Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Black Eyed Peas Experience Review


Groups or individuals once upon a time would reach the pinnacle of advertising in games if they happened to be the center of a sporting franchise (eg. Tiger Woods or Tony Hawk). These days musicians are getting into the medium with entire games based around their work. First Rock Band and Guitar Hero put out dedicated side releases based off the current iteration of the series for bands such as Green Day, The Beatles and Metallica. Motion based gaming has brought forward dance games and the Experience series has given us Michael Jackson and now The Black Eyed Peas. The dance band turned electro with a bit of bootylicious action is an interesting choice for the developers as it targets a very specific group that is alot smaller than say Michael Jackson.

Presentation

Graphically this game looks surprisingly strong. A large amount of detail has gone straight into the members of the BEP and unique features have been added to all the background members of the game. There are different locations in the game that you get to dance in as you progress through the game but in the end they add nothing what so ever to the overall experience. It's nice for a scenery change but nothing dramatically changes.


The animations of both the BEP dancers as well as your avatar are super smooth. Some Kinect games have a habit of making the avatar perform some pretty unbelievable leg and arm rotations but none of that occurs in The BEP Experience, possibly because the game is looking for timing of certain body parts instead of complete motion tracking. Turning your character around to be facing the dancers is an excellent idea and lets you recreate the moves from a more sensible view.

This is a Black Eyed Peas game so obviously the soundtrack is based around work from all of their albums. If you like their music then this will sound great, if not then it won't and others will wonder why you have bought a game based around an artist you don't even like. Unlike some games however, BEP Experience is for the most part uncensored except for the F-bomb. This is good because if an artist includes it in a song then it's usually there for a reason. Def Jam Rapster is an example of a game ruined by censorship.

Gameplay

The Black Eyed Peas Experience plays like Dance Central or Just Dance but with a few key differences that both help and hinder the experience. The game is fairly light on features with the standard drop in drop out 'party' mode as well as a more structured campaign mode. If the gameplay was tight then the party mode would be great for when you had friends around as well as the campaign mode to hone your skills.


However, this game isn't as polished as the bigger titles like Dance Central 2 and Just Dance 3 which launched around the same time. While certain aspects like a visual preview of the dance move before you have to perform it is a great idea, the lag and poor motion tracking absolutely ruins this game. As with many Kinect games, inaccurate tracking for games which require precision timing and movement is a killer to any possible fun. I found myself feeling like I was spot on with moves and getting good at best if I was lucky, it became a very frustrating experience that simply repeated itself throughout the entire game.


Campaign mode is fairly straight forward, allowing you to select songs, dancers, clubs to dance in to progress your rank and unlock new items and songs. It is more of a solo experience compared to the party mode which is geared towards more people just looking to have fun. The microphone from any other game can be plugged in to have someone singing along, regularly making references to their booty. This title doesn't offer more than any other and is definitely streamlined to the younger generation who like electro beats.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, if you like Black Eyed Peas and dancing then this game will probably be a no brainer to you. Other games offer more diversity and better controls which don't diminish the experience. That being said, these kind of games have proven to be successful in the past and the number of clubbers out there will find something to suit their standards. Black Eyed Peas fans should check this game out while those who just want to stop the party would be best to stick to Dance Central or Just Dance which have a larger variety of genres and styles.

Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Gameplay - 5/10
Overall - 7/10

Rayman Origins Review


Platformers seem to be a lost art. These days if you want true platforming title you are going to need a Nintendo 3DS or iPhone. These titles are good but you won't find that $50 console experience that you are looking for. Rayman Origins is an ode to platformers of old, providing an exhilirating experience that will be an absolute hit for anyone who can appreciate a good platformer when they see one. This is a basic game, but in a world where huge set pieces and unnecessary violence rules this is a welcome addition. Platforming has been takes back to its roots and Rayman Origins lives up with the very best games of this genre. While it has been some time between true Rayman titles, I can feel like this title will warrant a sequel much sooner.

Presentation

Rayman Origins proves that if anything, platformers can still work in todays environment. What's more important is that a good platforming game doesn't have to be a 20 year rehash with 8 bit graphics from older generations. This title proves that 2D visuals can still look amazing and some stunning artistic style will go along way to creating a beautiful game. The enemies, characters, world and level layout are alive, expressive and distinct. Rayman is a charming game and every aspect simply oozes with creativity which is out of the normal yet works so incredibly well when packaged together.


Rayman and friends are the same as always, the enemies are creative and the bosses in the game quite possibly take the award for coolest looking characters I have ever seen. Levels flow together with such beauty that the crazy nature of the game seems almost normal. Fighting dinosaurs armed with forks or running on watermelons that are floating in the arctic ocean just makes sense and will make you continually smile at the craziness of the game.

The art direction in Rayman Origins is unparalleled and unique to this game. Beautiful, vibrant colours and a constantly changing atmosphere in the game makes this a spectacule to behold for those lucky enough to play the game. It's easy for developers to fall into the standard cycle of character creation and bland worlds, credit needs to be given for this stunning piece of design. There are no flashy special effects or quicktime events, just creative art style and a brilliant overlap of 2D visuals in a slightly 3D world.


Keeping with the direction of the franchise, all the characters in the game don't have voice acting and merely grunts and sound effects accompanied with text. This is suited well for this game like many others featuring unrealistic characters. Not giving a voice to Rayman and his many friends lets the mind explore endless possibilities and gives the user their own personal adventure. The musical score for this title also fits with the game direction with a lighthearted nature that is perfectly intertwined with the pacing of each level. Ubisoft need to be commended for putting such a strong package together that is at the absolute pinnacle of any platformer I have ever played.

Gameplay

It's hard to put into words what Rayman Origins is to me. In one aspect it is your standard platformer which starts out simple with jump and attack as your only options, before growing into a complicated beast that puts many actions at your disposal. This is basically what every platformer is at its base roots, what makes Rayman Origins so special is the adventure which accompanies this format.


The story is light on detail and is to be expected when no one can speak. Rayman and friends are snoring loudly and disturbs the old Granny below who then sets Darktoons across the world to get revenge. This hilarious beginning led me to believe that this would be a breeze to finish as it would be directed towards children, but instead merely targets the inner child in all of us. Rayman Origins is a challenge and a fun one at that. You will be laughing and enjoying yourself as you repeat later stages in the game once the difficulty ramps up. Thankfully the forgiving checkpoint system means that you won't be starting levels from the beginning if you die at the end boss, making it less frustrating.

Players travel through each level, fighting enemies and rescuing the imprisoned Electoons which were captured by the Darktoons. As the game progresses, players gain new abilities such as running up walls, gliding in midair, swimming and shrinking in size to reach new areas. The game sometimes changes up from the standard platform style by letting you do stuff such as ride mosquitos or race against the screen as it continually moves through the level. Each segment of the game is fun, the pacing and difficulty feels spot on for every part and is most of all super fun to play.


Rayman Origins is a thrill to play by yourself. The game is constantly changing and mixing up the style of play to keep you interested from start to finish. Quite honestly this title would be up there, if not better than the iconic platformers of old. It is simply put a beauty to withhold. Playing along is only a small part of the fun, you can experience the game with up to 4 players that can drop in and out whenever they please. Having multiple players adds to the fun of the game and is one of the more rewarding co-op experiences I've played in a long time. Sharing the laughs with a buddy is certainly better in this title.

Conclusion

I don't get how much nostalgia or hype is rolled up with every Mario game, I believe Rayman Origins is better or at least equal in every area. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, the gameplay is fluid and so much fun, the levels are varied and the difficulty is spot on. As far as I can see this is the platformer of this generation of consoles and one of the best things to come out of 2011. I have played that many FPS' this year that I am becoming immune to any truly spectacular areas of those games. The platformer is a lost art and Rayman Origins has taken a lacking genre and proved why we should have more games like this. I had an absolute blast playing through this entire game with a friend. We didn't want to put the controllers down until we had finished, thats a true testament to a super game.

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Revelations Review


Out of all new franchises which have been created in this generation of consoles, Assassin's Creed is by far my favourite. Unlike other franchises, Assassin's Creed toys with history and pulls out pieces of information from our actual past and crafts an elegant story of action and adventure. The assassin's are such an interesting, yet mysterious group and getting the chance to play as one fulfills so many of my interests. In a world which is now cluttered with FPS's that take you through a collapsing world, it is nice to be able to go back into our history and see some of the great civilisations in their prime.

Revelations is the final farewell to Altair and Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the main character of the first then second and third titles respectively. While the modern day character Desmond will be continuing into Assassin's Creed III and beyond, this game wraps up the story of Ezio specifically while also providing flashbacks into Altair's life. Despite saying that they would increase the time between releases to allow for more development of the series, Revelations came out only a year after Brotherhood, which in turn was a year after ACII. Assassin's Creed III again is due out in 2012. The game is slowly becoming annualized, something many people don't want. Has shorter development time or the fact that 6 studios from around the world built this game affected the evolution of this series? Yes, but the majority of it is positive.

Presentation

I have always been impressed with the attention to detail placed in the Assassin's Creed games. Even though the original title is dwarfed in respect to the more recent additions to the franchise, the ability to create multiple huge living and breathing cities which have distinct features was super impressive at the time. Three games later and Revelations is taking a similar approach to Brotherhood. Instead of having multiple cities to travel to like in AC and ACII, Revelations is set in Constantinople which is a vast empire just like Rome in Brotherhood. This is a good thing for the series as they can streamline a story experience around that particular area and period in time rather than trying to incorporate the history of many different cities all at once. Since only one city needs to be created, the developers are able to add greater detail and create unique zones and areas within the city to symbolise slums, market areas, meeting zones and general wide open expanses all in a single location. The city looks spectacular and it is a great testament to the developers that they manage to construct it with so many citizens in frame, while having the game continually run at a smooth rate.


Missions in Assassin's Creed always start with and often include in-game cut scenes. These have improved spectacularly since the first title. Quite often textures would pop in and out, characters would have body parts that would move for no reason and some of the camera angles looked clunky. Thankfully this has been gradually improved over time and they are top notch in Revelations. The cinematic start to Revelations is also a first for the series and is used to great effect, setting the scene perfectly for the opening battle at Masyaf. The player models are as always, strong as ever.

The assassins have always been gifted and received special attention is making sure that every animation is as smooth as possible. With new additions such as the hook blade the amount of actions available has been increased and all previous animations have been given a nice polish over. When in combat you can perform some quite awesome finishing moves which slow down the action and provide a close up of the insane ability of Ezio, this is quite cool but happens probably a little bit too often for my liking. Interaction with other people isn't as clunky as before and reacting to people in your way as you walk through a crowd definitely looks a lot better.


Before launching into Revelations I went back and played the original Assassin's Creed to refresh my memory on Altair's story as it was quite a while ago. It astonished me to listen to an American Altair, something I never really paid attention to back in 2007. It is good to see that the current Altair finally has an accent and voice actor that does him justice, as does every single character in the game. Every single voice actor fits the role perfectly, the dialogue and tone of each actor perfectly matches the personality of the character. Ezio is now much older than previous titles and the experience and wisdom which surrounds him when he speaks is magnificent. The musical score is also pretty memorable and sets the scene perfectly when making your way around Constantinople.

Gameplay

Assassin's Creed is a story held together by Desmond, but primarily revolves around his ancestors. While everyone thought Altair's story was over once he recovered the piece of Eden from Masyaf, he has been brought back once again to assist Ezio's final quest. The storyline is thrilling and kept me hooked right from the beginning. As with every Assassin's Creed title to date, the ending left me gob smacked and gave a feeling of joy and sadness as the tale of Ezio and Altair wrapped up. Not all sections of the game were great, Desmond's bizarre Animus sections did provide a bit of variation from the standard assassin formula but not much in terms of story. The game does assume that you know Ezio and Altair's past adventures and those new to the series may find themselves a bit lost for the start of the game at least. This is an ongoing franchise and seeing how the two main characters have been featured before, experience is required.


Ezio is a pure beast with the blade now and can now dispatch enemies with ease. Compared to the original Assassin's Creed, combat and assassinations come easy to the player. Being introduced to a new city and lifestyle has brought with it new tools for Ezio. The hook blade is a fantastic addition which makes climbing buildings and using zip lines found around the city a breeze to use. You can now craft bombs which all have specific qualities depending on what items you put into them, which can be found by looting bodies and finding chests. All of the great abilities from past games return and some have been improved such as the ability to create a Brotherhood as you send assassin's around the world to perform missions in order to rankup. Some new features of Revelations don't hold up to the high standard of the series however.

Quite early on into the game you will come across Den Defense, a mode which is basically another take on the popular tower defense formula. Den Defense plays out as you stand on a roof and control where and what type of soldiers or assassin's are placed on the roof as you try to defend an area from oncoming soldiers. This becomes a tedious process that completely reverses the style of play which the series is known for. It is slow, a bit clunky and adds nothing what so ever to the experience. If it continues into future titles a serious overhaul of it needs to be done, if anything is should be a small optional area of the game, not streamlined into the main story.


Multiplayer was first introduced into Assassin's Creed last year with Brotherhood. While it was a lot of fun, the load times to get into games was simply horrendous and the menu layout didn't make it an enjoyable experience. This year a lot of improvements have been made. Matches are now a lot easier to get into, new games modes are exciting and mix up the pure stealth formula of the past year and a story has been added. This is a nice addition, having a story which unravels are you progress through the levels is a clever way to keep you playing if the unique action isn't enough to take your fancy.

Conclusion

By no means is Assassin's Creed: Revelations a bad game. The game looks better than ever before, the story is probably the most thrilling yet and is an ode to fans who have been living in the world of Altair and Ezio for the last 5 years. Some new features such as Den Defense don't make a positive impact like planned, but that does little to detract from the great experience you will gain from Revelations. Sure, some people may complain that they have kept the same formula and run with it, but if it ain't broke don't fix it. Multiplayer on top of the single player is a great way to keep living in the assassin world long after you farewell the two current assassin's from the series before a new one is welcomed next year when Desmond faces yet another huge challenge. This is a game you must play.

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

Need for Speed: The Run Review


In years gone past Need for Speed has been the premier racing title that people would look forward to coming into Christmas. In the previous generation of consoles titles such as Underground, Most Wanted and Carbon cemented Need for Speed as a franchise to pay attention to. Next thing we know is the series has crashed with the poor Need for Speed Undercover, before being followed up by an interesting simulation title which was quite successful in NFS Shift. In 2010 we weren't sure what direction the series would take, but Burnout developers Criterion Games came to the forefront releasing NFS Hot Pursuit which brought Need for Speed back to its arcade roots, as well as being the best game in the series. One year on and Black Box has released an arcade racer known as Need for Speed The Run, which takes some risky moves in an attempt to mix up the formula.

The one big part of gaming that has always been missing from Need for Speed is a story and The Run attempts to change this by having the game revolve around a race across the USA. The trouble is, the story hasn't been layed out to give the user what they need to know and the clumsy plot and lack of vital details make it almost impossible to follow. What was meant to be the strongest point of The Run turns out to be its weak link and as a result the rest of the game has suffered.

Presentation

There is no point comparing NFS The Run to titles outside of the series. If that happened the end result would be that it isn't as good as Forza 4 which is unfair on the title. The Run utilises the Frostbite 2 engine, which is a first for the series and is also the first time it has powered something that isn't a shooter. The engine, while not as effective as the beauty which is Battlefield 3, holds up well and creates some spectacular scenery for you to drive through. One big advantage that NFS The Run has over previous installments is the sense of adventure and ability to change the environment at will. Travelling across the USA allows the developers to put everything from lush forests to vast deserts or bustling city centres.

In NFS Hot Pursuit the game was centered around one area and as a result the game looked spectacular. By creating so many different areas the finer detail has been missed. In particular, the way the cars handle and even look in the environment is quite poor. Cars don't have that special gleam that they should have and the ability to customize cars is gone, which may be an issue for some. I felt that the drifting animation in particular was horrendous to look at, especially after Hot Pursuit nailed drifted better than perhaps any game before it. While it still is a pretty game that has a beast of an engine behind it, that fact alone has maybe lifted the standard required.


Recent Need for Speed titles have rocked a thrilling soundtrack featuring songs to get you pumped up for the adrenalin pumping action which is to come. The Run is no different and the songs chosen definitely fit in well with the American adventure that is being undertaken. With a story in place, this game features more voice acting than ever before (If you can call advice from one sexy lady per title voice acting). While the actors they have hired are passable, there isn't too much variety, particularly with the police. The fact that the plot is ridiculously bad doesn't help with the quality of the cut scenes.

The cut scenes do look slick and player models are brilliant. The Frostbite 2 engine has definitely helped out this area of the game and the quicktime events that appear throughout the game are really good. It's just a major shame that the effort that went into making detailed characters and scenes has been let down by a story that doesn't do them justice.

Gameplay

Need for Speed: The Run, it sounds like quite a bizarre title for a game that is all about driving. The game in and out of the car as you take place in a race across the USA against a field of 200 all vying for a $2.5 million prize. The race is split up into segments where you aim to get to cities coming a specific position. The stages are also split into various racing modes. This definitely mixes the game up as you will constantly be moving from a standard race to a checkpoint race that helps you 'make up time' and even special battles against rivals which you encounter along the journey.


The races are short, plentiful and offer the exhilirating burst required without becoming too repetitive. The racing is held back by set pieces and dumb AI however. People who fall into the trap of playing through The Run on easy or normal will encounter races which are far too easy with the AI making dumb and constant mistakes. A race which requires you to overtake X amount of people could be finished by halfway and the way the game has been set out means you won't encounter anymore drivers for the rest of the race. The game is also set up so even if you get 500m in front of another car, if you come across a spot designated by the game then that particular car is automatically sucked right alongside you. I understand that its part of the game to make the story flow, but if they wanted it to keep pace then the AI should be tweaked to stay at your speed once overtaken to keep things interesting no matter what difficulty.

There are just a lot of small things which don't make The Run as spectacular as it could potentially be. Drifting is horrible and Black Box should've really have used exactly what Criteron created with Hot Pursuit as that game was a true pleasure to drift in. These issues could be overlooked if the areas new to the franchise were a standout performance, sadly they have collapsed in a big heap of confusion. For the first time ever you are a character which has meaning. Jack, the protagonist in this game, has been caught in some trouble with the mob and must race to pay them back. The story starts off confusing and doesn't tell you what Jack has done or why the story starts with him being put into a car cruncher. By the time you get to the end of the game you haven't really answered any questions and merely created more which just add to the absolute ramble which begins your adventure. If a future developer ever tries to turn Need for Speed into a story, I suggest they begin with building a story first and moulding the game around it. This merely looks like an attempt to throw an extra layer on top post production. One big feature promoted was the ability to get out of the car, often through the means of quicktime events used to escape the cops or mob. These are limited and do a good job of mixing up the action without seemingly placed in at all too regular intervals.


While the single player fails to live up to expectation, the multiplayer shines a little brighter. Autolog is back and the ability to compare and challenge your friends is an excellent incentive to keep playing. The set out for multiplayer is close to the same as Hot Pursuit, with modes being dedicated to certain types of cars before choosing what type of race to compete in. Sadly The Run also has the same problem as Hot Pursuit with a limited number of modes available to play and limited replay value after a few hours of any particular mode. Levelling up through gaining XP in both single player and multiplayer is rewarding, but even that only lasts so long.

Conclusion

Need for Speed: The Run definitely had potential. A country wide race with 200 competitors, cops and the mob on your tail is something which could easily become one of my favourite games of all time. The action is set in place but sadly the story and some dodgy AI issues has deflated that balloon. Focusing on a story behind all the nitrous pumping action was a good move, but having such bad plot lines which lacked any detail or emotion left we wanting a lot more. If anything this is a game you are going to get to breeze through the singleplayer once, zoning out to any story and merely enjoying the ride before hopping into multiplayer with friends.

Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 6.5/10
Gameplay - 4.5/10
Overall - 6.5/10

Friday, November 11, 2011

Battlefield 3 Review


Ever since the stunning gameplay trailer for Battlefield 3 dropped earlier this year, the pressure has been on the deliver a stunning game. The game was touted as having the best graphics for PC since Crysis and having the gameplay mechanics in place to throw down or at least release the stranglehold Call of Duty had on the market. DICE went into this battle as the vast underdogs, but with the highly successful Battlefield 2 and Bad Company Series under its belt, there was always a strong chance they would deliver. What we have received is a beautiful package which pushes PC rigs to their maximum power as well as flourishing on consoles if the texture pack is installed beforehand. The Frostbite 2 engine holds up well and delivers an incredible setting in single player and more importantly multiplayer.

Presentation

The Battlefield series has always been one where spectacular environments are created and if all goes to plan, destroyed shortly afterwards. There are so many positives in this game and the graphics are a definite highlight. While Call of Duty rests on its laurels with the dated IW engine, the Frostbite 2 engine is quenching the current generation of consoles with every last drop of graphical power being poured into this game. Huge set pieces look spectacular and provide the huge wow factor we have seen in previews of Battlefield 3. The attention to detail is the real powerful positive to come out of this game however. The textures and lighting make this game believable as a real world setting for warfare and the constantly changing environments look good, no matter what. The contrasting blue and orange colour palette featured on the cover translates nicely into the game as well with explosions mixing up the darker theme of the game.

The game looks spectacular during the single player, but equally as impressive in multiplayer. It's rare that a game that rises to such highs during the campaign can back it up with similar results in multiplayer. If anything, action in multiplayer looks better than in the campaign due to the destructibility. The Bad Company games in the franchise promoted blowing sh*t up and almost every building or structure you could see could be blown to smithereens. Battlefield 3 has thrown this approach out for a more linear approach with limited destructibility, often only in set story points or areas set up for a quicktime event soon after. Multiplayer on the other hand follows the if its standing, it can soon fall down philosphy of older games and is better for it.


As good as the graphics are, those with an arcade console or the new 4GB console will need to find a way to install the optional texture pack. Being optional is a misintepretation and merely means that the game will look like a much blander and less stunning title. Attention to detail and facial animations will be missing without the texture pack and it is HIGHLY recommended that you install these so you don't miss out on all of the modern warfare beauty that is hidden away in both sides of the game.

Just as the pre-release trailers suggested, this is a game you are going to want to play with your surround sound system cranked up the maximum volume. You will hear bullets whizzing past your ears, buildings crumbling nearby, explosions occuring everywhere! Guns all have an unique sound and a sniper will be able to be distinguished from an assault rifle so you can react accordingly. While the game has strayed away from the joking nature of the previous spin-offs, the voice acting in this more serious game still sound great. While they may be cliched approaches at your standard war story, the voices behind the people in the game suit them perfectly and it matches the audio quality presented throughout the rest of Battlefield.

Gameplay

Before you even launch yourself into playing Battlefield, you will notice that the game has been put onto two discs. While this seems like it will become standard practice as games get larger, with single player on a disc and multiplayer on the other, an interesting choice was made by Electronic Arts. Disc 1 features the texture install pack as well as multiplayer and disc 2 features the singleplayer component of the game. It seems as if this approach was taking either because they know more people buy FPS's for the online aspect, or that the single player certainly doesn't come close to how good Battlefield is online.

That is certainly true as the single player presents the stock standard, fast action packed cinematic experience that is seen all too often. The story feels disjointed and almost as if DICE has made a summary sheet on every major war event in the last 20 years, before delivering it in a short 6 hour campaign. The game has tried to combat the Call of Duty success and has failed to do so in this area by succumbing to the formula which so many despise of Activision's franchise. While there are some jaw-dropping moments and huge set pieces as well as the ability to control a whole array of vehicles, the linear non-destructible nature brings the experience down.


Luckily that was only disc 2 and not the swan song of the series, with multiplayer redeeming any faults made in the single player. Battlefield 3 is the online experience people have been craving and is the sole reason why the game sold 5 million units in its first week. Multiplayer has always been good in the Battlefield series, with a tight group of players who have kept it running for years. This is such a major release and comes at a time where people are craving for something other than camping for killstreaks while being mouthed by 13 year olds on Call of Duty. Teamwork is encouraged and rewarded, killstreaks are out, modes are kept to a minimum and most importantly it provides an addictive, enjoyable experience.

There are three game modes to play through with two objective based modes in Rush and Conquest as well as Team Deathmatch for the first time, to kind of initiate newcomers to the different style of play. Rush and conquest are the highlights of the game, with games being about helping out teammates as you secure or protect certain spots. As the attacking team successfully sets charges or captures points then the map is expanded and slowly but surely the mayhem unravels over a large area. There are four classes to choose from with Soldier, Engineer, Assault and Medic all designed to provide something unique to the team. You won't win this game by going solo, teamwork is vital to success. Medic will provide med packs and have the ability to revive, where as engineer's can ride alongside someone in a tank or chopper and actively repair the vehicle while others focus on causing mayhem. There are a variety of vehicles available to everyone as they simply appear on the map, no more killstreaks are necessary!


Apart from standard multiplayer, you can also play through Co-op missions which are based around the single player story. While they don't add much to the overall game, it is fun to play through some areas again with a partner in missions designed specifically for cooperative play. The main meat of Battlefield 3 is the online multiplayer and is the reason why you will buy this game. While the graphics look sleek, it isn't a huge step forward like the PC version and can't simply be used as a game to present to friends. This is one you will want to play with friends, not just with friends present like in the Call of Duty series.

Conclusion

To come to a conclusion of whether Battlefield 3 is the Call of Duty killer we all hoped it would be and what Electronic Arts stated it would be is a difficult one. The single player leads a lot to be desired, but the game makes huge leaps forward with revolutionary advancements in graphics and multiplayer. This isn't the perfect game, perhaps with a gripping campaign it would come close. Still, Electronic Arts chose to make multiplayer the focus right from the time you open the disc and must be treated as such. This is one of the best online experiences going around and is a must play for everyone this holiday season.

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Forza Motorsport 4 Review


Ever since a previously unknown racing game was launched on the original Xbox in 2005, Forza Motorsport has been the king of simulation racing games on the console and arguably any platform. On the Xbox 360 there have been 3 installments with Forza Motorsport 2, 3 and now 4 with each making major advancements in terms of technology and gameplay despite using the same hardware. Forza Motorsport 4 has boldly claimed to look better, play better and last longer than any other racing game by providing the ultimate racing experience both online and offline.

While the previous title in the series held up to the cross platform rival Gran Turismo 5, Turn 10 Studios has used a short development time to turn Forza 4 into a superb package that absolutely blows any previous racing game out of the water. This simply put if the complete racing game that offers so much more than any other game on the market and some insane graphical progression has allowed this game to improve immensely on Forza 3, which was impressive in its own right. This is the ode to all racing fans out there, Forza Motorsport 4 is the game you have been looking to own.

Presentation

Forza 3 was a graphical beast back in the day and still holds its own next to other racing games in 2011. Forza 4 takes it up a gear and brings the tracks to life in ways never before seen. Exquisite detail and next gen lighting effects take Forza 4 into a league of its own as the attention to detail in every aspect of the game is second to none. Who cares if Gran Turismo 5 has more cars and tracks if the majority are generic models which look hideous. Everything right down to the interior of a 1973 Ford Falcon GT has been lovingly crafted to provide as much detail as possible. This is a game that car enthusiasts will be genuinely happy with.


The new image based lighting model delivers real world effects as cars race through the various locations in the game. Bright sunlight will shimmer off a cars bonnet just like it would in real life, where as shadows accurately roll over the car and even reflect the outside environment from inside the car. The old one dimensional thought of car goes under bridge, shadow of bridge rolls over car is gone. The car feeds off the environment and the reflections and colours bouncing off all areas accurately reflects your surroundings.

While an extensive amount of time has been taken to apply as much detail as possible to the 500 odd cars in the game, the tracks have been beefed up from their older counterparts. With a limited number of new tracks in this years version, it was important for Turn 10 to add the subtle changes to the tracks hardened veterans know and love. Almost all of your favourite tracks return (minus the New York Circuit) with crisper graphics featuring more detailed backgrounds and a crisper racing surface. Everything down to skid marks and asphalt variation on the ground has been improved and comparisions between the same track on Forza 3 and 4 look generations apart.


Calling Forza 4 a graphical beast must mean that it has a meaty engine running underneath. Whether or not this is the case, the sounds produced in this game definitely match the most beautiful sounding cars in our world today. Cars have never sounded better in a video game and the unique roar of each car has been added to this game. It is great to hop into an old Jaguar and hear the roar compared to the putrid splutter you may find in Top Gears Reasonably Priced Car. Forza Motorsport 4 for me is the complete package in terms of presentation and racing games entering the fray should hope to replicate this game as I find it hard to think of topping it in this generation anyway.

Gameplay

No matter how good the cars looked and sounded, if they handled like a piece of junk with minimal sensitivity or the races weren't fun, all the effort would be wasted. Luckily Forza 4 is a pleasure to play and they have finally streamlined the content to keep you playing for longer while continuing to enjoy the experience. Along with the lengthy career mode which has been altered for a more thrilling ride full of choices and the bolstered multiplayer mode, an array of new modes make their way into the game. Kinect adds a nice experimental mode to the game and also assists with the potential of Autovista which showcases some of the premier cars in the game. Rivals mode takes multiplayer offline in a sense, allowing you to race against other players ghosts in a kind of challenge mode. All of this adds up to hundreds of hours of fun reaching the new level cap of 150.

The cars handle splendidly, realistically reacting to braking and turning just like their real life counterpart. Of course everything in the game can be modified and adding or altering parts in your car may alter the braking power or acceleration of your car. The game also lets you change the game to suit your difficulty level. Everything from assisted braking to traction control can be turned on or off depending on how well you feel like you can handle your vehicle. Extending the simple easy/medium/hard settings of other games has always kept Forza in a position to suit a larger range of gamers. What doesn't change throughout the game is the sense of speed. Rocketing down a straight at 200 miles per hour will feel super fast and will continue to be exhilirating no matter how many times you take on one of the many straights presented on the Le Mans track.


One big problem I found with Forza 3 was that by the 4th and 5th year of the career I wasn't finding any motivation to complete the main races of the game. Every 3rd or 4th race was an endurance event taking 30 minutes or more of my time with no way of saving in between. It really took the fun out of racing, as much of a simulation experience that it was the races still needed to be shortened at least on a more regular basis. Turn 10 agrees and have streamlined the races, with shorter races and more of them over a 10 year career. I love this change and it definitely makes it easier for me to enjoy the game. Events are now chosen depending on what cars are in your garage and you have a choice on what grade of race you play each time, the location and length are always set in place however which is no big deal. Levelling up is now faster and provides more rewards often. Choice is implemented into this also with a choice of cars available at every level bracket.

Multiplayer is back and better than ever before. Public and private races make a return and will keep you entertained and challenged long past finishing all the hundreds of events in career mode. The best new feature in my opinion is Rivals Mode. Rivals mode is basically a combination of events that allow you to play against your friends or other Forza players online, even when they're offline. Your rival will be represented by a ghost car of their lap at any given challenge and you are given a chance to beat their time. By beating your rival, you'll get bonus credits based on that rival's position on the leaderboard, with large bonuses saved for the top percentile of the leaderboard. These different modes aren't just normal racing and includes things such as Track Days, Time Attacks, Spec Hot Laps, Autocross, Drifting and Top Gear's heralded Star in a Reasonably Priced Car challenge. These are so much fun that you could dedicate hours alone to setting fast times yourself and beating your friends in the process.


Speaking of friends, The Car Club is a new social aspect of Forza 4 which lets you join groups of either your friends or fellow car enthusiasts. Here you can share cars and parts with others in the group as well as checking out the progress of everyone else in the group. With many other games going social, its great to see Forza following stride and creating their own unique package. Another feature unique to Forza 4 is Autovista, an interactive way to look at and learn about the most beautiful cars in the game. Using either a controller or Kinect, you can zoom in and examine every part of many cars both internally and externally while receiving wonderful stats and stories from Jeremy Clarkson. This is a great thing to show off to friends and a cool way to take a detailed look at cars you will never drive. This mode also shows off the graphical power and detail put into Forza 4.

Forza Motorsport 4 for the first time isn't all about simulation racing, they have mixed it up by adding some fun elements that will certainly appeal to the more casual racer amongst gamers. A lot has been said about Top Gears involvement in the Forza series and unlike Gran Turismo their debut has been met with great success. Apart from Jeremy Clarkson's Autovista input and the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car challenge, other fan favourites such as car bowling have been featured in normal events as well as career events which is super cool! Kinect play, while a minimal feature which will keep those who were worried about a casual approach when it was first announced safe, is still a lot of fun. Being able to control a car with just your arms and head to look around is a fair bit of fun, but is definitely only worthy of a tiny part in this package. If you really want to drive using your hands, go out and buy the official steering wheel from Microsoft.

Conclusion

Quite honestly, this is as good as it will get for any racing game in this generation of consoles. Gran Turismo fans may complain about lack of night racing and the fact that they have so many more (mostly generic) cars to race. Forza 4's overall package trumps any racing game ever made before it and crushes them to dust. This is the ultimate racing game, covering every possible angle of the sport and the beauty of cars. There is so much content packed into Forza that it will take you hundreds upon hundreds of hours to finish. The game is beautiful, the cars sound extraordinary and the game handles like an absolute angel. Seriously, enough said, this is the best racing game ever.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Burnout Crash Review


Before Criterion Games tackled the hugely successful Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, they were best known for the Burnout series which took the idea of extreme racing to a whole new level. For one reason or another, it has been far too long since a true Burnout title (Burnout Revenge) has been released so I was incredibly excited to hear about Burnout Crash! coming to XBLA and PSN. This title however isn't your standard arcade racer and is merely a top down take on the most exciting part of Burnout, the crashes. The basic premise of the game is simple, cause a massive traffic build up by destroying cars, buildings and unleashing hell on the level with a various number of natural disasters to earn the most points possible. It is a fun take on the game, but despite having the Burnout brand attached to the game, the thrill of smashing into cars isn't the same when you are left with a simple crashbreaker mechanism to control your car.

Presentation

The latest Burnout title is shying away from the super graphics we witnessed at the end of the Xbox's console life as a cartoon style has taken precedence in this arcade addition. The top down view of Burnout really does the graphics justice as it allows for huge explosions and general havoc created by natural disasters that lets the playing field become destroyed in ways not entirely possible with lifelike graphics. There isn't much variation in the levels so you may see buildings and cars repeated over and over again. Not much emphasis is placed on the graphics and the explosions in the game take all the glory in a game which seems to be focused towards attracting a younger type of gamer.


The audio in the game certainly emphasises the younger target in Burnout Crash. The narrator in the game gives helpful information before the game starts, but during the game goes for the NBA Jam style of one liners to try and create a lightened atmosphere. It does work somewhat, but doesn't work to the same effect as Electronic Arts other new downloadable title. Apart from this, the sound in the game presents nothing special and mainly is brought on by explosion sound effects everytime you launch the crashbreaker to wreck havoc.

Gameplay

Playing Burnout Crash is a super simple process that can be automatically picked up by anyone. The game uses minimal controls as you drive into traffic using the thumbstick before pressing A or X to launch the crashbreaker, which launches your car into the air and hopefully into other cars or buildings. The aim is to break as much as possible in the designated game mode and earn a gold medal on each level. There are 6 unique locations and 18 different crash junctions to explore as you progress through the many levels.


There are three game modes which can be played. They are Road Trip, Rush Hour and Pile-Up. In Road Trip, you aim to prevent cars from escaping to the other side of the screen by causing them to crash through the use of pile ups, your crashbreaker and many special features including natural disasters. In Rush Hour you have 90 seconds to cause as much damage as possible to get a high score. This mode is often hectic and having a strategy to cause stuff such as chain reactions with cars and buildings is vital. In Pile-Up you need to stop cars escaping to keep your multiplier while making sure something is regularly damaged to keep fires burning on the level for as long as possible. This is the longest mode in the game and requires good movement around the level to utilise every destroyable object possible.

The game modes are quite fun and mixing up how you play a certain level with different strategies certainly extends the length of the game. As you level up more cars are unlocked and the ability to choose a car focused on explosion power or movement certainly adds another thing to think about when choosing a certain car for a particular game mode.


Apart from the standard mode, there is no multiplayer which could've been a pretty cool mode to challenge others to. Instead there is Autolog which has come straight from the Need for Speed series to let you see and hopefully beat friends times before letting them know all about it. The game is also Kinect compatible and falls into Microsoft's one Kinect Arcade title per month plan. The game can be controlled using hand gestures which is pretty cool, but doesn't offer the same kind of accuracy as a controler. That is alright though as precision isn't a necessary aspect of Burnout Crash. I could see it being fun with multiple people around to laugh at you, but there are better Kinect titles available.

Conclusion

Burnout Crash isn't the long awaited return to the Burnout franchise we have all been waiting for, but for a $10 game this is an excellent way to tide us over for a little bit longer hopefully. The simple graphics and game modes presented make this a fun, entertaining game for the whole family to play yet perfection will give more determined players something to strive for. It's debateable whether 3 game modes and no real multiplayer is enough to keep you coming back for more, but those who want a top down way to create general havoc on the highway, this is the game for you.

Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 6/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Overall - 7/10

Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 Review


Pro Evolution Soccer has one of the hardest year on year tasks in gaming. Every year it has to go up against the juggernaut which is FIFA. This challenges Pro Evolution Soccer to either try and beat EA Sports at their own game or use the same sport yet take a slightly different approach on it. That is exactly what happens and through years of improvements including some much needed ones this year, a solid fan base for this type of soccer has grown. Instead of fighting over areas such as the spread of teams available or the insane attention to realism that has grown in recent years, PES is all about making soccer fun and playable for every user out there. Certain aspects from the real sport have been slightly adjusted or the physics of players changed to make a more enjoyable game which will please the casual gamer that wants to receive more action than your standard soccer match.

Presentation

This franchise was in danger of falling far behind other titles in terms of how realistic their player models and animations were. Last years huge jump as well as this years advancements provides some of the best and worst graphics in a sport game. The game has a sense of speed not seen in FIFA and the fluid nature of Pro Evolution Soccer makes it a joy to play. Player's facial features are generally outstanding for big name players, but as the popularity drops then a few basic generic models come into play to fill the rest of the rosters. The opening to matches is stunning and recreates the build up to real games, but the crowd is still something which looks poor on the screen especially when the standard has been lifted in every other part of the game.


Once the players take to the field the high level of graphical power continues. Player animations are spot on during the game and while not as precise as FIFA's new physics engine, collisions are lifelike and believable. Pro Evolution Soccer is a big fan of giving you replays of tackles and shots on goal and so it should. The slow motion replays look amazing for the most part, taking the crown over the fairly lacklustre approach seen earlier this year with the glitchy results of FIFA. Sometimes the player may appear to be running unaturally fast or having legs running 3 times faster than they should be, but these are small gripes. The game runs as smoothly as the cover athlete Cristiano Ronaldo and does a super job of shaping up as a generally beautiful package.

The sound in Pro Evolution Soccer is your standard crowd noises as well as commentary from two commentators. While there is nothing wrong with it, the commentary doesn't live up to the hefty standards created by other games. They seem to be lacking the enthusiasm and detail which brings the game alive for so many people. The game soundtrack is made up an array of electronic and pop music and sounds pretty good at the menus, while again presenting nothing special or game related like the NBA 2K series.

Gameplay

Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 has to follow last years title which made some really big improvements both under the hood and in terms of how the game played to really make it a true contendor again. This years title has been all about listening to user feedback and adding some of the features that people have demanded the most. The main changes in this years title focus on improving the playability, challenge and realism the game offers while also improving the amount of control the user has during the matches. It is great to see Konami matching FIFA in some of their main features such as Active AI and jostling while also keeping their unique playing style that attracts many fans to this franchise.


The most realistic features added to Pro Evolution Soccer advance the game to a whole new level thanks to the new and improved teammate AI. The new Active AI system means that players no longer flock to the ball and instead make smart leads and correct positioning to something you would see in a real game. The players will run into space and provide options for the user to pass to. Players can now highlight and control any player now with an improved system allowing switching players and directions them a lot easier. A new pass support system has been put in place to allow newcomers all the way up to veterans change the game to suit their experience level. You can now choose from 5 levels of 'difficulty' which goes from having lots of AI assistance with passing the ball all the way up to direction, weight and speed of every pass controlled by the user.


These new improvements really do make the game a lot better, while the faster pace of Pro Evolution Soccer has stayed. Realism has been entwined with fun and that is what really makes this a superb experience for those who are willing to look past the large head of FIFA. What ultimately lets the franchise down is the lack of teams available and the amount of game modes. This game is lacking a lot of the leagues and many major teams which are licensed to FIFA which ruins the diversity, especially for people who support one of the missing teams. None of the game modes have changed either this year, with dedications tournaments such as UEFA as well as Be A Legend which isn't as extensive as other sporting games attempts at taking one player through a sport. One new mode, Club Boss, has been added and is basically Manager mode and doesn't really offer anything we haven't had the chance to play for years now.

Conclusion

Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is a good game that at the end of the day is hurt by the lack of choice available. The game is presented nicely with player animations and models which look superb. Playing soccer in Pro Evolution Soccer is fun and the mix of realism and strategy with the fun faster paced portion of gameplay makes it an excellent title for those who aren't hell bent on pure simulation and a defensive style game. As with every year, the lack of teams and leagues as well as a seemingly unchanged line-up of game modes doesn't offer as much to do as with FIFA. This game is certainly another step in the right direction and a focus on boosting the game modes will bring it closer next year.

Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Overall - 8/10

FIFA 12 Review


It is ironic how Electronic Arts strongest gaming franchise is the only one which actually has a real competitor putting out an annual franchise to compete for the space as top soccer game. Unlike Madden, NHL and Tiger Wood's PGA Golf which basically glide through their annual iterations with updates and a base following which will buy every yearly update, FIFA must make large strides each and every year to stay one step ahead of the competition. While NBA 2K fans may disagree, FIFA has arguably been the best sport game on the market in terms of features, graphics and overall gameplay since FIFA 10. It looked hard for EA to come out and take the same kind of jump with FIFA 11, yet they managed to admirably improve the game. The same issue faced the development team with FIFA 12 and again they have taken the title up a notch and given the most realistic game yet, even if some of the changes may irritate long time fans in the beginning.

Presentation

The world wide game of soccer has always been excellently presented on consoles with lifelike player animations coming to the forefront, particularly in slow motion replays and in game scenes. During the game, the match has always been primarily presented from the television broadcast style with a birds eye view, which doesn't require the graphical finesse of a closer filmed game such as NFL or NBA. For this reason alone, it is vital that animations and player interaction is spot on as not as much time is needed to make the graphics as detailed as other titles. New to FIFA 12 is the advanced impact engine which seems to be based off other EA Sports titles and adds realistic animations that occur when two or more players collide with each other. The special thing about this is that a pre-recorded animation won't simply occur and the speed, force and angle of contact will realisitically determine how the collision unfolds. This looks spectacular during the game, but during replays you may experience the occasional glitch where a body part will move in unnatural positions and patterns. For the most part though the impact engine improves the gameplay as well as graphical realism.


The player impact engine is only a small part of what makes up FIFA 12. All the outstanding areas that are augmented together to create a television broadcast experience of FIFA 12 have been improved and tweaked for this years version. Player animations look excellent, the physics being the player and the ball are spot on and the different stadiums look stunning even if the crowd doesn't hold its own when close inspection is given. Special praise must be given to Be a Pro modes and the always fun loading screen where a 3rd person view of the game is given. Extra detail has been added to this mode to make it look as realistic as the broadcast view and some of the minimal graphical hitches I came across last year have been removed. Despite a few small hiccups that occur, there isn't much more I feel like FIFA can improve on in the presentation department on field until the next generation of consoles is released.

Until NBA 2K12 was released with its simple yet effective tile approach, I felt like FIFA had the best menu screens in the business. Nothing can beat having a good bit of one on one in the loading screens and is certainly a highlight of FIFA. While its a small addition, it sure topples watching a circle spin around for 30 seconds while pointless tips are shoved in your face. The menu does undertake a minimalist approach and appears at the bottom of the screen, allowing sub menus to be quickly seen while scrolling through. While I reckon next year they will need to step it up to somewhat match 2K, it is light years above the shambles which was NHL 12's menu screen.


Soccer is primarily an European game so we can't take any points off for having to listen to British commentators, but they are informative and provide a lot of valuable statistics and commentary about the game. The focus is more on the game at hand and commentating what is happening rather than historical stats and team information which seems to dominate American sports, but this isn't a bad thing. The enthusiasm and emotion put into the commentary is of a suitable quality with the excitement rising as a player scores or pulls off a good move. What is pleasing is that there commentary all flows really well and isn't static like some soccer games in the past where information isn't flowing together. For the first time ever however, two broadcast teams are featured and players can customize to their preferred commentators for any matches. This addition is really cool and having multiple teams is something that should be added to more game. The crowd, while only a small part of the experience as the commentary takes preference when I'm listening while playing, reacts perfectly to whats happening on the field and a home ground advantage to the scoring team will certainly result in a large cheer.

Gameplay

For consumers who wish to purchase a soccer game you have two distinct choices. There is either the arcade path with Pro Evolution Soccer and a game focused more on action or the simulation path with FIFA which tries to reiterate the skill and strategy that goes into an actual soccer match. The four major additions to this years title emphasise the simulation style of FIFA as it delivers real-world physicality in every interaction on the pitch. The Player Impact Engine is the new physics engine which presents an infinite number of outcomes for every contact in the game. It allows players to push and pull during the fight for possession and allows players to recover according to the force of the challenge presented. Pro Player Intelligence enables self-awareness and allows the CPU to make accuracte decisions based on their own strengths and weaknesses in the various areas of the game. These two major advancements really push the game to the blurred line between gaming and reality as matches are now more realistic than ever before. The time and effort gone into these two particular aspects of the game, don't change how its controlled but how stunning the overall package is on field.

Two large changes in particular to how the game is played are Precision Dribbling and Tactical Defending. Precision Dribbling allows even more control over the ball and lets you control the pace of the game. Utilizing close dribble moves while surrounded by opponents is an excellent skill to learn for pro players as it really advantages the offense. The other new, yet slightly controversial new feature of Tactical Defending completely changes how defense is used. In the past gamers used to hold down a button and a player was sent on a direct route to take the ball off the opponent. Now this re-designed defending mechanism changes the game by placing equal importance on positioning and the ability to intercept as the defense now will hang off and will merely attempt to push the offensive player into a difficult position where a tackle can then be made. Timing is crucial and those players who enjoy tackling aggressively and often will find themselves in trouble as the offense simply runs rings around them. For those who prefer the old method, it is still available although not in online play.


In terms of modes, FIFA 12 easily has enough content to keep you playing until FIFA 13 rolls by. Be a Pro is back and has been given no real enhancements over last years offering which brought goalkeeping to the mode for the first time. My Ultimate Team is back and is free in FIFA 12, bringing the hugely successful trading card experience to everyone right from day one. Career mode has been given a slight overhaul to make it more realistic to the real world of football. Factors such as player morale, on pitch form and league position will drive outcomes in the game. The user will face more decisions than ever before and the task of becoming a player/manager has never been as intense as this version. All of this, along with the standard online mode are all streamlined into a social experience known as EA Sports Football Club. Everything you do in the game earns you experience and achievements, which can then be shown off in EASFC. Friends and challenges can be tracked and real-world storylines drive the content gamers receive. This is a large step in making FIFA 12 look and feel like a real world season. As you play matches, experience you earn also goes to your favourite club as you fight for weekly leaderboards to make your team come out victorious. This adds extra incentive for those who want to see powerhouses such as Manchester United or Real Madrid toppled.

Conclusion

Even though we seem to be saying this every year, the improvements made to this years version of FIFA are substantial in improving the soccer experience for those who purchase the game. Everything from the amazingly realistic Player Impact Engine to the social aspect brought by EA Sports Football Club just adds to the already vast array of things you can play and love in FIFA. The sheer amount of content you can receive, coupled with the class and expert simulation of the biggest sport in the world show why this franchise is still loved by millions after 19 years. First time players are going to absolutely adore this game and returning veterans of the series are going to find new challenges presented to them when they take on the new tactical defending. This is one game not to miss for any soccer fan.

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

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gears of War 3 Review


Gears of War is the product Microsoft arguably couldn't handle with its other premier series Halo. The action packed trilogy that takes Marcus Fenix and the Delta Squad on one last adventure to wrap up their story in the most satisfying way possible. This game takes you a roller coaster ride which finishes up one of the best series of this generation while at the same time keeping you playing along until the next generation arrives. There is something truly special about this game and is a defining statement on why the Xbox 360 doesn't need to have a large supply of exclusive titles to launch every year. Epic Games have created an experience that easily lives up to their namesake.

Presentation

Ever since the original Gears title Epic have pushed the boundaries in terms of graphics. Gears of War 3 is no exception and easily outdoes its predecessors to show off the full potential of the Xbox 360. Everything about Gears 3 emits polish. The desolate land of Sera seems alive with outstanding visuals providing a sense of decay and danger. Everything from smoke effects to the crumbling landscape sets the perfect scene for the final setting of this franchise and the variation provided throughout your journey is plentiful. Unlike some games which fall into the track of one colour palette, Gears of War contuinally mixes it up accordingly.


Character animations are absolutely superb and definitely rank with the best games on the market. While extra detail and care has been put into the members of Delta Squad, everything from small cameo characters to the many types of Locust's have been perfected right down to small facial movements. This is in part due to the fact that every character, both COG and Beast can be used in multiplayer. They all look superb online and definitely puts games such as Call to Duty to shame as they are often lacking in online detail.

The musical score in Gears of War 3 is one of the more recognizable experiences you will have in gaming. Witty one liners and excellent voice acting takes precedence in the brilliant cut scenes as you instantly relate with the main squad and the struggles they are going through. The ability for the developers to put some sly comedy into situations like these and not make it seem like an overexerted attempt to be funny is a difficult thing to accomplish. The music always seem to have a knack of perfectly matches the situation presented to the group. Around halfway into the game it hits a period in the story that completely defines this game and the number of outstanding moments it provides. The musical score in this situation easily rivals this spine tingling moments experienced throughout my time playing video games.

Gameplay

Gears of War 3 is the end of the line for Delta Squad and the necessary steps to close out all outlying story plots has been covered in an ironic, over the top way that Gears only knows how to do. For players of the previous titles, there will be moments in the game that will pull on your heart strings, providing stunning moments of glory that spectacularly encapsulates multiple emotions in one go. First timers to the Gears franchise won't be able to appreciate the humour and subtle plots in the game, but just as with Halo where the same problem exists, you can still enjoy this game immensely. Not understanding the characters and their history won't distract from the stunning gameplay at hand.


When it comes to 3rd person shooters, absolutely no one does it better than Gears. This is one of the only games in existence that has actually got a solid and efficient cover system. The Delta Squad is made up of humans, but think of a beefed up version of a bodybuilder. With this physique you wouldn't imagine they would have the same amount of elegance as your standard person. The movements in this game are slow and unique except for the option to sprint where movement left or right is severely limited. A lot of thought has always gone into character animations in the Gears of War series and it is shown here with subtle improvements to make it as realistic as possible. Shooting is fun and varied with different guns haven't different ranges and damage amounts, which accurately affects the recoil and accuracy once firing. This is the most playable Gears yet and is suited for people of all abilities.

The campaign is absolutely outstanding and could easily sell by itself. What makes Gears of War 3 a complete package is all the extra modes that go with it. Co-op mode has always been a big hit in the franchise and the ability to play through the campaign with up to 4 players is an excellent way to experience the final battle for either your first, second or even third playthough. You can also mix up the campaign with either standard or arcade, which gives you points based on multipliers and headshots etc, giving added incentive to continue playing through. Multiplayer is back and better than ever before with new maps, new game modes and added finesse added to the finer points of the mode. Gone are all the frustrating glitches and issues that affected Gears 2 as the beta before the games launched has helped Gears 3 become the best multiplayer game in the series hands down. Playing online is just as slick as the single player, and is just as easy to get into this time around.


Past normal multiplayer, Horde mode is back and better than ever before. For those who have never played the game before, Horde is basically the Gears version of Zombies in Call of Duty Black Ops. You play with up to four people in a tower defense style mode to hold off waves of enemies by not only shooting them, but setting traps throughout the map. The mode is a heap of fun and a massive timesink for those who easily get sucked into the zombies style of gameplay. The most exciting addition to Gears for me was the brand new Beast mode, which is a play on the popular Horde style. Instead of playing as one of the COG you are instead the Locust and are completing wave based challenges in the opposing role. It is a cool twist they have added to the game which further extends your playing time and creates another fun mode for players.

Conclusion

Gears of War 3, simply put is the definitive 3rd person shooter. This game is a fitting tribute to 5 years of Gears that has ended in the best way possible. No loose ends are around for a Gears 4 and Epic has stayed true to one area of gaming that is seemingly broken regularly for a simple cash grab from developers. Marcus Fenix and co. provide a fitting end to the franchise which not only travels over some of the most spectacular scenery and storytelling in gaming, but delivers an addictive array of multiplayer modes which will keep gamers playing right up until they achieve the nigh on impossible Seriously 3.0 achievement. Simply put, this is a game you must get. Gears of War is an excellent franchise and a title that can't be missed in 2011.

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

Friday, September 9, 2011

Crytek and EA Bring Crysis to Xbox Live in October 2011


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – September 9, 2011 – Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) and award-winning developer, Crytek GmbH, announced today that the critically-acclaimed Crysis® franchise will debut a new experience on Xbox LIVE® and PlayStation® Network. In October 2011, shooter fans will be able to download a modified and enhanced version of the award-winning single-player campaign from the original Crysis, remastered for console players using Crytek’s state-of-the-art CryENGINE®3 with all new lighting, effects and other visual optimizations. For just 1600 Microsoft Points, gamers will download the most robust and exciting Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network game to date.

In 2007 and again in 2011, critics around the world hailed Crysis and Crysis 2 as titles that ushered in the next-generation of gaming with jaw-dropping visuals, industry leading technology and groundbreaking sandbox gameplay, featuring the super-powerful Nanosuit. Today, the original, award-winning 2007 single-player campaign has been remastered for Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network with optimized Nanosuit controls, fine-tuned combat and full stereoscopic 3D support.

“We are extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish with Crysis. We set out to create a next-generation FPS and delivered a PC experience that became a benchmark for quality – and still is for many gamers even four years later,” said Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crytek. “By bringing the single-player campaign to console, we believe we are again setting a new standard for quality in downloadable gaming.”

In Crysis, gamers will travel to 2019 where a team of US scientists makes a frightening discovery on an island in the South China Sea. All contact with the team is lost when the North Korean Government quickly seals off the area. The United States responds by dispatching an elite team of Delta Force Operators to recon the situation. As tension rises between the two nations, a massive alien ship reveals itself in the middle of the island. Now with hope rapidly fading, the US and North Koreans must join forces to battle the alien menace, fighting epic battles through stunning, photorealistic tropical jungles and frozen landscapes.

For more information on Crysis, please visit http://crysis.ea.com or http://mycrysis.com and follow the game on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/crysis or “Like” Crysis on Facebook at http://facebook.com/crysis.