Thursday 5 May 2011

Gaming Reviews

Operation Flashpoint: Red River
Available Now - £49.99 (PS3 & Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

Operation Flashpoint seems to be having an identity crisis. For a series that has prided itself on realism, the first five minutes makes you feel the franchise has tried to keep more in line with other FPS stalwarts such as Call of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company. You are treated to comic one-liners and enough profanity to fill a Kane & Lynch game from your Staff-Sergeant from the moment you step into your boots as leader of Bravo Company. Thankfully, Operation Flashpoint: Red River is still much more hardcore when it comes to gameplay.

Persevere with the Bad Company feel and the tough learning curve, and Red River gives you a deep tactical shooter that rewards calm lateral thinking over a gung-ho attitude; the latter will kill you in seconds. Ordering your squad around is easy; using a radial menu using the right bumper to bring it up and then using the D-pad to choose your action. The ease of this combined with the great AI of your squad allows for some very satisfying victories when you are able to direct your teammates to overcome insurmountable odds. Just don’t expect to play the game like Call of Duty - instead see it as more of a RTS from the ground. The multiplayer mode is also great fun as you get to play as a team strategically; planning your attack together and avoiding getting flanked.

The game does have some flaws though. The difficulty spike that I mentioned earlier is caused by the fact that the ordering is never properly explained and is just available to you from the start. This leads to trial and error as you work out the different orders to get the most out of your squad. Also, it only takes a few shots for you to be killed, and whilst this isn’t as harsh as previous Operation Flashpoint games, it is still possible to be killed with one hit, which makes the game very unforgiving. This, of course, adds even more trial and error, making the game frustrating at times. There are also some bugs in the AI, leading to situations where your soldiers became stuck on scenery, and the graphics in general are nothing to shout about when compared to the game’s competition. However, overlook these flaws and you have a very different and very enjoyable alternative to all the other FPS games out there.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Average looking graphics, and sometimes characters can get stuck on the scenery.
Sound/Music: Good gunfire and explosions. Voice acting is okay, too.
Gameplay: Plays more like a first-person RTS than a first-person shooter. An interesting style, and the orders are easy to use.
Lasting Appeal: It's tough - but sometimes off-puttingly so. Multiplayer really adds a lot, though
Summary: Identity crisis aside, Operation Flashpoint: Red River is an enjoyable and more strategic FPS, and it rewards perserverance despite the harsh difficulty curve. This is one for those who love FPS’s, but fancy something a little different, albeit one with a lot of expletives. 7/10
Duke Nukem: Critical Mass
Deep Silver/Apogee
Available Now - £19.99 (DS)
Review by Rob Wade

You’d be forgiven for taking one look at the box art for this game and completely writing it off. It’s a DS version of a series of beloved first-person shooters (except by Brad) on PC. It’s not made by a developer who many people have heard of, unless you know your Duke history (Apogee released the original Duke Nukem game on PC when it was a 2D side-scrolling shooter), along with Deep Silver who again are not majorly well-known.

What do you do, then, in the face of overwhelming cynicism from a gaming public which has come to expect that handheld iterations of popular console and PC games will suck? You do the best game you can, and hope for the best. What’s also key is to make it feel like you’re playing Duke Nukem and in this regard they have somewhat succeeded.

Let me clarify. Graphically, the game’s not too bad. The character models are pretty good, if a little rough around the edges. However, the game’s graphics are tarnished by some of the ropiest looking animations that I’ve yet experienced in DS games. This is bearing in mind, also, that I have played The Sims 2 on DS. To completion. Some of the animations in that make Deadly Premonition look like Gears of War.

The music and sounds are reasonable, and fans will be pleased to hear that the voice is the traditional Duke voice we’ve come to know and love. However, every other voice in the game sounds like they’re reading from a script, to the point where I was listening intently for the rustle of paper as they changed pages.
Of course, the important thing in any game is how it plays. Duke Nukem: Critical Mass lets itself down really badly by doing some stuff well and some stuff appallingly. The game moves across five main gameplay methods: side-scrolling shooter, cover shooter, jetpack shooter (think Ikaruga without the depth) , first-person shooter and sniper mode. The side-scrolling part works well, if not spectacularly. The cover shooter works really well, the sniper mode works alright and the jetpack shooter again is working if not stellar. When you get to the first-person sections, however, the controls make the game completely unplayable. You either spend your time aiming endlessly without firing trying to line it up, or you end up spraying your bullets absolutely everywhere without successfully hitting the boss. It’s a real shame, because ultimately the game is reasonable otherwise. However, those who are interested in the franchise would be better served saving their money for the console version, which should hopefully rock the boobies.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Moderate graphics let down by crappy animations.
Sound/Music: Decent music and Duke voice, ropey everything else.
Gameplay: Some parts work, some most assuredly do not.
Lasting Appeal: Three difficulty levels, but it’s still the same game three times.
Summary: Duke fans would be better off waiting until June. 5/10


Right about here is where the review would have gone for a game called Earthrise, developed by Masthead Studios and published by Iceberg Interactive. However, a number of issues have prevented us at E14 from doing so. In the interests of full disclosure, and to demonstrate issues that could prevent full enjoyment from this game, here is a description of the process of install and gameplay.

When I received the game, I installed it immediately. During the installation process, no problems were encountered in the initial install. I was prompted for activation at Earthrise’s official website, and did so in accordance with the game’s wishes, registering the details and setting up an account. When I ran the launcher for the first time, the game prompted me to update the game files with 400MB or so of update files, which I then did. The updates failed to update the game version twice, though the installer always prompted me to update the game software on the next load. Eventually, the updater succeeded.

I attempted to launch the game, I was met with an error message, informing me that one of the following was preventing me from installing the game:
- My DirectX drivers were out of date.
- My GPU drivers were out of date.
- My Launcher update was out of date.
- My PhysX drivers were out of date.

The game would then crash out and back into the launcher. I promptly emailed Technical Support on the email address listed on the game’s website, explaining the issue that I was having. The response was prompt, and the guy on Tech Support (named Mac Montgomery) was excellent, and really helpful. I also explored the software of the launcher. With the game launcher comes an option to run a Launcher Integrity Checker. I ran this on the updated launcher, to find that one of the files was corrupted. I promptly uninstalled and re-installed the game, in case this had been caused by a problematic install or update. After re-installing (and re-running the 400MB update file, which this time worked without any problems), the launcher gave me the same message.

After a short email discussion with Technical Support, I tried his suggested options, which was to re-run a separate PhysX application update, which turned out to be the issue. This fixed the launcher, and I was then able to open the game’s main hub. When I attempted to log into the game using the ID that I had set up, the launcher rejected my ID. I emailed myself one of those “Forgotten Your Password” emails, and found that the password I was entering was indeed correct. I decided to see if the website would give me any more information, and logged in using my credentials. I discovered that my account had in fact expired during the course of the technical support period, and that I was no longer able to access the game.

Words: Rob Wade


The Complete Star Wars Saga Debuts on High-Definition Blu-ray in the UK on September 12

Bring home the adventure and share Star Wars with your whole family – when Star Wars: The Complete Saga comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment! To be released on 12th September, the nine-disc collection brings the wonder of the entire Saga direct to your living room, where you can revisit all of your favorite Star Wars moments – in gorgeous high definition and with pristine 6.1 DTS Surround Sound. Dive deeper into the universe with an unprecedented 40+ hours of special features, highlighted by never-before-seen content sourced from the Lucasfilm archives.

The comprehensive collection also features numerous deleted, extended and alternate scenes, new documentaries and a cross-section of the countless Star Wars spoofs that have appeared in pop culture over the past three decades. Marking the first time ever that the full Saga is available in one complete collection, Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray also features a coveted peek into the making of the Saga with vintage documentaries, audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes moments, interviews, prop and costume turnarounds, retrospectives and more.

Episodes I-III and IV-VI will also be available as distinct Blu-ray Trilogy collections.

Special Features:
Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray is presented in widescreen with 6.1 DTS Surround Sound. Special features include:
• DISC ONE – Star Wars - Episode One: The Phantom Menace
o Audio Commentary with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires
o Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew
• DISC TWO – Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones
o Audio Commentary with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll and Ben Snow
o Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew
• DISC THREE – Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
o Audio Commentary with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Rob Coleman, John Knoll and Roger Guyett
o Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew
• DISC FOUR – Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope
o Audio Commentary with George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren
o Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew
• DISC FIVE – Star Wars - Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
o Audio Commentary with George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren
o Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew
• DISC SIX – Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
o Audio Commentary with George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren
o Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with Cast and Crew
o Including: deleted, extended and alternate scenes; prop, maquette and costume turnarounds; matte paintings and concept art; supplementary interviews with cast and crew; a flythrough of the Lucasfilm Archives and more
o Including: deleted, extended and alternate scenes; prop, maquette and costume turnarounds; matte paintings and concept art; supplementary interviews with cast and crew; and more
o NEW! Star Warriors (2007, Color, Apx. 84 Minutes) – Some Star Wars fans want to collect action figures...these fans want to be action figures! A tribute to the 501st Legion, a global organization of Star Wars costume enthusiasts, this insightful documentary shows how the super-fan club promotes interest in the films through charity and volunteer work at fundraisers and high-profile special events around the world.
o NEW! A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later (2010, Color, Apx. 25 Minutes) – George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams look back on the making of The Empire Strikes Back in this in-depth retrospective from Lucasfilm created to help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie. The masters discuss and reminisce about one of the most beloved films of all time.
o NEW! Star Wars Spoofs (2011, Color, Apx. 91 Minutes) – The farce is strong with this one! Enjoy a hilarious collection of Star Wars spoofs and parodies that have been created over the years, including outrageous clips from Family Guy, The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother and more — and don’t miss “Weird Al” Yankovic’s one-of-a-kind music video tribute to The Phantom Menace!
o The Making of Star Wars (1977, Color, Apx. 49 Minutes) – Learn the incredible behind-the-scenes story of how the original Star Wars movie was brought to the big screen in this fascinating documentary hosted by C-3PO and R2-D2. Includes interviews with George Lucas and appearances by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
o The Empire Strikes Back: SPFX (1980, Color, Apx. 48 Minutes) – Learn the secrets of making movies in a galaxy far, far away. Hosted by Mark Hamill, this revealing documentary offers behind-the-scenes glimpses into the amazing special effects that transformed George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back into reality!
o Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi (1983, Color, Apx. 48 Minutes) – Go behind the scenes — and into the costumes — as production footage from Return of the Jedi is interspersed with vintage monster movie clips in this in-depth exploration of the painstaking techniques utilized by George Lucas to create the classic creatures and characters seen in the film. Hosted and narrated by Carrie Fisher and Billie Dee Williams.
o Anatomy of a Dewback (1997, Color, Apx. 26 Minutes) – See how some of the special effects in Star Wars became even more special two decades later! George Lucas explains and demonstrates how his team transformed the original dewback creatures from immovable rubber puppets (in the original 1977 release) to seemingly living, breathing creatures for the Star Wars 1997 Special Edition update.
o Star Wars Tech (2007, Color, Apx. 46 Minutes) – Exploring the technical aspects of Star Wars vehicles, weapons and gadgetry, Star Wars Tech consults leading scientists in the fields of physics, prosthetics, lasers, engineering and astronomy to examine the plausibility of Star Wars technology based on science as we know it today.


The Ward creeps onto Blu-ray and DVD on 16 May and marks the return of legendary Godfather of slasher horror John Carpenter after nearly a decade and evokes the classic finely crafted horror of Halloween and Village of the Damned.

Pre-order yourself a copy here to be one of the first to enjoy John Carpenter's chilling return.

Set in a Psychiatric Hospital, this bone-chilling horror stars Amber Heard as Kristen (Drive Angry 3D) and Jared Harris as Dr Stringer (Mad Men) and delivers on jumps and scares aplenty.

Kristen (Amber Heard) finds herself committed to The Ward, with no recollection of previous events. Imprisoned in this terrifying asylum alongside a group of erratically behaved young women, Kristen not only faces overbearing wardens during the day but by night a savage ghostly figure stalks the ward hallway for her next victim to swallow into the darkness.


The beauty of Studio Ghibli can now be enjoyed on both the original DVD and Blu-ray with this all new Blu-ray Double Play edition!

Available for the first time in high definition on Blu-ray Double Play courtesy of Studio Ghibli, My Neighbours The Yamadas invites you to join the adventures of the quirky Yamada family brilliantly presented in an unique, visually striking comic-strip style.

Takashi Yamada and his wacky wife Matsuko, who has no talent for housework, navigate their way through the ups and downs of work, marriage and family life. Amongst their brood is the sharp-tongued grandmother who lives with them; a teenage son who wishes he had cooler parents; and a pesky daughter whose loud voice is unusual for someone so small. Even the family dog has issues! This film shows us a variety of episodes of their lives with tales that range from the humorous to the heart-breaking, we see this family cope with life's little conflicts, problems and joys in their own way.

The beauty of Studio Ghibli can now be enjoyed on both the original DVD and all new Blu-ray with this Blu-ray Double Play edition!

Thanks to our friends at Studio Ghibli, we've got three copies of My Neighbours The Yamadas on Blu-ray/DVD Double Pack to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name to before midday on Thursday 12th May, making sure to put "My Neighbours The Yamadas" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "My Neighbours The Yamadas" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

My Neighbours the Yamadasis available on Blu-ray/DVD Double Pack from 9th May, priced £24.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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