XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

I find myself these days playing video games less and less, this is probably due to me not having a lot of money and being bored on what games I already have, hence why all my reviews are on games that have been around longer than the Crab Nebula… Anyway. This time around aliens have invaded Earth and it’s up to the nations of the world to camber together and create the XCOM initiative. Earth’s first and last line of defence.So here we go, XCOM Enemy Unknown.

I was originally going to play Metal Gear Rising because it was free to PSPlus users, and since I’m a PSPlus user it made sense to download it. The problem was it would take some time to download, therefore I decided to play something else in the mean time. This game was kicking around because again it was free to PSPlus users so I thought I’d give it a go. I remembered hearing it was quite good so decided at long last to give it a go, and you know what? I’m glad I did. I found myself staying up until the small hours of the evening engrossed in the workings of my squad and my base.

XCOM starts in the near future at the start of a global alien invasion, you are a nameless, faceless commander type in charge of XCOM, a massive international effort to protect the earth from alien threat. It’s up to you to not only manage the troops in battle, but also take charge of base management, research and development, engineering, finance, caring for the troops etc. It sounds like a lot but as long as you don’t do anything too stupid a lot of it manages itself. Just make sure not to spend your money and resources too frivolously and you’ll do fine.

Gameplay wise, it’s your standard turn based strategy game, you move your troops, the aliens move theirs until someone has no troops left. Each troop type has their own special abilities and traits, Snipers fire from long range, Assault troops get up close and personal, Support troops heal the wounded and Heavy troops blow shit up. As you play your troops grow and get stronger (if they survive that is) unlocking more perks. Meaning later on when the aliens show they really mean business and send their elite soldiers you can still have a fighting chance. It’s also up to you to keep the different international bodies happy by deploying satellites above them to detect enemy spaceships, or complete missions within their borders. If not they will pull their support from the XCOM initiative and you’ll lose their funding.

One point I do need to mention that both goes for and against XCOM is the randomness of the missions, especially that of the UFO missions, which is the main way to collect the alien alloy which is needed for a lot of the later armours and weapons. It can be in game weeks between aliens invade areas where you have satellite uplinks. Therefore if you blow all your alloy on developing your base, you’ll end up sitting around twiddling your thumbs for the next week waiting for a ship to turn up and knowing you it’ll land somewhere with a low threat level and force some country like France to leave the XCOM initiative, but I digress. In it’s favour though it does mean that each game is different in the fine detail. Sure the story never changes but how you get from the beginning to the end is sure to be different.

Another mild annoyance I have with the game is with the difficulty curve. Especially for first time players. The difficulty ramps up over time rather than how much effort the play puts into the war. At the beginning the game the aliens are pretty much sending out the kids on work experience and over time they send out more aliens each more powerful than the last. So if they start sending out their berserker and you haven’t researched laser weapons yet you are in for a world of hurt. Which is why I’d recommend getting laser weapons as soon as they become available. I’d also recommend levelling up many soldiers rather than take out the same 6 over and over. I say this because later in the game it is near impossible to train recruits due to the difficulty of the enemies. Equipping them with the best weapons and ammo may help but it does seam that the enemies know which of my squad and instantly seeks them out. Maybe they can sense inexperience, I don’t know. On a similar note I thank god for the ability to save at almost any time. The amount of times I made one false move and ended up losing my best men was beyond measure.

Now my final thought. I started writing this review months ago, but never got around to finishing it because I was too busy playing it. I enjoyed it from start to finish and all moments in between. I must get for anyone especially those with a PSPlus subscription because you’ll be getting a great game for a ridiculous price.

Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Today I find myself yet again sitting behind my desk with nothing to do. So instead of the usual (watch QI) I’ve decided to do something a little bit more constructive. I’ve decided to go on an adventure. Searching for the lost kingdom of the Yamatai on a remote island deep inside the Dragons Triangle far off the coast of Japan. It’s here I must learn to survive if I’m to ever find my way home. I am Lara Croft and I am a survivor… I’m not really, I’m actually overweight and jobless. Anyway, here’s Tomb Raider.


The opening sequence begins with Lara and the rest of the Scooby Gang sailing towards the lost kingdom of Yamatai, which just happens to be located within the Dragon’s Triangle, a dangerous no go area for all things maritime. This scares the jinkies out of some of the crew, but not Lara, no. She’s out to prove herself as a real archaeologist like her farther before her. Naturally as to be expected, shit goes down, the ship gets ripped in two and Lara and the rest of the Village People are stranded and looking for a way home.

I’ve enjoyed the Tomb Raider series since the beginning but given the fall in standards throughout the series it was defiantly due an over-haul sooner rather than later. So when I heard that a reboot was on the way I was really looking forward to it. When the first trailers and game footage was released at E3 in 2012 I was even more so. Then I got a copy, played it, put it down to sleep now and again, then completed it and thought to myself “For a reboot they really haven’t changed a lot”. The story still had the stain of the weird and wacky like all Tomb Raiders before it. Which is a shame because it starts off so well. Trapped on a remote island, good, island is a home to a psychopathic cult, understandable, psychopaths believe that the storms surrounding the island are caused by a goddess’s vengeful soul, far-fetched but as long as they aren’t right about any of th… oh, they are right? Dam, and I was hoping the series had before serious.

Tomb Raider is a good example of why you shouldn’t get excited about a game based on it’s trailers alone. For example, the trailers would have you believe that the game had a whole island to play around on, nope, you explore less than a third of the island even then it’s just linear interconnected corridors with the odd larger area to roam around. Also if the trailers were to be believed there would be survival mechanic in which you must find time to eat, sleep, drink and heal like Metal Gear Solid except without all the snakes. Again, you’d be wrong, there’s one moment at the beginning where you must hunt deer and make a fire in a tutorial esque fashion and after that it’s never seen again. It’s as if the game suddenly caught a bout of amnesia, came to next to a copy of Uncharted and continued like that was the norm. Now, I like the Uncharted series, but I like Uncharted being Uncharted, not Tomb Raider being Uncharted. The jumpy explory bits expected from a Tomb Raider game are as good as it’s ever been but when the actiony shooty bits start you might as well be playing Uncharted if Nathan Drake was a British, student girl on a gap year gone horribly wrong.

The game was described as telling the story of how Lara changed from a young naive child to a battle hardened, stone cold killer. Bless the game because you can tell it’s trying to humanise Lara but fails in it’s consistency. For example when she first kills a deer, she’s crying and is apologising to it. Or when she kills her first person after her attempted “rape” she’s crying, in distress and mentally and physically exhausted, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed by the situation she’s in. At this point you think “wow, this is a pretty dark, serious Lara”. Seconds later however, she capping crazy psychopaths like it’s going out of fashion. At that point all seriousness is lost and the series falls back into old habits again.

Now for my final thought. Tomb Raider really does suffer from a lack of ambition. It starts off very well by characterising what a good reboot should be. It’s new but has a sense of familiarity to it. Sadly though this drive isn’t continued throughout the game, it’s lost after the first half an hour, becoming less like a new spirit child and more like the old one in new pyjamas. The set for a serious, darker Tomb Raider is lost in favour for the same old song and dance from years gone by. Not that it was a bad game, in it’s own merits it’s one of the stronger games of the series but it had the potential to be so much more than it is. And on that bombshell it’s time for me to end, thank you very much for reading, Goodnight. *Then plays Jessica by The Allman Brothers*

Dishonored (PC, PS3 ,360)

Today I find myself yet again sitting behind my desk with nothing to do. So instead of the usual (watch Game of Thrones) I’ve decided to do something a little bit more constructive. Instead I decided to go to the steam-punk, industrial city of Dunwall. A city full to the brim of plague, rats and general nasty things. So everyone strap yourselves in and keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Here’s Dishonored.

Dishonored centres around Corvo Attano bodyguard to the Empress Jessamine and her daughter Emily. Upon his arrival back in Dunwall after a diplomatic mission away the Empress is assassinated and her daughter kidnapped. Corvo is framed for the crime and is sentenced to death. Just before his execution he manages to escape, with help from the rebellion who oppose to the rule of the new Regent Hiram Burrows (who masterminded the coup against the Empress). Soon after meeting the Loyalists, The Outsider (Some supernatural entity) visits Corvo granting him the use of his magic. Armed with his new powers and the resources of the Loyalists, Corvo now has the means to exact his revenge on those who framed him and rescue Emily.

The story flows like a river of bricks, being delivered in splutters at a time. With any kind of game like this there a plot twist at the end, but only those who have either spent much of their life living under a rock or were born yesterday will find it shocking. Most players will be on to it before Corvo has a chance to clean off his blade. I’m not saying that that story is participially bad, it’s just shallower than anything else Bethesda has put there name to. The game itself is short and isn’t really made much longer by the few optional missions. Although you can make it longer by playing the game twice, once to get the good ending, then again to get the evil ending.


The gameplay however is nothing short of fun. The game flows really well with smooth transitions between parkcour roof running, blinking across roof tops and finally jumping off a building to plant Corvo’s sword into the skull of an unaware guard. As I mentioned in my Awards of 2012 section, I enjoyed how fluid the gameplay felt. I also mentioned that there was a smaller number of techniques available. To explain what I meant I need to remind you of the first few shorts from the developers, they made a not of a few different ways to kill stuff. They went through about 4 or 5 and told us there was a whole lot more, turns out they were lying through there teeth’s. There only really a handful of ways to go around taking the life of those who see to bring you to justice. Not that that’s what’s upsetting me, I just don’t like being lied to, especially when it comes to me spending my own money.

One thing that it defiantly worth mentioning is the artistic merit of the game. With it’s unique character design and industrial steam-punk Victorian London overlay, it is a very pretty game. It just saddens me that the characters themselves seem so generic and lifeless, almost robotic. It just undermines the work of the graphic designers when boring characters are placed into such artistic surroundings. It would be much like gathering a bunch of hill billies and asking them to staff the Ritz.

Now for my final thought. Dishonored is a game I did enjoy playing, as you have read it was far from perfect, in fact it was no where near perfect. What it did get right however were the basics of how to make a fun game. It had the fluidity so transactions between each aspect of gameplay meaning that the gameplay didn’t jerk or suddenly stop. It was one smooth continual roller-coaster ride. This in itself is enough to warrant at least an recommendation, in short it’s not perfect, it’s fun and you should check it out. Even if it did spell it’s name wrong.

Borderlands 2 (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Today I find myself again sitting behind my desk with nothing to do. So instead of the usual (boot up Skyrim and kick me some dragon arse) I’ve decided to do something a little bit more constructive. Instead I decided to return to Pandora, not the one with the blue tentacled alien things, the one full of guns, bandits and things destined to kill you. Along for the ride are my Vault Hunter chums. If you haven’t guessed what it is yet you obviously didn’t read the title, for everyone else it’s Borderlands 2.

After the events of the first borderlands where we learnt that the Vault that the last guys had spent so much time and effort trying to find turned out to be full of nothing but hentai tentacle rape, we are told that apparently there is a bigger and better Vault somewhere in Pandora (not the one with the blue tentacled alien things). Normally that would be enough for sequel material these days, but Gear Box have higher aspirations than that. The opening of Vault v1.0 trigger some sort of global change of the laws of chemistry and a new element Eridium is created, it assumingly being very rare and powerful because it brings forth the epic Hyperion corporation ran by their charismatic leader Relatively Good Looking Jack. You start the game as one of 4 “new” Vault Hunters (I used inverted commas because the characters are more or less cut and paste of the characters from the first game) who’s job it is to stop Jack. The why however alludes me. My best guess is that it’s just something to do whilst visiting Pandora (not the one with the blue tentacled alien things), God knows there’s bugger all else to do.

Lets get one thing straight right off the bat. Although I did have moments of fun, I am not going to say it was a good game. Much like any Steven Seagal film… you know the rest (which from this point onwards shall be known as the Seagal Principle). I found most missions to be tedious and boring, go here, shoot this, pick it up, give it to me, repeat. Whilst I’m on the subject of problems the game has, there is a horrible balancing problem with the characters. I had a house-mate of mine play Co-op with me, he was the commando, I was the ninja. All he had to do was place a turret in the middle of the room and look on as bullets and missiles fly in the direction of anything that didn’t send him a Christmas card in the last 4 years. The ninja in comparison… turns invisible for 5 seconds. Because this gave me near to no advantage at killing anything more than a midget in close quarters I decided to specialise in using sniper rifles, when I did this I was so far away from the action by the time everyone was dead and I joined the group all the good loot was gone (that probably says more about my room mate than anything else). At this point I told him to piss off and played on my own. A better idea along the same lines would have been, slightly longer time, super speed, a bigger melee damage multiplier and most importantly NOT TO TURN VISIBLE AGAIN AFTER ONE SWING OF MY SWORD. Run around hacking bandits in half, a better idea… Moving on.

You know what I miss? The original Borderlands. No, not Borderlands one, the original concept for Borderlands. The one shown in the original teaser trailers (For those interested, it can be found here). A darker more Fallout-esque experience. If my memory serves me well I remember during the development of Borderlands, they announced that there would be various locations for key places on Pandora (not the one with the blue tentacled alien things) to be. Meaning the game world would be completely different each time you played it. Maybe it was dropped because it was too greater task. Shame. Instead the only unique USP of Borderlands is the “Role-Playing-Shooter” tag (Which means it’s a half-arsed shooter with half-arse RPG elements) and the huge number of guns.The first containing 3.5 million different varieties, The second close to 18 million. Seriously? Why so many guns, I can only use one at a time and equip 4 onto my person at any one time. Then again thinking about it, for each unique weapon there are 49 other copies (1 for each level requirement). Meaning the number of unique weapons is much less, but still a hell of a lot. Personally, it just seems like a lot of work for very little gain, the chances of finding the best gun for you in a single game is so small it’s not worth thinking about.

One thing that does set this game apart from is the fact that it has a antagonist. Aesthetically Pleasing Jack, owner of the Hyperion corporation. Apparently he’s after Iridium because a) It’s valuable and b) It can be used to open Vault v2.01. He’s eccentric, charismatic, egotistical and power hungry. The perfect antagonist. It was a toss up between him and Vaas for Character of the Year. The reason I went with Vaas in the was because Vaas didn’t own the company that would revive his enemies when they died. I get that he’s meant to be eccentric, but that’s a bit much, we’re on the same level as needlessly complicated ways to kill Bond here.

Now for my final thought. I’m not going to recommend nor will I condemn Borderlands 2, because chances are you’ve already played it, completed it and decided for yourself if it was worth it or not. I personally find it’s wacky, gun-hoe, stop-start, action gameplay a bit shallow and pointless, there’s just nothing in it bar a few witty retorts to keep me interested. I’ve got a lot more interesting games on my desk including Far Cry 3, Spec Ops: The Line, hell I’d even say Silent Hill Downpour is more interesting than this, yet I’ve spent more time playing Borderlands 2 than any of the other. I keep asking myself why I keep playing this and not any of the others. Maybe it’s because my inability to leave something incomplete… Yeah, that’ll do.

Assassins Creed III (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

A lot has happened since the last time I metaphorically picked up my pen and wrote another rant about one thing or another. Although I doubt you want to hear about what’s been happening in my life over the past few months so for those of you who are interested here is what I thought of Assassins Creed III.

What can I say about the story behind Assassins Creed 3? In short Desmond and the Scooby gang are still searching for a way to prevent the end of all life. To do this Desmond must relive the genetic memories of his colonial ancestor Connor Kenway (or Ratohnhake:ton to his friends) to reveal the resting place of an amulet that unlocks some way to save everyone… presumably. Connor’s story revolves mostly around killing people linked to the Templars and witness significant moments in America’s war for independence.
On the subject I didn’t really like Connor all that much. He doesn’t really have the presence that Ezio or Altair had. Connor, despite looking pretty bad ass with bow and tomahawk in hand, he is more or less all bark and no bite. He also has no real reason to join the Assassins other than the fact that it was convenient for Desmond. Without revealing too much he essentially has a vision of the Assassins logo as was told to go forth from his village and seek this symbol. He finds Achilles over the next ridge who teaches Connor about the Templars and Assassins and his training begins. I still prefer him over Desmond mind, especially after what he does at the end.
Lets get to the marrow of the game now shall we. The killing of things… which is surprisingly vacant in this chapter of the series. There are a selection of dudes that Connor must kill because they burnt down his village. The fact that they all happen to be Templars is fairly convenient as well, so is the fact that most of them are Loyalists too. Instead as previously mentioned Connor must find his way to significant moments of American history and do his part to make sure things happen so the people fighting for freedom win (since that seems to be what being an assassin is all about it seems, not the murdering of people). such as the Boston Tea Party or Paul Revere’s Ride. The whole game feels like an interactive learning guide to the American Revolution. Far gone are the days of the original Assassins Creed where murder and the preparation for murder were the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato of the BLT that was Assassins Creed. Assassins Creed II had the best assassinate to dicking about ratio. Brotherhood added one or two pieces to dick about with, Revelations even more so and now with Assassins Creed 3 it seems all that’s left is the dicking about.
Assassins Creed 3 does have a lot to side quests to do if you ever get bored of the main story arc, which I did on a decent number of occasional. In fact I would start every sequence seeking out all of the side missions just so I did something other than play through the story. Most of them involve finding skilled individuals to occupy Connors homestead, leading to the ability to craft objects and trade them across the frontier. As tedious as it sounds I did enjoy learning all about the residence, all there little back stories and how they came about moving to town. Also doing this allows you to craft the best weapons in the game as well as gain upgrades such as increased shot capacity or a larger quiver. The rest are made up of the usual motley crew. Assassinate this guy, deliver these letters, liberate this part of town etc.

All this is only half the battle. For once I did actually play the multi-player mode for Assassins Creed 3… and I enjoyed it. The hunting and assassinating of other players was stressful at times but it kept me entertained enough to see myself level up into the 20’s. It’s frustrating at  times but in my experience all multi-player modes are like that, at least all the ones I’ve played have been. It can be difficult when first starting, especially against other of higher rank with better equipment and perks, but one factor I like to point out which I was impressed with was that there were perks that were activated if you weren’t doing so well, to make easier for you to get a kill or not to be killed. Just a little thing I liked when starting out as a bit of a noob.

Overall I did enjoy Assassins Creed 3. Although it doesn’t hold a torch to Assassins Creed 2 and the games that followed it. Assassins Creed 3 is too sporadic. It’s nice that it has variety and substance, but without direction and guidance it’s easy to feel lost which ruins a games flow. The series defiantly peaked at Assassins Creed 2, since then the games have been getting more cluttered with each gimmick each game adds. It’s gotten to the point now that the game has lost the direction of the original. Assassins Creed was all about assassins assassinating for the creed. Now there’s no creed and assassins are few and far between. Then again, the name “Piss About and Do Bugger All 3” wouldn’t make much sense with out the previous “Piss About and Do Bugger All”, “Piss About and Do Bugger All 2”, “Piss About and Do Bugger All Brotherhood” and “Piss About and Do Bugger All Revelations”

Mass Effect 3 (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Yes, I know it’s been 3 months since my last rant but in my defence I spent that time getting a new computer, doing exams and generally not giving a shit. Now though I’m bored so I’ve decided to finish off this rant which I started writing 2 months ago. So to christen the new hardware, the finale of Shepard’s tale of conquest and heroism. In 2157, humanity discovered that it was not alone in the universe. Thirty years later, they found a peaceful place among dozens of galactic species. But this idyllic future is overshadowed by a dark past: Reapers, a sentient race of machines responsible for cleansing the galaxy of all organic life every 50,000 years, are about to return.The leaders of the galaxy are paralysed by indecision, unable to accept the legend of the Reapers as fact. But one soldier has seen the legend come to life.

And now the fate of the galaxy depends on Shepard …

The story begins with our first visit to Earth. Shepard after being discharged from the Alliance Navy is asked for help as the Reapers come to the galaxy to kill off all organic life. Suddenly the Reapers show up on their doorstep and shit goes down. Shepard makes a hasty retreat to unite the galaxy against the machine overlords. You’d think with the eradication of life in the galaxy as a consequence of failure, people would be more eager to provide their support. I suppose it just shows the ignorance and stubbornness of other species, dam aliens.

The first thing I want to mention is that the game is Origin exclusive. It’s crap yes I know and not just because of the spyware, ban friendly admins and complete lack of legal liability (because that isn’t reason enough). It just isn’t as good as Steam, Valve have a good system going with their absolutely amazing sales, major support for indy developers and competitive prices. Origin as I’m aware doesn’t have sales, stocks EA exclusive games and the prices are a rip-off at best. Sadly though EA are a bunch of selfish robbing bastards so as long as we want to play EA games, we sadly have to keep getting cock slapped by them.

Anyway, now the game. The game-play is pretty much that of Mass Effect 2, there are a few new tidbits for example Shepard can do a heavy melee attack by holding down the melee attack button which comes in very handy. Another new feature of the game is the weapon system. There is a good number of weapons available all of which are split into 5 types of weapon Pistol, Sub Machine Gun, Sniper Rifle, Shotgun and Assault Rifle. Each has about 4-5 different weapons and can be upgraded as and when you see fit. The customisation of weapons is one of few areas where Mass Effect 3 surpasses it’s previous instalments. The new hardware also gave me a chance to play the game in 3D. 1 word, DON’T. Aiming is a bitch, shadows are flickery and some items aren’t even where they should be, for example a shinning light appears both to the left and right of where it should be. Out of interest I replayed the 2nd one in 3D to see how they compared. It turns out that Mass Effect 2 had none of these problems… Why!?

I noticed a fair number of inconsistencies and rough edges through the game. One that annoyed me the most was just how many times wire frames of one object will pass through another. Who ever was in charge of QC at Bioware for this game, I hope they were shot out of a canon into the sun, or at least got a stern telling off. Another inconsistency I noticed was with that of the whole romancing of characters. In the end I ended up having a relationship with a character that died earlier in the game. That is a big whoops if I ever saw one and no amount of bull shit is going to wash that down (e.g. “It was a memory of Shepard’s” or “She was revived through Lazarus Project 2.0”).The game can just feel rough at times, as if it could of spent a little longer in development just to sand it down to a smooth finish. Sadly though EA is not interested in quality, just numbers like $200million.

If you remember back to it’s original launch, Mass Effect 3 was getting a lot of bad press for it’s ending. A lot of harsh things were said about it. I personally wasn’t enraged by the ending like most people, I was just disappointed. The original endings did not explain what actually happens at the end. Although the extended cut adds a prologue to each ending, I feel it’s too little too late. When Bioware stated that Mass Effect 3 was going to have multiple endings I expected your choices throughout all 3 games to contribute to which ending you get. How wrong I was, turns out at the end Shepard is put into a room with 3 choices in front of him, each choice giving you a different ending. This means every decision you make throughout the game makes no difference to the ending. Talk about falling at the last hurdle.

Now for my final thought. Mass Effect 3 feels like a game that was made just to satisfy the fans. Many of the elements feel half arsed like no-one really cared whether the game was going to be good or not. As if Bioware just wanted to end the series and be done with it, thinking “Mass Effect 2 has been sitting above our heads for a while now and demands for the 3rd instalment have been increasing. Lets just get it over with, that way no-ones going to yell at us for not doing it”. Kind of like Metal Gear Solid 4… and what I’m doing now.

Mass Effect 2 (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

With my new computer and copy of Mass Effect 3 still no where to be seen I continue my quest through the Mass Effect universe from start to finish. This week I find myself in the gooey middle of Shepard’s story to save the galaxy from the Reaper threat. One month after the devastating geth attack on the Citadel, the galactic community struggles to rebuild. Now the Council is forced to respond to evidence that the Reapers — enormous machines that eradicate all organic civilization every 50,000 years have returned. To quell the rumours, the Council has sent Commander Shepard and the Normandy to wipe out the last pockets of geth resistance. Officially, they blame the invasion on the geth and their leader, a rogue Spectre.
But for those who know the truth, the search for answers is just beginning…
Our story begins again aboard the Normandy, Commander Shepard is out looking for geth to kick in the teeth, but not before his ship is destroyed, Shepard is killed and his body ejected into space. Not the best way to kick start a game by killing off the lead character, but what the hell, I’ll go with it. Oh wait, it’s ok because the game is actually set 2 years later where you find yourself waking up on an operating table. It turns out you’ve been revived by a group called “Cerberus” (a group of nasty men and women who believe humanity are the master race and want to keep it that way, so basically the KKK on a galactic level). They want Shepard to gather up friends old and new and discover why human colonies have disappeared.
Gameplay has changed slightly in the new installant. Where the last game was an RPG with action elements, Mass Effect 2 is more of an Action game with RPG elements. It’s very much dumbed down compared to the original. For instants there is no where near as many skill traits to level up and the micro management of equipment is gone. Not that I miss the micro management but the scaling down of the skill traits makes Shepard seem that much more generic, like the rest of the armour clad space marine protagonists from every other game in existence. There was me thinking Shepard was different, *sigh*.
It’s not just the RPG elements that have had their corners cut, it seems when Cerberus decided to give Shepard a new ship, they refused to give him another buggy to scour planets with. I guess they were scared that Shepard was going to make fun of it again for it’s broken physics and the general ball ache it is to drive the dam thing. Normally something like that I would leave with neither a farewell or tip of the hat, but in this case removing the vehicle sections makes the game loose it’s epicness. Rather than explore a small section of terrain, you now send probes down to the planets surface to collect resources. Although boring it needs to be done if you want the best ending and weapon upgrades. Their may be more planets and systems to visit in Mass Effect 2 than the original, but you really don’t see the point of heading all the way over to the other end of the galaxy just to start probing planets you may have missed. Not only this but since Shepard’s move to Cerberus he has lost his use of the Alliance Military credit card, which Shepard must have used to pay for fuel in the last game. Cerberus, obviously has strict travel expenses rules (I guess even inter-galactic super corporations aren’t immune to the credit crunch).
With the loss of the vehicle sections and the mediocrity that is recourse probing, it means that the game-play is really only held up by that scourge of the over the shoulder action based epic which is cover based shooting. It wasn’t genre defining when Gears of War did it, so I don’t get why people are so obsessed by it. Anyway, back to the matter at hand before I tangent you all to death. The combat in Mass Effect 2 is alot easier than it’s counter part, I guess this is so Bioware can continue the feel of babies first Mass Effect, which is ironic since it’s the second instalment.
Much like everything Bioware has ever done the game is well written and presents itself well, and unlike a lot of modern games, comes out of the box with very few bugs, (Every time I mention bugs at release I have to mention my disgust for Fallout 3’s bug content so here it is) Unlike Fallout 3. Everything in Mass Effect 2 glistens to a shiny finish. It’s obvious alot of work has gone into making the game. Another move Bioware has made with Mass Effect 2 which I’ve not seen being done in a long time, is the ability to import a save from the original game into Mass Effect 2, in which the choices made in the first game can effect events of the second game. This is a very clever move by Bioware since it can force most fans of the series to own all 3 games if they want to live the whole experience. Although I can also see this being a reason for purchasing the PC or 360 version over the PS3, since the PS3 doesn’t own it’s own copy of Mass Effect, the loser.
Now for my final though, I don’t think I can decide which one of the 2 I prefer. It seems what Mass Effect got right, Mass Effect 2 got wrong and vice versa. Where as Mass Effect is more in-depth but high maintenance, Mass Effect 2 is faster paced and in your face but shallower than a toddlers paddling pool. So I guess overall I have to say they are both as good/bad as each other. Next week I will not be reviewing Mass Effect 3, even if I do eventually get my new computer I’ll still be away and not be able to play it. I might just take a couple of weeks off instead… Yeah, that seems like a good idea.
On a final note, this concludes my 20th blog review. YAY!!!

Mass Effect (PC, XBOX 360)

So, I’m still waiting on my computer to arrive. Meaning I’ve not got my copy of Mass Effect 3, meaning I haven’t played it, meaning I still cannot tell everyone how good it is. Although it does give me the opportunity to go back and give another look at the series humble beginnings. Commander Shepard’s rise to fame and stardom among the intergalactic elite. Let me take you back to the year 2148, explorers on Mars discovered the remains of an ancient spacefaring civilization. In the decades that followed, these mysterious artifacts revealed startling new technologies, enabling travel to the furthest stars. The basis for this incredible technology was a force that controlled the very fabric of space and time. They called it the greatest discovery in human history. The civilizations of the galaxy call it… MASS EFFECT.

In Mass Effect, to those unknown to modern computer games, you play as Commander [insert first name] Shepard, who’s gender is cause for debate, who must fight a sentient race of Artificial Intelligences so stop the rogue Spectre Saren from summoning The Reapers, a deadly race of machines designed to wipe all intelligent life from the galaxy. If you lost the plot at any point in that last sentence then this game is not for you. If that’s the case close this review, go back to playing Halo and never darken my doorstep again… Now that they are gone, the game feels like the kind of game Knights of the Old Republic would feel like if Lucas Arts weren’t there looking over Bioware’s shoulder asking “What ya doing?” every 5mins.

Speaking of the Old Republic, Mass Effect keeps up the traditions of KotoR by being very wordy. It’s great to see that the writers are doing their job properly but in places some cutting back here or there would have been preferable, to help the game flow a bit easier. Characters drivel out their life stories far too easily. In real like not even the worlds most trusting man would yap on about their life and other personal affairs as easily as most of the characters in the game. Not only that, you find a data pad or a computer screen and BOOM!!, another 6 pages of history has been added to the journal. True you don’t have to read it but it does mean some of the references made about key events outside the game can go over your head, such as the Rachni War or the Krogan Genophage. Also it means that the journal button in the Start menu keeps flashing which to any OCD suffers out their will be very annoying and will agitate you a treat. It’s not all bad mind, it just means that the history and the mythos of the Mass Effect universe is very well documented (much like the Star Wars mythos if we are still making references). It’s as if the writers created this whole universe of events and places but were too busy with the story to add it in as any kind of back story so dumped it into the game as a rule book that players can go back to when needed. This is not good story telling, making me stop every 30mins because I didn’t know of the outcome of the First Contact War. The story delivery itself may be long winded and drawn out but the story itself is very interesting and well written (and before people think I’m contradicting myself, imagine Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a very interesting piece which is well written, now imagine it being read by someone with a really bad stammer from memory, not so good story telling).

The game play of Mass Effect is where the comparisons end. Mass Effect lets you control things like shooting and aiming directly as opposed to KotoR which took the approach of click on something and wait until it dies. It submerges you into the game making you feel more like a Spectre and less like your playing a table-top game about a Spectre. That is until you go planet side and jump into the Mako, then you’re in for a treat. It’s like driving a shopping trolly where all 4 wheels are stuck in different directions… and it’s made of flubber. The smallest bump can cause you to veer in completely the wrong direction and barrel roll into the nearest crater. This really doesn’t help when the terrain of more or less represents the surface of a teenagers face, which can lead to some annoying (yet sometimes rather amusing) moments. For example, I was on the planet of Therum driving driving along, went over a slight bump which suddenly made the Mako steer violently to the left straight into a pool of Lava, Shepard dead, Critical Mission Failure, back to the ship. This wouldn’t annoy me as much if Auto Save did it’s job properly. It doesn’t save all the time. The likes of Skyrim and KotoR it saves after going through pretty much every door, Mass Effect really only auto saves when it feels like it, forcing me on many occasion to rage quit.

At first glance from the galaxy map, the game looks quite small, but when you travel to a star cluster and find that each cluster system has between 2-5 star systems and each star system has between 3-9 planets to check out, then to top it off you have moons, asteroids and the odd ship to explore, you realise that your earlier presumption to be slightly inaccurate. The game is very deep and full of content. Not only will the main story keep you entertained for a good 10+hrs but the sheer number of side-quests is mind-boggling. Even if most of them are set in the same layout buildings, just on different planets. Then on top of that there is the DLC content with additional side missions. So their is alot to keep the average gamer busy for quite a while.

Throughout the course of the games you will meet various different species and races, all of which seem to have their own personal traits and idiosyncrasies. For example the Elcor to most species seem very mono-tone and flat, this is because their emotions are displayed in slight body movements that “make a human smile seem as subtle as a fireworks display”. Because of this when talking to another species they usually define their emotive status as a prefix to what they’re saying. Another example is the Salarians, they are said to have short lifespans of about 40 or so years, this is shown by their rapid rate of speech and a kind of “rush-rush” attitude towards things. It’s these small details that make each species not just difference from human, but different from each other. Unlike many other space fairing computer games in which aliens just feel like humans in disguise.

Now for my final though, Mass Effect has become one of my favourite RPG’s to date. It sets itself aside from its western predecessors by trying to be more action based and remove the bore that usually comes with most Western RPG’s. The story and character development still feels in-depth and progresses well during the course of the game. I thoroughly recommend this game to anyone, although I do hear that the 360 version can be rather buggy at times, also the controls are more limited (you can only hot key one power in the 360 version, and you can not control your party members separately). Action gamers may get annoyed by the more RPG elements of the game and the RPG gamers may get annoyed by the more action elements of the game, but in the end it’s a game that I have jumped back to and enjoyed many times over since I first bought it. Also, once you’ve finished playing the game, keep a hold of your save. You’ll need it to continue Shepard’s story in Mass Effect 2. 

Assassins Creed: Revelations (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Has it really been 2 months-ish since my last review? Time really does fly when you’re having fun. Anyway, I’m jumping back to Christmas just gone, during which period I was given a copy of Assassins Creed Revelations amongst other games (thanks go out to Al, Alex & Abi). So for your amusement, Assassins Creed Revelations.

For those who don’t know what Assassins Creed is, Have you been living under a rock for the past 4-5years? If so let me give you a quick overview of the series. Assassins Creed first takes place in the Holy Land during the period of the Third Crusade (1191 to be precise). You play as Altaïr ibn-La’Ahad, an assassin who’s tasked with stopping the Templars from discovering the Apple, an ancient device which would allow complete domination over the minds of the masses. Actually I lie, it’s about a barman named Desmond Miles who has been kidnapped by the evil Abstergo corporation in order to re-live his genetic memories to find the resting place of the Apple, an ancient device which would allow complete domination over the minds of the masses. Revelations and the previous 2 Assassins Creed games are much the same except you’re working with the Scooby Gang and your genetic memories focus on the time of the Renaissance playing as Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, just generally being a bad-ass.

Now the first Assassins Creed was a game of two halves. Alot of great moments within the game spoiled by a few annoyances. For example, the fanatically enforced speed limits of the Holy Land which can force Templars from as far as Constantinople to come and stabath ye arse for mealy running down a street. This coupled with having to travel from the Assassin’s castle to your ancient city of the week makes for some frustrating gaming experiences. On the other hand the free roaming parkour esque running and jumping of ancient rooftops as well as the planning and assassination of targets makes for great fun. Then 2nd instalment fixed the minor annoyances of the first games, which I think made it the best game of the series. Brotherhood took the prized winning trifle that was Ass Creed 2 and started tweaking with it in a Windows esque manor, adding stuff that worked well like a pinch of cinnamon (which in the case of this metaphor is the addition of multi-player) and adding stuff that doesn’t work like Branston Pickle (which in the case of this metaphor is the text based management of your assassin minions), essentially making Brotherhood more like Assassins Creed 2.5 The Borgia Strikes Back.

Revelations continues this trend by being Assassins Creed 2.75 Return of the Altaïr. The main additions brought by Revelations are the white chocolate shavings (which in the case.. blah, blah, blah the addition of a hook-blade) and a blob of Marmite (…blah, blah Bomb Crafting and Tower Defence mini games). The hook blade adds a bit more fun to the runny, jumpy roof top flinging by now being able to zip-line down randomly placed wires, which allows for new roof top routes as well as some humorous assassinations. The bomb crafting and tower defence mini games on the other hand are both boring and unnecessary. The bomb crafting although allows for more tactical choices, it just makes the game less of a challenge, just chuck a bomb, it kills people to walk past undisturbed. The tower defence mini games force you rescue an Assassin outpost if your notoriety becomes too high in an attempt to try and give consequence to Ezio’s constant disregard for Templar right to life, but notoriety is that easily lowered it just becomes a chore and distracts you from what your supposed to be doing.

Speaking of what I’m supposed to be doing, this gives me an excuse to discuss the plot. Ezio discovers that in the Assassins base of operation’s during the reign of Altaïr there is a secret door which is believed to be sealing Altaïr’s secret library and since Ezio cannot leave alone anything to do with Altaïr and the Assassins, he heads to Constantinople in order to fine these keys. There are other sub plots, like the power struggle among the officials of the Ottoman Empire and Ezio getting himself a bit of sweet, sweet putang by finding lost books but much like the main plot are weak at best. Throughout the game Ezio has no idea what is behind the sealed door assuming that it must be something to do with the Pieces of Eden because Altaïr’s involved, although it could be just as likely that behind the door he could find  Altaïr’s stamp collection. The whole game gives off a Metal Gear Solid 4 feel. Frantically tying loose ends like David Beckham with the dirty boot bin. Ezio feels as though he’s finding all the keys out of simple curiosity, which doesn’t make for a deep or dramatic story.

At this point I would comment on the multi-player mode but since I haven’t played it nor do I have the intention to do so (not that I think the multi-player is going to be poor, I just don’t like multi-player gaming. Answering the door for my take-away is more than enough social interaction for me).

Now for my final thought. I’m glad to see the back of Revelations. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it was a bad game, it’s just now the development team can focus on produce another game that does to Assassins Creed 2 what Assassins Creed 2 did to the original Assassins Creed. Do away with the Marmite and Branston Pickle and stuff in more custard, cream and sponge because in fairness that’s all we want from an Assassins Creed game. Although, I’m not sure what to think about moving the series to the era of the American Civil War. I would have thought jumping the rooftops of Victorian London would have been more in place with the series. Meeting influential people such as Charles Darwin, Jack the Ripper, Queen Victoria, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Dickens and Florence Nightingale just to name a few, but that’s just  me.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PC, PS3, Wii, XBOX 360)

Christmas and New Year have come and gone and with it I received a wealth of new games in which to play and share my opinion on. This week isn’t one of them but it was a game that I did get the opportunity to play over the festive period. A game that has a bigger following than Charlie Sheen and OK magazine. The most recent game in a series that started off a bit bland but after a change of scenery popularity rose immediately, only to then become horribly clique and predictable. Ladies and Gentleman. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

The Call of Duty series started as most series around war do with re-enacting the 2nd World War in the most unrealistic and stomach turningly patriotic way. For 3 instalments the series found medium success never really rising above it’s peers, such as Medal of Honour and Battlefield. It was only when the series switched to Modern Warfare in which as the name suggests is about warfare in modern times did the series find that edge that first person shooters were missing. It was the first to really add a story to the first person shooter and bring it to the masses. There was the Half-Life series but that always seemed a bit too snobbish to be mingling with the console playing plebs, but I digress. Previous FPS’s had stories but they just hung around with nothing better to do. Call of Duty 4 actually integrated the story into the game in such a way that it neither outshone or was outshone by the gameplay. This included a scene that I still hold to my heart, the nuke scene, where funny enough a nuclear explosion is detonated in the vicinity of fleeing Rangers to which you quantum leap into the perspective of a lone Ranger slowing dying in the fallout, alone and unloved thousands of miles away from home. Although it adds nothing to the story as an artistic feature it is pretty amazing. After trying to bring what worked in Modern Warfare back to the past with World of War, Modern Warfare found a sequel. Modern Warfare 2 which took the intense raspberry with white chocolate swirls and real fruity bits flavour of the original and made it bland vanilla. Not that there’s anything wrong with vanilla but it is one of the blander ice cream flavours out there. Then came Black Ops which had a story so out of whack I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers were sectioned for it.

Then finally we get to Modern Warfare 3. What seems to be the finale of the Modern Warfare series (I assume this because it’s the only one of the 3 that didn’t end on a cliff-hanger). You’ll be happy to know that the series continues it’s downhill slope from the peak of Modern Warfare. It’s the same game we’ve seen before but with new faces and a slight graphical upgrade. The same old missions are there, the stealth mission, the infiltration mission, the gunship mission, the ambush mission etc. The only real gameplay difference I noticed was that some guns have 2 sights on them. Fuck me, how long do you think it took Infinity Ward to come up with that stroke of genius? Imagine the development meeting when coming up with that beauty of an idea. “Ok, We need a USP (That’s Unique Selling Point for those who have no grasp of product development) for Modern Warfare 3, Go”, “I can never decide between using the Dot of the ACOG sight. Could we have both on the same gun”, “Fuck it, that’ll have to do. Lunch Time”. You really earned your pay that day guys didn’t you?

Now when people think of the Modern Warfare series, people tend to think of controversy and pushing the moral boundaries. Man dying slowly and painfully in nuclear fallout in the first is defiantly a moving scene, although the game could have done without it, its inclusion defiantly elevated the game to a higher plain. In Modern Warfare 2 there was the shoot up of civilians in the Russian airport that got every anti-games activists knickers in such a twist that some of them are still trying to remove the knots to this day. This had the greatest in game effect out of the 3 scenes because never before in any modern game were we asked to take a gun and mow down innocent civilians. The strange thing about it was (for me anyway) was that I had no moral guilt in doing it. It didn’t have the same effect as the scene in Heavy Rain where you have to cut off the end of your finger or throwing the Companion Cube into an Aperture Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator. I think it’s due to a lack of empathy towards the gunned down civilians of Russia, to us they are just pixels which we have been told to kill. Unlike my previous 2 examples where we have spent the game playing through the perspective of the character in question or we have had empathy towards the Companion Cube drilled into us through GLaDOS’s messages, telling us that the cube loves us and that we love it. Returning to the matter at hand we have the 3rd scene where we see a child explode in front of us. Although in truth the child basically disappears as soon as the explosion appears. This scene unlike the other two probably worsened my opinion of the game (not due to the killing of children, that’s a completely different kettle of fish). The main reason for this is it’s irrelevance to the game, if it were removed from the game it would not hamper my gameplay experience in the slightest. Sure I could play it in media sensitive mode “aka Pussy mode”, but the niggling thought would still be in the back of my mind that that scene is still there and is only there as a shock awe tactic and to try and generate media attention to which it ended up doing very little of both.

I’ve neglected to mention anything to do with the actual gameplay throughout this review mainly because if you’ve played any of the Call of Duty games past Modern Warfare you know what the gameplay is going to be like. Infinity Ward like to stick to what they know and by the looks of it Infinity Ward have been glued, stapled, riveted and welded to the Modern Warfare formula. The single player is horribly short and can easily be completed in an afternoon. The multi-player is exactly the same as Modern Warfare 2 but with a few extra gameplay modifications and game types, which is the same as Modern Warfare but with a few extra gameplay modifications and game types. It seems Infinity Ward can release an update for their multi-player and charge £40+ for it because it has a singleplayer campaign hanging off it like a tumorous lobe. Infinity Ward may not be great game developers but they are master business men. What does interest me though is the Special-Op missions. I must have spent a good couple of days or so with my brother trying to 3 star a lot of them. Like a series of puzzles that need solving, once you start you won’t be satisfied until you get all of them.

To be honest Modern Warfare 3 was never going to go down favourably with me anyway. I’ve always seen the Modern Warfare series as the very pinnacle of what I despise about the gaming industry. Soulless corporations having the ability to release any kind of mind numbing bile and have it lapped up by the unthinking masses. I like to have faith that people will buy a game because it’s good rather than because it’s adverts are plastered everywhere. Modern Warfare is one of those games where you cannot escape the adverts for it. It was plastered all over television, all over the internet, hell it was plastered all over the buildings in the city centre. This is why I usually try to rely on user reviews on how good a game is before I buy it. Professional reviewers I find are too eager to hand out good reviews to games that really don’t deserve it. I don’t really like the use of scores, even though in a perfect world they can give us a direct comparison between one game and another, but it’s just that, “In a perfect world”. All scores are based on personal opinion, for example I would give a game with a better story a better score than that which had better gameplay. Not only that, the sheer amount of criteria that has to be taken into consideration to give a fair score is massive. Then to top it all off scores will change with the passing of times. As the years pass opinions change and as they change scores would change.

Now my final thought.  The Modern Warfare series reshaped the first person shooter genre giving it that artistic flare previous FPS’s were missing. Although the first game struck gold in the end this proved to be a  disadvantage to the development team. Both games that followed seemed to try too hard in trying to prove their worth over the original and both fall flat of their faces. Although this has never been a bother to Infinity Ward since each game has made enough money to pay the Dalai Lama to run through the streets of Kent, bollock naked, singing “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”. Lets just hope that this is the end of the Modern Warfare era, because if I hear that Modern Warfare 4 is in production which includes Captain Price and Soap have full uncensored gay sex I will not be happy. Even less so knowing Soap died in the 3rd game.