Thursday, 31 March 2011

Swarm review

The Swarmites have landed, bringing lots of death, destruction and a frantic dash to keep your points multiplier high. That's a basic description of the latest XBLA title from Hothead Games, Swarm.
Carefully but quickly get them to the end of each level

The story is very basic, it's more about the gameplay. The Swarmites (up to 50 at any one time) have to traverse one of the most dangerous planets in gaming history, trying to collect DNA orbs in order to save their race, whilst keeping the Swarmites alive. The twist is that killing your Swarmites also counts towards the multiplier. So you basically have to sacrifice some for the greater good, as you can only progress to the next level by beating a target score. For the first few levels, this is no problem, and it's easy to see your score sail past a million. Soon enough, the game gets hard, and the fun factor is reduced dramatically. It's a shame, as the game's first few levels are really fun and definitely charming. It gets to the point, where there is nothing new to be introduced, far too soon, and the fun often turns into frustration. Never a good thing.

The main gameplay mechanics are huddle, spread, stack, boost and jump. Each level utilises each of these a variety of times, and whilst figuring out which to use in each situation does need a bit of thought, it doesn't require much, and the lack of new mechanics really doesn't help the game.
Feed as many Swarmites to the blob as you can

One of the main selling points of the game is the variety deaths the game has to offer. There's vaporising, burning, being impaled, decapitated, gassed and blown up, and there are more. Considering they are tiny blue guys with no human traits, the deaths are quite gruesome and fun to watch, and the older age rating does seem justified. Gaining medals for the deaths does add some replay value, but that's only if you can find the motivation to play at all.

The game isn't terrible. It is obviously well developed and the graphics are nice enough. It just simply doesn't have enough to be a top seller. The levels become too similar and you use all of the available mechanics far too early in the game, so it's hard to recommend Swarm. Try out the trial as it might be for you, but it's hard to see Swarm selling incredibly well.

4/10

by Louis Gardner

Monday, 28 March 2011

Crysis 2 review

The sequel to one of the best looking games of all time has arrived, and this time it's gracing the consoles as well as the PC. The original game looked better than some of the latest games, and that was over 3 years ago. So how can the consoles handle the even better looking sequel?

Starting as a marine, you find yourself en route to New York, on what you think is a standard mission. Suddenly, your submarine is attacked, breaching the hull and rapidly flooding the vessel. In a scene very similar to the opening of Bioshock, you then swim to the surface of the Hudson River, confronted with a heavily damaged Lady Liberty and some not so friendly aliens.

And that's the intro, five minutes in and so much has happened, and it's nothing short of spectacular. The visuals, the audio, the amazing original orchestral score, all work together to make Crysis 2 one of the most cinematic games in a long time. The cut scenes are all worth watching, as you learn the backstory of characters, get hints on where to go and what to do, and generally see something incredible.
New York looks seriously stunning

The gameplay is classic Crysis, only better. Optimised for the console controllers, it is easy to get used to all of the commands, despite the vast amount of them. The nanosuit powers each have their own button, instead of the old selection wheel which really slowed down combat. The powers in question are really fun, and can really shake up the way you play. Have no powers active and play Crysis 2 like a normal FPS, in and out of cover, shooting small bursts. Activate your armour and you can stride into the middle of the battlefield, taking a lot more hits than usual. If you want to do the exact opposite, activate your cloak and sneak around undetected, using stealth kills to snap necks without getting too much attention. Each mode does need you to be careful, as the energy powering each ability slowly drains, and you can go from king of the battlefield to sitting duck within seconds.

What's great about Crysis 2 is the customisability of both the nanosuit and the weapons. For killing certain enemies, you earn Nano Catalysts which allow you to upgrade your suit in a variety of ways. There are twelve upgrades to unlock, ranging from a hundred to thousands of catalysts. They can drastically change the way you play and really open up the tactics of the game. The weapon upgrades are more conventional but still very cool, and just like the suit upgrades, they each work in different situations. Attach a silencer and laser sight if you prefer a stealthy approach, or go with the iron sights if you fancy the run and gun method.
The battles are both intense and beautiful

The main talking point of the Crysis series is the visuals. The graphics on Crysis 2 are spectacular, there are literally no flaws in that department. Even on the Xbox 360, the city is breathtaking, the graphics are clearly the best that the console has ever seen. The characters faces are so realistic, the city is sharp and detailed, the effects are top quality. Obviously the graphics will be even better, but Crytek have set the new standard for visuals on home consoles, and have proven that the 360 can in fact run games that look this good.

The multiplayer aspect of Crysis 2 is really fun. A whole bunch of people fighting, all with the nanosuit powers can get pretty intense and really shakes up the usual FPS multiplayer formula. Instead of just levelling up, you also level up different aspects of your suit, which is a great feature. If you like to use the cloak, your cloak will level up and get much better. And it's the same with the power and armour. It's definitely worth trying out, but it can take a while to get used to.

Crysis 2 looks amazing, there's no doubting that. That gameplay is intense, incredibly fun and the different approaches to each situation gives every player the experience that they want. If you're an FPS player, Crysis 2 is a must have. It will blow your mind.

9.5/10

by Louis Gardner

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Full House Poker review

Full House Poker is the latest incarnation of the classic card game, using the Xbox Live avatars that have taken over Microsoft. Is it a royal flush or should you fold? Read on for our verdict.

FHP is classic poker, it adds nothing new to the card game. The way in which you play however, is completely unique. Using your Xbox avatar to play single player or online, you gain EXP and money which is added to your bankroll, which is available across all modes. Pretty simple stuff. Playing well also gives your EXP bonuses, which all adds up to help you reach new levels. Bonuses like win streaks, smart folds and bankrupting opponents all give you extra XP. Levelling up gives you access to new tables, casinos and outfits and again, your level remains the same across all modes, and you get points whether you play well or go bust. FHP rewards all players, not just the skilled poker veterans. This game is tailor made for this generation of gamers, who need extra rewards and incentives to keep playing.
The chip tricks are a great touch for the more casual players

Like most versions of poker, FHP is incredibly addictive, whether on single player tournaments, online tables or taking down poker pros. There are tournaments, standard games and one-on-one pro games. The standard games last as long as the players have chips, and are the best way to get used to the game, the controls and the tricks. You can have just you and one opponent, or you can have nine. It's up to you, the customisation is fantastic. The tournaments take place over a number of tables, and you can even see the other games taking place, which is a great feature. Hear the cheers of celebration drift across the room as someone wins a large pot. 

The only problem with offline play is the AI. For the most part, your offline opponents are way too aggressive. To see them going all in for a losing hand is not uncommon, as well as over half the table folding in their first move. It can be frustrating when you have a great hand but everyone folds, giving you a ridiculously low win and a wasted hand. This is why the online modes are where the real fun is at. Real players are much more cautious, not wanting to lose their hard earned chips. The only time you'll find someone going all in is for either a great hand or a last attempt to bluff their way into profit. The pots get much more valuable as the real opponents have much more incentive to increase the pot compared to the offline counterparts.
The tournament tables are all in the same room

It is great for poker newbies too, as there are mini video tutorials and a menu screen showing every poker hand and how powerful said hand is. The game really does accommodate all skill levels, as the more skilled players can join the higher stakes games and ignore all of the fun aspects if they so wish.

As far as poker games go, this is an excellent one. Each mode is fun to play for it's own reasons, the inclusion of avatars is really good, and the ability to play timidly or aggressively is great, as well as the chip tricks. 800MSP is definitely a good price for it, but it is probably only worth it if you know you are going to play for a long time.

8/10

Review by Louis Gardner

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Super Hero Squad Show giveaway!

THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW – TALES OF EVIL!

Clear Vision and Marvel have given Subspace Reviews three copies of the latest Super Hero Squad Show DVD (available April 18th) to give away to three lucky winners!

There are two ways to enter:

1. Follow @SubspaceReviews on Twitter and tweet this message:
"I want to win the Super Hero Squad Show DVD from @SubspaceReviews! Follow and visit:  http://tinyurl.com/shssdvd for details"

2. Visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Subspace-Reviews/165445003504185, Like and leave a comment!

Simple. The winners will be announced at a later date! Good luck everyone!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Bulletstorm review

The latest game from Epic and People Can Fly is here, and it sets the new standard for fun. Right from the start you can see that this game was never trying to be realistic like Call of Duty. It is what games should be; fun. To be honest, fun is an understatement. It is insane. Brutal, crude and hilarious.

Bulletstorm tells the story of Grayson Hunt and Ishi Sato trying to escape the resort planet, Stygia. For Hunt though, it is also the revenge mission to end all revenge missions. Ten years earlier, Hunt the leader of a gang of mercenaries. He and his gang completed hundreds of missions for General Sarrano, murdering thousands of people who turned out to be innocent, not the murderers and drug dealers that Sarrano claimed they were.
Kicking has never been so fun

The game takes place on a world full of mutant prisoners, and thousands of them stand between you and your target. The world is seriously beautiful. Incredible vistas are not uncommon in Bulletstorm, and offer some relaxation and rest from the imaginative killing. The unique selling point of Bulletstorm is the skillshot system. You get points for killing in creative and new ways, which can upgrade and unlock new weapons. This system would literally not work on any other FPS, as it heavily utilises the leash and the ability to kick objects and enemies. It can only truly make sense by playing the game, but it is amazing. An early example, so as to not give away any kill spoilers, is to pull an enemy towards you with the leash, and then kick their midair body into spikes. There are so many kills that use only the leash and kick, that you could progress through a lot of the game without using some of the most mind-blowing weapons in gaming history. You start with a basic PMC, an assault rifle but soon enough you will gain access to super powerful shotguns, flare guns and bouncing bombs. And that's just a few, more incredible ones await. Each weapon had a special charge shot, which give the already awesome weapons some amazing special features. The PMC charge shot unleashes a hundred bullets in one deadly shot, instantly turning the enemy into a skeleton. The charge shot for the pistol is a flare, which ignites the target and surrounding enemies, before exploding.

The graphics on the world are near perfect, but on the characters they are let down ever so slightly. The textures on the characters don't seem to be utilising the Unreal engine as much as they could, but it's not a big problem. The fun vastly outweighs the slight issues, and you rarely have time to focus on the characters with all the insane action going on 99% of the time.
Not so pretty

Taking down standard enemies is so much fun, the boss fights are jaw dropping, the world is beautiful and the script is hilarious, full of the most creative insults ever made. This game is a must have, despite the short campaign and disappointing boss fight. It takes away some of the seriousness we are used to, whilst still having lots of emotion and heart. You need to play this game.

9.5/10

by Louis Gardner

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Dead Space 2 review

Dead Space 2 has landed, bringing a new Isaac Clarke adventure complete with necromorphs, hallucinations and many dark rooms. Does it fix the problems and shortcomings of the prequel, or were the criticisms ignored?

Isaac wakes in a hospital on the Sprawl, a huge space colony built on Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Strapped into a straight jacket, Isaac is pretty much a fish out of water. A helpful, terrified man comes to your rescue, warning of terrible danger. As he is doing so, a necromorph silently approaches and impales him through the chest and face. In what is one of the most mind-blowing gaming moments of 2011 so far, the man then transforms, inches from Isaac's face, into a necromorph. It is brutal, graphic and truly amazing. The next sequence is reminiscent of the Mass Effect 2 section which sees you playing as Joker. As you gain control of Isaac for the first time, you make your way through a small section of the Sprawl, and scripted events happen on either side and around every corner. Necromorphs kill, humans transform, explosions and destruction is constantly happening. These amazing set pieces continue to pop up throughout the campaign, and really make Dead Space 2 standout as not only one of the most atmospheric and action packer horror games, but as one of the best games available.

Issac is back with bigger and badder weapons

The gameplay is also excellent, and truly suits the genre. It is a third person game, and the camera looks over Isaac's right shoulder. The camera is quite close to the character, and doesn't allow you to move it all the much. You can move it 360 degrees around Isaac, but where in other games you might be able to peer around corners without actually being at the corner, you cannot in Dead Space 2. Visceral wanted each and every scare to be a shock, with no scouting ahead. There is no HUD in the game, with the relevant information instead being shown in-game. Ammo count and messages are displayed with holograms, whilst your health and stasis count are attached to the back of your suit, in the form of lights. Again, it works well as it destroys the usual HUD borders and makes the game all the more engrossing.

There are a few gameplay mechanics that are used a few times, but they aren't overused. For example, every now and then you will come to a zero gravity section. You are free to move up, down, sideways and are able to rotate Isaac. Every time you experience zero gravity, it is better than the last. Where you may use it in one room near the start, further into the game you will be hurtling through space, with no sounds but Isaac's breathing. The lack of music and almost all sound makes these sections truly breathtaking and cinematic. There are also puzzle sections, usually involving the use of your kinesis grip and fuses to unlock doors and restore or deplete power. Again, these sections are a nice change of pace and are not overused.

One of the amazing Zero G sections

Dead Space 2 definitely rewards exploration. Hidden items, ammo and credits, as well as the valuable power nodes can be found in rooms not relevant to your objective. So it's your choice. Do you enter the room with the potential to make you scream for what could be nothing, or do you walk on by and maybe miss a power node?

Visceral Games have created one of the best games of this generation. It’s a perfect mix of action, horror, adventure, puzzles and survival, and should be played by everyone. Awesome set pieces, beautiful vistas and enough scares to keep you busy for a long time, this game is everything it needed to be, and more.

9.5/10

by Louis Gardner

Friday, 4 March 2011

Original Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk giveaway!

CONTEST NOW CLOSED

Like superheroes? You're in luck, as we have a copy of Original Spider-Man Complete Collection and a copy of The Incredible Hulk Complete Collection to give away! Two lucky winners will win one each.

The Original Spider-Man Complete Collection contains 52 episodes and 18 hours of essential Spidey viewing, and The Incredible Hulk Complete Collection has 73 episodes and over 16 hours of Hulk doing his thing.

To win, leave a comment below with an email address and name. You can also enter on Twitter by retweeting this message:

"RT&follow! @SubspaceReviews are giving away Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk collections! Visit: http://tinyurl.com/2umtn66 to win!"

and check out our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Subspace-Reviews/165445003504185 for another entry.

Winners will be chosen at the end of the month!

CONTEST NOW CLOSED