The first paid DLC pack for Gears of War: Judgment comes after the Haven map arrived for free a few weeks ago. With 3 new maps, 1 new game mode and 6 armor and weapon skins, the Call to Arms Pack offers something new to the experience. Many had hoped that DLC would right some of wrongs of the main game such as no horde mode and very few maps. So is this pack worth it? It's all good content but we really shouldn't be paying this price for it.
The new skins are exactly what you would expect, new skins. Not much else to say here except if you want you character to look like a taxi then this is the DLC for you. So let's move on to the maps. Terminal is the first new Overrun/Survival map after the original 4 that shipped with the game which is a nice addition as we now have 25% more content for these modes which slightly prevents the modes from becoming stale. As far as the map itself it's good and better than Estate but still not as good as everyone's favorite Skyline.
Then we get two new versus maps for Free for All, Domination, Team Deathmatch and the new Master at Arms mode. Blood Drive returns from the previous two games with a few added tweaks whilst Boneyard is a re-imagining of Mausoleum from the first game. Both are fine additions to the game and with the free map we now have 7 to choose from which is now almost what you would expect a Gears of War game to have. That is of course without paying extra for them which I will get to later.
Master at Arms is the new game mode and the main reason for getting this DLC. It is a free for all mode which sees each player all start with the Lancer and each time you get a kill your weapon changes. The objective is to be the first to reach 20 kills with 20 different weapons. It is an incredibly frustrating game mode to be play as there can only be one winner and chances are you won't win all the time. When you do win though it feels awesome as you know you've just bested everyone in the game.
One of the criticisms Gears of War fans have had is that some people just use the Gnasher or Lancer online which is something that can't be said about this mode as you really have to be skilled with every weapon to stand a chance at winning. The main problem with this mode is that it isn't team based. As I mentioned in my review (which you can read here) I think Gears of War should always be played with friends so a free for all mode is something I just won't spend much time playing. It's definitely way better than the standard free for all mode however and if I don't have any friends online who want to play then this is where I will be spending my time.
As someone who loves to get all the achievements in Gears of War games I have to say this new list is pretty dreadful. Consisting of having to get very hard and random ribbons, playing the new maps numerous times, getting an obscene amount of kills with each Locust in Overrun mode and having to play the rather boring Survival mode on Hardcore once again they really feel like more of an unnecessary chore more than anything. Having already got most of the original achievements I feel obliged to try and get them but I really should just avoid them as they completely miss the point of how achievements can be used in a fun way. Also there is no achievements for playing the new Master at Arms mode which is a very dumb decision.
For the price which is a hefty 1000 MS Points or as part of the VIP Pass (this is the first pack of the scheduled three which costs 2000 MS Points) it definitely feels like we seem to be getting less bang for our buck with Gears of War purchases lately. My biggest issue with the main game was that the package felt considerably light compared to Gears of War 3 and even if all this content was in the original game that still would have been the case. That's the biggest problem however with this DLC. It all feels like content that was in the game but then removed so they could charge extra for it at a later date. The maps are cool and the new mode is fun but unless you are a Gears super-fan and you would be buying this anyway, I would say hold off for now and see if the next two packs are any better because then the VIP pass may seem like a good idea. For now, this content isn't something that you absolutely need to play.
Gears of War: Judgment is the ugly duckling of the Gears of War family. A prequel that comes only 18 months after the trilogy wrapped up featuring supporting characters in lead roles is a recipe for disaster. For a franchise that has been a trendsetter in the past with it’s groundbreaking mechanics and hugely addictive modes like Horde comes a game that looks like a cash grab. It deserves huge credit that in spite of all these rightful concerns, Gears of War: Judgment is a great game that you should play and shows that it might be impossible to make a Gears of War game that isn't damn fun to play.
I would like to state that I see Gears of War as a co-op game almost entirely. The game is designed to be played with friends and that’s exactly what I've done. My entire 45 hours with the game so far whether on the Campaign or Multiplayer has been with at least one friend so this could affect my enjoyment of the game. If you are playing Gears alone you are doing it wrong. Let’s now get to the interesting stuff, firstly the campaign.
The environments all hold up to Gears’ high standards and the level design is fantastic
The campaign sees former supporting characters Damon Baird and Augustus Cole take center stage for the first time as they are on trial in events set before the original game. We discover what they did through testimonies told in court and we start to discover how people were reacting at the time when the Locust attack had only just begun and had not been fully understood it yet. This story is very weak for many reasons. Firstly, Baird and Cole just aren't strong enough characters to carry a story and the new supporting cast isn't memorable in the slightest. The story told also doesn't really add anything to the overall arc we are aware of and does not serve any purpose other than to put these characters into cool combat situations.
This is where the Campaign excels however. Putting aside how ridiculous the premise is the actual missions are really fun. The environments all hold up to Gears’ high standards and the level design is fantastic once again. The introduction of Declassified Missions which can be activated at the start of each section completely change the way you play the game for the first time in franchise history. Whether you have to only use snipers, vision is obscured by smoke, a time limit is in place or enemies are just more frequent and aggressive it completely switches up an old formula and ultimately leaves every section feeling fresh and new. This really is the only way to play this game.
A star system is also in place that gives you a score for each section depending of how well you did it such as getting head-shots and not being downed. This score is the same for all players and doesn't involve competing like Gears 3’s Arcade mode which only encouraged kill stealing and unnecessary competition. To see a co-op based score introduced is very nice as it is just another reason to play well, not just for yourself but for the team.
Former supporting characters Damon Baird and Augustus Cole take center stage for the first time
Overall, Judgment’s campaign is a good length that doesn't drag with lots of memorable moments to the point that I found myself enjoying it very much. Outside of the first game it is probably my favorite campaign so far. Gears 3 had the closure to the story but for pure fun gameplay this is up there for sure. I played on Hardcore with a friend as Insane isn't unlocked until you beat the game once and found the difficulty a good level between tough to beat and rewarding whilst never becoming frustrated. Also, acquiring a certain amount of stars through the main campaign you will unlock Aftermath, a short campaign that tells the story of what Cole and Baird were doing during the final moments of Gears 3.
Having played the main campaign first the changes between the two games becomes even more obvious, with levels feeling a lot bigger and longer to get through and not as exciting with the Declassified Missions nowhere to be seen. It’s great seeing enemies such as Lambent Humans return and after a strong start it seemed to slow down and then drag until a disappointing finale. It’s nice this was included as an extra but in the end it left me wanting more than what I was given.
Survival is the new wave based mode which sees up to 5 players choose from 4 different classes to defend against 10 waves of Locust who try and attack 3 different points before they win and it’s game over. It’s a nice idea but execution is off for a number of reasons. The AI seems to be way overpowered in this one mode unlike anything I've ever seen. As someone who always plays on Hardcore or above I found it almost impossible to finish on anything above Normal, even with 5 good players. Couple this with the fact that the only way to play public online matches is on Hardcore then unless you have 4 friends willing to play private matches the mode is almost unplayable.
The best thing to ever happen to Gears is nowhere to be seen
The next problem is that there is no Horde Mode. That’s right. The best thing to ever happen to Gears is nowhere to be seen. This makes Survival look even worse as it isn't an extra mode but more a replacement which is majorly inferior. Having Gears 3’s Horde Mode with the added ability of being able to fix fortifications as an Engineer would have been awesome and even if it comes as DLC it is no excuse for its omission from the retail version.
The biggest and best new mode is undoubtedly Overrun mode. The first class-based competitive online mode in Gears history sees teams switching sides between Cog and Locust to see who can destroy 3 bases the quickest as the Locusts, whilst Cog are tasked with defending the 3 areas. As Cog you choose from 4 different classes (the same ones featured in Survival) which are Engineer, Soldier, Medic and Scout. Each has their own different abilities such as being able to fix fences as an Engineer or being able to heal teammates as a Medic. All of them are balanced with their own strengths and weaknesses except Scout which seems slightly under-powered compared to the rest.
As Locust you are presented with a list of different enemies to play as such as Tickers and Wretches which are unlocked early but as you earn points you unlock some rather powerful choices such as Maulers and Serapedes. Whilst mechanically similar to Beast Mode this takes those ideas and uses them in a much better way. Each feel unique and all have different abilities that are useful for each section of each different map. You won’t find yourself just using one enemy such as a Ticker until you unlock something awesome which could have been a problem had the different locusts not been made so balanced and the maps so well put together.
An amazing addition to the franchise that creates an even richer experience
A small issue is that Locusts are considerably stronger than Cog which can make defending bases frustrating. However when you get a good team together and shut out a team it feels so rewarding and even better when you get your shot at kicking ass as the Locusts. It’s also a shame there is only 4 maps but after playing the mode for over 20 hours I still find it extremely fun and I’m yet to get bored of it. It’s an amazing addition to the franchise that takes the fundamentals of Beast Mode and creates an even richer experience. This is the best part of Gears of War: Judgment for sure.
The rest of the online competitive modes that fill out this package are Team Deathmatch, Domination and Free for All. Team Deathmatch is what you would expect only this time around we see Cog vs Cog with no Locust in sight for the first time. This becomes slightly confusing as the red and blue tints used to distinguish teams isn't very eye catching and definitely presents an unnecessary challenge. Domination sees two teams trying to hold 3 different positions at the same time for as long as possible to gain enough points to win the match. It plays similar to King of the Hill but isn't as fun and ultimately isn't something I want to play for extended periods of time.
And finally we get to Free For All, the first ever non team based mode to feature in any Gears game. As I stated earlier I see these games as a completely co-op experience so don’t see the point in this mode at all. I understand some will like it as not everyone will have friends to play with or want to play with strangers but I can’t think of anything more boring in a Gears game so after trying it I will never be going back to this mode again.
This package feels vastly smaller than Gears of War 3
Mechanically the game is almost untouched from Gears 3 which isn't a huge issue due to how well that game plays. Is does feel slightly disappointing as the jump between the previous games was huge in terms of mechanics and content. This package feels vastly smaller than Gears 3 and even if they just added the exact same Horde mode completely unchanged from the last game it would have felt fairer to the consumer. Even bringing over those old maps would have padded the experience slightly more.
Graphically the game looks as stunning as ever. Whilst nothing here blows you away like the original game back in 2006, everything on display is incredibly well designed and environments as usual look extremely detailed. I experienced zero glitches of frame rate problems during my entire time with the game which is what you would expect from the series known for it’s very high production values. The soundtrack is also as beautiful as ever and sound effects in particular make every weapon feel unique. If you can find me a better noise in a video game than headshotting a locust I would like to hear it.
In terms of co-op games, nothing comes close
When it comes down to it, your enjoyment will be based on how much you want to play more Gears of War. Some changes to the campaign make it feel fresh and different but primarily it is still very much what we have seen before. Overrun being the only true new mode worth your time (it’s actually worth buying this game for that mode alone), you may feel like you have played this game before. For me personally I find the overall gameplay of the franchise, with it’s vast use of enemies and weapons to be one of the most fun games to play this generation. And in terms of co-op games, nothing comes close. If you own an Xbox then you will struggle to find a more fun game to play this year. Even if it doesn't reinvent the wheel, it sure as hell hasn't broken it yet.
Reboot. The word can give mixed feelings to an audience. The potential is huge as a once great series that has lost steam can be rejuvenated when a good reboot happens. On the other hand, if done badly it can spoil a franchise and with no potential sequels or fresh ideas on the horizon can almost bury it without a trace. Lucky for us Tomb Raider is most definitely a reboot that rejuvenates the series. Whilst not without it's problems, it's great to see Lara finally back at the top where she belongs.
This is the most real and most human Lara has ever been
The story sees Lara and an expedition team board a ship searching for a lost Japanese kingdom which is said to harness great power. After Lara instructs them to go on a more dangerous route they get caught in a freak storm and are shipwrecked on an island. Whilst trying to regroup with the team we encounter some strange inhabitants of the island and the story of survival begins. As this is Lara’s first big encounter in these situations she must adapt quickly or she will surely not survive this adventure.
Bringing Lara back to her roots was a great idea. It keeps the story grounded and really helps the player understand how much stress she is under as it isn't something she has done a million times. Lara’s learns her techniques she is made famous at the same time we do which really brings in the player into the adventure. This is the most real and most human Lara has ever been. And it is a joy to behold.
In the end I wish the story was better with more depth and something else to say to the player. Everything about the game screams survival which I like but I would have liked more to what's going on other than that initial concept. Perhaps more could have been done to establish the motives behind the character’s actions which would have resulted in me caring more about what happens to everyone . Still enjoyed it though but definitely a lot of room for improvement in a sequel.
Early on the game features a huge amount of quick time events which serve no purpose other than to frustrate the player. Rather than simply enjoy watching cutscenes you have to be aware at all times as if you don’t concentrate the game will throw a QTE that will more than likely result in your death. The game opens up eventually and with less scripted sequences there is a less of a need for QTE’s but early on they really make a bad impression.
Great to see Lara finally back at the top where she belongs
The set pieces and pacing is fantastic and at times can be rather exhilarating. When you are climbing up a collapsing building it even rivals Uncharted for spectacle, which is no easy task. Whilst it can be a rather bipolar game sometimes when it goes from the sublime to the odd it is still a very fun experience that many will enjoy.
When the game does finally open up we get a very fun action game indeed. Having all the weapons upgraded and being able to travel around the island freely is a joy. The only problem is that once it does finally feel like we are getting the game I expected it comes to an end. The game is relatively short and it’s a shame most of the time is spent feeling restricted and unable to fully engage with the island.
Outside of the main story there is many different ways to spend your time in this semi open world. The usual collectibles that you would expect appear but the most interesting side quest is the optional tombs. Whilst there aren't many of them and they are relatively easy to solve, the puzzles I found were very fun and offered a different pace to the game. Using fire and rope arrows to manipulate the environment is clever and feels way more interesting than most puzzles in games which are usually boring time wasters.
The game features a huge amount of quick time events which serve no purpose other than to frustrate the player
The overall tone of the game is very dark and gruesome and way more violent than previous games. All enemies seem sinister and intent on murdering Lara at all times and aren’t afraid to kill off anything or anyone to get Lara at all costs. Locations are dark and sometimes can be very claustrophobic resulting in very tense situations in order to get out alive. The QTE's are also much harder than most games, almost forcing you to watch the graphic ways Lara can die at least once before timing it right. This is not a game for children.
The gameplay is really fun and a big change from previous games which most of the time would involve a struggle just to get Lara to do what you was trying to do. Traversing the environments is tight and fluid and rarely boring with the use of the pickaxe to scale certain areas adding a level of threat as it doesn't always secure Lara to the wall she is scaling. The guns feel very smooth and satisfying when executed properly with the bow and arrow in particular being a surprising joy to use. Even though it’s ineffective in close range, it will mostly be the main weapon of choice when taking down the multiple enemies the game throws at you.
Changing weapons controls well for the most part and is easy to pick up. One thing that did disappoint me was how the weapons completely disappear after Lara switches between them and puts them into thin air on her back as it really loses the realism the game does a good job of portraying. Max Payne 3 did it very well where Max could only hold two weapons at a time so it’s an avoidable problem in third person games, had the developer put more thought into it.
The progression system is very nice and a fine addition to the game. You unlock new weapons and skills by collecting salvage (loot) contained in boxes and on dead bodies which is very addictive you will search every area thoroughly. The upgrades are worth it too. Being able to use arrows that explode on impact and learning new melee moves such as stabbing someone with an arrow in the head really makes the experience a more violent and enjoyable one.
The puzzles I found were very fun and offered a different pace to the game
Environments are very well put together with each area offering something new and interesting to explore. The depth is impressive as you go from being in claustrophobic tunnels only to climb up high to then jump across cliff tops. Visually the game is very pretty as you would expect from any blockbuster title in 2013. Nothing blew me away but overall it's a nice looking stylish game. I also experienced zero glitches during my entire time with the game which is nice seeing as they seem to becoming more prevalent in games recently.
One joy is that Lara is no longer a overly sexualised stereotype but rather a bad ass lead character who is fun to play as. The main goal was to show the rebirth of this iconic character and they really did pull it off. Lara is smart, resourceful and a very diverse character. She really goes through the motions during the story and whilst not all emotional beats are successful at pulling the heartstrings, overall she is a fantastic lead character. Just please give her a partner next time so she doesn't always talk to herself whilst examining tombs. It's really annoying.
Multiplayer on the other hand is absolutely atrocious. I played one of each of the modes after I had done the singleplayer 100% and got so frustrated I never played the game again. The mechanics feel shoddy and unresponsive compared to the main game. The shooting just doesn't work and the modes were completely unbalanced. I literally emptied my gun into someone and they just killed me as soon as I finished firing at them. The fact that development time went into this tacked on disgrace of a mode is such a shame as a few of the story problems could have been fixed with the same resources. Also having beat the game 100% they then make you reach level 60 online if you want the platinum trophy/1000G. The multiplayer left such a sour taste in my mouth after playing the story I really wished I hadn't even curiously tried it in the first place. If you are going to get this game avoid it at all costs.
Stabbing someone with an arrow in the head really makes the experience a more violent and enjoyable one.
I believe Crystal Dynamics set out to first of all to reinvent Lara Croft and also make a game that was fun to play. I think they achieved this and now I hope they are more adventurous with the next game. Concept videos released show horseback riding and monsters which would have made the game way more diverse than it actually is. They perhaps felt that was too ambitious this time around which was probably the right choice to focus on getting the fundamentals right but I expect much bigger things next time around. Hopefully a sequel will make a good experience into an amazing one like Uncharted 2 did for that series. Until then enjoy this great game and experience a solid entry in one of video game's most famous franchises of all time.
Hitman HD Trilogy comprises 3 classic Hitman games into one affordable package hot on the heels of last year's epic comeback for Agent 47, Hitman: Absolution. Whilst the first game isn't present (it was a PC exclusive and many missions are carried over to Contracts) we see both Silent Assassin and Contracts given the HD treatment for the first time whilst Blood Money is the same version we already saw released for current consoles. So how have the games aged and how have they been improved? It wouldn't be fair to judge without talking about each game individually so let's start with the oldest game in this trilogy, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin.
Even compared to its modern counterparts it still reigns supreme
Silent Assassin is over ten years old and unfortunately it is starting to feel it. By no means unplayable but pulling off the perfect run can be made unintentionally harder when the gameplay decides to let you down at the worst possible time. Sometimes 47 won't equip the item you wanted straight away or sometimes the enemy AI decides to just kill you when you seemingly did nothing wrong. It can be very frustrating and can make you lose concentration which is the last thing you want when playing this game.
When the game does work though it is still incredibly satisfying when your master plan comes together and you kill your target and leave without a trace. The game doesn't hold your hand in the slightest, and will punish you for the smallest mistake, but that is part of being a master Hitman. When I say this game is hard, I mean it. If you play this game on the hardest difficulty setting and manage to get a silent assassin rank on every level, you should probably think about a new career in assassinations. Prepare to reload your saves a lot whilst playing as trial and error plays a huge part.
Loading saves are also very quick which is helpful and overall the game runs very well. I had no frame rate issues and only one instance of texture popping when a exit gate disappeared so I had to reload my save. The HD treatment is the main reason for this release and it was worth it. The graphics are very nice and it doesn't look like a decade old game at all. Shame the same can't be said about the gameplay.
It is incredibly satisfying when your master plan comes together
Probably what stood out the most for me whilst playing through this game's entirety was the soundtrack. Like any good film or videogame soundtrack it should stand the test of time and Jesper Kyd's score is still as brilliant as it was the day it was made. Even compared to its modern counterparts it still reigns supreme and really is the perfect backdrop to a fine game.
The game is a fairly long length with loads of environments to explore and targets to take down in what could take 10-15 hours to fully master. You can also try and collect all the weapons for your safe house which overall provides lots of hours of replay-ability and this is only a third of the package. I enjoyed Silent Assassin overall but did really have to fight against the gameplay and controls in some places. It was however very nice to revisit the first console outing for Agent 47 to really see how far he has come. Let's see how Contracts fairs next.
Quite surprisingly Contracts doesn't look as good as Silent Assassin which is odd seeing as its the newer game. Contracts uses CG cinematics for cut scenes unlike the previous game which just uses in game footage for cut scenes. These CG cinematics obviously haven't been updated in the slightest and look pretty bad actually. It would be hard to update these but it does look rather amateurish going from a respectable looking game whilst playing to watching very bad cut scenes.
There are also a few presentation changes from the previous game which I'm not a fan of. For some reason the font size is very small on the menus which makes it hard to read and the map is harder to make sense of with the layouts of enemies and points of interests seemingly more cluttered. They also took out the compass which is a small thing but I liked it in the previous game and seems odd to just remove the feature.
Really a lot of the things I said about Silent Assassin apply here to Contracts as not much has changed between the two games. Apart from the small cosmetic changes I mentioned the gameplay is almost identical, the in-game visuals are exactly the same and the mission structure also hasn't changed. I found this game slightly easier but I'm not sure if this is just due to playing the previous game for a while before starting this one or whether the difficulty overall is lower.
This game also felt shorter than the previous one with only 12 levels it could easily be completed in 6-8 hours especially if you know what you are doing. I actually preferred Silent Assassin as the levels felt more unique whereas Contracts just felt like more of the same rather than an actual fully fledged sequel. Not that it's a bad game just that it doesn't improve upon anything from the previous title.
And finally we come to Blood Money which is considered by many to be the best Hitman game to date. So how does it hold up? Visually the game is definitely a step up from the previous two titles. Whilst the previous games looked nice with the HD polish some backgrounds seemed plain and devoid of any detail. This game was built for HD and you can tell. The cut scenes look good, way better than Contracts, and in-game visuals really pop with detail.
Hiding in a huge crowd whilst stalking a target can provide the perfect cover
The gameplay has also been changed a lot compare to the previous games which saw almost no improvement between releases. The controls are streamlined by showing what certain buttons will do at anytime on the corner of your screen and changing weapons will pause the game which no longer means scrambling to equip a gun whilst being shot at. Shooting and fighting mechanics have seen a drastic improvement which means the game is more forgiving when you do get noticed and if you want to partake in a firefight. I personally don't think you should play the game this way but having the option for people who do is always appreciated.
The amount of people that can be present on screen at one time has been dramatically improved which adds interesting dynamics to the gameplay. Hiding in a huge crowd whilst stalking a target can provide the perfect cover and makes the game feel more alive than ever before. The introduction of being able to hide bodies in dumpsters as well as the nice ‘24’ inspired window that comes up to show you any interesting developments elsewhere on the map are both nice additions that really add to the overall feel of the game.
The structure of the games is almost unchanged throughout all three where you are given a list of targets to take down, choose your weapons and then are set free to achieve the objective by any way you see fit. It may sound boring but once you see just how many ways there are to kill your targets and how different each location is the format rarely becomes stale.
Unlike in the newest installment, Absolution, the storylines in the first two games is very loose indeed and just a way to set up why 47 is doing what he does. Silent Assassin has a good story whilst Contracts is basically just a series of hits told via flashbacks. These games are all about completing different assignments because you have been hired to do so, and don't need a story to keep you interested. Blood Money introduces a great story in a Hitman game for the first time which starts off interesting and culminates into one of the best game endings of all time. It's worth playing all the way through just to see it.
If Absolution was your first experience of Hitman and you were left wanting more this is the perfect opportunity to play these classic titles for the first time. Or if you didn't like Absolution as it felt too easy compared to previous titles then pick this up collection to revisit the hardcore Hitman games of the past. Overall the amount of content and hours of entertainment you get with this package is great value for money even if you only play one of the games, let alone all three. Some parts are starting to show their age but for the most part Hitman is as relevant today as it has ever been. Long live Agent 47.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a special game. Every so often a developer manages to fully produce their vision of a game to their audience in the best possible way. Sometimes the level of ambition of certain projects exceeds the maker’s ability, the technology just isn't there, or they just can't fully realize their own idea into a great game. What Naughty Dog set out to do with Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was incredibly ambitious and whilst the game was many things such as a graphical behemoth and a genuinely fun game at times, it also lacked tight gun-play and an engaging story for it’s characters. Uncharted 2 is the game everyone wanted the first to be and when you play it there will be no doubt in your mind that Naughty Dog have pulled off their biggest and best game to date.
One of the best adventures you will ever have playing a videogame
The game begins with Nathan Drake seemingly waking up in a train carriage. He notices he is bleeding from his stomach and badly hurt. Before he has time to react the carriage starts to slide backwards and he soon discovers it is hanging off the edge of a huge snow covered mountain. Whilst hanging for his life right at the bottom we are then thrown into saving Drake’s life. There's no HUD, no graphical difference between what we just saw to what we play and no prompt of what to do. Instead your instinct kicks in as you just climb, and climb and hope to somehow survive. Of course this all gets explained later in the game but right now we are given the minimum to deal with and it is incredibly effective. This opening shows off so many of the game’s great qualities before it eventually opens up into one of the best adventures you will ever have playing a videogame. Seriously, the first ten minutes with Uncharted 2 was already better than my entire experience with the first game.
After getting over the first nightmare you had to deal with we then start to discover what on earth is going on. This time Drake is trying to uncover the mystery behind Marco Polo’s doomed voyage from China which resulted in losing over 500 passengers with no explanation. An artifact leads them to believe they were transporting the Cintamani Stone before being shipwrecked ashore and Drake obviously wants to find this stone, but he isn’t the only one after it. The story takes many twists and turns all of which are very satisfying and overall makes a fantastic story.
Whilst previously I found all the characters rather annoying in the first game, they are way more likeable this time round when the story is more interesting. I actually care what happens to them now and find their relationships and personalities are a key part of the experience and not just a backdrop for pretty locations. Also the ‘banter’ between them is actually funny and not irritating like it can so easily be.
Their relationships and personalities are a key part of the experience
The main problem I had with the first game was the awful shooting mechanics which made me dread every time I was forced to take down waves of enemies. I was happy that Drake has an aversion to using guns early on as that meant less dealing with the shooting mechanics and with the new added stealth elements it adds more to the gameplay than just shooting and climbing. However when Drake totally forgets this and goes back to killing hundreds and hundreds of people the shooting mechanics have been dramatically improved and are actually fun now.
All the weapons feel different and fun to use with the Crossbow in particular being one of the best with its accuracy and power to take down even the toughest of enemies sometimes with a single shot. The game still likes to lock you in a area and continually fill it with enemies but it isn't as frustrating as the last game were it was a huge problem previously. Also timing a shot to make an enemy drop a grenade is incredibly satisfying as you watch them blow themselves and surrounding enemies up.
The level of set pieces on show in the entire game is unbelievable. Whether it’s being chased through rooftops and buildings by a helicopter or the entire train sequence they are both thrilling and some of the best set pieces I've ever seen. Trying to fight enemies whilst the floor beneath you begins to collapse is stunning and the construction of how perfect the train section works and how it escalates to the finish we are expecting from the opening of the game is truly amazing.
One of the nicest added touches is the dynamic camera angles and how it sweeps around Drake when you are climbing to show the scale of what you are doing and to give you a different perspective to what you usually see. This adds to the already high production values and with the set pieces it really makes you feel like you are playing a blockbuster film.
Being chased through rooftops and buildings by a helicopter and the entire train sequence are both thrilling
Another change is there is more free running and climbing in cities this time and not just jungles, which makes for a great change of scenery. Climbing road signs and lamp posts is just as fun as trees and shows how diverse this game can be as it takes you through loads of different locations during the globetrotting campaign. The color coding for which areas you can grab/climb is unobtrusive and incredibly intuitive so you are rarely left wondering where to go next and the environments overall are incredibly detailed with backgrounds looking alive and not flat inaccessible areas.
Literally everything about this game has been approved from the first one. Even the graphics and sound that were great previously are better here which is saying something. This is one of the best looking games I’ve ever played and the score is truly epic and fits the stunning world being created. The minimalist hub helps add to the realism and being able to enjoy cut-scenes without annoying QTE's popping up is a nice touch.
One of the things I think could be improved is the puzzles. Most of them are OK but they do slow the pace down dramatically. This can be welcomed occasionally after a crazy sequence but mostly I found them quite unnecessary. The ones which involve having to check your notebook are very boring and pretty uninteresting.
As far as difficulty goes I played it first time through on Hard and it was challenging but fun. I struggled on a few parts but overall it was a good balance compared to playing the previous game on Normal and getting frustrated frequently, which was mainly due to the shooting mechanics which I mentioned previously. There are some difficulty spikes especially towards the end of the game but nowhere near as bad as the last game. It took just under 10 hours to beat first time through and I enjoyed it so much I played it a second time straight away on Crushing as Drake's dead father, who is an unlockable character.
Easily one of the best games of this generation
Very small issues aside I couldn't recommend this game more if I tried. This is the reason to buy a PlayStation 3 and is easily one of the best games of this generation. What Naughty Dog have achieved is nothing short of remarkable and have positioned themselves as one of the best developers around today. Uncharted 2 should not be missed by anyone and the minute you start playing you will understand why.
Hey guys. Decided to write a quick impromptu blog post as I haven't done one in a week and with all my next reviews all coming in March (Tomb Raider, Gears of War: Judgment and Bioshock Infinite!) I wanted to talk about something. The topic I would like to talk about is the looming PlayStation Meeting that's merely hours away and my excitement for it. Whenever the next generation is around the corner it's such an interesting time for the industry and I really can't wait to see what's in store for us. Note that I'm not including the Wii U as 'next gen' because Nintendo just do their own thing (which I love them for) and I don't think they are in direct competition with anyone unlike Sony and Microsoft.
I would like to just take a moment also to talk about next generation allegiances and where you think you might be leaning this time around. My background is that currently I own both the Xbox 360 and PS3. I've had an Xbox since December 2006 whereas I've only been a PS3 owner since March 2012. I've spent at least 95% of my gaming time this gen on the Xbox and have enjoyed it very much. I love the online service and don't mind paying for it, the party system is great, arcade games are awesome and I'm proud of my gamerscore and friends I've met. You would assume that would mean I would be definitely be buying the next Xbox over the new Playstation. But that isn't the case.
Sony have done a lot recently to really get me interested once again. The PS2 is probably my favorite console of all time but the early days of PS3 just completely lost me. The price was way over what I could afford and the early games didn't grab me the same way Gears of War did. The online service also is still pretty bad. However now I've finally got round to owning one there are things I really like. The online service is getting better and PlayStation Plus is a incredible service. They also seem to be way more focused on games than Microsoft at this point, buying multiple studios and having a huge amount of exclusives. I hate how bad the Xbox Dashboard has got over the years with arcade games being buried, the UI is terrible for non Kinect users and overall games play second fiddle to Film, TV and even Music. Really it is starting to feel like if you just want a system to play games, Playstation is the way to go with the Xbox being more of an overall entrainment hub which I don't really care for.
So when it comes to choosing between the new consoles this time round all bets are off for me. I will wait till both are announced with release dates and prices, see what games are coming for both, and then make a decision. I did think I wouldn't want to lose my gamerscore but honestly, I couldn't care less. All of the friends I've met on Xbox Live that I would miss I already know them on Twitter or elsewhere now so that isn't a problem either. The PS3's launch was a travesty but I doubt they will make the same mistake twice. Only time will tell and it will all begin very soon.
So, what do YOU think about next generation allegiances? Are you already decided on which console you are siding with? Are you sticking with your current company no matter what or thinking about jumping ship like myself? Or maybe you will just buy both no matter what. Let me know what you think and no this isn't a fanboy war. Until next time, enjoy the Playstation Meeting 2013!
Some game franchises have a steady supply of good games before finally having a breakout hit. A game which stands up and demands people pay attention to it outside of its immediate fan base. This can be for many different reasons but usually it's because it is an excellent game. Call of Duty had Modern Warfare. Saints Row had Saints Row The Third. And now after a few good games in the Far Cry series people who aren’t already fans need to pay attention to Far Cry 3.
The story sees Jason and his friends captured by a group of pirates and after you manage to break free you are tasked with the almost impossible objective of saving your friends and getting the hell off this island. You as a player will be tested throughout in doing terrible things to save yourself and you will be made to question whether you are such a good guy after all. Themes such as insanity will be recurring and many twists will make you wonder if you can ever be the same again after such an experience.
I liked the story for the most part and how it challenges many perceived notions about what you are willing to do to survive in a bad place. I felt the story did drag in the middle and could have been tightened up for a shorter, more direct experience which I would have enjoyed more. Whilst not everything it tries it pulls off, enough of it works really well to create an engaging unique story for the player.
Whilst the story is interesting I can't really say the same for the characters. Outside of Vaas, one of the game's protagonists I really didn't think anyone stood out. Jason who you play as didn't make me care for the character and his safety at all and his friends all seemed incredibly generic and disposable. Vaas is good but I think the main reason he stands out is because every other character in the game just isn't that great. If everyone was as well acted and thought through as Vaas we could have have something incredible.
The missions structure is great with a nice variety of stealth, action and options of either which make the game anything but predictable. The game will frequently contain some crazy imagery through the protagonist hallucinating which makes for some unique settings and encounters. I wasn't expecting to fight giant crazy monsters and the colors and sounds present make it seem like an acid trip for the eyes. It never strays too far into the bizarre though and is never unnecessary to play through.
A nice game mechanic you will be introduced to straight away is how you level up to unlock new skills, weapons and gear which is really great and one of the best I've seen in this type of game. If you fancy hunting some animals, which you aren't forced to do, you will be rewarded with new gear such as being able to hold more weapons and ammo. Liberate outposts and you will unlock a new safe place to fast travel to and be able to buy new weapons and attachments. Climb a radio tower and you will be able to see the area more clearly on your map as well as get new weapons for free.
This progression system in this type of game is fantastic and made me want to do everything there was to do outside of the main story to get my character fully equipped for when I do start the actually story itself. It encourages you to explore the island without being too forceful like other games and strikes the perfect balance between rewarding the player but not making it too easy. More games should take note of this.
Hunting as I just mentioned is one of many different elements present in this game and I have to say it is one of my favorite parts of the entire game. Whether it was sniping sharks, blowing up tigers or knifing a tortoise only to immediately be filled with regret and vowing to never do it again, hunting was probably the most interesting part of Far Cry 3 for me. Accessing new upgrades was an integral reason for this in the beginning but I enjoyed it so much I found myself still taking on hunting quests for no reason other than the challenge of completing them. I wish it had played a bigger part in the game and I would be happy if the next game was just an open world hunting game with hundreds of animals to track down. It won't be but I would still play it.
Many twists will make you wonder if you can ever be the same again
The open world is incredibly well crafted and thought through with the map being big enough for you to explore but not too big that it feels ludicrous. Whether its liberating outposts and climbing radio towers like I mentioned earlier, or searching for relics there is a ton of content which makes the world seem like it is brimming with life and not just some dull place where a story is told. The side quests lack the imagination of many other parts of the game which is a shame but overall there is still a lot to keep players busy and it so well polished it makes for one of the more enjoyable open world experiences I've played in a while.
Controls are solid and the gameplay overall is very fun. The way you can change weapons and heal yourself quickly during firefights is very well thought out and put together and doesn't cause any problems at all. The AI of the enemies lays nicely between challenging enough to keep you thinking but not predictable so the game becomes boring. The driving mechanics are slightly odd but use of vehicles is so minimal it isn't cause for concern.
Graphically the game is very nice to look at due to the gorgeous environments and fantastic art style. I suffered only a couple of instances of texture popping but with no frame rate problems I found it to be a lovely looking game overall. Because the game looks so stunning it makes the appalling actions of the characters seem all the more awful. Great juxtaposition indeed.
Another thing I feel compelled to mention is the sound. The effects are solid with weapons, animals and enemies all sounding convincing but it's when the game uses licensed songs to fantastic effect that I really like. The opening of the game uses M.I.A's 'Paper Planes' to establish the sort of people the protagonists are and really stylizes the level of excess and carelessness present on the island.
My favorite however is during a mission that sees you burning down a field full of marijuana and as the fumes fill the air not only does your vision become distorted, but the sound of Skrillex and Damian Marley blasts through your speakers. Yes, it's silly. Yes, it's over the top. But I think it's awesome and is destined to be a cult favorite for many years to come.
The co-op in this game I found to be completely unnecessary and for the most part just awful. It takes out everything that makes the main game so great such as exploration, being able to play the game numerous different ways and the fun of each enemy encounter. Instead you get a completely sterile and boring set of 6 levels which challenge you to either carry an item to a certain point, fix a vehicle or just take down waves of enemies. If there was no achievements for this mode I would have given up almost immediately and it doesn't provide anything that isn't already done so much better in the game elsewhere.
I would be happy if the next game was just an open world hunting game with hundreds of animals
I appreciate when games include separate co-op only campaigns such as Portal 2 if it is done effectively but this mode is so bad I wish I hadn't wasted my time with it and somewhat soured my experience of the game. Having the option for a friend to join your main game and take out outposts together would have been great but really the game should have just been 100% single player. After this I didn't even try the multiplayer as I didn't buy this game to shoot other players in the face so I would say if it’s an open world exploration game you want to play with an intriguing premise, stick to the main story.
Another small issue I have with the game is load times. Due to the size of the map you will find yourself using the fast travel feature very often. It is implemented well as it doesn't force you to traverse huge areas of the world however it does suffer with quite long load times. I played the game with an installed disc on Xbox 360 and every time I used the feature the game would take up to ten seconds to load. It doesn't sound much but when you are using the feature many times it adds up and slightly takes you out of the experience. Not a huge problem but no doubt a flaw that you should be aware of.
The game is pretty long to fully complete but not a ridiculous length like some open world games. I managed to get all the achievements in about 23 hours which is quite reasonable and I don't think I'll revisit the game to get the remaining relics anytime soon. I would however like some DLC which many have expressed interest in, including a bizarre Dinosaur DLC. I would just like more reasons to explore such a well put together world and if that includes hunting velociraptor and tyrannosaurus rex, well that sounds good to me.
Small issues aside, Far Cry 3 is a fantastic game that I would recommend to people looking for a different kind of shooter. The open world is a breath of fresh air where most FPS are becoming more scripted and linear and even when the game does have some scripted sequences it doesn't become boring like recent games of the genre. The story isn't perfect but I commend them for trying to at least do something different and interesting which for the most part I think was a success. I really enjoyed my time and look forward to future installments which are hopefully being prepared right now. Thank you Far Cry 3, for the most messed holiday of my life.
Hello! Just a quick update to inform everyone what you can expect on the blog in the next couple of weeks. I am currently writing my review for Far Cry 3. I have finished the game now, got all the achievements and have quite a lot to say on this game of the year contender for many from late last year. That review should hopefully be up by Friday/Saturday for you guys to enjoy.
I'm also getting the Hitman HD Trilogy this week and this will be my next review. It's 3 games so I'm not sure how long it will take for me to finish but I'll try to get my review out in the next 2 weeks. So that's TWO new reviews coming up very soon. Speaking of Hitman, if you missed my Hitman Absolution review what are you waiting for? Go read it here NOW.
Until next time
I should have my hands full the next couple of weeks with Hitman but as always I am open to suggestions for games you would like me to review so please leave a comment with any titles you would like my opinion on. See you soon for my Far Cry 3 review!
Before this game was released there was a lot of concern amongst fans. Many wondered whether the game would be 'dumbed down', that the need to sell to a wider audience would resort in taking away the hardcore stealth elements of the game. Maybe the Agent 47 everyone knows and loves won't be as we remembered him, or that the format has aged and won't be a relevant having spent six years away from the game. As soon as you play this game those fears will gone and you will wonder why you ever doubted the main man in the first place. Hitman: Absolution was worth the wait.
The game starts with Agent 47 giving the task of taking down his former employer Diana, who has leaked Agency secrets and bringing back a girl named Victoria who is currently in the care of Diana, to the Agency. Before finishing the job Diana gives 47 a note and tells him to protect Victoria from his own Agency which begins the story of finding out what is so special about this girl.
The story is very engrossing and kept me entertained and intrigued throughout the campaign’s entire duration, culminating in a satisfying conclusion that leaves me longing for more. Unsurprisingly, the game’s story isn't one of the best I've ever seen in a game but encapsulates the essence of Hitman better than it’s, somewhat lacking, prequels.
The length of the story is much longer than most story driven titles with 20 chapters to complete, (which all vary in length) most of which feature completely brand new locations. It’s hard for me to judge how long it would take if you just played the story as I was doing everything there was to do but I believe around 13 hours would do it which is longer than a usual 8-10 hour story only experience. However, with a new challenge system, you will be compelled to revisit chapters time, and time again to get the most out of it.
Challenges are what make this game really interesting: each level will have a set amount which will involve 47 performing certain tasks whilst also achieving the mission objective. Some will be pretty evident such as 'never be seen' or 'never change disguise' in the level but others will show you just how layered and well crafted each level in this game really is. Killing a target can involve sniping from a distance, changing into his drug dealer’s clothes and luring him away from his guards, poisoning his coffee or even pushing him down a hole. Each way is so fun I found myself playing each level many times before moving on to the next just to see how each scenario played out. Just really fantastic game design. This is what veterans of the series will look for and you will not be disappointed.
The gameplay really is the shining star and the main reason why this game is so engaging. The controls feel fluid, smooth and easy to use and the first level, which serves as a tutorial, is expertly crafted to teach you everything there is to know very quickly. The shooting mechanics are fine but you shouldn't be using them very often anyway. The way instinct works by showing arrows for alerted guards is great and shows you exactly where you could be in danger without being too intrusive.
My only complaint would be the disguise system which doesn't seem very fair to the player. If you use a police officer's uniform other police officers will spot you from very far away without even acting suspiciously. Perhaps if this didn't happen disguises would make the game too easy but I still found them pretty useless and in the end found it easier to not use them and just stay completely hidden.
Visually this game is pretty stunning and stylish to look at. I never had any graphical glitches or texture popping after a good 30 hours with the game on Xbox 360 and the art style really suits the overall tone of the game. The cut-scenes are put together very well and makes the story come to life. Agent 47 has never looked this good.
Other than the main story we also have a separate Contracts mode to play through. This mode is made up of levels designed by players from the community for others to see if they can crack. Anyone can create a contract and you can share them with your friends to see who can assassinate a certain target the best way and, in turn, get the highest score. The mode is an interesting idea but the possibilities for levels are quite limited and having only spent a short time on the mode I never felt compelled to play it again. A nice feature which many will enjoy but nothing more than an added bonus to the main game for me.
Agent 47 has never looked this good.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this game, so much so that as soon as I finished the story I went back and got all the remaining achievements to 100% complete the game. I would gladly pay more for DLC, whether it be story related or not, I feel compelled to assassinate more targets and accomplish more challenges. Hopefully 47 won’t be out of action for as long as his last hiatus of 6 years.
Hitman: Absolution is truly fantastic and one of the best stealth games this generation along with Splinter Cell: Conviction. My complaints are so small and the enjoyment I got was one of the best experiences I've had with a stealth game for a while. The Hitman franchise is alive and better than ever. Agent 47 is going to be finding new ways to eliminate targets for a very long time.
The first half of 2013 is pretty packed in regards to huge game releases. Look no further than the likes of Grand Theft Auto V, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and Gears of War: Judgment to know that there are plenty of AAA games from beloved series to keep your attention for the entire year; but what about some of the less recognised games coming out? Perhaps they don't have the budget to compete or aren't a known franchise but they deserve your attention nonetheless. I'm not saying the following games will be great, but they all have different and interesting ideas and don't deserve to be buried in the crazy release schedule of 2013. Here are 5 games that you may have forgot are coming soon and should be on most gamer's radars.
NetherRealm Studios, headed by Ed Boon - the creator of Mortal Kombat - is introducing a new fighting game IP which will focus on the DC Universe. The DC universe has been visited before by the Mortal Kombat developers in the generally well-received Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. After a rough few years for the Mortal Kombat series, 2011’s release raised the bar and gave the fans what they have been clamoring for years. With a new IP and a welcome resurgence from a prolific fighting game developer, Injustice: Gods Among Us is definitely a game to look out for on April 16th.
Ever since the Playstation Vita was announced by Sony the dream and main promise for gamers was to finally have a console quality first person shooter on a handheld for the first time through the use of dual sticks. The first attempt at this was Resistance: Burning Skies. The game wasn't developed by its usual developer, Insomniac Games but was handed to Nihilistic Software for the difficult task at hand. A series which has produced solid games over the past few years many hoped would be the definitive handheld shooter. Unfortunately the game had a myriad of problems but mostly importantly a bad online infrastructure. The next attempt and the most ambitious so far was Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified. Unfortunately many feared the worse when Treyarch was not on board to develop the game and again it was given to a another developer, Nihilistic Software once more. Fears were compounded when the game was released to terrible reviews and it seems not even the FPS behemoth of Call of Duty can save the Vita.
Well that small task is now at hand for Killzone: Mercenary. Developed by Guerrilla Cambridge with main series creator Guerrilla Games assisting it's production, not much is known about the game so far. However the game seems to be in the right hands and hopefully won't be rushed out like the two previous games I mentioned. This game could be the definitive FPS the Vita so terribly needs and it really couldn't come any sooner with the release schedule for the Vita for 2013 looking incredibly bare. This game currently has a tentative release date of 2013.
Metro: Last Light is the sequel to 2010's Metro 2033 which came out to incredibly mixed reviews upon its release. The game was praised for its tone and style but many found the combat frustrating and not as fluid as many other FPS on the market. The game did find a niche audience and is somewhat of a cult favorite nowadays and many fans were overjoyed when a sequel was announced.
The potential for this game is pretty huge. If it delivers on its initial promises from the first game and tightens up all of the problems people had we could see something very special. Scheduled for a release on March 31st this game couldn't have picked a more crowded time to get noticed. Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite and Gears of War: Judgment all release the same month. If this game sells well enough to keep the franchise going it will be a minor miracle, and that is a real shame.
Fuse is the upcoming co-op shooter from Insomniac Games. It is the first game in many years from the developer that will be multiplatform, with this game coming to both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. We haven't seen much of this game so far but the real reason you should be interested is that Insomniac rarely make bad games and if you only own an Xbox 360 this will be the first game of theirs you can play this generation.
I do however worry about this game and it's release for many reasons. Firstly it has an extremely generic name that wouldn't entice people at all to pick up and see what this game is about. Secondly, it has terrible box art. I mean look at the above image, why cut off your character's heads? Just awful. Lastly, it's release date of March. So many huge games come out that month as I mentioned and many are shooters in direct competition with this game. I can't see this doing particularly well sales wise I just hope the game itself is great which may help in the long run through word of mouth.
This game won't be on many people's immediate radar due to it being quite far from release but once we know when it's coming you won't want to miss it. A zombie survival open world game coming to Xbox Live Arcade in the same style of DayZ but a more linear and story driven experience. Everything we have seen so far about this game looks fantastic from the screenshots to the trailers. This game looks new, exciting, interesting and truly one of a kind for console gaming.
I imagine this game will be the sole focus of this years Summer of Arcade promotion, probably the last for the current Xbox, and I can't think of a better way to end one of this generation's best and most consistent annual events. State of Decay, remember the name.
Until Next Time...
So there we have it. 5 games that are far from blockbuster titles but all could be interesting and important games for many different reasons. It's a shame of a lot of the games I mentioned won't be best sellers and probably won't win any game of the year awards, this doesn't mean they don’t deserve to be played. In the next 4 months when the dominant games will likely come and steal the limelight away from the opposition, spare a thought to the games that only misstep was launching at one of the busiest release windows in recent memory.