Thursday 1 October 2009

Video Game Reviews

Soul Calibur – Broken Destiny

Review by Blake Harmer

The Soul Calibur series has always been a huge hit with me and I have played every single game since Soul Blade except for the first Soul Calibur, but that is only because I didn’t own a Dreamcast when I was younger, mainly because it would have been a waste of money. However, I was particularly interested in this version, especially as it boasted the inclusion of Kratos (of God Of War fame) as a bonus character. Now, bonus characters haven’t been a stranger to the franchise since Soul Calibur II, but I was interested as the concept of Kratos’ fighting style when used against the more traditional characters of the series it felt more like it was suited to the feel of the game unlike previous characters such as Darth Vader, Heihachi from the Tekken series and Spawn.

For those of you who are unaware of the series’ existence, it is a weapons based one on one beat-em-up where the main characters are looking for two legendary swords, Soul Edge (the evil one) and Soul Calibur (the good one) for their own reasons. This PSP edition is more a spin-off from the franchises main storyline with the main storyline even admitting that the game is non-canon, but still follows this loose storyline.

The PSP edition of the game surprisingly retains the excellent graphics the series is known for (without the obvious HD awesomeness in Soul Calibur IV), and the combat is still as fast and fluid as it ever was and fits to the PSP’s controls fairly well (providing you normally play the Soul Calibur games with its default control scheme and didn’t allocate button combinations to the shoulder buttons) and combat is very similar to Soul Calibur IV with it’s method of destroying armour with critical hits to certain places. The new characters Kratos and Dampierre add a nice change to the usual roster and their combat is very different yet easily accessible. The game also features the excellent character creation mode from Soul Calibur IV which lets you create your own hero with a selection of different weapons and use him or her (or it if your feeling like making something monstrous) in the main game modes.

However, the game does suffer from flaws, such as the PSP’s nub isn’t as reactive as playing on a home console. However, the worst flaw is the lack of game modes, as it has no arcade mode, and a story mode that feels like a tutorial than an actual challenge mode to truly test your fighting skills. This leaves the game with the typical training mode; The Gauntlet, which is just several different variants of survival mode, and Quick Match, which lets you fight different AI opponents who have created their own warriors. Whilst The Gauntlet and Quick Match are indeed fun to play it does mean that there is no real mode for you to actually play against the traditional roster. Your best bet is to therefore find a friend who has the game and play a versus match against them.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating:
Simply stunning, the graphics fit onto the handheld with very little difference when compared to the other games on the home consoles.
Sound/Music: Over the top fantasy style music with plenty of sword clanging noises as we’ve come to expect from the franchise.
Gameplay: Excellent beat-em-up fun that can be expected from the franchise and there isn’t many better fighting games that can top it. The PSP controls could have made this game a lot better if they were more responsive and less fiddly though.
Lasting Appeal: Once you’ve done the tutorial *ahem* I mean story mode, your just left with a few single player options to keep you entertained. Unless you have friends that you can battle against, I foresee this game being put down too quickly.
Summary: A great game let down by a lack of game modes, especially when compared to its competition such as Tekken: Dark Resurrection. I recommend you know a few people who own the game before purchasing it or you will become bored of the game modes and forget this game in no time. Which is a real shame as the gameplay is still top notch. 7/10

Infernal: Hell's Vengeance
Xbox 360 (version tested), PC

Review by Rob Wade

Picture the scene if you will; you're new to the whole games journalism thing. You've not really reviewed that many games since you started doing it, and so far everything you've played has been really good. Then the game comes in that destroys your illusions and makes you realise: Yes, there will be crap. Thankfully, Infernal: Hell's Vengeance came along at a point early on, so I'm under no illusions from now on.

God help us all.

Infernal: Hell's Vengenace tells the story of Ryan Lennox, a renegade ex-angel. The landscape of the world is different now, as angels work for a company called Etherlite. Lennox, however, has been cast out and is now being hunted by the people he used to work for. In order to restore balance to the world, Lennox must make a deal with the devil and gains new abilities and powers along the way.

As soon as I loaded up this game, I knew I was in for a particular type of experience. The graphics in a game before it loads can sometimes be just as telling as the in-game graphics to give you an idea of the quality you're about to experience. The loading screen for a level, for example, consists of a clip of bullets filling up gradually, with assorted revenge proverbs appearing above it. I didn't really feel...immersed.

Once the game starts, you see that they probably spent most of the development budget on the loading screen. The cutscene graphics, while in-game (which is something I've said that I like in games), are drab and don't really make use of the graphical power of the Xbox 360 or indeed most PCs. The music is simply some metal-esque guitar riffs composed by a twelve year old child who's listened to Metallica and thinks he can play like them. The levels are boring and short. I could go on, and let's face it: I will. Graphically, and in fact technically in general, this game could easily have surfaced on Playstation 2 and nobody would have batted an eyelid. The combat is limited to gun play and ONE jump move. It's been quite a while since Max Payne came out, and that had loads of options as well as bullet time that worked!

The voice acting, while amusing, is delivered in such an emotionless way that you'd swear the voices were computer-generated. It's a shame as well, as in the hands of a bigger publisher, the developers would have been able to convince Ryan Reynolds to do the voice of the main character as they so clearly want to. He's not the only culprit, as the voice work all round is pretty dire.

Oh, and as far as achievements go on Xbox 360, I got one for watching a cut-scene. Gives you an idea of how difficult they are, that's all I'm saying.

As if all that wasn't damning enough, after about three hours during my first play through, I was killed by the game's first real boss. I was killed, incidentally, as the game offers no hints on how to beat him or even what tactic to employ when fighting him, unless "Get twatted endlessly" has become a control mechanic for current-gen systems. I was given the option to continue the game. This was the dialogue between the game and I.

"Yes, I'll continue. I go back to the chapter start then?"
"No no, foolish games journalist. I am Infernal!"
"Yeah, I'd figured that out by now thanks. So where do I start?"
"Ha ha ha...I'm Infernal."

That's right. In 2009, on Xbox 360, I was returned to the beginning of the game! Enough said.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Really quite poor. The texture work, while competent, does nothing to push the Xbox 360's hardware, to the point that this game could easily have appeared in the previous generation.
Sound/Music: Terrible emo metal riffs that appear randomly in the game for NO APPARENT REASON. The voice acting is terrible, although the lines could have been funny delivered properly. Shame really.
Gameplay: Basic shonky third-person action, with no acrobatics or any sort of jumping beyond the basic. No autosave creates frustration.
Lasting Appeal: Play this game on the hardest difficulty setting if you can. That way you shouldn't have to play it again. Not that there is much to play beyond the story mode anyway.
Summary: This game could have been so much more. As it is, about the only positive thing I can say about it is that it's not technically broken. Such a missed opportunity. 2/10

Killing Floor
Iceberg Interactive

Review by Blake Harmer

As what has become a norm in the videogaming community, it is that there are two types of monsters that everyone loves to kill, zombies and Nazis (Or Zombie Nazis if you love Wolfenstein or the mini game from COD: World at War). So it is without surprise that Iceberg Interactive have made Killing Floor, a first person zombie blaster with it’s crosshairs aimed at Left4Dead’s crown. However they have decided to hide the fact that it is zombies you’re shooting by saying they are mutants.

The premise is simple so as not to wander too far from the main point of the game, which is working together to blow the hell out of monsters. After a biological experiment has gone wrong, a company has unleashed mutants of different sizes on a rampage killing everyone and it is up to you (the police and military) to contain this biohazard the only way you know how, by twatting them with a variety of weapons from axes to machine guns to rocket launchers.

The game is fun with some good level design and relies on you to choose the best approach to combating the mutant horde, and online play is what truly makes the game enjoyable as you work together with other players to tackle the bigger monsters such as the Patriarch. There is also a levelling up system as you progress to make you stronger, however this is a lot more basic than other games’ levelling up systems such as COD4: Modern Warfare. Also, all of this for the small sum of £15 puts many other full priced shooters to shame.

However, the game isn’t without its problems. The graphics in the game are pretty "Meh" when you compare to other games, and it is pretty brainless when you compare it to Left4Dead’s level of teamwork to reach a common goal rather than merely killing lots to level up. But at it’s price, as mentioned before, this can be overlooked as you will be getting a lot of fun for the price when compared to over budget titles.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Average and nowhere near groundbreaking visuals, but the emphasis is more on the monster slaughter and online play than actually looking pretty.
Sound/Music: Typical survival horror music and gun fire but nothing truly out of the ordinary to other games of it’s type. Not dreadful, just not truly inspiring.
Gameplay: Good fun gun play, which keeps everything simple and is enjoyable because of it. Co-op is a must to bring down the larger mutants although it doesn’t have the goals or complexity of other games such as Left4Dead.
Lasting Appeal: Plenty of fun to be had although it is rather brainless and samey. The teamplay will keep you coming back for more though.
Summary: A fun but flawed piece of co-op monster blasting and whilst it won’t topple the series king, it is at the cheap price of £15, and you could do much worse. Worth having a go for those who want to sample something different but cannot afford a bigger budget title. 7/10

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