Archive for March, 2013

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Hi everybody! Seeing as we are closing in on the end days of this generation I started thinking about doing a top 10 list of games for it. Then I realised there are still a load of games coming out this year that could easily shake said list up (GTAV, Last Of Us, Saints Row 4 etc.) So in the end I decided to do a top 10 list of console games from the last generation. So for your pleasure, and in order of best to abso-fucking-insane-omg-mega-hell-yeah, I present the top 10 console games of the last generation!

10.  Knights of the old Republic

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I only recently played through this for the first time, and I will admit it took me a good few hours and a good few restarts until I finally got in the swing of things and started to properly appreciate this game. I had always heard very good things about this game and being a huge Star Wars and Mass Effect fan I have no idea how I didn’t get around to playing it sooner.

As I mentioned it did take me a while to get into it. This is because, from a technical standpoint, the game does not hold up well. I encountered many many glitches on my journey throughout the galaxy. From screen tearing to texture pop in to audio glitching and interference. So why is this game on the list you ask? One reason my friends. The story. Probably the best story set in the Star Wars universe and the GREATEST twist in a videogame EVER that left my jaw firmly set on the floor! Yeah, Bioshock, Half Life Episode 2, Heavy Rain, y’all aint got shit!

9. Jak 3

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This was one of those games that tried pretty much everything and pretty much succeeded. Jak & Daxter started off as a traditional 3D platformer. Then Jak 2 turned things upside-down putting a larger emphasis on free roaming action and a darker story. Then Jak 3 came along and turned all the aspects of those two games up to 11. With huge sprawling and varied environments. A much better realised vehicle system. Satisfying if slightly flawed combat. An incredibly written, performed and animated story. The humour that fans had come to expect from the series. And an epic sense scale rarely seen in games at this point. Naughty Dog delivered the goods tenfold! Jak 4 now please?!

8. Ssx 3

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Oh my damn! No game I have ever EVER played empowers you and makes you feel as awesome as this game does! In fact this is one of two games that I would describe as being perfect. Everything about this slice of snowy heaven reeks of amazing. The huge free roaming mountain that you unlock bit by bit (culminating in a 30 minute race from the top to the bottom) the cool colourful characters (personal favourite being Kaori) all of whom are fully upgradable and customisable. The booming bass filled soundtrack, with songs to fill everyone’s tastes. The tracks themselves are a delight to play around with. Filled with alternate routes and littered with unlockables. And finally the GameCube controller. This pad was made for this game and they complement each other like nothing before or anything that has come after!

7. Resident Evil 4

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Holy balls this game sure as hell shook things up. Doing away with the old mechanics, I remember being so sceptical the first time I saw gameplay footage of this. You need to remember that before Resi 4 came out, over the shoulder shooters were pretty much non-existent. However when my friend bought an imported copy to my house on his GameCube, within minutes all my fears vanished. Only to be replaced by the genuine terror at just how intense this game was. After buying my own copy I remained firmly on the edge of my seat, and my anus tightly clenched, for the entire experience! Never before had a game effected me like this game did, and it wouldn’t happen again until Dead Space years later. Still the original and best, Resident Evil 4 is a must play.

6. Shadows of the Colossus

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This is a tough one. As anyone who has played this game can attest it’s very hard to describe and make it sound appealing. The best way for anyone to experience this game would be in a cinema. No screw that! An IMAX cinema!!! This game is big, epic, beautiful, heart wrenching and totally unique. The game is essentially made up of boss battles. That is it. No towns. No NPC’s. Dialogue and story is kept to a minimum whilst the soundtrack, for the most part, is quiet, sombre and unobtrusive. See I told you it was a hard sell. But what if I was to tell you that these were possibly the greatest most action packed, screen filling, amazing boss battles ever conceived? And that after winning each one, you the player, felt like a complete and utter bastard?! Ah interested now yeah? Well don’t take my word for it. Download it from the psn now and do yourself a favour!

5. Dragon quest VIII

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Ah, the last truly great traditional JRPG ever made (that is at least until Ni No Kuni was released earlier this year) DQVIII knew what it was and made no qualms about it. Going the opposite route of the Final Fantasy franchise (whom at this point had fucked everything up with Final Fantasy X and have continued fucking it up ever since) decided to release the game that the fans wanted. A brass tacks, hard-core challenging JRPG. Everything in this game was exactly what I had wanted from the next gen FF. interesting and likable characters WITH GOOD VOICE ACTORS! A simple yet satisfying battle system. A WORLD MAP! Many many many sidequets. A beautifully performed musical score. An interesting and well written story. And some of the best graphics seen on any system last generation. Thank you Level 5! Thank you for Rogue Galaxy, thank you for Dark Cloud, thank you for Dark chronicle and thank you for Dragon Quest VIII. But most of all, thank you for not trying to be Final Fantasy.

4. Okami

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Yo! Like Zelda? Loved Windwaker? (yeah I know it should have been on the list!) But you haven’t got a GameCube?! Well fear not! Those awesome guys at Clover have got you covered! If you watched a trailer for Okami back in the day it was very easy to just class it as a Zelda clone and think nothing more about it. Nothin’ wrong with that I guess. The Zelda franchise has put out some of the best games ever made. But it wasn’t until you actually sat down with Okami and got lost in its world that you realised that this game was so so much more than any Zelda game could ever aspire to be. Taking many pointers from the aforementioned franchise, Okami even played very much like a Zelda game, BUT it took all those ideas and made them its own. Giving everything a very traditional quirky and Japanese twist, Okami was an entirely different beast. More story focused than a Zelda game and with more unique and interesting characters, dungeons and music than any Zelda game, PlayStation owners finally had some serious bragging rights…until it was later released on the Wii that is!

3. Psychonauts

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Oh Psychonauts! You bloody beautiful bastard you! From the incredible mind of Tim Schaffer, Psychonauts was an adventure/platformer that just didn’t play by the rules. Playing as a young boy called Raz, you run away to a psychic summer camp so you can learn to properly harness your powers and become a Psychonaut. During your time here you will engage in fights to save a milkman’s sanity. Take on the role of a Godzilla movie type monster terrorising a city of Lump Fish. Play your part in a life sized living game of Risk, and traverse a circus made of meat! Yes all of this is as goddamn amazing as it sounds! Just as important as all this though is that the geniuses at Double Fine created a world that you want to live in. the camp and its surrounding areas are an utter joy to explore. It is one of the best most charming game world to explore and I can only implore you to take a chance and dive right in!

2. Beyond Good & Evil

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Now it was a very close call between BG&E and Psychonauts as to what would take the number 2 spot as they are both very similar games. A big emphasis on exploring. Brilliantly written and charming characters and well put together soundtracks. However BG&E just slightly came out on top. I’m not even entirely sure why. I think the main reason is this. Even though the BG&E world is very cartoonish, it feels real. I mean really REAL. I always felt that after I turned the PS2 off that all the characters, main and NPC alike, carried on with their daily lives. And for a developer to achieve this amount of immersion is no mean feat. Furthermore I’ve played through this game god knows how many times and yet I always discover something new. Even if it’s just a batch of Pearls or a hidden room I had overlooked before. This game always feels fresh. Who knows, maybe the inhabitants keep building new things and moving stuff around for the next time I boot up the game. 🙂

1. Metroid Prime

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Remember when I said that there were only two games I would ever describe as perfect? Well this is the other one! And what can be said about MP that hasn’t already been said? The graphics? The best of a generation. Slick, shiny and so realistic that they just sucked you right in to the world of Tallon IV. The music? Again some of the greatest most atmospheric music ever created! Tunes you will be humming and scouring the internet for for days on end. A standout point for me would be the wonderful calming score for the Phendrana Drifts. A perfect contrast to the Space Pirate theme that you come to fear and dread. The level design? The best in any game. Ever. PERIOD. This is a living breathing functioning world. Everything here has a purpose. From the flora and fauna to the sometimes sedate and sometimes predatory wildlife. Everything works. The backtracking to previously inaccessible areas and the sense of accomplishment that brings. The gameplay? Again. So perfect. Only improved on when it was ported to the Wii (how often do you hear that?!) not quite an FPS and yet at the same time not quite a platformer. Metroid Prime pioneered a genre that they can still to this day say they own! There is not a single aspect of this game that is lacking. Everything about it, down to the smallest detail, screams at the amount of time, love and effort that has gone into making this possibly the greatest game ever made. If you won a Wii or a GameCube book a couple of days off from work, turn the lights down low and get lost in a world unlike any other.

‘The cosmos. In the vast universe, the history of humanity is but a flash of light from a lone star. The light of a single person should be lost in space and time. But among the stars, there is one light that burns brighter than all others: the light of Samus Aran. Her battles extend beyond her life and etch themselves into history. Here, another chapter of that history will be written.’

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10 Reasons Front Mission 3 Is The Best Game Ever And 1 Reason It’s The Worst

 

For those who don’t know, Front Mission 3 is the first Playstation incarnation of Squaresoft’s giant mecha strategy series to appear in Europe.  It’s like Final Fantasy Tactics meets Armoured Core and it might just be the best game ever.  And here’s why:

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1)       Fully customizable robots, so you can create a hovering rocket launcher.  Or a 4-legged sniper.  Or someone with two shotguns and a grenade launcher.  Literally whatever you can squeeze into the weight restraints.  No weapon restrictions on characters, either, so if you want a 4-man squad of flamethrowers, go for it!

2)      Literally the angriest protagonist in an RPG (at least until someone makes a Berserk-themed one).  Kazuki is a nutter.  Or at least, he bounces between standard stoic hero and bloodfury.  I swear he even seems to activate melee-based skills more than other characters.  Tends to go for the arms, too.

3)      A 4:1 spy to comic relief character ratio.  Everyone loves spies, no-one likes comic relief characters.  Winner!

4)      Morningstars the size of buses.  Yep.  You can even dual wield them!

5)      The Internet.  Well, a drastically reduced simulacrum that runs like it was on a DOS beta, but still.  It’s also hooked up to some kind of huge, gnarly 3D printer so you can literally send weapons and material down the phone line in seconds.

6)      Beam weapons!  Okay, lasers are nothing new in mecha games, but what do they usually accomplish?  Some pew pew noises and a few flashes like someone was shooting glow sticks at you with a crossbow?  These are like the angry glare of ZEUS; a caustic line of pure energy, along with a scream like the souls of the damned being subjected to dubstep.  And they do damage!  Do you have a shield equipped?  No?  Say goodbye to your ride!  When you finally get to use one, it’s an experience of true joy…

7)      Grand Theft Mecha.  Yep, you can punch someone out of their robot and jump in it yourself.  Nothing quite like crushing a poor pilot with his own machine.  You can even take it home later to sell or dismantle.

8)      You assault a farmstead guarded by machine-armed walking trucks that run on manure.  This is exactly as much fun as it sounds.

9)      Both scenarios have at least a handful of missions aboard a gigantic rolling fortress that can accommodate an army and bristles with weapons.  One mission even takes place on top of it!

10)   A branching story arc allows you to see two sides of a gigantic national incident  over a huge campaign, amounting to 120+ hours of gameplay, each with six or more unique characters and multiple events to each play through.  It’s pretty easy to clock up 500 or so hours on this game without even realizing it… and it’s damn well good enough to make that effort!

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So in conclusion, Front Mission 3 is well worth playing and those ten reasons should be more than enough to convince you!  However, there is one fly in the ointment…

1)      Random status effects.  That’s right, every single attack has a random chance to inflict either a stun, confuse or auto-eject on either you or an enemy.  Battle skills increase this chance or make it a certainty, but the chance is high enough to make it almost certain that at least once a battle, something bad will happen to a pilot.  And that one time your main pilot is ejected on your own turn, right in front of the enemy firing line, you will want to throw your Playstation out of the window.

Despite that, Front Mission 3 is definitely worth a play, especially now it’s available for a modest sum on the Playstation Store.  So what are you waiting for?

Hey, remember Squaresoft?  No, not Square Enix; presumably the remnants of old Square who were abducted, experimented on by evil aliens and then amalgamated into gestalt entities with the similarly abducted Enix staff into the evil clones we know today.

If you don’t, once upon a time there was a Japanese company that just churned out quality (for the most part) RPG titles, tactical sims and action titles like Final Fantasy, Vagrant Story and, most importantly for this review, Front Mission.   They made these great games with care and enthusiasm and amassed an international fanbase of millions, incidentally the only reason Squenix survives to this day.

Everyone knows what Final Fantasy is, so I’ll skip that explanation.  But what is Front Mission?  Surely another turn-based monster slayer starring blue-haired kids whose villages have been razed to the ground?  Nope.  This game is set in the not-too-distant future where the world is divided into 4 or 5 super-countries and primarily features 30-FOOT TALL WALKING DEATH MACHINES! Okay, so humongous mecha are nothing new, but they’re so rarely done this well that it’s always a joy to see.  They work especially well in this environment, as a team-based tactical RPG similar in style to Final Fantasy: Tactics.  Battles take place on an isometric-view grid with your mecha able to make use of obstructions, heights and environmental hazards to take on outnumbering enemy forces.  Each turn, you move your squad around the ‘board’ and select opponents to attack with a variety of weapons.  Every time you do so, the camera zooms in to a more detailed scene of your mech blasting away at the enemy and receiving incoming fire in turn.  Although the graphics are typically PS1-era crude, it’s still fun to see your shots exploding off the enemy, ripping arms and weapons off and your pilot celebrating when they make a kill.

 

I have a slight bias for the third installment of the Front Mission series, as I will happily rant to no end to anyone willing to listen.  In all honesty, this is probably my favourite game of all time, and certainly the one I’ve spent the most time with!  The battles are fun, but mostly act as a testing ground for the way you customize and supply your Wanzers (short for wanderung panzer or ‘walking tank’) and what skills your pilots have learned.  The customization is, for me, where Front Mission 3 really shines.  You’re given complete freedom on how to arrange the parts, weapons and accessories of your Wanzers whilst balancing the weight limits, movement speed and durability of each mech.  Past a certain point, you can select any weapon for each character, too, so if you want a squad entirely made up of missile-slinging heavies, you’re free to do so.  Experimentation and adaptability is key and the ability to swap out individual parts of each machine means you can always tinker to make them slightly better, faster or harder hitting over time.

In addition to part swapping, your pilots can learn ‘Battle Skills’ from each piece of equipment that allow them to randomly push the limits of their craft or guard against certain drawbacks.  Everything from missile salvos, to ejector seats, electronic chaff and rapid-fire weapons, giving you the chance for that extra edge against your opponents.  One of the more fun skills sees all your units within range gang up on an enemy machine for some free shots or punches!

 

So enough about the combat system, how is the story?  Front Mission 3’s is an interesting one.  Being set, rarely for Squaresoft games, in the real world, it’s much more grounded in reality than most RPGs.  You begin as Kazuki Takemura, a hot-headed Japanese test pilot working alongside his friend, Ryogo Kusama, a fellow employee in Kirishima Heavy Industries.  Kirishima is one of the major Wanzer suppliers distributing materiel for the Japanese Defence Force.  You begin the game testing out a new model combat Wanzer, which Kazuki comments on being ‘far too offensively-oriented for the defensive Japanese military’.  It’s partly this insight that ends the pair up to their necks in hot water as a global conspiracy unfolds.  I won’t spoil anything, but their journey takes them across continents, over vast battlefields and sees them join up with a plethora of unlikely allies.

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But… which side of the battlefield and alongside which allies is where the game shows off it’s more interesting feature.  A simple decision early on sees the story split entirely in two, following completely different party members on opposite perspectives for the same story.  Today’s friends could be tomorrows foes and both paths offer unique insight.  Looking back, I wish my first time playing I’d tried to juggle both branches simultaneously, trying to keep pace with both sides of the story… that would be an experience.

Whichever path you take, you’ll meet interesting characters from all walks of life, from a ditzy policewoman, to a jovial marine commander, to a federal spy (or four!), even scientists and… farming equipment salesmen?  Indeed, the game’s sense of humour is prevalent in Kazuki & Ryogo’s banter, though the game’s overall tone can be a little bleak, especially in ‘E’s’ scenario.  Still, the world of 2113 is an interesting one where you’ll get to see the results of rampant genetic experimentation, city-sized mobile fortresses, weapons of mass destruction and… a man kicking a 30-foot tall robot in two.  Seriously.

 

Each scenario easily weighs in at 60+ hours, especially if you want to grind up credits and do some experimentation.  So with both paths to explore, that’s more game time than even a Final Fantasy title and with multiple playthroughs, you’ll easily surpass your Skyrim game time!  Front Mission 3 comes with my highest recommendation for any fans of tactical warfare, giant stompy robots or a good storyline.  It’s only a shame that more Front Mission titles weren’t released in Europe ( I went to great lengths to get 4 and it looks like 5 will be out of reach for a while…  hey at least there’s… Evolveeeddd D8 ).

 

With a download available through PSN, there’s no excuse for any PS3/PS Vita owner not to experience one of Squaresoft’s great hurrahs and to own a game that certainly did its part in making the PS1 era once of gaming’s greatest moments.  You’ll not regret it!

 

Ok. So I know I said that this week’s RRR was going to be Ducktales, but in the words of L.J from the academy award winning film Resident evil Apocalypse, ‘My shit is custom!’ In other words I’ll do what I want when I want! (Anyway I haven’t finished replaying Ducktales yet and I did finish Leon’s B scenario last night.)

So for those of you that have already sampled the delights of Resi 2 there isn’t going to be a lot of insight here. This is mainly for those of you that missed it. I’m going to start off by telling you the lay of the land. Resi 2 is one of the greatest action games ever created! Yeah I know that it’s technically survival horror but seriously, the last hour of the game evokes the same amount of adrenalin that MGS1 did back in the day. It’s that good!

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Furthermore I’d even go as far to say that Resi 2 is the perfect Resi game. It has everything. A great and gripping story, albeit delivered with some very hammy dialog. Nothing here is on par with some of the cracking one liner’s from Resi 1 (Jill sandwich) however Ada Wong’s I’m just a woman who fell in love with you, nothing more” comes pretty close.

But enough of that. I’ll attempt to quickly brush over what makes this game great (only because I’ve got Nemesis downloaded on my PS Vita and it’s giving me those come to bed eyes!)

4 campaigns! That’s right! Count ‘em! You get to play Leon and Claire’s A and B scenarios with the choices you make and items you pick up affecting the next play through. For example late in the game, playing as Claire, you can release a gas in a lab which kills all Biohazards in that area. Then upon completing the game, and starting Leon’s B scenario, you won’t be able to do this and will have to fight your way through the labs! Great yeah?! The two initial campaign’s play fairly similarly with a few different areas to explore and enemies to fight like Mr X, the Nemesis inspiring baddie who stalks you throughout the entire game.

Then you’ve got the weapons. And I’m not talking about Claire’s standard crossbow and grenade launcher. No I’m getting all up in Leon’s arsenal! Leon’s three main weapons, the shotgun, pistol and magnum, can all be upgraded into zombie splitting machines. The pistol into a sort of semi-automatic Uzi. The shotgun into a whip cracking Licker destroyer. And the magnum into a bucking elephant annihilator! All three of which are incredibly satisfying to use.

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Then there is the setting. One of my favourite aspects of a Resi game is the journey you make from the normal to the strange. And Resi 2 pulls this off with aplomb. Starting in the deserted zombie infested streets of Raccoon city you gradually crawl your way through various gorgeously rendered environments such as the RCPD police department, the spider infested sewers and then the underground secret laboratories of the Umbrella Corporation. And it’s when you get to these clinical shiny corridors that you know some serious shit is going to be going down. And of course all of these locations are accompanied by suitably eerie and creepy musical scores.

Finally Leon Kennedy himself. One of the best protagonists in any game ever! He looks like the dogs proverbial in his blue RCPD duds and his final words in the final cut scene which greet the spastically amazing badass bass slaps of the final credits music are on a level of manliness that Chuck Norris only dreams of reaching!

In short if you own a ps2, N64, Vita, Gamecube, ps3, Dreamcast or PC you owe it to yourself…nay…mankind to play this game!  

Holy Precursor Orbs Batman!! It has recently come to light that the ESRB have released a rating for the Jak and Daxter collection on the PS Vita! As a HUGE J&D fan, and proud Vita owner, the amount of hype filling me is currently leaking out of my eyeballs!

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Although this isn’t official confirmation of the game getting released, and there is no release date, it looks like we’ll be getting to play through the classic ps3 trilogy yet again!

Other information that we are left only to speculate on is information on cross save/buy. What would make sense would be for Sony to release a patch that would sync up with both versions of the game allowing you to transfer trophies and saves between the two formats.

The other exciting thing is thinking about what this will hopefully bring in the future. Is there a new J&D game in the works? Is this re re release a tool for building some hype? Are we going to see more HD remakes released for the Vita? God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Racoon? The mind boggles and the nerd glands pulsate!

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Hopefully Sony will give us some more info soon and I promise to update the blog as soon as that happens! Well after I’ve mopped up after myself anyway J

Well fan boys the wait is up and what is guaranteed to be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters has just rolled out. That’s right, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen has just arrived at a cinema near you. So does this latest offering from Michael Bay deliver and surpass its predecessor? Or is it a failing of Cybertronic proportions?

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A common complaint with the first film was the lack of actual Transformers screen time. Well fret not there is a lot more dialogue and action between the giant robots this time around. You would think this to be a good thing, however TROTF falls into the same trap as one of Bays other films, Bad Boys 2. After a while the action becomes less exciting and actually quite mundane and contrived after a while. This is furthermore exacerbated by the fact that the film clocks in at around the two and a half hour mark. Numb bum will be setting in when the credits roll.

Unlike Bad Boys 2 however most of the humour in the film seems entirely out of place and quite forced. For those of you who didn’t like the American Pie style humour of the first one will not be happy to know that it has increased tenfold.

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In conclusion TROTF would have been a much better film had it maybe taken some cues from this years other stellar hit, Star Trek. A film where the action is paced, script intelligent and humour appropriate and funny. Transformers is wrapped in pretty paper but underneath it all lies a Gobot and not the Optimus Prime you wanted.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen opens in cinemas June 19 and will be taking over your cinema screens throughout the summer. However do yourself a favour and see the sights the Enterprise has to offer first.

Oh God of War DAMMIT! It has not been a good period for sequels. Halo 4 felt like an emotional step back after the wonderful games that were ODST and Reach. Dead Space 3 felt quite bland and unfocused after the two previous terrifying character driven games (don’t even get me started on the micro transaction pushing agenda). Resident Evil 6 was just…I meant seriously, what the actual fuck was that?! And Skyrim , although great, failed to soar to the magical, interesting, enchanting heights of its predecessor. And even though it was superior than its prequel, New Vegas was crippled by game breaking bugs at launch.

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So it is with a heavy, but unsurprised heart, to announce that GOW Ascension falls short of the mark when compared to its previous iterations.

Now just to clarify GOW Ascension is not a bad game. Indeed I wouldn’t describe any of the games mentioned on the list above as ‘bad’. All of them I really enjoyed. They just all seemed to take a step back from bars that were set so high by the originals.

So let’s get started! The way I look at GOW Ascension is that it is a bland by the numbers experience book ended by two classic, breath-taking and momentous boss fights. Seriously, the opening of the game had my heart in my mouth and my eyes popping out my skull. Not only were the visuals stunning but the boss fight was on a whole other level! You thought the Colossus was big? You aint seen nothing until you go toe to toe (or arm to arm) with the Hecatonchres! And equally impressive was the end game boss. Don’t worry I won’t spoil anything here. Suffice to say it is on par with the opening one.

Now onto my gripes. Very near the beginning of the game there is a stunning set piece where Kratos has to control 3 giant snake statues to gain access to the Oracle’s tower. And then that is pretty much the game done for huge typical GOW sets. Everything else after this feels very scaled down and minute compared to the opening hours of the game. There is a point near the end of the game where you are scaling a huge statue, but you do it only bit by tiny bit and you’re constantly popping in and out of it so you never truly get a sense of its scale.

I take issue with the music too. The usual GOW score is here and pops up in appropriate places. Other than that there are so many instances where there is no sound at all. Bar the sound of Kratos’ sandals slapping on the floor. Seriously there were a couple of points where I thought my game was glitched as I was fighting some battles in silence. So the whole music thing was a slight bugbear that took me out of the experience somewhat.

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Combat was fine. There is not a lot else I can say about that really. If you’ve played a GOW game before all the usual combos are here. All the buttons do what they did in previous games. Again my slight issue with this aspect of the game was that I felt the magic that Kratos used wasn’t as effective or as impressive as it was in the other games. My final issue with the combat isn’t down to the actual mechanics but rather the camera angles. Often during the game when you are fighting (usually during a boss fight) the camera will pan so far out that you physically cannot see what you are doing. And you leave your life in fates hands as you button mash and hope you don’t die. Seriously it would be the same as if the game just faded to black for ten seconds. It’s THAT obscuring. On Normal and easy this is just annoying. However on the two highest difficulty settings where a couple of hits can finish you, I’d imagine it’s downright mind numbingly infuriating.

The actual gore and violence itself retains its over the top crimson splattered glory. Gutting the brain of one of the huge elephant enemies is a highlight. As is using your blades to inflict splitting headaches on the medusas. However there are a couple of areas in the game where the violence is just plain out thuggish and nasty, and I found myself, as I did in GOW 3, losing all sympathy for Kratos. There is only so much of watching a large man recklessly stomping a woman’s face into the floor I feel comfortable watching. It doesn’t happen as often as in the third game but it happens often enough near the end that I didn’t want to watch anymore.

My final issue and I felt this was a bit of a biggie, was the QTE’s. I have no problem with them at all. HOWEVER there is a point in a fight near the end of the game where I was stuck for about 15 minutes because the game threw a new QTE action at you without even explaining what it was you needed to do. After 15 minutes of constantly dying I finally resorted to the internet to find out what to do and I was relieved to find I wasn’t the only one having trouble with this section. But you know what the clincher is? This action never pops up again? It is only ever used twice in the entire game and both times are in this boss fight. WHATS THE FUCKING POINT?!?!?

I would like to end this review on a positive note as it feels like I’ve done nothing but tear this game a new one. The puzzles in the game are genuinely satisfying. They bring in some new ideas (think Singularity’s time shifting mechanic) and for the most part they all work really well. A couple had me scratching my head for some time but I never felt frustrated or cheated. Some of them were honestly on par with some of Zelda’s finest. This is definitely the most puzzle heavy GOW out of the lot and if the puzzles were bad or felt tacked on this would probably be a negative thing but, like I said, they were pretty good fun.

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In conclusion God of War Ascension was a good game that I did enjoy. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad. It was however the weakest game that has been put out under the name (and considering two of those games were on the PSP that says something). Puzzles were fun, combat was standard, violence was hit and miss (HAHAHAHAHA) and the two boss fights that framed the game were incredible. So take from that what you will. If you enjoy GOW you will find things to like in this title. Just don’t expect it to break the mould or reinvent the wheel in any way.

EDIT; this is also the first GOW game to NOT feature an interactive sex game! EPIC FAIL!!!

If you were introduced to this game as I was; by television or internet advertisements, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that the new Spec Ops is another brown cover-based shooter featuring buzz-cut wielding all-American hero no.32519.  The series’ previous incarnations on the PS1 will do nothing to allay this false image, either.   Indeed, the only thing I saw in previews to set this game apart from any other was the setting- a sand-blasted, almost post-apocalyptic Dubai.  It’s almost like the developers themselves wanted you to think you were getting into another Modern Battlefields game from the get-go…

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So what makes Spec Ops: The Line stand out from the crowd?
Firstly, a word on the setting itself.  The first impressions of Spec Ops: The Line are mostly positive.  Aside from being a very vanilla-looking shooter, the environments and style are fairly unique from the beginning.  You and your banter-happy team start off at an abandoned evacuation area littered with half-buried vehicles and possessions, totally devoid of life.  Juxtaposed with the clear blue skies, burning gold of the surrounding desert and Dubai’s gleaming skyline, it’s dissonant and creepy.  This game does visual contrast incredibly well, even if the graphics themselves are nothing to write home about.

Visually, the ‘pretty desert’ style is comparable to Journey; another title praised for it’s unusual approach to what is essentially trudging through ruins for the entire game.  Spec Ops really gets this right when you first enter the buildings of Dubai for the first time.  Their sandblasted exteriors will have taken some punishment, but still hint at the sheer opulence within.  And you are not disappointed;  even with the sand and debris piling up in places, seeing a hotel lobby furnished in blue marble, replete with a grand piano and model city makes for one of the more interesting set-pieces I’ve ever played.
Spec Ops: The Line’s music continues with this theme of dissonance, with licensed tracks that could easily belong in a Vietnam-era war movie, showing Black Ops how it’s done.  The voice-acting is another strong point, with ‘Radioman’ being one of the more memorable antagonists in gaming and fan favourite, Nolan North voicing protagonist Captain Walker.  Your squad mates do a great job of portraying a range of temperaments with everything from playful military-themed banter to tense, stressful ‘under fire’ routines and coldly professional tactical assessments.  And without spoiling anything, the enemy’s back and forth can be downright distressing as they start tacking casualties and becoming more desperate to stop you.  What Spec Ops: The Line lacks in graphical punch, it makes up for with its soundtrack & voice work.
The actual mechanics of Spec Ops are probably its lowest point, however.  It’s workable and definitely not broken, but put alongside Uncharted (which, thanks to the main character’s voice actor and the overall style of the game, it will get compared to, alot) it doesn’t shine.  Still, the guns themselves work great with each having very definite strengths and weaknesses and some actual licensed titles for once, which is a nice change.  Some welcome flavour is present in the sand mechanics, where you can shoot out windows to bury enemies in the stuff, or set off grenades on the floor to kick up choking, obscuring clouds of debris.  I do feel that this mechanic wasn’t used enough, but as might become clear later, I wonder if it isn’t another ‘red herring’ to disguise the game’s true purpose.  More on that later.

More pervasive is the presence of sand-storms, both as single player scripted events and in multiplayer to add an element of battlefield mutability.  These reduce your visibility to a scant few meters and mean your character can only stumble between bits of cover.  Firefights are suddenly tense, claustrophobic affairs where often an enemy’s muzzle flash is the only clue to their presence.
By now you might be getting the idea that there’s more to Spec Ops: The Line than another bland cover-shooter/ ‘America saves the day’ military sim.  And you’d be right.  To say much more would be to spoil the experience, so for now, suffice it to say that I highly recommend going out and purchasing a copy of this game.  If you still need convincing, I aim to ramble a little more about the deeper meaning of the gaming experience in the next paragraph, but whilst I’ll be avoiding story points, I really do recommend at least playing most of the game before continuing.
So go do that, I’ll wait.

Okay, all clear?  Good.
In any review or discussion of Spec Ops: The Line, you’ll hear the game favourably compared to J.Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and it’s more modern adaptation, Apocalypse Now.  Whilst Spec Ops stands out as its own experience, the comparison is wholly justified and anyone who is a fan of war-themed psychological films such as Jacob’s Ladder or Jarhead/Hurt Locker will definitely find something to like here.  Without giving anything away, you can liken Walker and his comrade’s journey through Dubai as a decent into madness, horror and certainly a form of PTSD where you’re never quite sure what’s real or what’s right.  Often, the game feels like an attack on supposedly ‘gritty’ modern war simulators, Call of Duty in particular.  You are often given moral choices, sometimes with more than your standard binary ‘good/bad’ outcome and oftentimes with no right answer to be found.

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More than that though is the hugely controversial way the game attacks you, as the player.  Essentially it asks why you came into a delicate political situation, started shooting at things and hoped to walk out as the big damn hero.  It questions our expectations as gamers that we can solve every problem just by shooting the right people and challenges the convention that while wargames aim for a gritty realism in their approach, are all essentially level-based ‘go here, shoot that guy, grab achievements’ that have not really progressed far from their Wolfenstein 3D roots.  I’ll leave whether that’s a bad thing or not up to you, but it’s actually refreshing to have this notion debased for once.
In conclusion, buy this game.  Seriously, although it’s arguments can be occasionally heavy-handed and although non-American gamers might not have the same reaction to having to fight the enemies that you fight, this is one of those games.  One of the titles that can stand proudly next to Bioshock, MGS2 and Shadow of the Colossus as a deconstructor of gaming.  A title that makes you think hard about the way we, as gamers, perceive the mechanics of the world.
There are dozens of online essays about the meaning behind Spec Ops: The Line’s experiences and I won’t add to them here, but they are well worth looking up when you’ve finished the game.  So let me close up by saying that the single-player experience I had on Spec Ops: The Line was worth every penny I spent on it, five times over.  Never so much have I been shaken up by a loading screen.  Not since Silent Hill 2 has the presence of a single enemy disturbed me so much as some of the ‘Heavies’ you encounter.  Not since deliberating which strung-up body to shoot against the perfect blue sky have I ever just stopped and asked myself ‘Just what the HELL am I doing here?!’.

‘Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you’