Monday, 19 June 2017

Battlefield 4 Review - Horrendous launch but easily the best Battlefield.

By Sam Coles:

The Battlefield franchise is one of my favourite set of first person shooters just below Call of Duty, with huge and expansive maps for loud and chaotic battles coupled with beautiful visuals and ear-gasmic sound design. Battlefield 4 was originally released in 2013 first on the Xbox 360 and PS3 then later on the Xbox One and PS4 as a launch title and it was notorious for having a buggy launch as it was basically not finished due to the fact that it was rushed to be released on then newly released consoles. Years later after all the fixes Battlefield 4 is easily one of the best games in the series where it has fixed a lot of the issues from Battlefield 3.

Battlefield 4’s campaign was a huge step from 3’s but it’s still unremarkable the big sticking point is that the protagonist is completely silent. I don’t usually have a problem with this, but this character is characterised and later promoted to the leader of the squad which doesn’t work for a man who doesn’t speak. The plot revolves around a power struggle within the Chinese government where a high authority figure is assassinated by an ultranationalist who wants control over China so you team up with the government loyalist to take down this man. It sounds very familiar to the Modern Warfare plot if you swap out the Russians with Chinese soldiers.

However people don’t play Battlefield for the campaign they play it for the multiplayer which offers hours of fun for those who want to play in a squad or alone with plenty of game modes, maps and a large arsenal of weapons to unlock. The biggest mode that most people will put the most time into is Rush and this is a tug of war style of game mode where you have two locations you have to blow up as the attackers and if you succeed you push forward and increase the amount of tickets you have to keep respawning.

Rush is not the only mode they have the other fan favourite conquest which is just domination from Call of Duty but on a much larger scale. Battlefield 4 just feels like a more refined version of Battlefield 3 but that is not a bad thing it throws in modes for those who are not a fan of the wide open maps. They introduced small/close quarters modes and these are great if you prefer the faster pace gameplay of Call of Duty with modes such as Domination and Small Conquest and Team Deathmatch. Now I know that might annoy some Battlefield players but this is to appease different player types and keeps things varied and interesting.

Battlefield 4’s customisation is the best in the series there are so many weapons to unlock with tons of assault rifles, SMG’s, sniper rifles, LMG, shotguns and carbines. The shotguns and carbines are great because you can use them for any class so if you don’t want to use a weapon that is bound to say an engineer which are SMG’s and you want to use a range weapon with the existing gadgets and tools then pick the carbines.

The presentation is fantastic but to be honest would expect anything less from a DICE production, I played this on the PS4 which runs at a buttery smooth frame rate of 60 fps. I played this on the PS3 originally when it first came out and to be honest DICE did a really good job optimising it for the last generation of consoles, however it does have pop in issues and it runs at 30 fps just about, it was clear the Frostbite 3 engine was not designed for the last gen consoles. Sound design is top notch with explosions shaking the screen coupled with thump of the shotgun, if you have a subwoofer I implore you to turn up the volume and the bass.

Battlefield 4 had a really bad launch back in 2013 however after all the fixes it is one of the best games in the series. The game still has a strong community online I would recommend getting it on PS4, Xbox One or PC as the PS3 and 360 versions feel really rough. It’s not terribly expensive you can pick it up for £10 or less second hand and I can’t recommend it enough. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II (PS2) Review - It has aged a fair bit.

By Sam Coles:

With the recent announcement of Star Wars Battlefront II from EA games and DICE I thought I would look back on the original Battlefront II that was released all the way back in 2005 on the PS2, Xbox and PC. People have said that this game is superior to the new game that came out in 2015 and yes that is true in some regards but honestly it has aged poorly in some areas and no I’m not just talking about the graphics. Let’s get into it.

Star Wars Battlefront has a campaign but it’s not as good as people like to make it out to be not to say the story is not interesting it’s in its execution where it falls short. The game is about a platoon of clone soldiers who are a part of the 501st legion where you see them progress from the Clone Wars to the Galactic Civil War that is an interesting concept. However it is how it plays out that is the disappointment which is what a lot of people forget, the campaign missions are glorified bot matches and nothing else except cutscenes bookending each chapter and people forget that that’s all the Battlefront campaigns were, bot matches.

There is a lot in this game I’m not saying it’s a bad game but I’m just trying to address the fact the campaign was not as great as people like to make it out to be. You have instant action which is a lot of fun it’s like a virtual version of playing with your Star Wars toys where you can play in the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy so you can play as Stormtroopers, Clone Troopers and even Darth Maul which is a lot of fun.
You have Galactic Conquest where you fight over several planets to dominate the galaxy, what is unique about this mode is that every planet you take over you gain a perk for your army which give you the upper hand in the next battle. This mode is a lot of fun with a friend as it becomes a virtual game of tug of war and it can get incredibly tense with huge battles.

My favourite game mode in this game is the hero battles where you throw all strategy out the window for all out chaos with different heroes and villains with lightning, lightsabres and lasers flying everywhere and it is stupid fun.

Visually the game has not aged well with horrendous frame rate issues on the PS2 version which I do believe the frame rate is more stable on the Original Xbox version, but if you really want the most stable frame rate grab the PC version. However there are some levels that look great like the city of Theed and Endor.  The character models look polygonal with choppy animation, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on a game on the PS2 from 2005 but Resident Evil 4 and God of War came out the same year with excellent graphics and animation.

Can I recommend the original Battlefront II? On the PS2 no as it has a lot of technical issues. how about on the PC? Maybe but the campaign is repetitive and lacklustre because the missions are glorified bot matches and are not that interesting. You can still play this game online on PC as far I’m aware so jump in if you want to play some Star Wars battles online.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Victor Vran Review - Something for Diablo fans.

By Sam Coles:

Dungeon crawlers are a genre that I can get lost in for hours upon hours, there is that “just five more minutes” mentality about them then you look at the clock and 4 hours have past. Diablo is probably the most dominant dungeon crawler in the industry but that does not mean that there are not stand outs in the genre and Victor Vran is one of them with interesting gameplay and smooth performance.

The story is about a demon hunter named Victor Vran who has been summoned to the city of Zagoravia where he has to clear out the demon inhabitants. Honestly the story has a basic set up with some dialogue interruptions to give you your next objectives but besides that the game doesn’t really get in your way to unlock sweet loot whether it is new weapons or armour. The voice acting is a bit awkward in some scenes and considering the main character is voiced by same actor who plays Geralt of Riva in The Witcher series it’s a bit odd how bad his performance is which is odd as he is a good voice actor.

Victor Vran is a dungeon crawler in the same vein of Diablo III where it has a top down perspective as you take on an inhuman amount of enemies but it has some features that make it stand out from its competition. For starters and this may sound a tad stupid but you can jump, yes the ability to jump seems to be a novelty in most games these days for some reason, but this ability encourages you to explore hard to reach places. You have your standard slew of weapons you would expect in this genre such as swords, hammers and maces but you also get access to firearms such as shotguns as it is not set in a medieval setting as it is set in a more Victorian style era. Each weapon has three different attacks first is your standard attack which is good taking down standard cannon fodder enemies to more powerful attacks like power slams or aim your shotgun in a more precise manner which is great for taking down bosses.

Another subtle but really good feature about this game is that you can swing the camera around to your choosing which you can’t do in Diablo which means you can see what you’re doing in tighter areas.
You have a central hub where you can upgrade weapons, create potions and buy general items. This is where you can access the world map it is similar to Diablo III’s home base system where you can manage your inventory in a safe space and stash items for later.

Instead of gem slots you have cards you can activate which have different elemental effects which spice up the attacks both physically and visually. This encourages you to experiment with different combinations to combat certain situations.

Visually the game is not anything too special however this sacrifice comes with an increase in performance as the game stays at a stable 60 frames per second, I did not have any hitches with the frame rate and it was a joy to play. The game oozes atmosphere with dark and shadowy environments where monsters lurk and surprise you if you don’t pay attention. The game is not deprived from colour as enemies generally have beautiful effects as they cast spells etc.

Victor Vran is a great game and has filled the void of my Diablo itch with interesting gameplay and challenging dungeon crawling. You should pick this game up and it’s not terribly expensive so you’re getting more than your money’s worth, if you’re a fan of Diablo this is the game for you.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Metal Gear Rising Revengence Review - One of Platinum's best.

By Sam Coles:

The Metal Gear series has always been known for its bizarre narratives with serious war stories with quirky moments that disarm you for the emotional moments, coupled with great stealth gameplay. Metal Gear Rising was a different take on the series as Hideo Kojima wanted to make a hack and slash action game as originally the game was titled Metal Gear Solid: Rising. However it got stuck in development hell as he struggled to make a good hack and slash system due to the fact he had little experience within the genre. Instead of letting it dwindle in limbo he called in reinforcements in the form of Platinum Games who need no introduction as they have created some of best and over top action games such as Bayonetta and Vanquish they would handle the gameplay while Kojima Productions took care of the story. What we got was an excellent action game with an entertaining and light hearted story for a Metal Gear game with more humour rather than serious moments.

The story of Metal Gear Rising Revengence takes place a few years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots where the war economy has been destroy and the Sons of the Patriots system has been destroyed. Mercenary groups are struggling to find work due to the fact there are no more wars. Raiden is working for a private military company where he is training soldiers in an African nation to protect the region and then a rival company kidnaps the president trying to insight war and succeeds. Raiden battles it out with them where he is then gravel injured with a severed arm. The story is good it has more humour compared to the other games and it made me chuckle in a few scenes.

Gameplay is fast and requires quick reflexes something you would expect from a Platinum Games title with blistering speeds as you run on walls and slice enemies in half. You’ll chain together light and heavy attacks until an enemy is stunned then you can precisely dissect your enemy’s body parts and it is very gory and satisfying with blood flying everywhere. If you are accurate you can pull out your enemy’s cybernetic spine and crush it in your hands and this is how you restore your health and this encourages accuracy instead of turning your foes into paste. The one aspect that took me a while to get grips with was the block ability and that is because there is no dedicated button as it requires skill and quick reflexes as you have to use the attack button and left stick as the enemy is about to strike and this can take a while to get use to but is great once you get into a rhythm.

Metal Gear Rising looks beautiful and to be honest that is not a surprise as it came out in 2013, 2013 was a great year for good looking games like GTA V, Bioshock Infinite and Splinter Cell Blacklist. The character models look great with exquisite detail on Raiden coupled with the over the top gore as you slice enemies in half or decapitate them there is a lot of detail in this game coupled with the blistering frame rate of 60 frames per second.

Metal Gear Rising Revengence is a great spin off to the Metal Gear series and is great if you’re a Metal Gear fan or someone who likes fast paced action games. The game is really cheap these days you can find it on Xbox 360 and PS3 for around £2 and the DLC is now free so there is another reason to pick it up.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Splinter Cell Blacklist Review - A return to form.

By Sam Coles:

Splinter Cell is easily one of my favourite stealth games from the last two generations of gaming however the series had a bit of a hiccup with the release of Conviction and threw all the features that made the series unique out the window. Conviction decided to go for the Call of Duty crowd with linear missions and more action rather than stealth; however they redeemed themselves with the release of Blacklist all the back in 2013 on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC. The game takes the good elements of Conviction and blends it with Chaos Theory and the original game.

Splinter Cell Blacklist takes place after the events of Conviction where Fisher is now back working for the government in the newly established 4th Echelon which was created after leader of 3rd Echelon was corrupted and tried to assassinate the president of US. Sam is pulled out of retirement due to a new terrorist group called The Blacklist are threatening US soil and Fisher must go on a gallivant around the world and stop them. It’s a great narrative with some excellent acting from the cast and good facial animation although Michael Ironside does not reprise his role in this game which is a shame but the new actor does a good job.

The gameplay goes back to the original trilogy of games from the sixth generation of gaming with open ended levels that let you proceed as you see fit. They introduced three play styles in this game Ghost, Predator and Assault. Ghost is where you sneak through undetected without killing anyone, Predator is similar to Ghost where you sneak through undetected but take a more lethal approach and Assault is self-explanatory where you go in loud. You gain points and money for each play style you choose and it grades you at the end of the level and shows which style you prefer. This is great as it encourages you to replay each level differently and adds a huge amount of replay value as you discover different entry points in the level, I prefer to play as a Predator as it is fun to hide in the shadows and kill.

You gain money from each missions and this can be spent on new guns, equipment and suit upgrades. You’ll more than likely end up spending most of your money on suit upgrades as it is the most useful as your starting pistol is fine throughout. What the suit upgrades entail are aspects such as making you lighter on your feet, making less noise and of course bullets doing less damage when you’re spotted or if you decide to do an Assault playthrough.

As this game only came out a few years ago it still looks stunning visually with good character models with moist skin textures when they’re sweating or in the rain. Environments look beautiful from the sandy deserts of Afghanistan to the wet airfields in Washington the attention to detail is great. The frame rate does take a hit in a few areas especially in some of the busier sections but this was near the end of the PS3 and 360 life cycle as the PS4 and Xbox One were released later that year.

Splinter Cell Blacklist is a great stealth game and is a return to form after the mixed bag that was Conviction. I’m looking forward to the new Splinter Cell if the rumours are true but I don’t want them to turn it into an open world game. The game is easy to find if you want to get it on consoles I would recommend the PS3 and 360 version as the Wii U version is buggy. If you missed this 2013 gem the first time I would urge you to pick it up. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Shadow Warrior 2 Review - Diablo with guns!

By Sam Coles:

Over the years the old school first person shooter has made resurgence with titles such as Bulletstorm kicking it off, and then we got Wolfenstein The New Order and Doom. One game that didn’t get too much attention was the reboot of the Shadow Warrior series which the first game came out in 2013 on PC and a year later on consoles and it was a competent effort but lacked its own identity. Shadow Warrior 2 on the other hand is something completely different and you would be forgiven if you were to think it was from a different series. Is that a bad thing? No as it is a fun and addictive adventure with beautiful visuals, fast paced gameplay and glorious and over the top violence and gore.

You step into the shoes of Lo Wang once again and yes it is an immature name but it is still hilarious. He is driving to his boss with an artefact to exchange it for money but he is once again attacked by demons that total his car which makes him mad and he embarks on a journey where he disembowels every demon he sees. He later saves a girl who has a god manifesting within her where he has her soul inside his head which is similar to what happened in the first game. The story is a lot of fun and Lo Wang is always funny with great quips and puns.

The game is a first person shooter taking elements from old school shooters like Serious Sam as it will throw you into huge wide open arenas with waves upon waves of enemies with blood flying everywhere when you blow the limbs off demons. However this game is more of an RPG dungeon crawler like Diablo where you take on quests from a hub and then fast travel to a map where you’re free to tackle objectives in any order you want to. You’ll battle different enemies and where the Diablo comparison comes into play is the fact that they make look the same however they are colour coded with their names with white being common cannon fodder to purple being more difficult and elite characters.

You unlock a vast array of new weapons which are the usual pistol, shotgun, machine gun and super weapons, but what makes this game unique is that you can add talismans similar to the gems in Diablo III. These can add extra purposes such as making your Uzi fire faster to your shotgun doing elemental damage. This is great as it encourages you to experiment and see what stones are more effective on certain enemies so you’ll never be using the same weapon.You can also tackle the entire campaign in four player co-op which is great if you are struggling with the tougher bosses and missions.

The game looks beautiful it has more life compared to the original game as it felt a bit sterile and bland. I love the environments in this game they are beautiful and colourful with long grass swaying in the wind or when an explosion goes off. However with more graphical detail comes a sacrifice in performance on the consoles, Shadow Warrior 2 runs at 30 frames per second compared to the 60 that the first game did, but it does struggle in some of the busier sections dropping below 25 fps.

Shadow Warrior 2 is a fun and addictive game with tons of replay value with fast and gory gameplay coupled with beautiful and colourful visuals. It is now available on PS4 and Xbox One and you can pick up a bundle with the first game if you haven’t played it yet.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Watch Dogs Review - Not as bad as people make it out to be.

By Sam Coles:

The original Watch Dogs is a game that garnered a lot of controversy due to the fact that Ubisoft lied about the presentation all the way back in 2012 when they announced the game at E3. They continued to show us gameplay it look more and more beautiful with an interesting Orwell 1984 dystopian city where you’re constantly being watched. When the game finally arrived in the summer of 2014 the game was downgraded in the visual department and that was what everyone was focusing on damning the game. However to be fair the game isn’t bad and I don’t think it deserves all the hate that it gets as it has some great moments not to say that there are not any underwhelming moments but that’s all they are underwhelming not bad. The whole graphics situation is over blown too as you have to remember that the game was made for six systems The Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC and Wii U so you have to take that into consideration.

Watch Dogs takes place in the not too distant future where Chicago have complete control over their citizens where they can monitor everything they do with an operating system called CTOS. This operating system controls everything from traffic lights to the more baffling things such as steam pipes. You play as Aiden Pearce a hacker who steals money from the rich without them knowing about it. Him and his associate end up robbing the wrong people where assassins are sent after Aiden but unfortunately his niece is gun down in the event and he swears revenge on those who caused her death. The story has a lot of interesting aspects despite it being a standard revenge tale, but Aiden does come across as a bit bland and the voice actor’s delivery can be a bit flat.  

The game is another GTA clone where you’re given an open world to explore with a vast array of motorised vehicles from cars, motorbikes and boats. The gimmick of this game is that you can hack certain devices in the city to cause chaos, to tip a car chase to your advantage or just mess with people by hacking their phones or making enemies hand grenades explode on their belt which never stops being funny as they panic. The game does encourage stealth and the of use your hacking tools but the problem with that is they give you a huge arsenal of firearms where you can just shoot your way through and not bother with hacking and stealth.

You can upgrade your character which can improve what you can hack etc. and the hacking tree is probably the one you’ll invest in the most because it is the most useful especially in gunfights and car chases. You’ll probably invest in some of the shooting skills to help you improve your aim etc. but the rest of the skills feel a bit arbitrary.  

The only real problem I have with the gameplay is that the driving is not great which they improved greatly in Watch Dogs 2, it feels extremely floaty and corning is awful with some cars, the motorbikes tend to handle better than the cars.

Let’s address the elephant in the room the graphics. Are they that bad? No they are not, however they are downgraded but not terrible as some people would want you to believe I have this on the PS4 and this game looks great. The water flowing through Chicago looks great, car models like fantastic and the animations from the characters during cutscenes look excellent. The graphics aren’t bad they are just not what you saw during E3.

Watch Dogs is not an amazing game or a terrible game it’s decent and honestly I don’t understand the hate maybe I’m missing something but I enjoyed playing it again after a couple of years since I’ve played it last. Pick it up if you can it’s super cheap and if you have Xbox Live Gold it is free on the 16th of June on Xbox One.