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?

Presentation

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.

Gameplay

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.

Conclusion

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.

Presentation

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.

Gameplay

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.

Conclusion

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?

Presentation

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.

Gameplay

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.

Conclusion

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.

Presentation

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.

Gameplay

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.

Conclusion

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

DICE REVEALS NEXT GENERATION OF BATTLEFIELD – NEW BENCHMARK IN GAME DESIGN, MULTIPLAYER ENGAGEMENT

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 Battlefield.com. 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.

Presentation

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.

Gameplay

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.

Conclusion

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review


The Metal Gear series has been a top franchise for Sony for many years. The Xbox 360 user base has only recently been let on to the games after the HD Collection was released last year. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the not only the first ‘Rising’ spin off to the main stealth series but also the first game developed to be released on the Xbox 360 at its launch. Where Metal Gear Solid is a serious, stealth based game, Rising is the complete opposite and you should not launch into this title with any thoughts of MGS in your mind. This is not a stealth shooter, this is a full on action title that is full of crazy over the top moments.

Presentation

I am a big fan of the top graphics possible and playing the MGS HD Collection on my Xbox 360 is hard since the games are really showing their age graphically. There are no such issues for MGR however with Platinum Games putting in a lot of effort to make sure the game lives up to the lofty standards. Player models are stunning and watching a cut scene and seeing the hair flowing on Raiden actually reminds me of Final Fantasy in a way. In game the fast pace doesn’t reduce the quality of the graphics as you move with ultimate precision and player models represent the ferocity of it quite well. 


The environment is also quite beautiful, especially the outdoor settings in most of the chapters. Dark environments can seem quite bland but luckily this is a game that wants to embrace colour and put you in the limelight rather than lurking in the shadows. MGR shines where there is action happening. Whether it is the gruesome decapitation of an enemy or a massive explosion, the wow factor never gets old and I love to see it happen time after time.

Metal Gear Rising has some very good voice acting to go alongside the excellent character models. Even though the story is absolutely ridiculous and you will most likely care little for it unless you’re a dedication MG fan, it’s still nice to have. The sound effects that accompany the game give a real sense of power and destruction as Raiden slashes through everything from opponents to fences, poles and more. Destruction is well backed up by the noise to match.

Gameplay

From the word go this game is brutal, this game is action packed and this game will keep you on the move constantly. Despite it being a disappointedly short 5-6 campaign, the one positive is that you will never feel bored or are simply grinding your way to the next chapter. Everything is over the top and far from serious, but it feels purposeful and I love that Platinum Games weren’t scared to make this type of game even though it was carrying the Metal Gear logo.


For the short adventure you follow the story of Raiden, a cyborg, in a world adventure to stop a terrorist group that are kidnapping humans and causing havoc to America’s political standing. When you finish the game are you going to care about what has happened? No. Will you even understand how you arrived at your final crazy boss battle? Most likely not. But you will have a damn good time getting there and in an action game like this I couldn’t honestly care less. The game is fun and I half expect Japanese games to not cater to my storytelling needs so I went in expecting this. There are sly moments that are there solely for true fans of the series and they will be able to respect the cameos and conversations made during the adventure.

Combat is what makes MGR the fun it has become. Raiden runs around the chapters, most of the time using the boost trigger that pretty much acts as a freerun mechanic like in Assassin’s Creed. This can be used to slide under enemies and initiate combat as well as being used to deflect oncoming bullets and attacks from enemies. You have light and heavy attacks and using them in conjunction with each other will prove to be the most effective method of fighting. Killing so many people allows you to initiate the awesome blade mode, which freezes time and allows you to be a brutal son of a bitch. Blade mode slows down time and allows you to unleash mayhem on all of those around you. Slicing enemies literally slices them into as many pieces as your heart desires. It is a brutal, yet easy kill that comes in handy during boss battles but never gets old seeing the destruction against regular foe.


Action is around every corner. Whether it is another group of enemies or a huge boss battle (these arrive at regular intervals), the game always wants to keep you moving. This fact contradicts two areas of the title that I am perplexed by. Raiden has a main weapon that you will use most of the time, but also can equip a secondary weapon. The downside is that if you want to use this secondary weapon you have to hold down the left bumper and it physically stops you in your tracks. It can’t be used in the fly and trying to aim a rocket launcher while you remain stationary against a charging cyborg dog does not bode well for all involved. The other negative in MGR is the sheer length of the cut scenes. I know they are attempting to tell a story that is drastically over the top, but I don’t want to be sitting there for more than a few minutes watching it all play out. They do a good job or incorporating it during the levels but the start and end of each chapter can go on for a bit too long.

Conclusion

Launch this game expecting a long, heart filled story with lots of tense moments and stealth gameplay the Metal Gear series is known for and you will be disappointed. Rising is a spin-off to the main series and I am so glad Platinum Games made sure this was the case. Revengeance will be over just as soon as it begins, but the journey you take is over the top chaos and that is exactly what the intention was. You won’t remember the story but really, who even cares! Slices cyborgs into millions of little pieces never gets old and being accompanied by great visuals makes this an excellent game that may go unnoticed in todays market, which is a real shame. I recommend checking this game out for some stylish hack ‘n slash pure fun.

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