Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Alien Isolation Review - A great example of a good movie tie in.

 By Sam Coles:

Film tie ins of video games generally go together as well as a six lane pile up in the middle of Los Angles, however in recent years games based on films well films that are fairly old have been fantastic such as Mad Max and Shadow of Mordor. Alien Isolation was an absolute surprise after the tidal wave of radioactive waste that was Colonial Marines, as Creative Assembly a strategy game developer made a first person survival horror and it’s great minus a few technical issues.  

Alien Isolation is based on the original film which was first released all the way back in 1979 where in this game you play as Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda and she is in search of her mother as she received a destress beacon. Her colleague Samuels who totally not an android (it’s obvious) is trying to persuade her not to go. The story is pretty good and the acting is excellent although Amanda can come across as a tad whiney in some scenes which made me want to serrate my ears off.

The atmosphere and build up is fantastic because when you first step on board the space station you see each individual light turn on down the corridor with nothing but the distant hum of computers and fans. What I like about this game is that you don’t even encounter the alien for about 30-45 minutes and it gives you a false sense of security until finally the alien strikes.

The gameplay is a first person survival horror emphasis on survive as combat is generally a last option and plus the alien can’t die so good luck taking it head on. There are other enemies besides the alien such as crazed humans that will shoot you on site and androids where their programming has gone nuts and will try to strangle you to death. You can find weapons to help you supress these enemies such as a revolver to kill humans with a quick head shot, a shotgun, flamethrower and other leather items to use. What you want to do is to craft non-lethal items like noise makers which will help you distract the alien so you don’t meet your untimely death. Gameplay is great as the alien’s movement and presence is unpredictable which will keep you on your toes however it can feel a bit cheap sometimes as he will find you even though you’re well hidden.

The game’s presentation is superb with great animation from characters and the alien is well animated with great detail with its slow yet fast pace movement as he switches between the two. The environments are beautiful with fantastic dynamic lighting coupled with the cold and grey feeling I get as I walk down the corridor. Sound design is top notch as it is minimal as there is barely any music outside of cinematics it’s all about the diegetic sounds in the game with the terrifying sounds of the heavy footsteps of the alien where he is walking slowly or when he is running when he knows where you are. The sounds of the androids with their calm demeanour as they say they just want to help when they strangle you to the distant cries of crazed crew members.

The only problems I have with this game is that the frame rate has a habit of dipping during cutscenes and some gameplay segments and when the game first released it crashed during an elevator section every time, but these problems have been ironed out with patches.

Alien Isolation is a fantastic game I urge you to go out and get to get into the mood for Halloween you can get it on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and PC. I would recommend getting it on the 8th generation consoles to get the full graphical experience.   

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Resident Evil 4 Review - A good blend of Survival Horror and action.

 By Sam Coles:

It’s the month of Halloween so it’s time to play games that scare you and what a great way to start this month off with possibly one of the best games ever made known as Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 4 reinvigorated series as it was completely scraped and redone from the ground up as the game was picked up by the original creator Shinji Mikami and he changed everything and ditched some of the traditional Resi tropes.

Resident Evil 4 begins by giving the player a quick reminder of the first three games which has no relation to the plot of the game as a whole, but it’s a nice touch. You play as Leon S. Kennedy he is no longer a rookie cop in the Racoon City Police Department he now works for the secret service and is tasked to find the President’s daughter in Rural Spain as she has been kidnapped by a religious cult. The plot is laughable and stupid but I love it as it goes for an un-ironic B-movie camp with intentional and unintentional humour throughout and it will leave you grinning ear to ear throughout.

The gameplay was a huge departure from the other games for better or worse depending who you’re talking to, but I love it as it has great third person action but it is still a Survival Horror first and foremost. You still have to manage your ammunition and healing items as in some sections they can be scarce and there were points where I had very little ammo. The combat is almost like Dark Souls and I know you’re probably thinking that’s a weird comparison, but it’s a good one because you have to analyse the animations and timings where you then get into a rhythm.

The third person action is great with crunchy and satisfying combat coupled with great weapons and timed melee combat with roundhouse kicks that send enemies flying. You’ll collect treasure throughout your adventure and this attributes to new weapons, upgrades and a larger inventory, let’s talk about the inventory system. The Attaché inventory system is great as you can neatly organise your weapons, ammo and healing items anyway you choose and it’s almost a game within itself organising your items, but this is the only time they would use this system in Resident Evil.

Presentation is still surprisingly beautiful considering it came out 11 years ago on the PS2 and GameCube; I’m playing this game on the PS2 if you’re curious. Yes the colour scheme has a grey and brown hue to it but that adds to muddy and rundown atmosphere of the village. It does get a colourful when you get to the castle with beautiful hallways and art hanging from the walls. It’s bizarre that the game still looks good considering it was shooting for a realistic aesthetic and games from that era that try to look realistic look terrible these days, but Resident Evil 4 is the exception.

The major problem I have with this game are the quick time events and I’m not talking about during gameplay where it gives you a prompt kick I’m of course talking about during the cutscenes. It drives me up the wall because a cutscene is supposed to be a break from gameplay but Resident Evil 4 would like to argue and throws up random button prompts during scenes which will catch you off guard if you haven’t played the game before.

Resident Evil 4 is a fantastic game and is a great way to start your Halloween as it has a creepy atmosphere but at the same time it has great action without forgetting that it is a Survival Horror at heart. You can get this game on every system under the sun from 2005 to now so there is no excuse for you not to play it.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Medal of Honor Frontline Review - Console's answer to Allied Assault.

By Sam Coles:

Medal of Honor once reigned supreme before Call of Duty took it out back, shot it in the head and desecrated its corpse to then steal its family. Medal of Honor has always given you the experience of war in the comfort of your living room with different campaigns spanning from the usual flogging of the dead horse of the European fronts to the more exotic locations like North Africa and Japan. Medal of Honor Frontline is my favourite game in the series as it was the truly next generation version I played with improved sounds, graphics and gunplay, does it still hold up today? In short yes.

You play as an operative named Jimmy who undertakes missions throughout Europe from the D-Day landings to the infamous Operation Market Garden and these are all executed well with different locations and objectives to keep things fresh. You won’t be just shooting Nazi’s sometimes the game will switch gears and slow down as you will sometimes go undercover as kitchen staff at a Nazi dinner or as a SS Officer it’s great as it gives you time to pause.

Gameplay is rather simple you point and you shoot and it is fast paced but it can grind to a stop when you need to aim accurately as you will need to do this to take down enemies effectively. The problem when you’re aiming like the older games you can’t move which has this red light, green light approach when it comes to combat. Overall the combat is satisfying when you get into the rhythm of it.

The presentation still looks pretty good considering it’s an early PS2 game, however there are some blurry and drab textures but it is old so I can’t fault it for that, if you want a better looking version of this game get it on the original Xbox. The animation is fantastic as enemies will react to where they’ve been shot and will dodge and take cover from your fire; the animations are still impressive even by today’s standards.

The sound design is superb the guns sound as if they do actual damage with the chatter of the MP40 to deep rumble of the screen shaking trench gun which is my favourite weapon to use in the game. The soundtrack is great complementing the action with over the top orchestral scores.

The only major problem I have with Medal of Honor Frontline is that it gets ridiculously hard in the last half of the game it proceeds to kick you in the nuts and never stops, it also doesn’t help that the enemy’s health is increased and they can take a point blank shotgun blast on the chin. This was a pattern with the older Medal of Honor games they get really hard on the last few levels and sometimes it feels a bit cheap.

Medal of Honor Frontline is one of the best games in the series and deserves a space in your PS2, GameCube or Xbox collection, it’s easy to find and super cheap especially on PS2 as I picked up my copy up for 75p go out and get it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Resident Evil (Remake) Review - Truly terrifying!

 By Sam Coles:

20 years! That is how long the Resident Evil series has been scaring us in one way in or another whether it be genuine scares or due to the game’s quality *cough* *cough* Resident Evil 6. I’m not her to lynch the series as I want to cover one of my favourite games in the series just below the Resident Evil 4 and that game was Resident Evil the remake on the GameCube. This game shows how you remake/remaster of a game should be done by not only upping the graphical fidelity but adding unique content that wasn’t present in the original game.

Resident Evil takes place in a forest just outside of Racoon City as the special unit STARS from RCPD have been called to investigate murders that have happened. They investigate the forest and there is nothing but silence and you start to feel the tension build as they search the derelict helicopter of their comrades Bravo Team. Joseph Frost is on his own searching and it’s not long until he is attacked by creatures which turn out to be zombie dogs where they then proceed to tear him apart limb by limb. You hear every bone crunch, flesh tearing and the weariness as you hear Joe slowly loose his life. Jill, Chris, Barry and Wesker then run and stumble upon an abandon mansion and this is where the terrifying nightmare begins.

The gameplay is classic survival horror from the 90’s so no third person camera, but instead you’re stuck with tank controls and fixed camera angles, but this is done on purposes as the fixed camera angles add an extra layer of tension as you don’t know what is coming. It’s all about survival so the key thing to remember is to save your ammunition and healing items as they are a rare site and you’re useless with a knife alone.

You’ll encounter zombies on your travels but most of the time it is best to avoid them rather than engaging them in conflict because unless you blow their head off their corpse will linger there for hours until they get back up. The zombies in this remake after a few hours turn into an entity known as the Crimson Heads these are zombies that are faster and they can deal double the damage, so if you fight a zombie you need to blow their heads or set their bodies on fire with kerosene. These new enemies added an extra layer of depth because it really emphasised the fact that it was better to run rather shoot because it will come back and bite you in the backside later.

The presentation still holds up considering that this is a GameCube title from 2002 with the beautiful environments that are really creepy from the haunting dining rooms and cramped corridors to foggy gardens peppered with zombie dogs. The sound design is worth a mention too as it is truly fantastic and can play a part in the gameplay in terms of knowing where the enemies are from the distant moans of zombies to the footsteps of reptilian hunters.

Only problem I have with this game is that the tank controls can be a bit clunky and annoying, like in Heavy as I discussed in my review I had a habit changing direction when the camera angle would change.

Resident Evil Remake on the GameCube is a truly terrifying experience and nails the atmosphere and I would highly recommend getting it, but if you want to experience I would get HD version on PS4 and Xbox One to truly enjoy it which you can get as a double pack with Resident Evil 0.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Heavy Rain Review - A great murder mystery.

 By Sam Coles:

David Cage is not a game designer I particularly like because he doesn’t really design his games as games, but more like interactive films. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if they were written and directed well but they’re not with one exception and that is Heavy Rain. This game is a tense roller coaster ride of emotions and keeps you hooked from beginning to end so let’s talk about why it’s good.

Heavy Rain is a murder mystery surrounding a killer known as the origami killer who targets young children and leaves small origami figures as his mark to warn people what he is capable of. The game has a slow start and it did turn me off the game for a few weeks because the start of the game is slow and boring, however I now see why they had this intro showing the main character Ethan Mars’s mundane life as it sets up what is to come and you see the bond he has with his family before it all goes to hell.

The narrative in this game is fantastic with its dark and twisted themes with the serial killer taunting Ethan throughout the story and that scene when you can choose to cut your own finger off is intense when you hear every crunch.

Gameplay is rather simple you walk around an environment exploring for clues to help you with the mystery, however  sometimes it can be a bit boring as some segments see your character bumbling about like an idiot and it kills the pace. The gameplay isn’t deep it just consists of walking around and quicktime events, but this evokes the old days of the point and click adventures so I wasn’t expecting anything mind blowing as it is at the end of the day an interactive story. There are parts where you take control of a FBI agent who has a set  of glasses that can analyse crime scenes and transport him into his own world, they’re basically VR googles and it’s a bit odd and takes me out of the grounded nature of the game.

Visually the game looks great the rain effects that are present throughout the entire game look great even by today’s standards as it shows up on character’s clothes etc. The character models are a bit hit or miss as some of them  look a bit too clean and drab where others have great details such as blemishes and wrinkles, I know this came out on PS3 6 years ago but there are games that came out that still look good from that period.

The major problem I have with this game are the controls, let’s get one thing straight game developers left stick controls the characters movement and right stick controls the camera. How this game lets you control the character is by holding R2 while using the left to change direction, the last time I checked I wasn’t playing a racing game. It’s really annoying and I found myself going in one direction that I intended to go and then walking back the other way when the camera angle changes which made me want to bite my controller in frustration.

Heavy Rain is a great game despite the slow intro and the annoying control scheme it is a genuine murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end of the game. Go out and get it, it’s really cheap on PS3 or if you want it in a higher resolution you can buy it on its own digitally or get it in a double pack on PS4 with Beyond: Two Souls.