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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.

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Bulletstorm Review

-This review is based on a Mature rated game.

 Bulletstorm is the latest release from developers EPIC Games and People Can Fly, so it has its roots in some pretty intense places, EPIC being the creators of the Gears Of War franchise.

What sets Bulletstorm apart from its spiritual predecessoris its unique style of humour.  Playing as a perpetually drunken space pirate, there is plenty of colourful language thrown around, some of the most memorable of which is tossed around in the last few hours of gameplay by one of the most entertaining characters I have seen in a while.

The skillshot system that was featured in the demo is greatly fleshed out, with it being very difficult to get all the skillshots in one play through, some requiring prior knowledge in order to obtain them. They also somehow manage to come up with a reason for your main character seeing them, although I don’t think they needed to do this.

The characters are all particularly great, with each of them having their own distinct personality. Marcus Fen–I mean Grayson Hunt is the disgruntled space pirate out for revenge against the general who used him.  His is the main star of the game so, naturally, you find yourself getting to like him.  Ishi is Grayson’s second in charge.  He used to be a human but when Grayson crashed the ship into Stygia, he suffered dramatic injuries and had to be turned into a human cyborg.  His main motivation is to get off the planet and get to freedom.  Trishka is the token woman in this army game, being the badass out for revenge girl.  She also plays the damsel in distress, but often shows herself to be the one holding the others in distress.  General Sarano is the final character to get screen time, and his lines are by far the most memorable.  He used Grayson and his men to carry out assassinations on high level targets who threatened to remove him from his position.

The presentation of the game is fairly good.  The developers have created a stunning planet on which to set the game, embracing both the untamed wilderness and the industrialised vacation resort which takes up most of the game.  The set pieces are incredible (again, akin to Gears of War) with huge events happening to due one small thing (ie, shooting an egg causes the entire city to come crumbling down later in the game.)  The graphics are pretty top-notch, giving the game a great overall look.

The only real problems I had with this game are that I sometimes found myself  ‘out-running’ the A.I, thereby causing the game to glitch out, and not letting me continue, which would often mean I would have to restart a chapter, as i reached a checkpoint before realising that Ishi and Trishka were nowhere to be found.

Bulletstorm is a…different kind of game.  It’s pretty much a first person Gears of War, so if you didn’t like that, then chances are you won’t like Bulletstorm.  While being a very good game, I felt at times that the storyline was just tacked on, and that they just needed to justify the amazing setting they used.

Bulletstorm Demo Review, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Shooting Guys In The Crotch

I recently downloaded the Bulletstorm demo for the Xbox 360, having pre-ordered it the other day from EB Games (and getting an awesome water gun in the process)

When the demo starts up you get verbally assaulted by the main character, Grayson Hunt (voiced marvelously by Steve Blum) about how you don’t stand a chance on Stygia but, hey, make the most of it. This then continues into a small story introduction and montage of available weapons, abilities, etc, etc. The real draw of the little clip show is defiantly there for people trying to get high scores, as it shows a numerous amount of Skillshots (The games main drawing point) including some that you would never think of trying.

The main draw of Bulletstorm is the introduction of a new ‘interesting’ way of killing, the Skillshot. The Skillshot involves combining a weapons special powers (or your foot) with the enemy (generally his face). For example, by launching an enemy up into the air and then shooting the pistol’s special shot (a flare) at them, you can cause them to catch fire, and if you’re a good shot, explode like a firework, raining fiery death down onto his comrades, and netting yourself a few hundred points in the process.

I can’t (at this point) see the story being as engrossing as, say, Mass Effect’s, but there could be some interesting and enthralling twists coming.

The graphics are not amazingly, eye-poppingly brilliant , but they’re not atrocious either. They actually remind me slightly of Borderlands cel-shading (albeit I haven’t played that in a while)

Stay tuned for the full reiew when the game relases later in February.

Red Dead Redemption – Single Player.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of Grand Theft Auto games. Sure, I get one, play through the story for and hour or two, then I just give up, and head for the cheats. This is standard practice for me with most sandbox games, as when I’m presented with a massive world, the most exciting thing the game wants me to do is to ride around on a bicycle. I think the industry has given us so much, but only wants us to use a small portion of what they have given us.

This changes with the release of Red Dead Redemption. The majority of the world is open from the get-go.  You don’t HAVE to follow the storyline, as there are plenty of things for you to if you don’t.  Feel like hunting?  Go and kill a bear, deer, or bird.  You can skin your kills and sell their pelts and meat for money.  Not interested in hunting? Then you can go and help a “stranger” out with a mission, whether they are looking for a missing child, want someone’s property or challenge you to a duel, you can find them littered throughout the map.  Still not interested? Then you can always follow – what I like to call the “Force” path – and become either a savior of the land, or you can stop in every town you see and rob and kill them for all that they have.  These choices affect you throughout the game, for example, killing an innocent person will raise your bounty, and performing even the slightest misdeed after this can cause the authorities to bear down on you with unmerciful justice…at least until you bribe one of them, that is

Red Dead features and amazing storyline, familiar to anyone who has seen a western or two.  It completely captures the feel of the authentic Spaghetti Western style it is based on, with a grizzled, Clint Eastwood-esque main character, a disgruntled main villain, an insane grave robber,  a hypnotic traveling salesman and, of course, a full cast of stereotypes, ranging from the bumbling Mexican sidekick, to the damsel in not-so-much distress.

From the opening cut-scene of the game, you can see the set up for the entire game occurring.  While it may seem a bit stereotyped and overused, the story works well, thanks to the unique spin that Rockstar Entertainment’s team have put on it.

The game’s universe is incredibly fulfilling, with streets full of bandits and law-men duking it out, and random encounters that feature, say, a treasure hunter being held up.  You can either help the gang kill him, or save him.  Either way, you’ll kick off the start of a mission that can well last the majority of the game.

One of the new abilities that has been added to this game is the unique targeting system, known as “Dead Eye”, in which time is slowed down dramatically, and you are able to target either a person, a group of people or a specific part of interactive environment and let loose with all you have in your arsenal.  This ability slightly reduces the difficulty of the overall game (without taking all the fun out of it), as it lets you take a few moments to examine the trouble that you have gotten yourself into, and take the right sort of action to be able to come out on the other side, hopefully safely.

The amazing graphics in this game are completely awe-inspiring, and, thanks to an amazing draw distance, completely submerse you in the amazing majesty that is the world of Red Dead.

Red Dead is an amazing game, and a perfect example of how an open world, sandbox style game should be done.  The team at Rockstar have had a few games to work on perfecting their ideas and I believe that this is their crowning glory.  It is certainly a game to come back to again and again, if simply just to experience the world in a slightly different way.

The Beatles: Rock Band – Review.

Disclaimer: I’d just like to put it out there that I am a huge Beatles fan, so this review may be a “little” biased.

As a huge fan of The Beatles, I was eagerly awaiting the release of this game. I picked up the last copy in store on release day and went straight home and played it (using my *shudder* Guitar Hero: World Tour Controllers). I was really pleased when I started it up, and it was one of the few games in which I didn’t skip the opening credits, as I just wanted to see that amazing opening sequence one more time. When I finally got into the real meat of the game, I was excited to see the way the story mode was set out. Rather than go from easy to hard, the song list followed the career path of The Beatles, starting off in the humble roots of The Cavern and progressing to notable venues such as The Ed Sullivan show, Budokan and Shea Stadium. Keeping true to its source material, after the point where the band became studio based, all subsequent levels take place in the iconic Apple Studios. These songs – or rather the music “videos” that accompany them – are definitely the standout of the game, featuring vivid “dream-scapes” that embody the spirit and emotion of the music. For example, in the song “Octopus’s Garden”, the band is featured under water, with bright coloured lyrics floating past them.

I finished the story mode in little under 8 hours of game play, (it’s not a very hard game) but the addictiveness of the songs keeps drawing me back in every few weeks.

I did get to try the instruments that come with the game and I am a fan of the Hofner bass guitar, but not of the Rickenbacker Guitar and the Ludwig Drum set. I felt the Rickenbacker provided too much resistance when strummed upon, and the buttons provided an annoying “click” whenever pushed, providing an annoying backing soundtrack to many songs. I did enjoy the Ludwig Drum set, but the lack of compatibility with other games *cough* Guitar Hero 5 *cough* was a firm point in the minus column. If Guitar Hero 5 HAD provided compatibility (Much like World Tour did), the Ludwig would be the favorable approach in this case, UNLESS you have no desire to purchase Guitar Hero 5 or any of it’s successors.

I thoroughly enjoyed this game, and is a great edition to the gaming library of any Beatles fan or music game enthusiast.

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.

Battlefield Bad Company II (+Modern Warfare 2)

This game recieved quite a hype leading up to release day.  How would it stack up against it’s biggest competitor, Modern Warfare 2?  The real competition was not waged in single player, but in the competitive based multiplayer.  Who would come out victorious: the squad based, tactical method of Battlefield and Dice, or the “run-and-gun” method favoured by Call of Duty fans and Infinity Ward?

First, however, the single player campaign must be adressed.

Modern Warfare 2: The (relatively) short campaign, clocking in at around 8 hours of game play.  A fairly solid entry in the COD series  Highlights include the entirety of the final level, and the fact the AI won’t keep spawning until you cross “x” tripwire.

Bad Company 2: Still, rather short, clocking in at around 10 hours.  The real standout in this is the characters.  They are just great.  From Haggard’s idiocy, to Sarge’s sternness, they all work together, playing off each other with perfect timing.

Both: Story-wise,  it all seems to blend together. “Oh no.  [insert terrorist group/member here] has a [insert weapon or knowledge crucial to United States downfall] we must stop them…with a small group of soldiers.

A point to Battlefield.

Presentation.

MW: Not great.  Not bad though, just not a standout performance based on some of the bigger name games out there. Many levels seemed a bit cramped, with not much exploration available, no options for better firing positions, etc.

BC: The first thing you see when you load up a mission is the amazing quality of the maps.  It’s obvious that the team at EA worked very hard on these, and the fact that they utilized the quality of the hardware available to them really paid off.  The draw distance is amazing, allowing you to take in vast vistas and incredible scenes.

One more for Battlefield.

Splitscreen.

MW: Spec. Ops.  This is an awesome addition to the game, and even after finishing the main campaign this mode provides a real challenge (particularly Echo) for you and a friend or online companion.  Will definitely improve if they ever get around to releasing the DLC they promised.

BC: No split screen, no points

One to Modern Warfare.

Now, the main affair, Multi-player.

MW: Pretty good.  Not stellar, not amazing just “good”.  Run of the mill to anyone who has played COD online before, especially Modern warfare 1.  Plenty of game modes, generally something for everyone.  I just found that the third person modes seemed a bit tacked on, as they looked less polished than the rest of them.  Now, the glitch’s keep hitting the game, or the hackers keep coming back.  I can’t really blame Infinity Ward, the only suggestion is, next time release a beta and get most of the bugs fixed next time.

BC: A great effort by the team at Dice, I commend them for there success.  After a great first game, this has been improved upon over and over.  Great class selection, and I particularly enjoyed the squad.  If you don’t work together with your squad mates, the entire team begins to suffer, and, to quote Jessica Chobot, “The games called Bad Company for a reason, without Company, all you have is Bad.”  My only complaint is that there are limited games modes, compared to the large amount in Modern Warfare, and that during the first few days, I found that the servers were down for a little bit.

Another one to Battlefield.

And now, the final result.

The winner, with a margin of 3 points to 1, is…..Battlefield Bad Company II!

With a stellar multi-player, great characters and amazing presentation, Battlefield comes out victorious, and rightly so.

In the end, Modern Warfare couldn’t live up to the hype that had surrounded it since early in development.  If it had been a lesser known franchise, it may have faced less problems than it has, but, in the current situation, the game cannot face it’s competitor and come up victorious.

This article is based on the Xbox 360 versions of these games.

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