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Jeremy McGrath's Offroad by
published Tuesday, Jul 17th

Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad

As with any game that gets a retail release, it is almost a guarantee that there will be a downloadable equivalent to scratch the itch of those looking for a similar experience at a lower price of entry. While Codemasters DiRT series is without doubt the current best of the off-road racer genre, up until now only SEGA Rally Online Arcade had been solely representing the genre on the digital marketplace.

This is where developers 2XL enter with Jeremy McGarth’s Offroad to provide some needed competition.


Joe Danger Special Edition by
published Tuesday, Jan 31st

Joe Danger Special Edition Review

Joe Danger was originally released on PlayStation Network back in June 2010 after particular attention was drawn to the UK developer Hello Games, as they noted the difficulty of finding a platform to set their game free. Managing Director Sean Murray made headlines, calling Xbox Live Arcade a “slaughterhouse for small developers” whilst declaring that a running XBLA version of Joe Danger was “the world’s rarest game” – played by four people in the office. It is no secret that Microsoft tends towards exclusivity deals, which in the end pushed Joe Danger to market on the PlayStation Network.

Eighteen months later a new Xbox Live Arcade exclusive version of the game, Joe Danger Special Edition, arrives on the Microsoft platform with a host of new features. From the outset it is quite clear that nothing has been overlooked. Complete integration with the platform including purchasable skins, unlockable avatar awards, leaderboards and user created content, as well as a wealth of new features, is nice to see after such an early public struggle with Microsoft.


by
published Monday, Sep 06th

Monday Night Combat Review

Monday Night Combat is a unique downloadable title on Xbox Live Arcade. In this current global economic climate a standout game is necessary to generate any sort of success both critically, but now even more so in terms of revenue. Uber Entertainment have seemingly taken tested ideas from the marketplace and combined them together in an effort to develop something that would appeal to a wide variety of players. However, does their tactic of joining tower defence with a class based third person shooter work out as a smart move to create something interesting and fun to play?

The game’s showpiece, Crossfire, is a 6 v 6 team based, online game of attrition set up as an arena filled futuristic sport. Each team has a Money-ball, full of money, protected at a height from the enemy team. The aim of each timed game is to destroy the opposing team’s Money-ball and reap the rewards as the victors. To do this, the player must orchestrate a steady stream of robots, which are necessary to bring down the shields protecting the Money-ball, while balancing this with an adequate defence against an enemy onslaught. This is where tower defence comes into play, as no player on the field can control their own robots directly. Each moves and fires at its own pace to eventually attack the precious opposing Money-ball and bring it down to a level where it is vulnerable from human player attack. That said, combatants can boost numbers, buy bigger robots, and set up turrets in defensive positions. Turrets are immobile, and must be placed at one of the pre-determined locations. However, there is a selection to choose from and where you place them can be quite strategic, or annoying if a team-mate places a long range turret where robots are coming in thick, fast and at close range. There are up to four different turrets available at one time, depending on how much cash a player has, with a cheap short range gun turret, a long range artillery turret, a fog emitting dispenser that slows down robots within a short distance, and an expensive, heavily shielded turret, which is best at tackling enemies at close range. Turrets affect anything that moves, which makes them essential to success; encouraging team play and conversation over Xbox LIVE.

Each match starts at a lobby, and kicks off with the minimum eight players. The matchmaking system appears to have a lack of processing skill or rank, but the teams formed rarely provide one-sided action. In-fact most matches last the entire time allowance, moving into Overtime, so that both Money-balls drop to the floor and are open to attack. There are two teams, both red and blue, to which each player is placed in. To begin the player chooses a class from a choice of six. They are generic in name, but each comes with a set of upgradable abilities, unique weapons and characteristics. Assault, Sniper, Support, Gunner, Assassin, and Tank have three abilities to use at the press of a button, colour coordinated to the controller, and one passive trait to upgrade, all up to a third tier. Common skills are grenades or bombs, with upgrades increasing damage and area of effect. A charge or dash also make an appearance, but all four of the skills for each class are unique. The passive upgrades add extra skills among other enhancements, such as an alternative grapple on reload, but the most effective are the weapon upgrades, including the impressive double-barrelled mini-gun with the Gunner class.

Money is easy to come by and is pocketed whatever the player chooses to do. There is persistence across the game, so between the Blitz and Crossfire game modes cash flow is not a problem. Money accumulates outside the arena in Lifetime Earnings to gain an online rank, and can be spent on a custom class or ‘ProTags’, to be flashed at an enemy player upon their death. The custom classes work similarly to modern First-Person Shooters. In this case, the player can choose sponsors to shorten reload times, increase the weapon clips size or improve skill recovery. This allows the player to mould the on-screen character to their style of play with customisation as well as being something to aim for with the hordes of gold. Apart from money being sent directly to the player, it can also be dropped as large coins on the ground, although looking at the ground for too long could be beneficial for the enemy.

Among the coins there are other items that can boost characteristics temporarily. These include speed boosts, juice and bacon. Increasing in value, speed boosts do exactly what you would expect, where juice, when accumulated, gives a significant increase in strength over a short period of time. On the other hand, bacon increases strength over an entire life and can be obtained through ‘bots or the game’s mascot, Bullseye. Bullseye is a large, yellow mascot that dances across the map, and he just happens to be filled with money, and sometimes the prized bacon. Players are comically encouraged to shoot Bullseye as the surrounding fans in the arena chant, and the commentator shouts out to let players know he is there to fight over. Bullseye adds that welcome touch to keep things fresh in a match as a focal point to draw teams in, as well as keeping up comedy appearances.

Each map has an upper storey to scout an advantageous position, but all-in-all they are all too similar in structure, leaving just a change in which corner to sneak around. In its favour, each offers a maze of walls and jump-platforms to launch the players quickly from one side of the map to the other, and are a colourful change to the usual drab shooters of the modern age. Money-balls are typically placed at either end of an arena and the paths for ‘bots are placed symmetrically, running past a central position. Housed in the centre of the maps is a button for the ‘Annihilator’, a tactical switch that drops explosives at specific locations on the map, again ensuring that players are not moving down the same linear paths throughout a game if they really want to rack up kills and therefore money.

Monday Night Combat has a more cooperative game mode latched on to Crossfire, in the name of Blitz. Blitz is a single player, and split-screen or Xbox Live co-op, variant that pits a single team against waves of oncoming ‘bots. This game type was made famous by Gears of War’s Horde and Halo ODST’s Firefight game-types, but instead of just a fight to survive Monday Night Combat adds its tactical element. The number of waves is defined by the player, and the set-up is that there are a number of fixed spawn locations from which the waves appear. There is the same upgrade system for characters as there is in Crossfire, as well as turrets, all in aid of fending off ‘bots from a single Money-ball, which when depleted before the remaining enemies are vanquished means game over. Blitz mode is somewhat tame in comparison to Crossfire, and apart from being included in the persistent money-making scheme offers little diversity or challenge to draw the player in.

Monday Night Combat is not devoid of problems – It suffers from technical faults, such as a slow frame rate when there is a lot of action on-screen, the maps are far from diverse, and the customisation options match the bare minimum of expectations. However, it is light-hearted blast that offers a platform for hilarious fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is bright and colourful to match. The mix between action shooter and tactical puzzle genres works out well, leaving no better feeling when on a hot streak, playing with friends. You will struggle to be tied down to just one evening a week should you play Monday Night Combat.


by
published Monday, Aug 23rd

Limbo Review

Limbo is a 2D puzzle-platformer with a minimalistic approach in a number of aspects. Games that slot into this category often do well on Xbox Live Arcade, namely Braid, which had a colourful backdrop, a quirky sense of humour, and diverse time manipulation gameplay. Limbo is quite the opposite. It is a dark, mysterious game that plays on the fact that there is little to no story behind it at all. There is no time taken to set the stage and there is no text or speech anywhere in the game to gain a sense of purpose. The only morsel of information can be found on the game’s description on Xbox Live Arcade, where it reads “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO.”

Limbo begins in a corner of a wood, to which a boy awakens and the player assumes control. Noticeable from his inhumanly bright eyes, the boy can move left or right across the screen, jump, and grab objects such as boxes and switches. This translates to an analogue stick and two buttons on the controller, keeping the focus on screen with the simplicity. The game strings out quite linearly from the start, puzzle after puzzle, with very little backtracking.

Since there are only two actions there is every challenge imaginable, from simple box and rope puzzles, to complex magnet and gravity puzzles, saved until the very end. It is clear that each of the encounters is well thought out, with a simple solution each time, even if it isn’t realised first time. It might take 20 seconds or 20 minutes to figure out the answer, but the creativity and imagination makes the process pleasurable and the solution satisfying.

The landscape progressively changes from a wooded forest to a huge cog-worked industrial complex, so not only is there a change in the puzzles, but a change in environment. This also adds in hazards such as electrified floors and spinning blades whereas at the beginning bear traps and rolling boulders were the most potent threat. The game supplements these dangerous objects with dangerous creatures, including spear wielding tribal folk, a massive spider, and a parasitic blob that takes over movement so that the boy moves non-stop in one direction. All of this poses a significant hurdle, and with much of the world towering high above the player.

It would appear at first sight that all odds are against the player, adding to the feeling of innocence and helplessness of the boy. However, the boy has agility up his sleeve and the world around him as his weapon. Helping the boy take care of his foes with what is in front of you leaves a great feeling, especially with that dastardly spider.

The game’s colour palette immediately strikes the screen. In fact there is no ‘colour’ at all; it is all shades of grey. This adds depth with shade, and atmosphere where it is needed with hazy fog and the odd splash of light. The boy’s eyes are brightest white to be found in the game, picking him out against his black silhouette and any dark corner he might find himself in. This gives him what little identity he has, as he has no means to express himself. His body feels fragile in movement, and even more so when a wrong step often sees him gruesomely decapitated. In fact, there is such an extreme amount blood it is comical. It is quite fun just throwing the boy in the way of impending doom, just to see the effects, if that doesn’t sound too weird.

Limbo, with its dark art style, helpless protagonist and bloody gore, gives an overall impression of horror. It isn’t something that holds it back though, but gives the player an overwhelming need to carry the boy to the end. The minimalistic approach to the game is apparent in its ending, with just a slither of satisfaction as all of the questions remain unanswered.

There are collectable eggs to look for instead of constantly marching to the right of the screen, inserting a welcome treasure hunt. Once you have searched in the corners, there is no reward for going through the game more than once. However, even when a player has mastered each of the sequences, the achievement for going through from start to finish in one sitting with less than 5 deaths can be more of a challenge than is first thought. This definitely requires a second look.

The boy might find what he is looking for in 3-4 hours for a first playthrough, which may seem quite a small amount of entertainment for 1200 MSP (£10.20), but given that each puzzle is unique and that the game never repeats itself, it is really an interactive experience that is worth the asking price.


by
published Tuesday, Jul 27th

Hydro Thunder: Hurricane Review

Hydro Thunder: Hurricane is the sequel to the heavily ported Hydro Thunder, part of Midway Games’s Thunder series seen in arcades in 1999. Hydro Thunder was first published on a home console on Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast, before a career mode was added for the PlayStation and four-player multiplayer for the Nintendo 64. Until recently it was added to the Midway Arcade Treasures 3 collection for the Gamecube, Xbox and PlayStation, with the latter console releases having major technical problems. However, when Midway was sinking under bankruptcy protection, Warner Brothers purchased the rights to the majority of their franchises, notably Thunder which was subsequently bought by Microsoft.

The game is a racer, not with cars, but with speedboats, centred across 8 tracks. The first thing that springs to mind on the very first race is the amount of imagination put into the structure of the courses. The races are filled with twists and turns, and the game isn’t afraid to turn a little crazy, from biplanes dropping bombs to create an uneven sway and tide to put the boat off course, to giant Vikings swinging axes in your path and Dinosaurs chopping off your intended route.

Disappointingly, each of these features is scripted and timed upon your arrival; nothing ever happens differently on the same two laps. Eventually objects get in the way of victory, which causes frustration rather than excitement. Other than the surreal, ‘normal’ features of the raceways are ramps, hidden paths and huge jumps. Items including canisters that fill the boost meter and hidden collectable Hydro Thunder: Hurricane logos are placed along the way too, some in not-so-obvious places. The boost is vital for that extra push to get to the head of the pack, but it also allows the boat to ‘boost jump’ over objects, getting into short cuts and secret areas.

The speedboats themselves range in design, and have their own level of speed, acceleration, handling and air control. Each of the boats get more complex, and as their statistics rise the difficulty rises with it, so that if the player wants to use a bit of power there is going to be a certain amount of opposition. This might seem fair, but the difficulty curve takes its toll on the trophy flow once the door from professional to expert opens. Nevertheless, mix this difficulty in with the hazardous environments and the game outputs action and tension that keeps the attention on the screen.

The reward for finishing an event is the customary trophy, which more importantly has credits attached, even if the race has already been completed. Credits unlock new boats, tracks, and events in no particular order, but the pace is always even if you keep the credits rolling.

The Ring Master Event is a time trail race where the boat is timed along a certain path. As long as the rings are hit successively the boost meter will fill, but as soon as one is missed the meter will deplete and valuable time will deducted at the end. Gauntlet is also a timed event, but the track is littered with exploding barrels, which like planting a wall with the bow of the boat will automatically destroy the vehicle, hindering progress by restarting the boat further back.

There is a fourth game type but this is just a Championship style compilation of Race, Ring Master and Gauntlet, where the player competes for points in each round before being placed on an overall leaderboard. It is disappointing that it adds nothing new to the game, but at least it is another challenge when stuck for places to go to rack up credits.

Multiplayer consists of online competitive one-versus-all, cooperative team play, and local four-player split screen. Race times are always posted to the leaderboards as long as there is an Xbox Live connection, keeping in competitive touch with friends and the world. Hydro Thunder Hurricane is a great set-up for multiplayer; the techno beat, lively commentary, and the weird course events will keep the banter going. It originated from the arcade after all.

Overall the game is a great arcade racer with a twist, working heavily in its favour against other in the genre. The waterworks and out-of-this-world destruction paint the scene for competitive gameplay. However, its biggest asset is also its greatest flaw. There might be awe at first sight, but after that it is just lashings of the same 8 scenes over and over again. Replaying each of the levels has its rewards, but it isn’t particularly fun earning them once you’ve seen what each course has to offer. Hydro Thunder Hurricane will take you on a thrill ride, but don’t expect it to last.


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.


Geometry Wars by
published Tuesday, Aug 05th

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 Review

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.