Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Top 10 Games of 2014

The year is once again coming to an end and it's time to let you guys know what games I enjoyed the most this year. And what a year this was... batshit insane titles like Goat Simulator that I never thought could exist, mixed in with a lot of older games being re-released such as Strife and Eradicator. It's been a hell of a ride. So without further ado... let's get to it.


10 - FAR CRY 4 (PC)

It's not always I orgasm over graphics in games but Far Cry 4 is definitely one of those times. This game is drop dead gorgeous and I found myself incredibly immersed in it. It's one of those games you want to explore simply because the world is so lush and beautiful and inviting! The lighting in this game pretty much makes the entire atmosphere. It's far from a perfect game though as I had to do some tweaking to get it running smoothly, the mouse controls were pretty wonky at first before I tweaked my settings as well and to be honest, gameplay wise this game is just Far Cry 3 with a new coat of paint. But that's okay with me as I absolutely loved Far Cry 3. The story is great too with Pagan Min serving as a perfect substitute for Vaas. The game also supports co-op which is a huge plus for me. Definitely worth checking out if you loved Far Cry 3 and want more of the same. If not, you can easily pass on it.


9 - VELOCITY 2X (PS Vita)
Velocity 2X is one of those games I fear fell under the radar this year, and undeservedly so. Being on PS4 and PS Vita, the game mixes elements from several genres, being both a horizontal and vertical shooter with a beautiful electro soundtrack that will make you orgasm (seriously)... There's a twist though as the game uses the element of teleporting to give it a bit of a puzzle feel as well, so you definitely have to think a bit 4-dimensionally to be good at it. The graphical style is entirely unique and very appealing with a lot of great use of lighting and very intense colours, looking hand drawn but futuristic at the same time. I've found myself playing this game a lot on my Vita this year and with two DLC packs already released, it offers a ton of play time for those who want it. Definitely check this out if you're a fan of oldschool 2D shooters and need more Vita or PS4 games to play.


8 - THE WOLF AMONG US (PC)
While it technically released last year, the final episodes of Wolf Among Us came out this year, completing the game and I didn't buy it until very recently and I'm very glad I did. The Wolf Among Us is one of the best adventure games I've played to date and as someone who has read the Fables comic it was interesting to get a prequel to the whole thing. The game had me really invested in the story in a way only TellTale can do and I couldn't help but love the unique graphical style of the game, the strong characters and just the entire noir atmosphere. Seeing such a sleazy hard-boiled take on something that we associate with our childhood is amazing to me and I can't recommend this game enough. It has some unique gameplay elements as well, time being a factor and the choices you make shaping the story so each playthrough has a chance of being different from your last one.


7 - DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN (PC)

This is easily the best RPG this year. Offering an experience that is both oldschool yet innovative at the same time, it gives an entirely unique co-op experience where the two players can interact in a way that I've rarely seen done in co-op RPGs and actually reminds me more of a proper tabletop RPG experience. It's a LOT of fun to play with great atmosphere, music and all around a very good story. The combat system is the crowning achievement though as it is turnbased but has a gimmick of giving you the ability to "save" action points for your next turn. Highly recommend this if you're a RPG fan and want something to play co-op cause that is in my opinion the only way to play this game.


6 - WASTELAND 2 (PC)

Speaking of oldschool RPGs... Wasteland 2 finally came out. Yeah, in 2014 of all years. Wasteland of course is pretty much the grandfather of the Fallout franchise, and you can definitely tell the connection is there. Wasteland 2 feels like it was made in the 90's and to me that's not necessarily a bad thing. The character customization is extremely good and offers a lot of specialization which is good when building a strong party. The combat reminds me of Divinity: Original Sin but with guns so if you play these games back to back, it'll come as second nature. The story isn't all that good but the post-nuclear atmosphere is thick as oil and the gameplay is rock solid. Worth checking out if you're a fan of oldschool RPGs or Fallout.


5 - WATCH_DOGS (PC)

Watch_Dogs is not an amazing game and definitely doesn't live up to the insane hype that was built up around it. However, I do find it to be a pretty fun and solid experience with a story that isn't epic or big, but doesn't need to be. It feels relatable and touching, and to me that's perfectly acceptable. Not all games need big epic storylines, sometimes it's okay to have a more soap-opera'esque story in my opinion. And the game still looks pretty gorgeous, making the city of Chicago come to life in a way few games take time to do. People react very realistically to the things you do and I can't help but feel like my character actually has an impact on his world in this game and that's an amazing achievement to me. Like I said, this game is not amazing, but what is there is solid and offers an experience for those who give it time to grow on them. If you get past your initial expectations, you might actually come to enjoy it like I did. It's definitely not something for everyone, but it depends on what you are looking for...


4 - ALIEN: ISOLATION (PC)



I am probably one of the few people who enjoyed Aliens: Colonial Marines. But while I did enjoy that game, this game... this game is in a league of its very own and doesn't AT ALL compare to Colonial Marines. Comparing the two games is unfair because they are in entirely different categories with entirely different inspirations and goals. Colonial Marines was a shooter. It was based on a movie that took the franchise in a more action oriented direction. It made sense to be a shooter and in my opinion, Colonial Marines did a good job of offering a simple alien shooter experience. Isolation however takes its inspiration and influence from the first movie. It takes the franchise back to its hardcore sci-fi horror roots and focuses on the very core of what Alien is meant to be. Facing a creature that is invulnerable and superior and surviving against the odds. Alien: Isolation is one of the most terrifying games I've played and does its job perfectly. The atmosphere is spot on and makes me feel like I am actually inside the first movie. Attention to detail is stunning and nothing is left to coincidence. If you're an Alien fan, in any way shape or form, get this game. Believe me, please believe me when I say this game GETS IT. This game GETS what Alien is meant to be. If you are going to get ANY Alien game, it HAS to be this one. This is a MUST OWN!


3 - CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE (PC)

To me, Advanced Warfare is the best Call of Duty game in a long time. It mixes the core CoD gameplay with new and fresh elements and focuses on the most important thing: being fun! I haven't had this much fun with a Call of Duty since I got into the franchise with MW3 and to me that is an amazing feeling. The story is solid as well with amazing performances from everyone involved, especially Kevin Spacey who does a wonderful and memorable role as the villain. I can't recommend this game enough if you're a Call of Duty fan, this is easily a must have. And if you want an entry point for the series, this is in my opinion the best game to choose so far. Everything is rock solid, the amount of customization is INSANE and the exo suits give the series a new dimension that makes everything 10 times more intense, but at the same time 10 times more fun.


2 - BORDERLANDS: THE PRE-SEQUEL (PC)

Borderlands being pretty much my favourite franchise, I was insanely hyped for this game. And boy did it deliver. It's actually hard for me to go back to playing the earlier games now since this game makes a lot of improvements to the franchise and adding new elements as well with the low gravity environment and more mature writing. The music reminds me a lot of Mass Effect, which fits the more space-oriented theme very well. Gameplay wise it's just more Borderlands but if you're as much of a fan as I am, that's not necessarily a bad thing.


1 - WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER (PC)

Wolfenstein: The New Order is arguably the best game in the entire franchise so far. With an amazing story with characters that you will never forget, with the best graphics since RAGE, with an intense musical score that creates an unsettling and mechanical atmosphere, with gameplay that mixes oldschool and new school flawlessly, with an insane amount of attention to detail, this game is in my opinion flawless. It gets EVERYTHING right and is one of the most awesome experiences I've had in a long, LONG time. It's to this day one of the only games on my blog I've given a perfect 10/10 score and I proudly stand by that. It's the first time I've seen a game that takes the Wolfenstein name seriously and does something unique and memorable with it, something special that will live on with me forever. And that's why it's my game of the year.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

[PC Game Review] Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare


CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE
Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Sledgehammer Games, Raven Software
Publisher: Activision
Buy on Steam


It should be firmly established by now I am a huge fan of this franchise, having been so ever since I played Modern Warfare 3. The consistent quality, high production values and solid gameplay keeps me coming back to each new iteration. So it's about time I give my thoughts on the most recent one, Advanced Warfare, which promises to reinvigorate the franchise with some new tricks. Is this truly a game changer, or just advanced bullshit? Let's take a look!


THE CAMPAIGN

The campaign in Advanced Warfare sets up a story in a near future where Jonathan Irons (played by Kevin Spacey) offers a new chance for Mitchell, a soldier who loses his war buddy and best friend as well as his arm in a sabotage operation that goes horribly wrong. Armed with a new robotic prosthesis and working for the biggest PMC in the world, Atlas, he becomes part of Iron's closest elite. However he soon finds out that there is more to Irons than he first realizes and becomes part of an intricate plot to stop Irons from committing mass genocide of innocent civilians on American soil.

The campaign lets you upgrade your new Exo suit's abilities between missions, as you earn points for certain objectives, such as enemy kills and gathering intel. It gives the campaign some replayability as you can replay earlier levels to unlock more upgrades, offering a sort of New Game + option.
The Exo suit is introduced in full force during the campaign and you are introduced to all its concepts, including boost jumping, slamming (buttslam!) and dodging, so the campaign works as a nice training mode before jumping into multiplayer in that sense. 

Several missions focus on driving vehicles as well which gives a nice variety to the action. Riding a hoverbike, piloting a combat jet and manouvering a giant combat exoskeleton are just a couple of the sweet toys you get to play with in the campaign. You also get some stealth missions that actually manage to feel like proper stealth missions and using the exo suit to enhance them in a very interesting way.

Night vision balls... I be trippin' them...



THE MULTIPLAYER

Multiplayer is probably more expansive than ever in Advanced Warfare. The mode features more customization options than ever. You can now fully customize your appearance in the game, choose your gender, head, shades, helmet, gloves, pants, jacket, loadout, you name it. You can customize your guns in a much deeper fashion than before, re-using the slot system from Black Ops 2, as you now can customize your attachments and choose between more skins than ever. The variety of weapons is also through the roof as you have laser weapons to add to the mix now, as well as more akimbo weapons than before, which I absolutely love!

A new feature is that each round of multiplayer you play has a chance of giving you a loot drop crate. These crates contain entirely random loot, ranging from temp bonuses to unique clothing items and even unique gun variations with special attributes. I often found myself getting these loot crates when I was doing particularly bad in a round and it's nice to have incentive to keep playing despite not doing too hot.

Hiiiiiiighway to the DANGER ZONE!


You can also choose between several special Exo abilities, such as getting a temporary speed boost, getting temp health regen boost, hovering in the air or getting a shield. You're also equipped with a grenade launcher, meaning you no longer have to specifically throw grenades, you can just launch them from your arm which I find much more satisfying. There are also several new more tactical grenade types, including the Threat grenade which lights up enemies wherever it hits. 

In addition to all the classic modes you've come to expect from CoD, there's a new uplink mode that plays out pretty much like a futuristic handball match with guns. Grab the ball, get it into the enemy's goal without getting shot. The first team to score 10 points wins the match. It's a mode where it's not so much about getting kills but just getting the ball. Otheriwse you have your standard TDM, KC, Hardpoint and Domination matches.

Surprise, motherfucker


The levels are now fully designed with the exo suits in mind and this results in a lot of levels offering very vertical gameplay and encounters. It brings a new certain intensity to the franchise that definitely makes this a much more hardcore experience in multiplayer, especially if you play with people who are skilled with the exo suit boosting. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on rooftops...
The emblem editor is thankfully available within the game again so editing your emblem no longer needs to be done via an app like in Ghosts. Your clan and clan tag still needs to be edited via the app though...

In addition to the standard multiplayer there is a new co-op mode called Exo Survival, which I sadly found a bit disappointing. The mode, which is pretty much just another co-op horde mode, doesn't really offer much reason to play it other than for practice since you can't really do much other than choosing what class to play and then upgrade guns as you play the match. It doesn't get boring though as you always have secondary objectives to do and it does get really intense on higher difficulties. However, for me the mode is too barebones to offer much in comparison with the main multiplayer.

One technical issue I'm suffering a bit from is that I get some bad client lag during the start of matches. Not sure why but it seems to be a sync issue. Nothing that ruins the experience but it is a minor annoyance.

Tearing up ALL the shit!



THE GRAPHICS

Advanced Warfare might just be the most gorgeous Call of Duty yet! The new engine truly is capable of some spectacular graphics and the facial capture in the cutscenes is near uncanny valley levels of perfection, giving the cutscenes some true cinematic flair since the actors can be very expressive with their models. The game also just looks really pleasing to look at, with popping colours and lots of nice lighting effects.

Especially during the single player do the graphics come to their right, offering tons of eye candy during the grand scale set pieces and the game feels enormous in scale. Detail on the guns is splendid and I adore their futuristic style that fits perfectly into the game.


THE SOUND

Voice acting is absolutely superb, especially Kevin Spacey as Jonathan Irons. His performance is bone chilling and emotional, all at the same time, giving the character he plays a very much needed strong presence in the game. The guns all sound very good to use and have a nice punchy sound to them. One thing I noticed is that the game has a lot of high frequency metallic sounds which does get a bit annoying to me after a while but I tend to just get used to it. It's nothing that makes the game worse, but I couldn't help but notice it. The only downside is that much like most high value productions nowadays the music isn't much to speak of and is rather forgetable and I mostly keep it off.

Imma firin' ma lazooooor!


All in all, Advanced Warfare is the most fun Call of Duty so far and feels the most complete. It offers a new take on the franchise and taking a note from Titanfall, gives it much more vertical gameplay. I strongly recommend picking it up, regardless if you're a fan or not. It might not do as much innovation as most people are looking for, but what it offers is the same solid CoD experience with new toys, and to me, that's all I wanted.


SUMMARY
STORY: 10/10
GAMEPLAY: 8/10

GRAPHICS: 10/10
SOUND: 8/10

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

[PC Game Review] Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel


BORDERLANDS: THE PRE-SEQUEL
Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: 2K Australia
Publisher: 2K Games

To say I was hyped about the Pre-Sequel is an understatement. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 have both quickly become some of my favourite shooters of all time, with Borderlands 2 admittedly taking the spot as my favourite game of all time. The mix of RPG and FPS with an insane amount of customization and not to mention, an insane amount of guns, combined with humor and a very unique graphical style, has made these games very dear to me and hold a special place in my library.

The Pre-Sequel pretty much is what it says. It's the sequel to Borderlands but also a prequel to Borderlands 2. While I think the term "mid-quel" might be more appropriate, I think "pre-sequel" has a better ring to it. The story follows the rise of Handsome Jack and you play as four (with more characters available in DLCs) vault hunters who follow him and aid him in his rise to power. Athena, who in many ways is the protagonist of the story, appeared in the first game's General Knoxx DLC as a sort of mercenary who worked for the Atlas corporation. After the fall of the corporation she became a bounty hunter with a certain code of honor. Among the characters, she is the only one with a distinct morality to her. Nisha, who I chose as my main character, is a self-proclaimed Lawbringer who ends up as Handsome Jack's love interest in the game. Wilhelm, who like Nisha served as a boss in Borderlands 2, is addicted to cybernetic enhancements. Claptrap is... annoying as usual but has a unique and very interesting playstyle. Together, they form the team that helps Jack into the Vault on Pandora's moon Elpis.

What I noticed right away is that while the game looks and plays very similar to Borderlands 2, it definitely has a unique feel to it. Everything is a bit smaller, so the gameplay is actually faster in terms of leveling, since it's scaled to the length of the game. While it may be seen as a negative that the game lacks a bit in size compared to Borderlands 2, it does make the game feel more focused and fun. I especially enjoyed being able to have my action skill at level 3 and feeling like I actually progressed much faster than in Borderlands 2. The setting is also unique compared to any other Borderlands game as so far, none of the games have actually taken place outside Pandora. The Pre-Sequel's setting is the moon Elpis and the Helios space station, both serving as very fresh and interesting locales that feel like a breath of fresh air after playing Borderlands 2 which, granted it did expand on the environments from Borderlands 1 but the difference in the Pre-Sequel is much bigger.

The main difference to notice is that there is low gravity on the moon and also no air. To remedy this you are given O2 kits (pronounced "Oz" by the locals due to how the 2 resembles a Z). O2 kits can be used to not only breathe in vacuum but also give you boosts, making the gameplay more vertical and bouncy. I cannot stress enough how much of a difference this makes and the Pre-Sequel really has its own unique playstyle compared to Borderlands 2. In fact, I find it difficult to go back to the earlier games after playing this.

The weapons are mostly the same from Borderlands 2, retaining the individual gun manufacturer designs from that game, though there is a new weapon type, namely lasers. Lasers come in several different types as well and can be charged with any kind of element. Speaking of, there is a new element called Cryo which, you guessed it, freezes your enemies. It's one of the elements that me and my friend have been wanting for a long time and it's awesome to finally see it in a Borderlands game.

Legendaries are also easier to get in this game. Stores actually sell them now, and much like in the first game, they are super expensive, but at least available, something I missed in Borderlands 2. You also have a new tool, called the Grinder, where you can insert guns and get a new one of potentially higher rarity and even with unique bonuses given from the moonstones you pick up during gameplay.
The moonstones serve various purposes and work as a replacement for Eridium from Borderlands 2. Thankfully, moonstones are much more easily obtained in this game, and I actually had all the SDUs before reaching playthrough 2.

Despite using the same game engine, graphically the game looks amazing and actually a bit better than Borderlands 2. I know a lot of people see it as a mere standalone DLC to BL2 but the graphical upgrade is noticable. The different setting allows for more unique visuals as well and gives the game a unique atmosphere. I haven't been able to see the PhysX effects since I use an AMD card but assume they are as cool as in Borderlands 2. Even without PhysX the effects when you shatter frozen enemies and such are really cool (pardon the pun).

The music is nothing memorable but works fine within the game. A lot of it reminds me of Mass Effect actually, which is fitting considering the space theme. The sounds are also pretty good and I love the voice acting. The game actually has a Mature rating and the script has a much more adult feel to it which I greatly approve of. While some of the performances left some to be desired, I generally enjoyed the different feel to the writing and humor as the game feels a bit darker and more adult overall, which I think a lot of fans will enjoy. A new thing I especially like is that the vault hunters actually talk to each other and the NPC's, giving them more personality beyond the usual grunts.

All in all, the Pre-Sequel is more than just a standalone DLC to Borderlands 2, it is a different and honestly improved experience compared to BL2, and while it is shorter, I think the improvements make up for it and there is plenty of reason for repeated playthroughs. My only gripe with it is the short length, but I hope DLC will be released that expands on it and maybe adds a higher level cap.


SUMMARY
STORY: 9/10
GRAPHICS: 9/10
SOUND: 8/10
GAMEPLAY: 8/10

TOTAL: 8/10

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Top 10 PS Vita Games




Ah the PlayStation Vita. While many would argue the system is a bit of a failure, for me it came at the right time with the right games. Thing is, I don't have a laptop or a phone more advanced than a simple Java phone so to have a handheld console like the Vita pretty much fulfills all my needs from a handheld device. It's more than a game system to me. It's also a device I can use to browse the web, watch YouTube, post on Facebook or even use Skype. It's very multifunctional and from the PSN store you can also get PSP titles (which is a godsend since I never owned a PSP to begin with) and PS1 titles (which is also great since I wanted a device to play PS1 games on the go with). Ever since I bought it, it has become my most used handheld and so far my favourite. Not that I don't give my 3DS playtime either, it just happens that I am more often in the mood for Vita games. So let's take a look at my own top 10 favourites of them.


10. BORDERLANDS 2


 

Borderlands 2 is arguably my favourite game of all time, and in my opinion also one of the best sequels of all time. It's a game that centers around two things; GUNS and LOOT. What makes the Borderlands games so special are the insane amount of guns in them. Guns can spawn in any kind of strange combinations, though most players are most likely going to go for the unique and legendary guns. So it goes without saying that the idea of being able to play the game wherever I go is extraordinarily tempting. In fact, this game was the reason I bought a Vita to begin with since I had kind of held off until it was announced. When I got the game, granted, I was a bit disappointed. What I was promised was the Borderlands 2 experience on the go and what we all got was a heavily watered down port, with subpar graphics and audio, only two-player co-op, and one that likes to crash a lot or have audio that goes out of sync. Still, with all these flaws there is one undeniable truth. It's Borderlands 2, and you can take it anywhere you want. When it works, it's still Borderlands 2 and that's what matters to me. If you're a fan of the game and want to play it on the go, pick it up if you find it on discount. It also comes with a few DLCs so there's a lot of playtime here.


 
9. SURGE DELUXE



Futurlab is quickly becoming one of my most liked developers on the PS Vita. Their games have a really futuristic style to them (which goes well with their name), sporting bright colourful neon colours and very distinct shapes and lines. Surge is a puzzle game in the vein of Bejeweled or Tetris, though has its own unique twist. Using the touch screen, you need to connect blocks of the same colour together in order to clear the screen, since pressure is building up on both sides and needs to be released. It's a very intense arcady game where it's all about making a high score and battle on the online leaderboards. Or you can just play it to kill time which I often do when I am in the mood for it. Definitely gives your brain an exercise as well which is never a bad thing.


8. ASPHALT: INJECTION
 

There are about three racing games on the Vita that I play in rotation. Wipeout 2048, Need For Speed: Most Wanted and Asphalt Injection. Asphalt is actually the game that I find myself coming back to the most for several reasons. While Wipeout is something I have to be in the mood for and never feel like I master 100%, and Need For Speed: Most Wanted definitely feels like a port, you can tell Asphalt Injection was made specifically with a handheld system in mind and with people who like arcady racers in mind as well. The graphics for one are really nice and colourful and very bright so that they show well even in non optimal conditions. A problem I have with other games, especially ports is that they don't show up well in less than ideal conditions, for instance if you're out in the sun. The game also is really fast, notably much faster and smoother than Most Wanted for instance. Gameplay wise the game offers several different racing modes with different goals and the fun of the game comes from achieving different objectives in each race instead of just merely reaching the finish line in first place. Additional points for taking down enemy vehicles are given, collecting a certain amount of cash etc. Definitely highly recommend the game if you have a Vita.



7. METAL GEAR SOLID HD


Unlike the title suggests, Metal Gear Solid HD is not an HD remake of MGS 1 but rather an HD collection of MGS 2 and 3. These are easily some of the most beautiful and cinematic experiences from their era and have a gameplay style that is entirely unique to the series. While you wouldn't think this kind of experience makes sense on a handheld device, when  you sit down with a pair of headphones, lock out the world around you and dive into the world of Tactical Espionage Action, these games come alive on the Vita in a beautiful way. I definitely recommend picking this one up if you're a fan of stealth games as they are worth playing through at least once.


6. RESISTANCE: BURNING SKIES



Resistance: Burning Skies is not really that special of a game. It's standard first person shooter fare for the most part where the goal is to survive and kill any opposition that comes your way. The difference of course lies in the setting and weaponry you have and the fact it's on a handheld device. The fun of the game comes in how all the weapons have an alternate fire mode and you use the touch screen more often than not to use these extra modes which adds a bit of strategy and fun to the shooting and gives a nice break up now and then. It's also a bit difficult if you're not used to console shooters like I am, so it gives a lot of bang for your buck. The game is strangely enough about a 50's alien invasion however, it does this in a way that no other game has done as far as I can recall. While the concept of 50's alien invasions have been done before (it was the decade where sci-fi was born after all), this game doesn't really do it in that oldschool 50's sci-fi style but does it in a really modern and gritty style which makes the alien culture actually feel alien to the game's original setting. Much like the newly released Wolfenstein: The New Order, it gives a very nice contrasting setting that makes the game feel like it takes place in an alternate reality. Definitely recommend it if you're a shooter fan like me.


5. VELOCITY 2X



Velocity 2X is another game from Futurlab that, like Surge Deluxe, has a very arcady oldschool feel to it. But where Surge went the puzzle route, Velocity takes the shooter route. It blends two kinds of game modes seamlessly where you fly around in a vertical shmup style game in one moment and then run around inside platformer levels in the other with a handgun. At first it takes a while getting used to switching between these two game styles, but it becomes second nature quickly. The music consists of nice techno and chiptunes which greatly fits the futuristic sci-fi style, the graphics are definitely typical Futurlab here, going hand in hand with the music, and I would go as far as saying they far surpass even Surge. The design of the main heroine herself is especially nice and she has some Samus Aran qualities to her. It's a pretty good game that is a lot of fun to play on the go, especially if you're a fan of oldschool 2D shooters.


4. RAYMAN LEGENDS



Rayman Legends is probably my favourite Rayman game nowadays. It harkens back to the roots of the franchise of being a 2D platformer with cartoony graphics and does this even better than the original in my opinion. The most fun aspect is that you have multiple characters to play, all of them with different attacks, voices and gameplay styles, and the levels all feel very varied and memorable, something the original did so well. Granted Rayman Legends is on pretty much every system nowadays, the Vita version still feels pretty unique in how it utilizes the touch screen for a lot of the game's levels. It makes it feel like more than just a port and making the touch screen feel like it was intended to be used with the game, instead of just a tacked on feature like with a lot of Vita titles. That alone makes it worth picking up even if you might already own the game on a different system. 


3. GRAVITY RUSH



Gravity Rush might as well be considered a perfect bundle game to pick up if you have just gotten a Vita. While I also hear Tearaway is a good game that shows off the Vita's functionality, to me that game just feels too gimmicky. The thing about Gravity Rush is that it shows off what the Vita can do but implements those things into the game's story and has the Vita's functions work within the story rather than making it feel like someone simply made a game to have fun with the Vita's touch screens which is the feeling I got from Tearaway, and which is why I was put off playing it. Gravity Rush has a rather intriguing story set in an unknown universe where you play a character who is unaware of who she is or what her past is, trying nothing more than to make a living for herself in a floating city. She discovers though she has powers that allows her to control gravity. The game is in a genre of its own and is unlike anything I've played before. It's not really a shooter or anything, since all you do is use gravity to attack your enemies, and not really an action/adventure game either. It kind of mixes a lot of genres and at times, feels kind of like a platformer where you can control gravity. It's an entirely unique experience and I cannot recommend it enough if you have a Vita.

2. DRAGON'S CROWN



Dragon's Crown feels a lot like a modern version of Golden Axe. It's classic 2D sidescrolling slice-em-up fun and best of all, it's co-op, both with AI NPC's and your friends. There are also a lot of RPG elements to the game and making sure you always have the best gear for your characters, giving it a lot of depth beyond being just a simple action game, though I like it because it also has the satisfying action I love. The art style is also pretty unique, with a sorceress sporting boobs the size of Jupiter. If that doesn't make you want to play, I don't know what doesn't. :P


1. KILLZONE: MERCENARY



For me it was impossible not to be impressed when I first played Mercenary. Not only is it a gorgeous game - sporting graphics that truly impress for being on a handheld device, showing the game was made to take full advantage of the Vita's hardware - it's also a really solid shooter experience. While the campaign is pretty short and split into multiple short missions that you can play in bursts, there is also a lot of challenge and fun in the game from completing these missions in different ways. The multiplayer is also solid as hell, giving the game a lot of longevity. If you're at all a first person shooter whore like me and have a Vita, get this game immideately. It at least makes up for the subpar Call of Duty game we got on the system. The only downside I can say about the game is that the story isn't really that good and the music is pretty bland. But the game is definitely a solid shooter and exactly the kind of game I wanted the Vita for.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Eradicator - Part 2


Here is part 2 of my Eradicator playthrough. Enjoy!

Note: More brightness this time since the previous episode was kind of hard to see.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Eradicator - Part 1



A playthrough of Eradicator on Normal difficulty as Eleena the Mercenary. Eradicator is a 1996 first & third person shooter by Accolade for MS-DOS. While you can change the point of view at will from first to third person I have chosen to use first person view for the majority of the playthrough for the added immersion.


My approach to doing this "Let's Play" is doing it in a very minimalist style as opposed to how most people do them. There's no webcam, no voice-over, nothing other than pure raw gameplay and letting the game speak for itself. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

[PC Game Review] Wolfenstein - The New Order



WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER
Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Machine Games
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Buy on Steam

Wolfenstein is one of the biggest grandfathers in gaming history as it spawned an entire genre, the first person shooter. While it wasn't the first game to put you in the eyes of your character, it was the first to do so in such a raw and intense way. It paved the way for future successes from id Software such as Doom and Quake, and it would be difficult to imagine gaming as it is today without it.

The Wolfenstein franchise itself is a bit of a strange one as there has never been any direct sequel to the original Wolfenstein 3D game and even that was a sort of remake of the Castle Wolfenstein game from the 80's by MUSE Software, itself the grandfather of the stealth genre, so in a way the franchise stretches far back and was actually influential both as a first person shooter AND as a stealth game. And while the original Wolfenstein 3D was not a stealth game, stealth was a minor gameplay element in the game. A remake came out around 2001-2002, cleverly titled "Return To Castle Wolfenstein", featuring an entirely new storyline. It was followed by the multiplayer game "Enemy Territory" later on.

While these two games were pretty successful, Activision released another reboot of the franchise in 2009, the also cleverly titled "Wolfenstein", which was not a remake of the first game nor a remake of Return, it was simply a new Wolfenstein game not in any way tied to the earlier games. It focused more on using dark powers to aid your fight against the Nazis and introduced a big city hub to go around in. While it wasn't any big hit, it sold decently though most critics called the game mediocre. Needless to say, Wolfenstein: The New Order has a bit of a weird history to follow but decides to mostly do its own thing and in some ways be a bit of a sequel to the 2009 Wolfenstein game. Let's take a look and see how well it fares in comparison to earlier games and also, whether it truly is worth the title of a Wolfenstein game.

Say CHEEEEESE

STORY

This is a game where I really don't want to talk much about the story out of fear of spoiling it for everyone. Let it just be said that the game has one of the best stories I've ever played not only this year but in a long time. At times the game has an almost Tarantino-esque feel to it which I don't mind at all as the writing is really good and tight and the characters are all extremely memorable and easy to connect with. I especially love Deathshead who returns as the villain and, if anything, is creepier than ever and is one evil S.O.B. you WANT to kill by the end of the game. The game has two different storylines with slight differences. I strongly suggest playing both of them as each storyline has some minor differences, giving the game some amount of replay value. And one spoiler I will give is that... yes. You go to the moon...

GAMEPLAY

Gameplay-wise the game might be one of the best single player FPS's ever made. All the guns are exceptionally well designed and look really cool on the screen (something more games should take into account if you ask me, considering you run around most of the game staring at it). I especially love the enormous shotguns and the assault rifles. Some of the weapons also have an alternative fire method or ammo type, and all of them save for the heavy weapons can be dualwielded, which naturally gets a big point from me as it is one of my biggest gaming fetishes. I also love that all the weapons are instantly available at any time and you are never limited to just two guns. Granted your arsenal is a bit limited and you cannot carry turret guns in your inventory but this is fair. If you are a fan of oldschool shooters, the game will definitely cater to your taste. Some guns even fulfill multiple functions such as opening crates or doors.

Instead of using health regen which most shooters nowadays do, the game opts for a more oldschool system of having to gather health packs and armor. The health will slowly regen to the nearest 10% though so if you're at 55 health it will slowly regen but stop at 60. I find this system very balanced and one thing I love is that you can overcharge your health using extra medpacks so if you find some laying around and don't wanna waste them, you can still take them. A lot of tactical play is involved with maintaining and managing your health and armor, adding some strategy to combat other than simply aiming and shooting while hiding behind cover and leaving some health and armor behind and backtracking to it later is of course a completely valid strategy.

Come to daddy
However it wouldn't be a Wolfenstein game without going back to the stealth roots a bit. While you can technically go full mayhem through most of the game, at times opting for a more stealthy approach can be preferable and you are given plenty of opportunities where you can choose to use stealth and sneak around if you want to, and your knives will prove useful stealth weapons as you can not only sneak up on someone and perform a takedown but also throw your knife at your enemies. I personally love how the game mixes stealth and action so seamlessly and leaves so much freedom to the player to approach the game however they see fit. It is a lot of fun playing the game this way and I strongly recommend people try different gameplay styles and see what fits the mission.

You can gain additional abilities and weapon mods by performing certain challenges which unlocks additional perks. The perks are divided into several categories, each one catering to a certain playstyle and you are almost guaranteed to be rewarded with more perks by simply sticking to that style as most of the challenges are simply just playing the game a certain way. You will definitely want to replay the game a few times to get all the perks if you're a completionist.

GRAPHICS

The graphics are simply amazing, not surprising given the game uses the idTech 5 engine which also powered the equally breath-taking RAGE which I reviewed in 2011. The same tech is used here to give an insane amount of detail and atmosphere to the game's levels. The game even has a slightly stylized look about it which gives it a very memorable and attractive style. There are also tons of little easter eggs and nods to the original Wolfenstein 3D, such as taunts when you want to exit the game, the difficulty names and there's even a completely playable level of Wolfenstein 3D recreated in the game if you can find it. While it felt a bit distracting at times, it is fun to see the game acknowledging its roots.

The PC port does feel a little unoptimized at times as the game would often run very slow if I alt-tabbed out of it and some of the audio didn't sync up with the mouth movements in-game. None of this really broke the experience for me though and I still enjoyed the game immensely. Just bear in mind the game is an idTech 5 engine game so some texture popin is to be expected. I found it was very easy to minimalize the popin by lowering the Max PPF setting to the minimum. Another tip I have is to keep in mind the memory requirements for the Ultra setting are rather high so if you have a mid to high range graphics card, I wouldn't set the cache size above High. I never had any major problems with the game and after tailoring the options a bit it ran smooth as butter for me.

SOUND

Sound-wise everything is top notch. The voice acting is superb with really emotional performances from the voice actors that perfectly matches the game's cinematic feeling. The guns all sound really good and gives them that extra "oomph". The music is also exceptional with a lot of it being a mix between a slightly electronic score and some rock. None of it felt too intrusive and still felt memorable to me. The ending theme simply had me in tears and felt perfectly fitting to the game.

Dual laser rifles. Why? Cause why not!
SUMMARY
STORY: 10/10Terrifically written dialogue coupled with memorable characters and setpieces that keep the game from ever feeling boring until the end makes this one of the best stories in any game I've ever experienced. The story had me at tears in parts which I didn't expect from a Wolfenstein game.
GAMEPLAY: 10/10
A seamless blend of gratuitous first person violence and stealth coupled with a few breather segments kept the game from getting too stale and overall the game feels very varied and fun to play. Even if I pretty much went through the game sticking to the "shoot everything in sight into chunky salsa" style, it never got old for me. If you're a fan of oldschool shooters, this is a perfect pick for you. The perks of course encourage trying different gameplay styles.
GRAPHICS: 10/10Varied level design, really cool weapons and enemy designs, a great style and overall a highly detailed game. The 40 gigs the game takes up on your hard drive will definitely show on the screen.
SOUND: 10/10
Awesome music, awesome sound design and a simply amazing voice cast gives this game all the cinematic flair it needs.

FINAL SCORE: 10/10
 

Wolfenstein: The New Order is my personal game of the year and so far the only if not one of the few games I would honestly give a 10/10 score. It's not often I do so but I honestly cannot find anything wrong about this game. It does everything a good game should do in my opinion. It offers an amazing story, satisfying gameplay and simply an experience you will not soon forget. This is a game I recommend to everyone, not just fans of first person shooters but anyone who wants a great gaming experience. It has a few technical shortcomings on PC but so far nothing that ruins or even dents an already flawless experience. The balancing of the difficulty is just perfect as you will die but it will always feel like your own fault.

In my opinion this is the definitive Wolfenstein game and possibly the best in the franchise.

Friday, 18 April 2014

[GameCube Game Review] StarFox Adventures


Reviewed for GameCube/Wii by Alyxx Thorne

Star Fox Adventures was one of the first titles for the Nintendo GameCube and the sequel to Star Fox 64 aka Lylat Wars on the Nintendo 64, itself the sequel to the groundbreaking Super FX shooter Star Fox aka Starwing on the SNES. Although originally planned as an original IP by Rare, called Dinosaur Planet, Shigeru Miyamoto came in during development and realized that there was potential here to make it a Star Fox game since the hero had a resemblence to Nintendo's furry space pilot. Rare immediately redesigned the assets to make the game an official Star Fox game and thus Star Fox Adventures was born. It is sort of the odd ball in the franchise, not really fitting in with the rest of the games that well and thus while it has a cult fanbase, there are a lot of fans who don't consider it a true Star Fox game due to its nature, it is an action/adventure game more in the vein of Legend of Zelda rather than a rail shooter after all, and due to the fact it wasn't developed as a Star Fox game from the get-go. So where do I stand on this odd game? Let's find out.

Eight years after the events of Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars, with the evil Andross defeated and peace brought back to the galaxy, the Star Fox team find themselves rather bored and without much to do. Falco left the team without a trace, Slippy has become an inventor and Peppy has retired from active duty to concentrate on being a navigator and advisor. But it isn't long before they receive a message from General Pepper. It seems that the once tranquil Dinosaur Planet has fallen under distress as General Scales has amassed an army and caused pieces of the planet to float into space, separating the tribes from each other and keeping the Krazoa spirits locked in their shrines, unable to bring the pieces of the planet back together. His minions have also taken the four spell stones, also needed to bring the planet back together. It doesn't help that Krystal, the lone survivor of her doomed planet Cerinia, gets caught when attempting to save the planet and it is up to Fox McCloud and his team to save the planet with the help of Krystal's magic staff.

The transitions between planet regions gives a nice throwback to the previous StarFox games.
The story is pretty simple and remains largely a big fetch quest for different items. I don't mind this though as it gives a context for the gameplay and what you need to do in the game. I just wish there was a bit more to it than that, though for a Nintendo game I guess it's to be expected. The setting is pretty unique for the game too and you get to spend the entire game exploring Dinosaur Planet and all its different environments. The game plays mostly as an action/adventure game in the vein of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, though there are some minigames and events during the game that offer different styles of gameplay. For instance, when you travel between parts of the planet with your Arwing you get to do a railshooter sequence reminiscent of Star Fox 64 and there are also other similar sequences during the game though I won't spoil them for you. Fox can use the magic staff to attack enemies, shoot magic missiles, open doors and a variety of other functions, and you also get aid by Tricky, a young dinosaur who serves as your partner during most of the game. While he can get a bit annoying during the game, especially with his constant lines, for the most part I enjoyed solving puzzles with him and he gives the game a lot of personality.

The combat is pretty intuitive and feels pretty satisfying.
The levels themselves did tend to get a bit confusing though. I often got stuck not knowing how to progress or what to do and had to do some substantial exploration and often the solutions were not very obvious at all, at least not to me. For me it did get in the way of my enjoyment of the game but it did feel very rewarding to finally progress after being stuck on a level for a long time. Usually your goal throughout the game remains largely the same, gathering spell stones and Krazoa spirits, and solving puzzles and mastering challenges that come in your way. The challenges and puzzles are pretty varied though and I never once felt like the game became too repetitive or boring as a new challenge or puzzle would come along and spice it up. Some of the events near the end especially had me on my seat, such as the infamous Test of Fear or the railshooter segments which were some of my favourite parts of the game.

Fox' face is beautifully animated during cutscenes.
The graphics are really good for an early GameCube title. I especially liked the lighting effects and depth of field effect during combat and cutscenes. The variety in levels also means the game has a lot of different settings and moods to offer and each level felt very unique and memorable. I also liked that the game would subtly change from day to night as you were playing and small details like NPC's falling asleep during the night were very nice to notice. In fact the game is chocked full of small details you might not pick up on at first but notice as you play and I loved them. The only bad thing I have to say is that some of the NPC animations were a bit lacking and stiff. I even encountered times when the NPC's wouldn't even animate at all which felt a bit lazy. The animation on Fox is amazing though, especially his facial expressions and like Link in Windwaker he is extremely emotive and this is easily one of the main reasons I love playing the game since he is a very appealing character to play as. Krystal remains largely unplayable though for most of the game which is a shame as I would love to see a game where you could play Krystal and Fox co-op. Idea for StarFox Adventures 2 here, Nintendo...

The music is extremely good. Ranging from beautiful chants and sweeping orchestral scores to a badass 80's rock theme during the ending credits, the score is varied and very high quality for the game and never gets boring. It did remind me a lot of Disney scores now and then which is never a bad thing. The voice acting was largely enjoyable, especially Krystal and Fox had very pleasant voices, though Peppy sounds like he's been a chainsmoker all his life, Slippy's voice makes me wanna put him out of his misery as usual and some of the NPC's voices were a bit grating (the Shopkeeper... good god...) but overall the cast was very enjoyable. The sound effects do their job pretty well, some of them very obviously stock sound effects, though that didn't bother me much.

Fans of this game will cringe at this screenshot...
All in all, StarFox Adventures is an absolutely fun and solid action/adventure game and highly underrated. Don't pass it up just because it plays differently from other StarFox games as it had me really excited and on the edge of my seat a few times, which I did not expect at all. While some of it might seem a bit unpolished and lacking, overall this game is definitely one of Rare's finest and a worthy addition to the StarFox franchise.

SUMMARY:
STORY: 7/10
GAMEPLAY: 8/10
GRAPHICS: 8/10
SOUND: 7/10

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

Friday, 11 April 2014

[PC Game Review] Deus Ex: The Fall


DEUS EX: THE FALL
Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: nFusion
Publisher: Square Enix
Buy on Steam

I'm a pretty huge fan of the Deus Ex franchise. I think the franchise is very unique in terms of gameplay style and Human Revolution was easily one of my favourite games of 2011 and the recently released Director's Cut of it was an amazing experience that I finally 100%'d on Steam recently. So naturally when the previously mobile exclusive game "The Fall" was finally ported to PC, I pretty much bought it on release. I've only played the first episode so far but think it gives a pretty good idea of how the rest of the game will play out once the rest of it is released from a gameplay perspective

As a game I think The Fall is pretty good. The story is set some time before Human Revolution and acts as a sort of prequel to that game that focuses on a character, Ben Saxon, who used to be with the group of mercs, the Tyrants lead by Jaron Namir, that you end up hunting down in Human Revolution. After departing from the group they pretty much want you dead and while they are hunting you down, you and your partner, Anna Kelso, are suffering from augmentation rejection and are in desperate need of Neuropozyne to deal with the symptoms. Most of the first episode centers around this dilemma of securing a steady NuPoz supply though you quickly get caught up in a bit of a web as you realize the mercs you escaped are on to you. I really loved the story in The Fall as it gave a unique opportunity to explore the characters of these mercs and their group and you get a lot of background info on it and what their original goal was. I loved all the emails and story bits that even offered a little extra for the long time fans as it mentioned them talking to some of the characters from Deus Ex 1 and the story was definitely the biggest reason I played through the first episode and can see myself playing through it several times. The only bad thing is that so far the first episode is really short and ends before you feel the game really begins and I really hope the second episode comes out soon.

Environments look really good for the most part. This is the Tyrant airliner.
The gameplay is pretty much what you can expect from a Deus Ex title and I am happy to say that some aspects about it are improved in relation to Human Revolution. For instance, you can buy weapons, upgrades, ammo and items at any time through the menu as long as you have the cash for it which makes the game feel a lot more streamlined and free as you're not restricted to only getting items from shops at certain points. The inventory has also been much more streamlined and obviously suited to a mobile device but I find it very easy to use and makes the game a lot of fun to play. While there are not as many weapons as in Human Revolution, especially if you compare it to the Director's Cut, there are more variations on weapons here with unique abilities that you can buy at any time, which is a nice touch that I liked.

The controls are also fairly easy to get used to if you've played Human Revolution on PC, though I disliked that there was no option to customize your keys and there is no jump button, making the game feel a bit like playing Deus Ex as if it was Doom. Of course being a mobile title, this makes perfect sense so I wasn't all too bothered by it. The one big issue I came upon though was that the mouse for some reason gets really glitchy after playing for a while and mouse clicks didn't even register properly, making the menus unnecessarily difficult to navigate. I really sincerely hope they patch this issue quickly because it IS a huge issue for me as the only fix for it seems to be restarting the game which is very tedious to do.

Many familiar enemies from DXHR make a return, such as the infamous boxguard robot.
Graphically the game looks very scaled down, especially compared to other PC titles. I really wish the animations and texture detail had been improved for the PC port but you sort of get used to it. The style from Human Revolution is very intact though and the game looks really good for a mobile game even if it doesn't in any conceivable way shape or form hold up to PC standards. Some of the models do look a bit bad though and the stiff animations made the game definitely feel a lot cheaper than it should. The environments also feel a bit cramped and small compared to Human Revolution so the game, again, does tend to feeling a bit like playing Deus Ex in Doom, though I quickly got used to it. The frequent loading between areas does make the game feel a bit tedious though as the areas are quite small.

Sound-wise the game pretty much re-uses music and sound effects from Human Revolution with no original music tracks or much original sound design to speak of which I found a bit boring. It makes the game feel more like a spinoff title than its own game, which it pretty much is. I really wish the game had its own unique soundtrack but the tracks from Human Revolution are still really good and it's hard to imagine the game without them. The voice acting ranges from tolerable to absolutely horrendous. The accents feel laughably fake and I almost fell off my chair several times listening to the NPC's talking, it was an absolute disaster. Some of the voice acting wasn't even enjoyably bad, just really tedious and ear-raping. I especially remember one NPC that gave me a mission and I kept skipping the dialogue because her voice literally felt like it was raping my ears. Thankfully most of the voice acting isn't that bad and it was nice hearing some of the cast from Human Revolution again.

Doing takedowns. Like a boss.
All in all, Deus Ex: The Fall as a game is not as bad as people are making it out to be, but it definitely feels like a mobile port and feels by all means more like a spinoff title than its own game. As a mobile game this is a pretty decent game and I can see it being perfectly tolerable on a mobile platform as you only pick it up and play it now and then and it offers you a portable Deus Ex experience. As a PC game though it fails utterly to live up to Human Revolution. The voice acting, scaled down graphics and sometimes annoying mouse clicking issues makes it feel like a chore to play at times which is a shame as there are some genuinely fun elements here such as the story and gameplay. If you're a big Deus Ex fan like me, I definitely recommend it but if you only have a casual interest in Deus Ex, it's probably not worth it, at least not on PC as I can imagine this being much more playable on its original platform. Judging this as a PC game it's not in any way holding up to PC standards, especially compared to Human Revolution. I personally really enjoy the game, I do not at all regret buying it, but objectively, it isn't a very good port and an average game experience at best.

SUMMARY:
STORY: 10/10
GAMEPLAY: 7/10
GRAPHICS: 4/10
SOUND: 3/10

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

UPDATE!
I normally don't do this but it's come to my attention that there's an easy way of working around the mouse clicks not registering properly. If you don't move your mouse at all when clicking it should work just fine. It has something to do with the touch screen emulation registering moving the mouse as swiping the screen, not touching it. If you can get used to this, the game becomes perfectly playable.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Thrift Store Catch 09.04.2014

So yesterday I went thrift shopping and this is what I hauled in:


A complete collection of the "Quest" games. King's Quest, Space Quest and Police Quest respectively on 3 CD-ROM sets. Bargain bin versions under Sierra's "Best Seller" series but not complaining. Also picked up a complete copy of GTA San Andreas and Contra: Shattered Soldier for PS2, as well as a CD with the Norwegian dance group Reset (totally unrelated to the games but a cool pickup).

Paid about 6$ for the whole thing and I am very happy with it.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

[PC Game Review] Titanfall


TITANFALL
Platform: PC (Origin)
Released: 2014
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: EA
Buy on Origin

Titanfall is without a doubt one of the most anticipated games in a while. Not only is it made by the people who made some of the most renowned Call of Duty games, it's also seemingly a truly unique shooter that brings the genre forward and away from the Call of Duty style we've seen so far. Is it truly a game changer or is this a titanic fall?

Already having played the beta, I could tell Titanfall would be a pretty unique shooter that firmly establishes itself within the multiplayer shooter genre. The thing I looked forward to was to see how the full version would handle the story mode and how it would integrate the story into the multiplayer and how this would work out. The answer is that it simply doesn't. Rather quickly the story takes second stage to the action and the only story we get are brief map introductions and some radio chatter that is quite easily drowned out by battle noise and you're often too immersed in the action to pay attention to the paper thin story. Honestly, if you are looking for a game with a good story, look elsewhere. Titanfall in a way feels rather oldschool in how it handles it story mode and brings to mind such classic multiplayer shooters as Unreal Tournament and how its campaign similarly were just a series of multiplayer maps you played in succession. In Titanfall you can play these maps twice as both sides to unlock new Titans for the multiplayer mode and that is pretty much your only reason to play the story mode.

One good thing about titans, they explode. :P
However the multiplayer itself is definitely where Titanfall shines. I can wholeheartedly say I have never played any game like this and in an era of copycat Call of Duty inspired shooters, that's a tough claim to make. What sets Titanfall apart from its competition as far as gameplay goes is how seamless it blends mech combat and fast-paced on-foot sections. While other games like Blackout Retribution and Hawken have tried focusing on mech combat for a while and doing it well, Titanfall more or less perfects the transition between pilot and mech.

As a pilot you have much more freedom of movement and agility than ever before, and you're basically a special type of elite soldier on the field who can use your jetpack to get to higher places on the map as well as run on walls Mirror's Edge style. This freedom of movement frees you from being locked to the ground like in most other FPS's of today and makes the game feel almost oldschool in its movement style. It brings to mind classics like Quake and Unreal Tournament with their more vertical gameplay. While most shooters today have become almost entirely horizontal and locked to the ground, especially Call of Duty where vertical gameplay has been restricted to running into a building and finding a sniper spot, Titanfall is almost entirely vertical and the levels are designed to accommodate this.

C'mere!
The freedom of movement of course becomes restricted once you enter your titan which you can call in during a match after a certain cooldown period. Entering the titan is dead simple and thankfully, your mech is YOURS and nobody else can like come and snag it or anything as it has a protective shield. This makes you feel a lot more connected to your titan. When you're out of the titan, the AI takes over and you can use it like a partner on the field that helps you take out enemies, or you can enter it and control it yourself which also is a ton of fun. The controls for the titan are identical to your pilot controls in most ways and the titan feels deliciously agile as well. I was fearing it would feel clunky and kind of disorienting but Respawn has done a perfect job here making it feel like your pilot is ONE with the machine. On the battlefield you also have AI opponents known as grunts and spectres. While these pose little to no actual harm to you as they are mere fodder for your guns and don't really support you all that much, they add flair to the battle and make for good target practice for new players and makes it easier for them to get into the game.

The multiplayer features several game modes. You have regular Team Deathmatch (Attrition) where the goal is to get the most kills over the enemy team in the allotted time. Once the time runs out you get a special ending mode where the losing team has to reach an evacuation shuttle before the enemy team wipes them out completely. This is easily the most fun thing about Titanfall and adds a unique flair to the battles. The feeling when you successfully manage to evacuate a battle is amazing. I recommend most people to start out with Attrition if you have never played Titanfall before as it offers a very good introduction in a familiar and dead simple game mode. You also have Last Titan Standing which is a mode where you spawn in a Titan and the goal is to eliminate all Titans on the enemy team. Pretty simple and with no respawns, it is still a pretty fun mode to play. Hardpoint is pretty straightforward. Capture and hold 3 hardpoints on a map. The more hardpoints held, the faster your team wins. Capture the Flag is what it says on the tin. Go into the enemy base, get their flag and take it back to yours. Pilot Hunter is all about eliminating the enemy team pilots to reach the score limit. And finally Variety Pack is a mosh pit of all the different game modes, perfect if you want to play for a while and want some variety.

Pilots can still be pretty dangerous to titans. Especially if they have satchel charges.
As a pilot, in addition to the standard loadouts you start out with, you can customize your own Pilot and Titan loadouts after a while as you level up, giving you full reign over how you want to play since the more you unlock, the more freedom you have. I also love that you can choose which gender to make your pilot, something I've wanted in multiplayer shooters for a while. Another addition are Burn Cards. These are basically like the perks in Call of Duty except they are only good for one use and you can choose up to 3 cards to have for each match. They add a bit of extra to the gameplay and as you play you earn more of them so you never run out. They modify your abilities and weapons in various ways, some giving you unlimited cloaking, some giving you more powerful weapon variants, and it's always random which ones you get, making it a lot of fun to play just to see which cards you'll get. You get tactical abilities such as cloaking (making you somewhat invisible to other pilots and titans) and stims (enhancing your running speed), and a good variety of weapons, ranging from Assault Rifles, SMGs, Snipers and Shotguns to the very fun and unique smart pistol that automatically targets your enemies. You also have special anti-titan weapons specifically designed to make your pilot a real force to be reckoned with. The titan weapons range from Chainguns to rocket launchers and they also have tactical abilities like deflector shields and electric smoke.

Worth noting is how the game deals with hackers and cheaters. If you are caught cheating you can technically continue playing the game, however you are restricted to lobbies with other cheaters only in what the developers describe as the "Wimbledon of aimbots". In my opinion this is a really cool way of dealing with cheaters.

The graphics are really good and high res, and I actually went ahead and upgraded my PC graphics card just for this game since they require a bit of a strong gaming rig to fully experience the game how it's meant to be played. They have a bit of a Call of Duty style to them except a bit more futuristic and sci-fi. The sounds are also pretty good though the music is mostly forgetable and I usually have it muted.

The epilogue is often the most intense part of the battle as the losing team has to reach a dropship in time to evacuate while being hunted by the winning team.
All in all, Titanfall is a really good multiplayer shooter, in fact it's one of the best I've played in a long time. There was no problems with it on launch, the servers have always worked fine for me and the game is always fun to pick up and play and in a lot of ways I prefer it over Call of Duty. However, the downside is, well, this is all you get. There is little to no story and it takes a clear backseat to the gameplay, there's no DLC to speak of yet and so for a full price I find it hard to recommend this game due to the small amount of content you get. You get a variety of game modes and several good maps to play on sure, but that's all you get. If you can find it at around 20-30$ I would say definitely pick it up. Do I regret paying full price for it though? No, not really. The game is rock solid and a ton of fun and I don't mind paying full price for it at all, but I can see some people on a limited budget not wanting to pay full price for a kind of stripped down experience.

SUMMARY
STORY: 4/10
GAMEPLAY: 10/10
SOUND: 5/10
GRAPHICS: 8/10

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

Saturday, 15 March 2014

PC Game Review: Alien Rage


ALIEN RAGE
Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer/Publisher. CI Games
Buy on Steam

There are games out there that label themselves as expert games. Games you seek out for the challenge and sheer bragging rights of completing them. Alien Rage has put itself in that league, selling itself as a shooter with old school gameplay and difficulty. Does it hold up to its promises? Let's find out as I take a look at a game that almost make my top 10 games of 2013 list.

The story in Alien Rage is paper thin and doesn't really have much impact on the game, basically giving you a setting, though the game itself is pretty much going from level to level in a linear fashion. I do like the writing though, as the use of humor and witty writing offsets the somewhat harsh difficulty of the game, giving you some relief between tense moments.

At first glance, you might look at the game and think "wait, that's not old school, this is Call of Duty with aliens". Well, that would be doing the game a disservice. Sure, it might have aiming down sights, it might have a 2 weapon limit and health regen. But the oldschool elements are there, just a bit subtle and requires you to actually play the game a bit to get them. The oldschool elements come in from the fact that the game gives you scores for skillshots, similar to Bulletstorm. The game also has a rather high difficulty which comes from the fact that the weapons are all really powerful and you aren't really that good at resisting them since the bad guys ALSO use those weapons.
That's why using skillshots and using your head as much as your gun is essential to surviving in this game and it requires that you do more than just shoot at the enemy. Sometimes ingenuity, awareness of your environment and timing can be more important. The fact the game does not have any mini-map and doesn't hold your hand in any way, shape or form means you have to rely on your senses and skills the entire time, which is where a lot of the more oldschool difficulty comes from.
Being limited to 2 weapons really doesn't have that much of an impact anyway since all of the weapons, as stated, are powerful and fit all situations. They just lend themselves to different play styles. I played through the entire game using almost exclusively the alien and human assault rifles. Even the boss fights were handled with those guns so what weapon you use doesn't matter all that much. Find a favourite and stick with it.

The game also has another modern element in that as you play and get scores, you level up, and each time you level up you gain a perk. Perks are, needless to say, modifiers that give you certain boosts that can benefit your playstyle and a lot of the fun comes from earning new perks, trying them out and finding the right combination. A little tip is that once you get the Mega Pistol perk, it makes the side arm pistol you have (which doesn't count as one of your 2 weapons btw) essentially the most powerful gun in the entire game and gives you a much needed edge over your enemies. Combined with other perks such as projectile damage bonus and Mega Health, it makes for a highly lethal combination that makes the brutal difficulty seem possible to overcome. I strongly suggest playing through the game on the easy difficulty to earn these perks before tackling the normal or hard difficulties. The mega pistol perk also makes it much more likely to get the achievement for completing the game using only the pistol.

All the weapons are also equipped with an alternate fire mode that uses up special ammunition that you can find in limited quantities around the levels. The alternate mode usually works as a grenade substitute as it usually leads to a lot of explosions. Keep in mind though that the enemies also have these alternate fire modes and will exploit them to kick your ass hard. The AI in this game is actually surprisingly impressive for a shooter and behave a lot like real players would. Another strategic tip is that if you have no other option but to shoot the enemies directly, aim for the head. Headshots are insanely OP in Alien Rage and can lead to a lot of easy kills, and you get bonus points for them.
The bosses all have their own techniques in how to take them down and figuring them out can take a while so prepare to be slaughtered a lot before you actually manage to take them down. Once you figure it out though it's sometimes astonishingly easy.

The level designs are fairly linear and save for searching for a few secret items there isn't much exploration possible which I think is fair considering the game is more of a linear arcady on-rails shooter for the most part, but for it to be truly oldschool they should've taken a cue from the recently released Shadow Warrior and give you secret locations and easter eggs to find. I don't know why so many game developers nowadays shy away from this. But that being said, the levels are fine and lend themselves to some pretty intense battle scenarios. I especially found it cool that the enemy can shoot through cover and even blow it apart so you are never truly safe in one spot for too long, forcing you to move from cover to cover a lot.

I haven't played much of the multiplayer but what I've played was pretty standard TDM fare. It doesn't really stand out all that much and I don't think this game is worth getting for the multiplayer. In fact it's near impossible to find people playing the game nowadays anyway as I think most people are playing the single player mode or are playing other and better multiplayer shooters that offer more variety. I would've loved a co-op mode or something here to really bring that oldschool arcade feel to it, so there's a bit of a missed opportunity there. All in all, the multiplayer feels pretty tacked on and could easily have been left out.

The graphics are absolutely one of the best things about the game. The game oozes style and I especially love the limited colour palette which for some reason reminds me a lot of early Amiga games in how it's focused very much on the contrasts of blue and orange, similar to a lot of 16bit games, which really does help give the game an oldschool style about it. The enemy designs are really cool and I especially like the huge boss designs that give them a true sense of menace. There's  a lot of subtle details in your field of view and the use of harsh lighting gives the game a dark and intense contrasting atmosphere which makes all the colours pop all the more. This game is absolutely gorgeous and definitely feels next gen when you play it. Despite looking this good it runs surprisingly well on my computer, even if at launch the game had some optimization issues.

The soundtrack is a bit lackluster in my opinion. It falls into the trap of trying to be a bit cinematic so it ends up being largely forgettable. It works well to compliment the constant action and I did enjoy the slightly electronic feel to it, but it just ended up being not memorable enough for me. Would've loved some driving techno or dubstep here to really push the action to the next level, and I think the devs should've gone for that personally. The voice acting is great however and brings a lot of the humor and wit out of the script, giving the protagonist a much needed personality that made him stand out a bit. I also loved the sound effects, all of them having a nice sound design to them. The game shows a lot of polish both in the sound and graphics department.

Alien Rage is a great shooter but hard to recommend if you only have a casual interest in shooters. It's definitely for you if you want a challenge and liked more oldschool arcady shooters such as Bulletstorm. It does try to find a true balance between the oldschool and modern game mechanics which might throw some people off if they expect it to be more like Half-Life or Quake. But for what it is, it's a great looking and awesome sounding experience that is fun while it lasts and the brutal difficulty makes the reward of completing it all that higher and I felt pretty f*cking good when I had completed it. But like I said, hard to recommend because this game does NOT hold your hand at all and REQUIRES you to THINK about how you play it and use the environment and your skills to survive.



SUMMARY
Story: 5/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 8/10

FINAL SCORE: 8/10