Thursday 18 March 2010

Gaming Reviews

Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Available Now - £49.99 (Xbox 360 & PS3 (Version Tested)) and £34.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

With the brilliance of the Call of Duty series (especially Modern Warfare 1 & 2), it takes a lot of balls to challenge the series for the FPS crown - and even more balls to do it whilst making as many digs about it in your single-player mode as possible. But that is exactly what Dice has done with Bad Company 2, with its single player campaign making jokes about Modern Warfare left, right and centre - the line “snowmobiles are for sissies” being a prime example. In spite of this, Bad Company 2 does have the game to back it up as well.

The game has several strengths to rival Modern Warfare, including excellent AI, gorgeous graphics and destructible scenery, with the latter adding some strategic depth. Bad guys behind too much cover? Get the RPG out and level the entire building so they can’t hide. The game has improved in every way since the original, by getting rid of the flaws and making everything that was great even bigger...more vehicles and more carnage, for example. The on-line mode deserves a special mention due to its large amounts of game-modes. The ability to use vehicles of every shape and size make it the best multiplayer experience in the series since Battlefield 2 on the PC.

However, the game just falls short of knocking Modern Warfare of it’s perch due to a couple of flaws that weren’t addressed. It is still a bit too easy to die in the game, and a couple of lazy level design flaws in the single player campaign mean that, whilst it delivers a more fun experience, it still can’t match that "Hollywood Blockbuster" feel that Modern Warfare delivers on every level. Still Bad Company 2 is a stellar game and one that shouldn’t be missed by FPS fans.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Lush scenery, over the top explosions and massively destructible scenery, in a word: WIN!
Sound/Music: Good action music and some great voice acting make for some great story telling and some genuinely funny one-liners. Sound effects such as explosions and RPGs whooshing past your ears are great too.
Gameplay: A great game that steps up to the challenge of Modern Warfare 2’s gunfights and only just comes short of toppling the behemoth.
Lasting Appeal: The single player will entertain you with its great AI and large amounts of fireworks for a few hours but the main meat is in the online mode, which is the series’ best since Battlefield 2.
Summary: FPS fanatics looking for the next best thing will love this, especially the online mode, which is one of the best FPS experiences around. 8/10

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat
bitComposer Games
Available Now - £29.99 (PC)
Review by Rob Wade

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R series has been around for some years, and has seen three games now within the franchise. The story goes that a second explosion rocked the Chernobyl reactor in 2006, unleashing mutated creatures into the exclusion zone around the area. S.T.A.L.K.E.R: COP puts you in the role of an undercover
agent, Alexander Degtyarev, operating in the area to investigate the disappearance of 5 surveillance helicopters which have ventured into the exclusion zone without having returned.

The appeal of these games has always been the open world mechanics of the game. Much in the same way as games like Fallout 3, this series allows players to explore a large open space and interact with a number of characters and perform many quests along the way to your eventual objective.

Except that this game doesn't really do that in the same way.

Those familiar with the game's mechanics are doubtlessly not going to have the immense number of niggly little problems I had starting out the game. Everything from talking in conversation to item and inventory management is fiddly and clunky at first. You have to put your weapon away to talk to another person, but of course the game doesn't tell you how to do that and leaves you to figure it out for yourself instead. Not, I'm sure you'll agree, a MASSIVE problem, but not the sort of thing you should be having to figure out for yourself considering that the game is not treated as an expansion pack or anything like that.

Once you figure out that command, you set about on your way. The basic controls aside from this early blip are simple enough to understand, so it's easy enough to get about once you know what you're doing. Before long, you're accepting quests and well on your way towards the game's main objective.

Ultimately, the problem I have with this game is that there just isn't enough of it to pad out the world. You often have to walk for a few minutes to be able to find anything to look at, there are very few landmarks and points of interest on the map and the characters are paper-thin and two-dimensional, resorting to stock phrases and contrived dialogue. The enemies aren't exactly inspired, either, considering that the idea of mutation allows for depth of creativity along the lines of Lovecraft and stuff like that. It's disappointing, therefore, to just see an enemy that looks a bit like a cross between a pig and a rat.

This game, however, isn't a total disaster. The combat between yourself and other human players is pretty good, with the AI serving the basic purpose of trying to convince you that the CPU isn't completely retarded. The graphics are solid, if not stunning, and the sound effects and music set a decent ambience of isolation. The isolation thing, incidentally, is one of the more difficult atmosphere effects to pull off, somewhat mastered in the Myst series and rarely focused on in games. You definitely feel like you're one of very few people in the area, which is fine except that this game is about exploration and trading.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics : A very polished and tidy game. A large overworld with little or no technical errors.
Sound/Music : Good sound effects and ambient music.
Gameplay : An action-heavy game with some elements of RPG gameplay (loot pickups etc). The controls are solid, and the gameplay is solid. Not much more than that, really, though.
Lasting Appeal : The world is big and open, but a little thinly spread in terms of stuff to explore. The game doesn't really allow for much in the reply value.
Summary : Ultimately, this game seems to suffer from having a large open world to explore, without too much stuff in it to do. The plot isn't particularly well explained, and the navigation can be confusing at times for the first-time player of this series. This is, however, a solid action game in terms of mechanics and execution, but would benefit from the inclusion of a bit more depth. 7/10

Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce
Tecmo Koei
Available Now - £44.99 (PS3 (version tested) & Xbox 360) and £29.99 (PSP)
Review by Blake Harmer

Having heard good things about the PSP release last year, with people saying that it had made the Dynasty Warriors franchise fresh and exciting again, I was looking forward to this. So why did I, upon playing Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce, find myself scrambling for my copy of Dynasty Warriors VI? The answer, my E14ies, is all about feel.

Rather than following the traditional feel of previous games by having you in the midst of a battle, clobbering foes left right and centre in an attempt to lead your army to glory, Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce instead goes for a more action/RPG feel. There's the option of on-line co-op (or AI heroes), and levelling up your hero as you progress and making better weapons, stronger Musou attacks, etc.

This new feel does have its perks, such as the ability to use your Musou gauge to make you very powerful for a period of time, or unleash a single incredibly devastating attack. The ability to issue orders to your comrades to take out specific targets is also welcome. However, where Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce falls down is that, somewhere in the midst in adding some quite refreshing ideas to the mix, it somehow forgot to put in the fact that it should feel satisfying as you wander the battlefield twatting everyone.

Despite having three other heroes with you and a large flaming sword, it still seems to take way too long to kill a single soldier or vehicle, which at the end of the day, isn’t what Dynasty Warriors should be about. Sure, it’s a new take on a game that has hardly reinvented itself over the last five years, but after playing this, I can happily say that I now know why. And the less said about the historical accuracy in the game the better. War machines shooting lasers and wizards shooting fireballs I can just about live with, but when Emperor Cao Cao is shooting across the battlefield like some sort of Super Saiyan from Dragonball Z laying waste to an army by shooting energy from his fingertips, I have to feel sorry for any Chinese historians that may be playing.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating:
Despite moving into the next generation, Dynasty Warriors hasn’t really been able to utilise the console’s full potential and deliver lots of enemies on screen or lush scenery, with the end result feeling like a slightly prettier version of the PSP game.
Sound/Music: The same techno/metal rubbish mixed with traditional Chinese music that’s synonymous with the Dynasty Warriors franchise.
Gameplay: Some great ideas which work well with online co-op, but the end result feels unsatisfying in comparison to previous entries in the series.
Lasting Appeal: If you like action/RPGs and have plenty of Dynasty Warriors fans in your friends list, then the online mode will keep you thoroughly entertained for quite a while.
Summary: If you’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game, you will find the game a fun hack and slasher with some in-depth levelling up to be done. However, as a Dynasty Warriors veteran, I find myself hurt that the stress-relieving fun of seeing large amounts of enemies being destroyed by your hand is somehow missing. 5/10

Puzzle Chronicles
Available Now - £29.99 (PSP (Version Tested) & DS)
Review by Blake Harmer

Whoever made this game is gunning for a lawsuit. Not only have the developers created a game that is very similar to a lot of other puzzle games, its one redeeming feature (that it is story driven with RPG elements), seems to have a plot that is a little too close to Conan the Barbarian for my liking.

The plot centres around the hero (a man in a loincloth) who comes from a tribe of warriors. When his village is attacked and the tribe captured, they are sold into slavery. When the hero is released he goes in search of finding the people who enslaved his tribe. If this sounds too much like Conan to you, then you’ll like the subtle differences they have made in the main character's appearance:

Separated at birth?

The game has several flaws on top of its unoriginality. The graphics and animations in the game are atrocious and have been bested by some Sega Game Gear games, let alone other current handheld titles. The loading times are monstrously long and the voice acting is laughably bad. The gameplay which does throw in a few neat ideas (levelling up your character to do more powerful attacks, equipping weapons that affect certain gems and charging certain abilities) doesn’t save it from the fact that the game gets easy too quickly and is, overall, a game from a tired genre that has been out-done by predecessors such as Super Puzzle Fighter.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Utterly terrible. Sure, it’s a game that doesn’t need great graphics, but when games like Tetris have better graphics, you know you’re doing something wrong.
Sound/Music: The voice acting is laughable with the sound affects being barely passable.
Gameplay: A block puzzler in a similar vein to Super Puzzle Fighter or Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine but somehow doesn’t execute the game as well as these, despite throwing some new ideas into the mix.
Lasting Appeal: A game that starts off difficult but gets way too easy as you progress due to a lack of strategy being thrown in. You’ll be tired with it quickly if the bad graphics and voice acting don’t stop you playing before then.
Summary: A good idea ruined with poor execution and incredibly long loading times. Puzzlers would be better off getting Lumines or Super Puzzle Fighter from the Playstation Store than wasting their money on this. 4/10

To celebrate the release of two landmark WWE pay-per-views, WWE Tagged Classics: Unforgiven 2001 & No Mercy 2001, our friends over at have given us three copies of this fantastic double DVD to give away to three lucky readers.

Headlined by a WWE Championship Match between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defending against “The Olympic Gold Medallist” Kurt Angle, WWE Unforgiven 2001 is the first WWE post-9/11 pay-per-view. The Alliance’s “Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam faces Chris Jericho for the WWE Hardcore Championship, in a match where weapons are legal and pinfalls count anywhere. Having both competed in Extreme Championship Wrestling, these future World Champions are well versed in the Hardcore style, and will stop at nothing to secure the title for their side. “The People’s Champion” The Rock is also in action, defending the WCW Championship in a Handicap Match against the man he defeated for the strap, Booker T, and the leader of The Alliance, Shane McMahon.

WWE No Mercy 2001 marks the moment when the WCW/ECW Invasion begins to implode. In the main event, WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defends against fellow Alliance member Rob Van Dam and overwhelming fan-favourite “The American Hero” Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat Match. As the Alliance threatens to break down, The WCW Championship Match is contested by two WWE Superstars – “The Brahma Bull” The Rock and Chris Jericho. Volatile family relations also come to a head elsewhere on the card as brothers Edge and Christian look to end their bitter rivalry over the Intercontinental Title in a Ladder Match.

If you don’t win, don’t despair, this fantastic DVD set is available from all good retailers and at from 22nd February 2010.

To win its simple, answer this question:
Who is the father of Shane McMahon?

a) Terry McMahon
b) Vince McMahon
c) Jeff McMahon

Send your answers in to before midday on Thursday 25th March, for a chance of winning this awesome prize!

1 comment:

  1. Actually, by giving the main character of Puzzle Chronicles black hair and blue eyes, he actually resembles the original description of Conan by Robert E. Howard even more than Arnold's portrayal.

    The story, however, is totally John Milius' from Conan the Barbarian, though I have to say the idea of "the hero being enslaved after his village is attack and then going to take revenge on the attackers" was old when Bulfinch wrote his book on mythology.