Thursday, 11 November 2010

Gaming Reviews

The Sims 3: Late Night Expansion Pack
EA Games
Available Now – £29.99 (PC)
Review by Rob Wade

Get your Sims an all-access pass to the hottest spots in town. Whether they mingle with celebrities or enjoy a casual night with friends, your Sims' social lives are getting a boost! But keep in mind that some scenes are more exclusive than others, so make sure your Sims have the right connections to get past the bouncers at the hottest clubs.

Wherever your Sims go, they'll discover new things to become-adored celebrities, all-night partiers, rowdy bandmates, or sexy vampires.

If you’re familiar with The Sims and the series of expansions that follow, in the past the second game had two expansion packs which have been more or less incorporated into this expansion: The Sims 2: Nightlife and The Sims 2: Apartment Life. This expansion sees your Sim able to explore a large city called Bridgeport, and enjoy the joys of living in some of the nicest towers the game world has to offer. Or, if your Sim is like mine, you live in a shitty tiny apartment taken up mostly by a piano as you shag your way through the local Z-list celebrities.

Celebrity in the game is achieved by doing career related objectives, but strangely enough you can also do it by just becoming friends with a celebrity. This wouldn’t be so confusing, except sometimes you have to go through a lengthy section of “trying to impress” the celebrity (which ranges in conversation topics from jobs to wealth to hobbies), and sometimes they’ll just randomly engage you in conversation despite you being a peon.

If living in New York is like this, I never want to live there. I found myself contending with loads of people just randomly busking outside major venues, which is pretty good going when you’re carrying a fucking drum kit inside your inventory.

Anyway, after attaining a two-star celebrity rating it occurred to me that the problem I had with this expansion is largely the same as the problem I’ve always had with the game: there is simply too much stuff to do in The Sims and never enough time to do it in. Even if you turn on the “Epic” lifespan option, which gives your Sims around 1000 in-game days (thanks to the loyal readers of E14 for alerting me to this way back in the day), there is an absolute wealth of stuff to do and see in the game.

Now, this wouldn’t be an issue, but although efforts have been made to give your Sims more night-friendly shift patterns (13:00-18:30 anyone?), your virtual men and women don’t have any more energy or game time with which to enjoy all these late night activities as well as competing their day jobs, and often was the time I’d find myself doing inappropriate things at other Sims’ parties. When I say inappropriate, I mean napping (which let’s be fair is not exactly a particularly appropriate thing to do at a party) and in one confusing and slightly creepy instance, bathing in someone else’s tub.

Other than that, the game adds some good items as well as the aforementioned locations. However, it’s worth knowing that if your PC is just about struggling to run The Sims 3, you’re probably going to need to dial down the settings as far as possible in order to run the expansion, as rendering the town is particularly demanding comparatively.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating : Ultimately, if you’re into this game, this expansion represents an excellent investment, as there is an absolute ton of content here to expand your gaming experience. Don’t expect to be able to see it all without some serious time investment though. If value is your thing, however, have at it: the expansion is great. Besides which, you're unlikely to find a retailer keen on enforcing that high price-tag. 8/10
Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Red Box
Core RPG Box Set
Wizards of the Coast

Available Now - £16.99 (Boxed Game)
Review by Brad Harmer

Designed for 1–5 players, this boxed game contains everything needed to start playing the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game, including rules for creating heroes, advice for playing the Dungeon Master, a solo play adventure, and group-play adventure content. Several different character races (dwarf, elf, halfling, and human) and classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard) are presented, along with powers for each race and class.

Back when I was nine or ten – maybe eleven, come to think of it – I had the “Easy to Master” Dungeons and Dragons box set, that looked like this:

It contained a few flip cards that got you through the rules in a really easy way, a board, dice, stand-up characters and a full version of the rules in a nice book. After a close look at this new boxset, I couldn’t help but wish that Wizards of the Coast had just re-issued that with the new 4th Edition ruleset.

The game introduces itself through a “choose your own adventure” type booklet that teaches you how to create your first PC, with three major flaws. Firstly, the choices are so set in stone that you’re just assigned your stats. You don’t even roll for them. Secondly, the game is actually broken, so that if you miss being assigned your Hit Points, it fudges them back in near the end. Finally, there are no other character creation rules in the set, which means everytime you want to “roll up” a character, you replay through this adventure.

The map and counters are of reasonable quality, but the cards are so flimsy that you may have well printed them yourself. And you’ll never use most of them.

The book supposedly fleshes out the rest of the game, but it’s pretty flimsy stuff. There’s no real sense of scaling up for progression at any point, and it doesn’t connect to the core rules all that well. It doesn’t even do a very good job of communicating what an RPG is.

Useless for current gamers, useless for people who want to move onto full D&D and useless for complete novices. There are a few pieces here that may be usable, but this is hardly a great purchase for those looking for get into fantasy gaming. 3/10
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Crystal Dynamics\Square Enix
Available Now - 1200 MS Points (Xbox Live Arcade), £9.99 (PC via Steam, Playstation Network (Version Tested))
Review by Rob Wade

In Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, you play the heroine of the Tomb Raider series. Teaming with a two thousand-year-old Mayan warrior named Totec, your goal is to stop the ancient evil spirit Xolotl from wreaking havoc upon the world. The game is an isometric third-person action game that sees you navigate a large temple in order to stop the villain from winning the day. In terms of gameplay, the game plays a little like Diablo with guns and flamethrowers. If that doesn’t sound awesome, get the fuck out.

Arcade games on consoles and PC have really been coming a long way in recent months, and though the price has jumped accordingly, it’s definitely for good reason; largely, the quality of downloadable games has improved along with the price. With Castle Crashers originally setting the curve for downloadable games in terms of fun and multiplayer arcade action, the bar was set incredibly high from the get-go.

Lara Croft plays really easily, with controls mapped pretty sensibly. The movement is mapped to the left stick, with aiming controlled by the right. Jumping is nice and easy to set in motion, and there are a pleasing number of guns each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The graphics on the game are excellent, with especially nice lighting and really good detail on the environments. The gameplay is extremely satisfying, with some puzzle rooms set up to test your lateral thinking between some intense action set pieces. The game also has good lifespan, with the ability to replay the levels for some score attacks and collectible challenges.

That’s not to say that the game is perfect, because ultimately it’s a difficult job to make a game completely perfect. At times, the jumping can be a little on the fiddly side, particularly on some of the tighter platforms. The price, too, is a little expensive at £9.99 or 1200 Microsoft Points, as although the game has plenty of life you can get a few full retail games for that sort of price. However, it is worth keeping an eye on when it comes to Deal of the Week, as when it goes into deal it should be seen as an essential purchase.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating:
Graphics : Some really nice lighting and detail work, very smooth all round.
Sound/Music : Nice Indiana Jones-style music which doesn’t get repetitive despite repeat plays, and some pleasant sound effects.
Gameplay : Part Diablo, part Prince of Persia, all awesome.
Lasting Appeal : A lengthy Single player campaign, multiplayer and re-playable levels.
Summary : An absolute blast to play. 8/10
Umlaüt: Game of Metal
RPG Core Rulebook
Cubicle 7

Available Now - £6.25 (PDF) & £14.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Firstly, you don’t need be to into metal to enjoy Umlaüt: Game of Metal. In fact, if you can take the piss out of metal a little bit, then that’s going to help a lot. Umlaüt: Game of Metal plays like Mornington Crescent crossed with Metalocalypse and This Is Spinal Tap.

Each player creates a fictional metal band, and takes it in turns to narrate how their careers progress that turn, with the player to their left being their (GM) for that turn, acting the roles of any opposition they find. Challenges and disputes are resolved through a very simple poker card based system. Needless to say, it isn’t too long before things get silly, and when they get silly, they get very silly. Like when our battle metal band put a firecracker in a paint-can outside of a rival band’s rehearsal room before ringing the doorbell and running away. Or when the prog-deathcore band consistently (and accidentally) offended the clergy with every performance. Or, of course, when the bass-player for the funk-metal band went on the game to earn some extra cash.

Umlaüt: Game of Metal succeeds in managing to get to the core of what you want to play RPGs for, with no preparation, no GM and a mind-bogglingly simple concept. It’s one of those games where – even before you’ve finished the game, you’re thinking about what you’re going to be doing next time. I’m going to play as a Star Trek themed prog-metal band called Deadshirt.

Even if you’re not into metal music, you can get into the ridiculousness of the genre fairly easily, and it lends itself very well to parody.

If you’re looking for what is – and what a rare thing this is – a genuinely funny RPG that you can whip out and play with anyone, with zero preparation time, then you are absolutely going to love this. 10/10


GARY: TANK COMMANDER GIVEAWAY

Gary McLintoch is a Tank Commander in the British Army who loves getting a sun tan, drinking Baileys and philosophising about everything from pizza to the peace process. Having just returned to Edinburgh from Iraq, Gary and his tank crew of Jacko, Charlie and Adam, are soon reminded that Mid Lothian can be almost as eventful as the Mid East.

Series One sees Gary accidentally recruiting his friend Julie, using a tank to collect a cooker in the middle of a training exercise and trying to prevent an American General from causing an international incident. All this is made more difficult as Gary and the boys have to stay one step ahead of the Captain and the fiery Sergeant Thomson, who delights in punishing them in cruel and unusual ways.

Containing flashback footage of the boys in Iraq, as well as monologues where Gary offers his upbeat and often surreal thoughts on the wider world, Gary: Tank Commander is a fresh & funny sitcom about a new kind of comedy hero.

Thanks to our friends at 2entertain, we've got two copies of Gary - Tank Commander: Series One to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name full postal address to garytcgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Thursday 18th November. The first two names out of the electronic hat will win a copy each!

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