Posts Tagged ‘game’

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For the second year running Nintendo have shown why they are still, after all this time and after the ups and downs, they are one of the most reliable and unique companies in the business. I always approach any sort of Nintendo conference with a certain amount of trepidation. Let us not forget those torturous E3’s of a few years ago with Wii Music and that failed Zelda presentation.

However over the last year Nintendo has shown that they aren’t afraid to poke a bit of fun at themselves and they aren’t afraid to have a little bit of a laugh along the way. And that couldn’t be more evident in this year’s event. Robot Chicken kicks things off in great style. With a cartoon Regie introducing things before being waylaid by Bowser and Wario.

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Things are now picking up a gear as the scene changes and we are then taken to a black room with Reggie and Iwata duking it out in an over the top martial arts fight to the death before picking up their respective controllers to fight it out on Smash Bros. that’s rights. Mii’s are coming to Smash. However not just any old Mii’s. It’s soon explained that you will be able to choose from three different classes which in turn gives your Mii access to around thirty different moves. We also catch our first glimpse of Nintendo’s new physical toys. These are called Amiibo and we are shown how they integrate themselves with Smash Bros. Scanning your Amiibo will bring them in to the game to either fight alongside or against you. The more you use them the more their attributes will increase. They were pretty tight lipped about anything else. However we were told that there will be support coming to Mario Kart 8 soon. This of course was accompanied with a Luigi death stare.

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It was after this announcement that the games and surprises started coming thick and fast. First up was Yoshi’s Wooly World. An attractive enough proposition. Think the aesthetics of Kirby’s Epic Yarn mixed with the sensibilities of a Yoshi platformer. Like I said it’s a nice enough looking game but definitely one for the younger audience.

Next up was a surprise game that I was very excited to see. Especially as a massive Super Mario 3d World fan. Remember those awesome little Toad minigames that were scattered throughout the world map? They were great right? But if I remember correctly they were very far and few between and criminally underused. Well fear not because it looks like we are getting a bigger and better version of those games in a standalone adventure entitled Captain Toads Treasure Tracker coming to Wii U. This will be hitting the console Christmas time 2014.

Then there was another big surprise. I mean we all knew a new Zelda was on the way, but I think we were all expecting it to be Nintendo’s final mic drop moment. Well anyway, as you’ve probably guessed the new Zelda was announced. First of all we were treated to a gorgeously green, lush and vibrant vista.  Aonuma tells us that everything we can see, which is a lot given the draw distance, we can travel to. He tells us that the world will act as one big puzzle. Aonuma then fades out and the camera zooms in on a very Skyward Sword looking Link astride Epona as they are chased by a very Twilight Princess looking villain. As the chase comes to a head Link leaps from Epona and unleashes an attack from a bow which seems to change the elements it possess on the fly. The screen fades and we are told to expect it 2015.

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Then we are introduced to a few more familiar faces of games that we saw at last year’s E3. My game of the show from last year, Monolith’s X, has been renamed and is now flying under the moniker of Xenoblade Chronicles X. we are shown a very beautiful trailer that consists mainly of cut scenes rather than actual gameplay, and given a release window of 2015.

Another familiar face, and a very beautiful one at that, comes in the form of the gloriously hard-core Bayonetta. My favourite character action game of the last gheneration got announced as a Wii U exclusive last year and now has a sumptuous new gameplay trailer along with a date. Look for it in the autumn later this year. Oh I almost forgot. It also includes the original Bayonetta in its entirety! Not too bad eh? Throw in the fact that Platinum games seem to be having fun with some of Nintendo’s other characters by throwing in Peach and Samus costumes and it looks like you’ve got one incredible package.

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Another game that I did not see coming was Kirby and the Rainbow Curse which will be coming to Wii U. Now I haven’t been excited about a Kirby game in years. However the last one that did genuinely impress me was Canvas Curse on the DS released waaaay back in 2005. After watching the trailer it would be a safe bet that this is a direct sequel to that game. Fingers crossed it is as innovative and fun as the original.

A few other dates got announced during the show. Look out for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire hitting stores November 21st. these dates were also accompanied by some exciting new trailers as these classic games get new life breathed in to them.

We also had a bigger more in depth look at Hyrule Warriors. The Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mash up. And I must say seeing it again seven or so months on it is looking more and more like something I’d pick up. It was revealed that Princess Zelda and Midna (of Twilight fame) would both be playable characters. We were also told that the game could be expected in stores on September 26th.

Nintendo’s last big game that they showed was Mario Maker for the Wii U. This does look impressive. Maybe not on a graphical level, but from someone whose seen what a community can create on the likes of Little Big Planet, a platfromer series that has nowhere near the technical fidelity of a Mario game, I am very excited to see what tough mind boggling challenges people will make. This is a game strictly ties to 2D Mario however so there will be no recreating stages form 64, Sunshine or Galaxy. However it did appear that you can switch on the fly between the classic pixel art of Nes era Mario and the more contemporary hd version seen in New Super Mario Bros U.

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Last but not least was yet another character reveal for Smash Bros. Not just satisfied with giving us the Mii’s we can also expect Palutena of Kid Icarus fame to be joining the fray. Palutena marks the 32nd character to be confirmed for the ever increasing roster.

And that about raps it up. I’ve been typing fervently trying to keep up with all the announcements they were rolled out so quickly. And from a company that really did look like at one point was going to have a weak 2014, there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of games on the horizon for the end of this year and early 2015. Seems like it wasn’t such a bad idea picking up a Wii U after all. Now I just need to buy a 3ds again…..

 

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So as I lie here in bed, partly hung over, partly sleep deprived, thinking back on the sensual overload of gaming news I just witnessed a few hours ago. I feel the need to get some of this adrenaline out of my system and write down all the things that made it difficult for me to get some shut eye last night.

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So let’s start with Microsoft. The big boys came out strong last night and like they promised their presentation certainly was all games games games. In fact the ninety minute show was so jam packed with announcement after announcement you barely had time to catch your breath.

Sunset Overdrive was without a doubt the game for me that reeked of potential. This exclusive showcased a very funny trailer that had the Insomniac trademark humour stamped all over it.

Furthermore there did seem to be a bigger focus from Microsoft on indie games this year (I wonder why) and without a doubt the one that left most people salivating at the mouth was the 1930’s inspired animated Cuphead. As a fan of old school Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons I could not be more hyped for this!

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There were of course other exclusive announcements that we were all expecting. There were your Halos and Fables. However Microsoft did deign to throw in a few unforeseen surprises in the form of a new Crackdown game and the beautiful new offering from Platinum games, Scalebound.

Finally, and as per usual, there were the cross platform games that Microsoft either revealed or had exclusive gameplay clips to show. COD Advanced Warfighter of course looked stunning and the new direction is very intriguing, if a little Matrixy. However the reveal that I don’t think anyone was expecting, and certainly got my blood pumping, was Rise of the Tomb Raider. No gameplay was shown but a very enticing pre rendered trailer left me aching for more nonetheless.

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Then there came the EA press conference. A little bit of a mixed bag for me. Ok so let’s get what I didn’t like out the way first. As incredibly exciting as it was to see games confirmed such as Critereons new arcade racer, Star Wars Battlefront, Mirrors Edge and the new Mass Effect game. These were pretty much behind the scenes interviews with developers and either showcased concept art or at the most very early rough footage. This was especially disappointing in the cases of Mirrors Edge and Star Wars as these two games were announced last year and progress seems to be achingly slow. As a consumer I don’t want to hear about a game that’s still maybe three years away and has not a lot to show for itself. I’m fine hearing about it on a website but maybe the main stage at E3 isn’t the place.

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That being said the new Battlefield: Hardline game looked absolutely stunning. It looked like what Payday could have been if it had had the mighty force of EA behind it. A tense looking game of cops and robbers with what appeared to be (in classic Battlefield style) an entirely destructible city, Hardline looks set to impress with it’s over the top Michael Bay inspired carnage. If you need further proof just find the video of the crane collapsing into a skyscraper at the end.

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And of course it wouldn’t be an EA conference without your dose of sports titles. Fifa, Madden and NHL were all here in their shiny glory. However the sports title that got everyone pumped was definitely the new iterartion of UFC. This game was also accompanied by a very sweaty and brutal demo featuring the immortal Bruce Lee.

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Then came the Ubisoft conference. A personal favourite of mine as this publisher has gone from strength to strength in recent years. I wasn’t disappointed. It was such a sharp presentation it could have cut diamonds. Returning for her third year of presenting Aisha Tyler was an absolute joy to watch. Very comfortable in her role she was very happy to throw expletives, sexual innuendoes and racial slurs around like nobody’s business. And the audience loved her for it.

So highlights then. Where to start? Well of course Farcry 4 was a brutal and beautiful introduction to this new, terrifying world to explore. We were introduced to the new antagonist who was a sight to behold and looks to rival Vass in his villainy.

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Assassins Creed Unity also got a lot of the spotlight. Indeed it was its second showing this evening. And on the one hand, yeah it looks like a lot of the older iterations in the series. However there is no denying that the oomf being given to this game form the next gen consoles is at the forefront. Draw distance, amount of npc’s on screen and resolution are all stunning and feel truly next gen in what they accomplish. The focus on being able to play missions with up to three other friends online is also a very tempting offer.

Other next gen titles which were on show were next gen mmo squad based shooter The Division which still looks as it did a year ago. And the epic and extraordinarily ambitious driving mmo The Crew. If you were to just check out one of these two games then The Crews mellow and relaxing trailer featuring driving across all the different environments America has to offer is a must.

And then came the absolute spell binding gem of the show. Valiant Hearts. This new ip from the infinitely talented Ubi Art studio looks like it will be one truly special game. Set during the trench warfare of World War I, it appears that you take on the role of a medic’s dog as he roves from owner to owner, all of which are of different races, creeds and backgrounds. Think Ghibli classic Grave of the Fireflies crossed with the art direction of Triplets of Belleville.

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And Ubisoft went out on a bang. BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL 2!!!! Nah, unfortunaly I’m joking. I think that game has without a doubt gone the way of The Last Guardian. Instead we were treated to the first Rainbow Six game in six years. The demo played out well enough. A squad of four gamers breached a house to rescue two hostages. It looked interesting enough however it did feel a tiny bit muted after the bombastic glory of Hardlines.

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And finally Sony has come BACK to E3! Once again and for the second year in a row Sony came out and proved why they are the best in the business. Why their fans love them so much and why the PS4 is the bestselling system. I’m not going to lie I was very skeptical going in. I didn’t know what Sony had left to show. Boy oh boy did they come out swinging. In fact, not only did they come out swinging, they came out swinging with adamantium grafted to their bones and Wolverine claws flailing.

There is soooo much that they came out with. It was literally game after game and surprise after surprise. Games wise it was all killer no filler and apart from a slight stumble in the middle where we were treated to about twenty minutes of being told how many time the share button has been pressed, it was a performance that completely eclipsed last year’s show.

There was so much good information that I think the only way that I can convey just how much was shown is by doing this in short sweet bullet points. Otherwise I would be in danger of rambling for another five pages.

  • Things started off with a trailer for Destiny. Nothing particularly new but nice to see that a glacier white PS4 will be getting released as a bundle with the game.
  • Infamous Second Son stand alone dlc where you can play as neon wielding bad ass Fetch?!? Sign me up! This was straight out of left field and couldn’t have me more excited to jump straight back in to that world.

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  • Little Big Planet 3! Did not see this one coming! To be honest it was a bit of an awkward demo. But it was nice to see new ideas being implemented as well as new characters.
  • A stunning demo for The Order 1886. The frame rate and graphical fidelity has been really tidied up since the last gameplay footage we saw. Looks suitably terrifying and is definitely back on my radar.
  • An absolutely awe inspiring gameplay demo of Farcry 4 was shown. Complete with wing suits, grapple hooks and weaponised elephants. Not to mention the incredible announcement that on PS4 and PS3 you will be able to invite anyone to your game who is on your friends list….EVEN IF THEY DON’T OWN THE GAME! An incredible announcement and again exclusive to Sony platforms.
  • Shu came out to introduce the darkly gothic and grossly beautiful new game from From Software. Bloodborne looks set to be just as unforgiving and brutal as anything else from the Souls series.
  • The makers of the iconic Journey also introduced us to their new project. A game that very much looks like a spiritual successor and aquatic version of the aforementioned game. Abzu looks to be one of the most atmospheric games of the show.

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  • GTAV is coming to PS4. And in a startling move not only will you be able to transfer your online saved data from your PS3 to the PS4 but also from your Xbox 360. Well done Sony. Well done.
  • We got told that not only is the Ratchet and Clank movie coming along nicely, but we can also expect a completely ‘rebuilt from the ground up for the PS4’ version of the first R&C game to be revealed soon.
  • No Mans Sky pretty much stole the show with it’s ground breaking and infinitely ambitious….ambitions. A timed platform exclusive it shall be coming first to PlayStation.
  • We also got treated to the first in game footage of Mortal Kombat X. It looked like a very next gen version of Injustice. But hey, if it ain’t broke. Suitably and gloriously violent.
  • My personal announcement of the show. Grim Fandango baby! It’s coming back in a remade version exclusive to PlayStation. Indeed my right hand is still bruised from where I punched the chair I was sitting on in excitement.
  • The Last of Us showed up in a spoiler filled trailer. It looked incredible, as expected, and we were also treated to a release date of July.
  • The new Metal Gear Phantom Pains was as promised, a harrowing and brutal watch. Things have never looked more mature for this series. A lot of screaming, child soldiers and Snake with a blood soaked face.
  • Batman won me back with an absolutely mind-blowing gameplay trailer. Gotham has never looked so vertical, gothic and dark. It really looks like it will be a pleasure to explore.
  • And we were also treated to our first proper teaser trailer for Uncharted. What else can I say except ‘HYPE’! We see an older more world weary Drake replaying a conversation with Sully in his head. He looks tired and alone. Things definitely look a lot darker thematically in this latest instalment.

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And there we have it. These are the things that stuck out for me the most at E3 last night. As I said in the beginning this isn’t an in depth look at everything. Just the things that tickled and stimulated me.  I haven’t even talked about #Driveclub, Forza, PlayStation TV or the mad scramble for Battlefield beta codes. This has been one of the biggest E3’s of all time so far. Which is saying something considering last year was the big console reveals.

And as I look through bleary red eyes, after only three hours sleep and then staring at a laptop screen for a further three, I realize I’ve got Nintendo’s press conference to watch in five hours. I need to refuel. Thanks for reading and goodnight J

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Don’t let the understated and almost mute appearance of Strider fool you in the opening of this game. What is about to follow is one of the most explosive and action packed metroidvania games released in recent memory.

Developed by Double Helix Games, the people who also bought you the Killer Instinct reboot on Xbox One, players once again assume the role of Strider Hiryu in this revisiting of the classic 1989 arcade game. However Double Helix have done more than just take the original and slap a new coat of paint on it. Rather than do that they have completely rebuilt and refocused the game from the ground up.

As I mentioned, Strider is now a metroidvania type game. And why is this a good thing? Well apart from being possibly the greatest videogame genre out there, it now gives us a chance to experience being Strider in his purest form. With the amount of backtracking, exploration and combat now implemented in to the game you really get a feel for being the all-powerful ninja like never before.

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For the first few minutes of the game it’s business as usual. You run from left to right, spamming the attack button. Don’t worry folks, Strider’s trusty Cypher is still in play, and his trademark laser katana makes very short and satisfying work of many of the cyber enemies you face early on. However after a few of the early bosses have been vanquished and you’ve upgraded you’re Cypher and abilities a little, you suddenly realise that this isn’t the Strider of old. As you cast cursory glances over your map you can see that various areas that were previously inaccessible you can now gain access to. Perhaps you had the wrong element Cypher for a certain door that you can now smash through. Or maybe that double jump ability you just acquired will now let you reach an impossible looking ledge from earlier. And this exploration is really where the meat of the game is. Straying from the path is a fun, and to be quite honest, necessary past time. Doing this will gift your Strider with a whole host of new upgrades. Be it energy tanks, health increases or just different costumes. Oh and did I mention that some of the unlockables offer up new bonus challenges outside of the main game? Well they do. These range from timing based platform sections where your nimbleness will really be put to the test. And combat challenges that pit you against ever difficult and challenging enemies.

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Now I say that backtracking is necessary as the difficulty in this game can spike in a couple of places. After you’ve played the game for a couple of hours you will really be getting into the swing of things, annihilating enemies with absolute ease, only to suddenly come up against an insurmountable boss who can obliterate you in a couple of screen filling hits. Now like I said this only happens in a couple of places and can be frustrating even with a fully upgraded Strider. However I believe that it is important to remember that this is and old school game with old school sensibilities. Perseverance and pattern memorisation is the key. Stick with it and the sense of achievement is palpable.

I think that the real place where Strider stumbles is in the music department. The whole affair is a rather muted one, with only a couple of little jingles and sound effects standing out. Honestly if you asked me to hum a tune from the game I couldn’t. Even with the music turned right up to the max in the settings it just seems to fade into the background.

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But with that being said that is the only quibble that I have with what I consider to be a phenomenal reboot. If you had played the Vita or 3DS versions of Batman Arkham Origins earlier on last year but found it to be a bit plodding, dull and trite, then believe me Strider is the shot of adrenaline you need. The well-paced gameplay is perfectly balanced with the, mostly, challenging difficulty curve. Bombastic, crazy, hard and always beautiful to look at it is a game that can without a doubt stand side by side with the likes of Guacamelee!, Metroid and Symphony of the Night.

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What makes a game truly great?  Realistic graphics?  Challenge and replayability?  A good story?  Memorable characters?  For me, truly great games combine a little from all of these aspects, but In truth, even a Game of the Year can drop one of those and still be excellent.  But what unites all titles that are as memorable as they are enjoyable, is a great soundtrack.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve played good games with bad music and vice versa but if you look back at the legendary games from the past few years, each one has had a unique, atmospheric and thematic soundtrack to back it up.  Gaming is truly a media that indulges the senses and what you’re hearing could almost be described as being just as important as what you see on the screen.

So with that thought, I decided to list my favourite videogame theme tunes of all time.  At first, I wanted to go with just five so I could really break them down.  Then, realizing that was impossible, just 10 to keep the list concise.  But even then, I couldn’t stop adding more.  So here it is; my top 20 videogame tracks!  They’re not in any particular order, as I found picking a favourite to be all but impossible, and I’ve decided to keep it to one track per franchise, as to be fair (otherwise I might as well just make a top 20 Final Fantasy tracks list!)

Mass Effect 2: Suicide Mission

Most people will agree that ME2 was the best in a superb sci-fi trilogy, with some great characters and scenarios, and a backstory that successfully builds on the original game’s story.  So, to go along with this, I picked Suicide Mission.  This track truly encompasses the nature of your party’s task:  to strike at any enemy no-one’s ever beaten, in a place no-one’s ever returned from with only a motley crew of misfit renegades united by the willpower of one woman (or man, I guess).

And you know what?  With this epic marching procession of strings and spacey synth behind you, you might just pull it off.

Fez: Home

Fez is an incredible game, with a perfect retro feel built around an original mechanic.  The game itself is very bright and colourful, with the world being a decidedly un-menacing one with no enemies, unlimited lives and few dangers outside of gravity.  That said, the more the story progresses, the more you get an idea of just what the world comprises of, which is a little more shady.  Home is the theme that plays in your home village, and at first it’s just a sweet and bright ditty that goes well with the safe and populous environs.  But without spoiling it, by the end of the game it becomes more of a nostalgic, bittersweet song.  That this track goes perfectly with both feelings marks it out as something special.

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-Final Fantasy VII: Main Theme

It’s not easy to pick one song from the Final Fantasy series to stand above all others.  Uematsu’s work is so iconic and works so well with the games that one could easily sit down and write this list just for FF games.  So what to pick out of the series?  The main theme of Final Fantasy VII isn’t actually my favourite theme in the series, nor even the game, but it does such a great job of encompassing the feel of the game.  Used as the world map music, as well as during some important story cutscenes, the various tones of the music have a good mix of unsettling, calming, courageous and threatening tones that it easily makes it onto this list as the most thematic.

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Rules of Nature

MGR:R’s music is just about the best collection of action themes you’ll find since Devil May Cry, and for a game where you spend most of your time running up walls and literally cutting things into slivers, that’s important.  Of all of the tracks, Rules of Nature, the theme which plays as you fight the upgraded version of Metal Gear Ray, really stands out.  During the beginning of the fight, the purely instrumental version plays, which is itself a mix of fast-paced rock and electronic that gets the heart pumping.  Then, as Ray tries to crush you with a building-sized sword… ‘RULES OF NATURE!’ and the lyrics kick in.  If you don’t start rocking out right then and there, you are probably medically dead.

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-Sonic & Knuckles: Lava Reef Zone (Act 2)

Ever had a theme song that is so good, you play through the entire game just to get to where it’s played?  During my childhood, a time long before things like Youtube, file-sharing, and enough spending money to buy soundtracks, this is exactly what I used to do.  In my memory, this theme sticks out as one I’d fight hard to get to again and again.

So, you’re running around the inside of an active volcano, fighting all kinds of robots, drilling machines, devious traps and the environment itself.  And finally, you get to the mid-boss, a device made of tendrils that spew laser bolts and a gigantic hand that rears from the lava to try and crush you.  You beat it, then mysteriously, the volcano around you seems to dim.  The lava beds dry into volcanic rock and the only light comes from the machinery scattered around… and the looming face of the Death Egg above.  It’s a perfect mix of layered threat and mystery that mirrors the strange beauty of the level itself.

Dragon’s Dogma: Imminent Triumph

Another game with an excellent soundtrack all-round (Capcom does this alot, huh?), it was difficult to pick just one.  But there could only ever be a single, truly outstanding piece of music from this game, though it owes a lot to the circumstances it’s played in.

Much of the game sees you facing down opponents many times your size, and each time you do, the backing music is suitably ponderous, overwhelming and laced with threat.  Especially when you fight a true dragon for the first time:  Your teammates’ magic and weapons barely mark it, and it can down any one of them with a single swipe or bite.  It even grabs your loyal pawns and bends them to its will, so you have to fight your own at the same time as the monster!  And then it starts breathing flame…  But you fight on, and eventually through sheer grit send it plummeting to the ground.  It’s not dead, but its weakness is exposed.  Filled with renewed vigor, you and your team descend upon it, and Imminent Triumph plays in the background.

Just… perfect.

-Onimusha 2: Encounter with the Lady

There’s been a lot of high-strung, epic action themes on this list, so my next entry is for something infinitely softer and yet just as awe-inspiring.  The perfect combination of synth string, oriental melody and atmospheric drone is soothing, yet tense.  The cherry blossomed beauty of the scene forms in the mind’s eye as you hear this track, even as the underlying sadness in it takes root.  A little melancholy perhaps, but really beautiful nonetheless.

-Age of Mythology: If You Can Use a Doorknob

The Age of Mythology soundtrack is famous for oddly-named themes that seem to have nothing to do with the circumstance around which they are played.  This is no different, but it’s a mighty theme regardless.  Played upon your victory, when reviewing the game’s statistics, one cannot help but imagine themselves being paraded through your victorious city, garlanded and cheered by the adoring masses.  Final Fantasy victory theme, move aside; this is what triumph sounds like!

-Persona 4: The Almighty

Anyone who’s read my top 10 games list knows how much I love Persona 4, and a lot of that is down to the soundtrack.  Even though some of the ‘school days’ type themes can get tiresome, pretty much anything that plays while you’re in the TV world is pure gold.  Especially when the characters confront their shadows, the creepy and tense Border of Insanity slipping into I’ll Face Myself when battle is joined.  Yet above these, The Almighty gets my vote.  Without spoiling the story, it plays during a very important battle, against a seemingly-unassailable enemy.  And the track has that great plodding pace to bring across the idea of immense scale and desperation, which builds up into a faster-paced, almost flighty midsection.  You are above the clouds, fighting for all mankind with your friends by your side… and this piece conveys it perfectly.

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-Zone of the Enders 2: Leo! Leo!

In comparison to the more famous Metal Gear series, Kojima’s excellent mech-battler was overlooked for the most part.  However, it is an excellent pair of games that makes interesting use of cell-shading to create a stylistic, anime-esque atmosphere, with fast-paced action to match.  The soundtrack was equally excellent with a movie-like combination of sweeping orchestral and futuristic synthesized beats.  For this track, you’re hurled into a battle with returning first game protagonist, Leo Steinbuck, in a very familiar-looking mech.  It’s a great fight that pits your admittedly superior machine against someone who knows its strengths and weaknesses and pushes his own craft to the limit as an expert pilot.  The fast tempo of the song and urgent background wail/chant combo press the aggressive and relentless nature of Leo’s attack.

So there it is; part 1 of my favourite videogame themes list.  It only gets better from here, so stick around for part 2!

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!!!

The first person shooter. A genre that has been with us since the very early days of gaming. There has indeed been a great amount of innovation since taking our first steps into games such as Doom and Wolfenstien. You only need to look at the groundbreaking physics of the Half Life series and the fan pleasing online capabilities of the Halo games to know that we have come a very long way. However it has indeed become a market that has become clogged with third-rate games and stale ideas. Contemporary examples would be Legendary and Shell Shock: Blood Trails. So does F.E.A.R manage to break new ground or is it the nightmare sceptics may be expecting?

As far as game plots go the F.E.A.R storyline is pretty hammy. You play as a rookie in the First Encounter Assault Recon. And on your first week in the job you are sent off to investigate the whereabouts of a man named Paxton Fettel who likes the taste of human flesh and is a wee bit psychic. As expected your first mission goes belly up and so ensues a chase through sewers, office blocks, air vents, abandoned building and some more air vents.

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This is a grey game. There is no doubt about it. This game is grey. And black. Yes as far as colour palette goes F.E.A.R seems to want to sit comfortably in what seems to be this generation’s trend of setting games in the dankest darkest settings that our mortal minds can comprehend. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments where the environments don’t shine. Scenery reacts well if you shoot it and watching reams of paper and office equipment fly around as you engage in a matrix style shootout with armoured soldier clones never gets old.

It may sound like I have been on a bit of a rant about the graphics and the settings. But that is only because if a little bit more effort had gone into creating some more varied environments this game would have been up there with the greats. However F.E.A.R does bring some new things to the table that sets it apart from the crowd and might not make it perfect, but sure as hell makes it great.

The sound in this game is phenomenal. After playing the first 20 minutes or so the psychological horror and creepy sound effects will have you jumping out of your seat. It is easy to see where games like Dead Space drew their inspiration. That’s right. It’s THAT good. Wandering around and suddenly coming face to face with an animated corpse accompanied with a ghastly shriek will have you reaching for that light switch. And this works well ensuring that you, the player, are constantly on edge throughout your playthrough. Most FPS’s, after having you battle a large room of enemies, would give you time to relax and catch your breath. However such is the nature of F.E.A.R you may have downed every living enemy in the vicinity but you just know that round the next corner some paranormal anomaly is waiting to get right up in your face.

The combat is also a treat. It may not be entirely original (infact it seems to have been copied and pasted directly from Max Payne) but it is very very fun and very very satisfying. Tapping the left bumper slows everything down (the games reasoning for this is that your reflexes are quote “Off the chart!”) and lets you riddle unsuspecting enemies with stream after stream of bullets. Its not original, nor is it clever but as game math has proved time and time again its that guns + slow mo = WIN!

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Finally the enemy AI. If I said the enemy AI was like that of the Combine in Half Life 2 I would genuinely feel that I was doing F.E.A.R a disservice. The clone soldiers are incredibly intelligent, knowing when to attack, retreat, flank in short they really do act like real people. And this is where F.E.A.R genuinely breaks new ground and what really sets it apart from the crowd. After playing through the game a second time there was hardly a battle that I fought which panned out the same as my first playthrough. It kept things fresh, and kept me rethinking my tactics.
Enemy AI may not be what the average gamer is looking for in a shooter. And even if it is, it probably won’t be at the top of their list. However the AI teamed with the fun rewarding combat and scary horror themes make this a truly great and original FPS in what has become an overcrowded and frankly boring part of the gaming industry. Forgive F.E.A.R its shortcomings, put the disk in, turn the lights out and prepare to be scared and exhilarated in equal measure.

Ah the platformer. A staple in gaming lore that has seemingly died out, bar the annual releases of Mario and Disney film tie-ins. There was a time when it was platforming games that sold the console. Mario on Nintendo’s various machines. Sonic the hedgehog for the Genesis and Dreamcast. And to name a few other greats you also have Banjo Kazooie, Jak and Daxter, Metroid, Castlevania SOTN and the list goes on and on. However in current times the platformer seems to have fallen by the wayside in favour of grey and grimy futuristic war games. So how do you reinvigorate the concept of jumping from ledge to ledge and sell it to today’s gaming demographic? Well, you get EA Digital Illusions CE (or DICE) on board and make a vertigo inducing game called Mirrors Edge.

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Mirrors Edge is, in essence, a first person platformer. In fact those of you fortunate enough to play the astounding Prince of Persia games from the last generation will be glad to hear this plays out pretty much exactly the same. Faith (the female protagonist in question) can run, jump, roll, wall run, slide, grab onto zip lines amongst a heap of other abilities. Looking at screenshots you would be forgiven for thinking that this is another run of the mill FPS but you would be wrong. Indeed Faith can wield a gun, if you want her to, and this brings me to my only real criticism of the game.

When you come face to face with and enemy you can disarm them. Tapping a button when their weapon flashes red as they try to melee you does this. However if you miss that prompt you will be facing a game over screen a few seconds later as they pummel your face in. unfortunately the window of opportunity to do this is extremely narrow and only gets shorter the further into the game you get. This makes for a lot of frustration as you attempt the same battle scenario for the umpteenth time. The process is made slightly easier by the fact that Faith has a small array of melee moves herself and you can also momentarily slow down time to make that fraction of a second last slightly longer. Remember our gaming math? Guns + slow mo = WIN! Unfortunately this time round the guns aren’t in your hands to begin with.

As I said, that is my only real gripe with the game. Some critics have suggested that the platforming requires you to be very precise. Well yeah it’s a platformer. It’s like criticising Bioshock because you have to actually aim and fire before you down an enemy. Yes there are moments where you have to be precise like when you’re trying to grab onto a drain pipe or zip line, but of course you have to be spot on, they’re very small targets. I don’t mean to go on but can you imagine how much fun Mario would have been if every time you misjudged a jump another platform popped up and saved you? It would have sucked and probably wouldn’t be the platforming behemoth we know and love today.

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The presentation of this game is another thing that should be mentioned. As mentioned before most contemporary games that are played out from the first person perspective seem to be favouring gloomy grey boring environments. Whether you’re playing Resistance FOM, F.E.A.R or Fallout 3, they all kind of look the same. Well thankfully Mirrors Edge throws this template out the window and replaces all the aforementioned staples with a bright vibrant city splashed with primary colours. As you dart from the lush blue tinted buildings that make up the city you are going to be taking detours through office blocks and underground passageways. And every time you enter one I guarantee you your eyes will have to adjust as you are greeted with either bright lime green or tangerine orange. It may not be the most colour-coordinated game in the world but it sure makes a change.

Clocking in at about 5 hours to complete the main story Mirrors Edge isn’t the longest game in the world. However, there is plenty of replay value here. There are hidden packages to find which unlock bonus content, time trials and speed runs to compete in. so there is a lot more to the game than the campaign alone. Furthermore you can probably pick up a copy of this game for around about £10 now. So there has never been a better time to visit the world of Faith, and you have never needed a better excuse to rekindle yourself with the type of game that probably got you into gaming in the first place.