Friday, 4 November 2011

Cars, fighter jets and jungle warfare!

So it's time for some reviews again. A lot of games being released at the moment. Have decided to leave Batman: Arkham City and Assassin's Creed Revelations to play closer to Christmas.


Remember I told you in the review of Crysis 2 that I had never played the original Crysis and I was a huge Far Cry fan? Well guess what, Crytek improved the lighting engine of the original Crysis and released it on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3! Straight up purchase for me on Xbox Live On Demand, a full title for a reasonable price and you can clock in a 1000 achievement points.

While Crysis 2 took on an urban jungle and gave you city warfare, the original is all about natural environments and jungle warfare set on a huge island. It evolves around an object that has crashed from space on a pacific island and a race between US forces and North Korean forces to get to the crash site first. The jungle setting is followed by an outbreak of aliens, it gives way for a lot of enemy variety and environments. You play as an elite soldier with the newest technology, a nano-suit.

This nano-suit gives way for what Crysis is based around; switching between abilities and as a consequence makes you play differently with each of them. You can set the suit to strength which lets you throw heavy things easily, armour which makes you survive a lot of bullet damage, speed which lets you run really fast or stealth which makes you invisible opens a completely different way of playing the game. Much like in Crysis 2.

Gameplay is very open and I noticed from the very beginning that I started to play the game in a very different wary from other fps games. It actually reminded me of how I used to play Far Cry. Instead of rushing forward and being very set in a corridor or between buildings playing more like rambo than an actual hunter; I began to slow down and use the environment a lot. I would check far forward for enemies that have a tendency to get lost in the dense jungle and flank you. This makes it a far more difficult game than it's sequel. You feel like you are going hunting as you progress through the jungles, sandy beaches and mountains, scouting for enemies along the way and being very vulnerable. It's really nice feeling to play an fps game in such a different way.

Technically Crytek have done a very good job on porting such a demanding game over from high-spec pc's to a console. It looks very good and holds a fluid framerate. There are some framedrops on scenes with a lot of action and it sadly really slows down at the final scene at the end of the game, but all in all it holds the framerate well. The amount of trees, grass and bushes together with buildings, varied terrain and incredible ocean effects really makes you want to take a closer look at just the scenery! The game world is large and lets you take a path of your choice to get to objectives you must complete. It just might not be right up there with Crysis 2 graphically, but it's still a very nice looking game and beats a hell of a lot of the harsh competition out there in the fps genre.

I would really recommend this game, especially for fans of Far Cry, while it in my opinion doesn't quite beat it and could have been a slightly longer game like it's sequel Crysis 2. However you won't find many games that play like this in todays market because games are often to focused on rushing you through it's enviroments. A warm recommendation for fps fans that want something a little different then? Sure!



Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

You have probably noticed the decline both technically and quality wise of Japanese games. Especially in their lack of changing and modernising themselves this generation. Most of them seem just to be a slightly enhanced versions of PS2 era games and add very little new. Most new IP's and innovations this generation have been from western gaming companies. It's taken a long time for Japanese developers to turn, some have even stated they don't care about the western market, but those who dare to modernise usually win. Let’s take a look at Namco's latest Ace Combat then shall we?!

Modern war is really popular in games these days, the trend all kicked off with Call of Duty 4. It's about making a believable plot set in our times based on politics and wars today. Ace Combat has always been about putting real life fighter jets in a fictional environments with fictional countries at war. Assault Horizon dismisses this and puts us right at the present state of the world, starting a conflict of it's own. Right from the beginning this feels much better, the story is believable is far less cheesy and melodramatic (this is so typical for most japanese storylines) and the western influence is present throughout. It also suits the airplanes better as they are assigned to the countries they are made produced in.

A game, though, cannot catch newcomers without radically changing gameplay and adding new features. The audience today is far less patient and want incredible action and smooth gameplay from the get-go. Especially in the modern war genre. ACAH fixes this by making the aircraft very controllable, yet different from model to model and adds a brand new sort of close combat feature. It works that by closing in on an enemy plane, and pressing the shoulder buttons, the camera is dramatically zoomed in and auto follows the enemy plane somewhat.

This gives the player some spectacular dog fighting, often close to the ground, between buildings and with many twists and turns. The zoomed in view allows for more use of the aircraft's machine gun too, and combined with lots of damage animation it looks awesome when you gun down an enemy and the plane disintegrates! There are also counter manoeuvres which looks spectacular when an enemy is tailing you. I enjoyed mostly the outside view of the plane to see all the really cool camera effects.

The missions are varied in all ways, you take control over fighter, multi-role and ground attack jets. There are chopper missions where you use the mighty AH-64 and even a bombing mission where you can fly a B2! Lots of variation in the scenery and locations, from snowy Moscow to rainy Miami and the warm deserts in Africa. Missing only with a bit puny sound, the missions being a door gunner in a Blackhawk are also really fun! Set together with great detail in the graphics, distinct airplane sounds and precise controls it's a joy to play this game!

Namco have dared to renew a famous brand, they have modernized, took influence from other games and really outdone themselves in quality and options. Has it paid off? Yes, yes of course it has. ACAH is a fantastic, fun game, it even has a very good online multiplayer segment complete with coop missions. The singleplayer should have been longer, but all in all they have really taken a lead on other Japanese developers and shown them that is pays off to dare to take a step forward and not just stay at the same spot forever!



Forza Motorsport 4
It's taken Turn 10 less than two years from Forza Motorsport 3 to get to the fourth instalment. While most of the changes are fairly subtle, it's a nice update to a great franchise of racing simulators. You get a clear picture that Turn 10 has listened to the fans and fixed issues they had with FM3. The last game being one of the best racing simulators on consoles this generation.

Well what has changed? The first thing you will notice is the change of lighting ingame. A lot of people complained that FM3 didn't quite nail the lighting like it's racing competitor Gran Turismo 5 has. FM4 adds more real and contrasting lighting and while I quite liked the more dramatic and colourful lighting of FM3 when I first started playing FM4, I can now see the benefit of what they changed. FM4 still has some sunset versions you can choose of their tracks if you like dramatic sunlight, so in this regard everybody is happy.

The main World Tour event has also been made a lot more varied and travels more frequently around the world to different tracks and adds more variety in types of events. Most of the world’s most famous racing tracks are in the game and they have even added a brand new track of their own set in the Swiss Alps. It looks incredible and has a really nice flow to it. The amount of cars in each race has been taken from eight to twelve this time too.

There is even a Top Gear feature put in with the Top Gear racing track, Jeremy Clarkson explanations of cars in the Autovista mode (here you can walk around and look at a small selection of really detailed car models) and some funny events like a car bowling, football and of course the event of TV fame: a star in a reasonably priced car.

Like always there are even more cars and the cockpit views seem to even more tweaked to look even more detailed, combined with the new lighting it's the view of choice to drive in! The handling has also been taken to a even more realistic level, and I really like the feedback when turning now when the game is in simulation mode. You really can feel when your grip loosens and how the car reacts to the surface and turns.

Multiplayer wise they have added a great new car club option, which lets you join or start your own club. Here you can add friends who also have FM4 and share cars in the club so everybody can drive them. It’s fun to be able to share not only a cool new car you have obtained, but also a design or tuning setup of your own.

All in all Forza Motorsport 4 is an excellent package, it might not take a dramatic step up from FM3, but the improvements are very welcome. Although Turn 10 have stated that they didn't add weather effects and night racing to maintain the silky smooth 60fps framerate (something that really benefits the gameplay in racing games imo), I would maybe have liked some variation in that department. If you already own FM3 my rating is that below, if you don't however, consider it a ten.