Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Turok Dinosaur Hunter and Seeds of Evil Remaster Review - They are now playable!

By Sam Coles:

If you know me personally or on Twitter you would know I’m a big critic of the N64, that’s because in my opinion not many games from that system have aged well. I own the system and I criticise it because I love it, but I’m not blinded by nostalgia, as most games on the N64 have framerate and control issues. What if I told a studio are going out of their way to bring some N64 classics to modern hardware? Then stop what you’re doing because that is exactly what Nightdive Studios have done with Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil and it is amazing how they have modernised a game just by improving the controls, framerate, resolution and draw distance. I’m glad I got a chance to revisit these games because the last time we heard anything from Turok was a decade ago with the reboot back in 2008.

The stories of Turok generally revolve around a Native American that takes on the Monika of Turok killing dinosaurs and aliens, the first game didn’t really worry itself with a plot unlike the second game. Turok 2 sees you travelling through time to protect energy totems from humanoid dinosaurs that want nothing more than the extinction of the human race. Again it’s not the most in-depth plot, but this was a first person shooter from the 90’s which had simple set ups like Doom where it was merely here are some demons kill them all until the credits roll.

Gameplay is like most shooters from the era, you go around collecting weapons, keys and shoot anything that moves. However the levels in Turok 1 and 2 are large in scale especially the sequel, in Turok 2 there are not many levels however they are large in scale with new items to pick up when you obtain new abilities which add replay value. In the original N64 versions the way forward could be obtuse, fortunately in the second game they added a hint system which I know can be seen as cheating but they don’t show up until you’re somewhat close to the objective. My biggest gripe with the original games is that you could be at the end of the level and you’ve missed an objective far back in the level, where you would have to backtrack.

Let’s talk about controls, and I have to say they are fantastic as I’ve said the controls on the N64 are abysmal the addition of dual analogue controls are a welcome change to these games because you can play them like actually shooters. I found myself darting around levels, blowing chunks out of my foes, instead of playing it slow and methodically like a survival horror game due to the twitchy camera movements of the N64. Aiming is very smooth and I found that I was consistently getting headshots even at long distances; the controls in these versions of games make the original obsolete.

They have improved graphical assets, such as smoothing out textures, water detail, added bloom, framerate and draw distance. Let’s talk about the framerate, Turok 1 and 2 are finally playable the original versions of the games suffered with performance issues especially the Turok 2 as it was stretching what the N64 could do, which made it worse with the high detail mode. The games now run at beautifully smooth 60 frames per second and I can never go back to the originals, they are just glorified collector’s items in my game collection now as this is the best way to play the games. Draw distance has been improved so you can now see more than five feet in front of you which was a huge issue in the first game, and you have a better understanding of your environment in The Death Marshes in Turok 2 which was a big black void on the N64.   

Overall these remasters left me with a constant grin on my face; it reminded me of a time where games could be about the absurd rather than anything grounded or serious. If you’re looking for a good and ridiculous shooter for your Xbox One, you can’t go wrong with these games especially Turok 2. I would highly recommend grabbing these games!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Strange Ports: Call of Duty 3 for the Wii.

By Sam Coles:

You often find ports of games that are on consoles that are not quite powerful enough to replicate the experience. However for some reason I own Call of Duty 3 on the Wii, and it is Call of Duty 3 but on the Wii with no multiplayer, sup par graphics and controls that want me to throw my controller out the window.

The campaign of Call of Duty 3 on the Wii is exactly the same as the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, with some missions cut due to the console limitations. You’ll take control of several soldiers from different fronts, such as the US, UK, Canada and Polish. It was fun playing through the campaign for the story as it is not the standard American or Soviet forces in the European front, you instead see the perspective of countries you don’t often see in World War II games. All the levels are there for the most part, but I do believe the polish tanker levels are cut due to hardware restrictions.

Let’s talk about the controls of this version; this was released on the launch of the Wii showcasing first person shooter controls. Oh boy can you tell this is an early first person shooter for the Wii, as the gimmicks are turned up to overdrive, plus it does not help the controls are terrible. How you shoot in this game is that you point your Wii remote at the screen in the vicinity of the enemy, it works sometimes, but someone thought it was a good idea to map the aim down sights button to A, which feels unnatural. This is fixed in later Call of Duty releases on the Wii, as they remapped it to Z which feels more natural.

Like I said before Call of Duty 3 was a launch title for the Wii, so you know what that means you have to waggle your Wii remote up and down like a teenager who has discovered the internet for the first time. Yes like the good versions of Call of Duty 3 you have the quick time event sequences, which are worse on the Wii as you have to waggle from side to side and most of the time it does not respond. Whoever developed the controls for the vehicle sections need to be sent to a special hell because they didn’t want to use the perfectly fine analogue stick, nope! Instead you have to steer the Wii remote and nun chuck in tandem, which spoiler alert it doesn’t work properly I found myself constantly driving into walls and doing full 180 spins.

Graphically the game does not look good, but that is to be expected as the Wii was more or less a GameCube hardware wise. The textures look blurry and bland with barely any detail when you’re walking across the open battlefields. Character models look okay, but the animations are terrible and their mouth movements flap up and down like Pac-man gorging on power pellets. Framerate wise it doesn’t run at the standard 60 frames per second like the 360 and PS3, as it targets 30 fps which it does hit for the most part, but it starts to dip in the really busy sections of the game and becomes unplayable.

Call of Duty 3 for the Wii is an interesting port, as it is Call of Duty 3 for the Wii but it is not the ideal way of playing it. I only own this game because it came for my Wii when I received it for my birthday 10 years ago, if you want to play Call of Duty 3 play it on the 360 or PS3.   

Friday, 16 February 2018

Editorial | Gaming bringing people together

By Sam Coles:

When most people think of gamers they generally assume that we are anti-social shut ins that don’t want to communicate with others, however that is far from the truth as we have a thriving community. I want to do a short editorial outlining how I use to be labelled that nerdy child who liked comics, Transformers and games to game critic who loves talking about the subject all over the world.

In 2004 to 2009 I was at secondary school, I was completely alone due to the fact my parents sent me to a school where none of my friends from my primary school went to. At the time I was playing mostly PS2 and GameCube games with only a few games as at the time I wasn’t old enough to play or buy certain games. When 2007 rolled around I was fixated on the game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I loved the setting due to my fascination of Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth as they shared similar themes. During this time I was bullied because I was into the whole fantasy world of wizards and elves etc. as well as my other interests such as comics and the Transformers series, but I carried on and escaped to Oblivion when I was feeling down.

When I left my secondary school in 2009 and went on to pursue my A-levels, things got better because I was in a more mature environment I encountered more open minded people and we would chat about leaks and rumours about the at the time upcoming Modern Warfare 2. I felt for once I was accepted for who I was and I have fond memories of signing into Xbox Live, where I would play a few rounds of Halo 3 or a few rounds of Search and Destroy in the Call of Duty games that came out in the following years. It wasn’t until 2012, where my reach would go globally in the gaming community with my introduction to Twitter.

In 2012 I was studying creative media and production and one of the requirements with coursework was to increase awareness on social media, Twitter more than anything else. At first I saw it as ticking a box and I didn’t really use it that much, but I did start to meet and interact with people from the US and eventually I could even call them my friend. It wasn’t until around 2014 when I started to use it properly and I have interacted and even met some most wonderful people in the gaming community, they are now my closest friends compared to people I have met through traditional means. It started because at the time I left a website I use to write for due to creative differences, where start my blog where I talk about video games with no restrictions and this opened up to fellow gamers.

I’m now a part of many gaming communities on Twitter, from PlayStation users, Xbox gamers and even retro gamers. I have a big community of friends through gaming, so remember don’t let it get you down because you have a specific interest there is always someone with the same hobby that will want to converse with you and I have met some wonderful people through this medium. I have great moments chatting on PSN or Xbox Live where I’m not even playing a game and just sat there at the dashboard and just having a good chat, or when I am in a game I have forged some good moments that no one else can replicate.

At the end of the day your interest in gaming shouldn’t be a weakness, but instead should be a badge of honour you should discuss with others. I have truly met some wonderful people with my interest, yes it took a while, but best things take time and I can thank the advent of social media for expanding my friendship.  

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Timesplitters 2 Review - Evolving the console shooter.

By Sam Coles:

Games from the 6th generation of consoles don’t often age well due to 3D graphics looking rather crude and blocky; however there are some games that still stand the test of time in the gameplay department. Timesplitters 2 is one of those games, originally released on the Xbox, PS2 and GameCube it was somewhat of a spiritual successor to Goldeneye, as the studio Free Radical had former Rare developers that worked on the shooter. Does the game still hold up today? Yes it does for the most part, let’s get into it.

The story in Timesplitters 2 is about the titular creatures, who want to destroy humanity, how they go about this is that they travel through time living up to their name’s sake. You take control of Sergeant Cortez, a Vin Diesel look alike, who wants to stop these alien creatures. He travels to various points in history, but he assimilates forms of different people in time similar to Quantum Leap but you shoot everything in sight. The story is fun and over the top, it does not take itself seriously at all with funny quips and dialogue from the characters, it also helps that the delivery from the voice actors is excellent.

Gameplay is where the game shines, it is fast and fluid which still holds up today and can give some modern shooters a run for their money. If you have played Goldeneye or Perfect Dark the game will feel very familiar even down to the user interface, but this game is playable as it doesn’t run at 15 frames per second, as this game runs at a consistent 60 frames per second. There are a huge selection of weapons and they are period appropriate, from revolvers in the wild west to the science fiction plasma rifles and pistols in the future, they all handle well and have a satisfying punch and feedback.

The campaign is not the only singleplayer offering, there are arcade league challenges which will put you into unique scenarios, these can range from taking waves of the undead with nothing but a shotgun, to deathmatches with certain stipulations. These can get insanely hard especially if you’re going for the platinum trophies, you want to do these challenges to unlock more maps and the colourful cast of characters.  There are varied and will give you a meaty challenge that will keep you occupied for a while.

Multiplayer is where the game truly shines with your standard modes like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Free for All, but it’s the more unique modes that make the game fun. Let’s start off with one of my favourites Assault, how this game mode works is that you’re given a set of objectives and you must push forward in the map. Think of it as a smaller scale version of Rush from Battlefield, but instead Russian and American soldiers running around you have monkeys and Ginger Bread Men darting around with Miniguns.

Another unique mode, which is also hilarious is the Monkey Assistant game type, what this entails is that every few seconds a bunch of monkeys will spawn on the field and will start to kill every other player on the field except for the person in last. This is funny but horrendously unbalanced as the person in last place can shoot up into first in no time, as the A.I has pin point accuracy.

The presentation is the only part of the game that hasn’t aged well; most of the textures look bland, blurry and flat and don’t look great on an HDTV these days as I lack the component cables for my GameCube. There are some graphical flourishes that I love, I like the rain and snow effects in the Siberian and Neo Tokyo levels it still looks good today coupled with the eerie and foreboding soundtracks to complement the levels. The graphical sacrifice was necessary as the game runs at a buttery smooth framerate of 60 frames per second which is absolutely mandatory for a fast paced first person shooter.

Timesplitters 2 is still worth playing today, you can find it for a reasonable price on PS2, Xbox or GameCube. I would recommend getting it on the GameCube or Xbox as they look the best and run well compared to the PS2 which looks a bit oh dear and has some performance issues.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Borderlands Review - Before the series got irritating.

By Sam Coles:

I remember when the original Borderlands first came out back in 2009, it almost came out of nowhere because at the time I didn’t really follow any gaming press and Youtube was in its infancy. What we got was a unique looter shooter, with a fun story and a cell shaded art style that has aged well as it does not shoot for realism, the humour has aged well too compared to the other two in the series as it does not relay on irritating pop-culture references.

The story of Borderlands is about a ragtag team of people, called Vault Hunters they are after the titular object as they believe that it holds a great treasure, so they saddle up on a bus and get dropped off in the middle of nowhere in a bandit riddled town. You meet a robot called Claptrap and he tasks you with clearing the bandit presence out of town, with the promise of helping you. The story is really funny and this was before the series got very irritating with the sequels due to them relaying on pop-culture references, which have aged the games terribly.

The gameplay is a first person shooter mixed with open world elements, but it’s not one fluid open world, but instead the game is split up into several different open ended hubs for you to explore and kill enemies. The game identifies itself as a “looter shooter”, what this means is that you go around shooting enemies and collect loot, this can range from new shield power ups and exotic weapons, this is another selling point of the game. The game claims that it has millions of guns with different variations, this is an over exaggeration, but there is a wide selection of guns to use. The guns aren’t your standard pistols, shotguns and machine guns, as they have different effects, these can range from shooting acid to corrode through armour, or incendiary rounds to set your enemies on fire. The different effects keep firefights fresh, as you have to change up your tactics for each encounter as you find new and more challenging enemies.

Each character has a special attack which charges up over time, Roland the soldier can deploy a turret, Brick can go into a berserker mode and punch people’s heads, Litith can phase walk and Mordeca can deploy Bloodwing a bird like creature that can destroy enemies. Each character is unique and fun to use, who also specialise in specific weapons, such as Roland being an expert with assault rifles as he is a soldiers. The gameplay in general is smooth and tight, I played this on the PlayStation 3 which I usually have issues with playing first person shooters on that console, due to my distaste for the Dualshock 3 with its flimsy triggers.

The graphics are beautiful and have aged very well due to it using a cell shaded art style, with fun and creative character and enemy design with exaggerated expressions, with beautiful and wide open and landscapes. The only real issue I had with the presentation is that it had major pop in issues, I know this is prevalent on the console versions of the game, it happens when you first load the game and it has a texture streaming problem for a few seconds. Another issue is that the game has framerate issues, it stutters during some of the more busy encounters, dropping around 20 frames per second.

Borderlands is a fantastic game, this was a time when the series did not relay on irritating pop culture references which age about as well as an open jar of hummus in a fridge. It has fun gameplay and humour that made me chuckle a few times throughout my playthrough, it’s super cheap I picked up my PS3 copy for £2, so you are getting more than your money’s worth.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Timothy vs the Aliens Review - Gangsters killing aliens wait.... What?

By Sam Coles:

There are game titles you read and think is that real? This was my initial reaction to Timothy vs the Aliens, I was not sure if I was to laugh or walk away in confusion, however it is a fun and completely ridiculous title with its premise, this game almost came out of nowhere and honestly it was not on my radar. Should you pick this up on PS4? Yes absolutely.

You play as the titular character Timothy who is a feared gangster, where he is doing his usual routine of threating people and collecting money. He has mysterious power where he can slow time down and run quickly, this is due to the ace card he carries in his hat, he acquired this when he was a child when he was abducted by aliens. The aliens gave him a warning that the Earth is in danger and he must use his new power to protect it, Timothy being arrogant did not think anything of it and utilises the power for his own greed. The story is completely stupid but that is all a part of its charm, there is no voice acting to speak of just various grunts and noises with subtitles.

What is the gameplay in Timothy vs the Aliens? What if I told you that it is a third person shooter mixed with platforming in the same vein as Banjo Kazooie, absurd you say? Well that is what it shoots for and it works well, with open ended hubs to explore with secrets, items and enemies to kill. You have access to a pistol to start with that has infinite ammo, which does serviceable damage but gets swiftly put to the side as you gain access to more powerful weaponry. The next weapon you unlock is the Tommy Gun which is great for thinning out crowds of aliens especially the small jumping ones. There is a charging attack, but this is mostly for breaking open boxes for money and getting from A to B in a nimble fashion.

You won’t be just shooting aliens; you’ll be platforming to find items, secrets and new weapons. The jumping and platforming is good, with precise movements fairly easy to pull off, although it is hard to judge if Timothy is going to grab a ledge because sometimes he will and other times he won’t. The camera can be an issue in some areas especially in enclosed spaces which gave me Yooka Laylee flashbacks, but these are far and few and it didn’t kill my overall experience.

The art style is fantastic, as it is set in the 1930’s with gangsters it has a black and white aesthetic, with jazz music playing in the background with exaggerated character models as they are going for a more cartoonish look. You would think that this would make it hard to see the enemies, but fortunately the enemies are the only characters in the game that are colourful so they stand out from the background similar to the Saboteur.

The only game breaking issue I had was a sequence when I was in a sewer looking for a set of keys, I found said keys which gave me the circle button prompt to pick it up, however the game bugged out and I could not obtain them. This wasn’t an issue as I was able to solve the problem with a hard reset, but it did take me out of the moment.

Overall I was really surprised with this game, with its unique and completely ridiculous plot, fun gameplay and a solid art style. This is fun game that does not take itself seriously, if you want a laugh pick this game up.  

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Medal of Honor: Warfighter Review - When the job interferes with family life

By Sam Coles:

There are games that get a lot of negative attention which baffles me; the reason why it confuses me is that the fact there is nothing inherently wrong with them. Medal of Honor: Warfigther is one of those games, originally released in 2012; it got a lot of negative attention due to it being “generic” when its contemporises Battlefield and Call of Duty were doing the same. Maybe people didn’t like the fact the games were based on real life events in modern warfare from the afghan war with the 2010 reboot and various Tier 1 missions in Warfigher. This got EA and Danger Close games in a lot of hot water because the Tier 1 operatives they were working with were revealing too much information that was classified. Is the game bad? No to be honest it has a very tense and emotional campaign and when the game was active a unique and engaging multiplayer.

The story follows Preacher, one of the side characters in the reboot in 2010, he finds himself alone due to his job getting in the way of his family which has split him and his wife up. There is a terrorist threat in the form of The Cleric, who has been orchestrating suicide bombings across the globe. Various groups and people are involved even old allies that helped the Tier 1 groups back in the 90’s. The story is engaging as you see that Preacher has to prioritise his work over his family and it starts to take its toll on him and his family as he constantly has to shut his wife out.

Medal of Honor: Warfigther is a first person shooter, which has an emphasis on team work with your squad as it is the only source of accumulating more ammunition for your weapon. Gunplay is solid, which to be honest I wouldn’t expect anything less as this game plays like Battlefield 3 as it runs on the Frostbite 2 engine, but the guns have actual recoil compared that game, giving it a realistic edge.

The game has an obsession with breaching doors, so much so that they include a wheel which has various ways of breaching and you can unlock more by scoring headshots during the breaching process. It’s an odd inclusion but it keeps the breaching fresh with the unique animations, these can include the classic booting the door in and throwing a flashbang to blowing locks off the door with a shotgun.

For game that came out nearly six years ago it still looks exceptionally good, the Frostbite 2 engine is beautiful and considering the limited hardware of the 360 it is amazing to look at. There is so much detail in the environments with trees reacting to explosions to your character’s clothes and skin being wet when it is raining or when they have been swimming.

Is there anything wrong with the game? Well the game has some framerate issue on 360, as it does start to stutter in some of the busy sections with lots of gunfire and weather effects. Also there are some clipping issues with enemies, as I shot someone once and they merged with the wall to form a concrete and flesh like entity.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a good game, with tense gameplay and an engaging narrative, I don’t understand the negative attention it got with its initial release. I hope EA (maybe not EA), or some other publisher to bring the series back, with Call of Duty back in World War II maybe it’s Medal of Honor’s time to shine.