All 6 entries tagged Review

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December 01, 2008

Fallout 3: Apocalyptic

Game front cover
Title:
Fallout 3 (PC)
Publisher:
Bethesda
ASIN:
B0017Y38H0
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

The setting: a post-apocalyptic version of the US that got stuck in the 50s culturally, but advanced massively in technology - I haven't played the first two, but I just love that off-kilter setting. The SPECIAL system that defines your underlying stats (Strength etc) is familiar territory, while it's slightly more complex than the standard AD&D ability scores, I've seen (for example) the Luck attribute appear in quite a few JRPGs.

Ok, it's mostly Oblivion with guns, but with a few significant differences - the biggest being the VATS combat system. This is an optional mode where you can freeze the action and auto-aim at a specific part of a monster, as many times as your Action Points allow. It goes all slo-mo cinematic and your proximity, line of sight, skills (and Luck) take over, with you hitting like it's a turn-based combat game - then it jumps back to real-time so you can dodge any retaliation while your APs regenerate. Non-VATS is just like a normal FPS, and the main reason the PC release shades the console ones, but it would be perfectly playable using only VATS. Since I didn't play the earlier incarnations, I'm gonna continue comparing it to Oblivion.

Other good changes are fully remappable keys (there's a line at the top of the readme about how to map the mouse, perhaps clumsier than it should be, but it's there), a nice range of toys to shoot at stuff, a much-simplified crafting interface and more variety in costumery.

Bad changes would be that each weapon needs very specific ammo, the weapons break very easily and you need identically-described weapons to repair existing ones, so inventory space gets used up pretty quickly.

Another change is that all skills have to be bought at level-up, so while the enemies get tougher, you should theoretically be getting tougher yourself (rather than only leveling when you improved key class-stats) but you can no longer learn things like stealth simply by creeping around a lot.

What's not changed are instant-travel nodes on the map, the clumsy way the map, inventory and skills are on separate tabs within the same menu and you constantly need to switch between them, the same rather basic compass, characters and monsters seeming to pop out of nowhere and giving you a heart-attack, and the monster NPCs having AI like the red ghost in Pac Man.

Still it's a excellent game, the VATS system never seems to get old as you think it might and the setting is amazing.


Valkyria Chronicles

Game front cover
Title:
Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
Publisher:
Sega
ASIN:
B00197U1G6
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

It seems like forever since I saw the first examples of this game's artwork. It's anime-style, all cell-shaded with a watercolour-on-pencil effect and very fine indeed.  The style extends beyond the comic-book-like panes of the chapter-select menu, the artful stills and animated cut-scenes and into the 3-D part of the game itself.

The actual game between the many cut-scenes is turn-based combat on individual battlefields. You start in map view, and decide which character to move, at which point you gain control of them in 3-D third-person. As you move, your Action Points decrease and any enemies which spot you are free to shoot at you, then you can select aim, target an enemy and fire upon them. It briefly switches to a cinematic attack view as you fire, the enemy gets to retaliate, and then you end your turn. Oddly you have to do alll this quite quickly as you can continue to take damage if you just stand there. Then you can choose another (or the same) character and repeat until you run out of Command Points and it's the enemies turn to do effectively the same thing - but of course without the dangerous moments of indecision you
face as a human player.

That's pretty much it, it's pure strategy with no exploration in-between, but you do get a big number of characters to choose from later on. It's like any of the [JRPG-series-name] Tactics version with the third-person live-action-move mode added on, so if you're looking for an update to those games, with some wonderful stylised graphics, your search is over.


Dead Space: Last Place

Game front cover
Title:
Dead Space (PC)
Publisher:
Electronic Arts
ASIN:
B0019840GW
Rating:
1 out of 5 stars

Can’t remap the controls to my preference. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but I find it annoying and unnecessary for a PC game to dictate to you what the mouse buttons must do. No amount of remapping would improve the unresponsiveness of the controls, though.

The view is a rather nasty drunken-over-the-shoulder one and your character is drawn so large it’s really hard to look around. Being honest, I didn’t actually play long enough to judge how scary the monsters and stuff are, because if I struggle to follow some people down a corridor and open a door, I don’t need stuff jumping out on me.

Graphically it looks quite nice, but they ruined it with sluggish controls and your stupid big immersion-breaking head covering up where you want to look.


Far Cry 2: A sequel in name

Game front cover
Title:
Far Cry 2 (PC)
Publisher:
Ubisoft
ASIN:
B0010DX5L2
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Nice-looking but not quite as jaw-dropping as the footage that’s been around for a while promised. Playing it, it’s a bit lonely – it is basically sporadic outposts of people with nothing in-between – I was hoping to be like Bear Grylls and kill some wild animals for no reason.

The fire effects are pretty, but makes the game crash if I get too carried away. The map/monocular thing is a bit clumsy, but the driving is way better than the first game (so a million times better than Crysis) but the view is a bit restricted in the jeeps.

While there are interesting advances, it doesn’t really feel like a sequel to the original Far Cry – that dubious accolade probably goes to Crysis. While all three games are pretty much tech demos with a game built around them, it’s Crysis that shares the ludicrous plot diversions which define the first Far Cry.

But Far Cry 2 is certainly the better game, everything in the other two felt rather a slog. It works pretty well most of the time, although you sometimes get murdered through a wall, if it’s flawed it’s that the missions are all pretty similar and you really have to get creative yourself if you want to keep your interest going.


Maddening

Game front cover
Title:
Madden NFL 07 (Wii)
Publisher:
Electronic Arts
ASIN:
B000IMBUL8
Rating:
1 out of 5 stars

As wonderfully incomprehensible to non-fans as the actual sport. Woefully inadequate tutorial for the neophyte. Disappointing amount of Wii-interaction, involving a little flick at the right time, rather than a throw. Played for a full twenty minutes before discovering I was actually “controlling” the other team to the one I thought I was, though my performance actually dropped after realising this.


December 11, 2006

Wii Sports

Game front cover
Title:
Nintendo Wii Console (Includes Wii Sports)
Publisher:
Nintendo
ASIN:
B0007UATDG
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Wii Sports – Wii

Wii Hardware
While this scarcely needs an introduction, here a few points about the hardware itself, that I hadn’t picked up from the prerelease chat.

It’s quite small. It looks rather like a white external CD drive, and only looks remarkable when mounted on its stand. The stand has a transparent circular attachment which keeps it pretty stable, although you only really need to go anywhere near it when changing CDs. It has little doors which open to reveal an SD card slot, four GameCube controller ports (!) and two GC memory card slots. It has phono+scart connectors and the magic sensor thingy. The sensor has a generous amount of rather delicate-looking cable, and sits either above or below the centre of your TV – tiny stand and extra stickies provided.

The controllers are equally smaller than I expected, and the length of cable between the mote and the chuk, while less than my full armspan, has not been a problem so far gameplay-wise. Changing between mote-only and chuk config is fiddly (and necessary when you switch games) if you connect the strap how they say, infact even passing the mote to another player is harder than it need be. Ideally the straps would have been quickly disconnectable from the mote, with spare straps provided.

Setup’s fairly simple, even typing by pointing the mote at the letters was easier than I expected, plus there’s an on-screen phone-like TXT pad available which is probably a clever move. Internet setup is easy if you router’s setup is standard and your neighbourhood isn’t wireless-infested, but their servers are very busy.

Wii Sports
A collection of five games, with training modes and some basic games. Sometimes the training modes are more fun than the actual games, and there is very little depth beyond the standard game-types.

Bowling
Perhaps the most sedate-seeming of the games, but I actually managed to split my jeans playing it on Saturday. Fortunately I was saved any embarrassment as everyone just assumed I had blown off.

This is the only one in my experience that you pretty much have to stand up for. Standard game is ten frames of normal-rules bowling, spin seems to be a bit difficult to get right, becoming easier as you approach the screen. The training is way more enjoyable – with barriers to spin around and up to 100 pins to knock down at once – where else can you do that?

Up to four players can swap a single mote to play.

Golf
Another supposedly-restful sport, this one really gets you carried away. While it is possible to play seated, and kind of flick the controller from over your shoulder as if fishing – it’s much more fun to pretend it’s a real golf club. It’s the best of the games, so it’s a real shame there’s only a single nine-hole course. Doing short hits can be a bit problematic at times, there are no options for vertical ball control, and landing off the fairway can be catastrophic. It’s great fun, but really just leaves you wanting a “proper” golf release on the system.

Up to four players can swap a single mote to play, although there is a lot of swapping to be done. Also, check you are not underneath the lights – it’s an easy one to get caught up in.

Baseball
This is a nice bit of exercise, but possibly harder standing up. When batting, the timing is hard to get right, and the aim a little erractic. It seems the timing’s more important than the direction, as you can play seated and swing to the side. Pitching’s a bit random too – you can control direction and speed a bit, but not with any consistent effect on CPU batters. You sometimes annoyingly swing when repositioning the mote, missing critical shots.

You need a mote per player for this one. Also the pitching action is the most likely to see your mote flying towards the screen if it’s not strapped on.

Tennis
Bit lost with this one. While actually hitting the ball is quite a natural, satisfying action, subsequently directing it is a bit random. Playing standing helps, as underarm motions seem to be more directable than the smash or volley-height strokes possible when seated. As with baseball, it’s easy to miss-swing when readying – thus missing your stroke.

Multiple players need a mote each. Important to stand still, despite the sluggishness of your character’s running.

Boxing
Easily the most knackering, but that’s mostly (perhaps realistically) because most of your blows seem to go wasted. Haven’t quite got the hang of dodging, and the sparring training ended with a punch I found impossible to throw, no matter where I aimed. Probably only included because it needs the chuk, it’s a rather poor game. A shame, as I thought it had a lot of promise, but any dreams of pummelling your opponent with a windmill flurry of blows are quickly shattered – this particular game doesn’t reward quick, repeated movements, only “well-timed” ones.

Multiple players need a mote AND chuk each, which isn’t currently worth the expenditure in my view – also, the facing player has a horrible perspective to play from.

Sights and Sounds
Graphics aren’t what this system’s about, and certainly aren’t the focus of this game – they’re…okay. It’s quite hard to see the flags in Golf, otherwise not noticeably good or bad – your extra Mii’s make appearances in your Baseball squad, which is kind of cute. The little sounds from the mote really add to the feeling of personal involvement.

Stuff that sucks
You’re never quite sure if you’re doing stuff…correctly. Some actions seem a bit random, as things like slow putts in Golf just don’t seem to register. The system does have it’s limitations in the motion it can detect, and it can frustrate if your on-screen persona isn’t doing exactly what you are. It’s more a question of training yourself to move as the game expects, rather than getting too carried away with the perceived realism. I’ve actually played all these sports in real life, and it’s hard to shake some habits, particularly leg and head movements, which of course aren’t registered by the game.

Conclusion
A very entertaining get-everyone-playing introduction to the system, well worth the price of admission, disappointing in some areas, but leaving hunger for more in others. While the system shows massive potential, this game on it’s own, while hugely enjoyable, isn’t the best this system is capable of.


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