Monday, 15 January 2018

007: Quantum of Solace (game) Review - A short but fun Bond experience.

By Sam Coles:

Bond has had its ups and downs when it comes to the interactive medium, but there are a lot of good games to choose from, such as the N64 classic Goldeneye to the excellent Nightfire. What if I told a movie tie in from 2008 is worth your time? Well 4 hours of your time to be precise. Quantum of Solace was released in 2008 to meet the silver screen release with the film, it was developed by Treyarch, who are known for creating the highly successful Call of Duty Black Ops series. When I saw that logo on the back of the box I knew I was in good hands, because Treyarch know how to create a high octane shooter experience, plus the Call of Duty set piece nature fits the James Bond action.

Quantum of Solace does not follow the events of the film, but instead retells action scenarios from Casino Royale as there was no tie in game for that film, however there are parts of Quantum of Solace in the game, but it then goes into a flashback from the previous film. The voice acting is top notch with actors such as Daniel Craig and Judi Dench reprising their roles with superb performances. Although there are moments where the voice acting is terrible to monotone, the terrible voice work generally comes from the goons you gun down by the dozen, and Craig will deliver his lines as if he is reading off a shopping list in some scenes.
Once again 007 takes the form of a first person shooter, trying to relive the success of Goldeneye, it does not reach the same levels but it is still a solid shooter. You traverse each linear locale which sounds negative but it’s not as the game entertains you with witty quips and outrageous action scenes. Gunplay is solid throughout as it takes influence from the Rainbow Six Vegas games where it is mostly first person but you can snap to cover where it then switches to third person to give you a better field of view so you’re not constantly looking at a wall texture.

There are stealth sections to change the pace, however these are terrible because if you miss a headshot and they spot you, every enemy in area knows your position and there is no way to go back to stealth until you kill them all. There is also no clear indication when they have spotted you like in Goldeneye Reloaded where an arrow will fill up when they start to see you. Don’t bother with stealth and shot your way through as it was not fleshed out.

The presentation is inconsistent, there are parts where the game looks fantastic especially in levels where torrential rain falls as you see water slide off your gun, on the other hand there are environments that look as if they were taken straight from the PS2 port of the game. The visuals overall are okay. Sound design is fantastic the guns have a good punch to them when you pull trigger, especially Bond’s P99 and the shotguns, you also get the iconic 007 soundtrack going in action scenes as you shoot your way through goons.
The only major issue I had with this game was its length, I’m not joking when I say I managed to finish it the same day I bought it, it took me 4 hours to finish in two 2 hour sessions. I know that’s not an issue now as the game cost only £2, but can you imagine buying this game at full price back in 2008 and finishing it in 4 hours you would be outraged.

Quantum of Solace is a solid shooter although it is a short experience that could have been spiced up with some driving sections in Bond’s Aston, which are conspicuously absent in this game. I would say give it a spin, I picked up a copy on the PS3 for £2 it’s also available on the 360, PS2 and Wii but I would recommend the 360 and PS3 versions as they are the definitive versions. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review - "One shall stand, one shall fall"

By Sam Coles:

The Transformers franchise has been rather hit and miss when it comes to interactive media, with the horrid Famicom game, to the excellent game on the PS2 game based on the Armada series. Transformers Fall of Cybertron has to be one of the best games based on the license I have played in years, as the conflict in this game is not the classic black and white good vs evil, as both sides are trying to survive.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron takes place on the titular planet where the Autobots and the Decepticons are trying to flee the planet due their resources being depleted. Optimus Prime has devised a plan to escape on a ship called The Ark, but they need energon, Megatron has the same idea but does not want the Autobots alongside him. What I like about the plot of this is that it is not the standard good vs evil as both sides want the same thing they want to survive, plus it is great to play as both sides of the conflict and in the end it is down to you if you want side with Megatron or Optimus.

The gameplay is a third person shooter, as at the time of release Gears of War was extremely popular and many publishers and developers tried to replicate that game with mixed results. This game however gets it right with tight and responsive controls, coupled with excellent feedback as you cut down other transformers with a wide variety of weapons. Each weapon feels different and you can utilise them in different situations, these can range from your standard machine guns to my favourite Megatron’s arm cannon which can clear a crowd of Autobots.  You can upgrade each weapon by gaining experience points, but these are nothing special it’s the standard increase your accuracy, ammo clip size and damage, they will help in the later stages as the game throws everything it has at you, but the upgrades are uninspired.  

Presentation wise the game looks fantastic considering the game is nearly six years old, with an art style that mixes the look of the 80’s cartoon with the realistic look of the Michael Bay movies, it works really well. Explosions and gun fire looks fantastic, coupled with the excellent sound design with thunderous explosions and the terrifying chatter of machine gun fire. The soundtrack is worth noting too as it has some beautiful orchestra scores for dramatic tension and fast paced action. I did notice some graphical issues, as the textures had a problem loading in sometimes with the in-game cutscenes as some characters look very blurry. Performance was another problem as it does start to drop below its targeted frame rate of 30 fps; this tends to happen during really busy sections where everything is exploding.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron is a fantastic interpretation of the shape shifting robots in video game form; with a story that doesn’t follow the classic formula coupled tight and fun gunplay. You should pick this game up, it’s not as cheap as other 360 and PS3 titles for some reason, but I never see it above £10 so give it a go. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Orange Box Review - The best bargain in gaming history

By Sam Coles:

2007 was truly a fantastic year to be gamer, because we got a slew of titles that had a massive impact on the industry such as Call of Duty 4, Bioshock and the game I’m going to reviewing The Orange Box. This was one of the best gaming bargains of the decade as you got several of Valves notable games which included Half-Life 2, HL Episode 1 and 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. I remember picking this up on the PC originally and thought “Wow! I got more than my money’s worth”. This rings true even today, I can’t think of another example of this maybe the Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection, but Konami didn’t produce many copies.

Well talking about the narrative is tough, as I would have to talk about 4 separate titles but I can lump Half-Life into one and Portal’s story is vague at best without doing background reading. Half-Life 2 takes place after the events of the original, where our bespectacled theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman has been brought out of stasis by the G-Man to battle a new alien threat. The combine have taken over Earth after the 7 hour war, the human race then surrenders and are put into walled off numbered cities, something straight out Orwell’s 1984. Like the first game the story is minimal, but this game started the trend of locking you in a room and then vomits exposition at you.

Portal’s story is vague, unless you do background reading on the series where you get into the Ratman etc. The basic gist is that you play as Chelle who wakes in a facility called Aperture Science; she is greeted by a flat mono and robotic voice in the form of Glados. At first everything seems rather innocent as you’re just doing tests, but as you progress through the game you find that the lab is sparse of human life.  

Gameplay in all of the games are from a first person perspective with shooting, except Portal unless you count firing portals on a wall as a shooter then be my guest. They all control differently especially Team Fortress 2 as you have a wide selection of different classes as they can range from slow to fast. Half-Life 2 still controls well for the most part although it can feel rather stiff and sluggish in some aspects especially when you’re turning around, this might have something to do with me playing the 360 version. An issue I had with this game was the “ground breaking” physics engine, as you can get stuck on geometry easily and the game has a habit of cluttering areas with random bits of rubbish which just get in the way more than anything.

Considering that the Source Engine is well over a decade old, it still looks surprisingly good with excellent lighting effects, coupled with bloom that’s not too intrusive unlike some games of the time. Textures can look a bit blurry if you stop to smell the roses, but it’s not a deal breaker as you have to bear in mind Half-Life 2 came out in 2004 originally. The game does have a few performances issues as the game targets 30 fps, but starts hiccup when things get busy with the physics engine, such as explosions or when there are loads ragdolls flying everywhere. Also the net code on the 360 version of Team Fortress 2 is atrocious, and yes there are people still playing the game on the 360 after 10 years.

The Orange Box is one of the best deals in video game history and to this day I can’t think of any other bargain you can get. You get hours upon hours of gameplay in this collection, with games that still hold up today. If you haven’t give this collection a go, but I would strongly recommend playing the PC version as it is the best way to play it, plus Team Fortress 2 is free to play these days. If not it is very cheap on the PS3 and 360 version, but out of the two I would recommend the 360 version because the PS3 has a lot of performance issues and long loading times.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My anticipated games of 2018.

By Sam Coles:

Well 2017 has come and gone, with some defecation in within the industry in the form of loot boxes almost ruined Battlfront II, but we did get some great games as well. I want to talk about games that I’m looking forward to this year, now remember I’m not going to have the same games in mind like you because at the end of the day it’s my opinion and my taste so don’t get your panties in a twist if a game is not on the list.

Yakuza 6

Here is a series I have fallen in love with recently as I reviewed both Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, they have fantastic combat where I always grin with glee as I beat some to death with a bicycle, coupled with dark and emotional plots with excellent voice acting.

Originally released in Japan in 2016, Yakuza 6 is continuation of the exploits of Kazma Kiryu, where he returns to the fictional region of Tokyo Kamurocho. Kazma returns when he finds out his adopted daughter has been hit by a car, where he then finds out that she has a child, Kazma not being happy about this wants to find out who the father is and why her child is being targeted.

This is first game in the series to be developed exclusively for the PS4 with the new Dragon Engine, as the other games in the series were made for both the PS3 and PS4, which it did start to show its age with Yakuza 0 and Kiwami in some scenes. This means we have better looking character models and environments with the sacrifice of a lower frame rate as Yakuza 6 runs at 30 fps, but maybe it will get a PS4 Pro update.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Yes, I know this was on the list last year, but at the time I had no idea that the game was going to be delayed although I did say on Twitter that I bet it will get delayed. Anyway we have had a new trailer since then to flesh out the plot of the new game and oh my does it look fantastic, this will be Rockstar’s first PS4 and Xbox One exclusive releases as GTA V was released on the 360 and PS3 originally, so we can really see what the Rage engine can do.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the 2010 release where you play an outlaw named Morgan, who works for whoever is paying the most and yes that does include Dutch’s gang. It looks as if you’re playing an objectively bad person compared to the original game where you’re more of an anti-hero, you weren’t necessarily a good person, but John wanted to repent for his sins and would help those in need.   

Of what I have seen from the latest trailer they have added more mechanics which were absent from the original such as akimbo pistols, which I found baffling as it is a western. Not only that it looks as if you can take a quiet approach as they have added a bow and arrow, which adds a bit a replay value to missions.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry is a series that has lost a bit of steam recently with the somewhat lukewarm opinion of the last game Primal, coupled with Far Cry 4 trying to replicate the third instalment. However this game looks radically different and that is because of its setting as it is set in rural America where you have crazy red necks with a cult that wants nothing more than your blood.

What I’m looking forward to as well in this game is that you can play the entirety of the campaign with a  friend, the fourth game had something similar but you couldn’t do campaign missions as you could only raid camps and fortresses. This game however lets you play through the whole story with a friend, not only that they have added new vehicles and ways to approach combat situations.

I’m glad Ubisoft are going back to the drawing board with their notable franchises as it worked really well with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, let’s hope it is the same for Far Cry.

Kingdom Come Deliverance

Here is a game that I didn’t really pay attention to in terms of coverage, but the videos I have seen look fantastic.

Kingdom Come Deliverance is an RPG, but it’s not a classic Tolkien style of fantasy, but instead it is set in a grounded medieval setting in a believable world. The combat looks absolutely brutal with plenty of blood and gore when you deliver blow with a mace, Warhammers and swords.  

The world looks absolutely beautiful with lush green fields with subtle details from the small villages to the more grandiose cities within castle walls, this looks like a game I’m going to put a lot of time into.

Those are my most anticipated, I know there are only a few games, but maybe there will be some titles that will surprise me and perhaps we will have some new announcements too. Let’s hope 2018 is a good year for games! Let me know the games you’re looking forward to in the comments or on either of my Twitter handles @samcoles2 or @bristoliangamer. 

Friday, 29 December 2017

Dead Rising 4 Review (PS4) - And a zombie in a pear tree!

By Sam Coles:

The Dead Rising series is something I like, but not necessarily love as I like the idea of decking zombies with any object that isn’t nailed to the ground, but the games I have played are plagued with flawed and clunky controls. To my surprise Dead Rising 4 is a fun experience and it controls very well, but its shelf life is hampered by a Christmas theme, now I know what you’re thinking “Batman Arkham Origins is Christmas themed”. Yes that is true but it’s not really the focus, Dead Rising 4 takes the theme and pushes it in your face like your annoying little brother who won’t shut up about the festive season.

Dead Rising 4 puts you back into the journalistic shoes of Frank West where he is tricked by his student into revisiting the source of the first infection, which happened over a decade ago, yes it has been that long since the release of the first game. They have found out that a PMC have created a new strain of the virus that can get around the vaccine that has combat the current zombie virus, one thing leads to another and chaos ensues. The story is a strange one because it’s well performed, but it doesn’t stick to one tone where it is rather serious in one scene, where it then turns goofy and Frank starts acting like an infuriating idiot.

The gameplay is different, well when I say different it’s because I haven’t played a Dead Rising game since 2010 because A. I didn’t have an Xbox One with the advent of the third game and B. It looked too grey and brown for a Dead Rising game. The gameplay in general left me smiling and frowning at the same time, let’s call it “smilowning”. Anyway let’s talk about the gameplay, like other entries you can still roam around an open area and deck any zombie in the nearby vicinity with any weapon of your choosing, whether it be a typical blade or if you’re an idiot you hit them in the head with a stuffed bear. You have an open season in terms of what you want to use on the undead, not only that with the pre-mentioned useless items they can be combined to create weapons of mass destruction.  

Here is the part that the game left me, as I coined it “smilowning” the crafting! Now I’m not saying the system itself is bad, not at all as I love strapping fireworks to a crossbow and shooting it into a crowd of zombies and watching it explode. What I don’t like is that you can craft combo weapons on the fly which in my opinion sucks all tension and exploration out of the game because you no longer have to seek salvage in the form of a work bench.

Another aspect that they have brought back from the original game is camera mechanic, how this works is that you can take photos which will gain you extra XP rewards, depending on how horrific or brutal your photos are. Like any other game with a camera mechanic these days, the devs seem to think everyone wants to take a selfie, which looks rather sad with Frank West who a middle aged man by this point taking a selfie like someone in his teens or early twenties.

Visually the game is decent, character models look great with decent details and fantastic lip syncing that is spot on. The environments are rather bland, considering the festive setting it is rather subdue, with grey outdoor areas. The game runs rather well, yes only at 30 frames per second (for the most part), but honestly that does not bother me as I understand considering the amount of explosions and zombies there are on the screen.

Overall Dead Rising 4 is an okay game, nothing mind blowing, but it will kill some time from cradle to grave, so if you’re looking for some mindless action I would say give this a go. If you’re a PS4 owner it is now available on that system in the form of the not so subtle phallic joke, Frank’s Big Package.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review - Gun slinging action.

By Sam Coles:

The Call of Juarez series I feel is underrated, as I don’t often hear people talk about it and I understand the last major release The Cartel was received as well as a fart in a lift, but that is one out of three games. Call of Juarez Gunslinger was a small download only game released on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC all the back in the summer of 2013, and was an excellent game with a fun story, great gameplay and a good looking art style. The question I have to ask is why have we not got another game in the series? It’s been over four years; maybe people are still too scared to make western games due to Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption.

Call of Juarez Gunslinger is about a lone bounty hunter named Silas Greaves, who is an old man who walks into a saloon looking for someone. He ends up meeting people who have heard of his exploits; he then ends up telling them stories of his past where he spins tales of him riding with notorious figures in the old west like Billy the Kid and hunting down the legendary Jesse James. It’s a fun story because what is unique is that when he is narrating during gameplay things start to appear like wooden planks when he is running across a rooftop, or not remembering things properly where a gameplay segment starts again which leads to some humorous moments.  

Gameplay is a first person shooter, but instead of hiding behind cover waiting to pick people off, it’s all about pulling off stylish kills at high speeds similar to Bulletstorm, but less over the top rag dolls and exploding limbs. The game really encourages you to keep moving, because if you skip a beat your score will reset. How this works is that the more you kill in succession the more your score builds up coupled with more stylish kills which can consist of headshots, melee kills or causing a chain reaction with explosions.

What I like about the gameplay of this game, is that it has an old school feel as it encourages mobility and speed as you’re a sitting duck if you stay in cover. You can play it like a cookie cutter shooter, but the enemies don’t stay in the same place and will eventually start charging your position or flush you out with dynamite.

Visually the game looks really good; it shoots for a cell shaded look as Borderlands during this period was very popular so other publishers tried to replicate the success of that game with the graphics. Feedback from enemies when you shoot them is extremely satisfying as you see blood gushing out with a suitably sickening sound as it pours out. Although there can be some pop in issues, as I was playing this game on the Xbox 360 which I’m sure it is not an issue on the PC.

Overall Call of Juarez Gunslinger is a game that we need more of with its western setting and fast and frantic gameplay. It’s not expensive but it wasn’t expensive to begin with, so go download it on Steam, PSN or Xbox Live with the latter being playable on Xbox One via Backwards Compatibility. 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) Review - The Sith has many forms.

By Sam Coles:

I swear with each rebooted game franchise the industry is purposely trying to mess with my archiving system because now I have two games in my collection called Star Wars Battlefront II. Does it live up to the original Battlefront II that came out in 2005 on the PS2 and Xbox, yes and no as it has some questionable design when it comes to the progression in multiplayer.

Unlike the 2015 release of Star Wars Battlefront this game has a singleplayer story campaign; it takes place in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. You play as an elite Stormtrooper who is a part of the legendary Inferno Squad, who are sent in to mop up on Endor during the siege of the Death Star II, but it all goes wrong and the Empire is defeated. They have a contingency plan called Operation Scorch where they attack planets with a satellite weapon where they assert their presence in the galaxy; however Iden the character you play as starts to see what the empire truly is after attacking her home planet and defects to the rebellion. This is a painfully predictable twist which I saw from a mile off because during the lead up to this game’s release I thought we would have had a good story from the empire’s point of view, but no we get the clich├ęd switching side nonsense. The story is well performed with some memorable set pieces the stand out being the Battle of Jakku, but it’s also extremely short as I managed to finish it in 4 hours. This is where the multiplayer comes into play which has a few problems with progression.

The multiplayer a step in the right direction compared to the 2015 release, as there are more features and maps but there are fewer modes because I remember there being more modes in last game. The maps are all different and unique with varied combat scenarios which have dynamic weather systems where it can be night time one round and dusk the next.

The modes that stand out the most are Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault, Galactic Assault are huge battles that take place on the ground taking you through different scenarios. Each scenario is fun and interesting from the Battle of Hoth where you have to escort two AT-AT walkers to destroy the rebels shield generators, to the Clone Wars era battling it out on the streets of Naboo. 

The Starfighter Assault mode are space battles which are a lot of fun with unique ships from the Star Wars universe with the iconic noise of the Tie Fighters to the X-Wings unfolding ready for battle. The objectives in this mode are generally defend your capital ships or thinning down enemy reinforcements, it controls well and dogfights can get really tense. 

Now we get to the class and progression system and this is my biggest problem with Battlefront II, if you don’t know EA got a lot of heat about the progression due to the loot box system breaking the game. The loot boxes have game changing rewards which people can pay real money for which results in unfair advantages. It is painfully slow to level up in this game, I’m only level 11 and I’ve been playing the game’s multiplayer for over 14 hours, fortunately they have fixed the issue of unlocking hero characters by making them cheaper with the in game currency, so it no longer takes 40 hours to unlock Darth Vader. However that is not the point it should have been easier to unlock characters and not a slow process, every time I feel like I’m getting somewhere in this game’s multiplayer it throws up a wall in front me with the progression

The presentation is fantastic; it is to be expected with a game made by DICE as they are the minds behind the Battlefield series. There is a lot of detail in this game and they surpass CGI cities that were produced back in 1999 in Star Wars Episode 1, the city of Theed on Naboo looks fantastic with leaves blowing across the floor, to citizens fleeing in terror. All the iconic battles and planets have been recreated beautifully; you can really tell that this game was made by fans of Star Wars because there is a lot of care put into the graphics. All of this detail with a smooth 60 frames per second on console is absolutely mind boggling.

Star Wars Battlefront II is a hard game to judge because underneath all the shady business practises and slow progression is a genuinely good game, with a good but predictable campaign and multiplayer with developed gameplay. However the business practises with the loot boxes, the pay to win elements and slow class progression ultimately pulls it down, until they remove these completely I can’t recommend it entirely.