A free, once-weekly round-up of all the best Nintendo Switch links, articles and videos from the past seven days.
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published Friday, Jun 20th

Blockstorm Preview

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.


by
published Thursday, Dec 05th

UK Dev Allgraf Release Sandbox Sci-Fi Adventure ‘Darkout’ On Steam

Independent studio Allgraf, based in the heart of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, have been busy on their newest adventure Darkout, which is available now.

Offering a similar play style to that of the hugely popular Minecraft and Terraria games, Darkout drops players in an open world environment with mining, crafting and building as their main tools. The purpose being to not only explore the world of Illuna for resources, but also to defend themselves from the alien beings that roam the open environment.


by
published Friday, Jul 05th

Rush Bros Review

Despite all the complex 3D graphics that modern day PCs can produce there’s still plenty of fun to be found in the simplicity of 2D visuals. Platforming titles like Super Meat Boy and Braid have proved this point by garnering critical acclaim. Rush Bros is yet another title in this genre aiming to make an impact with its own interesting blend of music, racing and competitive multiplayer.


by
published Monday, Jun 24th

Joe Danger Powers On To Steam

Hello Games continue their mission to bring the Joe Danger series to pretty much every platform going with an appearance on PC via Steam. Starting Tuesday, 24th June, gamers can get their hands on not only Joe Danger 2: The Movie but also the original blockbuster Joe Danger.


by
published Sunday, Jan 29th

BrawlBusters Review

The Free-To-Play business model for online games is one that’s been building momentum and most recently has seen DC Universe Online’s revenue increase vastly since it’s conversion in November last year. It’s not surprising then that a lot of other developers want to try their hand at this type of system but with plenty of competition in the market how will BrawlBusters, a third person action game from Rock Hippo, fare?


by
published Tuesday, Sep 07th

The Lord Of The Rings Online Review

The Lord of the Rings Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, taking a third person character through a cooperative environment. It was originally released in 2007 under a subscription service, where a player would need to buy time upfront in order to play. Now the game is facing a re-release with a free-to-play model giving players access to regular play without charge. As discussed in The Lord of the Rings Online store preview, Turbine Inc will generate income by selling extra digital content; therefore with the free purchase, will it bode as well on your free time as it does on your wallet?

Being an avid fan of the books by Tolkien and the Peter Jackson trilogy of movies, I have always had an idea of how Middle-Earth should look and feel in so far as its atmosphere. The Lord of the Rings Online holds such as stark difference, it is more akin to the cartoon films of old. I’m all for a colourful, not-too-serious look about a game, but all in the right context. The light-hearted non-player characters, out of proportion enemies and fantastical situations bring thoughts of carelessness with the Tolkien licence. Add off the mark voice acting, repetitive quests, and generic items, and The Lord of the Rings seems like a name that was slapped on at the last minute to gain a few extra sales.

As far as the game actually plays it is a competent online role playing game. The player starts with character creation; forming the player that they will control about the environment. Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves can be chosen from, given a gender and a name of the players choosing. The random name generator can be a useful tool to find a Tolkien style name. Before being inserted into one of the four race-centred starting locations the player will first have to choose a Class, which again are generic, such as Champion or Rune-keeper.

Each of the races begin their Journey, set when the Fellowship is first formed with Frodo and Sam, in a settlement littered with their own kin in a struggle with a local enemy. Each of the starting areas can be different for Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves, although some are interwoven, such as in the interwoven stories of Men and Hobbits. The quests start with an incident which the player must overcome in order to open up an area for free-roam, the incident usually being an attack by an oncoming force. From there the objectives lead the player on paths of exploration around the local area; collecting objects, disbanding packs of wolves, and gaining allies. The story expands in books, which are added to progressively by the developer, and match chronologically to the main story incidents of Frodo and the Fellowship, and eventually volumes with the expansion packs.

The Lord of the Rings Online features an age old levelling system, expanding the health bar and other traits as you rise through the ranks, and allowing access to purchasable upgrades and skills. Skills are unique class abilities that are special moves and attacks to be used in combat. I found them particularly useful as a sink for all of the money earned from quests, of which there was plenty, and a reason to push the experience to get to the next level.

The Lord of the Rings Online is a sound MMORPG with constant, if not slow, pace through the objectives, expanding the area of exploration. Its major problem, at least for me, is its attitude towards the Lord of the Rings universe. I would have much preferred a grittier, darker style of environment, rather than the cartoon, unrealistic approach to art. The Tolkien licence seems to have been exploited only for place and character names, and not used to its full potential as a fantasy gold-mine. If you are just looking for a solid RPG, and are not too fond of lore backgrounds then there is no reason not to give this a chance, especially when it is free. If however you are drawn to the MMORPG genre by the name alone, then it would be best to leave the One Ring to its fate.

Before the game’s re-release on September 10th The Lord of the Rings Online will have a short four day beta program running from September 6th. Sign up here and you will have early access to the game, and the option to carry on from where you left off when the switch is made this Friday.


by
published Monday, Jun 21st

Heroes Of Newerth Review

The PC and the strategy game were made for each other. California-based developers S2 Games have demonstrated this eloquently with their third offering for PC, Heroes of Newerth (HoN).

HoN is a fast-paced multiplayer strategy romp in the fantasy Universe of Newerth. The ultimate goal is as familiar as it is simple; to destroy the opposition base. HoN demands a different mindset to the average PC strategy title however; game play is shifted away from the time consuming tedium of resource collection and base building, and focussed sharply on development of the Hero.

Game content draws heavily upon the success of Warcraft III’s “Defence of the Ancients” scenario. The player and up to four team mates gain experience and gold by defeating enemy players and attacking waves of ‘Creeps’; bots dispensed from the enemy base. Gold accrued through successful battles can then be exchanged for items from the shop panel, or more specialised items from the “Secret Shop” and the “Outpost” located somewhere on the field of play. Experience enables the player’s hero to level and gain increasingly powerful talents, which make crushing the enemy that little bit more enjoyable.

Game play is fast, furious and at first somewhat overwhelming, the comprehensive tutorial and ability to set up practice matches is a great help, allowing the player to familiarise them self with different Heroes, controls and objectives. HoN is a tricky little game; the temptation is to send the Hero steaming into battle, usually resulting in endless deaths, aggravated team mates and cries of ‘Absolute Noob’ ringing around the battlefield. Getting your Hero well equipped and to a high level, as quickly as possible, seems to be the key to success. This game requires dedication.

There’s a wide variety of Heroes available to play as – 70 at present – ranging from ‘Pandamonium’ (a Warrior-Monk Panda) to ‘Balphagor’ (a corpse hungry demon). Divided initially into two, the ‘Legion’, representing the powers of good and the ‘Hellbourne’, being the darker characters of Newerth, the Heroes are sub-divided into three main character sets. Agility – Speed and Armour abilities; Intelligence – Spell Casting and Mana Regeneration; Strength – Mele Damage and Health Regeneration. Each Hero offers unique combinations of abilities and powers which helps to keep game play fresh.

The user interface and in-game menu structure of HoN are well thought out.  Menu progressions are logical and very clear making navigation smooth, even for a novice user.  Importantly for a top down strategy game, everything is highly customisable. If swarms of health bars littering up the screen drives you to distraction then you can scrap them at the tick of a box. The presence of a comprehensive and customisable hot-key system drastically speeds up commands and allows the more advanced user to make the game their own.

The server system is great. User-defined matches allow game play to be tailored to the player’s specification (Game title, mode, map, team size and game rules can all be altered) to create the desired scenario. If you don’t want to create your own game, all open matches are listed and you can opt to join that game’s lobby.  A matchmaking option is also provided by S2, but it is so refreshing to have the choice available. The K2 Engine which drives HoN is, to be frank, great. It deals remarkably well with connection issues, allowing the user to rejoin the game as soon as that issue has been resolved. Lag caused the poor connections of other players is dealt with and seems to have no effect upon game play. Well done S2!

Heroes of Newerth doesn’t really surprise visually. Animation is strong and smooth and delivers everything that you would expect, but does at times feel like a blast from the past. Go on a successful killing spree and ‘Bloodlust’ bursts onto the screen in big red letters accompanied by the standard ‘Unreal Tournament-style’ voiceover; old hat and head scathingly cheesy.

So, Heroes of Newerth does precisely what it sets out to do. It provides the user with a fun, punchy online fantasy strategy game. HoN isn’t going to going to set the world alight. It is essentially a re-hash of an already popular game format but this, along with clever online community based marketing, gives HoN an instant and faithful audience. If S2 deliver regular updates and keep the game running as smoothly as it has started,  No doubt that Newerth will be full of Heroes for a long time to come.


by
published Monday, Apr 27th

OnLive – What’s In Store

San Francisco based Rearden Studios announced at GDC that development of a game streaming service, named OnLive, is nearly complete. OnLive, offers a web based gaming service via a ‘Microconsole’, for those wanting to play via a television, or by software for use on both the PC and Mac.

The service replaces disks and consoles so that games can be played without having to install or process the games in the home. From the user interface gamers can navigate through a friends list, profile page and, most importantly, a list of available games. After a standard subscription fee you can view trailers, try demos, rent, or buy from a selection of games. All of this is done at OnLive centres with the information travelling back and forth across the internet.

The OnLive servers sends video data of the service being used, whether its scrolling through lists of available games, or actually playing a title, across the internet to a hardware add-on, or software plug-in, which decompresses the data back into video. The player never has any game processing equipment in front of them, as all that is needed is video conversion software or a Microconsole. The device comes retailed as a complete package with an OnLive wireless controller with microsecond latency and video controls for use with spectating and recording game footage to show off to your friends. The small box also has room for a USB controller or mouse and keyboard whilst Bluetooth pairing is also available.

OnLive have stressed that the very latest in technology is being used to not only deliver the service but to ensure that games are running at as high performance as possible. This allows for the user to play games with extremely high visual settings, which is usually only accessible from expensive hardware. Having a budget PC run OnLive software or a HDTV with a Microconsole will give the user the same standard of presentation from their games, without spending upwards of £2000 on a high specification PC. CEO Steve Perlman states that the only down side to the service is that it is only for those with a good broadband package, although those with download limits will still be able to play for a few hours a day. “The service is not for everyone. If you have a reasonable connection you should get results that are comparable to a very high end PC. If you take a game like Crysis, that really only runs on a small number of PCs with very high performance graphics processing units, it runs beautifully on an entry level PC or Mac without any problems. Even better with the Microconsole you can run Crysis, with all the features, shadows, and textures, beautifully, on a television.”

Mr Perlman continued in an interview with the BBC: “A broadband connection of 5Mbps will be fast enough for high definition gaming, while 1.5Mbps will be sufficient for standard definition. At those speeds and with a data center no further than 1,000 miles away for any gamer in the US the inevitable latency of the net as data has to physically travel across the network is within tolerable limits. The round trip latency from pushing a button on a controller and it going up to the server and back down, and you seeing something change on screen should be less than 80 milliseconds, although we usually see something between 35 and 40 milliseconds. The games themselves will be running on off the shelf motherboards at the data centres, with each server dealing with about 10 different gamers, because of the varying demands games have on hardware. Most games run fine on dual core processors but what users really want is a high performance graphics processor unit. While work continues on refining the algorithm the bulk of the technical work had been completed. A wider beta test begins this summer and feedback from the testing will be used to refine the service.”

When OnLive is released it will not be short of titles; Steve Perlman spoke to Gametrailers: “We have 9 major video game publishers as well as an indie game developer. All of these publishers are committing to make games available in the same retail window as you will find the games on store shelves. We will have a basic access fee to get to the OnLive service and then there will be additional tiers of pricing for different ways of accessing games.”
Since its announcement the scheme has received scepticism on its ability to deliver real time gaming, as OnLive suggests. The main concerns is the hardware required at the OnLive server centres to render and compress the video, as well as the impact of commercial internet broadband connections on its delivery. Mr Perlman responded to the BBC about these issues:“We are not doing video encoding in the conventional sense. Onlive has created a video compression algorithm designed specifically for video games that can encode and compress video into data in about one millisecond. A custom-built silicon chip does the actual encoding calculations at the server end, as well as the decompression at the gamer end, inside a cheap hardware add-on. It has taken tens of thousands of man hours to develop the algorithm. First of all it was a postage stamp size screen with no latency over the internet. It looked like the silliest kind of game because the screen size was smaller than a cell phone but nonetheless there was no lag. After years spent refining the technology we were able to make the video window bigger and bigger until achieving a resolution of 1280 by 720 at 60 frames per second. We have distilled this down so it can run on a custom chip which costs under £14 to make.

The algorithm had been designed with the imperfections of the internet in mind. Every time you present new material to it, you will see something that does not compress so well. We note those and correct the algorithm. Rather than fighting against the internet… and dropped, delayed or out of order packets we designed an algorithm that deals with these characteristics.”

OnLive is an exciting idea, and one that is being presented with incredible confidence. At GDC only the US has been labeled for receiving the service this year, but a successful start there can only see it expand to Europe. Or here’s hoping.


Gears of War 2 by
published Monday, Jan 26th

Gamebrit Game Of The Year Awards 2008

Gamebrit.com opened it’s doors back in August of 2008, but us as a team have been gaming for a large number of years, so, in a incredibly late fashion, it’s with pleasure that we present to you the first annual Gamebrit Awards.

The Gamebrit Awards aim to celebrate the best in videogaming from the past twelve months, and not only are we honoring all games on all major platforms, we will also be selecting the best home grown title; along with the best game developed right here in the United Kingdom.

All the titles in the categories below were pre selected by Gamebrit’s staff team and after much further debate an overall winner was chosen. We hope you agree that our choices are deservedly awarded, if not be sure to join the debate on our forums to discuss the awards and the industry as a whole with like-minded gamers.

So without further a due let the awards commence:

iPhone Game Of The Year

Winner – Sim City iPhone

Nominations:
Fieldrunners
Super Monkey Ball
Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart
Bomboozle

Sim City
The visuals of SimCity 3000 combined with the gameplay of SimCity 2000 gave us the biggest and most ambitious iPhone app of 2008: SimCity iPhone from EA. With the ability to pinch in and out of your custom-built city to edit those fine details, this rendition of SC is both pretty on the eye, and pretty damn playable. The fun, addicting gameplay that you remember from the PC version remain intact to give great value for your £5.99 to provide hours of high fun.

Nintendo DS Game Of The Year

Winner – Professor Layton And The Curious Village

Nominations:
Advance Wars: Day of Ruin
Apollo Justice
The World ends with you
Soul Bubbles

Professor Layton & The Curious Village

It took its sweet time to arrive here but Professor Layton and the Curious Village was worth the wait. After a clever ad campaign and word-of-mouth it became one of the most sought after titles over the Christmas period, selling out across the country and fetching stupid prices on eBay. This popularity was no accident as Professor Layton is one of the most addictive and engrossing games of the year and a great bridge title to bring together new and old gamers.

Playstation Portable Game Of The Year

Winner – Patapon

Nominations:
Loco Roco 2
Echochrome
God of War: Chains of Olympus
Space Invaders Extreme

Patapon

The people behind LocoRoco have once again delivered a game that’s crazy, original and downright addictive. Patapon built on the idea of simple 2D graphics and combined it with a rhythm led, side scrolling, fighting game. This may sound like an unusual match but it’s an instant hit and has won critical acclaim across the industry. It covers all bases providing artistic visuals, perfectly mapped controls and a soundtrack that will get stuck in your head and won’t let go. This is not only one of the PSP’s finest but a game that should be experienced by everyone.

Multiplayer Game Of The Year

Winner – Burnout Paradise

Nominations:
Gears Of War 2
Left 4 Dead
Smash Bros Brawl
Mario Kart Wii

Burnout: Paradise

Despite being out for more than a year, Criterion, another UK based developer, have been supporting Burnout Paradise with a slew of downloadable content since release, it’s this continued support along with a amazingly thorough game to build upon that make Burnout Paradise our multiplayer game of the year. A solid multiplayer experience, different to any other racing game make Burnout Paradise such an appealing multiplayer affair. The open structure of the multiplayer gave gamers a choice in how to play which is still refreshing more than a year after release.

Download Game Of The Year

Winner – Braid (XBLA)

Nominations:
Geometry Wars 2
Lost Winds
Pixel Junk Monsters
Megaman 9

Braid

An independently developed title takes the scoop for downloadable game of the year. Braid (available on Xbox Live) married beautifully unique visuals with captivating and thought provoking gameplay. A highly satisfying puzzle challenge with indefinte style. Jonathon Blow, congratulations.

British Developer Of The Year

Winner – Media Molecule

Nominations:
Fable 2 – Lionhead Studios
GTA IV – Rockstar North
Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts – Rare
Viva Pinata: Trouble In Paradise – Rare

Media Molecule

Coming from a small office in Guildford, newly formed Media Molecule gave the world not only LittleBigPlanet but also a fresh approach to games development. They’ve drawn on 70+ years of combined gaming experience and are packed full of people who love making and playing games. This is incredibly clear from the game they’ve made so far and the community feel they’ve created that surrounds everything they do. The Media Molecule ‘family’ has got a bright future ahead of them and it’s genuinely exciting to wonder what project they’ll embark on next.

PC Game Of The Year

Winner – Red Alert 3

Nominations:
Spore
Football Manager 2009
Far Cry 2
GTA 4

Red Alert 3

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the famous phrase, but EA went ahead and fixed it anyway, by introducing a fully playable online co-op campaign. Fortunately nothing has stopped the consistency of the Red Alert franchise from being the awesome Real Time Strategy gaming series that we all remember, as the third (if played alongside a friend) could be considered the best yet of the trilogy. It may not do a great deal to introduce new players to the series, but RA fanboys will be drooling over HD Tesla Tanks, heavy naval combat and most importantly… Jenny McCarthy and Gemma Atkinson wearing leather in HD!

Playstation 3 Game Of The Year

Winner – LittleBigPlanet

Nominations:
Metal Gear Solid 4
Grand Theft Auto 4
Burnout Paradise
Resistance 2

LittleBigPlanet

Fresh from new developers Media Molecule, LittleBigPlanet put creativity back in the hands of players. Combining classic platforming with a do-it-yourself attitude, this game established itself amongst the PS3’s elite titles. Add to this an adorable lead character, limitless customization and one of the most fun multiplayer experiences around and you have an incredibly enjoyable game. With the ongoing content updates as well as the numerous user built levels being uploaded every day, LittleBigPlanet’s hold on the gaming world isn’t due to end anytime soon.

Wii Game Of The Year

Winner – Smash Bros Brawl

Nominations:
No More Heroes
Mario Kart Wii
De Blob
Zack & Wiki

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Despite all the massive hype, director Masahiro Sakurai managed to deliver on just about all his promises for this sequel. The impressive selection of playable characters, stages cameos and nods to the company’s glossy past made this a virtual wet dream for Nintendo fans around the globe and it quickly became one of the best selling hardcore titles of the year. The addition of a fully-fledged single player, online options and level editors gave gamers even more reasons to immerse themselves in the Smash Bros universe.

Xbox 360 Game Of The Year

Winner – Gears Of War 2

Nominations:
GTA 4
Burnout Paradise
Fallout 3
Fable 2

Gears Of War 2

Gears of War 2 was a highly anticipated sequel to a game that has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and had won many awards in 2007 including Game of the Year. It did not disappoint. A compelling story saw the characters progress in the fight against impossible odds with scenes of great atmosphere. Gripping multiplayer with new modes, such as Horde, meant that Gears of War 2 set a new record for the number of simultaneous players on Xbox Live, with over 1.5 million people logging on to play the game.

Gamebrit Game Of The Year

Winner – Gears Of War 2
Nominations:
Grand Theft Auto 4
Metal Gear Solid 4
LittleBigPlanet
Burnout Paradise
Fallout 3
Spore
Professor Layton & The Curious Village
Left 4 Dead
Smash Bros. Brawl

Gears Of War 2
As the above mentions, Gears of War 2 offered enough fresh material, coupled with the necessary high standards of graphics and sound, to win both Xbox 360 Game of the Year and Game Brit Game of the Year 2008. Congratulations Epic.


by
published Tuesday, Mar 20th

The Sims: Life Stories

It stands to reason that the best-selling PC franchise of all time is also one of the most prolific and given the nature of the game The Sims and it’s sequel, cunningly titled The Sims 2, regular expansion packs are to be expected. But the latest in the series isn’t really an expansion pack, neither is it an entirely separate game. Instead EA and Maxis have brought what they hope to be a new spin-off to a market they already dominate. Say hello to The Sims: Life Stories.

This game takes a different stance to previous titles, instead of giving you a blank canvas to create whatever weird and wonderful characters and houses your imagination can think of you are required to take hold of two Sims, Riley and Vincent and guide them through life.They each have different needs and personal goals which you have to achieve during their lifetime. Aside from the regular need food/love/toilet goals; there are plenty of longer term aims like getting a job, getting married and settling down etc. that will take you a while to accomplish. Other mid-term goals crop up from time to time and although they start to repeat after a while they do at least offer some diversity.

And there are some other locations you can visit if you and your chosen Sim get bored of your surroundings. In a nod to the many expansion packs, you can go visit places like the Gym, Shops and Cafes which let you meet other Sims and make friends and can also lead to new objectives.

Unfortunately there are some major issues with the game, particularly with length as it only offers a paltry two Sims to play through. The camera views are also troublesome and it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on when your Sim’s friends visit for instance. The graphics, which retain the game engine used in The Sims 2, are impressive but prone to slowdown and even crashing, far more than the original which can be a huge pain when you’ve just spent time refurnishing your house without saving.

The problems of longevity are offset slightly by the inclusion of a Free Play mode which is arguably where you’ll find the most fun in this package. Like the original you can create any number of characters and customise their personalities and living conditions but this is again limited, using the cut-down options from Story Mode. If you’ve never played the original games this could keep you entertained for a while but it’s not something that will attract hardened fans.

Although it shares many of the gameplay elements it’s quite clear from the outset that Life Stories doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the series. Part of the appeal of The Sims has been with the customisation options that offer near infinite possibilities for characters and their surroundings but this is somewhat restricted in this game. The addition of more personal goals and the cut down interface have obviously been taken from the console versions but they are perhaps better suited on other formats, where joypad buttons and internal memory are at a premium.

There is some fun to be had here and it certainly kept my Mum entertained for quite some time before she got bored and returned to the more familiar surroundings of the original Sims. In simplifying every aspect of gameplay, EA have produced a watered down experience and have perhaps underestimated how much complexity their target audience can cope with. After all, the original Sims was far from simplistic yet entrapped millions of people whose only PC gaming experience was the odd bash at Solitaire or Minesweeper. The change of pace may be welcomed by some and detested by others.

Life Stories may be seen as an entry level title but to be honest, it’s hard to recommend instead of it’s older and cheaper brother.


Battlefield 2142 by
published Wednesday, Dec 06th

Battlefield 2142 Review

Fed up of fighting wars that have already happened or happening right now? Then how about forgetting all of that and move to the year 2142. A year full of Eskimos and igloos and penguins and ICE! After fighting in deserts, jungles and on sea, DICE have decided that a frozen wasteland would make an excellent battleground, so that’s where Battlefield 2142 comes in. It’s an adrenaline filled fun first person shooter that seems familiar, yet has some nice new additional features to make it worthwhile.

The story to Battlefield 2142 is the world froze over in 2106 (Global warming comes true!). After debates the world’s governments were forced to face the reality of the intimidating cold. As the snow swept down from the north, living became impossible. Losing countries, the governments decided to form two new superpowers, The European forces (EU) and the Pan Asian Coalition (PAC) army. Now speed to 2142, the Europeans are trying to protect Africa, one of the only places that as of yet is to be affected by the cold. Players can expect to have battles in both Europe and Africa, so everything isn’t just a ground of white. The game only features those two armies to use in battles. No doubt some add-ons will come out, with an extra team or two to fit into the storyline at some point.

The first thing to hit you while playing Battlefield 2142 is just how familiar it all seems. The game uses a modified version of the Battlefield 2 engine and thus you can’t help but feel that it’s just a top produced mod for the previous game. It’s happened before though. Battlefield: Vietnam suffered from the same déjà vu experience, but even so the game was still fun and it’s no different here. So while nothing major has changed to the gameplay, there’s certainly more features than ever before in a Battlefield game.

Since the game is set in the future you can expect to see all sorts of high tech weapons. Players won’t have to worry about some crazy arse weaponry though as there doesn’t seem to be anything over the top. There are no light sabres or energy particle weapons here. All the weapons just look like a futuristic version of present day weaponry. There are around 40 weapons and upgrades to unlock, so there’s plenty to check out, even if they aren’t so advanced. The same can also be said for the vehicles as well, apart from the awesome inclusion of Mechs, they are all just future looking present day armoury, just what the hell have they been doing for 130+ years? Well I guess apart from placing ads (more on that later) the answer to that could be they made air vehicles less dominating. Gone are the days of constant death by aircraft bombardment in Battlefield 2. They seem to be weaker and less involved in combat in 2142. To some that will be welcoming news.

As you can expect then, playing Battlefield 2 will certainly give you an advantage, plus a nice little red 2 symbol next to your name. It shows that you are a battlefield 2 veteran. The core mechanics of the game are quite the same. The Conquest mode from past games returns here and is identical. Conquest allows for two teams of up to 32 players each to battle it out for capture points on the map. These flags once captured speed up the decrease of your opponent’s tokens, so the more flags you have the faster your opponent’s tokens decrease. Capturing flags also allows you to spawn to that location too and if the map lets you, you can capture all the points so none of the other team can spawn onto the map. This means killing the rest of the players on the map finishes the game off earlier than usual.

Titan is the new gameplay mode added to Battlefield 2142. Titan mode doesn’t let you have 64 players total this time, but instead 48. It’s still a decent amount and more than most other games allow you to play with. In Titan mode the teams are trying to destroy the oppositions Titan, a hovering behemoth that can be moved around the battlefield by the commander of the team. It merges some gameplay elements from conquest (having to capture missile silos instead of flags, these silos launch missiles on regular intervals at the titans.) Hitting Titans with missiles lower the shields that protect it. After that you have the fun of boarding onto the Titan. This is done by means of getting blasted up onto the Titan via a mobile personal carrier. Titan mode is a lot more team dependant than Conquest. If you manage to get a good team together you’ll be able to overcome things a lot easier, especially getting teams into the Titan, as you’ll be in close quarters using cover to get your way through to the Titan’s reactor to blow it sky high, although to a unspectacular fashion. It just sets alight with some bang sound effects. It really should just go “BOOOM” with pieces flying everywhere. It feels somewhat anti climax after all the work you put into destroying the beast in the sky.

To coincide with the gameplay changes are also the reduction in the amount of classes. Battlefield 2 consisted of seven classes, and even the first game, Battlefield 1942 had five. This version has just four classes. Now it may seem low but these are a lot more customizable than any other classes in a Battlefield game. Classes from older games are merged into the same one. The Recon class is a mixture of a Sniper and Special-Ops. Assault is a mixture of the Assault class and Medic class. Battlefield 2142 relies heavily on unlocking weapons and items, as these will let you customize the classes. There is a lot more to unlock in this game than there was in Battlefield 2, they also unlock a lot faster, but overall you’ll have to play the series longer than ever before to unlock everything that is available. While it helps to unlock single things faster. If you want to spend time and effort on a class then you end up neglecting the others. When you come to play as anything else, they’ll be less effective then they would have been with the unlocks you could of put into them.

It seems that DICE has put more focus on squads that ever before this time around. Past games had squads in but a few would never bother with it, they preferred to be lone wolfs and thus the game doesn’t always play out the best like that. In 2142 the squads are back but DICE has made sure people playing in squads are rewarded more. Squads that are doing well will receive “Squad Field Upgrades.” These are temporary unlocks. Once unlocked, these can be used as long as you stay on the server. It also serves as a good way to try out the next unlockable weapons and items, seeing as it allows you to unlock the next stuff in the unlock chain without actually using your points.

Battlefield 2142 feels more polished from a release point than any other previous instalment. Past games have had reports of bugs and glitches. A lot of Battlefield 2 players will remember the pain in the arse bug that affected the server search engine on the release of Battlefield 2. If you aren’t sure, it basically made it hell to actually find a game and try and join it, because of the server list freezing or jumping around like a hyperactive kangaroo on red bull. This doesn’t mean 2142 is bug free. Badges don’t seem to unlock right away, or on some occasions not registering at all. One point I had to go back and gain the missing amount again to force it to unlock correctly. Hopefully DICE will cough out a patch soon to fix some of the minor niggles. You’ll be able to seen when it’s out by the news headliner at the bottom of the screen. It scrolls past showing updates in the community. A very nice feature DICE!

The game does occasionally have some moments where it looks great, even if it still is an old engine in use, it manages to hold on. The graphics are used to their full effect to help create some nice gritty level designs. It features little pieces of details too, like the fuzzy visor interference. This happens when you’re near EMP devices, or huge explosions. Sound furthermore truly adds to the feeling. You’ll hear the characters shouting out locations of enemies, friendly or just plain scream in pain for a medic. The whole game manages to capture the atmosphere of war quite well, even if you can’t blow peoples legs off.

There’s been a wave of concern about EA and their choice to stick in dynamic advertisement in to the game. It’s not secretly stuck in there. The game comes with a leaflet informing the user of the feature and what it does. It hasn’t affected the way I have played the game. It’s not like they stick it right in front of your face. It’s on places that you would expect to see adverts in the real world. Most matches I haven’t had time to check them out, especially in city maps where the action is nearly always heated up. The leaflet does tell you have to play the game without having it enabled. To do this you’ve got to install the game on a machine that isn’t connected to the internet. Apart from LAN games this pretty much makes the game useless, unless you want to shot bots in the face for the rest of your life.

I guess Battlefield 2142 is kind of like a soldier in war. Do you want to risk totally revamping the series, releasing a new person into the world, knowing there’s a chance he could be shot down within a day or two of going out to fight? You could take the safe route and use an experience war veteran who has more of a chance to survive. This is the route DICE decided to take with the game and while familiar, it does exactly what it sets out to do. Update the franchise in a way that features some new ideas that are worthy of a purchase, but is still in familiar territory. It might not be revolutionary or as exceptional as when the series first hit the market. The most important thing at the end of the day is that it’s fun, and Battlefield 2142 is certainly very… no incredibly very fun to play.


Civ City: Rome by
published Friday, Aug 11th

Civ City: Rome Review

Civilization and Sim City are two franchises that any gamer will have come into contact with, whether it be through print, friends or actually having the games. The really hardcore will be able to measure the amount of time lost in these games in days, possibly stretching to weeks as they both have that quality that is sparsely scattered amongst games – they can hold your attention until you feel the physical side effects. They both actually make it worthwhile to sink an extra 2 hours into, whether its to watch some commercial shops to pop up in Sim City or to watch your empire expand through culture in Civilization. On the surface to a passer-by, it would seem pointless, a barely noticeable change to the fabric of the game but the gamer knows better. Putting the hours in opens up all new avenues for the game more possibilities, which just have to be explored, resulting inevitably in more hours.

Now, Fireaxis and Firefly thought it would be just dandy to mix both together to create one huge black hole and burn it to disc, ready to eat social lives and reduce household pets to skeletons of their former selves as they search for food, because you just have to reduce unemployment in your city and you will be damned if such a trivial task as feed an animal is going to get in the way.

Yes, there’s a mixture between the two franchises, but it seems to be a 70/30 split in favour of Sim City. The basics of the game are to create a sprawling Roman city, be it in a single mission or in the campaign, where several levels are needed to progress onto the next city while along the way new technologies, resources and research is available.

City planning is essential, as your people can only advance if commodities such as the granary, warehouse, meat and tunic shops, entertainment and religion are within their vicinity, viewable by clicking on a house which highlights a green circle to identify what is available to the people that live there. The circle is however, rather small, and early on you may find yourself struggling to fit everything that is necessary for a city to advance in ever cramping spaces. Thankfully, there is some rest bite provided whereby families can be relocated when they are ready to advance, the higher end of the accommodation being able to be placed over shops saving valuable space.

Immigrants will arrive at your city based on your population’s happiness level, which is controlled by factors such as unemployment, housing, wages, rations etc. Variables such as wages and rations can be increased to try and cancel out some of the negative effects. Let the happiness fall too far, and your people will begin to leave affecting your cities production and having knock on effects in terms of people being able to advance their housing. One of the most important variables is work hours, which can be increased to boost production or decreased of that the people have more time to collect the commodities they need to upgrade their house. Again, too little working hours will reduce production; too many will negatively effect happiness. It’s a fine line that needs to be closely monitored, as each housing level needs more resources than the last.

It’s definitely, on paper, an in-depth and complex way of advancing through the game but a simple click on a house will tell you why it is still stuck at the ‘medium hovel’ level. Simply fulfil the requirements it needs and it will begin to develop. Keep the granaries full of food, and the game becomes much simpler. The process of getting commodities to the people is also simple, such as build a flax farm to farm linen, build a Tunic shop to fashion the linen into…well…tunics. Sell these onto the people. Houses upgrade. That’s pretty much how the game works on that side. Sometimes on the missions the resources needed will not be available, so you must import them, which again is easy as it sounds. It’s not a bad thing that the game is easy to get into, just that it lacks the natural feel that Sim City has when you slowly progress through the game. CivCity is a bit more artificial, telling you exactly why what you want to happen isn’t.

Where simple = better, is the interface and development of urban areas is devilishly easy. The menu on the left requires one click, and then the menu that appears lists all the buildings available in this area, be it infrastructure or commerce. The in game menu also provides you with vital information such as why you’re people seem to be so manically depressed, and can give you a breakdown of housed citizens against vagrants. There is also measure of expectancy from Rome which tells you where they expect your city to rank, and where you currently rank. Research works the same as in Civilization, except this time there is no prompt from the game to commence new research, it requires players input.

There is a battle system implemented, but its nothing too grand. Building forts and garrisons for your troops for deployment are required, and the troops train automatically so that is already out of your hands. Units can be sent to intercept enemies before the arrive at your gates, but all in all it is a little obvious that this was implemented just to give the game a little more depth, a little more interactivity.

It looks and sounds pretty enough though, and you can actually watch your workers take the linen from the farm, and then sit at their machines and watch them weave. Clicking on a citizen will give a little sound bite or mumbling, whether it be the claim that ‘Those priests at the temple are earning a few denarii’, or the painfully plain view of an unhoused person, ‘I hate my life’.

CivCity: Rome is not a bad game, far from it. It is good at its heart, but there is less Civilization than gamers may have been hoping for. Workers simply fill jobs as they are created, you cannot tweak your industries as subtly as in Civ. The biggest chunk brought to the game seems to be a new Civilopedia about the Roman Empire, which interesting and informative in its own right, is not going to be the main drawing point of the game. The relation between buildings may not be complex, but it doesn’t make the game too easy, there are still challenges of city planning and happiness to contend against. It may not fit the hopes and expectance that a Civilization-meets-Sim City game could have offered, but it is still a city building game worthy of your interest.