” I’m taking a trip down memory lane to what the launch game Wipeout and the series did for gaming, and why it meant so much for my generation of gamers. I aim to look back at other games and series too, so we can see the evolution videogames have gone through.





Once in a while there are just these games that come along and blow you mind when you see them for the first time. Sure the anti-gravity racing theme had been touched before in games, such as the excellent F-Zero on the Super Nintendo, but it lacked something to keep the player hooked for hours on end. Something more explosive, something more unpredictable and it had to sound awesome.

You see my parents grew up with a vision of the future being all this sterile, white and shiny looking, with The Jetsons sort of homes, buildings and flying cars. It all looked like it was so perfectly clean and great looking. My X generation on the other hand grew up with movies and videogames depicting a dark, fallen apart and worn down future filled with 90’s techno music, aggressive inhabitants and life threateningly dangerous sorts of sports and competitions for amusement. Wipeout followed this fashion perfectly.

I remember the day still, this young toyshop owner put the Wipeout game disc in the PlayStation at the store and powered up the console. I believe this was the first time I saw the PlayStation in motion. The year was 1995. Me and a friend were beginning to be a little old to hang out at toy stores like this and slowly realising that we were growing out of endless 2D games with cute characters jumping around on platforms collecting coins, rings or cuddly bears. Low and behold, the amazement of Wipeout! After a fantastic CGI sequence depicting an adrenaline filled race start, we were greeted with a thumping techno soundtrack and flashy menus. Clearly designed somewhere elsewhere than Japan, because it actually looked fashionable, not just colourful and annoying.

The game itself moved at such incredible speed, the anti-gravity feeling was amazing, the music was actual music from famous technogroups and the graphics were jawdropping. It was this “package” that made the whole game simply stand out for a teenage audience. Finally gaming had moved on for home consoles to something for “older kids” and not just endless games designed for children. From the moment I saw this, I knew Sony were going to blow away the completion and revolutionize gaming from the childish 2D era into something much larger and greater. They had taken a jump into the future and they timed it perfectly.

Thanks then to the powerful 3D capabilities of the PlayStation that made the Wipeout graphics possible and the cd-rom that made the music change from brain damaging midi “pling-plong” sounds to real music and quality stereo sounds. But eyecandy alone doesn’t make a game, the gameplay does. While the first Wipeout game was unforgiving with it’s touchy crash physics it held a unique feeling when manoeuvring the anti-gravity spaceships you raced with. They felt like they floated on air, they would bounce up and down from hard landings and you could slide in and out of corners with it left and right airbrakes. It felt so amazing to play and totally different from car racing games. Add the speed and the weaponry you could pick up in a race and shoot down the completion with, it all came together as a real adrenaline ride. If you were so lucky to own Namco's NegCon controller, that twisted in the middle for steering, you were in for gaming heaven!

The game required, like most arcade style racers, that you take time to perfect each track, fly in a good racing line, brake perfectly and so on. Then you would get over the fact it moved so quickly and start to focus on being good with the weapons. Firing down ship after ship. For people watching you play it looked advanced and difficult, and in a sense it was, but goddam it was fun! An adrenaline ride from start to finish!

What amazes me to date is that this game put European developers on the map for good, it completely blew away Japanese racing games on graphics, music (yeah, nobody really likes cheesy generic Japanese rock or techno) and unique design (the developers Psygnosis in England hired in The Designers Republic  to make the game look prefect on design for its time and era). Other games would follow this trend later on. The series continued on from here.

What followed was perfection for the Wipeout series. Wipeout 2097 launched the following year in 1996 and made the height of the series control wise. It took away the annoying crash physics, added a perfect set of weaponry and took the dark and gloomy future design one more step up. It looked and played incredible! Wipeout 3 came after a three year gap (why?), and toned down the colourful menus, and delivered more subtle looking environments and tracks, while retaining the great gameplay from Wipeout 2097. The toning down in the design of course followed perfectly with the trend at the time with technobands look and image from album covers to venues. It was a unique example of the series following trends in music, design wise.

However, what followed will not be forgiven for Wipeout fans. Like many unique PS1 series did when they went into the new generation of PS2, they failed. Wipeout Fusion was a mess; bugs, horrible controls and gameplay, cheap design and simply trying too hard to change. It killed the series and it would not re-emerge before the launch of the PSP. Where once again Wipeout was a launch title with unique qualities. Two great Wipeouts on the PSP later and one great one on the PSNetwork on PS3 in HD and the series stands tall again.

I hope new gamers and younger generations get some of the “Wipeout feeling”, that combination of futuristic look, music and fast, adrenaline filled gameplay. However, nothing will be like the first three games, the time period and the rapid development in the games at the time just made it incredible.

(This article was first published on Monday, September 27, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

Sam and Lara

It’s been a while, but I’m still here! The summer time has been quite busy and I haven’t played a lot of new games, but there’s been some. I will quickly go through the most important ones to sum the summer up!

Splinter Cell Conviction


To kickstart I’ll tell about half of my experience with Splinter Cell: Conviction. You see the main singleplayer game is one part of the game, while the coop multiplayer game is the prequel half of the game. I have only played the singleplayer yet, so I’ll come back on the coop part on a later post.

The Splinter Cell games have always been the realistic approach on a stealth game, it originally came as a competition to the stealth game trend Metal Gear Solid started years ago. However of the two the MGS games always had the superior story (while not being realistic) and the SC game always had the superior gameplay.

Unlike years ago, for me now a realistic story is better for me. Especially if the game also is realistic, so I enjoyed SC: Conviction a lot. The locations look and feel incredible. They feel open and they really have a fantastic atmosphere. I also enjoyed the variation on the different missions. The fact that you are on the run from the law gives the story and the atmosphere an extra boost. Making you feel like you are on the edge all the time. I like it and add Michael Ironside’s low and deep voiceover for Sam Fischer and the story really hooks you too.

The gameplay is really solid, controlling Sam feels good and easy. The execution style ability (you have to take out enemies without being detected to have the option of executing enemies with a press of a button) is awesome. However I feel the game is less advanced in the amount of movements you can do compared to the earlier SC games, I guess this was a design choice to hook in new players. I also don’t like the black and white filter when you are hidden, it makes it actually harder to things even though you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing and should be awarded.

All in all, I really enjoyed the playthrough of SC: Conviction, I played it on the hardest difficulty without any major problems. Looking back maybe I feel the execution option made the game a tad easy and should have let me control the aim more instead of just pressing “fire”. While the singleplayer is a tad short, it’s a thrilling and atmospheric ride while it lasts.


Rating

★★★★

Lara Croft - The Guardian of Light


Another game I have been playing a lot lately coop is Lara Croft: The Guardian of Light. The game takes the famous vidoegame heroine Lara Croft and puts her in an isometric viewed adventure built around coop gameplay. Me and a friend haven’t finished the game yet, since it actually is really a big game, but my thoughts on the game are made up already.

The controls are great, the movement being controlled very well, one stick for the character movement the other for the shooting direction. The characters have many moves and there are lots of types of equipment and sort of perks to upgrade your character with, that’s not counting the numerous amount s of weapons to play with.

What I really like about the game is the way you have to really collaborate with your teammate to get through each level. The pace of the game is perfect, it really doesn’t go too far with the action and it puts a lot of puzzles in with the exploring and adventure part of the game. It feels just like a Tomb Raider game in that sense.

I am very impressed by the length of the game so far and that’s even if you try to rush through it. Levels take anything from 20 to 60 minutes to complete and there are many of them. While it is possible to play this game on your own I would point out strongly to play it coop, it adds so much more to the game and it’s really fun to play. Recommend warmly for fans of Tomb Raider and for anyone looking for an awesome action adventure to play together with a friend.


Rating

★★★★★☆

That's it for now, I'm thinking of having some articles about older game series and such. Check back for updates! :)

(This article was first published on Tuesday, September 07, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

Cheapskate!

Yeah, you can call me a cheapskate! I don't mind, not at all, no seriously not at all…….you bastards! Why can you call me a cheapskate? Well, because I bought three games on the cheap lately. Not games I really am that proud over owning either, each for their own reason and well one of them actually turned out to be a pleasant and surprisingly great purchase! But let’s keep that one for last and take you through the paces starting with the game I first played!

Terminator Salvation


Terminator Salvation (you are allowed to make the powerful Terminator theme song drum noise in your head while reading that title) the game that is a prequel to the movie with the same title. Let us just clear one thing first, I love the Terminator movies, I loved the TV series and I adore the setting, the story and the whole thing about a supercomputer that’s hellbent on fucking the entire human population over with mechanic killing robots that have scary metal skeleton faces and red glowing eyes! In theory this setting should translate into a fantastic game!

Well it doesn’t, so if you are disappointed already just go play Fallout 3, it’s the same type of setting and a million times better game! Salvation fails at so many points. Firstly it looks like a PlayStation 2 game in HD, the environments are tiny, the character models are terrible and the animation is basic. The worst is the presentation, the game just jumps over explaining things and has a horrible way of clipping back and forwards between gameplay and cutscenes that simply feel as cheap and as dirty as….hmmm….cheap as a dirty low budget game in your local stores “bargain” bin…which it is!

The core gaming mechanic and shooting isn’t so bad however, and it tries to be a sort of Gears of War type of game with third person shooting with heavy depending on covering and flanking. There are too few but quite different types of robot enemies that require some skill and good shooting to get past. At times you will actually have fun and feel the intense battle when a Terminator is walking towards you.

But it is all over so fast, the battles are always set on sort of “stages”, in other words you know it will be happening and the whole sense of bad quality hangs over the whole game. The atmosphere of  creepiness that was in the movies is totally abscent. It feels like you are fighting in a badly textured world full of retarded Terminators that were abandoned by Skynet for their stupidity.

What can I say? Avoid this game? Yeah, the only positive side it’s easy on hard and 4 hours short for 1000/1000 achievement points. I heard it can be fun in local coop, but have not tried this yet.

Rating

★★

Blacksite Area 51


Next up is Blacksite Area 51. A game that really impressed me in a demo back in 2007, but I simply forgot about it. Picked it up recently and started playing it. The game starts in Iraq, fighting as a US Special Forces team. After a while you discover some strange biological experiment creatures and well without killing the story, you end up later in the US in Area 51 fighting weird, alien-like creatures.

The game is a FPS and plays rather well. The guns could have felt a little heavier and more powerful but it works fine. The environments are big and varied. Ranging from deserts, cities, smalltown America and laboratories. It’s all powered by the Unreal Engine 3, so it looks good. There are many different types of enemies and you even have a sort of commander option letting you give orders to you fellow soldiers in your team.

All in all it’s a rather enjoyable game, not very long but it’s a fun ride straight through. It’s one of those games you easily forget a year later, but feels good when playing it. It could have done with being a little creepy actually, would have made it stand out more. Worth a shot if you have run out of FPS games and want something at a low price!

Rating

★★


Halo 3 ODST


Last of the bunch is Halo 3: ODST! Finally a game that’s far from low-budget! Not being a fan of Halo 1 and 2 after coop playthoughs on the old Xbox, I played through Halo 3 last year and really enjoyed it. Somehow Bungie’s sci-fi world grew into something fantastic and varied on the Xbox 360 in my opinion. I found ODST the other week really cheap at a store and decided to play through. Unlike the previous Halo’s this game is actually best played alone for the singleplayer as it’s much more atmospheric and requires you to get that sense of being alone.

You are a stranded dropship ODST soldier in a futuristic city investigating what has happened to your fellow soldiers and each time you find a clue you play from their point of view in different parts and times in the city. The setting and the way they present the story and game worlds is fantastic and though the Halo 3 engine is getting old the game really shines with its sci-fi environments and large areas to explore. Some of battles are huge and really epic. I also love that dropships and other enormous vehicles actually are vulnerable to be shot at or destroyed!

The game plays exactly like Halo 3, however you do not have regenerating health like Master Chief when being a ODST. So you’ll have to find health packs like the good old FPS games. The game is rather lengthy for a sort of add-on pack game and will challenge most Halo players. I’m guessing the harder settings can be awesome in coop later on.

I loved the dark atmosphere, the loneliness and the variation in settings, so I would recommend ODST to everybody. That is of course if you enjoy sci-fi and have played Halo 3 first!

Rating

★★★★★☆


That will be all for now, I'm off for my summer holidays, so until next time: Play nice! :)

(This article was first published on Thursday, July 01, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)