Thursday, 7 October 2010

Gaming Reviews

NHL 11
EA
Available Now - £49.99 (PS3 (Version Tested) & Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

As far as updates go, this year’s NHL 11 is definitely a marked improvement on last year’s game - compared to the limited difference between NHL 09 and 10. This is a good thing considering 2Ksports have decided to give NHL 2K a miss this season for Xbox 360 and PS3 owners and instead concentrate on the Wii. It shows that EA Canada are still committed to giving the best ice hockey experience possibly, rather than the easy "updated roster" route that they could have taken.

First the good stuff: everything you love about the NHL games are still in, from the twin stick control system (the classic control scheme is still available for those who hate it, though) to all the different game modes such as Be A Pro. On top of all the stuff we know and love we also get an improved physics engine, a slightly tweaked fight system on top of NHL 10’s radical change, and a more in depth face off bit which allows you to control who you pass the puck to and different ways of obtaining possession such as knocking the opponents stick up as you swipe the puck away.

As we have seen in other EA Sports game, NHL 11 now has the Ultimate Team mode where you collect cards and in-game currency to build the best possible ice hockey team to win the Cup. Chuck in some improved AI and you have yourself an awesome update that’s worthy of such a great franchise that has remained strong over the last twenty years.

There are a couple of minor drawbacks to this new instalment, though. The new face-off mode does make the experience of winning possession slightly slower which can affect the overall experience of ice hockey - a fast and frantic sport. Also, it seems a little too easy to score and be scored against this year. This could be a dumbing down in the goalie AI, or a response from EA for making the goalie animations too tough last year. Whatever the reason, they still need to find the perfect balance. These quirks shouldn’t stop you from getting possibly the best ice hockey game out at the moment, though.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Not a huge improvement, but the animations and graphics have always been great so nothing needed to be done here.
Sound/Music: The commentary, crowd noises and general presentation of NHL 11 is truly astonishing and very close to the real thing.
Gameplay: An improved physics system and the new, more strategically in depth face off mode make this one of the best ice hockey games EA has delivered yet.
Lasting Appeal: With the wealth of game modes, online potential, and the new Ultimate Hockey Team mode, there is plenty to keep hockey fans happy all the way through the hockey season and possibly beyond.
Summary: NHL 11, as with all the games in the franchise, is fantastic and has managed to top NHL 10 and all previous years. There are still a few niggles to stop this game being perfect, but after this year, EA Canada are not very far off. Definitely worth getting if you love your ice hockey. 9/10

R.U.S.E.
Eugen Systems/Ubisoft
Available Now - £39.99 (PC) & £49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

It is very difficult to get a strategy game to work on a console, as a joypad is not as quick and fluid as a mouse - a pain when issuing orders. Whilst the PS3 version supports PS3 Move in order to pinpoint orders with accuracy like the PC owners could with a mouse(and luckily for 360 owners and PS3 owners who don’t want to shell out for Move), R.U.S.E. actually works really well with the joypad, and it does so by its simplicity.

With the game only using a handful of buttons for its whole command interface, you can deftly select units and allocate them orders with ease. This is also benefited by the game being a much slower pace than other RTS games like the Supreme Commander or Starcraft franchises. The ability to zoom completely out of the game and see all troops and vehicles as little markers as a general would in a war room makes it easier to view the battlefield and helps implement orders effectively. What the game has over other RTS games is the ability to deploy RUSE Cards. These allow you to deploy dirty tactics such as "Decryption", which allows you to see your enemy’s moves, and also the ability to deploy fake tanks as a distraction to lure enemy troops away whilst you push your other troops forward.

However, the game isn’t without its flaws. The graphics are pretty shabby, and the storyline is all sorts of beige. However, the biggest flaw has to be the pacing of the single player campaign, as it takes way too long before you can actually run amok with all the games features. Also, I can imagine a lot of hardcore RTS fanatics will hate R.U.S.E. for being a bit too simple in comparison to other games. However, if you’re new to RTS games, or fancy a something a little different to all the fast paced action adventure games on your console, you could do far worse than R.U.S.E..

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Shabby 3D graphics and cut scenes made better by the whole scale of the conflict.
Sound/Music: Decent explosions and gunfire when you zoom in on the action. Voice acting is competent.
Gameplay: A decent if simple RTS with some original ideas in the form of RUSE cards, which allow you to cheat and gain an upper hand. One of the best interfaces for a console RTS though.
Lasting Appeal: A lengthy storyline with missions being quite time consuming. Chuck in the online multiplayer and you have a long lasting experience if you have the patience for the slow and steady combat.
Summary: A fun and decent RTS, which is probably best for newbies and Console gamers. Hardcore RTS gamers are probably better to sticking to Dawn of War or Starcraft 2 though. 7/10

Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave
Focus Multimedia
Available Now - £10.00 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

When Nancy Drew signs up to be a research assistant for an Entomologist in Hawaii, she quickly discovers that there is trouble brewing on the island, as someone or something is destroying the experiments in the forest around the Hilihili Research Compound. It’s up to Nancy Drew, with the help of the Hardy Boys (Not to be confused with the wrestlers.) to uncover the secrets of the island and find out who has been bringing calamity to Hawaii.

Whilst I would have preferred more monsters and the Hardy Boys being decapitated very early on, this is a good adventure game. The puzzles are of a sound enough difficulty for most ages to enjoy it, whilst the story is interesting enough for you not to lose interest. The control system is also simple and easy to use, albeit maybe a little too basic at times.

However, the game is rife with flaws. The graphics are pretty terrible, the voice acting, whilst competent, will begin to grate on you due to how annoying 90% of the characters are in the game, and the mini games such as fishing and making shell necklaces are so mundane it would have been more interesting to have left it out of the game entirely. That said the core gameplay is still solid and enjoyable for a younger female audience and with the puzzles being strong enough to hold your interest this is definitely one of the better budget games you can buy. Just don’t expect to be a challenge for the classic adventure games such as ...Monkey Island.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Pretty terrible graphics and animation, but functional enough so as not to render the game unplayable.
Sound/Music: The music and voice acting, whilst competent, will begin to grate on you after awhile, but this may be because I found the Hardy Boys incredibly irritating.
Gameplay: Bog-standard point and click adventuring through a first person perspective, the puzzles are good and solid though, and the story will keep you interested up until completion.
Lasting Appeal: Not much to do once the game has been completed, and the mini games are so dull you may enjoy sitting in front of drying paint than participating other than when you have to advance the main game.
Summary: As far as budget titles go, this is a fairly decent adventure mystery game, dogged down by some mundane tasks and poor graphics. However, whilst it may not bring anything new to the genre, you can do worse for value for money than this. 6/10

Adventures in the Lost Lands
Miniatures Game Core Rulebook
Two Hour Wargames

Available Now - $17.00 (PDF) and $20.00 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

You hear the whispers. Giant creatures from the dawn of time alive and walking the earth. Dinosaurs! How can it be? As a hunter you have to find out the truth so you follow the rumors to this God-forsaken corner of the world, Lemuria!

You've spent days and large sums of money in tracking the Beast and now it's come to this. Your bearer trembles as he pulls back the branch giving you a clear view of the Beast in all its splendor. As you steady your aim it turns, looks you in the eye and at that moment you wonder...Who's hunting who?

For this release, Two Hour Wargames have fixed most of the grumbles we had with All Things Zombie – delivering a better laid out and user friendly rulebook, and a system that seems much less clunky and difficult to use.

From the off, “fun” is the order of the day, and both the artwork and the language used really get across the creator’s enthusiasm – both of which go a long way towards helping any unplugged game make the leap from “on the shelf gathering dust” to “hitting the table”. They’ve hit a pretty good spot straight away, to be honest, just by mentioning dinosaurs. Who doesn’t like dinosaurs!?

The rules are quite easy to follow and – as mentioned earlier – the tone really makes you want to persevere through the harder parts. Absolute newcomers to any form of unplugged gaming may find it a little more of a challenge, but they should be able to muddle through a few games until they pick it up. Which is how we all started, really.

All in all, this is a great fun, monster-bashing miniatures game that genuinely brings something new to the field. Well worth picking up if you fancy something more off the wall. 8/10

TWO AND A HALF MEN GIVEAWAY

Emmy Award nominated Two And A Half Men has been the Number One-rated sitcom on television for the past four seasons. It's a comedy about men, women, sex, dating, divorce, mothers, single parenthood, sibling relations, surrogate families, money and, most importantly, love. More specifically, it's about the lives of two brothers, one brother's son, and the many women who surround them.

Charlie Harper is a well-to-do bachelor with a house at the beach, a Mercedes in the garage and an easy way with women. His casual Malibu lifestyle was interrupted when his tightly wound brother, Alan, and Alan's son, Jake, came to stay with him. Complicating matters further are Charlie and Alan's narcissistic, emotionally toxic mother, Evelyn; Alan's deeply neurotic ex-wife, Judith and Charlie's domineering, unapologetically blue-collar housekeeper, Berta. Despite the complexities of their lives and their own strained relationship, Charlie and Alan have one thing in common - they both love Jake and want what's best for him. As a result, they manage to create a little family unit that promises to make each of them a better man.

Thanks to our friends at Warner Home Video, we've got a copy of Two and a Half Men: Season Seven on DVD to giveaway! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to twoandahalfmengiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Thursday 14th October. The first name out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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