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Borderlands 2 review.

Can ‘Borderlands 2′ hold its own with CoD and Halo coming up? Read on to find out.

There’s a parade of simultaneous fist bumps from the hardcore gamers of the world when a game like ‘Borderlands 2′ gets released. While the first game was a fantastic tour-de-force of action and humour, at retail it didn’t set the world alight, and as such never reached the ‘AAA’ pedestal of its peers, despite being very popular among gamers. Of course, that’s the one thing about this series: it’s a gamers series. This isn’t a mainstream title, it’s not going to sell millions upon millions of copies like the ‘CoD’s or ‘Halo’s of our world. It’s a hardcore title which will appeal to those gamers who strive to Level Up, to get their XP and its highest possible standing. It’s Gears of War with a sense of humour. And much like that series, it has the gameplay and the visuals to back it up. The original ‘Borderlands’ came out of nowhere and took the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere by surprise, ensuring that everyone out there knows that under the plethora of casual games, blockbuster games with no soul and Kinect bloody Sports, gamers still believed. So when it was announced that a sequel was planned, you could hear them jump out of their seats in excitement. Gamers games like ‘Skyrim’ and ‘Mass Effect 3′ had been completed months ago, it was time to start again. One way ticket to Pandora please, ‘Borderlands 2′ is on!

BORDERLANDS 2 / XBOX 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Does it live up to its hype? Its build up? Has a sequel to one of the most original and unique games for years been justified? Yes. And no. But mostly no. Read on.

You know you’re in for a great ride the minute the game kicks in. Select ‘New Game’ and you’re in familiar territory. The ‘cel-shaded’ genre seems to now only be reserved for ‘Borderlands’, and it certainly suits the game. The opening cinematic – which 2K promised us is the best opening of any video game ever – is superb fun to watch, very movie-esque in scope, ambition and execution. It helps that The Heavy are soundtracking the sequence, with their now iconic ‘Short Change Hero’, made famous of course by the ‘Batman: Arkham City’ television advertisements. The use of the song works well, contrasting the tone of the video.

I’m feeling generous, here’s the song:

Once the song ends, you’re taken to your character selection screen where you can also customise your character, giving them a bit more of personal edge to your experience of the game. Here is also where you select your class. A selection of four is available from Gunzerker, where you can duel wield, Commando where you carry a turret, Siren returning back from the original and Assassin, where the specialty is in sniping and stealth. If you want you can change the name of your chosen character too, I put mine as Ross. Just because. ‘Borderlands 2′ is more interesting than ‘Second Life’, put it that way.

Once the game begins you’re instantly hit with Pandora –  the alien planet used by those big ass corporation to mine its land for resources to profit on – and the excitement builds as you’re back on the planet you left at the end of the original, with a pure heart to do nothing but rip the beating one out of that asshole Handsome Jack. Before that though, you meet up with Claptrap, a little robot who will very kindly take you anywhere you wanna go. One problem, he’s a total prick. While he’s full of humour, he seems to never, ever go away – until later, but still – if you have ever played ‘Zelda’, and you remember Link’s ‘helpers’, specifically Tingle, this is where we are with Claptrap. Only, he’s a robot. Imagine Wall-E if he was a total little shithead. He’ll entertain you, some of his stories are pretty amusing purely on the basis that most of them involve him getting tortured and you kinda wish it would just happen. It almost got to the point I was temped to throw on the subtitles and mute the fucker completely. As a ‘hand-holder’, initially it’s good to have him around. By the time he does piss off you just hope you never have to hear from him again. One part of the initial meeting with Claptrap did make me chuckle. When you’re instructed by Claptrap to go to a locker to pick up your first gun, as you do this pops up on the screen:

 ’you just moved five feet and opened a locker. Later when you’re killing skyscraper sized monsters with a gun that shoots lightning, you’ll look back on this moment and be like, ‘heh’.

Made me smile, a lovely touch from Gearbox. Luckily the game is littered with humourous little touches like this, but I won’t spoil the all for you now.

It’s here that you’re reminded of the core gameplay of ‘Borderlands’, which is looting. Near enough everything you can see you can open, and there will always be something in each of them you can sell or trade. Or just keep for yourself, of course, though you have a limited amount of supply you can keep this can be upgraded as the game progresses.  Guns you find are all broken up into different varieties and include Damage Modifiers such as fire, electricity and many more will give the customisers out there plenty to do when it comes to throwing weapons together. The possibilities really are endless and is a nice addition for those who look for a little more out of their experience. I did notice some accuracy issues though, early on in the game you get blessed with a rather tasty looking shotgun, great up against Marauders and Psychos, but it shoots all over the place and I felt like I had little to no control over it at all. I got rid of it as soon as I could and stuck with my pistols. Not as powerful and they run out of ammo very quickly, but it’s not like you’re short the stuff in this game. If you ever run out of ammo on any gun you’re possessing you’ve really messed up somewhere.

In terms of combat, it’s pretty good. As previously, as you’re attacking an enemy you see their health bar deteriorate until it’s gone for good, very useful as it gives you an indication of how hard you’re gonna need to pummel a dude before he finally bites it. The guns are alot of fun and satisfying to shoot, certainly an important part of the gameplay which they’ve spent plenty of time perfecting. When you’re in the middle of a shoot out there can be an awful lot going on all at once, luckily the framerate keeps up perfectly. May just be me, but whilst I was in the middle of a Bullymong ambush the visuals kept up soundly, with no lag or juddery moments. Good example of a top games engine which is running the game, credit to the developers for ironing out any visual issues. In terms of your own health, you kick off with a certain amount and have to keep finding health injections to keep it up. No automatic regeneration here – not until you get a shield anyway, even then it’s only the shield that reboosts itself’ – Your health does have the audacity to go down sadly rather rapidly, the difficulty level of this game certainly makes itself known rather rapidly. A nice touch though is when you’re on your last bit of health you have to kill something to survive, kinda frustrating as it can run out quickly again and you notice just how slow your reloading is very early on when you’re in this situation, however this certainly does keep you on your toes. Before you know it, your health just disappears, either that or I completely suck. It’s definitely one of the two – probably the latter. Weaponry is scarce in the beginning, save a couple pistol and a shotgun some unnerving accuracy issues.

In terms of the vehicle movement, if you’ve ever played Halo – or indeed, the first ‘Borderlands’ – you’ll feel right at home here. Dual analogue control to accelerate and navigate the vehicles you can create and deploy, they have good control and are packed with weapons that will tear up pretty much anything in its path. There is plenty to enjoy when tearing around Pandora in a car stacked with rockets and machine guns. Definitely a game highlight.

‘Borderlands 2′ is definitely full of interesting characters which make the game far more appealing for newcomers who will feel slightly overwhelmed with everything else going on around them. Once you reach a town called ‘Sanctuary’ you can take it easy a little bit and just chat with local NPC’s who have plenty to say and are full of humour which breaks up the monotony of spending the first couple hours of the game just shooting Bullymongs. When you can just relax and fully taken in your surroundings, there is plenty to see. Sanctuary itself has been designed terrifically well, reminding me somewhat of the artistry of ‘Bioshock’, just with the sun beaming through. I could be the only one, but Sanctuary made me want to play ‘Bioshock Infinite’ more than ever. Still, that’s a long way off.

One of the most important aspects of ‘Borderlands 2′ – the series as a whole really – is the four player online co-op. In a nice touch, the game will get tougher depending on how many people are playing at once, although this is balanced out with more XP, rarer items and more money which can be shared. It’s here that sadly the game suffers some annoying moments which you just can’t seem to avoid. When you die – and you will – you respawn but if you’re nowhere near your teammates it’s a mightly slog across areas to reunite with them. It seems odd that this is even an option in 2012, as it seems a very old school decision. Perhaps that was the point but it’s incredibly frustrating to spend sections of your gaming experience literally just walking to catch up with everyone else. It certainly sucks the fun out of a part of the game which is overall rather fun, just not fun enough when you have no choice but to walk for bloody ages just to get back in the action. Another painfully frustrating aspect is in certainly areas of the game, your XP and loot playing co-op in someone else’s campaign, but it doesn’t cross over into your own. In certain missions, there’s the offer to skip past something you have done yet in others it’s not even there. It goes unexplained why some allow this and some don’t.

Essentially ‘Borderlands 2′ comes down to this. You see, for everything that was fun and exciting about the original, ‘Borderlands 2′ throws up the same. It’s balls to the wall, unadulterated rock’n’roll gaming with little to no equal in its own twisted interpretation of the genre. But so was the first. That’s the thing, as top as it is you don’t feel like you’re playing a game that has progressed an awful lot. Hardcore players may disagree, and I consider myself to be in that category as I thoroughly enjoyed the original but I can’t find anything in this game which gives me that same excitement ‘Borderlands’ did. It’s frustrating because there is plenty to enjoy here, and if you were a fan of the original then by all means jump into your nearest retailer and pick it up immediately, you’ll have a ball. However if you’re on the fence and going by word of mouth, just be prepared. The game is exceedingly huge, and you’ll notice as you go on how unnecessary this is. As you progress you’ll find yourself twiddling your thumbs waiting for something to happen. It doesn’t really seem to progress at a speed which keeps up with the momentum of the game, and at times can bring your attention and buzz about cracking on with the game to a grinding halt. If you’re gonna do everything, and I mean everything – there’s an awful lot to get through. Including some side missions that seem irrelevant to everything, save some which connect rather nearly to the overall arc – you’re looking at around about 50 hours, be warned though a stupidly large chunk of that is just walking from A-B, making the game feel like a real slog.

In a game that has certainly out-done its predecessor in terms of epicness, it just doesn’t have the same heart. This is a title just for the hardcore fans, offering very little to anyone else.

Rayman Jungle Run review.

Ubisoft throw up perfectly charming little platforming app.

For anyone out there that has played ‘Rayman Origins’, you know for damn sure it’s a superb platformer that deserved far more attention than it got. From start to finish, it was an absolute pleasure to play, look at and even listen too. It’s 2D/semi-3D cartoon visuals were a pleasure to look at and gave the game a unique look which was criminally overlooked  by shoppers over the Christmas period last year. It didn’t help, one would assume, it was released between the heavy hitters of ‘CoD: MW3′ and ‘Arkham City’, it was a little lost on the shelves, knocked down by retailers to sell their guaranteed moneyspinners to the gullible public. Nothing wrong with either title – infact Arkham City was my Game of the Year last year – but it meant ‘Rayman Origins’ was ignored almost completely, selling at ‘Okami’ levels, meaning it was enjoyed by a handful gamers when it should have been accepted by everyone. Ne’er mind.

Listen, if you haven’t yet played Rayman Origins, go play it RIGHT NOW and then come back to this review. That’s an order.

Rayman: Jungle Run – iOS / Android (reviewed) 

You’re back? Good, it’s INCREDIBLE isn’t it? Right, let’s move on. On the back of ‘Origins’, Ubisoft and developer Pastagames have created a game designed perfectly for mobile screens, the fully infectious ‘Rayman Jungle Run’. Using the same visual template set by ‘Origins’, ‘Jungle Run’ is a straight run and jump game which is addictive as it is just utterly charming.

When I say ‘a straight run and jump game’, it literally is that. Rayman runs and you touch the screen of your desired device to make him jump, fly, wall run and punch the enemies, all in seperate sections, with 40 levels divided between each action. Unlike endless running games like ‘Canabalt’ and ‘Temple Run’ though, it has a defined ending of each level, and it’s up to you to get there as quick as you can collecting as many collectibles - Lums, returning from ‘Origins’ – as you can. It’s as basic as it sounds initially, it’s replayability is in jumping back into these levels and collecting everything you possibly can, executing the levels perfectly, ensuring Rayman jumps, flies, runs and hits at the exact right times to execute perfect runs.

One reward for completing each level perfectly is a tooth which will fill up a characters mouth. Collect all the teeth and you’ll unlock a stage with its difficulty ramped up to 11,  and as you know if you’ve played ‘Origins’, death is inevitable and around every corner. You’ve got to pay attention if you want to complete ‘Jungle Run’, that’s for sure.

The earlier stages are pretty simple as everything you need is on your solid run, essentially everything is, but as the game goes on and you unlock the flying levels, it becomes far tougher to collect everything you need, giving you that ‘one more go’ feeling, something which is so important in mobile games. In one level I unlocked the ‘Die 20 Times in One Stage’ achievement, something which is incredibly simple to do in the latter stages. Be warned, the funky colours and the cartoon visuals are hiding a game so deliciously evil it will literally make you question your own skills as a gamer. The difficulty levels are about as balanced as they are in ‘Origins’, which, now you’ve played it, you’ll know is an absolute bitch.

Still, revisiting the modern day world of Rayman is a true delight, and once you’ve mastered the game you’ll feel a genuine sense of accomplishment that other platformers have just failed to deliver recently. Gorgeous to look at, fun to play and difficult in all the right places, ‘Rayman Jungle Run’ is a must for your smart device.

For three quid, you simply can’t go wrong.

Angry Birds Trilogy review.

‘Kinect can’t see your hand’.

Angry Birds: The phenomenon, the legendary App which catapulted sales of smartphones into the stratosphere, is finally on home consoles in a triple whammy box set for you to get your bird slinging hands on.

Comprising of the original ‘Angry Birds’, ‘Angry Birds Seasons’ and movie spin-off ‘Angry Birds Rio’, there’s no denying the game looks pretty damn swish whacked up on a HDTV. In full 1080p, the newly animated cut scenes and background undoubtedly look lovely, bringing some new life to the games which we’ve been playing for a good few years now.

There’s a weird sense of satisfaction with playing ‘Angry Birds’ with an Xbox 360 controller. Controlling the game is as simple as using the left thumbstick and A to control the catapult and shoot the bird, respectively. It’s a breeze and will be a great way for you to kill some time and earn some Achievements for your Gamerscore.

Of course, this being the Xbox 360 version I’m reviewing, ‘Angry Birds Trilogy’ has come tacked on with Kinect controls. The concept and idea is simple enough, and in theory Kinect and ‘Angry Birds’ should go together rather well and actually be super fun. Of course, it isn’t. Not even close. At first, I was excited that I could just use one hand to pull back the bird and fling it towards the pigs. Apparently this was just voodoo to Kinect as the game requires you to use both your hands to control the power of one object, which is arm-achingly frustrating. 60-70% it just didn’t work. By the end of constantly trying to get through the levels with Kinect, I gave up and decided to carry on with the controller. Which, as I’ve mentioned above, is a terrific way to play this game.

In terms of gameplay, it’s bloody ‘Angry Birds’. Addictive as hell from start to finish, the game hasn’t lost its appeal in terms of attempting to max your score to three stars and ranking up in the online leaderboards. A simple press of X resets the level and allows you to start again, which is top and keeps the console version up to speed with the pace of its mobile counterparts. The game has over 700 levels, with 19 designed specifically for the console versions. There’s no denying the sheer amount of content you have in this package, even if you have completed these levels a hundred thousand times over.

It’s a shame then, that despite all this content, the price of the collection is its biggest failing. At thirty quid, ($40 in the US) it’s an astonishing mark up on what is essentially three HD’d versions of games we can either get for free or pay very little for on so many other different platforms (even Internet Explorers have the game). Yes there are new levels and motion control but the latter just isn’t worth that extra money.

For ten times the price of what you’d pay for these three titles combined elsewhere, ‘Angry Birds Trilogy’ seems like a lost cause before it’s even hit the shelves. Roxio have done a fine job in converting this title for console audiences, and the traditional fun and excitement and frustration and addictive gameplay is still here in abundance.

For the price that’s being asked to replay this fun, though, at the very most, give it a rent.

FIFA 13 review.

The behemoth returns, does it do enough to warrant another purchase? Of course it does..

FIFA, eh? That old chestnut. It’s a known fact that the series itself will continuously be regarded as the ‘best football series ever’ the minute a brand new edition comes our way. FIFA 13 doesn’t change this, the series stamp on the industry is now so set in stone other football titles – bar Pro Evo, of course – have just given up and left FIFA to take the reigns. Midnight launches are now occuring up and down the country for the latest editions, critics are hailing the title from every corner and fans just can’t seem to get enough of it. FIFA is back once again to prove to everyone else that EA Sports are the masters of the genre, and upon this evidence it isn’t hard to see why.

Don’t fancy reading all the way down and just want some footage? Check out the video review right here:

Despite the predictability of the games’ success, it’s ironic that the headline feature of this game this time around is the unpredictability of it all. It seems obvious, but it’s been such a glaring omission from FIFA’s of recent years that for it to be finally intertwined with every other possible new inclusion feels refreshing and certainly challenging.

If FIFA 12 concentrated on improving defending, 13 is all about attacking. A cracking addition from spinoff FIFA Street is the dribbling control and its been used to excellent effect here. You just feel like you have complete control over the ball once it’s at your feet – once it is, indeed – holding down both triggers ensures tight control, at a slower pace but if you have enough space around you it can be useful to use to check your surroundings and see where your teammates are. It’s a useful tactic for skipping over players who come steaming at you with a slide tackle and leaving them in your dust. The balance is pretty spot on, it’s not a guarantee but as if with everything in FIFA, if timed correctly it can be devastating to your opponents. Support of your teammates has also been improved this time around. The AI has been ramped up so you’ll see your players making runs which compliment yours and ensure they’re around to help you out whenever you need it. Their animations have certainly been improved also, with players shouting and making ‘PASS THE BALL TO ME NOW’ signs with their hands, it adds to the realism and fun of the game when you know have you a team of players around you instead of only having models that don’t interact with you when you’re not controlling them. It’s never been a huge issue in FIFA, but you certainly notice the difference this time around.

Despite how good you think you are at FIFA, 13 certainly takes away your right to brag. The standard control function is still wide awake, however once you get the ball to your feet, it’s up to you to keep it on your team lest you get tackled immediately, or the ball can just dribble out in front of you and be reclaimed by your opponent quicker than you can say ‘REF!’. It’s certainly an addition that takes some time to get used too. The most interesting aspect of this though is that it’s not exclusive to every player. Yes, if you’re Messi or Ronaldo the chances are you’re not going to fumbling balls once they hit your super expensive, sponsored adidas boots, on the flipside if you’re say, Wycombe Wanderers your first touch isn’t going to be quite as impressive. The team you choose really actually bloody matters this time round, for once. If you’re a one star team, you’re going to behave, act and perform as a one star team. If you’re up against a five star team, they aren’t going to let their balls go loose – tehe – and allow you to just cruise past them into the box. If you’ve chosen a smaller team to play with, you better be damn sure you know what you’re doing otherwise you’re just going to get laughed off the field. It’s not impossible to win as the brutal underdog, it just takes plenty more effort. The frustration of the one touch control – when you’re clear on goal and you pass to your closest attacking player, if they take a heavy touch and lose the ball, the feeling can be pretty painful. Avoid this by trying not too run at full speed towards your oncoming pass – soon goes away though once you realise it makes each match that much more realistic,  you just have no idea what’s going to happen before the match begins. If you find yourself 3-0 down in the 20th minute, you should probably work on your play in the Skill Games arena.

Skill Games have turned up to replace the ‘Arena’ from earlier editions, giving you a chance to hone your skills in certain tactical areas before the match begins. From lobbing, passing, shooting, penalty taking and dribbling, each aspect of the Skill Games is scored and ranked, if you get a high enough score you can rank up to another level – namely, beating bronze allows you to move to silver. Completing silver gets you gold etc.. – , giving you another skill to master. The skills are chosen completely at random before the game begins, or you can choose to jump into the Skill Games from the main menu. They’re all pretty good fun and I’ve got pretty good at most of them now, some of them are a complete bitch though and require some proper dedication to perfect. Essentially, it’s just another part of FIFA 13 which increases its longevity, and that can never be a bad thing.

A strong aspect of FIFA 13 is the update of 12′s flagship feature the Player Impact Engine. It’s certainly been greatly improved here, as you brawl it out on the pitch the ball no longer feels stuck to your feet. If the ball is loose you can properly jostle with your opponent now to get to the ball quicker than he does. The simple act of knocking your opponent off possession has been improved, also, with the added concern of committing a foul if you’re too aggressive, once again the important aspect of timing has been thrown in to ensure you’re not getting yellows and reds each time you go to claim the ball or bring down an opponent in possession.

It’s nice to see motion controls included the time round on the HD systems. However their success and intrusion differs greatly.

The good news is Kinect has been included and works like it bloody should. No, you don’t have to get up off your sofa and start kicking an imaginary ball around, thank goodness, instead all of its functionality is left to voice commands. Controlling your players with your hands, you can shout at your team, shout at the referee – with a nice return from the commentary should it recognise your anger – or just shout tactical changes. But don’t shout, Kinect doesn’t like shouting. From the comfort of your living room you can change tactics and substitutes on the fly without having to leave the game. It’s a little fiddly at first as you need to keep an eye on your team and the mini options that come up on your bottom left (or right, depending if you’re playing home or away). Still, when the ball goes out of play or you’re waiting for a goal kick to be taken, it’s there for when you simply can’t be bothered to press a couple more buttons to get to the menu to do it manually. Along with this, Kinect allows you to set particular phrases to change the mentality of your players. If you say ‘five minutes left, let’s move forward’, your team will recognise this and go into full attack mode. That this has to be preset before the game takes away some of the excitement of seeing your team response to your voice, but nonetheless it’s a fun addition and a great use of Kinect’s unique abilities.

The bad news in terms of motion controls is for the PS3 fans, unfortunately whose motion control experience is dampened purely because you have to use the Move like a magic wand. Pretty much if you want to be taken out of the experience completely and be reminded that you are playing a video game and not a fully realised simulation of your favourite sport, then Playstation Move is the way to go. Navigate the Move around like a wand to move players and point to where you want them on the pitch. It’s tricky to pick up and doesn’t get any easier once you do. One for the Move purists, stick to the controllers. Or you could just wait for Wonderbook?

FIFA 13 is without question one of the games of the year in terms of on-disc content. There is simply so many options and game modes it would take you an absolute age to get through them all. From Career- player or manager – , Game of the Week, Seasons, Create-A-Player, Online Modes, EA Sports Football Club and so much more, if you’re a FIFA veteran you’re in safe hands here. If you’re a fan of football, this is the Holy Grail of football games. Whatever team you support is here (including Rangers, look for them in the Rest of the World teams), and you can partake in near enough every league in the world. It’s truly sensational how much is stored onto one disc. EA Sports really are leading the way with built in content.

FIFA 13 is the ultimate sports game of the year. If you’re into football in any capacity, you simply have to get it. I really can’t put it any easier than that.

Get on it. It’s in the game.

Dance Central 3 review.

Harmonix’ Kinect-only dance series returns. Has it got the right stuff?

It’s probably fair that out of everyone in this HeyUGuys Gaming bubble we all live in here, I’m the only one who has the guts to review Dance Central 3. I’ve always had the whole ‘look on the bright side of Kinect’ kind of thing going on, it’s never really disappointed me – except for its appearance in Angry Birds Trilogy, it’s just horrendous – and despite its seemingly constant ‘use it if we must’ scenario the device seems to find itself in – Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, GR:FS to name but a few – games like Kinect Sports, Rise of Nightmares and the Dance Central series have always exposed its brilliant potential. And with this, the third in the series, Harmonix once again prove to everyone else how to use Kinect, and how to use it correctly.

DANCE CENTRAL 3 – XBOX 360. 

You see, the whole Dance Central series is designed for us who can’t dance for toffee. Me, being one of these people, face games like this head on and isn’t afraid by any of the fancy moves and the long desired ‘Flawless’  to appear around my digital ankles. There’s something inspiring about games like this. Yes, it’s fair that people can actually dance / dance as a profession will perhaps get more out of this game then those who don’t. In fact, many people who don’t dance more than likely won’t go anywhere near this game, only playing it on parties or get togethers. They’ll be coursed by their dancing friends to join in and have a go, only then they will. You see, they won’t give a game like this a chance because they don’t know that you can spend hours and hours rehearsing each move until you have them perfect. They aren’t aware that the game isn’t laughing at you, it’s trying to help you around every corner. You have so many opportunities to become better at the game before you’re even thrown into a scoring mode. Hell, the main screen which has the information on the moves you have to follow is kind enough to show you two different angles of each set routine. An aspect of this area which is still frustrating is the ‘error’ messaging. If you’re getting an area of your routine wrong, as in previous DC titles your specific body part will light up red on the screen. It’s all good having it alerted to you, but it doesn’t really explain what you’re doing wrong, only that you are doing something wrong. You don’t ever really become fully aware of what it is and can lead to your score being lower than it should be because of this. Infuriating considering it’s been in the series for three games now and is yet to be picked up on.

From the off you know what you’re getting here. While the presentation hasn’t changed too much from game to game, the Dance Central series has always been about simplicity in everything but the harder level tracks. The menus are still very simple and straightforward, with the now DC standard of putting out your right arm to select a menu option and swiping your arm back towards you to select it. It can be a teensy bit fiddly – this is Kinect, after all – but each time you do it I couldn’t help but feel a small sense of satisfaction, and that the option is still available here – as a fan of the series – made me happy. Yep, I’m only talking about selecting something on a menu, but this is Dance Central, it’s bloody fun selecting stuff on menus.

As before, you have your character front and centre and the cue cards on the right hand side, appearing when the time comes for you to throw that particular move into the mix. It’s a system which has worked for Dance Central for each of its three iterations and hasn’t changed all that much in that time. It’s nice to see familiar surroundings in this particular context and it certainly works, I’m sure they may need to step it up for Dance Central 4, though. The endless, ridiculousness of the depressingly mundane Guitar Hero fret board comes to mind, here’s hoping they learn not to get complacent. However, like I said it works really well so you can’t complain too much.

One aspect of the game which is worth discussing is the rehearsals. Now, if you want to progress at all in this game, in any capacity, these are utterly essential. Straight into it and you’re thrown into tutorials of how everything works and what everything means, along with telling you how to use your voice commands (which naturally work brilliantly). If this is your first Dance Central game, it’s essential. If however you’re a total veteran (ithankyou), you don’t need it. Nothing has really changed but if you just want a refresher on how everything works it’s a great starting point. The rehearsals are pretty great. Remember Usher from E3 2012? He’s back here, going through each part of the rehearsal with you step-by-step. Quite literally. If you just want to dance, the first (read: easiest) song you get is the freakin’ YMCA, and you quite honestly go through the YMCA one step at a time with Usher. It’s a decidedly ridiculous gaming moment, one of the more memorable of the year absolutely. It’s here you’ll go through each routine one move at a time, you have to perform each move correctly three times in order to move on to the next. It works well and is essential if you want to stand any chance at being good at this game, and if you do, prepare to rehearse ALOT. From that perspective, it certainly adds to the ‘realism’ of the game – if indeed there is any – but it’s quite a slog to work that hard at routines just to power through the game. Does that make me sound lazy? I mean, it’s not ‘Kinect Tiring’, it’s bloody exhausting. Still, the feeling you get when you finally 5-Star a routine is pure nirvana. From my personal experience of the game, clearing New Kids On The Block’s ‘The Right Stuff’ 100% has to be one of my gaming highlights of the year (OH OH, OH OH OH! …sorry….). Either way, the more rehearsing you do, the better you’ll do in the story. And my oh my, what a story it is…

Yes indeedy, Dance Central 3 has got itself a campaign of sorts. You want to know the story? Of course you do, it’s a belter. You play as a member of the ‘Dance Central Intelligence’, a team of dancers tasked with taking down the evil Dr.Tan, who wants to destroy the world of Dance Central (imagine him as an internet troll, if you will). To do this, you’ll be going back in time, joining in with the dance crazes of the particular era you’ve landed in from Disco all the way up to the present day. Only you have the power to overthrow the evil Dr.Tan and restore peace to the dancing world.

No, it’s not exactly Shakespeare, but it’s a damn good laugh going back through time to get yourself drawn into different dance crazes and you find yourself enjoying the game more as you progress through it. Going back and trying out The Hustle and Disco Inferno gives you a solid blueprint to work from and you notice yourself finding 80′s classics like Ice Ice Baby that much easier. Yes, the earlier dances aren’t too complex compared to the modern ones, so it’s nice to have a stab at the classics after you’ve just stumbled your way through Flo Rida and Justin bloody bloody Bieber. When the original titles focused on more modern hits, 3 nails the balance between old school and modern day. And it does it during a time travel dance narrative. Yeah, it’s very silly, oddly serious is some places and funny at times it probably isn’t meaning to be, but you have to give credit to Harmonix for attempting something so ambitious and it gives credence to the fact that this series is probably around for a long while yet. The ‘story’ is daft, but if you’ve got the energy – and the rehearsal time in. Seriously, I really mean it this time – you’re not gonna get anywhere if you haven’t rehearsed – it’s abnormally good fun.

Of course, if you’re not into the whole ‘dancing for scores and saving dancing’ thing you can throw yourself and some friends into Party Time mode, which allows you and your buddies/homeys/crew/bleds/coworkers/parents/puppies to get up on their feet and just join in the fun. It’s a mode which is designed just to get the party started and does it all really rather well. Let your hair down and party on, Wayne (that’s still cool, right? When I say ‘party on, Wayne’, the youth of today know what means yeah? I’d be sad if they didn’t’).

Crew Throwdown is a cracking addition, raising the stakes and allowing you to feel like you’re in one of those ‘Dancer-who-has-nothing-but-is-a-dancer-so-will-eventually-get-everything-probably-through-dancing’ movies as you pit two crews against each other in the ultimate ownage of the stage and such. It’s like 8 Mile but for dancing, man. Up to four players on each ‘crew face off against each other through a series of minigames to succeed such as ‘Your Move’, allowing you to create your own moves and let the other crew loose to see how well they can master it, also you have ‘Keep the Beat’ which is just pure freestyle. We all had a blast on this and I bloody lost. It’s just not fair because I’ve the one that’s been working the hardest. Still, it works brilliantly and although it’s not as satisfying as tearing through each song one after the other, it is worth a sufficient amount of your time once your Party Time crew is ready to take it all a bit more seriously.

A quick note is that if you’re a fan of the series and intend to purchase this game do keep hold of your older versions as every single damn song will work in Dance Central 3 including add-ons, it’s just a case of importing them. All utilise the new abilities and modes. Result!

-

Dance Central 3 is the real deal. While it’s easy to scoff at Kinect and all the negativity the device seems to undeservedly warrant, Harmonix have got to full grips with the technology and utilising it unlike anybody else, and it’s working so damn well for them. For a music-central party game on the Xbox 360, Dance Central carries the torch from Guitar Hero/Rock Band and soars it to new heights. Yes it can get fiddly, and Kinect can still be Kinect and completely forget you exist and not register particular moves instantly, but the latter is so few and far between you can barely notice it and it doesn’t really get in the way of the fun you can have. With friends who are up for it, Dance Central 3 is unstoppable and showcases the very best of Kinect’s true abilities. You can only wish other companies would stand up and take notice of how well Harmonix can use it, because literally nobody else seems to be able to meet this standard. Dance Central is a franchise now naysayers, and you’re going to have to get used to it. And well, the only way is up right?

Designed to kickstart the party and never let it up, Dance Central 3 is the best entry in the series and subsequently, the best Kinect game that’s ever been made. Featuring the greatest tracklist yet from I Will Survive to Firework, from the Macarena to Backstreet’s Back – I don’t care what you say, that’s a TUNE – this is Kinect at the height of its powers and gives us a true reminder that beyond anything else, Kinect was designed for games and Dance Central 3 is the king of every single damn one.

Time to get your sweat back on.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

Does Ubisoft’s flagship shooter still hold up? Well, yes. It bloody well does.

It’s fair to say there is an over-saturation of a particular gaming genre on the market at the moment. Which one I hear you ask? Well, namely, that of the first person shooter. You see, there are quite literally an absolute mega-frickin’-ton of FPS’ out there for us as consumers to delve headfirst into, and while we seem to continuously buy those titles of which we are comfortable with and know they will bring us the usual crash bang wallop they so predictably provide, those which dare to do something new, innovative and interesting are normally the ones left on the side to gather dust on the shelves of our favourite video game stores.

Luckily, ‘Ghost Recon’ isn’t one of those franchises. Well, firstly it’s not an FPS, it’s a TPS. Third Person Shooter. No? Never mind.

Here we are then with ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’, the twelfth(!) game in the series (three ahead of CoD, if you’re counting) and released yearly without hesitation – the series took a break from the major consoles last year, instead landing on 3DS with the underrated ‘Shadow Wars’ – to generally high acclaim. The latest in the series seems to have been in development for a long time, longer than any ‘Ghost Recon’ I can remember, and the hype surrounding this game was massive. After having a brief dalliance with ‘FS’ at last years Eurogamer Expo and very much enjoying it, I was properly pumped to get my hands on this and see what those extra months had done to the game, and whether the prolonged development time was worth it.

'STUDS UP?! REF, SERIOUSLY? WHAT?! WHO IS PAYING YOU? DROGBA? TERRY?'

The only way I can explain ‘Ghost Recon’ to anyone who hasn’t played it is imagine ‘Battlefield 3′ and ‘Crysis’ getting together for one steamy night of war torn love making under a pile of rubble they used to call their home and giving birth to a incomprehensible hybrid of the two. What was created? ‘Ghost Recon’. Specifically, ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’. The game draws from both series amicably and seems to grab the best moments from each and smash them together so expertly. It’s no secret ‘FS’ is hanging its hat on the inclusion of apparently genuine future military tech, and it makes no secret of that fact. Everything here is presented a pure futuristic sheen, from the neon blue lights coming from every characters eyeballs to the monstrous Augmented Reality, but more on that later.

The cover physics are something special on this game, ensuring you’re quick thinking and moving. As the cover can deteririate while you’re under attack, you’re forced to search for other spots you can hide behind. They’re never far away but it certainly keeps you on your toes. While in cover, you can be suppressed, for example if you’re under fire by an enemy, your field of vision decreases – common ‘screen covered in blood’ sitch – and the camera will shake, making it difficult to return fire. If you stay in cover long enough though, you’ll regenerate automatically – surprise, surprise – and from there everything should be roses.

In terms of visuals, ‘GR:FS’ really holds its own in most areas. Yes, it completely creams ‘CoD’ in this department. The visual sheen of  the locations, vehicles and weapons all jump off the screen, with each set piece becoming more and more visually arresting as the game progresses. The game is presented similarly to every other shooter out there, with fast wizzing pictures and newspaper cutous filling the cutscenes as there are unnaturally quick in out and zooms of various countries on a map, nothing you haven’t ever seen before, however while there is a lack of originality in the cut scenes and the menus, the campaign more than makes up for it in terms of style. On the Xbox 360 version we tested, after installing the game there was no noticeable pop up, lag or framerate issues. Considering the amount that’s happening on the screen, that’s hugely commendable. It’s a shame then, that they fall down on the one area every other company seems to have just about nailed. The faces of the characters are just awful, harking back to the early days of this generation. With no expression or any kind of genuine lifelike movements, the obvious shortcomings sadly take you right of the action. A characters eyes, for example, are completely dead. There has always been the ‘dead eye’ issue in gaming, however in the last couple of years we’ve seen Ubisofts competitors (Rockstar, Infinity Ward/Treyarch/Dice) finally get over this hurdle. I’m only going to put it down to the fact that this game has been in development for so long, pushing four years, which is a long time in the gaming world. I can only assume the character models were built very early on and were just never returned too. It’s a damn shame considering everything else looks so polished. It’s comparable to playing Gran Turismo 5 and seeing the disgraceful pixellation when up close with the cars. It brings the game back at least two years. The sooner MotionScan becomes the norm in gaming, the better. Despite this, ‘GR:FS’ is without a doubt the best looking war shooter out there at the moment.

One aspect I fully appreciated was the in game challenges which are presented to you before the mission begins. You have weapon challenges – ie, shoot a certain number of enemies with a particular gun etc, along with tactical, ghosts and elite challenges, it’s a cool extra factor to the game which completionists will definitely get a kick out of.

Weapons and weapon parts are your reward for completing these challenges, along with completing missions. Let’s get one thing straight here, Ubisoft weren’t bullshitting about their weapon customisation. A true myriad of availability which you can tinker with before every mission. Of course, . A mecca for custom weapons fans, and very simple to navigate and implement, with descriptions for each weapon part easy to read and understand. Parts that can be customized include optics, paint, triggers, magazines, under barrel and side barrel attachments, gas systems, barrels, muzzles, and stocks. You can also test out your weapons before you take them into the campaign in the Firing Range, where you’re presented with a variety of targets to shoot varying in distance. Lovely touch. Another lovely touch? The Xbox 360 Kinect integration. Ubisoft really know this hardware better than anyone by now, instilling it into almost every title which comes out from them. Here it’s used to throw your weapons together, flipping the circular selection screen from side to side and saying which part of the weapons you want to change. In the brief time I tested it on Kinect, it was pretty damn fantastic and worked nigh on perfectly. Through hand gestures and voice commands you can create weapons. That’s the dream, right?

Hide and seek certainly gets a little OTT in the future..

Everything has a sensor via your AR (Augmented Reality) vision. From your ‘future soldier’ visor you can see how much ammo you have, what your secondary and side weapons are (sensors, frags) along with keeping a whereabouts of your teammates at all times, enabling you to see through walls to find allies along with enemies you have discovered with your sensor. Your AR abilities also pinpoint your locations and checkpoints, along with destinations with whacking great big arrows above them. It’s a terrific addition and something you genuinely can’t see being too far off in the real world. Outstanding.

The first level is your basic search and rescue with plenty of action, culminating in a terrific third act where you’re shooting your way through the streets of Bolivia with your prisoner on one arm. Using only a pistol, navigating your way through these busy streets is a tense and thrilling experience, ensuring your bullets are heading straight into the bodies of your ‘packages’ captors rather than civilians. An awful lot is going on around you at this point, from innocents running directly in the line of your fire to cars with mounted turrets tearing through the village, destroying every home and fruit seller in their path. It can get a little confusing, at one point with only one viewpoint locked the entire time (namely the left hand shoulder of your prisoner, not you) I found myself believing to be shooting the enemy, where in fact I was actually shooting a crate of melons, the enemy just happened to be standing behind them. I eventually took him out, also taking a fuckton of melons in the process. Damn melons.

'Dude', 'yeah?', 'you heard Treyarch are trying to rival us now?' 'PAH. Since when did CoD outsell us?' '……'

Of course, one of the biggest draws of ‘GR:FS’, and something which has been pushed to death in the pre-release hype is the ‘camo’ invisibility, giving ‘Future Soldier’ a right to use such a name. To active it all you have to do is crouch, although it doesn’t appear until the second level. Honestly the function certainly works well, however it can’t be used when running fast, taking a shot or being shot. There certainly are limitations, and you wish at certain points that Ubisoft could have suspended our disbelief just that little bit more so we could have taken more advantage of the future tech (will we see it in Black Ops II?) as it’s really the only part of the soldiers kit which still seems a long way off but hey, who am I to argue with the U.S. Military? Another funky addition is the magnetic detector. Activated with a simple down on the D-Pad, it allows players to detect particular metallic objects such as weapons and mines which would be hidden in the environment.

By far though the most important gadget in your arsenal is the sensor. A unique take on the common ‘radar’ map, the sensor allows you to become aware of everything around you once it’s in the area of your choice. Shaped like what can only be described as a Pokeball, you have the option of just throwing it over your head or placing it in a full area. The sensor will scan within its radius (which is huge) and send all the information it finds back to your AR visor so you know exactly how many people are surrounding or ahead of you. It’s completely essential in most circumstances, and imperative if you’re going to get anywhere in this game. I found myself in a habit of using them a little too much once I reached the middle section of ‘FS’. Of course, this being ‘GR’ I quickly found an ammo stash and reloaded myself with plenty to carry on. Some may over rely on the Sensor, but like I said, it’s the titles take on the traditional map, which is nowhere to be seen. I dug it, so will you.

'PIKACHU, I CHOOSE YOU!'

There were certainly aspects of the campaign which did stump me. Moments I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was supposed to be doing. It’s a sign of modern gaming that if you get stuck there is always a checkpoint or a metre countdown showing you where to go with a giant beacon overhead. I’m not particularly talking about the hand holding ethics of modern shooters, though. The second level is all about stealth. Now with the bases that I’ve covered considering the kit you have, this is still rather difficult. Picking off the lonesome patrolmen was simple enough with stealth kills, it’s when they’re in groups it becomes tricky. And annoyingly, it wasn’t until after that section was completed I discovered I can synchronise shots so each person on the team can shoot a group of up to 4 one at a time. Very frustrating, as they only way to get past this section was to get discovered, it seemed. Once it was over, the option was there for me to take out groups very effectively, but it wasn’t until after I really needed to know how to do it that I discovered it. I can see this particular issue annoying several players who like to keep perfect records in this sort of game. Once you do figure it out though, it goes like this:

During ambushes/breaches/firefights, you can make one high priority target with a simple tap of a shoulder button. This isgnals the rest of your team to focus their fire, which is nice. In the more stealth orientated sections, you can mark up to for targets for a sycnhronised kill. Your team will each automatically pick a target and move into a position to take them out. You will then give the command or shoot your chosen target, at which point your team will take theirs out too. It’s a neat and very useful little inclusion, and one you’ll find yourself relying on as the game progresses.

Despite this, it’s perhaps the most tension I’ve experienced in a game so far this year. Yeah, that’s right. You read that correctly. When you have little to no sight and you’re being shot at from every angle in the middle of a damn sandstorm – which looks spectacular, by the way – yeah, tension is going to build. With your metallic sensor on you’re presented with a black and blue pallette, guiding you through the insanity which befalls you. Of course, because of the madness of it all, the audio lets this sequence down somewhat. It’s purely realistic for team members caught in a sandstorm not to hear each other, however again you wish that Ubisoft everso slightly remembered that this is a game and should have treated it as such. Still, it looks terrific and is brilliant fun, despite not really having any sense of direction during the chaos.

Verdict

I’m going to be honest here, I certainly had my reservations about this one. As I mentioned at the beginning, the industry is plagued with games just like ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’. Some are fantastic, some are middling, some are dreadful. Well, you can throw this one in the ‘fantastic’ pile. I’m genuinely blown away by the game. Yes, it has visual and audio niggles which I’ve mentioned, and the lack of awareness is kind of frustrating at times, but come on. This is war, and it’s never been so sweet. On this basis, it’s going to take some time before someone catches up to this kind of level. ‘Black Ops II’ has an awful lot to live up too.

In fact, it may be time for CoD to get back in the ocean.

Nintendo E3 2012 Round-Up.

While we’ve already done a massive piece on Nintendo’s earlier E3 Nintendo Direct video which you cansee right here, it seems one wasn’t enough for house of Mario. Today they’ve gone all hardcore showcasing more of the hardware and the software for their upcoming system, as well as 3DS announcements and some big surprises. Shall we get started?

Firstly, let’s clue you up. Here’s the video Nintendo broadcasted on Sunday evening, detailing the updates to the Wii U they presented.

First glance of the stage then, and Wii U’s are dotted all over the place. Some are white, some are black. Gotta admit the black console looks stunning, I’ll definitely be picking that one up come release. It’ll look lovely next to my black 360, PS3, Wii and N64. Anyway, moving on. Nintendo hit the stage and we are about to begin.

Miyamoto and Pikmin kick off proceedings. Pikmin are being dotted around the stage in an awesome AR style, oh, we do love a Nintendo conference. Shigsy now talking about Wii U,

‘it could never take on a more important role than the television itself, you can’t see the game screen without waiting for the tv to power on. We decided our system was going to have its own dedicated screen. That was the start of Wii U’.

Pikmin 3 is here! Mr. Miyamoto is discussing how it’s a real time action management game, managing your swarm of 100 Pikmin. Looking gorgeous, you can see the natural movements of each Pikmin, everything looks very nice. Pikmin will find materials they can use to build bridges, looking like real ants. A new Pikmin type was also presented – these are the new rock Pikmin, used to break hard objects, naturally. Talking about the integration with the original Wii controller, with Motion Plus you can use it to aim for a far more specific strategy. You can target and throw Pikmin at enemy AI’s, control looks really nice and fluid. On the Wii U GamePad you will always see the overall map. Also, you can also control using only the GamePad, keeping status on four leaders. A must have feature for your leaders and co-ordinate strategies. You can also record your games for future reference. Pikmin is being made to reminds gamers of Nintendo’s dedicated to hardcore titles. Boom!!! With that, the Legend of Miyamoto was gone.

Reggie Fils-Aime, the Nintendo PR GURU is promising that they will showcase 23 Wii U titles on stage today, carrying on by announcing that Wii U will literally change your life. At it’s core, Wii U does 3 things. Changes your gaming, changes interaction, changes the way you enjoy your TV. The Wii U stands to revolutionise your living room and applications such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Video will be available, throwing the system side by side with the big guns. Reggie went onto explain all the news won’t be announced in this whole hour as they have just too much to talk about. They’re spreading the news across E3, TV, Facebook and Twitter over the next few days. He finished up by throwing down the big bombshell of the presentation – after much speculation, the Wii U WILL support TWO separate GamePads. That’s big news. A video then played showcasing the Pad itself.

In no particular order: Headphone jacks, volume control, home button suspends a game to check for updates and connect with friends, infrared transceiver, accelerometer, gyroscope, rumble, camera, microphone, touch-screen, control pad, ABXY, analogue sticks with clicks, ZL and ZR triggers, L and R shoulder buttons. PHEW! Check it out for yourself here:

Reggie continues to discuss Wii U and now he’s talking Miiverse. Mii’s will be able to communicate, equipped with rich media engagement, social networking and other ‘important’ information. Speech bubbles will display what you send. Simple text messages, (option to use the included stylus to write your own words or illustrations) share a screen image from the game you’re playing with your Miiverse inhabititants. The speech bubbles will also display recent activity and scores and display facial expressions in the bubble. Interaction is browser based, while this won’t be available on launch day, you can join MiiVerse basically everywhere eventually. So you’ll be able to access Miiverse on your laptops or PC’s, smartphones or tablets. Nice. Check out the vid:

It’s time for Mario. Reggie officially announced New Super Mario Bros. U. Despite speculation coming up from Sunday’s Direct Video, the suit we see is not a it’s a SQUIRREL SUIT. It transferred from the big screen to the GamePad quite seamlessly, enabling you to carry on once the TV has been turned off. It all looks fantastic, (just look at those GOOMBAS!) best looking Mario game ever, for sure. One unique section was Boost Mode, with up to 4 people using their Wii remotes to play, the GamePad can set blocks along the way to help out. N’awww, how very Nintendo. You and a single friend can also work together for speed runs. VIDEO!

ARKHAM CITY. Reggie getting shouted at by Harley Quinn, brilliant. Martin Tremblay from Warner Bros. on the stage, announcing the game will be called. Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition. ‘A must-have unique experience‘ . Rock the detective mode on the GamePad. BAT Mode, during combat, Batmans’ new suit will extract kinetic energy, filling up until it maxes out. players can use the GamePad to activate it and make Batman even more powerful. Players are faced a new challenge for Batarang, can use the GamePad to navigate it. Visually pretty much the same. Still, more Arkham City can only be a good thing, check out the video below with a more indepth look at the usage of the GamePad.

Scribblenauts Unlimited. Bringing the definitive experience to the Wii U, unlimited possibilities for players to explore create and share. Share your creations with friends. Auto Mutt. AUTO MUTT wins E3. Multiplayer mode, notebook backstory. Looks like great fun. Also coming to 3DS.

What followed was a montage featuring footage of third party titles including Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank! from Namco, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Directors Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3 and Aliens: Colonial Marines.

MY BODY IS READY. Let’s talk fitness. Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus led millions of people into videogames for the first time with a quite frankly flabbergasting 43 million copies sold around the world Therefore, here we are again with Wii Fit U. A typical ‘people in a living room’ video plays and includes bad acting, among other things. In terms of the game, we see a trampoline game, a water cannon game where you move around to shoot and a luge game. You can also upload results from Fit Meter, ANOTHER Nintendo accesory. This can all be accessed with off TV play.

Freestyle Games, DJ Hero folks, present Sing (working title). Wii U GamePad displays lyrics, that seems to its USP. Grand, superb. Karaoke games are always fun.

3DS news, well, sort of. Scott Moffit turns up on stage to tell everyone that there is a 3DS specific event Wednesday night (2am). However, he did have time to briefly show us some footage of a few new titles. New Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario can turn everything into coins, EVERYTHING. Coming in the US August 19th.

Paper Mario Sticker Star. Nice, LOVE the Paper Mario series. This is a very welcome title. How does it relate to the title though? Ah, let me tell you. As a two-dimensional paper cut out Mario, you collect stickers by pulling them off scenery which you can then implement into the game depending on what you’ve peeled. For exmpale, choose a hammer sticker to whack, shoe sticker to stamp on enemies. Sweet! I’m on that shit. Available physically and digitally this season.

ah, Luigi! Not an awful lot has yet been shown about Luigi’s Mansion 2, but what we do know is that each mansion has mission-based challenges, new types of ghosts with different capture strategies, it looks lovely and will available in the holidays. So, November onwards in the UK.

Also shown was a preview of what to expect in Wednesday nights 3DS conference. Included were Castlevania Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, Disney Epic Mickey Power of Illusion and Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance.

Back to Wii U, Reggie was back on stage to showcase LEGO City Undercover. Your GamePad works as a key to exploration and completing missions within a fully realised Lego world as you play as a Lego cop taking down the bad guys. Your GamePad can also scan for hidden criminals and allows you to choose a Lego disguise and go undercover. There will also be a 3DS version, however Reggie is quick to point out that while they are from the same franchise, they are quite different. But, lest we forget, the 3DS is the only place we can see the game in glasses free 3D. Naturally.

Ubisoft pop out to round up the 23 games. ‘From the hardest of the core to the newest of the newbies’. Yves Guillemot bigging up the Wii U looking sexy. The console, not Yves… ‘the console is a revolution’ he says. Xavier Poix, Managing Director Ubisoft France pops out to demonstrate Just Dance 4. Dancers appear and are quite poorly rocking the stage. They will dance with the Wii Remotes and with the GamePad, Reggie is using the GamePad to choose which modes and dances appear. Pretty cool.

The biggest draw though for the ‘hardcore’ Wii U owner was undoubtedly Zombi U, and it looks superb. With a chance to finally see some gameplay, we were treated to a video where we saw the GamePad being used as a Sonar, inventory, scanner, sniper, door hacker and shaking the Pad to break free from a Zombie atack. All in all, it looks terrific. And right at the end there was a funky little minigame where Reggie was zombified by looking into the GamePad camera. Nice.

Ubisoft finished off their section with a look at Assassin’s Creed III, along with Rabbids Laand, Rayman Legends, Your Shape, Avengers: Battle for Earth and Sports Connection.

Nintendo then wrapped things up with Nintendoland, an interesting looking minigame compilation featuring a section for a variety of Nintendo characters, similar to Wii Play. Reggie claims ‘Nintendoland’ does for Wii U what Wii Sports did for Wii, a big statement and on evidence it’s hard to really agree with him. Katsuya Eguchi (Animal Crossing, Wii Sports) appears on the stage. He announces there will be a different theme park ride for certain characters. Your Mii visits the theme park, and will change into a different character costume for 12 different attractions. These attractions include The Legend of Zelda Battle Quest, Animal Crossing Sweet Day, Donkey Kongs Crash Course, Luigi’s Mansion minigames. There is also Takamuru’s Castle, where you’re using ninja stars to hit targets. Miiverse will apparently play a big role in it, but he’ll explain more later in the developers conference. One example of an attraction began with the player with the Pad taking on a special role, same game world with a different perspective. ‘Asymmetric Gameplay’ – a phrase we heard an awful lot of in this conference and never want to hear again -. Showing off the Luigi’s Mansion minigame, GamePad user controls a ghost. Wii Remote rumble when a ghost is near and teammates need to co-operate to track the ghost down. Their objective is to flash their flashlights on the ghost to find him. and the battery on your torch is limited so you can’t just keep it on. Once they find the ghost the game is over, or something. I have no idea, it was at this point I got completely lost, it seemed like a reverse Pac-Man to me. Released on launch day. Here’s the video:

From there, a weird kinda firework display from Nintendoland closed it all. Underwhelming then or were you happy? We were certainly satisfied with the variety on display, we’re just concerned Nintendo are once again leaving hardcore gamers behind with their own software, despite Pikmin and Mario getting a strong showcase.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

UPDATE

IWATA goes into more depth after the show.

Brief look at the Wii U GamePad panorama is pretty impressive. You’re flying through the sky and you can look around in full 360 degrees with the pad.

Such a lovely family. awww………………

Nintendoland! Donkey Kong looks pretty fun and old school. Very Nintendo, you have to wonder if they really want to innovate at all. Does it help us understand Nintendoland a bit more? Yes it does, does it make a look any better? A little. I remember saying the same thing about Wii Party, then had a blast on that and had a great time so I’m optimistic. Should be good fun. SHOULD BE, dammit. ‘Nintendoland will bring people together in a deeper way’, says Iwata. Awkward, but then, he opened this section looking at a bunch of bananas, so I forgive him for anything.

Wii Fit U. Here we go! Same fucking family again, I want to kill them all. Anyway, Dad is swinging his arms back and forth to get the speed going on a slad, tilting his body left and right to navigate around the board. This has nothing to do with the GamePad, only the balance board. ‘’MY AB MUSCLES ARE PULSATING’’…he just said that. Seriously. Wow, he’s getting very excited. Trampoline target, Mum is pretty fit actually. You have extend your legs to get a higher jump, leaning while airbourne to get higher or some shit. She then fell of the trampoline, she isn’t very good. Extend your legs at the lowest point to get higher. Good show for Mum.

Dessert course. Grandma is up, she has an English accent, nobody else has. She’s holding gamepad like a tray and balancing what’s on it. ‘I DIDN’T KNOW SHE COULD MOVE THAT FAST!’ she sucks at this. Hey she did it! Lovely. Is this scripted? Really? Well, that looked no fun at all.

Body test is a management fitness tool for the family. Changes to your body type can be recorded by taking pictures of your fat ass body. Wii U Gamepad displays this all you do not need to display this on your TV screen. Balance Board is the best selling bathroom scale in world, apparently. Amazing. Wii U Fit Meter, use a clip(!) to attach it to your body and can balance changes in altitude. The Fit Meter connects directly to the Wii U GamePad, designed to track your health management.

Zombi U! The following images are not suitable for young children. Lovely.

Nice CG trailer of Zombi U playing now, the footage we saw in the conference is playing again displaying the different uses of the GamePad including Sonar, Scanner, Sniper Rifle and more. All looking pretty impressive, as long as they work as well as they do in this video. You can also hack doors with the GamePad and get finishing moves with it. It does look pretty damn hardcore, intense. Super fun. IWATA is a Zombie! Funky little addition to the game.

Batman Arkham City is now up. ‘Most of us already know this game, it was big init’. Why are showing it? WBIE love the Wii U GamePad so much they want to expand the gameplay, Batman wears a computer on his arm called the BAT computer which is the GamePad. Makes you feel like Batman more than ever before, apparently. Nice, I love feeling like Batman. Funky trailer playing now, visually looks the same as every other version. GamePad can give you access to the Bat computer throughout the game. Upgrading, get waypoints, personalize gadget loadouts and more. Use Sonar to detect their position, drop into place and kill them all init. BAT mode. A players BAT mode will make Bats more powerful when it maxes out. Video of Batman using Detective mode on the GamePad, nice. Select the gadgets on the GamePad to open the door and hack the lock, avoid the scan mines and unlock the door. Opening the door reveals a new challenge, get out the Batarang! You can guide the Batarang with the GamePad. Set explosive gel around and blow shit up one at a time! Excellent. Pretty much the entire game is on the GamePad, you just get get to watch it play out on your television.

Being more like Batman is a lot of fun, Iwata says. Hell yeah it is. He’s a genius.

That’s Nintendo’s lot for today. What did you think?

Game off.

  • Seeing as the money grabbing scumbags are going out of business, I thought I'd share this with you, something I originally posted back in April of last year. Enjoy, init.
  • I shall set the scene. I walk into my local Game store, for no other purpose than to pick up a Play and Charge Kit for my Xbox 360. I head to the counter to pick up said item..
  • Please bear in mind, this all actually happened.
  • Me : Can I get a Play and Charge Kit please?
  • Employee 1 : Um, yeah sure. Where are they?
  • Employee 2 : Uh, are they upstairs?
  • Employee 3 : I'll have a look.
  • Me : They're behind you, in the cabinet.
  • Employee 2: Where?
  • Me : Under the Xbox 360 Controllers...marked 'Play and Charge Kit'. In green.
  • *employee 1 and 2 looks around....*
  • Employee 1 : Oh yeah! Cool, you got the keys?
  • Employee 2 : No we need to call the manager...
  • *employee 1 calls manager, manager arrives looking at me somewhat dissaprovingly*
  • Manager : What seems to the problem, Sir?
  • Me : Um, nothing...these guys needed you to open the cabinet so I could purchase an item.
  • Manager (to Employee 1) : You don't need me, you have your own set of keys right here.
  • Employee 1 : Oh right! Sorry about this mate
  • *JUST OPEN THE FUCKING CABINET!*
  • Me : No problem?
  • Employee 1 : Right, here we go.
  • Employee 3 : They're not upstairs.
  • Employee 1 : I know, I've got one now.
  • Employee 3 : Oh, where were they?
  • Employee 1 : In the cabinet.
  • Employee 3 : This cabinet?
  • Employee 1 : Yes.
  • Employee 3 : Oh. LMFAO! (He didn't actually say that, but he made a face that certainly suggested he was thinking it)
  • Employee 1 : Right, that's £14.99 please mate
  • *hand over card* Me : Thanks
  • Employee 1 : Are you paying by card?
  • Me : ................yes.
  • Employee 1 : Oh, OK.
  • *sigh*
  • Employee 2 : Would you like a bag?
  • Me : No, that's OK. I'll just put it in my lapt....
  • Employee 1 : HAVE YOU GOT A LOYALTY CARD?
  • Me : ....yes, but I don't have it with me.
  • Employee 1 : That's OK, I'll just take your postcode and put the points on there.
  • Me : Cool. It's *says postcode*
  • Employee 1 : ******** Road?
  • Me : Yes
  • Employee 1 : Wow! My nan lives on that road
  • Me : Oh..cool. *sighhhh*
  • Employee 2 : There you go mate. *hands over item. in a bag*.
  • Me : Thanks.
  • Now, before I get a chance the get the fuck out of there, a very nice lady comes up around me to go to Employee 2's till to purchase a Wii with a Wii Fit Plus Bundle in a big black box, and she asks the employees a question...
  • Nice lady : Does the Wii play DVD's?
  • Employee 1 : Um......
  • Employee 2 : Does the Wii play DVD's?
  • Employee 3 : The Wii? I don't know. I've never tried. I use my DVD player.
  • Employee 2 *to ME* : Does the Wii play DVD's?
  • Me : Um, no. No it doesn't.
  • Nice lady : Thank you!! Wow, you should work here.
  • *employees snigger to themselves*
  • And with that, I was gone. The moral of the story is, don't go to Game in Taunton if you want to find out anything about anything. And quickly. The pure lack of product knowledge was genuinely outstanding, especially on a subject many people, similar to the 'Nice Lady' are still learning about. The fact they turned to a customer to find out a piece of product information that should have been absolutely bloody instilled into their brain is ridiculous.
  • Anyway, I felt I had to share.
  • Peace and love. R

REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D

The Greatest Game Ever™ returns in 3D. Does is still hold up? Um, yes…

 

Before we begin, I should stress that if you’ve never played ‘Ocarina’ before, you won’t find much here in terms of plot and level difficulty, or longevity. This review is focusing on the updates of the current version, as the original game has been available since 1998, we’re pretty sure if you’re reading this you may have played it already. TC

It’s all about the little things. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’, a game so acclaimed, so distinguished in gaming history. An absolute masterpiece beyond anything we could have imagined in 1998, is back and once again, after an admittedly dodgy E3, Nintendo reminds us why they are the greatest. If you loved this game the first time round, you’re going to be very happy as everything is here. Literally, everything. Nothing has been removed, it’s still the original ‘Ocarina’ we all adore. From desperately running around for Deku Nuts, looking for them in pots and finding nothing but green rupees to chickens being stuck in infuriatingly annoying places across Kakariko Village. This is ‘Ocarina’, and it’s here to make your jaw drop all over again. And it starts before the game even begins…

With the infamous ‘Ocarina’ introduction sequence, Nintendo and GREZZO aren’t holding anything back. The split second you’re reintroduced to Hyrule, it’s a truly jaw dropping spectacle in three dimensions. I’m not lying when I say this is without doubt the finest use of the technology so far for the 3DS. The sound of Epona galloping across Hyrule Field, the beautiful piano and strings music. Within minutes your breath is truly taken away. It’s a swift reminder of why this game is so important and why it has the status it truly deserves. I wish I could throw up these pictures in 3D, unfortunately like anything with the 3DS, you truly have to see it on the system itself to believe it. To leave you utterly speechless before you’ve even pressed anything is a sign that the brilliance of this title is well and truly alive and kicking, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Here’s ‘Ocarina’ Link 2011. Like most of the game, Link himself has had a complete visual makeover and looks closer to the modern day Link we know from ‘Twilight Princess’ and the upcoming ‘Skyward Sword’. The first thing I noticed about Link was the hair, and how it’s almost three different colours compared to the original version and it made me smile a little uncontrollably. Like I said, it’s the little things.

Link has been painstakingly dragged into the 21st Century along with Hyrule itself. Visually, the game is an enormous step up from its predecessor as these images prove..

The game really does look like it belongs in this generation, and it’s a testament to GREZZO’s team that the game looks as good as it does.

Well, nearly. More on that later on.

Focusing on the updates, the biggest change in terms of gameplay is the DS Touch Screen. As you can see from the screenshots the main screen is nearly completely empty of your standard HUD items, save a map of your current location and your all important A button command display. Everything else is – brilliantly – moved down.

Everything you’ll need throughout the game is placed here. Your health and magic levels (the hearts and the green line below, respectively..if you didn’t know), the entire game map, your items (configured to each button, plus two extras which are touch screen only), your rupee count, your Ocarina and more, including the gear section where all your swords, shields and clothing is kept, all there right in front of you and incredibly easy to navigate (considering the horrendous Water Temple is forthcoming, being able to switch to your Iron Boots and painlessly as possible is complete blessing. Good to know Nintendo were listening). Navi also has her own button too (to replace the C-Up button she had from the original) on the top left of the screen. If she pipes up, press this button to see what she has to say.

One of the most fundamental aspects of ‘Ocarina’ is the music, and it doesn’t disappoint here. Depending on your preference, it would have been nice for Nintendo to orchestrate the score this time round, in the same way they did with the ‘Super Mario Galaxy’ series. Hearing the stunning, soaring, spine tingling themes from this game coming through my 3DS speakers performed with a full symphony would have been an absolute joy. As such, what we’ve got we shoudn’t really complain about, all the music is here, unchanged and untouched. The Ocarina songs also remain the same, with two options to play them now, being the A, X, Y, L and R buttons or the touch screen. When selecting your Ocarina on your main HUD you are taken to a screen which has your instrument placed slap bang in the middle of the bottom screen, and the buttons are layed out according to the notes. You can use your stylus to play the songs (my personal choice as it makes me feel like I’m genuinely playing an instrument) or follow just use the buttons. It’s all very familiar, as an example ‘Zelda’s Lullaby’, which was C-Left, C-Up and C-Right in the original game is now X, A and Y. They still sound fantastic, and I’ll admit to getting chills when I heard ‘Epona’s Song’ played on the Ocarina for the first time in years. You just can’t forget them, these small melodies and how they become so utterly timeless.

What else is new? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Thrown in as a wonderful extra is the ‘Master Quest’, originally bundled with Limited Edition copies of ‘Wind Waker’ on the Gamecube. This is simply a rock hard version of ‘Ocarina’, with all the dungeons rearranged and remixed. The entire game is mirrored so you’ll need to keep your wits about you and focus because everything is not where you would originally think it to be. Great fun and will challenge you, even if you’re a classic player of ‘Ocarina’.

Another new addition is the ‘Boss Rush’ mode. Essentially, this is more or less about how much ass you can kick one after the over, giving you the bosses from all the dungeons you have already passed in sequential order. Master Quest has its own version of the “Boss Rush” mode, where the boss arenas are mirrored and enemies will do twice the usual amount of damage.

Finally, the Stone of Agony is replaced with the Shard of Agony, replaced due to the lack of a rumble function on the 3DS, serving the same purpose, only with a sound signal to inform the players of secrets instead.

One major addition (and very typically ‘modern’ Nintendo) are instruction videos, found in the Sheik Stones. Watch them glow neon green and bounce around, head up to one and find the part you’re stuck in, a video will play to show you what to do. If you’re new to ‘Ocarina’, this is a good ‘hand-holding’ device. If you have played it before, you’re not going to go anywhere near it.

Aside from the 3D, ‘Ocarina’ doesn’t use a huge amount of the 3DS’ unique features, but then again, it doesn’t really have too. The main one is the gyroscope, used to look around and aim when in first person mode (so for slingshot, bow and arrow use etc..). I’ll say now I was quite sceptical about this, I am a massive fan of the Zelda series and I really didn’t think it needed motion control, ‘Twilight Princess’ proved me wrong on that one, but ‘Ocarina’?? Wasn’t so sure, fool me twice Nintendo. It absolutely works and it’s absolutely brilliant. Once you’re in first person mode (activated automatically when selecting a first person weapon), you can move your 3DS around to focus on your target, and it’s seamless. Every little nudge you make is recognised on screen, and it’s a fantastic way of aiming and being completely precise. I’ve been playing the game with this the entire way through and I’m still not bored of it. After iPhones and iPads, gyro sensing seemed tacked on to the 3DS, but in ‘Zelda’ is really represents its purpose. Of course, if you’re not a fan you can just use the slider pad and it works just as well, it’s just not the same.

For a game as historic as this, maybe the imperfections make it what it is, but as you make your way through the game, you have to wonder if the visual enhancements could have done with a bit of spit and polish here and there. All round, yes, the game is a belter in the graphical department however it’s when you really get close to something that you see certain parts seem like they still belong in the N64 era. The first thing I noticed concerning this was the bridge that links Kokiri Forest and Hyrule Field, where Saria gives Link her Ocarina. The character models really do look superb but everything surrounding them is incredibly cardboard, which is quite upsetting. This happens on various occasions though and it completely noticeable considering everything around it has been updated. It seems like an odd thing to miss.

Gripes? That’s the only one, and to be fair it is minor, perhaps the ‘Young Link’ slog is still a bit of pain. Having to walk absolutely everywhere until you can get Epona still bugs but with the game world being Hyrule, it’s barely a complaint. Maybe I’m just lazy.

‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ is exactly what you want it to be. It’s the original game, groundbreaking in its day, made even better.
I can’t praise this update enough. Yes there are niggles that should have been ironed out, certain aspects that seem to be overlooked which is a shame, but it really is a small price to pay for a game as well executed as this one. It is reason enough to go out and pick yourself up a 3DS, perhaps in the same way it was reason enough all those years ago to pick up an N64 to play the original. Without trying to sound to fanboyesque, it’s the best handheld Zelda game ever made, the greatest 3DS game so far, the best use of the systems 3D features, and without a shadow of a doubt one of the very best games of the year.

Ah, Nintendo. All is forgiven.

Borderlands 2 review.

Can ‘Borderlands 2′ hold its own with CoD and Halo coming up? Read on to find out.

There’s a parade of simultaneous fist bumps from the hardcore gamers of the world when a game like ‘Borderlands 2′ gets released. While the first game was a fantastic tour-de-force of action and humour, at retail it didn’t set the world alight, and as such never reached the ‘AAA’ pedestal of its peers, despite being very popular among gamers. Of course, that’s the one thing about this series: it’s a gamers series. This isn’t a mainstream title, it’s not going to sell millions upon millions of copies like the ‘CoD’s or ‘Halo’s of our world. It’s a hardcore title which will appeal to those gamers who strive to Level Up, to get their XP and its highest possible standing. It’s Gears of War with a sense of humour. And much like that series, it has the gameplay and the visuals to back it up. The original ‘Borderlands’ came out of nowhere and took the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere by surprise, ensuring that everyone out there knows that under the plethora of casual games, blockbuster games with no soul and Kinect bloody Sports, gamers still believed. So when it was announced that a sequel was planned, you could hear them jump out of their seats in excitement. Gamers games like ‘Skyrim’ and ‘Mass Effect 3′ had been completed months ago, it was time to start again. One way ticket to Pandora please, ‘Borderlands 2′ is on!

BORDERLANDS 2 / XBOX 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Does it live up to its hype? Its build up? Has a sequel to one of the most original and unique games for years been justified? Yes. And no. But mostly no. Read on.

You know you’re in for a great ride the minute the game kicks in. Select ‘New Game’ and you’re in familiar territory. The ‘cel-shaded’ genre seems to now only be reserved for ‘Borderlands’, and it certainly suits the game. The opening cinematic – which 2K promised us is the best opening of any video game ever – is superb fun to watch, very movie-esque in scope, ambition and execution. It helps that The Heavy are soundtracking the sequence, with their now iconic ‘Short Change Hero’, made famous of course by the ‘Batman: Arkham City’ television advertisements. The use of the song works well, contrasting the tone of the video.

I’m feeling generous, here’s the song:

Once the song ends, you’re taken to your character selection screen where you can also customise your character, giving them a bit more of personal edge to your experience of the game. Here is also where you select your class. A selection of four is available from Gunzerker, where you can duel wield, Commando where you carry a turret, Siren returning back from the original and Assassin, where the specialty is in sniping and stealth. If you want you can change the name of your chosen character too, I put mine as Ross. Just because. ‘Borderlands 2′ is more interesting than ‘Second Life’, put it that way.

Once the game begins you’re instantly hit with Pandora –  the alien planet used by those big ass corporation to mine its land for resources to profit on – and the excitement builds as you’re back on the planet you left at the end of the original, with a pure heart to do nothing but rip the beating one out of that asshole Handsome Jack. Before that though, you meet up with Claptrap, a little robot who will very kindly take you anywhere you wanna go. One problem, he’s a total prick. While he’s full of humour, he seems to never, ever go away – until later, but still – if you have ever played ‘Zelda’, and you remember Link’s ‘helpers’, specifically Tingle, this is where we are with Claptrap. Only, he’s a robot. Imagine Wall-E if he was a total little shithead. He’ll entertain you, some of his stories are pretty amusing purely on the basis that most of them involve him getting tortured and you kinda wish it would just happen. It almost got to the point I was temped to throw on the subtitles and mute the fucker completely. As a ‘hand-holder’, initially it’s good to have him around. By the time he does piss off you just hope you never have to hear from him again. One part of the initial meeting with Claptrap did make me chuckle. When you’re instructed by Claptrap to go to a locker to pick up your first gun, as you do this pops up on the screen:

 ’you just moved five feet and opened a locker. Later when you’re killing skyscraper sized monsters with a gun that shoots lightning, you’ll look back on this moment and be like, ‘heh’.

Made me smile, a lovely touch from Gearbox. Luckily the game is littered with humourous little touches like this, but I won’t spoil the all for you now.

It’s here that you’re reminded of the core gameplay of ‘Borderlands’, which is looting. Near enough everything you can see you can open, and there will always be something in each of them you can sell or trade. Or just keep for yourself, of course, though you have a limited amount of supply you can keep this can be upgraded as the game progresses.  Guns you find are all broken up into different varieties and include Damage Modifiers such as fire, electricity and many more will give the customisers out there plenty to do when it comes to throwing weapons together. The possibilities really are endless and is a nice addition for those who look for a little more out of their experience. I did notice some accuracy issues though, early on in the game you get blessed with a rather tasty looking shotgun, great up against Marauders and Psychos, but it shoots all over the place and I felt like I had little to no control over it at all. I got rid of it as soon as I could and stuck with my pistols. Not as powerful and they run out of ammo very quickly, but it’s not like you’re short the stuff in this game. If you ever run out of ammo on any gun you’re possessing you’ve really messed up somewhere.

In terms of combat, it’s pretty good. As previously, as you’re attacking an enemy you see their health bar deteriorate until it’s gone for good, very useful as it gives you an indication of how hard you’re gonna need to pummel a dude before he finally bites it. The guns are alot of fun and satisfying to shoot, certainly an important part of the gameplay which they’ve spent plenty of time perfecting. When you’re in the middle of a shoot out there can be an awful lot going on all at once, luckily the framerate keeps up perfectly. May just be me, but whilst I was in the middle of a Bullymong ambush the visuals kept up soundly, with no lag or juddery moments. Good example of a top games engine which is running the game, credit to the developers for ironing out any visual issues. In terms of your own health, you kick off with a certain amount and have to keep finding health injections to keep it up. No automatic regeneration here – not until you get a shield anyway, even then it’s only the shield that reboosts itself’ – Your health does have the audacity to go down sadly rather rapidly, the difficulty level of this game certainly makes itself known rather rapidly. A nice touch though is when you’re on your last bit of health you have to kill something to survive, kinda frustrating as it can run out quickly again and you notice just how slow your reloading is very early on when you’re in this situation, however this certainly does keep you on your toes. Before you know it, your health just disappears, either that or I completely suck. It’s definitely one of the two – probably the latter. Weaponry is scarce in the beginning, save a couple pistol and a shotgun some unnerving accuracy issues.

In terms of the vehicle movement, if you’ve ever played Halo – or indeed, the first ‘Borderlands’ – you’ll feel right at home here. Dual analogue control to accelerate and navigate the vehicles you can create and deploy, they have good control and are packed with weapons that will tear up pretty much anything in its path. There is plenty to enjoy when tearing around Pandora in a car stacked with rockets and machine guns. Definitely a game highlight.

‘Borderlands 2′ is definitely full of interesting characters which make the game far more appealing for newcomers who will feel slightly overwhelmed with everything else going on around them. Once you reach a town called ‘Sanctuary’ you can take it easy a little bit and just chat with local NPC’s who have plenty to say and are full of humour which breaks up the monotony of spending the first couple hours of the game just shooting Bullymongs. When you can just relax and fully taken in your surroundings, there is plenty to see. Sanctuary itself has been designed terrifically well, reminding me somewhat of the artistry of ‘Bioshock’, just with the sun beaming through. I could be the only one, but Sanctuary made me want to play ‘Bioshock Infinite’ more than ever. Still, that’s a long way off.

One of the most important aspects of ‘Borderlands 2′ – the series as a whole really – is the four player online co-op. In a nice touch, the game will get tougher depending on how many people are playing at once, although this is balanced out with more XP, rarer items and more money which can be shared. It’s here that sadly the game suffers some annoying moments which you just can’t seem to avoid. When you die – and you will – you respawn but if you’re nowhere near your teammates it’s a mightly slog across areas to reunite with them. It seems odd that this is even an option in 2012, as it seems a very old school decision. Perhaps that was the point but it’s incredibly frustrating to spend sections of your gaming experience literally just walking to catch up with everyone else. It certainly sucks the fun out of a part of the game which is overall rather fun, just not fun enough when you have no choice but to walk for bloody ages just to get back in the action. Another painfully frustrating aspect is in certainly areas of the game, your XP and loot playing co-op in someone else’s campaign, but it doesn’t cross over into your own. In certain missions, there’s the offer to skip past something you have done yet in others it’s not even there. It goes unexplained why some allow this and some don’t.

Essentially ‘Borderlands 2′ comes down to this. You see, for everything that was fun and exciting about the original, ‘Borderlands 2′ throws up the same. It’s balls to the wall, unadulterated rock’n’roll gaming with little to no equal in its own twisted interpretation of the genre. But so was the first. That’s the thing, as top as it is you don’t feel like you’re playing a game that has progressed an awful lot. Hardcore players may disagree, and I consider myself to be in that category as I thoroughly enjoyed the original but I can’t find anything in this game which gives me that same excitement ‘Borderlands’ did. It’s frustrating because there is plenty to enjoy here, and if you were a fan of the original then by all means jump into your nearest retailer and pick it up immediately, you’ll have a ball. However if you’re on the fence and going by word of mouth, just be prepared. The game is exceedingly huge, and you’ll notice as you go on how unnecessary this is. As you progress you’ll find yourself twiddling your thumbs waiting for something to happen. It doesn’t really seem to progress at a speed which keeps up with the momentum of the game, and at times can bring your attention and buzz about cracking on with the game to a grinding halt. If you’re gonna do everything, and I mean everything – there’s an awful lot to get through. Including some side missions that seem irrelevant to everything, save some which connect rather nearly to the overall arc – you’re looking at around about 50 hours, be warned though a stupidly large chunk of that is just walking from A-B, making the game feel like a real slog.

In a game that has certainly out-done its predecessor in terms of epicness, it just doesn’t have the same heart. This is a title just for the hardcore fans, offering very little to anyone else.

Rayman Jungle Run review.

Ubisoft throw up perfectly charming little platforming app.

For anyone out there that has played ‘Rayman Origins’, you know for damn sure it’s a superb platformer that deserved far more attention than it got. From start to finish, it was an absolute pleasure to play, look at and even listen too. It’s 2D/semi-3D cartoon visuals were a pleasure to look at and gave the game a unique look which was criminally overlooked  by shoppers over the Christmas period last year. It didn’t help, one would assume, it was released between the heavy hitters of ‘CoD: MW3′ and ‘Arkham City’, it was a little lost on the shelves, knocked down by retailers to sell their guaranteed moneyspinners to the gullible public. Nothing wrong with either title – infact Arkham City was my Game of the Year last year – but it meant ‘Rayman Origins’ was ignored almost completely, selling at ‘Okami’ levels, meaning it was enjoyed by a handful gamers when it should have been accepted by everyone. Ne’er mind.

Listen, if you haven’t yet played Rayman Origins, go play it RIGHT NOW and then come back to this review. That’s an order.

Rayman: Jungle Run – iOS / Android (reviewed) 

You’re back? Good, it’s INCREDIBLE isn’t it? Right, let’s move on. On the back of ‘Origins’, Ubisoft and developer Pastagames have created a game designed perfectly for mobile screens, the fully infectious ‘Rayman Jungle Run’. Using the same visual template set by ‘Origins’, ‘Jungle Run’ is a straight run and jump game which is addictive as it is just utterly charming.

When I say ‘a straight run and jump game’, it literally is that. Rayman runs and you touch the screen of your desired device to make him jump, fly, wall run and punch the enemies, all in seperate sections, with 40 levels divided between each action. Unlike endless running games like ‘Canabalt’ and ‘Temple Run’ though, it has a defined ending of each level, and it’s up to you to get there as quick as you can collecting as many collectibles - Lums, returning from ‘Origins’ – as you can. It’s as basic as it sounds initially, it’s replayability is in jumping back into these levels and collecting everything you possibly can, executing the levels perfectly, ensuring Rayman jumps, flies, runs and hits at the exact right times to execute perfect runs.

One reward for completing each level perfectly is a tooth which will fill up a characters mouth. Collect all the teeth and you’ll unlock a stage with its difficulty ramped up to 11,  and as you know if you’ve played ‘Origins’, death is inevitable and around every corner. You’ve got to pay attention if you want to complete ‘Jungle Run’, that’s for sure.

The earlier stages are pretty simple as everything you need is on your solid run, essentially everything is, but as the game goes on and you unlock the flying levels, it becomes far tougher to collect everything you need, giving you that ‘one more go’ feeling, something which is so important in mobile games. In one level I unlocked the ‘Die 20 Times in One Stage’ achievement, something which is incredibly simple to do in the latter stages. Be warned, the funky colours and the cartoon visuals are hiding a game so deliciously evil it will literally make you question your own skills as a gamer. The difficulty levels are about as balanced as they are in ‘Origins’, which, now you’ve played it, you’ll know is an absolute bitch.

Still, revisiting the modern day world of Rayman is a true delight, and once you’ve mastered the game you’ll feel a genuine sense of accomplishment that other platformers have just failed to deliver recently. Gorgeous to look at, fun to play and difficult in all the right places, ‘Rayman Jungle Run’ is a must for your smart device.

For three quid, you simply can’t go wrong.

Angry Birds Trilogy review.

‘Kinect can’t see your hand’.

Angry Birds: The phenomenon, the legendary App which catapulted sales of smartphones into the stratosphere, is finally on home consoles in a triple whammy box set for you to get your bird slinging hands on.

Comprising of the original ‘Angry Birds’, ‘Angry Birds Seasons’ and movie spin-off ‘Angry Birds Rio’, there’s no denying the game looks pretty damn swish whacked up on a HDTV. In full 1080p, the newly animated cut scenes and background undoubtedly look lovely, bringing some new life to the games which we’ve been playing for a good few years now.

There’s a weird sense of satisfaction with playing ‘Angry Birds’ with an Xbox 360 controller. Controlling the game is as simple as using the left thumbstick and A to control the catapult and shoot the bird, respectively. It’s a breeze and will be a great way for you to kill some time and earn some Achievements for your Gamerscore.

Of course, this being the Xbox 360 version I’m reviewing, ‘Angry Birds Trilogy’ has come tacked on with Kinect controls. The concept and idea is simple enough, and in theory Kinect and ‘Angry Birds’ should go together rather well and actually be super fun. Of course, it isn’t. Not even close. At first, I was excited that I could just use one hand to pull back the bird and fling it towards the pigs. Apparently this was just voodoo to Kinect as the game requires you to use both your hands to control the power of one object, which is arm-achingly frustrating. 60-70% it just didn’t work. By the end of constantly trying to get through the levels with Kinect, I gave up and decided to carry on with the controller. Which, as I’ve mentioned above, is a terrific way to play this game.

In terms of gameplay, it’s bloody ‘Angry Birds’. Addictive as hell from start to finish, the game hasn’t lost its appeal in terms of attempting to max your score to three stars and ranking up in the online leaderboards. A simple press of X resets the level and allows you to start again, which is top and keeps the console version up to speed with the pace of its mobile counterparts. The game has over 700 levels, with 19 designed specifically for the console versions. There’s no denying the sheer amount of content you have in this package, even if you have completed these levels a hundred thousand times over.

It’s a shame then, that despite all this content, the price of the collection is its biggest failing. At thirty quid, ($40 in the US) it’s an astonishing mark up on what is essentially three HD’d versions of games we can either get for free or pay very little for on so many other different platforms (even Internet Explorers have the game). Yes there are new levels and motion control but the latter just isn’t worth that extra money.

For ten times the price of what you’d pay for these three titles combined elsewhere, ‘Angry Birds Trilogy’ seems like a lost cause before it’s even hit the shelves. Roxio have done a fine job in converting this title for console audiences, and the traditional fun and excitement and frustration and addictive gameplay is still here in abundance.

For the price that’s being asked to replay this fun, though, at the very most, give it a rent.

FIFA 13 review.

The behemoth returns, does it do enough to warrant another purchase? Of course it does..

FIFA, eh? That old chestnut. It’s a known fact that the series itself will continuously be regarded as the ‘best football series ever’ the minute a brand new edition comes our way. FIFA 13 doesn’t change this, the series stamp on the industry is now so set in stone other football titles – bar Pro Evo, of course – have just given up and left FIFA to take the reigns. Midnight launches are now occuring up and down the country for the latest editions, critics are hailing the title from every corner and fans just can’t seem to get enough of it. FIFA is back once again to prove to everyone else that EA Sports are the masters of the genre, and upon this evidence it isn’t hard to see why.

Don’t fancy reading all the way down and just want some footage? Check out the video review right here:

Despite the predictability of the games’ success, it’s ironic that the headline feature of this game this time around is the unpredictability of it all. It seems obvious, but it’s been such a glaring omission from FIFA’s of recent years that for it to be finally intertwined with every other possible new inclusion feels refreshing and certainly challenging.

If FIFA 12 concentrated on improving defending, 13 is all about attacking. A cracking addition from spinoff FIFA Street is the dribbling control and its been used to excellent effect here. You just feel like you have complete control over the ball once it’s at your feet – once it is, indeed – holding down both triggers ensures tight control, at a slower pace but if you have enough space around you it can be useful to use to check your surroundings and see where your teammates are. It’s a useful tactic for skipping over players who come steaming at you with a slide tackle and leaving them in your dust. The balance is pretty spot on, it’s not a guarantee but as if with everything in FIFA, if timed correctly it can be devastating to your opponents. Support of your teammates has also been improved this time around. The AI has been ramped up so you’ll see your players making runs which compliment yours and ensure they’re around to help you out whenever you need it. Their animations have certainly been improved also, with players shouting and making ‘PASS THE BALL TO ME NOW’ signs with their hands, it adds to the realism and fun of the game when you know have you a team of players around you instead of only having models that don’t interact with you when you’re not controlling them. It’s never been a huge issue in FIFA, but you certainly notice the difference this time around.

Despite how good you think you are at FIFA, 13 certainly takes away your right to brag. The standard control function is still wide awake, however once you get the ball to your feet, it’s up to you to keep it on your team lest you get tackled immediately, or the ball can just dribble out in front of you and be reclaimed by your opponent quicker than you can say ‘REF!’. It’s certainly an addition that takes some time to get used too. The most interesting aspect of this though is that it’s not exclusive to every player. Yes, if you’re Messi or Ronaldo the chances are you’re not going to fumbling balls once they hit your super expensive, sponsored adidas boots, on the flipside if you’re say, Wycombe Wanderers your first touch isn’t going to be quite as impressive. The team you choose really actually bloody matters this time round, for once. If you’re a one star team, you’re going to behave, act and perform as a one star team. If you’re up against a five star team, they aren’t going to let their balls go loose – tehe – and allow you to just cruise past them into the box. If you’ve chosen a smaller team to play with, you better be damn sure you know what you’re doing otherwise you’re just going to get laughed off the field. It’s not impossible to win as the brutal underdog, it just takes plenty more effort. The frustration of the one touch control – when you’re clear on goal and you pass to your closest attacking player, if they take a heavy touch and lose the ball, the feeling can be pretty painful. Avoid this by trying not too run at full speed towards your oncoming pass – soon goes away though once you realise it makes each match that much more realistic,  you just have no idea what’s going to happen before the match begins. If you find yourself 3-0 down in the 20th minute, you should probably work on your play in the Skill Games arena.

Skill Games have turned up to replace the ‘Arena’ from earlier editions, giving you a chance to hone your skills in certain tactical areas before the match begins. From lobbing, passing, shooting, penalty taking and dribbling, each aspect of the Skill Games is scored and ranked, if you get a high enough score you can rank up to another level – namely, beating bronze allows you to move to silver. Completing silver gets you gold etc.. – , giving you another skill to master. The skills are chosen completely at random before the game begins, or you can choose to jump into the Skill Games from the main menu. They’re all pretty good fun and I’ve got pretty good at most of them now, some of them are a complete bitch though and require some proper dedication to perfect. Essentially, it’s just another part of FIFA 13 which increases its longevity, and that can never be a bad thing.

A strong aspect of FIFA 13 is the update of 12′s flagship feature the Player Impact Engine. It’s certainly been greatly improved here, as you brawl it out on the pitch the ball no longer feels stuck to your feet. If the ball is loose you can properly jostle with your opponent now to get to the ball quicker than he does. The simple act of knocking your opponent off possession has been improved, also, with the added concern of committing a foul if you’re too aggressive, once again the important aspect of timing has been thrown in to ensure you’re not getting yellows and reds each time you go to claim the ball or bring down an opponent in possession.

It’s nice to see motion controls included the time round on the HD systems. However their success and intrusion differs greatly.

The good news is Kinect has been included and works like it bloody should. No, you don’t have to get up off your sofa and start kicking an imaginary ball around, thank goodness, instead all of its functionality is left to voice commands. Controlling your players with your hands, you can shout at your team, shout at the referee – with a nice return from the commentary should it recognise your anger – or just shout tactical changes. But don’t shout, Kinect doesn’t like shouting. From the comfort of your living room you can change tactics and substitutes on the fly without having to leave the game. It’s a little fiddly at first as you need to keep an eye on your team and the mini options that come up on your bottom left (or right, depending if you’re playing home or away). Still, when the ball goes out of play or you’re waiting for a goal kick to be taken, it’s there for when you simply can’t be bothered to press a couple more buttons to get to the menu to do it manually. Along with this, Kinect allows you to set particular phrases to change the mentality of your players. If you say ‘five minutes left, let’s move forward’, your team will recognise this and go into full attack mode. That this has to be preset before the game takes away some of the excitement of seeing your team response to your voice, but nonetheless it’s a fun addition and a great use of Kinect’s unique abilities.

The bad news in terms of motion controls is for the PS3 fans, unfortunately whose motion control experience is dampened purely because you have to use the Move like a magic wand. Pretty much if you want to be taken out of the experience completely and be reminded that you are playing a video game and not a fully realised simulation of your favourite sport, then Playstation Move is the way to go. Navigate the Move around like a wand to move players and point to where you want them on the pitch. It’s tricky to pick up and doesn’t get any easier once you do. One for the Move purists, stick to the controllers. Or you could just wait for Wonderbook?

FIFA 13 is without question one of the games of the year in terms of on-disc content. There is simply so many options and game modes it would take you an absolute age to get through them all. From Career- player or manager – , Game of the Week, Seasons, Create-A-Player, Online Modes, EA Sports Football Club and so much more, if you’re a FIFA veteran you’re in safe hands here. If you’re a fan of football, this is the Holy Grail of football games. Whatever team you support is here (including Rangers, look for them in the Rest of the World teams), and you can partake in near enough every league in the world. It’s truly sensational how much is stored onto one disc. EA Sports really are leading the way with built in content.

FIFA 13 is the ultimate sports game of the year. If you’re into football in any capacity, you simply have to get it. I really can’t put it any easier than that.

Get on it. It’s in the game.

Dance Central 3 review.

Harmonix’ Kinect-only dance series returns. Has it got the right stuff?

It’s probably fair that out of everyone in this HeyUGuys Gaming bubble we all live in here, I’m the only one who has the guts to review Dance Central 3. I’ve always had the whole ‘look on the bright side of Kinect’ kind of thing going on, it’s never really disappointed me – except for its appearance in Angry Birds Trilogy, it’s just horrendous – and despite its seemingly constant ‘use it if we must’ scenario the device seems to find itself in – Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, GR:FS to name but a few – games like Kinect Sports, Rise of Nightmares and the Dance Central series have always exposed its brilliant potential. And with this, the third in the series, Harmonix once again prove to everyone else how to use Kinect, and how to use it correctly.

DANCE CENTRAL 3 – XBOX 360. 

You see, the whole Dance Central series is designed for us who can’t dance for toffee. Me, being one of these people, face games like this head on and isn’t afraid by any of the fancy moves and the long desired ‘Flawless’  to appear around my digital ankles. There’s something inspiring about games like this. Yes, it’s fair that people can actually dance / dance as a profession will perhaps get more out of this game then those who don’t. In fact, many people who don’t dance more than likely won’t go anywhere near this game, only playing it on parties or get togethers. They’ll be coursed by their dancing friends to join in and have a go, only then they will. You see, they won’t give a game like this a chance because they don’t know that you can spend hours and hours rehearsing each move until you have them perfect. They aren’t aware that the game isn’t laughing at you, it’s trying to help you around every corner. You have so many opportunities to become better at the game before you’re even thrown into a scoring mode. Hell, the main screen which has the information on the moves you have to follow is kind enough to show you two different angles of each set routine. An aspect of this area which is still frustrating is the ‘error’ messaging. If you’re getting an area of your routine wrong, as in previous DC titles your specific body part will light up red on the screen. It’s all good having it alerted to you, but it doesn’t really explain what you’re doing wrong, only that you are doing something wrong. You don’t ever really become fully aware of what it is and can lead to your score being lower than it should be because of this. Infuriating considering it’s been in the series for three games now and is yet to be picked up on.

From the off you know what you’re getting here. While the presentation hasn’t changed too much from game to game, the Dance Central series has always been about simplicity in everything but the harder level tracks. The menus are still very simple and straightforward, with the now DC standard of putting out your right arm to select a menu option and swiping your arm back towards you to select it. It can be a teensy bit fiddly – this is Kinect, after all – but each time you do it I couldn’t help but feel a small sense of satisfaction, and that the option is still available here – as a fan of the series – made me happy. Yep, I’m only talking about selecting something on a menu, but this is Dance Central, it’s bloody fun selecting stuff on menus.

As before, you have your character front and centre and the cue cards on the right hand side, appearing when the time comes for you to throw that particular move into the mix. It’s a system which has worked for Dance Central for each of its three iterations and hasn’t changed all that much in that time. It’s nice to see familiar surroundings in this particular context and it certainly works, I’m sure they may need to step it up for Dance Central 4, though. The endless, ridiculousness of the depressingly mundane Guitar Hero fret board comes to mind, here’s hoping they learn not to get complacent. However, like I said it works really well so you can’t complain too much.

One aspect of the game which is worth discussing is the rehearsals. Now, if you want to progress at all in this game, in any capacity, these are utterly essential. Straight into it and you’re thrown into tutorials of how everything works and what everything means, along with telling you how to use your voice commands (which naturally work brilliantly). If this is your first Dance Central game, it’s essential. If however you’re a total veteran (ithankyou), you don’t need it. Nothing has really changed but if you just want a refresher on how everything works it’s a great starting point. The rehearsals are pretty great. Remember Usher from E3 2012? He’s back here, going through each part of the rehearsal with you step-by-step. Quite literally. If you just want to dance, the first (read: easiest) song you get is the freakin’ YMCA, and you quite honestly go through the YMCA one step at a time with Usher. It’s a decidedly ridiculous gaming moment, one of the more memorable of the year absolutely. It’s here you’ll go through each routine one move at a time, you have to perform each move correctly three times in order to move on to the next. It works well and is essential if you want to stand any chance at being good at this game, and if you do, prepare to rehearse ALOT. From that perspective, it certainly adds to the ‘realism’ of the game – if indeed there is any – but it’s quite a slog to work that hard at routines just to power through the game. Does that make me sound lazy? I mean, it’s not ‘Kinect Tiring’, it’s bloody exhausting. Still, the feeling you get when you finally 5-Star a routine is pure nirvana. From my personal experience of the game, clearing New Kids On The Block’s ‘The Right Stuff’ 100% has to be one of my gaming highlights of the year (OH OH, OH OH OH! …sorry….). Either way, the more rehearsing you do, the better you’ll do in the story. And my oh my, what a story it is…

Yes indeedy, Dance Central 3 has got itself a campaign of sorts. You want to know the story? Of course you do, it’s a belter. You play as a member of the ‘Dance Central Intelligence’, a team of dancers tasked with taking down the evil Dr.Tan, who wants to destroy the world of Dance Central (imagine him as an internet troll, if you will). To do this, you’ll be going back in time, joining in with the dance crazes of the particular era you’ve landed in from Disco all the way up to the present day. Only you have the power to overthrow the evil Dr.Tan and restore peace to the dancing world.

No, it’s not exactly Shakespeare, but it’s a damn good laugh going back through time to get yourself drawn into different dance crazes and you find yourself enjoying the game more as you progress through it. Going back and trying out The Hustle and Disco Inferno gives you a solid blueprint to work from and you notice yourself finding 80′s classics like Ice Ice Baby that much easier. Yes, the earlier dances aren’t too complex compared to the modern ones, so it’s nice to have a stab at the classics after you’ve just stumbled your way through Flo Rida and Justin bloody bloody Bieber. When the original titles focused on more modern hits, 3 nails the balance between old school and modern day. And it does it during a time travel dance narrative. Yeah, it’s very silly, oddly serious is some places and funny at times it probably isn’t meaning to be, but you have to give credit to Harmonix for attempting something so ambitious and it gives credence to the fact that this series is probably around for a long while yet. The ‘story’ is daft, but if you’ve got the energy – and the rehearsal time in. Seriously, I really mean it this time – you’re not gonna get anywhere if you haven’t rehearsed – it’s abnormally good fun.

Of course, if you’re not into the whole ‘dancing for scores and saving dancing’ thing you can throw yourself and some friends into Party Time mode, which allows you and your buddies/homeys/crew/bleds/coworkers/parents/puppies to get up on their feet and just join in the fun. It’s a mode which is designed just to get the party started and does it all really rather well. Let your hair down and party on, Wayne (that’s still cool, right? When I say ‘party on, Wayne’, the youth of today know what means yeah? I’d be sad if they didn’t’).

Crew Throwdown is a cracking addition, raising the stakes and allowing you to feel like you’re in one of those ‘Dancer-who-has-nothing-but-is-a-dancer-so-will-eventually-get-everything-probably-through-dancing’ movies as you pit two crews against each other in the ultimate ownage of the stage and such. It’s like 8 Mile but for dancing, man. Up to four players on each ‘crew face off against each other through a series of minigames to succeed such as ‘Your Move’, allowing you to create your own moves and let the other crew loose to see how well they can master it, also you have ‘Keep the Beat’ which is just pure freestyle. We all had a blast on this and I bloody lost. It’s just not fair because I’ve the one that’s been working the hardest. Still, it works brilliantly and although it’s not as satisfying as tearing through each song one after the other, it is worth a sufficient amount of your time once your Party Time crew is ready to take it all a bit more seriously.

A quick note is that if you’re a fan of the series and intend to purchase this game do keep hold of your older versions as every single damn song will work in Dance Central 3 including add-ons, it’s just a case of importing them. All utilise the new abilities and modes. Result!

-

Dance Central 3 is the real deal. While it’s easy to scoff at Kinect and all the negativity the device seems to undeservedly warrant, Harmonix have got to full grips with the technology and utilising it unlike anybody else, and it’s working so damn well for them. For a music-central party game on the Xbox 360, Dance Central carries the torch from Guitar Hero/Rock Band and soars it to new heights. Yes it can get fiddly, and Kinect can still be Kinect and completely forget you exist and not register particular moves instantly, but the latter is so few and far between you can barely notice it and it doesn’t really get in the way of the fun you can have. With friends who are up for it, Dance Central 3 is unstoppable and showcases the very best of Kinect’s true abilities. You can only wish other companies would stand up and take notice of how well Harmonix can use it, because literally nobody else seems to be able to meet this standard. Dance Central is a franchise now naysayers, and you’re going to have to get used to it. And well, the only way is up right?

Designed to kickstart the party and never let it up, Dance Central 3 is the best entry in the series and subsequently, the best Kinect game that’s ever been made. Featuring the greatest tracklist yet from I Will Survive to Firework, from the Macarena to Backstreet’s Back – I don’t care what you say, that’s a TUNE – this is Kinect at the height of its powers and gives us a true reminder that beyond anything else, Kinect was designed for games and Dance Central 3 is the king of every single damn one.

Time to get your sweat back on.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

Does Ubisoft’s flagship shooter still hold up? Well, yes. It bloody well does.

It’s fair to say there is an over-saturation of a particular gaming genre on the market at the moment. Which one I hear you ask? Well, namely, that of the first person shooter. You see, there are quite literally an absolute mega-frickin’-ton of FPS’ out there for us as consumers to delve headfirst into, and while we seem to continuously buy those titles of which we are comfortable with and know they will bring us the usual crash bang wallop they so predictably provide, those which dare to do something new, innovative and interesting are normally the ones left on the side to gather dust on the shelves of our favourite video game stores.

Luckily, ‘Ghost Recon’ isn’t one of those franchises. Well, firstly it’s not an FPS, it’s a TPS. Third Person Shooter. No? Never mind.

Here we are then with ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’, the twelfth(!) game in the series (three ahead of CoD, if you’re counting) and released yearly without hesitation – the series took a break from the major consoles last year, instead landing on 3DS with the underrated ‘Shadow Wars’ – to generally high acclaim. The latest in the series seems to have been in development for a long time, longer than any ‘Ghost Recon’ I can remember, and the hype surrounding this game was massive. After having a brief dalliance with ‘FS’ at last years Eurogamer Expo and very much enjoying it, I was properly pumped to get my hands on this and see what those extra months had done to the game, and whether the prolonged development time was worth it.

'STUDS UP?! REF, SERIOUSLY? WHAT?! WHO IS PAYING YOU? DROGBA? TERRY?'

The only way I can explain ‘Ghost Recon’ to anyone who hasn’t played it is imagine ‘Battlefield 3′ and ‘Crysis’ getting together for one steamy night of war torn love making under a pile of rubble they used to call their home and giving birth to a incomprehensible hybrid of the two. What was created? ‘Ghost Recon’. Specifically, ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’. The game draws from both series amicably and seems to grab the best moments from each and smash them together so expertly. It’s no secret ‘FS’ is hanging its hat on the inclusion of apparently genuine future military tech, and it makes no secret of that fact. Everything here is presented a pure futuristic sheen, from the neon blue lights coming from every characters eyeballs to the monstrous Augmented Reality, but more on that later.

The cover physics are something special on this game, ensuring you’re quick thinking and moving. As the cover can deteririate while you’re under attack, you’re forced to search for other spots you can hide behind. They’re never far away but it certainly keeps you on your toes. While in cover, you can be suppressed, for example if you’re under fire by an enemy, your field of vision decreases – common ‘screen covered in blood’ sitch – and the camera will shake, making it difficult to return fire. If you stay in cover long enough though, you’ll regenerate automatically – surprise, surprise – and from there everything should be roses.

In terms of visuals, ‘GR:FS’ really holds its own in most areas. Yes, it completely creams ‘CoD’ in this department. The visual sheen of  the locations, vehicles and weapons all jump off the screen, with each set piece becoming more and more visually arresting as the game progresses. The game is presented similarly to every other shooter out there, with fast wizzing pictures and newspaper cutous filling the cutscenes as there are unnaturally quick in out and zooms of various countries on a map, nothing you haven’t ever seen before, however while there is a lack of originality in the cut scenes and the menus, the campaign more than makes up for it in terms of style. On the Xbox 360 version we tested, after installing the game there was no noticeable pop up, lag or framerate issues. Considering the amount that’s happening on the screen, that’s hugely commendable. It’s a shame then, that they fall down on the one area every other company seems to have just about nailed. The faces of the characters are just awful, harking back to the early days of this generation. With no expression or any kind of genuine lifelike movements, the obvious shortcomings sadly take you right of the action. A characters eyes, for example, are completely dead. There has always been the ‘dead eye’ issue in gaming, however in the last couple of years we’ve seen Ubisofts competitors (Rockstar, Infinity Ward/Treyarch/Dice) finally get over this hurdle. I’m only going to put it down to the fact that this game has been in development for so long, pushing four years, which is a long time in the gaming world. I can only assume the character models were built very early on and were just never returned too. It’s a damn shame considering everything else looks so polished. It’s comparable to playing Gran Turismo 5 and seeing the disgraceful pixellation when up close with the cars. It brings the game back at least two years. The sooner MotionScan becomes the norm in gaming, the better. Despite this, ‘GR:FS’ is without a doubt the best looking war shooter out there at the moment.

One aspect I fully appreciated was the in game challenges which are presented to you before the mission begins. You have weapon challenges – ie, shoot a certain number of enemies with a particular gun etc, along with tactical, ghosts and elite challenges, it’s a cool extra factor to the game which completionists will definitely get a kick out of.

Weapons and weapon parts are your reward for completing these challenges, along with completing missions. Let’s get one thing straight here, Ubisoft weren’t bullshitting about their weapon customisation. A true myriad of availability which you can tinker with before every mission. Of course, . A mecca for custom weapons fans, and very simple to navigate and implement, with descriptions for each weapon part easy to read and understand. Parts that can be customized include optics, paint, triggers, magazines, under barrel and side barrel attachments, gas systems, barrels, muzzles, and stocks. You can also test out your weapons before you take them into the campaign in the Firing Range, where you’re presented with a variety of targets to shoot varying in distance. Lovely touch. Another lovely touch? The Xbox 360 Kinect integration. Ubisoft really know this hardware better than anyone by now, instilling it into almost every title which comes out from them. Here it’s used to throw your weapons together, flipping the circular selection screen from side to side and saying which part of the weapons you want to change. In the brief time I tested it on Kinect, it was pretty damn fantastic and worked nigh on perfectly. Through hand gestures and voice commands you can create weapons. That’s the dream, right?

Hide and seek certainly gets a little OTT in the future..

Everything has a sensor via your AR (Augmented Reality) vision. From your ‘future soldier’ visor you can see how much ammo you have, what your secondary and side weapons are (sensors, frags) along with keeping a whereabouts of your teammates at all times, enabling you to see through walls to find allies along with enemies you have discovered with your sensor. Your AR abilities also pinpoint your locations and checkpoints, along with destinations with whacking great big arrows above them. It’s a terrific addition and something you genuinely can’t see being too far off in the real world. Outstanding.

The first level is your basic search and rescue with plenty of action, culminating in a terrific third act where you’re shooting your way through the streets of Bolivia with your prisoner on one arm. Using only a pistol, navigating your way through these busy streets is a tense and thrilling experience, ensuring your bullets are heading straight into the bodies of your ‘packages’ captors rather than civilians. An awful lot is going on around you at this point, from innocents running directly in the line of your fire to cars with mounted turrets tearing through the village, destroying every home and fruit seller in their path. It can get a little confusing, at one point with only one viewpoint locked the entire time (namely the left hand shoulder of your prisoner, not you) I found myself believing to be shooting the enemy, where in fact I was actually shooting a crate of melons, the enemy just happened to be standing behind them. I eventually took him out, also taking a fuckton of melons in the process. Damn melons.

'Dude', 'yeah?', 'you heard Treyarch are trying to rival us now?' 'PAH. Since when did CoD outsell us?' '……'

Of course, one of the biggest draws of ‘GR:FS’, and something which has been pushed to death in the pre-release hype is the ‘camo’ invisibility, giving ‘Future Soldier’ a right to use such a name. To active it all you have to do is crouch, although it doesn’t appear until the second level. Honestly the function certainly works well, however it can’t be used when running fast, taking a shot or being shot. There certainly are limitations, and you wish at certain points that Ubisoft could have suspended our disbelief just that little bit more so we could have taken more advantage of the future tech (will we see it in Black Ops II?) as it’s really the only part of the soldiers kit which still seems a long way off but hey, who am I to argue with the U.S. Military? Another funky addition is the magnetic detector. Activated with a simple down on the D-Pad, it allows players to detect particular metallic objects such as weapons and mines which would be hidden in the environment.

By far though the most important gadget in your arsenal is the sensor. A unique take on the common ‘radar’ map, the sensor allows you to become aware of everything around you once it’s in the area of your choice. Shaped like what can only be described as a Pokeball, you have the option of just throwing it over your head or placing it in a full area. The sensor will scan within its radius (which is huge) and send all the information it finds back to your AR visor so you know exactly how many people are surrounding or ahead of you. It’s completely essential in most circumstances, and imperative if you’re going to get anywhere in this game. I found myself in a habit of using them a little too much once I reached the middle section of ‘FS’. Of course, this being ‘GR’ I quickly found an ammo stash and reloaded myself with plenty to carry on. Some may over rely on the Sensor, but like I said, it’s the titles take on the traditional map, which is nowhere to be seen. I dug it, so will you.

'PIKACHU, I CHOOSE YOU!'

There were certainly aspects of the campaign which did stump me. Moments I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was supposed to be doing. It’s a sign of modern gaming that if you get stuck there is always a checkpoint or a metre countdown showing you where to go with a giant beacon overhead. I’m not particularly talking about the hand holding ethics of modern shooters, though. The second level is all about stealth. Now with the bases that I’ve covered considering the kit you have, this is still rather difficult. Picking off the lonesome patrolmen was simple enough with stealth kills, it’s when they’re in groups it becomes tricky. And annoyingly, it wasn’t until after that section was completed I discovered I can synchronise shots so each person on the team can shoot a group of up to 4 one at a time. Very frustrating, as they only way to get past this section was to get discovered, it seemed. Once it was over, the option was there for me to take out groups very effectively, but it wasn’t until after I really needed to know how to do it that I discovered it. I can see this particular issue annoying several players who like to keep perfect records in this sort of game. Once you do figure it out though, it goes like this:

During ambushes/breaches/firefights, you can make one high priority target with a simple tap of a shoulder button. This isgnals the rest of your team to focus their fire, which is nice. In the more stealth orientated sections, you can mark up to for targets for a sycnhronised kill. Your team will each automatically pick a target and move into a position to take them out. You will then give the command or shoot your chosen target, at which point your team will take theirs out too. It’s a neat and very useful little inclusion, and one you’ll find yourself relying on as the game progresses.

Despite this, it’s perhaps the most tension I’ve experienced in a game so far this year. Yeah, that’s right. You read that correctly. When you have little to no sight and you’re being shot at from every angle in the middle of a damn sandstorm – which looks spectacular, by the way – yeah, tension is going to build. With your metallic sensor on you’re presented with a black and blue pallette, guiding you through the insanity which befalls you. Of course, because of the madness of it all, the audio lets this sequence down somewhat. It’s purely realistic for team members caught in a sandstorm not to hear each other, however again you wish that Ubisoft everso slightly remembered that this is a game and should have treated it as such. Still, it looks terrific and is brilliant fun, despite not really having any sense of direction during the chaos.

Verdict

I’m going to be honest here, I certainly had my reservations about this one. As I mentioned at the beginning, the industry is plagued with games just like ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’. Some are fantastic, some are middling, some are dreadful. Well, you can throw this one in the ‘fantastic’ pile. I’m genuinely blown away by the game. Yes, it has visual and audio niggles which I’ve mentioned, and the lack of awareness is kind of frustrating at times, but come on. This is war, and it’s never been so sweet. On this basis, it’s going to take some time before someone catches up to this kind of level. ‘Black Ops II’ has an awful lot to live up too.

In fact, it may be time for CoD to get back in the ocean.

Nintendo E3 2012 Round-Up.

While we’ve already done a massive piece on Nintendo’s earlier E3 Nintendo Direct video which you cansee right here, it seems one wasn’t enough for house of Mario. Today they’ve gone all hardcore showcasing more of the hardware and the software for their upcoming system, as well as 3DS announcements and some big surprises. Shall we get started?

Firstly, let’s clue you up. Here’s the video Nintendo broadcasted on Sunday evening, detailing the updates to the Wii U they presented.

First glance of the stage then, and Wii U’s are dotted all over the place. Some are white, some are black. Gotta admit the black console looks stunning, I’ll definitely be picking that one up come release. It’ll look lovely next to my black 360, PS3, Wii and N64. Anyway, moving on. Nintendo hit the stage and we are about to begin.

Miyamoto and Pikmin kick off proceedings. Pikmin are being dotted around the stage in an awesome AR style, oh, we do love a Nintendo conference. Shigsy now talking about Wii U,

‘it could never take on a more important role than the television itself, you can’t see the game screen without waiting for the tv to power on. We decided our system was going to have its own dedicated screen. That was the start of Wii U’.

Pikmin 3 is here! Mr. Miyamoto is discussing how it’s a real time action management game, managing your swarm of 100 Pikmin. Looking gorgeous, you can see the natural movements of each Pikmin, everything looks very nice. Pikmin will find materials they can use to build bridges, looking like real ants. A new Pikmin type was also presented – these are the new rock Pikmin, used to break hard objects, naturally. Talking about the integration with the original Wii controller, with Motion Plus you can use it to aim for a far more specific strategy. You can target and throw Pikmin at enemy AI’s, control looks really nice and fluid. On the Wii U GamePad you will always see the overall map. Also, you can also control using only the GamePad, keeping status on four leaders. A must have feature for your leaders and co-ordinate strategies. You can also record your games for future reference. Pikmin is being made to reminds gamers of Nintendo’s dedicated to hardcore titles. Boom!!! With that, the Legend of Miyamoto was gone.

Reggie Fils-Aime, the Nintendo PR GURU is promising that they will showcase 23 Wii U titles on stage today, carrying on by announcing that Wii U will literally change your life. At it’s core, Wii U does 3 things. Changes your gaming, changes interaction, changes the way you enjoy your TV. The Wii U stands to revolutionise your living room and applications such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Video will be available, throwing the system side by side with the big guns. Reggie went onto explain all the news won’t be announced in this whole hour as they have just too much to talk about. They’re spreading the news across E3, TV, Facebook and Twitter over the next few days. He finished up by throwing down the big bombshell of the presentation – after much speculation, the Wii U WILL support TWO separate GamePads. That’s big news. A video then played showcasing the Pad itself.

In no particular order: Headphone jacks, volume control, home button suspends a game to check for updates and connect with friends, infrared transceiver, accelerometer, gyroscope, rumble, camera, microphone, touch-screen, control pad, ABXY, analogue sticks with clicks, ZL and ZR triggers, L and R shoulder buttons. PHEW! Check it out for yourself here:

Reggie continues to discuss Wii U and now he’s talking Miiverse. Mii’s will be able to communicate, equipped with rich media engagement, social networking and other ‘important’ information. Speech bubbles will display what you send. Simple text messages, (option to use the included stylus to write your own words or illustrations) share a screen image from the game you’re playing with your Miiverse inhabititants. The speech bubbles will also display recent activity and scores and display facial expressions in the bubble. Interaction is browser based, while this won’t be available on launch day, you can join MiiVerse basically everywhere eventually. So you’ll be able to access Miiverse on your laptops or PC’s, smartphones or tablets. Nice. Check out the vid:

It’s time for Mario. Reggie officially announced New Super Mario Bros. U. Despite speculation coming up from Sunday’s Direct Video, the suit we see is not a it’s a SQUIRREL SUIT. It transferred from the big screen to the GamePad quite seamlessly, enabling you to carry on once the TV has been turned off. It all looks fantastic, (just look at those GOOMBAS!) best looking Mario game ever, for sure. One unique section was Boost Mode, with up to 4 people using their Wii remotes to play, the GamePad can set blocks along the way to help out. N’awww, how very Nintendo. You and a single friend can also work together for speed runs. VIDEO!

ARKHAM CITY. Reggie getting shouted at by Harley Quinn, brilliant. Martin Tremblay from Warner Bros. on the stage, announcing the game will be called. Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition. ‘A must-have unique experience‘ . Rock the detective mode on the GamePad. BAT Mode, during combat, Batmans’ new suit will extract kinetic energy, filling up until it maxes out. players can use the GamePad to activate it and make Batman even more powerful. Players are faced a new challenge for Batarang, can use the GamePad to navigate it. Visually pretty much the same. Still, more Arkham City can only be a good thing, check out the video below with a more indepth look at the usage of the GamePad.

Scribblenauts Unlimited. Bringing the definitive experience to the Wii U, unlimited possibilities for players to explore create and share. Share your creations with friends. Auto Mutt. AUTO MUTT wins E3. Multiplayer mode, notebook backstory. Looks like great fun. Also coming to 3DS.

What followed was a montage featuring footage of third party titles including Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank! from Namco, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Directors Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3 and Aliens: Colonial Marines.

MY BODY IS READY. Let’s talk fitness. Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus led millions of people into videogames for the first time with a quite frankly flabbergasting 43 million copies sold around the world Therefore, here we are again with Wii Fit U. A typical ‘people in a living room’ video plays and includes bad acting, among other things. In terms of the game, we see a trampoline game, a water cannon game where you move around to shoot and a luge game. You can also upload results from Fit Meter, ANOTHER Nintendo accesory. This can all be accessed with off TV play.

Freestyle Games, DJ Hero folks, present Sing (working title). Wii U GamePad displays lyrics, that seems to its USP. Grand, superb. Karaoke games are always fun.

3DS news, well, sort of. Scott Moffit turns up on stage to tell everyone that there is a 3DS specific event Wednesday night (2am). However, he did have time to briefly show us some footage of a few new titles. New Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario can turn everything into coins, EVERYTHING. Coming in the US August 19th.

Paper Mario Sticker Star. Nice, LOVE the Paper Mario series. This is a very welcome title. How does it relate to the title though? Ah, let me tell you. As a two-dimensional paper cut out Mario, you collect stickers by pulling them off scenery which you can then implement into the game depending on what you’ve peeled. For exmpale, choose a hammer sticker to whack, shoe sticker to stamp on enemies. Sweet! I’m on that shit. Available physically and digitally this season.

ah, Luigi! Not an awful lot has yet been shown about Luigi’s Mansion 2, but what we do know is that each mansion has mission-based challenges, new types of ghosts with different capture strategies, it looks lovely and will available in the holidays. So, November onwards in the UK.

Also shown was a preview of what to expect in Wednesday nights 3DS conference. Included were Castlevania Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, Disney Epic Mickey Power of Illusion and Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance.

Back to Wii U, Reggie was back on stage to showcase LEGO City Undercover. Your GamePad works as a key to exploration and completing missions within a fully realised Lego world as you play as a Lego cop taking down the bad guys. Your GamePad can also scan for hidden criminals and allows you to choose a Lego disguise and go undercover. There will also be a 3DS version, however Reggie is quick to point out that while they are from the same franchise, they are quite different. But, lest we forget, the 3DS is the only place we can see the game in glasses free 3D. Naturally.

Ubisoft pop out to round up the 23 games. ‘From the hardest of the core to the newest of the newbies’. Yves Guillemot bigging up the Wii U looking sexy. The console, not Yves… ‘the console is a revolution’ he says. Xavier Poix, Managing Director Ubisoft France pops out to demonstrate Just Dance 4. Dancers appear and are quite poorly rocking the stage. They will dance with the Wii Remotes and with the GamePad, Reggie is using the GamePad to choose which modes and dances appear. Pretty cool.

The biggest draw though for the ‘hardcore’ Wii U owner was undoubtedly Zombi U, and it looks superb. With a chance to finally see some gameplay, we were treated to a video where we saw the GamePad being used as a Sonar, inventory, scanner, sniper, door hacker and shaking the Pad to break free from a Zombie atack. All in all, it looks terrific. And right at the end there was a funky little minigame where Reggie was zombified by looking into the GamePad camera. Nice.

Ubisoft finished off their section with a look at Assassin’s Creed III, along with Rabbids Laand, Rayman Legends, Your Shape, Avengers: Battle for Earth and Sports Connection.

Nintendo then wrapped things up with Nintendoland, an interesting looking minigame compilation featuring a section for a variety of Nintendo characters, similar to Wii Play. Reggie claims ‘Nintendoland’ does for Wii U what Wii Sports did for Wii, a big statement and on evidence it’s hard to really agree with him. Katsuya Eguchi (Animal Crossing, Wii Sports) appears on the stage. He announces there will be a different theme park ride for certain characters. Your Mii visits the theme park, and will change into a different character costume for 12 different attractions. These attractions include The Legend of Zelda Battle Quest, Animal Crossing Sweet Day, Donkey Kongs Crash Course, Luigi’s Mansion minigames. There is also Takamuru’s Castle, where you’re using ninja stars to hit targets. Miiverse will apparently play a big role in it, but he’ll explain more later in the developers conference. One example of an attraction began with the player with the Pad taking on a special role, same game world with a different perspective. ‘Asymmetric Gameplay’ – a phrase we heard an awful lot of in this conference and never want to hear again -. Showing off the Luigi’s Mansion minigame, GamePad user controls a ghost. Wii Remote rumble when a ghost is near and teammates need to co-operate to track the ghost down. Their objective is to flash their flashlights on the ghost to find him. and the battery on your torch is limited so you can’t just keep it on. Once they find the ghost the game is over, or something. I have no idea, it was at this point I got completely lost, it seemed like a reverse Pac-Man to me. Released on launch day. Here’s the video:

From there, a weird kinda firework display from Nintendoland closed it all. Underwhelming then or were you happy? We were certainly satisfied with the variety on display, we’re just concerned Nintendo are once again leaving hardcore gamers behind with their own software, despite Pikmin and Mario getting a strong showcase.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

UPDATE

IWATA goes into more depth after the show.

Brief look at the Wii U GamePad panorama is pretty impressive. You’re flying through the sky and you can look around in full 360 degrees with the pad.

Such a lovely family. awww………………

Nintendoland! Donkey Kong looks pretty fun and old school. Very Nintendo, you have to wonder if they really want to innovate at all. Does it help us understand Nintendoland a bit more? Yes it does, does it make a look any better? A little. I remember saying the same thing about Wii Party, then had a blast on that and had a great time so I’m optimistic. Should be good fun. SHOULD BE, dammit. ‘Nintendoland will bring people together in a deeper way’, says Iwata. Awkward, but then, he opened this section looking at a bunch of bananas, so I forgive him for anything.

Wii Fit U. Here we go! Same fucking family again, I want to kill them all. Anyway, Dad is swinging his arms back and forth to get the speed going on a slad, tilting his body left and right to navigate around the board. This has nothing to do with the GamePad, only the balance board. ‘’MY AB MUSCLES ARE PULSATING’’…he just said that. Seriously. Wow, he’s getting very excited. Trampoline target, Mum is pretty fit actually. You have extend your legs to get a higher jump, leaning while airbourne to get higher or some shit. She then fell of the trampoline, she isn’t very good. Extend your legs at the lowest point to get higher. Good show for Mum.

Dessert course. Grandma is up, she has an English accent, nobody else has. She’s holding gamepad like a tray and balancing what’s on it. ‘I DIDN’T KNOW SHE COULD MOVE THAT FAST!’ she sucks at this. Hey she did it! Lovely. Is this scripted? Really? Well, that looked no fun at all.

Body test is a management fitness tool for the family. Changes to your body type can be recorded by taking pictures of your fat ass body. Wii U Gamepad displays this all you do not need to display this on your TV screen. Balance Board is the best selling bathroom scale in world, apparently. Amazing. Wii U Fit Meter, use a clip(!) to attach it to your body and can balance changes in altitude. The Fit Meter connects directly to the Wii U GamePad, designed to track your health management.

Zombi U! The following images are not suitable for young children. Lovely.

Nice CG trailer of Zombi U playing now, the footage we saw in the conference is playing again displaying the different uses of the GamePad including Sonar, Scanner, Sniper Rifle and more. All looking pretty impressive, as long as they work as well as they do in this video. You can also hack doors with the GamePad and get finishing moves with it. It does look pretty damn hardcore, intense. Super fun. IWATA is a Zombie! Funky little addition to the game.

Batman Arkham City is now up. ‘Most of us already know this game, it was big init’. Why are showing it? WBIE love the Wii U GamePad so much they want to expand the gameplay, Batman wears a computer on his arm called the BAT computer which is the GamePad. Makes you feel like Batman more than ever before, apparently. Nice, I love feeling like Batman. Funky trailer playing now, visually looks the same as every other version. GamePad can give you access to the Bat computer throughout the game. Upgrading, get waypoints, personalize gadget loadouts and more. Use Sonar to detect their position, drop into place and kill them all init. BAT mode. A players BAT mode will make Bats more powerful when it maxes out. Video of Batman using Detective mode on the GamePad, nice. Select the gadgets on the GamePad to open the door and hack the lock, avoid the scan mines and unlock the door. Opening the door reveals a new challenge, get out the Batarang! You can guide the Batarang with the GamePad. Set explosive gel around and blow shit up one at a time! Excellent. Pretty much the entire game is on the GamePad, you just get get to watch it play out on your television.

Being more like Batman is a lot of fun, Iwata says. Hell yeah it is. He’s a genius.

That’s Nintendo’s lot for today. What did you think?

Game off.

  • Seeing as the money grabbing scumbags are going out of business, I thought I'd share this with you, something I originally posted back in April of last year. Enjoy, init.
  • I shall set the scene. I walk into my local Game store, for no other purpose than to pick up a Play and Charge Kit for my Xbox 360. I head to the counter to pick up said item..
  • Please bear in mind, this all actually happened.
  • Me : Can I get a Play and Charge Kit please?
  • Employee 1 : Um, yeah sure. Where are they?
  • Employee 2 : Uh, are they upstairs?
  • Employee 3 : I'll have a look.
  • Me : They're behind you, in the cabinet.
  • Employee 2: Where?
  • Me : Under the Xbox 360 Controllers...marked 'Play and Charge Kit'. In green.
  • *employee 1 and 2 looks around....*
  • Employee 1 : Oh yeah! Cool, you got the keys?
  • Employee 2 : No we need to call the manager...
  • *employee 1 calls manager, manager arrives looking at me somewhat dissaprovingly*
  • Manager : What seems to the problem, Sir?
  • Me : Um, nothing...these guys needed you to open the cabinet so I could purchase an item.
  • Manager (to Employee 1) : You don't need me, you have your own set of keys right here.
  • Employee 1 : Oh right! Sorry about this mate
  • *JUST OPEN THE FUCKING CABINET!*
  • Me : No problem?
  • Employee 1 : Right, here we go.
  • Employee 3 : They're not upstairs.
  • Employee 1 : I know, I've got one now.
  • Employee 3 : Oh, where were they?
  • Employee 1 : In the cabinet.
  • Employee 3 : This cabinet?
  • Employee 1 : Yes.
  • Employee 3 : Oh. LMFAO! (He didn't actually say that, but he made a face that certainly suggested he was thinking it)
  • Employee 1 : Right, that's £14.99 please mate
  • *hand over card* Me : Thanks
  • Employee 1 : Are you paying by card?
  • Me : ................yes.
  • Employee 1 : Oh, OK.
  • *sigh*
  • Employee 2 : Would you like a bag?
  • Me : No, that's OK. I'll just put it in my lapt....
  • Employee 1 : HAVE YOU GOT A LOYALTY CARD?
  • Me : ....yes, but I don't have it with me.
  • Employee 1 : That's OK, I'll just take your postcode and put the points on there.
  • Me : Cool. It's *says postcode*
  • Employee 1 : ******** Road?
  • Me : Yes
  • Employee 1 : Wow! My nan lives on that road
  • Me : Oh..cool. *sighhhh*
  • Employee 2 : There you go mate. *hands over item. in a bag*.
  • Me : Thanks.
  • Now, before I get a chance the get the fuck out of there, a very nice lady comes up around me to go to Employee 2's till to purchase a Wii with a Wii Fit Plus Bundle in a big black box, and she asks the employees a question...
  • Nice lady : Does the Wii play DVD's?
  • Employee 1 : Um......
  • Employee 2 : Does the Wii play DVD's?
  • Employee 3 : The Wii? I don't know. I've never tried. I use my DVD player.
  • Employee 2 *to ME* : Does the Wii play DVD's?
  • Me : Um, no. No it doesn't.
  • Nice lady : Thank you!! Wow, you should work here.
  • *employees snigger to themselves*
  • And with that, I was gone. The moral of the story is, don't go to Game in Taunton if you want to find out anything about anything. And quickly. The pure lack of product knowledge was genuinely outstanding, especially on a subject many people, similar to the 'Nice Lady' are still learning about. The fact they turned to a customer to find out a piece of product information that should have been absolutely bloody instilled into their brain is ridiculous.
  • Anyway, I felt I had to share.
  • Peace and love. R

REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D

The Greatest Game Ever™ returns in 3D. Does is still hold up? Um, yes…

 

Before we begin, I should stress that if you’ve never played ‘Ocarina’ before, you won’t find much here in terms of plot and level difficulty, or longevity. This review is focusing on the updates of the current version, as the original game has been available since 1998, we’re pretty sure if you’re reading this you may have played it already. TC

It’s all about the little things. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’, a game so acclaimed, so distinguished in gaming history. An absolute masterpiece beyond anything we could have imagined in 1998, is back and once again, after an admittedly dodgy E3, Nintendo reminds us why they are the greatest. If you loved this game the first time round, you’re going to be very happy as everything is here. Literally, everything. Nothing has been removed, it’s still the original ‘Ocarina’ we all adore. From desperately running around for Deku Nuts, looking for them in pots and finding nothing but green rupees to chickens being stuck in infuriatingly annoying places across Kakariko Village. This is ‘Ocarina’, and it’s here to make your jaw drop all over again. And it starts before the game even begins…

With the infamous ‘Ocarina’ introduction sequence, Nintendo and GREZZO aren’t holding anything back. The split second you’re reintroduced to Hyrule, it’s a truly jaw dropping spectacle in three dimensions. I’m not lying when I say this is without doubt the finest use of the technology so far for the 3DS. The sound of Epona galloping across Hyrule Field, the beautiful piano and strings music. Within minutes your breath is truly taken away. It’s a swift reminder of why this game is so important and why it has the status it truly deserves. I wish I could throw up these pictures in 3D, unfortunately like anything with the 3DS, you truly have to see it on the system itself to believe it. To leave you utterly speechless before you’ve even pressed anything is a sign that the brilliance of this title is well and truly alive and kicking, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Here’s ‘Ocarina’ Link 2011. Like most of the game, Link himself has had a complete visual makeover and looks closer to the modern day Link we know from ‘Twilight Princess’ and the upcoming ‘Skyward Sword’. The first thing I noticed about Link was the hair, and how it’s almost three different colours compared to the original version and it made me smile a little uncontrollably. Like I said, it’s the little things.

Link has been painstakingly dragged into the 21st Century along with Hyrule itself. Visually, the game is an enormous step up from its predecessor as these images prove..

The game really does look like it belongs in this generation, and it’s a testament to GREZZO’s team that the game looks as good as it does.

Well, nearly. More on that later on.

Focusing on the updates, the biggest change in terms of gameplay is the DS Touch Screen. As you can see from the screenshots the main screen is nearly completely empty of your standard HUD items, save a map of your current location and your all important A button command display. Everything else is – brilliantly – moved down.

Everything you’ll need throughout the game is placed here. Your health and magic levels (the hearts and the green line below, respectively..if you didn’t know), the entire game map, your items (configured to each button, plus two extras which are touch screen only), your rupee count, your Ocarina and more, including the gear section where all your swords, shields and clothing is kept, all there right in front of you and incredibly easy to navigate (considering the horrendous Water Temple is forthcoming, being able to switch to your Iron Boots and painlessly as possible is complete blessing. Good to know Nintendo were listening). Navi also has her own button too (to replace the C-Up button she had from the original) on the top left of the screen. If she pipes up, press this button to see what she has to say.

One of the most fundamental aspects of ‘Ocarina’ is the music, and it doesn’t disappoint here. Depending on your preference, it would have been nice for Nintendo to orchestrate the score this time round, in the same way they did with the ‘Super Mario Galaxy’ series. Hearing the stunning, soaring, spine tingling themes from this game coming through my 3DS speakers performed with a full symphony would have been an absolute joy. As such, what we’ve got we shoudn’t really complain about, all the music is here, unchanged and untouched. The Ocarina songs also remain the same, with two options to play them now, being the A, X, Y, L and R buttons or the touch screen. When selecting your Ocarina on your main HUD you are taken to a screen which has your instrument placed slap bang in the middle of the bottom screen, and the buttons are layed out according to the notes. You can use your stylus to play the songs (my personal choice as it makes me feel like I’m genuinely playing an instrument) or follow just use the buttons. It’s all very familiar, as an example ‘Zelda’s Lullaby’, which was C-Left, C-Up and C-Right in the original game is now X, A and Y. They still sound fantastic, and I’ll admit to getting chills when I heard ‘Epona’s Song’ played on the Ocarina for the first time in years. You just can’t forget them, these small melodies and how they become so utterly timeless.

What else is new? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Thrown in as a wonderful extra is the ‘Master Quest’, originally bundled with Limited Edition copies of ‘Wind Waker’ on the Gamecube. This is simply a rock hard version of ‘Ocarina’, with all the dungeons rearranged and remixed. The entire game is mirrored so you’ll need to keep your wits about you and focus because everything is not where you would originally think it to be. Great fun and will challenge you, even if you’re a classic player of ‘Ocarina’.

Another new addition is the ‘Boss Rush’ mode. Essentially, this is more or less about how much ass you can kick one after the over, giving you the bosses from all the dungeons you have already passed in sequential order. Master Quest has its own version of the “Boss Rush” mode, where the boss arenas are mirrored and enemies will do twice the usual amount of damage.

Finally, the Stone of Agony is replaced with the Shard of Agony, replaced due to the lack of a rumble function on the 3DS, serving the same purpose, only with a sound signal to inform the players of secrets instead.

One major addition (and very typically ‘modern’ Nintendo) are instruction videos, found in the Sheik Stones. Watch them glow neon green and bounce around, head up to one and find the part you’re stuck in, a video will play to show you what to do. If you’re new to ‘Ocarina’, this is a good ‘hand-holding’ device. If you have played it before, you’re not going to go anywhere near it.

Aside from the 3D, ‘Ocarina’ doesn’t use a huge amount of the 3DS’ unique features, but then again, it doesn’t really have too. The main one is the gyroscope, used to look around and aim when in first person mode (so for slingshot, bow and arrow use etc..). I’ll say now I was quite sceptical about this, I am a massive fan of the Zelda series and I really didn’t think it needed motion control, ‘Twilight Princess’ proved me wrong on that one, but ‘Ocarina’?? Wasn’t so sure, fool me twice Nintendo. It absolutely works and it’s absolutely brilliant. Once you’re in first person mode (activated automatically when selecting a first person weapon), you can move your 3DS around to focus on your target, and it’s seamless. Every little nudge you make is recognised on screen, and it’s a fantastic way of aiming and being completely precise. I’ve been playing the game with this the entire way through and I’m still not bored of it. After iPhones and iPads, gyro sensing seemed tacked on to the 3DS, but in ‘Zelda’ is really represents its purpose. Of course, if you’re not a fan you can just use the slider pad and it works just as well, it’s just not the same.

For a game as historic as this, maybe the imperfections make it what it is, but as you make your way through the game, you have to wonder if the visual enhancements could have done with a bit of spit and polish here and there. All round, yes, the game is a belter in the graphical department however it’s when you really get close to something that you see certain parts seem like they still belong in the N64 era. The first thing I noticed concerning this was the bridge that links Kokiri Forest and Hyrule Field, where Saria gives Link her Ocarina. The character models really do look superb but everything surrounding them is incredibly cardboard, which is quite upsetting. This happens on various occasions though and it completely noticeable considering everything around it has been updated. It seems like an odd thing to miss.

Gripes? That’s the only one, and to be fair it is minor, perhaps the ‘Young Link’ slog is still a bit of pain. Having to walk absolutely everywhere until you can get Epona still bugs but with the game world being Hyrule, it’s barely a complaint. Maybe I’m just lazy.

‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ is exactly what you want it to be. It’s the original game, groundbreaking in its day, made even better.
I can’t praise this update enough. Yes there are niggles that should have been ironed out, certain aspects that seem to be overlooked which is a shame, but it really is a small price to pay for a game as well executed as this one. It is reason enough to go out and pick yourself up a 3DS, perhaps in the same way it was reason enough all those years ago to pick up an N64 to play the original. Without trying to sound to fanboyesque, it’s the best handheld Zelda game ever made, the greatest 3DS game so far, the best use of the systems 3D features, and without a shadow of a doubt one of the very best games of the year.

Ah, Nintendo. All is forgiven.

Borderlands 2 review.
Rayman Jungle Run review.
Angry Birds Trilogy review.
FIFA 13 review.
Dance Central 3 review.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Nintendo E3 2012 Round-Up.
Game off.
REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D

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A grouping of my Thumb Culture posts and other unabashed tomfoolery.

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