Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Army of Two The 40th Day Review - Grab a friend and shoot everything.

By Sam Coles:

Army of Two is an interesting series as a lot of people seem to enjoy it but a lot of game critics seem to pan them due their “dull” nature. Honestly I enjoy them they are a lot of fun as they don’t take themselves seriously except for the third game which sucked all life and fun out of the series. Army of Two The 40th Day came out in 2010 which was a good year for games as we got such classics like Red Dead Redemption, Black Ops and Battlefield Bad Company 2.

The protagonist of the series Rios and Salem find themselves in Shanghai where they are contracted to take down the leader of the 40th Day Initiative. They suit up ready for battle and it’s not long until mercenaries decide to level the city and it’s just the two of them (no pun intended) against a whole army. The story is a standard action story where they want to take down an evil mercenary corporation, but what I like in this narrative you’re presented with moral choice which can affect the story later which adds a bit of replay value.

Gameplay is a third person shooter which every game was during 2010 due to the success of Gears of War not to say that it is a bad thing as this game has some unique features that separates it from other shooters. The game really emphasises co-op and to be honest it is much more enjoyable when you play it with a friend because unfortunately they took notes from Resident Evil 5’s A.I programming as your partner acts as if he has inhaled nerve gas. Playing with a friend is key to get the best experience and plus who doesn’t like playing co-op with a friend.

What I like about this game is that it lets you approach a combat scenario any way you want to as you can use different vantage points to get the drop on your enemies. One of my favourite things to do is to fake surrender to your enemies and then go into slow motion and gun them down in spectacular fashion. You’ll also have the opportunity to save civilians but honestly this is one of those useless morality systems that do not affect the story except for how much money you receive.

Let’s discuss the currency you earn and what that unlocks, the big selling point in all the advertisements was the fact you could customise your guns and create your own camos and upload them to the website which you can no longer do anymore which is a shame. Customisation plays a big part in this game as you can unlock a vast array of weapons from assault rifles to rocket propelled grenades. What you can also do with each weapon is add new attachments to make it handle better or do more damage, what I like about this is that you can add attachments form other weapons to give it a different look which is a nice touch.

For a game that came out six years ago it looks pretty good in the graphical department the detail on the main character models of Rios and Salem look great with the details of their tattoos and arm muscles with veins popping out. Explosions look fantastic with great particle effects coupled with the bright muzzle flash every time you fire your weapon. However background characters and NPCs do look a bit bland and lacklustre but you’ll be too busy fighting to notice.

The problems I have with this game like I said earlier the A.I for your team when you’re playing solo is not great and just has a habit of not following orders. Another major issue I had with this game is that certain scripted events didn’t trigger on command so I had to start at the last checkpoint. For example I was in some sort of amusement park where I had to follow a train, and then there was one segment where I had to open a gate by pressing a button, I pressed the button and the door failed to open resulting in me reloading the last checkpoint.

Overall Army of Two The 40th Day is a fun co-op shooter with over the top action and garish yet fun customisation options for your weapons. Pick it up it is very cheap these days and grab a mate on Xbox Live/PSN or crack open a cold beer and play splitscreen.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Darkness II Review - Over top the fun.

By Sam Coles:

A series that has dropped off the radar is the fantastic Darkness series based on the comics of the same name; The Darkness is about an evil entity that manifests in people across history that have questionable morals. The concept was very unique as it combined a comic book story with an emotional and intense Mafioso story line as it took aspects from Goodfellas and the Sopranos with its story telling.

You play as Jackie Estacado who is now the head of a mafia family after events of the first game where his Uncle Paulie betrayed him and tried to assassinate him, but what he didn’t realise is that he had the power of The Darkness within him. A few years have passed and Jackie has managed to keep The Darkness at bay as he no longer wants to be controlled by it. It’s not until one evening when he is in a restaurant having dinner where he is attacked by a cult and he is mortally wounded and has to unleash The Darkness to heal himself. However when he unleashes The Darkness he starts to see illusions of his dead girlfriend Jenny who was murdered in the first game by Uncle Paulie.

What transpires is an interesting psychological thriller with great action and segments where you’re questioning what is real it’s fantastic. It also helps that it has fantastic voice work from Brian Bloom which if you’ve played Infinite Warfare you’ll know him as Nick Reyes.

The gameplay is a first person shooter with your standard elements of taking cover etc. but this game has a unique gameplay element where you quad wield. How this work is that you have control of two guns and two of The Darkness tentacles so you can fire your weapons at a distance and use the tentacles as a melee option when enemies get up close and personal. However you can use the tentacles to pull extremely brutal executions such as ripping someone’s guts out of their throat to even ripping their spinal cord out of their anus, yes that is a thing. You can also use them to pick up car doors to utilise as portable cover and metal poles to practise your javelin skills where you can pin enemies to walls this game is not for the faint of heart as it is extremely violent.  

The shooting is extremely satisfying with where you see enemy’s heads pop when you nail a head shot to them almost exploding into a red mist when you use the shotgun. The duel wielding aspect of the game is utilised well as it doesn’t shoot for realism and it makes you feel as if you’re in a John Woo film when you burst into a room and unload with duel Uzis.

Visually the game has held up well considering the game came out five years ago, that is because it uses a cell shaded look to look more in line with the comic book rather than the somewhat realistic tone of the original. A lot of people didn’t like this look because they said it was too colourful for the dark subject matter it’s almost the same issue people had with Diablo III where apparently it was too colourful. I for one like the presentation it really makes the violence stand out more with the over the top manner where blood flies every where.

The Darkness II is a fantastic game and it’s a shame that there is not a sequel to it maybe we’ll get a re-release on Xbox One and PS4? If you really want to play it it’s super cheap to pick up on Xbox 360 and PS3 I can’t recommend this game enough as it has great action and an engaging narrative.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Grand Theft Auto III - It defined open world games.

By Sam Coles:

It’s hard to believe that Grand Theft Auto III came out 16 years ago I was still in primary school at the time and was far too young to play it, not that stopped me but my parents would not be pleased if they spotted me playing it. The game defined for the next 10 plus years of how open world games are made and its influence can still be felt today, at the time we had nothing like it. It truly felt like a living and breathing city with pedestrians going about their business and high density traffic. Does still hold up today? No but it is still a lot of fun to play and it is an important game in history.

Grand Theft Auto III takes place in Liberty City and you play as Claude Speed who is being transported in a prison van after he was arrested as he took part in a heist gone wrong where he was double crossed and shot in the face. The story is rather minimal in this game compared to later instalments because the main character is a silent protagonist as he just serves as a vessel for the player, as it just basically a 3D interpretation of the original game. Not to say that there are no notable characters you have the loveable and friendly mafia don Salvatore, but most of them are represented in typical stereotypes as usual with a Rockstar production.

GTA III is an open world game and this was during a period where open world games were not that common and they were exciting when a new one was announced or released. In a typical Rockstar open world game you do missions for certain characters as you progress through the story. These missions can range from stealing cars and repainting them for money, assassinating targets, tailing missions (the worse type of missions) and racing. There is a lot to do in this game however it does feel a bit anaemic compared to later titles with activities feeling a tad repetitive.

This is a PS2 game and the visuals have aged terribly with motion blur which you can turn off in the options menu, coupled with muddy and blur textures. The cars look too clean with damage detail that is rather minimal with basic particle effects when cars explode, to be fair this game was an early PS2 title so I can give it the benefit of the doubt. If you really want to play this game I would suggest playing the PC or Original Xbox versions as the graphics are cleaner and more appealing to the eye.

The only problem I have with this game is that the controls are very stiff especially when it comes to the shooting as this was a few years before Gears of War came along and perfected the third person formula. You can’t take cover and aiming at enemies is an absolute chore as there is no manual aim system with the exception of three weapons the M16, Sniper Rifle and the RPG. It feels jarring going back to this game after playing Grand Theft Auto IV and V.

Is Grand Theft Auto III worth playing today? Yes of course but just bear in mind the controls can be a bit awkward and stiff and the car physic are a tad floaty too. However it is a land mark title that defined how open world games are shaped today and is great to look back on to remember its influence. 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind Review - Welcome back to Vvardenfell

By Sam Coles:

It’s been three years since the original release of The Elder Scrolls Online on PC it had a bit of a rocky start and then it was released on the Xbox One and PS4 which improved a lot things such as forgoing the monthly subscription model. A couple of years later and we get its first major expansion which lets us return to a fan favourite region in The Elder Scrolls universe and that place is Morrowind. This expansion is worthy of your time brimming with content as it adds 30 extra hours to your Elder Scrolls Online experience.

The Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind takes place 700 years before the Elder Scrolls III where the region of Vvardenfell is a thriving community where the gods are watching over the Dark Elves and Tribunal. You as an outsider have journeyed to the region to help out a God named Vivec who is in trouble as someone is draining his power with an ancient magical staff, so it’s up to you find the individual who is inflicting harm on Vivec. There is an unusually deep story for a massive multiplayer role playing game because usually they give you a basic set up and tell you get on with it, but this is The Elder Scrolls a world with deep and intriguing lore.

What does this expansion offer in terms of content well it offers you a new region to explore called Vvardenfell which is in the province of Morrowind and they have recreated it beautifully from The Elder Scrolls III, it’s nice to see in current generation graphics. You get access to new game modes, quests and a brand new class in the form of The Warden if you choose to roll a new character.

Let’s start with the new class The Warden what is skills and abilities does he have? First which is my favourite he can summon animal companions to fight by his side during battles and this can be very handy if you’re up against a group of enemies when you start to get overwhelmed.  He also has the ability to spawn a swam of flies and takedown his opponents in a biblical manner, so if you can’t tell he is mostly wildlife based when it comes to his attacks which makes sense for the Morrowind region as the wildlife outnumbers the civilised society.

The presentation is great they have recreated the region of Vvardenfell in current generation graphics with the dark and misty swamps with toadstools taking the place of grass to the ancient Elven cities made of sandstone. I did have pop in issues at launch but that was due to the busy nature of the servers with waves of people flooding in as well as having frame rate drops due to the same issues.

The Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind is a fantastic expansion offering a new and beautiful land to explore coupled with 30 hours of extra gameplay for you to sink your teeth into, if you’re a fan of the Elder Scrolls you’ll love the return of Morrowind.

Monday, 17 July 2017

F.3.A.R (Fear 3) Review - A competent shooter although not really a Fear game

By Sam Coles:

Back in the early to late 2000’s video game publishers decided that it was a good idea to incorporate numbers instead letters into game titles with their sequels with examples such as Driv3r. It’s not a deal breaker but it was slightly annoying and didn’t make grammatical sense, F3AR is one of those games and that is the first and only time I will write the title of the game like that. It’s sighted as a terrible game and honestly I don’t see why as it is a mostly enjoyable shooter, sure it throws everything that made the original Fear great out the window such as the intelligent squad based A.I. However it does tell a dark and interesting story about two of the major characters in the series and plus you can play it with a friend.

Fear 3 takes place a few years after the second game and the Point Man and Paxton Fettel go back to the fictional town of Farpoint where they are trying to find Alma and take down Beckett who has his mind taken over by Alma and he is going insane. The story is interesting as you get to see the origins of the Point man and Fettel when they are kids and how they were raised to be the ultimate killing machines it is represented in CCTV flash backs. What I don’t understand is why they made the Point Man a silent protagonist as all he does is stares angrily at characters as they spout exposition.  

Gameplay has mostly been left unchanged however there are some tweaks I’m not a fan of such as the fact the game now has a regenerating health system which makes the game far too easy compared to the first two games. Another aspect that they have added to the game is co-op where you can play with a friend as one of you play as the Point Man and the other as Fettel. Playing as Fettel is great as you can fly around the battlefield as you are ghost essentially and you can take control of enemies and destroy platoons of soldiers in a blink of an eye, you’re basically unstoppable.

The bullet time mechanic or reflex mode makes a comeback but it is a bit useless in this game as running and gunning is a bad idea as it is a sure way of getting yourself killed as you have to play it like a modern military shooter by hiding behind cover. The game also has a cover system similar to Killzone where you latch onto cover and you can peek out and shoot it can be a bit finicky as you have to press the B button to snap into cover and press it again to get out of cover instead of just using the analogue stick to move out of cover.

The A.I is no longer the smart tactical team like they use to be in the first game because in Fear 1 they acted as a squad and would assess the situation and talk to each other they even retreat when they feel they are outgunned. However in Fear 3 the come in waves which we have seen in shooters in the past decade and have the ability to hit you dead on every time.

The presentation is good it can be a bit hazy with some of the effects on screen especially when you’re about to die which can be a bit hard to see what is shooting at you. What I love is the level of violence in this game the feedback of when you shoot someone is great with them exploding into meaty giblets as you unload your shotgun in them. Enemies melt when you come into contact with them with limbs flying and skin tearing as hold down the trigger on your SMG.

Fear 3 isn’t a bad game but it’s not a good Fear game either because it threw out everything that was unique about the series and traded it for a generic shooter experience, a playable experience but a generic one none the less. I would say pick it up its silly cheap these days and you’ll have a blast if you can get a friend to play with you.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

F-Zero GX Review - One of the hardest racing games ever!

By Sam Coles:

One of the most neglected franchises in Nintendo’s library in recent years is the F-Zero series, it has been over ten years since we got an instalment with the last one being released on the GameCube in the form of F-Zero GX. This game was a fantastic follow up of F-Zero X on the N64 and ironically it was made by Nintendo’s old sparring partner Sega and they definitely know how to make high speed racing games if you look at their past works.

F-Zero GX has several different modes such as a story, the classic grand prix and a time trial mode, unfortunately they got rid of the death race mode from F-Zero X where you had to kill 29 racers in one sitting. The story is where you’ll get the most of the meaty challenge and I will say this clearly that this is ridiculously hard I am not joking story mode will kick you in the nether regions with its difficulty. I have never played a racing game that is this hard maybe Wipeout comes close but nothing like this game with the tight corners, intense speeds and obstacles that almost come out of nowhere. To this day I haven’t managed to complete the story with how hard it is.

Grand Prix mode is where you’ll be spending most of your time unlocking new vehicles, parts for custom vehicles and new cups by earning tickets when you win events. This is great as each difficulty caters to each type of gamer so if you want a chilled out session then select novice. However once you select intermediate or above this is when the game doesn’t pull any punches, the A.I becomes extremely aggressive and they will try and run you off the road I have died multiple times playing it on expert because other racers have ran me off the road, you have to be on your toes on expert.

As I said earlier you can customise vehicles from existing ones by adding new decals on them or you can start from scratch. I must admit it is really good that they gave us the option to do this but I only played around with it a hand full of times as I made some weird and ugly machines, but it’s nice they added that feature.

Controls are perfect what can I say they are super tight and responsive, what they did they took the frame work from the previous game and tweaked it to perfection I don’t think I had a single hitch with these controls they are that good.

The presentation still holds up considering the game is well over ten years old with excellent detail on all the F-Zero machines and the tracks look absolutely stunning from fan favourites such as Mute City and Big Blue to neon lit Casino Palace. This game also runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second I don’t think the framerate ever drops which is impressive with 30 racers on screen. The soundtrack is fantastic with a fusion of some metal and electronica it blends perfectly with high and intense speeds of each track and each musical piece is thematically appropriate for each course.   

F-Zero GX is a fantastic game and I don’t know why Nintendo hasn’t done anything with the series for over 10 years I think with the Switch out it’s a good time to bring the series back. This game is going up in price and I don’t know why as it is not rare, but the lowest I’ve seen it in retro stores is £30 so pick it up while you can.