Thursday 29 April 2010

Gaming Reviews

Supreme Commander 2
Square Enix
Available Now - £34.99 (PC) and £44.99 (Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

As someone who is Emotionally Fourteen, I always consider giant robots to be a good thing, especially in a computer game. Thankfully, just like the original game, Supreme Commander 2 has giant robots in spades, as well as lots of explosions to boot.

As with the previous game, the story centres around three warring factions with their own weaponry and skills, and you must destroy your opponents using large-scale battles that use a mix of land sea and air units.

In comparison to other RTS games on consoles, Supreme Commander 2 has been ported over from the PC very well. Selecting units and issuing orders are simple and the ability to zoom out over the battlefield makes managing them all the more easier. The graphics are also quite pretty, and it’s quite satisfying to zoom in on your battles to see enemy tanks being annihilated by your giant war machine as it throws missles and artillery left, right and centre. The story mode also offers some pretty challenging missions to keep you entertained, so the game is easy to pick up but hard to master.

However, despite being functional and with some fairly decent production values, the game fails to offer anything new to an already overcrowded genre. Which is pretty damning when you have older games like Company of Heroes offering a much more unique experience when compared to other RTS games. Yeah, sure, there are giant robots, but even very old games like Mechcommander had giant robots in, and it still tried to offer a different playing experience.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Nice graphics and cut scenes, units have lots of detail when you zoom in on them, however, you will be zoomed out a lot of the time looking at numbers.
Sound/Music: Good voice acting and sound effects but nothing truly brilliant when compared to other RTS games.
Gameplay: An RTS game by numbers that is only saved by the fact it has giant robots in it. The missions offer a good challenge but sadly, there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen before in an RTS.
Lasting Appeal: Lots of missions and up to four player online will keep you happy, but when there are better RTS games out there, I doubt it will hold your interest for too long.
Summary: At the end of the day, Supreme Commander 2 is a fun game with giant robots, which is always a good thing, but don’t pick this up expecting it to be a gaming revolution, as you will only be met with disappointment. 7/10
Dead To Rights: Retribution
Available Now - £44.99 (PS3 & Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Rob Wade

Grant City needs cleaning up. The only man who can fix the city is Jack Slate, a vice cop forced to intervene when a violent hostage-taking turns murderous. After tracking the ringleader of a usually disorganised band of criminals, the incident is brought to a head when the case is made as personal as it possibly can be for Slate. He then finds himself relying on all his skill and strength in order to save Grant City from a terrible fate.

Dead To Rights: Retribution is a third-person action game, primarily a shooter but with some brawling and melee elements as well as some stealth action where you play as Slate’s dog, Shadow. Yes, you heard me. You get to play as a dog in this game. Awesome right?

The game itself is overall pretty good. The graphics, while not amazing, have a nice art style in the same vein as Stranglehold, and the action is sufficiently over-the-top in the same way as the John Woo game. The action itself is good, although sometimes the controls are a little fiddly, particularly when the melee action involves a few different enemies. Having said that, you can aim a punch at someone in front of you and then immediately kick the people behind or to the side of you, so they’ve definitely made efforts in that vein to make the combat easier. You can also use your dog as a secondary squad member, ordering him to take out enemies or “fetch” guns for you while you’re in cover. On a plus point, the disarm moves you can perform on enemies are good, leaving you pointing the gun at their head once the animation finishes. A nice little touch that certainly becomes particularly satisfying.

The Shadow stealth elements are good, as well. When in stealth mode, Shadow can detect heartbeats of nearby enemies, enabling you to either sneak along behind them or to perform silent kills (how awesome are these developers? I’ll tell you: they have an achievement in the game called “scrotality” for performing a dog kill by biting the guy’s balls off.

However, there are negatives. As previously stated, the action can be a little fiddly at times, which isn’t helpful when other enemies are taking pot-shots at you from afar because of your being exposed. It also becomes a little repetitive to be using the same takedowns and combat moves, even if the animations for the takedowns are bollocking awesome. Add to that some absolutely woeful voice-acting at times and you have a game that isn’t short of a few imperfections. Ultimately though, a good fun romp that’s definitely worth a rental, or buying if you can pick it up at a good price.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Not amazing, but some nice art style certainly adds some style at times.
Sound/Music: The sounds and music are okay, but the voice acting is pretty shoddy at the best of times.
Gameplay: A little repetitive and fiddly at times, but good fun.
Lasting Appeal: Beyond playing it through on various difficulty levels, I can’t really see the game appealing beyond a single playthrough.
Summary: A good, if repetitive shooter/brawler. The equivalent of a good cheesy 1980’s OTT action film. 7/10
Samurai Shodown Sen
SNK/Rising Star Games
Available Now - £39.99 (Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

As a hardcore gamer, I grew up playing a lot of the original Samurai Shodown games in arcades, so it’s great to see that Samurai Shodown has been remade in 3D for the first time, but can it compete against the heavy hitters of today?

Sadly, the answer is an incredibly disappointing "No". The game feels unpolished with sub-par graphics when compared to other games of today, and a broken jumping mechanic where you seem to only be able to jump about 3mm off the ground. Also, the game in single player is stupidly tough, with annoyingly difficult boss fights, who seem to only make you feel stupid - as they brought a gun when you brought a sword.

The game isn’t all bad, though. There is a large roster of characters each with their own playing style. Also, if you score a heavy hit that wins you the match, you are treated to an extremely short but satisfying death scene, such as a head or limb coming off followed by lots of blood gushing out of your opponent.

At the end of the day, despite the jumping, the game is fun when playing with friends, and is good for a bit of old school beat-'em-up action every now and again. Just don’t expect it to make Street Fighter, Soul Calibur or Tekken shake in their boots just yet.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Bold colourful graphics, but certainly poor when compared to other games of this generation. Watching heads and limbs fly off is still as satisfying as ever though.
Sound/Music: The voice acting could be good, but seeing it is all in Japanese, you wouldn’t notice. The music will begin to grate on you after a while as well.
Gameplay: An ageing beat 'em up that fails to compete against today’s bruisers despite updated graphics and HD sheen.
Lasting Appeal: A fun game to play with your friends occasionally and laugh at the death scenes, but with an incredibly hard single player you’ll probably lose patience with the game and go back to the likes of Soul Calibur.
Summary: Samurai Shodown Sen still keeps some of its retro charm, but sadly stays stuck in the 90’s because of it, the difficulty is high as if it is trying to gobble coins from your 360 and the experience is stiff and disjointed when compared to the smooth fighting experience offered by the likes of Soul Calibur. It’s fun to have a bash with your friends to relive your memories with slightly nicer graphics, but you’ll soon be booting up Tekken. 5/10
Arkham Now: Revisiting the Legend-Haunted City
Call of Cthulhu Sourcebook

Available Now - £18.99 (Paperback) and £13.25* (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer
* Approximate conversion from US$

This, the latest Call of Cthulhu sourcebook from Chaosium, updates to modern times the fabled city of Arkham.

Most residents believe there is only one horror lurking in this legendary haunted town — the urban sprawl slowly eroding Arkham’s old New England beauty. Rushing by neon signs and mega-marts to obtain even more material possessions, no one notices the more disturbing, underlying qualities of the city: the grotesque vegetation sprouting in some places, the sometimes-odd taste from the reservoir’s drinking water, the disturbingly high rate of birth defects, the too-frequent child abductions.

Those who make inquires are scoffed at by citizens, and rebuffed by local and state officials. The truly brave continue to put the pieces together, posting their thoughts on the Internet. Many of these individuals disappear from cyberspace eventually — often due to the effects some of these discoveries can have on one’s mental health. Though they would never admit it, many of the long time residents of Arkham know there is something not quite right about their town…

If you’re running Call of Cthulhu games in modern times – especially in Arkham - then you need this book. Everything contained in here feels like a natural progression of the history established by its predecessor (H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham), and you really feel like that this is how Arkham would have aged were it real. “Arkham Mental Health Centre” may not have the alliterative power of its original name, granted, but with subtle changes like that, Arkham Now brings the Mythos up to date.

This is basically everything you’ve come to expect from a sourcebook from Chaosium – the layout is fantastic, scattered liberally with maps, character statistics, adventure seeds and all other assorted Cthulhuery. The central section on Miskatonic University is absolutely massive, and you could happily run several large games with the information there alone.

The only real strike against Arkham Now is the scenarios. They’re okay, but they are simply not of the standard we’ve come to expect from Chaosium, and feel rather like an afterthought.

Summary: A thorough and excellently put together sourcebook which is essential for modern era keepers. Highly recommended. 9/10
The Whispered World
Daedalic/Deep Silver
Available Now - £19.99 (PC)
Review by Rob Wade

Sadwick is the most melancholy clown of the bunch. Working with a traveling circus, he dreams of a more exciting life; that is, when he’s not being troubled by nightmares involving a glowing orb and an eroding landscape. He thinks of these nightmares as nothing but fevered dreams of tedium, until one day he chances into the Autumn Forest and comes across a messenger for the kingdom of Corona, who tells him that the kingdom is indeed at threat. From there, Sadwick’s journey begins…

The Whispered World is a point-and-click adventure game in the style of Monkey Island, with players controlling Sadwick and his pet, Spot (I’m afraid I really can’t be more specific than “pet”) through the mouse, making him explore the area and the items around him, using those items in order to solve puzzles and advance through the game.

There are some really nice elements to this game, there’s no doubt about that. The graphics, while not outstanding, are very crisp and have a nice pseudo-anime style that is very pleasant to the eye. You could easily watch this unfold, and without the interaction present, assume you were watching a Studio Ghibli (Check spelling or use director’s name) film.

The music in this game is nothing short of stunning, with sweeping orchestral scores throughout. However, that’s about where the audio quality stops being of high quality. The sound effects are functional, not much more, and the voice acting is at times atrocious, with protagonist Sadwick a particularly low point. It’s like playing an adventure game with a clown version of Droopy who’s been told he should do stand-up by some malicious mates. The jokes are either self-deprecating on a Stephanie Meyer level, or they’re just...crap.

The puzzles are clever enough, but generally just consist of you collecting every item you can see, and then you get told pretty much word-for-word what you need to combine or use in order to make it work. As far as making you think outside the box goes, it’s not really one of those games it seems. It’s more one of those “collect everything inside the box, including the instruction manual on how to create the WIN button.”

The ultimate problem I have with this game, though, is that it simply doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from any other game. If you look back through the classics, they all have a hook that’s unique and draws you in. Monkey Island has its insult sword-fighting, Grim Fandango was the first of its type to attempt the keyboard-based movement and interaction system in a mainstream title and even Discworld Noir had its…character changes (I don’t want to say too much for risk of spoiling it, everyone should play that game). Everything classic has a memorable element. In this case, you have a that can be moulded into certain shapes in order to solve certain puzzles. It’s not enough; it’s simply another item in a different form.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Functional animation, though a lovely style that’s crisp and smooth.
Sound/Music: Woeful voice acting, which spoils some reasonable sound effects and stunning musical scores.
Gameplay: Classic point-and-click adventure gaming. Doesn’t really do enough to identify itself.
Lasting Appeal: Not much, same as most point-and-click adventures.
Summary: This is not a bad effort in the point-and-click genre, and a reasonable game all round, but is let down by some poor choices and a lack of any “wow” factor. 6/10

It's Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call 'Milk Sickness'. 'My baby boy...' she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, 'henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose'.

Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an axe, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House. While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of America's greatest president for the first time - all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of the nation.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is out now from Robinson Publishing, priced £12.99.

Thanks to our friends at Robinson Publishing, we've got five copies of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to the first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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