The original Prototype was a game that found itself a victim of bad timing. Released within a few weeks of the popular and critically acclaimed Infamous back in 2009, both gave players the opportunity to experiment with superpowers in an open world setting. Unfortunately Prototype didn’t quite win the hearts of gamers, but now developers Radical Entertainment are back to show what their franchise is capable of.
Call of Duty is the perfect example of a modern day success story, rising from relative obscurity to become the most popular game series of all time. From its roots in the World War II era to its contemporary ultra-modern, bleeding edge design, the franchise has thrilled and excited millions of gamers for the best part of a decade.
In celebration of the recent release of Modern Warfare 2’s Stimulus map pack, we here at Gamebrit thought it was time we charted the meteoric rise of the franchise. Shall we begin?
Call of Duty
While not the first shooter setting itself in the harsh battlefields of the Second World War, the original Call of Duty, developed by Infinity Ward and released in 2003 did do a number of things differently from its contemporaries. Unlike Medal of Honor and Wolfenstein before, the first instalment of the series saw the player fighting alongside different numbers of allies over the course of its missions, from small squadrons of British soldiers to entire regiments of Soviet tanks. The end result instantly felt more realistic than the usual one American soldier singlehandedly ending the war, making the action more grounded and the player feeling more connected to the action as a result. The fact that its gameplay was tight and responsive as well meant it garnered high review scores, something the franchise still does today.
The title also pioneered the use of the ‘shellshock’ system, where if the player is in close proximity to an explosion, they’ll become disoriented due to a combination of simulated tinnitus, muffling of audio, blurred vision, slower movement and drainage of colour. It was an effective way of telling players when they needed to get to cover and has stuck with the series ever since. It was also the first title to feature Captain Price, a name that anyone who has played one of the Infinity Ward titles will recognise.
Call of Duty 2
Released in October of 2005, Call of Duty 2 returned to the battlegrounds of the Second World War, making the player fight behind enemy lines as a Soviet, an American and two Brits. The satisfying shooting action was retained, only this time placed in campaigns that may have been unfamiliar to many gamers, such far flung El Alamein in the scorching African desert, the freezing cold Russian capital of Stalingrad, and the harrowing D-Day landings of Normandy. Captain Price also popped up, making evident the battle-hardened character’s experience of war.
Once again receiving rave reviews, the second instalment set the trend for the series to be highly received both critically and commercially. It was also the first title to be released on consoles, opening the franchise up to a whole new demographic, with the multiplayer facility being hugely popular on both Xbox 360 and PC. It was the release of this title that foreshadowed the success and popularity the series would eventually experience.
Call of Duty 3
The first of the series to be developed by Treyarch as opposed to Infinity Ward, Call of Duty 3 was once again focused on the deadliest conflict in human history, following the campaigns of American, British, Canadian and Polish forces. The majority of the story was told from the usual first-person perspective, but the Polish offensive broke convention by giving you third-person control of a tank capable of serious amounts of devastation. While different, these section were little ropey and by far the worst elements of the game.
While the fundamental gameplay still held up, Call of Duty 3 arrived amidst a glut of WWII-based shooters in what had become a tired and stale genre. While it looked nice and played well, its story was lacklustre and the multiplayer was something to be desired, marking the first time that Treyarch’s efforts have been eclipsed by Infinity Ward. Either way, they needed to pull something seriously special out of their hat to rejuvenate the flagging series…
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
…Which is exactly what Infinity Ward delivered with their next creation. Smartly updating the series to the modern day, everything that made the series brilliant (the gameplay, the story and, of course, the weapons) was revamped and revitalised and all the better for it. In the previous games, everyone knew that, no matter who died and who survived, the Allies would always reign triumphant. The new timeline and modern setting meant that Infinity Ward were no longer restricted in their storytelling, allowing them to come up with any scenario they wanted, with the eventual victor never being clear.
Putting the player in the shoes of ‘Soap’ MacTavish from the S.A.S. (alongside a seemingly immortal Captain Price) and Sergeant Paul Jackson of the United States Marine Corps, Infinity Ward weaved a story filled with intrique, suspense and some genuinely shocking moments. Alongside the new story came brand new weaponry, a slew of new equipment and a completely revamped multiplayer. Gamers were no longer constrained to restrictive ‘class’ specifications: they could use whatever selection of weapons they wanted to (assuming they’d unlocked them, that is). Add to this an experience system that made unlocks tantalisingly near, but never frustratingly far away, along with perks that radically changed each unique loadout, and it’s not surprising that COD 4’s multiplayer elements has appeared perennially in most played 360 titles lists the world over since its release.
Call of Duty: World at War
In what seemed like a bizarre move considering the success of its predecessor, Treyarch decided to return to the setting of World War II for its next title, World at War. This time, the action followed a group of gruff American G.I.s and two Soviets bent on avenging their butchered comrades, taking place in the Pacific theatre of war and once again in Stalingrad.
Despite the new locales and voice acting from Keifer ‘Jack Bauer’ Sutherland and a heavily-disguised Gary Oldman, not a lot here was new. In fact, World at War felt like what 4 would have been if it had remained in its 20th century roots, with even the multiplayer borrowing its structure from its forerunner (although it did add some unbalanced maps of its own). While not necessarily a bad thing, the ineffective storytelling and long slog involved in ranking up online didn’t work in its favour. Not even deadly new weapons (including the all-devouring flamethrower), an unfamiliar foe and gratuitous deaths could justify keeping the game in its original time period for another instalment.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
For some, the wait for Modern Warfare 2, the most eagerly anticipated videogame of all time, was practically unbearable and possibly even agonising, but the game generated a massive storm of controversy before it was even released. The announcement that there would be no party chat function in online games or no online servers for PC gamers, as well as that airport mission, lead to a huge fracas over whether it should even be released or not.
But released it was, becoming the fastest- and biggest-selling videogame of all time. The wait was worth it, with everything from the first game returning but much bigger and much better. The single player offering is a thrilling, hi-octane fuel ride from start to finish, punctuated by some truly memorable plot twists-and-turns (although the inclusion and worthiness of the ‘No Russian’ mission can still be debated), while the multiplayer stuck to the same template adding more weapons, bigger levels and better killstreak awards. Add to that the co-operative Special Operations and you’ve got a title with one hell of a lot of longevity. Infinity Ward and Activision’s recent treatment of their loyal fans has been questionable, but you can’t deny them the fact they know how to make a damn good game.
In fact, we’re off for a game or two now. See you online!
The rhythm game genre has been, since its inception, very popular with all audiences for each of the home consoles. They provide an exciting way to enjoy music and a party incentive with an array of instruments. The success of the games is largely due to the combination with music and enjoying playing in a band with your friends. With this in mind the thought of Rock Band: Unplugged for the PSP, a portable system, would seem unnecessary and as the title suggests there are no attachments to the device. This portable Rock Band appears as usual to any of the Rock Band games for the consoles. However, as is explained in a helpful training mode, there are notable differences to gameplay.
Among the adaptations is the the ability to move through the instruments of the band. Included are all of the familiar band pieces, including Singer, Drummer, Bassist and Guitarist, displayed as a flowing note board. The trigger buttons are used to shift from one instrument to another, and to ensure that notes are not missed due to absence, a ‘phrase’ system has been applied. Phrases allow for an instrument to be played while attention is placed on others, although for short periods of time, as long as a small section of the song is completed on the instrument. Failure of a song comes swiftly, however, if the phrase is missed and other instruments become active as you struggle to complete another phrase. This is a very effective way of including all of the instruments popular in the Rock Band franchise whilst adding a new challenge. Star power is also adapted to help those failing and boost high scores. As only one instrument can be played at a time the white coloured energy notes appear on all tracks, ensuring that the option is there. Solo sections of certain songs also appear where a single track is enlarged on the screen for concentration on a single track of notes. Button compilation is set as standard across the left and top directional pad buttons with triangle and circle. Struggle to adapt to the style of play is natural, fortunately the button mapping is fully customisable.
There are a selection of game modes such as Tour mode where you take a personally created band and march them through different cities, playing songs or setlists in each. The customisation of the band is good with name selection, band logo, member names, attitudes and their bodies. A selection of hometowns is also available to choose, this determines where you start on the ‘world map’ and move from city to city. The stage and band members make the background to each song, eventhough not much attention is placed on them whilst playing. The overall presentation of the game is excellent for the portable system, with clear and concise menus.
As you build up stars and fans you can unlock staff members to give bonuses when songs are completed and transport to gain access to new cities. Opportunities such as performing the next gig as a benefit show, gaining double the amount of fans but no money, appear from time to time and add variation to the tour mode. Without this deviation tour mode would seem monotonous, playing song after song, and including it adds to the longevity. Quickplay is available for those not interested in a career mode and want to play through the songs that appeal to them. The ability to unlock all songs from the options menu is a good feature for this purpose. If there is a particular song that is good to play with one instrument Warmup Mode is available to run through. Band Survival Mode adds a new challenge as phrases are not set and instruments remain unplayed if left alone, often requiring a more tactical approach especially on the trickier songs. Other modifications that can be made to the game include the ability never to fail in a song and to exclude the solo sections from songs.
The music store allows for purchase of a number of new tracks from the Playstation Store on the PSP. The amount of songs available is meagre but it is available when more is added. The 41 songs on the UMD is enough to keep an interest in the game, despite a little repetition in tour mode. The mixture of different styles of tracks also adds to the approachability, with a mix of soft and heavy music. Rock Band: Unplugged excellently combines a music rhythm game with in a portable device and should entertain fans of the console version and commuters looking for an engaging game.
Another year and it’s Treyarch’s turn to tackle the Call Of Duty series once again, and after Infinity Wards dabble last year in the future with ‘Modern Warfare’ the series returns to it’s World War II roots. Thankfully it’s clear from the offset that ‘World At War’ is an undoubtedly superior endeavor than that of Treyarch’s past efforts, taking various favorable elements from ‘Modern Warfare’ and implementing them into the older time period.
The campaign spans a healthy 13 missions which are split up in Japanese and German locations. If your not playing in the Japanese Pacific theater as part of the American Marines, you will find yourself battling in the Eastern front as a Red Army Russian soldier. Both settings offer plenty of historic battles, such as the Battle Of Berlin and the Makin Island raid, to name but a few; all of which took place in the closing years of World War II and offer a strong assortment of first-person shooter action. The action is split up between the two locales in no particular order, so you will go from playing one perspective to another from level to level.
Throughout the game, the conflicts in which the player will find themselves in are full of energy and action, and although these typical scenarios may not come across as at all surprising, they offer a fun and diverse experience overall. The additions of the flamethrower is welcomed, as is superb voice acting from both Gary Oldman of ‘The Dark Knight’ fame and Keifer Sutherland of ’24’. These exciting additions as well as the option to play the campaign cooperatively with three friends over Xbox Live ensure that ‘World At War’ is a game with plenty to offer. The offerings continue with a scoring mode available which sees you and your friends racing to get the kills first for precious points. Unfortunately this option filled campaign mode is hampered only by the fact that after each level (if playing with friends), the game returns you to the lobby, rather than allowing for a solid play through.
If you enjoyed the multiplayer offered in ‘Modern Warfare’ then ‘World At War’ provides an alternative and interesting take on it. The radar is a recon plane, and where you may usually call in a helicopter, instead you call in a vicious pack of dogs to take down your enemies, which admittedly is somewhat worryingly amusing. In addition to these variations, the majority of the multiplayer works in a very similar fashion to the previous game, offering levels of player customisation, player perks, and the chance to earn experience points as you play. The largest new addition to the multiplayer is the inclusion of tanks, and while only available on some of the larger somewhat duller maps, they allow one player to drive, while another mans a machine gun, adding an element of further cooperative play into the mix.
With plenty of variety on offer, an engaging yet familiar campaign, and plenty of options for multiplayer play, including an unlockable ‘zombie’ mode, ‘World at War’ has a great deal to put forward, all of which makes for an impressive and enjoyable package. Yet despite being a surprisingly refreshing take on the tired World War II setting ‘World At War’ is in a clear shadow of last’s years entry in to the series, which is in some ways is unfortunate, as this year’s effort is a wholly accomplished title.
Activision grabbed the rights to the James Bond franchise back in 2006, and the latest addition to the Bond video game series, ‘Quantum Of Solace’ is the first from the studio since their acquisition. Yet despite what the box art may convey at first glance, Quantum Of Solace is in fact a game of two halves, and ironically enough the greater half is made up of gameplay from the previous Bond film, Casino Royale.
An obvious route to take this title would be to portray the story as per the cinema releases (in order), but Treyarch has attempted a different approach. Upon playing the first few chapters of the new film, a stray flashback occurs, and you then find yourself playing out Craig’s first Bond effort from the start. Fast forward, and subsequent to playing through Casino Royale (minus the card games) you find yourself back playing Quantum for all of one more mission. While this mix may please some die hard Bond fans, especially due to the lack of a Casino Royale game, the flashback approach feels forced and shoehorned in, adding little to the progression of the games loosely portrayed telling of the films stories. Some levels are shorter than others, while further levels offer more demanding gameplay, but overall the game has enough to keep any gamer busy for around an average of 8 hours, depending on the difficulty level.
Beyond the method in which the levels have been delivered, Quantum Of Solace provides typical first-person shooter mechanics, borrowed from the Call Of Duty 4 engine, which supports the gameplay suitably. A cover system, more than satisfying aiming, and takedowns all make for a fairly fulfilling experience which is negligibly more jeering than the average shooter. In essence the incorporation of the Call Of Duty 4 engine aids to this game fittingly. Besides these adopted elements, the game also has several untypical sequences, be it taking out security cameras, balancing as you traverse across a narrow beam, or stealthily making your way across the outside edge of a building. It’s these fragments of the game which break up the average experience and offer a short slice of variety.
In addition to the single player experience on offer, a multiplayer mode is available, and although it offers a wide selection of options, from standard choices, to a number of Bond like game modes, such as “Bond Evasion” and “Golden Gun”, all of it yet again seems borrowed from other sources. Like Call Of Duty 4, multiplayer has a system in place in which weapon upgrades can be earned and certain perks applied to your lifeless multiplayer being, a welcome addition to a multiplayer far from exciting, despite it’s variety. Another somewhat odd factor of the multiplayer portion is the characters animations, you and your enemies all move in a stiff rigid manner, which at first was a large distraction in a world of fluidity.
Overall Activision’s first attempt is generally an average affair, the game doesn’t look overly attractive, the single player, in parts, will please Bond fans no end, but the average gamer wont garner anything new from the experience. A soulless James Bond is portrayed in a somewhat passable title.
Guitar Hero is a franchise where it’s nearly impossible to look at the game without comparing it to its younger, hipper cousin that it really wishes wasn’t part of the family: Rock Band. However this review will attempt to minimise any comparison made between the two action/music-rhythm games until a feature coming later this year will pick a winner for your valuable pennies this Christmas. And valuable indeed, with the full instrument pack weighing in at £150, Santa may need some FedEx assistance this year for gamers. The instrument pack features the game (EA: Take note), a USB microphone, wireless guitar and wireless drums, which you’ll really need to get the full Guitar Hero: World Tour experience.
The inclusion of drums in Guitar Hero is without doubt the biggest new feature of this year’s game and with improved quality promised over its competitors the results have been… disappointing. The look and feel of the drum kit is excellent: 2 raised cymbals and 3 large pads have helped fill the gap between fun and realism. However the foot pedal has nothing to attach itself to and can be easily moved into awkward positions during songs. But the biggest let down with drumming? Star Power, which is activated by hitting both cymbals simultaneously. While this may sound relatively straightforward, hitting both symbols in unison without missing the previous and following notes of a fast chart is unnecessarily challenging. In addition to this, our drum kit didn’t recognise several attempts of activating star power, not only keeping our score down for longer than expected, but also killing our combo multiplier, making it near-impossible to activate star power during extremely fast drumming portions – when we needed it most.
Playing guitar in GH:WT is truly where the game excels, thanks to its bigger, yet quieter guitar. Improvements to this year’s model include a touch-sensitive pad, a palm sized button for activating star power and the Xbox Guide/PS Home button being combined with the analogue stick to provide a cleaner, more realistic looking guitar. The touch sensitive pad is great for insane solos, however the frets are smaller and it’s easy to disorientate yourself as there’s no indent on the middle fret, forcing you to constantly look down to check your finger placement. Minor nag aside, this is the best Guitar Hero guitar ever manufactured as the strumming is quieter than ever, with a sense of strumming feedback still in place. The guitar note charts are easier to play than Guitar Hero 3, thankfully, although some sections are flat out impossible to play without the touch pad, meaning a purchase of at least the guitar edition is essential for guitar enthusiasts. Not all note charts are entirely accurate either, almost as if Neversoft are attempting to make songs more difficult than they are on real guitar.
So far, not bad: The drumming experience can be frustrating but is made up for with an excellent guitar build. Singing in Guitar Hero was hardly going to be a deal breaker for the majority of fans, but an important factor nonetheless. Unfortunately, vocals are a disappointment thanks to inaccurate pitch charting and a lack of feedback to the singer on how well he/she is performing. But still, when singing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”, will you really be that bothered?
In order to maximise the fun out of Guitar Hero, you’ll want to play the full experience with a singer, a drummer and a lead and bass guitarist. Simply put, this is the greatest Guitar Hero multiplayer experience if you have similarly skilled players in your band. Sadly, there are two minor niggles that completely destroy the party element of the game, especially for plastic peripheral noobies. The first problem is a pretty serious flaw: If someone fails their part of the song on any instrument, the whole band goes down with them; there’s absolutely no way to save a failed band member. Secondly, it’s next to impossible to tell if a band member is performing poorly as the only way to tell is by looking at said persons section of the screen, something incredibly difficult to pull off on higher difficulty levels. Better hope your band members have high communication.
It must be said that there are several positives with the game’s presentation and design, such as the ability to create setlists to play in solo or band quickplay modes, making for a better flowing experience. Also, character creation in GH:WT is surprisingly detailed, with customised possibilities for almost everything from instruments and band logos down to individual tattoo’s for created rockers.
Another new feature in Guitar Hero: World Tour is the Music Studio, which lets players create their own tracks using a controller or compatible guitar or drum kit. While the concept is fantastic, the majority of gamers will be put off by either the complexity, poor audio (read: MIDI) quality of the programme or the complete lack of vocals support. Fortunately there are some gems out there on GHTunes (The free in-game service to upload and download songs made in Music Studio) but with a 3 minute/1200 note limit on songs, don’t be expecting the next Arctic Monkeys to be producing songs on Guitar Hero.
Speaking of music, the game comes with the most on-disk songs ever shipped for a Guitar Hero game, 86 to be precise, and features the most diverse range of artists ever seen on a music video game. Michael Jackson, Metallica, Coldplay, Muse, Sting, Willie Nelson and Lenny Kravitz are some of the artists you should expect to play in the game. At the end of the day the soundtrack won’t please everyone, and there are a fair few duffers to play on each instrument, but the promise of continuous DLC should help gamers tailor their soundtrack to their needs over time.
Overall, one word to sum up Guitar Hero: World Tour would be disappointment. An impressive setlist and decent instruments prevent this game from bombing due to its linear career mode, multiplayer disappointments and lackluster song creation options. This should have been an awesome party game that anyone can pick up and play, but simple design flaws have prevented newcomers to be left frustrated and denied the one thing this game should be all about: Fun.
Geometry Wars 2 is a perfect sequel. It’s a bold statement to make, but it’s true.
When the game was announced scant weeks short of its release on to Xbox Live, speculation was rife about just how developer Bizarre Creations intended to develop their pet shooter and, more specifically, how those changes were going to warrant a price tag that doubled the cost of the original.
The answer lies in a meaty fleshing out of a core concept that, while accomplished and entertaining, was somewhat basic.
Silence, it fills the room. You are on your own, one man against untold forces of twisted alien foes. A team has already been sent out to try and assess the scene and to try and contain the horrors that lie inside, but to no avail. As you weave your way through the compound, picking up peoples PDA disks, accessing their data and realising that what you are facing is, at the very least, insurmountable odds it begins to dawn on you. Glancing at your shotgun you see you have 4 shells. The pistol has rendered itself useless against your enemies, your machine gun eats ammo like there’s no tomorrow, and you only have one clip. Welcome to Doom 3.
Fans of previous incarnations of the Doom franchise will already be familiar with the set up. A mining corporation (UAC) is having trouble in its Mars base, and it’s up to you to enter the ‘fragfest’ clean the place up and stay alive. Story wise, that’s it, but then again Doom has never been one for storylines. At least this time there is a little FMV that sets the scene for newcomers and veterans alike before sending you into the hellhole that is the mining complex.
And what a hellhole it is. The lighting is spot on firstly, with little or no lights for most of the game. The occasional flicker of a cable hanging from the roof is sometimes the only guide and the sparks can frighten the on-edge gamer. The flashlight becomes the gamers best friend, casting light into dark areas, taking away the sheer scariness of some areas, unless there happens to be an Imp in that little nook you shine your light.
Enemy wise, a couple have had facelifts from Doom 1 all those years ago. Zombies are the first beings that need to be taken care of, a few bullets from your pistol or a shotgun blast to the face will dispatch them. The old favourite, the Imp, has been recast as a huge snarling brown ball of hatred, hurling fireballs at you as you try in vain to put it down. These are the standard enemy, but this does not mean that they are easy to kill; they will still take a bit of a pounding from weapons such as the shock rifle later on meaning they can potentially be devastating. From there on, the enemies take an interesting turn for the worse as weird mutated freaks become the norm, though some of them are weaker than Imps.
Enemies such as Lost Souls that (skulls that float around in the air) swoop and attack you are weak enemies, but they are so fast it is difficult to get a decent aim on them. When there are about 5 in a room, they can become the most difficult enemy in the game. To say anymore would ruin the surprise of what’s in store for you, but the bosses in this game have to be the brainchild of some mental hospital patient, they really are that messed up!
No matter how beat up you may get, health is scattered around the levels as well as armour shards. You just have to look for it. Narrow passageways look like they have nothing in them until you shine your torch into them, and see some precious health and a couple of clips that could just keep you going to the next medical station. These medical stations are a new addition to the Doom franchise, and are wall mounted screens which administer health to you every time you click on one in increments of 10, with a maximum of 100 available. Sometimes they can be linked, so say if you took 50 off one earlier on, the one you meet next may only have 50 available to tender to your wounds rather than 100. This forces you to try and be economical with the health you are provided.
There is also more interaction from the gamer in his/her surroundings. Lots of operations are present, such as depressurizing certain areas to call lifts are all done by wall mounted screens, which react to your clicking. It makes you feel that you are having an impact on your environment and helps erode slightly the linearity in the game.
Graphically speaking this game is gorgeous. When you see the minimum specs required to play, your jaw will drop, this game needs a very good PC. The game needs these specs, if you barely scrape the minimum it is strongly recommended to upgrade to really appreciate ‘id’s wonderful creation. Even so, the game on low quality still looks good and when you’re running backwards out of a room while being chased by assorted enemies, you couldn’t really care about how good the graphics are, as long as your ass is safe. Each spark of a light, each fireball, each gun and each room have been lovingly crafted; they really do add to the atmosphere of the game and aren’t add on’s, which are there merely to fill space, or to pad the game out.
I played this game on standard speakers, and I can tell you that the sounds recreated were good. However, 5.1 owners are really going to hear the difference while playing the game, and they are guaranteed to get a couple of frights on their way to completion. Even events that are beneficial such as picking up armour have unnecessarily loud noises just to keep you on your toes. Doors opening, guns reloading and the murmuring of enemies have all been done very well, and coupled with the low lighting succeed in keeping you in fear of what might be lurking round the next corner.
There are some annoyances however. Sometimes you will be attacked and you will not be able to see where it is coming from, as it will not be in front of you, as you might well expect. No sometimes it comes from behind you, i.e. from rooms you have just explored which contained no monsters while you in there. Although it may have been designed to make you feel nowhere is safe, it can lead to annoying deaths and a slight sense of frustration that enemies seem to appear from anywhere. Another issue is the longevity of the game, which is slightly on the short side. Hardcore gamers will get through it rather easily, but if you are the sort of gamer who likes to play in short bursts than this will definitely last a substantial amount of time.
Doom 3 takes the Doom franchise to a whole new level. This is a game not to be missed, and it sets the benchmark for Half Life 2.