Monday, May 28, 2012
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series has been one of the best squad based shooters for a long time now. However I was fearful that the influence of the big shooters in the past few years would destroy the tactical premise that made the series into stunning franchise we have today. Huge interactive set pieces and linear missions would destroy this game. I was also fearful that the promise of super smart AI wouldn’t live up to expectations, making this game fall into being a “squad” like Call of Duty or Battlefield where they are merely tagging along for morale. Two missions into the game though and all of my fears were quelled immediately. Future Solider is a spectacular game that hasn’t only taken in-game tech from the future, but AI with future intelligence as well.
The Ghost Recon series has always had nice graphics without being the standout in the highly populated crowd. This is the same for Future Soldier as it mixes up some stunning set pieces and locations around the world with some cringe-worthy attempts at facial animations, particularly in the cut scenes. Close-ups of the Ghost members uncover some of the more ridged parts of the game and this can slightly detract from the emotion being conveyed during these specific moments. Apart from this the overall animation of all characters in the game is superbly done.
Your squad moves with precision and accurately reacts to the environment around them. It is promising to see you go into cover against a wall and manoeuvre behind it just like in real life to get the safest view around the corner. The cover system isn't only just worked out well control-wise but in the animations of your character in these positions exemplifies the superior animation and detail put into the major parts of the game. But having said that, even the smaller details like enemies and everyday civilians have been lovingly crafted. Enemies react accordingly to your movements and civilians will drop to the ground and scurry away at the sound of gunfire. While these people know that you are helping them, you can see the fear in their movements and are often bewildered when a ghost comes out of hiding.
As you jet set around the world to the different locations you will be tasked with missions in a variety of settings. These are all great environments that look downright spectacular, especially when weather effects are present. Going through the desert might seem bland, but a sandstorm and needing to use magnetic goggles or thermal vision will all of a sudden give you a different perspective of the area. Areas are full of small details and while it may force you to a given objective, you can reach it in a number of ways. Areas and effects are for the most part great and it's only the odd background that might not be perfect, but overall this is such a good looking game.
When you first boot up the game it instructs you to install audio for an enhanced experience. From this point onwards I had high expectations that this would be one spectacular game that would thrive with the sound system turned up high. Battlefield 3 for me was an audio beast with sound effects that would bring the house down. It was also accompanied by pumping beats that really set the scene for the action orientated game. Ghost Recon came out and for a while disappointed me with its sound. Gone are the action orientated tunes and sound is at a minimum. After a while though I came to appreciate how good it is. When sound effects are in place, they are awesome. The initial blast of a sandstorm will blow you away and guns all sound brilliant. Voice acting is spot on and the quiet nature doesn't only suit the stealthy gameplay, but allows you to listen to the tips from your squad that are actually helpful. This is a rarity in games, but you will want to listen to other members during the game which is pleasing.
Squad based shooters are not a new prospect, but have definitely been taken to the next level here. You have your true squad based games like Rainbow Six where you must hold your squads hand and command their every move. This moves all the way down to your Gears of War and Call of Duty games where the squad ranges from helpful in a fight to downright atrocious support. A lot of effort is often put into enemy AI but the same level of detail has never been pushed across to your teammates. Games have always encouraged you to play with friends which is advantageous in many titles such as Gears of War and Halo. Ghost Recon Future Soldier bucks this trend, creating an experience where you may not want your immature Battlefield playing neighbour on your team over the stealthy Ghost outfit.
Your team are clever and can actually help you out an incredible amount. When you haven't been spotted they won't give away their position but are still smart enough to line up a kill if you have tagged a player you want taken out. They act on their own accord and require only simple instructions which is what you would expect from a real life. For once you are a leader of a group worthy of being a specialist solider and playing with people that have an IQ higher than your friends is a real accomplishment for the developers.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will take you on 12 missions that have a story that lacks the true power to pull on your heartstrings, but does an adequate job at explaining the situation you're in. You are flown into places around the world and are tasked to eliminate or capture targets that will help you with the overall goal. This isn't a linear shooter and will present multiple options to get through it. This is first and foremost a stealth shooter that encourages use of the many gadgets at your disposal. Stealth and the clever use of cover is going to help you survive, because turning this into a Call of Duty shootout will never end well for you. The options come in how you tackle the various challenges, you can choose to tag opponents while scouting from afar and let your squad take them out simultaneously, or use your thermal sight to track enemy movements and intercept them one by one. Mixing it up will really benefit you in this game.
Being a future game we get a taster of some technology that is physically possible within the next 10-20 years. From the camouflage suit to the various drones you get to control, the game definitely prioritises the future. This may be a good insight at some of the things coming in this years Call of Duty, while actually being for their actual purpose, stealth.
In terms of online gameplay there are two main options. Standard multiplayer feels a lot like Battlefield with scout, engineer and rifleman classes that use specific weapons in an array of game types. These are all slight adjustments on popular modes such as search & destroy and capture the flag as well as a cool new mode called Decoy. There are three objectives on the map but only one of them is the real one so an element of chance is involved and gives both teams a chance to secure victory. Guerrilla Mode on the other hand is a nice take on Horde mode in Gears of War and Special Ops in Call of Duty. You must infiltrate and secure the HQ which is a protected area and defend it against increasing waves of enemies. This is a fun mode to play with friends and relies on good communication between the party to be victorious.
The real nit-picky members of the community will see the odd bland environment and laughable facial animations. They will pick up on the fact that the story isn't as strong as it could be. The reality is that these minor faults can be overlooked when this is such a great game. Ubisoft have progressed in leaps and bounds and lived up to all expectations that they promised when this game was announced years ago. Constant delays have paid off as they have created a powerful experience that keeps with the formula that has been successful in the past. This isn't just another shooter, this is the future of games and pulls off the stealth action better than any. A lengthy campaign and hours of more action online will have you playing this slick shooter months down the road. Don't dismiss Future Soldier, this game has all the credentials of the ghost unit itself.
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Overall - 9/10
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
If you look on the internet then it would appear that I'm in the minority when it comes to the Fable franchise. Ever since the original game it has been one of my favourite RPG series and the only one I can proudly say that I've finished every single title. The RPG's are casual and provide a fun light hearted adventure with memorable characters and locations which I can still picture. The world of Albion has changed over the years and even jumping into Fable III brought back nostalgia from remnants of the past areas that have disappeared in future iterations. That said, going into Fable Heroes this isn't a RPG that I will enjoy like past titles. Instead it has taken on the casual hack n slash market that is strong especially with XBLA titles. Games like Castle Crashers are the best in the genre anywhere and Fable Heroes faces stiff competition. The thing is, does a memorable trip to a cartoon Albion with cartoon characters match these more unknown franchises?
Now the Fable universe has always had the slight lighthearted theme to it. The graphics, while looking good, have always had that cartoon polish that directs the user to the casual side of the game. You could always tell that Fable wasn't the game that would have you undertaking serious quests killing heaps of foes but followed the fun nature of mystical creatures and the odd fart at local villagers. Fable Heroes has run with this fun natured experience but upped the ante but taking the most memorable portions of Albion and its inhabitants and mashed it all into a complete cartoon world. Rich colours and fine detail condenses the world into a brilliant little 'best of' package that perfectly mixes into the XBLA universe.
Those who know the areas and characters of Fable will enjoy this game. Making your way through Millfields or encountering the clumsy yet pesky Hobbes has always been fun and continues here. Animations in the game have you plodding around but can unleash some ferocious effects once you engage in combat. You will find coins flying around the screen as you defeat foes and that doesn't even include some of the awesome power ups found throughout the game. Even though it is a linear path, the art direction and amount of Albion incorporated into the background is excellent. This game makes sure it takes advantage of peoples familiarity of the series as much as possible.
The main protagonists in Fable are heroes of few words and that is exactly the same here. In replace of that we have the iconic score that has been filling Albion since the original game. As with the graphics, they aren't the best and most outstanding out there, but it is that familiarity with the series that will have you craving every single moment of the action.
For a beautiful game rich in Albion lore, it somewhat falls short as a complete package. The game is fairly repetitive and those who aren't liking what they have after one level won't see much of an improvement during the course of the game. This is all about the button mashing as a true hack 'n' slash game that really requires three more friends to become a fun experience. While having three CPU characters along for the ride will help you out, at times, you find yourself doing the bulk of the work that should be equally shared between four able bodied players. This is especially true for Dark Albion which requires teamwork once the difficulty ramps up.
The game progresses in a familiar way. You travel down a linear path coming across swarms of enemies from the Fable universe that you must kill. You do this repeatedly, sometimes using special power ups from chests that affect the hero just like they did in the main franchise, before coming to a crossroad. You can then choose one of two paths which will determine the final boss or mini game. These can be quite fun or boring depending on what they are. Boss fights are usually just larger counterparts of creatures that require constant mashing of the attack button, yet mini games such as running away from exploding chickens is a fun way to end the level. Kicking an exploding chicken at your friend and watching them die is hilarious and something you just won't experience anywhere else.
After the game ends you earn dice, which are then rolled and depending on what you land on, will offer the ability to buy power ups and new characters. Replaying levels is a must to experience both endings but ultimately its the will to do so that will be your downfall. Levels are all the same at the core and without that human communication these seem tiresome and daunting tasks that need to be merely grinded through. Playing through as my major protagonist from the series was great and as an arcade game it is good but not brilliant. The developers didn't seem to push themselves to create an experience to blow us away, instead merely trying to quench our thirst before Fable: The Journey.
I love the Fable universe and jumping into the setting once more in a completely cartoon setting is brilliant. As great as the graphics are however, this game is too repetitive and simple for my liking. Not enough variation in skill is required and linear levels become a drag to play. Having friends along for the friend greatly enhance the experience and some of the mini games available are a ball to play. That being said though, too much of the game is the same and doesn't completely utilise all of the weird and wonderful quirks that make Albion so unique. I went in expecting amazing things and only found a decent game. This game is good, not great, and I was really hoping for more.
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 6.5/10
Gameplay - 5/10
Overall - 6.5/10
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
It appears that a competition by Xbox Australia and New Zealand has revealed the current line up of 2012 Xbox 360 titles. The prize is 54 games that are currently scheduled to release in 2012 and is "Almost every game released for the Xbox 360 in 2012".
Now a majority of these titles we already knew about having a release date in 2012 but the most revealing title is the very last on the list.
That's right, according to Microsoft Grand Theft Auto V is going to be released in 2012 and will be a part of this prize where all games are shipped to the winner before January 2013. No exact release date is known but this is just another interesting piece of information pointing to a Q4 2012 release.
For full details of the competition check out the competition on Xbox Australia and New Zealand's Facebook page over at: https://www.facebook.com/XboxANZ/app_398626840167150