Saturday, 29 June 2013

Top 10 Free To Play Games

We all love free stuff. I mean, it's free, you don't pay for it. Though in some cases with today's list you might end up paying for it in the end but this is a list of games that will literally cost you nothing to play. Take into consideration I am not counting demos or shareware here, only free games, and which offer the best gameplay and value for your airbucks. These are not in any way the top 10 "be all end all" of free games but they are simply my favourites among the free stuff out there


10.

Since Wolfenstein 3D became 20 years old last year, an online in-browser version of the game has been available to play, absolutely for free. It contains all of the levels from the full version and literally only costs you the time you spend online. Check it out now!


9.

Tetris is a legendary title among gamers. Known for its addictive nature and sweet music, Tetris is still going strong on pretty much any computer and device known to man that has a screen on it. Nowdays you can easily play it for free in your browser.
http://www.freetetris.org/


 8.

Want the multiplayer of Call of Duty without paying 60 bucks for it? Then Blacklight Retribution is the game for you. Offering a free-to-play model of the Call of Duty style multiplayer, set in a cyberpunk setting with some nifty unique features like mech suits and a vision that lets you easily spot campers, BLR sets itself apart as a superior experience to Call of Duty in many aspects. My favourite thing about it is the customization options and the ability to play as a female soldier. It has sweet visuals and very good audio to match them. Soon coming to PS4 but for now you can grab it for PC on Steam.


7.

Offering sleek visuals and an incredibly cool futuristic sci-fi style, Warframe is a free-to-play multiplayer shooter where you control cool looking robots, performing dangerous battles and missions on space stations and such. It's a very good game if you're into third person shooters and with a lot of customization options. Definitely worth checking out.




6.

While it costs you a bit to get a pro subscription, Quake Live is still a great game and basically a free version of Quake 3. Setting up an account and playing takes you seconds as all you need to do is install a plugin and you can play it in your browser. A lot of fun in short bursts if you're an oldschool Quake fan! You can play it at www.quakelive.com!



5.

Shadow Warrior is without a doubt one of the best Build games out there from the 90's, and if you're a fan of Duke Nukem 3D, Redneck Rampage, Blood and other Build games, Shadow Warrior is a must-play. It's not as good or memorable as Duke but definitely very fun to play and has a lot of delicious over-the-top violence and the graphics are an improvement on Duke 3D. You can play it for free on Steam!


4.

Black Mesa is pretty much a re-imagining of the original Half-Life with updated graphics and levels and much better voice acting that ties it more to Half-Life 2. It has a different feel to it though and really does stand on its own. Suffice to say, you haven't played Half-Life until you've played Black Mesa as it really does feel like a better Source version of Half-Life than HL:Source. All you need is Steam and the Source SDK and you can play it! Get it now at http://www.blackmesasource.com/


3.

Tribes Ascend is one of the games that tries to classify itself as a virtual sport rather than a game and it's easy to see why. Tribes is really one of those games that is easy to play but takes a long time and effort to master and get good at as it has a very unique playstyle. It is a lot of fun though to be skiing at high speed and use the jet pack to fly high and bomb the poor mofos under you with a grenade launcher. Definitely worth trying out and it's free!


2.

Technically Dota 2 is in closed beta but with so many codes floating around, Valve are practically giving the game away for free. It's definitely a very fun experience though and very addictive once you start playing it. It's basically a team vs team game where two teams start on opposite ends of a map and duke it out, trying to destroy each other's bases and you basically control a hero character, and the game's addictive nature lies in how many heroes there are, their abilities and which one you choose as your favourite. While it may take a few forum requests to get it, it's easy to get a free copy if you have Steam.


1.

Let it be said, I am a MASSIVE shmup fan. It is by far my favourite genre from the 8bit and 16bit eras of gaming and Tyrian 2000 is definitely up there among the best and the best part is, it's 100% free! On gog.com you get the game pretty much when you sign up for an account and it's totally worth getting an account over. Not only is it a fun arcady shmup but it also has customization options and great music! Head over to www.gog.com now and grab yourself a free copy!


So yeah, those were my top 10 free to play games. Which are your favourites? Leave a comment!

- Alyxx

Sunday, 9 June 2013

PC Game Review: BioShock Infinite



BIOSHOCK INFINITE
Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Buy on Steam

Before I start talking about the game, I just want to say that this is the first BioShock game I've played. I actually never played BioShock 1 or 2 and bought this game for the sole reason that it seemed intriguing and got a lot of great reviews from both people and critics. A lot of people seem to really love this game and most people have already compared it to Half-Life 2 in terms of how good it is. So I thought that now that I've finally finished this game (on Hard difficulty mind you), I'd share my two cents on what my thoughts are about BioShock Infinite.

The first thing that really caught my attention about BioShock Infinite was the graphics. This game oozes atmosphere and pure raw STYLE from the moment you start it up. It's basically set in a sort of steampunk fictionalized 1920's, and stuff like religion and not to mention a good deal of racism is alive and well. You'll even find a lot of advertisements for cigarettes marketed to children. The graphics do a wonderful job setting you in the right mood and making the environment feel alive and vibrant and this is by far one of the best looking games this year. You'll probably benefit from buying this game on PC, seeing as it's far superior to consoles in terms of graphics, if you really care about that sort of thing, but it probably looks great on consoles too since it's more reliant on style rather than photorealism, something I tend to prefer in most cases. If you look at something like Deus Ex Human Revolution compared to Call of Duty Ghosts, in my opinion, Human Revolution wins out.

Vigors are an essential part of the gameplay and helps add some needed flair to it, though the weapons feel uninspired.
Another thing I noticed was how well paced it was. Being a sequel (spiritually anyway) I expected this game to more or less throw you right into the action and just toss everything at you at once. Instead the game gradually eases you into its concepts and introduces everything pretty smoothly. When you reach Elizabeth, who is in many ways the second protagonist in the game in addition to Booker, that's when the game really begins and you get introduced to the more heavy story elements. Before that the game spends a considerable amount of time just letting you wander around, soaking in the environment and getting familiar with the setting before it throws you into the action. Up until the point where you meet Elizabeth, you've already had the time to get familiar with the combat and basic weaponry and the game does a wonderful job easing you into more and more concepts, building them gradually like Lego blocks. It's this kind of game progression I enjoy in most games as it can be rather overwhelming when everything is thrown at you at once. It doesn't hurt that the story is really good and will definitely keep you playing for a long time. I won't really go into any big spoiler territory here but the game is long and has several great twists, especially one at the end and it does involve time travel and multiple dimensions and stuff and it's really good fuel for thought, which I'll admit is a rarity in most of today's games.

But no matter how good the story might be, the gameplay elements though tend to feel rather... uninspired. It's hard to put into words precisely but the game does feel like it's lacking a lot of things and I'll explain why. The first thing is the weaponry. You're given this skyhook thing, which you can also use to travel on skylines, which by the way is as fun as it looks, I'll give it that, and you use the skyhook as a melee weapon. However, unlike when the weapon is first demonstrated, you can't really do any finishing moves or executions using the skyhook. Most you can do is thwack people with it repeatedly until they die and it's not really that satisfying to use as a weapon and in most cases it's only usable to finish people off after stripping most of their health away with your other guns. In of itself it's a rather disappointingly weak weapon. The other weapons also feel almost dull and you're never really given anything that stands out particurarily or feels particurarily satisfying to use. I mostly stuck to the Carbine or Revolver since the two only automatic weapons, the machine gun and the crank gun (basically a minigun with a crank), feel rather underpowered and especially on Hard waste a lot of ammo and aren't that useful. I really wish you could have something like an assault rifle that felt really satisfying to use. You also have a rocket launcher and a grenade launcher, but all of the weapons feel rather standardized and boring to use and nothing really struck me as feeling radically satisfying.

Meet Elizabeth, one of the most expressive and interesting sidekicks since Half-Life 2.
Another thing that really struck me was that death has no real consequence in this game. Sure, it takes some money away but you don't really get any penalty for dying. You either just step back out of an office (which is a pretty cool idea I'll admit) or Elizabeth revives you. Either way, it's kinda like in Borderlands where death feels entirely inconsequential. I just wish there was more of a penalty so that you didn't get this "eh, I'll just get back into the fight" feeling since enemies don't even regenerate health while you are gone. I mean, it's kinda unfair on the enemies too and I really wish this game stuck to quicksaves instead of basically giving you infinite lives. I guess it makes the game feel smoother but it also makes death feel entirely without consequence and it kinda bothers me when I think about it. I know that Spoony touched upon this issue in his review and I definitely agree with him on it. By the way that's a review I'm gonna have to do one day, Borderlands, seeing as the infinite respawns make NO sense in story context and are purely there as a way to keep players interested since a lot of modern gamers probably just turn off the game when they die even once (no offense intended here, I've been guilty of it myself).

The enemies behaved rather well, though a lot of them suffered from "running into you without any regard for self-preservation" syndrome. I mean, we're in 2013 and we still haven't figured out to make AI that doesn't do stupid shit like this? None of them felt really memorable aside from some of the higher level enemies like the Patriots and the Handymen (which are TERRIFYING by the way since they don't give you time to react at ALL). I also liked some enemies in one level of the game which essentially are living flashlights that can see you and warn everyone else, those kinda creeped me out. The game also notably had a lack of boss fights. Other than fighting Lady Comstock (and you don't really fight her as much as you fight her minions), I can't really remember any memorable boss fights in this game, which is a bit of a bummer for me. Hell, the final fight is really just an airship battle with no real boss to speak of.

The Skyhook is one of the coolest aspects about Infinite, especially when you can strike someone from a skyline.
That being said the game does have some cool gameplay elements. The biggest draw of the game are of course the Vigors that give you several different powers and they can be upgraded via vending machines that sell everything from weapons and ammo to different Vigor upgrades. I definitely preferred some Vigors over others and you'll probably quickly find your favourite among them as it's kinda like a case of finding one you like and sticking to it since switching Vigors mid-combat is a bit of a chore, especially if you're playing this game on anything but PC (on PC you can hotkey to any Vigor you want). 

The game relies pretty heavily on looting as well and it gets almost absurd how much money and stuff you find in trash cans and just lying around and sooner than later, it kinda strikes me that I felt a bit like a kleptomaniac playing this game, not to mention a glutton. I mean, even with full health, I'd stick my hands into a trash can and fish out some food and eat it and it's nothing gamebreaking but it does kinda make you a bit grossed out when you think about the fact this guy even later on stuffs his face with all kinds of nasty shit, even rotten fruit and such. I mean, it even says rotten fruit and the guy still eats it. What a pig! XD

Don't let the silly design fool you, these guys can make you shit bricks...
A lot of people have mentioned that Elizabeth is one of the best companions in a game ever, and while I can see where people come from in the sense the game is kind of an escort mission but never feels like one, she doesn't really do a whole lot other than throwing you some ammo and stuff once in a while. She's basically immune to damage and it's kind of hilarious to see her running among the enemies and them not really giving a shit about her and I can't really say it makes her an active sidekick, but it does keep her from getting annoying and she is genuinely charming and has a lot of expression and emotion to her. I just disagree that Elizabeth is really that good of a sidekick since she doesn't really do anything other than opening doors for you (which makes her basically an extended lockpick and you need to gather lockpicks ANYWAY to use her) and tossing you ammo mid-combat, which I'll admit comes in handy but again, it doesn't really make her that useful.

So yeah, the music and voice acting is also top notch, I can't really find anything bad to say about that. All in all this game isn't GREAT or PERFECT by any stretch but it's good, really good. The story however is rather linear, there are no multiple paths (even if it's hinted at) and once you've played the game once, there's not really much reason to replay it, unless you really like playing around with different Booker builds and Vigors and stuff. I don't really feel like replaying it though since the ending kinda makes the entire game feel a bit inconsequential, which is one of my biggest pet peeves with some stories, when it kinda opts for that pussy out ending of "this never happened", which I won't go into any spoilers about but you'll know what I mean if you've played this game.

The Vigor effects tend to take centerstage at times.
Summary:
Gameplay: 7/10
Nothing really groundbreaking, you'll either love it or just not find it that special. I belong to the latter group on this.
Story:8/10
A great story but the ending for me kinda ruined any replay value and it felt very linear.
Graphics: 10/10
An absolutely breathtaking game. One of the few times a game has me awed at the sheer style and smoothness of the graphics. It really takes you into a whole other world.
Sounds: 7/10
It's pretty average. The music is largely forgetable, though the voice acting is great. The weapon sounds could definitely have been a bit better.

Average Score: 8/10

- Alyxx

Monday, 3 June 2013

PC Game Review: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon






FAR CRY 3: BLOOD DRAGON
Platform: PC (UPlay)
Released: 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Buy on Steam


How can you go wrong with a version of Far Cry 3 featuring a cyborg Michael Biehn fighting a horde of giant neon-glowing Blood Dragons spewing lazers out of their eyes and an army of cyborgs who all sound like Microsoft SAM on crack while wielding futuristic-looking weapons and a flamethrower in a landscape filled with neon colours to the thumping awesome beat of one of the best retro 80's soundtracks ever heard in a video game?
Short answer: You can't. Long answer: Look below.

From what I understand, Blood Dragon started out as somewhat of an April fools joke. Far Cry 3 done as a retro-futuristic shooter influenced by 80's sci-fi thrillers and action movies. However, at some point, somebody probably thought this idea was way too good to waste on an April fools so they went ahead and made it. The game was thought to be a DLC for Far Cry 3 but instead was made into a standalone game that does not require Far Cry 3 to install and run, which is a good thing as in many aspects, I vastly prefer Blood Dragon to Far Cry 3, even if the latter has a longer campaign and multiplayer. The game features the voice talent of famous action star Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Navy Seals) who does his best Snake Plissken voice, of course sounding endlessly badass. It really feels like he was always meant to be in a video game and this is further proof for it, and hopefully he will be more remembered for this role than his reprised role as Hicks in Aliens: Colonial Marines.

In an 80's dystopian version of 2007, where the world is suffering from the aftermath of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia,  Biehn portrays sergeant Rex Power Colt, a Mark IV cyber commando sent on a mission to investigate an island where colonel Sloan, an elite agent, has gone rogue. Confronting the colonel, it turns out that Sloan wants to take over the world (of COURSE) using the lazer-firing blood dragons as his weapons, from which he has taken blood and injected himself with it, giving him extraordinary cyber powers.
The story is pretty straight forward and never gets in the way of the gameplay, and is quite enjoyably cheesy, with all kinds of 80's clich├ęs, such as a training montage and the cutscenes are portrayed in a wonderfully done 16bit style, similar to games you'd see in arcades or on the Sega Mega Drive back in the late 80's/early 90's.

IMMA FIRIN MAH LAZOOOOR!
Gameplay wise, Blood Dragon is near identical to Far Cry 3, but with its own twist on the game. Instead of choosing which powers you want to unlock, they are pretty much unlocked for you every time you level up, giving you time to focus on the game and making it a more streamlined experience. Tutorials are always popping up (to Rex' annoyance) to give you information about your skills and weapons, with the occasional PSA popping up to humorous effect. Also, due to Rex Colt being a cyber commando, he has no limited sprint and there is virtually no falling damage at all (which is used to great effect in a memorable scene in the game). This makes Blood Dragon a much more fun and enjoyable experience than the original Far Cry 3 in a lot of respects, since it's faster paced and you only need to worry about dying from getting your stupid ass shot instead of falling off a cliff. The controls are also identical to Far Cry 3 and if you've played pretty much any first person shooter or something like Crysis before, you'll most likely slip right into them.

The world map is notably smaller than in Far Cry 3, and Blood Dragon is indeed a much more bite-sized experience, and the gameplay elements remain mostly the same. You'll spend the majority of the game liberating Garrisons, slaying enemies and animals for XP and other bonuses, and doing side missions to unlock new weapon upgrades. There are however some interesting twists to Blood Dragon as the eponymous blood dragons are some of the most terrifying enemies I've ever faced in a game as they can kill you easily with their lazer blasts. Thankfully, they are near blind and moving slowly near them you can often avoid them, and they have an affinity for the hearts you rip out of the enemy cyborgs, so throwing them to distract them often works well. There are other minor additions but I'm sure you'll find those out on your own. The campaign itself is rather short and solves itself quickly. I played through the game in less than 2-3 days while I can usually spend a week or so on a game, though if you do every side mission and try to max yourself out, it will take a while for you.

Takin' down da choppa!
The graphics are gorgeous in Blood Dragon, everything is more or less oozing (sometimes literally) with a neon retro futuristic 80's influenced style that doesn't really remind me of anything from the 80's but still has that style to it. There's a lot of glowing lights used and it's really a feast for the eyes. Textures are pretty good and I especially like the details on Rex' arm. The music and sounds match the visuals perfectly as the soundtrack, composed by Power Glove, is a retro synthfest that perfectly captures the dystopian sci-fi 80's cyberpunk feel of the game. The main theme is extremely catchy and I found myself humming it long after playing the game. Thankfully the version I bought came with a soundtrack CD and I've already put the music on my mp3 player as I just can't get enough of it. It really is one of my favourite soundtracks this year, if not THE favourite soundtrack!

Those dam puns...
So all in all, is Blood Dragon worth the money? Gods yes, this is by far my favourite game this year. It has an amazing style that a lot of people have compared to Duke Nukem Forever and I have to agree, it's probably why the game appeals so much to me. There's just nothing like playing a character like Rex Colt that really makes you feel like a superhuman and gives you the ability to just have fun with a game instead of limiting you like a lot of modern games tend to do. The game also never takes itself too seriously, there's a loose humorous tone to it and I'm sure anyone who grew up in the 90's and 80's are going to love this game. It's a shame the game feels way too short and there is no multiplayer as I would've loved to play this co-op with a friend and it seems like there would be opportunities for it at times. I also had slight performance issues on my PC though that could just be my PC. Otherwise, this game is a must-have for fans of shooters and 80's retro futurism, and I highly recommend it!

SUMMARY
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 10/10

Average Score: 9/10

- Alyxx