Saturday, 26 April 2014

Injustice: Gods Among Us

When pioneering fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekken first showed up in western arcades all those years ago, each cabinet earned more than its weight in 20 pence pieces thanks to the solidity of their fighting mechanics. There were no combo trials or challenge towers to distract yourself with - only the gradual discovery of your character's hidden depths through a steady flow of opponents, be they human or otherwise. Even today, this hook keeps diehard enthusiasts coming back for more, but as the genre evolved alongside the console market one thing has become increasingly clear: single-player content can no longer be seen as an optional extra.
The problem is that fighting games tend to come in two different forms. Either they have excellent mechanics with a basic survival mode and a flimsy storyline or they push the boat out in terms of game modes while neglecting the underlying systems. There are notable exceptions like BlazBlue, of course, but why is the union of mechanical depth and solo mileage such a hard combination to crack? NetherRealm Studios almost solved the conundrum with Mortal Kombat, a reboot that backed up its cinematic story mode with competent combat. But now that the team has ditched Nightwolf in favour of Nightwing, has it finally hit the sweet spot?
Just like Mortal Kombat before it, Injustice: Gods Among Us features a Story Mode that puts most other fighting games to shame. With the aid of Lex Luthor, The Joker gets hold of a nuclear bomb, rigs the detonator to Lois Lane's heart (she's also pregnant) and tricks Superman into killing her by making him think she's Doomsday. Understandably miffed, Superman kills The Joker before setting up a new world order where his word is law. Batman then summons superheroes from another dimension - one where The Joker didn't succeed - so he can put a stop to The Man of Steel's tyranny.
As far as comic book capers go this one is a bit on the sporadic side, but to NetherRealms credit, the story manages to accommodate all 24 characters without feeling too disjointed. And while there's far less blood than you'd expect from the Kombat custodians, the game still conveys a sense of darkness that goes beyond the traditional hero versus villain dynamic. The only real regret is that The Joker
never comes into contact with an alternate version of himself, but aside from this missed opportunity, the seven hour completion time offers an engaging story with around 50 fights in total.
On top of Story mode there's also Battles, S.T.A.R.S. Labs and Training. Battles is the obligatory arcade mode but with 20 different paths that range from playing as a random character every single match to defeating every character with just a single health bar. The Training room, meanwhile, is stocked with all the usual suspects like dummy settings and playback functions but goes the extra mile with comprehensive frame data. And last but by no means least, S.T.A.R.S. Labs is the stand-in for Mortal Kombat's challenge tower with 240 missions that each have a primary objective and two secondary objectives.
To say that Injustice has a lot of single player content would be an understatement. If your ISP went down tomorrow and you had to spend a week without the internet, then trying to three star every mission alone would give you plenty to think about. That said, a fighting game will always live or die
by the sophistication of its fighting system. When you set up the perfect opportunity for a complex combo you need to feel like you outplayed your opponent. You also need a roster of characters that offer many different play styles, and in this regard, Injustice feels like a well-rounded package.

The DNA is an evolution of the Mortal Kombat template but with a number of significant changes. The most obvious is the removal of the block button. The game adopts a Street Fighter approach where you simply hold back to shrug off an oncoming assault. This means that cross-ups now play an important part as you have to guess which side your opponent will hit when they jump on you. Another interesting change is the Darkstalkers-style round system. This works the opposite way to a comeback mechanic, as when one player loses all their health before entering the next round, the other player retains all the health they had remaining.
It's a style of engagement that rewards you for dominating your opponent and makes unprecedented comebacks less likely. You don't speed up, become enraged or gain access to a show-stopping super attack just because you're losing. You have to earn each victory. The game uses five primary buttons that include a light, medium and heavy attack in addition to a dedicated Meter Burn button that lets you perform advanced techniques like EX specials and push blocks. There's even an unorthodox Clash system that works like a combo breaker where you can wager metre. If the defending player wins they gain health but if they lose they take additional damage.
Needless to say, meter management is a huge part of what makes Injustice tick, but in terms of etching out a distinctive style of engagement, the Power button and Interactive Objects are this game's killer
hook. The Power button works similarly to BlazBlue's Drive system by complimenting each character with a unique ability that goes beyond the standard special moves. Wonder Woman can switch between her sword and shield stances; The Flash can activate a slow motion effect; and Bane can increase his damage output at the cost of a hefty cool-down period. These inherent systems make an already versatile game feel even more distinctive.

The final piece of the puzzle is the Interactive Objects system. Traditionally, 2D fighting games tend to stick to static arenas with an invisible wall at either end. Injustice bucks this trend by furnishing each stage with a handful of useable items that include grenades in the Batcave and a turret on Stryker's
Island. It sounds a bit Power Stone-esque, but these objects add an extra dimension to the mind-games, and it's one that's less cheap and more tactical. They also make stage selection an important part of the meta-game as power-type character like Doomsday use objects differently to a gadget or acrobatic character like Green Arrow or Harley Quinn.
So yes, mechanics and content can make or break a modern fighting game, and Injustice delivers on those fronts. There is, however, a third element which is equally important, and that's online stability. The netcode that governed Mortal Kombat left a lot to be desired, and although the team have had two years to reduce the impact of input latency, the improvements appear to be marginal rather than game changing. To be fair, my online experience has been predominantly against US opponents in the Ranked and Player Matches, but it's clear that NetherRealm is lagging behind the likes of Arc System and Reverge Labs in this regard.
It's definitely not the worst online rodeo I've ever been invited to, and on all other accounts Injustice is
the complete package. From the way that Catwoman prowls back and forth with her feline dexterity to Harley Quinn's mischievous movements as she brandishes her twin revolvers, the game exhibits an attention to detail that does justice to every DC character. Even the more outlandish creations - like Solomon Grundy with his zombie-style attacks - have been animated to a particularly high standard.
One question you might ask yourself is whether Injustice is better than the likes of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 or Street Fighter 4. If anything, NetherRealm have crafted a fighting game experience that's less concerned with which is "better" and more with which style of combat you prefer. A more relevant question would be which fighting game caters for the most types of players - be they arcade stick veterans, casual fighter fans or players who just want to have something to do once arcade mode is finished. All we can say is that Injustice offers justice for all.

NetherRealm Studios, led by creative director Ed Boon, has taken a slight break from the chaotic and gruesome action that is featured within the Mortal Kombat franchise and has instead worked diligently on bringing the DC Comics Universe to the forefront with Injustice: Gods Among Us. - See more at:
NetherRealm Studios, led by creative director Ed Boon, has taken a slight break from the chaotic and gruesome action that is featured within the Mortal Kombat franchise and has instead worked diligently on bringing the DC Comics Universe to the forefront with Injustice: Gods Among Us. - See more at:
NetherRealm Studios, led by creative director Ed Boon, has taken a slight break from the chaotic and gruesome action that is featured within the Mortal Kombat franchise and has instead worked diligently on bringing the DC Comics Universe to the forefront with Injustice: Gods Among Us. - See more at:

Friday, 25 April 2014

Devil may cry 4

devil may cry 4 can be played in pc, x-box and ps3.If you play Devil May Cry 4 on the PC, you should expect all of the same visceral carnage featured in the console versions, but there's a caveat: You'll need a gamepad. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can try using the game's keyboard control scheme, but it's awkward and frustrating. However, assuming that you have a decent controller, you'll find that this excellent sequel is Capcom's finest PC release in years.

It's a challenging experience, though its smoother difficulty curve makes it far more accessible than Devil May Cry 3. In this vein, you're given an excellent number of gameplay choices that help you tailor the challenge to your preferences. You can initially choose one of two difficulties (and if you want to cry like a little kid, you can unlock several more), and you can even choose whether you want generally excessive, and that isn't a bad thing. Stylish action, terrific boss fights, and beautiful, melodramatic cutscenes will inspire you to push forward, and they serve as an appropriate reward for a well-played sequence of demon slaying. 
the game to perform some combos for you automatically. No, you aren't apt to find Devil May Cry 4 to be excessively tough on your first play-through, although it is no walk in the park, either. Nevertheless, it is
It isn't surprising that a game featuring the charmingly insane Dante would be so over the top, though the series' famed antihero is not the real star this time around. Don't worry; you'll still get to play as Dante, and he brings with him a good selection of weapons and fighting styles, just as Devil May Cry fans would expect. But you'll spend the majority of the game as newcomer Nero, who has a selection of impressive and elegant moves of his own. Nero is an excellent character, capable of delivering a few wisecracks, a brooding glance, and a heartfelt plea of love to his
beloved Kyrie in a few moments' time. He's clearly cut from the same cloth as Dante, and it's a bit disappointing that the game doesn't explore this connection in more detail. Regardless, you'll want to follow Nero's exploits as he struggles to learn the truth about his own religious organization, The Order of the Sword, and Dante's apparent murder of its leader.
The story doesn't offer up a whole lot of surprises, but it embraces a certain attitude of self-indulgence. Cutscenes are overwrought, visually stunning affairs, and are among the best you are likely to see in any game in recent years. The theatrical dialogue, impossibly athletic animations, and swooping camerawork make for quite the spectacle, but somehow it's a spectacle that manages to stay on just the right side of cheesy. Devil May Cry 4 takes itself seriously, but not too seriously, so for every
shocking, bloody cutaway, there's an equally funny quip that helps keep the narrative in check. There are a couple of cringe-worthy exceptions, such as one scene in which Dante decides he's a tango dancer (don't quit your day job!), but overall, you're apt to find the scenes to be gorgeous, thought-provoking, and emotionally stirring.
Nero's claim to fame is his demonic arm, better known as the devil bringer. With it, you can grab on to distant enemies and pull them in, pick them up, and slam them around for some excellent combos, plus deliver a few other surprises. These mechanics are easy to pull off, and they represent a general shift from the defensive gameplay of Devil May Cry 3 to a more aggressive approach. As you play, you can pull off some incredibly satisfying moves, both in the air and on the ground, and the most violent of these are accompanied by slick, bloody animations and appropriately gory-sounding thwacks and slashes.
Timing these various moves can be tricky, but like in the previous games, eventually the subtleties of your combos will click, and in time you'll be pulling enemies toward you, slashing them into bite-size pieces, and smashing them into one another with glee.
The devil-bringer moves go a long way, which is probably a good thing, given that Nero has neither as varied an arsenal as Dante nor access to multiple fighting styles. However, he does have his standard sword, the red queen, and a revolver known as blue rose, and later on he earns another weapon that franchise fans will enjoy seeing in action. As you progress, you will earn proud souls based on your performance in any given mission, and with them, you can purchase new combos and upgrade existing ones. And you'll need them to handle droves of demons that get progressively tougher--and which are awesome to look at, to boot. You can choose these new moves individually, or you can let the game autoselect them for you based on how varied you want your array of attacks to
be. It's worth noting that you can't really make a mistake here; if you don't like the move, or if there is a more powerful upgrade available to you, you can unlearn what you have purchased for a full refund and use the souls for something else.

You'll also encounter a number of secret missions scattered around, and you'll no doubt find them to be the most challenging aspect of the game. In some cases, you have to execute a certain move a set number of times in a row, or dispatch every demon within the allotted time. Although those missions are challenging, others require you to have purchased a particular move before you can manage it. If at first it seems that some of these missions are simply unbeatable, have faith and return to it later. There's a good chance that you were simply missing a piece of the puzzle. You aren't required to do these missions, but the orb fragment that you earn is a perfectly fine reward, and accomplishing these difficult tasks is incredibly gratifying.

About halfway through the game, you'll take control of Dante, and you'll likely go through a period of adjustment while you get used to the change in gameplay techniques. Frankly, the devil bringer is a great mechanic, and losing it is a bit of a disappointment, considering that it's likely to be the center of your fighting style. Instead, you'll have a new set of actions and combos to get used to, new weapons, and four (eventually five) fighting styles. Yet once your arsenal of melee weapons and guns expands
(Pandora's Box is a favorite), you'll enjoy their cheerful boldness. There's a lot more variety here than with Nero, and it's a lot of fun to switch styles and weapons on the fly, just to find more interesting and flashy ways of crushing demons to a pulp.

In addition to the dazzling action, you'll work your way through some light puzzles and platforming sequences. The puzzles aren't tough, but they do require you to roam around a bit from time to time, bashing on some switches, using a special device to slow down time, and accomplishing some other odds and ends. They help break up the pace, but all too often these breaks result in lulls that last a bit too long, making you long for another crazy demon attack. Some of the platform sequences are fine, requiring you to use the devil bringer as a grappling hook to fling yourself around, though some of the more standard sequences suffer from bad camera angles and an annoying tendency for the camera to change positions in midjump.

Don't let the variety of weaponry and special moves lull you into believing that the rest of Devil May Cry 4's design is similarly diverse. In fact, the many different ways of killing enemies is quite a stark contrast to the repetition at the heart of the experience. It's true that backtracking and repeated environments have been a problem in past games in the series, but the newest entry takes these issues to an even higher level of monotony. Many successive levels take place in the same castle hallways and forest meadows, and when you switch to Dante, you visit them all over again. Granted, most of these areas are easy on the eyes due to their gorgeous architecture and grand outdoor vistas. Yet when you see them over and over again, and when some of the simple puzzles have you traipsing back and forth, you will wish for new sights. It has the effect of making a seemingly grand adventure feel oddly limited.
That repetition even makes its way into the admittedly spectacular boss fights. These battles are easily the shining star of Devil May Cry 4, and each boss is wildly different from the last, requiring split-second timing and good control over your reflexes. From a giant toad to a hulking stone behemoth, these bosses are cleverly designed and a good deal of fun. Yet as Dante in the second half of the game, you'll face all of the same bosses that you fought as Nero. Although the game could have benefitted from some new blood during these missions, the differences in styles between the two at least lend some diversity to the repeated bosses and test the newest additions to your arsenal. However, amazingly (and irritatingly), Capcom brings most of them out for a third time in the game's padded and plodding penultimate mission. Yes, these fights are fun, but forcing most of them on you three times is overkill.
On consoles, Devil May Cry 4 is beautiful; on the PC, it positively dazzles. The game includes DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 modes, and both look spectacular and run beautifully. Both Nero and Dante are fluid in motion, and they showcase a good deal of flair and subtlety in their movements. The more damage a move does, the more astonishing it looks onscreen, and few games can approach the pure razzle-dazzle of Nero jumping into the air, his cape flying and the glowing devil bringer tossing lumbering demons around with matchless grace. From an environmental design standpoint, the visuals can be gorgeous to behold, and moments like your first glimpse of Gran Album Bridge are bound to take your breath away.

The sound design, like the storytelling, is merrily over the top. The vibrant brutality of your most impressive moves is accompanied by equally squeamish and powerful sound effects. Fortunately, the talented voice cast never hams it up, even when delivering the most melodramatic lines. As Nero, Johnny Yong Bosch can be both remarkably sincere and sneeringly sarcastic, and his superb acting makes for one of the most appealing new game characters to be introduced in some time. But you may not find the music as universally appealing. This is the one area where Devil May Cry 4 feels too clich├ęd; it relies on the standard heavy-metal grinds that accompany most demon-inspired games and films, and replays the same couple of tunes during combat ad nauseam. Luckily, it never gets in the way, so though it may not stand out, it doesn't stick out, either.

The PC version doesn't support online leaderboards, but it includes two excellent additions: Legendary Dark Knight mode and turbo speed. LDK mode fills the screen with insane numbers of demons at a time and delivers plenty of excitement without becoming unfairly difficult. You can turn on turbo speed before heading into a mission, which hastens the tempo and makes for a great thumb workout. All told, Devil May Cry 4 is a great game, and it delivers a lot of quality action that will please fans without alienating those new to the series. If you liked previous entries, you'll find what you're looking for here; and if you were turned off by Devil May Cry 3's insane challenge, then you'll feel a lot more comfortable this time around.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)

Drive carefully, wear a seatbelt at all times...
These are some of the words you'll be hearing during the opening scene of the latest sequel in EA's
long-lasting racing franchise, Need for Speed. I would also like to stress that here at AT we fully encourage safe driving and we sincerely hope that all you drivers out there take care while you're behind the wheel. However, a fair warning might be in order. Need for Speed: Most Wanted has nothing whatsoever to do with safe driving, as it may impel you to do things you wouldn't normally do... like ramming your car straight into a gas station at high speed (although, I hear this is one of Smapdey's favorite pass times - somehow, the bastard always manages to survive). Luckily, the game doesn't involve running over pedestrians or pink prams at zebra crossings. On the other hand, you may look forward to destroying practically anything else that gets in your way (that's also something we do not encourage in real life).
At the outset, I decided to disregard the usual arguments related to EA's continuous tendency to
extensively drain the life out of successful franchises. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I wanted to be as objective as possible, even though I still couldn't shake off initial skepticism and the presumption that EA would cock things up with just another fancy makeover. Oddly enough, things turned our better then I hoped. Much better in fact.
The first thing you'll come to appreciate is the slick and stylish design. Everything from vehicles, characters and even the in-game ambiance sort of reflects the spirit of illegal street racing - various customizable car logos, street graffiti, bleak industrial zones to drive through, etc. The designers were aiming for a different visual appeal in this game. As players rush
through various types of urban settings, they will be able to see a remarkable amount of detail in the backdrop. The blurry effect once more conveys a sense of tremendous speed, while gamers rush through streets in their fancy vehicle. Although slightly overused, the motion blur still works, and it corresponds brilliantly with superb reflections, particle effects and dynamic lighting. Moreover, the inclusion of real-time weather creates the proper atmosphere and makes things even cooler.
The audio is not without faults. Sound effects, especially those in the background could've been richer, but overall it's completely satisfying for an arcade racing game. The selection of songs is pleasing, although the game would've
benefited from additional music genres. Everything else from engine bursts, to the sounds of highway flyovers rushing above your head, is realistic and absolutely first-rate. To spice things up a wee bit, EA lined-up a decent cast to portray the back story. Brooke Burke's cameo last year in NFSU2 was awarded to Josie Maran this time around - she plays one of the chief characters (btw, she's hot and wants to help you, so don't say no).
The concept of NFS: Most Wanted is essentially the same as in the Underground series. You climb the Blacklist of racers until you reach the top. As before, in order to gain recognition, you must first complete a series of different challenges to prove you got what it takes to be a top street racer. The Blacklist is merely a component inserted to correspond with the game's spirit and the cops that become increasingly interested in your activities as you build up your reputation as a street racer. It also ties well into the previous game, as the player now finally steps into the circle of top racers. Yep, the NFS series sees the return of police vehicles, choppers, etc. Of course, you'll be able to relax from intense cop chases by racing in other events that have minimum to no police presence. Unfortunately,
that won't be enough to impress other street racing challengers, so in the end, you're gonna have to provoke the police so that other racers would want to face you on the road. The idea was implemented excellently, establishing a fluent gameplay.
Another familiar ingredient is the Free Roam mode (first introduced in NFSU2), which allows players to drift through various parts of town, and choose any racing challenge they want. This is one of the most thrilling aspects of the game. You can either drive through the city, locating certain tasks on your own, or you can jump straight to the Safe House (or garage if you will) and launch racing events directly. There's a great variety of challenges at hand, and it's entirely up to you to decide which one to complete first. This open-ended approach, as you may find, is one of the
commendable parts of NFS: Most Wanted. It represents a considerable improvement over typically linear single-player campaigns we usually see in today's racing games.
Mixing elements like Free Roam and intense street races with exciting cop chases, sets an appropriate tempo to the whole game. You're looking at an exhilarating and fast-paced ride through well-planned out urban and country districts. Still, that doesn't mean you won't have time to cool off. Players can make stops along the way to fine-tune their vehicle. Customizing your favorite ride is a more detailed process when compared to the last game. This time around you also have to consider the Rap Sheet, which is used by the police to document reckless drivers as they pull off stunts on the road.
This brings me to the very essence of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. One of your main tasks is to go through so-called Milestone events, which involve more than just Drag and Circuit racing. Basically, it denotes getting the cops' attention. As you progress on the Blacklist, the police will have more and more info on you and your preferred vehicles. The cool thing is that you'll be equipped with a device that keeps detailed track of Rap Sheets. When the cops have a clear description of your car, that means it would be a good idea to head out and buy yourself a set of brand new wheels or maybe just give it a new paintjob, windshield; oh and just so you know, there's a lot of new cars to choose from,
and each and every one of them can be customized visually and mechanically in any way you see fit. So, apart from having to deal with cops on the road, you'll also have to take the time to think of the best course of action to avoid getting busted.
During actual races, the cop AI never really proved to be exceptionally smart. Usually, they just stick on to you like glue and then they just get smashed to bits by obstacles on the track or by your indestructible car. Realism is not the point anyhow. The point is to floor it and do your best to avoid anything that gets in the way of a good race. In any case, the AI in general still provides enough of a challenge for players. Plus, the police will set up road blocks, they'll send SUV's to meet you head on, and let's not forget those persistent helicopters. Anyways, it's a decent challenge all the way.

I guess there is one thing that annoyed me. There's a number of racing events with scripted AI that demonstrated strict and predetermined movement for civilian vehicles - trucks, cars, vans, etc. So, each time you play the game, they will appear in the same lane right in front of you, which looks kinda lame and may reduce the challenge a bit.
One of the best innovations is the possibility of locating destructible structures while the cops are on your tail. Just keep your eyes peeled (either on the radar or on the road itself) until you come across something potentially dangerous, like a huge storage silo or even the screen of a drive-in theatre. Colliding with these structures will often make them crash right onto police vehicles or will effectively block their way. Should the police be right on you, don't waste your time trying to shake them off, just ram into the nearest 18-wheeler transporting cars or logs and presto... the pathetic cop car is out of action. Cool no doubt, but above all extremely fun!
Now that I think of it, vehicle handling was almost too simple in NFS: Hot Pursuit. This clearly progressed throughout the series (i.e. NFSU and NFSU2). It's safe to say that NFS: Most Wanted is perfectly balanced between real-life steering and physics and arcade-style handling.
In short, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is very addictive and it has the potential to lure any gamer, regardless of what genre he prefers playing. However, I did run into several drawbacks. The aforementioned AI flaws and a small variety of tunes. Otherwise, I cannot deny I had a lot of fun with this game and the fact that I ended up playing it for days (and long sleepless nights). I'd happily play through it again, after I've completed the Career mode.
Sadly, we didn't get a change to test the Online mode, but a few LAN races were a sufficient demonstration for the game's multiplayer potential.
If EA continues to make sequels like this, then there's much hope for the future. I think they need to stick to the recipe that made this title as good as it is. In spite of some of the negative things we've been saying about the giant publisher's questionable strategies, we have to give them credit where credit is due. Namely, they sure know how to combine elements to make a top-quality arcade racer. NFS: Most Wanted didn't exactly elevate the series, but it successfully mixed all the ingredients that made the previous games addictive to play.

Imagine someone you love has an obvious annoying habit – they chew with their mouth open, pick their nose, drink far too much far too soon, have the sort of piercing laugh that strips paint at thirty paces. Do you tell them? Do you just grin and bear it and hope that you’re the only one who notices? Do you try to avoid seeing them when easily wound up?
Imagine someone you love has an obvious annoying habit – they chew with their mouth open, pick their nose, drink far too much far too soon, have the sort of piercing laugh that strips paint at thirty paces. Do you tell them? Do you just grin and bear it and hope that you’re the only one who notices? Do you try to avoid seeing them when easily wound up?
Imagine someone you love has an obvious annoying habit – they chew with their mouth open, pick their nose, drink far too much far too soon, have the sort of piercing laugh that strips paint at thirty paces. Do you tell them? Do you just grin and bear it and hope that you’re the only one who notices? Do you try to avoid seeing them when easily wound up?

Tomb Raider 2013

It was when Lara Croft shot a would-be rapist through the mouth that I knew Tomb Raider was going to be different. It’s not often that a single moment in a video game forces you to sit back, pause, and think about what just happened. That moment, less than an hour into Square Enix’s reboot of the franchise, was one of them.
It was symptomatic of a game with maturity, realism, and polish. That moment, amongst others peppered throughout the title, was clear evidence that Tomb Raider was to be a sophisticated and engaging experience.
Tomb Raider centres on the actions of Lara Croft, a young archaeologist searching for the lost kingdom of Yamati. Gone is the crass porn-star portrayal of the middle nineties, and instead gamers are
presented with a powerful and emotionally complex character that adds real depth to the Tomb Raider story.
Lara, along with a well balanced mix of characters whose stories are carefully developed throughout the game, begins her journey aboard the ship Endurance, searching for Yamati off the coast of Japan. The ship is attacked by a mysterious and ferocious storm, and Lara finds herself stranded on a savage and violent island.
The game is presented as a playable movie, and is clearly influenced by the climb, shoot, solve mechanic of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. This is a style that we have become familiar with but thankfully Tomb Raider has resisted the urge to copy it slavishly. Instead, Square Enix have introduced simple RPG skills and upgradeable items, deepening and improving the the title’s cinematic experience.
And what an experience it is. Free from the annoying constraints of actual people and real explosions, the developers at Crystal Dynamics have created an action romp that would put even Michael Bay to
shame. Tomb Raider is a hell of a ride, and its filmic feel is incredibly well developed throughout the entire gameplay experience — a feat of aligned game design that is rare to see, and even rarer to see mastered.
What immediately sets Tomb Raider aside from its more asinine peers is the way it forces you to connect with Lara. Gone is the busty bombshell of its heyday, and instead Crystal Dynamic have created a female lead that is presented with real humanity. To call Tomb Raider an example of feminist gaming might be stretch — too often Lara still needs to rely on the guidance and protection of the men around her, and the main narrative is still based around the tired trope of a damsel in distress (this time, Lara’s friend, Samantha), but it's certainly better than most.
Lara’s characterisation is excellent. Little things — the way she clutches her abdomen throughout the entire game after being gored in the first 10 minutes; the shrieks of genuine fear she makes when leaping towards a cliff face — force home both her fragility, and her resilience. It's powerful stuff and
is a real credit to Rhianna Pratchett’s writing. While Tomb Raider’s dialogue was a bit grating at times, the threat of the Sun Queen, the pacing of the story, and the narrative set-up around the Solarii and the curse of Yamati is well done.

And for a gamer like me that has become increasingly depressed by developers refusing to treat female characters like human beings, the game’s mature portrayal of Lara was a welcome relief. How Crystal Dynamics managed it, I’ll never know. As the credits montage at the end of the game proves, almost the entire production team were exclusively male. With that in mind, Noah Hughes and Cory Barlog can be proud of keeping Lara’s characterisation firmly on course.
They can also be proud of the game mechanic. While there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about it — Uncharted fans will be instantly familiar with the “find yourself in a large area and kill everything
inside it” combat experience — it is well paced, satisfying, and polished.
It is also extraordinarily violent. How Lara responds to this is a little strange. Her first run in with death is as harrowing as we’d expect it to be, but fairly soon she is putting arrows through the necks of unsuspecting Solarii, throwing sand in her victims eyes and burying climbing axes in knees and shoulders. It’s brutal stuff, but after the first 30 minutes she stops batting an eyelid. In fact, at the end of the game Lara can be heard hurling abuse at her prey as she executes them. From wallflower to shinigami is quite the transformation to play through.
But Lara transforms in other ways, too. Alongside the excellent cinematic gameplay (complete with vertigo inducing climbing sections, breathtaking vistas, and varied map design), Crystal Dynamics have introduced a simple skill tree system, and the ability for Lara to upgrade her weapons by finding special parts and collecting metal salvage.

These grinding mechanics are not new, but combined they add an extra imperative to the Tomb Raider experience. Skill points are unlocked through XP, which is gained by hunting animals in the island’s forest or by killing enemies in novel ways, and salvage is collected from boxes of scrap hidden throughout the game’s many playable areas. Unlocking new abilities and objects gives Lara the ability
to do more things, opening up parts of the game that were originally off limits.
One of the only criticisms to be made here is the rather poor menu design on the PC. Sometimes menus would freeze, or would “flip” around on themselves, presenting an unclickable mirror image that you couldn’t exit from, forcing a restart. However, with that gripe out of the way, the ingame items and experience systems are easy to use and intuitive.
In addition to hunting rabbits and collecting cogs, Lara can search for hidden ancient objects or, heaven forbid, raid tombs — which are placed throughout the island and which require a good amount of thoughtful puzzle solving to complete.
It is this second aspect to Tomb Raider that pushes it from a polished cinematic into a worthwhile and engaging gaming experience. By combining Tomb Raider with Batman: Arkham Asylum Crystal
Dynamics have created something that is worth the price on the box. Although it does mean that after a while, the game’s need to allow enough room for its second half creates a slightly unreal experience at the expense of its more serious cinematic partner. As a consequence, there are parts of the gameplay that look over designed or ill-placed. Important objects are simply too obvious, explosive red barrels included.

This may have been a conscious decision to support making console play easier, but it's unnecessary for the PC. Or it could have been simple hand holding by level designers. Either way, it's doubtful Crystal Dynamics expected us to believe that the Solarii had an insatiable fetish for wood, rope, and criss-crossing zip lines.
Square Enix’s Tomb Raider is easily one of 2013’s early standout titles. It’s an experience that every gamer should try to lay their hands on. There is enough direct action for the hard core shooter fan (made easier with the keyboard and mouse), enough scrambling, climbing, and tumbling for the adventure inclined, and enough meaty story and juicy characterisation for gamers craving emotion with their explosions. It's a top-shelf title, and an excellent game.
But above all, Tomb Raider is a mature experience featuring a young, strong woman who - armed with grit, determination, and intelligence - rescues not only her friends but herself as well. Surely there’s a lesson in that for the rest of us.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


The next generation is upon us, and what a better debut for EA Sports to showcase what they can do than what they have accomplished with the Xbox One version of FIFA 14. Keep in mind this reviewer did not have access to a PS4 to do a comparison review, but I can imagine for the most part this review could also pertain to that version as well. FIFA 14 mystifies gamers with a totally new engine that is not just a graphical showcase of higher resolution and added animations (as seen with Madden NFL 25). With the next-gen FIFA 14, the engine has been built from the ground up, and thanks to new visual and physics improvements from their new Ignite engine, the game not only looks smooth, but plays just as
smooth. FIFA 14 takes what was arguably the best sports series of the last generation and starts off with a bang to possibly take that title again to begin this new generation.

The visual jump that FIFA 14 has received from last generation on the Xbox 360 to what you will see on Xbox One is monumental. The new Ignite engine delivers 10 times the animations making transitions between shots and moves silky smooth and as lifelike as any video game has yet to capture up to this point. This new engine also delivers a greater amount of intelligence in which you will notice human-like reaction times, moving instinctively around the pitch, anticipating moves, skipping over tacklers, and even hooking and holding whenever necessary, which makes this new “A.I.” more like interacting with a real life player. The visuals don’t end on the pitch either as you
will notice each stadium reacting like it would in the real world, with stunning 3D crowds and dynamic sideline action captured on over 121 broadcast cameras which help to impact the experience. This is without a doubt one of those launch titles you want to show off to your friends to say, the next generation is here, take a look!
FIFA 14 doesn’t just impress on visuals alone, as there are ton of new gameplay features that really showcase the thought and precision accuracy the development team was going for, and to say the least, they scored a resounding GOOOOOOOOAL here!
Starting with Precision Movement where every step counts as players can plant, pivot, cut and shift with the same aggressiveness, acceleration, and the feeling of real momentum in motion while you move down the pitch. Pure Shot now delivers the intelligence to adjust their stride and approach angle
when aiming and trying to hit the back of the net. Now shots on goal feel more rewarding and satisfying when you launch that perfect strike, and even more gut wrenching when you just miss your mark and it’s over the net or missed by a hair off the bars. Real Ball Physics is essential to this year’s version, and while I was disappointed that the developers saved the Ignite engine for the next generation, it is amazing just how alive the ball feels in FIFA 14 versus versions in the past. Protect the Ball allows gamers greater control when fending off and blocking defenders even while dribbling at full speed. Now you dictate the pace through the midfield as you out muscle opponents for position before receiving the ball, then turn defenders to carve out your opportunities. Team Intelligence provides teammates with better decision making, smarter marking, and improved run tracking. Defenders will now recognize opportunities to provide stronger support and win back possession. Even the attacking players will have new ways to outsmart the opponents and break down defenses more than ever while creating space for themselves to make their way up the pitch and best position themselves for that perfect strike. Other aspects such
as Sprint Dribble Turns and Variable Dribble Touches provide players with greater touch and pace while building superior strategies to gain position while using natural momentum to keep possession of the ball. All this in short breaks down to a smarter, realistic, and better feeling game play experience than offered in the past. While some of the controls have been simplified, I feel that in the end the gameplay has been honed to fit everyone so it isn’t overly complicated to learn, while not taking away from the game’s ultimate authenticity.
FIFA Ultimate Team returns, and for those who have already got their feet wet on current gen and want to bring their teams over to the next generation version, you will be pleased to know that your progress, rosters, in game currency, items, club level, XP, seasons progress, trophy case, leaderboards, accomplishments and career mode reward will all carry over to the new consoles. Top
off another score for Xbox One owners as added Legends have been implemented into your Ultimate Team allowing you to add players such as Pele to your Ultimate Team to now create a relative dream team.

 As for other gameplay modes, FIFA 14 includes Skill Games, Co Op Season mode, Match Day Online (real time suspensions, injuries, rosters), and Career Mode (now more refined and easier to navigate). The online capacity has been moved up to 22 total players (mode dependent) as well. No mode was left behind, and even the Game Face feature has been imported over with great succes.

Now FIFA 14 is available on pc and it has stunning graphics that we will enjoy the whole game for long time.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Batman arkham asylum

Finally, a comic book game based on Batman that's truly a fun and fantastic adventure has arrived on the scene. Rocksteady Studios was just known for Urban Chaos prior to Batman: Arkham Asylum but after this game they're going to be a pretty big name. Today I'm going to look at the PC version of the game .

The story starts out with Batman transporting the Joker to Arkham Asylum and you know it's not going to be as simple as locking him up in one of the cells. The Joker quickly escapes and a large portion of the rogues' gallery for Batman will do battle with the Dark Knight as you try to bring order back to the Asylum. You have to uncover the secret as to why The Joker wanted to be placed at Arkham Asylum and what his ultimate plans on. Along the way you'll
have Commissioner Gordan and Oracle to help you through the game. You'll use your vast array of gadgets, detective skills, and combat prowess to take down the various enemies along the way.

One of the great things about Batman: Arkham Asylum is that it's written by a Batman veteran. Paul Dini worked on Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond so he knows the character pretty well. He was also a writer at DC so if there's one guy who can bring a good Batman story to life in a video game, Paul Dini is it. Here Dini produces a fun storyline that involves many of Batman's villains while not being too corny and outlandish. The story reminds me of some of

Not only that, but many of the great voice talents from the Animated Series lend their talents to the game. Mark Hamill, Jedi extraordinaire and professional voice actor, does an incredible Joker and I was really impressed when I first heard him in the Animated Series. He's got the moxy to give The Joker real life with his incredible talents on the mic. Kevin Conroy's also superb at voicing Batman and out of all the voices that have done him recently, his is my favorite. Arleen Sorkin also returns as the voice of Harley Quinn. In fact, all the voice acting in the game is superb but to hear voices from the cartoon series makes it that much better. But by far, Mark Hamill's Joker tops most everyone in the game. Since he's in control of the island and there are practically speakers everywhere you go, he's always making himself known to you. He's got some truly great lines and Hamill delivers
them at a level like I've never heard before. If there's a Joker performance that defines Hamill, Batman: Arkham Asylum provides it and is one that he should be remembered for for a long time.
the better Animated Series episodes and while it's not going to blow you away with twists and turns, Dini does provide some meat to the action game as well as delivering some fun dialogue to boot.

 Batman: Arkham Asylum does an incredible job in turning you into the Dark Knight. One of the greatest things about Batman is he's a master hand-to-hand fighter. Arkham Asylum absolutely nails his
effectiveness and skill with the Free Flow combat system. As a person who's trained many, many years in all sorts of combat styles Batman can easily battle multiple opponents moving from one enemy to another and dishing out impressive hits and counter attacks when needed. The controls can be simplistic in that you press the attack button and the direction of the enemy you want to attack. Later on you can combine other buttons to do such things as take down enemies or throw them through the air. The engine does do most of the work carrying Batman through the air or along the ground while he kicks and punches his way from one opponent to another but the way it's
done and how graceful he looks in doing this makes the combat a delight to watch. It's almost like a ballet in terms how smoothly he dances around and transitions from one move to the next. You can concentrate your attack on one person but to really get the most efficient way to take down a group surrounding you, directing Batman to do one blow on each person is the most effective way to handle the situation as it helps prevent an enemy from gearing up to land a blow on you. The brutality that Batman can dish out is depicted incredibly well and combined with the great sound effects; you can almost feel each blow that Batman lands on an enemy. A few times the camera will pan to a nice view of Batman performing a finishing move with the requisite slow motion applied to the scene. Combat in Arkham Asylum is both beautiful and intense and Rocksteady really nailed this one on the head.

Bioshock infinite

Developer: Irrational Games, 2K Marin / Publisher: 2K Games / Played on: PC [Also on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3]. ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco]

It’s a dark night in the middle of an ocean, you approach a strange lighthouse and you find machines that appear almost other worldly. Minutes later you’re transported to a fantastic yet realistic city in the…please, stop me if any of this is sounding familiar. I’m going to go out on a limb here but I’m guessing that if you’re into great single player games and first person shooters, you played the original BioShock. And while the new sequel, Infinite, might appear similar on the surface, trust me when I say there is much more going on below.
Through most of BioShock Infinite you traverse the floating city of Columbia: a once proud symbol of early 20th century American ideologies like jingoism, extreme nationalism and racism. It’s clear right
away that Infinite doesn’t mince words or paint a pretty picture of post Civil War America. As an outsider, you experience first hand the contrast between the factory-owning suit and the shanty-living Irish and Black working class. It’s faithful to its period and I applaud the developer for taking such a bold stance on what’s usually a taboo subject.

In addition I have to give props to the art team for their dedication to the insane level of detail put into every section of the game. The often beautiful and unique locations keep your interest and never makes you feel like you’re in the same place twice… even when you are. While the game is by no means open world, those familiar with the structure of the original BioShock should expect plenty similar type of pacing. More than once you’ll retread the
same location but it never feels forced. More often than not you’ll catch things like additional armor bonuses or special items that you missed during your first visit. In addition to the inanimate structures and rooms, Columbia truly is a living city. Local citizens go about their day, either shopping, gawking or doing a million other tasks that don’t involve you. Sure, you can choose to ignore the optional life Columbia has to offer but those who love to explore and dilly-dally will get much more out of the game.

 The head of this white-laced utopia in the sky is Zachary Comstock, a mysterious prophet who deifies the founding fathers and doesn’t mind a few dozen titan sized statues standing in his honor. Comstock’s ideologies are a stark contrast to Rapture’s Andrew Ryan, who rather than celebrating the individual puts his conviction in the preservation of the nation. Likewise, the main protagonist Booker DeWitt also breaks from the BioShock mold by actually speaking throughout the game. Right from the start your BioShock game without a few twist and turns. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say there are plenty.
objective as Booker is clear, “Give us the girl, wipe away the debt.” Translated into rescue Elizabeth, a young doe-eyed and naive girl from Columbia. Of course, this wouldn’t be a

While BioShock Infinite’s story is full of painful thoughts that prod your brain to think outside the box, the constant is always Booker and Elizabeth. She may initially appear to be a simple damsel in distress, but the more I interacted and watched her story unfold, the more I connected with her on an emotional level. The relationship between the two can be compared to Half-Life 2 protagonists Gordon and Alyx. Thankfully you never actually have to protect Elizabeth during one of the games many
shootouts. Instead of an over-glorified escort mission Elizabeth becomes a literal lifesaver.

As the game gradually ramped up in difficulty adding new enemies with bigger and scarier weapons, I relied on Elizabeth more and more. Whenever I was low on health there she was to throw me some extra life or ammo in a tight spot. This makes Elizabeth less of a nuisance and more of a guardian — making her all the more likable.

BioShock’s success in storytelling is only matched by its gameplay. Yes, the story is driving force the game but thankfully getting through it is a whole lot of fun with exciting, memorable moments.You’ll
go from clearing room after room along rebel fighters to dropping war blimps out of the sky in single fights, yanked from one to the other with the roller-coaster-like transportation rails called Sky-Lines. Combat on this scale sounds like fancy tech demos that you’d see at E3, but in Infinite, it’s real and a hell of a lot of fun.

 Keeping in the tradition of Irrational “Shock” games, you’ll harness Columbia’s iteration of plasmids (called “vigors” this time around). The principle is still the same and having a magic element in what could have been just another shooter makes Infinite stand out. Crowd controlling one enemy group with a murder of crows while simultaneously blasting a heavy hitter class with a shotgun made me realize that BioShock Infinite is simply fun to play.

Where the moment-to-moment action in Rapture was slow and methodical, the combat in Infinite is fast-paced and sometimes overwhelming. Having the ability to sprint, aim down sights and rely on Elizabeth for support keep the game accessible while retaining the BioShock experience. There was a specific moment that I played two completely different ways just by choosing to call on Elizabeth to rip open reality itself (the citizens of Columbia refer to these as “tears”), which gave me access to an inaccessible ledge. From there I was able to snipe a group of enemies which on my previous playthrough I died twice just trying to mow through with a shotgun. I love that Infinite adapts to different players. Clearly, a lot of thought went into making the gameplay a memorable experience.
So the final question has to be asked, does BioShock Infinite live up to the original journey through the lighthouse? In more ways than I can count, yes. Where the original BioShock excelled in near perfection, Infinite succeeds with perfect pacing and an engaging gameplay experience. Sure, I hit the occasional dead body falling through the world glitch but nothing so gamebreaking that I wanted to stop playing, and nothing that I can realistically knock the game for.

 With the release of BioShock Infinite, developer Irrational has delivered a bigger story, more polished experience, and created two similar-yet-separate games that can co-exist and remain equal in quality. When the history of videogames is written, not one, but two BioShocks will be remembered for pushing gameplay, story, and subject matter to new levels. Bioshock Infinite is a game people will talk about for a very long time.