Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Resident Evil 7 Review - Survival horror makes a return for the series.

By Sam Coles:

Resident Evil in recent years has had an identity crisis since Resident Evil 5 as it tried to cater to an audience that was not interested in the series to begin with, by trying to produce Call of Duty style games. The final nail in the coffin seemed to be Resident Evil 6 although I don’t think it’s a bad game; however it is not a good Resident Evil game. Capcom tried to go back to survival horror with mixed results with the decent Resident Evil Revelations on the 3DS which eventually got an HD port on PS3, 360 and Wii U.  It was a decent attempt but still had a few flaws for it to be a true survival horror. What was surprising was E3 2016 when Capcom announced Resident Evil 7 during Sony’s conference and a lot of people were surprised with the new perspective and the fact that they were going back to survival horror. Does it succeed? Yes.

Resident Evil 7 takes place after the 6th game were you play as Ethan Winters and he gets a message from his missing wife who he has not seen for three years and he finds out she is in Louisiana and he goes to get her. It’s not long before he finds that something is not right and finds that his wife Mia is being held against her will by a rural family called the Bakers who have been infect with something that make them almost immortal. The game’s story takes classic Resident Evil tropes and mixes it with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it works, yes it has a more serious tone but it does not stem from the campy and dark sense of humour of the old games.

Gameplay goes back to survival horror but there is a new feature of a first person perspective which if you were like me were sceptical because I thought it was buckling to trends with the popularity of first person horror games like Outlast. I was wrong because it still feels like a traditional Resident Evil game with a massive house to explore, puzzles to solve and item management, the first person view just makes the experience more immersive. Unlike most first person horror games you’re not defenceless as Resident Evil gives you firearms to help you get through some segments which makes sense if you were in a similar situation.

Crafting is a new aspect which if you know me I’m not a fan of in most games but it is necessary to help you progress through the game as you can craft first aid, bullets, flame rounds and special ammo types which helps with enemies and boss fights.

The presentation in this game is fantastic and I was really surprised that the game runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. The way I would describe the visuals in this game is moist, the game has a really disgusting look to it in a good way to cater to the horror theme, with mouldy hallways and blood soaked carpets. The Baker family are unique with visual design especially Marguerite when she mutates into her insect form. Some textures do look a bit blurry but they did sacrifice some visual fidelity for a smooth frame rate which I can commend them for.

Resident Evil 7 was a pleasant surprise as it is a triple A release with subtlety rather than shoving explosions in your face and it’s a nice change of pace. If you haven’t played this game go out and get it, yes it is still rather expensive but it is worth every penny.

Hitman Season 1 Review - Better in a complete package.

By Sam Coles:

Hitman is a series that I’ve always loved because it requires patience and skill to pull off good assassinations and plus it’s nice to change gears and slow down a bit after playing action games. After the lukewarm reception Absolution got back in 2012 which honestly I loved, Hitman had a bit of a hiatus. It wasn’t until E3 of 2015 we got a brand new trailer for the new game which as annoyingly named Hitman which will mess with my filing system. However Square Enix said they were releasing it episodically which did not gel well with gamers.

Hitman’s story is paper thin as it tends to focus on the gameplay, but the basic premise is that you play as Agent 47 the world’s deadliest assassin who works for an agency that take contracts to kill targets such as political figures or people of the business world. The game starts off as prequel as you see Agent 47 train in the agency then it has a flashy montage of his previous assassinations from prior games and it’s a nice set up for the game to come.

The series has always been about patience one stupid move can compromise the mission, it’s all about exploring the levels examining your target’s routine and find opportunities and flaws to take them out undetected. Hitman returns to its roots from Blood Money rather than the tight corridors of Absolution, with massive sprawling levels with lots of different ways of assassinating your target.

There are six episodes in total with two bonus episodes and these can take you over an hour to finish so you’re looking at 10 plus hours of gameplay with the main story. However it does not end there, the game is constantly being updated with player made contracts where they will task you with assassinating a certain target in the level but you have to follow certain stipulations such as you have to use a certain weapon or you have to dawn a specific disguise.

There are illusive targets that happen every month where you’re given a target on any map and you only have one chance to kill them because if you fail you can’t replay that mission again. This encourages a slow approach where you watch your target and find a pattern or weakness. These really test your skills as a silent assassin and when you pull it off without anyone noticing you it feels deeply satisfying.

The presentation is excellent, not as good as Absolution but the scope of the presentation is impressive with big wide open environments coupled with huge crowds. Each location is unique and different from the isles of Italy to a runway show in Paris where you can blend in with the audience or disguise as a fashion model with a look that can literary murder.

The only issue I have with this game is that the controls for taking cover can be a pain which can result in the enemy spotting me as I’m only crouched behind a wall and not taking cover against it.

Hitman is a return to form for the series with open ended levels that let you experiment which will have you revisiting levels over and over again to see what ridiculous ways you can kill your target. If you were hesitant about the episodic nature then this is the best way to get it as it comes in a complete package with content that will keep you occupied for hours. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Mass Effect 2 Review - A great sequel to a flawed game.

By Sam Coles:

Mass Effect is one my favourite RPG franchises with deep and interesting stories with fun third person shooting combat. Mass Effect 2 is my favourite not just because it improved on everything from the first game but it was what got me through a week of illness. I remember being really ill and it was on sale back in 2010, my Mum bought it for me as it looked like something I would like and she was right on the money.

Mass Effect 2 takes place after the first game where the council have been completely destroyed by Sarren who was working with the Geth to resurrect the Reapers who are ancient machines that come around every 50,000 years to purge organic life. Shepard is on a routine patrol when they’re attack by an unidentified object and the Normandy is destroyed along with Shepard dying. Shepard is then brought back from the dead by the organisation known as Cerberus who want human domination throughout the galaxy. Shepard is tasked to take on a new threat called the Collectors who harvest human colonies, so Shepard must assemble a crew to embark on a suicide mission. I like the story in this game as it has real weight and one wrong move can cause the entire mission to go wrong with most of the crew getting killed it really means it when it says suicide mission.

The gameplay was vastly improved from the first game as the original was great but was extremely clunky when it came to combat. They took a more streamlined approach by borrowing mechanics from games such as Gears of War and Resident Evil 4 and it gave a much needed shot in the arm with quick and tightly responsive controls. However with that they did strip down the in depth RPG mechanics from the first game which annoyed a lot of fans from the original but it did not bother me that much as it felt less daunting than the first. Gone are the planet exploration segments with the terribly controlling mako and now all you do is scan planets from your ship to salvage materials to upgrade the Normandy for the final mission yeah it is rather tedious to scan and send in probes but anything is better than the mako driving sections from the first.

It is crucial that you upgrade your ship before the final mission if you want the entirety of your crew to survive as well as making sure you do all the loyalty missions so they will stay on side with you and so they won’t do anything stupid and die. I like this because it adds emotional investment to all the characters where you end up really caring when they do die in the current game or when you carry them over into the third game.

Visually the game looks 10 times better than the original the character models got a real boost with better animations and better details on faces whether they’re human or alien. Environments looks absolutely stunning from the neon lit streets of the citadel to the moist looking hive of the collectors. Considering the game came out 7 years ago Mass Effect 2’s presentation is still awe inspiring and is something I can still boot up today and stare at the beauty.

Mass Effect 2 is a game that still stands the test of time and is a game that I can see people talking about 20 years down the line; it has to be one of the best games of the 7th generation of gaming. Mass Effect 2 is easy to find, cheap and playable on Xbox One if you are owner of that system via backwards compatibility. If you haven’t played this game where have you been and go out and buy this game.      

Monday, 6 March 2017

I don't want Call of Duty to go backwards.

By Sam Coles:

Call of Duty has been a punching bag for gamers in recent years and honestly I don’t why because they are entertaining games with fun campaigns and multiplayers. With the recent surge of interest of period warfare with Battlefield 1 there are rumours floating about that Call of Duty is going to follow suit whether it be Vietnam or World War II. However I don’t want to see them do that especially World War II as I think the futuristic CODs have breathed new life into the series and yet people still complain.

Call of Duty first released in 2003 and the World War II shooter was at its highest which started with Medal of Honor back in 1999. Call of Duty was an idea that came from former developers of 2015 Inc. who worked on the excellent Medal of Honor Allied Assault. They dubbed the new project Medal of Honor killer and they were successful in that regard, Call of Duty was a PC exclusive and was a critical and finical success. It wasn’t until the launch of Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360 where it hit its major popularity; however the genre of World War II was starting to weigh on audiences so they let Treyarch handle the third game while they had something new and interesting in the works.

2007 saw the release of Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare and it completely rewrote the books of military shooters for years to come and this was a huge breath of fresh air as it stood out from the crowd of World War II shooters. The game took place in a modern setting with politics that mirrored current tensions of the time and yes the story was standard with Russians and Middle Eastern terrorist stealing nukes, but it was the execution that made it compelling. The gameplay was fast paced with the added feature of a sprint function and yes that does sound pretty stupid to get excited about but prior to this game there was no sprint function in Call of Duty.

Modern Warfare had a huge impact on the industry where every developer was trying to copy Infinity Ward’s formula; however like World War II it was starting to get stale even old rivals like Medal of Honor tried with less than stellar results. A little game called Spec Ops The Line highlighted the flaws of the genre and Call of Duty Ghosts was not the best game and it showed that players were looking for something new interesting.

In mid-2014 Activision released a new Call of Duty trailer but it was designed with the then new Xbox One and PS4 in mind and this title was known as Advanced Warfare. This was made by Sledgehammer games that helped finished Modern Warfare 3 as most of the original Infinity Ward team were fired during development and despite the rocky dev cycle MW 3 was a solid game.

Advanced Warfare took the already fast paced combat of the series and amplified it by 20, it really encourage skill based movement evoking the old school nature of arena shooters. I loved this new movement with the exo suits with double jumps, boost dodges and extra power with melee attacks the good thing about this new movement is that you could flee from a fight if things get hairy rather than hold down the trigger and hope they die.

A year later Black Ops III took the movement of Advanced Warfare slowed it down a bit and added the ability to run on walls which added an extra layer of depth to the combat. Infinite Warfare was notorious for its reveal trailer but it turned out to be a decent game with the space combat in the campaign, but the multiplayer did not differentiate from Black Ops III.

So why do people hate the futuristic CODs? Well in my opinion I think it’s because they don’t like the skill based movement that is involved as they cannot use the usual statergy of sitting in a corner and wait to pick someone off. The futuristic Call of Duty games have more in common with Doom or Quake especially Quake with the movement speed that requires skill and quick reflexes to master it. I don’t want to see the series regress to the boring and slow paced combat of old because it is not great in my opinion. Let’s wait and see what Sledgehammer have to offer this year.

Activision listened to people back in 2013 as audiences were getting bored of the genre yet when they gave us something new people still complain it’s a lose, lose situation as they are damned if they do or damned if they don’t.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Berserk and The Band of Hawk Review - A decent warriors game although a tad repetitive.

By Sam Coles:

As well as Platinum Games the developers behind the Dynasty Warriors games have been making spin off titles based on video game series or in this case a popular Manga. Berserk and The Band of the Hawk is a good game, however it suffers due to its repetitive nature as the campaign lasts for about 20 hours and it out stays its welcome. Is it terrible? As I said no, but it could of been shorter.

Berserk’s story is based on the titular Manga where you play as the bad ass mercenary Guts who has the world’s most impractical sword alongside with Cloud’s buster sword. The game’s story takes place during the golden age trilogy of films as it uses animated scenes from the film trilogy and I must say these animated scenes are beautiful with excellent voice acting from the Japanese cast. Guts is your standard mercenary wandering from battlefield to battlefield fighting for whoever pays him the most gold. It’s not until he encounters a new group of mercs known as The Band of the Hawk he then settles down into a routine reluctantly as he fights the leader who then proceeds to incapacitate him. Guts then joins the group where they end up working for an army so they have a stable income. The game’s story is interesting to keep you playing with great voice acting and great animations from the anime cutscenes.

The gameplay is instantly familiar if you have played Hyrule Warriors or Dragon Quest Heroes where you have a huge map filled with enemies and objectives where the body count can rise to ludicrous levels. You have individual objectives which range from destroying catapults or killing high ranking officers, but it is mostly killing officers which can start to weight on you by the 10th hour. The game does offer some fun horseback combat which is hilarious when you run enemies over as they topple over like bowling pins I was excepting to hear the noise of bowling pins as the animation was so comedic.

Before each battle you can choose what character you can be, however in the main story you can only pick Guts and there is not much point to pick any other characters in the story as Guts gets the job done. The other characters are great if you want to play in free mode where you can pick any mission you want with any character you have unlocked where you can experiment with their move set.

Visually the game looks great as it blends a cell shaded look with realistic visuals as the character models are cell shaded to fit in with the Manga inspired look where the environments look great with good looking foliage and castles. However the locations do get very samey because once you’ve seen one castle and field you have seen them all.

The game tries to runs at 60 frames per second but it really struggles most of the time especially when there are lots of enemies on the screen and when you pull off special moves it starts to chug.

Berserk and The Band of Hawk is great if you’re a fan of the series but if you’re not it gets stale really fast, it has its moments but there is not much strategy besides press square to win.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Halo 3 Review - One of the best Xbox 360 games.

By Sam Coles:

Has it really been nearly 10 years since Halo 3 was first released? It’s hard to believe that one of the best games on the Xbox 360 is that old I remember when it came out and gazed enviously at my friends who owned an Xbox 360 with its beautiful graphics, gameplay and story. I didn’t get an Xbox 360 until 2009 for my 16th birthday and fortunately my 360 came with a copy of Halo 3 and I fell in love with the game. Does it still hold up 10 years later? Yes!

Halo 3’s story takes place directly after Halo 2 where we see the Master Chief crash landing on Earth after infiltrating the Covenant’s city High Charity in the second game and killing the Prophet of Regret. Chief had to leave Cortana in the city which was also being overran by the parasitic race known as the flood, Chief unfortunately does not know where she is and sets off to find her and defend Earth from Covenant forces. The story is great as it was meant to be the last game in the series but we all knew that it wasn’t going to be the last game as Microsoft knew they had something good it really does feel like the last fight.

Halo 3 took what it had from the first two games with gameplay and times it by 10 with tighter and more responsive controls with excellent gunplay. The levels were bigger and wider in scope compared to the first two games with brute enemies taking stage as the Elites are now working with you as well as the Arbiter which unfortunately you don’t play as him this time. You can play the entire campaign with 4 players and it is a blast, I remember finishing the campaign on Legendary in split-screen with a night of pizza and beer. This is what modern Halo games are missing local multiplayer it’s just what gaming is missing in general, don’t get me wrong I love online multiplayer but there is nothing like the noise of a living room full of people.

The multiplayer is easily the best in the series whether it is online or offline you have your standard slew of modes from the first two games like Slayer and Capture the Flag. However you have some new and interesting modes which have become staples in the series such as Oddball and Griffball which came from the famous animated show Red vs Blue. This was a landmark title on Xbox Live I would constantly hear about people talking about this game online alongside Call of Duty 4.

Visually the game still looks good if you ignore the ugly character models minus Master Chief’s. The environments are beautiful with some fantastic lightning especially the first level where you’re in a dense jungle with lush flora and fauna. Particle effects look fantastic as well with explosions and the muzzle flashes from plasma based weapons. The only problem I have as I said earlier is that the character models look dated as well as the animations, as they look a bit stilted.

Halo 3 is a game that I still hear people talking about today 10 years down the line and I can see people talking about it 20 years down the line. The game is easy to find on the 360 but if you want to play it at native 1080p and 60 frames per second then I would recommend getting the Master Chief Collection on Xbox One, be warned it does come with a hefty patch.  

Friday, 17 February 2017

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Review - When Tom Clancy games were challenging.

By Sam Coles:

Tom Clancy games are games that I love to play when I want some tactical action but in recent years the games have been a bit casual as they are trying to appeal to a wider audience. The Ghost Recon series is one of my favourite tactical shooters and the Advanced Warfighter games were the last of the challenging shooters in the Ghost Recon series in my opinion. I’m not saying that the newer iterations are bad, on the contrary I’m looking forward to Wildlands but it looks more like Far Cry rather than Ghost Recon.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter takes place in the distant future of 2014, yes that was classed as distant as the game came out in 2006. Mexico is in a state of war as a revolution has happened as a militia in the region are trying to kill the current president. Scott Mitchel and his squad of Ghosts are sent into the region to extract the president and quash the rebellion by any means. The story is rather simple but honestly I never expect ground breaking stories from Tom Clancy games as they give you a basic premise and let you get on with it.

Gameplay is third person unlike the Rainbow Six Vegas games however the console and PC version are vastly different as the PC version is first person I think this was to accommodate for mouse and keyboard controls, but it’s something you don’t see these days having different versions of the same game. I own the Xbox 360 version but I did play it on the PC first, but I do prefer playing on the 360 as it is easier to control in my opinion.

You control Scott but you have the ability to command three other soldiers in your squad and you have control of a UAV that you can use in your tactical map. This is great as you can scout the coming areas for enemies as they deal a lot of damage as on normal mode you can only take between 3-4 hits. In some missions you get the ability to command different vehicles these can range from APC’s, tanks and my favourite the attack helicopters. 

The presentation still holds up considering the game came out 11 years ago and this was a very early title on the 360. The lighting in Tom Clancy games were really good Rainbow Six Vegas came out the same year which had great lighting too especially during dawn or dusk in the cities. Mitchel’s main character model looks really good but other models do look dated and the lip syncing looks a dust bin lid flapping up and down.

The only problems I have with this game is the frame rate has a habit of tanking during explosions or when there are a lot of enemies on the screen. Also the aiming is very sluggish and can be a pain to hit a target accurately.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is a fun and challenging game and is a game you should pick up for your Xbox 360 if you want a good tactical shooter. It is super cheap I picked up my copy for 99p so it won’t break the bank. It’s a great way to get in the mood for Wildlands.