Some games want to see you lay waste to the world around you while others focus on building it up. Blockstorm attempts to blur the lines between the two, combining a first person shooter with Minecraft-style creation.
Currently in early access via Steam, Blockstorm from Ghostshark Games aims to offer more than your average FPS primarily with its suite of customisation tools and unpredictable multiplayer action. At its core Blockstorm is a somewhat basic shooter, allowing players to select a loadout and take on others in frantic combat. It’s not the twitch speed that Call of Duty players are used to, but sits more akin to the Battlefield franchise with slight weight to the weapons.
From a technical standpoint Sony’s PlayStation Vita is a very capable machine, yet sadly the handheld is still lacking in quality standout games. This issue is especially true when it comes to first person shooters (FPS) — both the Resistance and Call of Duty franchises failed to make use of the Vita’s two analog sticks, typically perfect for the genre. Could Killzone: Mercenary be the Vita’s first great FPS?
That’s what developers Guerrilla Cambridge are hoping to achieve, bringing some much needed FPS fun into the Vita library with their take on the Killzone universe.
Gamebrit took the closed multiplayer beta for a spin to see whether this is the shooter that Vita owners have been waiting for.
Far Cry 3 is the story of Jason Brody, a thrill seeking rich kid, who parachutes with his friends into the unknown Rook Islands. While this adventure may have seemed like a good idea, the tides quickly turn as the group are split up with Jason and his brother captured by the maniacal pirate Vaas.
Vaas’ aim is to ransom the brothers for an extortionate amount, however the pair attempt to escape which cleverly forms the games tutorial section. Without spoiling all too much things don’t go to plan. Jason is rescued from the brink of death by local tribe the Rakyat who give him the tools to get his friends back.
This is easily one of the best narrative journeys in recent memory, helped by a superb cast, with Michael Mando being a particular stand-out with his performance as main antagonist Vaas. There are plenty of twists and turns, notably the distinctive strong use of drugs which lead to highly visual and mind-bending sequences, similar to the Scarecrow sections of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Back in 2009 Killzone 2 arrived on the PlayStation 3 to rave reviews and offered up a different type of First Person Shooter (FPS) experience to that offered in the reigning king of FPS – the Call of Duty series. Focusing more on an uphill struggle on a futuristic alien planet, superb gritty visuals and an intense class based multiplayer. This gained a huge following and a sequel was almost inevitable. So have they managed to build on their superb foundations or will they succumb to the usual FPS trend of barely improving the formula?
Blacklight: Tango Down has finally arrived on the PlayStation Network after being available on both the PC and Xbox 360 since July. The game aims to offer up a focused and inexpensive futuristic first person shooter (FPS) experience without the usual hefty retail price tag. So, is it a bargain at £9.99 or does it cut too many corners in the process?
The Medal of Honor series started way back in 1999 on the PlayStation and blew gamers away with its graphics, gameplay and intense portrayal of action during World War II. A number of successful sequels followed, but it wasn’t long before the war setting lost its appeal. Plus with the first title of current generation consoles, Medal of Honor: Airborne — released the same year as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare — the series was quickly eclipsed. However this year Danger Close and DICE are determined to bring it back to life with a bang.
Blacklight Tango Down is a game that reads excellent on paper. A First Person Shooter, downloadable, with unlockables, co-op and a wealth of maps and game types to die for. But not every game that looks good on paper is the same in reality.
As previously mentioned, there is a good amount of content in the game for the money. Blacklight Tango Down takes place in a futuristic Eastern-European setting among 12 metropolitan maps. Although it never really plays into the game, the two factions that make the teams have some backstory. Blacklight is a “covert ops unit” that is pro-US, and they are provided with the latest technology to fight The Order, a rebel group comprised of anti-US, ex-special forces and militia.
The technology of this future warfare is based upon the advantages and weakness of a Hyper Reality Visor of which each soldier on both sides is equipped, and acts as the HUD for the player during the game. Objects such as health and ammo stockpiles, enemy players, turrets, and grenades are pointed out in this view, adding to smooth controls to complete a slick, fast paced style. Cleverly, grenades are specialised for combating the effects of the HUD; instead of flashes or smoke, there are EMP and Digi grenades that malfunction the helmet, outputting a blue screen full of script blocking vision and a pixelated cloud hiding enemy movement. This adds a spin on tactical elements that can’t be found in other titles of the same genre.
Other weapons include pistols, SMGs, assault and sniper rifles which can be unlocked and upgraded with progression in the game’s 70 level rank system. Experience can be gained in any of the games’ features, adding to a single profile. Black Ops is the co-operative game mode, whilst the bulk of content is a competitive team-based and solo multiplayer section.
Black Ops is a selection of four of the multiplayer maps, with a choice of three difficulties. The areas are completely linear, as the player is thrust forward; defeating AI controlled enemies and taking objectives and their simple copycat puzzles with ease. Being linear and having a terribly shallow AI, it isn’t particularly entertaining; in fact it is predictable and boring. There is nothing special in the multiplayer game modes despite looking different. They boil down to score-based and respawn-limited Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, single and multiple item Capture-the-Flag, and a score based control point battle – Domination.
It’s disappointing to add to this that from a gameplay and technical perspective, the game is broken. Should the game manage to scratch a lobby together with the minimum number of players, after a lengthy wait, and should it not drop the match completely, there is a severe player spawning issue. The problem is that both teams are spawned in the same area and in every single match one team will dominate over the other. There is evidence that this issue was evident in testing, as turrets are placed around a spawn area; however it does not stop players being boxed in.
On the receiving end of this, you would imagine that is extremely frustrating, but the game forces the teams to this sort of behaviour. The fixed areas, respawn times and small teams makes it so at the moment of a slight advantage, players are drawn to the specific locations, knocking down enemy players as soon as they stand and thus gaining experience. Other games have solved this problem by varying the locations at which teams come back to life; so why is this not the case with Blacklight Tango Down?
Blacklight Tango Down holds the premise for a great downloadable game. It looks great and there is plenty to sink your teeth into. That is true until you manage to get into a multiplayer match. The game has game-breaking problems, and with 5 minutes of fun comes potentially an hour of lost patience and frustration. Online play is very fragile; the game has a major problem migrating a host, which is quite often considering other problems. Its problems could be fixed by patch, but it isn’t looking likely since a sequel is currently being developed. If Zombie Studios welcomes feedback and makes changes, great, but right now bank your Microsoft Points for something with a lot more polish.
Today sees the announcement that Illfonic has licensed cryENGINE3 from Crytek for its upcoming downloadable First-Person Shooter (FPS) Nexuiz.
Metro 2033, the post-apocalyptic First Person Shooter from 4A Games, hit stores in March this year to a respectable reception from critics including a distinguished score from our very own Rob Burgess.
When Capcom announced they were working on a new instalment of their ‘vs’ crossover fighting series, the chances of a western release were somewhere between slim and none. Firstly, the game would be matching Capcom’s popular fighting roster with those of manga powerhouse, Tatsunoko – a company with very little exposure outside Japan. Secondly, the Wii, a format not known or built for traditional beat-em-ups, was chosen as the sole home platform. To cap it off, the amount of effort involved in localising the title, including sorting out the tricky issue of licences, appeared too great for Capcom to bother with.
But Capcom have realised (more than any gaming company this gen) that listening to the whims of your fan base can reap big rewards, and Tatsunoko vs Capcom generated a lot of interest from western gamers when it was first announced. To cut a long story short, Capcom have gone through all the necessary hoops and here we are, with the PAL version sitting in our excited laps.
T vs C uses the same gameplay elements as previous versus titles like Marvel vs Capcom; it’s a 2-D fighter with 2 v 2 tag-team bouts. Characters can be switched on the fly or brought into the battle for a single ‘assist’ attack or a larger combo attack. Attacks are performed using three buttons (high-medium-low) instead of the six used for Street Fighter and similar titles. Despite appearing simplified on the surface, there are still the usual combos, specials, hyper specials and counter moves you’d expect from a fighting game. Capcom have succeeded in creating a control system that is both accessible to newcomers and yet deep enough to satisfy hardcore fighting fans. Button bashers may get a few cheap wins against lower level foes but to really excel against good players it takes quite a bit of time and effort to master the move sets and apply them in the heat of battle.
The list of combatants available is very impressive, despite the unknown roster on the Tatsunoko side, with 26 in all. Capcom themselves have got some iconic characters from franchises like Street Fighter and Mega Man, plus a few unexpected appearances, like Viewtiful Joe, Frank West (Dead Rising) and Soki from Onimusha. The Tatsunoko characters may not be well-known over here, but that doesn’t mean they are weaker fighters. Far from it actually – give them a few minutes and you’ll find them to be just as accessible and fun to play with as any of Capcom’s famous faces. Ryu and Ken the Eagle will soon feel as natural a pairing as peanut butter and jam. Overpowered characters were one of the concerns in the Japanese release but this has been tidied up considerably in the western version – the result is almost on a par with Street Fighter 4 in terms of variety and balance.
The same can be said about the game’s presentation, which replaces the 2D sprite art of previous versus titles with something a little closer to Street Fighter 4’s stylised 3D look. Character models have a soft cel-shaded, almost comic book, look to them which happily accommodates both the realistic characters and Tatsunoko’s manga style. The arenas are also very detailed, impressively capturing the look of the various games they have been plucked from.
We couldn’t end a review without mentioning the online modes. In a nut-shell, the online experience is far and away the most pleasing of any Wii game we’ve tried so far. Battles have been completely lag-free and setting up matches against friends or random challengers are mostly pain-free. Capcom have shown Nintendo how to handle online fights, putting Smash Bros Brawl to shame, and the only let down is the inclusion of friend codes, but then that is more an issue from Nintendo’s side. Capcom have also come up with a novel idea to stop people quitting before ranked matches have ended, a problem rife in SF IV. Persistant quitters will find themselves pitted against other quitters when they try and start another ranked match. This makes us smile inside.
Capcom really can do no wrong at the moment and this is yet another high moment. The game is a series of triumphs; the excellent control system, the near-perfect character balance, the wealth of extras and the solid online modes all make this a true success story. Wii owners who are itching for a decent fighter should look no further, and fans of SF IV or the previous versus games really ought to pick this up as it is hands-down one of the best fighters of this or any generation.
The story of this game’s journey to a western release has been a long and intriguing one. Hopefully Capcom will get the happy ending they deserve and we’ll get the chance to get our hands on a sequel.
Gearbox Software has been in operation since 1999, but despite an army of Brothers in Arms games under their belt, they have rarely created anything unique. With this in mind, don’t be too quick to judge their new IP Borderlands. It may be a first person shooter, but it stands out from the regular stream of these games with some well implemented role playing elements.
The game comprises of a story mode, where you take one of four available characters through a fairly straightforward plot. The game sets the scene of a once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain the fabled treasures of the ‘Vault’, only available once every 200 years on the planet of Pandora. Pandora is, for the most part of the game, a canyon filled desert environment with a basic human existence. With a few exceptions, most of the areas that are encountered have an impression that life is hard to live, despite marks of a technologically advanced background in wind turbines, Bioshock style vending machines for health, ammo and weapons, and even teleportation terminals. The world is scattered with a range of human characters, varied wild creatures, and delightful robots named Claptraps.
Where none of these have a particular depth in personality, the superb voice acting adds more to the believability of the world that has been created. The Claptraps are small, loveable robots that have no real bearing on the storyline, but their coupling with slapstick humour and hilarious dialogue give them more depth than their gate keeper roles. There are two main ‘safe’ areas in the game. Fyrestone and New Haven have a populace of which you can trade and obtain side quests from, and the discovery of the two areas define the distinct halves of the game. The world is not one large area, but is split into named locations with access points, and these two towns offer the focal point from which to branch off from in the quest for the Vault.
All areas of the game look fantastic with a particular cell shaded style. The use of a slight cartoon theme in the desert and eventual alpine locations adds to the humour in the characters and takes the storyline away from any distinct realism. The figures and two-man vehicles don’t do a lot with animations, but also keeps up with the production value of the rest of the game.
Beginning on a bus journey, you gain entrance to the first location, Fyrestone, where each of the playable characters is displayed for comparison. As you depart a guardian angel figure appears (which is not too far from the Cortana visions of Halo 3) to guide you towards the goal. You are informed that if there is to be any chance of finding the Vault the help of the people is required, thus paving the way to the many characters that inhabit the area. Missions are obtained by interacting with select citizens in the area and also the notice boards that are dotted about the built up areas. The objectives range from the collection of objects to simply killing a named enemy. The start of the game introduces the integration the of the health, experience and weapon systems, which is a great alternative to the standard training prologue.
Kills, side quests, and challenges will give experience to the player’s character in order to fill levels up to 50. At each level, a point can be added to a skills tree for upgrades in stats including health, ammunition, and skill strength. Each of the playable characters has their own unique skill with a deployable turret, bird, force field, or berserker fists (aka crazy punching). These special attacks come across as just a sideline ability, where as the guns in the game take the centre stage. As advertised, there are thousands of guns in Borderlands. There are the regular snipers, machine guns and pistols, but the endless possibilities come from the customisation with suppressors, scopes, and powerful elemental bullets. The guns are available throughout the game, levelling with the character, rewarded for completing missions and found in a seemingly random fashion in chests. The merge of role playing elements with the weapons makes it hard not to spend hours on the hunt for the rare items, either to put in a collection or simply to do that extra bit of damage.
Borderlands is played best in cooperative multiplayer. The strategy of taking down the big enemies and jousting for loot is without question the most valuable part of the experience. Not to say that single player is flawed, but the drop-in multiplayer, with competitive arenas, is definitely more beneficial in a playing experience perspective. Playing with two or more friends does have its restrictions, as enemies scale in toughness with the levels of the characters. Playing cooperatively with a large gap in experience will result in the lesser player being severely hindered.
Borderlands seemingly makes use of other game features to create a new, unique experience. The brave combination of role playing exploration and leveling with the first person shooter foundations works out extremely well. Although the storyline lacks any real importance and the characters are unexpectedly shallow, it doesn’t detract from the 30 hour action packed and ultimately very satisfying ride, especially in co-op.
After a multitude of betas PlayStation 3 exclusive MAG is heading for an open beta early next year.