Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Alien vs Predator (2010) Review - You are the prey and the hunter.

By Sam Coles:

Rebellion Studios are a developer with an interesting track record with stinkers such as Shellshock 2: Blood trails to the blood splattering Sniper Elite series. Aliens vs Predator is a decent game, with a few flaws but nothing to deem it a bad game, as a lot of critics at the time did not favour this game. This was not their first stab at the licence as they made the fantastic 1999 PC release, which was fast paced multiplayer action, they try and recreate this with this newer iteration with mixed results.

Alien vs Predator’s campaign is split up into three stories you have the Aliens, Predators and the Colonial Marines in the middle. With the Aliens you play as freshly birthed hatchling subject 6, a Predator just named Newblood and a Rookie marine, do you see the pattern here. The story is just each race trying to prove their worth, it’s nothing too exciting as it is an excuse for three parties to tear each other apart for 6-8 hours in this gore fest, and I mean gore fest.

Each gameplay style is unique to each campaign, with varied results I’m of course talking about the Alien campaign which is not very good. The Predator campaign is easily the most enjoyable, as it relies on the creatures predatory skills with the reliance of stealth as a full on assault is a good way of getting yourself killed.

The marine campaign is action based, however it does have some tense moments as your hear motion tracker beeping, as the Aliens get closer and closer. The shooting controls are solid, with a small but good amount of weaponry, with iconic Smart Gun to the standard yet effective shotgun which will blow enemies into chunks.

Now we get to the Alien campaign which is the worst out of the three, like the Predator chapters it relies on stealth to get from point A to B, however the controls are extremely twitchy and disorientating. Unlike the Predator, the Xenomorph can scale walls and ceilings and this sounds good on paper, but in practise it is a confusing mess as you can’t tell what’s the ground or ceiling. It doesn’t help that the controls are extremely twitchy as trying to move slowly is a near impossibility.

The visuals are okay, they weren’t mind blowing for 2010 but they are serviceable with decent looking textures with the jungle environments. Character models of the Predator and Xenomorph look fantastic and represent the source material; however the human character models look basic with flapping jaws like a saloon door. The gore is extremely detailed with executions from the Predator tearing marines heads off with the spine still attached to the Aliens ripping their eyes out, if you’re squeamish don’t play this game. I played this on the PS3 and it has some huge framerate issues, dropping below 20 frames per second in some busy sections, which if memory serves me well I don’t remember the 360 version having these issues.

Aliens vs Predator is a fun game with three separate campaigns with unique play styles that will keep you entertained for around 6-8 hours. Unfortunately the multiplayer is no longer active, but that is to be expected for game that is nearly 8 years old, but the singleplayer content is fine. The game is insanely cheap these days I picked my copy for £2 on the PS3, so give it a go.   

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Shellshock 2: Blood Trails Review - Napalm can't fix this mess.

By Sam Coles:

If you are an avid surfer of the internet then you’ll be acquainted with the phrase “worst game ever” a term that gets tossed around like eggs in a frying pan, which has now lost its meaning due to the liberal use of it. Shellshock 2: Blood Trails often has this moniker, which I can attest that it’s not the best game in the world, but it is definitely not the worst as I’ve played games that far exceed it in terms of poor quality, it’s just mediocre.   

Shellshock 2 takes place in the year of 1969 during the Vietnam War, where the US government decide to experiment on their own soldiers which eventually backfires and turns them into flesh eating zombies. You play as Nate Walker, where he finds out that his brother was infected and has a connection and leads the zombie horde. When he finds his brother captured, he is thrashing violently to escape, he touches his hand and then develops a second sight ability being able to see what he has done from his point of view. The story is interesting, the Vietnam War is an interesting setting for a horror shooter, however the gameplay is a bit clunky and the voice acting is absolutely atrocious.

Shellshock 2 is a first person shooter brought to us by Rebellion, that have a mixed track record when it comes to their library of games with classics such as Alien vs Predator and the Sniper Elite games to the heaping dumpster fire that is Medal of Honor Underground on the GBA. What I’m saying is that Rebellion know what they are doing when it comes to first person shooters, which it confuses me how this game is a mess with clunky controls and a sickening camera bob when you sprint.

First thing first how is the gunplay? Awful, for some bizarre reason you are more accurate when you fire from the hip compared to aiming down sights, which is baffling. It is also hard to tell if you have hit enemies because the feedback is not clear and sometimes enemies will not flinch once shot. Guns lack impact and feel as if you’re firing a super soaker filled with day old porridge as it lands on the enemy rather than perforate them. Throwing grenades is laughable, as Nate has the throwing ability of someone who is worried if their arm is going to fall off as his throws are so pathetic that you try to throw it far and it lands at your feet. The amount of times I killed my self was ridiculous because grenade throws are worthless and lack impact, I’ve used staplers with more impact than these grenades.

Presentation is a mixed bag, in some areas it looks pretty good with damp and humid jungles as you hear the distant moans of the zombies, coupled with the ambient soundtrack. That’s another thing I like about this game is that the soundtrack is minimal, there is rarely any music at all as it relies on the ambience of the environments, as all you can here are the birds singing and your character’s nervous heartbeat. On the other hand the game looks as if it is an early PlayStation 2 game, with flat and blurry textures, as they struggle to load in and struggle is another keyword to describe the game’s frame rate. The game targets 30 frames per second, but it never sticks to it as it is all over the place especially when there are loads of zombies running at you, it becomes a chore to play and makes it hard to shoot.

Overall Shellshock 2: Blood Trails is not the worst game ever, by all means it is not a good game, but it has some good ideas which could work if it was given to more competent developer. This game is stupidly cheap these days, so if you’re curious pick it up on the 360, PS3 and PC just get ready for a messy experience.

Monday, 15 January 2018

007: Quantum of Solace (game) Review - A short but fun Bond experience.

By Sam Coles:

Bond has had its ups and downs when it comes to the interactive medium, but there are a lot of good games to choose from, such as the N64 classic Goldeneye to the excellent Nightfire. What if I told a movie tie in from 2008 is worth your time? Well 4 hours of your time to be precise. Quantum of Solace was released in 2008 to meet the silver screen release with the film, it was developed by Treyarch, who are known for creating the highly successful Call of Duty Black Ops series. When I saw that logo on the back of the box I knew I was in good hands, because Treyarch know how to create a high octane shooter experience, plus the Call of Duty set piece nature fits the James Bond action.

Quantum of Solace does not follow the events of the film, but instead retells action scenarios from Casino Royale as there was no tie in game for that film, however there are parts of Quantum of Solace in the game, but it then goes into a flashback from the previous film. The voice acting is top notch with actors such as Daniel Craig and Judi Dench reprising their roles with superb performances. Although there are moments where the voice acting is terrible to monotone, the terrible voice work generally comes from the goons you gun down by the dozen, and Craig will deliver his lines as if he is reading off a shopping list in some scenes.
Once again 007 takes the form of a first person shooter, trying to relive the success of Goldeneye, it does not reach the same levels but it is still a solid shooter. You traverse each linear locale which sounds negative but it’s not as the game entertains you with witty quips and outrageous action scenes. Gunplay is solid throughout as it takes influence from the Rainbow Six Vegas games where it is mostly first person but you can snap to cover where it then switches to third person to give you a better field of view so you’re not constantly looking at a wall texture.

There are stealth sections to change the pace, however these are terrible because if you miss a headshot and they spot you, every enemy in area knows your position and there is no way to go back to stealth until you kill them all. There is also no clear indication when they have spotted you like in Goldeneye Reloaded where an arrow will fill up when they start to see you. Don’t bother with stealth and shot your way through as it was not fleshed out.

The presentation is inconsistent, there are parts where the game looks fantastic especially in levels where torrential rain falls as you see water slide off your gun, on the other hand there are environments that look as if they were taken straight from the PS2 port of the game. The visuals overall are okay. Sound design is fantastic the guns have a good punch to them when you pull trigger, especially Bond’s P99 and the shotguns, you also get the iconic 007 soundtrack going in action scenes as you shoot your way through goons.
The only major issue I had with this game was its length, I’m not joking when I say I managed to finish it the same day I bought it, it took me 4 hours to finish in two 2 hour sessions. I know that’s not an issue now as the game cost only £2, but can you imagine buying this game at full price back in 2008 and finishing it in 4 hours you would be outraged.

Quantum of Solace is a solid shooter although it is a short experience that could have been spiced up with some driving sections in Bond’s Aston, which are conspicuously absent in this game. I would say give it a spin, I picked up a copy on the PS3 for £2 it’s also available on the 360, PS2 and Wii but I would recommend the 360 and PS3 versions as they are the definitive versions. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review - "One shall stand, one shall fall"

By Sam Coles:

The Transformers franchise has been rather hit and miss when it comes to interactive media, with the horrid Famicom game, to the excellent game on the PS2 game based on the Armada series. Transformers Fall of Cybertron has to be one of the best games based on the license I have played in years, as the conflict in this game is not the classic black and white good vs evil, as both sides are trying to survive.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron takes place on the titular planet where the Autobots and the Decepticons are trying to flee the planet due their resources being depleted. Optimus Prime has devised a plan to escape on a ship called The Ark, but they need energon, Megatron has the same idea but does not want the Autobots alongside him. What I like about the plot of this is that it is not the standard good vs evil as both sides want the same thing they want to survive, plus it is great to play as both sides of the conflict and in the end it is down to you if you want side with Megatron or Optimus.

The gameplay is a third person shooter, as at the time of release Gears of War was extremely popular and many publishers and developers tried to replicate that game with mixed results. This game however gets it right with tight and responsive controls, coupled with excellent feedback as you cut down other transformers with a wide variety of weapons. Each weapon feels different and you can utilise them in different situations, these can range from your standard machine guns to my favourite Megatron’s arm cannon which can clear a crowd of Autobots.  You can upgrade each weapon by gaining experience points, but these are nothing special it’s the standard increase your accuracy, ammo clip size and damage, they will help in the later stages as the game throws everything it has at you, but the upgrades are uninspired.  

Presentation wise the game looks fantastic considering the game is nearly six years old, with an art style that mixes the look of the 80’s cartoon with the realistic look of the Michael Bay movies, it works really well. Explosions and gun fire looks fantastic, coupled with the excellent sound design with thunderous explosions and the terrifying chatter of machine gun fire. The soundtrack is worth noting too as it has some beautiful orchestra scores for dramatic tension and fast paced action. I did notice some graphical issues, as the textures had a problem loading in sometimes with the in-game cutscenes as some characters look very blurry. Performance was another problem as it does start to drop below its targeted frame rate of 30 fps; this tends to happen during really busy sections where everything is exploding.

Transformers Fall of Cybertron is a fantastic interpretation of the shape shifting robots in video game form; with a story that doesn’t follow the classic formula coupled tight and fun gunplay. You should pick this game up, it’s not as cheap as other 360 and PS3 titles for some reason, but I never see it above £10 so give it a go. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Orange Box Review - The best bargain in gaming history

By Sam Coles:

2007 was truly a fantastic year to be gamer, because we got a slew of titles that had a massive impact on the industry such as Call of Duty 4, Bioshock and the game I’m going to reviewing The Orange Box. This was one of the best gaming bargains of the decade as you got several of Valves notable games which included Half-Life 2, HL Episode 1 and 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. I remember picking this up on the PC originally and thought “Wow! I got more than my money’s worth”. This rings true even today, I can’t think of another example of this maybe the Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection, but Konami didn’t produce many copies.

Well talking about the narrative is tough, as I would have to talk about 4 separate titles but I can lump Half-Life into one and Portal’s story is vague at best without doing background reading. Half-Life 2 takes place after the events of the original, where our bespectacled theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman has been brought out of stasis by the G-Man to battle a new alien threat. The combine have taken over Earth after the 7 hour war, the human race then surrenders and are put into walled off numbered cities, something straight out Orwell’s 1984. Like the first game the story is minimal, but this game started the trend of locking you in a room and then vomits exposition at you.

Portal’s story is vague, unless you do background reading on the series where you get into the Ratman etc. The basic gist is that you play as Chelle who wakes in a facility called Aperture Science; she is greeted by a flat mono and robotic voice in the form of Glados. At first everything seems rather innocent as you’re just doing tests, but as you progress through the game you find that the lab is sparse of human life.  

Gameplay in all of the games are from a first person perspective with shooting, except Portal unless you count firing portals on a wall as a shooter then be my guest. They all control differently especially Team Fortress 2 as you have a wide selection of different classes as they can range from slow to fast. Half-Life 2 still controls well for the most part although it can feel rather stiff and sluggish in some aspects especially when you’re turning around, this might have something to do with me playing the 360 version. An issue I had with this game was the “ground breaking” physics engine, as you can get stuck on geometry easily and the game has a habit of cluttering areas with random bits of rubbish which just get in the way more than anything.

Considering that the Source Engine is well over a decade old, it still looks surprisingly good with excellent lighting effects, coupled with bloom that’s not too intrusive unlike some games of the time. Textures can look a bit blurry if you stop to smell the roses, but it’s not a deal breaker as you have to bear in mind Half-Life 2 came out in 2004 originally. The game does have a few performances issues as the game targets 30 fps, but starts hiccup when things get busy with the physics engine, such as explosions or when there are loads ragdolls flying everywhere. Also the net code on the 360 version of Team Fortress 2 is atrocious, and yes there are people still playing the game on the 360 after 10 years.

The Orange Box is one of the best deals in video game history and to this day I can’t think of any other bargain you can get. You get hours upon hours of gameplay in this collection, with games that still hold up today. If you haven’t give this collection a go, but I would strongly recommend playing the PC version as it is the best way to play it, plus Team Fortress 2 is free to play these days. If not it is very cheap on the PS3 and 360 version, but out of the two I would recommend the 360 version because the PS3 has a lot of performance issues and long loading times.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My anticipated games of 2018.

By Sam Coles:

Well 2017 has come and gone, with some defecation in within the industry in the form of loot boxes almost ruined Battlfront II, but we did get some great games as well. I want to talk about games that I’m looking forward to this year, now remember I’m not going to have the same games in mind like you because at the end of the day it’s my opinion and my taste so don’t get your panties in a twist if a game is not on the list.

Yakuza 6

Here is a series I have fallen in love with recently as I reviewed both Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, they have fantastic combat where I always grin with glee as I beat some to death with a bicycle, coupled with dark and emotional plots with excellent voice acting.

Originally released in Japan in 2016, Yakuza 6 is continuation of the exploits of Kazma Kiryu, where he returns to the fictional region of Tokyo Kamurocho. Kazma returns when he finds out his adopted daughter has been hit by a car, where he then finds out that she has a child, Kazma not being happy about this wants to find out who the father is and why her child is being targeted.

This is first game in the series to be developed exclusively for the PS4 with the new Dragon Engine, as the other games in the series were made for both the PS3 and PS4, which it did start to show its age with Yakuza 0 and Kiwami in some scenes. This means we have better looking character models and environments with the sacrifice of a lower frame rate as Yakuza 6 runs at 30 fps, but maybe it will get a PS4 Pro update.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Yes, I know this was on the list last year, but at the time I had no idea that the game was going to be delayed although I did say on Twitter that I bet it will get delayed. Anyway we have had a new trailer since then to flesh out the plot of the new game and oh my does it look fantastic, this will be Rockstar’s first PS4 and Xbox One exclusive releases as GTA V was released on the 360 and PS3 originally, so we can really see what the Rage engine can do.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the 2010 release where you play an outlaw named Morgan, who works for whoever is paying the most and yes that does include Dutch’s gang. It looks as if you’re playing an objectively bad person compared to the original game where you’re more of an anti-hero, you weren’t necessarily a good person, but John wanted to repent for his sins and would help those in need.   

Of what I have seen from the latest trailer they have added more mechanics which were absent from the original such as akimbo pistols, which I found baffling as it is a western. Not only that it looks as if you can take a quiet approach as they have added a bow and arrow, which adds a bit a replay value to missions.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry is a series that has lost a bit of steam recently with the somewhat lukewarm opinion of the last game Primal, coupled with Far Cry 4 trying to replicate the third instalment. However this game looks radically different and that is because of its setting as it is set in rural America where you have crazy red necks with a cult that wants nothing more than your blood.

What I’m looking forward to as well in this game is that you can play the entirety of the campaign with a  friend, the fourth game had something similar but you couldn’t do campaign missions as you could only raid camps and fortresses. This game however lets you play through the whole story with a friend, not only that they have added new vehicles and ways to approach combat situations.

I’m glad Ubisoft are going back to the drawing board with their notable franchises as it worked really well with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, let’s hope it is the same for Far Cry.

Kingdom Come Deliverance

Here is a game that I didn’t really pay attention to in terms of coverage, but the videos I have seen look fantastic.

Kingdom Come Deliverance is an RPG, but it’s not a classic Tolkien style of fantasy, but instead it is set in a grounded medieval setting in a believable world. The combat looks absolutely brutal with plenty of blood and gore when you deliver blow with a mace, Warhammers and swords.  

The world looks absolutely beautiful with lush green fields with subtle details from the small villages to the more grandiose cities within castle walls, this looks like a game I’m going to put a lot of time into.

Those are my most anticipated, I know there are only a few games, but maybe there will be some titles that will surprise me and perhaps we will have some new announcements too. Let’s hope 2018 is a good year for games! Let me know the games you’re looking forward to in the comments or on either of my Twitter handles @samcoles2 or @bristoliangamer.