Monday, April 23, 2012
Where can the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series even go from here? It has been a tumultuous few years with what seems like an identity crisis plaguing what has been a very strong golf simulation. After Tiger fell off the rails we weren't sure if he would be the focal point of the series and last year he didn't even make the cover, after the inclusion of the Masters took the limelight. This year we are back to the original Tiger roots and with an improved public perception has come greater involvement in the series. Reliving the careers of champions is becoming a big plus for a lot of sport franchises and the involvement of Tiger from a toddler could really mix up the golfing experience here.
Presenting golf in the most realistic way possible is a lot easier for EA to manage compared sports involving player contact. Animations are a lot smoother and with a lot small roster of players more time can be spent getting the small details in faces and actions smoothed out. Golf does look great and is probably as good as you are going to get it without having more processing power to add realistic life to leaves and grass. Player animations are excellent and the courses are simply beautiful. I was particularly impressed with the extra amount of detail that went into the Tiger Legacy mode as more than just golf courses had to be created for the challenges. They went to the extra effort of making sure the environments were detailed, as well as providing an unique cartoony feel to the characters in this mode.
As with the graphics, sound in golf is in complete contrast to the loud, hyped up experience you experience in almost every other major sport in the world. When you think of golf you don't imagine dub step and crowds going wild as you hit a green in regulation, so this game is a lot quieter than most sport games. EA do this well though with a very chilled out score that compliments the patient and calming movements involved in golf. This is incorporated with the sparse amounts of commentary as well as the applause from the crowd on good shots (or disapproving cringes from bad shots). I was hoping for more commentary to make this more like a television broadcast. Other sport titles go for the camera angles etc. of broadcasts and feature fully fledged commentary, I reckon this is something that could be brought in a bigger way to future titles. Apart from that this is a pretty strong package that doesn't stray far from its peaceful roots.
Seasoned veterans of the Tiger Woods series are going to be venturing into brand new territory with this game. This year brings a whole new control scheme that makes golf completely reliant on your actions instead of just setting up your shot, holding a button to power up completely and watching the perfect shot unfold, you need to use the left thumbstick with great precision. Small deviations in your backswing or swing in either direction, speed or time held will greatly affect how your shot unfolds. While this is a great mechanic, it isn't really explained all that well and you must play around with shots to even get close to mastering what is required on anything higher than the lowest difficulties. If at an XP and coin disadvantage, playing with the old controls as an option would've been handy but the new control system does make getting a good score rewarding.
Another new feature this year is Tiger Legacy, which recaps all the key moments of Tiger's rise to fame from a small child to the all conquering golf power we know today. This is done by having a variety of challenges to complete at every age which range from chipping a ball into the pool at an early age to challenging tasks such as the fabled bend around the trees onto the green at Augusta. These can be tedious tasks that require precise hits sometimes in succession to pull off, but they feel rewarding once you complete it and progress onto the next challenge. It is a different attempt at the 'Be A Legend' mode we are used to in other games and mixing up the formula is refreshing to see, no matter how well it came off.
The standard career mode is back, as is normal play and a reinvigorated multiplayer section with the Clubhouse. This provides a team based experience where you join a club and participant in private tournaments and rounds of scheduled golf to earn XP and level up your club. This compliments normal online play where you can challenge people to a round of golf to try and become victorious. The clubhouse is a great way to get with friends in this game and see how you match up to local competition. I found myself halted in my career progress a number of times so I could complete the daily clubhouse tournament.
A controversial but revolutionary method of DLC last year was the fact that coins you earned could be used to purchase additional courses instead of the conventional paying method. This rewarded players who continued with the game and over the course of time they could effectively get everything for free. The thing is though, over half the courses (20 out of 36) are locked and to unlock one play of the course requires around 8-10 rounds of golf to earn enough coins. To unlock the courses forever you need to 'Master' the course which requires completing certain objectives and will at a minimum require 6 playthroughs. This is the equivalent of 40 rounds of golf to get enough coins to even achieve this without using pins which can boost how many coins you earn. I'm all for this concept, but the sheer amount of time to unlock ONE golf is atrocious and should be looked at. There is no way I'm playing 900 rounds of golf to unlock 20 courses.
Despite the 'free' DLC issues that are still plaguing the series, this is a very solid package. The graphics are better than ever and playing golf has never been better. The new control system will take some getting used to for old players but having complete control over your shot can only be a good thing. There is Kinect support for those who want to play that way but it has been merely implemented for the sake of it, I expect more out of it in the future. Despite the lack of some major courses, we still have Augusta and Tiger Woods so what are you waiting for, go hit some balls!
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Overall - 8/10
Posted by iPhone Reviews at 7:19 PM
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The Ridge Racer series had started getting a bit stale and was at risk of going from being an elite franchise to just another racing game. It was a series that was stuck between two genres and wasn't sure whether it wanted to be a simulation or arcade racer. The only franchise which does this successfully is Need for Speed and that is because they simultaneously rotate between the two genres. Ridge Racer Unbounded is a complete reboot of the series and a decision to take the arcade route has turned out to be successful. Huge, fast paced and ultra destructibility are the slogans that pulsate out of this game louder than the dubstep in the game itself. This is one crazy ride that is an absolute blast to play. It is so good to see a game that completely disregards rules and creates one of the most exhilarating racing games going around this generation.
A game that wants everything to explode is going to make sure that it looks good doing so. This means that explosions and the physics of absolutely everything in the game have to be spot on otherwise it will turn into a glitchy mess. Luckily, this game is a perfect example of how to deliver an arcade racer with a brilliant sense of speed and exciting explosions that never stop being awesome even after you drive through your 1000th concrete support. As you smash through destructible environments they shatter at your touch and exploding items such as buildings and tankers provide a slow motion look at the event. Seeing flames and an almighty amount of damage in your wake as you fly through these items is a magical experience I haven’t truly seen since Burnout Revenge. Destroying things is damn awesome and Ridge Racer Unbounded encourages this exact concept.
Destruction aside, the racing is top notch in this title and handles perfectly. Your cars have deadly speed and this is conveyed to the gamer. Drifting around corners and utilizing the turbo button on your car will blur the screen to recreate the scene you would imagine experiencing at those speeds in real life. Cars handle well and all look brilliant. Flashes and lights from the environment pulsate off the car and it reacts accordingly to the environment it is in. Interactions between your car and others are perfect. Fragging an opponent and seeing them burn out and crash into objects at slow motion is so cool and even though you have the option to fast forward through it, you definitely won’t want to. Shatter Bay is a city that is made up of multiple districts that each have their own distinct feel. After a while you will see similarities between the areas and little difference between the different races in the same area, it is something that barely detracts from the awesome action on track.
Explosive power and devastating damage needs to be complimented by a rocking soundtrack and some intense sound effects to deliver the power of the blows in the game. Running into the destructible items will deliver a resounding boom as you smash and crash your way through the course. Cars are loud and sound fast as they screech their way around the track at breakneck speeds. The musical score in Ridge Racer definitely matches the extreme mayhem shown during the game. A large range of dubstep tracks ranging from Skrillex to lesser known songs that constantly drop the bass and deliver pulsating beats is a superb way. Cranking up the sound system while playing Ridge Racer Unbounded will aid the experience and will pump you up for the excitement ahead.
Utter chaos and destruction has been missing for far too long. So many arcade games have too many consequences for making a mistake. Ridge Racer has that perfect edge of challenge and forgiveness, allowing you to have fun and not worry about having an absolutely perfect drive. That is exactly what Shatter Bay is all about, a city designed with destruction and great racing lines in mind. The tracks are all simple loops which can be created by gamers, but simplicity is sometimes best and seems to be what makes this game so much fun to play.
There are multiple racing modes that you will take on in the main career mode. The mode is fairly barebones in terms of story and you merely unlock more tracks and locations the further you progress. To start with I didn't like the fact that you got straight into the action, but I suppose if you aren't going to do a story properly then its best not to do one at all. This approach could've come in handy for some other recent racing titles. The game modes consist of domination (the main mode) as well as drift attack where you score points by drifting, time attack where you race the clock and shino racing which removes all destruction between the actual racers. These modes are no where near as good as domination and merely just mix up the action occasionally.
Domination is the heart and soul of Ridge Racer and incorporates every component of the game into a few laps of intense mayhem. By drifting and following competitors you earn boost which can be used to frag opponents which is essentially wrecking them. You and everyone else in the race is doing this, as well as utilising this boost to wreck other objects in the race to gain an advantage and attempt to come first. It is fun and relies on an equal strategy of racing for position and racing to destroy in order to place as high as possible. Avoiding racers will only get you fragged from behind but aiming for too many racers may have you forever behind the eight ball.
Apart from racing, another big part of the game is online which encompasses both normal multiplayer and the cool creation mode. You can create cities and tracks using an in-game track editor. It starts basic with straight or bends in the road but then by going into the tracks you can add as little or as many items as you want onto the tracks. These items are everything you see in the game ranging from ramps and non-destructible items to tankers and barriers that will shatter at your touch. This adds an incredible amount of life to the game as you can create and share your creations as well as playing others just from a simple search or jumping straight into a highlighted city. Adding this to the game was an excellent choice for me and extends this game past the single player routes as standard multiplayer probably would've failed compared to the many higher profile targets on the market.
I went in expecting 'just another racer' and left with a lot of respect for the new model of Ridge Racer. This is a superb game that reminds me of Burnout Revenge, a game I still consider one of the best games I've ever played. High octane adrenalin racing mixed with complete and utter destruction is a formula that has worked extremely well. The career mode is fairly straightforward but the creation kit gives this game simply unlimited content. Those who are after a true arcade racer will be excited by the package here and I can't give enough praise for the solid experience I received during my time with the game.
Graphics - 8.5/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Overall - 8.5/10
Posted by iPhone Reviews at 5:22 AM
Monday, April 9, 2012
Games that are now reaching the third game in their franchise were generally Xbox 360 launch titles or at the very least games that have only existed in this generation. Ninja Gaiden was in fact a title that was released around the launch of the original Xbox. I remember picking up the game after playing it extensively on my Xbox’s demo disc which showcased some of the top titles available. The game was absolutely brutal in both the difficulty and damage you could potentially inflict onto your opponents. Especially in the sequel, chopping up an opponent limb from limb was an awesome spectacle. Those wanting more of the same in Ninja Gaiden 3 will be sorely disappointed though. The franchise seems to have taken a wider approach to the game. Gone is the extreme difficulty at all levels, so is the removal of limbs in favour of a hack ‘n slash experience that is action driven. It’s a big risk, but did it pay off?
Ever since the original title, the Ninja Gaiden series has been a beautiful spectacle that relies on brilliant animations of the main character in contrast to his surroundings. Ninja Gaiden 3 is no different, with top class animations throughout the entire game. Cutscenes in the game are detailed and the character models look excellent. Lip syncing isn’t perfect but you won’t notice it unless you really pay close attention. The different areas around the world that you travel to are all unique and a lot of attention has been paid to filling out the world with different objects. While character models are repeated a lot over the entire game, the boss characters look awesome. I’m glad that the change in game style didn’t affect how much love and care was put into making the best looking game possible.
For those who aren’t expert ninjas, you are essentially a modern day Ezio. An Assassin who can wield blades with extreme fury and delivering some devastating moves. You will be moving around the screen with speed barely captured by the naked eye. The special effects provided when you move deliver that sense of speed. As you dart from place to place a blue outline of where you previously were gives that feeling of jumping time and space. You will be fighting opponents with such intense speed and ferocity that it is hard to tell what is going on. The camera loves to zoom in on the action and you will find it darting around constantly as you move from person to person. I personally love this, it centres the action and lets you focus on just one opponent instead of worrying about the increasing numbers on the screen. Slow motion quicktime events during battle are an absolute joy to watch and unleashing some of your devastating powers will be unleashed with graphical prowess as the camera follows you on a journey of intense mayhem.
You aren’t going to be hearing much in this game apart from the effort put in from Ryu Hayabusa and the cries of defeat as he slays those who stand in his way. There isn’t much in terms of a true musical score and sound effects are limited during the game. While you will hear the standard crashes and bashes from explosions and attacks from enemies, there isn’t anything that will blow you away. It does a nice job of setting the scene and delivering the loud strikes to an opponents body. Voice acting is nicely done and the characters seem to fit their voices which is a good thing. It is high quality acting, even if the characters do lack any sort of emotion. Playing through I only took this as being because a ninja can’t get emotionally attached being a master of stealth and skill. For others though, they may find the characters a bit bland.
As I stated in the introduction, this is a new age Ninja Gaiden that is more appealing to a larger demographic of people over those who just like an extreme challenge. While the top difficulty levels still promote strategy and quick movements for survival, the easier difficulties can now be progressed through by a variety of hacking with even more slashing. Players can play through Ninja Gaiden just enjoying the serious fighting that is going on over worrying about how the hell they are actually going to get through it. This is a good thing in my view, while Ninja Gaiden purists aren’t going to agree. That being said, those who don’t agree with the arcade approach also won’t like multiplayer which is accompanying Ryu’s journey.
The premise of the story is quite barebones and throws you into the story, only to reveal the true motive behind your adventure at the end of the first chapter. You basically have 7 days to jet around the world, destroying certain enemies to stop this evil group while at the same time fight this virus that is slowly infecting your arm. This could’ve been a deep story but merely turns into an excuse to go to different locations. You won’t be tugging on any of those heart strings with Ryu’s globetrotting adventure.
Ninja Gaiden 3 is an action orientated experience that is streamlined to focus on this aspect of the game. The game basically unravels by having a platforming section that will utilize many of the skills learnt early on in the game, followed by a fight against multiple enemies that may come in more than one wave. A boss battle will appear at the end of every day and more appear during some parts of the game as well. It is a fairly basic concept and those who don’t like it from the beginning won’t enjoy it the further they travel into the game.
Action is fast, intense and a lot of fun to play. You can use easy light or heavy attacks to start with and end up having a whole array of weapons and special abilities to use alongside counterattacking and rolling/jumping out of harms away. What starts as a basic experience actually grows into something more sophisticated by games end. This is handy to mix up the game and throw a variety of tactics into play, even if the bulk of the game actually stays the same. You can walk through the game at a leisurely pace on easy levels but harder difficulties will test you to your extremes with tougher opponents.
While being a single player driven experience previously, there is now multiplayer involved in the Ninja Gaiden franchise. While this could’ve seemed obvious since even the best games that I see as single player only now incorporate multiplayer, it’s nice to see yet another interesting take on it. Like Assassin’s Creed, you incorporate the skills you learn as a ninja into multiplayer and basically run around a variety of game modes competing against others in teams. It is quite a lot of fun and once you get into a game you can see how your skills truly hold up. Whether this is going to be supported as well as Assassin’s Creed, well time will tell I suppose.
Personally, I liked the platforming and awesome fighting available over the skill level required for entry in the previous games. Taking a more action driven approach is great for me and I can safely say that I enjoyed this game more than the Ninja Gaiden’s of old. The story is a bit bland and lifeless and the multiplayer needs to be reassessed in a couple of months to see if it still breathes life. Overall though this is a solid package and action orientated ninjas will have an excellent time hacking and slashing through this textbook action experience
Graphics - 8.5/10
Sound - 6/10
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Overall - 7.5/10
Posted by iPhone Reviews at 3:53 AM
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
If there was ever a worse time to release a sub-par FPS, it is now. Any game released these days is going to be compared to the giant names floating out of Electronic Arts and Activision every year, making it even harder for small XBLA titles to have a good grasp on the available market. When Nexuiz released and I launched it for the first time I was interested to see what I would receive. A XBLA title needs something different to make it stand out and there was a large chance it being 'just another FPS' that would see action for a week and fall into the depths of the charts. Thankfully I feel like Nexuiz has done enough to make itself be heard by being a multiplayer game for all those people who don't like todays version of a FPS. Are you a master of aiming down your sight and getting that precision snipe off? Well you are in for a shock my friend.
One thing that is a huge positive for Nexuiz is that they have been able to utilise the powerful Cry Engine 3 to create the game. This is the only downloadable title thus far that does this and does so to great effect. The maps are simply beautiful and a lot of detail is crammed into every nook and cranny of the various locations. All the guns have their own original flare and look stunning when fired off. Explosions from more powerful weapons such as the rockets react accordingly to the environment and provide the big boom that you would expect with such fire power. You won't see Nexuiz winning any awards come the end of the year, but it just does everything right and makes a brilliant looking game that does what it set out to achieve perfectly. Being such a fast paced game you wouldn't expect some kind of slow down but Nexuiz continues to run at a smooth rate which is really impressive. Such a shame that a stunning XBLA title like itself won't receive any credit for it's graphics, but they are worth mentioning.
The musical score that accompanies Nexuiz contributes to the futuristic design of the game with electro beats that match the games intensity. The music isn't anything to write home about and I doubt that you will remember the score after exiting the game but while playing it does contribute to the overall atmosphere. The sound effects for guns and enemies are what you would expect from a quality FPS. Guns are loud and each have an original sound that differentiates them. Bullets pounding into enemies or whizzing off into the environment sound great and explosions feel loud and fierce. As with the graphics, they seem to go unnoticed as just another good feature and won't get any recognition because they are what is expected in this day and age. If they were talked about it would be because they are horrible, so no mention means a success for the developers.
Nexuiz is primarily an online shooter that strips down all the unnecessary perks and load outs from other titles and gets straight to the action. Simplicity is the key here. Matches are between two teams of four players and there are two game modes on nine different maps with nine different types of weapons. Action is fast paced and relies on the simple premise of if you see it, shoot it. Gone are the strategy of constant reloading, looking down sights and cheap grenades for easy kills. This is a barebones experience that relies on you constantly being on the move if you want to survive. Gameplay is fast and brutal, weapons show their brute force when being used and you just feel powerful when playing this game. The great thing is that every player starts with the same gun and only gets more during the course of a match if they pick them up off the ground.
There are two game modes, capture the flag and team death match. Both try to streamline the game and force both teams to meet as much as possible and maximise combat. Lack of modes isn't a problem since they are fun and trying to force other game types onto the level layouts may not deliver the same exciting results. This is a game that is entirely reliant on an online community to keep it ticking along. Matches online won't start until you have 6 players and if someone drops out then one team has a big advantage over the other. You can play offline against bots but this isn't as fun as versing a real person. This is a game that is a lot of fun to play, but whether the majority of people will be willing to give it a go based on the amount of content available shall determine the life of this title.
Nexuiz is a brilliant title that takes what was good from FPS' of old and brings it into the modern era with brilliant graphics and seamless multiplayer. Being a multiplayer only experience means that it needs a strong following to stay successful and this is yet to be seen. I fear that it may become an irrelevant title to pick up in a few weeks if it doesn't chart well as there is no point buying a game that requires people to constantly play against. What the developers have done in creating this is excellent, I love the fast paced, even nature of this title that isn't seen in many games these days. By keeping Nexuiz to the core action and not worrying about customisation we have a game that truly tests the players on their skill and not just how well they can manage menus. This is a title that definitely deserves more recognition than it currently receives.
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Overall - 8/10
Posted by iPhone Reviews at 8:05 PM
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Unlike so many people who flock to the annual FIFA iteration every year, I like to have a different experience once in a while. That is probably why I enjoyed the FIFA, NBA and NFL Street series back in the last console generation and was sad to see them die off after mediocre outings at the start of this generation. While NBA Street hasn't been seen since Homecourt, this promising rehash of FIFA Street may warrant another attempt at the series because this is a brilliant overhaul of the Street approach. FIFA Street was previously about unrealistic tricks and devastating game breakers, but this is more of FIFA... in the street.
FIFA Street has had a lot more than just a cosmetic makeover, but it is the first thing that will jump out at you when launching this title. Gone are the characters that looked more like cartoon players as the actual FIFA engine has been brought over to Street. Having realistic player models is excellent and the players are top notch, especially the more well known athletes. Creating your own characters is also detailed and you can play around a lot with the detailed character editor found in FIFA as well.
A large variety of locations are present in the game and offer a choice of where to play. There are no stadiums since all matches are played on the street, but they vary from parks to backstreets, gyms, rooftops and in front of various notable buildings and monuments. The areas look cool but the amount of life placed outside of the actual playing area is minimal. Since you are competing in a tournament it would've been nice to see your fellow teammates and perhaps some more fans to cheer you on. The mix of location sizes is great to mix up gameplay though and a positive ploy by the developers which is more than just cosmetic.
Player movements and animations are spot on. Being based off the engine used in FIFA players move more realistically and you can't do stuff such as instant turns to escape opponents. Tricks look great and aren't made to look impossible. They are moves you can imagine happening in a real match on the street and that makes it all the more believable. Some of the smaller fields mean that collisions between players occur often. The collision system from FIFA 12 appears to be in this game, which adds to realistic collisions but also some rare funky animations when the legs of two players accidentally get a bit stuck together. This is fine though and doesn't really detract from the game.
FIFA Street is a fairly quiet game, which is emphasised by the lack of commentary and what seems minimal contribution from the games soundtrack. Having no commentators makes sense because a regular game in the street won't feature those annoying guys on the side repeating every play, but there needs to be a pumping soundtrack to get you revved up. Something like SSX's songs would have made this into an exhilarating experience but instead it is a quiet, mediocre time that is just craving for someone to drop the bass. Sound effects of players are good, but it needs more in my opinion.
I opened up my copy of FIFA Street with hope that this game would emulate the FIFA Street of old and put a large emphasis on arcade fun and not taking itself too seriously. After SSX's successful reboot which follows exactly this line, I expected the same for this title. My first few games I played in disgust because it required me to play like a FIFA gamer, something that I'm not very good at. I went in all guns blazing expecting to pull off some amazing tricks and finish off the match with a devastating game breaker but this wasn't the case. After a few games though, I realised how making this closer to actual soccer actually improves the game and makes it into a more relevant game. Previously the game was all about the street, but this game has recognised the FIFA in the title and made a great hybrid of the two.
In years past, ball control has become a vital area of improvement for FIFA and this advancement absolutely shines here. You can control the ball with immaculate detail, using the right thumbstick to move the ball around and between your own legs while holding the left trigger. This allows you to set yourself and your direct opponent up for a trick, whether it be flicking over their head or a panna through their legs. It feels rewarding to pull off a sick move because gone are the days where you press the button and the opponent automatically falls into an animation that shows him being shown up. Extreme tackling is gone and follows the more subtle nature of real tackles. I felt like with no rules that they could've put some ferocity into this movement however.
The bulk of your time will be spent playing World Tour mode which is the main career mode in the game. In this mode you traverse around the world winning tournaments, gaining new players for your team and improving your players stats. It is a fairly barebones experience with no story, but obviously you are here for the soccer action. The great thing about it is that the game continually mixes up the play, with different sized arenas and game rules that not only determine how to win, but how many players are on the field at once. Past games have fallen into the trap of just providing the same old experience every time, this is the opposite case here.
Apart from World Tour mode you can play against friends locally or the CPU in standard matches or take your skills online. Online is a different beast altogether, with the option of taking fully levelled teams onto the field. This means that all tricks are unlocked from the start and may seem advanced for someone who doesn't take on the world tour first, which I recommend. It is a lot of fun to play against others and can possibly take up many hours of your time.
FIFA Street isn't what I expected it would be, but in hindsight that has made it a better game than I could've imagined. Instead of simply being FIFA Street 4, this is a brand new game that deserves to be considered as such. Nothing from the past games is present and this is more of an expansion from FIFA 12 which is a brilliant concept. Bringing true soccer to the streets could've have been done any better. Hopefully they get to kick start this series and provide a better career mode and pumping soundtrack. Apart from that it is hard to fault the courageous effort of this title.
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 6.5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 8/10
Posted by iPhone Reviews at 3:35 AM