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  • Bratman Du

    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:18
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    Portal: Still Alive
    Publisher: Microsoft
    Developer: Valve
    Genre: Action
    System: XBLA
    Price:1200 MS Points

    The first iteration of Portal we saw was attached to the sweet-as-a-nut deal The Orange Box. At the time I paid 60 quid for the Orange Box, and I was noted for saying that I'd have paid that for Portal alone. This was of course a lie, that would be mad, but Portal's quality and uniqueness stood out from the other parts of the Orange Box (Half Life 2 and it's episodes, and Team Fortress 2. The Orange Box as a whole was great, Half Life 2 and it's episodes are a fantastic play, they age well and converted to the 360 nicely. Team Fortress 2 has a big following even today. The 'Box was full of Diamonds, and Portal was like a, Golden Diamond.

    A number of things set it apart - for one it wasn't a First Person Shooter, it was an FPP (first person puzzler). Puzzle games until then had largely been restricted to 2D, with no real story to speak of. Portal showed us unique puzzle situations with a deep and often darkly humorous story, and a good game mechanic which was well realised. The way the game plays is simple enough, one trigger puts up one portal, the other trigger, a second portal. You can travel between the two. And that's it, but I can't explain in words how intricate this game mechanic makes Portal. It sounds simple, but when you take into account that you can use portals to redirect missiles, take objects through to use elsewhere, and that momentum and gravity are unaffected by portals, then the game becomes much more rich and rewarding.

    Portal: Still Alive, is a hard one to figure out. To be brutally honest, it's a mutilated version of the original. There are puzzles I remember that are cut out (perhaps to fit the XBox Live Arcade maximum size limit). So you get the feel for what the game is, and you get a good taste for the puzzle element, and most of the story is here in tact. There are no new story bits that I noticed, but some of the puzzles themselves seemed to have small additions or twists I don't remember from first time around.

    There are extra and new test chambers (puzzles) to be done individually (i.e. not featuring any of the classic Glados chatter or story). These are simply puzzles and that's it. So I found myself asking - what is this? It's not a prequel or a sequel, and it's not a remake, because a remake would warrant extra and updated content. It's more like a dowloadable content pack for Portal. But it included most of the original game so the only real extras if this were classed as DLC, would be the 20 or so extra puzzles, and if I paid over 5 quid for 20 short enough puzzles, even for what was and is one of the greatest games of all time, I'd cry blood. I'd want more than that for DLC!

    But as it stands, Portal: Still Alive is not DLC, it's standalone Arcade game. So where does that leave my opinion? I love the original Portal, but for this review, I just had to play a bastardized version of the game I love. Why would I play this game? For the extra puzzles? I want more of the excellent story! For the achievements? It's a bit lame to be buying something you already completed just to get extra points (or just to be able to say "rub it up ye, Paddy, I gots more points than u!") There are also modes where you have to do each test using only a set amount of portals or footsteps but really, could you be arsed if you've already done them?

    I seem to be giving this game a bollocking so far, but the best way I would recommend this game, and this is the important part of this review, this is what I want you to remember - If, AND ONLY IF, you have never played, and have no intention of ever paying for and playing, the full Orange Box package, Portal included, then you owe it to yourself to get this. This will probably be the case if you don't like first person shooters much. And that's fair enough, but Portal is not a first person shooter, not at all. The rest of the Orage Box however, is. And if indeed you are that small minority that doesn't like shooting the christ out of anything that moves, then you should opt for Portal: Still Alive on the Arcade.

    It is a great game, even in this slimmed down arcade version, and if you are not a FPS fan, there's no point going for the full Orange Box, take this and enjoy it, because although it's not a complete version, it's enough to show you how awesome the world of Portal is, and you will get almost as much as enjoyment out of this version as the original.


    if you have the Orange Box
    if you haven't
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:52
    1. Categories:
    2. Xbox 360 News,
    3. DCEmu Games Reviews

    Published by: THQ
    Developed by: Volition
    Genre: Third Person Shooter / Open World
    RRP: £44.99

    Release: Jun 2009

    I was lucky enough to be able to grab a keycode for the new Red Faction Guerilla demo.

    *edit - the demo is now up for download by the general public - go try it!*

    I haven't played much of the first few games - I think I rented red faction 1 ages ago. I was impressed enough by it's Geomod(1.0) technology which allowed you to burrow holes in levels with rockets, create trenches, etc. However, it was limited back in the day and only so much damage could be done to a level before everything became un-destroyable.

    Now we have a handful of games which expand on how destructible scenery comes into play, such as Battlefield: Bad Company, and Mercenaries 2.

    Mercenaries 2 I felt was particularly underwhelming in this respect, it's graphics lacked polish (terrible water effects) and, whilst you could indeed destroy every building and structure in the game, there was again a lack of polish, and the feeling that quantity was prioritized over quality. For example, a building took a set amount of damage before it began to crumble and raise dust, and shortly after a standard pile of rubble was left. Of course, within minutes these buildings were magically reconstructed so as not to break gameplay.

    Battlefield Bad Company tried a more subtle approach, with a lot of fully destructible scenery, and buildings, which could be skeletonized, rather than completely demolished. It worked fairly well, though it could get annoying that you could destroy some things and not others.

    So, given that destructible scenery is one of Red Faction: Guerilla's major selling points, this is the first aspect I wished to investigate.

    What I can say for certain is that if you like breaking stuff, and seeing things destroyed in an overly gratuitous fashion, then you will not be disappointed. The buildings on Mars, from military installations to flimsy shacks, will shatter, splinter, explode, collapse, break, twist and fall. Pipes, bricks, bits of metal and concrete all break apart as you'd expect and secondary explosions caused by good old fashioned exploding barrels can really rack up the carnage.

    The smashing-up-of-things is the star of the show, no doubt, but a concern I had is one exemplefied by Battlefield: Bad Company's single player. This is the fact that in BF:BC, the enemy AI had trouble distinguishing between broken scenery, and untouched, solid walls. Red Faction: Guerilla's AI seems to handle it well enough, and at no point in the demo (although short) did I feel like the AI was being especially stupid.

    In fact, the AI worked better than I thought. In the open world of RF:G, there are friendly miners going about their business, not bothering anyone, and driving random cars and trucks about (which you can 'borrow').

    Then there are restricted areas, which, if you enter, the local guards will pop a cap in your ass, provided they see you. You can back up against walls, and crouch walk to avoid detection, and there's also a handy minimap to show nearby guard positions.

    Of course, being fairly open world means that you'll probably get spotted sooner or later and then the guards come - with re-enforcements depending on how much shit you are fecking up - cause too much mayhem and truckload after truckload of enemies will bail in, overwhelming you.

    Dealing with the enemies is fair enough too, there's usually accuracy issues in 3rd person shooters but enough has been done to eliminate frustration. For example, 3rd person melee attacking can tend to be a bit fiddly in most 3rd person games, but an auto lock on/lunge makes this a bit more satisfying. Though it could be cheap in multiplayer if the lunge distance is as it is in single player, I'd be annoyed if I got whacked by someone ten feet away, because the lunge auto-targets the nearest person. Still, works well in single player.

    The guns, in the demo at least, are intuitive to use and feel meaty in sound and effect, and the remote detonation mines - whilst a little inaccurate when thrown, are a hell of a lot of fun, and creative use of them can result in some crazy situations.

    So the actual mission in the demo is to first 'liberate' an Aliens-style mech loader from a garage which is in a restricted area. I had a few attempts at this. First, running in with guns and bombs was fairly effective, but as you raise more attention, you need to be on the ball or else you'll get swarmed by guards.

    The second attempt I used was stealth - carefully avoiding enemies where I could, and taking the less travelled path, this too proved to be a valid - if slightly more boring option.

    The third attempt I enjoyed the most. Hijacking a random truck which looked like a martian bin lorry, I proceeded to stick 4 remote mines all over the truck, after driving it to a secluded location. Once I had the explosives stuck to it, I began driving it straight at the enemy compound, jumped out whilst at full speed, and watched as it bore a truck-shaped hole through a major building, with girders and pipes crashing down in it's wake, and the enemies who were all about the building, naturally came to assess the damage and shoot at me through the gaping truck-shaped hole.

    Detonating the mines on the truck soon stopped their shenannigans and pretty much levelled half of the building, with the other half collapsing shortly after, due to a lack of wall support.

    So it's good to see different directions and tactics that you can use for the missions, it does scream replayability if you are free to approach all missions in the game like this.

    So we get to the garage containing the hulking power loader mech thing, and jump in. At this point, stealth and subtlety are smashed into a crumpled heap, along with anything or anyone else who has the misfortune to get in your path.

    The mech is a lot of fun to play with; the triggers on your controller swing the arms like windmills, mashing up guards, vehicles, and anything else. The bumper buttons do a left or right arm sweep, useful for smacking pesky trucks away.

    With the mech you gain a good bit of damage resistance, although turrets and guards in great number can wear you down eventually.

    You have to take your mech to a waiting truck, which parks outside the compound. I found the best way to get to it was to ignore any other enemies behind you, and walk in a straight line towards it - cutting through any buildings or vehicles like a hot knife through butter, destroying anything in your path - it's a lot of fun.

    Of course, it's not that easy, you have to stay clear of explosive things when ploughing through scenery, and if any turrets or heavy weapons are hassling you - you need to back track a bit to smack them about.

    Once at the waiting truck, your mech gets loaded on, and you hop out to man the vehicle's turret for some on rails shooter action. A brief chase ensues, with you pummelling any attacker who dares get too close to your cargo. This bit was perhaps the least fun part of the demo, but it was relieved by the crazy carnage that you could bring down on anything behind you.

    All in all, I'm cautiously optimistic about this game. It is definitely fun and the physics and Geomod2.0 powered destruction are very well realised and work with the gameplay wonderfully.

    A multiplayer demo would have been interesting, to see how they balance the powerful weapons to prevent one jerk flattening anything and everything on the map. It will be interesting to see if this is possible in the final build.

    Let's keep an eye on this one.

    - Bratman Du.
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:51
    1. Categories:
    2. Xbox 360 News,
    3. DCEmu Games Reviews

    Puzzle Arcade
    Publisher: Eidos Interactive Limited
    Developer: Ctxm/Say Design
    Genre: Puzzle
    System: XBLA
    Price:800 MS Points

    Let's get right into it, this is a jig-saw game. Everything you do in this game is a type of jig-saw, either in the traditional sense, or with constraints placed on you in certain challenges, such as, having a minute to complete a jig-saw, a distorted image which becomes clearer the more pieces you get, and so on.

    There are varying degrees of difficulty, which affect things like, amount of pieces, whether or not the pieces are laid out in a mess, with some bits facing the wrong way, or you can have all the pieces facing the right way and even pre-rotated to the correct orientation.

    You can have the pieces separated into a menu of edges and colour groupings, allowing you to quickly find and select certain pieces.

    To start with, I did a few of the challenges. Picking a few at random, I found different twists on the 'put the pieces in the right place' type fun that this game promises.

    Twists such as bots who make frustrating attemps to complete the puzzle ahead of you. This is the equivalent of having 3 people over your shoulder, grabbing bits of your puzzle and moving them around, shouting - 'that bit goes there!'. Now, if I was actually doing a jig-saw puzzle, first of all, I'd have to be 80 and an old woman, and second; I'd be doing it to relax and have a bit of peace!

    So this being the case, the last thing I'd want when doing a jig-saw is other people annoying me, or even time constraints, or missing pieces, or any thing in fact.

    So after these challenges, I took to the main, 'just do a friggin regular jig-saw puzzle' mode. So here i thought I'd set up a puzzle, with the pieces not sorted - scattered about, upside down and six-ways from-Sunday, with the maximum amount of pieces (somewhere in the region of 1300).

    So I spent about two hours, slowly grabbing pieces, flipping them if needed, sorting the edges and corners to one side, and getting ready to tackle a large puzzle.

    Do you know what? It was actually quite relaxing, theraputic even! But after a couple of hours (at which point I hadn't even put two pieces together - I was still sorting edges!), I decided to take a break, and finish my monster puzzle later. It didn't allow me to save my progress. Gutted.

    After sorting that mess for two hours, I wasn't able to save my progress and resume later. How in the name of shitting-crikey are you supposed to finish a 1300+ piece puzzle in one sitting?

    I've given more than enough words out for this game so I'm going to get to the point - which is this - what's the point?

    Why? Why would you play this game, who would play it? How long would they play it for?

    Why would you play this game? I guess if you really like jig-saws, and think it's be cool taking pictures with the XBox Vision Camera and turning them into said puzzles, then yes, go for it. But who is going to want to do jig-saws on an XBox 360?

    The lack of a save function for some puzzles means that there really is no point starting a huge one, as you'd have to do it in one sitting. Although some do allow saving.

    The multiplayer aspect is a strange addition, and I guess it would work like the mode with the bots who keep grabbing bits of your jigsaw and moving them around (i.e. annoying). But I can't say for sure because I couldn't get an online match, ranked or otherwise, as presumably only someone with a very sad life would play online jigsaw puzzles at half ten on Saturday night. And as sad as my life is, I was reviewing it so I had an excuse and if I had found anyone playing this online I would have been interested to talk to them and possibly find out who they are and alert the authorities about a potential suicide risk.

    So I'd struggle to justify buying or even playing this game. If you really want a taste of last century (or the one before that even) then go for this, if you think jig-saws belong in the past along with ball-in-a-cup, ludo and slap-the-stepchild, then avoid.

    If you're that into jig-saws, then you probably aren't going to appreciate the extra factors and difficulties put into place by this game. You're better off with the real thing.

    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:01
    1. Categories:
    2. Xbox 360 News,
    3. DCEmu Games Reviews

    Publisher: Microsoft
    Developer: Jonathan Blow
    Genre: Platformer/Puzzler
    Players: 1
    MSRP: 1200 MS point ($14.99, £10.20, €13.96)
    Platform: Xbox 360

    Are games art? It's a broad question which has been asked and answered, and re-asked and re-answered many times. Especially in recent years, where technical and graphical limitations have become less prevalent, and programmers and artists alike are free to create new ways of using current generation hardware. Many games are a clear argument against games being art, with their unoriginal concepts and gimmicky game play and art styles. Braid is proof that some games, only some, can be artistic masterpieces.

    I played the XBox Live Arcade version of Braid. Very few games on the Arcade have piqued my interest over the years. Worms, N+ and Castlevania, to name but a few were all, in my opinion, genuinely worth the money spent. I can say that Braid, although hefty in it's pricing, is worth the money.

    The only way to review this game without getting as complicated as some of the levels can be, is to take it's individual elements one at a time. First of all the graphics. I've never been terribly impressed by games using alternative art styles, like cell shaded games, or retro style brightly coloured shooters. Braid's hand painted wonderland feels like somebody spent a hell of a lot of time on it, and that you're playing something that has been lovingly crafted especially for you, and not just put in the graphical style of the month. Not many games ever make you feel like that. The music is also masterfully composed and whilst, you won't be humming any of it in the shower, it is pleasant on the ears all the way through.

    The story is probably something you will make your own mind up on. Initially it seems like a 'save the princess, get to castle, she's in another castle' affair. Which is a deep as you need to get in a platform game. However, dig deeper and look at the intro story for each level, the character's motivation for playing, and even the design of some of the levels, and the pictures made from the collectible jigsaw pieces, and you will wonder, is this a story derived from the classic platform plot, twisted into something plausible? Or is this a very personal tale of lost love and regret? Has the author suffered some deep heartbreak that makes him wish he could rewind time and fix his old mistakes, or it is better to learn to live with them and learn from them, or how about having knowledge of what mistakes you will make, and then making them anyway, knowing it will lead to ultimate success? That entire last sentence is a thinker for sure, but it's also how you need to think to complete some of the game's puzzles, and this fact in itself is simply genius.

    Playing the game is simple, you move around, jump on heads to kill enemies, and flick switches. You also have the x button to rewind time, right back to the start of the level if you need to (you often will). It's the characteristics of each area that make these simple elements go beyond simple and become brain taxingly complex.

    Later on, new levels bring new features, such as your shadow self, levels where moving right moves time forward, moving left moves it back, and standing still, well, you get the idea, at least, you'll think you do until you realise the problems that come with such a situation. When you combine these and more features even further into the game, things get very difficult, and some puzzles will leave you saying only one word; 'impossible', even with your timeless advantage. But when you finally figure out the puzzle, and there are often multiple solutions, you'll feel so damn satisfied and well chuffed with yourself.

    You'll notice that sometimes you have to think not only outside the box, but you'll have to forget there ever was a box in the first place. You'll often be going out of your way to save enemies instead of killing them, to get them to wander into a certain position where jumping on their heads will help you get to something previously unreachable. The game is full of concepts like this, where you go out of your way to do something which seems detrimental to progress, to achieve more.

    So when we combine all these elements into one game, we've got a beautifully painted landscape, with delightfully composed music, a casual or incredibly deep storyline depending on how you look at it, and amazing use of time control for puzzle solving in an environment where the only other controls are move, jump and hit switch.

    We have a winner here, and if you only ever download occasionally from XBox Live Arcade, as I do, this is one of those few games actually worth the money.

    Reading over this review I realize I have my tongue firmly up it's asshole, and although I'm usually quite critical, there's very little to dislike about this game. I don't often play any puzzle or retro or platform games. But the charm of everything about this game has me enthralled from the start, and it's hard to say negative things about something which is exactly where we want games to go.

    Like Portal, it's possible to complete in one sitting of around 5 or 6 hours. This didn't bother me, because, also like Portal, this is a highly original and enjoyable piece of art that is both played and experienced. It's just the right length, has just the right blend of aesthetic and aural beauty, mixed with innovative and enjoyable game play. You probably won't play it twice, but it's such a special feeling to play something which has clearly had so much personal effort put into it.

    From the reviews I've been reading, my rating is comparitively pretty low, but I'm wary of the fact that, this was a hefty price to pay for an arcade game, and although the experience is wonderful, it's also short, and I would have enjoyed hundreds more time travel based puzzles for 1200 MS Points, when you consider how many levels N+ had. Granted, Braid has a graphical style which is very important to the game overall, and perhaps quantity would have affected quality if we had a longer game. But who knows, maybe we'll see some reasonably priced (or free?!) DLC in the future?


    My first Review, thanks for reading,

    The Bratman.
    by Published on June 30th, 2010 12:18

    Publisher/Developer: Bethesda Softworks
    Developer: Nerve Software / Id Software
    Release: May 26th 2010
    Genre: First Person Shooter / Shoot em up
    Players: Single-player, Co-op, Online Multiplayer
    Age Rating:

    Sequels today are a tough business. Creating a franchise seems to be everything these days. Typically games and the technology and software solutions get better all the time and as a result, sequels often perfect the formula of the first game. Of course, sequels can find it hard to shake that 'it's not as new and exciting as the first game' syndrome, but a lot surpass their first incarnation in terms of enhancements to gameplay, etc. Take something like Gears of War for example. The sequel was much the same as number 1, with a few graphical tweaks, extra weapons, and so on. Is it more fun to play than the first one? I'd say yes, but it also suffers from 'more of the same' syndrome - another affliction of sequels. These aren't negative statements against Gears by any means, both 1 and 2 were great. But you have to wonder - how much will number 3 differ from them? Back to the 90s now, when '3d' was a relatively new concept in gaming, and difficult to pull off in those days. The original Doom wasn't the first game to try and create a 3d world. It seemed to be more of a refinement of the game mechanics of Wolfenstein3D, which the gaming public were super hungry for back in 1994.

    Two players = double fun

    Back in those times with the hardware available, Doom was about the closest to 3D we had. It had the first person perspective - no looking up or down though (even though a lot of levels had some verticality to them, you simply rotate your view left or right, and strafe as well. If something in front of you is lined up vertically with your gun, you'll blow it away, even if it's at a different height. Enemies were 2D sprites in the gameworld, with clever texture swaps used to give the pixelated bastards more depth. You wandered around fairly large environments, collecting coloured keys to open matching doors, checked funny looking walls for secret areas, and picking up a massive arsenal of increasingly devastating weapons.

    That's Doom. That's also Doom II. And that's ok, because there were so few first person shooters back then, a 'more of the same' of Doom was very welcome.

    And they tell two people...

    But it wasn't just the fact that these types of games were rare back then, there's more to it than that. For starters - the Super Shotgun. Never mind the ridiculously powerful and unwieldy BFG, the double barrel beauty is your best friend in this game. It frequently makes the top ten list of best game weapons ever, and with good reason. This reason is because it rocks. It rocks a lot. The spread of it turns a wide throng of enemies into red mush and bloody corpses. The sound of it is glorious, and the reloading animation/sound is one of the most pleasing audio visual experiences you will ever have. It's beautiful, and so much fun to use.


    Yea, this is an old game, and I feel sorry for those who are young enough to have missed the time when this game came out. You see, whilst it may have been more of the same, you could tell ID had become more confident in the use of their game engine. Levels are more complex and elaborate than Doom 1, with many twists and turns. New enemies are fierce and brutal and attack en masse, some even act as monster generators and spit out other enemies at you. It's hectic and exciting, everything a game should be. AI is pretty much 'come at you with everything' - no more complicated, although if you can position yourself between two bad guys and get one to hit the other, you could start a riot.


    I was worried when I booted it up for the first time, that it's oldness would detract from it, but I seriously did not stop smiling the whole time I was playing. They keep the excitement level high for a game with such hardware and software limitations. Encounters are set up so well that it's still a
    terrifying game to play. The controls translate nicely to the 360 pad, and there's certainly no difficulty in picking them up. It's fast paced - more than I remembered even, you'll be rampaging through the many levels at breakneck speed sometimes, obliterating everything in your path.

    I hate these guys so much

    New things exclusive to this port include 1080i support, online multiplayer, splitscreen, and 5.1 surround (which is awesome btw!). Aside from some slight changes to options i.e. remapping buttons is not allowed and the automap cannot be explored past your immediate area. Nothing gamebreaking I assure you. In addition to the 32 maps included with Doom II, and extra episode called 'No Rest For ...
    by Published on February 18th, 2010 11:56

    Publisher/Developer: Team17
    Release: 16/12/2009
    Genre: Top Down Shooter / Shoot em up
    Players: Single-player, Co-op
    Age Rating: ESRB: Teen

    I never had an Amiga back in the day, I had always been confined to Gameboy, Nes and Snes in the early 90s, so games like the original Alien Breed passed me by. But what I gathered from any Amiga owners I knew, was that it was quite good. Essentially a top down shooter, it had a dark appeal, and clear to all was the influence of the then recently released Aliens film.

    But it was far from a non-official cash in on the Aliens franchise, the top down shooter was a popular genre of the late 80s/early 90s, with Gauntlet and Smash TV proving very popular with their simple game mechanics and graphical style able to allow many enemies on screen at once. The top down viewpoint permitted enemies to attack the player from all sides of the screen, leading to some frantic shooting action. Since you viewed the action from above, players had more freedom of movement than say, a side scrolling shooter where your only movement is forward and back.

    Whilst Gauntlet and Smash TV were simply chaotic frag fests, Alien Breed took a more subtle approch, with haunting visuals, and adopting enhanced game mechanics like many rooms interlinked with creepy coridoors, and keycard collection, as well as thick enough narrative to keep your objectives in sight (namely - shoot everything that moves). The game would change from quiet, nervous wandering around, from suddenly having Various types of Alien coming at you in their droves.

    This remake/re-imaginging of the long neglected franchise follows suite, and essentially consists of the player wandering around in the dark collecting keycard, re-activating generators and opening doors, intersparsed with bouts of frantic hordes of aliens coming out of the walls and floors for several minutes at a time.

    One early section has you re-ignite some computer system, which, once activated, take a couple of minutes to boot up and allow access to the next section through the locked door. Of course, you know once you hit the switch and the the door-open timer starts counting down, you're in for some chop. So begins the running and the screaming.

    The Unreal3 engine gets a fair bit of use these days, in games like Gears of War 1 and 2, and Batman Arkham Asylum, and in Alien Breed Evolution it shows how the aging engine can still work great with remakes and XBL Arcade games.

    The action is viewed from a semi-top-down-semi-isometric perspective, and you can rotate the camera through 8 angles (up, down, left, right and the diagonals), which is handy if the scenery blocks your view, but it can be disorientating. Fortunately the levels are fairly intuitively laid out.

    Left stick is your movement, and right stick points your character in the desired direction, making it possible to strafe and circle, unlike the original 90s version, where strafing was the ramblings of a madman. Pointing the right stick in a direction not only aims, but also shines your torch out, which is essential as large portions of this game are played in near complete darkness. It's fantastic when you whip the aim round and your torch catches the greasy head of an alien scuttling towards you. Catch em with a shotgun blast to the face quick! In larger battles you'll have many aliens coming at you from all angles, and whipping around to shoot from all angles is something you'll be doing alot if you want to survive.

    I played on hard difficulty, and ammo quickly becomes scarce, leaving you to rely on your infinate pistol - which is not ideal. You learn to conserve ammo, and use melee on smaller beasts instead. But the tension and atmosphere is enhanced tenfold when you have to carefully balance your ammo types. It makes your shotgun more fun to use if you save it up for one of those moments when you get surrounded, the control scheme is quick enough so that turning around to blast your hot lead in multiple directions is a breeze. It's these moments where the game shines.

    It's definately frightening, and there's an element of survival horror. But it's mostly hot and heavy blasting action. I didn't get a chance to do co-op, but as a single player experience this stands up on it's own.

    The main gripe is the camera movement and distance. It's often too close to you, which is fine for showing off the graphics, but lousy for seeing the fast approaching horde offscreen. It's a big problem in a game like this, and a zoomed out camera would have been better for moments of intense fighting, also, as mentioned, being able to rotate the camera is a solution to the player being obscured behind objects ...
    by Published on November 18th, 2009 15:01

    Publisher: Codemasters
    Developer: Codemasters
    NA: October 6, 2009
    EU: October 8, 2009
    AUS: October 15, 2009
    UK: October 9, 2009
    Genre: Military Sim / FPS
    Players: Single-player, Single-co-op, Multiplayer, Multiplayer-Co-op
    Age Rating:
    BBFC: 15
    ESRB: M
    PEGI: 18
    USK: 16

    Billed as an infantry sim, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, makes many claims about it's size, it's realism and it's hardcore difficulty. This is a game I had been looking forward to, I always wade in on the hardest difficulty of any game I have right away. I hadn't played the first Operation Flashpoint game, but I damn sure liked the sound of bullets causing you to bleed out, super hard enemies who spot you a mile off and the need for finely honed military tactics to complete missions.

    I was beginning to wonder if the days of hardcore PC only shooters were dead and gone. Halo and Call of Duty and their kind have given us '30 seconds of fun' gameplay, regenerative health, and all the other console/casual devices we've grown used to. So the PC fps games of the late 90s and early 00s didn't really make the transition to consoles at the time, mainly because consoles of that era didn't have the power to compete with PCs. But now that the performance divide between PC and console narrows, we see more and more multi-console-PC releases, often to the detriment of PC versions, and earning the malign of PC owners.

    But for those of us who aren't rich enough to keep up with the latest PC hardware, PC games on consoles is very much welcome for the most part. Bohemia Interactive's original Operation Flashpoint was praised by PC gaming mags and websites the world over, however a fallout resulted in Codemasters becoming both developer and publisher of the 'sequel', Dragon Rising.

    It shows. What I mean is, this game was developed and published by Codemasters, and it shows heavy signs of design by committee. You can almost tell the parts of the game where some one higher up the food chain at Codemaster decided that being able to put blurb facts on the back of the box took frontseat to a rounded gaming experience.

    Let's take the bit of blurb on the back of the gamebox, a 220 km2 open world battlefield. That's all well and good but none, NONE of the missions in the game make much use of this fact, and as of yet there is not free roam mode. Maybe I'm missing something as a mostly console gamer (nowadays), but what is the point of a 220km2 open world environment, when each of the game's 11 or so missions require you to follow orders within a set area. Roaming around outside your mission area usually results in failure. Though I have to admit, it's great to have the option to approach a mission from any angle, but it really feels like there's a lot of wasted space. I'm told there will be a free roam mode added with DLC, but I'm focussing on the release version of the game here.

    50 vehicles are your to command! Yet 95% of your time will be spent running. Vehicles are largely irrelevant to most tasks, save for a few missions. They'll either draw too much attention and get you shot, or be so uncontrollable and useless that you're better off on foot.

    Ok so far I've gone in angry. Maybe not angry as such, more, annoyed disappointment, but there are some excellent features in the game, graphics aren't something I usually focus on, but I'd like to mention that missions start at a certain time of day, and, from there, they occurr in real time. This means that, when you begin mission 2 for example, at 5:30am, it is initially dark. Take more than half an hour on this mission and you'll notice the Sun rises, and the map gets brighter, negating the protection and stealth that darkness afforded you, and beautifully lighting up the trees and grass. Then you see a badly textured low poly bush and the immersion suffers a bit, or you notice how the fire effects and explosions look like they were created with MS Paint.

    When the gameplay works it works well. I really enjoyed a lot of the missions, in both the stealth and firefight sections. Getting your guys (and occasionally gals) in position, forming a tight wedge and ordering return fire only. For a time it's exactly what the doctor ordered. But, there are numerous bugs in this title at launch, and although a patch is promised to update the sometimes great, sometimes erratic AI behaviour, it's pretty poor form to have this many glaring errors at launch.

    Two things about this game in particular really bugged me. First, the collision deteciton. I was in a building, looking out a window - standing up - not crouching - aiming my gun out the window, with the muzzle pointing right at an enemy. As I opened fire, ...
    by Published on September 28th, 2009 10:59

    Developer: RedLynx Ltd
    Developer: Microsoft
    Release: August 12, 2009
    Genre: Racing / Puzzle
    Players: 1
    Age Rating: ESRB: T (Teen) / PEGI: 3+
    Price: 1200 msp

    Trials HD is one of those games that fits very snugly into the category of simple fun. Like many of the better XBox Live Arcade games, it has a simple principle, crafted into a pleasingly fun experience.

    I seem to recall playing a 2D flash version of this many years ago on newgrounds (Elasto Mania) and the concept was much the same as it is with Trials HD, a motorbike game of sorts, which plays out in 2D. Trials HD of course has a full 3D environment, however you are restricted to moving left and right, up and down in 2D, and the bike never moves in or out of the screen. Basically all you need concern yourself with is forwards and backwards.

    The standard game mode is simply time trials on a variety of courses ranging from the relatively simple to the punishingly hard. If you lean too far forward or back your bike will tip, and if your head or back hit a surface it's a crash and you must restart or reset to a checkpoint. Of course you must often tip yourself so that the wheels align towards the surface you're heading for, incase you crack your head!

    To get gold medals for each track, you pretty much have to do it in one run without crashing and in a fairly speedy time. Easy enough until you hit the end of the 'medium' set of tracks. As a nice touch, the timer at the top also displays the progress if any of your friends on the same level in an unobtrusive manner. If you find yourself unable to achieve a gold medal - you can at least try and best your friend's times!

    Later on you'll find loops and physics-ey balancing sections, requiring careful control of your speed and orientation - like I mentioned earlier, if you're heading right for a wall you need to make sure your wheels face down onto the surface, likewise if you're heading for the roof - rotate upside down to protect your precious head!

    It's a nice system, and 'nice' is a word I don't really like or use often, it implies that there's nothing offensive or wrong with this game, but at the same time, it doesn't blow me away. But that's ok, because I don't think you need to be blown away to enjoy a game.

    That I remember enjoying the 2D flash version of Elasto Mania, many years ago, and had as much fun as I've had with Trials HD, says alot about the effectiveness of the core gameplay mechanic.

    You unlock challenges too, which differ not only from the main time trial mode, but also from each other. One challenge wants you to bail out of your bike and send your driver hurtling down a large ravine, with points awarded for the most bones broken! Another might see you try and maintain balance to the end of the level, whilst inside a giant hamster ball - then try one where you are on top of the ball on the outside! Gently carry a trolley with missiles that explode after too much bumpiness or simple try the mountain climber challenge - where victory is decided by how high you can scale a ramp.

    Some of these are really difficult, and there's frustration galore in both the main game and the challenges. But it's fun frustration, if that makes sense. Like N+, there's a drive to get better and you know if you replay a level you're stuck on, just one more try might get you through it! You learn to balance better and to manage your movement.

    When you're done with all that there's even a detailed and full scale track editor which is incredibly complex, and apparently what the designers used to make the actual game.

    It's a hard game to sum up, but basically it's a nice concept, a proven fun gameplay mechanic with plenty of challenging courses and tests of control, and the option for user created content that's on par with the actual game. Addictive and frustrating in equal measure, nicely presented graphically, there's little to complain about overall, but also, it's essentially a lot of what we've seen before repackaged.

    There's no denying the fun that can be had with it, and if you find yourself with the points, this is worth a download, if even just for the hilarious crashes that can happen - you'll be cursing whilst any onlookers guffaw at your misfortune.

    A decent game, with many hours of fun and frustration. Worth the money. If you liked N+, you'll probably like this.

    by Published on August 26th, 2009 14:53

    Publisher/Developer: Team 17
    Release: 1st July 2009
    Genre: Turn-based-strategy
    Players: 1 - 4
    Age Rating: ESRB: Everyone 10+
    Price: 800 msp

    Well we've already had Worms on XBLA. It was fine for the time, but I was not impressed by the lack of weapons and customization. This is the version we should have been given first time round.

    First off, the name, Worms 2: Armageddon. There was a 'Worms 2', and there was a 'Worms: Armageddon'. But these were two seperate games. As you'd expect, 'Worms 2: Armageddon' is something of a mix of the two, with Worms 2's advanced level of customization, and Armageddon's excellent weapon selection and mix of single player tasks.

    There's also some new weapons and modes, unique to this version of Worms, the poison gas will quickly fill up tunnels and whittle away the health of them tunnelling bastards, and the bunker buster will fall from the sky and burrow a bit before exploding. So clearly the player who favours hiding is in for some punishment. That's what you get for cowardice!

    This is perhaps the most complete version of Worms to date. It's the purest form yet. Great sound effects and voices, plently of customization, buckets of crazy weapons (Concrete Donkey!), and simple controls.

    Even after 15 years or so, the original concept of Worms still works, a 2D map, selection of weapons, turn based fun. I like to think of Worms as our generation's chess, and that, in 60 years I'll be sitting as an old man in the park, playing Worms as the ultimate test of tactics and intelligence!

    You can tell a lot about someone from how they play Worms, the aformentioned tunnellers, the ninja rope experts, the insanely accurate grenade/cluster bomb throwers, who can throw one from across the map, factoring wind resistance, into your lap, and the complete bastards who block your Worms in with girders (I'm one of them).

    So it's Worms, and it's got the weapons and the customization. You can't go wrong with that. It also has a few different modes on offer aside from the standard deathmatch. Forts mode has two teams stuck on largish islands in the water, with no easy way from one to the other. Jetpacks and Ninja Ropes are forbidden so basically you must besiege your opponents island and try to get him from afar with limited and time delayed weapons. It's actually more fun than I thought it would be. Then there's race mode, where you try to get through a maze like level in a shorter time than your opponent. It works pretty well too as a change of pace.

    Single player wise, the AI is pretty much same as ever - pinpoint accurate with grenades, and occasionally stupid when stuck or blocked by scenery. It's a shame really, as more human behaving AI would make this game an excellent purchase for those not interested in dealing with other people. As it stands however, unless you are going to be playing this against real people, either through XBox live, or locally in a pass-the-controller match, then there isn't much on offer. The campaign, whilst it has some interesting challenges, particularly the last one (Armageddon), don't last too long, and you can complete the single player campaign in one sitting.

    Given the random and seemingly infinate nature of the levels, you'd think there could have been hundreds of campaign levels, but in fact there are only 35.

    But Worms has always been about the multiplayer, and in that respect, it works well. I noticed a few bugs, with maps being selected before I'd pressed a button. There was the occasionaly random loss of connection, which I'm fairly sure was the game's fault, but hasn't happened recently so maybe that's been sorted. The search+lobby system could be a bit more streamlined, but generally it works and it isn't too hard to find a game. Players XBox avatars show up between turns to laugh or cry at the performance last turn, which is a nice touch, but can slow down the action, but then, is Worms really about a fast pace anyway?

    In closing, I can't really put this game down too much, I'm annoyed and feel that this is what the first Worms on XBLA should have been, but we've finally got exactly the type of game XBLA was made for. I realise there are a lot of goodies out now for XBLA and also for DLC, but if you have the points, this is a must have for any gamer who respects their history.

    Worth the money for definate, but make sure you have friends to play with either locally or on Xbox Live!

    by Published on August 4th, 2009 12:53

    Developer: DICE
    Publisher: EA
    Release Date: Jul 8th 2009
    Genre: 1st Person Shooter

    I decided to sit on the review for a while, because, as many of you will be aware, there have been a few teething problems with Battlefield 1943.

    Dice, EA or both were a little shy in their estimate of just how popular a new Battlefield game would be on release. From the Wednesday it was released, right through until Saturday, XBox360 owners were met with some difficulty in both getting into a game, getting into a game without massive lag, or partying up with friends.

    It was a busy time for their official forums, and Dice even kept regular, often hourly updates on their twitter page, to keep customers who were hungry for some WW2 action up to speed on when they could expect more servers to go live.

    By Saturday, I found most problems were fixed, and I was able to properly sample the game. By Tuesday, despite all the problems, XBox360 users found that the much awaited 4th map, unlocked after 43 million community kills, had already been unlocked, over a week less than was expected (done within a week on XBox Live, and within two weeks on PSN!).

    Little does he know that I've lined the only ladder to this guard tower with TNT and am waiting in the bushes with the detonator!

    So what is it all about? Well, I never got into the other Battlefield games, as I had somewhat gone off trying to keep up with PC gaming in the early 00s. I did pick up Bad Company, released last year, and found it not without it's share of errors, but also there was a lot of fun to be had with it's funky terrain/building destruction/class based multiplayer.

    So the developers Dice wondered what it would be like to remake some maps from the original Battlefield game, 1942, using the new Bad Company Frostbite engine. The game and three maps would be released as downloadable only, XBox Live and Playstation Network content, with the fouth map/mode being unlocked with the 43 million community kills.


    The game is a sort of slimmed down Battlefield, with only 3 classes to choose from, and with no character / weapon customization that previous games have featured. The infantryman is your standard machine gun, close range guy, with a tank busting rocket, and handy grenades for backup. He also whip out a wrench for bludgeoning enemy soldiers or healing friendly tanks. I suppose that makes the infantryman a cross between the infantry / engineer classes.

    The rifleman has a semi automatic M1 Garand, with some sweet reloading sounds! He get's a slightly-weaker-than-rocket-launcher grenade launcher, but it'll take a few of those to take a tank down. Again, he get's grenades, and his melee weapon is simply the bayonet on his rifle. The semi auto fire gives the rifle good medium range accuracy.

    Lastly we have the scout, or sniper. There's the obvious long range advantage, but for closer foes, he gets a pistol, and his melee weapon is a big knife, or if you're playing as the Japanese, a badass katana. For explosives, he gets thrown sticky dynamite, which can be detonated remotely with a plunger.

    Mayhem is frequent in this game.

    There's a nice assortment of vehicles on offer, cars, jeeps, tanks, boats and fighter planes help mix up the combat a good deal, and there are various gun emplacements scattered about each level. These are, in typical Battlefield fashion, not all that easy to control, and you'll want to get a good setup for each vehicle type, which can be done in the options. There's also a tutorial mode, which lets you mess about in an empty map to get used to the vehicles. This is no Halo, so to get good with the likes of planes and tanks, you'll need a good bit of practice.

    Tanks have a capcom-boss style weakspot on the rear!

    Speaking of controls, there are a good few instances where I found them a little fiddly, perhaps because I'm too used to Halo/Call of Duty style configurations. But having become accustomed to Battlefield 1943, I can tell you that you do get used to them.

    Landing a killer plane bomb takes a lot of practice to get the timing right, better to just Kamikaze someone!

    The initial 3 maps are played in the typical Battlefield flag style. 5 bases are located about the map and if you stand near an uncontested flag, you capture that base, and your team may then spawn from it. If an enemy has a base, you must wait and deplete their 'control' before taking back the flag. Each team has a limited number of respawns (or 'tickets'), and when they run out it's all over. Therefore, the more bases you own, the more chance you have of pinning down the enemy and depleting their tickets.

    So it's a fairly simple setup, there ...
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