Saturday 8 August 2009

Video Game Reviews

Overlord II
Xbox 360 (version tested), PS3, PC
Review by Rob Wade

Say what you like about the way humanity operates, the world loves a bastard. Nobody goes to the pantomime to see the princess get saved; they go to see the troll or the wicked witch that’s keeping her hostage. Well, nobody seems to go to pantomimes anymore anyway, even with the additions of 1980s romantic comedy actors. Don’t believe me? This year’s big pantomime news in Kent, England was that one of the pantomimes would have a starring role by Steve Guttenberg.

But I digress.

Overlord II puts you in the role of the Overlord, a demonic ruler of a subterranean kingdom of imps and goblins hand-picked to do your evil bidding. Minions are divided into four categories, each with significant advantages and disadvantages relative to each other. Red imps, for example, are resistant to fire but can’t handle water. These classes of minion are generally used for combat, with varying melee and projectile attacks, or for puzzle-solving, with you taking control of the minions in certain set-pieces in order to move certain objects or find a shortcut somewhere.

The game pits your Overlord and minions against the lords of various kingdoms and towns around the over world, travelling to each town and dispatching the resistance in place whatever form that may take.

The game itself is presented in a very cool format, taking the form of a third-person action adventure with you having easy access to minion commands via the shoulder buttons. Everything control-wise handles fairly well, with everything within easy reach. However, the controls can at times be a little fiddly, particularly when you’re trying to get your minions to attack several enemies at once. Don’t get me wrong; the controls aren’t terrible, they probably could just have benefited from a bit more tightening technically.

As far as negative issues are concerned, the game play does become a little samey after a few hours. Beyond the minion commands, your character has very limited combat moves. You have some magic at your disposal, but other than that it’s the same three combat moves (varying slightly by the weapon you are wearing). Although you can choose from a fair amount of weaponry in your quest, I can’t help but feel that it’s somewhat limited in that respect.

Graphically, the game is pretty good, but definitely shows some harsh edges at times. However, I have yet to observe any graphical glitches or any sort of texture issues. The graphical imperfections are made up for somewhat by the style of the game, which takes on a very entertaining tongue-in-cheek form, with many little one-liners and characters designed to make you chuckle.

As far as the game play goes, the game is certainly not short of options to give you bits and pieces to do. From the throne room, you accept quests. From the Forge, you construct weapons and upgrades using components you find dotted around the levels and battlefields. You can also gain access to your minion quarters, even going so far as to allow you to resurrect minions that have fallen in battle (particularly handy when one of your high-level minions has been killed).

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating

Graphics: Bright and colourful visual style, with big beautiful scenery, but suffers from some rough edges and a lack of polish in places.

Sound: Decent music and sound effects, appropriate to the game format and setting.

Game play: I had an absolute blast playing this game. However, it is not without its flaws. Controlling the movements on screen can be a little fiddly, and the game does suffer from being a bit samey at times.

Lasting Appeal: Plenty to do on the main game, including revisit quests and collectible locating. Includes options for repeat play. Being that the game is fairly linear in terms of storyline though, don’t expect too much variety there.

Summary: For all its faults (of which there are a few, don’t get me wrong), this game is actually a ton of fun. The game is presented in a very tongue-in-cheek style, and it reflects well in the game play. I would certainly recommend picking this one up, as there are enough references and revisiting to please fans of the previous edition as well. Worth a purchase if you fancy something a bit different, if you can rent it absolutely do so. 8/10

Watchmen: The End Is Nigh - Episodes 1 & 2
Warner Bros
(PS3 (Version Tested), Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

If I could speak to the developers of this game I would have a lot of questions for them, which I would I demand answers from them with a pointed stick. For example, how could you take one of the greatest comics ever made, and turn it into a pile of dirge roaming beat ‘em up? How can you make a game that comprises episodic downloads, and yet with the extra development time you could make for the second episode, not fix a single problem that was apparent with the first episode? How can you charge £9.99 per episode and make it obvious that you can beat an episode in less than 80 minutes (there is a trophy/achievement for doing this)? I believe the answer to all these questions would be that they were too busy taking a dump on Alan Moore’s head to bother doing something worthwhile.

The premise of the game is set in the mid to late 70’s and acts as a prequel to the comic and the movie adaptation that the game is tied to. You play as crime fighting duo Rorschach and Nite Owl as they fight crime by busting heads as they try and capture villains The Underboss and Twilight Lady. Each character has their own combos with the usual mix of light and heavy attack as well as the ability to throw enemies and perform counter attacks. Each character also has their own special abilities, which they can trigger when their special gauge fills up. Nite Owl has his gadgets, and Rorschach can use weapons and has either a bull rush attack, which rams into people, or he can go into “Rage mode” which makes him faster and hits harder for a short period of time. I found myself going into rage mode for a lot of the time whilst playing the game, but that has nothing to do with his special ability.

The problems with this game are endless, the buttons feel unresponsive, which leads to huge problems when trying to counter attack bad guys when they are mobbing you. The collision detection is laughable, and the level design is so poor you will get lost quite easily. Episode two tried to remedy this by allowing you to press L1 to point the camera in the direction you had to go, which whilst helpful, is just pointing out that you have terrible level design in your game. I also felt that the game hasn’t captured the feel of the costumed heroes, Rorschach doesn’t feel very psychotic when you fight with him, and he is no where near as resourceful with the weapons he finds as he is in the comic.

The only good things I can say about this game is that the graphics are fairly decent for a downloadable game, and the use of the film actors’ voices is welcome to creating the movie tie-in's feel rather than just using some poor impersonators. The story is nicely told in animated comic book style cut scenes, which has a very similar art style to the original comic.

Overall this is a game with too many flaws to recommend, and the plus points of the game have already been out done by previous downloadable games (Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty manages to look much more impressive graphically, as well as being longer than both episodes combined and cheaper to buy from the store to boot). To all the people that were worried that the Watchmen film was going to rape the original comic and not do it justice, you should have been more worried about the game. 4/10

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