Tuesday 27 October 2009

Video Game Reviews

WWE Smackdown VS Raw 2010
Xbox 360, Wii, PS3 (Version Tested), PSP, DS

Available Now - £49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360), £39.99 (Wii) & £29.99 (PSP, DS)
Review by Blake Harmer

One of the great things about wrestling is its theatrics and soap opera style storylines with a steel chair to the face. It appears that developer Yukes have realised this by making the main focus of this year’s edition of SVR all about making you the booker. Especially as it seems that user created content is the big thing in gaming at the moment what with the success of Little Big Planet and Guitar Hero’s Studio option.

The story designer, which allows you to create your own story narratives lasting from one episode of Smackdown or Raw up to a massive two years in game time, and is plotted through a game calendar showing when episodes and pay-per-views are on. With each show you are then able to set up matches for the show, and create scenarios using the cut scene creator to link matches together and create storylines using a large number of animations, locations, characters and inputting your dialogue into text boxes. It’s truly amazing stuff, and you can even share your storylines online with an already huge gaming community and sample other people’s stories. For each match you can also choose the match type who the players play as, and who is AI controlled and also all the stipulations for the match such as time limits, no disqualifications, falls count anywhere etc.

Other improvements to the series are also based on customisation, from an improved create a finisher mode which allows you to create ludicrous high flying finishers, to the improved create a wrestler mode which allows even more in depth creation of your own characters or of wrestlers that weren’t included in this years roster. In regards to matches, the Royal Rumble has been improved making it harder to eliminate people although it is sad that you can’t do any quick eliminations in it anymore and the new Championship Scramble is fast and furious as everyone fights to be the titleholder at the end of the time limit by scoring pin falls and stopping other people from doing the same.

However, the downsides come in the form of focus not been lavished on the main part of the game which is the wrestling, the controls haven’t changed since the last few versions of the game and bar a slight change to the HUD nothing has been improved upon in terms of gameplay. Which is a shame as it is a franchise that could do with a proper overhaul and tightening to improve this.

In the end SVR 2010 is a good game and worthy of purchase to all great wrestling fans, especially those who want to try out being a booker and coming up with your own crazy plot lines. However, if you’re not interesting in all the customisation elements and just want a good wrestling game, I can’t recommend this purely for the fact that SVR 2009 offers the same great experience and is a lot cheaper to boot. 8/10

Brutal Legend
PS3 (Version Tested) Xbox 360

Available Now - £49.99
Review by Blake Harmer

As game designers go, Tim Schaefer is probably one of the most E14 game designers out there, especially as he created such great games as The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. So I was really looking forward to playing Brutal Legend, his latest creation. Why was I looking forward to this I hear you ask? Well, not only has Tim Schaefer created a game with brilliant characters, creatures and ideas whilst retaining his trademark humour. But he also he deserves a special mention for actually creating the most metal game ever created, in your face Guitar Hero: Metallica.

The game is great as it is filled with ideas. The main game is set on an open world in the vain of GTA, etc., and has side missions to be completed, stuff to be found etc. However, where the game differs is how it evolves into the game. I can safely say that the beginning of the game truly blew me away, firstly it started as a simple hack and slasher like Devil May Cry and God of War by hacking demons to pieces with a giant axe and using Eddie’s guitar for magical attacks but then, the game changes by showing you the Deuce, a car which packs an excellent soundtrack featuring the likes of Mastodon, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, 3 Inches of Blood and Manowar (need I say more?) on its radio and adding an easy way of exploring the game world. Then the game turns into an RTS with you in the centre of the battle, a nice idea and one that hasn’t been seen since Herzog Zwei on the Mega Drive with you commanding units on the fly whilst cutting people into bread. Chuck in the excellent humour of Schaefer with Jack Black’s timing and ability to swear in a humorous way, as well as great cameos such as Lemmy, Ozzy and Rob Halford and you have the makings of a great game.

However, the game lets itself down on two levels. Firstly, after the initial few hours of gaming brilliance, the game sadly descends into being quite monotonous, with only the great setting and humour holding your interest. Secondly, despite all of it’s brilliant ideas, the game spreads itself out too thinly and each of the ways the game plays never outshines that of other games that you may have played previously, for example, the RTS element is nowhere near comparable to the likes of Age of Empires, and the combat is laughably simplistic when compared to Devil My Cry, and the open world doesn’t beat the brilliance of GTA.

All in all, it depends on what you are looking for in a game. If you are a metaller who likes comedy and great storytelling and would put up with "okay" gameplay for it then this is an essential purchase and it is in this respect it is probably one of the most E14 games ever made. However, if you are a hardcore gamer who only wants to enjoy the gaming experience then you will find this an enjoyable affair but only worth a rental. This is an average game made good by Schaefer’s touch. 8/10

NHL 10
PS3 (version tested), X-Box 360

Available now - £49.99
Review by Blake Harmer

Ice hockey is a sport that I am surprised hasn’t really taken off on as huge a scale as other sports like football, boxing or rugby. If anything it has all three, the quick and technical grace that can be found in football, only quicker and to me way more entertaining. It has the rough and tumble element of rugby, only it looks rougher as they are falling face first into solid ice rather than grass, and when the fights start in ice hockey it can sometimes put your average boxing match to shame. It is with this in mind that I can also confirm that EA has crafted one of the finest ice hockey games ever created, and also one of the greatest sports videogames ever created, and this is why.

Like EA’s other sport franchises, EA has taken a lot of pride in creating the perfect atmosphere and feel of the sport whilst making it incredibly fun to play at the same time. It could be the sublime commentary, the animations of the players and crowd as you make a rush for the puck and body checking your opponent, draws you in and makes you fully immersed in just a few moments of playing. The AI of computer-controlled teams is very good as well, and it’s immensely satisfying when you are able to out think them strategically and slot the puck between the goalkeeper’s legs. The improvements to this year’s addition further immerse you the greatness of the sport. From an improved career mode with cut scenes charting your team’s rise to glory, to the new fighting system which goes for more first person view so you feel you are actually scrabbling with the opponent to desperately plant a sucker punch on his chin before the ref sends you off for fighting.

NHL 10 truly captures the feel of ice hockey better than most other sports games attempt to capture their sports. However, the only problem I have with the game is that, as the game has a new instalment every year, I feel that there has been too little new that has been added to it since NHL 09. Whilst the adjustments to the game have been welcome, they don’t hugely change the overall feel of the game, which is that it has always been amazing. Therefore, for those people who already own NHL 09 I find it very hard to recommend shelling out another £40 or so for NHL 10 with the few extras it has, which is why I have to mark it down. If you want the full awesomeness, buy it, but bear in mind you can get last years game, which is almost as great, for about half the price. 9/10

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