Thursday, 2 December 2010

Gaming Reviews

WWE: Smackdown vs Raw 2011
THQ
Available Now - £24.99 (PS2), £29.99 (PSP, Wii), £49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

Recreating the actual feel of the violent soap-opera that is wrestling in a videogame is a difficult task that developer Yukes has been working on for some time and, as of yet, has still not been able to truly capture. However, this year it seems that Yuke’s has come even closer to capturing the feel of the sport even more.

The biggest improvement to this years game has to be the new Universe mode, which can be used to create feuds and storylines out of any match you play and link them so that the feud runs throughout every week and runs through to the PPV and possibly beyond. This is completely customisable and you can edit any suggestions it throws at you if you don’t like it. It will also create feuds by having events occur during the match such as a run in Vince McMahon making a last minute decision to spice things up, and it is this that captures the feel of the WWE perfectly. Other improvements to the game include better character models that you can see take damage and build up sweat as the match progresses, this has made the screen a lot clearer as they have done away with the body emblem to show damaged limbs. And the only thing shown is your Smackdown meter under your wrestler.

Another improvement is the ability to chain moves on the fly such as adjusting your move so it turns into a pin attempt, and the ability to pull off a larger variety of moves such as throwing someone off of a turnbuckle and onto a table. This improves certain match types, especially the TLC and ladder matches which now allow you to perform finishers from the top of the ladder. Also, the removal of the heavy grapple modifier now means matches feel more realistic as you cannot perform the bigger heavier moves until later on.

If the game does have a serious flaw though it has to be the Road to Wrestlemania mode, which somehow has become completely botched this year with the inclusion terrible mini games involved with meeting wrestlers backstage between matches. But with the Universe mode you’ll soon forget about this anyway.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Great character models, now with better visuals when it comes to sweating and taking damage. The stage and overall looks of the show is captured perfectly too.
Sound/Music: Commentary hasn’t really improved, but the crowd sounds and entrances are spot on.
Gameplay: An improved wrestling system that makes it feel closer to the show and new and improved modes make this the best SVR game yet.
Lasting Appeal: With the new Universe mode, the ability to create wrestlers in addition to the hundreds already available, plus all the other modes, match types and creativity, true wrestling fans will be kept busy well until next year's installment and possibly beyond.
Summary: The best SVR game yet and one that comes very close to nailing the perfect wrestling game on the head. Sure, as a sports game it’s not as good as UFC, but for capturing the feel of the WWE, you won’t find a game that comes as close as this. 9/10
Splatterhouse
Namco Bandai
Available Now - £44.99 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

Having been a gamer for most of my life and having played the first two Splatterhouse games, I will admit that I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope for this being any good. The original games were slow paced stodgy platforming beat ‘em ups with the main emphasis being on gore rather than actual gameplay. However, Namco’s reboot is surprisingly not bad.

So what makes this game superior to the original games? Well firstly, it has a much faster pace and the combat has been based on other 3D action games such as God of War or Castlevania, albeit without the use of chains or whips: main hero Rick is mostly punching things very hard in the face unless he can get hold or a piece of pipe or a cleaver. Also, the storyline holds your interest throughout even though it’s standard rescue your girlfriend fare. There is also some enjoyable voice acting especially the voice of the Terrormask (The mask Rick puts on to save his life and become all powerful to stop the evil Dr West (The bad guy who kidnaps your girlfriend) who comes up with good one liners as you kill demons. There is also an excellent metal soundtrack to assist you in your monster slaughter, which includes great bands such as Mastodon, Lamb of God and The Haunted. So if you’re a metal fan (like me) you’ll enjoy this as your soundtrack to covering the screen in gore.

However, Rick is nowhere near a match for the likes of Kratos or Dante. The production values are below par, and the game can become very repetitive after a few hours, mainly because there is little substance to the games puzzles, as they merely require you to kill monsters in a certain way to progress to the next area. Other problems include some very long loading times, and some distant checkpoints which can make the game frustrating as you have to wait ages after you die and then start at a checkpoint a fair distance back from where you perished.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Below standard for games of its type but the monster design and animations are good.
Sound/Music: Good monster noises and voice acting convey the feel of the game brilliantly and keeps the gamer interested.
Gameplay: An enjoyable and gory action/adventure clone with lots of good deaths but can become a bit of a one trick pony after awhile, even if you are beating people to death with their own limbs.
Lasting Appeal: A solid ten hours worth of game here, plus it comes with the original three Splatterhouse games as unlockables to keep fans happy. Whether you will put up with repetitiveness depends on how interesting you find the plot.
Summary: An enjoyable if slightly repetitive slug fest that will keep fans of the franchise happy as well as gamers looking for more violence than substance. Well worth a rental while you wait for the next big action game though. 6/10
Deadly Premonition
Rising Star Games
Available Now - £24.99 (Xbox 360)
Review by Rob Wade

Deadly Premonition is a third-person survival-horror action adventure game that places players in the role of Special Agent Francis York Morgan, the FBI agent in charge of investigating the brutal killing of a local beauty and solving the mystery of the "Red Seed Murders." Investigate the murders and unravel each series of interlocking mysteries in the small rural town of Greenvale, Washington while encountering numerous complex, unusual characters along the way. The local townspeople hinder Agent York's work with their eccentric behavior while supernatural creatures and a folkloric killer seek to end the investigation... permanently!

Pretty much the only thing I was thinking during this game was one simple phrase: I really wish that this game wasn’t technically atrocious. I genuinely believe that this game could have been excellent under a better developer. The story is really strong, with elements of Twin Peaks and Silent Hill present throughout, and a big open world to explore means that the game has a fair bit of lifespan to it. At least, it would if the game wasn’t atrocious technically.

The graphics are on par with other titles, if those titles are Silent Hill on the Playstation 1, and the controls make the character control like a tank. Not even a military tank, a septic tank. “Wait, Rob,” I hear you cry, “septic tanks don’t really move”. Exactly. Septic tanks are not meant to move, and that’s exactly how I felt controlling Francis York Morgan. Unless you got in a car. That was a whole different story, which mostly consisted of “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck” in terms of dialogue. Developers, here’s a tip: When you can’t perform a convincing three-point turn in an area the size of an airfield, your driving game controls poorly.

Then let’s talk about sound. The voice acting is absolutely fucking dire, with the main character seeing fit to tell every single NPC to call him York, saying “everyone calls me that”. Great, tell one person in that way. Don’t tell the entire town in the same way, word for fucking word. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s the most arrogant marksman I’ve ever come across, punctuating every successful gunshot with “Amazing” or “Great”, but with a sense of wonder akin to finding a crisp shaped exactly like Michael Schumacher, helmet and all. Racing helmet, I should say. Don’t worry though, the enemies make him sound like John Gielgud with their slowed down “Don’t want to die…” as they shuffle the mortal coil. True, the game has these people somewhat zombified, but still you expect a little more energy in their conviction if they really don’t want to die.

So maybe the sound effects themselves redeem themselves. Nope. In fact, when you drive the police car (which for some reason has its speed capped at 50mph unless you boost), the aforementioned boosting action makes your car sound like a speedboat. I wish I was making that up. The guns sound alright, but generally the sound effects are pretty lame.

Then there’s the music. The music’s actually pretty good in this game, but it kicks in at the most random moments, such as a jazzy upbeat number during an autopsy report (I’m not even fucking kidding). To make matters worse the audio balancing is shocking. At first, I thought that one particular scene, where the protagonist and the hotel owner had dinner across a massive table, had the music turned up for comedic effect, making their speech harder to hear. It took the next cutscene to clear that up for me; the game just has shitty balancing.

If you can get past these technical errors, the game itself is strangely compelling. The story is a pretty good one, and keeps you engaged as you go along. However, make no mistake: This game has a lot of problems. If this game had been created by somebody like Irrational (the team behind Bioshock), you’d probably have had a classic on your hands. As it is, all you have on your hands is one of those faint smells that’s not quite pleasant, but not quite nauseating. Like custard.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: An interesting style let down by horrible graphics.
Sound/Music: Somewhere between a TV B-Movie and Thunder in Paradise when the boat noises kick in.
Gameplay: Poor, but could have easily been so much better.
Lasting Appeal: Plenty of collectibles to find and a long story. The question is whether or not you have the patience.
Summary: File under “M” for “Missed Opportunity”. 4/10
Tom Clancy's HAWX
Focus Multimedia/Ubisoft
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

Set in the year 2014 (The Advanced Warfighter universe for those Clancy addicts out there.), you are an elite pilot using one of the most advanced fighter jets as you battle for air superiority in a future war.

Sounds entertaining? Of course it should. However, whilst the premise is interesting enough, the rest of the game just doesn’t live up to it and leaves the whole experience being slightly disappointing. A perfect example of this is the game’s mission structure, which has little or no variation and feels purely like you are taking out ground or air targets and nothing else. I also found it a bit too easy, and the combat a little unoriginal. Sure it is meant to be a Flight Sim, but with its futuristic setting I thought I would get a bit more of a thrill out of the new technology the aircraft is equipped with.

These flaws aside, there is still some enjoyment to be had here, the graphics are pretty and hold up well considering the game’s age. I also enjoyed the game’s fast arcadey feel, which is good because at the end of the day H.A.W.X is all about blowing lots of planes up, so if it was too set in trying to be realistic, what little fun there is left would have been completely eradicated.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Nice and pretty plane designs and vistas that still hold up well considering the game is now over a year old.
Sound/Music: Engine noises and good explosions, but nothing really to shout about otherwise.
Gameplay: An enjoyable gory action/adventure game, but can become a bit of a one trick pony after a while.
Lasting Appeal: A lack of challenge, mission variety and missions (only twenty in all) to keep you playing for very long, and there isn’t enough to the games multiplayer mode to pry gamers away from the likes of Modern Warfare.
Summary: A fun and fast arcadey flight sim' that has too little originality or real thrills to separate it above other Flight Sim’s. However, at it’s new budget price, there is enough here to keep you happy and not feel cheated out of your hard cash. 5/10

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