Reviews | Page 3 of 5 | Ultimate Gaming Paradise

All reviews

killzone-shadow-fall-ps4-wallpaper

KillZone Shadow Fall Review – An Epic Title

A flagship game for a flagship console, KillZone Shadow Fall is Sony’s opportunity to show gamers and developers the true meaning of gameplay excellence. The game is designed and developed for Sony’s new PlayStation 4 console. This is new ground for new gameplay and as such the risks can be incredible. Microsoft and Bungie have previously endeavoured – see the Xbox 360 and Halo epic gameplay and epic game console. So, it can be a lot of pressure launching a headlining game for a new headlining console. In Sony’s case, the result is an epic story and a work of technical genius with a side order of ambiguity?

I enjoyed the original trilogy, I have always been an Xboxer – before that I was a Segaite – but I have ‘dabbled’ in the Sony PlayStation sphere of influence. One game that I have eternally hoped and wished would be ported to Xbox was the KillZone franchise. However, I’ve had to purchase PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 – pretty much for KillZone; as it is a franchise that literally has it all. Its story is enthralling, the challenges are awesome and at its core, it is fun yet coated with depth. Well, on the PlayStation 4 comes the latest in the franchise – KillZone Shadow Fall.

Ultimate Gaming Paradise has a system – called the UGP Triple Lock Review. The system is based on three elements, which coexist, to offer gamers excellent gameplay potential. These three elements, which this review will focus on, surround perspective (the storyline), difficulty (how challenging is the gameplay) and indulgence (how fun is the title).

PERSPECTIVE

The KillZone storyline is legendary. It has contextualised, throughout the franchise, the nuances and idiosyncrasies that pre-dated the First World War (KillZone on PlayStation 2) followed by the nuances of stalemate during The Second World War (KillZone 2 on PlayStation 3) ending with the annihilation similar to that of The Second World War (KillZone 3 on PlayStation 3).

killzone-shadow-fall-helghanFor those who don’t know the back-story. Here’s a short recap. The Earth, after nuclear war destroys humanity, finds the survivors looking for a new planet. Searches in other solar systems find a planet in “Alpha Centauri”. Earth sends fleets, upon fleets to “Alpha Centauri” – where two planets are available for colonization; the first is “Vekta” a planet that is a mirror image of Earth. The second is a smaller planet which is more inhospitable that is called “Helghan”. The strategic and revenue-based dominance of the planet – as a kind of interplanetary toll route – means the planet poses a great reward to humanity. However, shuttles shipping the remaining population perish during a great solar storm. The stragglers of humanity – needing the capital – sell the planets in the “Alpha Centauri” system to the “Helghan Corp”. They exploit the planet and they face the wrath of the “ISA” – “Interplanetary Strategic Alliance”. They wage a gruesome war against the “Hellghast”. The “Helghans” lose the war – the “ISA” take “Vekta” whilst the “Hellghast” survive on the horrendous “Helghan” planet. Their leader, “Scolar Visari”, launches a gruesome counter attack. These counter attacks are the preface to each of the subsequent titles.

Shadow fall, enters the fray, 30 years after the fallout of KillZone 3 after the Stahl/Orlock affair. The war is over; however the peace has not arrived. The action centres on Vekta where both Helghans and ISA live in a kind of unequal truce. The balance of power is with the ISA. However, the brutality of the Helghans is balanced by the cruelty of the ISA. A ‘Cold War-esqe’ period has taken hold and this stalemate has resulted in disunity and distrust reigning supreme. This is the world the gameplay inhabits. However, there are nuances in the storyline that are both good and bad. The game is developed by Guerrilla Games, a Netherlands-based development team, who spent two and a half years bringing the game to life.

The storyline is helped along by the visual ‘successes’ of the rendering. The game is native 1080p and the technical rendering means the visual gameplay element is incredibly unique. The thematic rendering helps to add pizzazz to the gameplay. The use of symbolism in the ‘visual’ aspects of the game adds to the contextual storyline by adding depth to the gameplay’s perspective.

The gameplay has a little ambiguity in terms of the ‘cold war-esqe’ environment. This means there is the need for a new ‘protagonist’, as such the “Black Hand” is a construct that your character and the “ISA” aim their venom towards. However, the biggest problem with the game is that if you are going into the experience thinking its KillZone 4, you’re dead wrong. The depth and symbolism means you aren’t constantly shooting “Helghans” between their orange eyes all the time. This slows down the pace, unlike any other KillZone title. This slowness stymies the gameplay in parts. It is this thematic shift that hinders the wider gameplay experience. However, this nuance aside, you still have the ability to follow a coherent storyline from beginning to end with a big dollop of entertainment built-in.

 

DIFFICULTY

KillZone Shadow Fall is a surprisingly challenging title. The game, when I played it, moved in equidistant cycles between different challenges – this helped to fuse the challenges with the storyline in a more organic fashion. There is another aspect that helps to increase the difficulty of the game in a new and innovative way. Many shooter titles, take Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon as an example, is a ‘shoot forward and keep going forward title’. However, KillZone Shadow Fall creates a new dynamic in which the open battleground – again not a new endeavour – is brought alive in single-player context much like the multiplayer alternative. This increases the scope of challenges for the gameplay’s natural progression. As such, the learning curve is steeper but the end result is a more organic and fluid gameplay that helps to actively and continually challenge the player to endeavour and to achieve more during gameplay. This means a thrilling game is part of the experience.

killzone-shadow-fall-first-person-viewThe only problem I found in the context of difficulty – and therein achievements – was the issue of tactical diversity. You would start a level in a certain scenario that was visually stunning and your choice of tactical prospects where completely diverse. However, into the level, by around the 60 to 70% mark, you start to feel the gameplay becomes narrow and as such by default so do your choices. Now I am not saying it needs to be easier. In fact, I dare say in needs to be more difficult in terms of your enemies. However, the tactical element is an issue – it seems like Guerrilla, the developers, ran out of time or were close to deadlines by the time they got to the 80% complete mark. The first 80% of the single player campaign is epic the last 20 is thrust into stereotypes and gameplay vehicles we have seen time and again. It’s the issue of developing for a headline when you, in all probability, don’t know the full release date for the console?

 

INDULGENCE

KillZone Shadow Fall is sensational fun. The “Helghans” are bad ass mother f@~£$”s! They have new suits – similar to the Halo suit – that makes them more menacing, more challenging and a whole lot more enjoyable to slay. The “OWL” drone is a great addition to your tactical endeavours. This drone can suppress fire, offer a zip line and help you spy on your local area. It’s epic! However, these elements aside, what makes Killzone Shadow Fall fun is the speed and lack of paucity in gaps. It’s not ‘in the trenches’ style warfare that made the other prequel titles better. It’s a more nuanced approach – that’s more intelligent – which requires a different approach to destroy the enemy. However, it is this new approach that is the real winner of the game. The gameplay brings about an innovative story and adds challenging elements. However, the pure fun of the actual gameplay heightens the gameplay experience. There is never a dull moment. I have completed the single player game twice – and I haven’t managed to find a dull moment.

 

THE RESULTS

Killzone Shadow Fall is an epic game. The storyline is a mature take on a futuristic Cold War that sees both sides eye themselves and their enemies in uncertain ways. The thematic and symbolic construct of “Vekta” is poignant, as the resemblance between Berlin of the 1960s is echoed throughout the division on “Vekta” between the “ISA” and the “Helghans”. This is a linear element and one that is crucial to the story. The story is shored-up by a challenging game, a game that endeavours to offer the right balance of achievements and space. Finally the indulgence faction is heightened through with an increase in enemy design and the use of the “OWL”. These elements make the gameplay fun and the wider elements of the storyline and difficulty context blend into the wider narrative. I really can’t fault the game. The PlayStation 4 has a great headline game. It is a game of depth, of precision, of fun and of ingenuity – it is a game that bridges the gaps between ‘puerile entertainment’ and ‘depth’. It is a great game and I think the Sony PlayStation 4 is on to a winner here unlike one of the headline games for Xbox One. Ryse: Son of Rome fails to incorporate the right balance – a balance Guerrilla and Sony got just right with KillZone Shadow Fall.

Read More
Hamilton and Button

F1 2013 Classic Edition

I am a massive fan of F1I’ve been hooked on it since 1994 when, as no more than a wee lad of 6 years old, I turned on the telebox to be presented with these loud, fast, colourful machines hauling ass round a strip of asphalt. F1 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but for those of us who love it, this time of year is a turning point. The F1 season has come to an end, a German has more than likely won the Drivers Championship and our attention turns to Christmas and the January testing of next year’s cars.

However, not all is lost. We can still get our fix of F1 and this year it’s courtesy of Codemasters and F1 2013. Codemasters has been producing F1 games since 2009 after announcing a deal in May 2008, securing the rights to F1 when Sony’s deal expired. Now into its 5th generation, F1 2013 is here to give us F1 fans that little pick-me-up we need during the off-season.

Codemasters were kind enough to send me a Steam key for F1 2013 on PC last week. I’ll admit, I was ecstatic! F1 2013 is a game I have to have, and I’ve got it. Having gone through the trials and tribulations of the last 5 years since the inaugural version in 2009, I always look forward to getting a new version of F1. The 2009 – 2011 version were, shall we say, difficult’ to play. The cars snapped so violently on the loss of traction that it was nigh on impossible to catch resulting in numerous spins per session. 2011’s iteration was vastly improved. An element of ‘drift’ was now in the game allowing for those hasty stamping of throttle moments to beat a fellow competitor out of a slow corner. No longer did I find myself pointing the wrong way and ultimately, at the back of the pack. I’ll admit, I didn’t play a lot of F1 2012. I was on holiday when it was released and by the time I got back, it was all about Call of Duty: Black Ops II so, I never actually played it past the young driver test. However, I could glean a good impression of the game and F1 2012 was a lot more ‘understeery’ then previous titles. It felt as if  the front tyres were made of plastic, much like you’d find on the model cars!

Anyway, this is about F1 2013, not the history of the F1 series. Perhaps I should do a comparison  of the last 5 titles, look into the evolution of the F1 series? Leave a comment if you’d like to see that.

F12013 wet weather racingSo, finally, we’re here…onto what I think about F1 2013. Well….it’s not what I expected. It’s very very different. F1 2013 is vastly improved on any and all previous iterations. Playing on PC, and being a console gamer as well, I initially had to use the keyboard to drive with. Just don’t…whatever you think, you can’t. Having a choice of all or nothing for throttle and brake, it really doesn’t work. So, got an Xbox controller wireless receiver, using a proper controller, it opens the game up to what it really is. That is, the best F1 game so far.

Why, I hear you ask. Ignoring the Classic Edition elements for now, let’s look at the bulk of the game that is ‘Career Mode‘. It’s very familiar. Loading up F1 2013 you’r met with that cheeky chappy David ‘Crofty’ Croft, introducing F1 2013. It’s a nice touch. The interface is all pretty much the same which is nice. Serial games shouldn’t change massively year to year. I should be able to jump straight into the game knowing what I know about the now redundant version, I was playing the day previously. There is some weird ass bug though. For some reason, and I don’t what it is that causes it, sometimes the game loads in windowed mode and 800 x 600 resolution. And it is a big deal because you have to quit the game, go to My Documents -> My Games -> F1 2013 and find the hardware config file, open it in an editor, find where it says fullscreen= and change false to true. It’s a total ballache!!! Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.

When you start a career, well, you can’t because you have to complete the ‘Young Driver Test’ first at Abu Dhabi. But, once done and depending on how well you do, teams for your first drive are unlocked. I was good enough to get Torro Rosso. Not too bad, mid-field team, better than the crappy Caterham I drove in F1 2011 for my first season. Skipping past the, somewhat, chore that is the ‘Young Driver Test’, I get to go out in a proper full blown session. Practice at Albert Park, Melbourne. This is where I find that what I’m playing is nothing like F1 2011 or F1 2012. Turn 2 at Albert Park is immediately preceded by Turn 1. A 90 – 100mph right hander taken in 3rd or 4th, I use 4th, and leads into the long left that is Turn 2. With this quick direction change, the car is unsettled and adding power is just asking for trouble. However, I’m blown away when my mighty Torro Rosso pitches into a beautifully controlled drift. Rather than finding myself jumping on and off throttle to get it in a straight line and slowing to a pedestrian pace, I’m full chat, tyres smoking, leaving huge black lines through Turn 2. It’s epic! Finally, I can chew up my rear tyres in 4 laps without spinning. This becomes even more apparent at Shanghai International Circuit, China where we’ve got that monstrous parabolic Turn 13. You know the one, tight left hairpin and then the never ending right hander before the runway of a back straight. Ok, so I’m a setup genius and the car was perfect but, I can go through there maxed out controlling  the slide and entering the back straight at a sensible speed. And no, I don’t use traction control before you sceptics start to discredit my awesome car control!

What is seriously refreshing, is I’m finding that my opposition now act like they’re the best in the world, not just there for the experience. I’m having proper ding dongs with the AI. In former F1 games, the key to success was take the lead on the first lap  and it’d be a cake walk from there to the finish. The AI that were in front of you were quicker than you, the ones behind were as quick or slower. It was too predictable. The AI are now fun to race against. They don’t crash into you, they do spin off and make mistakes. I  took the lead off Raikkonen through the tricky Turn 14 at the Sepang International Raceway,  when he ran wide and ended up in the gravel. Boy did he fight back though, and it wasn’t till he turned his motor down was I able  to build a second or two gap that saw me home.

F1 2013 has really worked hard at improving  the general gaming experience with improvements to the key areas that make the game realistic. It is a racing  sim after all. Tyre wear now matters. Before, you could change tyres and there wasn’t that noticeable difference, the AI never seemed to slow  down no matter what tyres they were on and it just generally wasn’t a big part of the game. Punctures…let’s not forget those. I got one at the Young Driver Test. Totally inexplicable, Paul Hembery! It’s nice to have these things happen no matter how frustrating they may be, I want the chance of engine failure, tyre blowouts, gearboxes melting…it’s all part of the experience. I don’t want to find a difficulty setting where I’m not getting raped every race and can compete to find that I’m winning every race. It gets tedious. Things need to be taken out of our control and mean we need to fight for the championship.

I mentioned I was a setup wizard earlier and I do believe that there is more emphasis on a good setup now. If you get it just right, man you fly…in places, but are compromised in others. It’s great blitzing the competition in Sector 2, matching them in Sector 3 to struggle  and have to defend hard in Sector  1. I love it! Setup options and menus haven’t changed a jot but then there’s no need for a redesign really. It may just be me but an annoying bug is that, when it comes to saving my setup, I can’t. I think it’s because I’ve got the Xbox controller hooked up and in full screen mode, it’s disabled the keyboard. Windowed mode, fine no problem. But, if I ALT + TAB out to be able to type, there’s no way to get back to fullscreen mode. Did I mention there’s no option for full screen in the graphics settings? Absolute madness!

I’ll briefly touch on the Classic Edition additions to F1 2013. There’s not really much to talk about. There’s limited cars; just Ferrari, Lotus and Williams as manufacturers. Perhaps 12 cars  to drive in total from the ’80s and ’90s. 4 tracks isn’t exactly mind boggling either. You’v got Jerez, Brands Hatch, Imola and Estoril. It would be nice if Codemasters could build on this and we could see a standalone game in a few years called Classic F1 or something, that harks back to the champions of the Moss and Fangio era. The Classic Edition cars  do all handle uniquely which is great, just want more of them!F1 2013 - Estoril

Last thing really worth talking about are the graphics in F1 2013. They’re not mind blowing, there are glitches but they’re certainly not shoddy. I run everything on ultra ultra maximum plus boost setting at a resolution of  1920 x 1080. Full system stats will be at the bottom of the article. It’s very smooth, the sound is good and crisp and overall, while it’s not next-gen quality, it’s as good as current gen gets. Referring to consoles there. This is fine because F1 2013 is designed for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. There is no Xbox One or PS4 versions of the game and nor will there be.

Overall, F1 2013 is really very good. It’s got to a point where it now just needs to be refined. If they develop something totally different for 2014, I’m going to be pissed!

F1 2014 is going to be super exciting. If Codemasters stick with the formula they’ve got here (no pun intended,  well maybe a little one), for how the cars handle, refine the AI further and are then able to work with the next-gen graphics capabilities, I think we’re going to be blown away with F1 2014. Especially as we’ve got the massive shake up that is the 2014 regs change. Turbo, full time KERS, new chassis and aero packages…it’s going to be an  epic year for Formula 1, Codemasters, you, me and F1 2014.

 

 

System Spec: 

  • CPU – AMD FX6350 overclocked to 5.00Ghz
  • Motherboard – ASUS Crosshair V
  • RAM – 16GB Corsair Dominator
  • GPU – EVGA GTX780
  • Sound – ASUS Xonar Phoebus
  • Cooling – CPU & GPU cooled with  custom XSPC loop
  • Monitor – ASUS 24 inch 1080p
  • Keyboard – Logitech G510
  • Mouse – Logitech M570
  • Controller – Xbox 360 controller

 

Read More
Lego Marvel Superheroes

Lego Marvel Superheroes

I’m Stan Lee, and I’m in peril….again.  It’s the Stranger Danger level in Lego Marvel Superheroes and I’m locked in a coffin.  Luckily, Ironman is around to set me free, so I live to draw another day.

When I was a lad, Lego was so easy. I had blocks of 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8 dots and a few other flat sections.  I could build houses and garages, and shops and towers…..lots of towers. Then Lego introduced wheels and it all got really interesting, and the advent of technic Lego heralded a whole new era of the toy everyone loves.  But then in 1997 Lego Creator launched on the PC, and now I could build anything I wanted, but I just couldn’t store the finished article next to my bed.  Had Lego games left it there, it would have become a quaint oddity amongst the growing and increasingly complex gaming world, but the Lego Executives shrewdly saw that gaming was going to be bigger than movies and that was a huge slice of revenue to walk away from.

First, the designers tackled racing games but quickly moved on to focusing on animation of the small figures in proper gaming situations. Rock Raiders sold well on the PC and PlayStation but the real genius came with major movie tie-ins and in 2001, Lego Creator: Harry Potter launched and was snapped up by an adoring games community.  Since then, Lego has tied into many of the major franchises like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Batman.  When Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes launched on all major consoles in 2012, I remained a tad disappointed; the gameplay was great, but as a Marvelite rather than an avid fan of the less outrageous DC Universe, I felt a little let down.  The Marvel characters are just so bonkers, it’s almost as though they were designed for something as weird as Lego games.  Having an indestructible superhero in the shape of Superman is kinda obvious, but designing a fella with bad attitude and a healing factor, and then coat his bones and claws in an indestructible metal is just thinking right outside the box.  The release and subsequent success of Avengers Assemble in the 2012 convinced Warner Bros that this was a title worth pursuing in the world of Lego, and I got my wish.

So it was with unbridled joy that I tore the cellophane off my copy of Lego Marvel Superheroes and stuck the disc in the Xbox; does heaven get any better than this?   Rather than loosely following the stories of their franchises, Marvel Superheroes has its own plot revolving around Dr Doom creating a super weapon to destroy the earth…..or is he?  The plot takes various turns throughout its course and is very satisfying and well thought out as a story in its own right.  The structure and game are really quite easy; as I progressed through the levels, I unlocked more characters and became able to use their different skills to accomplish the needs of the story.  I start off with Hulk and Ironman in a face-off with principle baddies Sandman and Abomination at New York’s Grand Central Station in a level cheekily entitled “Sand Central Station” and move off through the lovingly detailed vistas as my quest to find power cubes from the Silver Lego Marvel Superheroes Charactersboard continues.

Humour is evident throughout the whole game, with many visual gags running through as themes. Aimed primarily at seven year olds, the humour isn’t too complex – the super weapon that Dr Doom is building is called “Dr Doom’s Doom Ray…..of DOOM!” and so forth.   Which brings us neatly back to Stan Lee who is placed “….in peril” throughout the different levels of the game, and it becomes a chuckle riddled side venture to see if you can find him.  Sometimes he’s obvious, though less easy to get to, sometimes he’s hidden away somewhere.  Invariably, he jumps out of what peril there was to utter a corny line (“I was nearly toast – BURNT TOAST”) or simply “Excelsior!” before running off to the next peril.

In all I got to play 150 separate main characters which encompass much of the Marvel Universe, with such diverse individuals as Fandral and Squirrel Girl (I’m not kidding here) as well as the better known mainstays of the genre.  While all this character-swapping is fun, it becomes increasingly complex as I tried to figure out which character to use for which situation.   They are kind of split into groups such as flight, strength, fire and so on, so in reality there is always more than one character who can accomplish whatever task you are undertaking.   With some tasks you have to think a little laterally – Hulk is great at smashing but his alter-ego Bruce Banner is great at computer hacking, so never forget that you’ve got him.

Set in an open–world play area of New York, Asgard and an asteroid, Lego Marvel Superheroes looks great and is constantly entertaining.  There are a few gripes such as the secondary figures around the main character that you are playing seeming to have only limited AI and attacking the droves of baddies in a haphazard way, and sometimes characters get stuck, which once required a restart to resolve, but on the whole I found it smooth to play.

Developed once again by Travellers’ Tales and published through Warner Bros, Lego Marvel Superheroes is available on all major platforms including the 3DS and Wii U, so there is no excuse not to play it.  Just as with the small plastic bricks that preceded it, Lego Marvel Superheroes is a joy to play whether you’re seven or seventy.

Now where is that pesky Stan Lee this time???  EXCELSIOR!!!

 

 

Read More

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 comes screaming at you; weapon raised with bits of metal and concrete tumbling to the ground in slow motion while a helicopter goes head-to-head with a tank in the background. That is what I imagined as I joined my very first multiplayer game of DICE’s brand new shooter. And how surprisingly accurate I was. Battlefield 4 is just as grand and chaotic as its predecessor with shrapnel, vehicles and players flying all over the place in impressive new maps, all waiting to be explored. While many people will argue that this is merely Battlefield 3.5, all I can say is: Nuts! Ok so not my actual answer. Battlefield 4 has enough changes and differences to warrant the ‘4’ at the end of the name. The current iteration in the Battlefield series has done a fine job of both impressing and frustrating me. The game is still in its early stages and with that comes the torrential downpour of crashes, glitches and server meltdowns that has many people seething with annoyance – but not me.

I am tolerant of all these problems because I know they will be fixed in good time and when the game does work it is furious fun. Now with the new Frostbite 3 engine, maps look more aesthetically pleasing and can be de-constructed quickly with well placed tank shells, grenades and bullets. Just watching a tank round hitting a wall and that wall falling apart seems too life like to contemplate. Moving away from walls, the ability to manipulate the maps comes in two different forms. The first is the rather overly macho sounding ‘Levolution’ which, despite the name is an amazing addition to Battlefield. In each map a large destructive event can be triggered which alters the gameplay. If you played the beta or saw the gameplay trailer of the Siege of Shanghai map then you know what I’m talking about. Trust me: these things are hard to miss. Even if the name sounds naff, it is difficult to deny that ‘Levolution’ is a fantastic addition to the series which opens different corridors or ambush points for players to use. This sudden change in layout can potentially mean a turning point in the battle. Take the map Battlefield 4 building collapseParacel Storm for example, that has a ship pinned to a giant wind turbine. The wind turbine was hit one too many times and the ship broke away and crashed into the island, wiping out the defending team. Suddenly, the enemy team were on the back foot; something that they never recovered from. Drastic changes like this can swing the game in an instant, creating desperate and ferocious flashpoints by soldiers staggering from the wrecks of buildings or vehicles.

While these big Hollywood style set pieces can change games entirely, there are far more subtle changes that can be made to affect individual skirmishes, helping or hindering individual squads rather than all players. I recall during the beta play, I found myself sneaking around an underground mall trying to capture a point. I ran to a corner and noticed a button I could interact with. The history of me and mysterious buttons is well documented and turned out like it always does. Pushing the button closed the shutters to this shop meaning that in my little corner I only had to deal with one entrance, a narrow doorway, rather than two. I held out long enough to kill a squad of three players attempting to come through the doorway before a well placed grenade exploded in my face. Little touches like this add new challenges and opportunities for players and encourage careful exploration of maps to discover new ways of defeating enemies – or being defeated.

The ranking and progression system has had a serious tarting up session since the last game which now, means some upgrades and camouflage for weapons and vehicles plus XP boosts can be randomly unlocked via bronze, silver and gold battlepacks; a kind of ‘trick or treat’ system. Don’t despair since the majority of upgrades are still unlocked through weapon use and are unlocked in a less randomized way, meaning you don’t unlock a scope with 12x zoom before a 4x ACOG scope for example. Along with this reshuffle, weapons and equipment have been changed around to balance the gameplay. Other than this, the soldier classes have changed very little. It is this point more than most that makes me understand why people consider Battlefield 4 a mere expansion of Battlefield 3. Overall, the ranking system feels much more consolidated and less chaotic than the previous Battlefield title which should help new players get comfortable, who may have found themselves on the receiving end of a 900 metre headshot.

 

Grudgingly, I should also mention the Campaign which took almost no time at all and felt like I had swallowed a box of sleeping tablets.  Try as they might, DICE has delivered a weak, nonsensical plot with cardboard characters. You are ‘Recker’, part of a hardcore and badass squad called ‘Tombstone’. Just as in the previous title, the characters of ‘Tombstone’ are the usual cliché cardboard cutouts. You have the naive, fresh faced soldier, the suspicious and foul mouthed black guy and you – who doesn’t talk and is only really useful for opening doors. While I don’t really mind playing a silent character, certain sequences in the game really emphasise how detached you apparently are from all decision making and discussion. It may seem insignificant but as the supposed leader of ‘Tombstone’ you would think that ‘Recker’ wouldn’t have to bunny hop around his squad mates or commanders or stand on a table in the corner just to try and look at a map. Even Casper the Friendly Ghost would feel more involved!

The plot of the campaign does nothing to encourage this notion of detachment as each mission awkwardly tries to bind together a barely interesting story about an aggressive Chinese admiral who has staged a military coup and is threatening the world. At least that is my educated guess as it is not made clear what the admiral is threatening to do. Along the way, you recruit a Chinese agent (I’ve forgotten her name already) but naturally the foul mouthed black guy doesn’t trust her and their storyline is supposed to flesh out the characters.

It doesn’t!

All it does is make you sit awkwardly in the background while they bond over what drives them to fight and other recycled garbage from every military film and game ever made. It is the only attempt to flesh out the two dimensional characters but with only seven missions to do it in, the bonding is quickly pushed aside and replaced with in your face combat.

The combat itself is a slightly more positive aspect. But only just. The setpieces are, of course, stunning and a great way to show off the new Frostbite 3 engine but that is all the campaign feels like; a set piece to show off the new  Frostbite 3 engine. Yet the impressive explosions don’t hide the slightly buggy campaign and the puny enemy AI. At one point you are tasked with rescuing a VIP from a high rise and, after some sneaking around you get Frostbite 3 Engine showcaseto a building overlooking the main plaza of the high rise. So I spot a ladder and try and climb down it. Lo and behold I fall to my death but instead of spawning back at the overwatch, I spawned outside the main doors of the building I’m supposed to sneaking into. I then spent 10 minutes trying to get back to the overwatch only to realise the AI can’t detect me and completely ignores my mad dash across the plaza.

In the end, Battlefield 4 has delivered another impressive batch of bullshit with the campaign with little thought given to the plot or the characters. While some of the driving sections are fun and the set pieces are impressive, it is still an average, on the rails shooter which gives you little freedom to make decisions or play the game any other way than direct aggression (don’t even bother trying to use stealth). The heart and soul of the game is in the beautiful and varied multiplayer game types which have equally varied maps on which to blast through walls, building and enemies. The multiplayer doesn’t quite hit the mark at the moment with the amount of bugs and server crashes but when it does work you will have the most memorable of memorable moments in the history of memorable moments!

Read More

Batman: Arkham Origins

We stepped from the late showing at the cinema, tottie and I, and she snuggled in close. “What do you want to do now” she asked, all sensual-eyes and bee-stung lips.  I considered carefully before replying; “I wanna go to the 24-hour superstore and buy Batman: Arkham Origins” I replied chirpily.

I was looking forward to the new Batman title and simply had to have it right then.  Maybe love would have blossomed had I decided instead on an out-of-the-way restaurant or a quiet bottle of wine somewhere, but one thing is absolutely certain – my thumbs wouldn’t have been as sore.

The release of Batman: Arkham Origins has been long anticipated and I eagerly tore the security tape from my copy. Unlike Arkham City and Arkham Asylum before, this title has been developed without the assistance of Rocksteady, and it feels different to those previous two Batman outings.  The graphics, while flawless and fast, are a little different somehow, and the secondary characters seem to have been rotoscoped in some way Borderlands-style a little, making their features a tad indistinct. Not that it matters because I’m gonna pummel them even more indistinct anyway, but it makes the game have a slightly odd feel compared to ‘Asylum’ or ‘City’.

The third outing for the caped crusader is a throwback affair to pre-Batman Gotham City, where criminals huddle in groups and discuss the possibility of there really being a “Bat Man” tearing their kin a new arse.  Batman looks leaner and has fashionable stubble dotting his normally clean-shaven phizog, but he has all the power and moves that set him above the forces of anarchy in Gotham.  As I progress through the game, I find that in return for punching out henchmen and completing levels, I get the chance to upgrade my armour and access new gadgets, but my hunt for new moves proved fruitless and it seems that there are no new strike combinations.  The attack and defence moves I had are just the same as in previous games. I just had more opportunity to use them, against tougher assailants.

There are new gadgets for me to acquire as I progress and the shock gloves are among the best of these. While not actually an instant win device, they are pretty close to it as they discharge a huge shock to an enemy and incapacitate even bosses, almost immediately. There is a danger of over-using them a tad, once I had won them, making forthcoming brawls a lot more shocking in nature.  The remote grapple is also neat and I found more uses for it as I progressed, moving from simple take downs to moving equipment and street furniture as needed to help me overcome obstacles I encountered.

Game play itself is smooth and intuitive with the next objective fairly obvious. Within a minute of entering the world of Batman: Arkham Origins, I was thrust into a full scale punch-up at Blackgate Correctional Facility and it’s mostly fighty from there on. Great news for the fighting fan in me but bad news for my thumbs; after an hours playing it felt as though RSI had set in, I had used X and Y buttons so much (on the Xbox) to attack and defend.  In addition, this game has thugs in body armour who take three times the pasting of standard thugs – more bad news for my thumbs!   I know it’s against his ethos, but I think Batman seriously needs some heavy weapons to deal with this kind of thing.  In a rock-paper-scissors-type scenario, .44-magnum beats baseball bat every time!

This time out, Batman is up against eight assassins all tasked with ridding the world of him on Christmas Eve for a cool $500,000 bounty.  The money is fronted by Black Mask – the games supposed main antagonist, but as the game unfolds, it turns out to not be that straightforward.  The assassins manifest as level bosses, so having fought my way through countless minions to get to them, I was assured of at least eight hard and extended fights with each one at measured intervals.

I carried on, hurtling through the vast Gotham sky line via either grapple-gun or the Batwing as I unravel a convoluted plot that takes me all over the city and involves just about everyone in the Batman universe to some degree.   Through a combination of thumping people and detective mode I worked Batman through the story to head towards my ultimate goal which will see my eventual grudging acceptance by the forces of law and order and my own realising that I can’t take on the whole of Gotham’s underworld on my own.

There’s nothing too taxing in detective parts since Batman invariably has something in his arsenal that helps him figure it out, and I actually found many clues merely by a little searching around the area to find the information I need to progress.  Warner Brothers claim to have intentionally dumbed-down the investigative sections so as to make for seamless game play, which, overall, it does.  I found that I wasn’t spending so much time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be looking for in these sections as I had in the previous games, and soon uncovered the next objective from a titbit of information.   I also got plenty of opportunity to plan sneak attacks on unsuspecting enemies, but for a supposed open-world game, it is surprisingly linear. Open world would imply that I have a number of options to stealth-attack a thug, but in reality, the limited number of artefacts I found to grapple on to or walls that I could burst through meant that there is usually only one way to do it.

The main problem with Batman: Arkham Origins is that it’s not so much that it’s more of the same, it’s just, well, the same!  While I had a blast following the main story and engaging in the side missions, the Batman universe isn’t really big enough to keep supporting ventures into the same city to fight the same characters in a slightly different order and with a few new accessories.  Like the Fish ‘n Chips option on a country-pub menu, with the current Batman franchise I knew exactly what I was going to get, cos’ it’s just like I had last time.

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not a terrible game, but then it’s not a brilliant game either. I liked and enjoyed the two previous outings – which are still due to happen on Batman’s timeline – and I enjoyed this too, but it didn’t strike me as being either different or a massive leap forward.  Warner Bothers Games, Montreal has developed a perfectly workman-like game with plenty of fun and one that examines a few issues from the inception of the Batman legend, but having grabbed the mantle, they haven’t done too much with it.

Batman: Arkham Origins is cited as being about relationships and how Batman’s on-going interactions with his main protagonists were forged; perhaps I should have considered my own relationship instead and left it on the shelf of that 24-hour store.

Read More

FIFA 14 Xbox 360 Review & Xbox One preview

I love this time of year. Summer is drifting into the early throws of Autumn. There is a slight chill in the air.  This, laddies and gentlewomen, can mean only one thing; the football season has begun after an obscenely long absence, and your team is already well on the way to glory (or relegation-insert as appropriate). Then, with the new season under way, EA’s annual football masterpiece rears its beautiful head. FIFA 14 is here.

So, has it been worth the wait? Err yes, yes it has. The first thing I enjoyed was that my preferences were saved from FIFA 13, so with just a couple of button presses, I was all set up. I am aware that this is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but I appreciated it, so you’re reading about it. The main menu is stylish and easy to navigate, with all the usual features present and accounted for. I launched straight into “Career Mode”, and was treated to the dulcet tones of Sky Sports veteran football commentator Martin Tyler, offering me a tutorial on how to use the “Global Transfer Network”, a brand new addition for career mode. Simply put, this is an advanced scouting system, allowing you to unearth players from Colchester to Cambodia. You inherit a staff of scouts, and you can dispatch them to find players. There is a list of specific criteria for the scout to identify in a player, from box-to-box midfielder to lightning quick. Once the scout has given you a list of players to choose from, you can then ask them to scout each player to a greater level of detail. This is a great touch (pun very much intended) and it brings a splendid level of authenticity to proceedings.

At this point i’m assuming you wish to know how the game actually plays. Well, in short, it plays beautifully. All the delights of previous FIFA games are there, players are scarily life-like, stadiums look fantastic and the crowd noise is an absolute joy to behold. There is a real sense of match day fever and FIFA 14’s stand out feature, the all new player movement, is truly spectacular. There were whispers that the players would move and adjust their bodies to best control the ball, something that really peaked my interest, and thankfully the whispers transpired. In previous FIFA games, it was fairly easy for a player to perfectly control the ball with their weaker foot and bomb on without breaking stride. No such luxuries in FIFA 14. Players will take the touch that will best protect the football and thus, the emphasis is much more on building play with good passing and tactical awareness. Only if a speed demon is given ample space will he truly be able to stretch his legs and leave markers for dead. I love this feature. It is ever so satisfying when you create chances through neat passing and movement (I actually clapped myself upon finishing off a slick move). There is however, a slight drawback with this intuitive player movement. On the current gen Xbox the way players move in order to get the right body shape, is ever so slightly clunky. It is by no means a blot on FIFA 14’s copybook, but it is noticeable at times. I was very eager to see how the game played on the next gen console, and my wish was granted at Eurogamer Expo. I had a bash on FIFA 14 on Xbox One, and it is frighteningly good and markedly different to the 360 iteration. The player movement is so fluid and intuitive that it’s honestly like watching a live game.  As well as gameplay being close to perfection, the visuals are fabulous. The level of detail is such that players shirts will crease up depending on which way their body moves. It’s the little details like this that highlight the chasmic power  improvement of the next gen, and it makes the game so immersive and real, it is taken video gaming to a whole new level. The term revolutionary, sits right at home here! The spectators are now in 3D which brings them far more into the game than on current gen consoles. You really get a sense of the match-day atmosphere. I gleaned this from playing only a few minutes on the demo, and when the game is released on next gen consoles later this year, we will be looking at an 11 out of 10 game.

FIFA Ultimate Team has all the ingredients for you fanatics to cook up an unstoppable squad. The layout is smart and user friendly, so those of you who are new to FIFA will have little trouble accessing all of the features that make this such an enjoyable game mode.  Players can enter auctions on every football related item they can think of; players, tactics, stadiums and medical help are just a few of the options available. These can all be purchased with XP and with such a depth of options, you will be forever tinkering with your line up. A particularly exciting feature new to Ultimate Team in FIFA 14 is Ultimate Team Legends. This will be exclusive to Xbox and promises to be a brilliantly fun feature. You will now be able to populate your squad with footballing legends of days of old. Think combining “Messi” with “Pele”. Hell yes, a partnership with talent of biblical proportions. Once on the virtual pitch, I had no trouble finding games with good a connection, and am pleased to report no rage-quitting.

The skill games are nicely varied and the introduction of ball machines feeding you footballs for some of the drills is a small but classy touch. They are difficult enough so that you have to really perfect your grasp of the controls in order to complete them, and this will give you plenty of ways in which to unlock even the most stubborn of defences. You can improve all aspects of your game using these drills; short and long passing, shooting, free-kicks, crossing and dribbling are just a few, and there are enjoyable extras within the drills such as landing the ball in a bin or dislodging water containers.

The creation zone is as fun as ever, with so many different levels of detail available. I even managed to create myself to a staggering level of accuracy (admittedly I was generous with general football ability and weight). You can customise a player from everything to the position and thickness of his eyebrows, to the colour and manufacturer of his boots. Hours can be spent fine tuning your ultimate virtual footballer, and seeing your creation take the field for your favourite team is a pleasing sight indeed.

FIFA remains the gold standard of football sims, and with the launch of the next gen consoles imminent, the mind truly boggles as to just how good this game will be. I, for one, can’t wait.

 

 

Read More

GTA V single-player

Holy shit! Grand Theft Auto V rocks! I haven’t been so obsessed with a game for years. I can’t remember the last time I played a game and didn’t get the tiniest bit bored after just a few hours. Not with GTA V! I’ve been totally absorbed by it all day. The only reason I’m not playing now is to write this review and let you guys know just how awesome it is. GTA V  has been a long time coming, especially so with the news at the start of the year that it was to be delayed by 6 months, but it was well worth the wait. Take note EA, Rockstar delayed the launch because GTA V wasn’t perfected, thank God they took that decision. The online mode won’t be enabled till October 1 but there’s plenty to be getting on with in Grand Theft Auto V single-player.

We’ve spent the last week here at UGP HQ, staring at the letter box each morning till the post man comes, hoping and praying our copy of GTA V from Rockstar arrives but alas, yesterday morning’s, now ritual, routine of watching the letterbox, didn’t yield any

copies of GTA V when Mr Postie made his rounds. We had a decision to make, do we gamble that it’ll arrive launch day morning or go and find somewhere with a spare copy to buy? Of course, we went with the latter option so, come 10pm I jumped in the car with a buddy who was off to grab his midnight release pre-order, and headed out in the hope that I might be able to find a copy. I knew that the odds were stacked heavily against me but, luck prevailed. Same said buddy, had ordered two copies…one for him, one for his other half. However, she wouldn’t be able to play it all week and due to an exorbitant vet bill for a very cute a worthy pooch, said that I could buy her copy and she’d buy it back once when she wanted it. AWESOME….me thinks to myself, going to be playing GTA V, tonight!

921

GTA V comes on 2 discs, one is labelled play and the other install. I had to install one disc before being able to play the game, 8.7GB of data, and for very good reason. I unfurled the poster map in the box while waiting for the installation to complete, something instantly struck me, the map is absolutely gargantuan. It’s properly massive! Anyone who played GTA: San Andreas will remember the impressive size of the open world in that title. We’ve calculated that the entire San Andreas is the size of JUST the city in GTA V. The city accounts for perhaps 20% of the map area, to give you an indication of just how big the game world is. Not only is the game world massive, the visual impact on you is intense. Visually, GTA V is stunning. Everything has been designed and crafted with meticulous precision and care. I play Xbox 360, till the end of November anyway, and this is one of the best games I’ve played in terms of quality of graphics. The lighting and water effects are superb, something that is a trend in new games. The importance of lighting and water in games these days, seems to be earning a rightful places. It makes the game so much more enjoyable. Graphics, in case you couldn’t tell, are very important to me. I’ll play a game that is truly crap, just because it’s got amazing graphics.

Once I’d stopped gawking at my surroundings and wishing I could actually live in them, I soon realised that there’s plenty to be doing in my new world. I know it’s going to keep me entertained and busy for days on end throughout this vast map. The game plays in a very familiar way, although vastly refined and reworked in places, but it took me just a moment to feel right back at home in the GTA world. The list of activities and things to do, aside from the main missions and storyline, is sure to keep me and you occupied for a long long time after completing said storyline. I’ve spent all day playing, don’t tell the boss, and I’ve spent more time messing around driving different vehicles, shooting different weapons and visiting  and partaking in different activities and attractions then playing the actual missions. I’ve only just completed the mission my friends online completed at 11am this morning! It really is that easy to get distracted in GTA V and it’s because everything has been done to an exceedingly high standard. I feared that everything outside of the missions may suffer from rather lacklustre completion, something there to keep you mildly entertained once the story is complete but no, it’s all brilliant. I found myself enjoying a round of gold of the 9 hole course just before lunch. It’s a game within its own right. The graphics were great, the physics were great, the controls were great, the only thing that wasn’t so great was, you guessed it, me! I believe my 2 under par score was respectable but I made a mess of the 5th and the trees played havoc with my game at the 7th. I haven’t been able to get out and try a triathlon or go base jumping simply because I haven’t explored that part of the map yet. Whereas in previous GTA titles areas of the map would require unlocking by progressing through the story, it’s the characters that get unlocked with storyline progression in GTA V. 

Each character is very unique, I must admit, I’m yet to play with Trevor (cue sniggers) but from what I’ve been hearing over Xbox Live today from friends, he’s the most unique out of the three, and is accurate to the pre-release video depictions. The game starts with Franklin, a gangster looking for an out from the lifestyle. He and his incompetent and inept friend, who lands them in more trouble then he’s worth, lead you on the stories opening and the first few missions of the game. I’m not going to give away any spoilers on missions as there’s already enough out there and I don’t want to spoil your fun!

The character integration in the missions is something that I was a little concerned about. I feared that it could break up game-play and cause horrible delays when in the heat of action but it’s actually really very good. During a mission you can hot swap between the different characters with a simple tap of down on the D-Pad. There’s no delay, nothing. It caught me out a couple of times, unsure if I had actually changed characters. During free play, the camera zooms out miles before zooming back in on the newly selected character. If it did that in missions, it would suck but it doesn’t, so it’s all good!

The missions themselves are superb, I love them! Rockstar has worked super hard on the script and dialogue and it shows. It’s engaging and entertaining. Some of the lines that they, that characters in the game, come out with are priceless and will have you in stitches. Be warned, the language is very very blue! Not for the kiddies, but it is an 18 rated title after all. Missions are long enough to keep you entertained but don’t become boring, frustrating or repetitive which was a problem with GTA IV, I felt anyway. There were just too many of them. They are seriously good fun and will have you making all sorts of weird and wonderful noises as you get more and more engrossed by GTA V. The pre-release videos we all saw showed multiple ways of carrying out things like a heist. It is executed very well. Make a sweeping decision, be surgical and stealthy or as subtle as a cold nipple in a tight top.  Then, fine tune your operation by picking members of your crew based playing financial cost off against skill and chance of success. It really is awesome and keeps you properly interested in what’s going on. How it goes down all depends on the skill of your crew and the style of heist you chose to do. The rewards are immense, if you can escape the clutches of the law. I’m finding the missions seriously good fun and I just need to keep an eye on the clock as hours seem to vanish without too much trouble.

The law is very much still a part of GTA, much in the same way as it has been in the previous titles. Minor infractions attract one star’s worth of attention, go on a murderous rampage and you’ll have the might of the state troopers hunting your ass down! Escaping the law is still very much the same, drive whatever vehicle it is you have, I don’t recommend running – it doesn’t end well, as fast as possible and hide. That’s if you want to escape! Otherwise you can bash cop cars, run people down and shoot anything you like till your heart’s content or you get gunned down yourself. I’ve died at least twice today from thinking I was “Rambo” and taking on the entirety of San Andreas’ law enforcement. I found the best solution, when I was actually trying to accomplish something, was to run away. There’s so much space, it’s not too hard to hide, even on a 4 star wanted  level.

Driving in GTA V, doesn’t feel like its had a lot of work done to it. It still feels very GTA, which I like. I started off wishing that it was different but, that’s just me wanting something in the game that doesn’t actually need to be there, nor would the majority of people either want it or care it’s not there. What I felt was lacking was the ability to drift the car. It’s totally unnecessary but it is a hell of a lot of fun and quite a good way to get round a corner from time to time. Yes there’s the handbrake but, the rear wheel drive cars have so much grips, that the wheels refuse to spin and just grip the road and off you go. You have to handbrake to the direction you want then go. No quick handbrake and flick and then meter the power, keeping the car in a nice sideways angle drifting round the corner. There’s some cars in GTA V that could be drift weapons. Like I said, it’s just me wanting something that isn’t there and isn’t needed. The physics and driving experience are very very good and fit the game very well. I’ve had a tonne of fun tearing down the interstate in one of the more powerful cars and trudging along in a big rig 18-wheeler! Let’s not forget the plethora of non-road or land based vehicles. Jet-skis, submarines, yachts, power boats, helicopters, quad bike, tractors…the list goes on and on. It is extensive and what’s awesome, is Rockstar, has replicated real world vehicles. Well, almost replicated. What is clearly an Audi R8 has slightly different lights and the badge is 4 semi-circles. The 911 is clearly a 911, it looks like one and sounds like one but again, it has slightly different lights and the badge is a bit different. Everything is like this and it is cool, it adds a touch of real world…you can quickly identify what’s going to be quick and what’s going to be, err….slow.

GTA V  really is pretty close to perfect but, there’s a couple of minor things that I’d like changed but, don’t for a minute think they are a problem. It’s really just me being incredibly anal and critical of the game. Things like the effects of when a boat I’m zipping over the waves in, dips below the water some of the textures disappear and you have holes in your boat where  you can see the water below the boat. It’s for such a split of a second that it really is irrelevant.

There are two slightly more annoying issues. One of which the general size of text on the screen, it’s as if it’s designed for PC users who are sat 12 inches from the screen, not 8 feet away. You literally have to stop what you’re doing and squint at the screen to read it. The images demonstrating which controls to use to complete the instruction are so small it’s almost impossible to make out some of them. It’d be nice if the text size was about twice the size. It’s not a game breaker by any stretch of the imagination. The dialogue is so good you rarely need to go back to the text brief and check what’s what. The latter and again, this is minor and in no way game breaking, is the volume of vehicles engines. They’re just too quiet. Some of the cars sound epic, the V8 of “Mustang”, the flat 6 of the “Porsche 911″…I want to hear them but I can’t quite, not enough anyway.

These minor minor issues do not detract from the game play in any way but it would just be nice  if they weren’t what they are. I can not recommend highly enough, anyone who hasn’t got a copy, get one! We’ll have them in stock at the start of next week hopefully, buy it…don’t think about it, just do it! You won’t regret it. I’ve played a lot of games and this is the best game to come out in years, I honestly believe it is!

 

 

Read More
1 2 3 4 5