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Prototype Review (Xbox 360) July 8, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Review, Xbox 360.
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Prototype

It was great to finally play a “superhero” sandbox game where you didn’t have to worry about being good or bad, Alex Mercer simply has his own agenda and doesn’t care about anything else – as can be seen by the way he comically shoves pedestrians out of the way as he walks by. The Alex you see in the cutscenes is the same Alex you play as, unlike Niko Bellic whose in-game actions were pretty disjointed from what you saw in the cutscenes.

The thing that really sets this apart from other recent sandbox games is Alex’s vast arsenal of superpowers, it succeeds where others (Infamous cough cough) have failed. as if being able to run up buildings wasn’t enough, the abilities you learn in this give you a genuine sense of power. From things like elbow-dropping a tank from the top of a skyscraper to picking up and launching a car at a pursuing helicopter, Prototype does a fantastic job in making you feel like a complete badass. You barely ever feel vulnerable and know that there is a move to get you out of any situation. Hijacking a helicopter in mid-air using your whip attack never gets old. I also loved the Guyver-like armour which limits your movements but it’s worth it, if only because you look like a badass. Also, the ability to absorb people and take their identity provided some brilliant T-1000-esque moments.

It’s obvious some graphical detail has been sacrificed in order to make the city feel more alive, but this was definitely for the better. The streets being filled with civilians and vehicles adds to the mayhem when things kick off. It’s great watching the city slowly decay into an infected mess over the course of the game and randomly come across fights between the infected and the military.

Along with Crackdown, Prototype is one of the best sandbox games I’ve played this generation and it certainly provided the most fun I’ve had from a game this year so far. The sense of power it gives you is phenomenal and the open-ended way in which you can approach most of the missions adds to the enjoyment. I also thought the Web of Intrigue was a very clever idea to help develop the story a bit more. There are plenty of side-missions to keep you occupied, along with orb collecting for added Crackdown-ness.

Badass, in a word.

9/10

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Hundred Word Review – Punch-Out!! June 27, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Review, Wii.
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Punch-Out!!

This Wii version is a remake of sorts of the NES original – it contains a mix of characters from that and the SNES version. Little Mac makes a welcome return and the gameplay has stayed pretty much the same. Memorising opponents attack patterns and striking when they leave themselves open to attack is essential to winning. It’s very hard at times but the sense of triumph when you land a winning blow is just brilliant. The cel-shaded visuals look fantastic and the remixed song sound great.  Arguably it’s the best example you’ll see on how to resurrect a classic franchise.

8/10

Damnation Review (Xbox 360) June 1, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Review, shat, Xbox 360.
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Piece of shit

Terrible, in a word. From what I understand, this started off life as some sort of Unreal Tournament mod. It should have stayed that way but you’d be forgiving for thinking it has, given how shoddy this game is. Upon starting it up, you might instantly notice that the menus are pretty much copied straight from Gears of War and the difficulty levels are labeled exactly the same. It gives you the idea of the laziness the game has in store for you.

It’s been touted as a steampunk western, but it’s really nothing of the sort and it’s derivative looks make it seem like any generic Unreal Engine game. A lot has been made of the platforming gameplay and “verticallity” aspect of the levels. While the platforming is decent, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better by Prince of Persia: Sands of Time back in 2003 or, going back further, the original Tomb Raider games. Despite this, the levels are certainly impressive in their sense of scale, and looking down hundreds of feet on areas you have previously traversed gives a good sense of achievement. However, this does all come at a price. The levels are massive and go on for far too long, often leaving you bored to tears by the end of them. The developers have tried to alleviate this by introducing vehicle sections to break up the tedium, but these become boring very quickly and are poorly done.

The combat is pretty dire. The selection of weapons is surprisingly small and pretty much all of them feel very weak and pathetic. The shooting mechanics feel very twitchy and imprecise – it’s often hard to tell if you are hitting the enemies and they seem to take too much punishment before dying. Thankfully this is balanced out by the frankly shit AI. Enemy soldiers will happily stand in front of you doing nothing, inviting as much free hits as you want. Throughout most of the game you are accompanied by friendly AI who are just as rubbish as the enemies. If they do actually bother to help you fight, they couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a bloody cello, let alone a banjo. You are also randomly given some sort of X-Ray vision power which lets you see all the enemies in the area. It is pretty helpful, but it reveals the cheap trick of enemies suddenly teleporting into areas which were previously empty.

Now onto to the bugs and glitches, then. Texture pop-in, flashing textures, floating enemies, enemies spazzing-out after dying, enemies stuck in scenery, weapons vanishing from your inventory etc. I could go on but you get the idea. The game is very unpolished and unfinished. Although I can totally see where they were trying to go and what they were trying to do with the game, it seems like a case of the developer has bitten off more than they can chew, and that the original concept was just too ambitious for them.

Surprisingly, this game has both online co-op and multiplayer deathmatch. I didn’t have the pleasure of trying out the multiplayer, but I’m assuming it’s equally as awful as the singleplayer – that’s if there is actually anyone playing the bloody thing.

To summarise: worst game I’ve played this year, and arguably the worst I’ve played this generation – it gives Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad a run for it’s money. I traded it in as soon as I finished it and I think I even broke my personal record for fastest trade-in ever after buying (previously held by Assassin’s Creed). I’d certainly not recommend wasting money on Damnation, or possibly even renting it unless you have a thing for lemons like this.

3/10

LostWinds Review May 16, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Review, Wii.
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LostWinds

If it wasn’t for Nintendo taking almost three-and-a-half years for fix the storage problem that shouldn’t have even been there in the first place, I would have bought this at launch. But still, this was the perfect game to launch WiiWare. It’s a platformer who’s structure reminds me of a Metroid game in that you will be returning previously impassable areas using newly aquired skills, although the world map isn’t as expansive as the aforementioned game.

The story of LostWinds is very reminiscent of Okami in that, playing as a young boy called Toku, you must vanquish the land from an evil elemental spirit and return it to normal. You will be accompanied Enrill, the wind spirit, and this is where the control method comes in. You control Toku with the nunchuck and Enrill with the Wii remote. Using the remote, you can “draw” paths to control the direction of the wind, which in turn allows Toku to do things such as jumping higher by drawing a line upwards, or slowing down a fall by waving it from side-to-side below him. As you progress through the game you will gain new upgrades such as the ability to draw a specific path for the wind to blow, and a cape for  Toku allowing him to glide upwards.

There are plenty of puzzles throughout the game in which you have to use all of your powers to your advantage and can basically be split into three catagories. Lighting torches by using the wind to create a path of flames, moving boulders to press switches, and planting seeds then blowing water over them to grow to create a plant that acts as a cannon. These puzzles aren’t exactly taxing, but most are rather clever and add to the game’s overall quality.

Graphically, this isn’t just one of the best looking games on WiiWare, but on the Wii full stop. With vibrant colours, beautiful backgrounds and unique character design, these all help to give the game it’s own personality. Overall, the presentation is fantastic and, to the untrained eye, this could quite easily be mistaken for a full retail release.

My only gripe with the game is probably its length. It takes around three or four hours to complete, but for 1000 Wii Points it’s certainly worth the quality. Lost Winds is without a doubt one of the best games available on WiiWare, and probably ranks amongst the best downloadable games I’ve played on any system. The intuitive use of the Wii remote is something that will hopefully influence other developers, and it will be interesting to see how they improve on this in the inevitable sequel.

9/10

Fallout 3 DLC May 12, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Fallout 3, Review, Xbox 360.
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I previously reviewed the first piece of DLC, Operation Anchorage, here. I did mean to review The Pitt when I finished it but I forgot, so here is a double whammy of that and the newest one – Broken Steel.

The Pitt

The Pitt

That screenshot says it all, really. Much like Operation Anchorage before it, The Pitt offers a nice change in scenery. This time it’s a smoggy, industrial Pittsburgh ruled by raiders and slavers. You are tasked with infiltrating the settlement and ultimately finding a cure for the disease which has ravaged the area. The settlement consists of a few areas with the most notable being the steelyard and train yard, both overrun by “trogs” who are basically savage mutated humans who run on all fours and are victims to the aforementioned virus. There is also a pit fighting competition which you must enter in order to join the ranks or the slavers and progress in the mission. You must survive multiple fights much like the colosseum thing in Fable 2 but on a much smaller scale, and you earn a few handy perks with it. There are also new weapons (and an achievement) available in exchange for collecting up to one hundred steel ingots – I couldn’t be arsed with this as I generally can’t stand. collect-a-thon quests in any shape or form.

By far my favourite part of this DLC was the new “auto axe” weapon, basically a circular saw made from car parts, which cuts through trogs in seconds. Despite the initial problems, I enjoyed The Pitt more than Operation Anchorage and it seemed to last me a lot longer too, clocking in at around five or six hours. Unlike the previous DLC, this felt more what made the main game so great, the side quests and interesting locations rather than trying to be more FPS-focused, which I’ll get onto next…

8/10

And now on to the disappointment.

Broken Steel

Broken Steel

This was meant to be the big one. Increasing the level cap from twenty to thirty and adding in a bunch of new perks, some of which are pretty decent e.g. faster action points regeneration while others, such as a well rested bonus in any bed, are a bit unimaginative. It also allows the game to continue on after the end, which curiously wasn’t possible to begin with. You join the ranks of the Brotherhood of Steel in an attempt o wipe out the Enclave. After a failed assault which results in an aerial missile strike destroying Liberty Prime (the big robot), the Brotherhood regroup and form another plan. Unfortunately this is when I started to get annoyed with the DLC, mostly due to the large numbers of enemies you have do deal with who have both a high amount of health points and deal a lot of damage, particularly the numerous sentry bots, death claws and feral ghoul reavers you come across. It just becomes tedious and it’s almost as if the game is trying to descend itself into some sort of mediocre FPS. When the action leaves the Capital Wasteland and moves onto an air base it just becomes more tedious which is a shame, really.

Given how much I enjoyed The Pitt, I had high hopes for this but was left disappointed. One of the few plus points is that unlike the previes two DLCs, this doesn’t have any collect-a-thon quests or achievements. That is one of the few plus points though. It doesn’t really introduce anything new that you haven’t seen in the main game eg. the scenery, everything in this feels the same as the wasteland whereas the prior DLC was the complete opposite. Also, he new weapon, the telsa cannon, feels slightly underwhelming given the amount of effort you have to go through to get it. While it had potential to be the most promising of the three pieces of DLC, Broken Steel ultimately becomes a tedious and disappointing experience.

6/10

Hundred Word Review – The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai April 24, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Review, XBLA, Xbox 360.
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The Pishwasher: Dead Samurai

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now, the visual style caught my interest from the first time I saw it. It basically plays like a 2D version of Devil May Cry, although not as good. While the gameplay and controls are relatively solid, it’s the enemies that ultimattely let it down. They often get stuck in a pattern of repeating the same few moves over and over again, and the fact that they are often pretty cheap doesn’t help. A good game with impressive stylised visuals, but one that can often become an overly frustrating experience.

7/10

Punch-Out Knocks Your Block Off April 13, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Retro, Review, Wii.
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You see, the “block” in the post title refers to the blocks on the Wii’s memory system. Amazing. I don’t know how much blocks Punch-Out takes up, but it costs 500 points from the Wii’s Virtual Console – that’s around £3.50 in real money. While on the surface it looks like your typical boxing game, it’s anything but. Punch-Out

It’s more about learning the opponents routine, then reacting and dodging their attacks. The controls are simple, one button for your left arm and another for the right, the d-pad controls whether you throw a hook or body bunch, and also controls your dodge and block. Most opponents show a visual clue before they attack e.g. Pistion Honda raises his eyebrows before throwing a special punch. Your character, Little Mac, can block these attacks but at the expense of losing health and stamina. Dodging the attacks and swiftly countering with a punch of your own is the way to play. If you hit an opponent at the right time, you will gain the ability to use a star uppercut – Little Mac’s special move that deals out substantially more damage and can knock out opponents in a single hit if their stamina is low enough.

Your goal is to rise up the ranks and ultimately win the heavyweight championship. Each stage consists of up to three rounds with you either winning by accumulating a certain amount of points, or by causing a TKO. If you lose the match you are kicked back to the previous rank and three losses mean it’s game over. Naturally, your opponent in the title fight is much harder than the standard opponents. They don’t offer as much hints as to when they are going to attack, and they do a hell of a lot more damage when they connect. Each time you win the respective divisStole my bike!ion’s title, you are given a password to save your progress and start where you left off.

Despite how basic it is, this game oozes charm and character – and that’s what I love about it. The big, bold, 8-bit character sprites have survived the test of time and look great blown up on my 32″ LCD TV. The gameplay has that important “one-more-go” factor. Landing punches on your opponent and ultimately knocking them out with a star uppercut is just so satisfying, and the accompanying sound effect, along with the animation, adds to the games comedy factor. Also, the cameo of Mario as the referee is a nice little touch.

This is the first Punch-Out game I have played, and on the basis of this I will definitely be buying Super Punch-Out as well. I’m also a lot more hyped for the upcoming Wii version which looks better every time I see it, and it seems to have the same endearing qualities that make me enjoy the NES version so much. Punch-Out

To finish this off, for only 500 points you are getting a genuine NES classic, and one of the best NES games I’ve played. Despite how basic it initially seems, learning the opponents move patterns and quickly reacting requires a lot of skill. It ads a degree of depth to the game that will keep you coming back for more.

8/10

MadWorld Review At Peoww April 6, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Peoww, Review, Wii.
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My Madworld review went up yesterday at Peoww. A really good 3D roaming beat ’em up for the Wii, filled with mindless slapstick violence and some of the most stylish and unique visuals you will ever see.

Hundred Word Review – Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad March 31, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Review, Xbox 360.
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Bilge

Fucking terrible. The worst game I’ve purchased this generation, and possibly ever. A simple hack-and-slash game where you play as a skimpy bikini-clad samurai woman, her little sister sporting a skimpy school uniform and some police woman with, you’ve guessed it, a skimpy costume. It’s pretty hard for a game containing zombies to be shit, Dead Rising somehow managed it (bleow!) and so does this. It’s a bloody shambles, zombies pose almost no threat at all and the only enemies that do – the bosses – are terrible. It also controls like absolute shit. It’s absolute shit. Buy it and hate it.

2/10

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. Review At Peoww March 30, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Peoww, Review, Xbox 360.
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Top Gun

My review of Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. is now up at Peoww. A thoroughly enjoyable aerial comat game which takes place in the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter universe, complete with standard Tom Clancy plot. The online co-op in particular is a lot of fun.