Saturday, February 14, 2015

My 12 Best Xbox 360 Experiences

Hello loyal readers, it's been a while between reviews. Just a heads up on whats going to be happening. As I now have a Xbox One I will be transitioning from reviewing 360 titles to One titles. These will be more relevant to the gaming scene in 2015 as developers slowly fade out support for the older platforms. We will be remaining at the same link, so no need to visit a different directory.
Before we kick off some brand new reviews, I thought I'd share my top 12 games that I played on the Xbox 360. These aren't necessarily the 12 best games of the generation, but ones that had the biggest impact on myself as a gamer.

12. Your Shape Fitness Evolved

Your Shape Fitness Evolved is definitely a game not many gamers would own. This Kinect fitness title by Ubisoft was a god send for me however. I have had Kinect since it was launched and it was getting used for the occasional multiplayer Kinect Sports session. Not until I purchased this game did I have a true use for it. Exercising to me, sucks. Such a long time to see results and being naturally skinny I'm just not motivated enough to use it. Throw in achievement points and the ability to do it in my own home, had me committed. Instead of just going for the occasional run, I could focus on an area of the body and do a short workout designed for what I want. It was simple, easy and most of all, effective. To this day I still use the sequel to get a quick fitness fix in.

11. Fable II

The Fable series is probably the laughing stock among RPG crowds. But for someone like myself who doesn't have the focus to grind through a huge RPG, Fable is perfect for me. After loving the original Fable on the Xbox I made sure this was one of the first games I bought on the 360 when I got one. I wasn't left disappointed, instantly becoming addicted to the humour and fun combat that had myself hooked in the original. Not many games have me playing still after I finish the main story, but I spent additional time looking for collectibles. The fact I wanted to make sure I experienced everything Fable II had to offer is a compliment to Lionhead Studios.

10. DJ Hero

While the start of this generation was all about the huge craze surrounding Guitar Hero and Rock Band, I personally found my calling in the lesser known DJ Hero. Clicking buttons on the guitar was good fun to your favourite rock songs, but being an electronic fan I found myself loving the beats and more intense gameplay of DJ Hero. Fading, scratching and changing songs required rhythm and technique that only game from constant practice. The mashups created in the two DJ Hero games should be on an album of their own, because they were absolutely banging!

9. Forza Motorsport 4

Simulation racing games for me just aren't as fun as their arcade counterparts. I own many racing games, but a vast majority are arcade bar a few. Forza and F1 are the only franchises I own multiple copies of simulation racers. Forza Motorsport 4 for me was amazing. It made me want to play. The graphics were simply breath taking, the handling was superb and the mode was serious with a touch of fun from Top Gear thrown in for good measure. The developers always talked about their love for cars, and it has shone through in this title. Simply a masterpiece.

8. Halo Reach

Despite owning every single Halo game, I am not a big Halo fan. Instead of being in awe of the original I hated it for its simple, repetitive level design. Halo 3 for me was overhyped and better than people made it out to be. It wasn't until Halo Reach that I truly got engaged into a Halo storyline. The story of peril, where you knew it was a lost cause, was gripping and something completely different in gaming. We are expected to have a happy ending in so many games, it was refreshing to have a darker story in a genre where the good side always wins. While Halo 4 is my favourite title in the franchise due to it's more modern take on the FPS and a ripping multiplayer, its Reach that had the greatest impact on myself.

7. Saint's Row: The Third

Most games put out trailers to show you how beautiful the game is and how good the gameplay is. Saint's Row: The Third was revealed by an absolutely hilarious trailer accompanied by Kanye West's Power. The previous Saint's Row titles had received comparisons to GTA but Volition decided to kick those talks in the balls with this gutsy title. I have never been more excited to jump into a game just for the pure fun of it. I zoomed through the story and it wasn't a drag like most games become at some point. The action is non-stop crazy and it never gets old. Perfectly crafted games of this generation are all well and good, but nothing beats some extreme fun even if it is a little rough around the edges.

6. NBA 2K11

While the following NBA 2K titles have taken huge leaps to improve the series (2K15 on the Xbox One is just... wow), 2K11 was the first true shining light. This game was so good at the time that it actually made EA cancel one of its premier franchises and it hasn't even looked like recovering since. What better way to mark the golden era of NBA gaming than to include the greatness himself, Michael Jordan, on the cover. After years of playing NBA Live by EA almost exclusively, 2K swooped in and secured my lasting dedication to the franchise from the second I touched this game. I've bought the newest update every year since.

5. Forza Horizon

If the simulation racer king has been decided for a long time, the arcade picture has been less clear. With the Burnout franchise seemingly disappeared off the map, it looked like Need for Speed's revival (led by the Burnout developers) was gunning for the crown. Then bam, along came a side project led by a different develop company for Forza. Forza Horizon took the insanely good physics and graphics engine from Motorsport and created a fun playground to drift around in. Setting the whole game in a music/racing festival was a winning idea with pumping beats making the game just that much cooler. I find it hard to stick to arcade races long after the story is finished, but the fact I went through and won every single event the game had to offer speaks volume for how much fun this game is.

4. Red Dead Redemption

Just, wow. When I saw the trailer for this game I thought yeah it looked pretty, but how can the wild west be fun? Trust Rockstar to take the most obscure genre and make it into an enthralling game with one of the deepest stories I have ever encountered in gaming. There is a reason why they are the number 1 developer in gaming, this game has it all. A huge area to explore, breathtaking visuals and absolutely spot on gameplay to deliver the perfect western experience. This came so early in the life cycle of the Xbox 360 that it's graphics were next level long before anyone else was getting even close to reaching this level. If there isn't a single I will cry, because this game was one of my favourites of all time.

3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

When I purchased my Xbox 360 a few years into the console cycle I knew nothing of the Call of Duty series. I had never played it but all my friends talked about going and playing 'cod'. While people herald the first Modern Warfare as the better game, MW2 was my first COD experience. And my god I was hooked. As the original Xbox was never a console for online multiplayer I didn't purchase Xbox Live Gold. After the month trial I was that addicted to playing Call of Duty online I instantly purchased it. While the single player is short lived fun, its the true longevity of the online play that kept me coming back right up until Black Ops was released. While my participation in online waned after MW3 was released, I will always remember the impression the hundreds of hours spent in MW2 left on me. It really influenced what kind of games I'd look at playing.

2. Assassin's Creed II

When I purchased my Xbox 360 it was in a bundle that came with 5 games. These weren't bad titles either, Bioshock, Forza 3, Halo ODST to name a few. But I went out and purchased a couple of games I thought would be good based off watching reviews for a few weeks. I ended up deciding with GTA IV and Assassin's Creed II. Lets just say GTA IV didn't get a look in for well over a month as I made sure I got 1000 gamerscore with Ezio. This game was the epitome of fun. A huge world to explore, ways to explore never before possible in gaming and a super engaging story that kept me hooked for the entire time. Assassin's are such a cool genre for gaming and this has remained one of my all time favourite franchises, despite the games getting a bit stale and too busy in recent additions. I can't really say I own seven games of the same franchise for anything else, this is a real credit to Ubisoft for their premier title.

1. Grand Theft Auto V

Do I even have to explain this? There is a very good reason why GTA V absolutely creamed every entertainment release record in the history of mankind. This game is beyond crazy good. The trailer was so amazing yet delivered on absolutely everything it promised. The overly realistic physics which to me crippled GTA IV slightly were replaced with gaming friendly physics. The graphics are drop dead gorgeous and the amount of detail is unrivalled. The story is crazy, bold and a heap of fun! I found the gang wars of past sometimes tedious with boring missions but that doesn't hold true for GTA V. What's more is this game has been updated to modern standards with mission checkpoints, good shooting mechanics are just a couple to name. This is the game of all games that was made even better (amazingly) on the Xbox One. GTA VI has ridiculous expectations, I can't wait to see what they can do to somehow improve on this title!

So those were my experiences, comment below and let me know yours!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Battlefield 4 Review

Despite the resounding internet hate of the Call of Duty franchise, it appears Battlefield 3 did little to dent the mammoth pull Activision have on FPS gamers around the world. The franchise is going from strength to strength, bringing in numbers only dwarfed by GTA V. It's not like BF3 was a bad game, in fact it was one of the best looking FPS I have ever played. It was a game of highs that also featured many lows, most notably a short uninspired campaign. 2012 from EA brought a lacklustre Medal of Honor title that didn't help EA's cause one bit. 2013 sees DICE return with the next instalment in the Battlefield franchise. Have they finally hit all the vital selling points to take down Call of Duty: Ghosts?


Battlefield 3 was a game that shone on a high end PC, but it still performed admirably on the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively. Environments still looks beautiful, character models were amazing and it ran smoothly throughout my entire time playing. Battlefield 4 on current gen consoles doesn't receive this same kind of treatment. Obviously being prepped for optimal performance on the Xbox One and PS4, it appears that current gen owners are going to be receiving an experience that contains many cop outs we expect from lesser quality titles.

On the Xbox 360 I experienced screen tearing, anti-aliasing and low resolution textures as well as the perfectly played fog effect to lessen the graphical load on the system. While it is obvious Frostbite 3 is pushing these machines to the limit, the overly ambitious nature of the games destruction has taken a toll. Collapsing set pieces will look beautiful pre and post explosion, but the collapsing pieces will look terrible. Instead of a smooth motion, a wonderful spectrum of graphical mishaps will occur before it settles down nicely again. It's noticeable enough to be annoying and take away from the true spectacle.

I may be a bit harsh as the majority of Battlefield 4 still looks outstanding. Character models are outstanding as we have come to expect. Overall the environments are diverse and full of life, but this isn't just a game. It's from one of the biggest publishers in the world and we expect that top notch AAA quality from them. If certain things couldn't be achieved on the current gen consoles then toning back may have been a valuable choice. Multiplayer maps that don't have all the huge game defining changes as on next gen consoles wouldn't have been a deal breaker since they are well thought out as it is. This game still looks better than most, and you do have to nitpick to find these negatives, but when you are coming up against Call of Duty these things matter.

The audio in this game is as you would expect, absolutely top notch. Characters sound great and the sound effects are perfect. There is nothing better than playing Battlefield 4 with the surround sound pumped up loud! The unique sound of every different weapon coupled with the crunching sounds of a crumbling battlefield makes this an audio orgasm. You get a real sense of thrill that is accompanied by an up tempo soundtrack to really get the heart racing.


Battlefield 4 is a brilliant game that finally merges nearly everything we’ve loved about the series over the years all into one big, epic package that will satisfy nearly any online FPS fan. It does have it’s share of issues, but they don’t get too much in the way. Especially since the focus is more on multiplayer rather than the campaign. But EA decided that they had to have a campaign anyway; which lasts for under 5 hours and comes with the standards we’ve come to expect with the series – quality voice acting, big buildings being blown up, solid production values and over the top action.The maps are nice and varied, from close quarters to large open spaces, coupled with a decent campaign; it does give Call of Duty: Ghosts a run for it’s money, but falls short with it’s rather uninspired storyline. One is left with a feeling if this should have been an online only game?

Multiplayer is where you’ll find all the action and predominantly gamers’ focus. The online play is pretty breathtaking, with a huge range of features coming together – like Commanders, a Battlelog system that finally works nicely, destruction of whole buildings large and small, great visuals, and a solid unlock and gunplay system that really does feel like a near-perfect “average” of everything that has been good about Battlefield games in the past.

Specific to multiplayer, maps have been carefully designed to give tactically inclined players a better chance. If you’re going to roam around aimlessly in a tank, be prepared to face the consequences; even against an engineer! In multiplayer, Battlefield 4 comes complete with some old favorite modes as well as a few new ones to try out. Battlefield fans will be familiar with Conquest, Rush and Deathmatch variants. But the game also comes with some cool new game modes, which are: Obliteration, Domination, Defuse and Commander mode. Commander is my new favourite, with one player given a entire view of the Battlefield and the ability to deliver instructions to teammates. It takes this harmonious teamwork a new level of trust, and those who can work together will be victorious.

Finally, the real revolution, not to get confused with a game-mode, Levolution as, they’ve termed it – is essentially damage effects. No building is safe, it can be destroyed and everything in it will be destroyed as well. Anyway, The damage effects combined with the weather effect give a more realistic feel to the game. The weather often changes, mostly for the worse as battles progress.The weather effects often alter the way you need to play. The wind during the Paracel Storm map, for instance, requires snipers to aim to the left or right depending on the direction of the wind.


Battlefield 4 is pretty much what you expect from this title. Good visuals that would be enhanced on next gen consoles, a countless number of explosions and fun gameplay. Sure, the single player is a bit mediocre and tedious but, that isn't what counts for Battlefield. The multiplayer in this game is amazing and revolutionary, with a whole new element added. Having to plan ahead knowing that how the map looks at the beginning, won't be the how it is at the end is an awesome concept.

Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Overall - 8.5/10

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

FIFA 14 Review

The ultimate soccer experience is back and better than ever. It's another year and Electronic Arts are back with one of the biggest franchises in gaming history. I reckon it must get hard for the developers to continually innovate after so many years on the same generation of consoles. FIFA 13 was a standout that brought Attacking Intelligence, First Touch Control, Player Impact Engine and Tactical Free Kicks to the sport for the very first time. This is more about fine tuning and calibrating to make a game that is still fun and accessible for both the lifelong player and first time adopters of the FIFA franchise.


When you are making the same game every year on a platform that stays the same you are eventually going to hit a graphical peak. FIFA 13 was a beautiful game with excellent player models and detail in all faces when up close animations are shown. This years game isn't a big improvement on last years title, in fact you could put the improvements at minimal. A few players look more like their real world counterparts, but overall it looks just like last year. This isn't a bad thing though, FIFA 13 was one of the prettiest games around and still is to this date.

The main improvements come in the physics engine and a refinement in the reactions of players. In the past couple of years, players wouldn't follow a set animation in collisions and instead the speed, angle and force of those involved was taken into account. Often you would find a tangling of players bodies or glitches causing unnatural movements that would slightly detract from the overall game. The majority of these are gone and the players react more like their real world counterparts. A few more options have been put into the game like the ability for players to dive to keep the ball in, all minimal changes that just nudge the game a bit closer to the real thing. Overall its the prettiest and most glitch free FIFA yet.

Audio in FIFA 14 follows the same level of improvement that past titles have had. The commentators as always have a huge set of conversational pieces to talk about and react perfectly to whats happening in the game. There are a few new pieces added in, but essentially the same high standard has been maintained. The crowd sound great and a loud roar when you score the winning goal in overtime never gets old.


This years addition to the franchise has a host of key features that merely refine and enhance what we had previously instead of completing rewriting the book. New features include precision movement, pure shot, real ball physics, protect the ball, teammate intelligence, sprint dribble turns and dribble touches. A new addition to FIFA Ultimate Mode for this year is also the incorporation of legends to be placed in your side. A nice touch of nostalgia which has worked a treat in other titles such as the NBA 2K series.

Making the players act like their real like counterparts has been a focus area for EA for this years edition of the game. This is where the new features precision movement, pure shot and shot/dribble physics come into play. Players now feel more athletic, more explosive and have the motion we expect of a world class athlete. I found the game to be an all round faster experience with fast breaks and outbursts of speed a welcome experience. Playing against friends who focus on precision passing can now be taken on with a gutsy burst of speed to take the ball away and manoeuvre your way to goal. I liked this faster paced action and it brought a new level of excitement to what has been called a boring sport.

The ball now reacts better than ever to how it is kicked. Off balanced shots and rushed shots at goal aren't going to produce results anywhere near as clean as a well timed shot. Players are smarter with their positioning and this doesn't just mean the AI. Your own player will position his body in the best possible spot to have clean contact with the ball, just as they would in real life. Messi isn't going to take an ill advised shot if he can adjust his position to improve his chances, and neither will you anymore. Dribbling and passing is now refined so you have better control and less predictability with the top players. The reward for effort is a positive instead of a stupid mistake occurring even when you have performed a seamless move.

I absolutely love, I repeat LOVE what they have done with the menus. For once, I am not dumbfounded about how to find what I want. In a Windows-esque tile formation everything is now easy to find in collections of menus that actually make sense. All your favourite modes have returned with slight variations to career mode in particular. A new hub makes it an easier process and gets you into the action faster. It is all about being cleaner, and smarter which correlates nicely with the position on the field.


FIFA 14 isn't a game changer, but it definitely an improvement all round compared to FIFA 13. A little tweak here and a minor adjustment there have gone a long way to making sure FIFA stays head and shoulders above the competition. This is the most realistic and authentic soccer experience to date. Sure, some players won't like the faster paced action that is generally defined by the Pro Evolution Soccer series. But those who can master control of both the ball and the player will benefit from the fluidity in their game. Those failing to cope will be left behind, but this is where the skill games come in to give us a tutorial of sorts that will actually do more than teach the basics, actually enhancing your skill level. Millions of players worldwide online and the return of all the modes you love will make this an irresistible package.

Graphics - 9/10 
Sound - 9/10 
Gameplay - 8.5/10 
Overall - 8.5/10

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

Splinter Cell for my personally has been a series that has delivered some high points, but also some real lows. As a youngster I absolutely hated the difficulty of stealth and being Sam Fisher, but at the same time it taught me the reward for persistence. Something not provided enough in games of today. In recent times the series has enter a lull, not sure of its direction. It seems to be wanting to hold onto its stealth origin while also keeping relevant in an action orientated time. The trailers and clips we saw of Blacklist at E3 blew me away and I was keen to see more. Has it lived up to the early hype?


As I played through Blacklist, I was torn about how the game looked. At some points, everything looked beautiful, like when I was ninja’ing my way through the sun-soaked streets of Benghazi, Lybia. Other times, it looked less than stellar, like when I was sneaking through the dull looking Columbian mansion. The cut-scenes in Blacklist were actually a bit of a letdown as well, since the character models looked a bit dated. However, I was able to look past this because the performances that each character gave drew my attention completely.

The cast of Blacklist is a major strong point for the game. Each actor brought their character to life and made me really believe how stressed out they were with the realization that the fate of the United States rested squarely on their shoulders. The voice actor that played the leader of the Engineers gave an exceptionally good performance, portraying a cold, yet surprisingly calm villain. Hell, even Eric Johnson, who replaced the legendary Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher, did a solid job filling in Ironside’s shoes. I would also like to make a note that the guards in Blacklist were a LOT less annoying than the guards in Conviction, who were overly cocky and talked way too much. It was nice to fight against an enemy that sounded surprisingly human.

The soundtrack is also top notch, boasting some dramatic scores that peak during frantic and confrontational scenes and gameplay, and stays measured and low-key when sneaking around. The gameplay is also backed up by great sounding effects, such as gunshots, explosions, and ambient noises that added a more realistic feel to every environment I went through.

As an overall package, Blacklist is a pretty game that absolutely flourishes when given the oppurtunity to show what it is capable of. However some dodgy textures and falling back into the cold dark shadows is something that doesn't make this game look graphically impressive. The original trailer for this game showed bright open environments, and for good reason as they are the highlight for me.


In Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the game is tailored to whatever playstyle you choose. If you want to go in loud and make your presence known to the guards, you can. If you want to sneak through and stealthily kill everyone – have at it. Hell, you can even go through the entire game without killing anyone. The choice is all yours. Whichever approach you end up using, it will fall into one of 3 categories: Ghost , Panther, and Assault. At the end of each mission, your performance will be assessed in each category and you’ll receive rewards according to how you did. The points then translate to in-game cash that you can use to buy new weapons, weapon attachments/aesthetics, gadgets, upgrades for the Paladin, and ops suits to make you even more badass.

One great addition to Blacklist is the ability to customize a loadout before you start a mission. Unlike in the previous games, which gave you no choice and customization for what you brought into a mission, Blacklist allows you to adjust your loadout to however you like playing the game. If you’re more of an assault player, bring loud rifles and frags. If you’re more of a panther or ghost player, bring silenced weapons and gadgets that draw enemies’ attention. It’s all customizable to fit your needs and to make you the world’s most deadly agent.

Once you’re finally in the game proper, the gameplay is both familiar and different to fans of the series. I had played Splinter Cell: Conviction in its entirety a couple days before Blacklist was released, and one of the first things that I noticed was the difference in the controls. While I found Conviction’s controls to be more clunky and poorly assigned, I was beyond happy to see that Ubisoft Toronto had picked a more logical button layout this time around. This made playing feel a lot smoother, which in Blacklist, is the name of the game.

What do I mean by smoothness is the “name of the game”? Well, one of the biggest improvements I notice and praise is how smooth and fluid the gameplay is. Sam moves seamlessly from cover, climbs walls automatically when you sprint up to them, and can knife an enemy in the face without breaking stride. Its almost elegant how beautifully smooth every action you make is. This makes it much more believable that you are actually a bad ass killer, and not some clumsy, lumbering buffoon with a pistol.

The main premise of Splinter Cell still rings true in Blacklist: you still try to stick to the shadows, climb pipes, scale buildings, get the drop on enemies, and hide bodies to avoid detection. The game is definitely a return to the series’ roots after the more action-based turn that Conviction took, and it’s a welcome return for fans of the series. That isn’t to say that Blacklist is exactly like the old games, however. It still totes a bunch of new features and additions that give this game its own personality.

One of the biggest new features is the Paladin, the plane that serves as main headquarters of Fourth Echelon. In the game, it’s the central hub for everything: players start missions, purchase upgrades, and begin multiplayer matches all from this one, centralized location. While I’m a fan of the simplicity of a main menu, navigating around the Paladin isn’t that cumbersome, and actually verges on being enjoyable.

The campaign follows a more action packed series of events that we have come to know from games this generation, but still keeps true to its roots. This game accommodates both true Splinter Cell aficionados and the more casual player that doesn't have the patient for pure stealth. This mix of choice works well and is why other recent games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution have been heralded as great successes. The points scale rewards stealth more than anything else, but it isn't the be all and end all.

In terms of multiplayer, the popular Spies vs Mercs mode makes its return! It's awesome, enough said. This team-based challenge sees a squad of first-person merc hunters, armed to the teeth with fearsome firepower, tasked with taking out the stealthy third-person spies before they can hack into a series of terminals. Dodging the mercs' flashlights is incredibly tense as when playing as a spy, while checking every hiding place for hidden threats as a hunter is great fun too. It's a nail-biting game of hide-and-seek where the strengths and weaknesses of each team, even with different player classes, gadgets and upgrades to contend with, are perfectly balanced.


I love what they have done with this game. Instead of setting this game up to force you down one style of play, they've incorporated the best stealth elements of Chaos Theory with the more action orientated Conviction. This is a more user friendly game and ultimately I feel is better for the experience. The developers have recognized game design has changed and found a way to weave the true Splinter Cell roots into a 2013 game. This, with a super strong multiplayer component make for a gaming package that should excite fans of the series.

Graphics - 8.5/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Overall - 9/10

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tomb Raider Review

A reboot of a renowned franchise is fraught with danger. You not only have to meet the desires of the long time fans that have implanted in their minds what the game should be about, but bring it up to scratch with what is currently being used in the industry. For Tomb Raider it appears that the ridiculous breast size is out as well as the true dungeon platforming of the past in return for a truly gripping story and more varied gameplay that pushes Lara to her limits. Getting the balance right was a mighty task that could threaten to tarnish the Tomb Raider reputation if this game was a flop. After sitting glued to the television for the duration of the story I can say this isn't the case and Tomb Raider is everything I could've hoped for and more.


When Tomb Raider was originally revealed at E3 I was truly blown away. It looked absolutely gorgeous and the realistic direction of the franchise looked like a brilliant decision. Seeing a short sneak peek showcasing a vast environment that was full of detail may have been a shining light among many repetitive areas. This is not the case and I spent countless times just stopping and admiring the view from where I was situated. Environments are constantly changing and you will be moving through dark caves lit only by the torch in your hand to vast expansive open areas. Standing on the edge of a cliff and looking out over the desolate island highlights the huge draw distance and amount of detail put into every nook and cranny of this game.

Lara's interaction with her environment is taken advantage off at every possible opportunity. I love games that go to that extra effort to manipulate the protagonist and not just give them one base animation for movement. From everything to bending to get under rock ledges or crouching at the opportune moment to sneak up on an enemy she is aware of her surroundings. Character models are top notch not only for the main characters in the story but also even the enemies. Small details such as hair swaying in the breeze or blood and dirt covering Lara after she has escaped from the grasp of the enemies are all reasons why this is such a beautiful looking game. Damn, I never stopped being impressed by it.

A game where you spend over 10 hours listening to a girl screaming and breathing loudly sounds like it would be irritating. The groans of pain and yelps of dispair let you feel empathy for Lara as she is pushed to her limits in an attempt to escape the island. The voice acting is outstanding in this game and manages to convey the magnitude of the situation to the gamer. Lara is a girl who is facing emotions and situations she hasn't previously come across and must react to them quickly. Talking to herself and others who are part of her posse of stranded survivors explains the story to you. Her supporting cast don't reveal as much as Lara since they kind of come and go but you will generate a real connection with Lara's feelings and emotions.

The musical score works extremely well in collaboration with the tense moments of the game in particular. For a game that is meant to be purely an action platformer I found myself tensing up in moments where you didn't know what was about to happen next. The score played perfectly into these moments with upbeat sounds turning it into more of a horror game instead of action. I felt like it added an awful lot to the game and couldn't possibly fault the sound and overall presentation of the game.


I decided that I would enter this reboot of the franchise with an open mind. Too often I have found myself disappointed by imaging it as more of a HD reboot of the same game instead of bringing it into this generation of gaming. I expected quicktime events and the big explosions that enhance the action in moments that would seem fairly mundane without it. I am glad I came with no expectations because it allowed me to truly experience the amazing adventure you undertake as Lara Croft. Too many games try to drag you in by the action which leaves gaping holes in plot lines, if they have one to begin with. I found Tomb Raider gripping from a gameplay point of view, but also felt emotionally connected to Lara's hardship and the struggle to escape from the island.

The premise of the story is you and your crew are looking for an escape from the island they have become shipwrecked on. They become split up and Lara must quickly transform from this scared, innocent girl to someone who has the ability to take on extreme danger without a second thought. The first hour is all about building up to this point where Lara kills her first person. This is an emotionally tense moment and you will encounter many of these throughout the game. I found it gripping and showed a regretful side of Lara, revealing some darker demons rather than a ravaged killer which is something too often portrayed in gaming. Having to toss up between gripping decisions tears Lara apart and seeing it unfold it thrilling, even if you have no choice in the path taken. Story twists are everywhere and it kept me guessing at every turn. There was a point where I genuinely believed the game was ending, only for it to end in tragedy for the crew and further hardship as they battled to unlock the secrets of the island. The only downside of the story is that the other characters are under developed and don't feature the same emotional attachment that comes with Lara. It is expected seeing how the majority of the game is based around Lara, but the cameos they provide don't bring true meaning even though you can sense a deeper meaning behind what they are doing.

Let's get this straight, Tomb Raider is definitely a linear game and all the talk about exploration may fool some. To get from point A to point B there will be a sole path you must take to reach there. Along the path there may be the odd alternative path that leads to one of the many collectible documents, artefacts or GPS caches, but they will always point you in the right direction. For those who enjoy an open game, you will find most pleasure traversing the open areas that are set out to perfection to test your brain to solve the puzzle of how to reach the areas you need to. This can sometimes be simple of require some clever manipulation of the environment to pull it off.

Platforming plays a big part of the game, but really comes to the forefront in the secret tombs that you can discover. The one true off the path section of the game brings the hardest puzzles to Lara as she attempts to find the treasure at the end of the trail. I liked these moments because you aren't worrying about death and its more about using your wit and skills to get past the puzzle. They gave me a sense of deja vu and I felt like being in the similar hidden tombs of Assassin's Creed, something I always strived to complete because they were a really fun part of the game.

Accompanying the platforming segments is often a fair bit of action. Without revealing too much of the story there are people out to get you and Lara is forced into some pretty brutal situations. With a bow & arrow, shotgun, handgun and assault rifle at your disposal you will learn skills to take down these enemies masterfully or with simple brute force. How you do it is up to you, I was fearful that they would reward stealth far too heavily but I felt capable of going with either approach in most situations. The game would give subtle hints as to when it was best to go stealthily or perhaps wait for a group of guards to walk past that exploding barrel, but then the reins were handed over to you.

Once you finish the story I felt like I wanted to go back to the areas I had previously visited and look for collectibles, finish upgrading my weapons and completing my skills set. Collectibles are generally a time consuming exercise I don't wish to participate in but Tomb Raider makes it fun and rewarding to find them. There is so much to talk about that I could go on all day. Quick time events aren't too intrusive and bring the story together with some exciting moments that perfectly reflect what you are heading into. Gameplay is varied and you won't find yourself doing something for longer than necessary. The story flows and the positives vastly outweigh the negatives here.

What about the multiplayer you ask? It is bland, feels tacked on and will not last more than a few months once everyone moves on. The worst decision Square Enix have made in a long time is the choice to put multiplayer inside a single player experience. It is best if your eyes never stray to this mode as it is a mere scratch on a near impenetrable force that is the single player campaign.


When it comes down to it, this was a game I wanted to see through to the end. Games too often lead me dragging my feet towards the finish line instead of sprinting with a strong desire. Tomb Raider gripped me with both hands and didn't let go under the credits were rolling. The graphics are milking the last drips of power out of this generation, the story is well crafted and runs smoothly while also making me feel emotions I never expected to experience in a video game. The action is a heap of fun, while linear, but that hardly matters when everything is placed for a reason and you have the smarts to use it to the full potential. While there are some more strong games coming out to close this generation, I personally see Tomb Raider going down as one of the strongest performances to come out of 2013. I can't recommend this game enough, go and play it already. The single player is worth it and we can just forget about the atrocity that is multiplayer.

Graphics - 9.5/10
Sound - 10/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Overall - 9.5/10

Battlefield 4 by Electronic Arts is Revealed


Battlefield 4 to Deliver Human, Dramatic and Believable Action, Powered by Best-in-Class Frostbite 3 Technology 

SYDNEY, MARCH 27, 2013 – Only in Battlefield™ can players go through a building instead of around it or eject from a jet and take out the enemy mid-free fall. Those incredible gameplay moments that blur the line between game and glory can only be created by players, and occur only in Battlefield. DICE, a studio of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), today announced Battlefield 4™, a genre-defining action blockbuster launching in Spring 2013. Powered by the advanced technology of DICE’s proprietary Frostbite™ 3 engine, Battlefield 4 offers players a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment – a future that is more human, dramatic and believable than anything before it. With more than 65 million players worldwide, the Battlefield series has consistently been praised by critics for its world-class multiplayer gameplay, and is recognized as the only game that allows players to own land, sea and air.

Battlefield 4 is a seminal moment for the Battlefield series as more award-winning, multiplayer game design elements are incorporated into the single-player campaign. In single-player, gamers will experience huge environments, a playground of destruction, access to an arsenal of vehicles and the ability to direct squad mates. Taking a page from the social aspect of multiplayer gaming, the single-player mode will now track players’ progress, adding an element of persistence and friendly competition to the campaign.

The game made its world debut today with a staggering 17-minute gameplay demo, available for view at The demo begins as the player – Recker – opens his eyes to discover that he is trapped in a rapidly sinking car with three of his squad mates. Shooting the window is the only way out. Panic and fear are pushed aside as Recker makes a difficult decision – take the shot and recover the intel but risk that not everyone will survive. The emotional demo features a cast of characters unrivaled in interactive entertainment. Players will learn how to work together in both the Campaign and Multiplayer, issuing squad orders and comparing achievements in both experiences. Adventure and Competition will unfold through a series of beautifully crafted locations constructed with some of the best art and sound design in modern shooters. All of this is only possible with Frostbite 3 – a new standard for interactive entertainment in 2013.

“We are so humbled and proud to debut Battlefield 4 on a global stage with simultaneous events in San Francisco and Stockholm. To be this early in development, and to already be so polished is a huge achievement for the DICE team and reflection of their passion and commitment to driving the franchise forward. Today’s demo was just the beginning -- we have so much more in store,” said Patrick Soderlund, Executive Vice President, EA Games Label. “It is thrilling to witness peoples’ reaction when seeing the game for the first time. It really makes you realize that we are at the beginning of a whole new era for gaming. As artists and craftspeople, we are focused on creating a dynamic, open design that brings people together with amazing, surprising unscripted moments that they’ll talk about for days. That’s the beauty of Battlefield.” 

By pre-ordering Battlefield 4 at any participating retail outlet, gamers will receive a Premium expansion pack at no additional cost*. DICE also announced today Battlefield 4 Digital Deluxe, an Origin™ exclusive special edition that includes the base game and bonus in-game digital items. Players that pre-order Battlefield 4 Digital Deluxe* on Origin will also receive the Premium expansion pack as well as access to the exclusive Battlefield 4 multiplayer beta.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Crysis 3 Review

Ah Crysis, known arguably more for its amazing graphics than anything even remotely related to the actual gameplay. The original Crysis was an exquisite game that opened up large areas and let players tackle the FPS genre through whatever path they liked. Crysis 2 came along and took a more linear path that was in line with other FPS and was said to have been a design choice due to the limitations of also developing for the consoles. The negative feedback has been taken on board by Crytek and Crysis 3 takes the best of Crysis 1 and mashes it with Crysis 2 to create the ultimate game in an abandoned New York City.


The real strength of any Crysis game is the sheer beauty of the areas you visit and overall polish. Crytek have done another excellent job that not only shines on beefed up PCs but also leads itself to being one of the best looking games on a console. The first level is fairly tame but it’s not until you are launched into the stunning jungle landscape inside the Liberty Dome that you will feel the full force of Crysis 3’s graphical power. I was blown away with how damn good absolutely everything looks. It is hard to find a fault, especially when everything down to the blades of grass are crafted with love and precision. How will travel from areas of open expanse with the sun shining down on you creating a blinding view if you look up at it to dark caverns that are infested with CELL and Ceph.

This game becomes more personal than the titles before it and due to this there is more interactions with human characters. You will be spending a lot of time with your sidekick Michael Sykes (Commonly known as Psycho) and his character looks brilliant and has detailed facial animations. It’s always easier to create alien races like the Ceph because you have nothing to compare it with, but the human characters are much better than those in Crysis 2 and show the all round improvement in Crysis 3.

I’ve never really been able to fully appreciate the sound in Crysis before this game. It has always been about the graphics, but there were moments when I got to experience the amazing work that has gone into it. Guns sounds fierce and powerful, the bow & arrow will whiz through the air. You are first introduced to the Ceph in long grass, hearing them leaping around and their shrieks is terrifying since you don’t know where they will come from. The voice acting in this game is very well done. The interaction by Prophet and Psycho is top notch and I thoroughly enjoyed the enemy yelling for their life knowing that a cloaked superhuman was nearby ready to kill them.


Crysis 3 follows on from the story of Crysis 2, but sets itself up nicely so that first time players (or even those who failed to finish Crysis 2) can jump straight into the game and not feel overwhelmed by the story. The fact that this is the first Crysis title to really attempt a story with meaning brings it into being almost a new spin-off completely. Prophet quickly finds himself being saved by Psycho, who had his nanosuit stripped off him by CELL, the evil corporation controlling what is left of New York. This story travels alongside Prophet’s hunt for the Alpha Ceph and everything flows in nicely. While shorter than Crysis 2, the story is better paced and definitely gets you invested in whats happening instead of the lacking story of Crysis 2.

One negative I had with Crysis 2 was that when I found myself in an open gunfight the controls would irritate me. I don’t know because I am used to FPS like Call of Duty, but I couldn’t really find myself enjoying single or multi player without going for a full on stealth approach. I feel like Crysis 3 has slightly tweaked not only the difficulty but also controls to work better on a controller. Modding your weapons and abilities can happen without going into menus, but it is slightly more detailed than last time. You can play stealth and be really successful, yet also jump out with armour on and not find yourself dead within a matter of seconds.

Probably the best new feature of the game is the deadly one shot kill weapon the bow & arrow which can be used while cloaked. It sounds overpowered but ammo for it is sparse so you can’t rely on it all the time, especially in later missions. The bow can fire a variety of arrows to retrievable regular tips to electric charged tips that electrocute those in water or explosive tips that blow up all nearby CELL or Ceph upon the explosion. While it does make the other guns in the game fairly useless in all apart from big gun fights once your cover has been blown, killing someone with an arrow never gets old. You feel really powerful and you know what? So you should, Prophet doesn’t own a nanosuit for no reason. 

Crysis 3 for me essentially fixed everything that was wrong with Crysis 2 and has provided a more balanced experience. The campaign is well accompanied by the strong multiplayer offering which will be familiar for those who played multiplayer on Crysis 2. The game makes good use of the cloaking and armour abilities used in the single player campaign and those who are willing to put in the time to get good at it will be rewarded. New players may find it daunting at first but there is definitely a lot of fun to be had.


Crysis 3 has made me fall in love with the Crysis series all over again. Bringing back large open areas in the form of New York perfectly complements the more linear path where Crytek wants to force the action at you. The mix between the two works well and I’m glad they went this route. The graphics and sound are mindblowing as always and the addition of a meaningful story takes the game to the next level. Is one of the finest FPS I have played in a long time and I couldn’t recommend it enough while we wait for some amazing titles to hit next gen.

Graphics - 9.5/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 9/10