Friday, 29 July 2011

Fortix 2 review

Fortix 2 is the sequel to Fortix, an amazing land grab game which sees you recapturing the land taken by the evil Xitrof. It doesn't take a genius to see that the inspiration is the old school Qix, as you must draw paths across a battlefield, capturing the land that you successfully box off.
You make your way left to right, eventually getting to Xitrof

You play as one of a few characters, ranging from the brave warrior Fortix, to a tank! Starting at the borderline, you must take back the battlefield by drawing lines which eventually join back up to the border. They can be as big or as small as you can manage, but it's no easy task. Dodging dragons, ogres and cannons makes it hard to create areas of any decent size. The difficulty curve for Fortix 2 is quite steep, which may put off some of the more casual players. The game requires patience, quick reactions and many risks, as you race against an oncoming cannonball to finish a box.

To help in your quest there are a number of power ups, which can help you along your way. These range from the speed boost, to an enemy stopper, to an extra life. Which one you get is chosen at random but they are all incredibly helpful. The game would be much less entertaining without them.
The levels get quite complex, with walls and eventually locked gates

The graphics of Fortix 2 are very simple, as it is a top down game, but the enemies and castles are detailed, and once you capture areas of land back, you can see how colourful the game is. Nemesys have put a lot of effort into the game's art style, and it pays off.

Fortix 2 is a great game. Sure, it doesn't last very long, but for the price you certainly get your money's worth, plus you get a whole load of classic levels from the original too. The graphics are cute, the gameplay is simple and the price is low. What more could you ask for?

8/10

by Louis Gardner

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Call of Juarez: The Cartel review

The Cartel is the latest in the Call of Juarez series, but instead of being another Wild West title, it takes place in modern LA. You take control of one of the three characters, in either solo or cooperative play, and are out to take down the Mendoza cartel.

The first thing you'll notice about this game is the bad voice acting. Not only are the lines cheesy and stereotypical, but the quality is awful. The sound is tinny and seems to have been recorded on a cheap dictaphone. It is very evident in the cut scenes, but in-game it's not so bad. Secondly, the gun sounds are very disappointing. There isn't much variation of the noises between the different guns, which is lazy on the part of Techland. Carrying on with the guns, there are more problems. First, the recoil does not feel heavy. No matter if you're using the weakest pistol, a high powered revolver or a light machine gun, it's basically the same kickback. It really detracts from the experience.
One of the three characters, Ben McCall

The controls are not standard for an FPS. The button layout is confusing and it makes you wonder what Techland were thinking. RB to change weapon and Y to reload? There is literally no reason to not follow the standard layout. You can get used to this, but it certainly is confusing. On top of the bad controls the player movement is clunky and heavy, and the aiming is jerky. Hard to get the perfect shot lined up when the crosshair moves like it does. Not that you should have a problem getting the kills anyway, because the AI selects a piece of cover, and sticks to it. Pops up, shoots and back in cover. They won't run to better cover and will only try to get a better shot on you now and then. They all look the same and killing them soon becomes a chore.

The level structure is mainly the same for each level. Drive to a location, walk and shoot, find a person or object, then make your way to another vehicle (sometimes the same), and drive away. Funnily enough, the first level is by far the most interesting. It sees you framing a rival gang for burning another gang's marijuana plantation. You must set timed bombs and spraypaint tags all around the crime scene. It promises a lot but the majority of the game afterwards does not deliver the same amount of excitement. To make matters worse, you will encounter bug after bug. Of the first two times I brought down a helicopter, the first exploded, but stayed in the air, perfectly still, rotor blades still spinning. The second time, it slowly fell and as it touched the floor starting bouncing around erratically, before being launched into the distance where it was no longer visible. This should not be happening in a game that people have spent good money on.
The graphics aren't terrible but could definitely be better

The best feature by far is the secret items and secret agenda. On most levels, you will receive a private phone call, asking you to do a favour for someone. The twist is that the other two players are to remain unaware of what you are up to. You must find the item in question and complete the mission without the other two having any idea. When playing with live cooperative partners, each player can get their own mission and it becomes quite intense as you try to stay alive, but also keep an eye on your partners. There are also standard secret items like phones and wallets which give you experience points, but these aren't particular to each character. It's an amazing idea, which goes with the storyline perfectly, as there are many twists and turns and it seems like nobody is trustworthy. Beyond this feature though, nothing new is brought to the genre.

It seems like Techland gave up somewhere in the testing stage. What should have been an amazing rebranding of the Call of Juarez franchise, is instead a forgettable, average shooter. Nothing sets it apart from the competitors, apart from the secret agendas, which is a genuinely great feature. It's hard to see why the Call of Juarez name is on the box. To launch a new IP would have been safer for everyone, as this will be the first game to let down what is generally thought of as a good franchise.

4/10

by Louis Gardner

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

AaAaAA! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity giveaway

Dejobaan have given us three Steam codes for A Reckless Disregard For Gravity, to give to a few lucky winners.

To enter, you can either Tweet the following message:
"Follow @SubspaceReviews to win A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, courtesy of @Dejobaan #SRRDFG"

Or visit our Facebook page, Like, and leave a comment:

Giveaway open to everyone and winners will be chosen on Monday 1st August.

*** CONTEST CLOSED ***

The 3 winners of A Reckless Disregard for Gravity has been chosen!
From Twitter, we have:
@WellingtonWHAT
@_CMJanes
 
And from Facebook, we have:
Kennith Lumley
 
Codes will be sent out shortly. As always, thanks for entering! 

*** CONTEST CLOSED *** 

Monday, 25 July 2011

AaAaAA! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity review

Dejobaan know what it's like when you get the urge to base jump from an insanely tall building, weaving in and out of other buildings, dangerously close, and giving people the finger. To be honest, nobody gets that urge. Unless they have played A Reckless Disregard for Gravity.
This game will blow your mind

Starting at the top of a building in an alternate reality version of Boston, you must launch yourself from the top, dodging buildings, bridges and other abstract structures before deploying your parachute and landing safely. As you plummet downwards, you must try to rack up as many points as you can, in a variety of ways. It can be a little scary to start with, but the game is very lenient, as Dejobaan clearly didn't want people rage quitting. Most of the time, you will get the majority of your points through hugs and kisses. You don't need to wait for an opportunity to do these, which is why they're the most common score builder. Hugs are awarded when you position yourself inches from a building, and stay that close as you fall. The longer you stay in close proximity, the more hugs you get. Kisses are awarded for getting close to a building too, but do not require that you maintain your closeness. Eventually, you can give groups of people thumbs up if they like you, and the finger if they don't. It makes no sense, yet perfect sense at the same time. In each level you will also find many coloured plates. Each one will have a different effect, varying from extra points, to a huge speed boost. They can radically change each jump, depending on which route you take.

At the end of each jump, you are given a score. If the score is good, you get a bunch of teeth. With these teeth you can purchase new levels and items. The level selection screen is basically a massive tube made of television sets. You start off with a few, and must work your way through them all, the catch being that you can only unlock adjacent levels. The further away from your starting levels, the harder and more intense the level will be. To get the higher scores and maximum amount of teeth is hard, and the difficulty level is steep, which may put a few gamers off.
The levels get progressively bigger

A Reckless Disregard for Gravity is a pure adrenaline rush. Addictive, insane and hilarious, it provides hours of fun. Easy to pick up, incredibly difficult to master, it gives you so much enjoyment from what is such a simple concept. Just another argument as to why indie developers are the future of the industry. Nowhere else can so much fun be had for a mere £6.99.

9/10

by Louis Gardner

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Shadows of the Damned review

What do you get when you mix three of Japan's most accomplished videogame personalities? Goichi Suda, Shinji Mikami and Akira Yamaoka have come together to create the ultimate adrenaline fueled ride, straight through the bowels of hell.

You play as Garcia Hotspur. The name is amazing, but the guy will blow your mind. He has a crude mind, filled with dirty jokes, crazy insults and a lot of toilet humour. When hell gets pissed off with Garcia for killing too many demons, the demon in charge, Fleming, decides to take what is most precious to him, his woman. Paula is dragged to hell and the only way to get her back is to follow her in. Hell is not the typical lava filled wasteland, but instead resembles an old European town, complete with a picturesque castle. On closer inspection, it's not so pretty as corpses, limbs and lots of blood decorate the town. The graphics are pretty good, and the small details really show off the Unreal engine's capabilities.
Garcia and Johnson make a kick ass team

Soon enough, the demons attack and you get a chance to experience the combat. You have a number of weapons, but they are all technically the same. Johnson is your sidekick, an ex-demon who accompanies Garcia on all his crazy adventures. He is mainly a torch, but can transform into pretty much anything. Most importantly, he can change into weapons. Primarily you will use guns to dispose of the demons, with the odd melee hit to buy yourself some time. Melee hits also dispel the darkness on a demon. The darkness is what you really need to be careful of. To get rid of the darkness in an area, you must use a light shot on a goat's head, which illuminates the area. This gives an idea as to how insane this game is. The checkpoints are even more messed up. A single eye with wings snoozes, until you approach it. At this point, it awakens suddenly, fires out a steaming crap and flies away. And there's your checkpoint. It doesn't make any sort of sense, but it doesn't need to.

The boss fights in SotD are epic. Similar to Zelda boss battles, you must find and exploit a weak point. Usually a vial of blood stored on their bodies is this weak point, so find it and attack it. More often than not, the weak points are only vulnerable when Garcia is in darkness. In one battle, this darkness comes from a horses back passage, along with a fart sound. The humour is very adolescent, but the game overall is definitely targeted at adults. It is gory, challenging and at times genuinely scary. The only problem with the game is the movement. In the same league as Resident Evil, simply moving the character around feels more like you're driving a tank. Clunky, slow and awkward, especially when there are enemies approaching from all sides.
Hell knows what Garcia likes...

The atmosphere is great, the script is top notch and the characters are fleshed out with very clear personalities. If Tarantino were to make a B-movie style game, it would not be dissimilar to Shadows of the Damned. It's raunchy, camp as hell, so much fun to play and whilst there are some minor flaws, it's definitely worth your time.

8/10

by Louis Gardner

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

reflow review

The debut from Xymatic has hit the iPhone App Store. Combining real world images from the camera, with neon particles, the goal is to direct said particles to a bucket. Not just a game that requires a good think, but one that requires you to explore the real world to find suitable obstacles. Sounds confusing, but it's really not...

The game converts the real world into a black and white obstacle course for an endless stream of neon particles. You must find a way for the particles to make it to a bucket, and more often than not, get them to pass through a colour changing box. The particles fall through the black space of the world, and collide with the white space. The more white on your screen, the higher your score. If you manage to successfully hit the bucket enough, you can share your final image with a number of social networking sites, as well as the option of saving to your photo album and emailing it to friends. It's a good feature, but it's hard to see many people using it.
Here, the letters are the obstacles. It's easy once you get the hang of it

The levels gradually get harder, and instead require you to avoid the colour changers, as well as forcing the particles around some insanely difficult angles. The best thing about this game is that you can play the same level over and over, but never have the same end image.

One flaw is that there are some really useful features, but they aren't explained at all. For example, you can invert the colours. If you see a perfect route to the bucket, but it's all in white, you can change the white to black, and black to white, in one simple gesture. Another feature is the ability to freeze the shot. Instead of playing the level with real time video, you can use the one static image. Amazing features but no explanation, which will probably lead to many players missing out on them.

A decent debut from Xymatic, which is both creative and fiendishly difficult. The only flaw being the lack of explanation, which can easily be remedied in an update. If you have an iPhone, this is worth your money.

8/10

by Louis Gardner

Monday, 11 July 2011

Alice: Madness Returns review

Madness Returns is the second Alice game from American McGee. Turning the classic Wonderland tale into a dark, twisted nightmare earned the original game a cult following. Now Alice is back, and she's after a much wider audience. Does the game do enough to deserve this audience, or will the game follow in the footsteps of it's predecessor and live on as a cult classic?

The game starts in London, with Alice in a therapy session. The cut scenes are presented in a paper cut out style, and look superb. They work incredibly well with the twisted fairy tale theme that the game carries. Soon enough, you are able to walk around the streets of Victorian London. It is very linear, as is the majority of the game, but the atmosphere is fantastic and the streets feel grimy and dangerous. After following a curious white cat, you are plunged into Wonderland for the first time.
The star of the show, Alice

The game is set in both London and Wonderland, with the latter obviously being the main attraction, and where you will spend most of your time. The Wonderland levels range from beautiful forest, to hard, rusty industrial zones, to the serene arctic tundra style levels, and that's just a taster. The graphics in Wonderland are superior to the London level graphics, but the graphics overall are very inconsistent. Sometimes the graphics look amazing, particularly on Alice, but often the textures look pixellated and not as good as they should be.

The levels are quite linear but the puzzles break up the action, along with some decent platforming fun, not dissimilar to Mario games. You typically must traverse the levels to find items and help characters, in order to progress through the levels. The levels are typical of the platforming genre. Do some jumps, flick some switches, kill some enemies and hey presto! It's all been done before, so whilst the game doesn't offer anything new to the genre, it does what it does well.
The environments in the game vary massively

The levels do have a lot of hidden content, which reveal back stories, information about the Alice universe and it's characters, and add a decent amount of game time. More often than not, you'll also find teeth. Teeth are the currency of Madness Returns. Killing enemies and breaking containers will usually earn you some, and if you're lucky, even some gold teeth. Collect enough and you can upgrade your weapons. The first weapon, which you come across almost instantly, is the Vorpal Blade. A standard melee weapon which is great for dispatching all kinds of enemies. If melee isn't your thing, you also get the Pepper Grinder very soon after the knife. This allows you to fire peppercorns at your enemies, and is a powerful ranged weapon. The weapons are easy to access and switch between, but the combat does all feel the same.

A solid platform game with a decent story and characters, let down by some repetitive combat and very linear levels. If you're a fan of the first, you'll undoubtedly like this. Even if you aren't, it's worth a try, as the original game comes bundled with Madness Returns, in the form of a download code. Wonderland will never be the same again.

7/10

by Louis Gardner

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Alice: Madness Returns giveaway


*** CONTEST CLOSED ***

EA have given us two copies of Alice: Madness Returns for the Xbox 360, to give to a couple of lucky winners.

To enter, you can either Tweet the following message:
"I wanna be dragged back to Wonderland! Follow @SubspaceReviews for your chance to win Madness Returns! #AMRSR"

Or visit our Facebook page, Like, and leave a comment:

Giveaway open to UK residents only and winners will be announced with the Alice: Madness Returns review.

*** CONTEST CLOSED ***


THE WINNERS


Thanks for all the entries, but unfortunately there can only be two winners.

From Facebook, the winner is Ryan Holt, and from Twitter, the winners is @weejok.

Thanks again and keep following Subspace Reviews for reviews and competitions.

Monday, 4 July 2011

LA Noire review

The biggest game of the year so far has arrived, ending years of waiting and anticipation. Are the facial expressions really so groundbreaking? Does the game have a deep storyline and gameplay good enough to back up the realistic visuals? Read on to find out.

LA Noire puts you in the shoes of Cole Phelps, a World War 2 lieutenant that wants to make the streets of 1947 Los Angeles a safer place. Starting as a parole officer on the beat, you must solve increasingly difficult crimes, to rise through the ranks of the LAPD, and make a name for yourself. The story is one of blackmail, bribery and corruption, and Cole is not a man to leave a can of worms unopened. He wants justice and truth, no matter what the personal cost. Cole is not all perfect though, as one of his dark secrets is revealed through a series of flashbacks to the war. Only a small piece of information is given in each one, but they tell an amazing story. Don't use them as an excuse to fix yourself a drink, instead pay careful attention to every word, action and character.
Blood soaked cars? Just another day for Cole Phelps

Subplots include serial killers and arsonists, to name a few. On top of that are the street crimes. 40 optional crimes that appear now and then on the mini map, which include negotiating with a suicidal jumper, chasing thieves and arresting bank robbers. Some of these do feel a bit too similar to one another, but they are optional so it isn't a big problem. As well as these street crimes, there are also a lot of things to collect. 50 film reels scattered around the world, which are very well hidden. Luckily, the Rockstar Social Club stat tracker is back. Even more detailed than the Red Dead Redemption one, it offers maps with locations of every collectable, let's you know your mission scores and overall percentage. It is invaluable if you want 100% completion.

The main cases are much more fleshed out than the street crimes, usually involving a good few crime scenes, suspects and witnesses, and a lot of finding clues. Searching for all of the clues is the best way to make sure that you uncover all of the information. For example, finding a piece of evidence might unlock a new question for a suspect, but could easily be missed. This could lead to an incorrect accusation and your overall score could take a major hit. Once you get used to the mechanics of the game, finding clues is easy enough, and the game does give you musical cues, so you know whether or not to keep looking.

The unique selling point of LA Noire is by all means the facial expression technology. Groundbreaking innovations mean that all of the faces in game are almost perfect copies of real life actors. Top of the range motion capture captures every twitch, every shifty look and nervous swallow. It has to be seen to be believed, and there is nothing like it. When you ask a question, you must carefully study their reaction, both physically and in what they say. If something doesn't add up, or if they look suspicious, you let them know and the information will come spilling out. This works by choosing one of three actions: Truth, Doubt and Lie. If they have a confident statute and voice, they are probably telling the truth. If they look away or shift uncomfortably, they are probably lying. Without solid proof though, you can only pressure them into folding by doubting their answer. If you think you have proof of lies, then show them the evidence and they have no alibi. It seems like a complex system to start with, but once you have tried a few interrogations, it becomes much easier.
Interrogations are incredibly tense as you try to catch them out

When you have a few crime scenes, you will have to travel between each one, and you can do this in a couple of ways. You can drive yourself, or your partner can drive. The latter is very much the same as the taxi feature in GTA IV. A fast travel system with some light conversation. Driving yourself is obviously more fun as you get used to the streets and find the best routes between different parts of the city. The only problem is, the driving is a little iffy. It lacks the weight that was oh so evident in each of the cars in GTA IV. The cars feel light, they move like F1 cars or go karts. The steering is incredibly sensitive and the cars whizz round corners with almost no problems. It may seem trivial but in an open world game, particularly one the size of LA Noire, driving is a huge part of the experience and it needs to be good.

Once you have played a few cases (there are around 20 overall), you will be used to the driving, interrogations and finding clues. You will know how the cases seem to work, and unfortunately, the main structure of each case does not change much for the rest of the game. There are new mechanics added now and then which are specific to the cases that they are in, but they are sparse and usually not very long. It is a case of the gameplay being sacrificed in favour of the overall experience. In any other game, this would be a bad thing, but with LA Noire, it just isn't.

The game is the first step towards videogames being recognized as a credible form of adult, intelligent entertainment. The technology is amazing, and the game will no doubt be remembered as an industry changer. Try to play the game and not be drawn in, to the most realistic and immersive game that the world has ever seen. In terms of gameplay, it has some issues, but in terms of entertainment, it has none. The characters are fleshed out, with backstories and flaws, the world is a beautiful, accurate and loyal recreation of LA and the emotions are so evident and powerful. Miss this for nothing.

10/10

by Louis Gardner