Tuesday 13 April 2010

Gaming Reviews

Just Cause 2
Avalance Studios
Square Enix

Available Now - £34.99 (PC) and £49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

First of all, I would like to be honest and say that I really didn’t like the first Just Cause. It was gimmicky and felt as though they forgot to put a good game in to back it up, so I quickly tired of using a parachute and moved on to another game. However, whilst Just Cause 2 returns with the same gimmicks, this time it makes everything bigger and better.

Firstly, the missions are a huge improvement, they are better structured, and they can be completed different ways due to the fact you can capture and use any vehicle from tanks to helicopters. The AI is good, and most importantly of all, they are fun. Secondly, time spent outside the missions is fun as you will most likely be spending that time causing chaos, and causing chaos in Just Cause 2 is a good thing. This is because, if you want to unlock more missions, weapons, vehicles etc., you have to blow up government buildings and oil fields, work with different factions to create social upheaval and basically reduce the game world of Panau Island into a mixture of smouldering rubble and revolt. In a sense, Just Cause 2 is everything that Mercenaries 2 should have been: a fun game filled with explosions and death with great story missions and side missions to keep things interesting until the game's big finale.

However, the game falls down on trying too hard. The game world is possibly too big and the long loading times when using an EVAC helicopter to take you between places makes you wonder if it would have been quicker to drive there. Also, I felt that when compared to the crème of open world games like the GTA series, Just Cause 2 can’t match it for feeling you are in a living breathing environment, or for good storytelling. But where Just Cause 2succeeds is by being a fun and stupid action game.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Lovely environments and explosion effects, but the hustle and bustle of the cities aren’t as brilliant as those found in GTA IV.
Sound/Music: Nothing really to shout about. The voice acting is okay, explosions and gunfire are meaty, but that’s about it.
Gameplay: An enjoyable open world game shown up by having a world that is too large and a plot that just isn’t that interesting. The fact you will be too busy crashing helicopters into buildings and blowing petrol stations does cover up for this somewhat though.
Lasting Appeal: Lots of missions and factions to keep you entertained, plus the fact that everything loves to explode will keep you coming back to relax after a stressful day of work.
Summary: A fun game and certainly a marked improvement over the original, however, with so many open world games out there, Just Cause 2 still can’t compare to the other heavy hitters such as GTA IV. However, the game still shows other contenders like Saboteur and Mercenaries 2, that at the end of the day, the game should be fun and have varied missions, and Just Cause 2 delivers that in truckloads. Definitely worth checking out! 8/10

Batman: Arkham Asylum - Game of the Year Edition
Available Now - £29.99 (PC) and £39.99 (PS3 (Version Tested), Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

There is no denying that Batman: Arkham Asylum was a groundbreaking title due to it being one of the first superhero games to actually be any good. It also deserved its place as one of the best games of 2009, but does the recently released Game of the Year Edition make it any better?

New additions to the game include extra Challenge Rooms, which are entertaining mini-games separate from the main storyline involving taking out as many goons as possible without being hit, stealth killing all opponents within a time limit without being seen or getting past the Scarecrow nightmares as quickly as possible. Also, you can now play through the game in 3D using the 3D glasses provided.

You can choose to play the game without the 3D element, as playing it in 3D adds very little depth to the game as they are, in a word, crap! This is because they use the Red and Green lenses of old, so the best you see is that Batman’s cape sticks out a little bit and...that's it. So unless you like the Dark Knights bum a little bit closer to your face, I wouldn't advise using them, especially as it felt like my eyes were bleeding after using the glasses for an hour.

At the end of the day though, this is still a superb game, and if you haven’t played it, you should definitely do so. However, this Game of the Year Edition, doesn’t really offer anything worthwhile for people to rebuy the game for the extras, and with the original version now becoming quite cheap in the second hand aisles, newcomers will more than likely opt for the cheaper version over a slightly enhanced and more expensive version.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
The graphics still hold up very well considering the game is almost a year old, but the 3D effect used is atrocious.
Sound/Music: As dark and Gothic as the movies and with superb voice acting (especially from Mark Hamill), will keep you immersed.
Gameplay: The freeflow combat and puzzles are still as awesome as ever with a great plot to keep you hooked. Sure the boss battles are still a bit iffy but the rest of the game easily makes up for this error.
Lasting Appeal: The extra challenge modes will keep you entertained but once you’ve completed the main story and found all the extras, there is little to make you replay the game for.
Summary: Batman: Arkham Asylum is still as fantastic as it has always been, and whilst the new 3D effect is awful, the extra challenge rooms are welcome. Whether you reckon these extras are worth paying for over the option of just purchasing a second hand copy of the original version is questionable though. 7/10

Ninja Blade
Iceberg Interactive, ND Games
Available now - RRP £19.99 (PC, Version Tested), £39.99 (Xbox 360)
Review by Rob Wade

For those who aren't aware, Ninja Blade was released on Xbox 360 in January 2009, and received mixed reviews from the gaming press. For some, it was an enjoyable clone of games along the line of Ninja Gaiden (incredible, eh?) but was just lacking in the challenge and fun factor necessary to compete with Tecmo's finest. For others, it was piss-poor. I've spoken to people in both camps, and I must confess to not having played the X360 version myself (though I've clocked up a fair few hours on Ninja Gaiden Black).

Now, if you've played a game like this on console, you've probably got a good idea of how a PC version would end up. If you never have, let me break it down for you:

Imagine how Ninja games control. Pretty fast-paced and frantic, right? Think along the lines of Prince of Persia with a stronger emphasis on combat. So it goes without saying that there's a lot for you to do very fast. Got that image in your head?

Ok, now translate it to keyboard and mouse. Hard, isn't it? You've got to manage all those commands using keyboard keys and mouse clicks.

Got it? Ok, now this next part is very important. Break the game technically. What do I mean? I mean make the graphics so poor that a blue wireframe is visible throughout the entire thing round the edges of the textures.

Ok, so you've now got a broken game that handles like crap. Now make it so buggy that the quick-time events crash. I'll just repeat that, let it sink in. The QUICK-time events crash. Events that are designed to be quick chug and fail.

Now crash the game. Piece of crap.

As if that wasn't enough, the voice acting is dire and the plot is contrived. I cannot in good conscience recommend this port to anyone. If you MUST play this game, track it down on Xbox 360, as I hear that version's much better.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics : Not especially impressive BEFORE the technical glitches, certainly less impressive after.
Sound/Music : Possibly the only part of this game that doesn't suck. Doesn't mean it's good though.
Gameplay : A second-rate Ninja Gaiden, with technical errors throughout.
Lasting Appeal : Slim to none.
Summary : A piss-poor conversion of a "meh" game. Avoid like the plague. In fact, avoid it like the apocalypse. An apocalypse made of dead babies and carrying the entire N-Dubz discography. 2/10

Infernal: So, let me get this straight. You actually managed to find a game as bad as me?
Rob: Well, if it's not, it's made a damn good attempt.
Infernal: Does it have an autosave?
Rob: Yeah, it does.
Infernal: Hahahaha, fool...

Core Rulebook
A Terrible Idea

Available Now - $14.99 (Approx. £9.75) (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer

Shambles is an RPG in which you explore life as a Zombie. One day you just woke up dead. Now you just want to get on with your life, such as it is.

But walking around as a Zombie just isn't that simple.

It's bad enough that you're slowly rotting away, and that your friends and co-workers don't want to have anything to do with you anymore. It's bad enough that dogs try to roll around on you every chance they get. It's bad enough that you're constantly trying to get away from chainsaw wielding fan boys, government spooks and creepy guys in suits. But the constant craving for brains on top of all that, it's enough to drive you over the edge.

An interesting take on the genre, right? You figured you were going to be busting zombies, but instead you’re hunting brains. Shambles has deliberately gone down the Evil Dead 2/Braindead route of zombie movies. There’s no hard tones here, this is all gore spurting gross-out humour.

The self-styled LAFF system is pretty clever – it’s a RPG game engine designed to run comedy, and it works. You’re allowed to screw over your fellow PCs for no reason other than “it’s funny”. I could see this going down with my group pretty well. Also, the “Decay System” for what happens as your zombie falls apart should prove pretty chucklesome.

In many ways, I could see this as being a great system for getting Ameritrash gamers into RPGs. The subject matter, dice-chucking heavy rules and sense of humour seem bang on.

The only real problem with the game is that the campaign settings and the scenario seem a little weak in comparison to the rest of the book. A shame, as a bit more fleshing out would really have helped the overall package.

All in all, this is a fun, comedy RPG that could provide a night of giggles every now and again. Good stuff. 8/10

1 comment:

  1. Shambles actually sounds pretty good. I particularly like the sound of the Decay System. That can't be anything but hilarious, surely?