Thursday, 28 January 2016

Just Cause 3 Review - Destroy the World.

By Sam Coles:

Chaos is the word that can sum up Just Cause 3 with the over the top gameplay with the explosions and high octane violence that doesn’t take itself seriously with an action movie tongue in cheek attitude.  Just Cause when it first came out was a strange Grand Theft Auto clone and people didn’t know what to think about it, when the second game came out in 2010 it was clear what the game wanted to do. After five years we get the third game in the series and it knows what it wants to be despite some technical issues.

You once again step into the shoes of Rico Rodriguez a mercenary who sorts out regions that are under the rule of dictators. His adventures take him back to his homeland Medici where he is trying to help the local resistance take down the warlord who is ruling over the people. The story is fairly generic, but it has fun and quirky characters that will make you chuckle here and there, but to be honest no one plays Just Cause for the story it’s all about the gameplay. 

The gameplay has had some tweaks for better and worse but I’ll get into that later. You’ll  traverse Medici via cars, aircraft, boats and your grapple hook, parachute and wing suit combo which defy the laws of physics as you travel around the 400 square mile map, yes 400 square miles. The best way to travel the map is the parachute and grapple hook because you can build up insane momentum and insane speeds as you travel down the side of a mountain with the wing suits which makes all the other vehicles useless. In terms of the bad they have gotten rid of the dodge roll from Just Cause 2 and I ask why? Aiming down sights is an upgrade option as well that would be like if in Call of Duty unlocking the ability to fire your gun it’s ridiculous.  

The main thing you’ll be doing in this game is blowing stuff up and it’s so much fun to enter a military base and burn it to the ground with various of weapons such as rocket launchers, grenade launchers, duel SMGs and so much more. You can even you use your grapple as a weapon by tethering objects together causing some devastating effects. You can take down a base without firing a single shot which makes you think outside the box and get creative with the grapple hook by using the environment to your advantage and plus it’s fun to tether someone to a jet and fly off.

The map is split up into 3-4 major islands and within them there are several provinces to liberate and you do this by destroying propaganda within towns or destroying military bases which will liberate that area. The more provinces you liberate the more weapons and vehicles you’ll gain to help you get around and fight. I like this because it gives you an incentive to do the side stuff, however it does get a bit repetitive in the latter stages of the game because it forces you to do these activities in order to continue the story which can be a pain.

The graphics are beautiful it really feels that you’re in the fictional region of Medici with the lush fields of poppies to the breath taking mountains as you glide down it with your wing suit. This is one of the best looking games of the year.

The explosions are bright, vibrant and light up the darkness when you’re causing chaos at night coupled with the star studded sky.  Everything is colourful and varied you never really see the same landscape from the Spanish villas in the towns to the white sands on the beaches sometimes I’ll just stand there and take in the views because they’re so breath taking.

The main problem I have with this game this is only apparent with the console versions and not the PC, the game’s frame rate with drop to unplayable digits to about 20 fps or lower. This only happens when you really start tearing things up with lots of explosions which makes the game slow down like crazy. Avalanche Studios are aware of this problem; however they don’t know when they’re going to fix this problem with a patch.  There is also a problem with loading times because when I first booted the game up it took nearly four minutes to load.  When you are in the middle of the game and when you die it will take between 60-90 seconds to load again. This is unacceptable! It really sucks you out of this game because it’s fantastic when you’re playing but problems like this just in rage me.

Just Cause 3 is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and is a great way to take out your stress on by blowing stuff up and causing absolute chaos after a long day. This is a fantastic game to close the year with and I would highly recommend it if you want a good open world game with lots to do. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Trilogy Retrospective : Black Ops.

By Sam Coles:

I know what you’re thinking “Another Call of Duty trilogy”? Yes because I’m on a high at the moment and the Black Ops games are really good because Treyarch have always put a lot of effort with their campaigns. So let’s go through the trilogy even the most recent game that came out a few months ago.

Black Ops (2010):

After the lukewarm views of World at War this game basically came out of nowhere because we were expecting Treyarch to copy Infinity Ward with a counter argument with Modern Warfare, but no they did some unique and different.

Black Ops takes place during the 60’s in the height of the Cold War, so you’ll go through war zones and operations like the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vietnam War. You play as Alex Mason who works for the CIA and serves in the SOG unit in the military, during the Bay of Pigs invasion he is captured by Castro and then handed over to the Soviets.

Mason is then sent to a work camp where he meets a familiar face if you played World at War, Reznov who was a former captain in the Red Army befriends Mason, Mason is then brain washed by the Russians as an assassin to try and kill the president. However Reznov takes advantage of this and uses him to kill the men who betrayed him. The story sees Mason spiral into madness as you journey further into the campaign as he starts talking to himself in the tunnels in Vietnam to thinking that he is Reznov, it’s an interesting story that I didn’t expect from a Call of Duty game with its deep psychological horror.

Black Ops brought something new and interesting to the table in terms of the multiplayer to try differ itself from the Modern Warfare games. It introduced the COD points system which was weirdly never used again, what this means is that you could unlock weapons and equipment at your own pace. You can earn points by doing challenges in matches or you can participate in wager matches where you put down bets of COD points which are in different categories where you can bet small amounts to large amounts. I liked this system because it wasn’t just about earning experience because you had something to lose when you lost a wager match.

Black Ops II (2012):

The sequel to Black Ops takes place in the not so distant future of the year 2025 where the human race is relying heavily on autonomous technology such as drones etc. Unfortunately a man named Raul Menéndez has found a loop hole where he can control the entire United States drone fleet which leaves the country in chaos.

The story is split into two time periods the first is set in 1986 where you once again take control of the brain washed maniac Alex Mason and in 2025 where you play as Alex’s son David. The parts in the 80’s shows why Raul has a passionate rage for the US as well as the Mason family, the reason why he hates both Masons is because Alex shoots him in the eye in the first mission. What’s unique about this campaign is that it’s not set on a linear path with the outcome because there are different paths and ending which leads to replay value and it confuses me why didn’t do the same thing with the third game.

Multiplayer gameplay was mostly left unchanged in terms of movement where you run around and point and shoot at anything that moves. However they introduced the “Pick 10” system where you had 10 slots you could fill up in your loadout, this could make your loadouts more flexible with what you want your play style to be and it would carry over into non Treyarch games.

Zombies mode makes a comeback again which gain popularity in World at War but to tell the truth by the time of this game’s release I was bored of the whole zombie nonsense because in my opinion it’s the white noise of creativity.

Black Ops III (2015):

So here we are the conclusion of the Trilogy of the Black Ops series and the most recent entry in the franchise to be on the 8th generation of consoles. The story takes place in the 2060’s where the world has been plunged into chaos after the drone attacks of 2025 and all militaries have to abide by the rules of drone usage so another event like that doesn’t happen.

You are a part of the Winslow Accord where you go behind the scenes and sort everything out in war torn countries. On one of your missions you’re left fight for your life as an autonomous robot tears you apart limb by limb (yes really). You’re on your death bed, but you’re saved by a soldier John Tailor who then gets medical attention for you. You now have a cybernetic body with a DNI, which lets you communicate with your fellow soldiers with your mind and also means you can hack things with your mind as well. The game does go into the ethics of augmenting soldiers with the fact that they are using mind control by building chips into their mind and I like this story it’s a mix of Dues Ex, Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner.

The gameplay was interesting in the campaign because it wasn’t just about shooting, you have these abilities called “Cybercores” and these add a bit of variety to fire fights. These can range from cyber flies swarming to set soldiers on fire, mass shutdown which can shut down robots, drones and weapons or my favourite where you can make people vomit to death.  These can be upgraded to do more damage or take control of bigger drones which is good, although it can break the game once you’re fully upgraded because you can end gun battles almost immediately which makes playing the game on the hardest setting a breeze.

The multiplayer actually got a bit of boost in this game in terms of its mobility and features. You now have a distinct character you play as called “Specialist” where they different traits and abilities they can use from ground pounding gravity spikes to a one shot kill revolver, it keeps it fresh and encourages you to change each match. The mobility has been upgrade as you can now run on walls and boost jump, this makes it easier for you to get out of bad situations if things aren’t going your way, it reminds me of the old shooters like Quake and Doom with its fast paced action which require quick reflexes.

The Black Ops trilogy are a great set of games which strive to show that singleplayer campaigns are important by introducing you to a dark, twisted and interesting story with mind control and revenge. You should definitely play these games the first two games are cheap these days, but you’ll have to pay a bit more for the third game as it only came out two months ago.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Trilogy Retrospective: Modern Warfare.

By Sam Coles:

I know Call of Duty always results with a massive sigh from the gaming community these days, but over the years I’ve mentally cut off the title Call of Duty from  and merit them as their own separate title so it’s not Call of Duty Modern Warfare, it is Modern Warfare. So I’ll be going through the Modern Warfare trilogy which first started in 2007 from a transition from World War II to the modern day.

Modern Warfare (2007):

During this time in gaming the Xbox 360 and PS3 were still young and there was an overabundance of World War II games and you can thank Medal of Honour for that, but it took Infinity Ward a company that did make two Call of Duty games that were set in World War II made a bold step.

In late 2007 Modern Warfare was released and no one had seen anything like because the campaign had pacing like a Hollywood blockbuster. The story of Modern Warfare is that an ultra-nationalist leader named Imran Zakhaev who has a passionate hatred for the west and wants to see it crash and burn. You swap between two characters, Soap Mactavish in the British SAS and Sgt Paul Jackson in the USMC. The US parts are the main invasions trying to push back the enemy, where the SAS missions show them behind the scenes fixing everything. The US missions are generally loud and fast paced and the SAS missions are quiet, stealthy and slow which gave you room to breath after long gunfights.

Modern Warfare is known for its multiplayer mainly on Xbox 360 like what Halo 3 did for the system and it was the main reason why a lot of people bought a 360. It had perks which would have different effects on your character whether it be reloading faster or unlimited sprint. You also had kill streaks which will grant you a bonus when you get a certain amount of kills without dying. You have the UAV when you get 3 kills without dying, an airstrike when you get 5 and an attack helicopter when you achieve 7 which will circle the map and kill any enemy that is exposed. You have classes where you can customise your weapons with attachments such as red sights etc. you also unlock camo skins for your guns with certain amount of headshots you achieve with said weapon.

Modern Warfare was a hit and we wouldn’t see a sequel until 2009 and again it would be a big change in terms of content and controversy.

Modern Warfare 2 (2009):

Modern Warfare 2 was a big change for starters in the UK it was rated for the first time by BBFC 18+ which made a lot of people question why? The reason was there was a massive ramp up with the violence and the one level “No Russian” where you go through an airport and gun down unarmed civilians. This was immediately in the news despite the fact there is an option to skip it and there is a warning when you boot up the game about it, but this gave Infinity Ward free publicity and it was the bestselling game in the Call of Duty franchise.

The story of Modern Warfare 2 takes place 5 years after the last game and the world is in shambles due to the fact that one of Imran’s right hand men Vladimir Makarov is trying to start the next global conflict with the US and Russia already at each other’s throats after the events of the original game.  Twists and turns take place in this story as there are two and antagonist the other being General Shepard who wants the US military to be the ultimate super power by any means necessary even it means murdering his own men.

The multiplayer was like the original but times 10 with more weapons, perks and for the first time you could customise your killstreaks which can go up to 25 killstreak which can unlock a game ending tactical nuke.

Modern Warfare 2 was the bestselling game in the Call of Duty franchise and broke records from day one which were beaten later by GTA V.

Modern Warfare 3 (2011):

Modern Warfare 3 was a departure because the original Infinity Ward team did not work on it because Activision fired most of them and they had to get a different studio to help out with the game. Sledgehammer Games who most recently did Advanced Warfare finished the game and you could really tell that they really wanted flex their story telling muscles because this campaign is very engaging and concludes the trilogy perfectly.

World War 3 has finally begun with Makarov’s plans finally coming to fruition; you play as Yuri a former ally to Makarov who is working with Soap and Captain Price who are no longer part of the military. You travel the globe trying foil Makarov’s latest plan of attacking all of Europe with a chemical weapon. You also play as an American soldier who is fighting back against the Russians who have invaded the USA which happened in MW 2, but the conflict is in full swing in this game.

The multiplayer wasn’t really changed that much expect for the killstreak system, it was renamed to point streaks and what this entails is that you can earn a point towards a bonus by killing or capturing objectives. It was a nice change because you’re rewarded with team work and not being a lone run and gunner. You had different categories you have support where you can give ballistic vests to you team mates etc., specialist where you can earn perks on top of the perks you already have and assault which are your traditional killstreaks like attack choppers etc.

Modern Warfare is an action packed trilogy with hours of entertainment, it’s great if you want some good old fashioned popcorn entertainment. If you’re interested the games are wildly available and are super cheap you could probably pick up all three for under £10.Pick them up if you do see them.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Trilogy Retrospective: Max Payne.

By Sam Coles:

Max Payne was a very interesting and unique third person shooter because it had a very dark story with its Neo Noir narrative coupled with gunplay you would see in a John Woo film with bullet time and over the top acrobatics.

Max Payne (2001):

Max Payne sees you play as the titular character who is a cop who at first is happy with his career. It’s not until one night where he returns home and finds that his wife and new born child are murdered by junkies under the influence of a drug called Valkyr.

So Max quits the NYPD and ends up joining the DEA to find out the source of the drug and take down those who are responsible for his family’s death. The game’s story takes some twists and turns from betrayal, conspiracies and Max questioning what is reality and what fiction is. This game gets really trippy with blood trail mazes that you must navigate while you hear the sobbing of Max’s wife and the crying of his child.

What was unique of how the story was told was the fact that game doesn’t use traditional cutscenes, instead it uses graphic novel frames with the different actors saying their lines as well as Max spewing his cynical opinions via monologues it would stay with the sequel but not the third game.

The guys at Remedy got their idea for the gameplay from the original Tomb Raider but they wanted to refine it because they didn’t like the way that Tomb Raider controlled in terms with the camera. So it is a game where you’ll be doing a lot of shooting so they needed a feature to make it stand out from other games on the market with similar themes, so they looked to John Woo with the over the top gun carter and so motion bullet time where you could take out multiple enemies in one swoop.

Max Payne 2 The Fall of Max Payne (2003):

Max Payne 2 was an interesting game because it almost showed an end to the franchise due to the fact that the game sold horrifically poor even though it scored well with critics and gamers, it only sold around 650,000 copies on all systems.

Max Payne 2 continues after the first game where you are looking into an organisation of assassins called The Cleaners. How these events transpire is that Max is targeted by them where is then caught up with a contract killer called Mona Sax who then team up. This is where it gets interesting because you shift between two protagonist rather than sticking to one, this kept things varied so you’re never bored.

Gameplay was more the same as the first but fast and finely tuned, it encouraged you to run in guns blazing which discouraged camping because enemies would charge and flank your position. Max’s shoot dodge and bullet time effect was more like a super power rather than a reflex in this game because it was absolutely ludicrous with how many enemies you could gun down, but it was more fun and responsive.

Max Payne 2 was received well by critics and gamers, however the game sold poorly and Remedy had to restructure their business and we wouldn’t see a sequel for 9 years.

Max Payne 3 (2012):

Max Payne 3 was radically different from the other two games, for starters it was not made by Remedy it was made by Rockstar Games but former Remedy employees did beta test it through its development. This game is very much a split with fans some people like it and some absolutely hate it, I for one love it.

Max Payne 3 takes place well… 9 years after Max Payne 2 and you find Max in Sao Paulo Brazil where he as take up a new job as private security for a rich family known as the Bronco family who are you typically spoilt rich people where the young one is a coke head, another the corrupt politician and the oldest and responsible one. The game’s story is rather simplistic compared to others and people said that Max sounded winey and out of place in this game. I felt Max being out of place fit the story because he didn’t understand the language and the culture and he wasn’t use to the hot and humid weather. He was sort of winey but honestly the amount of things he has been through you can’t really blame him for being a miserable fart.

The gameplay in Max Payne 3 goes back to original with the bullet time and shoot dodge where the hourglass will run down when you use either or. The shooting in this game is fantastic the guns feel that they give a good kick and have weight to them; Max also feels that he has aged the way he moves or dives. The detail in this game is absolutely beautiful with the Brazilian setting from the offices of the Bronco family to the dirty and dark slums of the Favela. My favourite detail by far is how the cutscenes are seamless where Max is holding his weapons like he does in gameplay, it’s a small detail but it helps you get immersed in the story.

Max Payne 3 got a lot of flak from fans due to its different approach with how it was presented, a lot of fans complained about the visual filters during cutscenes saying that it was annoying. However I would counter that by saying it’s supposed to be disorienting because you’re in Max’s booze riddled and painkiller induced mind so things are going to be hazing and fuzzy. Another aspect that fans didn’t like was the fact the graphic novel cutscenes were completely removed, but they did cut some scenes up like a comic book style frame to stay true to the series so not all was lost.

Max Payne is a fantastic trilogy and is one you must play they’re widely available and are super cheap as well so I would recommend picking them up if you want some great action and an interesting story.