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Homefront: First Impressions

I recently bought myself a copy of Kaos Studios latest game Homefront the other day, and in one of my moments of downtime, I popped in the disc and played through the first level.

So far the game has been a bit of a mixed bag, having a couple of very good points, but at the same time, having some glaring problems.  Keep in mind, this is just based upon the first level.

First, the positives.  The storyline of this game is obviously what the developers have sunk all their time into.  In an alternate (or even possible) future, Korean ruler Kim Jong-Il passes away, and in his death and new power rises, his son, Kim Jong-un.  Kim Jong-un proceeds to unite both North and South Korea to form the Greater Korean Republic.  Along with creating peace, Jong-un also proceeds to bring two of the most well armed countries weapons into a central location, all pointed at the rest of the world.  The GKR then proceeds to go on a ‘rampage’ attempting (and succeeding) to take over all of Asia, and the surrounding areas.  Once Asia has fallen to the GKR, they then set their sights on the (presumably) still all-powerful America.  This makes for a well fleshed out storyline, heavy in detail and one which will surely become more interesting.

The cut scenes in-game are where the developers seem to have sunk most of their money, with CGI renditions of newscasters, troops and the fictional Kim Jong-un being incredibly prominent throughout the first 5 minutes of the game.  These give the game a more realistic look, and give the cut scenes more weight, allowing the elements of the story to seem more important.

Unfortunately, despite these positives, there are a few negatives.

I heard someone call this game a COD rip-off the other day, and while I don’t completely agree with them, there is nothing in the actual game play to distinguish it from any other FPS on the market right now.  While I know most shooters are ismilar, they generally attempt to bring at least one new gameplay mechanic to the table these days (eg: Skillshots in Bulletstorm, Armour Abilities in Halo, etc.) so far, Homefront has shown me nothing new.   While I’m not prepared to call this a clone of any other FPS just yet, if something doesn’t spice up soon, this may just have to join the pile of same-old FPS’s.

Another negative is the games graphics.  I know these are not the most important aspects of the game, but sometimes they can really detract from the sense of immersion that video games in general try to achieve. I by no means say these graphics are terrible, just that they seem a little dated.  There is some blur on the edge of most environmental objects, the weapons all look quite similar, and moving people don’t seem to render to well when executing their actions.  The animations are also not quite up to par, such as when throwing grenades, the animation seems to be thrown out of nowhere, unlike other shooters, where it is (almost) seemless.

The gameplay, while not unique is fairly okay.  The only down side is that the game seems designed very linearly, with their being few (if any) ways of going back past a pre determined area, and even less ways of flanking around enemy units.  So far, I’ve been able to flank one group of units, and even then, not very well.  You seem to be constantly jumping down ramps that you can’t jump back up, as if to prevent you from getting to far from the action.  This also appears when you are attempting to go trough closed doors, as no matter how soon you get there, you always have to wait a CPU character to appear to kick it open.  And they always kick it open.

The last flaw I’ve found in the game so far that there is frequent loading, causing the game to pause halfway through an action to load an area.  This may be caused by a limitation in the  Xbox’s hardware, preventing it from loading at ideal times, or it may be due to the fact that I have not yet installed the game, which 9/10 times will make a game load slightly faster.

So far, the game has been mildly entertaining, thanks greatly to its unique storyline and great writing.  At this point in time, it’s not a “must-buy” title, but if you do enjoy FPS’s, and dystopian futures, then i do recommend this game for you.  Stay tuned for the full review, coming in the next week or two.

Halo: Reach, Beta – First Impression.

The beta for “Halo: Reach” landed today and I was one of the first in line to download it.  After playing a few modes for a few hours I’ve started forming a (semi) educated opinion.

I was never a big fan of Halo 3 or ODST online, but I was eagerly awaiting the launch of Reach.

The new game play modes are well crafted, (although only a few are out now) particularly Covy Slayer. Playing as Elites in this game is a new experience, even to veterans of Halo. Elites are essentially a brand new gaming experience, controlling completely differently to Spartans. Elites are faster, taller and have more shielding capabilities than Spartans and poses a different ability (Evade compared to the Spartans sprint) but as a compromise, they are much larger target and therefore easier for enemy Spartans to hit.

The Covenant come equipped with quite a few new weapons, with both the Plasma Repeater and the Focus Rifle being some of the standouts I’ve used (or have had used against me). New weapons overall include the Designated Marksman Rifle – which is the replacement for the Battle Rifle – the Human Grenade Launcher, the Covenant Plasma Launcher and the Needler Rifle.   Most of these weapons are rehashes of previous ones – The Focus Rifle being an “updated” version of the Sentinal beam – and are generally an improvement on them.

Armor Abilities are a major focus of this beta, essentially replacing items such as the Bubble Shield and the Grav Lift from Halo3.  The abilities available at the moment include;

Armor Lock – which causes you to go into “lock-down” not taking any damage but not being able to move.

Active Camo – Much like in previous games but it works with you.  The faster you move, the more you are revealed.

Sprint (Spartan Only) – Allows Spartans to move faster (finally)

Evade (Elite Only) – Perform a fancy dive roll. Good for evading bullets or for getting up close and personal for an assassination.

Jet Pack – One of the most used and hyped ability, allows you to fly for a short period of time.

I encountered a few glitches with some of the abilities (mainly Armor Lock) wherein the user activates it, but is not stopped, causing them to become invincible until it wears off.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable beta, high expectations for the full game, I already have my Legendary Edition Pre-ordered.  Highly Recommended.

Final Fantasy XIII: First Impressions.

Just picked up the collectors edition of Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 from my local EB.

Played it for about 2 hours tonight, finished chapter 2.

Here are some of my (First) Impressions.

The Good:

Combat System: As usual in a FF game, the combat system.  Amazingly done.  I haven’t played a FF game since X and I was a little bit suprised how much I enjoyed this new system.  I’m not missing the turn based system at all, and I think the creators did a great job on the ATB.

Characters:  Not all of them, but the two who immediately stood out as interesting characters were Sazh and Hope.  I enjoyed the character of Sazh, mainly due to his role as the comic relief and the way he played off of Lightnings’ Stoic behavior in the opening scenes.   Hope may not strike players as the greatest character, but I found that, right off the bat, he was an interesting character, open to all sorts of development.

And now, the Not-So-Good.

Story: In a series so renowned for it’s story telling, I found this one a bit difficult to understand.  From the opening scene, I was mostly lost.  “How do Lightning And Sazh  know each other?  What was Lightning doing on the train? What is a L’Cie?  What is a fal’Cie?”

These were all questions I found myself asking.  I even began to wonder if I had missed an opening scene that perhaps explained many of these questions, or if the story was just foggy on purpose, to create an element of suspense.  Near the end of the chapter, I found myself wondering why I should even care that a character was turned to crystal.  I knew nothing about the character except her name, her sister and that she was engaged to Snow.  The game didn’t allow enough time for me to build up any feeling towards this character, freezing her moments after I met her.

Characters: The Rest Of The Cast.  I found Snow to be a particularly annoying persona, constantly stating that he was “the hero” and that he would “save the day.” If he had only said this once or twice, fine. But the fact was, he kept repeating himself over, and over, and over again, until i could almost quote what he was going to say before he said it. I didn’t find the character of Vanille annoying, more just her accent. I too am Australian, and have never heard an accent as over pronounced as Vanille’s.

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