Thursday 2 June 2011

Gaming Reviews

Available Now - £34.99 (PC) & £49.99 (PS3 & Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

First things first, Brink is all about the multiplayer experience, and not only that, this is also about perseverance. There is good chance that most gamers won’t be too blown away by Brink on their first play, but persevere with the game and start to level up and the game really does open out.

For those of you who are unaware of what Brink is, Brink is a team based objective based multiplayer FPS that pits two factions (Security or The Resistance) against each other. Your character has a wide range of weapons and abilities to choose from as you begin to level up and objectives are completed using different classes (Think Team Fortress 2 or, to a lesser extent, Fat Princess). For example, the operative (spy) is needed for hacking mainframes, whilst the soldier is needed for demolition-based objectives.

The game works well doing this. The game’s main selling point which is the free running ability is very handy when it comes from getting out of fire or when making your best route to an objective by sliding under half open bulkheads or leaping over railings. The slide ability is also great when you want to make yourself harder to hit whilst putting yourself in a good position to return fire. The levels are well designed with plenty of choke points to make each objective a challenge for both the defending and attacking teams.

However, Brink is far from perfect. The free running, whilst handy, is far from completely innovative in terms of redefining the FPS, and most battles still degenerate into firefights whilst ducking in and out of cover. Also, the bots don’t offer the best AI in the world so this is definitely not for someone who is looking for a decent single player experience. Chuck in the odd graphical glitches, the fact that quite a few of the weapons are just very similar feeling machine guns, and that the soldier class is underpowered when compared to the other classes, and you have problems that stop Brink from a being a fantastic and perfectly formed multiplayer experience.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Nothing truly special and does suffer the occasional glitches, but overall functional for the endless blasting.
Sound/Music: Some good gunfire and explosion sounds but the voice acting, whilst competent, will begin to grate due to it becoming very repetitive after awhile.
Gameplay: Highly enjoyable objective based team gunplay with some well designed maps and with the free running style adding a little bit of extra strategy to your gunplay.
Lasting Appeal: A fair amount of objective based maps to keep you and your friends entertained and plenty of different guns and customisation to be had. Whether you will want to keep playing once you’ve maxed out your character remains to be seen though.
Summary: A fun online shooter with some nice touches even though a little rough around the edges. Not one for gamers looking for a single player experience or for those who were expecting a radical evolution of the FPS though. 7/10
Magic: The Gathering - Knights vs. Dragons: Duel Decks
Magic the Gathering CCG Ready to Play Duel Deck
Wizards of the Coast

Available Now - £16.99
Review by Christopher Redman-Holland

Duel Decks are mainly themed decks; containing reprints of cards which may not have been seen for years. They are designed to be picked up and played in such a way that it gives each player an even strength. But is this the case? When I heard that the theme was “Knights and Dragons", I was ecstatic and could not wait to get my hands on them. In my very first pack of M:TG cards I found a dragon, and from that point I wanted to make a dragon deck. Six years on, and I’m still in need of more. This makes the want for this particular deck greater.

However, from playing with the decks I must admit I got bored. Not because the decks are badly constructed, but because the thought put into the advantages the cards have over each other results in the games playing out the same way almost every time.

The knights take an early lead, having more “low-power” creatures, with added abilities that are quick to cast; whereas dragons sit and do nothing until you get at least five lands into play. Once the dragons are out and you still have enough life, you attack with full force in order to do a greater amount of damage. Of course there have been games where this hasn’t been as obvious, but if you analyse carefully structures this way.

With this White/Knights deck, there isn’t anything big enough to take on a dragon, but there are the “level-up” creatures with which you can build on as the game progresses, as well as plenty of spells to see that you’re not just trampled on by the dragons.

I liked playing with the Dragon deck a lot, but I think it was just due to my love of dragons. I say this because, if I’m honest with this deck, you have to play the waiting game. There are spells to keep you doing something while the waiting to get the big boys out, but there are not enough small creatures to enhance your defence and that is where you will fall. Once you have the Mana needed, you will find that getting the dragons out is the easy part, and thus so is the winning.

It was fun the first few times, but the game play you get out of these decks gets old, and fast. This is a real shame as they are well crafted decks. If you’re into playing themed decks, then you may find them fun as stand-alone decks. 6/10
Fallout: New Vegas - Honest Hearts
Available Now - 800 MS Points (Xbox 360 - Version Tested), £7.49 (PC, PS3)
Review by Rob Wade

An expedition into the unspoiled wilderness of Utah's Zion National Park goes horribly wrong when your caravan is ambushed by a tribal raiding band. As you try to find a way back to the Mojave you become embroiled in a war between tribes and a conflict between a New Canaanite missionary and the mysterious Burned Man. The decisions you make will determine the fate of Zion.

Fallout: New Vegas is a weird game for me. As much as I've been enjoying playing through it (including coming across a vocal cameo by Matthew Perry of Friends fame), and I have, I can't help but be annoyed by how buggy it is. Nevertheless, my friends' warnings of "It's more of the same" were taken more as positives in my case. One of the strongest things about Fallout 3 was the sheer volume and variety of DLC.

Honest Hearts centres around a character mentioned in the main game, though not many people are keen to talk about him in any great depth. The Burned Man is a really good character, with a decent amount of depth, probably in some part down to the reluctance of certain characters to talk about him, creating a certain mystique. From there, however, most of the characters are pretty throwaway, and I found myself at one point basing a massive decision on the fact that I liked The Burned Man better than some other wet ponce who wanted my help.

The DLC also adds a further five levels to your maximum level cap, which will be welcome news for any enthusiasts looking to push that little bit further. The DLC also encloses itself really well like a short story, giving you a prologue as well as a wrap-up of the choices you made and how they affect the world of Zion as a whole. I was surprised at just how many choices you make over the course of the game, as the presentation makes a lot of them pretty subtle.

The other reason that it's so easy to miss how many choices are made is the fact that the DLC is pretty short by the standard set by Fallout 3. I was able to breeze through the storyline while exploring a good three quarters of the locations available in the space of one evening's gameplay, and went back the next morning to do the alternate ending, which was only about forty-five minutes. It is worth noting, however, that both available endings are really enjoyable, so it's definitely worth playing through both (plus there are achievements/trophies available for both endings, so there's an additional incentive).

The other thing, which I suppose is more of a pipe-dream as the DLC mounts up, is that there seems to be no effort made to patch the game's numerous issues. Over the course of the DLC alone, I came across the following:

- Gun battles that healed the enemies.
- Dropping off a cliff got me killed because my leg would get caught inside the cliff.
- AI that said "let's exercise caution" only to go tearing down the hill when we were in stealth mode.
- One of the perks associated with your companion was null and void because you would be spotted from a long distance by enemies who were supposed to be experience Perception reductions.

On the plus side, you do get some good guns and armour for completing the DLC, as well as the aforementioned level cap increase for the main game.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
An enjoyable piece of DLC, but at the price asked it's a little on the steep side. Though the gameplay is more of the same Fallout quality we've come to expect, there's just not enough there to make it worth the spend. The Burned Man is awesome though. 7/10
Plants Vs Zombies
Available Now - £29.99 (DS)
Review by Brad Harmer

Get ready to soil your plants - the most complete version of Plants Vs Zombies yet! The smash-hit iPhone, XBLA & PC title finally comes to DS. Zombies are invading your home and the only defence is your arsenal of plants to stem the attack.

I swear that when I was a kid zombies were monsters. You know, back when the commonly held belief was that when there was no more room in hell, then the dead would rise to feed on the flesh of the living? Now, they’re shambling, brain lusting, cartoon parodies of themselves. As if that isn’t bad enough, they can now be outwitted by plants...

I can’t stay mad at what a stupid concept Plants Vs Zombies is, though, because it does it all so cutely. It’s a Tower Defence game, basically, and it’s the game that everyone in the world seems to have played before I did. You have to stop the waves of zombies from reaching your house by planting different defensive plants. Some shoot, some explode, some slow them down, some freeze them, you get the picture.

It’s an enjoyable enough game, for a quick pick and play every now and again, but playing it extensively will reveal one major flaw. The DS version is really, really easy. Game breakingly easy. It’s a massive game (after over six hours of play I don’t think I got anywhere near the end), but it is a mind-bogglingly easy one (after over six hours of play there wasn’t a single level that I hadn’t cakewalked on the first attempt).

The multiplayer modes add some life, but the single player mode really suffers when you realise that each level is merely an exercise in patience. Stick barriers down, stick shooters down, leave the game to run while you go and get a coffee. It’s that easy.

And this is me we’re talking about. I suck balls at video games.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Sprites are pretty small, but clear enough. The animation is very good, both for the main game and the cutscenes.
Sound/Music: Basic sound effects. The music is pretty unmemorable. Not so bad it bugs you, not so good that you really notice it.
Gameplay: Very easy to get to grip with, but the abject lack of challenge is very unsatisfying.
Lasting Appeal: It’s pretty lengthy, but even so, you could piss all over this inside of a week. The multiplayer modes extend this a little, but no-one really plays multiplayer on a hand-held, do they? Really? I mean, they SAY people do, but I’ve never met anyone who does.
Summary: It’s cute, it’s cuddly, it’s sould-burningly endearing, but there’s just not enough challenge here to make it worth the greenbacks. If you can get it on another format, get that. The DS version is really only for people who only have DSs. DS’. DSs’. DSi. DSesses. Gameboys. 6/10
Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword
Taleworlds Entertainment/Paradox Interactive
Available Now - £24.99 (PC only)
Review by Rob Wade

Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword is the thrilling sequel to the action role-playing hit Mount & Blade: Warband. Be a mercenary or join one of the five battling factions to conquer, destroy or create empires. In an open sand box world you choose your allies, your enemies, what provinces to conquer, what castles to siege and what quests to embark on.

Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword is the sequel to a game that was well known for its accessibility and depth of world. Loading up the game for the first time, I was presented with a world map which suggested just that: the game would offer a massive expansive world to explore, with plenty of missions and things to do. True, the game is not as attractive as some of its more famous contemporaries, but I can name a number of occasions where less attractive games have turned out to be fun. This massive world is certainly indicative of the game as a whole. However, there are some differences to the series this time around which have made a big difference to the game.

Understandably, a historically accurate game would be pointless without the appropriate technical advancements being in place. Guns are one of those additions, which have been placed into the game for the sake of historical accuracy. After playing with them, you may find yourself wishing that they had abandoned historical accuracy for a world that was easier to navigate. Guns are painfully inaccurate and agonisingly slow to reload (much like they would have been at the time), and I was rarely able to engage in any sort of combat for fear of finding myself cut down while packing my powder into my gun.

There is an absolute wealth of content in this game. The problem is that the guns are pushed as your main weapon in the game, and these guns are adapted so faithfully that it makes the general game quite hard to play and get immersed in. New players, I would wager, will find the controls and the gameplay in general frustrating. However, if you enjoyed the first one, this is most definitely worth checking out, as the elements that fans enjoyed from the previous game are still here. Just don't expect to have as easy a time of it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Make no mistake, this is not a pretty game. The worlds are pretty detailed though.
Sound/Music: Authentic sounds, and the kind of music you would expect.
Gameplay: Fiddly action-RPG. Deep, but really fiddly.
Lasting Appeal: There's plenty here, no doubt, but how much of it you'll experience depends very heavily on how well the game gels with you.
Summary: As a value proposition, this game provides great value for money in the sheer volume of options available for gameplay. It's just going to prove cumbersome and annoying for some. 7/10

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