Monday, 29 November 2010

Bloody Good Time review

While generic shooter titles are far too common among the retail scene, arcade games typically take a more niche route. Ubisoft's latest multiplayer title, Bloody Good Time, is no exception to the rule, offering a mixture of stalker/shooter gameplay wrapped up neatly in a package of Team Fortress 2 graphics.

Bloody Good Time follows a movie theater theme with games taking place on one of three movie sets: a beach front complete with furnished property, a haunted house or a Vegas casino. Continuing to be true to the movie style players are given one of eight actor characters to play as, ranging wildly from brutal 'goths' to Playboy inspired 'beach babes'. Throughout, the atmosphere of the game is lighthearted despite the sadistic movie director overseeing the carnage.

The four game types are hunt, revenge, elimination or deathmatch; three of the four being a slight variation on a theme. The primary method of execution is Hunt where each player is assigned a quarry (only known to them) to find and eliminate, the catch being another player has you on his or her designated hit list. Execution follows the same principals but adapts it slightly. Instead, players have to eliminate the entire cast, one player at a time. Revenge adapts the theme further with players' quarry depending on whom killed them last. The last mode of the four, Deathmatch, is a simple free for all, and generally doesn't suit the game's style particularly well.

Playing this game like Call of Duty isn't the way to win in this game. Instead, more often than not, the game mode calls for a mixture of stalking as well as shooting. In Bloody Good Time players are not only rewarded for merely killing a player but also how they kill a player. At the start of a round weapons are randomly given a value between one and five stars, the point currency of the game. The higher the value of your weapons, the more points you receive for a kill. Instead of killing as many people as possible, it's often worth scouring for weapons for a higher value to place top of the leader board. Points aren't only dictated by the weapon you use but can also be gained through boasting; a pre-kill boast, pickpocketing to steal a weapon and humiliation; a post kill gloat.

Attempting to stop the carnage are security guards. These enforcers patrol the map and taser anyone they see holding a weapon, killing a player or humiliating a corpse. If you're caught comitting a crime you quickly have to run and hide until the security guards give up hunting for you, to avoid losing a star and any weapons involved. To a certain degree these security guards hamper the fun by slowing down the pace of the game but they do increase the difficulty by forcing players to learn their position on the maps.

The variety of weapons is impressive and despite the amount they all remain fairly balanced. The more powerful weapons are limited by their ammo and their accessibility on the maps and since you spawn with nothing, it's often best to scrounge the more reliable weapons rather than the most powerful. When it comes down to weapon choice you have often have to strike a balance between points, reliability and accessibility, a somewhat challenging task that adds a new dimension to the game. Murder Aids, secondary gadgets, add even more variety to the game. These items, while not as essential, do offer unique oppurtunities to set traps by luring or immobilising your victim.

This game most certainly isn't for everybody. The combination of stalker and shooter gameplay can lead to quiet and uneventful matches and with the average match lasting around half an hour it can become quite tiresome. The extended time limits aren't the only element that make Bloody Good Time inacessible. Characters must keep themselves in prime physical condition by eating, sleeping and relieving themselves. These awkwardly intergrated mechanics force players to juggle their character's needs during the short intermissions between rounds. Being caught by your hunter on the loo can lead to comical moments, but it can also lead to an instant death as you're flushed down the toliet.

Matches are broken up with a series of bonus rounds. A self explanatory free-for all, a hunt the leader gametype and my personal favourite, infection; a pass the bomb gametype where stars are earned for surviving and docked for being a zombie.

It's unfortunate but while this game had so much potential it falls far short of offering what the name promises. The game hasn't really caught on with the console audience leading to a lack of players, something that the crude AI is no substitute for. While this shooter may offer a unique and wild experience, all things considered, it's probably best to give this one a miss.


Words by Arran France

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Medal of Honor review

Medal of Honor is known for it's blockbuster tales of World War Two. But now the industry has changed, and gamers have grown tired of the same setting again and again. Aware of this, EA decided to shake things up a bit and introduce an all new Medal of Honor, contemporary and bad ass, in hopes of replicating the success of a certain other series which needs no introduction, Call of Duty. The trailers promised explosions, beautiful graphics and intense gameplay. And they keep their promises... Sort of.

The first thing you'll notice when you play Medal of Honor is the character movement. Slow and sluggish, no sense of urgency. This isn't a negative point however. Medal of Honor was created by the developers working with soldiers, in order to recreate the harsh realities of modern wars. The soldiers would be slow and sluggish, burdened by a huge amount of gear. It's a more realistic representation of war than Call of Duty. The enemies are ruthless and somewhat smart, and often outnumber you and your team, using a wide arsenal to try and bring you down. The guns are varied but it's hard to pick a favourite. There was not enough to differentiate between each weapon and therefore any weapon you could find would do the job. There is also no need to switch weapons as your teammates have a seemingly limitless supply of ammo which they will give to you on request. This vastly reduces the difficulty, with a few exceptions which see your character isolated from the allies.

These don't happen very often but when they do the game really shines. A level late in the game sees your character leap from a falling helicopter, in the middle of the night. Landing on a cold mountain with only a knife, your character limps, coughs up blood and his night vision optics flicker from the damage. Beautiful moments like this are few and far between which is a real shame. They show what the game could have been with more thought and time. There also isn't much time for anything to happen as an experienced FPS player can complete the game in less than 5 hours. Far too short for a franchise reboot.

The game does have some impressive set pieces and levels but nothing life changing. One sequence sees you and a large group of soldiers in a Chinook helicopter, when suddenly it is attacked. The game turns slow motion as bodies fly from side to side, then up to hit the ceiling of the copter, before slamming back down. All the while bullets are tearing through the fuselage, ripping through your friends. It sounds impressive on paper but seeing it in motion is really an experience that you need first hand. If the game had more of these well thought out and scripted set pieces, it would have been a serious contender for FPS of the year, but unfortunately it does not.

The graphics of Medal of Honor are hard to pin down. Sometimes you will be awestruck with the incredible looking character models and scenery. The graphics are smooth, detailed and wonderful to look at. Other times however, and they are somewhat embarrassing. Cast your eyes to the walls and floors on certain levels and you will see a blurry, pixelated mess. In the end, they are only walls and floors, and do not detract from the gameplay, but they do show a lack of polish and commitment to the game. The character models always stay amazing though, and they are obviously much more important than the textures on the floor.

The multiplayer on Medal of Honor was developed by a completely different studio than the one that worked on the campaign. The multiplayer is made by DICE, of Battlefield fame. This fact alone makes the game more enticing. Unfortunately though, the online play is not so great. All of what makes the recent Bad Company games so great is gone. No destruction, no vehicles, only a small selection of weapons and an odd levelling system make the multiplayer quite dull and uninteresting. Some gamers will obviously like the slower pace and lack of complex classes and perks from Call of Duty, but the majority will not. There's a reason they all go back year after year.

Overall, Medal of Honor is definitely worth a try. The campaign has some amazing moments, but not enough to say that this is a franchise reboot, bringing Medal of Honor into the 21st Century. For a first attempt at a new setting and whole overall style though, it's a commendable effort. A sequel is hinted at very strongly, which is great news. Hopefully Danger Close and EA will listen to the criticism and thoughts of this game, to make a truly kick ass follow up worthy of the Medal of Honor name.


by Louis Gardner

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops review

Treyarch have not had a good track record with the Call of Duty series. Many gamers have generally preferred the efforts of Infinity Ward. Does their latest attempt, Black Ops, change anything? Not only is it Treyarch's best Call of Duty game, it is quite possibly the most immersive and jaw dropping in the whole series.

The game starts with your character, Mason, strapped into a chair in front of many TVs, each with different clips being played. Not only is this the setting between most of the levels, but it's a clever interactive main menu. One of the TV sets displays the options, which is nothing unusual. But move the right stick and you can look around the room. You can see your arms and legs strapped in, with flecks of blood on your clothes. It's a refreshing concept for the menu screen and if you know what to do, has some really cool hidden features.

The first level has you in Cuba in 1961. You and two allies are in a bar, gathering information from a local and making plans to assassinate Fidel Castro. In the first few minutes you are told these plans and instantly thrown into the action. The game doesn't let up on the action the whole way through, and sees you visiting many continents to complete special missions spanning a decade.

In the game you will do many things that have never been done before in a Call of Duty game. Be it riding motorcycles, firing explosives from a man powered slingshot or swimming silently to assassinate the occupants of a Vietcong boat. Black Ops introduces so many gameplay mechanics to the Call of Duty series, but the execution is so perfect that it never feels gimmicky.

A few missions set in Vietnam include some mind-blowing sections. For example, pilot an attack chopper, blowing up Vietcong bases and vehicles. But the most amazing, goosebump inducing section sees you driving a boat along a Vietnamese river, shooting rockets at soldiers and villages, with 'Sympathy for the Devil' by the Rolling Stones playing in the background. This sequence gave me shivers. Every level sees you doing something new, and you are never left disappointed. You are sucked into the world of Mason, Woods and Reznov, and you won't want to leave anytime soon.

The characters are really well developed and for the first time in the series, the player character actually speaks and has a face. For once we can empathise with the character. In past games there were no reactions to deaths, failures and victories. Now, Mason shouts along with what you are most likely feeling. But he doesn't get annoying. He's a perfectly constructed, terribly flawed hero. Woods, your main ally, is an all out action hero. He saves your life countless times and always has a plan. It's hard not to care for him as he is with you for the majority of the campaign. Reznov returns from World at War, but he is no longer the war hero that he used to be. Now he has been thrown into prison to rot. The first time you encounter him, he is leading the prisoners to overthrow the guards and escape the prison. He is seemingly invincible as time after time he escapes death to help you on your mission. The characters are vital to the story and without them, Mason would be nothing. Another character called Hudson is present throughout the story but only rears his head properly for the final few missions, in which he kicks ass and delivers some shocking truths.

The voice acting is also top notch. A-list actors voice the main characters. Sam Worthington as Mason, Gary Oldman as Reznov and Ed Harris as Hudson. With talent like this, the characters are really brought to life in an amazing way.

The Zombie mode from World at War returns, much to the delight of many fans. Two levels ship with the game (more are provided for purchasers of the Limited editions), and two is enough. Kino Der Toten, or Cinema of the Dead, is set in an old, destroyed and abandoned building. The second level, Five, is set in the Pentagon. It's pretty damn cool and if that isn't enough, you play as JFK. Bring in more players and they will control Nixon, Castro or McNamara. Whoever thought of the characters for this mode deserves a promotion. The Zombie mode works exactly the same as WoW. Gain points by killing zombies and buy new weapons and rooms with said points. Playing solo is fun, but lacks something. That something is allies. Throw in three more people online and the game really holds it's own. Worth it just to hear JFK talking about Zombie chowder.

Multiplayer is main reason a lot of gamers bought Black Ops. And it is incredible. No longer do you unlock items at a certain level. Now you can buy almost every weapon from any level. If you have the COD credits, that is. A new addition to the series, completing challenges, getting kills and bonuses all pay out a certain amount of credits alongside EXP. Then you can buy weapons, attachments, perks, equipment, killstreaks, emblems and playercard backgrounds. Phew. The online game is seriously customisable. Don't like the red dot sight? Replace the red dot with a pink heart. Not to your taste? How about a green skull? The multiplayer game is the deepest it has been in the series, without being overcomplicated. It adds almost RPG elements to the online experience and allows more than ever, the player to be truly unique. Multi layered emblems allow you to create masterpieces which can then be displayed on your weaponry. Another new feature is the ability to have your clan tag scratched into your gun. It's just aesthetics but is completely fun. Higher level players are given the ability to buy face paint. Being killed by someone with a skull drawn on their face is oddly creepy.

A new online mode sees you taking part in Wager matches. These see you betting your hard earned COD credits on special matches. The most fun and hectic variant is Gun Game, and sees every person start with a pistol. Get a kill and you'll get upgraded to the next weapon tier. The weapons get increasingly powerful and the game soon turns into a frenzy of explosions. Get a knife kill to demote the victim, back to the next tier down. Other modes see you with one bullet, and the only way to get another bullet is to get a kill. Miss with your only chance and you will be forced to use the knife. It's best to experience it first hand, and you will undoubtedly have a good time.

Some problems with spawn points and connectivity do sully the experience a bit, but hopefully Treyarch are working on fixes to make this the must have multiplayer game of the year.

A story so complete and satisfying to rival the original Modern Warfare and fantastically deep and engrossing multiplayer modes make this the most impressive and well made Call of Duty game in a long time. Cast aside your doubts about Treyarch. This is the game we've all been waiting for.


by Louis Gardner

Monday, 15 November 2010

Sonic 4: Episode 1 review

While Sonic hasn't exactly been MIA from the world of gaming, many die hard Sonic fans have been craving a sequel to Sonic and Knuckles since 1994. Sonic 4 : Episode 1 attempts to fill the void and as it is labelled as a true sequel, you would be forgiven for thinking this would be an easy job. However, after a 16 year wait, the expectations of a generation are set high.

From the start, it's clear this game aims to please. Upon booting up the game players are greeted by the chime of collected rings followed by the familiar and comforting sound of "SEGAAAA". Quickly you're propelled into your first level, Splash Hill, a clear copy of Green Hill from the original Sonic game but in crisp, clear HD. They may not be the most elaborate graphics ever but the iconic fluffy clouds and rolling hills certainly look good, and more importantly they feel Sonic.

'Feeling Sonic' is the key to this game. Where this game excels is where it follows the series precedent and when it does divert it typically fails, with one key exception of the latest ability added to our furry friend's repertoire, the homing attack. In-midair pressing the jump button allows Sonic to hone in on an enemy or switch in the vicinity and unleash the full force of his curled up might. This attack may have the cheap feel of many of Sonic's more recent, mediocre incarnations but surprisingly, this ability is satisfyingly woven into the platforming.

While it may not have the same skill requirements as previous instalments in the series, it's not simply a matter of jumping and button mashing because enemies will frequently protect themselves with spikes, forcing you to time your attacks correctly. Sonic's homing attack also allows Sonic to home in on multiple enemies in a row to reach inaccessible areas. Overall, this addition does what Sonic does best; it makes the game fast, fluid and enjoyable.

The homing attack may add speed to the game but the game itself feels relatively slow. While I'm sure Sonic himself runs at exactly the same speed as before, the pace of games has changed dramatically since his last appearance and comparatively the gameplay doesn't feel as slick as it used to. Sonic takes far too long to reach his maximum velocity and when he does, the restricted field of view often sees you running straight into enemies. It almost feels as if you are being punished for going faster than intended. The rare moments of exhilarating speed are too few and far between especially once you finish Splash Hill.

Once you have completed the first act, four more zones become available including the compulsory Casino zone, a zone set in an ancient temple, during which the majority of your time is spent underwater, and a zone set among gears, which is in fact the most original of the lot. Each zone is strongly reminiscent of previous Sonic games of the series, even the 'Mad Gear Zone' shares strong similarities with the old 'Chemical Plant', but each individual zone now includes its own new feature, or rather, gimmick. The imaginatively named 'Casino Street' heavily features the positioning of firing cannons and also includes a novel section where Sonic surfs along a deck of trailing cards. The Lost Labyrinth was also scathed and features a brief mine cart encounter as well as undeniably the lowest point in the game; a painfully slow puzzle section where Sonic is forced to light a series of torches in order to remove a barrier that stops him progressing. Thankfully, moments like these don't occur very often but it's certainly not the only time that the player will be left feeling sapped of momentum and craving the traditional fast and furious Sonic gameplay.

It's unfortunate, but the innovation demonstrated by the inclusion of these gimmicks feels at best misdirected. While Sonic Team must be praised for creating such an accurate representation of the original games it's difficult to label it as a sequel. It feels more like a tribute to the Sonic of yester-year held back by the designer’s reluctance to change what was needed. Ironically, it's reliance on the Sonic template is its greatest strength as well as its Achilles’ heel. The overuse of reprised content is tiring, it might be familiar but it's from over a decade ago; Splash Hill in reality is nothing more than a slightly sharper looking Green Hill and the boss fights have been taken straight from the first two games of the franchise. It might take a while but after the sense of nostalgia wears off, you're really left with nothing but a bitter sense of déjà vu.
Overall, this game is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand this game offers everything you'd expect from a Sonic sequel, and more. But, it just doesn't deliver where it matters, the speed, the music and the repetition takes its toll on what could have been a promising addition to Sonic fans’ collections. Hopefully SEGA take on board the criticism while producing Episode 2. Until then, while this isn't the sequel we've been waiting for, it is a good step in the right direction.


Words by Arran France

Friday, 12 November 2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Play Assassin's Creed Brotherhood early!

From Monday November 15th at all major HMV GamerBase locations you’ll be able to play the full multiplayer version, a thrilling game of hunter and hunted between well-armed Templars. That’s a whole week of playing multiplayer assassination before anyone else!

On November 18th, we’ll also be doing midnight launches! Gamers will be able to play the single player story mode from 9pm until midnight (bring your memory cards!), at which point you’ll be able to buy the game for yourself. GamerBase will be running midnight openings on November 18th at its London Trocadero, Glasgow, Manchester and Reading locations. There will also be a few Assassin’s Creed prizes up for grabs. See you there!

For more details click here:

Monday, 8 November 2010

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II review

The Force Unleashed II is the follow up to 2008s new story in the Star Wars universe. Set between the two trilogies, the story focuses on Darth Vader's apprentice, Starkiller. Having not played the first in the series, I would have liked some sort of summing up at the beginning, but this doesn't happen. The first of a few disappointments.

The story follows Starkiller on his journey to find the woman he loves, Juno. The twist is, he isn't really Starkiller, but a clone. One of many Jedi clones to do Darth Vader's bidding. To aid your mission, you travel to a floating city to save a blind Jedi warrior, Rahm Kota, who is a slave being forced to fight in an arena. Starkiller then faces the tough decision: fight for the rebellion or save Juno?

The gameplay is exciting - for half an hour. Once you have used all of the force moves a few times, it's easy to get bored. Trying new combos with your saber and force powers is fun for a while but again, they are exhausted pretty soon. The mechanics of the game are the same in each level. Do a bit of running and jumping, kill the pathetically weak Stormtroopers, solve an insultingly easy puzzle and then fight some tougher enemies. It's too repetitive and on top of that, extremely short. The game can be completed in less than five hours, and ends with an awfully constructed final battle, which is far less exciting than it should be. You would expect more of Lucas Arts, it's not like they're short on cash or talent. They simply haven't tried that hard, and it is basically a cash cow they are milking too much.

There are some visually impressive set pieces, but they require no skill. Defeating harder bosses and enemies usually require pressing certain buttons at the right time. Quick time events are
majorly overused in TFU 2. It does however feel satisfying after bashing the B button repeatedly to push obstacles out of the way of your crashing ship, using the force. But that's about it. Visually impressive is good for a film, but in games you would expect more interaction and involvement.

The unlockables and upgrades add a bit of depth to the game and are the only reason to even think about playing the game again. The most exciting aspect of the game is the ability to unlock Guybrush Threepwood as a playable character. It doesn't bode well for the Star Wars universe that Guybrush is the best reason for buying the game. Upgrading the force powers does improve the game though, as your powers affect more enemies at the same time, making the mundane activity of disposing Stormtroopers look pretty awesome.

A number of challenges separate to the story mode add more length to the game, with medals and leaderboards bringing a competitive side to the game that it would not otherwise have. The lack of multiplayer is disappointing, although if the rest of the game is anything to go by, it would have been underdeveloped and a wasted opportunity.

It seems that Lucas Arts have not listened to the fan response from the first game and instead pushed out another with no solid story, not enough length to justify the retail price and only three real levels. The authentic sound effects are awesome, and the graphics are beautiful, particularly on Vader. Small roles for Yoda and Boba Fett are dissatisfying though, and the game is far more disappointing than impressive. Fans of the first game are likely to enjoy it, but not really anyone else. It's time for Lucas Arts to leave The Force Unleashed alone.


by Louis Gardner

Just Cause 2 review

Just Cause originally released in the mid 2000s, and whilst it was a refreshing take on the sandbox genre, fell short at a few hurdles. The game introduced a parachute and grapple hook combination. Why it had not been done before is a mystery, as the two go together perfectly. The game is basically GTA on LSD. The idea was genius, the execution wasn't nearly as awesome. It felt rushed. To have a session without seeing a glitch of some sort was nothing short of a miracle. Since the original released, fans wanted a sequel to do everything that the original should have. It took a while to get to us when it released earlier this year. Was it worth the long wait? Do the problems from the first game remain? Here's the verdict.

Just Cause 2 took everything that was awesome about the original, doubled it in every single way - size, action, stunts, one liners. Everything is bigger and oh so better.

Set on the islands of Panau, the game sees Rico Rodriguez, the same protagonist from the first game (with a different face!?), trying to overthrow the tyrannical dictator, Baby Panau. To do so, he befriends three rival revolutionary groups and causes a shitload of chaos. The story starts with you tracking down your old ally from the original game, Tom Sheldon, who is missing somewhere in Panau. From then on in, each and every mission is more action packed than an episode of the A-Team.

To unlock story missions, you must cause Chaos. This is literally exactly as it sounds. Blow up military bases, fuel depots, oil rigs, and maybe the most fun, Baby Panau statues. Once you have destroyed the statue, use your new and incredibly improved grapple hook to attach the statues head to a helicopter and there you have a makeshift wrecking ball. Cause enough chaos and missions, weapons and vehicles become available. This extends the life of the main plot line, and whilst in most games it would be a cheap way to add length, in JC2 you'll be having far too much fun to complain.

The grappling hook has the same functions as the one in the original game, but with some new features that should have been in the first instalment. For example, you no longer have to switch it out as a weapon, it is now kept on a wrist mounted mechanism. Also, instead of only vehicles, you can literally grapple any surface. In the first game, being stranded in the jungle meant a lot of running. In this one, just use your grapple hook on a tree, and whilst you're reeling in, deploy your parachute. The game is much easier to get around as it doesn't matter if you have no vehicles, the grapple hook is more than enough. The most entertaining new feature is the ability to duel grapple. Shoot a soldier with your grapple hook, aim at a vehicle and attach the other end of the line to it. Hop in and drag the soldier behind, much to your amusement. Attach a dirt bike to a helicopter and fly it to the top of a mountain, and then use the bike to do a crazy stunt. You can do that if you want.

The game is incredibly huge. Without a doubt the biggest open world game available at this moment in time. The first time you look at the map, you'll think it's pretty big. Then you'll find that you can zoom out and you'll have been looking at an island which takes about a tenth of the map. There are tropical rain forests, snow topped mountains, frozen lakes, huge deserts and massive cities. It's seriously big but never overwhelming as the range of environments justifies the size. The sheer variety of vehicles and ways of traversing the jungles and mountains means that the game never feels too big. Getting from A to B is not as dull as in some open world games. In Just Cause 2, you'll be crossing the desert on a dirt bike, a second later you can launch yourself into the air, dive down a mountain and grapple onto a helicopter. All in the space of ten seconds. After doing so, it's impossible not to feel like a hero.

It isn't just a huge world though, there is also so much to do. To put it in perspective, after completing the story and a few side quests, completing quite a few locations to 100% and collecting a few hundred collectables, the game was below 30%. It is seriously packed with things to do. Races of all sorts, hundreds of bases to sabotage, even more villages to secure, and over a thousand packages to find, it will take more time than any other game to fully complete.

The characters are one of the areas where the game falls a little short. The voice acting on some characters is really bad. The accents, the delivery of the words, and often the scripting is all a bit iffy. It's not a game that you play for the story, it's about the fun, but more time was needed on the writing and performances to make it a better and more complete game. The leaders of the three factions are particularly bad, especially the leader of the Reapers, Bolo Santosi. She has possibly the worst voice in video games history. She drags every word out and we accent is a confusing mishmash and is enough to make you avoid working for the Reapers.

The game is so much fun to play. The controls work well, the physics are fun, the world is beautiful. It does fall short in a few areas, mainly the voice acting and exclusion of any sort of multiplayer. But these can be fixed for the third instalment, if it happens. It would be a missed opportunity if it doesn't.

A must have for fans of sandbox games, it is easily the craziest and the most fun game of this generation. Bring on Just Cause 3!


by Louis Gardner

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood Character and Uplay videos

Meet Hellequin!

The fantastic Uplay is present once again in AC:B.