/page/3

REVIEW: Rise of Nightmares

Kinect goes utterly psychoticballs. 

Now, this is more like it. Remember when Kinect was first announced? Back in the days of Project Natal the hardcore were crying out for something to get their teeth stuck into. Something that we can show off to those Wii users that it’s us that has the serious motion control, it’s here to stay and you’re never gonna pick up a Remote ever again. You don’t need it, why would you? From now we’re gonna be wielding guns and swords with our hands, not controllers. Buttons? I don’t need em thanks, ‘Halo Natal’ is gonna rule the world. SIT DOWN MOTION CONTROL.

Um…yeah. Cut to a year later and we’re watching Microsoft’s E3 presentation of Natal, now called Kinect. ‘Kinect Adventures’, ‘Kinectimals’, ‘Kinect Joy Ride’, ‘Carnival Games’. Ooohhh I see, Microsoft. You don’t want to prove to Nintendo how to do it, you want to JOIN them. I see. *facepalm*

See, as much fun as you can have with ‘Kinect Adventures’ (River Rapid FTW), you can’t really assume the core Xbox fanbase are going to pick up Kinect for these games. Kinect had an incredible start in sales, but the software was seriously lacking in deep, dark, imaginative adventures and genuinely unique uses of the incredible technology Kinect can really offer. Well, here we go. Welcome ‘Rise of Nightmares’ – the funnest Kinect game to date, which isn’t really saying much. Let me explain.

Quite simply, there is nothing else like ‘Rise of Nightmares’ available on Kinect. From the visceral presentation to it’s action adventure / horror experience, you just can’t compare it to anything else. From your initial opening sequence – awaking in a jail cell with a woman, attempting to escape the horde (or 4) of the undead, only to be crushed between two enclosing walls surrounding you. Blood and guts pour across the floor as the words ‘Rise of Nightmares’ descend onto your screen. ‘Kinectimals’ this ain’t.

You’re playing as Josh, who you first encounter on a train with his wife, Kate. Josh is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to get sober, seemingly this has made the marriage rather strenuous as you get a right earful when a flask falls from your jacket onto the floor infront of her. This becomes null and void however when the train derails and Kate is missing. Working your way through the carriages (easier said than done) you will eventually arrive at a carriage covered in blood and bodies and you discover Kate has been captured by a mad scientist and his very own Frankenstein, carrying Kate over his shoulder.

During this sequence, you clumsily get used to the unique Kinect controls, certainly the most interactive of all the games so far released for the device. No controller required here, so all movements are with their respective body parts (pun intended). Wanna move forward? Place your foot in front of you, the speed you walk is determined on how close you move your foot towards Kinect. To move backwards, place your foot behind you. Left and right, turn your shoulders left or right respectively. It sounds a little complicated, and at first it certainly does take a huge amount of getting used too. Luckily, this sequence provides you with enough time to familiarise yourself with the controls and what they do.

It seems to take forever but once you finally come face to face with the enemies it’s sadly quite underwhelming. You have a varied choice of weapons, spread across the dungeons on the floors and tables, just a case of reaching out your hand to pick them up, which is nice. What’s not so nice is attempting to pick them up and getting surrounded by zombies at the same time, of course you can only really target a single enemy at once so picking up a weapon seems rather pointless, although they do get more exciting as the game progresses. Nothing really beats tearing a chainsaw through the face of the undead. The gore is naturally pretty substantial in ‘Rise of Nightmares’, the red stuff is everywhere you look, flying at your face (along with disturbingly accurate vomit, hitting your screen to shun your vision for an annoyingly long amount of time) and running down the walls, suffice to say this is a game for the hardcore Kinect player. Do it live up to that expectation?

Yes, kind of. Action, violence, swearing and booze? Check. All available at your mercy should you choose to divulge. A gripping story? Original levels, layout and design? Well, no. As you may have guessed from the description of your character, the story is really nothing more than saving your wife from the clutches of a mad scientist while tearing zombies apart with chainsaws and machetes. The design of the dungeons isn’t awful, but it’s not that great either, if you are really having trouble with the movement controls you can raise your right hand and have the game navigate for you, which will automatically take you to your next objective, with your hand still up in the air (only while walking though – when you reach an obstacle it’s up to you and your body to pass it) It’s at this point you notice that really the design is just A-B, save one or two particular areas. Reaching ‘B’ is usually just a prompt on the screen to interact with a door, a gate, a button or a lever. Just hold your hand out to interact, when done so another prompt will appear telling you to interact with what is in front of you the same way you would in real life. For example if you see a lever, move your hand onto the lever and pull down. Need to climb underneath something? Crouch! Weirdly, the only time Josh is able to do this is when prompted, something I found rather odd. There are plenty of obstacles though such as a hallway sequence featuring huge big ass guillotine blades hanging above you, which is all the more difficult when you realise Josh can’t look up, only left or right. No matter how hard you try to gaze is fixed at one line, annoying considering timing is essential in this particular section. It’s not all that difficult, save the final blade that won’t come down until you get right up next to it, which caught me out a couple of times. You can also forget about running, the fastest speed you’ll go is pretty much ‘brisk walk’, no matter how far you place your foot in front of you. It sadly becomes a little guesswork, and comes as quite a shock as its the first moment in the game you’re mentally tested, its only once the game is over you realise that was more or less the only time it happens.

Should I score this game down because it’s utterly brainless? Isn’t its inspired use of Kinect enough of a challenge to get your head around? Well yeah, but it shouldn’t be like this. If Kinect is to genuinely replace the controller as the standard for gaming, it has to weave into the game as seamlessly and as naturally as picking up a controller. Yes we’re very early in the conception of this technology, there is so much more to learn about how it really works and what it can do. SEGA are certainly moving in the right direction with the full body control, but it’s not even close to complete motion control. The controls work, they do. Every move you make is mimicked on screen, but that’s it. An argument for ‘on-rails’ is lightly sprung up here, but does that take away the point of Kinect altogether? The atmosphere of ‘Rise of Nightmares’ is without question its biggest draw. You have no idea whats around the corner, the lighting and the audio is second to none, the best we’ve seen Kinect provide so far. However none of this really matters when you’re stuck in front of a wall going around and around in circles, trying to move out of its way.

It’s not all bad though. A few reviews I’ve read has mentioned this particular section but I’m going to comment on it anyway, such is its devine genius.

Eventually you’ll meet Ernst, a nasty beast bigger than anything you care to imagine. Any movement or noise is his Achilles heel, so in response you have to stay completely still and utterly silent to avoid him noticing or attacking you. It’s a genuinely terrifying moment, and gets the blood racing and keeps you utterly engrossed. Surviving this section, breathe the biggest sigh you can muster, you’re going to need too. Definitely the game highlight.

‘Rise of Nightmares’ is such a mixed bag. I’ve been trying to explain the game to people, and how I perplexed myself on whether or not I enjoyed it. Truth is, there is fun to be had here. All you need is an immense amount of patience and you should get exactly what is expected from a game like this. It’s not exactly solid, but it’s by no means the worst game of the year. If you’re a fan of horror, get your body into it, you’ll have a great time. If you’re not, there isn’t much for you to see here.

[6.5]

REVIEW: Ugly Americans - Apocalypsageddon

The hit TV show gets a game spin-off. Feel the pain

Remember when license gaming was good? No, um..ok. Let me start again. All games based on TV shows have been brilliant, you’ve played the CSI games? Deal Or No Deal? Wheel of Fortune? Or..rather, anything on the Wii? Well, be ready to praise those unappreciated masterpieces because it’s all about to get a whole lot more disastrous.

‘Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon’ could be the most preposterously bollocks game I’ve ever played in my short yet ultimately enjoyable up until now existence. I’m gonna give it a shot on exactly why, bear with me – I won’t keep you long.

What we have here is a four-player co-op dual analog shooter (with gameplay similar to Robotron or Gauntlet) based on Comedy Central’s hit animated show Ugly Americans that features single player, local co-op multiplayer and online co-op. You have a choice of playing as one of four main characters (all with their respective voice actors from the show – that’s one point), all with ‘unique’ abilities that can be changed once you decide to ‘level up’ – should you ever want too. I haven’t noticed a single difference yet. The story itself is erm…uh…something is happening, something bad. You’ve got to stop it. Smart, I know. You’ll fight the same enemy countless times (mainly Man-Birds) and if you’re lucky enough to not want to throw yourself off a bridge by then, you’ll run into bigger enemies and bosses.

Over the course of the game, you’ll learn that each character has specific weapons. Players take on always original raving demons, delinquent man birds, and zombies by lactating fire or hurling wacky objects like flying demon skulls, fish, baseballs, paint cans and wrenches.

So, what works? Well, it does keep in line with the shows humour. The visual style is certainly very faithful to its source material, fans of the show should have no complaints in this particular department . That the original voice over artists are involved is also a bonus, so often actors shy away from their TV or Film characters in video games (Tom Hanks being the major player here), it’s refreshing to see an entire cast involved. But still, what the have to work with isn’t an awful lot.

The script is entirely unique to the game, which again is pretty good. That the fans of the show have a new story to enjoy along with it being an interactive experience will be a big draw. It’s also very funny in places. I say in places because it’s horrible most of the time. I’d never seen the show before playing this game, its given me no interest whatsoever in changing that.

It’s just so dull. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so bewilderingly bored with a title. They preach about the differences in character control, and yet..you only use the analogue sticks? How much difference can there really be? Well, there isn’t. Just take my word for it. It’s wholly unoriginal, along with endless amounts of the same enemies, the wonderful trick of shooting benches, lamposts and other random nonsensical crap to get powerups, mostly other weapons or money. Nothing really useful. Health is so few and far between it may aswell not be there.

There’s a great Indie Game called ‘I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMBIES 1N IT!!!1′, which for me is the absolute King of the modern dual stick shooter. Utter madness from start to finish and great fun to play with your friends. I went into this game – rather naively – with the same expectation. Which was daft. As soon as I finished playing this I jumped straight on it, reminding myself how a dual stick shooter should be done.

Also, $10 or 800 Points? I just can’t justify it – not even for fans of the show. This is the type of game you’d play if you were looking to kill time on the internet for ten minutes. Would I play this game if it was a free Flash game? Probably, if I genuinely had nothing else to be getting on with. As for paying for it, I think I’d rather choke on my own chequebook. There is just no way I can recommend a game that costs THIS much, is THIS bad and will make you type THIS in capital letters. Three times.

Think about the most repetitive, mindblowingly DULL game you could possibly think of. Now, multiply it by four. Divide it by six, then add four hundered and sixty thousand, two hundred and twenty nine. Then, find the nearest person you don’t like and force them to play it for seventeen hours without blinking. Then, take the game from their hands and remove their eyeballs from dangling atop the controller. Now, get yourself to the most disgustingly looked after bathroom you can think of and live in there for six weeks. Once you’re done, put the game down the toilet. Now, follow the game down the toilet, through the tunnels and into the ocean. Next, bury the game in the deepest, darkest hole you can find  so nobody can ever get to it again. Afterward, jump on top of a friendly Dolphin called Carlton and ride him to shore. When doing so, you’ll see an empty bridge. Swim to shore – or take Carlton for a ride, your choice and head into the nearest town and find some C4. Place the C4 on either side of the bridge and one in the middle – just to be safe. Blow up the bridge to ensure the rubble and destruction crushes the game, therefore making sure it can never escape. Then, while you’re standing on either side of the rubble and destruction you’ve caused, take a look at the Sun and wonder if that can help in any way. Head back into town and grab some rope. With the biggest lasso type movement you can make, throw the rope towards the sun, making sure it connects safely. Next, pull on the rope so the Sun can move closer to the Earth. Keep pulling until the Sun ends up in the ocean along with the rubble of the bridge and your buried game. Walk away whistling and skipping, knowing you’ve just done the world an amazing favour and we should honour and obey you for such courage. Ladies and gentlemen, ‘Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon’.

^^ BETTER THAN UGLY AMERICANS ^^

[3]

REVIEW: FIFA 12

The monster returns. Are you watching Pro Evo?

 

Has it really been a whole year? Each release of a new FIFA game just makes me feel older. I’ve bought every iteration of the game since 97′ on the Mega Drive and there have been fifteen since then. It makes you realise that just like yourself, the series is growing up.Info

Iwasn’t a huge fan of ‘FIFA 11′. Its biggest draw was undoubtedly the fact 11 players could participate on either side, and that was pretty much it. There wasn’t a huge jump from ’10′ to ’11′, although I preferred the former. What about the differences here though? Have EA Sports once again done enough to convince you to part with your cash to pay for yet another FIFA game? Are you like me, and you’ll just head out to get it either way and make up your own mind? That’s the thing about FIFA, it’s hard to review because the changes are such a personal thing. Some will love them and praise EA Sports for their innovation, others will spit on them waxing lyrical about how they’ve changed too much and its just not the same as it used to be. Damned if they do…

So, what then? This is FIFA. It is what it is. It’s not a game for ‘gamers’, it’s a game for football fans who just happen to own consoles and computers. From every last detail, it has everything a football fan could possibly want from an interactive experience of their favourite sport. Licensed leagues? Check. 2011/2012 complete season updates? Check. Grounds, kits, transfers? Check. Like I said, it’s FIFA.

This time round though…well. Some will cry, some will jump. Without doubt, in gameplay terms, it’s the biggest leap in the series’ history. Ooh, yes. But still, more on that later.

Well, let’s take a look at the major differences this time round. First things first, EA Sports Football Club. It seems that every game released nowadays needs to have some kind of XP, or ‘levelling up’. I’m not sure why, as its never it has never bothered me in the slightest, and yet here it is on FIFA this time round. To be fair, it doesn’t really get in the way. Near enough everything you do in the game will gain you an XP contribution, which is nice – you won’t be fighting for it like on most games as everything is noticed and discovered. You can also track your progress against friends, giving the game a little more competition between Gamertags. One of the cooler aspects of the game is the real world ranking system. At the start of the game you have to select the team you actually support in real life. The XP you gain will be added to their overall score across the world, basically more xp means higher ranking for your actual team, proving once and for all that Barcelona fans are better at FIFA than Huddersfield Town fans, or something.

Once this is all done and dusted, you enter a laboriously long online setup process. I’ll be the first to admit I despise the EA Online Pass. Having to pay extra for extra features when I already pay Microsoft for the privilege to even play EA’s games online is disgusting. Of course, if you don’t redeem this stupid pass, you can’t access anything. And so goes this stupidly long setup, connecting you with EA Online or some shit with your email address connected to your gamertag. Twenty minutes in, still not actually playing ‘FIFA 12′….

Oh! Done. We’re in,  here we go. the ‘FIFA 12′ interactive tutorial – which you’ll be familiar with if you played the demo – begins with the ever present Martin Tyler talking you through the new defensive system, running through drills and new tackling etc.. This time round we’ve got dribble take, slide tackle, (just an x tackle) jockeying, running jockey, contain (hold down LT for a little bit to keep the opposition a fair distance from anywhere), teammate contain (RB to get a teammate to do the same thing for you) and push pull (press B to nudge the player off the ball to gain possession). They all have their uses, although you’ll only really use one or two once you’re actually in a match.

Of course your home screen is placement for the typically epic FIFA menu.  Here is how they break down.

Kick off > Exhibition > Be A Pro Player > Be A Pro Goalkeeper.

Standard now in FIFA games. Exhibition where you can play a one off quick match. 90 minutes and over. Be A Pro, controlling a player you created getting him up the rankings from amateur to superstar. Be A Pro Goalkeeper, same thing but with a goalie, naturally.

Ultimate Team. Game Mode > Career, Tournaments, Create Tournament, Live Season.

This is where you start campaigns. Start your career as a player, a manger or both and work your way through the leagues. Create your own cup tournament or follow the Live Season, where you pay EA Sports even more money to follow the exact fixture season of your favourite team within the game. Arsenal fans may want to take note.

Xbox Live > Head to Head Seasons, Online Friendlies, Pro Clubs, Custom Games, My FIFA 12 Online.

The Xbox Live hub, where you control your online persona, start a season with a friend, find random games online etc. Nothing special to see here unless you’re willing to pay EA Sports more for the right. Grrrr.

Virtual Pro

Create a player you can use in your team throughout the game. Simple as that, really.

Customise

FIFA Arena Options choosing different stadiums for the practice area, My Music and Chants where you can edit and upload your own chants and music to the game, Edit/Create Players, Edit Teams (Stadiums, Change Squads Rosters – Team Rosters). Finally here you’ll find the Creation Centre, more or less where you upload/download pictures, videos and teams. Think of it similar to the File Share from ‘Halo’, for example.

My FIFA 12 Friends Records, Manual, Interactive Tutorial, Profile, Replay Theatre

The options including the manual. Only place to find it here, no physical copy comes with the game. Sign of things to come?

Ibegan a career mode as a player manager, essentially to get the best of both worlds for the sake of this review. I went to choose a team, and with my previous history of FIFA games, the most fun you can get from it comes by picking a team from the lower leagues and taking them to the top, which is exactly what I did here. At random I went for Southend United, 1 and a half stars? That’ll do me, fine. From there I entered Virtual Pro, where I created an uber superstar footballer version of myself. As with previous FIFA titles, the customisation options in Virtual Pro are second to none, able to change everything to your suiting regarding your player, right down to the preferred foot your player can shoot from, CHEEK placement, eye colour and more. Martin Tyler pops up again, describing that if you want the more extravagant look for your player, you’ll have to earn it. With a hearty chuckle, I might add. It’s nice having Mr.Tyler holding your hand. After several save screens you finally get to your HUD. As you’d expect, it’s brilliantly presented giving you all the details you could possibly need right infront of you. Your league on the right, news right in the middle and next game list on the bottom right. The top right is your menu where you can search on team management, squad ranking, injuries, contracts and kit numbers. Hitting ‘Back’ on this menu will open up your squad option (where you just were), transfers, fixture calendar, statistics and career overview.

So what of a match? Apart from a sparkly new opening (to every match, which you can skip thankfully), it plays like good old FIFA. A major difference this time round though is the pure fluidity. Every match is so smooth you feel like you’re playing on silk, such is the new movement of the players, which are unique to the individual player you’re controlling. For example, while I’m playing as Scunthorpe United against Arsenal in a cup match, my players just can’t keep up with Arsenal superstars like Van Persie, Fabregas etc. Every player feels like you’re genuinely up against them, which is exactly how playing FIFA should feel. Of course it ramps the difficulty up considerably, but you just can’t argue when it’s presented this well. FIFA veterans are going to scream their heads off in frustration, as legendary players of the game are going to get completely pwned, curse the game for it and never play it again claiming it’s ‘the worst game ever’ (something I’ve already seen on Facebook). The simple fact is: ‘FIFA 12′ is far more difficult than its predecessors, but in doing so it has made the game far more interesting to play, because you really have to forget everything you know and bloody challenge yourself. Yes, you can play it on amateur and still bang in a 12-0 victory over Barcelona playing as Rotheram, but whats the point in that? The big achievements only come when playing on expert or professional, and it’s going to test you, more than any FIFA game has tested you before. And I think that’s just brilliant. It single handedly gives you a reason to pick the game up, even if you already have previous installments, just to see the genuine challenge it presents. ‘Ninja Gaiden’ can stay in its cot, this is the serious shit up in here.

FIFA 12′ justifies its existence purely by being different. There is no way around it, ’12′ will challenge you and make you start all over again with the series. It’s unique features – those that will test any true FIFA player – will make this game almost historic. You can hear the internet already cry out with LOVE IT/HATE IT theories about the game, and how great/awful the new abilities are but you can’t deny its balls, so to speak. EA Sports don’t really have to doanything to make this game sell, it sells itself – up there with the behemoths of ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Halo’. ‘FIFA 12′ will be another massive seller on its name, and whatever you may think of the franchise there is just no getting away from that. What EA Sports do is make the game better and better every year, and die trying. I can’t even imagine sitting in a meeting discussing ‘whats next’ for the franchise and throwing in everything they can to create the ultimate football game for the true fan, and they have absolutely succeeded. It’s almost perfect, save the odd one or two thing. EA Sports charging far too much for their extra online features could be considered blasphemous, and sadly seems to be the norm and we reach a purely digital age. The situation is, I payed full price for this game and get told I still have to pay to access all the features that aren’t even DLC? Give me a break, I’m not up for this and I can’t imagine many else are either. Still, they are all optional – so let’s not complain too much eh?

I‘m blown away by ‘FIFA 12′. As a huge football fan everything I could possibly want is here. From the little things such as live scores coming up on my feed from my actual team to realistic chants from the stands dedicated to the team you’re playing as. I’ve fallen in love with this iteration and will perfectly tie me over until ’13′ appears. You will hear fans cheering along with jeer about the new features, curse and praise EA for their efforts, and can you ask for more than that? Well, one more thing…I do miss Andy Gray.

So, honestly now…what next?

[9.2]

REVIEW: Batman: Arkham City

Rocksteady shouldn’t be this good. The release of ‘Arkham City’ marks only their third game (long forgotten PS2 and Xbox shooter ‘Urban Chaos: Riot Repsonse’ and ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ being the other two respectively) and yet here they have created undoubtedly one of the games of the year, one of the most spectacular games of the decade and – crucially – gives the Bat and his fans yet another incredible game he always deserved.

There’s no denying I’ve been anticipating this game since the wonderful moment I left Joker on the roof of Arkham Asylum nearly two years ago, being hyped for a game doesn’t even cover it – I was seething when our lucky friends across the pond got their hands on the game before us cold rainy types in Britain did. I followed every announcement, every new enemy reveal along with playable characters wondering in awe and wonder how they could possibly fit all this into one game and it still be every bit as powerful, exciting and demanding as ‘Arkham Asylum’. Rocksteady are throwing all their cards on the table at once hoping that it all comes together in a true celebration of Batman and the crazed inhabitants of Gotham City. Will it feel as connected as ‘Asylum’? Will the enjoyment of just gliding as the Bat still have the same impact second time round? What about the combat? The most refined system in any adventure game I have ever seen? All these giant green question marks were hanging over me as I booted the game up for the first time…

My word….this is it.

The game kicks off with Bruce Wayne (Batman, if you really didn’t know) being captured and thrown into Arkham City, a enormous, sprawling sectioned off area in Gotham City – now ran by former Asylum warden Quincy Sharp – where the criminals and the insane are given free reign and be responsible for their own survival. The opening is truly spectacular, before you know it you’re caught in a tussle with your hands tied behind your back against the Penguin and his goons (with a suitably Bob Hoskins-esque accent going on). It seems odd but being able to actually play as Bruce Wayne instead of Batman initially is actually quite surreal. You’re well informed as the game begins that Hugo Strange know you’re Batman, and you must play ball else he’ll tell the world your secret. It’s an interesting story concept, and one that rears it’s ugly head a little later on. Anyway, to Arkham City itself. It’s a wasteland, with the inmates left to die with very little food to share between them. Cliques are created, gangs are formed – the ‘citizens’ of Arkham City are made to turn on each other for the amusement of their leaders, namely here – Two Face, Penguin and The Joker.

Speaking of the Joker – voiced for the final time by Mark Hamill – after the events of ‘Asylum’, he’s been left gravely ill, dying throughout the game taken care of by his ever reliable companion Harley Quinn. It’s visible the as soon you first encounter the man himself (‘there’s plenty wrong with me‘… – from the trailer) and can’t help but be completely blown away by the incredibly impressive Joker model. It’s unmistakably him, looking the worse for wear and even more terrifying than ever before. The level of detail that’s gone into his ‘illness’ is amazing. It seems like a small thing to be so impressed with, however you just know it’s only going to get better from hereon in.

To the gameplay. Essentially, if you’ve played ‘Asylum’, you’ll feel right at home here. What we have here is Arkham Island sprawled out five times over. The combat remains as simple as ever. Fight with one button, counter with another – Rocksteady have literally just taken their winning formula and gone completely wild with it. As with ‘Asylum’, there are very specific ways you have to take out particular enemies. While the goons who are unarmed are dispatched with relative ease, once a single goon with a gun is thrown in the mix you have to rethink your strategy completely. If they all do, it becomes a test of mental prowess and how much patience you have. A room with five or six goons inside all armed to the teeth will generally need to taken out one by one, without any of the others spotting you. They can be easily taken down but they have a pretty good aim. My tactic was to wait until the group spread out a bit, once one is left on his own it’s time to pounce, take them down and then head back up into the skies to do it all over again. It’s a focused effort, as if you screw it up two shots with a shotgun is all that’s needed to take you down, tactical play and observing the room before you make a single move are essential in order to survive and progress. This time round some of the enemies have shields, and can literally only be taken down with a particular attack, or else the shields will come into contact with you and take a rather absurd amount of your health away. Without wanting to spoil it for you, there is a section just before a meet with Mr.Freeze where you’re facing off against seven enemies – two with guns, two with shields, one with body armour and two unarmed. Critical thinking is needed here, you just can’t jump straight in and expect to come out victorious. Watching from above is the order of the day. The enemies don’t really have a particular pattern of direction, they just kind of stand around bitching to each other about how bad they have it. It isn’t until one breaks off that you can really begin with Glide Attacks and takedowns. In all without getting touched once I did this particular section in just under ten minutes. I’m pretty sure there are hundreds if not thousands who will scoff at that time and laugh me off the internet however – you can never be too sure in ‘Arkham City’. Patience, is indeed a virtue.

Without hesitating I fell right back into the routine, as soon as I donned the Batsuit – after it came hurtling from the sky in what can only be described as a Bat-Pod – then began the game on the top of a building overlooking the entire City, I will admit a lump may have been caught in my throat. It was an absolutely beautiful sight to behold. You can truly see the depth of this brand new playground that Rocksteady has created from the very first glance and with Alfred now at your side (via radio communication, along with ‘Asylum”s Oracle) to just drop shit into Arkham City for you, you feel far more backed up than ever before.

Along with the combat of course the Bats has his range of gadgets, essential to progression throughout the game as the combat is. Pretty much everything you ended ‘Asylum’ with you will start with here, minus the line launcher and the Ultra Batclaw (replaced her with the original Batclaw) – all available at the press of a D-Pad direction. A variety of the gadgets have been either improved or have new capabilities. The line launcher for example, once it’s acquired (after a rather awesome geek off with Batman, Robin and Catwoman) now has the ability to shoot in another direction whilst being used, allowing Bats to flip over and change direction whilst in the air. The Cryptographic Sequencer is now able to track signals and take them out. Finally the Remote Control Batarang has a brake and a boost option, however the damned thing is still rather tricky to maneuver.

Any new ones? Why, of course.

First and foremost, the one you’ll find using the most (or I certainly did during my first playthrough anyway) is the Remote Electrical Charge. A big-ass taser gun that powers generators so you can open doors (along with crouching or sliding underneath them should they not open all the way). One more the more useful new gadgets are the smoke pellets, used mainly to catch armed enemies off guard as you make your swift getaway to higher ground or behind them. Ice grenades can make pathways over water and freeze enemies, finally you can get yourself a Balled Rope for the John Marstons in you who want to tie up those goons. They all have their purpose and they are all fantastic, making you feel like Bats more and more as you upgrade them through your XP you acquire throughout the game.

The thought of trying to condense everything I have experienced throughout this game for this review was a little frightening. It’s hard to think of single moments that really stood out because quite honestly the entire game is full of incredible set pieces and delirious fan service. Pretty much, if you know your Batman folklore, you’ll be over the moon when you see what and who Rocksteady has crammed into this game. If you’ve been following the billion or so news stories Thumb Culture has posted about ‘Arkham City’, you’ll know for damn sure a huge number of friends and foes appear in this one. From ‘Asylum’ antagonists The Joker, Poison Ivy and Riddler (now with 400 side quests across the city to complete, nearly four times more then previously) to switchblade characters like the ‘Mad Hatter’ who isn’t known in the mainstream for being in the Batman series since 1948 (in comic book Batman #49, fact fans) who – again, trying to avoid spoilers here – provides you a head trip rivaling those of the bizarre Scarecrow quests from Asylum. The immortal Raj al Ghul provides you with some Demon training, creating a bizarre desert world for your practise. The list goes on with Calendar Man (featuring an absolutely brain damaging YEAR long achievement/trophy conquest) and just many more I won’t spoil here. It’s an incredible fan service and something Rocksteady should be forever commended for. And the music, wow…the composition here is nothing short of absolutely stunning. Creating tension and fear and jubilation around every corner – it’s the greatest score of any game I’ve ever heard.

Any bad points? Catwoman is awesome and needed more missions and the Penguins stupid accent. That’s all I have to say on this.

In Closing

You may have already noticed, but I genuinely cannot heap enough praise on this game. It’s rare for a game to live up to its ridiculous hype and when we were knocked for six by ‘Arkham Asylum’ coming from nowhere to be the best superhero game ever made, anticipation skyrocketed for this sequel. Luckily, the anticipation has been justified. Play it on the biggest, loudest TV you can and fully immerse yourself in the amazing world that Rocksteady has created around for you. This is a game that fully deserves the status of ‘Best….Ever’. How many ‘Best Ever”s is it though? Well, it’s the Best Current Generation Game Ever (so far), the Best Superhero Game Ever, the Best Voice Acting In Any Game Ever, the Best Open World Game Ever, the Best Music Orchestrated In Any Game Ever..the Best Game Ever? Who knows, it’s one that will certainly stand the test of time and forever be spoken of in internet forums and the like, it’s a game that will continuously turn up on Best Game Ever lists and how future open world games should be judged on. An achievement of such magnitude, all you can say that’s ever so slightly worrying about the future of this game is that what on earth Rocksteady will come up with next. There has been rumours of another game in this franchise, and whatever Rocksteady decide to do next the anticipation levels will be apocalyptically high after this, you have to wonder if Rocksteady may have played all their ‘AWESOME’ cards just a little bit too soon? Who knows, I don’t care right now. Let’s worry about that hurdle when we come to it, eh?

How else can I finish this off than saying I’m so frickin’ happy this game turned out as amazing as I imagined it would. Never before has a game been crafted so utterly perfectly. A spectacular evolution of the blueprints created by ‘Arkham Asylum’, this sequel has created a future standard of open world adventure games.

Rockstar, time to up your game…

[10]

REVIEW: Football Manager 2012

There’s a slight feeling of nostaliga creeping its way through here. For as long as I can remember I’ve been playing football management games, whether it be ‘Football Manager’ or it’s original iteration ‘Championship Manager’ – even ‘Ultimate Soccer Manager’ was a fixed point in my gaming life growing up. You have to ask any wife or girlfriend about the impact the game has, once it’s released you can be damn sure those playing it aren’t going to put it down for love nor money. For a game that from the outset looks so deliriously complex, getting older with the franchise is akin to me as doing Maths. It’s all numbers and statistics and yet you can’t argue with the overall outcome. What you end up with is the only solution it could have ever been, right? For those people who have divorced over this game, you only need to ask them. This game changes, makes and ruins lives. An incredibly common reason for pulling a sicky or staying in rather than going out. It’s returned – ladies and gentlemen, ‘Football Manager’ is back.

Much like most annual releases, ‘FM 2012′ – as it will hereon in be referred too – has the usual questions surrounding it. What’s new? Is it worth my money again? Can I still just add a new manager to my next team I’m playing and win easily?

I’ll answer them one by one, let’s begin now.

What’s new?

Ah! I’m so glad you asked. First things first, if you’ve never played ‘FM’ before, ’2012′ has a wonderful tutorial to ease you in. It’s almost a completely new section of the game itself, as it doesn’t run throughout the game, rather alongside it. For new players, it’s more or less essential as at first glance ‘FM 2012′ – or any in the series, for that matter – is incredibly intimidating. The tutorial takes you step by step through every option and every button you need to press to advance in the game. It’s thorough to the point of exhaustive, but absolutely terrific for beginners. For experienced ‘FM’ players who don’t think they need it, it’s still worth checking out as it can show off the new features to you easier than just going and discovering them. The tutorial is where you’re really going to find out how to really get the most out of the new game.

Elsewhere the interface has had a bit of an overhaul. It’s not incredibly different from last year, however the subtle changes are noticeable almost immediately. More or less, the higher your monitor resolution, the more you’re going to get. Everything is here (and more), just in different places. Compare it to moving house and taking everything with you, just placing your stuff in new rooms. Also everything is customisable, meaning you can choose what you see and when you see it, which is nice.

An interesting facet of the game for me has always been the interaction between yourself and the players. ‘FM 2012′ takes it to a whole new level allowing you to talk to them in different ‘tones’ – which will then create a different reaction from the players depending on which one you choose. You can be chilled and laid back ensuring the players will be at ease throughout the game or you can throw hairdryers at their heads, enforcing the law the way only a football manager knows how. It’s cool to see the differences in morale this can have. If you say something calmly the players can either be thankful or think nothing of it, seemingly assuming you don’t mean it, or you can kick their ass and their morale can either become motivated or angered. It’s very dependent on the player which way it goes. Big divas like Rooney and Giggs will get angry when you suggest their playing is of a less than stellar standard, whereas young up and comers from the reserves will listen and get themselves fired up and continue to do better. While it’s just barking orders and the game engine, it works wonderfully and makes it worth doing, as it can really have an affect on the outcome of a match. Full team meetings and individual chats with players are now also included, again it’s down to you to see if they have any kind of affect or not.

Speaking of the matches, it’s now a staple of the franchise to be able to view your hard work in tactics and formation in 3D. When I say 3D, we’re not talking ‘FIFA’ levels of realism but it’s most certainly better than it ever has been. A variety of options are available to view the match, including the new ‘Director Camera’ and a behind the goal perspective on the action, although the latter is fairy useless. The iconic action ticker remains, keeping you informed of the happenings in the game if you’re not using any of the 3D views – the alternative being the more traditional top down 2D view where the players appear as tactical circles.

By far though the biggest addition is the ability to add and remove leagues throughout your career. In ‘FM’ days of old, the database included in the game was so ferociously large it just couldn’t squeeze onto smaller computers, therefore you would have to choose your chosen country and league and then just stick with it. If you chose an English team to manage, that’s the country you would stay in throughout the game, with no chance of moving abroad – with the only choice if you wanted to move to start an entirely new game. Now though, you have the wonderful option to add in any league you want throughout your management reign, effectively allowing you to move back and forth across countries on the fly. It’s a great addition and one the series has been crying out for.

Finally, as we live in a society where we cannot keep a single thing a secret anymore and we absolutely MUST post completely everything that happens in our lives onto social networks, ‘FM 2012′ of course has options to upload news and score updates – fictional ones, from your campaign – to Facebook and Twitter, along with being able to record highlights from your matches to upload to YouTube. It’s a nice touch and it’s not completely in your face, which is nice – how much these will get used is up for debate, however I see the YouTube uploading taking off more than the others.

Is It Worth My Money?

Look at it this way, it’s ‘Football Manager’ – you know already if you’re going to buy it or not. The same goes for ‘FIFA’, ‘CoD’, any franchise game when their latest iteration is released. If you’re a fan and do everything you can to divulge yourself into the world of ‘FM’, this is for you. ’2012′ is without doubt the finest in the series, which is no small feat considering its history. Is it much of a step up from ’2011′? I’d say so, the new changes I have mentioned above are worthy enough to give the game a serious try. If you’re a veteran of the series, of course you’ll know exactly what to expect – incredible detail, unbelievable depth, masterful presentation and a genuine feeling of accomplishment when results go your way. There isn’t much of a better feeling than taking a victory over your fiercest rivals after a good hour of working out tactics and formations. It’s the RPG of a lifetime when you have to put together your soldiers for battle. One training session overlooked and you’ve lost the war, even if it is Manchester United vs Crawley Town.

Of course, another thing to remember is that ‘Football Manager’ just has no competition anymore. Nothing even comes close in terms of how successful this game has been, Sports Interactive own this genre and they have for a long time. Because of this, could they sit back and get complacent? Of course, people are gonna buy it anyway right? They most wonderful aspect of Sports Interactive is that they just don’t. They strive to make each version better than the one before it, even if the competition has scarpered. For that, they must be commended. ‘Football Manager’ may more or less be the only football management sim left, but there’s a reason why. It truly is the greatest around, and will be until someone has the balls to beat them at their own game. As for ‘Football Manager 2012′, if you have a PC (or a Mac, of course) and you love your football, it’s as essential as having SkySports.com running in the background on a Saturday afternoon. It just deserves and demands your time.

(And yes, you can still just add a new manager to your next opponent and win easily – but don’t. It ruins it for everyone).

Welcome back to your first love gentlemen, the love affair starts again. Explain that your lawyer…

[9]

REVIEW: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

I shared this review with Thumb Culture writer Max Drinan. We figured two different perspectives on this kind of game would suit it well. Hope you enjoy. 

Ross: Well well, Modern Warfare – we meet again. Can’t deny I’ve been anticipating this game for a long time – since MW2 really. The story ended on a great cliffhanger and I’ve been itching to know what happened next…

Max: Not much, it turns out. It was fun, polished and the setpieciest setpiece-fest yet, but the story totally lacked the ability to surprise me. MW2 may have had an insane plot, but it meant it consistently sidestepped expectations, and the whole World War 3 premise felt like a significant leap from its predecessor. I reckon it’s a problem with MW3 being the victory piece, so you spend a lot of your time rather predictably winning the war, and beating the bad guys.

Ross: I share that sentiment. With the story picking up immediately after MW2, it was interesting to see just how much damage had been done between the two games. It appeared WW3 happened somewhat quickly, which seemed a bit off. Although, it was cool to see Captain Price and Soap again, despite Soap not really contributing an awful lot this time round. It almost seemed like he was Navi to your Link. Kind of behind you and always having your back without contributing an awful lot. I think it’s fair to say he was wasted this time round. In terms of the story, we were always going to see a victory on the Western side, even if – without wanting to spoil too much – it seemed like nobody really won or lost.

Max: And what was the deal with your mystery protagonist you take control of? The attempt to tie him into the rest of the story felt so contrived, and I’d much rather have been in the shoes of Soap again, because I felt zero connection to Mr. Russian. I felt little connection with any of the characters you play as, really. You’re switched in and out far too much, with too many one level appearances and a really awkward scene that tried to recreate the impact of the infamous No Russian level.

Ross: Ah, THAT scene. Yeah, it seemed a little ‘No Russian’ for my liking. Nothing there to progress the story, or have any connection to the characters we control – just there for shocks. I found it quite disturbing to be honest, I had strayed from the leaked videos because I wanted to see it play out in the game. It was absurd.

Max: The campaign’s not without its highlights, despite all our unkind words. It’s got that pounding Call of Duty velocity to it that makes it very difficult to stop playing, and without the painful trial-by-death levels like the Favella in the last game. The game may not have been able to surprise story-wise, but in terms of what happens around you, it never holds back. Not that they never show restraint, there’s still the sneak-about-with-Price levels that I never seem to get tired of. That guy continues to be the highlight of the series.

Ross: Captain Price is pretty much iconic now, a true badass who just wants to get the job done. His presence really makes going through it worthwhile, you look forward to his next mission. In terms of campaign highlights, Paris is a definite plus for me. For all the bombast KA-BOOM that MW3 offers, it was never displayed better than in this level. The fight in front of the Eiffel Tower was just plain fun, impressive from start to finish. Once the campaign was done it was that level I kept going back too, such was its excitement and diversity. The underground in London was also excellent fun, was just unfortunate we didn’t spend more time there. Seemed a very quick in and out mission despite London featuring heavily in the promotion.

Max: I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve never seen a tube station that clean before.

Ross: LMAO!! *COUGH* Sorry. Thoughts then of the campaign overall?

Max: It’s a CoD campaign, with everything you expect that to mean. It annoys me when other games copy their formula, but I don’t have a problem with Call of Duty being Call of Duty. It’s a blast, just a predictable blast. It’s all worth it for the final image though. That’s what I call an ending.

Ross: Agreed. While the fun and excitement and pure velocity of the whole thing comes flying at you at 250mph, it’s quite easy to disregard it as all flash and no substance. The outsiders will always see it that way. But like you said, CoD is CoD – it ain’t ever gonna change to please anyone. No denying that Infinity Ward / Sledgehammer should be commended for their efforts in creating a true example of how WW3 could play out. All I can say is I felt depleted it was so short. A campaign you can finish in under six hours is hugely disappointing.

Max: That lack of volume isn’t a complaint you can level at the rest of the game though. Because, well, god damn. Talk about a reviewer’s nightmare. I’m gonna go on the record and say that my time spent with co-op and multiplayer can only really be called a surface level inspection. There’s so much of the stuff!

Ross: Let’s begin with Spec-Ops. Cracking stuff, with some gems hidden under the surface.

Max: I’m an absolute fiend for co-op, especially of the local variety, and I really appreciate that the series has always maintained the support for split screen. So Spec-Ops is where the value’s at for me. The missions work much like last time: rejigs of levels from the campaign, often from the enemy’s point of view this time, which you try and high-score your way through with a friend. But these have been overshadowed this time by Spec-Ops Survival, which is a COD take on the wave-based survival modes which are all the rage. While the stupid and hyper-aggressive AI seems ridiculous in the campaign, in Survival, where the game entirely embraces being a game, it makes perfect sense. Mindless hordes of enemies of the free world are great fun to shoot, and the mode comes with its own levelling and unlock system that’s as addictive as it is in the competitive space, minus the endless frustration.

Ross: One area of Spec-Ops I really enjoyed was the President capture, very intense and rewarding. Probably the highlight for me, although as you say Survival is just brilliant. Ferocious fun with friends, even on your own it’s a good way to test your skills before heading into the full multiplayer. I’m just a sucker for Zombies from World at War and Black Ops. I’m fully aware it’s a Treyarch thing and as such has no place in the Modern Warfare series but I did miss it quite noticeably. The pure insanity of it all is a welcome relief from the seriousness of everything else, and Survival didn’t give me the same satisfaction. On its own merits though, it’s killer and hopefully remains a staple of IW’s series.

Max: Talking of staples of Modern Warfare, how about that multiplayer, eh? Boy, is it fast. I’ve not played a Call of Duty online since COD4, and despite what Ron Perlman tells you, war haschanged. It’s a constant forward momentum, die every minute, respawn instantly trial of exhaustion. It’s honestly a bit much for poor old me.

Ross: It’s completely mental. From the moment you begin you just don’t stop, consistently moving from one place to another, running around like a complete Jonah Hill moron kidding yourself that you can 1-up everyone and out manoeuvre the lot of them with your mad C4 droppin’ skillz. Unfortunately, it never works! Always someone better than you, always the ‘other’ team seem more organised and focused than yours – it’s just complete carnage. But goddamn, I’m going out on a limb here and I don’t care – It’s the best multiplayer CoD has ever had. If you’re in it for the long haul and you are absolutely determined to Prestige over and over again, it’s absolutely worth your time. Infact, Kill Confirmed is worth your money alone. A stunning addition.

Max: Ha! I was preparing my own Kill Confirmed love-fest. That mode is genius, absolute genius. Objective-based modes have always suffered in Call of Duty because so many people just don’t give a shit. What Kill Confirmed does, if you’re unaware, is have a killed player drop dog tags, which can either be collected by your team, “confirming the kill”, or by the enemy, denying it. It forces cooperation, but at the same time the rewards are entirely selfish on the part of the player. It’s seems to obvious now that it’s been done, and I really hope every game from now on rips it off. I would love to see it in Halo.

Ross: I can’t praise it highly enough. The fact it’s practically eliminating scope tactics (if your team has no idea what they’re doing – which is quite often) has made the mode a completely different beast to say Free-For-All or Team Deathmatch. If you want to win with some pride itrequires skill and focus, which is something the aforementioned modes are sadly lacking in some aspects. Speaking of Halo, Rage, Bulletstorm and *gulp* Battlefield…how does CoD stack up these days? Still the boss?

Max: Oh you just had to use the B-word. That marketing mess was nauseating, mostly because they are such different games, tailored to different types of players, offering a different experience. For the fast-paced, twitch-shooting, map-memorising gameplay, CoD’s unbeatable. That said, the series has reached a point of diminishing returns. Imagine MW2 never came out, and instead all that game contained was combined with MW3, would anyone notice? Spec-Ops Survival and Kill Confirmed are fantastic additions, but the reality is MW3 is a forty quid charge to play Call of Duty for another year. That’s fine for a lot of people, evident from MW3 yet again beating sales records. The value is, after all, extraordinary. An exciting campaign, perhaps the most comprehensive co-op suite available, and sixteen mutiplayer maps with an endless variety of modes and unlocks. But if you’re getting tired of the series, this is near identical. I’m glad I have it for the co-op, but if I didn’t get a review copy, I’d have waited for a price drop.

Ross: As an overall package? It’s worth every penny. Modern Warfare 3 is exactly what you expect it to be. Nothing more, nothing less. Luckily, what you expect it to be is technically brilliant, bombastic, over the top and full to the brim of multiplayer wonderment. The campaign is horribly predictable and bubbling the surface of ‘been there, done that’ – that being said, it’s the third in a trilogy. How much different did you really want it to be? If the story is continuing, why not the gameplay? The forty odd quid you put down for this pays for a wonderful multiplayer experience through Spec-Ops, a campaign that just finishes off the story, makes your eyes drop out of your skull in sheer spectacle but requires you to switch off your brain – think about it too much and you’re gonna wish for something far more concrete and challenging – however if there is a CoD fan still inside you, this isn’t gonna disappoint. You get what you’re given.

Max: And now the tricky bit. What do we score this behemoth? I’m of the 8 mindset myself.

Ross: 8? For MODERN WARFARE?! CAN YOU IMAGINE?! Sure, that’s good with me – was thinking the same.

Max: There you have it, folks. It’s an 8. Golly.

Ross: Here’s to Modern Fourfare. See you there!

[8]

REVIEW: Halo Anniversary

Can Master Chief’s first adventure still hold up today?

Imagine being 343 Industries right now. Taking over the reigns of one of the most successful console exclusive brands of all time, a series adored by millions across the world and being told to kick out the door the following trilogy and make it better than anything that has come before it. Before that though, you have to remaster one of the greatest games ever…

Yeah, I’d be crying too. You see, now Bungie have jumped off the side of a cliff into pastures new, Microsoft are determined to milk the cow of ‘Halo’ for all it’s worth, purchasing up yet another development studio to make nothing but ‘Halo’ for – we presume – the next ten or so years over two different console life cycles. It’s the job now of 343 to prove to fans that they have got what it takes to ensure continued success and fan appreciation for a beloved franchise. It’s like giving the front door key of Star Wars to Brett Ratner.

First out of the starting block is ‘Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary’; a remake released perfectly timed to coincide with the ten year anniversary of the original game. With Microsoft already playing into the hands of the cynics re-releasing something that seems so contrived and unnecessary, 343 have the frighteningly daunting task of making this remake stand up to the original, which many consider as one of the best FPS games of all time. A game that was a true revolution when it was released. Does it hold up today? Well, no.

You see, I remember 10 years ago like it was yesterday. Opening up the original Xbox’s errr… box to find the black behemoth with the thwacking great X on the top staring back at me with the controller that was the size to compliment it. My first game was, of course, ‘Halo’. Before this I had spent most of my FPS-playing life getting stuck into ‘Quake III Arena’ on the Dreamcast and ‘Goldeneye 007′ on the N64 and to me, ‘Halo’ beat them all. Everything you could have possibly asked for in an FPS was there. Perfect controls (some of us will forever argue if the original Xbox controller was actually built with ‘Halo’ and nothing else in mind), out of this world graphics, unquestionable depth, terrific AI, the way you drove / flew every vehicle without even pressing any buttons to make it happen, and Sgt. frikkin’ Johnson! Everything upon everything about the game made it the best game I had ever played at the time, and it was the perfect ammunition needed to shoot down the Covenant of PS2 owning friends consistently shoving ‘Metal Gear Solid’ in my face.

Naturally, ten years later I was curious. I followed with great interest the tidbits we would post, had a quick blast of it at Eurogamer and was cautiously excited this was going to be the next step in bringing ‘Halo’ back to the pedestal it once stood upon, soaring over those underneath with a hearty chuckle and some sticky grenades. My word, was I in for a shock.

I‘m gonna say this now; if you’ve played ‘Combat Evolved’ in any form, across any medium (original Xbox, XBLA, PC) then move along; there’s nothing for you to see here. Your love for the game will angrily and loudly diminish throughout the campaign experience as you very quickly remember how repetitive, frustrating and unhelpful the game is, and how for some reason you never seemed to notice this first time round because you were dumbstruck by the awesomeness of it all. Keep in mind this is literally just a graphical overhaul. So little has been added to this game that actually benefits or makes the campaign any better it’s hardly worth mentioning. Off the top of my head, in the worlds most horrendous FPS level, ‘The Library’, where you spend the entire time running through corridors that look exactly like each other over and over and over (and over and over…) again, doing battle with the Covenant and The Flood, with no possible explanation about where you’re going or what you’re supposed to be doing. Seemingly plunking you into this disaster of a level to do nothing more than test your patience and mental strength than your adventurous sense of direction has had – wait for it – the inclusion of lights on the doors and arrows on the floor. Woo! Thanks 343 – could you have possibly redesigned the level just that little bit more to make it a bit – oh I don’t know – fun? It’s not even the first time it happens in the game either, which is the most frustrating. While there is so much to love about the campaign which I’ll get onto shortly, I was at least hoping on 343 ironing out those small areas that desperately needed improving.

Anyway, let’s bloody cheer up and talk about what rocks. Right off the bat, there are plenty of levels that look utterly lovely with this new lick of paint. Namely the still fantastic Assault On The Control Room and The Silent Cartographer. Without question two of the greatest FPS levels in recent memory that truly still holds up today against your ‘MW3”s and your ‘Battlefield’s – no denying they are truly genre defining levels that deserve their place in gaming history. The work that’s gone into making them look brand spanking new also is very impressive. A lovely gimmick – horrible word, but that’s what it is – in this game is the option to flip back and forth between the shiny new engine and the original with a simple press of the back button, allowing you to see just how much work 343 has put into their baby. It’s certainly quite striking at first, the difference is enormously noticeable in particular sections of the game, however there is a slight delay between the jump – about one second – so don’t go pressing it in the midst of battle, the screen will go completely black with the game still going on without you. Ugh.

You see, that’s another concern. The ‘shiny new’ engine is the same used from ‘Halo: Reach’. All very lovely but it just can’t hold a candle to say, DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine – even going as far as to say ‘CoD’s engine is stronger than this one. I haven’t even got a clue what happened to the faces of the NPC’s during the translation. Suffice to say, I thought at one point I was using the old engine, turns out I wasn’t. Same happened with one area on Assault On The Control Room where, while looking lovely, actually impeded my progress by just being too detailed. I had to resort to turning on the old engine to progress because of all the wonderful snowflakes appearing from the sky. I literally could not see a single thing infront of me, instead I could hear a wave of Grunts hitting me from every corner. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that kind of defeats the point of an upgrade to me.

One area of the game I can’t fault is the music, stormingly remastered for this package. A full orchestra is used to re-make the music from the original almost note for note, with the iconic ‘duh duh duh DUUHHHH,…duh duh duh DUUUUHHH!!’ bits kicking in just at the perfect moments. If the game frustrates you to high heaven, the music definitely will not. The mesmerising soundtrack is here from start to finish with no compromise and it’s stunning. Almost worth the final score, to be frank.

Multiplayer? Got ‘Reach’? Get the map pack, nothing to see here. What you get essentially is a ‘greatest hits’ of Halo 1 and 2 (including Reach variants and abilities) along with a new Firefight map. It’s disappointing. The one saving grace is the online co-op for the campaign, which a nice addition. The ‘Reach’ style multiplayer remix on the old maps is fine too, however it’s unfortunate the campaign wasn’t offered the same courtesy. Assault On The Control room with Jet Packs? Hell. Yes. Ergo, it’s not here.

Now, I’m not one to moan that much. I tend to look past little niggles and focus on the overall picture, but this ‘upgrade’ just seems to me like a wasted opportunity. Yes, when it’s good it’s brilliant and untouchable. When it’s bad, it’s just so disappointing. It’s hard to really justify – despite the value price – if you’ve already blasted this game to hell and back any time in the last ten years. There just isn’t enough upgrade here to really warrant it.

Was ‘Halo 3′ your first? What about ‘Reach’? If the answer is yes to either of those questions, then consider this recommended to see where it all began. If not, save your cash and put it towards one of the other ten million games available this month while we all wait for ‘Halo 4′.

Cus let’s be honest, that’s what we all really want, isn’t it?

[6]

Gaming On And Staying Young

When did we all get too old to enjoy ‘family’ games?

 Hi there! Name’s Skittles. I’m a SuperCutePerfectlySafeFarTooHappyAndNotAtAllSlightlyCreepyDigiTiger from your new favourite Xbox 360 game, ‘Kinectimals’. I spend my days playing with balls – big ones, small ones, furry ones and super bouncy ones, I also have a Frisbee which I can chase if it goes really really far and I can also drive tiny cars!! I play with all these toys and lots more with my best friend in the whole world, Ross! He’s a human, and he’s 24, but it’s not weird! He’s the only human on an island inhabited by me and all my friends, including rabbits! It’s an awesome place, and Ross is the coolest guy ever for spending his time playing all sorts of super fun games with us, cleaning us, rubbing our bellies and feeding us. Well, I better go. I just wanted to say hello! Come and see me again sometime, it doesn’t matter what age you are or how silly you look making us happy, you know you want too!!

Bye for now! Skittles :D

Hello all, back again.

Now, I should explain, I really have spent the last two and a bit weeks mostly playing ‘Kinectimals’. I consider my gaming collection to be of the highest standard, with AAA titles happily mixed with indie games. I could have spent the last two weeks of my gaming life playing them, as there are still a few I’m yet to complete (damn you ‘Assassins’ Creed: Brotherhood’ and your Borgia flags), but honestly, ‘Kinectimals’ has been on my radar for a while and I couldn’t wait to finally get my hands on it. So during a little bit of time off from work I thought I would. Then the unthinkable happened….

I get a call from my Dad. Now, he could probably attest to be Kinect’s biggest fan. Ever since I first showed him the revolutionary wonders of ‘Kinect Adventures’, he rushed out to buy himself a 250gb Xbox 360 with Kinect and his mind gets continuously blown by each game he purchases. It is profoundly annoying my Dad has a bigger collection of Kinect games than I do, calling me almost every other day with a big smile on his face (presumably) that he’s just acquired a new game with a ‘Kinect’ moniker. The day he bought ‘Kinectimals’, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.  He calls me up in his usual chirpy manner and informs me that he’s just bought said game, and the first thing that goes through my head is the image of a 61 year old man with a still really rather impressive head of hair rolling around on the floor hugging a digital tiger, washing him and all the other slightly awkward things in order to progress. I asked if he enjoyed it, and he said he did, but obviously it’s not designed for his age group (REALLY?!). He asked me if I had ever played it, and I said no. The next day he drives the best part of 30 miles to my home to bring it down for me.

His dedication to spreading the word of Kinect shouldn’t go unnoticed. I’ve recently been made aware of friends of my Dad going out and buying an Xbox with Kinect after spending an evening at his house. Microsoft should be paying him commission, such is his skills in selling the system. He’s a gaming Pimp. Yup, that’s my Dad.

I get it home and stick it on. Kinect looks at me in disbelief as the poor thing hasn’t really been used in a while. It stands to attention and scans the room to find me.

‘Kinectimals’ begins. In a refreshing change, my Xbox isn’t greeted to grim visuals of a post apocalyptic world, people aren’t getting shot in the head and there are no loyal friends getting stabbed through the back, not here. The sun is out and it’s a beautiful world, one could consider it the happiest place on earth (take that, Disney). Waterfalls are flowing, rainbows are inexplicably appearing despite the obvious lack of clouds or rain, rabbits are jumping up and down and impossibly cute tigers are play fighting then awkwardly looking in each others eyes lovingly as if they truly are in some kind of weird CG Tiger-Love. Charlie Sheen ain’t got nothin’ on this.

Once the ridiculously long introduction video ends, I’m greeted by what can only be described as a flying talking vermin-like creature known as Bumble, who informs me that the whole island has just been going totally batshit crazy for my arrival and have been preparing round the clock to make it just perfect for me. I feel genuinely welcome, I’m sure I’ll fit in just fine. After a little walk I have the option to choose my cub that I can play with for the rest of my time here (anyone ever seen that PETA South Park episode?). The cubs are all lined up waiting for me to make my selection, and seeing as I feel so close to these animals already, it’s a tough choice to make. I feel like I’ve made a real connection to each one, and I genuinely felt like I didn’t want to let any of them down or leave them on their own. Ah, gaming.

‘Kinectimals’ has grabbed me already. Long story short I really have fallen in love with it and I have no idea where that came from. I always knew I wanted to give it a whirl, after sitting through the E3 2010 coverage, it looked like one the more impressive technical achievements and above anything else that peaked my interest. I finally get my hands on it and it’s everything I expected and more. No, it’s not particularly deep. There’s little to no storyline running through it, but it’s just not about that. It’s ‘Nintendogs XL’, a genuinely fun game designed the for the kids. It’s more interesting than just another minigame collection, and that’s why I think it’s awesome.

One ‘family’ game that utterly deserves your attention is without a doubt the outstanding ‘Toy Story 3?, the game of the movie. I’m crazy about it, I’ve spent hours and hours immersing myself into the ‘Toybox’ mode. A complete open world where you are free to do whatever you please. It’s built to bring back the feelings of childhood, where in your imagination anything was possible. It succeeds so brilliantly, it made me start to worry about when the Buzz Lightyear I became such a grown up. I love that gaming can take me out of real life and throw me straight back to that feeling I felt toward the first video game I ever played, ‘Alex the Kidd in Miracle World’, the Best Easter Egg Ever, built into SEGA’s Master System II. Feeling like a kid again brings me back to playing these sorts of games, the luck of them being fantastic is just an added bonus.

Rock Hard

It’s common knowledge that games these days are, shall we say easier than those from yesteryear. Easier in the sense of the more common than ever ‘checkpoints’ and saving your progress. Plenty of modern games don’t even have ‘lives’ anymore. You die, you start at the last checkpoint. Lovely. I remember playing through ‘Alex the Kidd’ and ‘Super Mario Bros.’ and being utterly rubbish at them. After getting the 25th Anniversary ‘Super Mario All Stars’ collection for the Wii, I put them on again and actually scared myself at how bad I was. The updated versions of these games have save points, yes, but if you lose all your lives before you get a chance to reach one that’s it. Right back to the start, you throw your Wiimote down on the floor and start crying, despairing that ‘old-school’ games are too difficult and there is no justice in the world. Some people I know don’t think about this. They assume that older games are far easier, which of course they’re not. Kids these days have no idea the blood sweat and tears we put into our gaming back in the day. Why on earth would we want to go back to that pain? That unadulterated misery? Nostalgia. Playing ‘Mario Bros’ and the original Sonics take us back to our youth. We remember buying them (or having them bought for us), putting the brick of a cartridge into our shiny consoles and turning them on for the first time. Hoping that you have become a better gamer over the course of your life, and then getting stuck trying to jump over the mechanical fish on the first Green Hill Zone. There are gaming Gods out there who can sail through these levels and not bat an eyelid as they’ve spent years mastering the perfect course through each level, people who can complete the entirety of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ in less than 10 minutes. I am not one of those people. I have tried to be, me and my friend spent almost an entire evening trying to beat the Guinness World Record for fastest time through the first level of Sonic 2 which currently stands at 21 seconds (damn you Justin Towell!) and the best we could do was match it. The holder was kind enough to upload a video on exactly how he did it, and we studied it intensely (cus we’re COOL, OK?) but we could never succeed. I’m not ready to give up now, I shall master it and the kid in me will either think it’s really really cool or will tell me to go outside. I do hope it’s the former. Probably better for my future-self that I haven’t wasted my life up till now.

Playing these games again is a joy. It’s something I can’t really explain, as it’s such a personal experience. I remember getting ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ for my Nintendo 64 on Christmas Day and going slightly bonkers, and to this day it still fills me with excitement every time I stick it on. It’s complete nostalgic brilliance. Everyone has their perfect game, to think that in 20 years or so games like ‘Kinectimals’ and ‘Nintendogs’ will be considered nostalgic is one crazy notion, with people writing articles about how they were brought up on Wii, Move and Kinect. To imagine where gaming will be at that point is a conversation for another day, and it’ll be up to them to write about our favourite industry in the same way that we do. On the flipside, look at the motion control era now. I’ve written about how my Dad is fascinated by it’s concept. How he was blown away by Kinect and how he enjoys it at home now hosting regular gaming nights with his friends. It’s absolutely brilliant. My Dad is just a personal example, I used to work in an over 50?s hotel on the Isle of Wight and one of the activities we ran was Wii Bowling. It was hugely popular, and I would hear stories of how they all had one at home and how much they enjoy it. So as much as I can say that ‘Kinectimals’ and ‘Toy Story 3? are keeping my inner child happy, I can imagine it’s more than ten fold for those considered 2 generations above me. It’s fascinating to see how gaming brings everyone together, and how it can affect people in such personal ways when they play their favourite games from their youth. My Dad has no time now for ‘Pong’, ‘Pac-Man’ or ‘Tetris’, he’s moving with the times. He buys Xbox magazines now and talks to me about how good ‘Child of Eden’ looks. I tell him I write for a gaming website and he now checks it regularly.

Whatever you may think of the ‘family’ genre, there are some truly brilliant games hidden away. Embrace your inner kid and enjoy these games as much as you enjoy your franchise blockbusters.

I promise you, it’s worth it.

Achievement Unlocked: Can’t Remember Outside

Turn away if you’re against pervert moths.

 

These days, it’s nice to have friends around you. Especially with those big life moments. Buying a new flatscreen and showing it off for the first time. Going to the big game and getting resoundingly Chucklebrothered, waking up with your hands tied up to a strangely yellow coloured lampost, wearing nothing more than a Samus Mask with a sign hanging around your neck saying ‘If Found Return To Hogwarts‘ with what you’ve been told is a very shaky wand slightly ajar sliding rather awkwardly out of the side of your mouth.

NEVER happened to me.

Then you have those moments where you just need them to be your buddy. You promise them money – or in my case, a pizza – and eternal respect for the ultimate in gaming friend activity: Achievement Whoring.

This is a job which is dedicated only to the friend who will genuinely say yes to you requesting a night with his wife. He’s the most laid back, happiest person alive and just gets his happiness from helping out others. Imagine though, if you will, that said best friend is not available? Who are you going to turn too? Your other friend? The other who is happy to help but doesn’t really want to because it interrupts his schedule of watching Jeremy Kyle with a packet of Doritos and his laptop on his sofa on Facebook inexplicably stealing next doors Wi-Fi. You don’t want to tear him from that which brings him the most pleasure in life, right? Of course not. Therefore, you need an alternate. Or – you could just do it yourself?

You join me at a bit of a crossroads. A few months back, for whatever reason I got rid of my Xbox 360. It was a difficult decision to make, yet ultimately seemed like the right thing to do given the circumstances I found myself in at that point. I had alot of history with this particular Xbox 360 – 4gb S model, very nice – in the short space of time we had together I started and finished many games, including ‘Halo Reach’, ‘Black Ops’ – including an uncountable amount of Zombies – ‘Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’ ‘FIFA 11′ and even sat back and ‘Backseat-Game’d’ the hell out of my roommate as I watched him annihilate ‘F1 2010′ several times over. The beauty of the latter was that he did it all on my Gamertag, which was incredibly nice of him as I took all his achievements, and I still find it funny to this day (I know you’re reading this, I love you. And thank you). We blasted through ‘Reach’ together on Legendary on this Xbox, spent an entire evening attempting to beat the Guiness World Record on ‘Sonic 2′ (which he did, and I didn’t), teamed up on ‘Arkham Asylum’ and decimated the Joker. This Xbox was where we discovered Kinect for the very first time. The first time we jumped our way through River Rapids and waved our arms for floaty Space Balls. It was a sturdy, powerful machine that took everything we threw at it and shoved it right back in our faces in glorious High Definition. My Gamerscore (I’ll admit, mainly thanks to my roommate) was getting very respectable. Not 12-year-old-kid-in-America-sitting-on-his-ass-doing-nothing-but-levelling-up-on-Black-Ops respectable, but respectable enough for a guy who worked full time and shared his Xbox with somebody else. I have nothing but fond memories of that machine, even if it was my 6th Xbox 360 in my lifetime, it never quit on me once. And just like that, it was gone.

Cue to a few months later and I’m in a better place so I pick myself up a shiny 250gb Xbox 360 Slim. My word, is it beautiful. I can USE THE THEATRE ON REACH! AT LAST! I can FILE SHARE BECAUSE I FINALLY HAVE THE HARD DRIVE SPACE TO DO IT! I CAN INSTALL MY GAMES! HALLELUJAH! I HAVE ALL THESE ARCADE GAMES I’VE BOUGHT OVER THE YEARS I CAN DOWNLOAD AGAIN FOR FREE AND STICK ON MY HARD DRIVE! SONIC 1! SONIC 2! SONIC 3! SONIC & KNUCKLES! SONIC 4! PERFECT DARK! BANJO KAZOOIE! EVERYTHING’S GOING SO WELL!! AND IT’S…IT’S…..IT’S SOO SHINY. THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!

….

Except….it wasn’t. It. Just. Wasn’t.

The brand new, shiny 250gb Xbox 360 Slim is set up. Everything is plugged in and ready to go. The Xbox needs an update. OK, was expecting that, it’s cool. Update done. Now into the setup, happy times. Date, Time, Location. Great. Xbox Live? Connected. Fantastic. Sign up for Xbox Live or Recover Gamertag? Recover Gamertag, please. Email address…no problem :D . Bring it all back!!

Password. Oh, frag.

I don’t remember it. At all. Nothing is coming back to me. Right, straight to Xbox.com. Sign In. I use my email address and pray that the password I typed in is the correct one. It isn’t. Right. ‘I can’t remember my password’, clicked. Security Question. Security Question. SECURITY QUESTION? WTF? I don’t remember the answer to my security question! This is a HOTMAIL account, nobody sets up a new hotmail account anymore? I set up this account when I was THIRTEEN, Microsoft. This isn’t fair. Right, um..*puts in what could possibly be the answer*. ‘The answer to your security question is incorrect. Blocked’.

BLOCKED?! I go to keep trying..’You have failed too many times to access this account. This account is now blocked. Please contact Windows Help for more support’. Bloodyell, fine. I call the lovely Xbox Customer Service people, after waiting in the queue for what seemed like a full eternal life (it is Microsoft, after all) I finally get through to a lovely lady called Gertrude – I don’t remember her name – who asks me for my Gamertag and post code connected to my billing address. Done, lovely. I explain the situation, saying that I’m trying really very hard to recover my Gamertag but I don’t have my password or my security question. I can answer any bloody question about my Gamertag, not a problem..the security side of it not so much. She asks me when my last Microsoft Points transaction was and how much it was for. Bollocks, she had to ask me that. I go with 1000 Points on the 12th October (the day before ‘Sonic 4′ was released. Had to make sure I stocked up), remarkably it works. She then asks me the last three letters of my password. Come on, we got this far, and I’ve already explained that I don’t remember my password, so we go round in circles. Eventually, after lots of telling her lots of things including my credit card details associated with my Gamertag, she still can’t/won’t let me in. That’s it. It’s all gone. Everything we played. Everything we worked for. Every XBLA game I paid for. Game over, man. Game over. To be honest, I felt like crying, it was a brutal moment. How could everything just have disappeared like that? It actually hurts to think about now, my online rep was getting very cool indeed and now it’s gone and it’s never coming back. Life is so unfair.

After picking myself backup after the tragedies I have suffered, I begrudgingly set up a new Gamertag.

However upsetting it was for wonderful memories such as these to just disappear, a new Gamertag is a new Gamertag. The idea of paying Microsoft to change my old one seemed utterly ridiculous, so the idea of thinking up a brand new one for free was rather exciting really, as my old one had fallen into some kind of black hole with no chance of it ever coming back. As I twiddled my thumbs thinking of a cool new name, I always had in the back of my mind my old Tag, and as such..rather boringly and disappointingly, just added a ’2′ to the end of my original one. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but it made sense to me. There was nothing wrong with my original tag, so I just left it there and kept on. Now, what a heartbreaking moment it was to see my Gamerscore as precisely ZERO. I was kept thinking about everything in my power I could do to bring it back up to the levels of brilliance it once enjoyed, so many moons ago. First things first, pick up some cheap copies of ‘Reach’, ‘ODST’ and ‘Black Ops’. I annihilated those three games in terms of Achievements so they were my first port of call. I picked up the ‘Halo”s rather easily, got them both for under £15, lovely. ‘Black Ops’ proved far more difficult, as I couldn’t find a pre-owned copy anywhere for less than £25. I’m not cheap, but there is no way I’m paying £25 for a pre-owned game, even if it is bloody ‘Call of Duty’. I know that the games in this particular series have absolutely no interest in dwindling in price until the next iteration is released, but seriously? ‘Black Ops’ hit our stores nearly a year ago, the fact it’s not even half  price yet pre-owned is somewhat frightening, ergo, I left it. I’ll pick it up again at some point, until that day, the ‘Halo”s will have to do.

Before all this, though. I found myself playing those stupid free games that come built in to every Xbox 360. I was bored so broke out the mother rockin’ behemoth that is ‘Hexic HD’. Got myself a couple of achievements on there, which I focused intently on. I remember because there were two moths on my TV screen looking at me like they wanted my body in a naughty way. Perverts. I got these Achievements very happily. The ball was indeed rolling.

Now, what to play first? ‘Reach’ I know like the back of my hand, so that’s probably a good a place as any to start. The fact you can get Achievements for stupid things like ‘Recommend a File’ and ‘Uploading to File Share’ makes it a no brainer for some quick points. I wanted to get through it quickly, so with no shame or reluctance, went straight for the Heroic difficulty. I was thinking to myself, does it really matter? ‘Halo’ is notorious for it’s regens, and you just start over at your last checkpoint. I wanted to run, not to walk. Heroic was fine enough for me. Bring it on, Noble Team! Let’s er..start, the fight. R.I.P. Kat :( .

‘ODST’, however, is a different beast altogether. The controls are all messed up, for starters which is annoying. The whole game is so damn dark you need the Visor set to ON for more or less the entire game. The enemies are in huge numbers and unpredictable. The levels aren’t as big as those found in the main series – everyone probably knows this, but ODST was originally meant as DLC for ‘Halo 3′, until the game became so huge Bungie decided to release it as a physical disc, packing in the full ‘Halo 3′ multiplayer – so running through it shouldn’t be too difficult. Heroic it is. Um, oops. Bad idea. Hang on, I’m shamelessly Achievement Whoring, here. I take a quick look at the Achievement list. You get the same points for completing the game on Heroic as you do on Normal? Thanks very much, I’m going back to Normal. Do I feel guilty and a little weak? Yes. Do I care? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

As expected – not to blow my own giant frikkin’ Rod Gun or anything -, I sailed through both games. I’ve played them both to death and could have probably done it with my feet. ‘Reach’ isn’t the most difficult game in the world, of course, but ‘ODST’ at the highest level does present a serious challenge. Well, it did. Once. Not anymore. Inbetween the Campaigns I assured myself I would get some random multiplayer Achievements, which I did. I also managed to squeeze in some Forge creation, without question my favourite part of ‘Reach’. What next? Well, I have a LoveFilm account, may aswell rent some games to Bitch-Slap for Achievements. Wait…what’s this? ‘Avatar: The Burning Earth’…..

If you’re in it for some shameless Achievement Whoring. Look no further than ‘Avatar: The Legend of Aang – The Burning Earth’. A game so freakin’ terrible, it stands on it’s own as a testament to developers doing utterly nothing with modern technology and pitifully staying in the last generation. Its execution is horrible, its voice over work dreadful, its graphics just…nasty. It takes the skills and talent of every AAA game developer and throws them into some useless disrepute as you wonder how they can stand side by side in the same industry. Don’t – DON’T buy this game, ever. For fucks sake, don’t buy this game.

However….

For Achievements? It is without doubt the very best game ever made.  No game even comes close. If you’re reading this article you probably know about this games legacy, about how it’s still full bloody price EVERYWHERE you look purely and utterly because of it’s Achievements. Clever marketing tool? Perhaps. Like I said, though. Don’t buy this game, it’s so horribly dreadful. Do, however, rent the crap out of it. Borrow it from a friend who was stupid enough to buy it. Steal it, then give it back. It won’t take you long, you can get every single Achievement in the space of around 5 minutes. Just. Press. B. 1000 G’s are yours without breaking a sweat. Can’t believe it? Trust me, somehow pick this game up without paying for it, and you’ll see what I mean. It really is quite amazing. Some people argue the developers – THQ, of all people – put all the Achievements at the very start of the game as they knew the whole game sucked and assumed nobody would play on past the first level, while others argue they just had no idea what Achievements actually meant. The truth is, from THQ themselves, that ‘the Achievements were placed where they were with kids in mind’. Aww, ain’t they sweet?

Now, yes I rented it. Yes, I got the 1000 Points. I’m not going to pretend I’m the only one, a quick glance through my friends list on Xbox Live and I see pretty much all of them have done the same thing. I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness, it’s a quick way to get Gamerpoints. Its legacy will live on for a long long time.

At this point, I’m about a quarter of a way towards my original score, which isn’t bad going in the space of two weeks, I reckon. I continue to soldier on in my perilous mission, in the hope that I reach those dizzy heights of fame and fortune one requires when reaching such an important milestone in life. My current Achievement Whore of choice is ‘Burnout Paradise’, not particularly easy for Achievements but certainly brilliant fun. Plenty to do and the Points just come along with it. Plus DJ Atomica of Crash FM is just awesome, isn’t he?

What games am I avoiding? Well, the pure unfairness of ‘Red Dead Redemption’. As fantastic, mystical, wonderous and beautiful as the game is, it’s brutally unfair with Achievements. I’ve never worked so damn hard in my life to finish a game, only to get very little back in the way of Points. Originally, that isn’t why I finished it. Back in the day – like, last year – it was all about finishing the game to finish the game. I didn’t care so much about Achievements, they just were all part of powering through. The satisfaction of completing a game like ‘Red Dead Redemption’ was a great feeling, something you can only get with games. It wasn’t until my roommate started getting a pretty hefty Gamerscore of his own that I started to really take notice to the fact that he could be defeating me on my own Xbox, something I just couldn’t let happen. He completed ‘Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’ before I did. There was no way I was gonna let him take all the glory. If anything, he gave me the determination to power through ‘Brotherhood’ and ‘Red Dead Redemption’. Now of course, because of Gamertag Recovery fail he’s lightyears ahead of me in the Gamerpoints stake, which is doubly annoying because he’s now replayed ‘F1 2010′ and reclaimed back the Achievements he so kindly donated to me. You can’t go wrong in life when you have friends like him. Anyway, I completed ‘Red Dead Redemption’ and got 90G for my efforts. 90?! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FAR I’VE GALLOPED ACROSS THIS BLOODY MAP? How many people I’ve killed and bears I’ve gutted? 90 points? It was a cruel twist of fate on my part, I was expecting and demanding more. I’ve since ran through it again and got little Achievements, but nothing breaks the heart more than playing through that entire damn game just to get the Achievement equivalent of a pat on the back. Don’t even get me started on ‘Undead Nightmare’. The game has been tossed out of the window.

Whatever you may think of my shameless Achievement Whoring, it’s really all about trying to recapture that time I had with my original 360 and hoping that it wasn’t all completely wasted. I love my gaming as much as the next person, and I hate to see my times and efforts be in vain. It’s a tried and tested motivation, but one that seems to divide people. Do you play games to finish them 100%? Are you that gamer? The one that won’t stop until every Achievement available for that game is unlocked. The one that sees the game as incomplete until every picture has been mysteriously coloured in. I’ll be honest, I’m not this person. I do love my Achievements but I won’t go out of my way to get every single one, I just don’t have that kinda time y’know? Except of course for ‘Avatar: The Burning Earth’.

Which person are you? Let us know below.

Fancy a game? Add RosskoAK862. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, I can tell.

Cya pals!

REVIEW: Rise of Nightmares

Kinect goes utterly psychoticballs. 

Now, this is more like it. Remember when Kinect was first announced? Back in the days of Project Natal the hardcore were crying out for something to get their teeth stuck into. Something that we can show off to those Wii users that it’s us that has the serious motion control, it’s here to stay and you’re never gonna pick up a Remote ever again. You don’t need it, why would you? From now we’re gonna be wielding guns and swords with our hands, not controllers. Buttons? I don’t need em thanks, ‘Halo Natal’ is gonna rule the world. SIT DOWN MOTION CONTROL.

Um…yeah. Cut to a year later and we’re watching Microsoft’s E3 presentation of Natal, now called Kinect. ‘Kinect Adventures’, ‘Kinectimals’, ‘Kinect Joy Ride’, ‘Carnival Games’. Ooohhh I see, Microsoft. You don’t want to prove to Nintendo how to do it, you want to JOIN them. I see. *facepalm*

See, as much fun as you can have with ‘Kinect Adventures’ (River Rapid FTW), you can’t really assume the core Xbox fanbase are going to pick up Kinect for these games. Kinect had an incredible start in sales, but the software was seriously lacking in deep, dark, imaginative adventures and genuinely unique uses of the incredible technology Kinect can really offer. Well, here we go. Welcome ‘Rise of Nightmares’ – the funnest Kinect game to date, which isn’t really saying much. Let me explain.

Quite simply, there is nothing else like ‘Rise of Nightmares’ available on Kinect. From the visceral presentation to it’s action adventure / horror experience, you just can’t compare it to anything else. From your initial opening sequence – awaking in a jail cell with a woman, attempting to escape the horde (or 4) of the undead, only to be crushed between two enclosing walls surrounding you. Blood and guts pour across the floor as the words ‘Rise of Nightmares’ descend onto your screen. ‘Kinectimals’ this ain’t.

You’re playing as Josh, who you first encounter on a train with his wife, Kate. Josh is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to get sober, seemingly this has made the marriage rather strenuous as you get a right earful when a flask falls from your jacket onto the floor infront of her. This becomes null and void however when the train derails and Kate is missing. Working your way through the carriages (easier said than done) you will eventually arrive at a carriage covered in blood and bodies and you discover Kate has been captured by a mad scientist and his very own Frankenstein, carrying Kate over his shoulder.

During this sequence, you clumsily get used to the unique Kinect controls, certainly the most interactive of all the games so far released for the device. No controller required here, so all movements are with their respective body parts (pun intended). Wanna move forward? Place your foot in front of you, the speed you walk is determined on how close you move your foot towards Kinect. To move backwards, place your foot behind you. Left and right, turn your shoulders left or right respectively. It sounds a little complicated, and at first it certainly does take a huge amount of getting used too. Luckily, this sequence provides you with enough time to familiarise yourself with the controls and what they do.

It seems to take forever but once you finally come face to face with the enemies it’s sadly quite underwhelming. You have a varied choice of weapons, spread across the dungeons on the floors and tables, just a case of reaching out your hand to pick them up, which is nice. What’s not so nice is attempting to pick them up and getting surrounded by zombies at the same time, of course you can only really target a single enemy at once so picking up a weapon seems rather pointless, although they do get more exciting as the game progresses. Nothing really beats tearing a chainsaw through the face of the undead. The gore is naturally pretty substantial in ‘Rise of Nightmares’, the red stuff is everywhere you look, flying at your face (along with disturbingly accurate vomit, hitting your screen to shun your vision for an annoyingly long amount of time) and running down the walls, suffice to say this is a game for the hardcore Kinect player. Do it live up to that expectation?

Yes, kind of. Action, violence, swearing and booze? Check. All available at your mercy should you choose to divulge. A gripping story? Original levels, layout and design? Well, no. As you may have guessed from the description of your character, the story is really nothing more than saving your wife from the clutches of a mad scientist while tearing zombies apart with chainsaws and machetes. The design of the dungeons isn’t awful, but it’s not that great either, if you are really having trouble with the movement controls you can raise your right hand and have the game navigate for you, which will automatically take you to your next objective, with your hand still up in the air (only while walking though – when you reach an obstacle it’s up to you and your body to pass it) It’s at this point you notice that really the design is just A-B, save one or two particular areas. Reaching ‘B’ is usually just a prompt on the screen to interact with a door, a gate, a button or a lever. Just hold your hand out to interact, when done so another prompt will appear telling you to interact with what is in front of you the same way you would in real life. For example if you see a lever, move your hand onto the lever and pull down. Need to climb underneath something? Crouch! Weirdly, the only time Josh is able to do this is when prompted, something I found rather odd. There are plenty of obstacles though such as a hallway sequence featuring huge big ass guillotine blades hanging above you, which is all the more difficult when you realise Josh can’t look up, only left or right. No matter how hard you try to gaze is fixed at one line, annoying considering timing is essential in this particular section. It’s not all that difficult, save the final blade that won’t come down until you get right up next to it, which caught me out a couple of times. You can also forget about running, the fastest speed you’ll go is pretty much ‘brisk walk’, no matter how far you place your foot in front of you. It sadly becomes a little guesswork, and comes as quite a shock as its the first moment in the game you’re mentally tested, its only once the game is over you realise that was more or less the only time it happens.

Should I score this game down because it’s utterly brainless? Isn’t its inspired use of Kinect enough of a challenge to get your head around? Well yeah, but it shouldn’t be like this. If Kinect is to genuinely replace the controller as the standard for gaming, it has to weave into the game as seamlessly and as naturally as picking up a controller. Yes we’re very early in the conception of this technology, there is so much more to learn about how it really works and what it can do. SEGA are certainly moving in the right direction with the full body control, but it’s not even close to complete motion control. The controls work, they do. Every move you make is mimicked on screen, but that’s it. An argument for ‘on-rails’ is lightly sprung up here, but does that take away the point of Kinect altogether? The atmosphere of ‘Rise of Nightmares’ is without question its biggest draw. You have no idea whats around the corner, the lighting and the audio is second to none, the best we’ve seen Kinect provide so far. However none of this really matters when you’re stuck in front of a wall going around and around in circles, trying to move out of its way.

It’s not all bad though. A few reviews I’ve read has mentioned this particular section but I’m going to comment on it anyway, such is its devine genius.

Eventually you’ll meet Ernst, a nasty beast bigger than anything you care to imagine. Any movement or noise is his Achilles heel, so in response you have to stay completely still and utterly silent to avoid him noticing or attacking you. It’s a genuinely terrifying moment, and gets the blood racing and keeps you utterly engrossed. Surviving this section, breathe the biggest sigh you can muster, you’re going to need too. Definitely the game highlight.

‘Rise of Nightmares’ is such a mixed bag. I’ve been trying to explain the game to people, and how I perplexed myself on whether or not I enjoyed it. Truth is, there is fun to be had here. All you need is an immense amount of patience and you should get exactly what is expected from a game like this. It’s not exactly solid, but it’s by no means the worst game of the year. If you’re a fan of horror, get your body into it, you’ll have a great time. If you’re not, there isn’t much for you to see here.

[6.5]

REVIEW: Ugly Americans - Apocalypsageddon

The hit TV show gets a game spin-off. Feel the pain

Remember when license gaming was good? No, um..ok. Let me start again. All games based on TV shows have been brilliant, you’ve played the CSI games? Deal Or No Deal? Wheel of Fortune? Or..rather, anything on the Wii? Well, be ready to praise those unappreciated masterpieces because it’s all about to get a whole lot more disastrous.

‘Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon’ could be the most preposterously bollocks game I’ve ever played in my short yet ultimately enjoyable up until now existence. I’m gonna give it a shot on exactly why, bear with me – I won’t keep you long.

What we have here is a four-player co-op dual analog shooter (with gameplay similar to Robotron or Gauntlet) based on Comedy Central’s hit animated show Ugly Americans that features single player, local co-op multiplayer and online co-op. You have a choice of playing as one of four main characters (all with their respective voice actors from the show – that’s one point), all with ‘unique’ abilities that can be changed once you decide to ‘level up’ – should you ever want too. I haven’t noticed a single difference yet. The story itself is erm…uh…something is happening, something bad. You’ve got to stop it. Smart, I know. You’ll fight the same enemy countless times (mainly Man-Birds) and if you’re lucky enough to not want to throw yourself off a bridge by then, you’ll run into bigger enemies and bosses.

Over the course of the game, you’ll learn that each character has specific weapons. Players take on always original raving demons, delinquent man birds, and zombies by lactating fire or hurling wacky objects like flying demon skulls, fish, baseballs, paint cans and wrenches.

So, what works? Well, it does keep in line with the shows humour. The visual style is certainly very faithful to its source material, fans of the show should have no complaints in this particular department . That the original voice over artists are involved is also a bonus, so often actors shy away from their TV or Film characters in video games (Tom Hanks being the major player here), it’s refreshing to see an entire cast involved. But still, what the have to work with isn’t an awful lot.

The script is entirely unique to the game, which again is pretty good. That the fans of the show have a new story to enjoy along with it being an interactive experience will be a big draw. It’s also very funny in places. I say in places because it’s horrible most of the time. I’d never seen the show before playing this game, its given me no interest whatsoever in changing that.

It’s just so dull. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so bewilderingly bored with a title. They preach about the differences in character control, and yet..you only use the analogue sticks? How much difference can there really be? Well, there isn’t. Just take my word for it. It’s wholly unoriginal, along with endless amounts of the same enemies, the wonderful trick of shooting benches, lamposts and other random nonsensical crap to get powerups, mostly other weapons or money. Nothing really useful. Health is so few and far between it may aswell not be there.

There’s a great Indie Game called ‘I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMBIES 1N IT!!!1′, which for me is the absolute King of the modern dual stick shooter. Utter madness from start to finish and great fun to play with your friends. I went into this game – rather naively – with the same expectation. Which was daft. As soon as I finished playing this I jumped straight on it, reminding myself how a dual stick shooter should be done.

Also, $10 or 800 Points? I just can’t justify it – not even for fans of the show. This is the type of game you’d play if you were looking to kill time on the internet for ten minutes. Would I play this game if it was a free Flash game? Probably, if I genuinely had nothing else to be getting on with. As for paying for it, I think I’d rather choke on my own chequebook. There is just no way I can recommend a game that costs THIS much, is THIS bad and will make you type THIS in capital letters. Three times.

Think about the most repetitive, mindblowingly DULL game you could possibly think of. Now, multiply it by four. Divide it by six, then add four hundered and sixty thousand, two hundred and twenty nine. Then, find the nearest person you don’t like and force them to play it for seventeen hours without blinking. Then, take the game from their hands and remove their eyeballs from dangling atop the controller. Now, get yourself to the most disgustingly looked after bathroom you can think of and live in there for six weeks. Once you’re done, put the game down the toilet. Now, follow the game down the toilet, through the tunnels and into the ocean. Next, bury the game in the deepest, darkest hole you can find  so nobody can ever get to it again. Afterward, jump on top of a friendly Dolphin called Carlton and ride him to shore. When doing so, you’ll see an empty bridge. Swim to shore – or take Carlton for a ride, your choice and head into the nearest town and find some C4. Place the C4 on either side of the bridge and one in the middle – just to be safe. Blow up the bridge to ensure the rubble and destruction crushes the game, therefore making sure it can never escape. Then, while you’re standing on either side of the rubble and destruction you’ve caused, take a look at the Sun and wonder if that can help in any way. Head back into town and grab some rope. With the biggest lasso type movement you can make, throw the rope towards the sun, making sure it connects safely. Next, pull on the rope so the Sun can move closer to the Earth. Keep pulling until the Sun ends up in the ocean along with the rubble of the bridge and your buried game. Walk away whistling and skipping, knowing you’ve just done the world an amazing favour and we should honour and obey you for such courage. Ladies and gentlemen, ‘Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon’.

^^ BETTER THAN UGLY AMERICANS ^^

[3]

REVIEW: FIFA 12

The monster returns. Are you watching Pro Evo?

 

Has it really been a whole year? Each release of a new FIFA game just makes me feel older. I’ve bought every iteration of the game since 97′ on the Mega Drive and there have been fifteen since then. It makes you realise that just like yourself, the series is growing up.Info

Iwasn’t a huge fan of ‘FIFA 11′. Its biggest draw was undoubtedly the fact 11 players could participate on either side, and that was pretty much it. There wasn’t a huge jump from ’10′ to ’11′, although I preferred the former. What about the differences here though? Have EA Sports once again done enough to convince you to part with your cash to pay for yet another FIFA game? Are you like me, and you’ll just head out to get it either way and make up your own mind? That’s the thing about FIFA, it’s hard to review because the changes are such a personal thing. Some will love them and praise EA Sports for their innovation, others will spit on them waxing lyrical about how they’ve changed too much and its just not the same as it used to be. Damned if they do…

So, what then? This is FIFA. It is what it is. It’s not a game for ‘gamers’, it’s a game for football fans who just happen to own consoles and computers. From every last detail, it has everything a football fan could possibly want from an interactive experience of their favourite sport. Licensed leagues? Check. 2011/2012 complete season updates? Check. Grounds, kits, transfers? Check. Like I said, it’s FIFA.

This time round though…well. Some will cry, some will jump. Without doubt, in gameplay terms, it’s the biggest leap in the series’ history. Ooh, yes. But still, more on that later.

Well, let’s take a look at the major differences this time round. First things first, EA Sports Football Club. It seems that every game released nowadays needs to have some kind of XP, or ‘levelling up’. I’m not sure why, as its never it has never bothered me in the slightest, and yet here it is on FIFA this time round. To be fair, it doesn’t really get in the way. Near enough everything you do in the game will gain you an XP contribution, which is nice – you won’t be fighting for it like on most games as everything is noticed and discovered. You can also track your progress against friends, giving the game a little more competition between Gamertags. One of the cooler aspects of the game is the real world ranking system. At the start of the game you have to select the team you actually support in real life. The XP you gain will be added to their overall score across the world, basically more xp means higher ranking for your actual team, proving once and for all that Barcelona fans are better at FIFA than Huddersfield Town fans, or something.

Once this is all done and dusted, you enter a laboriously long online setup process. I’ll be the first to admit I despise the EA Online Pass. Having to pay extra for extra features when I already pay Microsoft for the privilege to even play EA’s games online is disgusting. Of course, if you don’t redeem this stupid pass, you can’t access anything. And so goes this stupidly long setup, connecting you with EA Online or some shit with your email address connected to your gamertag. Twenty minutes in, still not actually playing ‘FIFA 12′….

Oh! Done. We’re in,  here we go. the ‘FIFA 12′ interactive tutorial – which you’ll be familiar with if you played the demo – begins with the ever present Martin Tyler talking you through the new defensive system, running through drills and new tackling etc.. This time round we’ve got dribble take, slide tackle, (just an x tackle) jockeying, running jockey, contain (hold down LT for a little bit to keep the opposition a fair distance from anywhere), teammate contain (RB to get a teammate to do the same thing for you) and push pull (press B to nudge the player off the ball to gain possession). They all have their uses, although you’ll only really use one or two once you’re actually in a match.

Of course your home screen is placement for the typically epic FIFA menu.  Here is how they break down.

Kick off > Exhibition > Be A Pro Player > Be A Pro Goalkeeper.

Standard now in FIFA games. Exhibition where you can play a one off quick match. 90 minutes and over. Be A Pro, controlling a player you created getting him up the rankings from amateur to superstar. Be A Pro Goalkeeper, same thing but with a goalie, naturally.

Ultimate Team. Game Mode > Career, Tournaments, Create Tournament, Live Season.

This is where you start campaigns. Start your career as a player, a manger or both and work your way through the leagues. Create your own cup tournament or follow the Live Season, where you pay EA Sports even more money to follow the exact fixture season of your favourite team within the game. Arsenal fans may want to take note.

Xbox Live > Head to Head Seasons, Online Friendlies, Pro Clubs, Custom Games, My FIFA 12 Online.

The Xbox Live hub, where you control your online persona, start a season with a friend, find random games online etc. Nothing special to see here unless you’re willing to pay EA Sports more for the right. Grrrr.

Virtual Pro

Create a player you can use in your team throughout the game. Simple as that, really.

Customise

FIFA Arena Options choosing different stadiums for the practice area, My Music and Chants where you can edit and upload your own chants and music to the game, Edit/Create Players, Edit Teams (Stadiums, Change Squads Rosters – Team Rosters). Finally here you’ll find the Creation Centre, more or less where you upload/download pictures, videos and teams. Think of it similar to the File Share from ‘Halo’, for example.

My FIFA 12 Friends Records, Manual, Interactive Tutorial, Profile, Replay Theatre

The options including the manual. Only place to find it here, no physical copy comes with the game. Sign of things to come?

Ibegan a career mode as a player manager, essentially to get the best of both worlds for the sake of this review. I went to choose a team, and with my previous history of FIFA games, the most fun you can get from it comes by picking a team from the lower leagues and taking them to the top, which is exactly what I did here. At random I went for Southend United, 1 and a half stars? That’ll do me, fine. From there I entered Virtual Pro, where I created an uber superstar footballer version of myself. As with previous FIFA titles, the customisation options in Virtual Pro are second to none, able to change everything to your suiting regarding your player, right down to the preferred foot your player can shoot from, CHEEK placement, eye colour and more. Martin Tyler pops up again, describing that if you want the more extravagant look for your player, you’ll have to earn it. With a hearty chuckle, I might add. It’s nice having Mr.Tyler holding your hand. After several save screens you finally get to your HUD. As you’d expect, it’s brilliantly presented giving you all the details you could possibly need right infront of you. Your league on the right, news right in the middle and next game list on the bottom right. The top right is your menu where you can search on team management, squad ranking, injuries, contracts and kit numbers. Hitting ‘Back’ on this menu will open up your squad option (where you just were), transfers, fixture calendar, statistics and career overview.

So what of a match? Apart from a sparkly new opening (to every match, which you can skip thankfully), it plays like good old FIFA. A major difference this time round though is the pure fluidity. Every match is so smooth you feel like you’re playing on silk, such is the new movement of the players, which are unique to the individual player you’re controlling. For example, while I’m playing as Scunthorpe United against Arsenal in a cup match, my players just can’t keep up with Arsenal superstars like Van Persie, Fabregas etc. Every player feels like you’re genuinely up against them, which is exactly how playing FIFA should feel. Of course it ramps the difficulty up considerably, but you just can’t argue when it’s presented this well. FIFA veterans are going to scream their heads off in frustration, as legendary players of the game are going to get completely pwned, curse the game for it and never play it again claiming it’s ‘the worst game ever’ (something I’ve already seen on Facebook). The simple fact is: ‘FIFA 12′ is far more difficult than its predecessors, but in doing so it has made the game far more interesting to play, because you really have to forget everything you know and bloody challenge yourself. Yes, you can play it on amateur and still bang in a 12-0 victory over Barcelona playing as Rotheram, but whats the point in that? The big achievements only come when playing on expert or professional, and it’s going to test you, more than any FIFA game has tested you before. And I think that’s just brilliant. It single handedly gives you a reason to pick the game up, even if you already have previous installments, just to see the genuine challenge it presents. ‘Ninja Gaiden’ can stay in its cot, this is the serious shit up in here.

FIFA 12′ justifies its existence purely by being different. There is no way around it, ’12′ will challenge you and make you start all over again with the series. It’s unique features – those that will test any true FIFA player – will make this game almost historic. You can hear the internet already cry out with LOVE IT/HATE IT theories about the game, and how great/awful the new abilities are but you can’t deny its balls, so to speak. EA Sports don’t really have to doanything to make this game sell, it sells itself – up there with the behemoths of ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Halo’. ‘FIFA 12′ will be another massive seller on its name, and whatever you may think of the franchise there is just no getting away from that. What EA Sports do is make the game better and better every year, and die trying. I can’t even imagine sitting in a meeting discussing ‘whats next’ for the franchise and throwing in everything they can to create the ultimate football game for the true fan, and they have absolutely succeeded. It’s almost perfect, save the odd one or two thing. EA Sports charging far too much for their extra online features could be considered blasphemous, and sadly seems to be the norm and we reach a purely digital age. The situation is, I payed full price for this game and get told I still have to pay to access all the features that aren’t even DLC? Give me a break, I’m not up for this and I can’t imagine many else are either. Still, they are all optional – so let’s not complain too much eh?

I‘m blown away by ‘FIFA 12′. As a huge football fan everything I could possibly want is here. From the little things such as live scores coming up on my feed from my actual team to realistic chants from the stands dedicated to the team you’re playing as. I’ve fallen in love with this iteration and will perfectly tie me over until ’13′ appears. You will hear fans cheering along with jeer about the new features, curse and praise EA for their efforts, and can you ask for more than that? Well, one more thing…I do miss Andy Gray.

So, honestly now…what next?

[9.2]

REVIEW: Batman: Arkham City

Rocksteady shouldn’t be this good. The release of ‘Arkham City’ marks only their third game (long forgotten PS2 and Xbox shooter ‘Urban Chaos: Riot Repsonse’ and ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ being the other two respectively) and yet here they have created undoubtedly one of the games of the year, one of the most spectacular games of the decade and – crucially – gives the Bat and his fans yet another incredible game he always deserved.

There’s no denying I’ve been anticipating this game since the wonderful moment I left Joker on the roof of Arkham Asylum nearly two years ago, being hyped for a game doesn’t even cover it – I was seething when our lucky friends across the pond got their hands on the game before us cold rainy types in Britain did. I followed every announcement, every new enemy reveal along with playable characters wondering in awe and wonder how they could possibly fit all this into one game and it still be every bit as powerful, exciting and demanding as ‘Arkham Asylum’. Rocksteady are throwing all their cards on the table at once hoping that it all comes together in a true celebration of Batman and the crazed inhabitants of Gotham City. Will it feel as connected as ‘Asylum’? Will the enjoyment of just gliding as the Bat still have the same impact second time round? What about the combat? The most refined system in any adventure game I have ever seen? All these giant green question marks were hanging over me as I booted the game up for the first time…

My word….this is it.

The game kicks off with Bruce Wayne (Batman, if you really didn’t know) being captured and thrown into Arkham City, a enormous, sprawling sectioned off area in Gotham City – now ran by former Asylum warden Quincy Sharp – where the criminals and the insane are given free reign and be responsible for their own survival. The opening is truly spectacular, before you know it you’re caught in a tussle with your hands tied behind your back against the Penguin and his goons (with a suitably Bob Hoskins-esque accent going on). It seems odd but being able to actually play as Bruce Wayne instead of Batman initially is actually quite surreal. You’re well informed as the game begins that Hugo Strange know you’re Batman, and you must play ball else he’ll tell the world your secret. It’s an interesting story concept, and one that rears it’s ugly head a little later on. Anyway, to Arkham City itself. It’s a wasteland, with the inmates left to die with very little food to share between them. Cliques are created, gangs are formed – the ‘citizens’ of Arkham City are made to turn on each other for the amusement of their leaders, namely here – Two Face, Penguin and The Joker.

Speaking of the Joker – voiced for the final time by Mark Hamill – after the events of ‘Asylum’, he’s been left gravely ill, dying throughout the game taken care of by his ever reliable companion Harley Quinn. It’s visible the as soon you first encounter the man himself (‘there’s plenty wrong with me‘… – from the trailer) and can’t help but be completely blown away by the incredibly impressive Joker model. It’s unmistakably him, looking the worse for wear and even more terrifying than ever before. The level of detail that’s gone into his ‘illness’ is amazing. It seems like a small thing to be so impressed with, however you just know it’s only going to get better from hereon in.

To the gameplay. Essentially, if you’ve played ‘Asylum’, you’ll feel right at home here. What we have here is Arkham Island sprawled out five times over. The combat remains as simple as ever. Fight with one button, counter with another – Rocksteady have literally just taken their winning formula and gone completely wild with it. As with ‘Asylum’, there are very specific ways you have to take out particular enemies. While the goons who are unarmed are dispatched with relative ease, once a single goon with a gun is thrown in the mix you have to rethink your strategy completely. If they all do, it becomes a test of mental prowess and how much patience you have. A room with five or six goons inside all armed to the teeth will generally need to taken out one by one, without any of the others spotting you. They can be easily taken down but they have a pretty good aim. My tactic was to wait until the group spread out a bit, once one is left on his own it’s time to pounce, take them down and then head back up into the skies to do it all over again. It’s a focused effort, as if you screw it up two shots with a shotgun is all that’s needed to take you down, tactical play and observing the room before you make a single move are essential in order to survive and progress. This time round some of the enemies have shields, and can literally only be taken down with a particular attack, or else the shields will come into contact with you and take a rather absurd amount of your health away. Without wanting to spoil it for you, there is a section just before a meet with Mr.Freeze where you’re facing off against seven enemies – two with guns, two with shields, one with body armour and two unarmed. Critical thinking is needed here, you just can’t jump straight in and expect to come out victorious. Watching from above is the order of the day. The enemies don’t really have a particular pattern of direction, they just kind of stand around bitching to each other about how bad they have it. It isn’t until one breaks off that you can really begin with Glide Attacks and takedowns. In all without getting touched once I did this particular section in just under ten minutes. I’m pretty sure there are hundreds if not thousands who will scoff at that time and laugh me off the internet however – you can never be too sure in ‘Arkham City’. Patience, is indeed a virtue.

Without hesitating I fell right back into the routine, as soon as I donned the Batsuit – after it came hurtling from the sky in what can only be described as a Bat-Pod – then began the game on the top of a building overlooking the entire City, I will admit a lump may have been caught in my throat. It was an absolutely beautiful sight to behold. You can truly see the depth of this brand new playground that Rocksteady has created from the very first glance and with Alfred now at your side (via radio communication, along with ‘Asylum”s Oracle) to just drop shit into Arkham City for you, you feel far more backed up than ever before.

Along with the combat of course the Bats has his range of gadgets, essential to progression throughout the game as the combat is. Pretty much everything you ended ‘Asylum’ with you will start with here, minus the line launcher and the Ultra Batclaw (replaced her with the original Batclaw) – all available at the press of a D-Pad direction. A variety of the gadgets have been either improved or have new capabilities. The line launcher for example, once it’s acquired (after a rather awesome geek off with Batman, Robin and Catwoman) now has the ability to shoot in another direction whilst being used, allowing Bats to flip over and change direction whilst in the air. The Cryptographic Sequencer is now able to track signals and take them out. Finally the Remote Control Batarang has a brake and a boost option, however the damned thing is still rather tricky to maneuver.

Any new ones? Why, of course.

First and foremost, the one you’ll find using the most (or I certainly did during my first playthrough anyway) is the Remote Electrical Charge. A big-ass taser gun that powers generators so you can open doors (along with crouching or sliding underneath them should they not open all the way). One more the more useful new gadgets are the smoke pellets, used mainly to catch armed enemies off guard as you make your swift getaway to higher ground or behind them. Ice grenades can make pathways over water and freeze enemies, finally you can get yourself a Balled Rope for the John Marstons in you who want to tie up those goons. They all have their purpose and they are all fantastic, making you feel like Bats more and more as you upgrade them through your XP you acquire throughout the game.

The thought of trying to condense everything I have experienced throughout this game for this review was a little frightening. It’s hard to think of single moments that really stood out because quite honestly the entire game is full of incredible set pieces and delirious fan service. Pretty much, if you know your Batman folklore, you’ll be over the moon when you see what and who Rocksteady has crammed into this game. If you’ve been following the billion or so news stories Thumb Culture has posted about ‘Arkham City’, you’ll know for damn sure a huge number of friends and foes appear in this one. From ‘Asylum’ antagonists The Joker, Poison Ivy and Riddler (now with 400 side quests across the city to complete, nearly four times more then previously) to switchblade characters like the ‘Mad Hatter’ who isn’t known in the mainstream for being in the Batman series since 1948 (in comic book Batman #49, fact fans) who – again, trying to avoid spoilers here – provides you a head trip rivaling those of the bizarre Scarecrow quests from Asylum. The immortal Raj al Ghul provides you with some Demon training, creating a bizarre desert world for your practise. The list goes on with Calendar Man (featuring an absolutely brain damaging YEAR long achievement/trophy conquest) and just many more I won’t spoil here. It’s an incredible fan service and something Rocksteady should be forever commended for. And the music, wow…the composition here is nothing short of absolutely stunning. Creating tension and fear and jubilation around every corner – it’s the greatest score of any game I’ve ever heard.

Any bad points? Catwoman is awesome and needed more missions and the Penguins stupid accent. That’s all I have to say on this.

In Closing

You may have already noticed, but I genuinely cannot heap enough praise on this game. It’s rare for a game to live up to its ridiculous hype and when we were knocked for six by ‘Arkham Asylum’ coming from nowhere to be the best superhero game ever made, anticipation skyrocketed for this sequel. Luckily, the anticipation has been justified. Play it on the biggest, loudest TV you can and fully immerse yourself in the amazing world that Rocksteady has created around for you. This is a game that fully deserves the status of ‘Best….Ever’. How many ‘Best Ever”s is it though? Well, it’s the Best Current Generation Game Ever (so far), the Best Superhero Game Ever, the Best Voice Acting In Any Game Ever, the Best Open World Game Ever, the Best Music Orchestrated In Any Game Ever..the Best Game Ever? Who knows, it’s one that will certainly stand the test of time and forever be spoken of in internet forums and the like, it’s a game that will continuously turn up on Best Game Ever lists and how future open world games should be judged on. An achievement of such magnitude, all you can say that’s ever so slightly worrying about the future of this game is that what on earth Rocksteady will come up with next. There has been rumours of another game in this franchise, and whatever Rocksteady decide to do next the anticipation levels will be apocalyptically high after this, you have to wonder if Rocksteady may have played all their ‘AWESOME’ cards just a little bit too soon? Who knows, I don’t care right now. Let’s worry about that hurdle when we come to it, eh?

How else can I finish this off than saying I’m so frickin’ happy this game turned out as amazing as I imagined it would. Never before has a game been crafted so utterly perfectly. A spectacular evolution of the blueprints created by ‘Arkham Asylum’, this sequel has created a future standard of open world adventure games.

Rockstar, time to up your game…

[10]

REVIEW: Football Manager 2012

There’s a slight feeling of nostaliga creeping its way through here. For as long as I can remember I’ve been playing football management games, whether it be ‘Football Manager’ or it’s original iteration ‘Championship Manager’ – even ‘Ultimate Soccer Manager’ was a fixed point in my gaming life growing up. You have to ask any wife or girlfriend about the impact the game has, once it’s released you can be damn sure those playing it aren’t going to put it down for love nor money. For a game that from the outset looks so deliriously complex, getting older with the franchise is akin to me as doing Maths. It’s all numbers and statistics and yet you can’t argue with the overall outcome. What you end up with is the only solution it could have ever been, right? For those people who have divorced over this game, you only need to ask them. This game changes, makes and ruins lives. An incredibly common reason for pulling a sicky or staying in rather than going out. It’s returned – ladies and gentlemen, ‘Football Manager’ is back.

Much like most annual releases, ‘FM 2012′ – as it will hereon in be referred too – has the usual questions surrounding it. What’s new? Is it worth my money again? Can I still just add a new manager to my next team I’m playing and win easily?

I’ll answer them one by one, let’s begin now.

What’s new?

Ah! I’m so glad you asked. First things first, if you’ve never played ‘FM’ before, ’2012′ has a wonderful tutorial to ease you in. It’s almost a completely new section of the game itself, as it doesn’t run throughout the game, rather alongside it. For new players, it’s more or less essential as at first glance ‘FM 2012′ – or any in the series, for that matter – is incredibly intimidating. The tutorial takes you step by step through every option and every button you need to press to advance in the game. It’s thorough to the point of exhaustive, but absolutely terrific for beginners. For experienced ‘FM’ players who don’t think they need it, it’s still worth checking out as it can show off the new features to you easier than just going and discovering them. The tutorial is where you’re really going to find out how to really get the most out of the new game.

Elsewhere the interface has had a bit of an overhaul. It’s not incredibly different from last year, however the subtle changes are noticeable almost immediately. More or less, the higher your monitor resolution, the more you’re going to get. Everything is here (and more), just in different places. Compare it to moving house and taking everything with you, just placing your stuff in new rooms. Also everything is customisable, meaning you can choose what you see and when you see it, which is nice.

An interesting facet of the game for me has always been the interaction between yourself and the players. ‘FM 2012′ takes it to a whole new level allowing you to talk to them in different ‘tones’ – which will then create a different reaction from the players depending on which one you choose. You can be chilled and laid back ensuring the players will be at ease throughout the game or you can throw hairdryers at their heads, enforcing the law the way only a football manager knows how. It’s cool to see the differences in morale this can have. If you say something calmly the players can either be thankful or think nothing of it, seemingly assuming you don’t mean it, or you can kick their ass and their morale can either become motivated or angered. It’s very dependent on the player which way it goes. Big divas like Rooney and Giggs will get angry when you suggest their playing is of a less than stellar standard, whereas young up and comers from the reserves will listen and get themselves fired up and continue to do better. While it’s just barking orders and the game engine, it works wonderfully and makes it worth doing, as it can really have an affect on the outcome of a match. Full team meetings and individual chats with players are now also included, again it’s down to you to see if they have any kind of affect or not.

Speaking of the matches, it’s now a staple of the franchise to be able to view your hard work in tactics and formation in 3D. When I say 3D, we’re not talking ‘FIFA’ levels of realism but it’s most certainly better than it ever has been. A variety of options are available to view the match, including the new ‘Director Camera’ and a behind the goal perspective on the action, although the latter is fairy useless. The iconic action ticker remains, keeping you informed of the happenings in the game if you’re not using any of the 3D views – the alternative being the more traditional top down 2D view where the players appear as tactical circles.

By far though the biggest addition is the ability to add and remove leagues throughout your career. In ‘FM’ days of old, the database included in the game was so ferociously large it just couldn’t squeeze onto smaller computers, therefore you would have to choose your chosen country and league and then just stick with it. If you chose an English team to manage, that’s the country you would stay in throughout the game, with no chance of moving abroad – with the only choice if you wanted to move to start an entirely new game. Now though, you have the wonderful option to add in any league you want throughout your management reign, effectively allowing you to move back and forth across countries on the fly. It’s a great addition and one the series has been crying out for.

Finally, as we live in a society where we cannot keep a single thing a secret anymore and we absolutely MUST post completely everything that happens in our lives onto social networks, ‘FM 2012′ of course has options to upload news and score updates – fictional ones, from your campaign – to Facebook and Twitter, along with being able to record highlights from your matches to upload to YouTube. It’s a nice touch and it’s not completely in your face, which is nice – how much these will get used is up for debate, however I see the YouTube uploading taking off more than the others.

Is It Worth My Money?

Look at it this way, it’s ‘Football Manager’ – you know already if you’re going to buy it or not. The same goes for ‘FIFA’, ‘CoD’, any franchise game when their latest iteration is released. If you’re a fan and do everything you can to divulge yourself into the world of ‘FM’, this is for you. ’2012′ is without doubt the finest in the series, which is no small feat considering its history. Is it much of a step up from ’2011′? I’d say so, the new changes I have mentioned above are worthy enough to give the game a serious try. If you’re a veteran of the series, of course you’ll know exactly what to expect – incredible detail, unbelievable depth, masterful presentation and a genuine feeling of accomplishment when results go your way. There isn’t much of a better feeling than taking a victory over your fiercest rivals after a good hour of working out tactics and formations. It’s the RPG of a lifetime when you have to put together your soldiers for battle. One training session overlooked and you’ve lost the war, even if it is Manchester United vs Crawley Town.

Of course, another thing to remember is that ‘Football Manager’ just has no competition anymore. Nothing even comes close in terms of how successful this game has been, Sports Interactive own this genre and they have for a long time. Because of this, could they sit back and get complacent? Of course, people are gonna buy it anyway right? They most wonderful aspect of Sports Interactive is that they just don’t. They strive to make each version better than the one before it, even if the competition has scarpered. For that, they must be commended. ‘Football Manager’ may more or less be the only football management sim left, but there’s a reason why. It truly is the greatest around, and will be until someone has the balls to beat them at their own game. As for ‘Football Manager 2012′, if you have a PC (or a Mac, of course) and you love your football, it’s as essential as having SkySports.com running in the background on a Saturday afternoon. It just deserves and demands your time.

(And yes, you can still just add a new manager to your next opponent and win easily – but don’t. It ruins it for everyone).

Welcome back to your first love gentlemen, the love affair starts again. Explain that your lawyer…

[9]

REVIEW: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

I shared this review with Thumb Culture writer Max Drinan. We figured two different perspectives on this kind of game would suit it well. Hope you enjoy. 

Ross: Well well, Modern Warfare – we meet again. Can’t deny I’ve been anticipating this game for a long time – since MW2 really. The story ended on a great cliffhanger and I’ve been itching to know what happened next…

Max: Not much, it turns out. It was fun, polished and the setpieciest setpiece-fest yet, but the story totally lacked the ability to surprise me. MW2 may have had an insane plot, but it meant it consistently sidestepped expectations, and the whole World War 3 premise felt like a significant leap from its predecessor. I reckon it’s a problem with MW3 being the victory piece, so you spend a lot of your time rather predictably winning the war, and beating the bad guys.

Ross: I share that sentiment. With the story picking up immediately after MW2, it was interesting to see just how much damage had been done between the two games. It appeared WW3 happened somewhat quickly, which seemed a bit off. Although, it was cool to see Captain Price and Soap again, despite Soap not really contributing an awful lot this time round. It almost seemed like he was Navi to your Link. Kind of behind you and always having your back without contributing an awful lot. I think it’s fair to say he was wasted this time round. In terms of the story, we were always going to see a victory on the Western side, even if – without wanting to spoil too much – it seemed like nobody really won or lost.

Max: And what was the deal with your mystery protagonist you take control of? The attempt to tie him into the rest of the story felt so contrived, and I’d much rather have been in the shoes of Soap again, because I felt zero connection to Mr. Russian. I felt little connection with any of the characters you play as, really. You’re switched in and out far too much, with too many one level appearances and a really awkward scene that tried to recreate the impact of the infamous No Russian level.

Ross: Ah, THAT scene. Yeah, it seemed a little ‘No Russian’ for my liking. Nothing there to progress the story, or have any connection to the characters we control – just there for shocks. I found it quite disturbing to be honest, I had strayed from the leaked videos because I wanted to see it play out in the game. It was absurd.

Max: The campaign’s not without its highlights, despite all our unkind words. It’s got that pounding Call of Duty velocity to it that makes it very difficult to stop playing, and without the painful trial-by-death levels like the Favella in the last game. The game may not have been able to surprise story-wise, but in terms of what happens around you, it never holds back. Not that they never show restraint, there’s still the sneak-about-with-Price levels that I never seem to get tired of. That guy continues to be the highlight of the series.

Ross: Captain Price is pretty much iconic now, a true badass who just wants to get the job done. His presence really makes going through it worthwhile, you look forward to his next mission. In terms of campaign highlights, Paris is a definite plus for me. For all the bombast KA-BOOM that MW3 offers, it was never displayed better than in this level. The fight in front of the Eiffel Tower was just plain fun, impressive from start to finish. Once the campaign was done it was that level I kept going back too, such was its excitement and diversity. The underground in London was also excellent fun, was just unfortunate we didn’t spend more time there. Seemed a very quick in and out mission despite London featuring heavily in the promotion.

Max: I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve never seen a tube station that clean before.

Ross: LMAO!! *COUGH* Sorry. Thoughts then of the campaign overall?

Max: It’s a CoD campaign, with everything you expect that to mean. It annoys me when other games copy their formula, but I don’t have a problem with Call of Duty being Call of Duty. It’s a blast, just a predictable blast. It’s all worth it for the final image though. That’s what I call an ending.

Ross: Agreed. While the fun and excitement and pure velocity of the whole thing comes flying at you at 250mph, it’s quite easy to disregard it as all flash and no substance. The outsiders will always see it that way. But like you said, CoD is CoD – it ain’t ever gonna change to please anyone. No denying that Infinity Ward / Sledgehammer should be commended for their efforts in creating a true example of how WW3 could play out. All I can say is I felt depleted it was so short. A campaign you can finish in under six hours is hugely disappointing.

Max: That lack of volume isn’t a complaint you can level at the rest of the game though. Because, well, god damn. Talk about a reviewer’s nightmare. I’m gonna go on the record and say that my time spent with co-op and multiplayer can only really be called a surface level inspection. There’s so much of the stuff!

Ross: Let’s begin with Spec-Ops. Cracking stuff, with some gems hidden under the surface.

Max: I’m an absolute fiend for co-op, especially of the local variety, and I really appreciate that the series has always maintained the support for split screen. So Spec-Ops is where the value’s at for me. The missions work much like last time: rejigs of levels from the campaign, often from the enemy’s point of view this time, which you try and high-score your way through with a friend. But these have been overshadowed this time by Spec-Ops Survival, which is a COD take on the wave-based survival modes which are all the rage. While the stupid and hyper-aggressive AI seems ridiculous in the campaign, in Survival, where the game entirely embraces being a game, it makes perfect sense. Mindless hordes of enemies of the free world are great fun to shoot, and the mode comes with its own levelling and unlock system that’s as addictive as it is in the competitive space, minus the endless frustration.

Ross: One area of Spec-Ops I really enjoyed was the President capture, very intense and rewarding. Probably the highlight for me, although as you say Survival is just brilliant. Ferocious fun with friends, even on your own it’s a good way to test your skills before heading into the full multiplayer. I’m just a sucker for Zombies from World at War and Black Ops. I’m fully aware it’s a Treyarch thing and as such has no place in the Modern Warfare series but I did miss it quite noticeably. The pure insanity of it all is a welcome relief from the seriousness of everything else, and Survival didn’t give me the same satisfaction. On its own merits though, it’s killer and hopefully remains a staple of IW’s series.

Max: Talking of staples of Modern Warfare, how about that multiplayer, eh? Boy, is it fast. I’ve not played a Call of Duty online since COD4, and despite what Ron Perlman tells you, war haschanged. It’s a constant forward momentum, die every minute, respawn instantly trial of exhaustion. It’s honestly a bit much for poor old me.

Ross: It’s completely mental. From the moment you begin you just don’t stop, consistently moving from one place to another, running around like a complete Jonah Hill moron kidding yourself that you can 1-up everyone and out manoeuvre the lot of them with your mad C4 droppin’ skillz. Unfortunately, it never works! Always someone better than you, always the ‘other’ team seem more organised and focused than yours – it’s just complete carnage. But goddamn, I’m going out on a limb here and I don’t care – It’s the best multiplayer CoD has ever had. If you’re in it for the long haul and you are absolutely determined to Prestige over and over again, it’s absolutely worth your time. Infact, Kill Confirmed is worth your money alone. A stunning addition.

Max: Ha! I was preparing my own Kill Confirmed love-fest. That mode is genius, absolute genius. Objective-based modes have always suffered in Call of Duty because so many people just don’t give a shit. What Kill Confirmed does, if you’re unaware, is have a killed player drop dog tags, which can either be collected by your team, “confirming the kill”, or by the enemy, denying it. It forces cooperation, but at the same time the rewards are entirely selfish on the part of the player. It’s seems to obvious now that it’s been done, and I really hope every game from now on rips it off. I would love to see it in Halo.

Ross: I can’t praise it highly enough. The fact it’s practically eliminating scope tactics (if your team has no idea what they’re doing – which is quite often) has made the mode a completely different beast to say Free-For-All or Team Deathmatch. If you want to win with some pride itrequires skill and focus, which is something the aforementioned modes are sadly lacking in some aspects. Speaking of Halo, Rage, Bulletstorm and *gulp* Battlefield…how does CoD stack up these days? Still the boss?

Max: Oh you just had to use the B-word. That marketing mess was nauseating, mostly because they are such different games, tailored to different types of players, offering a different experience. For the fast-paced, twitch-shooting, map-memorising gameplay, CoD’s unbeatable. That said, the series has reached a point of diminishing returns. Imagine MW2 never came out, and instead all that game contained was combined with MW3, would anyone notice? Spec-Ops Survival and Kill Confirmed are fantastic additions, but the reality is MW3 is a forty quid charge to play Call of Duty for another year. That’s fine for a lot of people, evident from MW3 yet again beating sales records. The value is, after all, extraordinary. An exciting campaign, perhaps the most comprehensive co-op suite available, and sixteen mutiplayer maps with an endless variety of modes and unlocks. But if you’re getting tired of the series, this is near identical. I’m glad I have it for the co-op, but if I didn’t get a review copy, I’d have waited for a price drop.

Ross: As an overall package? It’s worth every penny. Modern Warfare 3 is exactly what you expect it to be. Nothing more, nothing less. Luckily, what you expect it to be is technically brilliant, bombastic, over the top and full to the brim of multiplayer wonderment. The campaign is horribly predictable and bubbling the surface of ‘been there, done that’ – that being said, it’s the third in a trilogy. How much different did you really want it to be? If the story is continuing, why not the gameplay? The forty odd quid you put down for this pays for a wonderful multiplayer experience through Spec-Ops, a campaign that just finishes off the story, makes your eyes drop out of your skull in sheer spectacle but requires you to switch off your brain – think about it too much and you’re gonna wish for something far more concrete and challenging – however if there is a CoD fan still inside you, this isn’t gonna disappoint. You get what you’re given.

Max: And now the tricky bit. What do we score this behemoth? I’m of the 8 mindset myself.

Ross: 8? For MODERN WARFARE?! CAN YOU IMAGINE?! Sure, that’s good with me – was thinking the same.

Max: There you have it, folks. It’s an 8. Golly.

Ross: Here’s to Modern Fourfare. See you there!

[8]

REVIEW: Halo Anniversary

Can Master Chief’s first adventure still hold up today?

Imagine being 343 Industries right now. Taking over the reigns of one of the most successful console exclusive brands of all time, a series adored by millions across the world and being told to kick out the door the following trilogy and make it better than anything that has come before it. Before that though, you have to remaster one of the greatest games ever…

Yeah, I’d be crying too. You see, now Bungie have jumped off the side of a cliff into pastures new, Microsoft are determined to milk the cow of ‘Halo’ for all it’s worth, purchasing up yet another development studio to make nothing but ‘Halo’ for – we presume – the next ten or so years over two different console life cycles. It’s the job now of 343 to prove to fans that they have got what it takes to ensure continued success and fan appreciation for a beloved franchise. It’s like giving the front door key of Star Wars to Brett Ratner.

First out of the starting block is ‘Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary’; a remake released perfectly timed to coincide with the ten year anniversary of the original game. With Microsoft already playing into the hands of the cynics re-releasing something that seems so contrived and unnecessary, 343 have the frighteningly daunting task of making this remake stand up to the original, which many consider as one of the best FPS games of all time. A game that was a true revolution when it was released. Does it hold up today? Well, no.

You see, I remember 10 years ago like it was yesterday. Opening up the original Xbox’s errr… box to find the black behemoth with the thwacking great X on the top staring back at me with the controller that was the size to compliment it. My first game was, of course, ‘Halo’. Before this I had spent most of my FPS-playing life getting stuck into ‘Quake III Arena’ on the Dreamcast and ‘Goldeneye 007′ on the N64 and to me, ‘Halo’ beat them all. Everything you could have possibly asked for in an FPS was there. Perfect controls (some of us will forever argue if the original Xbox controller was actually built with ‘Halo’ and nothing else in mind), out of this world graphics, unquestionable depth, terrific AI, the way you drove / flew every vehicle without even pressing any buttons to make it happen, and Sgt. frikkin’ Johnson! Everything upon everything about the game made it the best game I had ever played at the time, and it was the perfect ammunition needed to shoot down the Covenant of PS2 owning friends consistently shoving ‘Metal Gear Solid’ in my face.

Naturally, ten years later I was curious. I followed with great interest the tidbits we would post, had a quick blast of it at Eurogamer and was cautiously excited this was going to be the next step in bringing ‘Halo’ back to the pedestal it once stood upon, soaring over those underneath with a hearty chuckle and some sticky grenades. My word, was I in for a shock.

I‘m gonna say this now; if you’ve played ‘Combat Evolved’ in any form, across any medium (original Xbox, XBLA, PC) then move along; there’s nothing for you to see here. Your love for the game will angrily and loudly diminish throughout the campaign experience as you very quickly remember how repetitive, frustrating and unhelpful the game is, and how for some reason you never seemed to notice this first time round because you were dumbstruck by the awesomeness of it all. Keep in mind this is literally just a graphical overhaul. So little has been added to this game that actually benefits or makes the campaign any better it’s hardly worth mentioning. Off the top of my head, in the worlds most horrendous FPS level, ‘The Library’, where you spend the entire time running through corridors that look exactly like each other over and over and over (and over and over…) again, doing battle with the Covenant and The Flood, with no possible explanation about where you’re going or what you’re supposed to be doing. Seemingly plunking you into this disaster of a level to do nothing more than test your patience and mental strength than your adventurous sense of direction has had – wait for it – the inclusion of lights on the doors and arrows on the floor. Woo! Thanks 343 – could you have possibly redesigned the level just that little bit more to make it a bit – oh I don’t know – fun? It’s not even the first time it happens in the game either, which is the most frustrating. While there is so much to love about the campaign which I’ll get onto shortly, I was at least hoping on 343 ironing out those small areas that desperately needed improving.

Anyway, let’s bloody cheer up and talk about what rocks. Right off the bat, there are plenty of levels that look utterly lovely with this new lick of paint. Namely the still fantastic Assault On The Control Room and The Silent Cartographer. Without question two of the greatest FPS levels in recent memory that truly still holds up today against your ‘MW3”s and your ‘Battlefield’s – no denying they are truly genre defining levels that deserve their place in gaming history. The work that’s gone into making them look brand spanking new also is very impressive. A lovely gimmick – horrible word, but that’s what it is – in this game is the option to flip back and forth between the shiny new engine and the original with a simple press of the back button, allowing you to see just how much work 343 has put into their baby. It’s certainly quite striking at first, the difference is enormously noticeable in particular sections of the game, however there is a slight delay between the jump – about one second – so don’t go pressing it in the midst of battle, the screen will go completely black with the game still going on without you. Ugh.

You see, that’s another concern. The ‘shiny new’ engine is the same used from ‘Halo: Reach’. All very lovely but it just can’t hold a candle to say, DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine – even going as far as to say ‘CoD’s engine is stronger than this one. I haven’t even got a clue what happened to the faces of the NPC’s during the translation. Suffice to say, I thought at one point I was using the old engine, turns out I wasn’t. Same happened with one area on Assault On The Control Room where, while looking lovely, actually impeded my progress by just being too detailed. I had to resort to turning on the old engine to progress because of all the wonderful snowflakes appearing from the sky. I literally could not see a single thing infront of me, instead I could hear a wave of Grunts hitting me from every corner. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that kind of defeats the point of an upgrade to me.

One area of the game I can’t fault is the music, stormingly remastered for this package. A full orchestra is used to re-make the music from the original almost note for note, with the iconic ‘duh duh duh DUUHHHH,…duh duh duh DUUUUHHH!!’ bits kicking in just at the perfect moments. If the game frustrates you to high heaven, the music definitely will not. The mesmerising soundtrack is here from start to finish with no compromise and it’s stunning. Almost worth the final score, to be frank.

Multiplayer? Got ‘Reach’? Get the map pack, nothing to see here. What you get essentially is a ‘greatest hits’ of Halo 1 and 2 (including Reach variants and abilities) along with a new Firefight map. It’s disappointing. The one saving grace is the online co-op for the campaign, which a nice addition. The ‘Reach’ style multiplayer remix on the old maps is fine too, however it’s unfortunate the campaign wasn’t offered the same courtesy. Assault On The Control room with Jet Packs? Hell. Yes. Ergo, it’s not here.

Now, I’m not one to moan that much. I tend to look past little niggles and focus on the overall picture, but this ‘upgrade’ just seems to me like a wasted opportunity. Yes, when it’s good it’s brilliant and untouchable. When it’s bad, it’s just so disappointing. It’s hard to really justify – despite the value price – if you’ve already blasted this game to hell and back any time in the last ten years. There just isn’t enough upgrade here to really warrant it.

Was ‘Halo 3′ your first? What about ‘Reach’? If the answer is yes to either of those questions, then consider this recommended to see where it all began. If not, save your cash and put it towards one of the other ten million games available this month while we all wait for ‘Halo 4′.

Cus let’s be honest, that’s what we all really want, isn’t it?

[6]

Gaming On And Staying Young

When did we all get too old to enjoy ‘family’ games?

 Hi there! Name’s Skittles. I’m a SuperCutePerfectlySafeFarTooHappyAndNotAtAllSlightlyCreepyDigiTiger from your new favourite Xbox 360 game, ‘Kinectimals’. I spend my days playing with balls – big ones, small ones, furry ones and super bouncy ones, I also have a Frisbee which I can chase if it goes really really far and I can also drive tiny cars!! I play with all these toys and lots more with my best friend in the whole world, Ross! He’s a human, and he’s 24, but it’s not weird! He’s the only human on an island inhabited by me and all my friends, including rabbits! It’s an awesome place, and Ross is the coolest guy ever for spending his time playing all sorts of super fun games with us, cleaning us, rubbing our bellies and feeding us. Well, I better go. I just wanted to say hello! Come and see me again sometime, it doesn’t matter what age you are or how silly you look making us happy, you know you want too!!

Bye for now! Skittles :D

Hello all, back again.

Now, I should explain, I really have spent the last two and a bit weeks mostly playing ‘Kinectimals’. I consider my gaming collection to be of the highest standard, with AAA titles happily mixed with indie games. I could have spent the last two weeks of my gaming life playing them, as there are still a few I’m yet to complete (damn you ‘Assassins’ Creed: Brotherhood’ and your Borgia flags), but honestly, ‘Kinectimals’ has been on my radar for a while and I couldn’t wait to finally get my hands on it. So during a little bit of time off from work I thought I would. Then the unthinkable happened….

I get a call from my Dad. Now, he could probably attest to be Kinect’s biggest fan. Ever since I first showed him the revolutionary wonders of ‘Kinect Adventures’, he rushed out to buy himself a 250gb Xbox 360 with Kinect and his mind gets continuously blown by each game he purchases. It is profoundly annoying my Dad has a bigger collection of Kinect games than I do, calling me almost every other day with a big smile on his face (presumably) that he’s just acquired a new game with a ‘Kinect’ moniker. The day he bought ‘Kinectimals’, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.  He calls me up in his usual chirpy manner and informs me that he’s just bought said game, and the first thing that goes through my head is the image of a 61 year old man with a still really rather impressive head of hair rolling around on the floor hugging a digital tiger, washing him and all the other slightly awkward things in order to progress. I asked if he enjoyed it, and he said he did, but obviously it’s not designed for his age group (REALLY?!). He asked me if I had ever played it, and I said no. The next day he drives the best part of 30 miles to my home to bring it down for me.

His dedication to spreading the word of Kinect shouldn’t go unnoticed. I’ve recently been made aware of friends of my Dad going out and buying an Xbox with Kinect after spending an evening at his house. Microsoft should be paying him commission, such is his skills in selling the system. He’s a gaming Pimp. Yup, that’s my Dad.

I get it home and stick it on. Kinect looks at me in disbelief as the poor thing hasn’t really been used in a while. It stands to attention and scans the room to find me.

‘Kinectimals’ begins. In a refreshing change, my Xbox isn’t greeted to grim visuals of a post apocalyptic world, people aren’t getting shot in the head and there are no loyal friends getting stabbed through the back, not here. The sun is out and it’s a beautiful world, one could consider it the happiest place on earth (take that, Disney). Waterfalls are flowing, rainbows are inexplicably appearing despite the obvious lack of clouds or rain, rabbits are jumping up and down and impossibly cute tigers are play fighting then awkwardly looking in each others eyes lovingly as if they truly are in some kind of weird CG Tiger-Love. Charlie Sheen ain’t got nothin’ on this.

Once the ridiculously long introduction video ends, I’m greeted by what can only be described as a flying talking vermin-like creature known as Bumble, who informs me that the whole island has just been going totally batshit crazy for my arrival and have been preparing round the clock to make it just perfect for me. I feel genuinely welcome, I’m sure I’ll fit in just fine. After a little walk I have the option to choose my cub that I can play with for the rest of my time here (anyone ever seen that PETA South Park episode?). The cubs are all lined up waiting for me to make my selection, and seeing as I feel so close to these animals already, it’s a tough choice to make. I feel like I’ve made a real connection to each one, and I genuinely felt like I didn’t want to let any of them down or leave them on their own. Ah, gaming.

‘Kinectimals’ has grabbed me already. Long story short I really have fallen in love with it and I have no idea where that came from. I always knew I wanted to give it a whirl, after sitting through the E3 2010 coverage, it looked like one the more impressive technical achievements and above anything else that peaked my interest. I finally get my hands on it and it’s everything I expected and more. No, it’s not particularly deep. There’s little to no storyline running through it, but it’s just not about that. It’s ‘Nintendogs XL’, a genuinely fun game designed the for the kids. It’s more interesting than just another minigame collection, and that’s why I think it’s awesome.

One ‘family’ game that utterly deserves your attention is without a doubt the outstanding ‘Toy Story 3?, the game of the movie. I’m crazy about it, I’ve spent hours and hours immersing myself into the ‘Toybox’ mode. A complete open world where you are free to do whatever you please. It’s built to bring back the feelings of childhood, where in your imagination anything was possible. It succeeds so brilliantly, it made me start to worry about when the Buzz Lightyear I became such a grown up. I love that gaming can take me out of real life and throw me straight back to that feeling I felt toward the first video game I ever played, ‘Alex the Kidd in Miracle World’, the Best Easter Egg Ever, built into SEGA’s Master System II. Feeling like a kid again brings me back to playing these sorts of games, the luck of them being fantastic is just an added bonus.

Rock Hard

It’s common knowledge that games these days are, shall we say easier than those from yesteryear. Easier in the sense of the more common than ever ‘checkpoints’ and saving your progress. Plenty of modern games don’t even have ‘lives’ anymore. You die, you start at the last checkpoint. Lovely. I remember playing through ‘Alex the Kidd’ and ‘Super Mario Bros.’ and being utterly rubbish at them. After getting the 25th Anniversary ‘Super Mario All Stars’ collection for the Wii, I put them on again and actually scared myself at how bad I was. The updated versions of these games have save points, yes, but if you lose all your lives before you get a chance to reach one that’s it. Right back to the start, you throw your Wiimote down on the floor and start crying, despairing that ‘old-school’ games are too difficult and there is no justice in the world. Some people I know don’t think about this. They assume that older games are far easier, which of course they’re not. Kids these days have no idea the blood sweat and tears we put into our gaming back in the day. Why on earth would we want to go back to that pain? That unadulterated misery? Nostalgia. Playing ‘Mario Bros’ and the original Sonics take us back to our youth. We remember buying them (or having them bought for us), putting the brick of a cartridge into our shiny consoles and turning them on for the first time. Hoping that you have become a better gamer over the course of your life, and then getting stuck trying to jump over the mechanical fish on the first Green Hill Zone. There are gaming Gods out there who can sail through these levels and not bat an eyelid as they’ve spent years mastering the perfect course through each level, people who can complete the entirety of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ in less than 10 minutes. I am not one of those people. I have tried to be, me and my friend spent almost an entire evening trying to beat the Guinness World Record for fastest time through the first level of Sonic 2 which currently stands at 21 seconds (damn you Justin Towell!) and the best we could do was match it. The holder was kind enough to upload a video on exactly how he did it, and we studied it intensely (cus we’re COOL, OK?) but we could never succeed. I’m not ready to give up now, I shall master it and the kid in me will either think it’s really really cool or will tell me to go outside. I do hope it’s the former. Probably better for my future-self that I haven’t wasted my life up till now.

Playing these games again is a joy. It’s something I can’t really explain, as it’s such a personal experience. I remember getting ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ for my Nintendo 64 on Christmas Day and going slightly bonkers, and to this day it still fills me with excitement every time I stick it on. It’s complete nostalgic brilliance. Everyone has their perfect game, to think that in 20 years or so games like ‘Kinectimals’ and ‘Nintendogs’ will be considered nostalgic is one crazy notion, with people writing articles about how they were brought up on Wii, Move and Kinect. To imagine where gaming will be at that point is a conversation for another day, and it’ll be up to them to write about our favourite industry in the same way that we do. On the flipside, look at the motion control era now. I’ve written about how my Dad is fascinated by it’s concept. How he was blown away by Kinect and how he enjoys it at home now hosting regular gaming nights with his friends. It’s absolutely brilliant. My Dad is just a personal example, I used to work in an over 50?s hotel on the Isle of Wight and one of the activities we ran was Wii Bowling. It was hugely popular, and I would hear stories of how they all had one at home and how much they enjoy it. So as much as I can say that ‘Kinectimals’ and ‘Toy Story 3? are keeping my inner child happy, I can imagine it’s more than ten fold for those considered 2 generations above me. It’s fascinating to see how gaming brings everyone together, and how it can affect people in such personal ways when they play their favourite games from their youth. My Dad has no time now for ‘Pong’, ‘Pac-Man’ or ‘Tetris’, he’s moving with the times. He buys Xbox magazines now and talks to me about how good ‘Child of Eden’ looks. I tell him I write for a gaming website and he now checks it regularly.

Whatever you may think of the ‘family’ genre, there are some truly brilliant games hidden away. Embrace your inner kid and enjoy these games as much as you enjoy your franchise blockbusters.

I promise you, it’s worth it.

Achievement Unlocked: Can’t Remember Outside

Turn away if you’re against pervert moths.

 

These days, it’s nice to have friends around you. Especially with those big life moments. Buying a new flatscreen and showing it off for the first time. Going to the big game and getting resoundingly Chucklebrothered, waking up with your hands tied up to a strangely yellow coloured lampost, wearing nothing more than a Samus Mask with a sign hanging around your neck saying ‘If Found Return To Hogwarts‘ with what you’ve been told is a very shaky wand slightly ajar sliding rather awkwardly out of the side of your mouth.

NEVER happened to me.

Then you have those moments where you just need them to be your buddy. You promise them money – or in my case, a pizza – and eternal respect for the ultimate in gaming friend activity: Achievement Whoring.

This is a job which is dedicated only to the friend who will genuinely say yes to you requesting a night with his wife. He’s the most laid back, happiest person alive and just gets his happiness from helping out others. Imagine though, if you will, that said best friend is not available? Who are you going to turn too? Your other friend? The other who is happy to help but doesn’t really want to because it interrupts his schedule of watching Jeremy Kyle with a packet of Doritos and his laptop on his sofa on Facebook inexplicably stealing next doors Wi-Fi. You don’t want to tear him from that which brings him the most pleasure in life, right? Of course not. Therefore, you need an alternate. Or – you could just do it yourself?

You join me at a bit of a crossroads. A few months back, for whatever reason I got rid of my Xbox 360. It was a difficult decision to make, yet ultimately seemed like the right thing to do given the circumstances I found myself in at that point. I had alot of history with this particular Xbox 360 – 4gb S model, very nice – in the short space of time we had together I started and finished many games, including ‘Halo Reach’, ‘Black Ops’ – including an uncountable amount of Zombies – ‘Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’ ‘FIFA 11′ and even sat back and ‘Backseat-Game’d’ the hell out of my roommate as I watched him annihilate ‘F1 2010′ several times over. The beauty of the latter was that he did it all on my Gamertag, which was incredibly nice of him as I took all his achievements, and I still find it funny to this day (I know you’re reading this, I love you. And thank you). We blasted through ‘Reach’ together on Legendary on this Xbox, spent an entire evening attempting to beat the Guiness World Record on ‘Sonic 2′ (which he did, and I didn’t), teamed up on ‘Arkham Asylum’ and decimated the Joker. This Xbox was where we discovered Kinect for the very first time. The first time we jumped our way through River Rapids and waved our arms for floaty Space Balls. It was a sturdy, powerful machine that took everything we threw at it and shoved it right back in our faces in glorious High Definition. My Gamerscore (I’ll admit, mainly thanks to my roommate) was getting very respectable. Not 12-year-old-kid-in-America-sitting-on-his-ass-doing-nothing-but-levelling-up-on-Black-Ops respectable, but respectable enough for a guy who worked full time and shared his Xbox with somebody else. I have nothing but fond memories of that machine, even if it was my 6th Xbox 360 in my lifetime, it never quit on me once. And just like that, it was gone.

Cue to a few months later and I’m in a better place so I pick myself up a shiny 250gb Xbox 360 Slim. My word, is it beautiful. I can USE THE THEATRE ON REACH! AT LAST! I can FILE SHARE BECAUSE I FINALLY HAVE THE HARD DRIVE SPACE TO DO IT! I CAN INSTALL MY GAMES! HALLELUJAH! I HAVE ALL THESE ARCADE GAMES I’VE BOUGHT OVER THE YEARS I CAN DOWNLOAD AGAIN FOR FREE AND STICK ON MY HARD DRIVE! SONIC 1! SONIC 2! SONIC 3! SONIC & KNUCKLES! SONIC 4! PERFECT DARK! BANJO KAZOOIE! EVERYTHING’S GOING SO WELL!! AND IT’S…IT’S…..IT’S SOO SHINY. THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!

….

Except….it wasn’t. It. Just. Wasn’t.

The brand new, shiny 250gb Xbox 360 Slim is set up. Everything is plugged in and ready to go. The Xbox needs an update. OK, was expecting that, it’s cool. Update done. Now into the setup, happy times. Date, Time, Location. Great. Xbox Live? Connected. Fantastic. Sign up for Xbox Live or Recover Gamertag? Recover Gamertag, please. Email address…no problem :D . Bring it all back!!

Password. Oh, frag.

I don’t remember it. At all. Nothing is coming back to me. Right, straight to Xbox.com. Sign In. I use my email address and pray that the password I typed in is the correct one. It isn’t. Right. ‘I can’t remember my password’, clicked. Security Question. Security Question. SECURITY QUESTION? WTF? I don’t remember the answer to my security question! This is a HOTMAIL account, nobody sets up a new hotmail account anymore? I set up this account when I was THIRTEEN, Microsoft. This isn’t fair. Right, um..*puts in what could possibly be the answer*. ‘The answer to your security question is incorrect. Blocked’.

BLOCKED?! I go to keep trying..’You have failed too many times to access this account. This account is now blocked. Please contact Windows Help for more support’. Bloodyell, fine. I call the lovely Xbox Customer Service people, after waiting in the queue for what seemed like a full eternal life (it is Microsoft, after all) I finally get through to a lovely lady called Gertrude – I don’t remember her name – who asks me for my Gamertag and post code connected to my billing address. Done, lovely. I explain the situation, saying that I’m trying really very hard to recover my Gamertag but I don’t have my password or my security question. I can answer any bloody question about my Gamertag, not a problem..the security side of it not so much. She asks me when my last Microsoft Points transaction was and how much it was for. Bollocks, she had to ask me that. I go with 1000 Points on the 12th October (the day before ‘Sonic 4′ was released. Had to make sure I stocked up), remarkably it works. She then asks me the last three letters of my password. Come on, we got this far, and I’ve already explained that I don’t remember my password, so we go round in circles. Eventually, after lots of telling her lots of things including my credit card details associated with my Gamertag, she still can’t/won’t let me in. That’s it. It’s all gone. Everything we played. Everything we worked for. Every XBLA game I paid for. Game over, man. Game over. To be honest, I felt like crying, it was a brutal moment. How could everything just have disappeared like that? It actually hurts to think about now, my online rep was getting very cool indeed and now it’s gone and it’s never coming back. Life is so unfair.

After picking myself backup after the tragedies I have suffered, I begrudgingly set up a new Gamertag.

However upsetting it was for wonderful memories such as these to just disappear, a new Gamertag is a new Gamertag. The idea of paying Microsoft to change my old one seemed utterly ridiculous, so the idea of thinking up a brand new one for free was rather exciting really, as my old one had fallen into some kind of black hole with no chance of it ever coming back. As I twiddled my thumbs thinking of a cool new name, I always had in the back of my mind my old Tag, and as such..rather boringly and disappointingly, just added a ’2′ to the end of my original one. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but it made sense to me. There was nothing wrong with my original tag, so I just left it there and kept on. Now, what a heartbreaking moment it was to see my Gamerscore as precisely ZERO. I was kept thinking about everything in my power I could do to bring it back up to the levels of brilliance it once enjoyed, so many moons ago. First things first, pick up some cheap copies of ‘Reach’, ‘ODST’ and ‘Black Ops’. I annihilated those three games in terms of Achievements so they were my first port of call. I picked up the ‘Halo”s rather easily, got them both for under £15, lovely. ‘Black Ops’ proved far more difficult, as I couldn’t find a pre-owned copy anywhere for less than £25. I’m not cheap, but there is no way I’m paying £25 for a pre-owned game, even if it is bloody ‘Call of Duty’. I know that the games in this particular series have absolutely no interest in dwindling in price until the next iteration is released, but seriously? ‘Black Ops’ hit our stores nearly a year ago, the fact it’s not even half  price yet pre-owned is somewhat frightening, ergo, I left it. I’ll pick it up again at some point, until that day, the ‘Halo”s will have to do.

Before all this, though. I found myself playing those stupid free games that come built in to every Xbox 360. I was bored so broke out the mother rockin’ behemoth that is ‘Hexic HD’. Got myself a couple of achievements on there, which I focused intently on. I remember because there were two moths on my TV screen looking at me like they wanted my body in a naughty way. Perverts. I got these Achievements very happily. The ball was indeed rolling.

Now, what to play first? ‘Reach’ I know like the back of my hand, so that’s probably a good a place as any to start. The fact you can get Achievements for stupid things like ‘Recommend a File’ and ‘Uploading to File Share’ makes it a no brainer for some quick points. I wanted to get through it quickly, so with no shame or reluctance, went straight for the Heroic difficulty. I was thinking to myself, does it really matter? ‘Halo’ is notorious for it’s regens, and you just start over at your last checkpoint. I wanted to run, not to walk. Heroic was fine enough for me. Bring it on, Noble Team! Let’s er..start, the fight. R.I.P. Kat :( .

‘ODST’, however, is a different beast altogether. The controls are all messed up, for starters which is annoying. The whole game is so damn dark you need the Visor set to ON for more or less the entire game. The enemies are in huge numbers and unpredictable. The levels aren’t as big as those found in the main series – everyone probably knows this, but ODST was originally meant as DLC for ‘Halo 3′, until the game became so huge Bungie decided to release it as a physical disc, packing in the full ‘Halo 3′ multiplayer – so running through it shouldn’t be too difficult. Heroic it is. Um, oops. Bad idea. Hang on, I’m shamelessly Achievement Whoring, here. I take a quick look at the Achievement list. You get the same points for completing the game on Heroic as you do on Normal? Thanks very much, I’m going back to Normal. Do I feel guilty and a little weak? Yes. Do I care? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

As expected – not to blow my own giant frikkin’ Rod Gun or anything -, I sailed through both games. I’ve played them both to death and could have probably done it with my feet. ‘Reach’ isn’t the most difficult game in the world, of course, but ‘ODST’ at the highest level does present a serious challenge. Well, it did. Once. Not anymore. Inbetween the Campaigns I assured myself I would get some random multiplayer Achievements, which I did. I also managed to squeeze in some Forge creation, without question my favourite part of ‘Reach’. What next? Well, I have a LoveFilm account, may aswell rent some games to Bitch-Slap for Achievements. Wait…what’s this? ‘Avatar: The Burning Earth’…..

If you’re in it for some shameless Achievement Whoring. Look no further than ‘Avatar: The Legend of Aang – The Burning Earth’. A game so freakin’ terrible, it stands on it’s own as a testament to developers doing utterly nothing with modern technology and pitifully staying in the last generation. Its execution is horrible, its voice over work dreadful, its graphics just…nasty. It takes the skills and talent of every AAA game developer and throws them into some useless disrepute as you wonder how they can stand side by side in the same industry. Don’t – DON’T buy this game, ever. For fucks sake, don’t buy this game.

However….

For Achievements? It is without doubt the very best game ever made.  No game even comes close. If you’re reading this article you probably know about this games legacy, about how it’s still full bloody price EVERYWHERE you look purely and utterly because of it’s Achievements. Clever marketing tool? Perhaps. Like I said, though. Don’t buy this game, it’s so horribly dreadful. Do, however, rent the crap out of it. Borrow it from a friend who was stupid enough to buy it. Steal it, then give it back. It won’t take you long, you can get every single Achievement in the space of around 5 minutes. Just. Press. B. 1000 G’s are yours without breaking a sweat. Can’t believe it? Trust me, somehow pick this game up without paying for it, and you’ll see what I mean. It really is quite amazing. Some people argue the developers – THQ, of all people – put all the Achievements at the very start of the game as they knew the whole game sucked and assumed nobody would play on past the first level, while others argue they just had no idea what Achievements actually meant. The truth is, from THQ themselves, that ‘the Achievements were placed where they were with kids in mind’. Aww, ain’t they sweet?

Now, yes I rented it. Yes, I got the 1000 Points. I’m not going to pretend I’m the only one, a quick glance through my friends list on Xbox Live and I see pretty much all of them have done the same thing. I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness, it’s a quick way to get Gamerpoints. Its legacy will live on for a long long time.

At this point, I’m about a quarter of a way towards my original score, which isn’t bad going in the space of two weeks, I reckon. I continue to soldier on in my perilous mission, in the hope that I reach those dizzy heights of fame and fortune one requires when reaching such an important milestone in life. My current Achievement Whore of choice is ‘Burnout Paradise’, not particularly easy for Achievements but certainly brilliant fun. Plenty to do and the Points just come along with it. Plus DJ Atomica of Crash FM is just awesome, isn’t he?

What games am I avoiding? Well, the pure unfairness of ‘Red Dead Redemption’. As fantastic, mystical, wonderous and beautiful as the game is, it’s brutally unfair with Achievements. I’ve never worked so damn hard in my life to finish a game, only to get very little back in the way of Points. Originally, that isn’t why I finished it. Back in the day – like, last year – it was all about finishing the game to finish the game. I didn’t care so much about Achievements, they just were all part of powering through. The satisfaction of completing a game like ‘Red Dead Redemption’ was a great feeling, something you can only get with games. It wasn’t until my roommate started getting a pretty hefty Gamerscore of his own that I started to really take notice to the fact that he could be defeating me on my own Xbox, something I just couldn’t let happen. He completed ‘Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’ before I did. There was no way I was gonna let him take all the glory. If anything, he gave me the determination to power through ‘Brotherhood’ and ‘Red Dead Redemption’. Now of course, because of Gamertag Recovery fail he’s lightyears ahead of me in the Gamerpoints stake, which is doubly annoying because he’s now replayed ‘F1 2010′ and reclaimed back the Achievements he so kindly donated to me. You can’t go wrong in life when you have friends like him. Anyway, I completed ‘Red Dead Redemption’ and got 90G for my efforts. 90?! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FAR I’VE GALLOPED ACROSS THIS BLOODY MAP? How many people I’ve killed and bears I’ve gutted? 90 points? It was a cruel twist of fate on my part, I was expecting and demanding more. I’ve since ran through it again and got little Achievements, but nothing breaks the heart more than playing through that entire damn game just to get the Achievement equivalent of a pat on the back. Don’t even get me started on ‘Undead Nightmare’. The game has been tossed out of the window.

Whatever you may think of my shameless Achievement Whoring, it’s really all about trying to recapture that time I had with my original 360 and hoping that it wasn’t all completely wasted. I love my gaming as much as the next person, and I hate to see my times and efforts be in vain. It’s a tried and tested motivation, but one that seems to divide people. Do you play games to finish them 100%? Are you that gamer? The one that won’t stop until every Achievement available for that game is unlocked. The one that sees the game as incomplete until every picture has been mysteriously coloured in. I’ll be honest, I’m not this person. I do love my Achievements but I won’t go out of my way to get every single one, I just don’t have that kinda time y’know? Except of course for ‘Avatar: The Burning Earth’.

Which person are you? Let us know below.

Fancy a game? Add RosskoAK862. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, I can tell.

Cya pals!

REVIEW: Rise of Nightmares
REVIEW: Ugly Americans - Apocalypsageddon
REVIEW: FIFA 12
REVIEW: Batman: Arkham City
REVIEW: Football Manager 2012
REVIEW: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
REVIEW: Halo Anniversary
Gaming On And Staying Young
Achievement Unlocked: Can’t Remember Outside

About:

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

Following: