Thursday, 30 September 2010

Gaming Reviews

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
IO Interactive/Square Enix
Available Now - £34.99 (PC) & £49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

Kane and Lynch, the sweary partners in crime are back despite their first outing disappearing beneath the sea of mediocrity, but can this outing rise up and deliver a stellar game in a genre that is already filled to the brim with top class games such as Gears of War and Uncharted?

After a job going wrong and resulting in Kane and Lynch accidentally gunning down the daughter of Shanghai’s biggest crime lords, our protagonists battle their way through forty-eight hours of hell as the police, army and gangsters are all on the look out to kill them as they try and escape Shanghai with the money they went to get in the first place.

As you may be able to guess from the unimaginative plot, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has little originality in it’s ideas, and even the ideas they have borrowed aren’t pulled off well. The cover mechanic is fiddly, with you still being able to be shot when you are completely covered. The gunplay is laughable, with the game failing to decide whether a bad guy can be killed in one bullet or fifty, therefore making the pistol as effective as the heavy machine gun in taking someone down. Sadly, this broken element also affects your health, as you can either soak up loads of gunfire before dying, or just get hit once in the head with a lucky shot.

However, the worst part of this game, is that there is no extra dynamic to the gameplay. Rather than manning turrets or driving like in Gears of War, or having some platforming and puzzling like Uncharted, Kane & Lynch is shooting and covering and it just feels like a shooting range with some swear words rather than a highly immersive, story-driven action game. Also you play an entire level with both the characters bloody and naked. If that is not an incentive not to buy this game, I don’t know what is.

There are some saving graces. The “fragile alliance” multiplayer where you have to work together to rob a bank and then stab each other in the back for the money is back from the original game, with more game modes. And the new visual look where it looks like everything is shot on handy cam like a YouTube video is a nice touch, but these are nothing to save the game from it’s numerous flaws.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Some average visuals improved by the game’s original handycam style look, but still not astounding.
Sound/Music: Gun noises, swearing, screaming, swearing, slight advancement of plot, more swearing. This is pretty much all you’ll hear.
Gameplay: Sub-par gunplay and cover system ruin the basics of the game. It’s playable. But the flaws will only frustrate you in the end.
Lasting Appeal: You can polish off the single player campaign in about five hours if you can even put up with it that long. The multiplayer experience will keep you playing for as long as you can tolerate the game’s inherent flaws and you go back to Modern Warfare.
Summary: A heavily flawed game that should best be avoided. However, if you’re waiting for the next big game to come out and don’t know what else to play. This could be an okay rental, due to its brevity. 5/10

Legend of the Five Rings (4th Edition)
Alderac Entertainment Group
Role-playing Game Core Rulebook

Available Now - £37.94 (PDF) & £47.99 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Emerald Empire of Rokugan demands much of its samurai: service to one's lord, service to one's Clan, and service to one's Emperor.

Bushido's staunch and unyielding code of conduct binds samurai to duty, strengthening their character and defining their choices. While some samurai serve the greater good, others use the strictures of Bushido to manipulate the lower ranks and advance their own power. Will you follow honor or reject it? The choice is yours!

Eight Great Clans form the heart of Rokugan's culture. Each is defined by its own principles, values, and agendas. Each sees the Code of Bushido in its own way. Each seeks to serve the Emperor with its own unique talents. Take up the soul of your ancestors - the samurai's daisho - and fight for the glory and honor of your family and Clan. Now is the time for heroes, in a world where Honor is a force more powerful than Steel.

Is this one of the best looking RPG rulebooks ever? Yes. Absolutely. There’s a fuck of a hefty price-tag on this thing, but you can see where every penny went. The artwork is thematic and incredible, and the binding will last through many, many sessions. Put simply, don’t balk at the price, it’s justified. And that’s without even beginning to mention that absolute unbridled wealth of material that you have to play with in here.

One of the main advantages of Legend of the Five Rings is its versatility. You could play action, supernatural horror, political thriller...so long as you like big swords and badasses, you will be at home here. The basic “Roll and Keep” mechanic of previous incarnations is here, and it’s a good system that provides generally realistic results.

This is, however, definitely one of those role-playing games that is aimed very squarely at “proper” role-players. With a strong focus on characterisation and honour, this is one that you can’t really dick around with whilst playing. Of course, I think the same of Call of Cthulhu and my players dick their way through that as well...

If you’re after an alternative to one of the more mainstream RPG systems, then this is definitely one of the ones you should be considering. You may worry about the cost, but if do take the plunge, don’t worry. You’ll get your money’s worth. 10/10

Reincarnations: Awakening
Focus Home Interactive
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

Now we all know that hidden object games aren’t much of an actual game and more an exercise in banality. However, I can happily say that this game takes the biscuit by being one of the most pointless endeavours I have ever undertaken.

Now don’t get me wrong: on a technical level this game cannot be faulted. The graphics, although and basic, are still pretty with some nice special effects. Also, the plot is fairly interesting if again, a little basic, as you are a journalist who visits a hypnotist to find out more about past lives so you can write an award-winning article. Also, the actual puzzles and the interface are perfectly balanced and easy to use. The problem of Reincarnations: Awakening is everything else.

Take the game’s hint system for example, finding it too hard to locate a certain object? Just wait for the bar to charge up and you can press hint and it will locate an object you haven’t found yet with no penalty. The only thing you have to do is wait for the hint button to recharge and you use again as many times as needed. This means that you can complete any hidden object puzzle just by clicking the hint button without any penalty to the game, completely removing any challenge. The same can be said for the game’s actual puzzles. If you find a puzzle to hard or boring (the latter being more likely), you can just wait for the skip button to charge up after awhile and you can just skip the puzzle and go on to the next part of the game, thus removing the point of having the puzzle in the first place. I did skip a couple of puzzles expecting to be marked down at the end of this short, two hour game but no, nothing happened. This means you can effectively go through the entire game and complete it without actually playing the game at all.

Sure this is a budget title, and if you actually do the puzzles there is small mild amount of enjoyment to be had. But for the same amount of money you could buy a couple of puzzle books, which will provide you with a larger variety of challenges and more hours of enjoyment. So...avoid like the plague.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Basic 2D visuals with some nice special effects keep the game bright and cheerful, if a little unspectacular.
Sound/Music: Annoying voice acting and dull music throughout. Thankfully the sound isn’t necessary to play the game. Of course, playing the game isn't necessary to playing the game either.
Gameplay: Functional puzzles with a clear interface, the puzzles can be challenging, but when you skip them you begin to question why you are even bothering.
Lasting Appeal: None, this is a game that can be completed in two hours, and you can do that without even attempting a puzzle. You will be uninstalling it the same day you installed it.
Summary: A pointless curio of a game that requires minimal effort to complete with no consequences should you attempt to bypass any of the puzzles. A two hour time waster with very little enjoyment to be had. So in short, save up some more money and buy a proper game. 3/10

Midnight Mysteries: Salem Witch Trials
MumboJumbo
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

Like the pointless Reincarnations: Awakening, Salem Witch Trials is again, a hidden object adventure game with some extra puzzles thrown in. Following on from the first Midnight mysteries game where you had to free the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe, you are now tasked with freeing the spirit of famed writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who apparently died in a freak snowstorm in the village of Salem.

Sadly what you also get with this that is similar to Reincarnations, is that it is such a boring and banal experience, sure the plot is mildly amusing and the puzzles are challenging, but they aren’t even linked together. For example, why would you ever need to do a sudoku puzzle to get to the next section of the game? Even the gate entrance to Salem has an intricate number password to get in. Are they assuming that all witches can’t do maths and assume the best way to keep them out is to bamboozle them with puzzles until they get a headache and go home? I understand you play the game for the puzzles but shouldn’t you have some that are actually related to the story? At least Reincarnations managed to keep a little bit thematic.

However, unlike Reincarnations, Salem Witch Trials at least makes you play the game in order to complete it. It has a similar system in place in terms of finding objects or skipping puzzles, but in order to do so you have to find crows throughout the game in order to use them. This limits the number of hints and skips you have and forces you to use your intellect and solve the puzzles. The game is also better value for money, as it seems to have a higher production value and is a longer experience than reincarnations.

That said, at the end of the day, you cannot argue that you would get better value for money with a decent puzzle book from a newsagent than shelling your money on this. You’re much better off saving your money and buying a decent adventure game experience.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Basic 2D visuals with some pretty decent animations and effects considering it is a budget title.
Sound/Music: Spooky music and sound effects, but nothing really special. There is little or no voice acting here though and is pretty much all text based.
Gameplay: Functional puzzles with a clear interface, the puzzles can be challenging but no more than your average puzzle book.
Lasting Appeal: A little more than Reincarnations, the game is longer and there are extra’s to be unlocked if you manage to collect everything. Whether you’ll bother is another thing though.
Summary: A boring and banal experience that a least attempts to challenge you unlike the abomination that is Reincarnations. There is still very little to recommend this over a puzzle book though. 4/10

Atomic Super Humans 2nd Edition
Miniatures Game Core Rulebook
Radioactive Press

Available Now - £5.05 (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer

Atomic Super Humans is a turn based combat game for two or more players set in a world where super powered humans must decide if their gifts should be used for the good of mankind or for their own personal gain. Giving players complete control over the creation of their characters, Atomic Super Humans allows you to create an existing character from a universe of their choice, or one from your own imagination. The object of the game is to stop the opposing player's atomic super humans from succeeding in their plans.

The main rulebook for this system is pretty weirdly structured. It opens up with a run down on character classes and powers before it so much as provides any sort of context for its setting, the rules or, hey, a quick overview as to what sort of game it is. It makes several veiled references to something called the Toy Battle System, whatever that is. Guys: You can push your own product a little bit. It sounds interesting. You can blow your own trumpet in your own publication.

Emotionally Fourteen is awesome, right?

The only other main downside is that the scale of figures used in rather odd, with the suggestion of using 2” – 3” figures. Now, I’m not really into action figures as such, but that seems a weird scale to me. Too large to use Heroclix, too small to use standard size 5” action figures. Maybe the idea is that you can adjust the scale...but that’s not why we pay for rules. We buy rules so you do the hard work.

If I sound down on this game, believe me, I’m not. These are just a couple of niggling points on what is an otherwise fun game. The powers here are very comprehensive. I don’t think there’s a superhero in any publication that you’d have difficulty statting up and using in this, with the possible exception of Tek-Knight from The Boys. But I don’t really want to know what the rules for Tek-Knight would be, anyway. Furthermore, the terrain and henchmen rules look like a look of fun, allowing you to have a lot of collateral damage taking place, which is a big, big part of any superhero tabletop game.

Atomic Super Humans is at its core a very light and easy system, which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s easy enough for newcomers (if they don’t wind up feeling lost by the odd rulebook structure), so you could rock up with a few friends and play this long into the night. It’s not going to be tempting away any Heroclix players, though. 6/10


Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2
Focus/Ubisoft
Available Now - £9.99 (PC (Version Tested)), £14.99 (Xbox 360) & £40.99 (PS3)
Review by Rob Wade

It's 2014, and the soldier of the future returns to encounter a new and more imminent threat along the recently completed wall on the U.S./Mexico border. The Ghosts are more powerful with an upgraded Integrated Warfighter System (IWS) but will have only 72 hours to assess the threat and stop the rebels from reaching U.S. soil. With a border that's 1,900 miles long and an enemy that doesn't play by the rules, this is a job for the U.S. military's most elite fighting unit. This is a job for the Ghosts.

GRAW 2 takes the same form as the first game, a first-person shooter with heavy emphasis on tactical elements. This formula is a staple of the Ghost Recon franchise, and this game is a particularly good example of that sort of formula. For those unfamiliar with the game, there is a tutorial level that takes you through the basic gameplay elements, though frustratingly it doesn’t give you much help in terms of controls, with the grenade launcher particularly tiresome while trying to figure out why the button to change fire mode didn’t work. Incidentally, it’s under a different weapon even though it’s attached to another weapon. Simple, right?

The main issue I have with this game is the reason for its re-release. Ultimately, it was originally released in 2007 and was a good game then. Since then, however, particularly on consoles the selection of team-based games has been pretty good, and even on PC this game has been re-released before now. This version doesn’t provide any new features, and let’s face it: Who is still playing this game in multiplayer mode?

Ultimately, though, this game is a good game. The Ghost Recon games have never left much room for casual players, with one successful hit usually going some way towards dispatching an enemy (or indeed you if you’re the unlucky one). The sound and music in the game are good quality military style, with quiet elements punctuated by good action music when you’re spotted. As I say, it’s not a bad game. I just think that for ten pounds, there’s better more recent games out there which will give you more bang for your buck.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Somewhat dated, but they do the job.
Sound/Music: Good sound effects and music, very military but at the same time tranquil during the scouting moments.
Gameplay: Tactical shooting from a first-person viewpoint. It’s good, but after three years it does feel a little outdated.
Lasting Appeal: Multiplayer, but realistically who’s still playing GRAW 2 on PC?
Summary: The gameplay, while enjoyable, is completely dated and has been surpassed many times over. 6/10


RAISED BY WOLVES GIVEAWAY

Pack life is about order, but Bryn is about to push all the limits, with hair-raising results.

At the age of four, Bryn watched a rabid werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by Callum, the alpha of his pack. Now fifteen, Bryn's been as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule. Little fazes her. But the pack's been keeping a secret, and when Bryn goes exploring against Callum's orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen Were locked in a cage.

Terrifying memories of the attack on her parents come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them. Suddenly, all allegiances to the pack no longer matter. It's Bryn and Chase against the werewolf world, whatever the consequences. A thrilling new YA adventure, with an electrifying link between a tough heroine and an exciting boy-were at its heart, Raised by Wolves will leave you howling for more.

Thanks to our friends at Quercus, we've got two copies of Jennifer L. Barnes' Raised by Wolves to give away. What's more, both copies are signed by Jennifer herself! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to raisedbywolvesgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Thursday 7th October. the first two names out of the special electronic hat will win a free copy each!

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