Thursday, 12 August 2010

Gaming Reviews

Starcraft II
Blizzard
Available Now - £44.99 (PC & Mac)
Review by Blake Harmer

Fans of real time strategy games rejoice as, after many moons of internet rumours, the inevitable announcement and followed by years upon years of hype, Starcraft II has finally arrived. But has it been worth the wait?

Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes, but the weirdest thing is that despite many years since the original Starcraft, and considering the way computer games have evolved over the years, the core gameplay remains the same. However, as the many fans of Starcraft will tell you this is not a bad thing. There are still three races to play as, the Terran army, which look like Space marines without the Warhammer 40,000 licence, the Zerg, a carnivorous race of aliens that look a bit like the Tyranids without the Warhammer 40,000 licence, and the Protoss, that other army that surprisingly doesn’t resemble any army under a Games Workshop licence.

So what makes Starcraft II so good? Well, firstly, the single player campaign is huge, deep and varied; from the in-depth story and superb voice acting to the ability to upgrade and enhance troops in-between missions. You also have the ability to choose between certain missions depending on which part of the story you wish to expand. Do you want to help a pirate smuggle gas from the mysterious Protoss race in return for his services, or do you want to help a doctor save her colony from the Zerg so you can unlock new abilities through her research capabilities? This means that if you get stuck on a mission there is normally another mission for you to try in the meantime, which means you never get too frustrated for long. Also, each mission is different. One minute you could be taking out an enemy base, the next you could be trying to extract precious minerals before lava erupts on the planet whilst fighting off the Zerg at the same time.

Another thing that makes Starcraft II so great is that it is just full of life and character. From your ability to pretty much interact with any character on your starship in between missions, to the weird indigenous creatures you see wandering around the planets during missions, everything gives off a unique character. Add in the traditional funny one-liners you get from your troops when you select them and place orders and you're on to a winner.

Then there is the online element which breathes even more life into the gameplay. The new Battle.Net pits you against players of a similar experience to you, so you very seldomly get fraped without a chance. Also, the co-operative play really steps up the computer AI as it works ravenously to destroy your team from the off. It really is something special, and a worthy successor to the original Starcraft’s multiplayer.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Fantastic graphics, especially in the cutscenes in between missions. There is also superb animation and some brilliant character models. In a word: awesome.
Sound/Music: A decent score with some great sound acting continues to make everything feeling fresh and alive, whilst keeping the single campaigns storyline engrossing to its conclusion.
Gameplay: A superb realtime strategy with lots of variety, in-depth customisation and three unique races with their own playing styles. The single player will keep you thoroughly entertained as will its online multiplayer.
Lasting Appeal: A deep single player will keep most people happy for many nights. However, the beast that is the game's multiplayer will keep Starcraft II being played well on until Starcraft III comes out...which will probably be another decade going by how long it took for Starcraft II to come out.
Summary: Some people may try to criticise Starcraft II for not being very original in terms of its core gameplay, but why change something that wasn’t broken to begin with? Starcraft II has chosen to keep itself recognisable as a sequel whilst evolving in the areas where it needed improvement, and it has done this perfectly. From new units, new special abilities and new upgrades (on top everything else I have mentioned before) Starcraft II has become one of the greatest RTS games out there and I can happily recommend it as one of truly essential games you must buy for your PC this year. But, hey, why am I blathering on? I’m off to play more Starcraft II...Bye. 10/10
Crackdown 2
Ruffian/Microsoft Games Studios
Available Now - £39.99 (Xbox 360)
Review by Rob Wade

For those not familiar with the original Crackdown, it was a third-person action game from some of the developers associated with the original Grand Theft Auto. It was a massive success, coupled partially with the inclusion of the beta key for the multiplayer aspect of Halo 3. Unfortunately, this seems to have given the game a less than amazing reputation, as many attribute the high number of sales to the fact that it was the only way to get a beta key entry to the upcoming game. I take issue with this point, as for my money (and it was my money I spent to get the game), Crackdown was an incredibly fun game, despite some technical issues. It was as a result of this that I went into this game expecting great things.

The game places you once again into the shoes of a genetically engineered Agent of the Pacific City Agency, the city's police force. At the end of the first game, your Agent has eliminated the crime in the city. However, at the beginning of the second game, the city has fallen into complete disrepair. The city is being assaulted on two fronts 24/7, during the day by a hyper-organised terrorist outfit named Cell, and by night by genetic 'Freaks' who come from under the ground to inflict carnage. It's up to you, therefore, as the Agency's finest, to take out Cell resistance points on the map, while at the same time arming light beacons in order to remove the 'Freak' threat.

Gameplay in this instalment plays exactly the same way as the first game: third-person shooter action with the possibility of driving elements of several high-powered and highly-armed cars. You go through the game finding agility collectables in order to boost your skills, which also bump up by killing enemies, setting off explosions and driving through enemies. It plays out really well, with the game allowing your upgrades to give you logical bonuses. Agility, for instance, allows you to jump higher and run faster which allows you to get to the higher points (and indeed agility orbs) in the game, and eventually unlock a glider suit which allows you to gently slow your otherwise bone-crushing fall.

Driving skill allows you to unlock better cars, and Firearms and Explosives skills reflect the quality of weapons that you can load-out with when you re-spawn after dying. The graphics in the game are good, with a similar cel-shaded style to the first game, albeit with a slightly dingier feel. However, this is much more of a gameplay choice, as the city is in a much poorer state than in the first game. One of the complaints of the original was that the city looked too pristine despite having many people living in it, a problem that the developers seemed keen to address.

Unfortunately, the game is by no means perfect. The technical errors found in the first game are still present in the sequel, although they seem to have made some progress in identifying and eliminating the bigger ones. Buildings lose the points that you should be able to grab, people fall through the scenery or get trapped on walls (and that’s without the awesome Harpoon gun) and the game's collision detection can sometimes be a little off. This last one, in particular, can be especially annoying when you're chasing one of the game's Renegade orbs, moving collectable items, as the game will sometimes decide that even though you're right up close to the orb you haven't caught it, and sometimes change its mind completely and give it to you from a short distance away.

The multiplayer modes in the game are numerous, with both PVP and co-op modes. The PVP modes allow for up to 16 players to duke it out over Xbox Live, while the co-op mode (which is the most fun the game provides in my opinion) allows up to three of your friends to join into your city and help you play through. The best thing about the multiplayer is that if you track into someone else's city, all the orbs you collect and stats you increase show up on your main game, meaning that if you find a particularly difficult orb you don't have to worry about going back to find it in your own game. It's also good for the collectible freaks amongst you (myself included), as people can check their maps and see which ones they've got that their friends haven't.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating:
Graphics: High resolution cel-shaded graphics, which look great in motion although prone to a little chugging when lots is going on.
Sound/Music: Lots of vaguely military music, with some quality sound effects for the 'Freaks' as well as weapon noises.
Gameplay: The same third-person action you've come to know and love from the previous game, with a load of mission variants and different game types to break up the possible monotony.
Lasting Appeal: Tons of collectable items, as well as PVP and co-op multiplayer allowing you to jump into other players' cities and help them out.
Summary: Despite its flaws, of which there are several, the game is an absolute blast to play. There's nothing more satisfying to me than leaping from building to building across a massive city scape, and this game provides tons of that. There's absolutely tons to do and with downloadable content on the way, the game will continue to be hours of enjoyment for you. 8/10
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Kojima Productions/Konami
Available Now - £29.99 (PSP)
Review by Blake Harmer

Metal Gear fans can put their worries to rest as Hideo Kojima has once again delivered what he set out to do: create the next chapter in the Metal Gear Solid saga and to bring it to the PSP. But what’s more, he’s even made the game more unique.

As you can expect from Hideo Kojima, the plot is all about nuclear weapons and trying to stop World War III from happening, and this is all told in great detail with long cutscenes and impeccable voice acting. The game is set ten years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3 and follows Big Boss with his new military group Militaires Sans FrontiƩres. When a mysterious group equipped with the latest weapons, called the Peace Sentinels, has been deployed in-country. Despite this group being equipped with the firepower equivalent to that of a land army, the Costa Rican government cannot do anything about them because their constitution does not enable them to create an armed force. Therefore they send a man to enlist Snake to investigate and bring peace to Costa Rica, especially when they discover they are in the presence of nuclear weapons.

The game has everything fans love about the Metal Gear franchise: great graphics, superb stealth gameplay and great weapons and gadgets to use. However, some of the best highlights of Peace Walker are what new aspects it brings to the franchise. The new micro-management of your base operations in between missions where you allocate men to aiding you in battle, researching new weapons and items etc., and allocating funds you’ve earnt from missions to spend on new equipment, weapons and ammo. Also, chuck in the ability to play through the game co-operatively, Ad-Hoc adds a whole new dimension to the stealth aspect and how you tackle certain situations. There is also the ability to play 6-man versus battles a la MGS online, which is also a nice addition.

However, despite all this, the game does suffer from a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, I found the control schemes to be quite fiddly at times, especially during more hectic moments. There are a few different control schemes to help rectify this but I found that there wasn’t one control scheme that truly rectified the problem. However, this is more a problem because of the limitations of the platform rather than the game itself. The second problem is that the game has some serious difficulty spikes which are quite frustrating at times.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Excellent graphics that make good use of the platforms abilities. A worthy contender for some of the best graphics on the system too.
Sound/Music: Authentic, superb voice acting and the MGS music we all know and love.
Gameplay: Superb stealth gameplay bolstered with wireless co-operative play and some great micromanagement in between missions. Fiddly controls and some tough difficulty spikes can sometimes make things a ball-ache though,
Lasting Appeal: Single player will keep you thoroughly entertained for many hours, however it is the wireless co-op and versus modes that will really keep the game alive for months to come.
Summary: A brilliant addition to the Metal Gear Solid universe and comparable to any other of the games in the franchise. There is nothing here to convert MGS haters but, if you are true Kojima fanatic, then this is definitely the game for you. 9/10


BLACK LIGHTNING: RUSSIA'S GREATEST SUPERHERO

Timur Bekmambetov, the genius behind Wanted and Night Watch presents Russia’s greatest superhero as Black Lightning swoops onto DVD and Blu-ray Disc from September 6th, 2010 courtesy of Universal Pictures International Entertainment.

When student Dima is bought a car for his birthday he thinks the answer to all of his problems has finally arrived. But when the car turns out to be a beaten up old Volga his excitement turns into embarrassment until he discovers the car’s flighty secret. Armed with the car’s hidden technology that harks back to the Cold War, Dima revels in his new-found power of flight and reinvents himself as the mysterious Black Lightning, crime fighter, Moscow’s saviour and arch-nemesis of a corrupt industrialist with his eyes on domination at any cost...

Packed with the visual effects fans of Bekmambetov have come to expect, Black Lightning is this year’s must-see superhero adventure; having already trounced both Harry Potter and Twilight at its domestic box office in 2009.


A team of researchers travel to the Swiss Alps to investigate a scientific discovery on human evolution. However, the trip soon turns into a deadly fight for survival when the team crash into a gully and find themselves falling prey to someone...or something.

Thanks to our friends at Scanbox Entertainment, we've got a copy of Humains on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to humainsgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Thursday 19th August (UK time). The first name drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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