Meta Gear Solid 4 Guns of Patriots

June 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews

When you finish MGS 4 you’re at a complete loss for words. Emotions run high and you breathe a sigh of relief that this saga is finally over, happy and content at the closure, but also somewhat sad that this is indeed the end, a sense of longing immediately ensues. And at the end of such a mesmerizing experience, I really am not sure how to begin this review. No need to wax lyrical what an art this game truly is, and suffice to say that you should just stop reading now, go out and buy it. However, let’s indulge ourselves as to why you will part with you hard earned money, for that is after all, the reason we’re gathered here.

The obvious theme of this game is setout upfront, incase you missed the high profile trailers: war has changed. Snake is an old dog, and in this new digital age of proxy wars and artificially controlled emotions, there is no place for a legend like him. War economy is what drives this new world. Gone are the reasons to fight the good fight, whether it be religion, historical opposition or territorial ownership; battles are now fought just to print money. It is the historical relationship between Snake and the Patriots where everything ties up, that one old war torn soldier needs to put an end to what his superiors started; for he who controls the battlefield controls the world.

Starting off the game you’re not only given the good old tranquilizer gun but also a 45-caliber automatic pistol, giving you an immediate sense of how things have changed, where killing someone doesn’t immediately penalize you. Gone are the tight corridors and cluelessly expansive jungles, replace instead with unrestrained but focused areas where you have to reach the next objective. All the while sneaking between the “good” and the bad sides, you make your way through by either stealth or sheer brute force, or a balanced combination of both depending on the situation. And the control scheme, as wearied MGS vets and scared newcomers alike will realize, is not as convoluted as it used to be. Indeed things have been more streamlined to accommodate the masses.

The MGS series is infamous for its ridiculously long cutscenes, and this being the final installment one can only imagine the length of time to sit through. However, as he did with the improved control scheme, Kojima has listened to fans and critics alike in order to give the player an easy to digest mechanism whereby cutscenes are divided into three or four smaller parts, and can be paused or skipped entirely if needed. Needless to stress the importance of these cutscenes and even in-game Codec conversations where the story progresses further and plot holes from previous installments are also covered. Rest assured, all of your questions will be finally answered. The balanced pacing struck between cutscenes and actual gameplay is remarkable. The player never feels bored during gameplay or forced to watch the cutscenes because each of these aspects is a welcome after an exhaustive session of the other.

The four main bosses from ‘The Beauty and the Beast Corps’ that have already been revealed in the trailers are as creative and crazy as any of the other bosses in the previous games, and thus truly a delight to defeat. Thankfully their tragic past is only revealed to us after the job is done so the apparent guilt trip doesn’t last long. Interesting trivia is each of the boss’ names and characteristics are a mix of previous bosses. For instance ‘Crying Wolf’ comes from ‘Sniper Wolf’ of MGS1 and ‘Crying’ comes from ‘The Sorrow’ in MGS3, along with the Rail Gun as her main weapon from ‘Fortune’ in MGS2.

This goes without saying that MGS4 is by far the most graphically superior game on any console to date, and just like the previous installments, the wow factor is beyond anything seen before. Sound, in all its Dolby Digital glory, is something that should only be heard in a good Home Theatre System to truly do it justice. Subtle audio cues, majestic undertones and simple but evocative melodies cannot be enjoyed in anything less than a 5.1 Such is the brilliance of voice acting and the soundtrack that it’s no overstatement to say this game puts many of Hollywood’s recent efforts to shame.

If playing through the game on harder difficulty and unlocking hidden items (for instance each of the boss’ face camo or new guns) wasn’t enough, Kojima has thrown in a surprisingly deep online mode as well. Simply called Metal Gear Online, the game supports upto 16 players online with all the tactical gameplay carried over from the singleplayer. Besides your standard Deathmatch and TDM modes, an interesting mode called ‘Sneaking Mission’ involves both teams duking it out, and at the same time trying to take out the player who is control of Solid Snake himself (with all of his abilities).

Many recent games have tried to wow us with their glamour and glitz, but by the end of the first third of the game everything that follows just sort of waters down into mediocrity. These games have strived to take gaming to new cinematic heights with not just gameplay and dynamic camera angles but storytelling as well. Where most new and existing franchises have tried and some have succeeded to an extent, nothing can come close to what MGS4 has achieved through its emotional, intelligent and of course crazy storyline. Who would have thought that a little game called Metal Gear that came out on the MSX in 1987 would become such an icon of the modern age?

This is it then, twenty years of history coming to an epic conclusion in what is Snake’s (and perhaps even Kojima’s) Swan Song; a true masterpiece that will be revered for years to come like its predecessors, but one that will stand through the tests of time and will still be referred to as perhaps the pinnacle of storytelling in videogames.

The Eye of Judgment

December 3, 2007 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews

Eye of Judgment, or EoJ, as we shall call it henceforth, is the first game to use the new Playstation EyeToy. It’s a simple turn-based card game which utilises the PS EyeToy to portray the action onscreen. Think playing with Pokemon cards but with animated battles on your telly, and you’ll get the idea.

First off let’s begin with the package itself, which has a great deal in it. You get the game’s Blu-ray along with a ‘Starter Pack’ containing 30 summoning cards. Also, a ‘Booster Pack’ which has 8 special cards (ie, 5 common, 2 rare and 1 unique). And then of course you have a specially designed 9-grid mat on which to place your cards along with the EyeToy itself.  Oh and of course the stand for the EyeToy. All of this is wrapped in a neat little package, and considering the amount of stuff you get for the Suggested Retail Price, is very good value for money. However, is it really worth it?

To find out let’s start with the game itself. You place the EyeToy on the mat which then scans the card(s) you put on it and then shows the creature on screen, living and breathing. Your opponent will place their cards in turn and just like any other card based game, a battle of wits and luck ensues where the winner is decided. Everything is not so simple though.

The concept of winning the game is quite straightforward: when you have 5 grids occupied on the mat, you win. Of course achieving those 5 grids is what the game is all about. You start off by having 6 random cards from a deck. The opponent does the same, and then you duke it out. Every card is a unique creature which you can summon to attack or essentially cover a spot on the grid mat. Attacks range from standard close range melee attacks, to long range attacks where the opponent’s creature is forced to turn the other direction. This means backstabbing which gets you an extra hit point! Thrown into the mix are a range of non-attack type cards which will give your creatures support such as extra health or defence if placed adjacent/ next to your attacking creature.

The game gets even deeper with the fact that you can only place additional cards on the mat if you have enough mana (magic) points. Therefore every turn has you deciding whether to place weaker (but less mana consuming) creatures this turn, or wait for another turn(s) and summon a really powerful creature (consuming more mana) which can potentially wipe out most, if not all, of the opponent’s cards off the mat. And let’s not forget the fact that certain types of units gain more health if they’re placed on a matching terrain (each grid has a terrain appointed to it), for instance elves in the forest gives them 2+ HP, but the same elves on the water results -2HP. If this sounds confusing, Sony has thankfully provided a tutorial video on the game’s disc itself. Alternatively you can download some of these videos from the Playstation Store to check it out.

Before you start the game however, you need to scan these cards and register ‘decks’ (to avoid cheating). These decks (of 30 cards) can then be used to play the game. Having multiple decks means that you can play the game with the ‘Starter deck’ only or you can try your ‘booster pack’ and/ or ‘theme deck’ cards, or you can mix and match the ‘best’ cards from all the packs you have for a well balanced, heavily defensive or vice versa set of decks to play with!

The game does not have a single player campaign, which means that unless you have another person to play it with, the game is pretty much useless. You don’t necessarily need someone to come over to play this game however. Online multiplayer is your saviour. And in all honesty, online is where this game really shines. Sending an invite to anyone on your friends list is extremely straightforward. You can select which deck you want to play with before going online. The rest of the game proceeds as an extremely suspenseful cat and mouse chase, simply because you don’t know what cards the opponent has, meaning that if you see a new creature, your entire strategy is ruined. Usually it ends up in one party gloating in triumph and other lamenting in not buying another booster/ theme deck pack, or just their luck. Online, whilst the camera is used solely to scan the mat (as in offline mode) the mics are utilised for normal conversation. 

This brings us nicely to the second best reason to get EoJ. If nothing else, you will be using the new EyeToy itself for video/ audio conferencing or editing your own videos or a plethora of things you can do with a good 120fps, 1.3MP camera and four built-in mics and a good editing software (EyeCreate available for free on the PSN)

There is nothing much to talk about how the game looks, it’s all in the gameplay. However, onscreen the creatures are very well animated, with a nice solid feel and good particle effects for attack animations. The audio is nothing incredible either, with most of the game’s background music consisting solely of metal/ rock music. The announcer (for when a creature is summoned or when saying attack names) sounds heavy with a booming voice, kind of keeping in tone with the whole ‘judgment’ theme of the game.

All in all, the depth of EoJ is such that you can easily loose many, many hours in this game, especially with friends online. The camera itself is great, and the Booster packs and Theme decks increase the game’s life tenfold

Wipeout Pulse

October 31, 2007 by  
Filed under Features, PSP

We recently got our hands on Wipeout Pulse, the long awaited sequel to one of the PSP’s finest racing games to date, Wipeout Pure. After going through the single player mode here’s what we think: it still kicks ass!

There are many things being introduced for the new version, least of which is the inclusion of 12 brand new tracks (reversible). Also we’re getting an 8 player online and Ad-Hoc (via sharing) multiplayer mode! Not to mention 8 new teams including Mirage, a new team from the United Arab Emirates, making the most well rounded ship available. Yes we’re getting our very own team (finally some recognition!), albeit this will be a downloadable extra once the game ships.

As far as downloadable content is concerned, we will have 3 other teams and some more new circuits available once the game is shipped. Another new is taking snapshots of your ship once a race ends. You can then upload these pictures online and share your good and bad moments with others. Also rumoured, is vehicle skin customisation which you can do on the game’s website and then take it over to your PSP (similar in concept to Forza 2).

It’s nice to see all these features being included, but has Sony’s Liverpool studio changed the gameplay as well? Thankfully not, as the original Wipeout Pure felt right at home on the PSP. The controls are still the same, with the shoulder triggers acting as airbrakes and face buttons for various power-ups, etc. providing an intuitive control scheme. You will still have to memorise each circuit’s turn and have to take every boost pad in order to come first nonetheless. Of course the various weapons also help along the way, including a new one which draws the energy from a nearby enemy; a sneaky, yet excellent way of getting that podium finish.

The game of course still looks as beautiful as, if not more than, Pure; a very sublime experience every time you play it. The soundtrack is just as pumping as it ever was with custom tracks from some of the most talented British Techno artists.

Wipeout Pulse is looking to be yet another excellent game with superb community and online features promised by Sony. Let’s hope it delivers all these and more come early December.

RED and Activision Press Event Coverage

October 17, 2007 by  
Filed under Features, General

Last week, we were invited to the RED and Activision press event where Activision showed off some of their upcoming games for Fall/Winter 2007. The games showed at the event included: Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Spiderman: Friend or Foe, Bee Movie game, Guitar Hero III, Call of Duty 4,  LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Star Wars Renegade Squadron and Thrillville: Off The Rails.

Official representatives from RED were: Nitin Mathew, marketing manager and Andrew Pepperell, regional sales manager. From Activision we had: Arnaud Doudard, the director of Emerging Markets and Wilfrid Vinmer, business and marketing support manager.

The event started off with the standard presentations for upcoming games which basically consisted of trailers for said games followed by bullet points listing why the game were good and therefore why they would sell. Essentially this event was targeted more at the retailers than the press. To show off the retailers what potential big hits they can expect this season along with the promotional items that are going to be provided for respective games’ releases. As far as the press was concerned, the biggest reason for their involvement was coverage and creating hype. But then that’s what all these events are for anyways.

All of the trailers shown at the event were from E3 this year or were already shown at other recent events such as TGS, Leipzig, etc. So there was nothing new in that department. The slideshow presentation following each games’ trailer provided information most of us (as in the gamers) knew about already, but was perhaps news to the retailers. For instance why Spider man Friend or Foe would sell out given the popularity of the brand name. The only other bit of news was Enemy Territory Quake Wars for the PS3 could be delayed until next year due to pacing issues by the development team. However, the fun part of the whole presentation was indeed the enthusiasm from the various developers and members from Activision. You could see the sparkle in their eyes when they presented Call of Duty 4, they had a winner and they knew it!

The presentation itself lasted for about 40 minutes, at which point the Q&A session began. Apparently the presenters were expecting an enthusiastic rush of questions (as were we), except that one can’t really expect much from the local (non-gaming) corporate representatives and press.

So of course we jumped straight into the (seemingly non-existent) action. First up we asked whether the acquisition of Bizzare meant that we’ll see PGR5 on PS3, to which they answered no. Of course PGR is still Microsoft’s baby and they won’t let the IP go so easily. However Activision did say that they will use the experience and expertise of Bizzare from their racing pedigree and perhaps we might see something along the lines of PGR on PS3 in the future. Next up: with the advent of Rock Band, what will Activision do to counter it? They answered this in a very general way (as one would expect) in that they are working on looking at different things and what the market needs. So no official confirmations for Drum Hero as we asked directly, but don’t be surprised if you see them announcing it some time down the line. During their presentation they showed the release dates for many of their games, and when asked about whether they are for this region, Activision simply said that they will try to ensure that the release dates will be met without any delays.

After the presentation was the hands-on part for the various games on display, except that there weren’t many. Most of their demo pods (X360) only showed Spiderman Friend or Foe! Their other debug units were broken, with some of the other big titles like Tony Hawks Proving Ground without any showcase as they didn’t have the preview code. Two games got working and were truly a sight to behold: Call of Duty 4 and Guitar Hero 3. As most of us have already played the Multiplayer Beta on the X360, we knew what the online scene was but the single player looked really mind blowing! As far as GH 3 was concerned, it wasn’t a real looker (in terms of graphical leaps) but the guitar controller itself was sweet. It felt much more solid with better buttons and more aesthetically pleasing than the previous controller for GH 2.

As good and informative as the presentation was, the hands-on part was just as lack lustre. Apart from COD4 and GH3, the only other game on display was Spiderman: FoF, which was a shame really. We would have loved to see Enemy Territory: Quake Wars as well.

All said and done, the event was well organised with Iftar and of course 2 draws for winning a PS3 and X360. The cherry on top was that the PS3 was won by our very own Abbas!

As always, it would be brilliant if we got a bigger event with more publishers on display and more developer interaction. I’m afraid the gaming market in the Middle East has a lot to prove before we get the attention of these publishers and developers! So game on guys, we have a LOT to choose from this holiday season.

Warhawk

September 24, 2007 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews

I don’t think anyone will disagree that the PS3 has had quite a drought of games since summer. Or spring to be honest. Sure there were many games, but you can’t really call movie tie-ins and half-hearted X360 ports ‘good PS3 games’. Nothing really stood out. This fall season promised many “stars” on the PS3’s horizon, but not all have delivered. Surely not all have arrived either. Some of the biggest AAA titles are yet to be released. But what to do from now till then? Enter Warhawk, the PS3’s first multiplayer only game. This will keep you busy for far longer then you think.

To start off I think it’s essential that we take a trip down memory lane to E3 2005. One of the images clearly etched into my mind is the hundreds upon hundreds of Warhawks battling it out in the beautiful skies for supremacy, to settle a war between to great nations, Eucadians and Chernovans. We were promised epic battles against jaw dropping backdrops in an engaging single player campaign complemented with an equally excellent multiplayer game.

I will go straight up and say that this game has by far one of the most exciting multiplayer games ever seen on a home console. Everything that we were promised about the multiplayer game has been delivered, and then some; but at the cost of the singleplayer campaign. It was indeed a tough decision for developer Incognito (the same studio behind Resistance: FoM) to decide whether to spread out their efforts on both single and multiplayer and deliver another mediocre (at best) game, or to concentrate on just one element and give us something incredible. Where it made sense for the first Warhawk (back in 1995) and games like Bioshock to concentrate on singleplayer only, it was essential to make the next generation of Warhawk multiplayer. After all, would you rather play a high def remake of the original Warhawk or blast other peeps in an intense online game?

Enough with the history lessons, what’s the game like? In case you haven’t realised it yet: it’s bloody brilliant! Let’s start off with the gameplay. In any multiplayer game of sorts, it is absolutely essential that you get the weapons and different units well balanced. Warhawk manages this delicate balance so beautifully it’s artistic. No matter what weapon you take, anything can be extremely devastating if used properly; from a simple Knife to artillery brought in by your Binoculars. Appropriately every weapon has equally huge disadvantages; that same knife that is so deadly up close is useless if the enemy has a rifle, and before you can call in that air strike of yours, everybody can see exactly where you are since the Binoculars use a green laser before locking on target, so don’t be surprised if you get sniped! Like I said, no single weapon can give you ultimate domination; every weapon can become worthless if not handled properly.

So you think you’ll have to think on your feet all the time to become the ultimate champ? Well of course you have to, but not all the time. Warhawk is a game you can play at your own pace. No need to jump straight into the action if you don’t feel like it, instead you can take a sniper, an RPG and that trusty Binoculars and take a ride up to some mountain top and do all your fragging at your own leisure. That is unless you’re spotted by the enemy! Also since this is a team based game, you don’t necessarily have to go and kill enemies to win the match, although that is a plausible course of action. Ideally you can capture these ‘zones’ which can, depending on the game type, let you win the match or get an upper hand on the enemy as your troops spawn closer to the enemy base.

The game does indeed have the standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and CTF, but also has Zones (capture different zones on the map) and Dogfight (spawning in Warhawks and then surviving in a dogfight). Apart from Deathmatch, team work is integral to all the other modes. You may have the highest frags but that means nothing if your team loses, so always keep that in mind.

Transformers The Game

July 17, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

It’s fashionable these days that any movie that can be milked to death should have a tie-in game. And just as you can be sure those famous movies will have their respective tie-in games, said games will be the most abominable gaming experience ever to be had; and a sure fire way to ruin whatever was fun about the movie. This time however I had some faith. I mean it’s Transformers; surely they can’t go wrong with giant robots that also happen to be some kickass rides. You have good vs evil. You have the real actors (for the transformers) doing the voice acting for the game; such perfect ingredients.  Obviously nothing can go wrong right?

Oh God you’re so wrong! Like every movie tie-in game in history, Transformers: The Game lacks that quintessential element that makes playing games fun: the gameplay. The game does a decent effort to tie in some lose-ends in the movie, like what the Decepticons were doing while we were watching our heroes doing their thing. In one memorable moment you will see Scorponok coming out of Blackout, and Scorponok receiving the instructions to blow the communications link in the desert, followed by the brilliant action sequence that we saw in the movie. Regardless, all there is to the game is basically punching your enemies and blowing stuff up, but within a time limit. Indeed had it not been for the stupid time limit the game would actually have been fun to go through. Almost every time you see the Game Over screen is due to you running out of time, and not losing your health.

As is evident by the cover of the game, you can play the game’s single player campaign as either Autobots or Decepticons. You will be given a hand full of missions that are broken down into 3 or 4 parts punctuated by cutscenes. You would think that the game would auto-save in between these cutscenes, but of course you would think wrong. Remember this is a movie tie-in game? Sensible gameplay is very low on the developer’s priority list. Hence should you fail in any of the parts, its ‘mission restart’ all over again. And make no mistakes; because of the above mentioned time limit you will be doing some of these entire missions again and again.

To give you an idea of what each factions plays out like; as Autobots you will mostly be saving the humans by trying to outrun the Decpticons or simply beating them down…in the time limit of course. Playing as Decepticons is a lot more fun, simply because all you do is blow stuff up. This heart lifting enjoyment of wanton destruction is short lived however as you will fail a mission simply because you didn’t blow enough things in the time given! Yep that’s pretty much the gist of the game. And another thing why Decpticons are better to play than Autobots is that instead of going through the horrific driving sections of the game while playing as Autobots, you will more often be flying around as most of the Decepticons can fly.

The only saving grace here is that the movie’s assets were used for rendering the Transformers in-game. And just like the movie, every time you see them you will be left awestruck. It really is a sight to behold when they transform into robots. Every little detail to the tiniest piston can be seen! And like the rest of the game, the good things only last at the first glance. The rest of the game looks something out of the PS2. In fact, compared to the PS2 the 360 version stands out only because of the shine everywhere, aka the HDR effects. The audio isn’t particularly impressive either. The only good thing here is again that the voice actors of the original TV series were used, at least those who are alive and still in the industry anyway.

The sad part is that no matter what the reviews say, fans will always go out and buy the game regardless. Had Activision been given more time, the game could have been something truly wonderful indeed.

Brothers in Arms DS

July 14, 2007 by  
Filed under DS, Reviews

Every time I see a new WW II based game it never ceases to amaze me how much publishers want to milk the heck out of this genre; and people still gobble it up! I don’t think I have seen a single year since Saving Private Ryan came out that I haven’t seen a WW II game released. So of course it would only make sense that the very unique and compelling series of Brothers in Arms is brought onto the fastest and one of the most successful handhelds of all time, the DS. Say hello to the very imaginatively titled Brothers in Arms: DS.

One can clearly see how well BIA will fit comfortably onto the DS, what with the touch screen controlled shooting and all. The formula was already proven successful by Metroid Prime: Hunters. A feat, which incidentally is again on Metroid’s shoulders to prove unbelievers that FPS games really are born-to-be on the Wii.  However BIA, like any good old FPS has to look reasonably good; except that it’s actually an over the shoulder Third Person Shooter. Nonetheless, good looking it is. The first time you see the game in motion on that tiny 3” screen you’ll be wondering just how is all that possible? Well, just like it was possible with every other FPS on the PS1 and N64. And soon you will notice how far we have come from those blocky shapes to the now (almost) photo-realistic graphics.

But these are rather secondary aspects of the game, so let’s move on from cosmetics to actual gameplay. The first thing you will notice is that the aiming feels clunky. And the auto-aiming doesn’t make for a smooth transition either. So any comparisons with Hunters are pretty much thrown out the window at this point. Still, it’s not terribly bad. Throwing grenades sees you sliding the stylus as the screen indicator drags the spot to where the grenade will land. So some thought had been put into the controls, too bad it all feels disjointed.

Moving onto the actual missions there is nothing much to be said. Apart from the standard shooting, you get to drive around in jeeps as well as tanks. An extremely cumbersome experience in itself, driving tanks can be one of the greatest sources of frustration as you’re trying to slide the stylus quickly across the bottom screen in hope of seeing your enemies until you get shot from God knows where and its Game Over. And speaking of Game Over, the missions are really small (unless you’re stuck at some point). I mean imagine in Call of Duty you’re dropped into the middle of a war zone where you have shoot enemies and run from cover to cover to reach some old church or building. Where as in such a game you would now be proceeding towards the second objective, in BIA:DS it Mission Over. Err – Yay? I suppose it just stresses the fact that this is indeed a handheld game and so missions are playable in short ten-ish minute bursts. Don’t fret, as their there are 3 different campaigns with each campaign having a dozen odd missions.

The audio is pretty solid for a DS game. Of course we have come to expect good stereo surround from our tiny DS speakers; with explosions and bullets being fired in the distant background to give you that continuous feeling of being in the war along with great sounding weapons. The experience is further enriched when using headphones.

Multiplayer seems like an afterthought. You can only have 4 players, each with their own cartridge in order to play Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch. Still with 4 players the experience is rather dull. A word of caution: these multiplayer sessions will hardly last for long anyways due to the awkward position of holding the DS to play the game. One hand will be holding the DS with your index finger on the shoulder button to shoot, whilst the other will be busy with the stylus.

In the end BIA:DS seems more like it was forced onto the DS because of it’s success (and the consequent cash-ins) rather than a thought out and fully worked from the ground up game for a good handheld WW II experience. If you’re a WW II fanatic and are still not satisfied with the experience on your TV and absolutely must play WW II on the go; then BIA:DS is the game for you. For others, there are better WW II experiences to be had elsewhere.

Call of Duty 3

June 11, 2007 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews

We live in an era now that every year if we don’t get our fill of WW II games, our gaming soul feels empty inside. And so how was it not possible for Sony to launch their new behemoth without a WW II title for launch? In comes Call of Duty 3 to satisfy the Nazi killers within us.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way; if you loved the first two games, you’ll like this one as well. I said like, not love, and it’s specific to the PS3 version, but more on that later. If you’re one of those who were never interested in the first two games though, then CoD3 does nothing new to pull in new crowds.

So let’s just jump straight to the action; CoD3 takes you through the events that followed just after D-Day, i.e. you’re trying to push back the German forces from France. The good thing about WW II strictly speaking from a narrative perspective, is that even though everyone felt the same emotions, there were many different locales and situations in which these battles occurred. And so CoD3 puts you in the shoes of several different soldiers so you can see the war and feel the experience through their eyes. This is a good story-telling technique, but one that ultimately fails to make an impression on the player.

That does not mean the CoD3 doesn’t make you feel like you’re in the war. In fact the CoD franchise is known for its atmosphere and cinematic style, something that gets the player really involved. This is quite apparent from the first level of the game. After you go through the bog standard training mission, you get in a truck and head out straight for the battlefield. On your way your truck gets blown up and once thing start to clear up you see the bodies of almost everyone in the truck lying around you. Of course that is just a split second for you to absorb what has just happened, when you start hearing the bullets whizzing by your head and your comrades shouting for you to grab a rifle and get cover. This is the moment when you get a good view of the graveyard with bodies lying all over the place, gravestones chipping away as enemy bullets try to take out the person taking cover behind them from the nearby church, and grenades going off all around you. Once you scramble for cover with a rifle in your hands you notice the big Anti Aircraft guns in the immediate vicinity that are trying to take down the bombers overhead; and if seeing all this doesn’t get your attention, the sound definitely will.

This is when you realize that its war, and the only scene in history to have such epic intensity was the opening mission of Omaha Beach in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (which of course was a straight rip from Saving Private Ryan) And this feeling of an epic war going on and you being a small, but integral part of it, continues throughout the game. However not every mission contains the pantheon of the first level. You have some driving missions sprinkled throughout the campaign where you’re in control of jeeps and tanks etc. Although not terribly compelling, the driving becomes a lot of fun once you get a hold of the controls.

The gameplay is pretty standard. The basic control scheme applies, but a few new tidbits are available this time. Like the fact that you can use the SIXAXIS for some interesting gameplay such as fending off an enemy in a mini-game where you move the controller from side to side to get him off of you. These are unfortunately scripted sequences and are very rare. But when they do it’s a lot of fun while it lasts, even though it’s silly and feels tacked on at the last minute. Also you have something else to do when throwing a grenade: cooking it. This simply means that you hold the L1 until you see the indication that the grenade is ready to blow up. Used wisely you can throw a grenade and have it blow up just when it hits the enemy, messing it up results in it exploding in your hands.

Moving onto the visuals, the game looks beautiful. But you would expect that in the now-next-gen consoles. Too bad it’s not great on the PS3 version. The smoke effects don’t look so dense, the lighting isn’t as impressive, and the colours feel washed out. But that’s not the only problem here. Erratic frame rates are commonplace, huge frame rate dips can happen even when there isn’t much action going on screen, like walking through empty streets. Soldiers being killed and floating midair is so frequent you’d think its part of the novelty. These issues become so irritating later on in the game that it almost ruins the experience.

The saving grace here then is the sound. This time it’s not just the sound affects of the weapons or explosions that bring the game the game to life, but the orchestral score as well which really sets the atmosphere and mood. The sound is so good in fact that you will actually feel like you’re in that scene described in the third paragraph above. To date this is the only game that has used the sound effects so good on the PS3. It’s almost perfection.

The multiplayer is where the game really holds up on the PS3. Even with up to 24 players, there was never any lag when played from UAE on US or UK servers! Hats off to Sony for such a lag free experience. However again, the online mode is hampered on the PS3 just like the visuals. Not that there are frame rate drops or clipping issues. It’s just that there aren’t as many options for custom games as there are for the Xbox 360 version.

CoD3 had the opportunity to become great, a well realized WW II experience on the PS3; it could have been loved, not just liked. Instead it’s just a poor port of the Xbox 360 version. True, the game was developed on the Xbox 360, but such a bad port is not justified considering the developers had a lot of time for the European launch to polish things up a bit.

In the end though, Call of Duty 3 is a respectable entry into the franchise, but ultimately it’s just another WW II game, and a formula that was already perfected in Call of Duty 2, if not 1. And haven’t we had more than enough WW II games already? For those who still want an authentic WW II experience on their PS3, you can’t get any better than CoD3.

Enchanted Arms

June 8, 2007 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews

You would think that being one of the first RPGs on the PS3 Sony would go out with a bang. The first RPG has to set the bar on what it should look and play like on the successor of the PS2, a console that arguably had the finest, if not the biggest roster of RPGs on any platform to date.

Instead we get a direct port of an already mediocre game, which incidentally was also one of the first RPGs on the Xbox 360. But let’s begin with where it came from. From software, mostly known for its Mech games like the Armored Core series, which even though are good, have never stood out for their engaging plotlines or dramatic stories. This fact alone gave me a sense of foreboding for Enchanted Arms.

On to the game now. The first feeling you get from starting it is that it has an old school feel to it in its presentation. As soon as you talk to characters the two of you come into the foreground with the text being displayed at the bottom.  Gives a more up close feeling, but counterintuitive, in that you are forced to lose interest in what’s going on in the game’s world.

The game is set in a world where magic is commonplace and you’re in a University to learn some good old witchcraft. Well, a rather weak form of magic that is enchantments. Of course here in comes the twist that makes you special. Instead of excelling at using magic and all that mystical stuff, your arm dispels magic. Hence the title. Who would’ve thought? So even the best spell caster can have their attacks nullified when you’re facing off against them. Obviously things aren’t so rosy when you start off. And it doesn’t exactly work in your favour that you have an IQ of 10, and everyone knows it. Not you silly your character, Atsuma. So not only are you doing the opposite of what every student is training for and are stupid, but to top it all off one of your best friends, Touya, is smart and handsome, which means you don’t get a prom date. On the other hand your other best friend, Makoto, although smart, is gay, and has the hots for Touya . The weird trio sort of balance themselves out I suppose. The saving grace here is that you are not emo like the plethora of all other RPG protagonists. The surprising part is that the dialogue here feels good; it’s not overly dramatic or forced as we have come to expect from many a JRPG’s.

Apart from irritating stereotypes that you’re stuck with, the story of the game follows along the somewhat similar path of humans dooming themselves in the past, but somehow saving themselves, and with the upcoming doom of mankind it’s up to you to save it again. To be precise, in ages past humans were powerful magic users who made themselves some slaves (Golems) using magic. Said slaves turn back on their masters and it’s the end of humanity as we know it. But of course, a hand full of people manage to seal the Devil Golems and save humanity in the nick of time. Hardcore magic is now hardly used, with most people resorting to mere enchantments. Still that’s better than not having magic at all. As usual we silly humans never learn from our past and go ahead trying to bring the Golems back, so it’s up to us to stop the world from being overrun by Devil Golems, in other words you are to save the day, the night and the girl!

Full Auto 2: Battlelines

April 30, 2007 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews

The first time you look at Full Auto 2’s cover, you would probably be thinking ‘OMG! Twisted Metal in High Def!’. For me at least, it brought back memories of yore. So forgive my excitement over the game I though would fulfil my desires of vehicular carnage I had been waiting so long for.

The idea should be clear by now; Full Auto 2 is anything but Twisted Metal. It’s not exactly unfair to draw comparisons between Full Auto and Twisted Metal. Where Twisted Metal was fun, especially multiplayer; with a good story and quirky yet exciting characters, Full Auto 2 is the exact opposite.

The first thing you notice about Full Auto 2 is the gameplay. It feels really smooth, like water flowing through rocks in a river. Don’t mistake this sensation for a good experience, like Ridge Racer 7 for instance. The game is so smooth because the physics aren’t right. The cars don’t handle as one would expect. You’re just going all over the place. So? It’s just an arcade racer you say. Well, that doesn’t exactly sit right when your car is coming out from a turn whilst at the same time crashing into every object from behind and there is no opposite reaction. Remember Newton’s third law? Full Auto 2 only implements this when you are using the boost to fly past your opponents only to crash into a very inappropriately placed barrier.

But let’s forget the bad driving mechanics and talk about the guns. You start off with a pathetic combo of a machine gun and smoke screen as your front and rear weapon respectively. Soon this will be replaced by shotguns, rocket launchers, land mines, and so on. All of this new arsenal may make you feel better the first time you get them, but the feeling soon wears thin when you can’t aim properly. Don’t get me wrong, the aiming is fine, it’s just that you will be more busy using the other face buttons (firing your weapons) instead of the right analog stick (used for aiming). Still with a little practice you may feel used to doing it, but never comfortable.

Now that we have what makes the game not fun out of the way, let’s move onto the lesser important things, like visuals and all. In case you didn’t know already, Full Auto 2 is a sequel to the original Full Auto that appeared on Xbox 360 early last year. Of course we all know that it isn’t a sequel per se, since it is for all intents and purposes, a direct port of the 360 version. The game is indeed running in 1080p, but that’s accompanied with regular drops in frame rates when there are too many explosions onscreen. Textures look good but the city backdrops and general maps don’t look as detailed as you we would have liked. All said and done, it still looks better and runs smoother than the 360 version, but the difference is negligible.

The sound effects are nothing spectacular either. One would expect screeching noises of tyres burning, metal crushing against metal, glass breaking in every direction and explosions everywhere the eyes can see to sound mind-blowing, but it’s nothing that would leave a lasting impact like Burnout does. The BGM scheme is good, where when you start doing something impressive, like winning, tracks change from generic music to licensed tracks. Sounds cool, but like everything else in the game, is poorly executed.

Finally let’s go onto the multiplayer. And the less said about it, the better. Every time I logged on for some (mediocre) action online, I couldn’t find anybody to play with. Could be because there aren’t many PS3’s (I doubt), or because people made the sensible choice of not buying the game (most likely). I suppose the only consolation from playing online would have been to see others share in your frustration of the level design, alas that too has been taken away from us.

To wrap things up I’ll say that if you enjoy unreal driving gameplay (in a totally weird way) and blowing things up (stuttering whenever things start looking good) by yourself (offline and online), then Full Auto 2: Battlelines is definitely the game for you. Unfortunately, normal humans will have to look elsewhere.

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