Monday Night Combat Review

March 4, 2011 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews, Xbox 360

If you are familiar with Team Fortress 2, then you will be absolutely comfortable playing Monday Night Combat (MNC). The game takes a lot of visual cues and character class types from the popular game, however its hard to imagine that this game is actually running on Unreal Engine 3 because of its visual presentation. Truth be told, if you didn’t know any better it would seem like a futuristic extension of Team Fortress 2. Settings aside these first few similarities, the game does begin to show its differences, and honestly it is quite addicting.

Gameplay mechanics require some explanation, the battle takes place on a huge platform of sorts, with multiple pathways that lead to the other teams’ side. Each team has to defend a globe on their respective side containing money. There are various pre-set locations on each side where high jump locations are enabled, and defensive structures can be built, these structures are to protect the globe and the pathways that the enemy can take. Each side also gets a helpful set of robots of various different types to assist in the battle. These mostly serve to keep other players distracted, or push the line until one side reaches their goal. This alone sets this game apart in a league of its own compared to other shooters.

As the player, when getting kills, whether robots or players, earns you money that can be spent a variety of ways. One of these is to purchase and upgrade defensive structures, and to enable the aforementioned high jump points. You can also spend money to spawn extra robots to push the other side back, which is a critical part of the tactics in this title. Another way money can be spent is to upgrade your abilities, in-game on the fly, for example for the Assault class, you can increase the blast radius and damage of your proximity bombs, damage and speed, increase the length of time you can keep your thrusters on, etc. What should be noted is that these upgrades do not carry over from match to match, they are reset and must be repurchased every round. However what you can purchase and retain, are banners, clan tags and wearable extras to show off in-game after earning achievements for a selected act, think along the lines of Call of Duty. Each character also has finisher moves, which are different than melee attacks and are often one hit kills, these though need to be performed in extremely close proximity of the target and include the risk of getting killed. The satisfaction from performing one though, outweighs the risk of dying.

There are 6 main character classes available in MNC, namely Assault, Support, Tank, Assassin, Sniper and Gunner. Assault is your standard character, well rounded with a fair set of abilities. The Support class heals, and has better special abilities like setting up personal turrets and such. The Tank class sacrifices offensive power for defensive ability, useful when paired with an Assault and or Gunner. The Assassin can cloak, has very little defensive ability but is lethal at close range and a fair set of abilities. The Sniper is self explanatory and the final is the Gunner class which is a total offensive class, much like the Gunner from TF2 and should almost always be paired with a Support class. You cannot help but notice the similarities between these characters and their TF2 counter-parts, and as a matter of fact Valve went ahead and allowed minor TF2 flair additions to the game. Such as the eye patch of the Demolition, and Healing pack of the Medic, among the few tiny visual additions which earn you banners should you use them.

As mentioned earlier the game is built using Unreal Engine 3, yet the visual flair of the characters is so similar to TF2 that you wonder if there really is that much of a difference between the Source Engine and Unreal Engine 3. Not much can be said other than this game looks great, it may be not be the next Crysis, nor does it have to be. It maintains a simplistic look yet manages to look futuristic and appealing, this on its own helps the environment seem consistent and smooth.

Much of the game sound design is organized around the concept of a main event, as the name suggests, Monday Night Combat. There is an announcer that, almost annoying tells you what to do and how the game is going on, and is more than happy to rally the crowd when you die, or kill someone with a good finisher move. Crowds cheer as one side begins to overwhelm the other, bots and gunfire rage about, each weapon and character has their distinct intro sound and voices, in the end all these elements come together to create the world being experienced.

There has been a lot of effort put into differentiating this title from other games of this nature, and should it get proper exposure, and perhaps a console port if possible, this game can garner a massive following. Perhaps not to the tune of Call of Duty, but the makings of a great franchise are there to be successful. Monday Night Combat is available exclusively on Steam for the PC, with a plethora of achievements and updates constantly being made, all for $14.99US.

Dead Space for iPhone Review

March 1, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, Reviews, Spotlight

Let’s get something out of the way right now, when this game launched, sure it looked great in the screen shots and videos, but how could it be really that good? After all it’s on a mobile platform that can’t be considered a contender for serious gaming. Surely it’s impossible, after all that’s the point of having a PSP, or a DS, or upcoming 3DS. All that changes, and perhaps turns the tide, for phones as a proper gaming platform, with Dead Space for iPhone (or should I say “favourite iOS Device”?). The opening sequences of the game showcase the intense detail and capability of the iPhone, completely rendered real-time. In a word, astounding! Yes the opening vignette is a vast open area, but the game really shines with its’ indoor environments, the lighting and particle effects are perfectly applied to drastic moments and

The control mechanics are similar to those of the PC/Consoles, down to the view point. Placing your finger on your character controls movement where by sliding higher up controls whether you move faster or walk, and then, *gasp* side strafing when sliding left and right. Where the empty space to the left is what you have to see in front of you, this area is used to look around with. While this works great while playing the game on the console, it can be a serious impediment for those quick aiming, precise shots, that the game desperately requires you to perform at the last second. Tilting the iPhone rotates the direction of the Plasma Cutters’ fire, essential when it means the difference between headshot or slice limbs off. Dead Space may be worth a revisit on the iPad, where the much larger screen could offset this problem.

A point to remember is that this game probably shouldn’t be played while you are in a class, or at your work desk with your headphones on, unless you intend to let everyone else think you are suffering from muscle spasms at the very least, or crying at the other extreme. There appears to be a trend that games of this nature cannot be played unless you are seated and not moving about, somewhat defeating the purpose of mobile gaming. However if you do not own a high end PC, or any of the current generation consoles, which also implies you live under a rock, or on the moon, but happen to have an iOS device then this is among the titles that should, definitely should, be in your library.

Those familiar with Dead Space will recall that the game is all about the experience, which is all tied together with the visuals, the sound, and the music that all contribute, to not knowing what to expect. Having tried this without headphones, there is one thing for certain, it’s still just as scary. You can’t quite get over the first few heart pounding moments, when you see that creature coming to kill you. The music is mastered, designed and catered around the idea that you are in this place, where something may get you or not, but you are not completely helpless. Another noteworthy mention is the voice acting, it feels natural and fits the game.

This title definitely delivers when it comes to a prime example of how mobile gaming, can be going forward. We will have to see, when Infinity Blade is finally released by Epic Games, how it stacks up to the rest. Until then, Dead Space is a beautiful game worthy of being played by a gamer of any type. Check it out right now the App Store for $6.99US.

Resident Evil Degeneration Review

February 9, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, Reviews

CAPCOM delivers a game that is visually appealing and challenging, using the limited abilities of the first generation iPhone with Resident Evil Degeneration (RE:D). The title loosely follows the events during the opening sequences of the movie, with Leon S. Kennedy returning for the ride. Unlike most games however, this game requires more commitment than the standard flair of on-the-go games for the platform.

Visually the game is very well presented, rendered completely in 3D, originally on the first generation iPhone. A huge feat at the time, when taking into consideration the difference between that iPhone, to the current iPhone 4. Levels are interestingly designed to present a set mood, gloomy areas appropriately lack lights, destroyed areas are illuminated by fires, and hallways are eerily narrow to induce a sense of panic when handling more than one zombie at a time.

So how do we play it you ask? RE:D features on screen controls, via a virtual analog stick and two “buttons”, one to melee with your knife, and the other to aim. CAPCOM tried to maintain a control scheme similar to Resident Evil 4 and 5, and frankly, we’re not sure whether this is the best decision for the iPhone, considering the screen size.

As you can imagine controls are a tad difficult to get used to, the analog is used to walk and look around, and there is no circle-strafing possible. Strafing, of any kind, is only possible while aiming, even then sliding the finger quickly left or right on the virtual stick merely makes Leon sidestep in that direction. Quickly sliding down will do a full 180 turn, and reloading can be performed by shaking or tilting the phone. There appears to be a partial auto-aim, for example, if you hit enemy the first time, then auto-aim will kick in, or if you have the zombie in your laser sight. Thankfully this feature is implemented at all, because of some harrowing moments, where it is ridiculously difficult to aim.

Considering the issues with controls, Resident Evil Degeneration isn’t a game to play on the move. Unlike racing games or other simple 2D games on the platform, which can be fired up while walking between classes or from one floor to another, or even just across the street, this game in particular requires you to sit down and be still, while playing. Certain enemies require precise headshots, or shots to the arm or leg, others may come charging at you and will require you to melee and switch back to your aiming. There are even sparse timed events that require tapping on circles on all four sides of the screen, as they appear, to succeed. Merchants are also available throughout the levels to upgrade your weapons, get ammo and purchase additional space to carry more items. And finally a timed Mercenary mode is unlocked upon completing the game, where you are up against hordes of zombies.

Clearly, Resident Evil: Degeneration is a great title at its heart. CAPCOM has made an honest effort to utilize the device and platform to the best of its capabilities, but we can’t help shake the feeling that somewhere during their testing phase, SOMEONE would have noticed that this game only works with its’ present control scheme while they are not moving around. Oh wait, isn’t that how all games are tested?

Metal Gear Solid Touch for iPhone 4 Review

January 29, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, Reviews

In 2009, Kojima Productions, in line with their usual marketing ploy, teased us with a single image. Many speculated then, it would be a Metal Gear Solid game for a variety of systems, prominently hoping it was for the Xbox 360 because of the nature of the image.

The result is Metal Gear Solid Touch (MGS). Among the first few games to utilize the Multi-Touch feature when it was first implemented on the FirstGeneration iPhone.

Metal Gear Solid Touch follows the story of Metal Gear Solid 4, minus the cut-scenes, presented just with images and text explaining the story thus far. Progression of game takes place on single scenario or background per level, which will be very familiar to those who played the title on the PlayStation 3. There is no obvious use of three dimensional graphics as other developers have with recent Need for Speed titles or like CAPCOM with Resident Evil Degeneration.

Mechanics of the game are simple yet effective. Generally, Snake takes cover behind a wall, barricade or sandbags, putting your finger down raises Snake out of cover. To assist in aiming there is a targeting reticle, sliding your finger on the screen moves reticle. The great thing is that you do not need to have your finger on reticle itself, touching anywhere on the screen and sliding it allows you to move reticle with perfect accuracy. Tapping quickly then fires, if you do not tap fast enough Snake ducks back into cover, or crouches for those levels without cover.

Enemies pop up from behind cover into view, white bars around them indicate their health, headshots count so try to use them to take enemies down quickly. There is a countdown timer on each enemy as to how soon they are going to fire, it follows as a line that starts at the top of the target and stretches clockwise, changing in color from green to red to indicate level of danger before they shoot.

The Multi-Touch use is simple, if there’s an enemy with grey bars, which is a sign they are too far for your standard weapon. Using the pinching motion with two fingers, to zoom in and out, switches you from the sniper rifle or back to your standard weapon. The levels occasionally have friendlies that you should not shoot or lose health if you do. There are Gako’s, yellow rubber ducks, in some levels that will give you more health and Kerotan’s, green frogs, that will give you the invisibility ability or rocket launchers from time to time. Invisibility enables you to remain standing as enemies cannot hit you, use this time to take out multiple enemies as quickly as you can. A note on the rocket launchers, it will immediately put you in a targeting mode, do not zoom out as this is your only chance to use the launcher.

If there is one thing to be admired about Kojima Productions is their tendency to maximize the ability of the hardware that the game is intended to run on. It seems that with this system, having this game as a simplistic on-rails shooter was the best way to carry forward. It definitely helps, the levels can get chaotic, and boss fights are fairly challenging. Considering the success we see with games such as Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies, Kojima Productions were right on track with this title on the generation of iPhone and iPod touch that this title was introduced upon. Since then we have heard no word of any more titles, not even ports of the classic series, for now we just have to sit and wait.

Back to the Future Episode I: It’s About Time Review

January 23, 2011 by  
Filed under PC, Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight, Xbox 360

How is it possible that a game in today’s world of “intuitive motion controllers” that something as simple as a point and click adventure game, on the PC no less, could be anything more than a poor attempt at raking in cash from fans?

You know what? It worked! Those who are reading this and not know what Back to the Future (BTTF) is at all, it is highly recommended that this trilogy be sought out and watched, you won’t regret it. Far from trying to bias this review into the realm of fanboy-ism, lets proceed with all the nitty gritty.

It’s hard to come across games that stick to the classical game types, and in this case the point and click adventure game. Telltale achieved success with creative storytelling, great sound and while not the cream of the crop, pleasing visuals that fit the game with Sam & Max Season 1 and 2 series of games. Following that successful formula we get the first in the series of Back to the Future games, which will have people, who loved the trilogy, foaming at the mouth out of nostalgia. Do not lose interest already, because for someone who hasn’t seen the movies, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to know anything at all, it helps a lot, yes.

The world of the game is basically broken into sequences where, you need to explore your immediate surroundings, highlight, investigate, and pick up objects. There will always be characters to interact with.  Story elements progress with approaching the character, clicking on them and going through the conversation options to learn more and understand the characters.

Should you happen to get lost or unable to tell what to do next, such as forgetting to use the arrow keys to actually walk into the next room, helpful hints are available in the minimalistic HUD, and in plain sight. Some are served as clues pertaining to an event, and should you require more it will tell you exactly what needs to be done. In the even we should fail the very obvious mastery of investigation.

Puzzles are one such type of event which isn’t always plainly obvious. They do require some trial and error to achieve what it is that you are after. Should you find yourself unable to progress and the hints are nowhere to be seen, perhaps returning to an earlier location will help you along.

James Bond: Blood Stone PC Review

December 8, 2010 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

The story is written by Bruce Feirstein, co-writer of the movie Goldeneye, its written like a worthwhile bond movie should be, and the true to form Bond intro instills a sense of an epic adventure about to follow, full of action, and quips between M and 007, thanks to the clever lines delivered by Daniel Craig who along with Dame Judi Dench return to play their respective characters and likenesses of Bond and M. Also in the game is British singer Joss Stone who also sang the introduction for this game. I would like to take a moment and say that while the game is very action heavy, the story does have us going to many different locales around the world and some of those are quite beautiful to see to be honest, Istanbul and the Refinery level particularly. There was a huge surprise for me when I had made it to what I felt was the end of the game, only to find out that there’s more going on, don’t worry readers this is spoiler free.

Visually, Blood Stone lands somewhere between good and a game from 5 years ago, it just seems like a higher res PlayStation 2 game. I will give kudos to the studio for not jumping onto the Unreal 3 Engine however at the same time it would clearly provide the level of finish this game needs for the PC. Sadly another port not really intended to take advantage of the PC at all. Given the engine being used however, the level of detail of Daniel Craig is amazing, most of the human characters are given great detail, the lighting is amazing with bloom and HDR effects, dark is dark, bright is bright. Seems a lot like the engine for Kane & Lynch 2, the Hong Kong level DEFINITELY makes it look similar to the aforementioned game. Details on vehicles you drive is great, however if you have played racers before you will notice a difference between those and what we have here. Minor details such as Bonds’ very expensive suit actually fluttering in the wind or when running were nice touches. Water reflections are good, but in general the water looks flawed for lack of a better word, additional polish could have been applied to waves, or water against corners, just minor splash textures would have done the job. One level is probably among best looking, which is the night view at Istanbul. For everything else the, the surrounding environments just feel like something is off. The textures look great at a distance, but Bond and what he interacts with seems to stand out, that’s just another sad reality of games being catered towards the console.

Blood Stone does cover everything you expect from a bond game, tons of action, chase sequences (which we’ll get to in a bit), lots of guns but sadly, not enough women. Headshots are fairly easy to take simply because while the AI isn’t bad it will stand still just long enough to take that headshot. Takedowns are fun to execute, and can be done by running up to an nemy or from around corners or behind ledges. This ties directly into the cover system, which has been implemented well, there are plenty of places to hide for cover, and there’s several different silent takedowns and face to face takedowns that can be performed. These takedowns earn you focus shots, basically one hit kills, that are triggered by the CTRL key and can be chained if you have acquired all 3 focus shots (an easy Achievement/Trophy for those interested). There is a big concern however, being stealthy has next to no meaning or purpose, allow me to elaborate. The general assumption is it’s a bond game, bond is a spy, you should be sneaky. Now if you find yourself sneaking about taking headshots or silent takedown, that’s okay…it’s the gut instinct reaction when it comes to playing this game, BUT, and this is a serious one, there is NO penalty for being found, you need just blast your way thru while taking cover and heading over to the next checkpoint. The crew at that following point has no idea what transpired in the area before, so you can continue to be stealthy or gun your way through. On that note…there should be a penalty for not being sneaky enough on a level, however what does screw you over for being actually discovered, is any level that has a camera on it, seriously, big blasts, gun fire, and soldiers shouting for backup won’t cause you to start from the last checkpoint but being seen on the freaking camera will?!

Implementation of various chase sequences feel pretty awesome, although don’t mistake this for a NFS game, as long as you keep moving, you can’t lose, stop for a minute at least, or go the wrong direction deliberately and you will lose. Keeping control of the car (or any other vehicle) at high speed is easier than when you’re at a dead stop or hit something, you’ll see. The cellphone gadget, and by far the ONLY gadget in the game, gives you an overlay of the area, with points of interest that can be scanned for additional intelligence, and also mark movements and positions of the enemy. The phone is also used to hack various devices, such as car alarms, cameras and biometric locks, and will also give point you in the direction you need to go if you get lost. Achievement/Trophy hunters will need this valuable tool.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Review

November 30, 2010 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

Star Wars The Force Unleashed II is the second game in this series and continues the story of Galen Marek, or better known as Starkiller, somewhat. The story picks up shortly after the end of the first game, it is assumed that the light side ending is where the story of this game picks up upon. If you haven’t beaten the first game, then fret not this will be a spoiler free review.

As the games’ synopsis goes (and thru many interviews with the cast and crew you can find around the web), Vader has been busy cloning Starkiller to come up with the right one to continue the Sith Lords’ will, but things don’t exactly go according to plan.

From the onset you can tell that the games graphics engine has been severely improved from Force Unleashed, theres saber reflections on the ground, heavy rain effects, more subtle lighting in the environment, depth of vision, distance of objects and structures. Truth be told on the very first level, it felt like playing on a modified Unreal 3 Engine, because it looks quite a lot like Gears of War.

The quality of the pre-rendered cutscenes is a sight to see, they are the creme de la crème of the game and quite possibly the best thing to look forward to. The absolutely ridiculous amount of detail into everything, from dried raindrops on Darth Vaders helmet, the reflections off his plastic looking suit, the flow of the robes, the hair on Starkiller and even the growing in stubble on his face, all captured to perfection. Had this not been a game, I would have paid money to watch this in the theatre. They do however suffer from a severe tearing issue on the PC, v-sync needs to be manually enabled on your graphics card, however we couldn’t fix the issue even by doing that.

There is something worth mentioning, while the pre-rendered cutscenes are great, you will also notice that the level of detail on the in-game cutscenes is slightly higher and preferable, to the general in-game graphics. Since this is a review of the PC version of the game I will go out on a limb to say that the level of detail experienced in the in-game cutscenes, could have been extended to the actual game itself to look even better. There are very limited options as to what you can and cant do with the graphical settings, such as enabling bloom, enabling motion blur, there is no v-sync option in the game, it has to be enabled manually through Catalyst Control Center if you’re on ATi/AMD and Nvidia Control Panel if you’re Nvidia naturally.

Another tip to keep in handy, if you have a controller of any kind, whether it’s a steering wheel or flight stick even, disable or disconnect or remove it from your hardware devices, the game will default to it and you will be unable to play it with the keyboard and mouse. Its recommended that you set up your game before plugging in your controller for use, and we would recommend the Xbox Controller for PC as that would probably give you the best layout for the buttons, however that’s just a recommendation, any controller that you could configure will do the job just fine. This gamer chose to play this old school, with the good ol mouse and keyboard, and boy was I glad that my mouse has at least 4 configurable buttons of the 7. (Logitech MX Revolution in case anyone is wondering.)

Zeno Clash

June 27, 2009 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

Where do we begin, it takes a huge leap of faith to do something as drastically different with the FPS genre as ACE Team has done with Zeno Clash. Over the years people have been deeply engrained with how an FPS should feel and play like. You have your Halos, Call of Dutys, Medal of Honors, Battlefields, Killzone 2, Unreal Tournaments, Gears of War, Resistance, and countless other shooters all basically designed with the same idea in mind with variations to the rules, when you sum it up in a nutshell.

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There are extremely few companies that dare to challenge the status quo, and even fewer games that result from this where elements of two or more genres are combined into the same experience. Of these few games that really shine there are a few if you can recall them. Battlezone by Activision and Battlezone 2 by Pandemic (both published by Activision), amazing games for their time that combined tank simulation, first person shooter viewpoint and real time strategy. To get a better idea of what this game was like simply Google it, or check out planetbattlezone.com, everything dedicated to it is there. Battlezone 2 had received much critical praise however due to two very different play styles being meshed together dissuaded the general populace from picking this title up, the modding community has kept this game alive still. Another game that tested these waters and met with great success is Bioware’s Mass Effect, but a note on this title is that it still IS a shooter with RPG elements.

Now we have Zeno Clash, a first person…fighting game shooter, which is probably the best way to describe it. The story takes place in Zenozoik, a world full of fantasy, betrayal, long journeys and discovery. Kudos to ACE Team, practically every level is so unique in its design, textures, look, feel, sound and music that you literally feel a certain level of discomfort and mystery as to where the heck is this game taking place. Common questions constantly on the back of this reviewers mind are, is this prehistoric Earth? Or is it some other world altogether?  Alternate dimension? Will someone please reveal to me where this is?

Part of the reason these questions came to mind is due to the fact that this game is made using the Source Engine, and it’s been put to full use. A player won’t be able to shake off the familiarity of the effects, yet there is nothing there that is similar to what has been seen with the Source Engine before.

ACE Team definitely has a vision in mind for this game, it opens with some clouded images of the events that take place just prior, your character apparently having done something terrible to someone who is close to him and now your family is out for your head. The compassionate Deadra offers her assistance to help you escape. Around this same time is when you are thrown into a dream sequence which serves as training to get you familiar with the combat system, the highlight of Zeno Clash.

Here’s how the basic gameplay mechanic works, it controls just like any other FPS, WASD keys to strafe, move forward and back, and the mouse to turn with. When you do have weapons the left click still shoots, the right click however is used to aim before you shoot. So what happens the rest of the time when you aren’t actually using weapons you ask? Good question, because this is where the meat of the game lies.

Left click throws a punch, 3 clicks or simply holding it down will do a 3 punch combo. Right click will do a hard punch, holding it down will charge it up and do a hard punch. Looking down and either mouse button makes Ghat kick. When in one on one combat, pressing E once will lock on or ‘focus’ you onto the target. E can also be used to switch between multiple targets or deselecting a target. Running backwards also deselects any target. Holding spacebar blocks…yes the spacebar blocks.

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Now hang on one second I hear you say, if spacebar blocks how do you jump? That’s just it, you don’t jump for anything in this game, at all, whatsoever for anything. This is my first gripe against this game, however I want to emphasize something extremely important. This game needs to be approached with an open mind, as I said earlier, we are so accustomed to the standard way an FPS works that we do not want to think about the controls when we pick up the next FPS that comes down the pipeline. The controls should be the same right across them all. I have to mention this minor quirk because it’s my job, not because it’s very easy to forget about once you get used to it.

Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor

May 31, 2009 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

From the onset, the engine feels similar to Warhammer: Dawn of War 2, albeit with more explosiveness to it. You have your cover system, intense particle effects from all the explosions which are livelier than DoW2, and interestingly running the benchmark is a nice visual treat of what this engine can do at the absolute most zoomed in level. Considering it’s mostly a strategy game and it’s meant to be played top down, the cinematic feel of the action from this point of view is absolutely beautiful.

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The level of detail is much higher than previous games, explosions and sound are superb. A note on the sound quality of this game, during the campaign when you hear a tank coming your way your immediate reaction will be to hide your soldiers or reposition your units in such a way that you don’t want to be caught off guard. It’s kind of an instinctual reaction, but pretty hysterical when you try to justify why you reacted that way. The attention to detail to the sounds in the game, results in an accurate effect of said situation when an enemy tank or vehicle is nearby even though you can’t see it.

Getting to play a point of view other than the allies is definitely welcome, Nazi German story for the first time as you control a single tank and follow the events surrounding this particular tank crew. There is one quirk though that I felt, the campaigns seem very straight forward. There isn’t much resource building required, field upgrades seemed to have little importance in the overall mission, however I will say that upgrades are of some use during final missions of each campaign. It seems to have been designed that way on purpose, because when you jump into skirmish or online and resources and control points start factoring in, the difficulty skyrockets.

If you are new to Company of Heroes but have played more traditional RTS games, such as the Command and Conquer series, you are in for an awakening. It’s ridiculously difficult to play a game where everything depends on everything else. Where you position your defensive turrets vs. how you intend to take on that tank. Yes…how you hit the tank even depends, hit it from the side or the back does more damage than simply hitting it head on, which as a matter of fact does very little damage. Couple that with soldiers, specifically anti-tank infantry and you should seriously consider retreat, and hope that you don’t lose your engine.

Maybe that mass army strategy works in more traditional RTS games, whereas here a single machine gunner can mow down most of your infantry. Structures can be garrisoned, but watch out for those flamethrowers, tanks, and grenades. For practically every unit that exists in the game, there exists a counter unit. You want to send a tank out, send it out with some machine gunner infantry, some regular infantry, combat engineers, and maybe a sniper. Each for a different purpose, machine gunners to mow down those units attacking the tank from the side lets say, regular infantry to clear them with a grenade and protect your engineers or to capture control points, your engineers to capture control points as well, or build defensive structures, or to repair that tank on the fly. The sniper to take out targets from a distance and to give you an idea of what’s surrounding the area while taking advantage of the units’ far sight.

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The 3 new online modes are the fruit of the basket in this standalone expansion. Those who have played previous Company of Heroes games will be in for a surprise. Each of the modes are now there to force you into a narrower field, but do emphasize co-op play. It might seem like a nuisance but it’s sure to feel much clearer to you once you get going.

The 3 modes are Operation Stonewall, Operation Panzerkrieg and Operation Assault. Players new to the series will find Operation Stonewall to be the closest to what they are used to, however fans of the series should know that it still contains every element unique to the Company of Heroes series. Up to four players are in charge of a single Allied barracks in the middle of a European town. The purpose is to defend against waves of German soldiers and it’s up to the players to come together at defending the town. Choosing one of the available specializations is at the heart of this mode. Each player should pick the one that they feel most comfortable with or able to work with better, so that when the time comes for the next wave they are able to coordinate their troops much more effectively.

Operation Panzerkrieg, and yes as the name implies it involves tanks. One tank per human player actually, across three players. It’s unique however, in the sense that not only are you controlling one tank, you do get to choose which kind of tank and its upgrade path. In essence players who are well versed in this mode can truly annihilate anything should they use tanks that are upgraded with abilities that support the other two in tight spots. For example one person has a Tiger tank, against other tanks, another has an M4 Sherman, against infantry, etc.

Operation Assault is by far the most difficult of the three, similar to the previous mode, this mode puts you in control of a SINGLE unit. Yes you read that right, a SINGLE unit. Each human player chooses one hero type of infantry, so you could be a sniper whereas the second player could be mortar, another could be machine gunner. There does seem to be one issue with it, it is a narrow map, and practically the most effective way at times just seems to be to blow your way through anything to get to the other side before the enemy does the same to you. The AI Infantry does help at times, however if your teammates can coordinate well with you then they are useless.

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This brings me to my final quirk about this standalone expansion, all three new campaigns play out on the same map. The same goes for the multiplayer modes, they are on different maps for each operation however everytime you play those specific modes you are confined to playing the map of that operation. As mentioned earlier the Campaign isn’t as epic as the word implies, however the tweaks to the gameplay, and the new multiplayer modes do make up for this. Tales of Valor is definitely worth trying for the fan of the series, there is just the worry that it may get tedious or boring pretty fast.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

May 17, 2009 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

Dawn of War II is a sequel to the original Dawn of War released in 2004 and its subsequent expansions Winter Assault in 05, Dark Crusade in 06 and Soulstorm in 08 with each one adding another race to the main game and new story to expand on the universe.

The main differences in the game are immediately apparent from the get go. Gone are the units to construct bases and incrementally upgrade your technology to have access to higher level units. Gone is the need to collect resources of any kind. This game is very far removed from the strategy game we knew and loved, but does that mean it’s no longer going to appeal as much? Will it have to bite the bullet? Let’s find out…

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The opening cinematic is the first thing that will catch your eye. There hasn’t been this kind of a quality intro since the first Dawn of War game. Without spoiling anything it certainly does entertain and introduce you to some of the unit types you will encounter in the game.

As with most games the first level serves as an intro mission to help you get used to the mechanics of the game and if you have played the previous Dawn of War games it is absolutely necessary, this will help you familiarize yourself with the mechanics. You are an unnamed, (you actually do get to name him to your liking), hero of the Imperium, recently promoted Commander. Your first task is to assist in the defense of a base under attack by the Orcs, along with a squad of Tactical Marines lead by Tarkus.

So far still feels the same, drag click to select all units, and click to where you want them to move. They move to said spot, and open fire on any enemies they encounter. Your hero is a unit on his own, and the marines are a unit on their own. Things are going well until we reach the main area under heavy attack. Now comes the first big surprise, your units can actually take cover behind objects on the terrain.

At first it seems a little added bonus just to give the feeling of cover, the previous games in the series would give you an added defense bonus if you were in a crater of some sort or a defense deficit if you were in a marsh or stream of water. In this game it gives you full fledged cover, of course your units still do take damage it wouldn’t be fair otherwise but the variations on how u can cover a squad are numerous. For example you can have 2 units in cover and 2 units standing in plain hindsight, or any combination like 3 cover 1 out, 1 cover 3 out, etc. There is also the level of cover that is provided by a given terrain object.

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Hiding behind trees vs. rocks will show yellow position indicators so that you know that this provides okay cover, but hiding behind rocks or walls shows green indicators showing good cover. While holding the mouse button down to tell a squad to hide behind a particular object, dragging in a direction from said object ensures that the squad will be facing that direction when they take cover. This is especially helpful when you get your Devastator squad lead by Avitus. They need about 3 seconds before they start firing in any direction, don’t be fooled however these are definitely going to be among your favourite units. Among others are the Scouts lead by Cyrus and the Assault Marines with their jetpacks lead by Thaddeus.

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