Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Sonic Forces Review - The blue blur on autopilot.

By Sam Coles:

Sega have provided us with some excellent titles throughout this year such as Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, as well as the excellent throwback game Sonic Mania which gave us some old school Sonic gameplay. You would hope that their new Sonic game Forces would be the next step to increase the popularity of the blue blur once more, but unfortunately this is not the case. The game is not bad by all means its functional but it is let down by a short campaign that you can finish in one sitting coupled with gameplay that feels as if it is on auto pilot where you have little input where you just hold right or up on the analogue stick throughout the duration. Let’s get into more detail.

Sonic Forces starts off rather dark as instead of a happy introduction, we are presented with a dark dystopian future where Doctor Eggman has defeated Sonic and has taken over the world. Presumed dead the rest of the team must carry on the rebellion knowing that Sonic’s spirit is watching over them, however it turns out that Sonic is still alive because otherwise it wouldn’t much of a Sonic game without the titular character

Gameplay is split up into three sections you have the boost formula with 3D Sonic that started in Colours, classic 2D Sonic and the gimmick for this game an avatar that you can create. The selling point of the game is that you can make your own original character, I say selling point because no matter what you do the created character looks like something from the depths of hell.

The controls for each gameplay style is competent for the most part, 3D Sonic and your custom avatar feel great especially when you use the boost mode for Sonic as you barrel through enemies at high speed. However some levels are not built for Sonic’s super speed as you’ll find yourself speeding off a cliff without warning, plus these stages just feel like they are on auto pilot as you have very little input, plus it does help that you can finish most of these stages within 60 seconds, I’m not joking. 

2D stages are not good to control, after coming from Sonic Mania with its tight and fluid controls, this game has odd momentum as you can accelerate at full speed down a slope to then come to a complete stand still as you hit the bottom of a hill. The gameplay in general just feels lazy and little effort is needed to finish the game, plus the game is short and I mean really short. Do you know how quickly I finished the game? Well I finished it the same day I received the review code for this review within 3 hours, which could explain the lower price point.

The game is inconsistent when it comes to its presentation there are parts like Green Hill Zone and the city with the 3D Sonic levels look great, on the other hand there are levels that look very flat with the textures and in general are forgettable and uninteresting. At least the frame rate is high running at a blistering 60 frames per second for the most part although it does chug a bit during some of the boost segments where there are a lot of enemies.

Sonic Forces is a huge disappointment with an insanely short length where I finished it in 3 hours to the gameplay which I felt I had little input as the game pretty much played itself. After the excellent Sonic Mania this feels like a complete let down, it has its moments but overall it just falls flat on its face. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Hand of Fate 2 Review - An interesting card game mixed with hack and slash gameplay.

By Sam Coles:

There are few games that stand out in the industry, but if you delve into the indie market you’ll find some that stand out. That is what Hand of Fate 2 does with its interesting concepts; think of it as a mixture of a tarot card reading, Dungeons and Dragons and a sprinkle of Arkham Asylum’s combat. What we get is something truly unique and deeply engaging which will keep you hooked with each scenario.  

Hand of Fate 2 doesn’t really have a primary focus when it comes to a story as you are making your own story with the card system. How it works is that you are thrown into an area and presented with a scenario which you can either tackle it head one with combat or you can take the passive route and avoid violence entirely. When you are presented with the situation the dealer will give you several cards which tip the altercation in your favour or cripple your abilities. This system is great as it keeps things fresh and unpredictable as well as making you feel weak because it can negatively affect you and have to work around these tweaks. What I like about this system is that it’s not about violence because you can negotiate with characters you encounter on your travels, whether that is paying them off or using your sharp conversation skills to worm your way out of a tense situation.

Not to say it’s all about staring at a card dealer throughout your play time, if you thirst for blood you’ll be thrown into hack and slash combat scenarios which are good and serviceable if not by the numbers if you’ve played and hand to hand combat game *cough* *cough* Batman. Combat is very much like the Arkham games where you’re in an arena where you’re surrounded by enemies and have your light and heavy attacks coupled with a counter which you can use when enemies telegraph their attacks. It’s not bad by any means and it gets the job done, but it is the same attack engine we have seen time after time since Batman Arkham Asylum released all the back in 2009.

Visually the game looks pretty good; it runs on the Unreal 4 Engine which looks fantastic with decent looking environments and beautiful lighting. However the same cannot be said for the character models which look very goofy with their eyes and body proportions that look like two rolled up carpets leaning on petrol pump, plus their faces are too clean lacking blemishes.

Overall Hand of Fate 2 is a fantastic game with a unique hook with the tarot card system that will keep you guessing with each encounter. If you have a gaming PC or PS4 get this game as it is not terribly expensive and you’ll have hours of gameplay to keep you occupied with this unique gameplay style, yes the combat is by the numbers but that is just a fraction of what this game has to offer.   

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Rayman Review - This game is harder than I remembered.

By Sam Coles:

When you think back to the early days of the original PlayStation what games do you think of? Crash Bandicoot, Sypro, how about Rayman? Although this game was not exclusive to the original PlayStation as it came out on the Atari Jaguar first but no one bought the system and the game was more at home on the PS1 with both visuals and audio with the extra storage of CDs. The game is one of my favourite games on the PlayStation, but I forgot how unfair and challenging some of the levels are. Let’s get into more detail.  

Rayman begins with a beautiful animation introducing you to the world of Rayman, where a villain with a name that sums up his character Mr Dark causes chaos in the world by stealing the great Protoon which keeps the peace and balance in the world. Rayman must stop Mr Dark by venturing throughout the weird and wonderful world, which starts off safe by having you traverse through a forest to the more bizarre where you have anamorphic musical instruments. The story is a simple set up that all games did back in the 90’s because people didn’t really care that much about stories in video games, it gives you a brief cutscene and then you’re in the game.

Rayman is a 2D platformer in the same vein as Super Mario and I know what you’re thinking why release a 2D game on a system that is capable of 3D games. Well it was early days when it came to developing games in 3D and plus the game’s creator didn’t know how to make a 3D platformer at the time until he made the game’s sequel. The game starts off simple enough letting you get a grasp of the game’s controls then you’re granted the ability to punch which will help you deal with enemies. There is a good sense of progression in this game and it trickles new abilities slowly, where it then proceeds to give you a level to use said ability. This may come across as predictable similar to old Zelda games where you find an item and you have to use it on the boss, but I think it is fitting as it makes you get use to the ability.

Rayman is not perfect because when you get to the later stages the game becomes insanely hard and unfair as there is a slight delay with the controls and the game expects you to have the reflexes of a god. It doesn’t help that there are obstacles that you cannot see coming and you have no way of avoiding them, don’t get me wrong I love this game but later levels are ridiculous and are trial and error where you have to analyse the patterns and that is not fun.

What can I say about the visuals? They’re beautiful! You thought Cuphead did the whole cartoon style, nope Rayman did it 22 years prior and the game still holds up considering its age. Animations are fantastic Ubisoft hired professional cartoonist to draw and animate the enemies and Rayman to give them a unique look. Rayman stands out and that is saying a lot because the background can be a bit busy in some levels with dancing flowers in the forest to pencils falling in Picture City. The game still looks great considering it came out 22 years ago.

Rayman is a great game and is a must have in your collection, the game did start to aggravate me in later levels, but the beautiful visuals, fun gameplay and fantastic soundtrack pulled me through. You can pick this up on PS1 which will play on a PS2 and PS3 or you can get it on PC and Atari Jaguar, but I would not recommend the Jaguar version as the audio is not very good.  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Star Wars The Force Unleashed Review - Become the ultimate Jedi.

By Sam Coles:

Star Wars has always been a mix bag when it comes to its video games some are great and some are bad, but there tend to be more good than bad games. Star Wars The Force Unleashed was a game I followed when I was 15 with all the marketing, at the time I only had a Nintendo Wii and that was the version I first played, however I got an Xbox 360 for my 16th birthday a year later and picked it up for that system. I love this game with a strong opening where you get to devastate everything as Darth Vader, to a really good story that ties into the Star Wars mythos.

Star Wars The Force Unleashed takes place in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, it begins with Darth Vader invading the Wookie home world Kashyyyk where he is hunting a Jedi in hiding. He finds the Jedi and kills him, but Vader senses someone more powerful, which turns out to be the dead Jedi’s son, Vader adopts the child and trains him as his secret apprentice. Years later you take control of Star Killer the child Vader trained, who is now an assassin who is tasked with taking down any remaining Jedi in the galaxy. The story in this game is very good and it can get dark in parts, but that’s not to say there are no humorous moments because there are, but it has a very dark tone throughout. The game has an explosive opening which is fantastic where you play as Darth Vader killing and destroying anything that gets in your way, you really feel the power of the dark side with the opening level.

Gameplay is a hack and slash game which were very popular at the time because of the success of games such as Devil May Cry and God of War, where Yahtzee coined the phrase “Like God of War but”. You go around stages battling cannon fodder enemies, with a few boss fights spliced in which consist of AT walkers, Rancors and even a Star Destroyer. There are light platforming elements which can frustrate because Star Killer feels rather floaty in these parts as his movement are designed for combat rather than precise platforming.

There are one on one fights with other Jedi’s or The Emperors Elite guards, these are a lot of fun as they are faster and smarter than standard enemies, so you need to be quick and the fight with Vader and Palapitine at the end of the game is challenging.  

Visually the game looks pretty good still considering it came out nearly a decade ago, that is if you’re playing on the 360 and PS3, the Wii and PS2 version on the other hand are not so good, but that is to be expected with the weaker hardware. Character models look very good with a surprising amount of detail, but the animation is very odd you can tell that motion capture was not used for cutscenes because it looks very stiff and robotic.

Star Wars The Force Unleashed is a fun game which lets you cause chaos with a vast array of force powers. I would recommend getting this game on the 360 and PS3, as the PS2 and Wii versions are lacking. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Dragon Age II Review - The abused step child of the series.

By Sam Coles:

Dragon Age is a series that has a special place in my heart with Origins being my favourite in the series; however a lot of people seem to hate the sequel Dragon Age II. In my opinion the game is really good, but I understand people’s criticisms of the game where it is only set in one city, with a few dungeons and outsider areas. Does it make it a bad game? No absolutely not, because with the tighter focus you have a narrative that has is easy to follow with political intrigue between the Templars and Mages.

Dragon Age II begins during the events of Origins where you step into the shoes of Hawk, where you find yourself and your family fleeing Ferelden when the blight is taking over the region. After a tough battle against the savage beasts known as the Darkspawn, you end up sailing to the city of Kirkwall a big city situated on a remote island. All is not easy as the city has become overwhelmed due to the massive influx of refugees who are fleeing the blight, not only that there is political tension between the Templars and Mages a theme that is explore throughout the series, but is explore further in this game. I like the story in this game, yes it does have a rather slow start but the political undertones in the latter half of the game are really interesting and you end up having to choose a side.

Gameplay was a big split for fans due to the fact they ditch the tactical gameplay, which is not true but they did streamline it a bit. You can now fight in real time which is a nice change if you thought the tactical combat was overwhelming, but if you still favour that other system you can still zoom the camera out and strategically place your party members around the map. You are still able to tweak your party members such as being able to make them selfheal if they are at a certain amount of health which I do recommend as they have a tendency of getting themselves killed.

The other aspect that people were disappointed with was the fact you could not pick another race as you could only pick a human that was either male or female and you could only pick from warrior, rogue and mage classes. People missed the “Origins” aspect from the original game, but this game was written about a singular character so it makes sense to make the character one race as the story is written to fit that agenda. The game doesn’t lack customisation as you can mould your character as you see fit when it comes to the faces and armour sets. I do certainly agree that the game does not really feel like Dragon Age in terms of its mechanics as it feels more like Mass Effect, but to be honest influences from that game were bound to bleed on Dragon Age.   

Visually the game looks pretty good compared to the original which has aged as gracefully as a sack a bricks falling from a tall building. Characters have almost a cell shaded look to them; I’m not sure if it is but they do look more cartoonish compared to the first game. Environments look okay, nothing mind blowing as some areas can look really drab and too clean with no blemishes on the landscape. The blood effects look really good and have more of a moist look to them rather than it looking like tomato ketchup being spilt on a napkin.

The only negative I have with Dragon age II is on the technical side and that is the frame rate when you’re engaged in conversation. The frame like the original has a habit of dropping when you’re in conversation, but I think this is only when you have certain status effects with your characters.

Dragon Age II does not deserve the negative attention it gets, yes it is smaller than the first game, but this provides the player with a tighter narrative and focus. If you have a PS3 or 360 knocking about still I would recommend picking this game up it’s really cheap or you can get it very cheap on Steam.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Getaway Black Monday Review - Grand Theft Auto meets Snatch.

By Sam Coles:

A series that Sony has let fall by the way side is The Getaway series, for those who don’t know or if you’re too young The Getaway games are what would happen if you were to take Grand Theft Auto and mix with a Guy Richie movie like Snatch. What we get is a fun although clunky open world game set in the criminal underworld of modern day (at the time) London. I’ll be covering the sequel Black Monday as it is the game I’m most familiar with and the first game in the series I played.

The Getaway Black Monday swaps between multiple protagonists, but the main focus is on an armed response police officer named Mitchel. Mitchel is a dry and grumpy person, but we figure out why, during one of his assignments he was chasing down a suspect who turned out to be a kid, he tells him to drop the gun but the suspect resists and he ends up shooting him in the back when he flees. The story is very good with some dark moments, but also moments where the cast has a bit of fun with some humorous moments and the great voice acting helps too.

The main meat of the game is a linear story where you drive around the streets of London and getting into firefights with some tailing missions the worst aspect of any open world game. The driving can take a while to get to grips, plus it doesn’t help with the traffic density, you will crash a lot in this game and it feels like your car is made of rubber when it bounces off the walls. What is unique about this game is that there is no HUD, so when you’re driving around you have no mini-map, the game utilises the car’s indicators to tell you when to turn and when the indicator blinks faster the closer you are to your objective. This was used to give the game a cinematic flare which goes for the shoot outs, but this is rather annoying when you get into the gun fights because you’re unsure of how much ammo you have, let’s talk about more about the shooting.

The shooting unfortunately is not very good, it’s stiff and clunky with an auto aiming feature that seems to do whatever it wants coupled with a free aim system that is laughable. This is one of the first set of games with a regenerating health system as I do believe this game came out the same year as Call of Duty 2 which was notorious and controversial with that system. How it works is that when you’re injured you’ll see blood spots on your character how you recover health is by leaning on a wall. Again this is done via visual feedback in gameplay rather than a traditional HUD, but it is rather laughable to see you character lean on a wall do some heavy breathing and hey presto he is back to normal.

Visually the game looks really good for a PS2 game, bear in mind that this game was released in the later stages of the console’s life cycle so people knew what they were doing with console at this point. Character models have a surprising amount of detail and look good (for the time) even the facial expressions look quite good. The game had access to licenced cars so expect to Renaults, Fords and Vauxhalls cruising the streets, these cars look fantastic for the hardware too. The only issue I had was that the frame rate had a habit of tanking in sections where things got busy, this was apparent during fire fights and car chases with the high traffic density, where it would dip to unplayable levels.

The Getaway Black Monday was a good game for its time but unfortunately has aged as well as a week old pot of hummus left out on the side. It’s not expensive you can pick it up for a pound, just be warned it is very clunky, let’s hope Sony revives the series at some point.