Thursday, 30 March 2017

Crysis 3 Review - Feels like an expansion to Crysis 2.

By Sam Coles:

Crysis’s claim to fame wasn’t its gameplay but rather the fact it was and still is a bench mark for high end gaming PC’s but that doesn’t mean consoles missed out on the series as the second and third game came out on the Xbox 360 and PS3 with mixed results. Crysis 3 came out in 2013 at the tail end of the 7th generation and was during the period when every game had a bow and arrow in it. This game feels like an expansion to Crysis 2 and is short really short, but does that make it a bad game? No not for the price you can get it for these days.

Crysis 3 takes place after the second game where Alcatraz’s personality has been overwritten by the original nano suit wearer Prophet. Prophet has been captured by the mercenary group Cell as they are rounding up people who were from Prophet’s unit from the first game where they then tear the suits from them for study. You’re then freed by your old friend Psycho who then goes to explain that New York is on lock down by Cell to contain the remaining Seth forces in the city who invaded Earth. The story is actually really interesting and it helps that it is acted and performed really well as they used motion captured to bring the actor’s faces and motions to life.

The gameplay is largely the same from the second game where it takes a Far Cry style where you can scan an area from a distance and decide what action to take whether it is loud or quiet. It is advised to take the quiet route because you take damage easily which is a bit strange as you wear a nano suit which is designed to soak damage up. This is my biggest gripe with the gameplay is that this is a first person shooter that discourages the shooting part which is a shame because the guns and customisation of the weapons is insane and fantastic. When I tried to go loud I would find that the enemies took too many bullets to kill, you would only take a few shots to die and ammo is scarce during firefights especially during the two boss battles in the game with stupid fighting patterns.

What is good about the gameplay well I do like the customisation of the weapons on the fly as well as the addition of the bow and arrow. When you’re in a firefight you can hit the back button (if you’re playing on 360) and Prophet will hold his gun up and you can change sights, barrel attachments, under barrel, magazine upgrades and bullet types. This is great as it encourages experimentation as there is a lot to play around with as it adds an extra layer of depth. The bow is a nice addition as it not just standard arrows you have you also have frag, electric and shrapnel arrows so say if an enemy is in water you can use electric arrows to shock him and others around him.

Prophet has abilities with his nano suit such as the ability to cloak which is great when sneaking around and makes you feel like the Predator but it runs on an energy supply and runs down quickly if you run or fire a gun. However if you use the bow it does not use any energy at all, which does make the game a tad easy. He can also turn his suit into a shell which can absorb damage, this is great when you’re in a sticky situation or if you need to fall from a particular height.

The presentation is beautiful this game really pushes what the Xbox 360 can do as Crysis 2 really struggled to run on the 360 as it was Crytek’s first time bringing the series to the consoles. It really feels that they have got the hang of things with this game as it runs well on the 360, not perfect by any means as the frame rate does tank at the start of the game with the intense rain effects. The overgrown look of New York looks amazing with trees and long grass swaying in a dynamic way when the wind blows I was astonished that this game looks this good on an Xbox 360, but this was released in 2013 on the tail end of the generation.

Overall Crysis 3 is a mixed bag it’s not a great game but it’s not a bad game as it has its high moments with the superb acting in story but the gameplay has some frustrating moments but it has some unique aspects. It’s not expensive to pick up these days as I picked my copy up for £2.50 so it’s a good bargain.    

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Far Cry 3 Review - "Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity"?

By Sam Coles:

The Far Cry series has dropped in quality since the fourth game not to say that Far Cry 4 was a bad game but it tread in familiar territory and it felt more like more of an expansion rather than a standalone game. Far Cry 3 is easily one of the best games in the series with a dark and interesting plot with scary and charismatic villains especially Vaas.

Far Cry 3 ditches the deserts of North Africa from the first game and goes back to the tropical island of the first. You play as Jason Brody a spoilt rich kid in his twenties on holiday with his other rich friends who rely on their parents black cards. He is then kidnapped by pirates where they are kept for ransom or to be sold off to slavery, Jason and his brother who use to be in the army escape. However it’s not long until Jason’s brother is shot clean through the throat by the psychotic pirate Vaas. Jason flees into the jungle and then the local tribe take him in and this is where Jason learns how to fight and he then goes on an adventure to save his friends get revenge on Vaas.

The game’s story is fantastic especially the scenes with Vaas as they are very tense as you don’t know when he is going to flip and go absolutely nuts at you. Jason is a great character too with an arch as he goes from whiny trust fund kid to ultimate mercenary bad ass that loves violence and forgets why he is doing it in the first place.  

The gameplay is a step up from Far Cry 2 but it does take a few things out that I liked such as the gun jamming which added to the situation when you’re in tense firefights but it does not break my immersion in this game. The controls have been tweaked and feel extremely tight when you’re shooting and moving as well as the driving feel more responsive compared to the second game as it felt a bit stilted and stiff. Crafting is a big element in this game and trust me you will need to do it at the start of the game as your weapon holsters and inventory space is pathetic as you can only carry one gun and very little resources. You can craft medicines that help restore health or see wildlife through walls and bushes etc.

It is the classic Ubisoft sandbox where you feel like you’re going down a checklist as you liberate several strongholds and climb countless radio towers. My problem with the strongholds is that you find a method that is effective then boredom ensues because once you have a silenced sniper rifle you’re sorted.

You won’t only be up against human enemies as you will have to contend with the wildlife which they are not annoying but relentless as you’re scoping out an area and then you hear growl from a tiger as he has your leg half way down their throat.

The presentation is fantastic and this game came out on the PS3 and Xbox 360 5 years ago almost and it still holds visually with lush tropical jungles where the grass sways in the wind to the character models that very good with excellent animation. The only problem I have on console is that the frame rate has a habit of dropping to 20 frames per second when things get really busy with lots of explosions and enemies on screen.

Far Cry 3 is one of the best games on the Xbox 360 and PS3 and is a must play if you own these consoles or PC you should pick it up it is super cheap and easy to find so go and get it.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Quake 4 Review - The outcast of the Quake series for some reason.

By Sam Coles:

Quake alongside Doom has to be one of my favourite first person shooter franchises because the games have nothing to do with each other except the name. However in 2005 Raven Software were tasked to make a direct sequel to Quake II simply named Quake 4 and I often hear on the internet that this game is bad and is the black sheep of the Quake series and I don’t understand why. In my opinion this was one of the last traditional first person shooters of the time before the modern military shooter took over.

The game takes place after the events of Quake II where a lone space marine took down the Strogg leader and you play as Matthew Kane where you go in and clear the rest of the Strogg out. A lot of people have a go at this game due to the story which I would say you’re stupid if you’re expecting a good story from early id software games because John Carmack was dead against the heavy use of stories in games. Quake 4 has a basic set up and lets you get on with it with very few interruptions.

Quake 4 like F.E.A.R was one of the last traditional first person shooters of the era before regenerating health and linear corridors took over. You go through each level completing objectives, finding new weapons and picking up med kits and armour. The shooting in this game is fantastic with great feedback from all the weapons, even the starting pistol has kick to it which if you’ve played the new Doom games the pistol is usually effective as harsh language. My favourite weapon has to be either the nail gun or the hyper blaster with a high level of output as you destroy legions of enemies. Each weapon has an upgrade such as being able to lock on with the nail gun to the less fun scope on the machine gun.

Visually the game looks fantastic considering it came out nearly 12 years ago and it’s a launch title for the Xbox 360, it was during this time that games utilised dynamic lighting with games like F.E.A.R, Doom 3 and Far Cry which don’t see in games anymore. It does take a lot of aspects from Doom 3 in terms of the presentation with dark corridors with nothing but a faint light at the end of the tunnel, this can evoke some tension as you go from all out gunfights to a slow paced and tense situation and it almost becomes a horror game.

The only problem I had with this game was the performance and I was playing this on the 360 so it might not apply to the PC version, the game runs on an uncapped frame rate and this can vary from smooth to dips below 20 fps in busy segments. It doesn’t happen too often but it can kill the pace when it does happen.

Quake 4 is a great game and I don’t understand why it gets the negative attention it gets because it’s a solid shooter experience. If you have a 360 or PC pick it up its super cheap these days and won’t break the bank. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Resident Evil 7 Review - Survival horror makes a return for the series.

By Sam Coles:

Resident Evil in recent years has had an identity crisis since Resident Evil 5 as it tried to cater to an audience that was not interested in the series to begin with, by trying to produce Call of Duty style games. The final nail in the coffin seemed to be Resident Evil 6 although I don’t think it’s a bad game; however it is not a good Resident Evil game. Capcom tried to go back to survival horror with mixed results with the decent Resident Evil Revelations on the 3DS which eventually got an HD port on PS3, 360 and Wii U.  It was a decent attempt but still had a few flaws for it to be a true survival horror. What was surprising was E3 2016 when Capcom announced Resident Evil 7 during Sony’s conference and a lot of people were surprised with the new perspective and the fact that they were going back to survival horror. Does it succeed? Yes.

Resident Evil 7 takes place after the 6th game were you play as Ethan Winters and he gets a message from his missing wife who he has not seen for three years and he finds out she is in Louisiana and he goes to get her. It’s not long before he finds that something is not right and finds that his wife Mia is being held against her will by a rural family called the Bakers who have been infect with something that make them almost immortal. The game’s story takes classic Resident Evil tropes and mixes it with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it works, yes it has a more serious tone but it does not stem from the campy and dark sense of humour of the old games.

Gameplay goes back to survival horror but there is a new feature of a first person perspective which if you were like me were sceptical because I thought it was buckling to trends with the popularity of first person horror games like Outlast. I was wrong because it still feels like a traditional Resident Evil game with a massive house to explore, puzzles to solve and item management, the first person view just makes the experience more immersive. Unlike most first person horror games you’re not defenceless as Resident Evil gives you firearms to help you get through some segments which makes sense if you were in a similar situation.

Crafting is a new aspect which if you know me I’m not a fan of in most games but it is necessary to help you progress through the game as you can craft first aid, bullets, flame rounds and special ammo types which helps with enemies and boss fights.

The presentation in this game is fantastic and I was really surprised that the game runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. The way I would describe the visuals in this game is moist, the game has a really disgusting look to it in a good way to cater to the horror theme, with mouldy hallways and blood soaked carpets. The Baker family are unique with visual design especially Marguerite when she mutates into her insect form. Some textures do look a bit blurry but they did sacrifice some visual fidelity for a smooth frame rate which I can commend them for.

Resident Evil 7 was a pleasant surprise as it is a triple A release with subtlety rather than shoving explosions in your face and it’s a nice change of pace. If you haven’t played this game go out and get it, yes it is still rather expensive but it is worth every penny.

Hitman Season 1 Review - Better in a complete package.

By Sam Coles:

Hitman is a series that I’ve always loved because it requires patience and skill to pull off good assassinations and plus it’s nice to change gears and slow down a bit after playing action games. After the lukewarm reception Absolution got back in 2012 which honestly I loved, Hitman had a bit of a hiatus. It wasn’t until E3 of 2015 we got a brand new trailer for the new game which as annoyingly named Hitman which will mess with my filing system. However Square Enix said they were releasing it episodically which did not gel well with gamers.

Hitman’s story is paper thin as it tends to focus on the gameplay, but the basic premise is that you play as Agent 47 the world’s deadliest assassin who works for an agency that take contracts to kill targets such as political figures or people of the business world. The game starts off as prequel as you see Agent 47 train in the agency then it has a flashy montage of his previous assassinations from prior games and it’s a nice set up for the game to come.

The series has always been about patience one stupid move can compromise the mission, it’s all about exploring the levels examining your target’s routine and find opportunities and flaws to take them out undetected. Hitman returns to its roots from Blood Money rather than the tight corridors of Absolution, with massive sprawling levels with lots of different ways of assassinating your target.

There are six episodes in total with two bonus episodes and these can take you over an hour to finish so you’re looking at 10 plus hours of gameplay with the main story. However it does not end there, the game is constantly being updated with player made contracts where they will task you with assassinating a certain target in the level but you have to follow certain stipulations such as you have to use a certain weapon or you have to dawn a specific disguise.

There are illusive targets that happen every month where you’re given a target on any map and you only have one chance to kill them because if you fail you can’t replay that mission again. This encourages a slow approach where you watch your target and find a pattern or weakness. These really test your skills as a silent assassin and when you pull it off without anyone noticing you it feels deeply satisfying.

The presentation is excellent, not as good as Absolution but the scope of the presentation is impressive with big wide open environments coupled with huge crowds. Each location is unique and different from the isles of Italy to a runway show in Paris where you can blend in with the audience or disguise as a fashion model with a look that can literary murder.

The only issue I have with this game is that the controls for taking cover can be a pain which can result in the enemy spotting me as I’m only crouched behind a wall and not taking cover against it.

Hitman is a return to form for the series with open ended levels that let you experiment which will have you revisiting levels over and over again to see what ridiculous ways you can kill your target. If you were hesitant about the episodic nature then this is the best way to get it as it comes in a complete package with content that will keep you occupied for hours. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Mass Effect 2 Review - A great sequel to a flawed game.

By Sam Coles:

Mass Effect is one my favourite RPG franchises with deep and interesting stories with fun third person shooting combat. Mass Effect 2 is my favourite not just because it improved on everything from the first game but it was what got me through a week of illness. I remember being really ill and it was on sale back in 2010, my Mum bought it for me as it looked like something I would like and she was right on the money.

Mass Effect 2 takes place after the first game where the council have been completely destroyed by Sarren who was working with the Geth to resurrect the Reapers who are ancient machines that come around every 50,000 years to purge organic life. Shepard is on a routine patrol when they’re attack by an unidentified object and the Normandy is destroyed along with Shepard dying. Shepard is then brought back from the dead by the organisation known as Cerberus who want human domination throughout the galaxy. Shepard is tasked to take on a new threat called the Collectors who harvest human colonies, so Shepard must assemble a crew to embark on a suicide mission. I like the story in this game as it has real weight and one wrong move can cause the entire mission to go wrong with most of the crew getting killed it really means it when it says suicide mission.

The gameplay was vastly improved from the first game as the original was great but was extremely clunky when it came to combat. They took a more streamlined approach by borrowing mechanics from games such as Gears of War and Resident Evil 4 and it gave a much needed shot in the arm with quick and tightly responsive controls. However with that they did strip down the in depth RPG mechanics from the first game which annoyed a lot of fans from the original but it did not bother me that much as it felt less daunting than the first. Gone are the planet exploration segments with the terribly controlling mako and now all you do is scan planets from your ship to salvage materials to upgrade the Normandy for the final mission yeah it is rather tedious to scan and send in probes but anything is better than the mako driving sections from the first.

It is crucial that you upgrade your ship before the final mission if you want the entirety of your crew to survive as well as making sure you do all the loyalty missions so they will stay on side with you and so they won’t do anything stupid and die. I like this because it adds emotional investment to all the characters where you end up really caring when they do die in the current game or when you carry them over into the third game.

Visually the game looks 10 times better than the original the character models got a real boost with better animations and better details on faces whether they’re human or alien. Environments looks absolutely stunning from the neon lit streets of the citadel to the moist looking hive of the collectors. Considering the game came out 7 years ago Mass Effect 2’s presentation is still awe inspiring and is something I can still boot up today and stare at the beauty.

Mass Effect 2 is a game that still stands the test of time and is a game that I can see people talking about 20 years down the line; it has to be one of the best games of the 7th generation of gaming. Mass Effect 2 is easy to find, cheap and playable on Xbox One if you are owner of that system via backwards compatibility. If you haven’t played this game where have you been and go out and buy this game.      

Monday, 6 March 2017

I don't want Call of Duty to go backwards.

By Sam Coles:

Call of Duty has been a punching bag for gamers in recent years and honestly I don’t why because they are entertaining games with fun campaigns and multiplayers. With the recent surge of interest of period warfare with Battlefield 1 there are rumours floating about that Call of Duty is going to follow suit whether it be Vietnam or World War II. However I don’t want to see them do that especially World War II as I think the futuristic CODs have breathed new life into the series and yet people still complain.

Call of Duty first released in 2003 and the World War II shooter was at its highest which started with Medal of Honor back in 1999. Call of Duty was an idea that came from former developers of 2015 Inc. who worked on the excellent Medal of Honor Allied Assault. They dubbed the new project Medal of Honor killer and they were successful in that regard, Call of Duty was a PC exclusive and was a critical and finical success. It wasn’t until the launch of Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360 where it hit its major popularity; however the genre of World War II was starting to weigh on audiences so they let Treyarch handle the third game while they had something new and interesting in the works.

2007 saw the release of Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare and it completely rewrote the books of military shooters for years to come and this was a huge breath of fresh air as it stood out from the crowd of World War II shooters. The game took place in a modern setting with politics that mirrored current tensions of the time and yes the story was standard with Russians and Middle Eastern terrorist stealing nukes, but it was the execution that made it compelling. The gameplay was fast paced with the added feature of a sprint function and yes that does sound pretty stupid to get excited about but prior to this game there was no sprint function in Call of Duty.

Modern Warfare had a huge impact on the industry where every developer was trying to copy Infinity Ward’s formula; however like World War II it was starting to get stale even old rivals like Medal of Honor tried with less than stellar results. A little game called Spec Ops The Line highlighted the flaws of the genre and Call of Duty Ghosts was not the best game and it showed that players were looking for something new interesting.

In mid-2014 Activision released a new Call of Duty trailer but it was designed with the then new Xbox One and PS4 in mind and this title was known as Advanced Warfare. This was made by Sledgehammer games that helped finished Modern Warfare 3 as most of the original Infinity Ward team were fired during development and despite the rocky dev cycle MW 3 was a solid game.

Advanced Warfare took the already fast paced combat of the series and amplified it by 20, it really encourage skill based movement evoking the old school nature of arena shooters. I loved this new movement with the exo suits with double jumps, boost dodges and extra power with melee attacks the good thing about this new movement is that you could flee from a fight if things get hairy rather than hold down the trigger and hope they die.

A year later Black Ops III took the movement of Advanced Warfare slowed it down a bit and added the ability to run on walls which added an extra layer of depth to the combat. Infinite Warfare was notorious for its reveal trailer but it turned out to be a decent game with the space combat in the campaign, but the multiplayer did not differentiate from Black Ops III.

So why do people hate the futuristic CODs? Well in my opinion I think it’s because they don’t like the skill based movement that is involved as they cannot use the usual statergy of sitting in a corner and wait to pick someone off. The futuristic Call of Duty games have more in common with Doom or Quake especially Quake with the movement speed that requires skill and quick reflexes to master it. I don’t want to see the series regress to the boring and slow paced combat of old because it is not great in my opinion. Let’s wait and see what Sledgehammer have to offer this year.

Activision listened to people back in 2013 as audiences were getting bored of the genre yet when they gave us something new people still complain it’s a lose, lose situation as they are damned if they do or damned if they don’t.