Gunblade NY & LA Machineguns

Light gun games are perfectly suited to the Wii, but it’s hard to understand why Sega chose to pair up Gunblade NY and LA Machineguns and slap them onto one disk. Neither game is particularly well remembered and the part of their novelty in the arcade was that they had a huge vibrating gun fixed …

Read more

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero

I was in a quandary if I should bother reviewing this download-only prologue to Dead Rising 2. After a few moments of reasonably hard thinking though I decided that it’s worthy of coverage, seeing that Capcom wants you to hand over cold hard cash for it. Well, 400 MS Points. If this were merely a …

Read more

Toy Story 3: The Video Game

The press release announcing Toy Story 3 was only issued back in February, just four short months before the game itself. With such a short space of time between being announced and being released I feared that this would be a rush job. The end result though is a package that’s both fun and imaginative. …

Read more

Transformers: War for Cybertron

Whoever said that you can’t please everybody all of the time was certainly onto something. I once had a few friends over for dinner, one of which was a vegetarian. We were having meatloaf so to keep Mr. Veggie happy I formed his meatloaf into the shape of a giant carrot. Unexpectedly, he threw his …

Read more

Split/Second: Velocity

When Disney purchased Brighton-based developer Black Rock Studios I honestly thought that they would have them working on a Mario Kart-style racer featuring Mickey Mouse, Porky Pig, The Wombles and other renowned Disney characters. Fortunately not only has Disney left Black Rock alone to do what they do best – which is make ruddy good racing games – but they let them delay Split/Second to add more polish. So, well done Disney. This almost makes up for the farce that was Lady and The Tramp 2.

In most racing games it’s the cars that are the stars but not here – it’s all about the tracks. Or rather, the ability to blow stuff up that’s cleverly strewn around and on the tracks. Drifting around corners builds up a ‘Power Play’ bar – filling it up half way gives the chance to take out rival racers by blowing up petrol tankers, buildings and dropping explosives out of helicopters flying overhead. Fill the power bar to the brim though, which requires some proficient drifting, and you can summon airplanes to crash land, detonate power station cooling towers and derail trains. Short-cuts and events that will change the layout of the track can also be triggered, like bringing down a tower so that the race can continue on top of it.

Because the literally explosive set-pieces always appear in the same place, recognition starts setting in and you’ll find yourself saving up Power Plays for certain places. For instance, one track has explosives rigged near the finishing line which is handy for nabbing the 1st position in the last few seconds. Timing plays a big part too – trigger an event too soon and it won’t even leave a mark on the opposition; do it too late and they’ll be watching those glorious explosions from their rear-view mirror.

Read more

UFC Undisputed 2010

Do you know what a review embargo is? It’s a date set by a publisher that we are only allowed on, or after, to publish a review. Some publishers are sneaky – if they’re putting out a duff game they sometimes won’t allow websites to put a review up until the game has been released to minimise bad coverage. Our embargo for UFC Undisputed 2010? Four full days before release, suggesting that THQ are as pleased as punch (no pun intended) for this full swinging sequel. (Pun intended that time).

Like its predecessor it’s a very technical brawler with a deep and complex control system. It’s a good idea to play through the fifteen minute long tutorial as every single button is used on the joypad at some point. The amount of manoeuvres is impressive – as well as blocking punches you can also sway out of harms way, counter attack or attempt to grab whatever limb is heading into your direction. Anybody will be able to pick up the pad and punch and kick like a rabid mad man – you might even win a few of the beginner matches this way – but to perform submissions, clinches and get back on your feet you need a little know-how.

The CPU opposition certainly knows how exploit your weaknesses. Some foes will take everything you throw at them on the chin (literally) and then lash out with a vicious combo once your stamina is drained; others will constantly try to force you to the ground. At the start of one fight my rival took a run up and belted me in the face, knocking me out instantly. And that was that – the match was over in less than five seconds, which I certainly didn’t see coming.

Read more

Prison Break: The Conspiracy

If you think life in regular prison is tough, what with the shankings, shivings and shaftings and all, then spare a thought for Secret Service member Agent Paxton. Not only does he have to contend with being a “small fish in a big pond” (as the game rightly puts it) but he also has to keep an eye on fellow inmate Schofield and foil his plans for a prison break.

The first half an hour does a good job of drawing you in – Paxton is briefed of his mission, transported to the prison in cuffs and then shown to his cell, being jeered at the whole way. You’re then shown to the yard, which acts as a hub, where you can beef up Paxton’s muscles by playing mini-games and also call into your boss via the pay phones.

Read more

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing

It’s slightly sad to think that the teenage gamers of today won’t have a clue who the Bonanza Brothers, Opa Opa and Alex Kidd are. That said, I consider myself to be a Sega buff and I had to Google the names of unlockable characters ‘Zobio and Zobiko’ to find out what game they’re from. Turns out the zombified duo are from The House of the Dead: EX, an arcade game released only last year. If that’s not fan service, then I don’t know what is.

Understand, understand, understand the concept, the concept of….Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. Like Sonic himself it’s a brightly coloured affair that moves like a greased rocket. Sonic’s tracks have been designed for sheer speed, Samba de Amigo’s bare resemblance to Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road while the Monkey Ball tracks are the toughest due to some harsh 90 and 180 degree corners. The House of the Dead, sorry, Curien Mansion, tracks have zombies aimlessly hobbling around and Billy Hatcher’s assortment provide the as-to-be-expected ice and lava lands. There’s a huge emphasis on power sliding to gain boosts, which is achieved by holding down the left trigger. The same button is also used to perform tricks when in the air.

In the early Mario Kart games the weapons where perfectly balanced. Mario Kart Wii though messed things up with its unavoidable blue shell and blooper ink that smothered the screen. Thankfully there’s nothing inescapable here – the screen can be covered with an obscuring rainbow effect, but only if you’re careless enough drive into a rainbow that somebody has dropped behind. The rest of the weapon assortment includes Sonic’s sneakers as a speed boost, a couple of projectiles (Alex Kidd’s boxing gloves and rockets from Chu Chu Rocket) and a bomb that you can bowl down the track. Do poorly in races and eventually you’ll get a power-up to go ‘All-Star’ and perform an attack unique to each character. Jet Set/Grind Radio’s Beat leaps out of his car and onto his skates and starts spraying other racers with paint; Big the Cat turns into a giant frog and leaps his way to victory. Funnily enough, Eggman always seems to be in last place.

Read more

Dante’s Inferno

Visceral Games satanic slasher is not based on the seven deadly sins as some misinformed people may lead you to believe, but rather the nine circles of Hell as described by Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century poem the Divine Comedy. As Dante embarks on his quest to free his lover he has to fight his way through Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Violence, Fraud, Betrayal and Heresay. I know that the winners of 2001’s Pop Idol weren’t the best group ever, but I don’t think it particularly fair that they’ve ended up in Hell.

If you’ve played any of the God of War games then you’ll feel a sense of familiarity here. The combat system is well thought out and versatile, allowing for air combos and counter attacks while every foe bestows souls when destroyed that can be used to unlock new moves and upgrade existing ones. When finishing off an enemy you can choose to absolve their sins or punish them which will determine whether Dante follows the Holy or the Unholy path.

Following the Holy path will give better magic attacks and stronger defenses while the Unholy path gives more brutal attacks. Dante also comes across historic figures such as Boudicca and Pontius Pilate which too can be punished or absolved for their sins via a button matching mini-game. There aren’t enough souls to go around to follow both the Holy and Unholy paths in one game, which gives incentive for a second play through.

Read more

Dark Void

It’s always important to make a good first impression, which is something that Capcom’s Dark Void failed to do. My copy came with a code to unlock a gold jetpack, so before playing the game for the first time I redeemed the code and downloaded the shiny golden bonus. In went the disk, the developer logos appeared followed by a black screen and then…nothing – it wouldn’t load any further. I checked the disk, tried a different game; reloaded Dark Void a few times – it still froze up after the developer logos. After scratching my head a bit I thought I’d try deleting the content I had just downloaded, meaning I wouldn’t be able to get the gold jetpack as the code can only be used once. It turned out this was stopping the game from loading. And then about half an hour into the game the screen froze and it crashed. I know being a games tester isn’t the most glamorous job in the gaming industry, but they could at least do their bloody job properly.

So, my Dark Void experience got off to a bad start. Fortunately it was worth sticking with – the jetpack gives the game a nice twist, the sci-fi plot is interesting and there’s a degree of fun to be had. The third person on foot stages play like Gears of War with a similar cover system while the enemies – slug like larva encased in metal robotic skeletons – are smart enough to flank, leap out of the way of grenades and will retreat if outnumbered. Like Halo there’s a two weapon limit; weapons can be swapped over during levels by finding weapon creates and can also be upgraded. Melee attack animations are pleasingly brutal too, particularly the one where protagonist Will grabs hold of an enemy’s head, twists their body round to give you a full view of the action, sticks gun to their chest and pulls the trigger. Classy.

Read more

DJ Star

DJStarTop

Activision releasing a version of DJ Hero on Nintendo DS is inevitable. What isn’t inevitable though is whether they’ll bundle it with a peripheral like the DS version of Guitar Hero before it. It’s no big deal if it doesn’t happen – Deep Silver’s DJ Star proves that something like this can work just fine without any hunk of plastic hanging out of the DS’s cartridge slot.

Any game of the this ilk is going to live or die by its music selection, so it’s fortunate that the developers have had wide enough wallets to be able to include a large selection of licensed music including stuff from Calvin Harris, Eric Prydz, Bob Sinclair and Pharrell Williams. The sound quality is surprisingly good, although the DS’s speakers aren’t really designed for heavy bass lines.

At the start only a few tracks are available, with the rest becoming unlocked as your custom-made character starts their clichéd career path of going from a bedroom based disk jockey to a superstar DJ. There’s also a simple to use music creation tool to make your own music with. It reminds me of something I used to play around with on a Sony Ericsson mobile phone about five years ago – just drag and drop beats and away you go.

Read more

SAW

SAW

Konami are brave souls for picking up the publishing duties for this one. See, Silent Hill is considered to be the pinnacle of survival horror, so any dark and dank third-person adventure game in which the main character uses a flashlight usually gets compared to it. Why release something that is bound to be considered inferior to a product that already exists? Probably because the SAW series is absurdly popular.

Saw2

The premise is pleasingly simple – Detective Tapp wakes up in an abandoned mental asylum with a key sewn into his chest. This key happens to be for the exit, and so everybody else that has been brought into the asylum to play Jigsaw’s twisted game is after Tapp. From start to finish Jigsaw sets various tasks and puzzles while the asylum itself is rigged with traps. It’s not a particularly scary game, just a bit grim at times. Like having to put your hand in a toilet bowl full of used syringes and grab a key before the pain becomes too much.

As soon as the second level Tapp has a shotgun collar put around his neck – come into contact with anybody else wearing one and it’ll detonate. Enemies usually go down with three or four punches so they’re not exactly anything to fear. In some sections guns are available but fortunately they don’t turn the game into a mindless shooter as ammo is limited to what’s inside the gun when you find it. You can also set up your own traps by using shotgun shells, paint thinner and other objects. A definite highpoint is the battle against Pig Head, who is too strong to take down with melee weapons, instead requiring some clever trap placement to kill.

Read more

F1 2009

F1 2009I am a simple man. Give me a decent circuit, a good sense of speed, a believable enough simulation of a Formula 1 car, and a grand prix weekend’s complement of practice sessions, and I’m happy. F1 2009 does just that, so in terms of their first game with the license, it’s job done for Codemasters.

Read more

Tropico 3

Tropico3

There’s a genre seriously lacking in the Xbox 360’s software catalogue and that’s naked alligator mud wresting. I’m joking of course – it’s topless glamour model stairlift racing. But seriously, it’s the simulation genre, with the little-known A Train HX and Civilization Revolution being the best of a small bunch. We can now add Tropico 3 – the first console version in a series of previously PC-only sims – to that list too. I think publishers Kalypso should have dropped the ‘3’ at the end though – it might alienate people, which would be a bad thing considering this is jolly good stuff.

Instead of seeing “Press Any Button to Play” on the title screen you’re presented with the words “Press Any Button to Rule” which sums up the idea behind Tropico 3 perfectly. This is your chance to become an El Presidente of a chain of “banana republic” islands and it’s your choice as to how you rule them. You can be a tyrant, forcing your people to live in shacks and work in farms and then sit back and reap in the cash or turn the island into a tourist resort with hotels, sandy beaches and tacky gift shops. There are different factions to keep happy and also the chance to form relations with the US and the USSR. Doing so opens up more options, like being able to let the Russians test nuclear missiles on your shores in return for a hefty cash injection into your Swiss bank account.

Read more

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of gamers have put a lot of blind faith into Infinite Ward, being happy to place down money on pre-orders going solely on some hype-packed previews. Just imagine how funny it would have been if Infinite Ward had spend the last two years making twiddling their thumbs before churning out something akin to the trashy Army Men games. Activision would probably end up with countless people outside their offices carrying burning Guitar Hero guitars and lobbing DJ Hero decks covered in poo through their window. Hilarous.

ModernWarfare2

The truth though is this: Modern Warfare 2 is genuinely worthy of the hype. It’s brilliant, and the brilliant thing about it is that it’s constantly brilliant – from start to end there isn’t a single dull moment. Levels are a lot bigger than before but no less detailed – the attention to detail is scarily realistic, not just on the environments but also on the character models and weapons. Enemies no longer respawn and are more intelligent – they even jump across roofs to get a clearer shot – and the animation is also close to faultless. Even the sound is worthy of praise, with your allies shouting out enemy locations and passing comment on any skilled shots with a sniper rifle.

Read more