Assassin’s Creed

November 13, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Coming fresh out of the success of the Prince of Persia franchise, can Ubisoft deliver another home run with Assassin’s Creed? Well, they think they can with all their demos and advertising, but it’s up to us to deliver the final verdict. To cut things short, Ubisoft has done exactly what they promised and they have gone a step further in making a game that feels and plays better than Ubisoft’s previous outing.

Creed is an amazing game to play through with all aspects of it working seamlessly together bringing out a truly awesome experience. The controls are fluid, the enemy A.I is by far one of the most intelligent seen recently, the visuals are just breath taking but Creed’s strong point is its story. Without giving out any spoilers, all I can say is that Ubisoft has done a great job in weaving a remarkable story with an enjoyable climax. One will be truly surprised by the opening scene as they start playing the game.

Another strong aspect of the game is the world. Initially we are just allowed to roam around in a small city with very few buildings and structures to climb on. But after we get through the tutorial and we are allowed to use our horse to roam outside the city, do we fully understand the depth of the game. There are three cities, Damascus, Acre and Jerusalem, each of which are immense. When you first enter a city, your map will be blank. To piece out the entire map, you are required to climb tall structures called ‘view points’ which unlocks a part of the map (and gives you a jaw-dropping sight of the entire city). It’s a nice technique which allows people to explore in case they want to roam into other areas.

Once you have scaled the tall structures, certain points appear in the map which allows you to move forward with the story. You’re an assassin called Altair. And before assassinating someone you need to “investigate” about them. You can do this by pick pocketing individuals, interrogation, eavesdropping, etc. each of which appears once you have scaled a view point. The sequence of actions tends to get repetitive but that is all ignored once the incredibly intelligent A.I comes in to play. There is an indicator to show your threat level. If it’s red, then all the guards are on alert and you’re basically chased until you find a hiding spot. Civilians call guards when they see you (or call you a mad buffoon when you start climbing walls or when you ruthlessly push them out of your way), guards scale walls as well to chase you and even throw stones at you if they see you climbing walls. The action gets heated up once you assassinate your target. Then it’s a high-speed chase to the H.Q trying to flee the scene. But in case you feel the need you can always pull out your trusty sword, but beware the fights are not just button mashing. It all comes down to timing. You need to time your counters, your combo kills, etc. in order to survive the ruthless guards.

There are many side missions that help your overall mission as well like helping defenseless civilians who help you by either giving you cover or by getting in the way of the guards as you attempt to escape. They are not compulsory but they can provide some relief from the difficult levels during the end of the game. The game requires you to have a bit of patience. After all you’re an assassin. Patience is what you’re made of. The game length is at a healthy 20 hours provided you leave out all the side missions, finding hidden flags, scaling every view point, etc. Though there is no multiplayer, the whole scale of the single player makes up for it.

Let’s get technical. The graphics are just beautiful. Scale a view point and press a button. You have a 360 degree pan which just shows how immense the city is and it’s just breathtaking. The character models are just top notch with almost every model being different from the other. The environments are luscious. Another ‘cool’ feature the game provides you with is a choice of different camera angles during a cut scene. But not all the cut scenes have this freedom though it does provide you with alternate angles at certain points during a scene. It just takes a press of button at the right time! This should be a standard in games to come as it is really cool. The audio is really good as well with some really cool background music that intensifies key moments. The voice over are some of the best seen lately and the environment noises are good as well.

From the time you see the first cut scene till the last; Assassin’s Creed will have you wanting more. The game pulls you out of your seat, takes you to this world and just leaves you there. You will never be the same again. With an amazing storyline, you will be surprised. With an amazing A.I, you will be challenged. With some breath taking visuals, you will be awed. The game will hold a special place in your heart as Ubisoft did with Sands of Time. This could very well be THE game of the year!

Naruto Rise of a Ninja

November 13, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Previous games based on Naruto, one of the most successful anime coming from Japan, has been mediocre at best. But when Ubisoft decided to take the reins over, they have made what probably is the best Naruto game ever. Proof of that is even written on the back of the cover.

Rise of a Ninja follows the first 80 episodes of the anime which is like a walk down memory lane for fans of the series. But for those that haven’t seen even an episode, Ubisoft utilizes high quality videos of the series as cut scenes, so that we understand what is going on. Naruto is the story of a young boy named Naruto (like duh!) who wishes to become the greatest ninja his village has ever seen. But the road to be a Hokage is a tough task as he is to put up with grueling tasks that test his skill to the maximum. Oh and to top it off, he has sealed in him a demon with destructive powers. Will he ever be the ninja that he dreams of? Well that all depends on you.

The game starts off at a slow pace, but once you start upgrading your powers, the game is a joy to play through. The game is like a typical adventure game with you running around a free roam world helping villagers in some tasks, finding hidden coins with which you can buy stuff, discovering hidden areas, and performing various mini-games. The mini-games include delivering ramen, finding love-struck villagers and transforming to naked girls to help them (ya baby!), having races through checkpoints, etc. There are a ton of such mini-games that if they weren’t there in the first place the game would have been awfully short, which it is by the way. You can blaze through the story in less than 6 hours if you ignore all the mini-games.

You not only have you village to roam around in but there are other areas that unlock once you have upgraded your skills. The village is basically your home where you have alleys to run around, ledges to slide and roofs to climb. This basically is the adventure part of the game. It also has a fighting aspect to it. The fights have you face other opponents like any other fighter game. Though there aren’t many moves that you can perform, there are certain jutsus (which are super powers) which you can perform by moving the thumb sticks in a certain direction. The animations of the jutsus are excellent and compensate for the lack of moves. The fights are fast paced and are immensely fun. The jutsus performed by opponents also put your player in a mini-game by either clicking the button at the right time or either dodging the attacks coming from another opponent. All in all, you won’t be disappointed.

Each character you play in Naruto feels distinctive with different moves and jutsus for each. This adds depth to the game and it’s always fun to perform new and cool jutsus. The game can be enjoyed both online or offline. Offline allows you to play one-on-one matches or you can play in a tournament. Online you have the added bonus of the Forest of Death Exam tournament. Basically you play online opponents one after the other until you have reached the top of the Death tower. Anyone can hop in and start competing but once you lose, you have to start from the beginning.

The visuals in the game are by far one of the best out in the market right now. The cell shaded animations are just excellent and are a treat to the eyes. During the fights, the animations are so quickly paced that you don’t have time to breathe. The environments are very well detailed and the character animations are well performed. If there has to be a flaw then it would have to be the random bullies that keep popping up when you exit the village. They just look dumb (which they are) and don’t look like much effort has been put up to make them. The cut scenes are well edited and are of excellent quality. The animation in the final boss battle is so good that you can purchase its video once you have acquired enough money.

The sounds are good as well. Fans of the series will instantly recognize the familiar soundtrack that constantly keeps playing throughout the game. The sound work during the fight scenes are bone crunching, literally. The American voice work is top notch and the environment noise is well suited. But you might get tired of Naruto keeping on blabbering Believe it!

Overall, I recommend this game. For fans of adventure, this game will not disappoint. If you’re a Naruto fan, you probably have the game already. If you aren’t, you will not be disappointed. The adventure is good enough and the fights are well made. The unison of these two aspects has been well achieved by Ubisoft. Though it’s short length might put off some people, there are tons of other stuff to do that will keep you playing the game for some time to come.

Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock

October 31, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

How much more of guitaring do we have to take? Apparently the game publishers don’t think it’s enough, with Rock the 80’s and Guitar Hero II releasing for the xbox, we have the latest installment, Guitar Hero 3. With Activision taking over the rights of Guitar Hero and handing over the reins to Neversoft, have they made the game like it was meant to be or have they made a mess of it all. Let’s find out.

Well, to cut your reading short, they have made a great game but there are a few quirks here and there.  Well all music games should have an amazing soundtrack. GH3 has it in bundles with Guns and Roses, Rolling Stones, The Killers, Iron Maiden, and many others. The Sex Pistols have also returned after 30 years to record a track just for the game and even Brett Michaels and a few other special guests have also lent their talents for the game. Slash fans rejoice.  This game is a proper sequel with atleast 70 tracks to jam to and Activision has heard the cries over the forums and has added a few additions.

Additions include the co-op career with a specific playlist that stresses on rhythm and bass. Online has finally come to Guitar Hero. Now we can jam with our friends online in the career mode or face-off with them as well. A new addition is the Battle mode which basically is two guitarists trying to shred better than the other. The tracks in the career mode during the three battles have been specifically made for the game. It’s a shame that the same tracks can’t be played outside the career. Even the stats are uploaded online on the website and you can check out what you or your friends have played and how much the score is and a whole lot. Downloadable tracks have been promised to extend the life of the game as well. The new controller is quite good with removable face plates, removable neck and the keys are now changed to resemble the PS2 version. So now you can customize your own guitar and can carry it easily around as well. Not bad.

Activision has improved the game’s hud as well with a note counter which is neat. They have also increased the time gap at which the note appears and when it can be played. This may appear as a bane towards experts as it makes the lower difficulty a shame but it would come as a relief to others who find shredding just a bit too much on the fingers. But don’t fret, expert players. The songs towards the end are just numbing to get through in expert. Oh and whoever gets through Fire and Flames on expert deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for the cyber world. And people thought Jordan was hard. Heh!

The songs are amazing to play, but that’s where it ends.  The character models have gone through a change with some new moves but they still don’t seem like they are rocking enough. The crowd just feels animatronic as you see the same action taking place over and over again. Oh and please can someone give the drummer some grease as his bolts are just too tight. It’s as if he is doing the robot and drumming at the same time. Activision has nailed it with the motion capture for the special guests and it’s nice to see Slash jamming like he used to in his ol’ days. Even the singer mouths the wordings of the song properly which is a nice touch. There are occasional slowdowns during gameplay with frame rate drops which is just not acceptable for such a fast paced game.

The single player career could do with a change as its getting boring to see us just play through a set list over and over again. I guess this would be a downfall when compared to Rock Band, its only main rival. The addition of the boss battles is unique but if it were more fleshed out like having its own mode in career would have been just sweet. And let’s have the real singers sing the songs, or at least play the original tracks. There is a big difference with Guns and Roses of the old and Guns and Roses of the new generation. Oh and what is with the extra sponsorship. Activision has really sold out Guitar Hero with a stage just built for Pontiac, Red Bull cans making an appearance and an Axe Body Spray guitar, come on. What has these brands got to do with rock and roll? Oh and there are a few tracks that can only be unlocked in the co-op career. So you will have to get another friend to play a guitar or a controller.

These are just a few problems that we may just quip about but they still don’t get in the way of being a truly awesome game. The game will take over your life as you know it. And with extra songs on download over at the Live Shop, this game could last only longer. If only they had a face editor so it would feel like we are the legend of rock. So people, get out your guitar, bang your head up and down (as its shown in the instructions) and ROCK ON!!!

Halo 3

September 26, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

The most anticipated game of all time, Halo 3, is finally here. We have waited 3 long years for it to arrive. A lot of hype has been going on as to whether it would be as great as the original, or if the multiplayer would be as fun as the second. Let me clear it once and for all, YES, it is as good as the original and the multiplayer is as fun as the second, if not better. There are lots of other things that set it apart from the previous games but let’s start off at the beginning.

We left Master Chief in a tricky situation last time. Cortana has been captured by Gravemind, the green thing that controls the Flood. The Prophet of Truth is on his way towards Earth in search of the Ark which is bad for humankind. The Covenant has finally realized the error of their ways and has made an uneasy truce with the humans to fight for survival. So we begin Halo 3 exactly after where Halo 2 abruptly left off, with the Chief plummeting towards Earth. There he is met by the Arbiter and after a few words have been exchanged, decides to team up. The scope of Halo 3 is just immense. There is the excellent single player campaign, the Forge which is Bungie’s attempt at map editor, the replay mode and one of the best multiplayer games that has even been made for the Xbox 360. If you add all that together, you have got one serious contender for Game of the Year and trust me when I say this, Halo 3 is just freaking awesome.

Bungie has been listening to the community and have tried to improve on the flaws of Halo 2 but Halo 3 is far from perfect. People have been complaining about the level design in Halo 2, so the levels in Halo 3 are diverse and have tons of detail in them. There is not much of backtracking as there was in the second game. The environments are varied and you never have the feeling like you have been here again and again. Now, people would know that in Halo 2, we played as the Arbiter for half the game. But Bungie has been listening to the fans and majority of them didn’t like the fact that Halo 2 wasn’t just the Chief alone. So, in Halo 3, you finish the Fight solely through the eyes of Master Chief, that is, if you’re playing alone. The Arbiter is just this dude with shiny armor in some parts of his body who tags along. Experienced players are going to notice the difficulty settings have changed a bit from the previous two games. Bungie wanted to make a game that’s suitable for casual gamers and die hard addicts. Hence the easy and normal have been toned down a bit whereas the heroic and legendary are more difficult than before. The single player campaign is bit on the short side. Players can finish the game in less than 10 hours depending on their skill level but legendary can be over in 5 hours or less when you add 2-3 more extra players in co-op (online or offline). To help add to the length of the game, there are various skulls that need to be found that may or may not increase the difficulty of the game. Like for example, one skull makes your HUD invisible so you won’t know where you’re firing whereas another skull makes confetti come out of enemy’s head whenever you go for a head shot.

People who have played the beta have come to know that the X-button is used to deploy an equipment which is a new feature in Halo 3. Equipments like Bubble shield, Regeneration, Flare, etc. can be used to help you in your campaign but they seem to be well suited in multiplayer. The Regeneration for example emits a green glow that replenishes your health when you stand in it while the Power Drain depletes the shield when in contact with the enemy. Other new things that can be seen in Halo 3 are new weapons like Flamethrower, the Spartan Laser which emits a red beam that destroys anything in its path, the Gravity Hammer which is the Brutes answer to the Energy Sword and various other weapons. New vehicles include the Brute chopper which by far is the best vehicle in the game. It just destroys anything in its path and is quick too. Then there is the Mongoose which is like a buggy and many others as well. Dual wielding from Halo 2 is back but is used less since the Battle Rifle lets you get through any level with ease and many people might end up using just that to get them through difficult situations. The Energy sword has been through a change as well. In Halo 2, we could lock on to someone and that’s it, end of story. But in Halo 3, when two swords collide, both are stunned leaving room enough for one final move to be made in a quick second or its end of story for both people. This would lead to some sweet sword battles for sure.

The real deal of Halo 3 is the multiplayer. Basically the SP campaign is just a side attraction to the marvel, that is, the multiplayer. There are 11 maps in total for people to go crazy over and I am sure people have already been picking their favorites from the Beta that had released in May. The match-making is the same from Halo 2 with a few tweaks here and there. There was nothing wrong with Halo 2 so why spoil it. The modes are the same with a few additions like Infection which is basically like a zombie movie frag-fest and a few others. The best part of the multiplayer is the Forge which is a new addition into the series and is sort of a map editor sans the technical curve. It allows players to customize any of the maps to suit their needs and/or go crazy with it. The best part about Forge is that as you play online and suddenly feel like you need a Rocket launcher, just press up on the D-pad, go into customize mode, buy a Rocket launcher and drop it in front of you. One rocket launcher up for grabs! And this applies not only to weapons but also to power ups, equipments, vehicles, etc. The learning curve is low and you will be buying and dropping items within no time. You can also upload your edited maps onto the internet to play with others. Another addition is the replay mode. As you play the game, a replay (of the entire level or multiplayer match) is being saved and it’s not of much size either. You can view it at anytime, pan out of the Master Chief, move the camera around, slow down, pause, etc. The sound is still there and this allows you to enjoy a part of the action that you weren’t present at for example. You can view explosions in slow-mo allowing you to admire the detail and graphical excellence that has been put into the game. You can even choose to upload it for others to see as well. This is a fantastic feature and since it allows the players to save and upload files for others to see, we can all expect to see some hilarious, some action packed and some outright bragging videos. This is the YouTube of Halo 3.

Moving on to the technical side of things, the graphics in Halo 3 are excellent. The environments are richly detailed (some brilliant use of HDR certainly helps), the cut-scenes are expertly made and truly cinematic, the details on explosions are immense, the water effects are superb and rivals that of Bioshock, characters look freakishly real, etc. It really pushes the Xbox 360 to its limits and then some. The score for the game is by far the best any game has had, ever. You would be humming the soundtrack even when you have grandkids. This is the time where one would truly appreciate surround sound. The voice acting is on par and the sounds from the environment have been painstakingly perfected.

There are a few flaws like the friendly AI (don’t even think about giving them the wheel) and the fact that we may not get to see the story fold out through the Arbiter’s eyes. But these flaws are minor compared to the good parts of the game. The game length is also a bit short but there are things like collecting skulls and metascore that will increase the replay value. So readers, this is a game that you MUST buy if you have an Xbox 360. If you don’t have one already then there can’t be a right time to do so. It’s that good. You may be able to finish the SP campaign in a few hours but you will be playing the multiplayer and that is going to last you a long, long time. Possibly even more than Halo 2 ever did. So quit your day job, dump your girlfriend, move out of your parent’s house, and prepare to spend the next decade of your life playing one of the best videogame that has ever been made. Go and finish the fight!

Tenchu Z

August 18, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Tenchu Z revolves around the same old story like always. You’re a ninja, you’re fighting for your clan and get missions from your leader, you’re saving your city, etc. But does it play like the old Tenchu games or have things been spiced up a bit? How’s the LIVE game play? Read on!

The story is nothing complicated. It doesn’t pull you in, but it doesn’t push you away either. All though you might get a bit bored afterwards and skip scenes. You’re a ninja for hire. You need to assassinate different heads of clans. That’s it. The game is made up of 50 missions. They take place in fairly large boxed in areas. Sneak around them by hiding in the shadows, plant life, on roofs or under the buildings. Some people might say it requires planning to do a mission, some say you go out and do whatever. I say it requires a little of both. You are stealthy but overall the game is pretty easy due to the fact the AI isn’t all that challenging. You can replay missions at varying difficulties but the AI still doesn’t change that much. You can practically be on them before the see or hear you which is a shame because you can walk right up to a boss, right in front of him and kill him before he notices you.

Online is fun too. You can play with up to four people and complete missions and have a co-op game to beat a mission. But if a player dies, it’s over. Usually it’s pretty easy. The game is not that hard to do in either multiplayer or single player. Control in the game is simple. It becomes second hand after the first or second mission. You can buy new items and stuff as well to make your missions a little easier.

Lighting and shadows are really old styles. Effects and animations for some things like killing someone are so stale and crappy you laugh at first. But on the other hand some things really amazing like how you can see a whole level at once and how detailed some things are. Although it would have been nice to see some real shadows and lighting and blood spurts that shot out realistically. You do get to customize your character which looks nice but some of it looks really bad. Like they didn’t even care what they threw in which is a shame because this game would be really good if you could customize better.

The sound and music wasn’t anything amazing. Just normal stuff you hear all the time. Nothing impressive, nothing boring either. All dialogs are in their original Japanese dialect. Normally that might be slightly annoying to me but it fits with the game. Music has a very oriental theme going which again fits. The sound effects are bit lacking and it’s hard to tell if someone is near since you can’t hear their steps.

It’s not that Tenchu Z is a terrible game. It’s a just a hollow experience. Poor AI, repetitive missions, bland graphics, etc. It’s worth a play if you’re interested but I really couldn’t recommend buying this game.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

July 18, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Games made from movies never turn out to be great. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix prove just that and join games like Shrek, Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer and many other in telling people that, if it was a movie then a game, please avoid buying it.

Unless you have been in a cave somewhere for the past decade or so, you must be aware of the boy wizard of Hogwarts, Harry Potter. The book, Order of the Phoenix tells the story of his fifth year at the school of wizardry, which is also what the game tries to do. But, if you think you will be able to follow the storyline of the game without reading the book you are sadly mistaken. The wizarding world is in denial about the return of Lord Voldemort, and the school has a new Defense against the Dark Arts Teacher, Dolores Umbridge. Harry has formed the DA (Dumbledore’s Army) in order to help students learn how to fight back.

The "game play" in Phoenix revolves around the "fetch and quest" type of engine. Playing as Harry Potter in the game, all you have to do in the game is fetch stuff and help other students with their homework, repair broken urns, and other such boring tasks which make the whole experience leave a bad taste in your mouth. In the game, spells are divided into two categories; non-combat spells and combat spells. Non combat spells include Incendio, Reparo and Wingardium Leviosa, etc. Combat spells include Stupefy, Protego and Levicorpus, etc. Both categories have six spells for you to learn. You cast a spell by holding down a button and then rotating the right analog stick in a certain direction. Casting spells is fun for a while but since you will be casting the same spells over and over again it loses its excitement.

There is very little combat in the game and what’s there of it is very easy and dull. Every battle in the game comes down to you doing two things. First, stunning your enemy and then disarming him/her. With very little combat, you will spend most of your time, as mentioned above, doing petty tasks for other students. The reason you have to do these tasks is that you have to recruit students in Dumbledore’s Army and they will only become members after you do what they ask you to do. Besides completing tasks, you can also discover stuff all over Hogwarts. Discoveries include finding hidden statues of pieces from the Wizard Chess board game, hanging fallen pieces of portraits of people on walls and much more. Discovering things in the game unlocks goodies such as developer and cast interviews and making of the game etc. The discoveries also power up your spells but unfortunately, you won’t feel or see your spells as being more powerful.

Graphically, the game is somewhat better than the gameplay. Hogwarts has been recreated in all of its glory and is a huge place to explore. Fans of the series will be delighted to see floating candles in The Great Hall, moving staircases between floors and visit other signature places from the Harry Potter world. In some places, when you are exploring outside the building of Hogwarts, the camera pans way back which allows you to see how huge the entire campus is, which is really impressive. The spells even though don’t look strong, look great when cast. All the characters from the move have been laser scanned, thus, you will be able to easily recognize each character with ease. Even though sometimes the characters move clumsily or don’t animate nicely, it’s still good to see resemblance between the real actors and their videogame counterparts.

Besides lending their likeness to the game, all the actors have also lent their voices to their respective characters which adds even more authenticity to this game. While roaming through Hogwarts you will also hear portraits on the walls babbling away and you will also hear other students of Hogwarts talking about various things. There is also music to be found in the game which is nothing spectacular.

Previous Harry Potter games have failed to present anything great to gamers and it’s disheartening to see that Order of the Phoenix fails to break this ugly cycle. Developed by Electronic Arts, even though the game is available on all major platforms, it’s difficult to recommend this game to anyone. Fans of the series, both young and old, will not find a lot to like about this game mainly because of its’ very easy difficulty level and the boring chores that you have to do over and over again.

DiRT

July 14, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

After a two-year break for the series, Codemasters Studios designers have created a reinvigorated McRae experience. The new Colin McRae title goes beyond the series’ point-to-point rallying to deliver the most diverse selection of extreme off-road competitions. From the opening screens of the game, DiRT grips your hands and drags you through the mud feeling every anxious turn, every scrap against the paint, and grips you even harder as the bone-crushing roll of a wrecked vehicle until the word DiRT splatters along your screen

The intro movie for the game is good enough to show off the graphical power of this game, let alone the gameplay itself. The environment detail is excellent, and the shadows and reflections on the car are fantastic. The detail on the roads and surfaces are really appreciated when you go into the lowest view, and you can see the floor close up. Details on wet roads, dusts and splashes are just eye-popping material. People will complain that the game runs at 30fps, but it hasn’t had any effect on the gaming experience whatsoever. Though there might be a few blips in the fps when there are quite a few cars on screen, the stunning visuals are well worth it. Oh and the game boasts one of the best menu screens ever created.

Varieties of vehicles, 46 licensed vehicles in all, are offered for your rallying pleasure as you progress throughout the game. In career mode there is a tier system that you will have to work your way through. It works like a pyramid system with the final tier being eleven. At the beginning of each event, you will be able to choose between vehicles you have bought throughout your career or the freebies given to you. Each vehicle sounds different and handles differently. There are several types of cars, ranging from classic rally cars to large buggies and trucks. This also adds well to the gameplay, as well as the game modes. There’s the Rally mode where you drive through the race with your co-driver telling you about every corner. Next is the Crossover mode where you and another car compete on the same track, but on different sections. There are also several other modes.

Xbox Live is also used well in this game, with online leaderboards and multiplayer. However, the multiplayer races can go from 2 players to 100 players all in the same race. However, as fun as it would be, there aren’t 100 racers all smashing each other off of the same track. Each person gets their own ‘copy’ of the track, and at each checkpoint all of the times from each racer are submitted and the top few are shown in the top-right corner. This is fine as there are narrow tracks and it would be odd trying to get 100 cars through it.

There are few racing games that can boast about the pains taken to authenticate the sounds of their vehicles. DiRT is one of those games. Instead of taking the norm of having a soundtrack blasting in the background while you race, they only allow the sound of your vehicle’s engine and the crunching of rubble under your tires. Though there is an infectious soundtrack that will play through replays and at the menus screens.

Even though DiRT has a few faults, there is no denying that the game is the most fun you will have with a racer because, despite those faults, DiRT delivers on a level that is something to marvel from rally racers. If you are an asphalt loving racing fan, then this one you might want to stay away from, mainly due to the different mechanics put into rally games versus conventional racing games. However, if you love getting dirt stuck in places the sun don’t shine or if you are looking for something fresh to suck you in, then DiRT is the racing game you have been wishing for.

Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

April 3, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

When Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) released last year, it changed the Ghost Recon series in a drastic way. It changed online gaming on consoles and set a new standard for others to follow. GRAW had become a favorite for Xbox Live players with its jaw dropping visuals and excellent gameplay. One year later, Ubisoft has given us GRAW 2.
 

GRAW 2 happens few days after the original and deals with U.S. and Mexican relations. Capt. Mitchell is back along with the war-hardened Ghosts to recover nukes taken by anti-American rebels in Mexico. The game won’t win any awards in terms of story as it ends up being highly dramatic. Immediately as you start the single player missions, you will notice changes in the gameplay. Firstly, you can use the command full view which lets you see through the eyes of your teammates. There might not be an occasion where it’s necessary to use the feature but it lets you to sit in one place and let your teammates do all the dirty work. As if I wouldn’t want to have any fun. You can command your Ghost team, a UVA drone to locate enemies, some tanks, and some helicopters throughout the campaign mode. If you’re familiar with GRAW, the learning curve is very short. But for newcomers, the gameplay might be irritating for some. Other than small and insignificant changes, the gameplay is exactly the same as the first.
 
The single player campaign is short and not that difficult which might put off some people. The game can be completed with 8 hours or less on the highest difficulty. For those looking for a challenging game, this might come a bit short. But what it lacks in the single player, the game shines in its multiplayer. Again, it is more or less the same as GRAW, but if you enjoyed GRAW then you will not be disappointed. Upgrades like clan support are available where you can manage your clan details from each minute detail like your roster or your signature. A few game types have been added that offer some variety and others have been tweaked to make the game more thrilling. Co-op players will have enough to drool over as will the more competitive deathmatch style players. The maps are very detailed and varied.
 

The graphics like the original are excellent. The environments are highly detailed, the player models look realistic and there are some excellent lighting effects. The sound and music may get a bit dramatic during the single player but add realism and make for a more atmospheric experience.
 
Even if you haven’t played GRAW, the sequel warrants for a play as it offers hundreds of gameplay hours for Live fans everywhere. There isn’t much replay value through the single player unless you want to try to get the achievements for harder difficulties. Though GRAW 2 has its flaws, its better and more immersive than the first title. Not a lot has changed but the developers have taken the time to tweak some of the problems of the original.
 
Before the releases of games like Halo 3, GTA IV, Mass Effect, GRAW 2 can keep you company. It can stand on its own and compete with the likes of Gears of War, Rainbow Six Vegas, etc. because of its great visuals, atmospheric gameplay, and outstanding online play. If you are a fan of a stealth and strategy shooter, this game should be a purchase. If not, try out the multiplayer demo available free on Xbox Live before warranting a purchase and see for yourself the immersive experience. If Ubisoft had made a better single player and fixed a few bugs that haunt the online play, this game could easily have been a gem.

NBA Street Homecourt

March 9, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

It’s finally here. NBA Street for the next gen. The closest the Street series has ever got to being so realistic. And EA has done it again with a game that not only looks good but plays good too.
 

Homecourt brings a new style of gameplay to the arcade sports genre by including new styles in the Trick Remixer and having a whole new style to the Gamebreaker. Simple moves like cross-overs can be easily done using the trick buttons, whereas you can add a bit of style using the trick remixers. The Gamebreaker mode has had a new touch with players doing cool moves to add a maximum of 3 points and to increase that further, leap off your partners back to perform the Trifecta, an insane triple dunk to score a total of 6 points. Thought you were down and out when you friend was leading by 6 points, think again. When dunks are performed, you just tend to stare in awe as the player does some really insane moves. The Dunk-a-tron for example, is just breathtaking. Though difficult to perform, once done, gives you that satisfaction that you have just achieved something great. Speaking of achievements, 1000 points are up for grabs and easily by just completing the career mode aka Homecourt Challenge, you can get 900 of them.
 
New to this game is the double dunk. When you perform a dunk a bar is shown. Longer you hold the shoot button, the more points you get. Now if you go all the way and just leave at the end, your player performs a double dunk, meaning dunks it twice so twice the points. But if you hold it longer, you miss the dunk and the way the dunk goes all awry and bad makes you laugh. You get to see players banging their head on the board or in some insane dunk cases, having their leg stuck inside the basket. Really hilarious. The game also features new defending skills. As your opponent tries to make a move on you, there are times when the steal button appears. Click it and you might make the move on him. The opponent also can do the same. So when he does, click the button again and make a fool out of him.
 
The Homecourt Challenge is where the game is all about. In it you create your character by trying to make a mix of various NBA players heads for the appearance and then try to max his skills as he plays in various homecourts of famous NBA players. There isn’t much in the way of a story. All you do is just play game after game and finally win the last game. You unlock costumes and shoes along the way that add points to your skills as you score. That’s it. There isn’t much in terms of gamemodes. Just Gamebreaker Battles, Trick Battles and Back to Basics. Same goes for the multiplayer.
 

Graphically the game is just smooth. 60fps smooth. All the animations are fluid and the stars looks like their real life counterparts. The game does not feature the crappy commentary from the last game, which is a plus. Instead you hear the players asking for a pass, or just appreciating your last dunk, etc. The soundtrack is good but nothing that you will hum as you walk on the streets.
 
The game deserves a purchase even though the career mode is a bit on the short side and there are not enough game modes. But, EA has set a new bar for themselves to beat next time they make a new Street title. And it’s a high bar. The game has good graphics, good gameplay, and some excellent gamebreaker dunks that deserve a whole movie to be made out of.

Need for Speed Carbon

January 6, 2007 by  
Filed under General, Reviews

Ever since EA released NFS Underground couple of years back, gaming hasn’t been the same. It was such a huge success, a sequel was guaranteed. NFS:U2 became another great hit that EA decided to come up with a similar title year after year. And now three sequels later, we have NFS: Carbon. Let’s see if it brings something new to the table or is just leftovers from last year’s hit.
 

The name Carbon comes from the game revolving around Carbon city and its famous Carbon Canyon. Carbon is like the arcade racer that previous NFS games were. It has the Career mode which is the heart of the game, single player races and multiplayer races with online playability restricted to Xbox 360, PS 3 and PC. The career mode includes FMV sequences which were present in the last game. But instead of having a straight forward storyline, this time there is a touch of mystery involved with a lot of FMV sequences involving smartly dressed people with smart haircuts (which is a bit odd for street racers). The whole of Carbon city is divided into territories. Each territory is owned by a gang whose leader you get to race with after completing a few races from that territory. The race for taking hold of the territory takes place at Carbon Canyon in a canyon duel race, which will be described later. This new progression system is relatively better than the previous game. You even get challenged later on after taking over a territory, which makes sense.
 
There are 40-plus cars to unlock and these cars are divided into tuners, the new muscle cars and exotics. Cars may include, the Mazda RX-7, Nissan 350Z, Dodge Charger SRT8, Mercedes CLK 500, Lotus Exige, etc. The cars are divided into 3 tiers with the 2nd tier faster than the 1st and the 3rd tier includes the fastest cars.  The game includes the same circuit, sprint, speed breakers races that were present last year. The new race this year is the canyon race, which is a two-leg race. In one leg, you follow your opponent down a canyon trying to keep the distance as close as possible. And in the next leg, your opponent follows you. The canyon track includes a variety of S-turns and winding corners and if you go over the edge, there goes your ride and your shot at the territory. The canyon race is good or bad depending on your taste. You either like it a lot or you hate the hell out of it. And EA has even replaced the drag races from the last game to drift races. Drifting can be fun especially when drifting down the canyon.
 
The inclusion of the new Muscle cars is a remarkable change. The cars feel and drive totally different to the tuners and exotics. They have their own physics and feel heavy and under steer like drunks at corners. What they lack in handling, they make up for insanely fast acceleration off the line. EA has done a good job with making the cars feel different and distinct. There is a new feature called Crew. You can choose and include crew members in your races. There are 3 types of crew members to choose from. They are drafters, scouts and blockers. Drafters drive in front of you for a little while allowing you to slingshot ahead. The only problem is that there aren’t many straights in the courses for this to be effective and if you’re faster than them, they become useless. Scouts find shortcuts on the map and rob you from the joy of finding them yourself. Finally, blockers cause chaos by blocking opponents who right on your tail. They are by far the most effective and can mean the difference between a triumphant victory and a sour defeat. The inclusion of the crew members is nothing great nor is it a bad thing. They were never required in the previous games, but they don’t pose much of a trouble in this game either.
 

On to the customizing part of the game. Something new in this game is the Autosculpt feature which allows you to customize you car right from the front spoilers to the exhaust tips of the car. And when I mean customize I mean, adjust the number of spokes your alloy wheels should have, the depth of the alloys, the diameter of the exhaust tip, the height of the rear spoiler, etc. The list is endless and this gives rise to infinite amount of combinations. Never should a 350Z look the same with the same body kit. This means that every person can make a kit look unique and different.
 
Graphically the game just looks awesome. The cars look excellent and the frame rate is a solid 30fps. The game takes place in the night too with lots of sparkling neon and gone are the forests of Most Wanted. The FMV sequences look great and the blur effect to give a sense of speed is a good touch too. On the audio side, EA has done an excellent job. You can distinctly hear the difference when you have an engine upgrade and the sound of NOS being pumped into the system is just bliss. The voice work is nothing great to boast about nor is it bad. Everything from the exhaust noise to the tire squeals have been done to perfection.
 
NFS:C is everything Most Wanted was with a new touch of everything. It is a good game with the only down fall being the 10 hour career mode. With almost 50 cars, infinite customizing options, better graphics, sound, etc. it is something not to be missed. The inclusions of the crew and canyon races are passable, with the only major breakthrough being the Autosculpt feature and Muscle cars. But why the option of online playability only for the 360, PS 3 and PC?

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