Sunday, 26 December 2010

Rock Band 3 review

Rock Band 3 is the threequel to Harmonix' incredibly popular alternative to Guitar Hero. With better gameplay, a more pleasing interface and superior setlists, the Rock Band games have always been a thorn in the side of Guitar Hero. To everyone else though, they're the perfect music games.

Rock Band 3 has many new features and improvements, the main one being the complete overhaul of the career mode. Instead of playing venue after venue, you now complete road challenges. These consist of a small number of venues along one stretch of road, across a state, . You'll play a certain number of songs and earn stars, as usual, but you will also earn up to 5 bonus stars for completing the ever changing goals. These could be for getting high streaks or being accurate. As you are doing what the challenge says, a bar fills up along the bottom. Miss a note and the bar resets, putting you under even more pressure.

Each road challenge has bronze, silver and gold medals, depending on how well you play and how many stars you attain. More stars also equals more fans, and more fans unlock more extravagant modes of transport as your band becomes bigger and better. The road challenges change the game. Not only do you have to be good, you have to be really good. Accuracy and nerves of steel are needed.

The set list is the best ever seen in a music game. 'Free Bird' by Lynyrd Skynyrd is back, following it's debut in Guitar Hero 2, but now it is the original recording as opposed to a cover, and obviously you can now play with other instruments. Playing this song with others is truly incredible, especially in the later sections, as the pace picks up and the song becomes more challenging for everyone (bar the singer). Also present is 'Bohemian Rhapsody', the classic Queen track which was also present on this year's Guitar Hero. Other amazing songs include Night Ranger's 'Sister Christian', 'Heart of Glass' by Blondie and a selection of over 2000 songs available on the Rock Band Network.

The biggest new feature is of course the keyboard. Allowing for normal and Pro play, the keyboard is most definitely the hardest to master. Many advanced tutorials may help, but not much. It's better to get your bearings and play a few songs on easy. Once you get the hang of it, it's extremely satisfying. Playing your favourite piano songs perfectly makes you feel better than pressing buttons on a small guitar ever could. Awkward positioning of the touch strip and overdrive trigger do let it down slightly, but more advanced players will surely find a way to embrace it. Due to the price, the keyboard is a big commitment, so it's easy to see why a lot of people may miss out. But in the right hands, and with a LOT of practice, it is the most accurate and satisfying instrument in a music game so far.

Overall, Rock Band 3 is a masterpiece. From the slight improvements to the brand new features, everything is pitch perfect and it easily takes the crown as the best music game of all time. Beating this will be hard, but there is no doubt that whatever is next for Harmonix, it will be nothing short of amazing.


New Year Celebrations!

To celebrate the first New Year of Subspace Reviews, we're having our biggest giveaway yet!

With 15 prizes, we are hoping to make the New Year even more special for a number of lucky people.

The prizes include:
Rock Band 2,
The Beatles Rock Band,
Green Day Rock Band,
A World of Keflings,
Bomberman Live Battlefest,
Blood Tempest,
& Avatar Bowman!

There are prizes for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii!

To enter, tweet the following message along with your platform of choice (Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii):

"I want to celebrate the New Year by winning awesome games from @SubspaceReviews! #SRNY"

Post a comment below with your email address or Twitter name for a bonus entry!

You may have one entry for each platform on Twitter, as well as one blog comment entry.

The winners of the downloadable games will be chosen on January 2nd. The winners of the retail games will be chosen on January 9th.

Good luck everyone!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Alien Breed 3: Descent review

'Alien Breed 3: Descent', is the third and final episode in Team 17's revival of the classic top-down Amiga series, Alien Breed. 'Descent' puts you straight back into the action where you left off. Mia, your companion from the previous episode is under the control of the deadly A.I. Klein and it's up to you to shutdown Mia and save yourself from death, as your spaceship plummets towards a planet's surface.

The gameplay is identical to Alien Breed 2, a tried and tested formula of running and gunning between locations while fighting off the alien horde. Although the game is enjoyable, the similarities from the previous two instalments do grind a bit and the trudging between waypoints begins to lose its allure. The environments start to feel recycled and the only refreshment comes from new bosses that, despite their unique appearance, do little to differentiate themselves from any other sci-fi shooter boss. Granted, the game's visuals have been slightly improved but for an indie series the quality of the graphics had always been top notch.

While the gameplay may at times be repetitive and a tad dull, the polish of the atmosphere is amazing. As you walk down the corridor security cameras turn and focus on you, providing a sense of eerie forebodingness as a chill runs down your spine. Everything looks murky and at times it's impossible to see ahead of you and all you can hear is the ambience of water trickling away. It's most certainly gritty and tense, almost like a top-down homage to Dead Space, but that's just coincidence. Any true flattery is aimed at the original Alien Breed.

Throwbacks to the Alien Breed of yesteryear are abundant in the form of computer terminals that let you save your progress and purchase weapons and ammo. Key cards make a reappearance as another retro aside for faithful fans. The revived series doesn't just take inspiration from its predecessor. As well as the obvious influences of the 'Alien' movies there are many more subtle references such as the names lifted from the classic novella 'Heart of Darkness' and the energy core reminiscent of Event Horizon. It's not all the doom and gloom of the 90's though. Team 17 has included several 'modern' additions including a survival mode, online leader boards and a unique set of levels for the game's co-op mode.

Whilst the original Alien Breed was renown for its two player campaign offering, Alien Breed 3's co-op rendition is limited to a series of unique maps. Despite the limitations this mode proves to be the gem of the package. With a friend you can you take on the role of two engineers trapped on the ship. Pitifully armed, your task is simple, bludgeon through the alien horde while amassing weapons and staying alive. While the aliens, the weapons and even the map design are no different to single player, it's the tension that makes this gametype shine. If both players die, it's game over and you have to restart from the beginning of the map. As you near your objective and the packs of enemies grow thicker the game begins to lull you into a false sense of security. You round a corner only to discover an empty corridor with only your partner and the barely audible hum of crackling computer equipment for comfort. These rare moments of peace are balanced by the adrenalin fueled massacres towards the end of each level as you and your partner attempt to bunker down as swarms of aliens rush your position. Health packs being a luxury, it's not uncommon to find yourself fending off waves of enemies from multiple directions singlehandedly, while you wait for the ten second countdown for your partner to revive them self and return to the action.

'Alien Breed 3: Descent' is not a casual game and certainly involves some extended play sessions, despite the generously distributed terminals to save at. However, if you're at all interested in the sci-fi/horror genre the Alien Breed series is certainly worth a gander at the bargain price of £7.


by Arran France

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Shadow Complex giveaway!

To celebrate the release of Chair Entertainment's hotly anticipated Infinity Blade, Subspace Reviews will be giving away their amazing XBLA sidescroller, Shadow Complex.

To enter, comment below with your favourite sidescroller of all time and your Twitter name or email address.

Contest will end on 11th December, 23:00 GMT.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit review

Need for Speed games have been churned out to an average reception for a good few years now. Sometimes they're fantastic, sometimes they're not so great. Hot Pursuit is unique. It has been developed by Criterion, the speed junkies behind the Burnout series. If that doesn't get your heart racing already, check out the demo. If this doesn't have you pining for more, it's hard to see how any racing game will satisfy your needs.

Usually, you will start up a racing game for the first time and be given an old, perhaps rusty car. It won't break 100MPH and will only have a chance of winning because your opponents have equally crappy vehicles. Hot Pursuit is different though. The first car I found available on free ride was a Lamborghini. Instantly, the game is different to the rest. You are thrown in straight at the deep end. In fact, you're thrown from the highest diving board into the deep end. The reason for this is simple. The shallow end is no fun.

You will spend your time in Hot Pursuit playing both sides of the law. Cop challenges include Hot Pursuit missions, which see you taking down everyone in a race, taking down one particularly fast driver in Interceptor missions or racing against the clock to complete Rapid Response missions. Each of these variations are well developed and fun. Rapid Response is the weakest of the bunch, being a glorified Time Trial. It sees you racing against the clock to cut off a racer and be the final car in a road block. The best aspect of these missions is the fact that you are given a car that you usually wouldn't have unlocked yet. When you're used to driving an Audi TT, the sudden acquisition of a Bugatti is a real shock, and will no doubt have your pulse racing, as you fly past 200 MPH.

When playing as a racer, you will play the opposite role. In Hot Pursuit missions this time, you will be evading the cops, not destroying the racers. Whilst evading, you must still try to finish ahead of the other racers. These are the most fun challenges to take part in on both sides, playing as a cop or racer. Also available are Duels. One on one races in the fastest cars, with the fastest cops doing all they can to take you both down.

When trying to destroy the opponent, using blunt force is fine, but at your disposal is a range of gadgets and vehicles, which you can call in for help. The cops have spike strips, which can be deployed from the rear of your car, starting as a small box and extending to cover the entire lane. Drop one in front of a suspect and they will spin out, slowing down and taking damage at the same time. Next is the road block. Call one in and further along the road, in front of all the racers, a group of officers will assemble to attempt to slow down as many racers as possible. The EMP is a long range weapon which disrupts and temporarily disables the electrics of the unwitting speedster. Finally is the helicopter. Calling in one of these bad boys is insane. They fly along the road, identifying the lead racer and then waiting further along for them. As the racer approaches, the helicopter drops a spike strip, damaging the front of the pack whilst you deal with the back.

Playing as a racer also gives you the EMP and spike strips but switches out the helicopter and roadblock for turbo and jammer. Turbo boosts you faster than the nitrous and can send you sailing away from your opponents and the cops, if used at the right time. The jammer is the only true defence gadget in the game, and it's a big help. If you get targeted by an EMP and can not outmanoeuvre it, employ the jammer. As the name suggests, it jams the EMP radar and saves your ass.

The powers, when used successfully, will eventually level up and become stronger, last longer and have better overall performance. For example, levelling the roadblock sees bigger vehicles making the block, taking up more of the road and posing as a bigger threat to the racers. Taking down an opponent triggers slow motion and the camera focuses on the vehicle being destroyed. It's almost poetic.

The world is huge. Bigger than Burnout Paradise and much more beautiful, you could spend hours driving around aimlessly, finding hidden roads through caves and forests, discovering beautiful vistas to sit back and enjoy. Switch to photo mode to capture these moments, and your car, in glorious HD screenshots which you can upload to your Autolog wall for your friends to see. The sheer amount of detail in the game is most apparent in photo mode. Take the camera to the read of the car and zoom in on the badge. Sharp and lifelike, Hot Pursuit presents some of the best graphics of this generation. Action packed shots are definitely worth taking too. Switching to photo mode mid-crash can produce some beautifully destructive results. Take the motion blur to the top, allowing you to feel the speed, play with the contrast and brightness to make the image stand out, drain the world of colour of you so wish, making the cars the true star of the show. Photo mode shows every fleck of paint and every tiny piece of broken glass, frozen in the air as the chaos stands still in time.

The game is not easy, but it's not difficult. Some challenges may take numerous attempts but it doesn't get annoying. Even on the third or fourth attempt of a challenge, you will be having too much fun blasting down the highways to get frustrated. The Rapid Response missions are arguably the hardest, with extremely tight deadlines. No matter how hard the challenges, it is so rewarding due to the Bounty that you will accumulate.

Bounty points are basically experience points. You can level up by winning challenges and earning Bounty for not only placing first, but for driving skill, use of force and getting a time which tops your speedwall. The top level is 20, which you can achieve on both sides, cop and racer. Levelling up gives you new cars, areas and challenges, as well as new titles on your records. This adds a layer of replayability to the game, urging you to rank up to unlock all of the cars.

Once you complete a mission, your time will be automatically posted to the Speedwall. This is part of the brand new Autolog, keeping you up to date with absolute everything that your friends do. Whether it be ranking up, breaking a record or even uploading a photo, you will know about it. It's a gloriously competitive feature, making you strive to beat your friends times and earning you bonus Bounty points if you are successful.

Take the game online and play the most fun multiplayer racing on the console. 4 Vs. 4 cops and racers is the stand out mode, in which the players acting as cops must take down each racer before they reach a destination. The excitement of being a racer, seeing the cops catching up in your rear view mirror is intense. The feeling of achievement when you and your cop team mates work together to take down that pesky racer is great. Playing both sides online is fun, and offers two completely different experiences as your style of playing must dramatically change when switching sides. Pure speed and careful evading is needed for the racers, whereas the cops must be more tactical and deploy their back ups at the opportune moment.

The cars are all licensed, making the game a lot more involving and interesting. Included are all the modern exotic cars that you could dream of. Pagani, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche; all present. The only noticeable absence is Ferrari, but there is so much choice that it's not a major loss. They are all perfectly realised models and look every bit as beautiful as their real life counterparts. The cop versions of the cars have decals and lights, notching up the level of awesome to 110%.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is incredibly reminiscent of Burnout Paradise, which is no bad thing. The speed is intense, the cars are breathtaking, and the world is gorgeous. The Autolog features are implemented perfectly, adding a social element to the single player game. The multiplayer is intense and fun, and taking down other players is much more satisfying than taking down AI. A must-have for speed junkies and lovers of Burnout, this game is damn near perfect.


by Louis Gardner