I think during my brief adventure with the Underpants Gnomes, after I had come into contact with Aliens and Nazi Zombies I remember thinking to myself the weird thing is I actually understand what’s going on. So there’s nothing in the plot that’s going to challenge your perceptions or tax your brain to it’s limits but I felt disturbingly comfortable deep in what is probably (and hopefully) the most ridiculous plot gaming has ever seen. I couldn’t help but feel somehow the ludicrous nature of The Stick of Truth made more sense to me than a lot of other games. Then again maybe I just need help.
Attacking, using an ability or blocking will require you to press certain buttons at the right time according to visual prompts. For example when attacking your weapon will glint and you can either press ‘square’ once for a power attack for armoured foes or ‘x’ a few times for a standard combo against normal enemies. When blocking, pressing ‘x’ when a shield icon appears at your character’s feet allows you to take about 50% damage and avoid any potential status effects. The buttons and timings for abilities vary depending on the ability being used but essentially it comes down to timing.
It’s actually not that easy and it took me quite a while before I felt comfortable performing actions consistently. It makes sure you’re playing a turn-based RPG but still have something to do. It’s not easy enough that it becomes second nature but not difficult enough that the entire game becomes frustrating or irritating.
All your health and PP is returned at the end of a battle. Yes PP. Power points. You can liberally use your abilities without long term consequences. If you need PP badly you can always use an item once per turn anyway, which doesn’t end your turn. There’s enough going on that you can’t become complacent but The Stick of Truth never forgets that it’s turn-based. It never tries to be a third person action game but instead confidently relies on solid turn-based battle mechanics.
Outside of battle your time is usually divided between finding some of the huge amount of secrets and collectables, buying new items and scouring your way through the menus to customize your appearance and maximize your battle efficiency. The only thing that hinders your exploration are the substandard loading times. Scrolling from one screen to another takes the frame rate down to a grinding halt for a noticeable amount of time and more than enough areas have full loading screens. They’re not that long but you’re always aware that it won’t be long until you see another one. It’s a shame to break the pace of what would otherwise have been an excellent bit of exploration. Luckily it’s well worth enduring the loading.
From the weapons and their associated ‘strap-ons’ to the most unnoticeable of loot everything is a reference to something that happened in South Park. If there’s a single episode that doesn’t have at least one reference or item to pick up I’d be surprised. The constant reminders of past South Park episodes keeps the laughter flowing even when you’re just exploring, collecting loot or even looking through a menu.
They’re clever too, avoiding the temptation to make every reference totally obvious. It’s great to find something and get the reference without having your face shoved in it. And the references don’t stop at South Park. Matt and Trey have shown before some knowledge into the world of gaming, particularly with episodes like ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft’. There’s a constant barrage of gaming references and jokes that show The Stick of Truth actually gets its audience.
For instance one of the final weapons in the game is a ‘Vibroblade’ and is in no way similar to its original appearance in what is probably considered Obsidian Entertainment’s greatest game. A certain loot item is a video game called ‘Shadow of the Cyclopsus’ with a cover we should all recognize. The references aren’t to Call of Duty, Mass Effect or other main stream titles so it doesn’t come off like the embarrassing parent who’s cool because they say the name of a popular video game.
Matt, Trey, Obsidian and Ubisoft know games and it shows in The Stick of Truth; both in the humour and the gameplay. It doesn’t embarrass or patronize and feels exactly as well written as any episode of South Park. If you can get through the entire of The Stick of Truth without at least once laughing and then feeling just a tiny bit disappointed with yourself you’re not human.
The only bit missing is the censored scenes to everywhere apart from America. The press release from Ubisoft claims “7 scenes of about 20 seconds each are censored in the EMEA console versions of South Park: The Stick of Truth. The decision to cut this content from the game was made by Ubisoft EMEA.”
It doesn’t really take anything away from the game and the comments in the replacement frames are genuinely funny. It really isn’t worth getting worked up about and I recommend just playing as if this is the original. Inevitably when something unbelievably horrific happens in the US with a kid mimicking the scenes, blaming the game and sparking a colossal political debate turning people against video games, I think Ubisoft (and many others) will be happy with their decision. I’m just not sure why they feel Europe should be any different from the US. And once you’ve played the game tell me that the final environment isn’t far worse than the censored scenes. And I mean far worse.
Where visuals and audio are concerned everything is top-notch. The audio is totally unconstrained by realism allowing for inexplicable fire and explosions to sound just like they would in any other ‘more serious’ RPG. And visually it looks like South Park. It looks exactly like South Park. But with the addition of the 3D effects that a video game allows there are some pretty epic moments. Probably most impressively you can totally customize your character but he/she doesn’t look even slightly out of place alongside the other characters.
But underpinning the visuals and the laughs is a solid battle mechanic and an environment absolutely packed with stuff to find and do. Weapons, upgrades and character customization items are everywhere. So too are Gnomes, Crab People, The Hankeys and just about everything I can think of from South Park in one form or another. It never feels like a diluted, watered-down version of South Park. And, other than irritating load screens, the entertainment doesn’t stop from square one right to the end. It’s absolutely hilarious to the point where the fact it’s the best turn-based RPG I’ve played in a long time is just icing on the cake. An absolute gem of a game. Encore!
Konami are back with Lords of Shadow 2, the sequel to their 2010 Castlevania sleeper hit, and with it, they promise the return of Dracula, a revamped open world structure and enhanced combat mechanics, all drizzled in a modern day setting. Can they deliver on this lofty promise?
After waking up, many, many years after the events of the previous games, our hero with a sweet tooth, Gabriel Belmont has got his work cut out. Not only is he still immortal, but Zobek’s back with some friendly ‘help’ to get him back into shape and ready to face Satan. With people still seeking his destruction, our bitey friend Dracula must first regain his powers in order to step up to the challenge. Cue the montage.
After being ‘treat’ in the prologue to control our fully powered up hero, we are, surprise, stripped of all our powers and skills and must regain strength in order to quell Satan’s up rise. Fortunately for us, it let’s us get our hands on some weak enemies for target practice. Whilst being slowly drip fed the truly exciting moves over the course of the game, we still get chance to perfect the basics of dodging, blocking, countering and of course, swinging solidified blood around your head. Although it might partially be screaming God of War, Castlevania’s combat system does still feel unique, moves can be levelled up not only by purchasing upgrades, but by also using combos. You then transfer the progression, in turn powering up your whole skill set, it’s a lot less complicated than I’m making out, but it does increase the rewards for experimenting with different styles.
Along with the blood whip, you will soon get your hands on a pair of gauntlets and a sword to assist in the day to day dispatching of the devils minions. Whilst both have their own separate pools of expendable energy, both can be not only useful in battles, but necessary. The sword, activated via a simple tap of L1, deals less damage but you gain health from each successful hit. The big bad gauntlets, using R1, however not only deal increased damage, but are also invaluable for effectively breaking through enemy shields. Each weapon also has it’s own upgrade tree; although some of the moves are duplicated from the standard weapon, there are also some pretty potent combinations, some of which are deemed worthy of their own cutscene.
Whilst it might seem like it’s all slashing, dodging and ripping still beating hearts from the devil-spawns chests, there are distractions along the way to help break up the pace. Lifeless platforming and ‘puzzles’ clog up the downtime between punching a demon and staring down a boss. The mostly linear platforming sections consist of some flapping bats to let you know you can stick to said surface, followed by navigating a pre-set, often mind-boggling route. Depending upon whether or not you followed the main mission marker, you’ll either end up at an easy to reach secret, a secret you can’t get to yet as you don’t have the pre-requisite power or just simply, the way to go. Whilst I love collecting hidden secrets that actually impact my characters progression in some way, wandering the off beaten path for five minutes, on several different occasions, only to discover I can’t further progress that way does put a bit of a downer on the old exploration urge.
If you come at it at a different angle, then there is plenty to still see and do once you’ve gotten some exploration tools; revisiting areas is encouraged, if not explained particularly well. The rotatable camera is more of a mixed blessing than you might initially realise, being able to look at some of the more inspiring artwork and backdrops is nice, but it’s often infuriatingly too far zoomed in to make out much of your surroundings. A fair example being, after a mild platforming test involving swinging chandeliers (of which I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to fall off, rendering it ultimately pointless) I turned around to check on my trusty swinging platforms to see many treasures that were not visible before I’d completed my parkour run.
With the consummate ease our ‘hero’ Dracula tears apart demons from hell, of which most comfortably outsize him, it’s a frustrating and lowly experience to have to transmorph into a small pack of rats to slip by a few guards. Admittedly, in their codex style information page, it describes them as wielding indestructible armour; yet if I were Satan, I’d give the order to mass produce that natty material on a pretty wide scale seeing as the feared and fabled Dracula can not even attempt to engage such beings draped in it’s indestructible glory. It’s a little shame that the stealth sections have been implemented quite so poorly as I understand the reason for their inclusion being that he, at the time, was fairly weak and Dracula, by all accounts is a bit of a sneaky bugger. Oh, and if you think the first few sneaking sections feel a little tiresome or unfair, just wait for the bit with the leaves…
The feeling of ambivalence is an irritating one when viewing and listening to Lords of Shadow 2, the facial mapping of our protagonist looks sublime in the cutscene’s closer shots, yet his hair looks as though it has but two moving parts. The look of dreary textures and uninspired locales from the present day are of a complete opposite to some of the vistas and art design sections of the castle. The sound of two of my favourite actors, Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle working together in a videogame can scarcely overwhelm some of the generic stilted script asked of them. The menus feel archaic and unintuitive; despite the glaringly intrusive auto save icon appearing slightly off centre of the middle of the screen, cutscene or not, it still makes me wary to quit when there is no ‘exit to main menu’ option for fear of losing progress.
Despite all this, Lords of Shadow 2 is a fun game, when it wants to be. The boss battles are suitably epic, the music can crescendo and roar at all the right moments, there’s replay value, a challenge room, the combat is solid, the map can be explored with the right tools, and on top of all that, it’s around 20 hours long, with a new game plus option. In defiance of Konami’s and MercurySteam’s efforts, Lords of Shadow 2 isn’t for everyone. If you enjoy a good dungeon romp with a more than competent combat system, exciting bosses, more lore than you can engross and you can put up with the horrible stealth sections, some wonky textures and a plot that doesn’t quite deliver, you’re in for a blood sucking good time.
“Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.” – Charles Dickens, Bleak House. Okay maybe that was too much. Plus Dickens is describing London and not Thief’s fictitious city but the comparisons are numerable and blatant. And if there’s a better way to describe the mood of Thief I don’t know what it is.
It’s been 10 years since we last saw Garrett, the man who robs from the rich and forgets about the second part because it’s boring, and I for one think he deserves an appropriately brooding introduction. And so does Thief. Wasting no time at all you slip into Garrett’s sneaking shoes and take to the rooftops. After a few pacy gameplay sections and a handful of cutscenes you’re free to explore and/or progress at your will.
Almost immediately you will have the option to go out and complete various side quests or ignore them as you desire. There’s plenty to do and explore in Thief’s city and considering the objectives are usually based around breaking into somewhere and stealing something there is an impressive amount of variation.
In a very early side quest I found myself breaking into a house directly into a bedroom containing a sleeping woman. I left her be and went to work opening drawers, cabinets and picking the lock on her bedside table. Whilst picking the lock it became apparent we weren’t alone. I could see nothing except the cabinet I was attempting to relieve of its contents but so clear where the footsteps that I had no doubt I was about to be rumbled. At which point you must decide to either be quick and run or hide. I hid. And then bludgeoned what later turned out to be the girl’s father unconscious. After the coast was clear I turned to the combination wall safe. To find the combination I needed to find a document and then search the area. I escaped with my objective completed and the woman still deep in slumber.
For a side mission that probably took me about 20 minutes I was so happy. I’d had my fair share of lock picking and earned a decent ‘wage’. I experienced that tenseness only possible in a stealth game. And then I completed a simple puzzle, but one that I figured out myself. The combination wasn’t highlighted in bright colours nor did the safe magically open once my character had ‘read’ the answer. It was brilliant, and in the long run made up such a small part of Thief.
But ironically it’s the side missions that kept me coming back for more. My only real gripe with Thief is that a good portion of the main missions end up with the endless looting of many, many small boxes, cabinets and drawers whereas the side missions tend to break the pace and allow for a little more freedom between looting sessions. Also if you’re not paying close attention it’s very easy to lose the plot. I certainly enjoyed the main missions but they could have done with just a bit more freedom, like the rest of the game.
In-between completing objectives you will need to traverse Thief’s city as an open world. There are tons of small allies, vents to crawl through, gaps to squeeze between and walkways to skulk from. And while all these things make for a fantastically intricate city to navigate they can be very confusing initially. After some time exploring you soon learn where everything is and it’s nice to be rewarded for learning a map’s intricacies but early on it can be a nightmare.
Luckily there is a very able control scheme that hasn’t let me down at all yet. There’s no frustrating repeatedly climbing the same wall crap – I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed. If I want to climb somewhere I’m confident Garrett will do it as I instruct on my first try. If I don’t want to he won’t go jumping to his death after 10 minutes of gameplay. The combat takes a bit of getting used to but it’s a last resort and Garrett feels intentionally underpowered when all-out fighting. He’s a thief not a brawler after all. Which I’ve no doubt fans of the franchise will be happy to hear.
Any returning Thief fan should also be pleased with the difficulty settings available. Above the standard easy, normal and hard settings Thief offers even more customization if you want a real challenge. Things like not allowing any knockouts or alerts (at all) amongst many others, allow you to customize your experience. Eidos have clearly realised what this franchise means to its hardcore following and catered for those players too rather than excluding them to allow new players in. All are welcome in Thief and there is undoubtedly a difficulty to suit all. And if your done there’s always the challenge mode to keep you busy. So many games are unsuccessful because they’re either too difficult or too easy. It’s simple really, let me decide. And that’s just what Thief does.
Beyond getting the difficulty settings right I imagine Thief also posed a great challenge to create interesting visuals. We all like vibrant colours and lush landscapes but to create an atmosphere as impressive as Thief’s that’s just not possible. A clever use of what little colour there is and an obvious penchant for lighting effects are what keep Thief’s melancholy colour palette from sucking the life out of the game.
At one point I was deftly sneaking around an alleyway waiting to lift a guard’s purse from his belt when I found myself stopping to admire someone’s work. It wasn’t a multi-headed death beast from the Mogadon Cluster (if you got that reference you’re as sad as me). There where no antiheroes interrogating a bloody suspect. It was just a wet stone.
Many of which make up the Victorian style buildings. I could almost feel the cold and smell the damp concrete. Turning around a slither of moonlight had fought its way through rickety wooden beams and caught the particles in the air. The ever-present clock tower and the moon hung like dual Suns in the night sky. And then I return to playing the game stealing from the guard before sliding away down one of the countless dark alleys littered with beggars reaching out to me.
And that’s how Thief plays. It feels like your in a developer diary. You want to slowly pan the camera around and walk rather than run. And if you do and let yourself become engrossed in Thief’s world you will be greatly rewarded. It’s let down on occasion by rigid level design and repeated objectives but overall Thief is an absolutely brilliant experience.
NVIDIA have just released it’s new first generation Maxwell based graphics card, the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, and here is our review.
The GeForce GTX 750 Ti is designed to deliver the horsepower necessary to drive today’s most demanding titles in full 1080p HD. It delivers 25% more performance than previous generation cards and up to twice the power efficiency thanks to the new Maxwell architecture.
This is what NVIDIA says about Maxwell:
Efficiency is all about doing more with less. The way we achieved better efficiency in Maxwell is by increasing the utilization of our cores. This increases computation.
With Kepler, the SM contained control logic that routed and scheduled traffic for 192 cores. This was complex for a single piece of control logic. With Maxwell, we divided the SM into four blocks, each with its own piece of control logic. The control logic now manages 32 cores instead of 192, making its task much simpler.
By breaking up one giant problem of the control logic doing the scheduling and threading on each SM into smaller work, and by performing the global partitioning in software, we were able to design the chip to be more efficient. As a result, we’ve actually increased the amount of peak performance per core by 35% when compared to the cores in chips built with the previous generation Kepler architecture.
Since we are using less overall cores to get more performance, less power is ultimately used, increasing the performance/watt for the Maxwell architecture. A number of additional optimizations were made inside the chip to increase power efficiency.
The GeForce GTX 750 Ti
The GeForce GTX 750 Ti is designed for gamers who want to enjoy their games at 1080p with normal to high settings without breaking the bank. At the heart of the GeForce GTX 750 Ti lies our first-generation Maxwell GM107 GPU with 640 CUDA Cores. The memory subsystem of GeForce GTX 750 Ti consists of two 64-bit memory controllers (128-bit) with 1GB or 2GB of 5.4Gbps GDDR5 memory.
GeForce GTX 750 Ti also ships with GPU Boost 2.0 technology, ensuring that the graphics card is always running at the highest clocks possible for the very best gaming performance under varied operating conditions. With Boost 2.0, NVIDIA also guarantee a minimum level of performance no matter the workload or thermal/power conditions.
The base clock speed of the GeForce GTX 750 Ti is 1020MHz. The typical Boost Clock speed is 1085MHz. The Boost Clock speed is based on the average GeForce GTX 750 Ti card running a wide variety of games and applications. Note that the actual Boost clock will vary from game-to-game depending on actual system conditions.
A Closer Look
As you can see, the size of the card is significantly smaller than that of the GTX 680, both in length and width.
The long-awaited Lego Movie is now out. And I can’t possibly imagine who wouldn’t want to see it. The humour in the Lego videogames has entertained me for long enough and to see it make it to a fully fledged movie is great. And then bizarrely we’ve now got the video game of that movie.
For fans of the Lego games there isn’t too much that’s going to shock and surprise you in The Lego Movie’s gameplay. The familiar combat makes a return although the characters don’t have quite as many abilities as we’ve become accustomed to. Especially when compared with the recent Marvel Superheroes the combat can at times become a bit tired.
But it’s reasonably well paced and you usually don’t do too much fighting without coming across a puzzle to solve or a cutscene to watch. And again the puzzles are nothing out of the ordinary but rather what we have all come to expect from Lego games. Usually it’s a case of destroying a pile of bricks to make a new object or finding certain parts before you proceed. It’s the simple gameplay we’ve all grown to love backed up with a reliance on the completionist that lurks inside all of us.
There’s the usual gold bricks to collect and red bricks that unlock crazy stud multipliers. Free play will allow you to replay a level with whichever characters you choose to pick up anything you might have missed. Although constant character switching that occasionally caused tedium on Marvel Superheroes is greatly reduced. Admittedly this means less variation between characters’ abilities but when all that actually means is having to complete a level repeatedly just because you can’t bring along enough characters I’m glad for the change.
And the amount of characters you can take to a level is larger too and without a ridiculously long load time if you decide to switch one out. So things are generally smoother and just less dull for the player, especially when going for completion. And because of the reduction in abilities there is less chance you will need to be constantly swapping anyway.
That’s not to say there isn’t any variation between characters and with the entire Lego universe at its command there are all sorts of totally different characters available. This obviously not only opens up options for comedy but for gameplay too. As funny as interactions between characters are it’s great to be a wizard or a pirate one second and a spaceman in the next.
In fact Benny has to be the best character in the film/game purely because I owned one (and still do somewhere) so long ago that had the exact same broken helmet. Or possibly Unikitty I can’t decide. Or Batman. It’s impossible to decide but watching the gruff caped crusader argue with the cutest character in anything ever is absolute genius. And when batman refuses to walk a plank claiming “I didn’t bring my shark repellent spray” I nearly died with laughter. This game is basically a family friendly Family Guy. Sure there’s loads of stuff for the kids but they likely don’t own a Robby with his crappy broken helmet. Or know the original Batman movies – how tragic for them.
Graphically things keep looking better for Lego games even if it is only by almost unnoticeably small amounts. The overly shiny plastic and all-Lego scenery looks better than ever and the muddle of pieces from all the completely different Lego universes creates a wonderfully vibrant world. And it’s been a long time since I’ve played a movie tie in that uses clips of the movie as cutscenes but I found myself looking forward to them every time.
The movie itself really does look stunning. Visually speaking it’s impossible to tell that the movie is CG and not painfully crafted from a million Lego pieces. It does stand as a rather stark contrast to the gameplay visuals and I wonder if eventually the Lego games might look more like the movie. I reckon that’d be pretty cool.
The Lego Movie Videogame is everything we’ve come to expect from a Lego game. Unfortunately it does very little above and beyond and I have to wonder where the future of the franchise will go – as far as videogames are concerned. I can’t help but enjoy the games thoroughly and look forward to each new edition but there has to come a point where things need to move forwards. It’s difficult to expect much from a game that is essentially a tie-in to a toy franchise but the Lego videogames are a lot more than that now and next time it’d be nice to see something new to keep the titles fresh.
It strikes me a bit like “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There’s very little to fault with The Lego Movie Videogame but at the same time it doesn’t do much to wow us. The humour derived from having so many different characters involved rather than just limited to a single universe is brilliant and it carries from the movie to the video game with aplomb, with jokes not even seen in the movie. So it’s good fun, looks nice and this instalment is particularly funny.
Even given this I feel the Lego videogames need to change something up. I’m not sure what it might be but if they continue to follow the same formula over and over eventually they will become stale and this was the first time I felt they’re rapidly approaching that point. It’s a little formulaic but it’s also probably the best videogame movie tie-in I’ve been on in a long time. Everything is average, and that’s just fine for now.
The Untold Stories DLC continues and in Episode 2 we get to kill some more zombies, this time playing as Angel Quijano, the feisty South American female protagonist. What separates Angel from you generic tough female leads out there is the fact that she’s an alcoholic, which I must say is a first to my recollection. ‘Fallen Angel’ opens with the same introduction video that explains the mysterious Big Brother-like figure has been watching the four DLC characters. Angel falls under the “Redemption” tagline this time and opens with Doug, the leader of the resistance survivors, ordering you lay of the booze.
Starting out in a barricaded school you’re tasked with investigating why the Spec Ops are killing non-infected survivors from the city and challenged with destroying surveillance cameras as part of the main side mission. Within the first 20 minutes I had questioned whether this episode was going to just be similar to the previous episode and have us running around doing pointless chores but this all became fun when I came across some of the new DLC weapons. Mixing medical deliberators and an assault rifle creates the incredibly over powered Shockblaster gun that instantly kills zombies, anything nearby and works at incredible range. But the award for the most dangerously dominant firearm in the DLC so far goes to the Machine Pistols that literally lets you run and gun with assisted auto aim with the
ability to clear out the densest of hordes. Having these weapons is a must but also makes this episode much easier.
The story does however pick up when you have to do some actual investigating searching for clues as to who are killing your people and for what reason, but other than that it’s still Dead Rising 3 and there’s things that still need to be sliced, diced and blown up. I’d honestly say after playing through this episode twice I struggle to pull out a great memorable moments and has quickly become forgettable. It is literally a series of fetching quests and clearing out zombies and Spec Ops tasks tied together with Doug’s consistent dialogue of reminding you to not get carried away with drinking and focus on the mission. To be fair having a partner like Doug would drive me to do quite the opposite to what he says just to drown out hearing how terrible I’ve now become, consumed by alcohol because the city is now infested by the undead.
Now only halfway through the Untold Stories I get the impression that the remaining episodes could potentially be another copy and pasted set of missions with a new skin but same tasks. I hope I’m proved wrong. For the asking price of £8 outside of the Season Pass I’d say it’s an expensive hour of additional content and perhaps buy it in a bundle.
The humans kicked the goblins from their homeland and now they’re fighting back. So the best men are mustered to go and beat them all into a pulp and find out how they got their hands on some advanced technology. It’s only mentioned fleetingly that the humans actually kicked the goblins out of their home and there’s no exploration of this moral ambiguity. But it doesn’t matter because luckily the ‘doctor’ has created a new weapon, Knack.
Essentially Knack is an orb-like reactor that collects small objects called relics that give Knack his form. As he finds and collects relics on his journey Knack can become a towering giant and then shrink back down again at will. Cool though that is it basically means that in some levels you will be bigger than you are in others. There’s no player control over Knack’s ability at all.
It’s a shame to have such an opportunity for player interaction and then have it basically become a tool to occasionally alter the gameplay. Being able to grow and shrink Knack to overcome obstacles would have been a much more satisfying experience and at least given a tiny amount of freedom. As it stands Knack’s form is entirely dictated by the level design.
The most obvious difference between Knack’s size is how the combat plays out. One minute you’re stomping on enemies like they where nothing and trashing buildings and the next you are trotting along duelling with tiny goblins. Unfortunately despite the fact Knack becomes stronger and slower as he grows in size so do the enemies. The combat is basically the same regardless of what form Knack is in. When he’s huge the enemies are huge and when he’s small the enemies are small.
And sadly the combat itself isn’t all that interesting either. It certainly isn’t complex enough to remain interesting for very long. Pressing ‘square’ will attack and ‘x’ will jump. You can do a jump attack. And there’s a dodge attack too using the right thumbstick. And that’s about it. No matter if you’re 3 feet tall or the size of a building.
On top of the overly simple combat there are 3 special moves Knack can perform. But only if you have collected enough sun crystals to fill the 3 icons at the top of the HUD (this can be upgraded very late in the game). The powerful special moves would certainly have made things both a little easier and more interesting. But sadly there’s a fundamental problem with using Knack’s abilities.
If you reload from a checkpoint for some reason you don’t get your ability points back. So if you use them on an attempt and then fail and have to retry you will lose the power you used. Admittedly any sun crystals you already collected can be collected again so you could basically keep restarting and pick them up until you had enough power again. But it makes you precious about using your power and there’s no use in abilities if you never use them. And I’m not going to risk wasting my sun crystals in case I need to restart.
For some reason someone decided that getting hit once or twice and having to restart at a checkpoint would be fun. Modern games are usually quite easy and there’s a good argument that we generally need more difficulty. But making enemies that consistently 2 hit kill you (that’s on normal mode, put it on hard and it’s one hit!) is not the solution. There’s a fine line between challenging and irritating and Knack is firmly in the irritating category.
So unseen enemies shoot you once or twice and set you back a good few minutes time and time again. When coming up against certain combinations of enemies you must be very careful. If you’re unlucky and they decide to attack you in a certain pattern there might be nothing you can do about it.
Aside from the unfortunate moments flicking the right thumbstick will allow Knack to dodge incoming attacks but he is vulnerable for far to long in his recovery animation. Or you might have jumped before your enemy attacks and then you can’t do anything at all. Or if you attack at the wrong time you will again be left with no chance. And you’ll be in a real world of pain if you happen to be near some scenery that stops Knack’s dodge from actually going anywhere.
If any of these things happen (and they do, a lot) you will die quickly and have to restart from a checkpoint. It often felt like the controls where unresponsive but it was really just that Knack’s animations often leave you immobile and vulnerable for attack almost constantly. It can be a very stressful experience even given Knack’s zero load times for checkpoints. Replaying a section time and time again very soon gets old.
Despite the fact Knack looks great it doesn’t quite feel like a launch title exclusive. The particles that float around and form Knack are impressive but you very rarely get to see them. I’m sure as a tech demo it’s impressive and greatly utilises the PS4 but Knack does a poor job of letting us see it. Due to the game’s animated style cut scenes look nice enough but are a little underwhelming for a next-gen title.
Knack is a reasonable attempt at returning to old school platform titles – especially where difficulty is concerned. But even if games are too easy these days there’s a reason for it. And I have not been irritated by a game as much as Knack for as long as I can remember. Hard difficulties are fine but I don’t see the need in making every difficulty as punishing as they are in Knack.
On top of that there’s nothing new or exciting in Knack at all. Once you’re bored of beating up some enemies then getting a 5 second scene transitioning to the next area there’s very little left to enjoy in Knack. The characters and plot aren’t particularly inspired and the whole experience feels very removed from the player. Tedious gameplay and a very removed experienced ensure Knack isn’t the great game I expected. It’s a shame because it could’ve been so much more.
TellTale Games has a great formula: get us hooked in an immersive dark story then yank the carpet from beneath us when everything gets interesting, the end of an episode, thus turning players into hungry fans desperate for their next fix. I can’t fault this. It works with great TV shows which can create community discussions about what we saw in our down time.
Episode 2 ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ continues from the cliffhanger ending and immediately ties up loose ends that we’ve waited a couple of months to resolve. Not everything is as it seems throwing our detective Bigby Wolf back into the grim and enchanting world of Fabletown as he continues his hunt for a serial killer.
Your choices indeed carry over from the previous episode with characters remembering how you treated them previously. In episode 1 I might have been a little to rough with Mr. Toad in front of his young son meaning I had to do some grovelling to little TJ to further any enquiries. You’ll come across a few more characters from fables such as Georgie Porgie who runs the Pudding and Pie club as well as a development in the shady story between Beauty and Beast.
There is a lot less action than in the previous outing which makes you focus more on actually being a detective. From forcing information out of people, if that’s your play style, to examining a crime scene successfully The Wolf Among Us has shown us what a well rounded graphic adventure game can accomplish with sharp dialogue, developed characters and the opportunity to be a bad cop.
There was a genuine feeling of disgust with myself when I was thrown some tough decisions and it seemed the only way I’d get answers was to be ruthless. But I applaud Telltale for throwing me into this dark hole where I had to forget about the real world and think what would be best for the situation. Although the story didn’t progress as much as I thought it would I’m left with some harrowing choices that’ll loom over my head until the next episode, and this wait will eventually eat me up until I can find solace in resolving this case.
The only fault I came across was the Xbox’s bookended videos that show catch up and coming soon clips being really slow. Showing us our own personalised choices in videos took several seconds in between each clip but seeing as it doesn’t affect the actual gameplay I can’t complain.
We look forward to yet another conclusion to a new cliffhanger.
It’s been a difficult few years for me with Final Fantasy. As a fan of what I consider the glory days I’ve found it increasingly difficult to accept the changes the franchise has undergone. Massive worlds to explore have been swapped for a supposedly more story driven experience. There hasn’t been much in the way of upgrading weapons and items for a while either. And now we have just one party member. Lightning’s a good character but like many I was concerned she couldn’t manage all on her own.
As far as battles go I am glad to say everything is fine. There’s a new system called ‘Schemata’ that allows you to create totally customizable setups for Lightning, three of which you can use in battle. It’s quite similar to the Paradigm system except offers more customization at the expense of party members.
It certainly adds some tactics to your battle setup and allows those who want it a chance to return to the old days where character setup actually mattered. Unfortunately it’s the only thing that matters and once you’re in battle you will merely need to hold one of the 4 face buttons down to perform an action. All actions will use up your ATB gauge and once it’s run out pressing ‘R1’ or ‘L1’ will switch to a Schema with some ATB left. When you’re not using a schema it will recharge ATB. It’s not all that deep and quickly becomes quite boring, especially where random encounters are concerned.
Did you ever think not getting XP for defeating bosses was bad? Then you’ll love how now you don’t get XP at all. There are no levels and no fight on the game will improve Lightning in any way. The only way to improve is to complete quests. After about 30 minutes random battles become nothing but an inconvenience. If you’re lucky you might get a useful item but otherwise battles are just a dull obstacle.
Some of the tedium is alleviated due to the fact that early in the game you will be more or less allowed to go where you want. But this does come with it’s own problems. The entire game is timed. And despite the fact you will unlikely run out of time it does take all the joy out of exploration. There is finally a world to explore and if you do you can leave yourself stuck with very few options to proceed.
For some reason certain areas are only accessible during certain hours. So if you go off exploring a little and miss your window you can’t progress until the next day. This is not helped by the fact that all the missions require you to either painfully search an entire city for something or carry out endless fetch quests. Fetch quests can have their place but in Lightning Returns they are just a euphemism for boring side quests.
For example I struggled finding one of the very first objectives on the game. After I’d found it I couldn’t finish the objective until the next day. So I went to complete some other quests. A lot of the quests where too difficult for my low-level character and because there is no option to grind there was nothing I could do. I started as many quests as possible, and was allowed to finish a few but most where either locked until a certain time or just above my level.
With no other option I returned to my main objective, which I eventually completed, and carried on. And then the enemies got too difficult again. With the clock ticking and me not able to complete any objectives to level up there was nothing I could do to progress. All because I chose to explore and pursue side quests instead of the main objective.
The time system is absolutely the most stupid thing I have ever seen in any Final Fantasy title ever. Having some areas inaccessible at certain times does nothing but stop you from completing objectives in the order you want. Nothing else at all. If I want to go to a certain area to do what I want (or need) to do, I have to wait. Not for anything to happen, not for the landscape to change just for the clock to count on. It doesn’t make things feel tense it’s just very very annoying. I need to level up to progress, but it’s not the ‘right’ time so I can’t do anything at all because my stats aren’t good enough. It basically ruined my game. I wish I’d just stuck to the main objectives like a good boy.
The plot is unfortunately mediocre as well. I enjoyed the characters’ interactions and actually found this version of Lightning to be my favourite. She’s burdened by her knowledge and duty which complements her already sometimes melancholy state of mind. For better or worse, there are even some attempts at humour in keeping with older Final Fantasy games that sometimes leave you asking ‘what the hell just happened?’. But as the grand finale to the Final Fantasy XIII saga Lightning Returns is remarkably lack lustre.
Graphically things are very much what we have come to expect from Final Fantasy XIII. For a PS3/XBOX360 title it looks very good but there will be nothing that astonishes or surprises. There is a noticeable step down from previous FF XIII games presumably due to the more populated world but it’s well worth it to actually have people walking around a city.
Without the idiotic time mechanic Lightning Returns would have been much more entertaining. Unfortunately it is so core to the game that everything is tarnished by it. A pathetic system of physical gates ensures you stay on the path the game wants you to. If you don’t want the player to have freedom then make it linear. Pursuing quests that result in you getting to a door that basically says ‘come back later’ is infuriating. It’s even worse given that that’s is the only way to level up. All progression felt so tedious and awkward that I enjoyed very little of the time I was on Lightning Returns. Follow the main objectives and forget all about the side quest and you’ll be a lot better off.
Lightning Returns left me thinking only that I wish they’d hurry up with the FFX and FFX-2 HD remakes. I can’t wait to go looking for side quests without fear that they ruin the main story. Not so much having to grind but being able to level up will be great. I’m not afraid of change and Final Fantasy has been going so long that change is needed. The problems aren’t because Lightning Returns isn’t an old Final Fantasy, but that almost every part of Lightning Returns is wrong.
Before we begin I must state that I don’t have any allegiances towards Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo and any other First Person Shooting games out there. I like them all individually, some featuring modes that I prefer over the others and hearing an arcade FPS game was coming out on the Xbox 360 got me pretty excited. I’ve day dreamed numerous times about what would exactly be needed for an arcade shooter to survive in this already triple A shooter heavy market.
Something Fun, explosions and guns usually does the trick, you’d need Replayability, usually a formula of wanting to better yourself in the next round usually done with unlockables that rewards the player for hard work, and finally you’d need Balancing, having a heavier weapon makes you less mobile and vice versa to force players to approach a situation with different tactics.
Rekoil, now available to buy on the marketplace, attempts to include these points listed but it isn’t executed in a successful way. Instead you’re left with a broken FPS with a price tag that asks for way too much, and by too much I mean it should be free to download. On paper everything about Rekoil sounds good, ‘7 different game modes’, ‘40 different weapons’, even the screen shots look amazing (which I’m sure isn’t from the same version or even the same
format that’s out now). So why does this game fall at so many hurdles?
Going back to the previous point about the screen shots looking “amazing”, I did a little digging around and even came across pre-released in-game footage which too looks better than the version that’s available to buy for the 360. I find anything along these lines as terribly misleading as you’re shown something that promises what your experience could look like. Instead, we’re giving a game that looks pretty average to be polite and resembles character textures from Goldeneye back in the 90s on the Nintendo 64. Trying to be nice and
saying this is only an arcade title and that we shouldn’t expect too much from such a release is something I’d usually defend a game with but from the time other older arcade games look much better rules out this excuse.
What is it that we look for in regards to graphics in a FPS? Since the current big shooters out there have already set a high standard on the brink of photorealistic environments it’s understandable that smaller companies might not have the resources to achieve this. By standard we look for high res textures, believable character models and weapons with a nice shine or rustic looking matte.
Rekoil’s weapons for a start just about resemble the real life model it’s based on. It wasn’t satisfying to wield the guns that all felt the same within each class. The levels themselves didn’t look smooth and felt unfinished. I know this game is supposed to be a FPS in a raw form and focuses on the gameplay but for 2014 this simply would not do.
Music and Sound Effects
There is a single soundtrack that plays through the menu of the game which whilst joining games glitches by doubling up becoming an intense mash up of unnecessary noise. The short track itself was just about bearable bordering on torture with every loop it does when unsuccessfully finding games to join due to the unpopulated lobbies. Ok, music within games isn’t a needed thing but when used correctly, like in film and TV, can set a mood and/or intensify a situation.
Rekoil features nothing during the matches at all which creates a strange eerie silence whereas other shooters out there have an ambience track which has become the norm. The in-game sound effects are another issue that draws you out of any immersion you might have somehow found yourself in. From the weapons firing sounding just incorrect and dropping sound altogether to grenades not making a sound if not in your proximity, Rekoil single handily lets down what years of development in immersive sound effects have strived towards. If the sound and atmosphere were spot on then the graphics and gameplay would at
least be excusable.
The gameplay, backbone to what usually makes or breaks a game’s experience was playable but wasn’t fun or daring. Similar to what you’d find in the more eSports orientated games an non-customisable class system is present and the weapons are strictly locked these set classes. Choosing the Assault class lets you play an all rounded character that deals with mid to long range fire fights whereas the Rocket class is slower in movement, longer reload times but bigger area of effect damage. The balancing here is the only thing spot on and limiting
people to these loadouts is pretty much as old school as it gets. What I found out that wasn’t fun or daring is the sense of achievement as very little skill is required when a majority of the kills I got were random and very hit or miss.
Many gunfights featured my opponent and I running towards each other and whoever started to unload their gun into the other first didn’t always win the shootout thus promoting me to not try harder next time. And on the flip side getting a long distance one hit kill with a supposedly short ranged shotgun seemed like I was cheating at times.
The weapon stats are detailed in which guns where better for which situations but I found having the base standard Assault class with the AK47 worked well, worked as sniper at long range achieving random hip-fired headshots and torn enemies apart at close range like a shotgun, broken and pointless. I’m a big fan of having a health bar in any game as opposed to the step-out-of-battle-andrecuperate-your-health-like-nothing-even-happened type of health system that is in almost every title. Rekoil does have a health bar but what’s the point of having one when there’s no health packs to replenish what you’ve lost? This quickly became my biggest issue with the game especially when there’s an achievement for getting a 15-kill streak in a single round.
Somewhere amongst the description of the game you’ll find out there’s some kind of story shoehorned in about a world devastated by a pandemic but if this game is online multiplayer only and doesn’t explain what exactly went on then was it really needed? Who are the Minute Men and the Dark Water teams? Why are they fighting each other? Do we actually care? And if there’s a story how do you explain the random maps from city-based exteriors and a subway to a sawmill and a bizarre Wild West village? I’d love to find out how they relate
even though the layout per playable maps wasn’t too bad themselves, perhaps the only decent bit of design in this entire game.
Several things that’ll need revising would be the spawning system. You can die and respawn in the heat of a battle in some game modes, sometimes unfairly behind your enemies which causes unbalanced fights that are all based on the luck of the spawning draw. There’s been times I’ve come back in with only my knife equipped rather than my primary gun, and this happening with a poor spawning system puts you at a disadvantage as you flail your melee knife attacks toward someone gunning you down.
Rekoil: Liberator is available at the insultingly steep price of £11.99, which as mentioned earlier should just be free as it’s clearly not a completed game for the Xbox 360. I’ve taken into account that it’s trying to be the basic FPS experience with no perks, kill streaks and fancy decorations but as it wasn’t executed correctly I’d recommend everyone to stay away from this game. It was hard enough trying to find available games to play online as it was rarely populated with players. Anyone that doesn’t own this game is better off without it. Rekoil doesn’t even fall into the guilty pleasure category of gaming and I’d be happy
never to speak of its name again.
Have you played it? Were we too harsh? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Whilst not one of Assassin’s Creed’s greatest moments Liberation was a very good attempt at bringing the franchise to a handheld platform. Liberation HD is that same game dressed up and now brought to you’re big screen of choice.
Unfortunately it is quite obvious that Liberation HD is limited due to its original platform. There’s only so much makeup that can be applied to a game before you’ve made a completely new one. At times it looks good, and would even arguably look right at home on the PS3, XBOX 360 or PC, but for the most part there are too many imperfections and poor textures for Liberation HD to look like anything but a handheld port.
This also crosses over with the gameplay. Bugs that where present on the previous game are still there. Enemy AI is just as bad as the original and can very easily get completely confused. And although free running has never been what you would call perfect in any Assassin’s Creed title Liberation HD is probably the single worst example of it I’ve seen since AC1. Time and time again I was stuck trying to climb something I didn’t want to or fall off something I wanted to be on – occasionally to my death.
And tragically the main missions mimic the style of Black Flag. Tail this person, follow that one. Get spotted once and do the whole level again. If there’s one thing I wish Ubisoft would get sorted out it’s their unacceptably poor level designs. They can create an impressive open world and populate it with largely interesting characters. I don’t even mind the occasionally over the top overall plot line. But I refuse to believe that the Assassin’s spent all their time tailing and listening in on conversations. I’m all for games that take their time but just every now and again I need something different.
So basically all of my issues with the latest releases (Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag) are the same with Liberation but are made all the more noticeable in Liberation HD due to its low grade visuals. It’s basically taking a handheld title and stretching it onto a big screen. It has been upgraded and does look much better than the original but on the big screen it just can’t compete with the latest Assassin’s Creed titles, which is basically what it’s up against. The bad parts of Black Flag are still in Liberation HD but without the great parts to balance it out.
And it’s so frustrating that even looking past the visuals only brings you closer to the realisation that Ubisoft can’t or don’t want to change things. The AI is still not all that great. The free running is still not smooth or without irritating sections where you get stuck. Main missions are just appallingly dull and mediocre. Side missions often breath a bit of life and longevity into Assassin’s Creed but in Liberation HD they are just endless fetch quests.
Aveline is a great protagonist to play as but sadly her supporting cast are not so great. Voice acting is just ridiculous at times. It’s so bad in places that it becomes impossible to take certain moments seriously at all. Even with some of Assassin’s Creed’s less imaginative characters the voice acting usually isn’t as bad as Liberation HD is at some points.
Overall Liberation HD is a disappointing experience outside of its native handheld platform. If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan and you’ve never experienced Liberation then it’s probably worth a go. But if you have the option of the original on PS Vita definitely go with that. There’s a general sense of lack-lustre to Liberation HD that couldn’t be avoided given that it’s a port. Sadly the game suffers because of it and comes across as a sloppy addition to Assassin’s Creed’s already overfilled shelf.
Reviewed on PC. Available on PS3, XBOX 360 and PC.
Any excuse to go back to the city of Los Perdidos where Dead Rising 3 is set pretty much excites me. This living breathing world, no pun intended, filled with zombies is home to Episode 1 of the DLC ‘Operation Broken Eagle’.
Set before the events of the main campaign this episode opens up with a video that
explains that there are 4 others stories that took place under the watchful eyes of a mysterious character, very creepy. Broken Eagle puts you in control of Spec Ops Commander Adam Kane with a very unorthodox mission.
Available as part of the Season Pass this single episode alone gave me a different take on my Dead Rising 3 experience. With additional new weapons, 1 new combo weapon and a new vehicle this is a fine example of furthering an original game’s playability. The main mission is to establish a base camp and neutralise all “unlawful combatants, which includes the President of the United States. Being top secret, after your helicopter crashes with your troops being scattered throughout the city your new objective will be to recover the aircraft’s
black box and finding your team, what a crazy turn of events Kane will have to encounter that night.
Without any countdown timers for any of the missions you can literally take your time to explore the city if you hadn’t had the chance to during the original campaign. Just beware that the army are amongst the zombie hordes so it isn’t a walk in the park but enough challenge to keep you on your toes. Who knew capturing the President would be so challenging?
Kane is full of witty remarks as he tears through zombie flesh but also respectful for any fallen comrades he stumbles across whether they’re dead or turned and have to be killed. He quickly becomes a protagonist torn between his duties in this post-apocalyptic environment and his fight for survival, a great insight into a mercenary’s approach from Capcom. Available with it’s own Nightmare mode just like in the campaign it more than makes up for the fact
this DLC doesn’t have cooperative play.
It took me several hours to complete this and I’m intrigued to finding out what other untold stories from Los Perdidos will reveal.
Operation Broken Eagle is available now on the Xbox One.
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