Friday, 29 October 2010

Singularity review

Singularity is a first person shooter from Raven Software and Activision that slipped under the radar of most, and it's a damn shame. While it may seem like a budget FPS, it's probably the most underrated game of the year.

The game puts you in the shoes of Captain Nathaniel Renko, sent on a mission to find the source of a huge EMP blast, which downed a US spy satellite. The blast came from Katorga-12, an old Russian island used for experiments with the powerful element, E99. As your chopper approaches the island, another EMP blast cuts the power and sends you plummeting. An exciting start to rollercoaster of a game.

The game takes part in one location, but in two different times. The game starts in 2010 but soon, a third blast takes you back to 1955. It's almost instantaneous and whilst the layout is the same, the aesthetics are completely different. What makes it more interesting is that in 2010, everything is rusty and broken, abandoned for decades. Jump to 1955 and everything is new, shiny and perfect.

The first time you jump back, you save a man from dying. If only Renko had seen Back To The Future. Change something in the past and the repercussions could be disastrous. And they are. The man who you saved eventually became an evil dictator. So when you jump back to present day, gone are the Stalin statues and posters, replaced with the very man you saved. The mission just changed...

The gameplay is what you would expect of a modern FPS. Throw in some time manipulation, gravity altering and energy blast devices, attached to your wrist, and the game really shines. Up until you get the device is a bit of a drag, but it's worth it. The aptly titled Time Manipulation Device is the star of the show, and allows for awesome combat and puzzles. It even makes traversing the corridors and buildings of Katorga-12 fun. Can't get to a higher level? Send some stairs back to '55, back to their former glory, allowing you to climb. Can't open a door? Send the lock to the future, where it is broken. Simple! It makes mundane things such as walking between locations fun.

Want more fun? How about a massive selection of weapons? With special powers? Check. Equip the sniper rifle, look down the scope and slow down time. Making heads explode has never been easier. A grenade launcher shoots out perfectly spherical explosives which you can then control. Send it around corners and through cracks in the wall, it's so much fun to use. A missile launcher allows you to control the projectile after you have fired it. Whether the enemy is above, below or behind you, nowhere is safe from the Seeker.

There are some really impressive set pieces in Singularity, rivalling those of the big titles like Halo Reach. The sense of power when you raise a sunken ship and revert it to being brand new is amazing. Climb aboard the ship and it starts to age rapidly. Paint peels off the walls, doors rust and fall of the hinges, holes in the hull reappear and take the ship back to it's grave. This game has so much atmosphere. Vast amounts of the time are spent alone. Minutes pass with silence from both allies and enemies. It's not particularly scary, but is definitely creepy.

As it's not one of the huge budget games, some aspects of the game have taken a hit for the team. The graphics are generally good. The characters look decent, but look a little closer and the textures are pixelated and blurry, the facial expressions are far from fantastic and the movement is often jerky and stiff. Textures on the environment are the same. Really nice from a distance but not so much close up. These are minor niggles and do not detract from the overall experience.

The multiplayer sees you playing as a human, or as one of the creatures from the single player missions. They vary from small and fast but weak, to huge and powerful, but slow. Experimenting with your team mates to find the perfect combination is great fun. There are only two modes however, and the overall multiplayer game lacks the depth and complexity that some of the big games have.

Singularity has been missed by so many gamers, and it is a shame. If it had been marketed a lot more, this game could have stood among the giants. Instead it will most likely gain popularity as a niche title, a cult classic. Even so, Raven Software have made one of the best new shooters of the year.

8/10

by Louis Gardner

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Gun Loco Character Vignette #3



The third and final character video has landed. Here's Mifune!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Super Meat Boy review

Super Meat Boy is indie developer Team Meat's sequel to the popular flash game Meat Boy. This wild and wacky arcade game puts you in the shoes of Meat Boy, a humble square piece of animated meat on a mission to save his kidnapped girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil and devious Dr. Fetus, a suit-wearing-jar-clad Fetus and possibly the most unlikely villain you will ever come across. To complicate matters, between you and your girlfriend who is located at the end of each level, is all manner of hellish obstacles (rotating saw-blades, spikes ... salt) which must be navigated using a combination of Meat Boy's wall-clinging, jumping and sprinting abilities.

Eagerly expected, this already award winning title is the gaming equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie: humorous, daring, unafraid to be graphic and a love letter to the medium it adores. It's packed full of gaming clichés, 16-bit inspired graphics and music, and features an array of unlockable characters from other indie games.

Don't be under any illusions that this is just any platformer. Hidden under the facade of quirk and humour is a serious game, and it's hard. In the first few levels you're lulled into a false sense of security as you breeze through what appears to be a game with the difficulty of Super Mario Bros., but reality hits fast and hard half-way through the first 'world' and from there on in you're regularly presented with increasingly insurmountable odds to overcome, to the point that wanting to throw your controller across the room is not an unfamiliar feeling. This frustration is only further amplified by the knowledge that the game is fair. Every obstacle is obvious, the levels are completable and on average take less than twenty seconds but, for some reason you've died again. The whole experience should be enough to make you quit, but it doesn't. The perfectly styled visuals, the retro feel and the gaming clichés are enough to make you want to improve, and you do.

While the main game is more than enough of a challenge for your average gamer, if you manage to complete a level within a set time limit you're awarded an 'A+', your ticket into the dark world, an alternate version of the level. These alternate versions are harder and contain more than their fair share of spikes, saws and rockets.

Seperate from the main game and it's alternate dark world counterpart are warp zones, small purple vortexes which can be found scattered through levels in the game. These zones disappear after a few seconds, but if reached in time send the player to retro styled bonus levels, usually with only limited number of lives to survive before it's 'Game Over'.

Lives or no lives during this game you'll die a lot; chain-saws, spikes, bio-hazard waste, anything you touch will kill you. It's inevitable, expected and integrated beautifully into the game. To Super Meat Boy, every failure is simply an opportunity to put you in your place. Not only does it keep a record of your all-time death count, a figure that'll be well into the tens of thousands by the time you've completed all three hundred and fifty levels, but at the end of every level it also shows you a replay of your successful run – overlain with Meat Boys from every other failed attempt, which all meet their maker until only your one successful Meat Boy remains. Not only is this feature a humorous addition, but it is also serves as a testament to your efforts and spurs you on.

While the indie roots of the game are more than apparent in the game's style and appearance, the near-perfect gameplay would suggest nothing of the sort. It's fast, addictive, and well designed and while the levels maybe themed, they manage to maintain a variety that avoids making progressing through the game feel repetitive, while still providing increasingly difficult and new challenges.

This game is undoubtedly one of the most solid titles available from the arcade store and with the promise of more free quality content for a game oozing with replayability and hidden content at the price of 1200 Microsoft Points it is most certainly a worthy addition to any gamer’s library.

9/10

Words by Arran France

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock review

Guitar Hero has fought off the competition over the years to be one of the most successful party games of all time. Each new incarnation brings new songs and every now and then, a new mode and some characters. Warriors of Rock ticks all the boxes, and in doing so, becomes the most complete Guitar Hero to date.

Anyone who has played more than one rhythm game, like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, will know that the "campaign" mode is always the same. Start at a small venue with crappy instruments and no fans, and work your way up to be the greatest band of all time. Travelling the world, getting sponsors and more than enough money. If you've played one, you've played them all. Warriors of Rock uses the same system of playing a setlist consisting of a certain amount of songs, playing an encore after you do well enough, and finally unlocking the next venue. Where it differs is that you aren't trying to make your band awesome. This time, you are gathering an elite group of rockers to defeat The Beast. To recruit each guitarist, you must play through songs and earn a certain amount of stars. These are not just the typical 1-5 star ratings, you can earn additional stars by completing song and character specific challenges. It adds a level of replayability to the game, and trying to get as many stars as you can becomes quite addictive. Each of the eight characters also has a unique power to help boost your score and achieve more stars. These powers vary from giving you a small percentage of star power for every ten note streak, to not just doubling your score for star power, but multiplying it by six. Whilst these are nice new additions, it makes it easier for the player to get a high score, and takes away the challenge in some cases. In the past, trying to nail a certain star phrase could be infuriating, now it doesn't matter too much because every ten note streak will build up the star power anyway. The powers reward beginner players more than expert players, and it seems a disservice to loyal fans.

The new QuickPlay+ mode is by far the greatest feature of the game. It works the same as previous QuickPlay modes, but if you want it to, it has a lot of depth and will take up days of your life if you want it to. Each song has 13 challenges, and each one will award you one of three medals, depending on how well you do. It is more impressive than the Quest mode, and is the Best in Show as far as I'm concerned. Earning stars and medals will help you level up. Levelling up gives you new instruments, venues, concept art and more. QuickPlay has had a massive overhaul and is all the better for it. Warriors of Rock is worth buying just to experience and master this mode. What also makes it fantastic is that if you just want standard QuickPlay, you can ignore all these features and simply play some songs.

The song list has taken some hits for being too broad, not focusing on one genre. If anything, I see this as a positive point. As the game utilises all of the instruments, it makes most sense to have many genres, otherwise the essence of the Party game would be lost. There has to be something for everyone, and Warriors of Rock has, in my opinion, one of the best setlists to date. The inclusion of Bohemian Rhapsody is a stroke of genius, and makes you wonder why they haven't included it in previous iterations. The song is fantastically good fun to play, and provides a challenge for each instrument and especially the vocalist.

While the sales may have been below par, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock provides a refreshing experience. It may not be the best game for GH loyalists, the difficulty from previous games does not rear it's ugly head, but it is a great party game with songs to suit every mood and person. Worth the price for QuickPlay+ alone.

7.5/10

Monday, 18 October 2010

Super Meat Boy contest!

We have two Super Meat Boy codes up for grabs!

For one entry, tweet this message:

@SubspaceReviews has two codes for Super Meat Boy! RT & follow and visit http://tinyurl.com/39mr58f for a second entry!

For the second, post your Twitter name in the comments section below. Closes Wednesday 20th October, 13:30 GMT.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Gun Logo Character Vignette #2



Meet the star of the second Gun Loco vignette, Maddox!

Gun Loco Character Vignette #1



Meet the Gun Loco character, Nuts!

£10 Voucher Giveaway for 250 followers!

Thanks to everyone RTing my posts over the past few weeks, I finally got 250 followers on Twitter!

To celebrate I will be giving away a £10 voucher for a site of your choice (or equivalent value if winner is outside of UK).

If you can get me 35 more followers by the end of October, the prize will increase to £20 split between two winners. So if you want a bigger prize fund, Tweet this message:

"@SubspaceReviews is giving away 2 £10 vouchers if he gets 25 new followers in 7 days. To enter, RT and follow!"

Already existing followers are eligible to win and do not need to RT, it's simply to help towards the bigger prize, and winner will be selected at random when the giveaway ends.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

DJ Hero 2 Event at St Pancras!

DJ HERO 2 STORMS ST PANCRAS INTERNATIONAL WITH GIANT TURNTABLE

WHAT? Flex your musical muscles on the World’s Largest Turntable.

WHY? To mark the upcoming launch of DJ Hero 2 (22nd October), the World’s largest turntable is being installed at St Pancras International providing early morning commuters with a musical treat.

Former DMC world champion and radio 1Xtra mix master specialist DJ Blakey will be mixing it up on the decks whilst members of the public get the chance to live-out the fantasy of being a superstar DJ, scratching and mashing up tracks in front of a huge audience.

WHEN? Friday 15th October 2010
Arrival @ 7.45am for a 8am start

WHERE? St Pancras International / Pancras Road, London
In front of Eurostar check-in

For further information on the DJ Hero 2 and to RSVP please contact:

Heropr@frankpr.it 0207 693 6985

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Comic Jumper

Comic Jumper is the game that we've all been waiting for since 'Splosion Man. Ever since The Maw, Twisted Pixel have been on the radar, and the success of the aforementioned 'Splosion Man just cemented their position as a triple-A XBLA developer. Does Comic Jumper help them to defend their title? Short answer, yes. Long answer...

Comic Jumper is the 2.5D platformer which tells the story of Captain Smiley and Star, a crappy hero with a talking star attached to his chest. He is the star of his own comic book, which would be great if the readers didn't hate him. His comic is cancelled due to poor sales, but a mysterious company called Twisted Pixel come to the rescue. They have invented a ship which will allow Captain Smiley to jump to other comics, and being a guest star for 3 issues. By doing this, he makes money to restart his own comic.

The first comic you play in is Captain Smiley's own, before it gets cancelled. Basically an extended tutorial level, it gives you a taste of what to expect throughout the game and introduces the main enemies and more importantly, Captain Smiley and Star. The relationship between the two is not a good one, resulting in hilarious consequences and arguments. There are some amazing lines said by each and every character, and the script is clearly well written, unusual for an XBLA game. The best character is by far Star. He has a major attitude problem. He is chauvinistic, rude, and clearly needs to go to anger management classes. Captain Smiley always has good intentions but always manages to make sure people hate him. Whether by killing innocent villagers or destroying a museum, he never really does the right thing.

The first comic that you guest star in is Nanoc the Obliverator. Set in stone age times, Smiley gets an awesome costume which includes a horned helmet and a dead big cat as a cape. His look changes in every level, and as well as the savage look, he also rocks out a cute manga style and a cel shaded 70s version of himself. Each of the three main comics have distinctive styles, so the game always feels fresh in that department.

The main criticism I have with the game is the repetition. If you look past the graphics, every level is basically the same. They all have the same things to do, ranging from melée sections, to vehicle sections, to 3D sections, with the odd bit of climbing. Whilst that is quite a few things to do, it needed more to keep the player interested. Once you have played one level, you have pretty much played them all. The most interesting levels are unfortunately the first and last. They have the best pace and enough action to keep you hooked, especially the final level which just doesn't hold back at all, and also has a cameo from a previous Twisted Pixel game. I assure you, you will be surprised.

There are a vast amount of unlockables on this game, all in classic Twisted Pixel style. These range from fake interviews with the cast, to models of the characters, to full Captain Smiley comics. To unlock the extras, you buy them with money earned in-game. There really are a lot, and it's nice to see that the devs have taken a lot of time to include these in the game. So many games have no extras but Twisted Pixel deliver, every single time. One of the coolest extras that you can buy is DLC for 'Splosion Man. You can tell they care about their loyal fans when they reward them like this, and other developers should definitely think about doing the same.

Another awesome thing about Comic Jumper is that it's jam packed with references to other games and films. For example, in one of the Nanoc levels, keen eyes games will spot one of the 'Splosion Man cakes in the background. Also take notice of the scrolling text in the base above the desk. It definitely provided chuckles.

There is no doubt that this was always going to be good. The guys at Twisted Pixel just get better and better, each game outdoing the last. They never let their humour and wit falter, incorporating it into fantastic game design, and it is clear that they care about the games they make. Their storytelling skills have without a doubt improved, but the gameplay is too repetitive and needs more variation.

Even though this is the case, Comic Jumper should not be missed. Twisted Pixel have an ability to create games that you will love, with the best humour, wit and characters that anyone could ask for. If you love 'Splosion Man and The Maw, buy this. If not, try the demo and you'll still probably buy it.

8/10

Monday, 4 October 2010

Halo Reach review

Remember Reach.

Reach is where it all began. Before Spartan 117 and Cortana, before the Flood and the Arbiter, there was the fall of Reach. But is the fall a pleasant journey? No, definitely not pleasant. It's a story of sacrifice. It's a story of courage. It's the story of the Covenant invading the planet, Reach, and doing all they can to destroy all signs of life. And who stands in the way of their objective? Noble Team.

The player takes control of Noble Six, the newest and last addition to the team. Your five teammates are all very different, ranging from the calm and loyal Jorge, to the battle crazy Emile, and other clichéd characters. This isn't a bad thing, the wide range if personalities and skill sets keep you interested in the team. Nobody wants a team of clones, boring you to the point of murdering them.

The missions are typically Halo. Travel here, kill enemies, defend from Covenant dropships, travel somewhere else and repeat. This is a tried and tested Bungie formula and it is fine, but it was starting to get old. And Bungie knew this, so they went a few steps further and introduced a whole new range of gameplay mechanics. Space battles? Check. Low gravity battles in a Covenant ship? Check. A whole range of armour abilities including a jetpack? Check. This game throws a lot at you, and it's damn satisfying. The space battle sees you disabling a Covenant ships engines in order for you to land on it and plant a bomb, which is followed by a breathtaking cutscene. It's this kind of thing that Halo needed, and Bungie nailed it.

Whilst it has these set pieces, they aren't as dramatic and Hollywood inspired as those in Modern Warfare 2, but Halo doesn't need these ostentatious displays, it instead relies on a solid story and characters, and has a layer of emotion unseen in many first person shooters.

The multiplayer is Halo through and through, with a modern twist. At the start of each game, and optionally each respawn, you select a loadout. These mainly change your armour ability, and now and then change weapons too. The ability to use jetpacks, active camo, holograms, sprint and armour lock online changes the way we play Halo forever. It opens up the battlefield, making it much more tactical and allows players to gain some awesome new skills. The maps are detailed and varied, with gametypes changing almost every game, it's hard to get bored. One of the most interesting and unique maps is set aboard a Covenant ship in space. Everything seems normal until you step onto a gravity lift. Shot out the top of the ship, the sound is suddenly muffled, your movement slow and gravity is virtually non-existent. Step back through a one way shield to fall into the ship and back to normal. The first time you experience this will definitely be a moment you won't forget.

The all new Invasion mode gets a worthy mention too, taking objective based combat one step further. The two teams are split into Elites and Spartans, and depending on the map, either one could be the attacking or defending team. Invasion is split into 3 Phases. The first can see you destroying a shield generator, allowing access to the next Phase and extra time. Then the attacking team must capture a territory in the defending base. If successful, they will be granted access to a Data Core, which they must then get to the security of a Pelican for extraction. They're almost like co-op missions, and have a massive fun factor, especially in the final Phase.

Making a welcome return is Firefight, with a few improvements. Now the player has the ability to search for teammates. This blows Firefight wide open, making it so much more accessible and fun. The different variations of Firefight include the awesomely insane Rocketfight and Sniperfight. If you have Reach and haven't tried this out, go do it right now. These modes give the player infinite rockets and sniper bullets respectively, making the battlefield light up with a thousand explosions and enough pink mist for a lifetime.

Forge is back and, like the rest of the game, is bigger and better than ever. If Forge was your thing on Halo 3, this will be your dream come true. Gone are the clunky controls and physics, replaced with some awesome new tools that should have been standard the first time around. You now have the ability to let go of an object and have it stay in that position! The old trick of stacking objects and deleting the lower object to make it float is no longer necessary, now it's standard. Also included is the ability to place an object through another object, or part of the map. These two new tools would be enough for many Forge fans, but not for Bungie. They gave us Forge World.

Sure, it sounds big, but is it? One of the most jaw dropping moments in Reach is the first experience of Forge World. Take a Banshee to check it out, it'll still take a while to see every section. Already there are custom map variants. Race tracks spanning the whole map, taking over five minutes to navigate. Ambitious? Most definitely, but ambition is what drives Bungie. They don't want to make just another FPS. They want to push boundaries and set the bar.

Halo has been around so long and now the final piece of the epic tale is here, it's sad to say goodbye to Halo as we know it. Microsoft will continue to churn out Halo games, but without Bungie's love for the series, it will never be the same. Bungie have given their all to this one last masterpiece, and while it's not perfect in every way, it's sure as hell close.

Remember Reach? Impossible not to.

9/10