Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Technomancer Review - An average action RPG.

By Sam Coles:

There are some games that I play that aren’t awful, but they’re not good they’re just a bit of a sore fest. The Technomancer is one of those games, let me make something very clear it’s not a bad game, but it is average with mechanics that we’ve seen countless times with no progression or variation. Who would have thought where a game where you can shoot lightning out of your hands could be this boring. Let’s go into more detail!

The Technomancer’s story revolves around a group of people in the titular group where they have a unique ability use electric based powers and this is not through some divine power, but through mutations they have endured. You play as Zachariah who is a fresh Technomancer going in for the final stages of his training, you will uncover dark secrets throughout the organisation as they do not act like normal humans as they are augmented to be machines. The story is your typical rookie joining up and finding out the dark secrets of the organisation this is Call of Duty levels of narratives predictable, which doesn’t mean it’s bad if it is performed well and unfortunately the voice acting isn’t consistent, on one hand it can be good and on the other it can be bad and out of place.

The game is an action RPG similar to games like Dragon Age Origins and the Mass Effect games probably closer to those games only because of the setting. You explore areas, kill enemies and collect loot the standard stuff but honestly the combat is a chore, what kind of combat is it I hear you ask? It is melee based which in theory should work but it takes far too long to kill some enemies and it has questionable hit detection as I’ve been hit by enemies even though I’ve dodge their attack and there is a huge gap between us.  What I like about the combat is that you can switch your stance on the fly which will change what weapons you can use, these can range from Staffs, A gun and knife combo or a club and shield and this keeps fights fresh which makes you change your strategy when fighting different enemy types.

For each stance and your Technomancy skill which is basically magic if it were set in a high fantasy setting. This is good being able to upgrade each section, but my problem is that there are too many upgrades yes you can have your standard stuff like increase damage and health etc. but to include passive skills that you don’t know are working or not is a bit of an irritating situation have upgrades that mean something.

Graphically the game looks good with the environments they’ve nailed the atmosphere of Mars with the underground dark bunkers to the dusty deserts of the red planet, atmosphere nailed with the visuals. The character models on the other hand don’t stand the test of time as they have stiff facial and body animation it looks like something from an early PS3 or Xbox 360 game, where emotional expressions just come across as a bit weird.

The Technomancer is not a bad game, but it doesn’t strive to differ itself from other action RPG’s it has the standard Arkham brawling system, with the predictable plot and the uninspired upgrade system. I repeat this is not a bad game, it is average maybe pick it up if you’re curious. 

Friday, 17 June 2016

Dead Space Review - Resident Evil 4 in space!

By Sam Coles:

I remember buying Dead Space when I was 16 years old from my local retro game store which I still go to now. When I took it to the counter the guy asked me if I have heard of this game and I said No, I bought it because it looked cool. How he described was “Resident Evil 4 in space” I was immediately sold on that concept because I just finished Resident Evil 4 at that point. I took it home and it was a hot and dark evening everyone in my house had gone to bed and I didn’t realise how tense and scary this game was not only through the jump scares, but with the atmosphere as it borrows from Doom 3.

You play as Isaac Clark an engineer who has been sent to a space station that has gone dark on the radar. You get to the station and find that no one is there and there is nothing but darkness, silence and the distant hums of machinery still working. It’s not long until you find out that everything has gone wrong and the station is occupied by mutated humans called necromorphs. Isaac runs for his life into a lift where the monster tries to pry open the doors but the strength of the doors over whelm it where the doors then proceed to snap shut and tear its arms off. This game is very gory so if you don’t like intense violence then you won’t like this.

The gameplay is a third person shooter mixed with survival horror like Resident Evil 4, you would think that this game wouldn’t be scary as you have a decent amount of ammo, you would be wrong. The atmosphere is what sells this game for me the game is surprisingly quiet most of the time with no music, it’s the distant hums of the computers and machinery in the background that accompany you throughout the game with the subtle scratches in the vents as the necromorhps stalk you. This game makes you cautious about corpses where you curb stomp them without hesitation because you never know if it will get up and rearrange your head towards your chest.

The main gameplay mechanic/gimmick is that you have to shoot off their limbs in order to kill them because shooting them in the head won’t cut it no pun intended. Aim for their legs, arms or cut them in half with a buzz saw it is really satisfying the combat.

You have upgrade elements with your suit which will let you take more damage or increase time of your telekinesis or time slow down. Oh yes you have specialised powers similar to Bioshock which will help you solve puzzles or give you an edge in combat.

Presentation is fantastic with detailed environments and the character models still look good whether they’re human or not. Actually let’s talk about the enemy design because it’s very interesting because if memory serves me Visceral based the design of the necromorphs on human accident photos they studied with horrendous injuries hence why they look so grotesque with bone protruding out of their shoulders etc.

Dead Space is a tense and terrifying experience if you’re looking for a good horror game for your Xbox 360, PS3 or PC then grab this game it’s very cheap and easy to find so go out and get it!    

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone Review - A modern interpretation of the Pan Twardowski legend.

By Sam Coles:

Hearts of Stone was an interesting and entertaining experience as it could juggle between serious moments to silly and funny moments better than the base game. If you’re familiar with German and Eastern European plays and poems then you’ll see that this game has a striking resemblance to a couple of pieces.

The story starts off simple enough Geralt is hired to do standard Witcher stuff by killing a giant toad which is a prince but you can’t kiss this toad to turn him back Geralt must dispose of him with his silver sword. Geralt then faints when the toad jumps over him when he slices his stomach over his head because all the mucus and venom lands on Geralt. It’s not long until Geralt is captured because it turns out you killed an actual prince and you’re being transported on a boat to the chopping block. One lonely night on the voyage a familiar face shows up he calls himself the merchant of mirrors and if you remember he is the man who tells you about Yennifer back in White Orchard as the start of the game.

The merchant of mirror’s or Gaunter O’Dimm gives Geralt a task as repayment for saving him from capture and that is to collect a debt from the man who sent him to kill toad prince and that man is named Olgierd Von Everec. You must fulfil three outlandish tasks for him after that it will fulfil the contract.

The game’s basic premise is a loose interpretation of the German legend called Faust where a bored scholar summons the devil and makes a deal, but it’s based more on the Polish version called Pan Twardowski . In Pan Twardowski the a Doctor makes a deal with the devil like in Faust but he tries to out whit the devil’s contract that he will only give up the clause if he visits Rome, but the devil out smarts him by meeting him in a bar called Rome. So basically Olgierd does the same by striking a deal for immortality with the same impossible three tasks or as he thinks they are.

Faust is not the only piece of classic writing that it retells, there is a quest where Olgierd tells you to show his older a brother a good time, but there is one problem he’s dead so you must go to the Von Everec tomb and resurrect his ghost. When you resurrect him he’s ready to go to a wedding, but there is one problem he can’t touch anything because being a ghost it just passes through him, so he possess Geralt. This quest is loosely based on an early 20th century Polish play called the wedding where spirits attend a wedding.

Hearts of Stone is an excellent expansion because of its retelling of Pan Twardowski as it’s both intriguing and entertaining, I would highly recommend getting this expansion for the main quest alone and it’s not expensive so it’s a bargin. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review - A great continuation to the saga.

By Sam Coles:

What Sam is reviewing another J-RPG? Stop the presses! Yes I am reviewing another J-RPG a continuation of the last one I reviewed because I enjoy the genre these days as I’ve matured into an older gamer. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a great sequel with a good story although it can get confusing in places because of the time travel aspect, but overall a great experience which I’ll get into.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 starts with Lightning in battle and she has become a godly figure with her Nordic armour and fittingly the place she is in is Valhalla. The space time continuum has been torn a sunder so she sends Noel who is from the future to find her sister Sera to bring her back to Valhalla. I have to say once again the voice acting and performances in this saga is fantastic I love Lightning as she is a total bad arse who doesn’t take any prisoners and doesn’t let anyone push her around. Sera’s character development is great as well because she starts off being too dependent on her sister and she then grows into a strong woman who can look after herself.

The gameplay is more or less the same but it has been tweaked to be more streamlined compared to the original title and I must say combat flows better in this game compared the original title. They cut out a lot of the animations that really annoyed me in Final Fantasy XIII especially when you change paradigm shifts it doesn’t bother with the over long animation it just changes the style. How you engage in battles has changed because the enemies aren’t wandering around the area like before, but instead it’s like the old random encounter system but you have a chance to strike and get a pre-empted strike which will also give a speed advantage when attacking. I prefer the battle system in this game compared to the last game because it doesn’t out stay its welcome.

The crystarium makes a return for the levelling up system, but again it has been streamlined to make it easier to level up each paradigm so you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time to go over level 3 you can level up as much as you want if you have the XP points.

Graphically it’s on par with the original game with added polish with superb animations and beautiful vistas to explore. The character models still look great with unique looks to them and quirks. The soundtrack is beautiful once again I have to listen to the music that plays at the main menu before I even contemplate starting the game it’s that good.

The only problem I have with this game is that the frame rate can dip in a few places, one part where I noticed it the most was during episode two where it was raining and the frame took a hit because of the intense weather effects. It didn’t happen too often so it didn’t sour my experience.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a great experience and I would highly recommend picking it up as it’s super cheap these days on Xbox 360 and PS3. Thank you Kim for getting me into these games they’ve opened up a new path in gaming for me I appreciate it.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Dead Island Definitive Collection Review - Boring and repetitive slog.

By Sam Coles:

When I first played Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide in 2011 and 2013 I absolutely hated it, due to the poor controls, muddy and blurry graphics and tons of bugs. When Techland were working on a new zombie property Dying Light, I sighed but it turns out I love that game, so I took it upon myself to try Dead Island again and unfortunately I still haven’t changed my opinion.

So what do you get in this package? Well you get Dead Island, Dead Island Riptide and a fun little beat ‘em up game called Dead Island Retro Revenge it is fun but does get repetitive over time. They’ve updated the lighting and visuals by using the engine from Dying Light which gives it an extra sparkle. Does it solve the technical and gameplay issues from before? In short no, no it doesn’t. I really wanted to give these games another chance but I didn’t enjoy my experience as it’s frustrating and boring, maybe it’s my fatigue with zombies, but who asked for this remaster?

Dead Island and Riptide take place on an open world holiday resort or jungle in Riptide which are infested with the undead I have to say that the environments do look good in this game. You must pick a character, each character have specific skills in combat and this can range from blunt weapons, edged weapons or firearms, don’t pick the firearms expert because you rarely come across guns in both games and when you do you have barely any ammo.

Gameplay is mostly first person brawling with melee combat which you would think would work because games like Condemned made melee combat brutally satisfying, but the it works like gun physics. Hear me out because when you usually swing a weapon in most games you can generally hit two or three at the same time, but Dead Island requires you to have your reticule aimed directly at the zombies and this can be a pain because you’re failing your weapon around with no impact. You can also craft weapons to have over the top effects like a baseball bat with lightning capabilities this a nice feature as it keeps things fresh during combat.

Graphically the game looks pretty good with the environments they’ve injected more colour with the lush tropical jungles by adding in more foliage and upping some of the textures. I can’t say the same for the character models as they look very stilted and stiff with flapping jaws every time they speak. There is a very annoying effect with the visuals and that is the blurry effects that will sometimes happen, I don’t why they added this in but it’s very distracting an option to turn it off would have been nice. Another graphical annoyance was the noise film grain effect it makes the game look terrible in some areas especially in poorly lit ones, why do developers continue to use film grain it makes the game look worse not better.

Overall I just didn’t have fun with this game it’s boring, repetitive, buggy and laughable with the voice acting. I feel that these games were Techlands very rough drafts before they made the game they wanted to make Dying Light. I wouldn’t recommend playing these games if you want something engaging because these games are not go play Dying Light instead.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Far Cry 2 Review - Venturing into the unknown.

By Sam Coles:

There are certain games that I’ll play during specific seasons and that could be because I like to increase my immersion to reflect the environments back at me in real life or I’m very weird. Far Cry 2 is one of those games it’s because there is nothing like playing the game early in the evening as you start to sweat as you trudge through the desert or humid jungles. I love this game and it gets a lot of flak for some reason and to be honest I never understood why as it’s a decent open world first person shooter.

Far Cry 2 takes place in a fictional North African country where you play as a mute faceless mercenary where you are tasked to hunt down a notorious arms deal named The Jackal where he has been taking advantage of the situation where he is selling arms to the two factions who are engaging in a civil war. I do find this a bit contradictory because you end up taking advantage as well because you jump between the two factions earning diamonds (the game’s currency) as you heighten tension between the two factions. Honestly the story isn’t that interesting and The Jackal as a villain isn’t great as he shows up three times in the game and he ends up helping you at the end of the game.

Far Cry 2’s gameplay is simple you journey around two large maps completing missions for factions, buddies or gun dealers to unlock better weapons. This sort system would be shunted these days as generic and boring, but bear in mind that this game is one of the first open world first person shooters so it was in its infancy. When you’re on a mission for a faction your buddy will ring you and tell you take an alternative mission or takedown a different person instead of the one you’ve been instructed to kill. I like this system because it makes think do you want to increase your notoriety or do you want a buddy as back up with a new safe house.

You can unlock new weapons by buying them with conflict diamonds which you’ll find scattered around the world or when you finish missions and you can then trade them for weapons and once you’ve bought that weapon it’s yours forever and you can pick it up from the warehouse next to the shop. Be warned though your guns will wear over time and this is what people don’t like about this game I however love it because it increases the tension in gunfights when your gun jams or and you’re panicking when you gun explodes in your hand. You can pick up enemy weapons but the problem there is that their weapons will be rusty and warn so use them at your own peril or if you are in the middle of nowhere with no other choice.

The game looks absolutely stunning with its environments with the dusty trails as you walk through town to the lush and vibrant jungles as you go inland. The explosions and fire effects are the best effects I’ve seen in a game I don’t think I’ve seen a game that has topped these effects. Fire will dynamically spread when you set grass or trees on fire and I’m stunned how the frame rate doesn’t drop with these effects.

The problems I have with this game is one that everyone hates the malaria attacks because they’re unpredictable and it breaks the flow of gameplay. Another nit-pick I have the AI is overly aggressive and will shoot you on sight, you can’t out run them because they seem to have faster cars than you even though they have the same car. Finally the fast travel system isn’t great as you can only fast travel from bus stations and you have to drive or walk there.

Far Cry 2 is a great game if you want to play a decent open world fps, by all means it’s not perfect but it is a tense and exciting experience. The game is very cheap and easy to find on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Witcher 3: Blood and Wine Expansion Review - Beautiful views with a glass of red.

By Sam Coles:

The Witcher series has to be one of my favourite franchises from the books to the games they’re beautifully crafted with great stories, worlds and characters. The Witcher 3 was my favourite game of 2015 and when I was done with it I was hungry for more! It wasn’t too long until CD Projekt Red were talking about their expansions and they bragged that they’re like their own standalone games, which they’re right and you get more than your money’s worth with this expansion. So let’s dive into the region of Toussaint.

Blood and Wine takes place in the southern region of Toussaint where it is untouched by the war between Nilfgaurd and the Northern Kingdoms. It’s a beautiful place it’s a mixed between southern France and Mediterranean Italy with vineyards and olive fields that stretch across the hills. Geralt has been summoned to Toussaint by the Duchess herself as there have been several grisly murders of her knights by a vampire creature which Geralt has find out who this vampire is. The story is great it’s a mixture of light hearted moments where you’re taking part in a tourney as a knight which is a lot of fun, to the more dark and emotional moments when plot twists unfold. The main story quest will take you over 10 hours to finish which is the same length of the Doom campaign, CD Projekt Red have out done themselves and actually give you substantial content with an add on because they understand that expansions are meant to add longevity to your favourite games.

If you get bored of the main quest there are lots of side quests to do which will grant you new weapons and armour to build up Geralt and one of the secondary quests as I mentioned earlier sees you taking part of a Knight’s tourney which is a lot of fun.

So let’s talk about the region of Toussaint itself. It’s a beautiful place to explore; when I first arrived in the region my mouth was open in awe because I was absolutely stunned by the sheer beauty of the region with the teal blue skies and the vineyards stretching for miles and miles over the hills. The towns and villages are great to walk around in as you listen to the new soundtrack which was again provided by the polish folk band Percival. I’ve wasted countless hours just looking around and not achieving anything because the landscape is just so nice to look at where I just soak in the peaceful atmosphere.   

Blood and Wine is a wonderful expansion which is the gold standard for add on content as it gives you over 20 hours of extra content. So if you’ve been looking for an excuse to jump back into the Witcher 3 then pick this up and venture into Toussaint, then grab yourself a glass of the local wine. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Call of Duty: World at War Review - The last World War II shooter of the era.

By Sam Coles:

Now if I were to walk into a room these days and say I like playing Call of Duty people would probably disregard my opinion about gaming although I do play all sorts of games, but the fact I like to play game where I can turn brain off for a bit makes me a casual. Call of Duty from a technical and content aspect is not a bad game because they’ve always provided consumers a full gaming package with singleplayer, multiplayer and a co-op experience. I’m digressing a bit I’m here to talk about one of the best Call of Duty games from the Xbox 360 and PS3 era and that game is World at War. World at War was the last major World War II shooter released during that era and if you were around during the period from 1999 to 2008 there was an over saturation of that type of shooter.

World at War’s campaign tells a story that is fresh compared to other shooters that are set in the era where they tell same story from the European front, no World at War starts with a torture scene as you and your fellow marine have been captured by the Japanese and I have to mention that this game is really violent and gory. You play from the perspective from two different countries, you play as the US marines in the Pacific fronts and you play as the Soviets during the invasion of Berlin when the Soviets sent in 1 million soldiers to storm the Reichstag, the campaign is tense and exciting and shocking with the gory content which I was surprised that it was rated a 15 at the time it was released, but I think they wanted younger audiences to realise that war is hell.

The gameplay is similar to Call of Duty 4 as it runs on the same engine as that game so you point and shoot and the enemies generally die, but with the added effect with their arms exploding into meaty chunks. Enemies have different tactics especially in the Pacific fronts where they lay out traps on the ground or they will hide in trees and snipe you, this can get tricky on Hardened or Veteran difficulty. This is where they start to use famous actors to voice characters in the series with Keifer Sutherland and Gary Oldman voicing in this game and Gary Oldman would continue to voice in Treyarch’s next project Black Ops.

Graphically the game still looks really good even the character models look great with wet skin textures showing when they emerge from water to the veins showing up on the side of the head. The environments look fantastic with war torn beaches to the bombed out and grey pallet of the depressing streets of Berlin. The sound design is top notch as well with explosions rumbling your sub-woofer if you have one to the soldiers shouting at each other across the battlefield it’s great immersion and it feels like you are there.

There is multiplayer either competitive or cooperative the competitive multiplayer is fun with the addition of tanks which mixed things up a bit; it had the usual weapon loadouts and attachments. This is World War II so there are few attachments you can have a grenade launcher at the end of your M1 Garand or you can have a flamethrower as back up. I would not recommend playing it these days because it’s riddled with hackers which isn’t fun because it is a shame the game is a lot of fun. The zombie mode was fun at the time, but if you know me I’m fed up with the whole zombie aspect where they will insert it into popular culture when they’ve ran out of ideas.

Call of Duty: World at War is a fantastic game and was a great swan song to the World War II shooter when people were moving onto modern warfare. If you haven’t played it go get it! It’s cheap and easy to find on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Review - "Say hello to my little friend"

By Sam Coles:

Grand Theft Auto now there is a title that is known for better or worse, better if you’re an avid gamer as it shaped a structure of how open world games are supposed to be made or worse if you’re a worried parent or right winged nutter. Grand Theft Auto is very influential in the gaming industry and if you owned a PS2 or still have a PS2 you probably own GTA III to San Andreas. I’m here to talk about Vice City my favourite game in the series and before you call me a twat in the comments it’s my opinion so don’t let it keep you up at night.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City starts with a big drug deal as Tommy Vercetti played by Ray Liotta hands over two cases of cocaine, however the deal was an ambush and Tommy’s colleagues are gun down in cold blood with the coke and 4 million dollars are stolen so Tommy comes out with nothing. Tommy phones his boss Sonny which to no surprise is not pleased with this report and has a bit of a tantrum. So Tommy must go on a quest across the neon lit streets of Vice City and rub shoulders with scum bags to help find his money to make sure he doesn’t end up in the bottom of the river. I love the story in this game as it is set in the 80’s so it’s a mixture of Scarface and Miami Vice so it’s cheesy and over the top which I love!

The gameplay wasn’t a massive leap from GTA III, but they took the foundations of that game and they tweaked them with better mobility and gunplay with more weapons to cause chaos with. They added new vehicle types like motorbikes, helicopters and a plane that flies like a plane and doesn’t glide like it did in GTA III. The missions had more variety as well and it wasn’t simply pick this person up or kill that person, you had certain stipulations in some missions like having a bomb rigged to your car etc. They added property which you could buy and save in different locations, but some of buildings can be used as a front where you can accumulate money over time and they have side missions tide to them to add few more hours of gameplay.

Presentation is nailed with the 1980’s setting and the game still looks pretty good considering that it came out 15 years ago, but the character models look a bit polygonal and not very good. The environment still looks decent with the neon signs, the beaches on a hot day and the blue teal water glimmering in sunshine as you skim a speedboat across the waters of Vice City. The game has a great selection of licenced music from the era from Slayer to Michael Jackson, it has something for everyone.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a blast to play with the over the top action, interesting characters and a killer soundtrack. If you haven’t played this A. where have you been the last 15 years and B. go get it! It’s super cheap on the PS2 I picked it up for 50p in a charity shop or you can get on iOS or Android devices or you can pick it up on the PSN store on PS3 and PS4.

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