Thursday, 29 September 2011

Crysis 2 Guest Review

This guest review was written by Dan Jones.

Crysis 2 has a good start. It’s been born into the Cry legacy, and it’s also extremely hard to run on the PC but this is the Xbox 360 review so that’s not a problem. When I say Cry legacy I mean that it’s the sequel to Crysis made by Crytek on the CryEngine 3. See?

Anyway, Crysis 2 takes place in New York. Except that it’s now been infected by a disease which kills people. There’s probably more background to the virus but unfortunately I’ve never played Crysis 1. Boohoo. The US Army is apparently doing something else because the US Government has put martial law on New York under supervision of a corporation called CryNet. Well done Crysis, you’ve got Cry in again. Anyway they have an alarmingly large security force called C.E.L.L, who have tanks and gunships. You play as Alcatraz, a US Navy SEAL with no personality at all. Anyway, Alcatraz gets very nearly killed by a random group of aliens, but is saved by Prophet a guy in the all-powerful Cry Suit. Seriously? Anyway, the game follows Alcatraz in the all-powerful death suit on his journey to not get killed by a group of mentally deficient mercenaries.  You can upgrade one of three power trees, Cloak, Armour and Weapon. The upgrade system is annoying with Alcatraz twitching his fingers for whichever one you want to upgrade, which makes it a bit fidgety.

I played the game as an overdressed ninja, sneaking around the enemies and imagining their boss shouting at them when I get to the blow up a helicopter ten miles past a checkpoint set up to kill me. There’s also a flaw in the core of the stealth gameplay, when you get spotted and are surrounded by enemies the game should rip you to shreds and send you back to the last save. But at some points you get spotted and you are so overpowered you can just rip through them anyway. Without the stealth elements Crysis 2 is just another shooty shooty bang bang FPS just where you can jump like you’ve got a pogo stick lodged in your rear end and can buff yourself up with armour. This sort of brings to Crysis’ biggest problem. The balancing issues. The difficulty curve is like a rollercoaster where the end is one of the easiest points in the game. If you have an action game where the action doesn’t escalate properly then there’s something wrong.

Crysis 2 isn’t a bad game. It’s not brilliant. It’s mediocre, but one thing everybody says about Crysis 2 is that it has brilliant graphics. And honestly they are the best graphics I’ve ever seen in any game. Ever. I recommend Crysis 2, but it has lots of problems. It’s fun, the story isn’t very good and the characters aren’t likeable. But this is worth the money. 

Duke Nukem Forever Review

Since its announcement way back in 1998, Duke Nukem Forever has become synonymous with vapourware, a game thought to be in development hell which would never see the light of day. After an inexplicably protracted development time, Duke Nukem Forever has finally been released. Was it worth the wait?

First of all, unlike some reviewers, I am aware that the game's development time does not decrease the game's overall quality, and should not be considered bad just because it's not the kind of competitor-toppling, solid diamond game one would expect to take over a decade to complete. However, I do question why exactly it took so long to bring out this average, generic first-person shooter.

The story is simple: twelve years after the events of Duke Nukem 3D, aliens invade Earth in order to abduct human women so they can be impregnated and a new generation of tentacle-monsters can be spawned. Duke joins the fray when his "babes", the Holson twins, are taken to the alien hive. Quite why he chooses to so this, I have no idea, as the facial animation of the women in this game make them all look like creepy, quasi-life-like robots, and the Holsom twins creepy laughs recall the Peg Dolls from that freaky episode of Doctor Who. Without wishing to spoil much more of the story, this particular plot thread ends disappointly, with one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever seen in a video game, after which the story switches to "Duke kills aliens for no reason".

As hinted at earlier, there's a real animation problem in the game. If you want a laugh while playing the game, stand in front of a mirror and jump around the room. Duke becomes an Irish dancer who keeps his arms at his sides at all times while prancing around a room. The characters all look unnatural, and the advert-hogging strip club level becomes a nightmarish quest to escape a building full of horrific robot women who ask you to find them popcorn. In addition, when the action picks up on-screen, there are time when the frame rate drops dramatically, spoiling some of the genuinely fun parts of the game.

Duke Nukem Forever, like virtually every Xbox 360 game on the market which doesn't require the player to have a living room the size of the Red Square, is a first-person shooter. Like in most first-person shooters from the last few years, the player is only able to carry around two guns at a time, and has regenerating health, in this case represented by an "ego" bar, the maximum capacity of which can be increased by defeating bosses and interacting with the environment. There are plenty of action-packed shoot-outs in the game, and some of these are a lot of fun, as you run around blowing the heads off of enemis with the shotgun, which by far outshines the largely lackluster assortment of other weapons in the game in terms of pure fun. There are also a number of boss fights, as mentioned. While some of these, like fighting a gigantic alien wielding a minigun that would make Team Fortress 2's Heavy Weapons Guy's head explode with joy, make for some of the best parts of the game. Conversely, some, like using a turret to shoot down the alien mothership, are highly boring. There are also parts of the game which are unreasonably difficult, causing the player to die over and over, having to wait around 30 seconds for the game to load each time.

The single-player campaign lasts a decent length of time. The first few missions, set in urban Las Vegas, are mostly boring as hell. However, after a couple of hours or so the game really picks up, with a variety of weapons, enemies and gameplay alterations making the game a lot of fun to play for a while. Unfortuantely, the last couple of hours consist almost entirely of running down brown and grey corridors shooting enemies with little variation other than frustrating and boring underwater sequences, then at the end there is a completely insubstantial ending which parodies Jackson's death from Call of Duty 4, a game from four years ago.

This brings me to another problem with Duke Nukem Forever - perhaps due to its development time spanning over ten years, far too many of the jokes are just pop culture references to media from years ago, and are rarely funny. There is also humour to be found in Duke's endless one-liners, which are hit-and-miss. Duke is just not a likeable character, and the supporting characters will pretty much all leave you hoping that they'll die at some point in the game so they'll shut the hell up.

There's a multiplayer mode, too, which consists of Duke Nukem-themed variations of standard game modes like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. It's possible to unlock new items with which to customise your appearance, as well as furniture with which to decorate Duke's pad. This last feature doesn't really add anything significant. The multiplayer is quite fun and should bring about an hour or so of fun, but there are far better online first-person shooters available already, for lower prices than Duke Nukem Forever.

After over ten years in development, Duke Nukem Forever is perplexingly average. The game really does become quite good fun for the second third or so of the campaign, but before and after that it's a standard FPS which won't live on for anything other than its development time. Buy it if you see it for a discount price, but otherwise, stick to the better shooters that are already available for the Xbox 360.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Introducing Guest Articles

Greetings, blog perusers.

This blog will now feature "Guest Articles". These are articles, including reviews, that are written by someone other than myself.

If you have an idea for an article, send me it at

Please note that my computer does not support Microsoft Word, so either put the text in the email, or send a Google Doc.

Dragon Age 2 Guest Review

This guest review was written by Dan Jones.

Dragon Age 2 is the sequel to Dragon Age: Orgins, a classic swords and elves fantasy RPG, which before playing Origins I used to say “HA, what kind of a nerd plays fantasy RPGs?”, but after several playthroughs of Origins I excepted and embraced my status as a nerd. And Dragon Age 2 is no different. It’s a game designed to bring out your inner nerd.

Dragon Age 2 starts a during the start of Origins, the army of Fereldan(aka Medieval Britain) had been destroyed by the evil darkspawn at Ostagar. You play as Hawke (you get to choose your first name), guiding your family from Lothering, a small village near Ostagar which has just been attacked. You flee to Kirkwall, a city state in the Free Marches which somewhat resembles Medieval Germany, yet the majority of people sound English. So, you are in Kirkwall and what surprised me is the lack of over arching threat. In other fantasy games, some evil Beast of Gamgaroth or something has risen and you must go on a quest to defeat it. In DA2, the first major quest when you reach Kirkwall is to make money, and lots of it for an expedition into the Deep Roads. However you soon realise that Kirkwall is a powder keg of conflict just waiting to go off. There’s the Qunari, a group of horned giant warriors who hate society and act like emo teenagers, who are trapped in the city. Oh and the Chantry(Catholic Church) hates them. There’s also the mages and their Templar overlords that are at edge largly due to the fact that the Templer leader isn’t a very nice person. There isn’t any kind of major goal, until the game kicks it up a notch and everything comes tumbling down.

Now, the combat. A lot of people say that the combat means that DA2 should be PC exclusive, and I tell those people that the Maker will spit on them, and immediately go back to chopping people in half with rather large swords. I usually play as a warrior, decked out with a two handed weapon. I like the combat, the warrior class can be a little underpowered against big bosses, the rogue goes down quicker than Didier Drogba and the mage is just way overpowered but at the end of the fight, when you’ve won you get this sense of satisfaction that you don’t normally get in games like Call of Duty. And Dragon Age 2 isn’t shy with showing off blood, guts and gore either.

The environment is brilliant, Kirkwall is a beautifully rendered city but it’s outside the city, in the dungeons of the Free Marches the problems lie. The game can become repetitive in the recycled dungeons with enemies spawning in the same areas all the time. However, the characters are brilliant. From the hairy chested dwarf Varric to mage hating emo elf Fenris, Dragon Age 2 features a range of brilliant characters. With a whole new speech system that gives you more fun and makes the characters much deeper than in Origins. For example I romanced pirate tart Isabella, but there’s a lot more to her character than meets the eye. The same goes for most major characters.

The fact is that Dragon Age 2 is a brilliant game that I have no doubt will go from strength to strength with DLC releases. With an ending that screams Dragon Age 3 is a reality to its glorious fantasy rooftops , this is one game, and one franchise that you definitely shouldn’t miss.

Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection Review

The release of Mortal Kombat earlier this year probably created a lot of fans of the series. It was a wise move on the part of its developer, NetherRealm Studios, then, to release Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection for the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN, so that fans of the series can see what the series was like in the 20th century by playing the first three games. Are they any good? It's a mixed bag.

As mentioned, Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection is a bundle of the first three Mortal Kombat games, available for download for 800 MS Points, or £6.29 on the PSN Store. Each game features online play, both friendly and ranked, complete with online leaderboards so you can compare your killing power to that of people worldwide.

Other than online play, pretty much nothing has been changed from the original versions. The graphics are tolerable, with nice-looking (for the 90's) character animations and backgrounds. Blood splatters around stages as characters brawl against one another. It's not as violent as the 2011 version (as you may have already seen in its Top 10 list), but there's still plenty of action to be seen.

The sound, on the other hand, isn't so high-quality. It doesn't seem impossible to have improved the sound quality since the games were originally released, but, at times, the quality of the sound is really low, especially in the first Mortal Kombat.

Gameplay-wise, the games are the same as almost every other non-puzzle game in the series. You select a character, then progress through a series of fights against increasingly difficult fighters, eventually battling the main enemy at the end of each game. Each character has a number of special moves, and, of course, a signature finishing move, known as a fatality. Most of these fatalities are brutal ways of vanquishing an opponent which are quite entertaining to watch. In the second and third games, the number of fatalities and special moves increases for each character, eventually including Animalities, Friendships, and Babalities, with Mortal Kombat III giving each character up to 6 fatalities available.

Unfortunately, the increased choice offered in Mortal Kombat III is largely wasted. At the end of each fight, the player only has approximately two seconds during which to perform a fatality, and the match often ends before one can be performed. Furthermore, the game fails to recognise button inputs unless they are done extremely specifically, making performing fatalities in Mortal Kombat III virtually impossible.

Other than that, Mortal Kombat III is still a lot of fun to play, and features a number of unlockable characters to increase the game's longevity. Mortal Kombat is arguably the most fun of the three, despite having the fewest fighters and signature moves, due to its responsiveness to the controls and reasonable difficulty curve. Opponents do become highly challenging towards the end of Mortal Kombat, but the difficulty increases gradually.

Mortal Kombat II, on the other hand, is different. This game is almost completely broken, with a ridiculous difficulty curve that makes finishing the game unreasonably difficult. From around the second fight, opponents become incredibly difficult to defeat, using unbelievable combos and destroying anything in their path. Unless you possess savant-like abilities beyond those of Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie Rain Man, it's inadvisable to attempt Mortal Kombat II if you want your controller to remain intact.

To wrap up, Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection is three games: one good, one decent, and one terrible. There's multiplayer for each one, online and local, and the games have decent graphics with low-quality sound. Even only playing two of the three games should last a decent amount of time, and at quite a low price, Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection is a decent deal. It's not as good as the Mortal Kombat game released in April 2011, but it's pretty good nonetheless.

Rating: 3/5

Poker Night at the Inventory Review

As crossovers go, Poker Night at the Inventory is a strange one. The game is available on Steam, and consists of an invisible, player-controlled protagonist playing poker against four characters: Max from the Sam and Max series, The Heavy from Team Fortress 2, Strong Bad from the Homestar Runner web series, and Tycho from the gaming webcomic Penny Arcade. The game is set in the titular Inventory, a secret underground club. That's as complicated as the story gets.

Like the story, the gameplay does not feature very much depth, unfortunately. The only poker game is available is Texas Hold 'Em, and so the gameplay does get somewhat repetitive very quickly. It is possible to unlock new card decks and designs for the poker table, as well as weapons for Team Fortress 2 based on the characters in the game, including Max's handgun and Tycho's watch, the latter of which can be used as a cloaking the device for The Spy in Team Fortress 2.

Arguably the best thing about Poker Night at the Inventory is its humour. Each character has many lines of funny dialogue, and it's fun to listen to exchanges between characters as they play poker. These are, at times, lauh-out-loud funny, but also repeat themselves after a while.

The game can be downloaded for the low price of £3.25, so it is good value. If you like playing poker and are looking for a poker experience beyond the generic games that can be found in an internet browser, the game comes recommended. It's also a good idea to buy this game if you want some new Team Fortress 2 items (though none of them are tradeable), but it won't last more than a few hours or so before the limited gameplay variation starts to grate somewhat. It's good value, but if you don't care about any of the series in which the characters star, and you're not looking for new Team Fortress 2 weapons, it may be a good idea to look for a free poker game online and save your money.

Rating 3.5/5

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Top 10 Most Violent Fatalities in Mortal Kombat

It's no surprise that the latest addition to the Mortal Kombat series, creatively named Mortal Kombat, is an extremely violent game. The series has always been well-known for its brutal finishing moves, or "fatalities", and this game is no different.

With that in mind, let's watch the 10 most violent fatalities in the new Mortal Kombat. Be forwarned though: these videos are not for the faint-hearted.

10. Kintaro - Reverse Rip

Yes, that is the least violent move on this list. Four-armed Kintaro actually rips off the arms of his opponent, then rips off their head. Then, for aparently ro reason other than to anger the people at the ESRB, Kintaro rips his fallen enemy's head into pieces. In slow-motion.

9. Baraka - Take a Spin

It goes without saying that any character with blades protruding from his arms is going to have some pretty violent attacks. Rather than stabbing his enemy and leaving the fight there, Baraka picks them up and spins them around, causing their limbs to fly off. Pretty creative, actually.

8. Kenshi - Split Ends

It's clear from the thumbnail of that character's bisected corpse that Kenshi is a damn good fighter. Clearly, he decides that merely cleaving his opponent in half is not badass enough, and decides to do it in style by throwing them at the sword.

7. Kung Lao - Razor's Edge

Kung Lao, one of the series' protagonists, may be a nice guy, but make fun of his hat at your own peril. Based on this fatality, it seems Kung Lao has been taking inspiration from videos by The Lonely Island, throwing his hat on the GROUND!

6. Ermac - Mind Over Splatter

Ermac's battle cry of "We are many, you are but one" seems to no longer apply after this fatality, as Ermac uses his his telekinetic powers to rip his opponent to pieces.

5. Goro - Limb and Body Rip

Ah, the Limb and Body Rip - it does exactly what it says on the tin. Like Kintaro, Goro violently rips his opponent to pieces, then unnecessarily rips their corpse up in slow motion. I suppose anyone who has four arms and Herculean strength is going to want to make the most of their abilities.

4. Baraka - Up the Middle
Once again, Baraka makes creative use of his blades as he delivers a truly brutal fatality. Arguably, it's the sound effect towards the end whch really move this fatality from "gruesome" to "now you're just trying to get the game banned".

4. Shao Kahn - Fore

Nice and simple, this fatality. Basically, Shao Kahn throws his opponent into the air, then, with a swing of a hammer, repaints the area a colour known in painter's circles as "Entrails Red".

3. Kintaro - Quad Rip
That thumbnail pretty much summarises this fatality. The sad thing is, Kintaro wasn't even trying to kill his opponent - that's just his version of a handshake.

2. Noob - Make a Wish

I know what Lu Kang's wish would be in ths video - not to be slowly torn in half by Noob and watch his guts fall out of his body. Unfortunately, this wish doesn't come true.

1. Shao Kahn - Double Down

When you see someone who wears a skull for a helmet, don't mess with him. This is made abundantly clear through this fatality, as Shao Kahn rips his opponent in half from the inside, all in glorious slow-motion.

So, there you have it. Next time someone stubs their toe and starts complaining about it, point them to this article so they can see that things could be much worse.

LA Noire Review

As you will no doubt know if you’ve been a member of the gaming community for the last few years or so, the mainstream media has a constant habit of using games as a target for criticism and wild accusations. No-one knows this better than the people at Rockstar Games, whose popular Grand Theft Auto series is accused constantly of warping players’ minds and turning them all into deranged serial killers after an hour of gameplay, to the point that a person can’t bump into someone in the street in the US without FOX News linking it to the fact that it was outside a shop selling a game by Rockstar anymore.
Consider the irony, then, of LA Noire, a game by developers Rockstar and Team Bondi, wherein you play as patrolman-turned-detective Cole Phelps as he fights to rid the streets of all forms of crime and criminality. Of course, what with the game being set in 1940’s California, there’s still a degree of racism and sexism, particularly on the part of Phelps’ partner Roy Earle, to keep the media jackals happy.
The gameplay differs somewhat from previous Rockstar titles such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, in that, while the game world is a huge, wide-open sandbox, in this case the town of Los Angeles, hence the title, there’s an emphasis on investigation and interrogation, making the game feel somewhat like a more mature, dynamic version of the Ace Attorney series, without the psychic readings and ghosts stabbing people. The gameplay is nicely varied, including investigation, interrogation, cover-based shooting, car chases and fist-fights, all split up between five different areas of the police force.
In the investigation sections, the player controls Phelps as he examines a crime scene, looking for clues, which is done quite intuitively: when Phelps approaches certain objects, the controller will vibrate and the player may press a button to pick up the object and examine it in more detail. Not all objects are relevant, however, which prevents these sections from becoming too easy. There are also options to turn off certain things, including the aforementioned controller vibration, to make them even more of a challenge. These sections are fun for the most part, but occasionally become frustrating when the game won’t let you progress because you haven’t notice an insignificant piece of paper somewhere in the corner of the room.
Interrogation sequences are also fun; these involve questioning suspects or witnesses for more information to aid you in the case. The player selects a line of questioning, and the person responds. The player may then choose to either believe them, accuse them of lying, or present evidence to the contrary. This is where LA Noire’s new face-tracking feature comes into play - the player can examine the facial movements of the character to determine whether they are lying or telling the truth. This is a great new feature and really makes the interrogation sequences rely on skill rather than simply guesswork. Unfortunately, when a character is lying it can sometimes be incredibly easy to tell, as characters shift around and their eyes dart around the room.
The interrogation and investigation sequences affect the direction of the case: depending on how successful the player was when questioning a suspect, the gameplay and story seen in the rest of the case can change. In some cases, the game asks the player to choose between two possible suspects based on clues and information gathered earlier on. However, no matter how badly the player does in these section, it is impossible to fail the case as a result of them, and even in the two cases where the player must decide for themselves who committed the crime, in both cases it turns out to be someone else entirely, as revealed later on.
These sections are broken up by traditional Rockstar action sequences, most frequently fast-paced cover-based shooting, as well as car chases and fist-fights with suspects. These are highly entertaining, but, with some exceptions, such as having to chase a criminal recklessly commandeering a carriage full of civilians, these sections don’t really have a lot of variety within them - the fist-fights in particular are pretty much the same every time. Then again, the individual sections themselves are all different, and never really stop being fun - it’s just that once you’ve punched one murderer in the face, you’ve punched them all.
Unlike the aforementioned interrogation and investigation sequences, the action sequences are possible to fail. However, like in Nintendo games like Super Mario Galaxy 2, if you fail too many times, it’s possible to skip them. However, I don’t recommend this, as most of them, including a memorable sequence where the player is chased by a man in a bulldozer, are a lot of fun.

So, the gameplay, while not perfect, is a lot of fun and is varied enough to keep the player going for the 25 or so hours it take to complete the game, but what about the the story?
As mentioned earlier, the game takes place in 1940’s Los Angeles. The protagonist is detective Cole Phelps, a straight-talking, by-the-books cop who seems determined to make the world a better place. For around the first half of the game, he seems like quite a one-dimensional character, one who hates criminals and is sympathetic towards everyone else - at least until he erupts with rage when a widow can’t remember the exact condition of her late husband’s glasses. Through the second half of the game, though, it is revealed that there is more to him than is initially apparent, and he has a pretty dark past. I don’t wish to spoil the story, but if you’re not a little shocked by any of the later flashbacks to Phelps’ army career, you must be made of rock.
Throughout the game, Phelps interacts with many characters, changing from partner to partner as he moves through different departments of the police. Most of these partners are likable, and provide plenty of banter to keep the player entertained as they drive to their next objective. Like Phelps, they have their own narrative arcs, and more about them is learned throughout the course of the game, including their histories and attitudes towards Phelps.
The story is brilliantly written for the most part, but can sometime get slightly difficult to follow, particularly in the final cases. Furthermore, while the developers have successfully made the majority of characters believable and realistic, mostly avoiding making criminals commit crimes just for the sake of being evil, one part did annoy me. If you wish to avoid spoilers, feel free to skip ahead, but for a while during the game, a series of similar murders are committed. At the end of each case, the last person to have been arrested turns out not to be the killer after all, despite often having piles of evidence to show that they did it. At the end of this storyline, the real killer is revealed. I’m not going to reveal his or her identity here, but absolutely no motive is gven for why they did what they did, and this story arc ends very disappointingly. It really is a shame a shame after spending around 4 cases trying to catch them to have it end in such a way.

Having said that, the rest of the game is extremely well-written, with a number of twists and turns making it comparable to an incredibly long crime movie. If you want a good story, this is the game for you.

The soundtrack is of a good quality, building drama and pace at key points in the game, as well as some old-timey songs on the radio of cars. This helps to build the atmosphere and immersion of the game effectively.
In summary, while LA Noire is not perfect, the story is top-notch, and the gameplay is entertaining and varied. If you’re looking for an immersive, thrilling and dramatic game that will last for dozens of hours, this game come highly recommended.


Hello, and welcome to my new blog.

For those of you wondering what this is all about, this blog will be dedicated to everything game-related: reviews, previews, news, and humourous articles. Basically, it will be like every other gaming blog on the net, but better, because...

Anyway, hopefully you'll enjoy the articles will be posted on here soon. To save yourself from having to wait at your computer monitor, clicking "Refresh" over and over, waiting for that review of a Playstation game from 15 years ago, all you need to do is follow the blog. You'll receive updates whenever a new pst is made.

Thanks for taking the time to check the blog out.