The legacy of the pinball machine lives on in digital form, however its greatness is yet to be truly emulated. Most pinball games are generally unsatisfying with a plasticky feel due to unrealistic physics, cartoonish graphics etc. However, Zen Pinball is another game that hopes to provide the experience that was once so common.
I’ll start off with the most important part, the game-play. Don’t let the name mislead you, there is nothing meditative or Zen-like about the game; it’s just regular pinball with an air of madness about it. The physics are very well done, and along with the use of the pressure-sensitive R2-L2 buttons for flipper-control; make the experience feel very genuine. They could’ve, however, made better use of the motion-sensitivity i.e for bumping the table, which is done via the analog instead.
The game consists of 4 tables; that may seem very few, but each table is packed with so many secrets of its own that at times they feel like 4 different worlds. Though discovering these gimmicks can consume many hours ; finally mastering each table can be very satisfying. The cheat-sheets speed up this process, figuring out everything on your own is borderline impossible.
The tables are: V12, a car-engine themed table; El Dorado is based on a hidden Latin American city; Tesla is a mad-scientist’s lab while Shaman is a based upon a jungle full of cannibals. The developers have done a brilliant job using music, sound effects, and the occasional cheesy voice-acting to create intense atmospheres.
The graphics don’t disappoint either. The visuals are crisp and the tables are extremely detailed, pieces of artwork in their own right. Six different views can be used and should be used to avoid being overwhelmed by the madness and flashing lights.
Apart from solo games; there are also local and multi-player modes. While the local multi-player is the obvious turn-by-turn pinball, the online modes are a bit more exciting where you can engage in intense fast-paced scoring races with unlimited balls. The online modes are plagued by connection problems though, making it a very frustrating experience. And the much-promised tournaments are nowhere to be seen.
Overall, Zen Pinball provides a solid experience that is probably the most realistic pinball game out there. It is simple enough to pick up and play, but can eat up hours of your precious time if you wish to delve deeper into it. Disappointingly, the online modes have issues; ruining what can be a great multi-player experience.
Since the success and universal acclaim that Doom achieved, First-Person Shooters have become the most popular genre on both PC and consoles. While great shooting-mechanics, polished visuals and a well-implemented multiplayer will guarantee success these days; there is, like everything else in life, more than one path to success. 4A games, aiming for originality, took one of the other routes.
Metro 2033 attempts to provide a cinematic experience, alongside all the shooting of course. Being based on a best-selling novel, that would seem to be the sensible thing to do.
It’s the year 2033, and the city of Moscow has been decimated by a nuclear explosion. The surviving population has been forced underground, into the subway. Hence the name, Metro 2033. Escaping from the inhospitable surface, things underground aren’t going well either….. out of the frying pan and into the fire. People have split into communities, are warring over territory and when they aren’t dying of hunger, they’re being shot by Communists or Nazis. Just when you thought things can’t get any worse, you have the usual radioactive slime-monsters and some other mutated oddities coming over for tea.
This is where you come in. Taking control of the character Artyom, who’s village has been threatened by the Dark Ones, you set out on a mission to warn the others and gain some protection for your home at the same time. Your adventure takes you along the whole subway, one long straight line, with the occasional ventures onto the surface.
Despite an emphasis on story, the gameplay holds a lot of importance. Metro 2033′s gameplay is best compared to Half-Life. There is more emphasis on the surrounding world than the actual gun-play. Despite this, the gun-play is not too bad. The auto-aiming makes it easier, and there is little need of finding vantage points. At the same time, weapons cause ridiculously low damage e.g needing 10 shotgun shells to put down one Neo-Nazi.
Considering the unique system that 4A have decided to implement, this flaw can be quite frustrating. This is the ability to use ammo as currency to spend on weapon upgrades and new weapons; having to spend whole clips on one enemy won’t do your bank-balance too much good. On the plus side, this forces the player to scavenge and search every single corpse they come across, it also stops your from needlessly spreeing bullets.
The fact that supplies are scarce, increases the tension and adds a survival-horror feel to it. Thankfully, 4A gives you the option of using stealth instead. Your watch has a visibility meter and you can use suppressed pistols to shoot light-bulbs. You’ll also come across booby traps like hanging drink cans and broken glass, these will make sneaking an even harder task. As the game progresses, and your supplies get depleted further, you will begin to appreciate the stealthy approach.
The best part of the game is the pace it goes along at. Though the game is only a dozen hours long, you’ll always be discovering something new. Whether it’s something else that wants to eat you or another community or a type of objective that you haven’t come across before; this ensures that a feeling of monotony never settles in and keeps you guessing at whats coming next. This is complemented by the unique set-pieces that break up the gameplay.
All this is aided by the incredible sound effects. The sound of your own heartbeat and breath alongside the distant screams and clanging, build up an atmosphere that has you looking over your shoulder every 10 seconds. 4A also tried to make the experience more authentic by using local voice-actors, but this backfired due to some very bland dialogues that don’t go along with the rest of the game at all.
Along with your ears, your eyes are given a treat as well. The game doesn’t let itself down by boasting some of the best visuals of recent times; though there are moments, especially above the surface, where the textures can be quite poor.
All in all, this game is a must-buy. Not for it’s shooting-mechanics, not because it’s challenger to Modern Warfare 2; but because it’s totally different, for the dark tension-filled atmosphere it will immerse you in. Though it lacks multiplayer, the single player more than makes up for it.
The God of War franchise has defined the ‘beat ‘em up’; or more accurately, the ‘cut hordes and hordes of enemies into a thousand bloody pieces’ genre ever since its debut on the Playstation 2. Many have tried to emulate its style and success, but all have failed; and just when a game came close to cracking the code, Sony Santa Monica pushed it up a notch and left the competition in a bloody pool of decapitated Greek myth; and that it what they’ll be hoping to do with God of War 3.
God of War 3 is the last game in the trilogy, and ends the quest for revenge, that Kratos set out on 5 years ago. 3 out of those 5 years were spent developing this game.
The story won’t change much, obviously. Kratos is still ‘upset’, still wants revenge and still gets revenge. However, the way the story is told does undergo some change. The simplified story of the past games was part of their charm; but God of War 3, seeing the current trend in story-telling, tries to make the story more complex. Though there is no problem with adding twists to the tale, the complexity means that game loses some of its charm. You end up going through some levels just to fill the story.
Luckily, even though the plot can be important, GoW tasted most success due to it’s gameplay. And most will be pleased to hear that the game is still the same beast that it always was.
Understanding that changing the gameplay too much will end up spoiling the game, Sony Santa Monica decides to tweak it here or there; and most of the time, when you’re ripping enemies apart, you won’t even notice these changes, but they contribute a lot towards towards the brutally fun nature of the game.
You start the game with your trusty old blades and, just as before, you can pick up some goodies. Unlike the previous games, where the blades were clearly superior to anything you picked up, the weapons you acquire have unique advantages and you’ll end up switching between them. Unfortunately, several of the weapons, despite their different attributes, look and feel similar to your blades; therefore not making the experience of chopping off limbs any different. Each of the weapons are linked to a magic ability which you can select using the d-pad, and you can utilize this to the max, thanks to the newly-added ability to change weapons mid-combo.
Talking about combos, this time you’re given greater control over them, which is a welcome change, considering they are the best part of the game. You still have the trademark combos from before, along with some newly added massive ones. Usually the problem with the immense nature of some combos means leaving yourself vulnerable to attack, however, this time, you’re allowed to pull out of a combo at any moment to parry off danger.
You might be thinking to yourself, why would anyone want to block when you can reduce the enemy to minced meat. The answer is that the game has been tweaked slightly to give more importance to blocking and rolling. Though it may not sound that way, but the change does improve gameplay. Another improvement is that the square-triangle combo has been dumbed down to stop people from abusing it, and forcing them to use some of the combos that deal damage over a larger area. This, taking into account, the immense number and nature of enemies, is a welcome change.
Immense, that is the word that sums up the game. You have immense numbers of enemies on-screen, you have immense levels and you have immense bosses bigger than whole levels in some cases. The boss battles are, undoubtedly the best part of the game. This is not only because of the wide variety of bosses you face but, mainly, due to the way you kill them. Every boss provides a jaw-dropping moment, and the context-sensitive kills add a hypnotically cinematic feel to the action, sometimes to such an extent that you forget to press a button and end up being ripped apart. Even Sony SM realized that and decided to put the triggers for the context-sensitive kills at the edge of the screen, as far away from the action as possible, so you can experience bloody murder in its fullest form.
That experience is taken to a whole new level thanks to the graphics. The game is beautiful. The dynamic backgrounds are awe-inspiring, and Kratos is probably the most detailed character out there. To top it off, the game lets us have a look at some of the kills from wicked angles. But just when you think that Sony SM can’t do anything wrong as far as graphics go; unfortunately, they have. Though most of the game looks grat, there are some character models and textures that are mediocre at best; though it doesn’t take away much from the experience, it is unfortunate that such things affect a game as good as this. Credit to the developers though, the whole game is rendered; there are no CG cut-scenes.
God of War 3 comes as close to being perfect as mythologically possible, an awesome game being dented by some small flaws. If you want revolutionary gameplay then you should stay as far away from this game as possible. But if you’re looking for the same experience as the previous games intensified to a whole new level then you’re in luck, because that is exactly what GoW 3 does.
Movie-games… even the most optimistic and die-hard fans treat them with skepticism. They have, over the years, been the most shockingly poor games released, despite having a solid story to use as a platform, becoming synonymous with poor gameplay, poor graphics and, most surprisingly, poor stories.
Similarly, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a game based on a movie based on a comic based on an adventurous imagination, has all the odds stacked against it, when history is taken into consideration. However, by basing itself upon, arguably, the most popular comic-book character ever, it aims to reverse the stagnation of movie-based games in its own favour.
Using the movie with some additional changes in the story, you would, if you’re an optimist, expect it to be safe in that regard. Well, lets hope that you aren’t an optimist. The story jumps back and forth from the future to the past and vice-versa, so many times that it threatens to tear apart the time-space continuum, ending up in such a muddle that I doubt the developers knew where they were going.
However, considering what this game has in store for us, it wouldn’t matter if it had a story about Barbies… or maybe it would, but you get the point.
The reason, why the story doesn’t matter a great deal, is the fact that this game is easily the most violent and gruesome to grace our television screens. Allowing you to impale enemies, cut off heads, chop off arms and rip out guts; you’ll never experience a dull-moment. Fortunately, the developers realised this and put great emphasis upon it, sometimes a little too much as I’ll describe later.
To perform these gut-wrenching displays of gore, you’ll need a minimal amount of familiarity with the controls. Having 4 main buttons; for a light-attack, a heavy-attack, blocking and jumping. You can use these buttons in various combos, which you’ll have to learn, or in a random button-smashing manner, unleashing the fury of your shiny adamantium claws . Both are equally effective and satisfying in terms of: litres of blood spilt per second. But the true satisfaction is earned from the quick-attacks. Triggered by pressing a button while grabbing an enemy, these are the most violent and are unique to every enemy-type.
Another important ability of Logan is his ability to regenerate. While previous games haven’t left it out, they have, invariably, implemented it poorly. However this game integrates this ability perfectly. Giving you two health-bars, one representing your exterior and the other your vital organs, you die when the bar representing your vital organs runs out.
Another facet of this well-implemented system is the actual damage shown on your character. Bullets leave holes while explosions rip-off your shirt, skin and some muscle. However, what follows is most impressive. You can actually see Logan regenerating, with skin and muscle emerging to replace the gaping holes in your body. So not only is the damage real-time but so is the healing.
Amongst all this body-slicing, gut-spilling action, there are some unlockables, namely three of Wolverine’s costumes; the yellow-and-blue, the yellow-and-brown and the X-Force clothing. These are made playable by finding figures hidden in levels, and then defeating a clone of yourself in a danger-room-like arena. Contrastingly, these battles are quite difficult, and can give you a run for your money.
Something else which adds some method to mayhem is the character-development. When fighting, you earn experience points which allow you to level-up and gain some tokens. These tokens can be used to improve your claws, damage and other attacks; so if you were impressed in the beginning you’ll be really surprised by the end.
Speaking of improvement, the graphics could have, and should have, been better. When ripping out someone’s guts, the graphics shouldn’t be too detrimental to the experience, but in this case they are. Blood and muscle look like jelly while minor glitches mean that your shiny new claws make swipes through the air, rather than get themselves dirty in the waterfall of blood, emerging due to unexplained causes.
Other than the graphics, there aren’t any real negatives. It just comes down to the positives not being positive enough. The game soon becomes repetitive, with not only the same enemies re-appearing, but also the same bosses. All these bosses are brought to their ultimate demise by the same strategy, get on their back and stab them as many times as possible. This can get tedious, and takes some gloss off an otherwise impressive game, which never really regenerates unlike Logan’s body.
To conclude, this game certainly won’t win any GOTY awards and neither will it be critically acclaimed from a technical stand-point. However, it sure is fun; how can ripping out the guts of countless enemies be boring? And in the end, that’s all that matters, the fun.
Capcom has ruled over the survival-horror genre since one can remember, in fact they are credited with inventing the genre with Resident Evil, a name which has become synonymous with zombies, poorly lighted corridors and most of all fear. But since the release of Resident Evil 4, considered to be the best iteration of the series, Capcom’s rule over the genre has stuttered because of games such as Dead Space, which have threatened to snatch the crown from the hands of the ailing king.
But with Resident Evil 5 Capcom aims to consolidate its rule and take the genre to new heights. Does the 5th installation succeed in being the best? Or does it fail and signal the final nail in the coffin?
Following on from Resident Evil 4, a game which some called zombie-slaying perfection, Resident Evil 5 had a tough task on its hands from the outset. But one look at the game will tell you that this is nothing like its predecessor.
Sure, you have your zombies with their tentacles and oozing eyeballs but after that the two split paths.
Resident Evil 5, which is set in Kijuju, a fictional part of Africa, sees you assume the role of Chris Redfield, the hero from the original Resident Evil. During this zombie-killing adventure, Chris is aided by Sheva, who is, like him, a member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance.
Sheva plays a very important part in this game, which relies very heavily upon co-operative play to deliver that juicy zombie-shooting goodness. This is what really makes this Resident Evil different than others, none of the previous games have included this feature.
Allowing you to play only as Chris on your first play-through, your buddies can join in at anytime; online or offline, and aid you in your journey while playing as Sheva. The offline co-op adapts a unique style, instead of the usual horizontal or vertical split, in RE5 you see your character through a box on the top left or bottom right. This may seem unusual but is quite effective as it allows one to concentrate on your own character as the boxes don’t meet.
Another effect the co-op has on the game is that it particularly reduces or in some cases nullifies the fear-factor. Whereas in previous games you would find yourself in a poorly-lit corridor alone, in this game you are always accompanied by Sheva. The loneliness was the big cause of fear, unfortunately in this game that has been removed.
When playing alone, Sheva will still be there. But as with any sidekick in any game, she has her advantages and disadvantages. While she does reduce the amount of horror in the game and hence the chances of a heart-attack, she can be helpful by reaching hard-to-reach areas and helping you kill the wide assortment of bosses in the game. But she can be a nuisance as she is quite trigger happy and will fire regardless of whether a zombie is shootable or not, and she also has a habit of being over-cautious and wasting lots of health packs at the slightest of injuries.
James Bond… the name has become synonymous with action-packed movies in the same way it has with disappointing games. After Golden Eye, a legend in the FPS genre, every game has promised to build upon this solid foundation and bring an even better experience to the table, and it is for this very reason that every Bond game fails as it is compared, sometimes unfairly, to its great ancestor.
Quantum of Solace, the latest installment in the Bond series, is no different. Developed by Treyarch, this game was meant to break the trend for this ailing series, and match Golden Eye, which any gamer would know is easier said than done. But is Treyarch being over-ambitious? Or are they able to recreate that winning formula which was used by Golden Eye so effectively?
One department, you would expect a James Bond game to be sound in would have to be the story. After all, the story is present in the movie and all you have to do is copy and paste… but unfortunately that isn’t the case with Quantum of Solace as the story swings between Casino Royale, the previous film, and Quantum of Solace. Infact the story is mostly from Casino Royale with the locations adding a welcome touch of Quantum of Solace, as if they had totally forgotten which movie they were developing for and suddenly remembered a week before release. Other than being hypocritical it occasionally proves to be confusing, as it takes some effort figuring out who you are supposed to kill. So it would be recommended that you watch both movies before playing the game.
The first thing you’ll set your eyes upon will, obviously, be the graphics. And they really are worth a good look. The character models are impressive, and there is a lot of special effort put into Daniel Craig, James Bond, as you can see that Treyarch wanted him to look as identical to the real deal as possible, and I must say that they have done a grand job. You can actually see the tiny details such as the bending and folding of the skin on his face, the wrinkles etc. The environment isn’t too shabby either, the intricately detailed and thankfully varying environments provide a fitting background to your killing sprees, though there is the trademark museum and train level. However I can’t say the same about the adversaries.
The enemies are twins of each other; actually I would say that they are clones. They look the same, think the same, act in the same way, make the same stupid mistakes which cost them their lives, replay the same death animations and probably have the same fingerprints. Their slides and jumps over obstacles are momentarily cool but they quickly decay into a boring repetition. They are, bluntly, quite pathetic. If only a little less effort had been put into putting e-makeup on Daniel Craig, and a little more had been put into making the enemies act less like clowns and more like dangerous henchmen, the game would have been twice as fun and wouldn’t have put such a dent in the gameplay.
That brings us to the gameplay. Having the COD4 engine would, in theory, mean that the game would excel in this department. But unfortunately it doesn’t. In an ambition to make something better and different than COD4, Treyarch has introduced a unique mix of ingredients which ironically spoil the experience and seem as if they were added for the sake of adding something new.
Mirror’s Edge, produced by ‘DICE studios’ which is well-known for its franchise Battalion, gives a new definition to the genre FPS. Rather than the usual stereotype of running and gunning, Mirror’s Edge emphasises on running and well… jumping off high buildings, with the occasional firefights to keep the violent type happy. But in today’s world where FPSs are defined by the size and power of guns and enemies, does Mirror’s Edge fail miserably? Does DICE fall off that high building above you and become street pizza? Lets find out.
As you can tell by the cover (no, its not about tatooing your eyes in weird ways) the game’s main character is a girl, called Faith. In an era of totalitarian rule she is one of the few which rebel against this oppression. Those few are called runners, they race across the city delivering vital information to resistance members scattered everywhere, they do all this while evading the ‘blues’(cops) using their almost superhuman acrobatic skills to out-manouever them. All is well, relatively speaking, until Faith’s sister, a cop, gets framed for a murder, and therefore she sets out on a mission to clear her sister’s name.
The story itself may not seem very exciting on paper as we’ve all heard it a million times before, but this game transforms a bland plot into a gripping one which, thanks to some great cinematics and voice-acting, keeps you glued to the tv till the very end. There are 9 chapters each of which is a vital gear in a beautifully manufactured machine. Each ends with a gripping cinematic, and each one restores your interest and curiosity at regular and much-needed intervals.
I mentioned that it showed-off some great voice acting but there are still some shortfalls in the sound department. Despite the professional voice-acting, the lip-syncing was awful at times and the dialogue isn’t much better either. The musical score was well-composed however it did begin to get repetitive after hearing it the first hundred times. The SFX were excellent, with screeches, footsteps, gunshots and door-bashes sounding incredibly realistic.
The visuals pop out at you in symphony with the music. Each building is magnifecently rendered in shades of white and grey. Light reflects off surfaces realistically creating a fitting background to such an amazing title. But like every other department, this also has a flaw which is that the character models aren’t very impressive.
Now onto the gameplay itself. The game is, most of the time, very smooth and fluid with you swinging, leaping, running and sliding from one area to another. Adrenaline rushes accompany you whenever you take a vertigo-enticing jump off a skyscraper. The intuitive controls will aid you in stringing together massive and smoothly exectuted chains of fluid leaps and ground-scraping slides across this skyscraper jungle. But everything is going fine and your having a wonderful time free-running until you…face combat.
Very few RTS games have made it to consoles. Even fewer have had success. The culprit behind this fact is the keyboard and mouse, packed with so many buttons that the whole RTS game engine is modeled upon it. Consoles with their relatively puny controllers have had immense difficulties housing the number and range of functions required for a decent RTS game. EndWar is different.
Tom Clancy’s newest game is also his first shot at the RTS genre. Most of his games being shooters, such as Rainbow 6, the newbie in the RTS world may well become a revolutionary. The reason behind this statement is the control scheme. Eliminating the controller all together, EndWar has a control scheme which is as innovative as it can get. You use voice command as the main tool to command battalions of units across battlefields, but does Tom Clancy prove that RTSs are possible on consoles?
Set, in the not so distant future, in the year of 2011, EndWar plunges you into World War III. Starting due to power struggles between the US, Europe and Russia, the war escalates into a race for world domination. Controlling one of the three factions (USA, Europe and Russia), you must establish supremacy by waging wars all across the globe… except the Southern Hemisphere… and plan the downfall of your opponents.
Shouting commands at the TV may make you look loony to others, but believe me it’s worth it. You’ll begin by choosing a faction, all 3 of which are pretty much equal as you have virtually the same units and same objectives. You then get thrust into the battlefield, so that you can command your battalion to victory. Here is where EndWar is a little different to other RTSs. Rather than building bases and, managing and collecting resources, like in other games; in EndWar one must command battalions of units without ever having to bother with responsibilities such as base defense and collecting resources. This is partly due to the fact that Ubisoft has taken a simplistic approach to this game allowing younger gamers to enjoy it.
First thing you’ll notice as the commander is the high level of quality on display. The game is brimming with it. You get smooth changes in view, your ears get drilled by constant explosions and you get treated to expansive battlefields. After all… quality is Tom Clancy’s middle name.
The gameplay is pretty simple but at the same time tedious. It’s simple, because as I mentioned there is no need for building structures or collection of resources. But, it’s tedious for a whole number of reasons. The most annoying being the points of view. There is a limited range of them as the game wants you to look from the point of view of your units. This can get pretty annoying as it is difficult to organize units and to develop any strategy whatsoever; it also means that one cannot get a birds-eye view of the proceedings.
Another problem… or problems, are the units themselves. Lacking in any kind of AI, your units act like robots only doing what you tell them to do, but are able to do nothing else, now that’s what I call obedience. But seriously, what is the point of any unit if it fires only when told to do so, and if you don’t tell them to fire they’ll stand there looking and wondering, ‘why is the enemy firing at us?’ and get killed, but they do kill some enemies by causing them severe cases of laughter. This means that you spend more time taking care of your battalion than you spend devising a strategy. Each unit needs to be told to fire, leading to an enormous amount of micromanagement, meaning it is easier to concentrate all units at one point and hit the enemy hard rather than spreading out and utilizing weaknesses.
Battles are like rock-paper-scissors: Helicopter kills tank, tank kills transport and transport kills infantry. This can also get quite tedious as can the slow pace of artillery. The infantry is only good when behind cover. WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), awarded in the closing periods of the game, can turn the tables on the enemy. A major flaw is that the losing player gets them first and therefore gets rewarded for poor performance. These WMDs can also make big explosions.
Talking of explosions, the game is full of them. There is one every second, and this is what makes the games so visually pleasing. Stunning explosions and vast battlefields multiplied by good graphics results in a masterpiece of mayhem.
You can experience all this in 3 unique modes. The ‘solo’ mode, which is the campaign. The ‘skirmish’ mode, in which you can play offline or online games. Last but definitely not the least is the ‘Theater of War’ mode, this is the main online mode where the three factions fight over the earth, you being a part of one of them. In ‘Theater of War’, at the start of each turn you get to chose from a list of battles. You fight the one you choose whilst the results of the others are predicted by the computer using complicated guesswork. The online is by far the best part of the game and it makes up for the shallow single player. You can also make your own missions using an editor.
So in short, EndWar should be tried at all costs as it pure innovation, however it isn’t anywhere near as good without the voice commands for which a headset is required. The online more than makes up for the campaign and even though it may look too simple for hardcore RTSers, it is a fun and worthwhile experience.