Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Get your bastion into gear!

Let’s not mess around and just review two awesome games! One full release and one arcade release!

Gears of War 3

That’s right bitches; I've played through the game! Actually I'm still playing the hell out of the multiplayer, but I got through the campaign in four player coop!


Let me first explain why I have always loved the Gears of War series. In my opinion, and probably a lot of reviewers opinion, is that this generation of consoles and games sort of began with the first Gears of War game. It combined next-gen graphics with precise and original gameplay. Introduced cover as a main factor and integrated it very well. The combination of atmospheric environments, dark and gritty fighting and creepy monsters help build a universe I really like.

I have enjoyed how the series has progressed through the three games. The first game was on a fairly small scale, dark and actually quite creepy in parts. The next was on a much larger scale, more varied environmentally and the third game is on an even bigger scale and very diverse in its locations. In fact Gears 3 is diverse in every department. There are more weapons, locations, types of enemies and characters than ever. It makes every fight and place you take part in different and refreshing.

The story involves around Marcus finding out his dad is still alive and he needs to find him. The travel there is long and the feeling of humanity crumbling under the Lambent infection really shows, in fact even the Locust seem to be falling under the Lambent infection. This fight between three types of species, makes Gears 3 even more exciting and the outcome so unpredictable. Gears 3 gives more depth to the main characters this time around. You get to learn more of their background stories. It also adds a couple of female characters just to tone down the very macho approach of the earlier games. The story will keep you guessing right up to the end, and will the third Carmine brother survive this time?!



Gameplay-wise Gears 3 is very familiar for those who have played the former games, but veterans of the series will definitely feel the more precise and smoother controls this time around. Combine that with the even better animations and easiness of entering cover and Gears 3 probably is one of the absolute best games in the control department this gen. The shooting feels heavy and different with each weapon, the active reloading adds such a simple yet great feeling of skill and the sheer variation in enemy types just makes Gears 3 so amazing! We have normal Locust drones, we have mutating Lambent creatures, zombie-like fast moving enemies, huge bosses and small creepy spider like creatures to mention a few. I don’t think many games have so many different enemies!

Technically Gears 3 is almost unsurpassed graphically by other games, beside Bulletstorm and Crysis 2 you will find it difficult to find a prettier game this year on consoles. Everything from the environments on board a ship, to deserts, to bombed-out cites to tropic islands to impressive and stylish indoor hotel environments will make your jaw drop. The lighting is also fantastic, it probably is the most colourful and bright of the Gears game and some may miss the gritty feeling of the previous games. But I think its good they vary, this is what makes Gears 3 such a pleasure to play, it may not drastically do new things, but it evolves and never uses things over from the previous games.

Multiplayer is also fantastic. Many different modes to choose from, real competitive close-combat style games. Dedicated servers have been added for the lag problem that bothered Gears fans on the earlier games. There is also an improved Horde mode with the ability to build fences and turrets to stop each horde, and every tenth level has a boss. Add the beast mode where you swap the roles and fight against humans and the multiplayer package is huge. Did I also mention that they made the campaign four player coop?!



There are some minor glitches aside like achievement unlocks and buttons getting stuck after dyeing in singleplayer. I would also have liked the vehicle section with the speeding cars to have been slower and more engaging; it simply was a big chaos. These though are minor faults in an otherwise fantastic game. You may criticize the game from taking a new direction from the more dark Gears games. Especially the scary parts of Gears 1, but I think that alley was explored in that game and I like the fact that Gears 3 does something completely different from the previous without letting the fans down.

To sum up: Gears of War 3 is in my opinion the best of the series. Epic Games have evolved the series to the height of my expectations. The singleplayer is fantastic, exciting story combined with good voice acting and colourful characters.  The gameplay is smooth and very fun to play, you are hard to find a third person shooter which even comes close. The variety of environments and sheer quality of the graphics is breath taking. Probably one of this generation best games with a huge lifespan both in singleplayer and especially the multiplayer. The competition doesn't come close to the quality.

Rating

★★★★★☆

Bastion
"He double-clicks on the Word icon. He wants to start writing the Bastion review, but the words aren’t there. What shall the boy do?"

I hope you read that last sentence with the Bastion narrator voice! The awesome voice that narrates your every move and story progression throughout this fantastic RPG on Xbox Arcade from the very beginning!


The game literally starts with you get out of bed and explains that the Bastion has been destroyed and needs rebuilding. The Bastion is a sort of city floating in the air, which protects its inhabitants from the world around it. Your journey is to rebuild it piece by piece after the Calamity destroyed it. Each building needs to be resurrected with a crystal found around the games levels. Once you build one you get to choose what it is. Anything from an armoury, to a place where you add abilities to your character to even a shrine which lets you put extra difficulties to the game to make you level faster and more of a challenge.

Bastion is viewed from an isometric point of view and features beautiful hand drawn environments full of colour and variation. The levels sort of float in the air and it reminds me very of old-school JRPG’s from the 16-bit or PS1 era. The combination of the beautiful soundtrack, the artistic (and somewhat psychedelic) look of the game and the narrator just has to be tried to be appreciated! It’s such a breath of fresh air from other games around.

Gameplay is fairly quickly to get into. You have one melee weapon, and one firearm and a button for shield and one for a special attack. Along the way you can upgrade your weapons, buy new special attacks and level up your character. Various weapons will have various effects on the enemies on each level. I like how the game forces you to try out each new weapon you find. Often the level they are found in are best suited for the enemies inside them. There are even levels just for weapon challenges and wave levels with wave after wave of enemies to fight and survive.

I really enjoyed Bastion it’s a beautiful game in every way and an artistic approach to achieving a fantasy world without the high tech 3D graphics which all games now contain. The game introduces new elements and has a large number of levels to keep your attention from dropping throughout the game, I would have liked the story to have been a little more explained, maybe in some more animated cutscenes and maybe had a tad longer lifespan. All in all though, Bastion is absolutely one of the best arcade games I have played! It’s even fun the second time around.


Rating

★★★★★☆

I'll be back soon with more reviews!

Friday, 16 September 2011

I'm a slave to this game!

Once again there’s a storm of games incoming, this time towards winter and Christmas. I've ordered the likes of Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Ace Combat Assault Horizon (the demo released earlier this week, was a little strange, I'll come back to that in a later post). That’s not counting Assassins Creed Revelations and of course; Gears of War 3:


That’s right, my web shop sent the game out too early so I've got to play it almost ten days before the release. So far my impression has been very positive. The controls feel lighter and much smoother than before. The graphics are jaw-dropping and are very colourful and vibrant for the Gears series. I've been playing multiplayer since I'm planning on playing the singleplayer with three friends. The multiplayer is mostly populated by bots now, but I'm sure there will be turning up more and more human players after a while!

The review this time is Enslaved, which basically is a cross between platforming and fighting. The game takes place quite far into the future in a post-apocalyptic setting, though not the typical grey and dismal one, Enslaved is actually very colourful and full of nature. You start on a slaveship carrier which you must escape and end up being controlled by a young girl (hence the title that she enslaves you with a headband), she demands that you help her find her way home.


The city you end up in at the beginning is actually New York, but it is abandoned and overgrown many years after our society lived there. Humans have been slaved and killed by robots which have taken over the world. What I love about Enslaved is that the characters actually don’t know anything about our time, so things like cranes, cars and such are just ancient, strange objects for them. Even the city is unknown to Monkey (the rather wild looking playable character) and Trip (the red-headed girl which enslaves Monkey) which are the main figures in the story.

Gameplay wise Enslaved is varied, it changes between Monkey having to fight the robot creatures which inhabit the environments to climbing and scaling through buildings. The climbing is very spectacular often with a sense of huge scale and heights. The Unreal Engine 3 once again shows it’s amazing power. The fighting is very solid and feels heavy. Different types of robots require various methods to killing them. There is even some shooting involved, but thankfully it stays mostly to hand-to-hand fighting. The boss battles are also fun and varied, so is the hoverboards you get to ride in some levels. I like the fact that Trip takes care of herself a lot and doesn't require you to constantly be with her.

The feeling of crushing a robot after a long fight with a horde of them, then climbing up an old skyscraper and swinging from ledge to ledge gives you such a rush to continue on playing. The game increasingly adds more difficult enemies and puts you in tricky situations like crossing a minefield or protecting a riverboat with a stationary gun. The game is very varied and you won’t tire of throughout the time it takes to complete.

I really enjoyed Enslaved, the game looks fantastic, the fighting is solid, the game is varied and fairly lengthy and it delivers an interesting story with two very different main characters. The climbing sections could have been a bit less automatic in their style, with more freedom to climbing where you want, but is still enjoyable thanks to the spectacular views over overgrown cities, canyons and mountains. All in all, a really entertaining game with gameplay focusing on something else than gunplay.


Rating

★★★★