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This week we talk about Mario Party balance (the lack of it), E.T’s literal grave, Google buying Twitch, Sonic’s pointless friends, Noby Noby Boy and old videogaming memories. Oh, and Mike talks about Hearthstone, again.
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Back in 2009 Ghostbusters was thrust back into the minds and consoles of gamers across the globe with the not-very-imaginatively titled ‘Ghostbusters: The Video Game’. It reminded people of the charm and wit found in the franchise while garnering a lot of positive reviews. So in 2011 Atari have decided to bring a brand new downloadable Ghostbusters game to the masses and hopefully reap the rewards of the renewed interest in spirit capturing.
Blade Kitten didn’t start out life as a game. It began as a webcomic, written by Steve Stamatiadis, which grew in popularity and soon gathered a cult following. With this kind of status and the increased use of downloadable game distribution, the decision was made to bring this colourful yet deadly character into the hands of players across the globe.
Real Time Strategy games are perhaps the biggest type of format game on the PC. World war 2 is perhaps the most over-used theme for a real time strategy game on the PC. So whenever a new strategy game based on world war 2 is announced, you can expect that the reception will eventually become quite sour. War Front Turning point, is set to challenge that perception. The difference between this and many other World war 2 RTS games; it tries to take an alternate history approach to the game. In War Front Turning point, the Nazis manages to get their super weapons into mass production in time for World war 2, in this way the game explores what would of happened if this was indeed the case.
We recently got a chance to play with the multi-player version of the game. The game has three sides to choose from, the UK and US coalition forces, Soviet forces and the German forces, pretty much typical of a WW2 RTS. However, each side has alongside traditional tanks and weapons of their time, special new age weapons and missiles. This does beg the question as to how different it really is to any other strategy game, new weapons and old ones create a weird contrast,, but only add variety to the gameplay, already in other games not strictly of the WW2 theme.
To fans of the genre, the game mechanics and style of War Front will be both familiar and obviously well polished. You start off by with a building unit and a command base, the basic formula which has existed for RTS games since their creation. From that point you have to build up your perfect base, using standard RTS buildings such as energy creators, factories and research labs. Like most Real time strategy games, it is important to have a well rounded and built base, before you start to churn out your units. The two key resources in the game are supplies (necessary for almost everything, such as constructing units and buildings), which are brought in by trucks and electricity which is powered by the generators.
The demo we played still seemed to have a few bugs to work, you notice when sending large amounts of units that they often get confused and in a tangle, I assume this will be worked out for the final version however, as it is almost essential they get this right in an real time strategy.
The graphics in the game are very sound, not entirely ground breaking, but the textures and animations are well done. I noticed the occasional drop in framerate, but I assume simply that this is because it is a demo, and this will be worked out in the final version. The sound is also pretty solid, which makes the game seem pretty well rounded from the impressions I got of the demo.
When first constructing units you are restricted to basic troops, another very generic feature of an RTS. You start off with very light infantry and tanks, you can use these to explore the map and defend your base until you are able to create and control the big boys. You have to raise your tech level before you can construct better units, this is done through research bases.
It might play as original as it sounds on the tin, but if you are a fan of RTS games and are a little tired of all the generic World War 2 games being released, then this might be one for purchase. The “alternative history”, might not be as alternative as it sounds, but it does add some spice to what looks pretty much like its set to be any other RTS game in existence, although that is not necessarily a bad thing. When all the bugs have been fixed and the game is finally released, it will probably be a fine example of an RTS, with the traditional elements of a WW2 game, mixed in with the explosive fire power, of the 21st century.
The development of the latest game in the Driver series has been surrounded by two inevitable questions. Firstly, could it escape from the enormous GTA shaped shadow that now dominated a genre it helped to create, and secondly, could it possibly be any worse than Driv3r? The answer is a resounding no for both of them.
There’s no doubt that Driver: Parallel Lines has rectified many of the mistakes of it’s predecessor. Everything from the graphics to the handling of the cars is now infinitely better, and it retains one of the only saving graces from before: the incredible-looking cut-scenes. This time around it also has a much better storyline and this is one of the areas it manages to get one over on GTA, from your first meeting with pimp-daddy Slink you’re thrown into a world of crime, corruption and betrayal all set in New York City circa 1978.
This seventies setting means Driver: Parallel Lines has far more style and funk than Driv3r ever had, and it nearly rivals Vice City’s 80s look. There is also a more interesting protagonist this time around; there are only so many times Tanner could play the ‘Undercover Cop’ role after all, so enter stage left: ‘The Kid’ or TK as he’s known to his friends. He’s a pretty skilled driver and comes to New York to meet his old friend Ray, and eventually finds work as a getaway driver for the local gangs.
As you play through the game you’ll become involved with some pretty nasty characters introduced by Slink and after one of the local drug lords is kidnapped and murdered, TK is used as the fall guy and spend the next 28 years behind bars. When he gets out, the game returns to a modern day setting, complete with new cars, weapons and locales, and TK sets out to get revenge on those who framed him for murder. The script, animation and voice acting are all top quality and the high production values means you’ll be gripped to the story far more than in GTA.
So how else does it compare to Rockstar’s game? Driver: PL’s world definitely has less opportunities for sandbox play than GTA; there are less side missions and nothing like the stunt bonuses or Ambulance missions. There’s less freedom to do what you want and the game world is smaller (about double the size of Vice City) which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the city’s design is far more solid and detailed than in GTA, although I’d say Liberty City and the other cities featured in GTA have more character. Graphically, Driver trumps GTA in nearly every way, with more detailed cars, greater draw distances and less of the slow-down and pop-up that detracted from San Andreas. The soundtrack, featuring 70 licensed tracks from 1978 and present day also gives GTA a run for it’s money and has a pretty good set to rival Vice City’s spamtastic selection.
Where Driver falls sort is in the missions and actual gameplay; GTA is far more fun to play and has more variety. There are only so many different ways you can dress up a mission where you drive something from A to B or have to take out a specific target which is a problem that is going to affect this particular genre more and more. Still some of the missions are carried out with such style that you hardly realise you’re doing essentially the same thing over and over. This is particularly noticeable in the game’s tutorial which while well integrated (And thankfully not set in a car park) are virtually the same as all the game’s of this type; memorize the streets and local landmarks, learn how to shoot/follow someone etc. Seeing as everyone already knows how to play these types of games I think it’s about time we were given the option to skip these tutorials and get our teeth into the main game.
Control wise, Driver gets it mostly spot on. The handling for each of the cars is well-tuned and each one feels different enough, while out of the car, TK moves along at a fair pace although he’s not as speedy as CJ or Tommy Vercetti. What is disappointing is the lock-on system; GTA has slowly got better but none of the genres big hitters have yet managed to implement a successful targeting system. It means that, yet again, some of the on foot missions are more frustrating than they need to be and really lets Driver: PL down in it’s final few missions.
So is it better overall than GTA? Not quite, but it is the closest any competitor has managed to come so far and does have better presentation. Does it eradicate the awful Driv3r from our memories? Almost; it is a far better game in every sense and it is genuinely fun to play, but it still fails to fix some of the problems from the original. The AI of enemies and pedestrians is pretty bad and parts of the game world lack character.
Still with the funky 70s and gritty modern settings, Driver is a big enough game to keep you entertained and his has some really good missions towards it’s finale. Whether you enjoy it more than GTA will come down to personal preference but this will provide a lot of fun for those willing to give it a chance.
Musashi: Samurai Legends is one of Square-Enix’s lesser-known franchises. It started off on the PlayStation back in 1998 and now Square-Enix has decided to resurrect the little Musashi fellow and bring him to a whole new setting on the PS2.
The first thing you noticed about Musashi: Samurai Legend is the manga inspired art style. The game has incorporated a cel-shaded anime style and it looks great, even the intro is beautifully animated showing Musashi flashing off his almighty blade skills, lightning speed and girl rescuing powers. Unfortunately for poor Musashi, he seems to lose his speed ability a great deal in gameplay, and this results in a slothful action RPG hero.
The story starts off with a young maiden called Mycella who is performing a ritual to summon a certain hero warrior to come and save her and her people from the evil corporation Gandrake Enterprise. She is captured by the enterprise while performing the ritual and is taken away to their head quarters. Unknowingly for her the legendary hero Musashi has just landed in a forest and is being trained up by Japanese master Mew the cat, and so the game starts.
Musashi is a very combat heavy game, you’ll be slashing down foes that look the same through the game, they do come in varieties but there isn’t much of that so basically the enemies are pretty repetitive. As you would expect in a game of this type, they are bosses and although pretty easy they do change the way you fight and gives the users something to think about rather than just thrashing a button to kill off a crook.
The actually combat system is pretty simple; most of the time is spent hammering the square button to use your katana to attack the enemies. Musashi also has a secondary weapon, which is classed as the heavy weapon, these are usually one of the five legendary swords you pick up throughout the game, these swords let you use the element magic ability that the sword is assigned to. The users also have the ability to jump, defend and use special attacks in battle, but they are all pretty simple. The only thing that is the tiniest bit complex is the replicate move to learn enemies’ abilities. To pull this off you have to lock onto the enemy and let your focus bar charge up, once it’s charged you then have to wait till the opponent attacks and then press square at the right time, do this precise and you duplicate the move. It’s an interesting feature but it just wasn’t worked on enough, you’ll only use some of the moves, as most of them are just not needed at all.
Fighting just isn’t that fun, mainly due to the slow paced Musashi. He plods along as if he was secretly a 60-year-old warrior who was in need of retirement. Ok so it might not be that bad, but he does seem to move as if he was in quicksand and can be frustrating when you are backtracking. Another problem arises if you tap the square button too much to attack with the katana, he will keep attacking until he finishes his combo movement, the only way to stop this is to press guard, there is no cancel command of the sort so you often find yourself slashing air for the ‘fun’ of it.
To try and make the game less repetitive Square-Enix decided to add some vehicle sections to the game, they kind of act like mini games (Something like the bike section in Final Fantasy VII). Musashi will get to ride a motorbike or a hover car in these sections and while it has potential to be fun it just isn’t. Just like the rest of the game, the sections are really easy. The enemies basically just sit there and wait for you to slap them with your weapon; it just doesn’t add any challenge or excitement.
As you would expect in many Action RPG games, there is a main city. In Musashi your hub to the levels is a city called Antheum. When you first arrive the city is fairly bare, it’s only when you rescue the towns folk throughout the game that shops and other useful things become accessible to the player. There are blacksmiths to sharpen your weapons, arenas to fight beasts and win items and shops to buy health potions and so on.
As it was mentioned earlier the game uses cel shading for its graphics, although Square-Enix have decided to name this effect for Musashi “Manga Shading.” It’s still basically the same, it’s just the lines around the characters are really thick and black. The game looks beautiful and rich and the animations are done fine. The game does suffer from a fair amount of slowdown though; it’s easily noticeable while playing through large areas in the game. I came to the conclusion that the actual speed and action of the game was reduced so that the frame rate wouldn’t suffer as much in high intensity battles, if you can ever find any of them…
Square-Enix is usually darn good at selecting voice-overs for characters, but if this was the first game you ever played by them, then you would be laughing at how appalling it is. It’s mainly due to the fact that the people just can’t seem to deliver the context in the right way, mostly sounding monotonous at the same time. The music is on the better side and does include some pleasant tunes that you can hum along to, but will most likely forget once you’ve finished playing.
Players will probably finish the game in around 11-14 hours. Once beaten you unlock the hard mode to play through, but everything the game has to offer has already been seen and there really isn’t much to bring you back unless you really want to finish the game on hard, but for most people that will be a challenge in itself, not because it’s hard, but mainly because it will cast a sleep spell on you.
Musashi: Samurai Legend is a game that I felt was rushed out. It looks the look but just doesn’t play the play. The graphics approach is great but once you are over the style you just find that there isn’t much to the game. It’s a shallow experience that is simple to play through and really only for die-hard Square-Enix fans or people who need to have a play of a light hearted Action- RPG. If you must play it then the game is rental at the most.
The phrase ‘Interactive Movie’ has been around since the Saturn days; any thoughts of trash like Death Trap and its ilk, though, are likely to cause vomiting. So far no game has ever managed to live up to the tag, either offering below par story-telling or their ‘interactivity’ merely pointing to a few nicely rendered background objects that have descriptions like: ‘A lovely lamp’ or ‘The candle burns brightly’. But now gaming is entering another leap in technology, hopefully bringing with it more sophisticated software, and the chances of us getting a game that matches interesting narrative with immersive gameplay are multiplied. But forget that idea; forget the incoming new technologies for a moment. The future is here; the future is Fahrenheit.
Let’s get this straight right from the beginning: Fahrenheit is the first example of next-gen gaming. I’m not talking in technical terms, although the graphics are top-notch, but the whole narrative, presentation and themes contained in the game are far and above what we’ve had before. Developer Quantic dreams have certainly done themselves proud throughout. Even the tutorial mode is a break from the norm, giving you a room to try out and practise the controls, all the while given prompts by the game’s creator David Cage who makes a cameo appearance in-game. It’s a good start to a very good game.
And as soon as you start the game proper things get better and better. The opening scene shows the main character Lucas Kane, seemingly in a trance, savagely murdering another man in a Diners toilet. It’s presented using many cinematic techniques including a multi-perspective view of the action, popularised recently in TV series 24. As Lucas comes to you gain control of him and are presented with the first major dilemma, what do you do with the body? There are many different ways of completing this scenario; I have found at least seven. I won’t give away anything at this early stage but bear in mind that your choices now will greatly affect the story and gameplay later on.
Remember the 24 style visual used to tell the intro? Well it’s not just used for story-telling – the danger facing Lucas in the diner is made even tenser when the game plays its first split perspective trick on you. As if it wasn’t bad enough for him, Kane is about to be joined in the toilet by one of New York City ‘s finest doughnut gobbling cops who finds the grisly scene rather strange. If you didn’t leave in time this could be a very short game but if you leave in too much of a hurry you could bring some unwanted attention to yourself. Either way, this is a pretty bizarre crime-scene that requires the work of two NYPD officers; enter stage left: Carla Valenti and her partner, the funktastic Tyler Miles.
These are two more of the four characters you will play as during the game and it’s the relationship between the detectives and Lucas that provides the most interesting story and game elements. For instance, when you first get to control Carla and Miles at the Diner you need to hunt around for clues, interview witnesses and generally attempt to piece together as much evidence as possible. Anything you find could affect whether or not Lucas is named as the main suspect and send him to jail before he can work out what has happened.
Think you can skip the investigating and give Kane an easy life? Well, no, actually, you see each character has a mood bar. Kane has a sanity meter that indicates whether he is feeling calm or in danger of going insane; Carla is looking for job satisfaction so if she doesn’t feel like she’s making a difference in the case she could resign. Carrying out different actions (even simply washing Lucas’s hands at the Diner) can affect their sanity and you can get some pretty devastating or uplifting news from most conversations. It’s not just a gimmick either; how the characters are feeling change actions or conversation choices available to you. It’s this balancing act that makes Fahrenheit so interesting and there are many instances where you’ll regret certain actions as they can really affect the other characters. Seeing the same story from a different perspective really adds a depth to the narrative that Hollywood itself would be proud of.
But what good is a great story if the game plays like a dog? Well it’s kind of hard to stick Fahrenheit into any one genre; the opening chapter plays like an old-fashioned adventure game like Monkey Island , but there are moments that feel like Silent Hill and the QTEs (Quick-time events) throw up all manner of diverse challenges. It seems to straddle genres with ease. You may expect such a game to have horrendously difficult controls but thankfully the interface system here is just as fresh and innovative as the yarn being spun before you. Movement is assigned to the left analogue stick, while commands (visible at the top of the screen) are performed by pressing the right stick in the desired direction. It may take a little while to get used to but it is certainly intuitive once you grasp it.
The same can be said of the game’s QTE moments. While they are very similar to those in Shenmue and Resident Evil 4 there is certainly more variety present here, with some pretty intense challenges later on. They come in two forms: physical and mental. The first represents moments when the characters must perform a physical challenge like swimming or using gym equipment and are a simple case of tapping the L and R buttons alternatively. The mental challenges are a bit more cerebral and quite challenging, helping your character through a hallucination or, in the case of the detectives, giving insight into other person’s thoughts. When these happen two circles appear in the centre of the screen, representing the analogue sticks, in what is a more complicated version of Simon says; if say, the top of each circle is lit up you have to press the sticks up. Be ready for some tired thumbs as some of them can be pretty long.
So is Fahrenheit a game without flaws? Not really, but most of them are a result of current technology not being able to match the developers vision. There are times when the story would have been so much more compelling if it had the extra oomph of next-gen power behind it, particularly with the character models and voice-synching. The only common technical fault is with the camera, which can get stuck in all sorts of place in some of the smaller locations. Elsewhere, the stealth-filled flashback sequences (featuring the fourth playable character, Lucas’ brother Marcus Kane) are well implemented but do seem a little out of place next to the rest of the game. Finally some of the character situations seem a little, ahem, stretched towards the end (you’ll see what I mean when you get to there). As you’d expect there are multiple endings but it’s a shame the game doesn’t last longer, it still clocks in at a respectable 12 hours though and you’ll no doubt want to play through it a few times.
It’s hard not to go on and on about this game. The best way to understand its quality is to go out and buy it, this is certainly a title that deserves all the success it gets and is a great way to show the greater media that this industry isn’t full of guns, death and Hot Coffee.