Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit

June 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

The Dragon Ball Z video game series has been known for it’s lightning-fast fights, which were thoroughly entertaining at the same time. It is a great relief that Burst Limit continues this tradition, along with a few changes and tweaks.

Burst Limit supposedly follows the saga of the Z fighters, which encompasses the whole Dragon Ball Z series. For those people who haven’t watched this anime, the single-player of Burst Limit would feel like a bunch of random fights against people who scream and say "DARN IT" at the drop of a hat. For others, including me, the single-player consists of all the fights which have played a key role in the saga. Nonetheless, some sort of backstory, or a short film from the anime, should have been added to atleast partially enlighten the large number of bewildered people who haven’t watched Dragon Ball  Z.

There is also a versus mode, where you can fight against another human opponent via Xbox Live or native multiplayer, or you can fight against the CPU.

Now, to the gameplay. As mentioned before, Dragon Ball Z is finger-breaking fast, literally. I had to put down the controller and play some Civilization IV (to keep myself entertained, while not straining my hand) after playing Burst Limit for about 40 minutes. However, for those 40 minutes, you will be completely engaged in the fights, as the moves in the game are both varied and very deep. There are rush attacks, strong attacks, Ki blasts, and blocks which are the basic moves you can pull off. In addition, you have a Ki meter. It fills up if you don’t shoot Ki blasts every time, or if you sucessfully attack your opponent. Once it’s completely full, you can use all of it to make a super-charged Ki blast, which will deal a tremendous amount of damage to your opponent, if it hits.You can even transofrm to another level, if you wish to. Doing this would make your attacks stronger but leaves your defense weaker. Also, you can use your Ki to block against enemy Ki blasts. However, using the standard block button wisely, and timing it perfectly, would give you much better results, such as countering your opponents attacks, or dissapearing and reappearing behind his back (where he would be completely vulnerable, for a half-second or so).

A brand new feature for Burst Limit is the collision of two super-charged Ki blasts. If both you and your opponent have unleashed an Ultimate attack at the same time, they would collide, and the winner of that collision would be determined by who mashes buttons the fastest. Seeing that you would literally mash the buttons in a fight, even if you DID know what you were doing, it is clear that Burst Limit doesn’t want to give you a moment’s respite. This is all well though, because it makes the game that much more engrossing.

Another new feature is the introduction of Ultimate Attacks. Once your ki has reached it’s peak, and you transform to a higher level, you can execute this Ultimate Attack, which is one the most over-the-top, yet visually satisfying move you can see in this game. You will rain down punches onto your opponent, and another button mashing sequence will start. If you can completely beat your opponent in button mashing, you will end the attack in great style, and almost obliterate him.

Another new aspect is the Drama peices. In the single-player campaign, these are story-oriented, so if you fight in a similiar way to the fights in the anime, these drama peices will be played. They have a small effect, either giving you a health boost, or maximizing your ki, or increasing your defensiveness etc. It isn’t a great addition, but it’s effect is negligible anyways.

Also introduced is the Fatigue bar. Although fatigue plays a role in the anime, there really wasn’t any need for one in the video game. Your fatigue bar fills up if you counter too many attacks, or if you keep blasting Ki blasts at your opponent and such. Once it completely fills up, your player will be immobile for sometime, and wont be able to attack or defend. Once your player is in such a state, you have to start mashing your buttons once more, so that he will regain his energy faster. This has happened to me suprisingly many times. The fatigue bar,if present, should be slower to fill in future games.

A great aspect of Burst Limit is, even if you aren’t a fan of the Dragon Ball series, or don’t know much about it, you can still play this game and enjoy it. Sure, you’ll be missing the whole point of the single player fights, but it’s the gameplay that counts. And Burst Limit shines in this area with an excellent tutorial that will teach you even the advanced moves of the game, without taking too much time. The six different difficulty settings also help in easing you into the game, without seeming too difficult, but neither too easy.

The entire single-player campaign will take about 6-7 hours, depending on your skill level, and the difficulty you choose. It spans the from the Saiyan invasion, to the Cell games saga. The Buu saga is not present, thankfully, as that was a disaster for the anime itself. Instead of that, a new character is introduced, and while it would seem completely out of league with the story, that new character is a blast to play with. Also, Burst Limit includes a few fights from the Broly anime movie.

Along with this series of fights, you can play versus the CPU in random fights, or you can play against someone else. You can even watch two CPU players battle against each other, although most probably, you wont be doing that. There is also a sparring mode, which is a basic practice mode where you can hone your skills.

The game deteriorates in it’s Xbox Live multiplayer, though. However cool the fights may be on single-player, the lag on Live feels like someone offering you a double-chocolate sundae, and at the last moment, throwing it on the ground and stomping it.

The graphics of Burst Limit are a mixed bag. One the one hand, there are the character models, who look exactly like their anime counterparts. The animation is extremely good too, and the framerate is silky smooth. On the other hand, there are the environments, which are merely used to set as a backdrop of the fight, and nothing more. Destructible environments were introduced in a previous Dragon Ball Z video game, for last-gen consoles, so it is unpardonable that it doesn’t exist in this. Cutscenes will look great and dramatic at first, but the effect will wear off, as many of them are repeated during the course of the game. Ultimate attacks are both flashy and over-the-top, and the game looks great at that stage. Ki attacks are extremely colorful, and are a joy to watch. The game looks especially great when two super Ki Blasts collide.

The game suffers from some garbage soundtracks (it wasn’t the game’s fault. Somehow the series creators thought that making Japanese "rock stars" sing English songs, in English, was cool. Aah, the 80′s!), and some pretty poor English voice-acting (this time, it was the game’s fault for sticking with the anime’s English voice actors!). On the other hand, the Japanese voice-acting kicks ass as usual, and there is an English subtitles option, so you can understand what they are saying. Other than that, the explosions, crashes, punches, kicks, etc. sound pretty decent, with nothing great or bad about them.

All in all, I would highly recommend this game to everyone who likes fighting games. No, this isn’t a game only for people who want to play this as a gaming fix before Street Fighter IV. Dragon Ball Z Burst Limit is a great game on it’s own, and should be a real blast for people who enjoy fast-paced combat.

Stuntman Ignition

June 2, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Reviews, Xbox 360

Stuntman Ignition is the first game in the Stuntman series to be introduced into the nex-gen consoles. We already have reviewed that version though. Find out how it fares on the humble PS2.

The Stuntman series has been continuing for a long time, and it has developed a sort of cult following. Suffice to say, it is not a game for everyone. It can get very challenging at spots, and can be an absolute pain on multiplayer, if you’re playing with a buddy who is new to the game. However, if you have a good level of patience and perseverance, you will find Stuntman Ignition an enjoyable, and an unputdownable game at a lot of times.

Stuntman Ignition lets you take the role of a stuntman, who is willing to risk his life and soul, just for the whims of a fancy director. Most of the stunts featured in the game can be performed in real life, but some of them are just mind-blowingly crazy. However, unlike real stunt sequences in action movies, many stunt sequences in Stuntman Ignition last for more than two minutes!

There is no back-story to Stuntman Ignition. You’re just a small-time stuntman, who is trying to make it big, and eventually does. You do this by performing stunts in different movies and advertisements. You’re performance is evaluated, and the result is shown on a scale of one to five stars. The higher the number of stars, the bigger your virtual wallet is.

The main focus in Stuntman Ignition is putting together several stunts in succession, adding to your Stunt Combo. The combo grows exponentially based on the number of stunts you are able to pull off fluidly. A high combo leads to a better score. While pulling off a Stunt combo to attain five stars is virtually impossible, the Combo does a great job of keeping you at the edge of your seat, and trying to perfect each stunt sequence. If you do get a five star rating (like I got at one sequence out of 20 others which I played), you will seriously love the feeling.

Unlike real stunts, you can screw up upto five times in one sequence, although your score will add up to something much lower, than if you got everything right. Still, there are many times you will thank the lord that you could pass the sequence, let alone get a decent three stars! Which brings me to another grumble about the game: its fluctuating difficulty. Although most of the stunt sequences in the game are pretty tough, there are some which you will breeze through, and some in which you will be stuck for a day or so. Also, the worst part about this is that there is no easy way to overcome this problem. You have to use lightning-fast reflexes to overcome these tough spots, which unfortunately, not many of us have. After this, you still have to be extremely precise with your direction- even if your vehicle is a centimeter away from the stunt’s desirable location, you would have messed it up.

All said, these problems still don’t hamper the great fun to be had from performing insane tricks. An especially cool part is when you have to steer your car to a ramp at 150 MPH, for it to jump perfectly inside a car wash having the advertised car cleaner, and the next second, when you are out of the car wash, your car is as clean as a whistle. The ad is funny, challenging, and makes sense. And you are the crazy uber-cool stuntman doing it!

The graphics in all the versions of the game were decent, but the PS2 version of Stuntman doesn’t look very good. There are minor framrate issues-but keep in mind, even a split-second choppiness in this sort of a game can hurt your performance. Set-piece explosions look good, and the camera does a good job at most times, to follow your car effectively. There is some serious potential for the graphics in the next generation of consoles though.

The audio in the game is good. However, many tweaks have to be made. First off, you perform stunts on the order of the director, who’ll bark them into your ear while you drive. Although you can hear it most of the time, there are certain sequences when the background music is louder than the instructions, which will force you to restart the sequence. On the whole, though, the background music does well to keep you thrilled, while the orders given to you are sharp and understandable.

Stuntman Ignition is a great experience for gamers who want to play something different. Although the missions are quite less, and the multiplayer concept is half-baked, it is a blast while it lasts.

Universe at War Earth Assault

March 19, 2008 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

Developed by Petroglyph studios, makers of Star Wars: Empire at War, comes a new game, Universe at War: Earth Assault. The game starts in the year 2020 where human beings are facing extinction. It is a real time strategy game consisting of three new factions. These are the Hierarchy, Novus and Masari. Each of these factions play differently in terms of resource gathering and structure building, with the Heirarchy being the highlight of the game, in uniqueness, and in sheer fun of stomping out the opposition.

Our planet, Earth is infested by huge walkers, from the Hierarchy faction. They travel across stomping us  poor human beings. The human military try to marshal their insignificant number of existing troops and do their best in trying to eliminate the alien walkers. Unfortunately, their actions could be best compared to a fly trying to kill an elephant by banging it’s head on it–brave, but extremely foolish and inconsequential. These walkers create grunts which harass and kill innocent civilians. With almost all their forces destroyed, the human military make their last stand and are ready to give up and die, when, out of the blue, come more aliens. Luckily for us, these aliens are intent on destroying the Hierarchy, and don’t mind us. They are the Novus. This faction consists of androids who help the human military in preventing the Hierarchy from doing more damage to the human base.

This is the skeletal storyline provided in the game. A standard ho-hum sci-fi story presented in all of its soporific glory.

The game is a real time strategy game consisting of three new factions. These are the Hierarchy, Novus and Masari. Each of these factions play differently in terms of resource gathering and structure building.

The Hierarchy gather resources by sucking in cattle,  and humans, scrap metal, basically anything they can find. This is made possible by their reaper drones. These reaper drones are giant sized walking machines that have the capacity to absorb waste and convert it into fuel for powering their supply centers.

The Novus gather resources in a slightly more distinguished fashion. They have small harvesters that absorb waste from houses and nearby home sheds. It is quite interesting that they can absorb waste from the debris of fallen enemies. For instance, when you destroy some of the enemies that invade your base, your harvesters can gather the debris of these enemies and process it for producing energy. This in turn powers up the base.
The Masari are the remnants of a clan who were once destroyed by the Hiererachy. These people can be thought of as the Cuotl faction in Rise of Legends. Unlike the Hierarchy and the Novus factions, the Masari do not rely on harvesters to feed them energy. They gather resources through light energy.

In this way, Universe at war: Earth Assault tries to diversify it’s gameplay.

The Hierarchy do not focus on building structures. They have reaper drones that summon  Hierarchy walkers. These walkers are giant sized aliens which have two towering arms and a centre phase which emits laser beams. Surely, the presence of the Hierarchy walkers is intimidating to any faction on the battlefield. There are three types of Hierarchy walkers. These are the Habitat Walker, Assembly Walker and Science Walker. Each of these walkers have hardpoints which are customizable joints of the Hierarchy walkers. These can range from extra plating to pods for training infantry. The Habitat Walker is the primary walker of the Hierarchy faction. They are the cheapest but comparatively, the easiest to kill.The Assembly Walker are more powerful than the Habitat Walker in addition to having more hardpoints.The Science Walker emits radiation that destroys anything in it’s path in addition to having numerous customizable hardpoints. Each walker has a it’s own special structure which can be built on one of it’s hardpoints. The concept of the hardpoints and their various customizable options is revolutionary and is a commendable effort.

The 9 Irritating Aspects Of Online Gaming

February 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Features, General

Have you ever faced a situation when your gaming experience is spoilt just because of a few irritating human factors during online play? Of course! We delve into the very pits of gaming hell to bring you this hateful article. We present to you…The Top 9 (We couldn’t think of a 10th) Blood-curdling, Cheek-scratching, Hair-pulling, "OMFG-I-so-totally-HATE-you" irritating aspects of online gaming.

9. N00bs:

Yes, I’m sure the Pope hates them too, spoiling the already nonexistent gaming time he has. “But, Pray tell, who are these demonic fiends?” you ask. Do not cry then, as we present a

harsh reality check to you. Noobs, or n00bs, are gamers who are relatively new to the game that you are playing. While everyone is a noob at some point, most gamers take less time to learn different aspects of the game. Most importantly, almost everyone plays, or should play through, at least half an hour in the single player aspect of any game, before they log on to multiplayer. The single player aspect of any game teaches a gamer the different aspects of the game. This way he can become skillful at the game before going online in a vain attempt to pwn (thats "own" for the noobs -Ed) someone. However, a lot of people nowadays jump to the online mode of the game, and ask other players how to play the game, or even ghastlier, PRETEND that they know all about the game, and end up doing something very stupid, like blowing themselves up, or killing their teammate. When asked about their perverted decisions, these vile, wretched creatures, with a brainpower less than a demented monkey, would pitifully exclaim, “Hey! You’re the noob, NOOB!” all the while setting fire to themselves and jumping in front of an enemy stronghold, filled with snipers.

Disgusting, you say? Choking on your own vomit already? Ha! Then do not even go near that scroll button on your mouse. Run.

8. Laaaaaaaag! :

Well, a good gamer, with good skills, interesting to battle against, but fails miserably to even pose a challenge, just because he either has a crappy 56K modem, or lives in the vast

deserts of the (you guessed it) middle east.
Lag issues have been persistent for a long time, and by far the worst sufferers have been us, the gamers in the middle east, who pray everyday, that their ISP’s would provide their countries with a better internet connection.

Lag means that your internet connection is slow, compared to the other people you are playing the game with. This often results in humorous and frustrating situations… Humorous for them, Keyboard-chuckingingly frustrating for you.

“Meh..internet connections shouldn’t hinder one from reaching his true potential!”, you say? Well, you can keep saying that after I shoot your character in the head and tea-bag him a few times before shooting "WTF!PWNED!" on the wall beside him. All this while, you will do nothing but watch the horror as the shots you tried to fire land exactly on your opponent…who was present there 10 seconds ago.

7. Spamming:

What spamming is effective in circulating is widespread hatred among all gamers to the

particular product being advertised. Expect curses galore, wild rage and some pretty stupid insults thrown at the spammer, before kicking him out of the game. Still, the distraction would have provided even a noob to creep up behind you and kill you with a knife or with his bare hands. Owned!!

6. Mutherf***ing Incessant Cursing:

I admit I’m not a saint. I curse when I keep losing against the final boss in Conan. I curse when I die repeatedly in G.R.A.W. But, I don’t think anyone should curse as much as some people do in online games.

Suffice to say that online gaming shouldn’t really be recommended for children. Ironically, it is mostly 10-year olds who keep cursing blatantly, and for no reason. These children (of Satan) are capable of spouting utter nonsense, and much worse, if you care to keep your headphones in your ear, or you actually DON’T kick them out of your server, pronto.

Read no more. Watch the insanity for yourselves:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=ham0pp2XxFc

5. Uber-nerdy Gaming Talk:

Many words used in gaming language are cool, not because they sound so, but they effectively convey what feelings we are trying to express. Like when I type "Rofl pwned!!", I mean that I killed or humiliated my opponent in a way which was funny. Similar terms like- gg, owned, OMG, WTF etc. have become very popular, as they are easy and fast to type, and convey your message.

This is where it becomes ludicrous and downright scary:

OMFGG I TOTALLY PWNED YOU’RE A$$E$ LOLZ WTF WTF WTF??! I R0XX0RZ OWN3D OWN3D ROFLMAO PRAWN (yes, prawn) I OWN J00!! BIAAATCH3Z!! HALO 3 FO LIFE!!

You see, gaming language, or nerd talk has become so advanced, and has so many damn numb3rs in it, scientists must be figuring out equations from such conversations and sharing it with their buddies, and having a good laugh about it. Seriously, is this what we want?

Blue Dragon

October 14, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

That is the line you will often hear from the game’s protagonist, Shu, when he’s in a bad shape. This line, however, also uncannily represents the game’s eternal fight against mediocrity.

Blue Dragon has a number of strong points like a very deep character customization system, huge and varied worlds to explore, and dragons! What makes it a disappointment is that all of the above, except the dragons, have a negative aspect to them. There is no clear winner, in the end, and the game literally shouts out “Meh!” to you, right in your face.

The story is usually the main aspect of an RPG, so having a lackluster story is kind of a suicide mission right from the start. While you’d expect the game to shout “Kamikaze!” and end it’s virtual life, it instead chooses to slog on, like a person on the verge of dying, but somehow tries to fight back (insert ‘Goku’ remarks here). It is packed in 3 discs, a feat which no other XBOX 360 game has dared to do, and with good reason. 3 Discs is an obvious indication that the game created is too long, too big for most people to play or enjoy, and in most cases, you will fall asleep trying to finish off the 1st disc.

A lackluster story prevents Blue Dragon from reaching the great expectations of players. The basic plotline is that 3 friends Shu, Jiro and Kluke have their village attacked by a Land Shark. Somehow, whenever these Land Sharks arrive, a set of purple clouds will follow them, and this happens every ten years. Shu, Jiro and Kluke stop the land shark, but find out that the Land Shark is actually an ancient weapon of some sort and confront the evil villain behind all this, Nene. Obviously, he’s too strong for them, and right after this, a mysterious friend gives them 3 light spheres, which they eat, and sprout out blue shadows in the shape of a dragon for Shu, a minotaur for Jiro, and a Phoenix for Kluke. These shadows can attack their enemies, and make them much stronger. After this they travel all over the world, find new friends and enemies like Marumaro, a bunny-like thing and Zola a sultry mercenary (just my type!), and try again to save their village and the world from disaster. While the story is nothing new, it’s the pace that really suffers and bogs the game down. You will spend the first 5-8 hours of the game in the same place, and the story slogs on throughout the 1st disc.

The sad part is, the pace of the story veers all the way around in the 2nd disc, where it is quite nice, with a few decent twists in it, and the ending in the 3rd game is pretty good, but the million-dollar question anyone who’s reading this review would probably asking “What’s the point?” sadly, has no answers.

Almost every respectable RPG has a manual save-system, and the reasons for this are obvious and in plenty. Maybe you want to explore some other part of the environment before facing a tough enemy. Maybe you want to rack up some more experience, and get leveled up before facing it. Maybe you are at a point in the game, where one decision you take will change the course of the game completely, and you want to choose the other part too, without having to start the game all over again. Or maybe, you just want to quit Oblivion, the Blue Dragon revolution is here. This game has, drum roll please, save-points! (Audience laugh track starts to play).Clearly, the game designers have some twisted pleasure in watching gamers playing Blue Dragon start over from a save-point crossed 45 minutes back, to come back to where they played before (laugh all you want Artoon!). There are checkpoints which you cross just before entering a boss battle, but if you quit your game, you have no option but to start over. There is a save option in the menu, but this is ‘activated’ only when you are in a village of sheep, which again points out the same question “What’s the point?”

Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars

June 1, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

The highly successful Command and Conquer series has made its debut on the XBOX 360, and what a debut it is!

 The story is basically like this: It’s in the future, and a resource called Tiberium is polluting the environment. However, this Tiberium can be used as a resource, and this has spun off a war between Kane, the leader of the Brotherhood of Nod, the GDI, and a new race called the Scrin, which you will get to see and play only later in the game. The story is narrated in the old-school Command and Conquer ways, with lots of full-motion video sequences telling you your mission. This may sound cheesy and it is, but it brings back a feeling of nostalgia for players like me, who have played and loved the old C&C Tiberium Sun.

The controls for the XBOX 360 may take some time getting used to, but after that, you’ll feel right at home with the game. The game’s controls are similar to that of Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II, with a few tweaks in selection of units etc.

The game features 2 campaigns at first: the GDI and the Nod, which will take a good 10 hours to finish, and after that, you get to play as the Scrin, which totally rocks, and after this, you get some bonus missions which are real fun to play, and this is just the single-player mode. There is a multiplayer mode, with lots of different types of battles you can play, and hopefully, once you have owned your opponents ( or if they’ve owned you…) you can humiliate them by making your ugly face even uglier and laughing at them, all through the goodness of the Xbox Live Vision Camera. And don’t forget the achievements. So, 2 big thumbs up for the replay value.

The game’s 3 factions are vastly diverse. The GDI are the heavy-duty combatants, who excel in long battles due to their heavy armor. The Nod are the sly, creepy ones, who, while fighting a battle, will slip some of their units right into the base, with their stealth, and cripple your base and your economy. The Scrin, well, they are the Alien race, and even the lowest units in their hierarchy look pretty impressive, and the greatest fun from the game, is when you can play as the Scrin.

Tiberium Wars, like the previous Command and Conquer entrant- Generals, is a rush-and-attack game, and while you can go slow, and build up your defenses, you need to be really skilled in that, as the game is optimized for a game to be for about 15-20 minutes.

There a vast number of units present in the game, and though some of them have been borrowed form Generals, the majorities are different. Again, the units are vastly diverse between factions, and you’ll have a ton of fun trying to figure out the best counter-unit for one of your opponent’s unit.

If you have a great PC and an XBOX 360, you’d best be going for the PC one. This is mainly due to the framerate problems in the XBOX 360 versions. I would have thought that EA would have fixed that up, as the framerate in Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II, was quite abysmal during the big battles. They have tweaked it, however, but that does not rule out that framerate drops many notches below during battles. It is very frustrating to see your infantry move at a snail’s pace to a building, when under heavy fire. If they could have given us the option to maybe lower some of the graphical settings in the game, this would not have occurred. This is not to say that the game looks bad, though. The units and structures look very detailed, and the explosions are a treat to the eye. The structures look very varied from faction to faction, and the Scrin buildings look really good. It seems as if EA has taken a page out of its Def Jam: Icon game and made a few of the colors, the fire especially, a mixture of yellow and black and the result is spectacular. Somehow, the colors in the XBOX 360 version look washed out, in comparison to the PC version, but this is not really a major issue.

Audio-wise, the game does a superb job. The voice acting is top-notch, and the background music is good. The explosions sound devastatingly good, and there is nothing much better to hear, than your battleships fire a huge missile all the way across the map, and the KABOOM! it makes.

EA has done a fine job of making a Command and Conquer game for the XBOX 360. This game is not a port of the PC game, and I think that this is the beginning of a whole new Command and Conquer series for the XBOX 360.

Dead Rising

January 19, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Dead rising is an action-adventure game, whose main point is to kill as many freakin’ zombies as you can.

You start off as a budding paparazzi photojournalist, Frank West, who travels to a town to report on the riot going on there. Or so he thinks, as when he gets there, he realizes it’s not a riot, but zombies killing and eating the residents of the town. Since he is going by helicopter, he stops at a helipad on a mall (wow, since when did malls have helipads?), and this is where the whole game is played. There are a few people who have managed to escape the zombies, and have barricaded themselves in it, until an old lady moves the barricade and runs out to the zombies in an attempt to escape her dog. So, the mall is now filled with zombies, and you have to fight them off, and find out what’s going on, in 72 hours, as your helicopter will return back to pick you up at that time. So the whole game is basically timed. The story is not pretty deep, but it is uniquely presented, with about 4 cases you have to finish. Each case is timed, and you have to periodically check your watch to see how much time you have left. In case you are not on time, you will have to start from your last save and try to be on time or else you will die and its game over. In this way, the story doesn’t progress in a linear fashion, which is an interesting aspect of the game.

The game is very fun to play, with tons of replay value, as killing zombies just never gets boring. Another key asset to the gameplay, is that Dead Rising is possibly, the game which has the largest variety of weapons. Anything you can think of, which would be in a mall, can be used as a weapon. From potted plants, to stuffed toys (Yes, you read that right) to chainsaws, to herbs and condiments, to electric guitars, everything is your weapon. Apart from these, for the serious gamer, there are lots of guns and explosives to use in the game. However, one deterring aspect is the save game.

You can only use restrooms or sofas to save, but the problem is there are precious few restrooms to save. There really should have been an autosave feature, this being an action-adventure game or a lot more places to save. When playing some missions you do get allies, but they are never quite useful. Other than the main missions, there is a plethora of side-missions, like escort missions, where you guide people to a safe place, namely the Security Room. These side-missions will give you a ton of Prestige Points (PP) which ups your level, giving you some benefits, like different ways to kill or evade zombies, or having a larger life, or a greater carrying capacity. As you are a photojournalist, you always carry a camera, and taking good photos gets you a lot of Prestige Points. There are 6 basic genres of photos including Brutality, Erotica and Drama.

Taking photos is quite easy to begin with, but difficult to master, but if you do get good enough photos, you get a tremendous amount of Prestige Points. There are two basic ways to kill zombies, melee or throwing stuff. Most weapons can be used both. But some are better in one way than the other. For example, it’s definitely better to throw a TV on a zombie than to actually hit it over their heads, as that takes time, and makes you vulnerable to attacks from other zombies. Other than zombies, there are also Psychopaths, who are sort of mini-bosses, whom you meet quite infrequently.

The graphics in Dead Rising are good, but not really great. You have to give credit to the fact that the game features hundreds of zombies coming at you and is able to fit all of them in the screen, with no drop in framerate whatsoever. However, some more detail could have been done on Frank West’s animations, as his walking looks very weird, almost zombie-like! Also, the lip-synching during cutscenes is quite bad, although the other player models look and walk fine. Explosions have been done quite well and the mall and its stores all look great and very life-like. A special mention should go out to the development team for making the zombies look scary, but at the same time, look like any person would love to hate.

The audio in the game is nothing short of being great. From the sound of whacking a zombie in the face with a baseball bat, to grinding them under a lawnmower, every sound is satisfying. The dialogues in the game are good, and the voice-acting has been carried out very well. The zombies sound stupid and dumb, which is great, as they are meant to sound like that.

On the whole, Dead Rising is a great game, which is fun to play, but becomes very frustrating because of the lousy save game aspect.

Sonic Riders

December 19, 2006 by  
Filed under General, Reviews

Sonic Riders is a game which SEGA hoped would be a fast-paced, entertaining racer, but sadly, the game disappoints.

Sonic Riders is a game that will ride out of your mind, and fast.

The story is ridiculous. Sonic and his friends are just strolling along in a future-city highway, when Dr.Eggman announces that he is holding a grand-prix with the world’s fastest racers, on a hover board, of sorts, called Extreme Gear. Sonic has to compete with some characters called the Babylonian Rogues. Then the story takes the usual twists and turns, like Knuckles making some mistakes, which Sonic has to correct etc. The dialogues are bad. It seems as if SEGA hired a 6 year old to write the story and dialogues! But let’s not talk of such bad things, and instead proceed to the gameplay!

Riding the turbulence is a good, but not fun, way to boost your speed.

Unfortunately, the gameplay, too, is disappointing. It basically mixes racing with some basic boarding tricks. Though the idea is new and innovative, both the aspects (i.e. the racing and the boarding tricks) are very basic and rudimentary, with not a grain of depth in them. There a few maps to choose from, and most of them, though have a lot of hidden areas and shortcuts, are very loosely designed, and are not fun to play in at all. The badly designed maps could have been pardoned, if the racing was good, but it is not so. The players can ride turbulence, that is the wind left by a racer in front of them, and thus get a speed boost. However, it is to be noted that the RACERS ride the turbulence and not YOU. If you guide your racer into the turbulence, they will just ride it, and you don’t have to do anything. It would have been better if there was any room for error, like the racers could fall off; but apparently, they are just too good to make any mistakes.

There are a few tricks you can pull while you are in the air, like a melon, but there is not much of a choice over what you do. More importance is given to how well you land, and you get a grade for that. The minimap is not detailed and is usually not helpful. There are a few pit stops, where you can recharge your power, but this totally slows down the game.
You can also purchase some Extreme Gear in the shops to equip your racer, but what’s the point, if the racing itself is badly designed?

Maps looking colorful are an understatement, in Sonic Riders.

Let me make this clear: The graphics are bad. The character models look bad, there is no good animation, and the maps look mediocre, at best. The graphics of Sonic Riders would have looked good, if it released 3 years ago. The maps were also too colorful for my liking. The cut scenes look good, but that’s about the only aspect of the game which is pleasing to the eye.

The audio in the game overall, is bad. The in-game and menu music are mediocre but however, are loud to the point where I started remembering the roads of India. Thankfully, this can be changed in the settings menu. The sound effects are mostly drowned out by the music, but are nothing great, when they are heard. Also, a grating voice can be heard, at different intervals of the game, like when you land a good trick. It is sad that the sound effects cannot be heard during the game, but that grating, annoying voice can be heard loud and clear.

In conclusion, I can say one word to sum up this full game- Ouch.

Tony Hawks Project 8

December 10, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Tony Hawks Project 8 is the latest entrant in the long list of skater games by Tony Hawks, and this too, does not fail to entertain for a long time.

You start your career as a small-time skater, and hear the news that Tony Hawks is recruiting the top 8 skaters in town, for his new project called Project 8. When you start, you are basically a dirt bag in the list of skaters lined up for Project 8, as you are the 200th ranked player. You claw your way up to the top by completing missions, and other stuff.

You do everything in a city, and the total area is HUGE. There are various streets like the Capitol, Suburbia, Skater Park etc. However, when you start out, you have just a small area, and as you progress, you will end up unlocking various places of the map. The map is very well done, with lots of scope for freestyle maneuvers, and is basically very enjoyable to play in. A compass is also available for navigation, but this is not very well done at all. It is hardly legible, and a city map, like the one in GTA games, would have been a better choice to implement.

Gameplay wise, Tony Hawks Project 8 is terrific. It is deep, as well as being very enjoyable. There’s tons of hidden content you can unlock, including real-life videos of stunts, and animations of tricks taken from the game. The tutorial does a good job of running through the basics, without revealing the more advanced part of the game left for you to unlock. One of the new aspects of the game is the nail-the-trick mode. In this, the camera goes into slow-motion

and zooms in on your feet. At that time, the left stick controls the movement of the player’s left foot, and the right stick does the same to the right foot. Moving the left stick forward moves the players left foot forward, and thus spins or pushes the skateboard. This mode is difficult at first due to it’s strict timing, but once you get the hang of it, nail-the-mode is very useful to get yourself some big combos. Also, the difficulty of each mission in Tony Hawks Project 8 can be chosen. There are 3 difficulty levels for each mission- Amateur, Pro, and Sick. Amateur is the easiest difficulty level and can be finished off easily, and then you proceed onto Pro. If you are happy with Pro or Amateur, there is an option to finish the run and end the mission there, or you can go to the hardest difficulty-Sick.

Sticking to the true nature of Tony Hawks games, the missions in Project 8 are varied, from serious missions to downright wacky ones. One mission requires you to steal the plans of the town’s Clock Tower, and grind your way on telephone wires all the way across the street, reach the tower and change the time, just so that the town’s school leaves the children early. However, the missions themselves are a lot of fun to play, and the extra incentive to finish them

is that you proceed up the ranks of the 200 skaters lined up for Project 8. As you climb up the ranks, more companies will sponsor you like DVS, Birdhouse etc. and thus, you can use their decks, or other accessories. A lot of the game seems to have been sponsored by Nokia, surprisingly. You have a Nokia N93, where you receive video messages informing you about the next mission, or other info.
Project 8 shifts from a fast-paced game to an uncontrollably-super fast game, and this adds more excitement to the game. Expect to play this game for long hours.

The sound in Project 8 is quite good, but not groundbreaking in any manner. The music tracks are good, but you get the feeling that a few of them are not suited for a skating game. The audio, overall, has not changed much from the previous games, which is not a bad thing.

Visually, Tony Hawks Project 8 looks very good, but is marred by glitches. The real players looks superb, but created players often look goofy and artificial. There are a few camera problems, but otherwise, the game does a very good job of showing the players in action. The nail-the-trick mode looks very cool, and the slow-motion animation is excellent. The problem in the graphics in Tony Hawks Project 8 is the bail mode. When you attempt to bail yourself out of a mistake, your player ends up flying in the air, to a great height, and falls down. Not only is this impossible, but it also looks weird. Also, the framerate stutters a bit at places, it is noticeable, but nothing to complain too much about.
Tony Hawks Project 8 was clearly designed only for HDTV’s as most of the text is miniscule and lighting is not proper in SDTV’s. The environment looks great, and the lip-synching has been carried out very well.

If you are a die-hard skating fan, or even have a passing interest in skating, you should definitely get this game.

NHL 2007

November 30, 2006 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

NHL 07 is an ice-hockey simulator from EA Sports. Unfortunately, this game isn’t as much fun as its consoles version.

The Skill Stick system was what set this game different from it’s predecessors. However, you will not take advantage of this system using a mouse and keyboard, as an analog controller is advisable for using this revolutionary system.

Gameplay wise, NHL 07 is the best (and probably the only) ice hockey game for the PC. The season and Dynasty modes are deep and multi-seasonal. Sticking to the true nature of ice- hockey, the game is lightning fast and quite fun. However, much of your enjoyment will be determined by whether or not you have an analog controller. When you play NHL 07 on a keyboard, the gameplay is, at best, mediocre. When you play it on an analog controller, the gameplay’s potential will be fully realized, and NHL 07 will end up being a very fun game, with the Skill Stick system allowing you to make pinpoint passes and lots more.

 The game is at the correct level- neither being too simple, like an arcade game, or too complicated. However, it will be unforgiving for beginners as there is no tutorial.

 All the controls and tips explained in the manual are for the PS2, just like the controls and tips explained for NBA Live 07, and this is quite frustrating.

There are a variety of game modes in the single-player mode, but all of these are mere variations from the main game, and do not offer any depth. The six players in your team are categorized according to their main strengths, like snipers who shoot the puck from a long distance, forwards, who basically are the ones near the opposing goal, and strike the ball from a short distance, defenders, and the goaltender. Mostly, you will be using your forwards on the offensive, and will be rarely using your snipers. In any way, scoring with a sniper is a tough task. Some improvement could have been made in this regard. The AI is good, and quite challenging even on normal difficulty. This is what makes the single-player mode fun and addictive.

The online play in NHL 07 is good, but also lacks depth. There are very few game modes, and only the traditional six-on-six mode is well developed.

Visually, the game looks very good. The TV-style presentation has been captured from real life, and recreated to perfection. The player models are great, too, and the animation is good. The ice looks real, and the marks left by your players look realistic. However, when the graphics zoom one a particular player, the frame rate drops a bit. Overall, you would feel that the graphics could have been top-notch, but aren’t.

The overall audio of the game is quite good. The commentary is good, but not great. The collision sounds are wincingly good. It’s quite pleasing to hear the “thud!” the opposing player creates, as your player tackles or pushes him. The crowd sounds are good, with them booing your player as he commits a foul, or enthusiastically cheering when he scores.

All in all, the PC version of NHL 07 is a good game, and is fun to play, but it somehow feels that EA Sports could have done a better job on developing the PC version of the game and brought it to a level of giving strong competition to its console versions.

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