Friday, 31 May 2013

Infinite shocks of a biological matter!

Bioshock Infinite

There really are very few games that represent this generation better than Bioshock from 2007. It completely blew me away with it's atmosphere, amazing storyline and setting. The original team have returned and Infinite is a very similar affair, it could almost be in the same universe as Bioshock. Only this time it's about a city in the skies, rather than beneath the ocean surface.

Bioshock Infinite starts with a very familiar setting for Bioshock fans and in a way it feels a lot like the hugely popular 2007 game only with a new setting and visual style. It reminds you of how fantastic the original was, and perhaps this sets an almost unfair high expectation of what Infinite should offer and captivate. Infinite is a far brighter and more pleasant environment, compared to the dark city of Rapture in flooded tunnels at the bottom of the sea. It does, however, contain a dark story and while not being maybe as scary as it's ocean based predecessor it tells a fascinating story of an utopian dream of a city that is constantly airborne and flying across America.

Infinite's world is amazingly atmospheric and large scaled!
The beginning of the game is breathtaking, psychedelic, and amazing all at the same time!

Gameplay in Infinite is familiar ground for Bioshock fans, the fundamentals are much the same; You have elements of "magic" in one hand and a classic firearm in the other. Items, money, health and ammo are found around in various objects in the environment, begging you to loot every desk, cupboard, drawer and body you come across. Infinite's gameplay works well in firefights, it has it's own distinctive Bioshock feeling, which sometimes feels a bit large and heavy, but is entertaining. Especially combining your Vigors (which works like magic in a traditional RPG or like the Plasmids in the previous two Bioshock games) with traditional weapons. Doing this combination makes the weapons and Vigors more powerful than simply using them separately on their own.

One cannot review this game without mentioning the grapple hook and zipline system! It lets you traverse the large flying city parts easily and fast. It's really fun to jump from wire to wire speeding away and jumping down from it at the destination you desire. Killing enemies while jumping down is even more satisfying! IT kind of reminds me of the skating tracks from the first Ratchet & Clank game.

Using your grapple hook to crush enemies is brutal and fun!

There is plenty of action and shooting!

I would have enjoyed a more advanced AI and variation in enemies though, the fights end up being a bit of a chaos, throwing Vigors and gunning around yourself in panic until everything settles. It's much like the original Bioshock, but less cramped and more open-spaced over larger distances. I never felt the true need for Vigors this time though, and they just aren't as well implemented as the plasmids in Bioshock 1 and 2.

Lets talk about one of the main features in Infinite, your AI partner Elizabeth. I felt the trailers released before the game launched showed a far more advanced Elizabeth behaviour. Partaking in the fighting and making rifts at her own will. The end result is a tag-along AI, which does nothing. She serves no purpose other than opening predetermined rifts which either contain; a weapon, an automated gun or a hook to grab. It's kind of disappointing compared to how she was portrayed in the trailers and how advanced the rifts looked there.

Elizabeth, the person you are looking for in Infinite.

Infinite is a beautiful game, much like Bioshock it's more about art direction rather than raw graphical detail. Visually it's really colourful game and almost looks like a beautiful art piece at times. I love the fact that they have dared using a so bright, colourful and daring palette (there's even a large use of pink and purple lighting). They really know how to build an imaginary and captivating world, the beginning of the game where you are baptised springs to mind; it's an incredible and very visual experience. Once again proving that Irrational Games games know how to amaze and pull players into the experience with an incredible beginning. Just like it's underwater predecessor; Infinite has an amazingly atmospheric and stunning world.

Character models are fairly simple though, and especially the facial details are quite basic. I would also have liked even more small details in the environments too, with more items scattered around in Infinite's rather empty streets. There are just too few citizens, I would have loved the crowded and buzzing streets from Assassin's Creed complete with the small details in them. This is more present later on in the game; here they build a more creepy atmosphere by leaving you on your own. While this works, it's kind of sad we can't see more buzzing areas like the beginning and beach are a little later on.

As usual the Bioshock games are gory.

Bioshock Infinite is a game you should definitely be playing this year, without doubt. It's a pick-up essential for Bioshock fans, who will find everything very familiar and in true spirit of the series. It perhaps could have done with pushing itself further in some departments and once again I felt the ending was somewhat of a let down, not as much as BioShock, but still a rather tame conclusion in my opinion. It lacked that massive "would you kindly" plot twist which blows you completely away, but I guess they can't use the same trick again. Rest assured though; there's a very cool place you end up at the end, which will make most fans of the series smile from ear to ear!



Friday, 10 May 2013

Let the Gears be the judgement of that!

Gears of War Judgement

One Xbox 360's most famous exclusive series is back, Gears of War Judgement is the first game in the series that Epic have given it's People Can Fly division (the guys behind the amazing Bulletstorm) a chance to create. The game is a prequel in the storyline to the main GeOW trilogy which ended with the incredible Gears of War 3 finale. It tells the story of a court case to Kilo Squad, where Baird is commander and Cole is one of his soldiers. It's a nice break from a Marcus driven story, and much like GeOW3's DLC story "RAAM's Shadow" you get to see how other squads operate. It gives a bigger picture of the struggle against the Locust throughout the series.

Judgement breaks new territory in how the game is built up. The story revolves around this court case I mentioned, in which Kilo Squad are trailed. Each member of the squad tells his/her story and so the main chapters of the game are told from their testimony in the court. Each testimony is divided in missions. Within each mission you can earn up to three stars for how well you complete the level, within each level there is an extra mission that helps you gather these stars quicker if you activate it. Beware though, these missions usually add an extra difficulty level...

Kilo Squad, with Baird as the main commander.
The extra missions add an entertaining variety and they are integrated into the story; one may be that the level is covered in fog, making it really hard to see enemies before they are really close and the main character telling their testimony will add a sentence like "the fog was lying thick that day etc." Other missions will be that you are restricted to only a certain type of weapon or a time schedule for instance. Apart from the timed ones I really enjoyed these missions and actually liked the star rating system. It did break of some of the continuity to the story, but it also help distance the game from the previous GeOW trilogy and making a new fresh idea of it's own. Innovation and adding something new is important for a game that is the fourth in the series on one console.

Gears of War is always fun to play thanks to the amazing gameplay.
People Can Fly have dared to mix things up a little with the Gears gameplay. Don't worry though, the feeling and character movement that we all love from the GeOW series is alive and kicking, reminding me of just how perfect and smooth all GeOW games feel to play. What's changed though, is the button layout. They only allow you to carry two weapons, so you no longer have the ability to carry a side arm as well as two main weapons (like a Lancer rifle and a Gnasher Shotgun for instance).

A side arm then, will act like a full second weapon and these two main weapons can be switched with the Y (yellow) button very quickly. It's like the way Call of Duty 4 introduced with a quick switch for your side arm or any second weapon of your choice. It helps make GeOW Judgement's controller layout more like other shooters. I didn't mind the old layout, but this change doesn't bother me really and helps keep my hands on the joysticks while swapping weapons. In a similar fashion the grenade has been given it's own dedicated button.

The enemies show no remorse and attack savagely!
Kill 'em all!
GeOW Judegement looks a  lot like Gears of War 3, it keeps the far more varied colour palette, while revisiting some of the darker looking art and location style from the original GeOW. The resulting combination is looks fantastic. The game adds some beautiful, almost medieval European city like locations, with crammed, cobble stone streets and brick houses. The game looks beautiful and has some amazing effects, especially fire looks incredible, while running really smoothly and steadily on 30fps. This smoothness helps the great gameplay feel even more satisfying and is essential when lots of enemies appear. Sometimes the game really pushes multiple enemies at you and chaos occurs, thanks to the tight controls and precise gameplay these dramatic scenes feel incredibly fun.

The game has incredible atmosphere in it's locations.
Summarized this game feels like Halo 3: ODST did; an addition to the main story and game series. However, just like ODST, it adds a lot of new and really entertaining additions that mix the well proven formula up and adds fresh ideas which are welcome after a whole trilogy of games. A great GeOW game for the fans waiting for the next installment which will probably arrive on the next Xbox.