Dead Space 3: Demo Impressions

Demo Impressions

I like horror games. Not all of them - but most. I really enjoyed Condemned and its sequel. Perhaps they weren't 'horror' in all aspects, but they had great atmosphere and really did rack up the tension at certain points during the game. I remember being incredibly impressed with the original dead space. Part of me loves being scared by games, and the other part of me hates it at the moment of panic inducing fear. Dead Space 2 had its moments - it was certainly much more cinematic than the original, I think anyone's that played it would know exactly what I'm talking about when I say that 'opening' (double meaning) was incredibly strong and a great way to kick things off. But overall it didn't have the same amount of tension throughout, instead deciding to rack up the body count and set the intensity of attacks up to 11. Sometimes it was almost comical how many enemies could seemingly jump out of vents and want to come get some of Issac Clark. It had its merits by all means - but 2 was inferior in my opinion to the original.

Why can't games generally just have a bit of closure? Sequels can always come later, they don't need to be outlined as painfully obvious as they are in so many games (Including Dead Space 2). I'm a fan of the Dead Space series, however, I wasn't overly excited by the prospect of a third entry.

With the demo out, it was an instant download because I was curious enough to want to see how the game played and what if anything co-op could add. After one playthrough, the demo has been deleted from my harddrive. Honestly, I don't feel the demo was very good at all. The co-op side of things feels incredibly weak. The gameplay is becoming closer and closer to Gears of War, and the ammo situation is laughable. I looked at my ammo to find 500 rounds. I seem to remember in earlier games, ammo was limited as hell. You had to take shots carefully for fear of running dry. Here, it's like you have an ammo store strapped to your back. And the most concerning thing of all to me - the demo wasn't scary in the slightest. Perhaps we've become desensitised to the necromorph?

"Are you scared? No? Me Neither."

I could see the game was trying to create some atmosphere in the snow, but it just fell flat. Issac struggles to walk through the snow, yet hit aim and he can march through it like a trooper? It would have been better if your vision deteriorated the longer you held your aim, the blizzard effecting your screen. This would of helped in my opinion.

Co-op of this nature could suceed and work incredibly well. I just worry that Dead Space 3 won't deliver. Large sections of gameplay away from your partner could help, perhaps seeing one another from a far but being unable to help during choke points. Hell, even messing with the communication via xbox live could be interesting. Put someone elses voice through my head set, whispering on occasion and making my co-op partner think I'm losing it as they don't hear what I hear. These are just a couple of ideas off the cuff, I'm not sure if such things would be implimented in the game, but here's hoping atleast.

What are others feelings about Dead Space 3? Will you be picking it up day one? And do you have any interesting ideas that would help build tension and atmosphere in a co-op scenario? Share your thoughts.


Metal Gear Rising: Demo Impressions

Demo Impressions

I'd been waiting to play the Metal Gear Rising demo since it was first announced way back when. I hadn't picked up the Zone of Enders HD collection (which offered the demo early). So I was happy to see it pop up on my xbox live the other night. After it downloaded, I got stuck in.

I think the demo was just right in its length and content. It gave you just enough to get interested and warranted a second and third playthough in order to really get a feel for the controls. You take out a few of the usual cannon fodder grunts, you get introduced to the next rung of that ladder curtosy of the gecko's and finally you get a taste for the bosses in the form of chainsaw weilding robotic dog, IF prototype LQ84i.

At first glance I thought this was Crying Wolf. Thankfully not.

The game - now a third person hack and slash - is certainly a change of pace from your usual Metal Gear Solid gameplay. But with Platinum games at the helm I was pretty confident they would produce a glorious combat system that would hopefully rival Bayonetta's. Raiden has upped his game since Metal Gear Solid 2. From being 'that other guy' in the Metal Gear series, Raiden is now one of the most bad ass cyborg ninja's of all time. If you remember back to those crazy cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid 4, which saw Raiden take down a ton of Gecko's - Metal Gear Rising tries to emulate that madness.

On my first playthrough, I was a bit concerned with the lack of a dodge button which was your veritable bread and butter throughout Bayonetta. But instead Raiden seems to have a parry move performed by hitting forward and the X button, this puts Raiden into a brace like pose and an attack simply gets rejected and pushed away. Timing is rather crucial with this system and after getting the hang of it, I found myself liking it, seeing it as quite skill based in its execution. Perhaps via the upgrade system which the game will feature, we will be able to purchase a dodge mechanic - but if not, I doubt I'll lose any sleep over it.

The level on display during the demo wasn't perhaps the most interesting of locations, curtosy of war torn environment painted in brown - but hopefully the rest of the game offers some more variety.

The cutting mechanics are nice - but not all that far removed from those found within 2009's Afro Samurai. What is great though - is that during Raiden's 'big' moves - say from countering an attack perfectly, there are opportunities during your counter attack to use the precision cutting to turn your foes into sliced bread and beyond - you could (if quick enough) turn them to croutons.

The cast of characters - are interesting enough - not perhaps to the level of Drebin and many others within the original MGS series, but not without their own merits. I limited myself to one or two codec calls - wanting such conversations to be fresh upon playing the full game.

And then there's that soundtrack.

I really hope the full game continues to have music similar to that in the demo - combat seemed to alter the track and it would evolve during your actions in combat - a counter attack seemingly kicking in the beat just at the right time to make the score feel like that of a well crafted movies hitting at just the right moment.

All in all - I was throughly impressed with the demo and see myself picking this game up upon release. The content is a step away from the 'norm' if there is such a thing in the MGS universe, but its a spin off that looks to offer exactly what I'd want out of such an experience.

How did everyone else feel about the demo? Will you be picking the game up on release day?


Looking back | Replaying MGS

With the release and tsunami of rumours there after that The Phantom Pain was in fact another entry into the Metal Gear Solid franchise, it got me firmly in the hype camp for a certain Hideo Kojima.

The trailer led me to wanting to replay MGS 1 through 4 to really soak in the lore and backstory of all the unique characters that populated that universe. Thanks in part to me PlayStation Vita – this has become a reality. I had already purchased the Metal Gear Solid HD collection for the Vita not long after it had come out as I always felt the series was fantastic – granted I already owned them in their original formats, and I’m not one to buy many of the HD collections which seem to appear on a regular basis in this generation – but the series has always held a special place in my nostalgia so the idea of playing them on the go had me sold. Sadly Metal Gear Solid 1 was not included in the HD collection – but a quick trip to the PlayStation network secured this for a bargain of a price.

I played through Metal Gear Solid 1 in about 7 hours and I was surprised – I always through the game was a lot longer than that. But I guess having all the knowledge beforehand helped streamline the challenges. I knew where I was going, I knew how to take down the bosses, I even knew some of the lines of dialogue before they were uttered – over all I had a blast with MGS1. It still holds up today and really scratched my nostalgia itch.

With that game ticked off the list before 2013 hit, I have made a start on MGS2: Sons of Liberty. Whereas I’m still enjoying the experience over all I feel, in my opinion that MGS2 is the weakest entry of the four. At the time all those years ago there was the initial shock of Snake not being the main playable character throughout most of the experience, but even in terms of story and character, I feel the other games are leaps and bounds ahead of what we have here.

Having just hit Shell 2 I’m eager to continue my exploration of the franchise but it makes me pose this question. Which was your least favourite of the Metal Gear Solid series?


My top ten games of 2012

I've spent a bit of time today to consider my top ten games of 2012. Below is the list for anyone interested in yet another top ten list - just what you needed, right?

Game of the Year 2012

1. The Walking Dead

Whereas some may feel awkward giving such an honour to The Walking Dead, due to the fact that gameplay isn’t exactly there a lot of the time. I feel justified in giving this the number one slot. Where gameplay may have been lacking at times something incredible was going on in its absence. A 5-part downloadable game from TellTale. The Walking Dead creates its own unique characters and storyline off the back of the popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman. The advances to the moral choice system are superb. Like Alpha Protocol before it, decisions are on a time limit forcing the player to think fast and with choices this difficult the game felt brutal at times. Who do you choose to feed when food is rationed? Whose side do you take in an argument? Does someone live or die? It’s all going on around you and you just have to decide. There’s no right or wrong answer, you’re just surviving. Big budget games like Mass Effect could learn a thing or two here, and I hope 2013 sees this sort of choice system continued and advanced even further. Never have I cried in a game, movie or any other form of media – until now – the characters, the choices, the story development, it all came together at the end for one of the greatest finales of anything, games, TV or otherwise. If you haven’t played this series – pick it up, it’s on console, PC and even ipad you just have to experience it for yourself.

2. Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs in my opinion is one of the greatest success stories of 2012. Starting life as a new addition to the True Crime series back in 2009, the game was stuck in development hell and was cancelled by Activision Blizzard in 2011. Thankfully, SquareEnix picked up the publishing rights and rebranded the game Sleeping Dogs. The game offers an incredible open world playground with a ton of stuff to do. Playing as Wei Shen you’re an undercover cop infiltrating the Chinese Triad. Obviously along the way, you loyalties get questioned and the story comes into its own right from the start with some incredible voice acting across the board. The combat is akin to that of the recent batman games, which is never a bad thing and with a world so stuffed full of side missions, collectables and those infamous ‘pork buns’, you can easily sit back and enjoy this game for a really long time.

3. Guild Wars 2

I’ve never, nor will I ever play the world’s number one MMO – World of Warcraft. It takes a lot for me to get into an MMO. I was big into City of Heroes but unfortunately that ship has sailed and subsequently sank as Paragon studios was shut down and the game closed its doors in November 2012. Suffice to say I was on the market for something new. Guild Wars 2 thankfully ticks pretty much every box I have. The first good point, it’s a one-time payment – you pay for the game and there are no monthly subscriptions. The actual world in the game is gorgeous, the best I’ve ever seen in an MMO. The usual ‘grind’ is eliminated through natural quests you run into throughout the world. XP is earned not just for combat, but crafting, for collecting materials and exploring – and with a world this unique, you really want to explore. And the people behind this game, really seem to care about their fan base and have already offered some great seasonal events which truly alter the world of the game. I’ve dropped over 200 hours into this thing and I can see more time disappearing way into 2013.

4. Hitman: Absolution

Hitman Absolution sees the return of Agent 47 after a long absence which has been filled by hooded Italian and Native American Assassins. The ‘Original Assassin’ as SquareEnix totted ‘was back’. I’ve always been a fan of the series, and I had some concerns when things were first announced as it came across more streamlined and it was unclear if the big expansive levels with multiple routes to completion were to be included. My fears were alleviated thanks to a couple of video walkthroughs which surfaced online. Absolution’s levels for the most part are smaller but the game is a solid and thankfully rather lengthy adventure for Agent 47. The various ways to take out your target offers some real replay value in discovering new ways to do ‘what you do best’.

5. Max Payne 3

With Rockstar taking over development duties from Remedy I was pumped for Max Payne 3. I have nothing against Remedy, I just knew that Rockstar would bring their incredible craftsmanship and polish to a franchise that was already a personal favourite of mine. Picking up sometime after the events of Max Payne 1 and 2, the game offers a fittingly dark and gritty story with of course that world renowned bullet time gameplay. The game looks incredible – the environments are so diverse and it’s clear a lot of time and effort went into their creation. The gameplay is smooth, the controls are tight and the cinematic moments are nothing short of incredible. Finally the unique soundtrack by Health helps to make this game really stand out.

6. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I’m not usually one for top down tactical games, but with the amount of buzz behind X-Com I had to check it out for myself. Downloading and playing the demo prior to Christmas made me feel a twinge of regret as this wasn’t on my list to Santa. Thankfully I picked this up after the big day and I’m glad I did. The gameplay is addictive and easy to pick up and yet there are so many things to manage away from the battlefield as you develop your base, choose what to research and progress your soldiers through various ranks and choose upgrades and armour for them to use. Name your soldiers after friends or as I did favourite TV show characters and you really start to care about your squad and rue the day any of them fall in combat. RIP Jack Bauer – you died a hero. Ah hell who am I kidding – I reloaded to get through that mission with him still on the team!

7. Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 got a fair bit of bad press this year after ‘that ending’ and the decisions BioWare made to change it in order to appease the fans. Either way there’s no denying how fantastic the series was overall. The high point for me will always be Mass Effect 2, but 3 still had some great story beats and rounded off a truly ambitious project overall. I would have liked to have seen a bit more in terms of my decisions impacting the story, and the morale choice system is pretty weak soon after you realise the top one is the good choice. Sure you might want to play things straight – but it shouldn’t be that easy to figure out – especially when higher ranking games in my top ten, make this choice system seem as advanced as a 6 year old with his hands held behind his back.

8. Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 gives you an island, it gives you freedom and it gives you wild animals ready to attack you at a moment’s notice and scare the hell out of you. The game does a great job of making you feel you are simply surviving in the environment. There’s a lot to do in this big open world. Sure I can take issue with the choice of main character being counter intuitive to pretty much everyone that will be playing this game and killing multiple people five minutes after he says “I’ve never shot someone before.” But if you’re willing to ignore a design choice or two and just go with it, the world, the gameplay and the soundtrack all come together to offer a great game with so much to see, do and shoot. And if one character deserves villain of the 2012, it has to be Vaas. The voice acting is amazing and so sinister. I just love to hate that guy.

9. Mark of the Ninja

I always loved the smooth art style of Klei Entertainment, the problem was no matter how good Shank may have looked, the gameplay was rather repetitive and got old fast. Thankfully Klei has gone on to create Mark of the Ninja, a game just as gorgeous to look at as its predecessor, but also its fantastic to play. A stealth game at heart, there’s something incredibly satisfying about sneaking your way through entire levels like a ghost. The controls are tight, the skill tree is interesting, and it just continues to show that downloadable games are becoming stiff competition for their big budget triple-A counterparts. Here’s hoping for a sequel as I’m nearly done with the original.

10. SSX

A new beginning for the PS2 launch line up franchise sees a great entry into the series. Everything just felt right about this one. The gameplay, the soundtrack and the addictive Global events which saw you and your friends battle it out for score or time trial dominance. You beat a time only for your buddy to go ahead and shave a second or two off of it. The lack of actual multiplayer with more than one rider on the slope was a little disappointing, but the survival challenges did a great job of offering something new in its place. High altitude boarding with an oxygen tank, was a personal favourite. And with the ability to customise a full soundtrack into the game, your own music choices made things even better.


Late to the game: Yakuza Dead Souls: part 1

Suffice to say some spoilers will follow - you have been warned.

There comes a time in a select few gaming franchise's where a stand alone title is created with a horror twist. Red Dead Redemption gave us 'Undead Nightmare' which filled the open world wild west with zombies. Cole MacGrath turned into a vampire for a spell in 'Festival of Blood'. And so it was that the Yakuza franchise decided to go the same way with Yakuza: Dead Souls.

Eight pound well spent? We shall see...

To offer a little background of my experience with Yakuza franchise, I missed the first and second games way back when. I started the franchise from the PS3 debut's third entry which thankfully had a detailed 'previously on Yakuza' style fill in the blanks which gave me the necessary knowledge to join the series later on. Yakuza games can be seen as an either 'you love it' or 'you hate it' franchise. There are extremely long cutscenes which might turn some people off, add to that a combat system which isn't exactly a fluid masterpiece like Batman Arkham City and you'll start seeing that there are a few bumps in the road to navigate in order to enjoy the game.

That's not to say that the games combat engine isn't without its merits, at times it can be very good and its oh so satisfying to save up a heat gauge meter and then use it to slam a bike, sofa or other huge inanimate object into a goon's face. Yakuza: Dead Souls does however try to change the program a fair amount with the introduction of a lot more gunplay (something which was all but non-existant in previous entries). Gun's offer the more obvious way of dispatching zombies with a classic bullet to the head approach, but I can't help but feel so far that we're missing out on more over the top pure carnage at the hands of some martial arts against the undead.

I've played the first two sections of the opening of the game (about an hour if that of in game time). After the scene has been set and The Dragon of Dojima has nearly killed a phone with his bear hands, we find ourselves in control of Shun Akiyama.

You've got to admit - the dude's got style

Akiyama was a playable character in Yakuza 4 and the king of cool. Strolling through a zombie infested world with his hands slung in his pockets and a cheeky smile, its hard not to smile with him. That said - in less then an hour of gameplay I seem to have mowed down 200+ zombies which is a pretty high body count even in commando standards. Beyond an opening cutscene of 'Don't make me do it tension' as Akiyama has a showdown with his first zombie, he sure becomes accustom to taking them out rather quickly.

A scene I might grow very accustom to over the course of the game

The story is still in the process of setting the scene, but Akiyama's assistant - 'Hana-chan' is running a fever during the outbreak and so he's off to find a doctor to help her out. Along the way he runs into a member of the yakuza who is in need of a piece and is willing to trade with a way out of the quarantine zone. Que more shooting, more zombies dead and I get the feeling that this is going to be a large portion of how Dead Souls pans out.

The gunplay comes off rather hit and miss - literally - as it seems the best approach thus far is to just hold aim, strafe around a bit and continually hit the trigger with the semi auto aim doing the rest. The zombies aren't much in the way of a challenge, except for perhaps on occasion the left 4 dead style mini bosses. So far i've encounted a large hulking zombie who required continual shots to the cranium to down and a screaming female zombie, who upon screaming attracts more enemies to your location.

At this point - I'm here for the story - which I'm hoping holds my interest. As a stand alone title I'm left wondering if a few chances will be taken and the more main characters around you might 'turn' during the course of the action - it could be interesting to see.

Having made my way to the checkpoint of a dvd store which also happens to have a ton of guns, a few survivors have loaded up, and we're ready to 'Kick some zombie ass'.

...lets hope the ride is enjoyable.


Rant: Forced narrative in Fight Night Champion

SPOILER WARNING - Suffice to say there will be spoilers in this rant - you've been warned.

Fight Night Champion featured a 'story mode' which saw you play as boxing hopeful Andre Bishop. You followed his journey from Olympic boxer, to a stint in prison all the way to the dizzying heights of a world title match. All in all - the story mode lasted about 2 and a half hours. But with that world title match to win, I dropped this game in August 2011 and was very reluctant to consider putting it back in all the way over here in March 2012 - over half a year since I first tried to beat the current world Champion Issac Frost.

The face of the man that made me drop a game one fight from the finish for over half a year - Issac Frost.

The problem? Not being able to fight how I want to fight. Granted, in some of the earlier matches you had a few minor forced conditions in boxing matches - not being able to throw with a broken hand, for example. But in Fight Night Champions final confrontation the game is nearly completely crippled for the sake of what I can only assume was EA's attempt at an 'epic' final battle found in the likes of anime Hajime No Ippo or the Sly Stallone 'Rocky' movies.

Rounds 1 and 2 - a full 6 minutes of boxing action - are whittled down to a game of hide and seek in which the player as the challenger for the world title must simply 'survive'. The fact that the champ has what I can only assume is full stats and unlimited stamina is ridiculous. The first two rounds consisted of running around the ring and holding up your guard and praying you could get away when Issac closed the gap and forced you into a corner or the ropes. The biggest issue I take with this - if this was a real match, the challenger Andre Bishop would be disqualified, you can't go two rounds without throwing a punch. Granted you could attempt to hit the champ - but doing so is like tossing a snowball into hell. One hit and you're shakey, two and you're on the floor. And I believe it's impossible to KO Frost in these rounds as we're forced to jump through the first of many hoops.

Rounds 3, 4 and 5 - we are supposed to 'work the body' - hit Issac Frost in the body 75 times, while as before, running away from him at every chance you get for fear of being knocked flat on your ass. I found myself being KOed once or twice - on those occasions it's not even worth trying to get back up as the damage to your health and stamina further cripples you.

With a cut opening on Andre's head its time in rounds 6 and 7 to go back to our least favourite activity, surviving. If in either of these rounds Issac hits Andre's cut 8 times - the match is over. So we once again resume backing up and blocking - and even blocking sometimes results in a shot to the cut due to Issac's insanely high stats.

Round 8 - we are FINALLY set loose on the champ, finally allowed to do what we want to do, and then the champ goes down in less then 20 seconds after an unsatisfying slow motion finish.

I've always been a champion of good story and narrative in games. And I applaude EA for trying something original with Fight Night Champion. A Rocky style story of a champions rise to the title is great, be it a book, move or indeed a game. But there has to be another way to convey an epic fight without crippling what brought me to the match in the first place - my skills within the game. I want to fight how I fight. I don't want to spend 7 rounds jumping through hoops for little to no pay off. By the time I finally got round to completing FN: Champion, I was bored. I was simply annoyed with the uncomplete game sat on my shelf.

Have Issac Frost get back up no matter what, give him an edge stat wise (not to the level of it being a whale in a tear drop though). Put in some interactive moments within the fight - dare I say even quick time events would be a better option then what we're presented with in the final showdown of this otherwise stellar attempt at an epic boxing story and game.

In the future - I'd like to see another attempt at a story mode within the Fight Night franchise, but maybe put my character in the story. With the 'gameface technology' allowing for my face to be on a boxer in the game, we could get a truely rise epic, 'boxer rising' story with the most appealing character of all - ourselves. Hell throw in a Mass Effect conversation system, have us truely live the life of a boxer - choose a trainer, sign deals. Will you be a role model and true champion, or will you be a complete heel (maybe start a girly shouting contest and dust up at a press conference like the sad excuse for boxers we have over here in the UK) - add epic moments to the fights, cinematic within the game but not crippling to a gamers play style. Give us those options and then you will truely have an epic boxing game that people want to play.

How did everyone else feel about the game over all? And also - would you like me want to see the next level of a truely epic boxing story mode? Thoughts are always welcome - and I'll also await some "Jeez - Frost was easy..." from those that are obviously more skilled or more patient then I am :P


Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations: Demo impressions

I'm a fan of the naruto anime series and own both the two previous entries in the ultimate ninja storm series. Besides having some of the longest game names I can think of - I've always enjoyed the series due to its slick graphic style and simple to get into yet intracate for those willing to give it some thought combat style. A friend of mine let me know the demo for the third entry into the series was out so I thought i'd give it a look.

Overall - the game feel very much like the first two. In some ways not alot has changed in my opinion. Where as the jump from the first game to the second mirrored the jump between the original naruto series and later naruto shippuden series. The third is set to re-tell ALL the story from both original naruto and naruto shippuden. To it's credit there were a few characters / stories that were missed out from the first and second game entries telling of the story. But part of me feels that due to this being a combo of effectively the first two games in the franchise there won't be all that much to be added that will really warrant a totally new game.

It would have been nice to see the second game maybe get some DLC - be it characters or even a new story chapter to play through - most other franchises of today are more then happy to jump on the DLC band wagon, so why not Naruto?

The demo offers you three fights - in which you play as Naruto...Naruto and....Naruto. If you haven't seen all the anime - there are some spoilers so - be warned. Combat wise - the game feels much the same. I was VERY happy to see there is now a limit on the extremely over used substituion jutsu which saw your character disappear and reappear away from the enemies attack. There is now a bar in place that assures that this is not over used. It was one of the greater banes of playing online when someone would simply sit and tap block to substitute out of all your attacks (it was a very cheap tactic).

I did see some new moves in place dependant on which timeframe of the story your naruto was in - that was a nice touch.

I found the demo unfortunately to be a bit lack luster - i wish they would of mixed it up and let us play a section which also offered insight into the quicktime events which had some great in game cutscenes in the previous games - i guess they'll be something to look forward to in the final release.

At the end of the day - it's another game in the naruto ultimate ninja storm series - i enjoyed the first two - so no doubt i will enjoy the third. I just feel that for what it's worth - a bit more innovation could have been made. It's a demo - so they could add some nice surprises into the finished product but for now i'm left feeling somewhat excited - but not exactly leaping out of my seat.

How did everyone else find the demo? :)


Late to the game: Enslaved (part 4)

Firstly - there is certainly something to be said for not putting a game down and taking a long break away from it. Having had about a month away from Enslaved it was certainly a little more taxing to remember the controls that were once second nature when the game was fresh in my mind. In part we can blame Battlefield 3 and the formation of a platoon for me and my work colleagues that meant many an hour was spent on the hugely addictive multiplayer experience when I probably should have found the time to get Enslaved done and dusted - I really wasn't all that far from the end.

At times I feel Enslaved can be a little harsh on a player. Perhaps it was because I was playing on the hardest difficulty but it certainly felt like any single mistake in certain scenarios and you might as well give up and wait for the game to show the fail cutscene and start it over. Much like before where i found myself having to chase a dog that was chasing Trip. I had the displeasure of having to chase Trip as this time she rode a runaway mechnical animal. Again it was the 'simple' task of flying Monkey's cloud over the blue speed boosts dotted around the track like environment to catch up and save the day. Missing a single one of these - that was it. Start over because you will see the fail animation and yes it's really annoying. What at first feels like a rescue - just becomes a 'for the love of God - let's just get this over with.' Thankfully after a few failed attempts the hurdle was crossed.

Yea - that's pretty much the face I pulled during overly hard 'cloud' chase sequences.

Throughout the last 4 chapters that i needed to playthrough - the game play didn't change up much / if at all. So i feel it's kind of beyond the point to go into mechanics of the game now. What you've had for the past several hours - it's business as usual for the 'end game'. There were some interesting environments such as an underwater base in which Monkey, Trip and Pigsy were tasked with stealing a huge mech.

Overall, with the game now completed and a small tick in my 'win column' - I'm left feeling that the story and the character development which had been so strong throughout this game simply started to fade away. Where once i was driven to continue i just felt we were now going through the motions in order to reach the conclusion of the game. Maybe it was the month long break that had this effect but i found myself caring alot less. Cutscenes were shorter - the character development was little to nothing unlike in the first few hours. Everything sort of just dried up.

And as for the ending - if you haven't played the game, spoilers ahead.

The ending just felt very rushed with little to no resolution. We meet Andy Serkis' who has created almost a matrix like environment where humans are plugged into a fake reality one of a single man's memories of the world before whatever apocolytic calamity hit the world to leave it as the wasteland that we find for our game's environment. It came out of nowhere and left me feeling a little unimpressed. There was no real vengence, there was no grand finale, simply a 'don't unplug me' - 'oh i've unplugged you' cutscene and some credits. I hope I wasn't the only one thinking we'd perhaps get a little more.

And really - that's it. The game's done. It will go on my shelf and we'll always have the memories of Monkey and Trip as they made their journey across the wastelands. For the price i paid to be 'late to the game' - i think it was a game that presented some strong characters and some great motion capture work, but the mechanics and gameplay structure were average at best - a game that played it safe a majority of the time and could have innovated in certain area's such as combat to vastly improve the core of what we're here for - the game.


Late to the game: Enslaved (part 3)

NB - The same mild spoiler warning as before as I'll be talking about content in chapters 7-10 of Enslaved.

There's something to be said for play testing a game. Taking a section of gameplay and making sure it plays well and doesn't for example leave the player easily facing a frustrating failure at the hands of a scene that could have been tweaked that little bit more to avoid having to play out a section far too many times before success. Unfortunately I found myself facing a certain moment in Enslaved. I found myself having to repeate a scene in which Monkey has to chance down a mechanical dog as it draws closer to catching up with Trip. The idea behind it is simple enough - avoid the various mines in the water and ride over glowing blue boost icons to gain speed catch up to the enemy and hit B in time to thwat its attack and save Trip. However this isn't how it went down for the first five attempts. It's not impossible to do - far from it, but when a game presents a situation where you keep failing and having to reload it creates something that can plauge video games - breaking momentum. Maybe it would have been as simple as increasing the size of the hit detection boxes on the speed boosts making it that little bit more forgiving to just missing them. It would of helped.

Small niggles aside however I'm still very much enjoying Enslaved. Now with a session that allowed me to crack through chapters 7-10 we have had a change in environment, a change in pace and the introduction of a new character who is interesting to say the least.

Enslaved is a good looking game. It's better looking then some games coming out now and it came out in 2010. I think in part this is due to the fresh environments. You don't see such sights as you do in Enslaved in many other games - if any. The visuals are bright and vibrant and what with the brown and grey of atleast a dozen games out there on the market, it helps it to really pop.

One of the many colourful and intricate environmental set pieces - even Nathan Drake would want a go on that!

The game continues to impress with both its story and characters. After the high impact drama that was Trip's return to home - we move on to locate a new character in the form of Pigsy, an old friend of Trip's father. Pigsy not only offers a new companion to run around with - he also offers a bit of comedy in his 'rivalry' with Monkey. The two have a climbing contest which is laughable at first given the shape and size of Pigsy but he's not without a trick or two up his sleeve. With names exchanged - the pair have a rocky relationship of mild joshing with Trip almost actting as the glue that holds them all together - that or the barrier that stops the pair going at it in a straight up brawl. There's a very well crafted scene in which Pigsy asks Monkey if him and Trip are 'together'.

Pigsy - you can probably tell why he has such a nickname...

There has been the introduction of a couple of new robotic enemy types, a change of pace with an on the rails shooting section at the hands of a boat ride and the niggles I had with the combat are beyond me now as I've found my groove with the simple but for the most part fun arsenal of attacks. I'm still interested in seeing where the game goes and how it all wraps up with things now pointing towards a revenge mission more then a 'get from point A to point B' as was the case as the game opened. I'm also curious to know what's going on with Monkey's weird visions at the hands of the headband....I mean who wouldn't be freaked out if they were having hallucinations of Andy Serkis' face?


Late to the game: Enslaved (part 2)

NB - suffice to say as I discuss the game there may be what some would consider a couple of minor spoilers.

There's something incredibly satisfying about a game that takes such great pride in its story telling. A prime example in my opinion would be the Uncharted series which has such great characters and plot lines that help you feel really invested in the world laid out before and invested in the task at hand. I would be very happy to put Enslaved up on that list of games that really cares about its story and its characters.

I sat down this morning and played through chapters 4 -6 of the game. I was eager to continue but decided I would sit down and write out my thoughts of what i've seen thus far. I'm pleased to say that the game has stepped it up a notch since my run down of chapters 1-3. Firstly I've found myself enjoying the combat system a bit more. Although still limited there is a modicum of depth to Monkey's combat. There is certainly a strong feeling of brutality to it, with the big man monkey almost actting as a spartan from 300 with his plasma staff. The combat has real weight to its animation and sound - i just wish however there was more to do beyond the usual line up of stun, light attack, heavy attack. Even just some more animations would have made it that much more enjoyable - especially since you will find yourself hitting many a robot over the course of the game.

Another way in which the combat has been improved is via the upgrades system. The game features bright glowing orange orbs scattered throughout the environment - there's no real explination for their apperance but they act as points for you to place in various skill trees from health and shields to combat and Monkey's trusty staff. To begin with I found myself putting the points into the health and health regeneration - favouring more health should i be hit over anything offered in the combat skill trees. With some points to spend however - I did purchase a combat upgrade that does infact help greatly when battling. It's a colour based system in which attacking robots glow red, blocking glow blue and stunned glow yellow. Consider it much like you would the combat system of Batman Arkham Asylum / City and you're on the right track. It's a big help and allows you to manage your fights a bit better - giving you a strong insentive to know when to block. The one fault however is at times the camera does tend to push in too close to Monkey making it hard to see would be attackers that may be approaching from behind - although thinking about it - it is true we don't all have eyes in the back of our heads.

Another new gameplay mechanic appeared in the form of a 'cloud'. Not to be confused with cloud gaming and game saves being housed online as opposed to your hard drive. Monkey has a blue floating disc which he can ride much like a hoverboard. It was fun to glide over the water based environment and get strong vibes of the good old days of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise...I just wish Monkey could have done a couple of tricks as opposed to simply being able to ride and a jump - a welcome and fun addition to the mechanic's of the game though - one that I wonder if it will show up again in the later stages of the game.

The relationship between Monkey and Trip continues to develop as the story progresses, the role of protector constantly strengthened thus far with Trip even pleaing with Monkey during an intense climbing scene 'Please carry me' as a bridge crumbles around them. As I said in my thoughts of chapters 1 - 3 the role of protector is very easy to slip into and you want to be their for the companion character. I think the interaction between the pair and the fact that they are rather believeable characters in both their roles of lone wolf tough guy and valunerable fish out of water really strengthens this sentiment.

Chapter 5 offered a showdown between Monkey and an enemy that thus far had been the boogey man of the game - all the better to run from it then even consider taking it head on. The boss fight had some great weight to it and really felt like an epic man vs beast moment. I was surprised to see the vicious beast stop as i aimed my staff at it, almost a stare down...sadly as I slowly drew closer to it i realised that it had got stuck on a piece of scenery and was infact a glitch - it would of been a nice sentiment had it been actually by design and not error...i enjoyed it all the same though - and thankful after a quick stun attack and a bit of a beat down I freed the beast from it glitchy confines and the fight continued in its epic fashion.

Chapter 6 sees the game's duo escape the jungles of New York and head out (to my surprise) direct to Trip's homeland - something that I thought wouldn't occur till very much later in the game. The character development within the story continued to impress me with Trip awkwardly trying to offer Monkey a home should he want it the night before they travel to her town. Upon arrival it was apparent that things were not as they seemed - Trip continued to explore the deserted environment simply wondering where everyone was.

Trip realising the truth.

The facial animation really impressed here with Monkey reading very apprarent that he was fearing the worst and having a very good idea in his mind why no one was there to let them into the now closed off community. With Trip and Monkey splitting up after she too realises the truth - you are left with a combat scene in which Monkey tries frantically to rejoin Trip. The feeling of urgency is high thanks to the greatly actted cutscene's and strong lead characters that push everything along. It leaves you wanting to keep playing and I find as I write this that I'd be more then happy to fire up the xbox and play through the next few chapters before again putting my thoughts to key stroke.

All in all - I find i'm growing continually impressed with Enslaved - what it offers is a vibrant and unique world, interesting characters and a great story - and for the price I paid - a glitch or two isn't really going to hold it back. I find myself wondering where the game will go now that what I thought would be a finale is actually only the end what feels like a first act. Hopefully it doesn't disappoint.

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