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bioshock ios

TGC Review: BioShock iOS

The year is 2007, the Xbox 360 has been out for around 18 months and the PS3 is still under a year old and settling into the space under the old standard-definition television.

August comes around and BioShock is released by Take Two to universal critical acclaim and ushers in a new era of unconventional first-person shooters.

Fast forward 7 years and we’re in a similar position, except instead of BioShock being released on the new consoles it’s being released onto mobile iOS devices, something we would have not though possible back when the title originally launched all those years ago.

So how does the pint-sized port of one of the highest rated games of all time stack up? Surprisingly well actually. Ken Levine’s bio-punk world manages to squeeze onto the latest mobile devices with little difficulty and is a satisfying time-killer.

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The story throws you in the shoes of Jack and then throws you further into the 1960′s and for good measure gives you a kick up the arse down to an underworld city, Rapture. Everything, literally everything from the original is here. Weapons, environments, the lot. There’s a lot of fun to be had poking around and seeing what you can find, as well as the series signature combat.

The environments are what make the game, the blood spattered girls, the creepy ambient music as you pass through Rapture to the equally disturbing characters you encounter along the way. The creepy aesthetic and atmospheric gameplay complement each other and form a world that you totally believe in, despite the fact one could never truly exist. bioshock-ios3

The run-time for BioShock iOS is roughly 10 hours, depending on how fast you progress through the story. If you were speedy on the consoles or PC, you may be in for a bit of a stumble when you load up BioShock iOS, but more play time for your money right?

As with most ports to smartphones and tablets, the controls are the real let down. Whilst the graphics are nice, they’re far from the best seen on the platform but are perfectly serviceable and bring to life the seedy world of Rapture. bioshock-ios-04

The on-screen controls are simple enough in practice, but the sizes of the virtual buttons are a hindrance as are the lack of response when things get heated in the fray of battle. This can be remedied by using a third-party controller, however they don’t come too cheap and it’s a hefty investment.

Aside from the control issues BioShock iOS achieves what it set out to do and it does it pretty darn well, resulting in the best first-person shooter currently available across all mobile platforms. The price-tag may be a deterrent as it’s currently going for $14.99 and £10.49, considerably much more than you would pay for a second-hand copy or even a digital version on the consoles or PC. Still, you are paying for the convenience of playing on the go, so keep that in mind when you doubt its worth.

Score: 8/10

Have you played BioShock iOS? Agree with our review, or do you think we’ve got our heads on wrong? Let us know down in the comments section below.

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TGC Review: LEGO The Hobbit (PS4)

Traveller’s Tales is back again with yet another LEGO based title, though this time they’re tackling the realms of Middle Earth with LEGO The Hobbit.

So how does the latest entry fare when stacked up against previous efforts? Not too badly, not too badly at all.

As you would expect, the game revolves around the events of The Hobbit trilogy of films, or two thirds of it at least…

Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of the movies, there’s enough here to keep any veteran LEGO gamer entertained. LEGO The Hobbit guides you through the first two films, putting you in the hairy toes of Hobbits, the whipping capes of Wizards and the haggard beards of Dwarves, along with the rest of them. Whilst the movies are typically quite serious, LEGO The Hobbit manages to inject some classic LEGO trademark humour to lighten the mood. The story is told through the gameplay as well as the cutscenes that feature the actual voices of the actual characters as the audio has been taken from the movies and inserted into the game. It makes it much easier to understand the story if you aren’t too familiar with the source material.legothegame2

There’s a few new additions to the gameplay, crafting being the top billed feature. It’s not especially difficult and in all honesty, it’s a bit tedious. At certain times during your adventure you’ll have to craft items to get past certain points, the first time you come across a crafting point, it seems like a pretty cool addition, after that it just becomes a bit of a chore.

There’s a fair amount to do and see after you’ve finished the main game. You can grab a buddy and go back through the story in co-op mode which is a much better way to enjoy LEGO The Hobbit as sometimes the AI can be a brick shy of retarded. As well as co-op there’s the side quests scattered around the open-world area of Middle Earth that you are free to explore. These serve no use other than to fill the gap, but they are a welcome addition for those who love to collect everything that they can, and it is essential if you’re going for all the Trophies.

Graphically the game holds it’s own. Though it is a LEGO game and they’ve never been lauded for their outstanding visual prowess, the game does perform admirably with characters moving as you would expect little LEGO people to move, the environments are full of life and detail making it just that little bit better.

Though it’s a solid game, it’s not without its shortcomings. Traveller’s Tales have been crafting these LEGO games for almost ten years now, you’d have thought that in that time they would have nailed down the camera issues. Each LEGO game has had issues with the camera, LEGO The Hobbit is no different. I can attribute 90% of my in-game deaths due to the dodgy camera and its inability to move in the way I needed it too, leading to some frustrating deaths during the platforming sections.

As well as the camera issues, there’s the characters, not the lack of and not the abundance of, but more their appearance. So many of them look alike that it makes switching between characters a pain in the neck, though this is more a personal issue than one that affects the overall game experience.

One issue that is worth bringing up is the fact that the game is only two of the three movies. How will we play the last chapter in the trilogy? Will it be released as DLC or will we be subjected to a full priced release, akin to LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues.

Conclusion:

It’s the same game we’ve been playing for the past decade, just with a different lick of paint and a few new features every other release. Sounds like another long-running franchise… Except in the case of the LEGO titles, it’s not a bad thing. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The gameplay is tight, the graphics are glossy and the replay value is high. What more could one want?

Score: 8/10

How was your trip around Middle Earth? Did you enjoy it as much as we did? Or did it leave you wanting more? Let us know down in the comments section below.

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TGC Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PS4)

As a long time fan of the Spider-Man games and movies, it’s been a long wait for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a wait that almost wasn’t worth it.
Beenox has been handling the Spider-Man franchise over the last few years to varying degrees of success. The release of The Amazing Spider-Man back in 2012 was well received and left many fans looking forward to what would come in the future.
Unfortunately, whilst the bar was set pretty high with their first outing in the new series, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t quite match up to its predecessor. The story is without a doubt a mess that seems to have been clobbered together without any reasonable thought for character development or any sense of meaningful story telling.
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The plot is a little loose in it’s story telling, with a seemingly clobbered together plot. It’s not ideal nor is it particularly great, but it gets the job done and gives you a sense of purpose as you swing your way around the city, beating down on the bad folks.
Whilst the story may not be of a high standard, it’s a nice touch to see some fan-favourites make an appearance, as well as characters from the movie. However, any and all characters from the movie are not voiced by their on-screen actors which isn’t the biggest thing in the world, but it would help maintain some sense of continuity.
Graphically, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t what you would expect from the powerhouse machine that is the PlayStation 4. There are glimpses of what it could be, but for the most part it’s just another last-gen port with a few minor graphical upgrades that aren’t all too noticeable to the average consumer.
That’s not to say that swinging your way around the fantastically re-created New York city isn’t fun, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The web-swinging mechanics have had an overhaul, resulting in a much more satisfying rush when you’re flying between skyscrapers or swinging down as low as you dare into oncoming traffic. The city looks great with it’s lavish buildings that draw the eye from afar, the iconic yellow cabs ferrying their passengers along the bustling New York City streets, the city’s inhabitants moseying about their own business, it all looks good, from afar.
theamazingspiderman2game3 It’s when you get up close and personal that things take a dive, you’ll notice straight off the top that buildings are as detailed as you’d think they would be and character models look a little rough on closer inspection. With all that said, it’s still a pleasure to throw yourself off the top of a building and fall into a graceful swing as you arc around a corner at speed, it’s those moments that make you feel like an absolute legend.
There are some downfalls though, whilst the web-swinging may be a satisfying feature, the web-zipping leaves much to be desired. On more than one occasion I found myself on the point of snapping my Dualshock 4 controller due to the downright frustration that comes with the web-zip feature, hindered in no small part by the dodgy camera. The camera wasn’t the best in the The Amazing Spider-Man but it was serviceable, this time around it’s just a bloody mess. Trying to navigate through a building? You’ll spend a lot of time trying to get your bearings as the camera either gets stuck on a wall behind you, or just straight up has a spaz attack and leaves you looking straight down at Spidey like it was GTA 2.
The-Amazing-Spider-Man-2-PoleA redeeming quality for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lies in it’s combat. The already fluid combat seen in the previous entry has been re-vamped, bringing some fresh animations that really are as fluid as you could wish. Spidey’s actions seem believable as well as the bad guys reactions when you land a kick straight in the suckers chest. There’s a ton of combos to pull off, but the real challenge is mastering the flowing combat, it’s all too easy to mash the buttons but to do so flawlessly without getting hit once; priceless.
Despite the negatives, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still a decent game by anybody’s standards and it does offer a lot of replay value in the form of collectibles, as well as a nod towards Spider-Man creator Stan Lee who has more than a walk-on part in the game, a nice bit of fan-service on Beenox’s part.

Conclusion:

If you, like me, are a long time Spider-Man fan then this is an essential purchase, even if it is just to play as Spider-Man once more, but be prepared to encounter some serious issues with the controls, and don’t expect it to be a graphical showcase of what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are capable of, it looks good, but it could look a lot better. If it’s a deep and engaging tale you’re looking for, you’ll be left hungry come the stories conclusion. All in all, it’s an average game that has moments of brilliance, plighted by numerous graphical issues as well as some of the poorest storytelling the series has seen.
Score: 6.5/10
Have you played The Amazing Spider-Man yet? What were your thoughts? Let us know down in the comments section below.
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TGC Review: Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta: Episode 1

Unearthed-ArtUnearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta is just enough like Uncharted that it can be considered an homage. Is it an homage worth playing though? Can it satisfy your need for adventuring until Uncharted 4? Or will you have to settle for some NeoPets instead? Let’s find out.

Unearthed is all about Faris Jawad and his sister, Dania Jawad. These two treasure hunters receive a call from Morocco which will take them on an exotic adventure on the trail of famous Muslim explorer, Ibn Battuta. Neither realize how dangerous their journey really is until they’re caught up right in the middle of the action.

How much does Unearthed resemble Uncharted, though? Is it too much to dissuade you? Nope, not at all. It’s clear the guys over at Semaphore had the intention to make a game similar to Uncharted, but it’s also clear that they wants to make their game unique in its own ways. Each of the game’s 6 chapters has a different kind of gameplay style thrown in to it. Whether it be driving around the streets of Tangier, Morocco, or being chased in the desert by mercenaries while going full speed on an ATV, the game has enough diversity to keep each minute fresh. It made it quite an exhilarating experience at times, personally.

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Of course, just because the game has diversity, doesn’t mean everything is perfect with it. There were countless times when I became rather frustrated with the driving mechanics, the awkwardness of aiming, the stiff jumping and climbing, it all made it almost hard to play at parts and caused me multiple deaths. An odd glitch here or there didn’t help, either. The camera also wasn’t making it any easier, but it held its own for the most part, thankfully.

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The checkpoint system was perfect though, with just enough time in between each one as to not make it too hard or too easy. It notified me when I reached one, too, so I knew I was in the clear, which with the gameplay gripes was a welcomed breather.

The music in this game though, was phenomenal. It made the game much better than it might have actually been to me. It comes on and off at the right time, and when it is on I feel a sense of real urgency if I’m in a gun fight or running for my life. There were some moments when I just kind of sat in a safe spot and listened to the awesome Moroccan drumming or Arabian wind instruments.

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The sound effects, however, were downright awful at times. The gun shots, the jumping, the explosions, they were all practically recordings of recordings. With the music being so good I was surprised to hear how bad the sound effects really were, they’re just not up to par for a PSN game, at all.

Voice acting wasn’t that bad at all though. In fact, it was pretty good. All voice actors are able to effectively convey their respective situation’s tone, and they do it all relatively well. With the voice acting, you’ll learn to like these characters and root for them against the mercenaries and cheer for them on their journey. Faris had some pretty funny moments where I caught myself laughing here and there. The characters all have some sort of depth, whether they talk about past experiences or memories. Not all are elaborated on well, but it’s still there.

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The game occasionally has some nice graphical moments, too. At times, I stopped to admire some of the Moroccan setting. The game definitely doesn’t look particularly good, especially for a PS3 game as it is clear it was built for iOS devices, but it can hold its own at times. Some beautiful areas to experience. The setting was definitely a good choice, and if they continue in the same direction as they did in episode 1 for episode 2, be sure to expect some diverse, pretty environments.

The graphics though look like they’re from the PS2 era. They’re shoddy, a bit ugly, and sometimes the textures refuse to pop in. It really hampers everything else about the game, especially on a game that could and probably should excel in this area. Of course, it’s only a PSN game, but it doesn’t excuse graphics from the PS2 era.

There isn’t a whole lot to keep you occupied either for the price of 10 dollars. There is the actual campaign, which will last you around roughly an hour and a half if you’re lucky and depending on what difficulty you chose to play on. There were extras though, which was a welcomed addition since many games don’t include that kind of stuff anymore. There was concept art, character models, renders, cut scenes, and more. They were definitely a nice addition.

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There is also survival mode after you beat the main game. There are 6 maps to choose from, but when you get it you’ll find it is the most basic, cliché form of survival mode around. You chose a random character (all share the voice of Faris, save for the other two main characters who have their respective voices) and then you just shoot zombies as they shamble towards you. Each kill nets you 10 points, and you go until you die. There is a very basic leaderboard which you have to get to on your own afterwards, and that’s it. It’s a kind of random addition, but it’s a nice one if you want to play it.

There are some collectibles though. Seven, to be exact. They aren’t very hard to find, but if you feel like treasure hunting they might give you an extra 15-20 minutes of gameplay. You’ll get a nice gold trophy if you do find ‘em, so I guess they’re worth it.

In short, the story can be pretty good at times, but downright odd at others. Characters are likeable, graphics are shoddy but definitely have their moments

 

Story: Faris and Dania are likeable enough characters with some added depth and light humour. Interesting enough of an adventure to keep me interested for episode 2. 7.5/10

Sound: Fantastic music, probably the best element of the game. Voice acting is decent, enough to make you believe they’re real characters. Sound effects downright awful, definitely in need of improvement. 7.1/10

Gameplay: Good diversity each chapter, enough to make you sort of excited for the next. Some types of gameplay need some tuning, but they all have potential and some are rather fun despite frame rate issues. 6.9/10

Graphics: Has some great looking areas, but in definite need of some sort of overhaul. Textures are unreliable, character models look iffy, but environments are awesome. 6.6/10

Lasting Appeal: An OK amount to do. Survival mode might keep you busy for a short amount of time, it is way too basic. Campaign is rather short, and collectibles won’t last long. Still, an OK amount of content for 10 dollars if you delve into all of it. 6.9/10

Final Score: 7/10

Definitely keep an eye on this series. Apparently the developers plan on improving a lot of aspects for the next episode, so if you do end up buying episode 1 and you enjoy it to its full extent, be sure to keep an eye out for episode 2, I’m actually kind of looking forward to it and I’m sure there’s greatness to come.

Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta was reviewed on the PlayStation 3, and is available now on PSN for $9.99 and iOS and Android devices for $4.99.

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Release Date: May 29th 2013

Publisher: Semaphore

Developer: Semaphore

Genre: Action/Adventure

Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Android

Version Tested: PlayStation 3

Review Disclosure: Review code provided by publisher.

TGC Review: Men’s Room Mayhem (PS Vita)

MRM_LogoToilet humour is often described as the lowest form of humour. In the case of Men’s Room Mayhem, it’s nothing short of fantastic.

The premise might not sound like much, but it’s the subtle humour that will hook you on and drag you in. The game plays out as a line drawing game, much like the many airplane games available on the Android market and iOS App Store. You know the ones, the games where you have to land the planes without them colliding.

Men’s Room Mayhem could be described as a knock off of the aforementioned games, maybe it is, but it’s done it a damn sight better than anything that’s come before it.

You’re the janitor and your job is to guide patrons to the urinals/poop cubicle before they make a mess all over your lovely clean floors. However, don’t let the patrons get in each others way or a scuffle with occur, losing you points in the process.

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The gameplay is simple and friendly, just draw a line from the character to the destination and they’ll follow it like an obedient little pixel-man should. Each time you successfully navigate a patron to their desired destination (clue: a yellow drop above the head means they need a pee, toilet paper means they need to drop a dirty bomb,) you’re awarded with points. For an extra bonus you’ll need to get them to wash their hands, and for mega-points you’ll want to practice some typical men’s room etiquette. That means if there are three urinals available and two patrons come in looking to make a splash, make sure they have a urinal dividing them and you will have successfully avoided that awkward silence, only broken by the sound of warm urine splashing the urinal cake. Once a round is complete, it’s time to tidy up after your mucky buggers. This is where you can see a big boost in points, you’ll need to be quick though, you only have a short amount of time to scrub the urinals and poop cubicles as well as the wash basins clean, all done with some nifty finger work.

You’re not just confined to the one dirty bog either, there’s a total of 7 different toilets to manage, each larger than the next with a more diverse clientèle to look after.

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Gameplay is simple yet frustratingly addictive. If you decide to take your PS Vita to the toilet for a sit on the throne, be prepared to wallow in your own filth for a bit, because Men’s Room Mayhem will have you hooked with its ‘one more go’ gameplay.

Graphically, it’s as charming as you could imagine a game about men and toilets could be. The bright and well detailed levels all blaze out from the PS Vita’s screen. It’s got that charming aesthetic that makes you forget you are basically directing men where to relieve themselves.

It’s not completely without its faults though. As fun and addictive as it is, the difficulty curve is pretty steep. Just when you think you’re a pro at hanging around in men’s toilets, you’ll fall flat on your face in a puddle of piss once those tiny bladdered patrons come barging through one after the other. That being said, it’s more about personal preference. I like to take it easy with my games, have a bit of fun and relax. If you’re after a challenge, you’ll be sure to check out the ‘Blitz’ mode. You have three minutes to get as many points as you can whilst those looking to splash some urine come lugging in thicker and faster than a hot Thai curry can leave your anu-, um, body…

Summary

Men’s Room Mayhem may be tredding on old ground (maybe even slipping on the wet floors at times) but it’s a perfect time killer whether you’ve got five minutes before a meeting, an hour to kill at home, or just a trip to the dumping ground.

Gameplay: Simple, yet addictive. Not much of a learning curve, but once the difficulty is ramped up you might find yourself going back to the earlier stages for a breather. 8.5

Sound: Lovely music that potters along, minding its own business. Thankfully we don’t have to hear the splash of pee on urinal nor the straining sounds of little pixel-men in the poop cubicle. 8.0

Presentation: Nice and easy to navigate, all done via the PS Vita touch screen. You won’t get lost on the way to the men’s room. 8.5

Graphics: Simple animations and nicely detailed backgrounds make hanging around in the men’s room more fun that it could ever be in real life. Unless you are George Michael. (Could not resist.) 8.5

Replay Value: It’s one of those where you’ll be coming back for more, even once you’ve reached your peak and can’t get a higher score, it won’t stop you from trying. 9.0

Overall: 8.5/10 – More fun than you might think. Just don’t try directing men where to pee in real life, you may find yourself eating urinal cake and dirty bog roll.

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Have you played Men’s Room Mayhem? Think the review was a fair representation of it? Or do you completely disagree and think toilet humour should never be allowed in video games?

Release Date: May 22nd 2013

Publisher: Ripstone

Developer: Sawfly Studio

Genre: Casual/Line Drawer

Platform: PS Vita, Android, iOS

Version Tested: PS Vita

Review Disclosure: Review code provided by publisher.

TGC Mobile Review: Iron Man 3

iron-man-3-the-official-gameTo coincide with the release of the third installment in the Iron Man film franchise, Gameloft has released a tie-in game for iOS and Android devices, Iron Man 3.

So how does Gameloft’s latest movie tie-in far up? It’s not all that bad to fair, in fact, it’s a damn good time waster.

Read on for the full review.

Gameplay

The game plays out in a similar manner to Jungle Run or Subway Surfers. There’s no end, just a constant stream of flying forward, avoiding obstacles and taking out the remnants of A.I.M’s fearsome technology that is out to destroy you. ironman3screen

Well, not so fearsome, but damn they can be difficult to beat, due in no small part to the dodgy controls that come with touch-screen based gaming. Movement can be achieved by either tilting your device and taking out enemies is achieved by tapping the screen where the enemies are, firing out pulses from Iron Man’s wicked-cool suit, or hold and drag to fire a constant, lethal laser beam.

There’s the ability to upgrade the suits which help you progress further each time, and of course this can be done a lot quicker by paying for some in-game credit to put towards the upgrades. If you’re not that bothered about upgrading and just want something to keep you busy for a couple of minutes, you’ll be perfectly fine to just collect in-game orbs which can be used to purchase upgrades, though it requires a fair amount of grinding, something that can get boring pretty quick.

Graphics

Gameloft are at the forefront when it comes to phone/tablet gaming graphics, and this time is no different. The visuals are impressive for a mobile game, though there’s the pop-in which comes from the limited power available on these devices. All in all, it’s visually a treat to look at and wouldn’t have looked out-of-place on the PlayStation 2.

Sound

This is where it’s a bit ugly. Gameloft didn’t get Robert Downey Jr. to reprise his role, so they had some squeaky fella jump into the iron boots and provide some cringe-worthy dialogue. It’s a shame really as the rest of the game is at a pretty high standard, but gets dragged down by the awful voice acting.

ironman3screen2However, the sound effects are all there in there glory. Smash into a bus and you’ll hear the clunking of iron on metal, the sound of lasers pumping from your palms is satisfying and in the sounds in general are hard to dislike, though it could have done with a bit more variety.

Summary

Iron Man 3 is a worthy tie-in, even if it feels a bit too familiar to other games currently on offer. It’s your endless runner with your favourite super-hero, so it’s definitely worth a go if you’ve nothing else to do.

It’s a shame there wasn’t a full-blown console game as well as the mobile tie-in, though it may be a blessing with the amount of poor licensed games of late. (The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, 007 Legends, Star Trek etc etc.)

Gameplay: Smooth as you could wish for and quite satisfying once you master the controls. Repetitive by nature, but a decent time waster. It’s free too! 8.0

Graphics: Superb. Crisp and bright with a well designed world, thought there are the odd spots where you can tell not much time was spent. 8.5

Sound: Lacking in the voice acting department, but the rest holds up by itself pretty well. 7.5

Replay Value: Considering it’s a free-to-play game, there’s a lot of replay value to be had. To put it in the words of the wise man Cleveland Brown (Family Guy,) “You don’t win, you just do a little better every time.” 8.5

Overall: 8.1Suit up and get ready to rock ‘n’ roll!

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TGC Review: Star Trek

star trek 2013 video gameOver the last week or so I’ve been dipping in and out of Digital Extremes Star Trek. Playing 20 minutes here, half an hour there. Usually I can sit through a game for at least an hour without getting fed up, but Star Trek changed that.

I’m a big fan of the new Star Trek films after having never bothered with the TV show (sorry!) so I was quite eager to get into Star Trek and see what was on offer. Now, I wish I hadn’t bothered.

It all starts out quite nicely, you’re thrown straight into a bit of cover-based combat against the Gorn, then it transpires that the section you have just played it 6 hours from now, so a flash-forward, if you will. StarTrekgamereview

Like I say, it starts out pretty nicely. The characters are voiced by their original actors and it’s good to hear Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, John Cho and the rest of the cast reprising their respective roles. The cut-scenes were done well and thankfully avoided using any of that dreadful lens flare that plagued the movie. The initial introduction lulls you into that false sense of security, it’s an honest shock when you realise that it’s just another cash-in.

The story doesn’t hold together very well and feels disjointed and pieced together by numerous coincidences. It’s not helped much by the voice actors either, who on the screen manage to do a good job at making us believe they’re real people, but in the game just sound flat and bored. The banter between the two main characters who you can play as, Kirk and Spock, is at first a real joy to hear and you’ll even find yourself smiling at the familiar bickering between man and Vulcan, until you get about an hour in and it all just falls apart.

Spock’s dry lines are delivered with a side order of plain throughout the remainder of the game and the rest of the cast seemed content with phoning in the performance, dragging down the product with them.

StarTrekVideoGameThe gameplay isn’t too bad in all fairness, you’ve got your cover-based shooter mechanics that for the most part function relatively well, then you’ve got your Uncharted-style platforming where you’ll be climbing along sections of the environment whilst only being able to cling to yellow ledges. Seem familiar? Uncharted

Then there’s the levelling up side of things which is about as deep as a European toilet. There’s no skill required in levelling up and in all honesty I didn’t bother with it until I remembered it was there about halfway through. It’s uninteresting and a bit of a hassle to work out what’s the best to upgrade, there’s nothing to keep you interested.

Graphically the game has it going on, that has to be said. The cut-scenes are where the graphics really shine and show off the detail in characters faces, making them look eerily close to their real life counterparts. Environments look great, even if they seem repetitive at times, but they really do throw you down into the Star Trek universe unlike any other game has managed. Although the game is graphically pleasing, it’s also full of bugs and glitches, some of which taint it’s pretty coating.

There’s the occasional clipping glitch that when I first encountered, I ignored. I blamed myself for wanting to walk in the particular direction that I did, so I restarted the game. Fast forward one loading screen and one cut-screen later and I’m stuck in the same glitch again. This time, I blamed the game and the cheap money behind it. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. During cut-scenes there will often remain a mark on the screen, the aiming reticule. Yeah, I know, stupid. It just sits there on Chris Pine’s face like a little smudge then appears on Spock’s crotch and there’s nothing that can be done about it. It’s not the biggest thing of all, but it’s just a bit of a poor show by Digital Extremes.Spock-Kirkstartrekgame

Another annoyance you will encounter Spock’s magic powers. By that I mean he can magically go from super-clever Vulcan to super-thick Spock the Spacko in around 4 seconds. He’ll be running around like a child gone wild, shooting at things when you want to be hidden, walking off when you want to go in a lift, generally just being a bit of a dick.

Summary

It’s a shame that another licensed game has been given no thought or care, but instead made to look as pretty as possible whilst tacking on features from other games instead of crafting an original game to fit the titles needs. Think of it as a Gears of War/Uncharted/little bit of Splinter Cell and a tiny bit of Assassin’s Creed, but set in space, and being crap. Total. Crap.

Gameplay: Intriguing at first, but after a while it’s dull, boring and repetitive. No lasting appeal and you’ll be bored to death by the end. 5.0

Sound: The music fires up and you feel ready to go, then the voice actors pipe up and you’re bored again. Phoned in performances drag down the entire production. The music means well and plays in at the right times, audio cues and sound effects are generally fine. 5.5

Presentation: Easy enough main menu, but just try figuring out what’s going on with the upgrades screen and I’ll give you £10 for your trouble. 5.0

Story: Weak would be the nice way of putting it. Whilst the characters help the story move along, there’s just no real motivation to keep going. Definitely not twice and you’d be crazy to go through it three times. 4.0

Graphics: Surprisingly nice. Characters are well designed as are the environments, unfortunately the glitches and sticky animation drag it down a notch. 7.0

Replay Value: Not much, if any. If you’re a Trophy/Achievement hunter then you’ll probably need to play it a couple of times, but if you’re not, you’ll probably be trading it in pretty soon. 2.0

Overall: 5.7/10 – You might like it, if you’re a hardcore Star Trek fan. If not, avoid it and thank us later.

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Note: Game was purchased by the author for the purpose of this review. (He deeply regrets not waiting for a review copy from publisher.)

TGC Review: Dead Island: Riptide

deadislandriptidelogoThe zombie menace is once again set to infect living rooms this Spring with Techland’s Dead Island: Riptide, but is it worth your cash?

It’s a tricky one to place if I’m honest. For the last week or so I’ve been pummeling zombies with the various weapons you can find or craft, but I can’t help but feel I’ve done it all before. There is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu about Dead Island: Riptide. Once again you’re stranded on a tropical island that’s been over run with the rotting undead, you’ve got a story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and the gameplay is basically Dead Island 1.5, oh, and there’s a ton of bugs and glitches. So pretty similar to Dead Island, wouldn’t you say?

For starters, the story. I’m a big fan of story telling in video games (I’m one of the rare folk who play the Call of Duty games for the story and then dip in the multiplayer later) and it’s a shame to see that Dead Island: Riptide doesn’t seem to make the effort to present a story worth telling. It starts out meaning well, but once you’ve gotten past opening sequence where you learn how the survivors come to be stranded on yet another island, you’re suddenly missing two of your party and nobody seems to give a damn. Seriously, it’s not even mentioned that they’ve spontaneously disappeared, they’re just gone and nobody cares. Maybe that’s the world these characters live in now, people are expendable and once they’re gone they’re gone, or maybe it’s a bit of an oversight by the writers. I’m going with the latter. deadislandriptide1

Characters aren’t fleshed out either, they’re just your average NPC that constantly asks you to do them a favour. Little is done to make us care about whether they live or die, they’re just part of the expendable cast unfortunately. That being said, they are voiced very well, although some are a little bland and sound as if they’ve been practising their lines for weeks and then it’s their big moment and BAM! – they balls it up with a monotonous performance. That pretty much sums up the characters, but if you really want some great character interaction, get some mates to play with you. Co-op is back and is great fun with people you know, you can have a laugh, plan ahead, shout out enemies etc etc. I’m not really big on multiplayer within single player campaigns, but Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide are prime examples of why they are a good thing, though that’s not to say every game should do it.

It’s not all bad, how could a game that lets you turn zombie heads to mush be all bad?! The gameplay is pretty much identical to Dead Island in the respect that it’s an open-world RPG/action zombie game, but there’s been little done to change the core gameplay. For some this won’t be a bother, just means you’ll be instantly familiar with what’s what, but for others like myself, it just feels like a bit of a let down. In the weeks and months running up to the release of Dead Island: Riptide we were all told there’d be new gameplay mechanics, new missions to engage in and new enemies to tackle and for the most part, they were pretty spot on.

You’re able to import your character from Dead Island and get yourself a nice big boost, saving a few hours of grinding to fill out the skill tree whilst the new missions (or quests if you prefer…) are a bit of a let down.

One new mission sees you acting the hero and saving stranded survivors from mobs of the unruly dead whilst they are stranded. Pretty simple and straight forward, just go in and bash the zombies, job done. And that’s it. The potential for fun is there, but they just feel a bit like filler missions that were put in to bump up the playtime, not that it needs it as you’ll definitely get your monies worth if it’s play time your after. The usual quests from Dead Island make a return, help other survivors find this, find that, save him, save her as well as the main story quests.

The next new mission is the siege-type missions which are pretty fun to be fair, but are relatively rare in comparison to the “survivor in distress” side missions. You’ll need a bit more tactical prowess rather than just running in and smashing the undead mush out of the zombies, which make a nice change of pace. Gearing up and making sure you’re well equipped is vital and really makes you think “shit, it’s about to kick off.” I personally liked them and saw them as a highlight, the feeling that you might not come out of it alive is what makes it a thrill, something missing in a lot of the games of today. It’s just a pity that they aren’t as frequent as the other missions, because we all know that going off and finding something for someone is pretty much standard in any RPG, but using your head in combat, that’s the real rarity.

It’s not all bad by any means, just a bit too much has come over from Dead Island, which, as I said before is both a blessing and a curse. The biggest curse is the sheer amount of bugs and glitches present. You’d think that after Dead Island and its numerous bugs which prompted thousands of angry forum posts and tweets, Techland and Deep Silver would make sure their product made it out of the gate in the best possible condition. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Graphical glitches are abound and zombies spawn in front of you. Seriously, you just kill a group and turn around and they’ve miraculously appeared as if they’ve been beamed down from the U.S.S Enterprise, giving you little room to breathe or room to move, resulting in more than my fair share of cheap deaths.deadislandriptide2

The world you’re free to explore is well done, despite the occasional graphical hiccups. The lush vistas and colourful, vibrant island seems like such and odd place for zombies to be, you could actually imagine it as a proper paradise if only the undead weren’t mooching about for brains. Them zombies…

Word of warning, if you’ve got a weak stomach and can’t handle blood and guts even in digital form, there’s plenty here. Zombies fall and die by your hand in the most spectacular ways. Chop off the head, slice of an arm or two, maybe cripple the legs and do in the head whilst they flail around helplessly on the ground, it’s up to you. If you’re a gruesome bugger (I am) you can then start hacking away at their dead-again body and really make sure they will never come back. It’s disgusting and I did get a stern telling off from my partner as she walked in to see me giggling like a maniac whilst chopping away at the legs of a dead-again zombie. Women… (Not all women, just my one.)

Whilst it’s infuriating, there is some fun to be had. To be honest, there’s a lot of fun to be had. If you enjoyed Dead Island, you’ll enjoy the grind and combat in Dead Island: Riptide, but be warned: the games got bugs. I expect there will be some patches deployed over the first few weeks after launch, so it may be worth holding off on putting your $60 or £45 down just yet, though if you really want to get back into the tropical zombieland, go for it.

Summary

Dead Island: Riptide manages to retain the feel and gameplay of Dead Island, but changes little in the process, you’ll get the feeling you’ve been there and done that all before. Still, the game’s rich in detail and plays well, despite the numerous glitches and bugs, some of which force you to restart the game or worse, crashes the console. If it’s a zombie slasher you’re after, you could do worse, but maybe re-visit Dead Island and wait a while before investing in Dead Island: Riptide, simply due to the amount of polish it really needs.

Gameplay: Combat is still gruesome, yet still unnerving and satisfying, especially when you land the perfect “head-chop.” Greater emphasis on melee combat rather than gunplay, dependant on the player this could go either way. 7/10

Sound: Don’t be afraid to admit to being scared of the zombies that scream and run at you, I was too. They sound terrifying and made me jump a few times. (Lots of times.) Bones breaking and flesh being slashed all sounds too real for comfort whilst characters are voiced well, if a little on the bland side. 7/10

Presentation: Navigating the skill tree can be a bit of a pain in the arse, as can organising your group, but it’s pretty simple once you’ve had a mess around. 8/10

Story: In a word: Lacking. Lots of plot holes, daft writing and simply confusing. 5.0

Graphics: The world is densely populated and well detailed, though graphical anomalies seem to thrive on the island of the dead. 7.0

Replay Value: Maybe once some patches have been released you’ll want to play through again, but the first time round was just about enough for me. You can easily get more than 20 hours if you spread out and explore a bit whilst taking on some side missions. 8.0

Overall: 7.0/10 – Not a bad game, but it could have been so much better. Glitches are the culprit and story takes a back seat in favour of action.

TGC Review: Bioshock Infinite

bioblueBioshock Infinite is a fantastic game. Nothing more to it. It has a great cast of characters, fun gameplay, beautiful scenery, a fantastic, engaging story, and more. It’s the kind of game you could wait seven years for, and after you finish you could say it was worth the wait. This is the kind of sequel games deserve. A definite worthy follow up of the highest rated FPS of all time.

Irrational Games – a mix of former employees who made the first Bioshock – have somehow made this game believable. They’ve made a floating city above the clouds real. Columbia, heaven. The atmosphere, the scenery, the people, they’re all life like. They’re all… real. You have your average Joe buying a Hot Dog for his wife on one corner, you have a flock of birds gracefully gliding in another corner, then you have the Prophet’s oh-so biased propaganda being spewed in the next corner. Everything about this world feels polished, alive, genuine, and just plain phenomenal.

Not only that, but remember that dry character from the first Bioshock? Jack was his name? Yeah, your average silent protagonist who runs around shooting things and taking orders. Of course, the latter part of that was intentional, but that’s another story… Bioshock Infinite has you playing as someone new, someone you’re going to like. Booker DeWitt. A war veteran turned Pinkerton on a mission to bring them the girl and wipe away the debt.

 Booker is full of life, he talks to Elizabeth, he interacts with the world around him, and oh so much more. But he’s nothing to the perfectly crafted A.I. that is Elizabeth. Remember our concerns of an annoying A.I.? Well, have no fear, because Elizabeth is anything BUT annoying/useless. Elizabeth feels like a real human being. As you progress through the world, she interacts with the city of Columbia around her, often stopping to look for supplies for you, examine a plaque on a statue, or explore the environment. When in battle, she not only never gets in your way, but she actually takes cover and looks for supplies to protect herself and to give to you. Now that’s a woman.

"Promise me, Booker, you won't ever let him take me back!"
“Promise me, Booker, you won’t ever let him take me back!”

Elizabeth isn’t just there as a pretty face though, she plays a crucial role to the story and it’s development. As the story progresses, you notice Elizabeth’s change in emotion, from fear to hatred to guilt, it’s noticeable and well done. You really feel a connection with her. Just like the Big Daddies and the Little Sisters from the first Bioshock, I felt a need to protect her. The best thing about her is that her presence always adds something good and never takes away.

 Elizabeth and Booker aren’t the only characters I can praise though. The main “villain” in this game, is Zachary Hale Comstock, the man who essentially brought Columbia to be. He’s basically an Andrew Ryan. Zach isn’t the only villain here though, he as a sort-of accomplice. Songbird, a gigantic robo-bird assigned to protect Elizabeth from the “False Shepard” at all costs. He’s always lurking around, looking for Elizabeth, it creates a very ominous and effective atmosphere for the game.

 The enemies you will be fighting are well done, too. They’re varied, intelligent, and sometimes rather comical. You have your Patriot robots in the style of George Washington who are pretty much Big Daddies but don’t protect anyone. Then you have your Columbia police force who are smart enough to take cover often and use Skylines when appropriate. You have dropships swooping down on you, special types of enemies firing explosives at you, but it all adds to the experience and is relatively balanced in difficulty.

You have more than enough at your disposal to defend against them though. You’ve got your Vigors, basically Plasmids from the first game. These Vigors range from lifting someone up to laying down fiery traps and pulling enemies to their doom. It’s rather fun setting up traps like that, it made me feel maniacal in a way, but I liked it. Crazy? Yeah, pretty much. But these “Vigors” aren’t your only way at disposing of your foes… You have your guns that range from Rocket Launchers to Hand Cannons. You have Elizabeth are her convenient ability to open tears to aid you in the course of battle. You can ride the Skylines and rain fire down upon you foes, or you drop right onto them with your Sky-Hook thing and run around slice and dice style. There are many ways to go about a battle, and all are an experience on their own.

This game makes burning people alive too much fun.
This game makes burning people alive too much fun.

 The world you run around in is also drop dead phenomenal. Everything from the style of the buildings to the wonderful looking environment, it’s all beautifully crafted and you can tell Irrational has put a lot of effort into their masterpiece. While I played it on PC, apparently the console versions take a bit of a drop. While nothing too serious, a few NPC characters might feel a bit stiff and some textures a little bit iffy. Nothing to really worry about though, it won’t take away from the experience.

 It’s also because of this art style that makes Bioshock Infinite such a fantastic game. You can really see the emotion on Elizabeth’s face at times, you can hear the despair in Booker’s voice. When you walk around, you feel like you’re in a living, breathing world. A real one. People interact, they talk, they engage in casual conversation with one another. The places you visit are unique and relative to the story.

 But Bioshock’s greatest strength here is it’s story. The story of Elizabeth, Booker, Anna, Comstock, Robert and Rosalind Lutece. All characters you come to love, and the story takes just enough twists and turns at points to always keep you on the edge of your seat the entire ride. While the ending wasn’t as great as I was hoping, it was still a phenomenal journey and I would highly recommend you take it multiple times. The amount of content with trophies/achievements, voxophones telling you more stories, upgrades to buy, 1999 mode, side quests, and the (excuse the pun) infinite amount of meanings for the game, is all done fantastically. 

Summary:

Buy this game.

Gameplay: Vigors, Skylines, Melee, Guns, everything is kept fresh with options to mess around with. Varied, intelligent enemies. Is just a little bit generic. 9.8/10

 Sound: Troy Baker as Booker is excellent, and Courtnee Draper as Elizabeth is mighty fine. The music is touching and chimes in at the right moments, and the sound effects are a nice touch. 10/10

Presentation: Relatively easy interface, had some trouble with only two slots for my Vigors to choose from, but the keyboard mapping option made it much easier to deal with. No manual saves made it sometimes a hassle to be forced to finish an area in order for it to autosave. 9/10

 Story: The best of the best. No doubt about that. Only matched by it’s predecessor. 10/10

 Graphics: Downright beautiful game. Everything from characters to environment, will make your jaw drop. 10/10

 Replay Value: You will want to play through this game again. A plethora of content to keep you coming back, well worth your 60 dollars. 10/10

Overall: 9.9/10

TGC Mobile Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us (iOS)

Injustice-gods-among-us-ios-reviewInjustice: Gods Among Us has touched down on the iOS store a couple of weeks before the full console version of Injustice: Gods Among Us starts making waves on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.

Injustice: Gods Among Us on iOS is a free-to-play title, so there’s no need to spend any cash to get a taster of what’s to come later this month, though as is standard with free-to-play games, in-game purchases are encouraged.

Gameplay

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a typical fighting game with some not so typical features. Instead of having buttons to mash you’ll be swiping and tapping the screen to attack or defend against your enemies. The controls work well and on the iPad 2 it was smooth and responsive thanks in part to the large screen. I can’t say for certain, but I imagine playing on the smaller screen of the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5 would get a little troublesome and you’d miss out on the visuals by having your hands blocking large parts of the screen, something that isn’t an issue on the iPad 2′s screen.

As well as tapping and swiping the screen, there’s another unconventional addition to the fighter formula: card play. Each character is represented via a card that can be levelled up (paying real world money will move this along a lot quicker) and there’s more to unlock, you just need to put in the hours, something that won’t be easily done in a day.

The mechanics all work together to form a competent if at times irksome game. Making dents in the collectibles gets tiresome after a while and you’ll realise that money really does make the world go around. It’s not bad though, for a free game there’s a lot of fun to be had and if you want more, you just pay a little extra.

Graphics & Sound

Graphically, Injustice: Gods Among Us is more than good enough to look at. Don’t expect visuals to be on-par with the full release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Wii U, but for a free mobile game, you can’t complain. Characters look fantastic and move well around the arena as you engage in some 3-on-3 super-combat, spitting out some super-banter. You’ll definitely see a few jagged edges, you’ll even see some dodgy animations at times, but it’s for free and you’re not obliged to pay anything. The sound effects are serviceable and let you know when you’ve landed a particularly good combo with the appropriate crunches and belting music.

Summary

For a free game you can’t go wrong. It’s an easy time waster to get stuck into when you’re without anything else to do. You’ll find yourself cursing the in-game purchases, but at the end of the day you know what free-to-play means by now. Injustice: Gods Among Us is a solid fighter and requires a bit more thinking than your usual super-duper-awesome-55,000-hit-combo Street Fighter games. Enjoy.

Final Score: 8.0/10 – Super. Worth the space on your iOS device, may even be worth sinking a few quid into if you really get into it.

Tested on iPad 2.

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TGC Review: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

The-Walking-Dead-Survival-Instinct-logoThe Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a first-person shooter from Terminal Reality and publisher Activision, placing you in the rugged redneck boots of Daryl Dixon during the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse in a quest to re-unite Daryl with his older brother Merle Dixon.

The Walking Dead is hot property at the moment, so it comes as no surprise that Activision thought it would be a good idea to re-create the universe in the form of a first-person shooter. It’s not a bad idea either, in fact, it’s one of the better ideas that Activision has had in recent times, unfortunately the execution is less than stellar, with bland graphics, boring gameplay and a game that reeks of lazy cash-in, you’re better off avoiding The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a prequel, set before the events of AMC’s The Walking Dead television show. Remember the golden rule about prequels being turds? We’ve recently had a couple of exceptions to the rule in the form of God of War: Ascension, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gears of War: Judgement, all fantastic games by their own merits, and all of them prequels to popular franchises. Survival Instinct does one thing right and that’s bringing balance back to the ‘prequels are turds’ rule. the-walking-dead-survival-instinct-dixon-brothers

To be fair, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct starts off promising, the eerie theme score from the television show rattles in and for a moment you’re tricked into thinking that you’re going to be in for a great time. Then the music stops and the charade is over, you soon realise that you’ve purchased a turd that the developers didn’t even bother to polish, not even a little bit.

Played from the first-person perspective, any Call of Duty player will be instantly familiar with the gameplay which borrows from the aforementioned franchise as well as 007: Goldeneye Reloaded for its stealth mechanics. The stealth mechanics are a joke, and to be brutally honest broken to the point where I can only describe it with a swear: shit. The gameplay is slow and repetitive, not helped by the non-existent story not being told.

The story not being told is Daryl trying to re-unite with his older redneck brother Merle whilst zombies walk the streets and generally just stink up the place. In order to get to Merle, you’re going to have to drive through a bunch of towns or mini-areas, though you don’t actually get to drive yourself which is a shame as this could have resulted in a decent bit of gameplay where you’d drive along the highway bashing walkers down, instead it’s a missed opportunity and is instead presented in map form, a bit like Indiana Jones but without any of the charm.

The-Walking-Dead-Survival-Instinct-ShotgunSo, you’re going along and darn it, you’re out of gas. Naturally, you’ll want to find more, so you check out the area you’re pushed into and start to look around for some supplies, whether it’s food, fuel or ammo, whilst all the time being among the undead who prowl the streets and alleyways. You can either go in all guns blazing and risk attracting groups of flesh rotters, or take the stealthy approach and pick off the lame-brains with your trusty knife or Daryl’s trademark crossbow. It sounds good right? Reading it back to myself even I’m thinking “damn that sounds interesting and fun,” but in reality, it’s a broken shambles. I know zombies are supposed to be stupid, but when you go up to a group and start stabbing or shooting, you at least expect some sort of reaction, at the very least a zombie attempting to have a nibble. Instead, you’re faced with stupid AI that doesn’t respond to your gameplay choices, it seems random. Sometimes you’ll be able to walk up to 3-4 walkers and not get noticed until you are able to see the poorly rendered teeth of the undead, other times you’ll be going all out Splinter Cell: Redneck Edition and alert the horde even when you can’t see them! To put it simply, the best way to go about your business is to do as Activision intended: Call of Duty it. By that I mean just go in with a gun and pick off the undead with hot lead. This works with Call of Duty because the enemies can shoot back, providing an incentive to take care, however, in The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct the enemies are slow moving targets that can be done away with pretty quick thanks to the unresponsive AI.

This is pretty much how The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct goes on for the short 5-6 hours it takes to finish the ‘story.’ The gameplay can be extended by enlisting the help of other survivors that you’ll encounter on your travels to different towns, different towns that look exactly the same that is, but ultimately there’s no point in using the people you meet. They’re pointless and it’s usually quicker to just go and fetch whatever it is you need by yourself, all the while blazing through a la Call of Duty, then moving on to the next familiar locale. walking-dead-survival-instinct-crossbow

Rinse and repeat, and that’s the Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.

Summary

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct could have been fantastic, it could have been so much more, but unfortunately it’s nothing more than a shameless cash-in on a popular license. Lacking any kind of visuals to keep you interested, a story that isn’t really a story and repetitive gameplay across repetitive locations and you’ve got yourself a stinking, steaming pile of rotting zombie crap. Once again, Activision have taken a beloved franchise and bastardised, raped and ruined it, just to make a quick buck.

Story: If it’s a thrilling, dramatic and emotional tale you’re looking for then look again because there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before, or done quite so badly. 1.0

Gameplay: Boring, repetitive and broken. Nothing more than a rushed cash-in. Basically Call of Zombies: Redneck Ops. 2.0

Graphics: By todays standards, they’re rubbish. Even Aliens: Colonial Marines looks good in comparison. Characters look like plastic moulds and zombies come in about 7 variations. Visual fidelity wasn’t a high priority, obviously. 4.0

Sound: The highlight is the voice acting, with Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker providing the voices for their in-game character. The familiar theme music is also top-notch, but seeing as neither of these are original creations from the developers or Activision, they don’t deserve the credit, instead they sit beside the bland and repetitive sound design. Bland and repetitive is a recurring theme with this one… 3.5

Replay Value:  There are Trophies and Achievements to get, but that requires playing through maybe one or two more times, something you’ll not want to do unless you’re in the mood for some digital self harm, in which case, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct will do you fine. 1.0

Final Score: 2.3/10 – Please, please, please, please, please do not waste your time. If you really want to take on the zombies, rent it, or borrow if off one of your lesser informed friends. Otherwise, check out Telltales’ The Walking Dead for the story and the Left 4 Dead series for proper first-person zombie slaying. Shame on you Activision, shame on you.

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Release Date: March 19th 2013

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Terminal Reality

Genre: First-Person Shooter/Action/Adventure

Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC

Version Tested: Xbox 360

Review copy bought at retail by the reviewer.

TGC Review: Gears of War: Judgment

GOW-JudgmentThe Gears of War series has so far spanned three games, three games that complete and epic trilogy in the battle to defeat the alien menace, the Locust. Now we have a new title in the series that doesn’t take the franchise forward, but backwards. That’s not bad, the prequel to the successful trilogy may be taking a step back in time and focussing on other characters, but it’s a definite step forward in terms of gameplay.

Alarm bells started ringing months ago when we found that Epic Games weren’t the sole developers, but Poland based studio People Can Fly have done a stellar job in giving Gears of War: Judgment a good kick up the rear end.

As you know, Gears of War: Judgment is a prequel, set a month after the outbreak of global war between the Locust and humans, putting you in the oversized boots of previously underdeveloped characters and reliving their experiences through a series of flashback memories telling their tales of the early days of the war. It works nicely and is a welcome change from the standard story telling mechanics seen in previous entries, in fact, it’s probably the best story of the bunch. You get a closer look at the characters who’ve been given a better round of dialogue this time around, instead of the overtly macho mannerisms we’re treated to interesting and at times comical dialogue, more often than not provided by Cole and Baird with their manly banter. 

Without giving too much away in the story, although we all know the eventual outcome, as is the curse with prequels, the story trots at a different pace to the previous games, with much more emphasis on dramatics and story telling than just mindless mowing down of those ugly bugger Locusts. It’s not a bad thing either, you’ll still get more than enough action packed gameplay which encourages you to go back and play again with more bite-sized chunks in terms of levels, and with a narrative that keeps you engaged and interested, even after playing through the same sequence a couple of times. The idea of playing through the same sections might sound tedious and prone to getting a little boring, which is true with the previous trilogy, but Gears of War: Judgment throws you a curve ball each time you play thanks to the dynamic spawning of enemy Locusts. gears-of-war-judgment-screen

Instead of scripted fight sequences where you know exactly where the enemy will spawn, they can from in different variations at different times in different places. It’s a nice mix thrown in, though it’s not nearly as dynamic as the ‘Director’ in Left 4 Dead or Left 4 Dead 2, it does make replaying the story missions more enjoyable due to the fact you just don’t know what’s coming, all you know is that you’re going to be putting a ton of bullets in them, or the end of your chainsaw rifle, whatever takes your fancy. It does come with its own problems, though nothing that will break the game or your enjoyment (much.) The spawning of the enemies changes each time and its here that lies the problem. While on one play through you may just get a few regular Locust grunts that can be taken care of in a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out, the next time you play the same section you may find yourself up against some of the tougher enemies which require a different change of pace, but not all areas are designed with groups of specific enemies in mind. Where it may work for one set of enemies, it fails for others. Still, it adds a little bit of a challenge and like I say, it won’t take away from the fun.

Graphically, it’s no better than Gears of War 3, though there may be a few extra effects in play, it doesn’t really strike the eye as a leap forward, but it’s to be expected as the Xbox 360 is nearing the end of its life cycle and is really being pushed to its limits with today’s gaming experiences.

That being said, the game looks and plays like a dream with the frame rate stable even in the heat of big battles, environments are given high detail and are good fun to have a poke around, even when you’re supposed to be on the job. Level design is mostly linear with little emphasis put on exploration, but they’re big enough for you to find cover, pull off some tactical flanking manoeuvres and are generally big enough to accommodate all styles of play.

The big finales and ‘boss’ battles are stunning and suck you into the gritty universe just as well, and sometimes better than the previous games managed to. The visual fidelity of the characters, both human and Locust alike. Characters movements are swift and reek of finesse whilst the enemies move according to their own motion set, and it’s all good. You’ll notice the odd bit of AI that acts ‘special’ especially with the enemies who on more than one occasion just stood there and took their beating with dignity, but without retaliation. Only a couple of times did I come across these ‘special’ individuals, and the friendly AI was for the most part pretty good, as far as AI goes. You’ll see you’re fellow soldiers take cover when they need to, lob grenades when they see fit, blind fire when the going gets tough and retreat when the battle starts going south, which for me happened more often than not.

gears-of-war-judgment-screenThat’s Gears of War: Judgment in essence, the fight is never over and you’re looking at a loss each time you get into a shoot-out, especially in some of the more gruelling sections when even played on the default difficulty often felt much more difficult. It may seem off-putting to some, but the idea that you may not win the battle the first time around adds to the tension being pulled through the entire campaign; it’s a fight for survival and humanity isn’t prepared, the battles are fierce and the enemy is a frightening foe that can’t be beaten with just brawn alone. For hardcore Gears of War fans, the fight is worth the money and won’t feel a shade less than anything that’s come before it. For those who haven’t gotten around to the Gears of War series, it’s a great starting point and sets you up for the rest of the series, which is best played in order. Some may feel the deviation from hardcore gunning and mowing is a blemish on the franchise, but the story telling is strong and makes up for any short-comings you might find, though I didn’t find any, except for the multiplayer.

The multiplayer is present, but feels more tacked on than any other multiplayer addition in the series. The main focus has understandably been the single player campaign, without it there wouldn’t be a new game until Gears of War 4, but the multiplayer is pretty bare bones.

You’ve got your standard Team Deathmatch making a welcome return, and that’s all that returns from previous entries. Instead of the plethora of game-modes brought across from Gears of War 3, there’s new additions that take place of the usual contenders. Free For All, Survival, Domination and OverRun.

Free For All is pretty self-explanatory, Survival is basically Horde mode played co-op, Domination puts two teams head to head in a fight to control three points on the map and then there’s OverRun which puts two teams Locust-vs-Human against each other in a series of objective driven games.

And that’s it. Team Deathmatch is a staple by now and remains just as fun, as do the new game modes being introduced, which all play perfectly fine and as you would expect, but there’s a serious lack of content. With just five game-modes and 8 maps, you’ll feel a little short-changed if it’s the multiplayer that you’re buying into. The best explanation for the lack of content is that it’ll be released as download content in the near future, most likely paid and if that’s the case, it’s a kick in the teeth to fans who’ve followed the series and have grown accustomed to the deep multiplayer offering of previous games.

Summary

Gears of War: Judgment is a more than decent effort and breaks the ‘prequels are rubbish’ rule. The focus on story telling and characters is a welcome change of pace to the usual frantically bomb-tastic narrative’s we’re force-fed. It’s without a doubt the strongest title in the series in terms of single player, but the multiplayer component is seriously lacking in the content department, so if you’ve no interest in the single player campaign then you’ll be in for a big disappointment with the stripped down online features.

Story: The best in the series. A strong narrative filled with witty dialogue and characters that you’ll appreciate. It has its weak spots, but as a whole package, the story lives up to and exceeds the previous tales being told. – 9.0

Gameplay: It’s Gear of War as you know it, though with a little spice. Missions are broken up into bite-size chunks with dynamically spawning enemies, the combat is identical to the previous games and the ‘boss’ levels are horribly difficult at times. – 8.5

Graphics: Not much difference between this and Gears of War 3, but that’s OK as Gears of War 3 looked good enough when it first released. Large environments filled with details, characters with believable movements and some grisly deaths and you’ve got yourself a HD beauty. – 8.0

Sound: The musical score pipes in at the right moments, providing an additional layer of drama to the already grounded story. Guns sound heavy and satisfyingly brutal, especially when you’re down to your last bullets and all you’ve got is the trusty chainsaw. – 8.5

Replay Value: Most games depend on their multiplayer modes for replay value, Gears of War: Judgment doesn’t. The single player campaign is pretty long, clocking in around 8 hours depending on play style and difficulty, but you can easily triple it if you’re going for the Achievements or playing through the Declassified mode. The multiplayer is bare bones to say the least and won’t be holding anyone away from Gears of War 3‘s online offering, not until there’s some more game modes and a big influx of maps, most likely to come in the form of overpriced DLC. - 8.0

The Verdict – 8.4

Chainsaws at the ready, you’re in for a kick-ass ride.

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TGC Review: God of War: Ascension

Kratos is bGod-of-War-Ascension-coverack, well, it’s more Back to the Future, but he’s back all the same in God of War: Ascension. Does it fare well for our favourite anti-hero? Or is it a bit of a dry lunch? Read on for the full review.

Kratos first started throwing his weight around back in the good old PlayStation 2 era, with the God of War games garnering critical acclaim from bother reviewers and players alike. Then God of War made the jump to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) where we all expected it to land with a stumble, but much to our surprise, Kratos’ adventures were just as engrossing and satisfying on the PSP as they were on the PlayStation 2.

Then the PlayStation 3 came along and God of War found its new home, moving in with God of War III, with a late moving in party thrown by the God of War HD collection. It’s fair to say, we’ve seen a lot come and go with God of War, it’s been around for nearly 9 years, but it’s still swinging those chains like a youngster priming to strike.

Now we have God of War: Ascension, possibly the last God of War title that will grace the PlayStation 3, what with the much-anticipated PlayStation 4 hiding around the corner. If this should be the last time Kratos kicks ass on the PlayStation 3, then we’ve no problem with that; it’s a glorious way to end the battle.

God of War: Ascension is a prequel. Now I know what you think, prequel equals stinker. We’ve seen it happen time and time again (yeah George Lucas, I’m talking about you,) and more often than not, prequels tend to be a stain on otherwise sparkling franchises. Thankfully, we’re blessed with the good fortune that God of War‘s reputation as the supreme hack-and-slash remains untarnished, in fact, it’s had a bit of a buff and polish with some new features chucked in.

So, let’s start with what is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the game: the story. Anybody who’s followed Kratos through his journey will be familiar with the series and it’s storytelling techniques which generally, work to a high standard and is the reason we keep mashing those buttons until our thumbs are worn to the bone.

The story told in God of War: Ascension takes place ten years prior to the original God of War, yet around six months after Kratos was tricked by the wicked Ares into killing his beloved wife Lysandra and their daughter Calliope.god-of-war-ascension-kratos

You see, Kratos had sold his soul to Ares, and now in God of War: Ascension, Kratos is hell-bent on breaking the bond that ties himself and Ares together, but to do so, he must first defeat the Furies of which there are three. Three of the most evil Goddesses of the Underworld which Kratos must overcome.

Understandably, the story feels a bit forced due to the fact that we, or at least those who have played through Kratos’ epic battles already know what is set in stone for our ruthless anti-hero. It’s here that the story falters in trying to craft a new tale, but it leaves one thing missing and that’s a satisfying end to the tale. We already know how it must end and what happens in the years after, so in this respect, the story doesn’t quite match the highs (nor lows) of the previous God of War games.

Still, that being said, it’s still a good story and provides good entertainment with a strong cast of characters and a more personal look at Kratos, who has up until now been very much a cut off character. This time around we get to see what motivates, what hurts and what pisses Kratos off. In an era where video games are pushing closer to the medium of film, story content has become a big factor in single player games, God of War: Ascension is proof of studios crafting better stories to keep up with the crowd, or risk being left behind with the cardboard characters with cliché dialogue.

god-of-war-ascension-review2Fans of the series will appreciate the deeper focus on the story where as newcomers might feel a bit overwhelmed with the spewing of information and the story being told. It’s not that God of War: Ascension requires you to have played the previous entries before, but there are advantages to being a seasoned slayer. In fact, if the God of War series has passed you by all these years, this is the best place to begin, it’s the start of the epic journey, one that you can follow on for three more games on your PlayStation 3, and even pick up the portable titles for the PSP, or better yet, get them for the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita.)

Story is important to games, something that is often getting overlooked by the military shooter crowd, instead of focussing on the online component, so it’s good to see a story worth following has been created alongside a multiplayer mode, but more on that later.

Where story may be lacking at times, you’ll have no problem with the gameplay itself. It’s God of War as you know it. Brutal, mega, epic, glorious, satisfying, everything you know it is to be and more! The combat is as slick as ever with brutal combos being dished out all over the show. I found myself instantly familiar with the way the game plays, with the buttons being more or less the standard affair, so getting stuck in was no problem. Though I will warn newcomers, it may take a bit of trial and error to perfect your slaying skills, but don’t worry, we were all there at one point, but there’s a God in all of us.

Fighting the waves of enemies is good and all, but sometimes, you just need a break. These come in the form of platforming sections, sprinkled with a light dusting of puzzle-play, making use of Kratos’ new ability to basically freeze time. Yes. Freeze. Time. Where does this fit in with the games timeline? Why is it not in God of War? Did Kratos feel he was bad-ass enough that freezing time was considered a pussy move amongst the other Gods? Or did Doc Brown and Marty McFly have some hand in this? What about the other new abilities that Kratos can wield? No idea to be honest. I suppose sometimes logic and storytelling have to remain separate at times to provide us with new and enjoyable experiences…

I have to admit, the platforming sections of the game seemed a bit forced and not in line with God of War. They were good, no problems there, but it just felt like it didn’t belong. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and it may just be personal taste, but it just didn’t feel right. You however may find it as easy flowing as the rest of the game, so keep that in mind, in fact, keep the fact this entire review is my own opinion in mind. It’s totally objective, but personal preferences ultimately play a part in how we see things, I’m no exception.god-of-war-ascension

The gameplay, as I say, is locked down solid and feels fantastic to slash away at the various creatures you’ll be sending to the afterlife with your Blades of Chaos, a pair of gnarly swords with can be flung at enemies on your chains, or you can just go and do it the old-fashioned way and approach your foe, swords in hands and deliver the killing blow in person. Whatever suits you best.

It’s not all roses though. As with any game, there are flaws, without a doubt. Even the biggest and best games with astronomically big budgets have flaws, God of War: Ascension is no different. There are the occasional moments where you’ll find yourself angry with the difficulty, the seemingly impossible puzzle, or most annoyingly the camera. This is my personal annoyance, it’s something that has gotten on my nerves through the series. Amongst the glorious battles with crazy amounts of sword fodder just waiting to be cut down into Greek meat, I often found myself at a loss as to where Kratos actually was. In an effort to showcase the fantastic, and I mean really fantastic areas on which you’ll do battle, the camera is pulled so far out it’s often difficult to distinguish yourself from the crowd. You’d think being big, bald and stupidly pale would help, but it didn’t. Instead, I found good use for the reinvented ‘Rage’ mechanic. This time around you’ll gather your inner rage by beating the living bones out of foes until you automatically engage in some Kratos rage. The best use for this newly designed rage mode was, for me that is, to find myself amongst the mass.

That aside, it’s not the worst experience you could have for £40/$60, though bear in mind it won’t take as long to finish the story as in previous games, it’s a little shorter but you can still rack up at least 9-10 hours of gameplay, depending on what difficulty you play and how adventurous you are and if you’re like me, you’ll be taking your time and enjoying the visuals as much as the gameplay.

The God of War games have always pushed far ahead of the competition when it comes to graphical fidelity, but God of War: Ascension really does take it a notch higher. It’s not a massive graphical leap over God of War III, but there’s enough new technological wizardry at work that you’ll notice it’s an improvement. Characters are fantastically designed and you feel every blow when Kratos takes a hit, when he smashes the ground, cracking the surface and sending mindless enemies toppling over like a chess set. Sony Santa Monica has done a stellar job and must be more than proud of what they have achieved on hardware that’s getting on in years. I remember playing God of War II and declaring it the most lifelike game I’d ever seen. We all had that feeling about one game or another from a previous generation, but now seeing God of War: Ascension in action makes me feel a bit stupid. If graphical fidelity is what you like in your games, you wont be disappointed, it’s a stunner that uses the PlayStation 3 and its complicated guts to create a stunning world for us to enjoy.

Now, that’s about it for the single player. I’m not going into the end, that’ something you’ll have to find out by playing the game. Like I said earlier, we all know what the eventual conclusion must be, but it’s still worth experiencing first hand rather than reading it on the internet, trust me, you’ll enjoy it.

God of War: Ascension features a series first in the fact there is a multiplayer mode. Yes, a multiplayer mode. The God of War games have always been about the single player experience, something that you enjoyed by yourself for hours on end, long into the early hours of the morning, maybe taking it in turns with a friend who’s staying over. Maybe, if they have behaved themselves and have shown respect to your console and discs.god-of-war-ascension-review-1 (Tip: Don’t lend your best games to friends who think the games case is a temporary method of transport between your house and his.)

For me, the multiplayer was very much a hit and miss experience. The variety of game modes is nice, but they just don’t feel right in God of War. Seriously, Capture the Flag belongs in first person shooters or third person shooters, not in a game where Gods pummel the Holy (or unholy) shit out of each other. That said, of the variety of game modes, there was some fun to be had in Team Deathmatch, the battles you can pull off, especially if you have a group of mates pitted against each other online, are excellent. It’s definitely more fun to play with people you know, kind of like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.

I won’t count the multiplayer in the final score, because for me, I’m just not interested in the multiplayer aspect of the game, it’s not appealing and I can’t in good conscience tell you that it’s good or bad based on my experience with the mode.

Summary

God of War: Ascension plays to the familiar tune we’ve all be humming to since God of War appeared on the PlayStation 2 and thankfully, it’s still got the tempo, tune and rhythm to keep you humming along happily, as you murder your way through the strong, but shorter story. God of War fans will appreciate the deeper experience and what it means to be Kratos as well as some hard as nails action with awesome set pieces to make not only your jaw hit the floor, but your face.

Story: The story isn’t the strongest of the series, but it’s perfectly serviceable and will keep you entertained as you smash your way to Godliness. 8.0

Gameplay: If you’ve played God of War before, you know what to expect, but you’ll still be thrown the occasional curve ball with some new features and some slight reworkings of previous mechanics such as the Rage mode. 9.0

Graphics: You’ll be surprised at how God of War: Ascension has managed to best it’s predecessor in the graphics department. The epic battles have never looked so good, even if you do get a bit lost in the battle at time. 9.5

Sound: The characters are voiced by a strong cast who lend themselves to the story without the slightest hint of silliness, as silly as some may seem. Battle cries and the thunder of your enemies attempting to turn you into Kratos juice works well, the music however, is a missed opportunity. 8.5

Replay Value: Based solely off the single player offering, you can have more than one run through the story and still have a good time. For that fact that multiplayer is there, you can extend the life of your expensive purchase if it’s your sort of thing, otherwise, there’s a ton of Trophies to collect, some of which will test your patience. 8.0

The Verdict – 8.6 A worthy experience, you will feel like the God of War once you’re done with this one.

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TGC Review: Far Cry 3

far-cry-3-logoIn the words of Gun’s and Roses “Welcome to the Jungle, we’ve got fun and games.” Far Cry 3 arrived with little fanfare, at least compared to other big name titles such as Call of Duty, which is a shame as everyone deserves to know about this game.

Like previous entries into the series, Far Cry 3 is an open world FPS. Ubisoft Montreal have taken everything that worked from the last two games and thrown out ‘most’ things that didn’t.  Not only that but it seems Ubisoft have done their research and borrowed a lot of elements from other successful games to make this one of the best titles they have ever produced.

Story

You play as Jason Brody, a backpacker on a trip to Bangkok with his brothers and friends. Things go a bit pear-shaped when they accidentally skydive onto a mysterious island and get captured by pirates, lead by one serious nut job Vaas; played to perfection by Michael Mando.

Without wanting to spoil too much, what follows starts as a standard ‘hero must save his friends’ plot, but soon descends into Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness territory. There are plenty of pop culture references and if you think hard enough you’ll recognise that most of the characters are based on people you’ve seen in movies. Overall the story is compelling enough to make you want to finish the game and contains enough surprises to keep you guessing. Yet it fails to live up to the social commentating, psycho thriller that was initially promised.

Gameplay

This is where Far Cry really shines. Anyone who is a FPS veteran will be instantly at home. The button configuration makes sense and is customisable to those who prefer different layouts.

The characters movement is what makes this experience all the more visceral. Jason is swift and agile enough to traverse the varied terrain, but it’s the little touches to your characters animation that make you connect to the world. Climbing looks and feels real, occasionally if you miss time a grab you’ll hang on with one arm and heave yourself up by swinging a leg over the ledge.  If falling from a height doesn’t kill you it will at least do some damage and cause you to fall flat on your face in a cloud of dust. Jason enters and exits vehicles as you would in real life, and when you crash he sprawls across the dash-board giving a sense of impact. Healing yourself in the game is just as painful, as Jason pull bullets out of his arm with a knife and wrap himself in bandages to name a few.

Combat is just as primal. Guns have real weight and effect, each handling different to the last. The bow is an excellent addition to your arsenal, allowing you to bring out your inner Rambo. Melee combat forces you to get up close and personal, and the first time you knife a guy in the back I defy you not to wince.far-cry-3-bow

Far Cry 3 has a light yet rewarding role-playing element. A skill tree with the help of XP allows you unlock cool new skills making you a more efficient bad ass. Crafting also plays a big role. Collecting herbs lets you create syringes that boost certain attributes. Hunting animals serves more of a purpose than most games that include this mechanic, as it is vital to skin creatures great and small in order to obtain better equipment to improve your chances of survival.

The main missions are well thought out, adding a variety of elements to distinguish each from the last. One particular mission stands out; again I don’t want to spoil things, but just listen out for Damien Marley and you’ll know what I mean. Enemy AI is accomplished and provides enough of a challenge to make you think about how to go about picking them off. As the game progresses they do get harder, yet rarely did I feel I wanted to give up out of frustration.far-cry-3-gun

Side quests are a large part of this game. The main objective outside of the story missions is to capture enemy outposts. Each one has different layout and enemy roster, forcing you to scout and plan ahead. One of the main criticisms of Far Cry 2 was that once you had captured a base the enemies would later re-spawn, not so here. Preferably I would have liked a nice balance, as once you have captured all the bases that’s it, no more bad guys. Ubisoft have just announced an update where you can reset the bases, but wouldn’t it be more fun if every now and then you were notified that a base you’d previously captured was under attack and you had to get back to defend it within a designated time? Anyway, besides the base capture there is plenty to do; assassination missions, hunting missions, races and NPC assigned tasks. Another crucial task is to un-jam radio towers ala Assassin’s Creed, and each tower provides a puzzle element as to how you reach the top.

Collectables in games are usually a laborious chore, but here I had no qualms about exploring ancient ruins or sunken ships to find items that when fully acquired, reward me with new weapons and gear. It’s not essential but if you see one on your map on your way somewhere else your initial thought is ‘why not?’ rather than ‘why bother?’. The map is huge yet dense. As you explore the island via land, sea or air you will constantly be surprised and by what you find.

Far Cry 3 is hugely enjoyable to play, even if you don’t normally enjoy FPS. It’s a true sandbox, full of so many things to do and see, you’ll be hard pressed to find a dull moment.

Graphics

Far Cry 3 is an absolutely beautiful game, and you can tell Ubisoft have put every penny on-screen. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the pirates and man-eating wild life I would happily live there. There are the occasional glitches, but nothing game breaking. Everything looks as good close up as it does far away. The jungle is gorgeously rendered, the water looks inviting and some of the vistas make you want to check to see if you’re still in your house.far-cry-3-tiger

Character models are superb, especially the animals. The first time you get attacked by a tiger you will be split between wondering how they’ve made it look so good and if you’ve soiled your pants or not.

The island it’s self is a marvel. Nothing seems out of place and one of the biggest joy’s of the game is exploring its vast and varied landscape. It’s almost a shame fast travel was included; as if you use it you’d be missing out on what’s just around the next corner.

Multi Player

This is where Far Cry 3 falls short. After playing the main story you’ll find little to persuade you to choose Far Cry’s multiplayer over your Call of Duty’s or Battlefield’s. Standard online game modes such as team death match bring nothing new to the table, except a robust map editor, and levelling up just isn’t enough to keep you coming back.

Co-op is a little better. It has its own story which is kind of cool, and the missions are enough to warrant team work in order to progress, yet it still feels like an afterthought rather than an exciting addition to the package. An extension pack has just been released but I have yet had the chance to see if it improves what’s already there.

Summary

If you haven’t guessed already, I love Far Cry 3, despite the average multi player elements. You will be hard pushed to find a single player game that sucks you in and holds your attention for such a long time. Far Cry 3 is a serious contender for game of the year and it deserves to be played by as many people as possible.

Presentation: Menus are simple yet detailed. RPG elements are well-integrated and never tiresome. 8.0

Graphics: Amazing. Scenery, characters and wild life are all beautiful designed. Occasional glitches may occur but nothing that will dampen you experience. 9.0

Sound: Everything sounds as it should within the world, from rustling through bushes to the sound of animals chewing on your limbs. The soundtrack is great, kicking into gear for those high-octane moments and chilling you out for the down time. 9.0

Gameplay: Intuitive, satisfying and rewarding. 9.5

Lasting Appeal: 20 hours plus in the main story (if you don’t use fast travel.), and multi player should you feel the need. 7.5

 

Overall: 8.6/10 – Like taking a holiday with guns and pirates! Play this game now!

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TGC Rewind Review: Unit 13 (PS Vita)

343147021_640A little late to the party, we’re getting our review of Unit 13 out to the masses. Considering it’s currently on offer on the PlayStation store, it seems fitting that you should at least read a quick review before putting your cash down on the table. So if you’re looking at Unit 13 and wondering whether or not it’s the shooter for you, read on and find out what we think.

What is it?

Unit 13 is a by-the-book third-person shooter. Fans of the SOCOM franchise will be instantly familiar with the over the shoulder camera and the way the game plays. It first released for the PlayStation Vita on March 6th in North America and March 7th for the UK and Europe.

Developed by Zipper Interactive, the team behind the SOCOM series on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3, as well as massive only shooter MAG, Unit 13 was their last effort before being closed down by the studio owner Sony Computer Entertainment.

What’s the story?

There isn’t really much of a story, truth be told. Unit 13 is designed for quick-fire sessions with bite sized missions ideal for bursts of play, so instead of getting a fully fleshed out narrative to follow, you just take random missions as you please. There is an overlying plot of some sort, the enemies are ‘The Alko’ who are a terrorist organisation. Each mission will see you attempt to thwart their activities through a variety of mission types, controlling numerous playable members of the elite squad that is Unit 13.

The lack of story is probably the game’s weakest aspect, though it doesn’t harm the fun. It’s just nice to have a story to follow, you know?3_620x351

Characters are pretty bland too. Each character you play as is your typical macho army dude with smarmy remarks and typical military babble. It’s a shame that the characters couldn’t have been fleshed out more in a full story, but again, it’s not the end of the world but it’s something to consider if you’re looking for a story driven action game.

Gameplay

As I said before, Unit 13 is similar to SOCOM in how it plays, in fact, I’m mildly surprised it wasn’t titled SOCOM: Unit 13 as it’s resemblance is more than obvious from the very first mission. You control the different members of the elite squad that is Unit 13, each of which have different stat’s that make them better suited to the different mission types.

You’ll take each of the soldier through various missions with a variety of goals – disarm the bomb, eliminate drug lord, eliminate arms dealer etc. They’re pretty standard and at first it seems like there’s some good variety, but once you’ve played through all the missions you can find yourself getting a bit bored of the same locations and objectives. Still, they are fun to play through and you can either sit and play for an hour and have some good fun, or you can take it on the road and get 5 minutes here and there whether you’re on the bus or having a sneaky play under the desk at work, just don’t get caught. unit 13

The gameplay is pretty standard third-person shooter action, with the option to switch to first person when using weapons with optic attachments. There’s something oddly satisfying in the way the game plays, by that I mean you can be in cover and pop out around the corner and plant a bullet in an enemy’s head and pop back into cover in the blink of an eye. Each soldier is equipped with a silenced pistol and an a customisable primary weapon, though if like me you prefer the stealthy gameplay, you’ll find much pleasure in taking out targets with your trusty side arm.

That’s not to say the big guns aren’t effective, quite the contrary. Sometimes you’ll find you can only progress through the use of brutal force and that filling the air with digital lead is the way forward in some cases. As well as your standard fire arms, there’s the third set of weapons -  grenades, claymores, flashbangs and so on. Each character has their own assigned third weapon, but as you progress and level up your characters through the in-game levelling up system, you’ll be able to customise a little deeper and choose your perfect load out.

Though, it’s not easy to level up. The game plays through the missions with a score being kept, each time you eliminate an enemy or complete an objective you are awarded points, and the more points you accumulate, the higher your score multiplier rises. More points are awarded for stylish kills, so pop out of cover and put a bullet in the head of an enemy and you’ll be better rewarded than just hitting the trigger and riddling your foe with bullets. There’s also bonus points to earned through killing via the environment. You’ll often find bombs or mines scattered around, if you can shoot one of these explosives and kill an enemy with the resulting blast, boom, extra points to you.

As I said before, the points you accumulate go towards levelling up the different soldiers, but it’s a long-winded effort and even after playing through all 36 missions, you’ll probably only have gotten one of them to the highest level, level 10. It does add replay value by forcing you to go back and take on the missions again to level up your men, but it does feel a bit slow and sometimes frustrating.

One thing that does help in your goal is the controls. They have been well implemented and use the PlayStation Vita’s dual sticks to its advantage. Without the twin sticks, I’ve no doubt it would be a difficult experience, but the PlayStation Vita was designed with games like these in mind, so there’s no problems there.

As you can probably guess, movement is assigned to the PlayStation Vita’s dual analogues, the left stick for movement and the right stick for aiming. The face buttons play their part well too, with the cross button you’ll enter into a run, the square button will see you melee your opponents and the circle button is used to take cover with the triangle button allowing you to change your weapons. Told you it was pretty standard…Unit13-1-600x300

The left trigger is used to aim, with the right trigger acting as the firing mechanism. It all works well and doesn’t feel out of place, event the touchscreen controls are a pleasure to use. You can reload your weapons with a quick tap of the gun icon or if you prefer, just give the d-pad a tap. Accessing the map is easy too, just tap the mini map on the top left and away you go. Instead of shoe-horning in touch-screen controls and features, they’re used sparingly and to the game’s advantage, unlike some games (I’m looking at you Uncharted: Golden Abyss!)

Once you’ve gotten through the 36 missions on offer and are now proficient enough with your weapons thanks to the well designed control scheme, you can either take on the ‘High Value Targets’ which are basically just longer mission and are really difficult, but if you want to get all the trophies for the game, you need to complete them, or you can go back through the standard missions and tackle them with the ‘Dynamic Mode’ which will see you play through the same maps but with random objectives and difficulty, or you can go online and take part in some co-op action. Each option is more or less the same, you’ll still be doing what you did when you first booted the game up, but the addition of a co-op mode is pretty cool and works well with the voice chat being a big bonus.

There’s a lot of gameplay to enjoy with Unit 13, but once you’ve completed the missions, you’re limited to what you can do to squeeze more fun out of it. Going back through missions to try to grab the high score and place high on the leaderboard is OK, but not the life and soul of the games longevity. Multiplayer with a mate is probably the best way to get more out of Unit 13 as it gives a fresh experience and a welcome change from being the lone wolf, just make sure your buddy is a decent shot, or you’ll be reviving him more often than not…

Graphics

Unit 13 was one of the earliest titles for the PlayStation Vita, but it still looks pretty damn good. The graphics aren’t quite on par with other titles for the platform, but they are perfectly serviceable and are a pleasure to look at. Characters are animated very well and move in a life-like fashion, taking cover, poking their heads around corners and such, it looks believable. Unit13_1457849a

One flaw that I should mention is the occasional, and I mean very occasional graphical glitch. I’ve been playing Unit 13 for around 6 months now and it’s only showed itself a handful of times, but on occasion you may experience a slow down in the action, where the frame rate drops or the game just goes into a sort of slide-show for about 10 seconds. Like I say, it’s only happened a handful of times, and I must have put well over 100 hours into the game so far, so you may or may never experience it. It’s hardly game breaking, but it’s worth noting.

The environments you’ll be sneaking/blasting your way through have been well designed with lots of spots for you to take cover and move around freely. Though after a while, you’ll soon find that some levels are just the same level with different areas available and some areas locked, but they’re nice to look at and you’ll never find yourself disgusted by poor graphics. For a game that launched alongside a new console, it’s about as good as it was ever going to look, but I fully expect future games for the PlayStation Vita to far surpass Unit 13, so if you’re reading this in 2015, there’s probably a better shooter out with better graphics and a full story to follow, but try out Unit 13 anyway!

Sound

Guns are the main point of play in Unit 13, so it’s important that they sound good. Thankfully, they sound great! By far the most satisfying sound in the entire game is the silenced pistol, the soft sound it makes as you pull the trigger will never get old (to me anyway.) The rest of the guns sound as brutal and deadly as you could wish, each gun being provided with its own sound effects.

Characters, more importantly, the ones you play as are well voiced, albeit mostly silent. They’ll usually pitch in some cocky comment or military jibe at the start of a mission in response to the woman in your ear giving you your orders. In fact, the woman in your ear probably has more lines than the entire cast of Unit 13 put together. The enemies aren’t big on conversation, with most of their dialogue consisting of “I need a new gun” or “I just want to shoot something,” unless you provoke them and then they start shouting the standard “Intruder!” and all the rest.

Music wise, there isn’t much. Apart from a little piece at the title screen and again when you finish a mission, music doesn’t really play a part in Unit 13. It’s not surprising really as music is often used to complement the story, but as Unit 13 has little to no story to speak of, why drown out the sounds of men screaming in pain and guns going bang with music?

Re-play Value

There’s enough here to keep you occupied for at least 15-20 hours, and that’s just playing through the standard missions and maybe retrying a few, but you can easily sink in a lot more if you go for the high scores and track down all the trophies for the game, as well as online co-op. So there’s enough here for the casual gamer who’s looking for a cheap thrill, but there’s also enough to go around for those looking for a lasting experience, just expect it to get repetitive once you’ve played as long as I have…

Summary

If you’re looking for a shooter to keep you occupied until Killzone: Mercenary comes out in September, then Unit 13 should serve you well. It may not be the fast paced online action you get with Call of Duty (not Declassified,) but it’s enjoyable for what it is and if you can get into a few co-op games with a mate, you’ll be sure to get your moneys worth.

Presentation: Menus are navigated by taps of the screen, but its all good, it works superbly and doesn’t feel forced. Easy enough to get around and getting online is a doddle. 8.0

Graphics: Not bad, but definitely not the best the PlayStation Vita has to offer. 7.0

Sound: Guns sound as brutal as you could like and the silenced pistol is very satisfying. Characters sound good, albeit a little bit too standard with no personality. 7.5

Gameplay: It’s simple point and shoot fun, easy enough to get into, sometimes difficult to put down as you give it just “one more go.” Online play works well, just make sure you play with a mate for a top experience. 8.5

Lasting Appeal: There’s enough to keep you busy for well over 20 hours, levelling up alone is very time-consuming and online play rarely gets old. Lot’s of Trophies to collect, one or two that will actually amuse you… 7.0

Overall: 7.6/10 – Decent fun with solid gameplay at its core. Worthy of you money. Go forth, be strong.

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Have you played Unit 13? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments.