Review – Ryse: Son of Rome

ryse-epic-view
As one of the premiere exclusives announced for the Xbox One earlier this year, Ryse was met with some considerable push back and scathing comments from gamers and journalists alike for it’s gameplay demo. Crytek took those criticisms and ran with them looking to fix as much as they could in a relatively short amount of time.

Ryse puts players in the control of Marius Titus, who witnesses his family get brutally murdered by a band of Barbarians. In an act of rage and vengeance, he seeks out a role in the Roman Army. Marius’ story unfolds as he quickly rises through the ranks during the bloody conflict with the Barbarian masses. I liked the story. It was a little cliche…OK a lot cliche at times but who cares? If it’s entertaining and makes you want to keep moving on to see what happens next, then it’s effective.

As a premiere launch title for Xbox One, it was important to show off why we need to spend $500 on a new console and Crytek handily proved the Xbox One’s graphical prowess. It’s absolutely GORGEOUS. The environments, lighting and character models are top notch. Every little detail from the water, to the fire to the cracks in the marble columns and floors. Every little detail was painstakingly addressed and it did not go unnoticed by me. I must admit that it didn’t take long for me to notice that there are really just 5 or 6 enemy models which was a little disappointing but forgivable.

The game itself is very much on the rails in that there really is no way you can go from point a to b in one direction. At times, the player is also given command of his army, using voice commands, Marius can call in the archers for support or take a stance with other troops and in a phalanx formation. When fighting the masses, Marius can initiate a bloody and visceral execution to dispatch his enemy once and for all (children need not apply here). This is really where much of the early criticism stemmed from. In early demos, a big colored button popped up on screen in the form of a QTE. These can be rather distracting and really take away from the game – Crytek has righted that wrong by subtly outlining the enemy in a color that directly corresponds to the colors of the controllers face buttons. So really, the QTEs are still there they’re just a little less in your face and it works well.

The saying “K-I-S-S” or “Keep It Simple Stupid” is the mantra of the day when referring to the 2 player cooperative battles in Ryse. It is nothing more than putting the 2 players into an arena or Colosseum to fight out a scenario in front of thousands of blood thirsty Romans. Play through the scenarios, with the love of the crowd and you earn money which can be used to buy “Booster Packs” to outfit your gladiator with. It’s simple, fast and fun. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

I quite enjoyed Ryse: Son of Rome. I liked the single player story enough to play through it twice in short order and have had copious amounts of fun with the multiplayer. Looking forward to going home tonight to sink my teeth into the free DLC that was just released earlier today. This is another must buy title for your Xbox One.

Feed Your Console gives Ryse: Son of Rome an 8.5  out of 10

Review – Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

FYC - Lego Batman 2 Review

Where does he get those wonderful toys?  From Lego of course!  Paige and I took a look at Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes on the PS3.  Lego Batman 2 from Traveller’s Tales and Warner Bros. Interactive is available on all major platforms and brings players a ton of great DC content.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogqYom8p_Pc&w=560&h=315]

The gameplay is consistent with previous Lego titles, so anyone familiar with these games will feel right at home.  As you explore and work to save Gotham you’ll build, break things apart, build again, fight and collect to your heart’s content.  I have to admit that sometimes smashing everything in sight does not feel very “Batman”.

There are two main modes of play to enjoy in Lego Batman 2.  Story missions place you in the shoes of the dynamic duo out to stop the Joker and along with some of the most memorable villains from the DC universe.  Lex Luthor teams up with the Joker and Batman has no choice but to call upon some of his friends…Super Friends!   Like other Lego titles of the past, once a story level is completed you can then play the level in “free play” mode utilizing any other DC character you unlock along the way.  Between missions you’ll have access to an impressively large and detailed open world Lego Gotham City.  So “Batman”!

While the story missions are well designed and make good use of Batman and Robin’s skills and their array of special suits, the open world Gotham is where we spent most of our time.  This is where you’ll find the majority of playable characters to add to your Lego DC roster.  In true DC fashion, some characters are more powerful than others, but overall the characters are well balanced.  There will be times when you’ll want to break out the Penguin and yes, even Aquaman.

Paige couldn’t stop playing as Wonder Woman but Harley Quinn was a close second for her.  As for me, when I first took to the skies as Superman and heard his iconic theme song I was hooked.  I also enjoyed playing as the Green Lantern as his abilities can earn you some pretty quick cash in and around Lego Gotham…always about the green.

Mini games, unlockable characters and Lego vehicles plus a wide range of other challenges are scattered around Gotham.  Helpful and loyal Alfred helps you reveal the map and any Super Villains on the lamb as you find more remote bat computer access points.  When you defeat these villains found in the map, you can purchase them and bring them into the fight.

You can play up to 2 players locally in split screen in either Gotham City or in the story levels.  Lego Batman 2 uses a “dynamic split screen” option as their default in the story missions.  While this gave the gameplay a more dynamic and comic book feel, there were times I didn’t know which part of the screen was mine and the control, especially while flying often fell flat in these situations.

The game looks and sounds great.  The cut-scenes are fun, the story touches on some great DC history.  Overall, it’s a solid game.  I’m still impressed my 7 year old daughter knows who Killer Moth is.

 

Pros

  • A fun story and enjoyable cut-scenes
  • Balanced gameplay with engaging but not overly difficult puzzles.
  • Tons of fun DC characters and vehicles to play
  • Batman!

Cons

  • Some control issues in multiplayer
  • Character selection in multiplayer can slow things down for the other player
  • I walked Aquaman off Gotham Beach into the water and he drowned…wait, what?

For Feed Your Console, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes gets a 9 out of 10 from me.  Paige gives it a stunning 10 out of 10.

Review – Tomb Raider

Once the queen of gaming, Lara Croft has fallen from the graces of many games but she hasn’t been forgotten. Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix hope to change that the newly rebooted title in Lara Croft’s life aptly named “Tomb Raider”. We will do our best not to divulge any spoilers so come along with me while we take a look to see if they were successful.

The story features a much younger Lara Croft before becoming a world renowned archaeologist as she embarks on an expedition aboard a ship called “Endurance” with friends a TV production crew and an already well known archaeologist. This isn’t the Lara Croft we all know from games of the past. On the way to their location, a violent storm destroys the boat and leaves them stranded on an island and separated from one another.

The game feels very similar to Uncharted but with a much darker tone to the surroundings and overall feeling to the dialogue. No witty banter between characters, no light-hearted moments either. While traversing the island’s various locales, Lara will find animals to hunt which can be used to salvage parts and earn experience points, she also will come across weapon upgrade pieces and will occasionally uncover hidden locations that need to be explored to discover artifacts in usual Tomb Raider style by solving puzzles to get to the payday. I found the puzzles to be far less engaging and much simpler than I remember from the original series. One thing I was truly thankful for was that the timed switch style puzzles were omitted from this title.

When not spelunking or raiding tombs, Lara finds herself in heated gun battles with the islands mysterious inhabitants. The gun battles are fierce and fast paced but can be slowed down a little by using an automatic cover system that while isn’t as good as the one you would find in Uncharted or Gears of War is more than serviceable and helpful. Killing enemies will also earn you Experience points that accumulate to allow Lara to learn a new survival skill. Not only do the enemy kills net you experience, but if you go through their pockets, you’ll find ammo (copious amounts of ammo in the game. you’ll never actually run out) and salvage parts which can be used to build upgrades for

Lara’s various weapons. The sound and the graphics are gorgeous. These days everyone is talking next gen this and next gen that, but, while playing this game, I couldn’t help but wonder if we really need another generation of gaming console yet. This game looks about as next gen as I could imagine and it’s available on our tired old boxes already in my living room.

The team at Crystal Dynamics have done exactly what the series needed – They took the concept, made it their own and gave it a fresh yet familiar feel without straying too much from what made Tomb Raider so good so many years ago. A survivor may have been born but the Queen reclaimed her crown.  Lara Croft is back and she’s better than ever.

Feed Your Console gives Tomb Raider a 9 out of 10

Pros:
Simply stunning graphics
Great atmosphere
A title worthy of carrying the Tomb Raider title – Extremely enjoyable
Great balance between Tomb Raiding and gun battles

Cons:
Simple puzzles – Beef it up next time
Cover System needs work

Review – Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a great title with alot of the same from the original but lacks a little “spark” the previous title “War for Cybertron” had so let’s transform and roll out as we take a look at the latest title in this highly anticipated sequel. As usual, we continue to stride to avoid as many spoilers as possible.

Fall of Cybertron immediately follows the the events of the wildly popular and successful title from 2010 Transformers: War for Cybertron as the Autobots and Decepticons wage war with one another in the final epic battle for supremacy of their home planet. We begin with the final stand of the Autobots vs the Decepticons as they prep for their final jump to our solar system. After some gun play and tutorials, we see the story take a step backwards by 6 earth days and thus begins our journey.

The graphics engine stayed EXACTLY the same as the previous game which disappointed me as it’s age really shows during the cut scenes. That’s not to say the game looks bad, just a little dated.

The game play is by and large still fully intact from War for Cybertron. We still have the 3rd person perspective, and all the base control schemes stay the same as they did very little to tweak or fart around with the original. Hey if it’s not broken don’t fix it right? Excellent. Some minor tweaks to the gameplay include purchasing weapon upgrades and perks through upgrade stations using points earned by dispatching your enemies. Further to the upgrades and perks, you will come across weapon loadout stations which allow you to purchase new weapons.

True to the previous instalment, FoC put the gamer in control of a variety of popular characters from the series across the 13 chapters. Every character feels and plays differently as they lead you through the story to the epic conclusion (my personal faves included Jazz, Megatron and Grimlock). One thing to note was that a few of the characters felt insanely over powered for his levels. An absolute cakewalk for me on Normal. I had no sense if urgency using these characters which can be both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

One of the things that really stood out to me while playing through Fall of Cybertron was that, despite the feel of urgency that many of the levels had, I never once felt that I was under the gun for time or overly stressed out because the gunfire was getting to be too much. See, the problem, was that I honestly felt like I had far too much time to breathe in between battles. It was almost as if the moments of balls to the walls action were far shorter than the moments of story telling…which in turn resulted into a slightly stunted campaign experience of approximately 9hours from start to finish.

***Edit*** In my haste, I somehow missed the Multiplayer portion of the review when I copied it over.

Keep with the theme of “if it aint broke don’t fix it” High Moon has opted to keep much of what everyone liked about the multiplayer with a few tweaks. The classes have been renamed as  Infiltrator, Destroyer, Titan, and Scientist. In FoC, the player can add their own personal touch by picking and choosing the various body parts  Head, Chest (the chest also determines your vehicle) Shoulders, Arms, Legs, Wheels, Tank Barrel, Wings, and Decals to create their own unique machine.

With 10 levels at launch the team Death Match and free for all modes are fast, frantic action chock full of chaos. Cooperative Escalation mode(my personal favorite) is back and just as fun as it was 2years ago. I spent a fair amount of time playing multiplayer when War for Cybertron hit and just abruptly stopped for some odd reason. Fall of Cybertron is everything I liked 2yrs ago. I don’t know why I even stopped playing it. I suspect this title is going to be in my system for a good long while.

High Moon Studios and Activision had a bona fide hit with this series. They told a great story, and keept to the basics without mucking around too much with the recipe that made War for Cybertron so special. Despite the few missteps this time around but that hardly made this a bad game.

Pros:

  • Great Story recounts the final days of Cybertron
  • The base recipe of War for Cybertron remains intact
  • Added RPG element with weapons upgrades and perks
  • 10 well designed multiplayer maps and escalation mode.

Cons:

  • Some characters felt over-powered
  • Campaign felt short

Feed Your Console gives Transformers: Fall of Cybertron 8 out of 10

Review – Sleeping Dogs

“You’re not a real man until you have a pork bun in hand”…So I was told on countless occasions over the weekend. So Grab yourself a pork bun and come along with me for a ride as we delve into the latest open world crime thriller “Sleeping Dogs”. In normal fashion, we will stride to avoid any major story details to allow the readers to enjoy the game as it was meant to be played.

Sleeping Dogs has something of a tumultuous past. In 2009 it started out as a game called Black Lotus and was soon after slated to be a reboot to the franchise “True Crime”. After countless delays and cost overrun, “True Crime: Hong Kong” was cancelled by Activision. Luckily for us Square Enix made a great decision and pick up the rights to the game and rebranded it Sleeping Dogs.

Sleeping Dogs draws much of its inspiration from the Grand Theft Auto series with it’s behind the shoulder perspective, open world environments and errand boy style side missions.The player takes control of undercover police officer Wei Shen a Chinese native who moves to America as a young boy and has come back to his old stomping grounds to infiltrate the Triad Organization called the Sun On Yee. During Wei’s story, the player will participate in a variety of missions from the mundane car thefts to balls to the walls action chase scenes lifted right out of the best action movies.

As Wei performs his tasks, he’ll be walking the fine line between his loyalty to his profession and his crime family. This is where the RPG element comes into play. After completing tasks, Wei is awarded Triad, Police and Face XP depending on how well he executes his missions. Triad XP is awarded for how violent he is, Police is for how by the book he is and Face is just his overall general reputation that affects how some people will interact with him. Once he levels up in a certain specialty, the user picks new abilities to give Wei. My personal favorite is being able to jump an obstacle and disarming someone then using their weapons against them

Some missions actually require Wei’s ability to talk his way into locales or out of situations. These were the moments I felt the game really missed out on an important RPG element as the player is not tasked with picking the right response rather they’re tasked with hitting the “Y” button quickly. That’s it! They didn’t even change the button up. It was always the “Y” button. So much for having a silver tongue – They really could have had some fun with this.

One of the big things that I always hated about GTA and other games of that ilk was the driving mechanics. I had always dreaded those missions that involved me racing away from the cops or the other bad guys because I hated the way the cars felt and the shooting mechanics were crappy. “Sleeping Dogs” delivered a fun and exhilarating to the point that I was continually hoping for more. Shooting the tires and watching the cars roll over in spectacular fashion was more than a little satisfying – especially when the other cars behind them crashed into the fiery wreck as well.
The errand boy side missions can be a little too much at times. I tend to get bored with them and admittedly stopped paying much attention to them after a while due to boredom and wanting to continue the story to see where things went.

The fight mechanics felt refined and tight. I could see where the inspiration came from the Arkham Asylum and City games with the free flow fighting but I also quite enjoyed them in Sleeping Dogs. Through the use of environments, Wei can dispatch his enemies quickly and violently. He can also use some sweet hand to hand combat moves. All of these moves can be performed with a liquid like fluidity that just felt more natural than what I experienced in other titles.

The sound in Sleeping Dogs was spectacular. The bustling sounds of Hong Kong and the well placed voice acting cast made Sleeping Dogs sound just like a triple A title should.

Graphically, Sleeping Dogs looks very good. Some animations did look a little screwy during the cinematic sequences but the city looks incredible. My buddy who happened to stop in on the way through town was actually quite impressed with just how close the environments looked to their real life counterparts in Hong Kong.

Overall I would say that Sleeping Dogs was a fantastic title. Awesome story coupled with great voice acting, fast exciting gunplay and drive chases kept me glued to my couch. We’ve all played this game before from other companies but Sleeping Dogs manages to bring something special to the table. This is the way you launch a new franchise. Well done United Front. If you’re on the fence about wether or not to give “Sleeping Dogs” a go, get off it right now. This game is worth your money and time.

Pros

  • Action Driving scenes
  • Great story told by great voice actors
  • Beautiful environments
  • Varied Main quest missions

Cons

  • Speech challenges could have been more interesting as opposed to pressing a button.
  • Side quests are stale – something we’ve all come to expect from this sort of game

Feed Your Console gives Sleeping Dogs a solid 9 out of 10

Pirates of the Caribbean: Master of the Seas

Pirates of The Caribbean: Master of the Seas

Set sail behind the wheel of your own ship as you begin your adventure to become the Master of the Seas. As the Captain it’s your duty to explore the islands of the Caribbean facing many of the characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies like; Blackbeard and his zombies, The French, Spanish and English fleets. For those lucky enough Jack Sparrow will make an appearance during your time at sea… Ok ok he makes an appearance for everyone.

Earning experience, coin and gems all are in a days work for these pirates. Following a series of quests from island to island will see a modest progress of coin and weapons filling the holds of your ships. Added to these are properties that can be acquired for a modest amount, or the more expensive Gem mines for those eager to get bonus upgrades for your crew.

In the early stages of the game you will find that more experienced pirates will make easy prey of your ship but fear not as you acquire more crew (friends) and access to better cannons, weapons and protection you will soon become the one looking down the scope at the juicy pickings of those less fortunate – A pirates life is a hard life you have to earn your place on the seas. I recommend you find as many friends playing this title as you can for a rapid progression towards dominance of the Caribbean.

Download the game here and should you not have any friends playing feel free to add my friend Code: E6L0Y8 for a small boost – Do this under Options (Bottom right – Wrench), then select Promo Code.

Pros:

  • The price is right – it’s freemium model, with optional payments for quicker progression.
  • It’s a Disney game so it’s safe for all ages
  • Who doesn’t love pirates – except ninjas that is 😉

Cons:

  • Gems are slow to acquire if you do not pay
  • Can’t actually play as Jack Sparrow!

More Photos:

Review: Gears of War 3

Gears of War 3 Horde Command Pack

In a way I’m sad to write this review, knowing that after the final moments in Gears of war 3 the Franchise will be forever changed. We fought hard people and paid a dear price, but in the end – brothers stood shoulder to shoulder and took on the challenge instead of rolling over and giving up all hope.

In the time between Gears 2 and Gears 3 a number of major events occurred in the world of the COG – many of which are hinted at during game play, but are detailed in the book Gears of War: Coalition’s End. If you haven’t read this book I’d recommend you head over to your local book store, or click the link and get it delivered, and pick up this book to fill in the missing details.

Putting aside gameplay for now, it’s the 3rd game and gameplay hasn’t changed from the first two, I’ll instead focus on the story-line (no spoilers promise) of Gears 3. Humanity is facing it’s darkest days and both the COG and the Locust have their hands full of with the Lambent right from the start of the game. Delta squad is once again called upon to face odds of epic proportions right from the start of the game.

Taking on the entire might of the horde is one thing, but adding in the explosive Lambent to this struggle for Humanity adds a new level of intensity to this story. New mutations, new tactics and new locations will draw players in, chew them up and spit them out on the other side. Adding in additional support for up to four players in co-op and competitive points co-op brings the comradeship of Delta Squad and the COG to life. While I believe the point system in the competitive co-op is a silly gimmick, and an unnecessary addition, finding a open game to join never seems to be a problem.

Players will also be introduced to a few new weapons, most notable include the Retro Lancer (with a giant Bayonet), the Digger (an underground popup bomb) and the one shot – one kill sniper rifle with an explosive kick. New turits, new shotguns and the new two person Vulocan Cannon will also be found along your journeys, but I’ll let you introduce yourself to these fun toys of destruction.

The voice acting and writing are both fantastic, including dialog from veteran voice actors like John DiMaggio (Marcus), Lester Speight (Cole), Fred Tatasciore (Baird), and Carlos Ferro (Dom). You will also encounter long time fan of the Gears series, Ice-T (Griffin) an unlockable multiplayer character and in game bad ass.

Taking players across the entire length of Sera by Sea, Land and air you will encounter a number of old friends and familiar locations, like Cole’s home town and place of worship – the Thrashball Stadium, and the famous Anvil Gate – a refuge for the last of the displaced citizens of the COG.

New multiplayer modes also enhance this title adding in game modes that allow players to take the roll of the Horde and attack waves of COG soldiers and heroes, play vs matches as either COG or Horde and the return of Horde mode for grinding out levels and kills. With new maps and a few throwbacks, plus the promise of future DLC, hours of game play are just waiting for you to plugin and log on.

Feed Your Console gives Gears of War 3: 9 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Epic story line, providing many conclusions to series spanning story lines
  • Fun new weapons
  • Voice acting is top notch
  • Multiplayer game play and DLC extends the value and fun

Cons:

  • Point system in the competitive co-op is a silly gimmick
  • It’s the last one in the series – all good things have to end

Review – Assassins Creed: Revelations

*** Potential Spoiler Alert! This review may contain some minor spoilers to game play, new skills and plot lines for Assassins Creed: Revelations ***

The story starts off retelling the main points of the previous games and mentions the mysterious Apple of Eden that was left behind by “the others”. Desmond is still in a coma and stuck in the animus. He wakes up in the animus on a beach surrounded by strange stone pillars. It’s explained to him by a previous animus user, who is also on “Animus Island”, that his mind is broken and that they’re in the guts of the animus. We learn that Desmond was placed there by someone, thus saving his life because his mind was fracturing blurring the distinction between his memories and reality.

From there we’re reintroduced to a much older Ezio who seems to be recounting his travels to his and the story opens up just as we saw him in the first major trailer for AC:Revelations, in the midst of a battle, surrounded he sees a vision of Altair and allows himself to be captured. His captors are preparing to execute Ezio high above the mountains with a noose wrapped around his neck – it’s here that Ezio performs his escape. Even in his much older state, Ezio still moves with cat-like reflexes as he shadows Altair’s shadow movements during the following tutorial.

Revelations takes Ezio to Constantinople which features 4 districts and Masayaf, the original game’s Assassin stronghold, as he attempts to retraces Altair’s footsteps in the search of a powerful artifact that was sealed away by Altair.  In between each major DNA memory segment, the game takes us back to Desmond in his comatose state on “Animus Island”. At times, dialogue is overheard from the real world explaining what is happening in the real world and through conversations with the other inhabitant.

Animus Island is also home to a series of gateways to Desmond’s mind. Each doorway is accessed only after acquiring a predetermined set of Data fragments found throughout the game. Once acquired, Desmond is thrust into a bizarre first person sequence which has him recounting moments long forgotten as he jumps over minor obstacles and builds paths to bridge the gaps in his memory.

Graphically the game hasn’t changed much aside from a few minor tweaks, some sharper models and smoother animations. The controls are exactly the same with only a few new minor additions, which, isn’t a bad thing because I always felt that the controls were fine the way they were. Much of the audio is recycled from previous titles so expect to hear a lot of the same dialogue from the townsfolk you’ve heard over the last few years.

Some changes to look to include a few new tricks which include crafting bombs, aerial kills with the use of a parachute and the new “Hook Blade”. Using ingredients like Lambs blood, Indian gun powder, sulphur and casings Ezio has a pretty wide array of bombs to build. For example, Cherry bombs create a loud noise and draw guards to the location of the sound while blood bombs give the enemy a sense that he’s been injured thus taking away his will to fight and running away. Crafting bombs require 3 parts – a shell, gunpowder and an effect. The crafting is performed at specific crafting locations peppered throughout the world.

Another notable change in Ezio’s arsenal is called the “Hook Blade”. The Hook Blade essentially makes it easier for Ezio to hit longer jumps or get to those slightly out of reach points by tapping the B button to hook onto the edge allowing him to pull himself up. The Hook blade can also be used to make the slip on your enemies allowing Ezio to hook their clothing and jump over them or create new combat combos.

Series favourites such as recruiting Assassins and purchasing shops are back. Recruiting new assassins to aid in the cause to overthrow the Templar’s control in other cities is both fun and rewarding.  Once these recruits have gained enough experience, Ezio can assign them as a ‘district leader’. These district leaders will also provide new quests to Ezio when he visits their areas. But beware! There are also rival assassins to be on the lookout for, on more than a few occasions, I’ve been attacked by other assassins and had to chase them down, which leads to the next logical question – Who hired them?

The multiplayer experience has also received some attention adding: new locations, characters and modes like Capture the Flag and a story oriented set of quests that reveal more background to the world of Assassins Creed.

Assassins Creed: Revelations is a lot of the same you’ve come to expect from the series. It has to be with the frequency of releases the series is getting, there’s just no time to flesh out anything new and groundbreaking to the franchise. That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the big driving factor for me with the Assassins Creed series is the compelling story. The voice cast, townsfolk not withstanding, is still every bit as good as we’ve come accustomed to from the series. I will admit that I’ve grown tired of Ezio and would have preferred to do more with Desmond and/or Altair – I just don’t feel that Altair has been given enough respect.

Feed Your Console gives Assassins Creed: Revelations an 8.5 out of 10

Pros:

  • The Story – The narrative is compelling and interesting
  • Gameplay – More of the same in a critically acclaimed series can’t be all that bad
  • Desmond’s Memory Sequences – Adds some interesting background to Desmond and gives a slower paced break to the game
  • Altair – We haven’t seen/heard much of him since the original title. It’s good to go back to the beginning

Cons:

  • Audio – I’ve grown weary of hearing the exact same audio from the towns folk for 3 years
  • Online Death Matches  – I like the story mode multiplayer, but , I’m just not buying into the multiplayer experience.

Review – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Just a quick note to say that I have not yet finished the game and have only managed to get in about 30hrs of gameplay. I know I’ll get a lot of haters on this but seriously, the game really is that freaking big.

Oblivion burst onto consoles in the Spring of 2006. I remember being so amazed by the images I saw online and the intense hunger for a good long RPG, that I rushed out to pick up Oblivion the day it hit shelves. I was both impressed and unhappy at the same time. The Environments looked incredible but the characters all looked spectacularly brutal. I swear each character was only 2 generations removed from Apes walking upright. The gameplay itself was an RPG using a First Person Shooter Perspective which I found to be a little cumbersome, I was always getting lost and every single town I entered wanted me dead or to toss me in jail due to my own ignorance. The sheer size of the game also soured me on the whole experience because it was new and I had never before seen anything so big in a game….but after playing through Fallout 3 and New Vegas, I’m a new man and an old pro at exploring vast worlds…

***Possible Spoiler Alert – Scroll down to avoid***

The game starts off with a cart full of prisoners as they’re being taken to a fort to be executed. Once in the town, the player gets off the cart and begins their character customization. Right off the bat I noticed a remarkable improvement on the character models. From there we get to witness the execution of a prisoner when he’s laid down and beheaded with his head dropping into a basket and his lifeless body being kicked to the side. It’s now your turn to face the hold steel of the executioners blade when out of nowhere, a Dragon lands on a house and begins attacking and destroying the town thus leaving you to your own devices to escape and learn some of the fundamentals of the game which pretty well plays very similarly to it’s predecessor and the true beginning of your quest.

The story is not a direct sequel to Oblivion so much as it takes place a few hundred years later after the Empire began relinquishing territories to the Elven nations because there was no heir to the throne following the Emperors death. The player eventually learns that Skyrim’s civil war is last prophetic event foretold by the Elder Scrolls, which also speak of the return the Nordic god of destruction, Alduin.

Taking the form of a dragon, Alduin is prophesied to consume the world with his servants, the Jills (a race of black dragons). The player character is the last Doväkiin (Dragonborn), a dragon hunter anointed by the gods to help fend off the threat Alduin poses to Skyrim and Tamriel.

***End of Possible Spoiler***

***EDIT***Here’s an extra special follow-up post for all the people whose comments both made me laugh and shake my head. But let’s soldier on good reader. You’ve asked for more detail so here we go.

I will admit , that there is an aspect of the game that I found to be enjoyable though I’m not sure if it was a feature in previous games and I forgot to report back on it – Sue me I’m only human and do this for fun purely based on my love of all things videogames. That aspect of the game I speak of is called “Smithing”. Very early on in the game (right after the escape from the Dragon that’s destroying the town from the beginning***Ooops Spolier Alert!***) the player is introduced to Smithing of weapons and armor. Smithing requires a proficiency in working with various metals such as Iron and using animal hides to make leather in order to make repair, augment and improve weapons and armor. All it really requires are the right ingredients using the forge, the grinding stone, then applying augments to it(where applicable) on the workbench. A minor gripe I have with the Smithing is that it’s unfortunate that it’s not more like a mini-game or had some form of user creation tool to give each weapon/armor a personal touch. Off to the Gallows with me!

Next up is the control scheme – The controls are pretty well just like Fallout 3. Analogue sticks should be self explanatory – Push up and you move forward – Back and you move backward, Left and right strafe. The right stick turns the character. Press down on LS and you crouch, press down on RS and it changes the camera to a 3rd person perspective. B button opens the tree menu with skills, items, map and magic. The Skill tree is laid out as though looking at constellations – beneath each skill, the user can see the features of each skill and the path they take. IE: The first level of  Smithing starts off with proficiency in crafting with Iron as you progress and hone your skills, you’ll eventually be able to create Dragon Armor.  X button draws your weapon and puts it away. A button interacts with people or takes items and Y button jumps. Right trigger swings your weapon where the Left trigger guards unless you have magic equipped in which case, you can hold the left trigger to charge up your spell and release it to cast. LB sprints and only last as long as your Stamina will allow and RB shouts/power moves. Pretty standard fare.

As I said before, and was lambasted for, the map is huge. It very easily dwarfs Fallout. I haven’t yet even seen all of it and it appears to be considerably larger with more destinations to visit and it can take what seems like forever to go from point A to B. Thankfully there is a fast travel option as well as a stable you can go to and pay for a ride or…you can be a total bastard and steal a horse risking life, limb, gold and freedom in the process.

The graphics for Skyrim are a vast improvement over Oblivion and Fallout but still not on the same level as something like Rage’s iD Tech 5(which I find to be one of the sexiest new engines out there right now). The new “Creation Engine” is a variant of the same engine used for Oblivion and Fallout but it’s no slouch.  The environments are lush and lively as expected in this type of game, the animations are smooth and the characters look awesome, however, I didn’t care for how the horses looked while riding them to different locales. When walking over a rock, for example, the horse will just jump up over the rock and fall back down on the other side – I found it to look very unnatural. Surprisingly Skyrim all fits onto one disc and the load times are reasonably short (I can’t speak for the load times when running off disc)I love the way the weather systems look in this game. The weather effects in the game look awesome, in particular in the snowy regions though I did notice that no tracks were left behind. Aside from those minor complaints, everything in the world just feels to be more alive.

I actually encountered a bug when I encountered 2 different NPCs – When trying to interact with them, they don’t actually say anything and the subtitles I have turned on whip by without giving me the opportunity to read what’s going on. My immediate thought was my controller was acting up but, this has happened with 4 different controllers – it appears that this is not a controller issue. Time will tell if this is a common issue Keep an eye out and let us know if you encounter the same thing. Sad Bear face!

The audio is awesome – when I have the luxury of having it turned up loud (the man cave is below my daughter’s room), the bustling sounds of a city, the serenity nature and the ferocity of violent battles really adds to atmosphere. The soundtrack is fantastic, well timed and placed throughout.  As expected from Bethesda, there’s an  insane amount of spoken dialogue, some spoken by celebrities like Max Von Sydow, and Christopher Plummer.

The game is quite challenging especially at the beginning. I’m one of those guys that loves to run in guns-a-blazing (swords-a-swinging in this case) and as I quickly learned that’s just not how to play this game. This is an adventure game that takes it’s time to tell a story and build and I am taking my sweet time plodding through avoiding the main quest for the most part for the time being. I’ve put a great deal of emphasis on Lock picking for all the obvious reasons,  Smithing to have the best weapons and armor, Heavy weapons to deal the most damage and speech to help with persuading people and save some precious gold when buying items – Anything to try and help me get the leg up on this game.

This title is sure to eat up countless hours well into the new year.

In my previous post I stated that the amount of time I had with the game was extremely limited in the grand scheme of things and that I wasn’t a fan of Oblivion assuming you could read between the lines (I didn’t finish it even after repeated attempts – I disliked it that much) but it seems that’s not the case. Also, the hate I get for rating something a 9 out of 10 is staggering (I just might be Public Enemy #1).

Yes! Online is important to me and I would love to see co-op in a game f this magnitude- No it’s not a deal breaker. Yes those are my views and opinions – No it doesn’t make my opinion right. Yes I see your side – No it doesn’t make your opinion right. No I won’t be changing my original score.

It’s a 9 out of 10 game.

Pros

  • Length of the Game – I’m 30hrs in and don’t see an end in sight.
  • Replay Value – There’s just so much to do and see the game will no doubt warrant a 2nd or even 3rd play through.
  • Sandbox games – I’m a sucker for sandbox style games. This one is huge.
  • Graphics – the characters look cleaner and the environments have much more depth resulting in a prettier appearance.
  • Sound design

Cons:

  • No Co-op – I always get shit for this but I’m a huge fan of coop experiences. This game screams for it.
  • Some glitchy animations
  • Only encountered 1 bug on 2 different occasions and it did prevent me from understanding what was going on because it was tied to the main quest.

 

 

Forza 4 Review

For gear head’s there are two thing’s that they love racing and car show’s. Forza 4 Motorsport open’s up
with the BBC’s Top Gear host Jermey Clark talking about how this game is for car enthusiast’s and not people who are concerned with how many miles to the gallon a car gets and how environmentally friendly a car is. This is because we don’t care! we want the raw power, we want to hear the noise of the engines screeching as we take that corner a little fast and most importantly we want to feel a live.

Players will notice a quicker push to level 50, which was the maximum level in Forza 3 that’s gone now. In Forza 4 the maximum level is 150 to reward those die hard Forza fan’s. As I write this I’m already in the mid 40’s and the fact that I’m now given a choice of car’s as a reward time I level is fantastic. I really enjoy the fact that I get to choose my reward. After hitting level 50 the car rewards are gone and replaced with credit bonus’s ranging from 100k to 350k. Car manufacture affinity rewards you to being loyal to your favourite car manufacture. Love Ferrari? only drive Ferrari? levelling your car manufacturing affinity gives you bonuses like free parts, badges and titles for your player card.

You’ll notice in the early stages that the AI is quite different then in Forza 3. In Forza 3 they removed power from the AI to make slower on easier difficulties. This isn’t the case in Forza 4 what they do is reduce there confidence when there in corners. What this does it makes the AI brake earlier into corners which is where you as the player can out break them and slip in front of them. The moment the AI it’s the apex in the corner they will be flat out regardless of the difficulty level.

The key to beating them on the straight’s is to block them down the straights. What I’ve found so far is that this is producing closer, better wheel to wheel racing and I’ve actually lost a few races to the AI. This is a great improvement as generally there really isn’t much of a contest from the AI.

The team over at Turn 10 partnered with Pirelli tires with new data which mean’s the tires in Forza 4 behave exactly as they tests indicate on real tracks on the real cars. Hardcore racer’s will notice that car’s behave a bit different and that’s because Turn 10 made some changes to their steering model, let’s be real not all track’s are smooth and are there some bumps along the way, so expect to see a bit of track bumpiness as well. These changes truly impact the way the car’s handle very different from Forza 3 and for me make it a bit harder to handle with most of the assist’s turn offed.

One of my favourite little features to Forza that is completely separate from the overall in game experience is the ability to navigate the menu’s using my voice and the power of Kinect. When I first discovered this I played around about 5 minutes going Xbox, My Garage. Simple use of Kinect but so very convenient.

Turn 10 has also gone a head to implement the ability for racers to drive with there arms. Gas and Braking are controlled by the game for the gamer and all the racer need’s to do is steer using there arms. I’m not a huge fan of this to be honest and this is suppose to be a sim racer and well this portion of it isn’t but I understand that it’s trying to get the family together. I appreciate that but would rather they hadn’t.

Autovista is a new feature that integrates Kinect into the Forza experience. Imagine your own personal automotive showroom that allows you to fully explore supercars like the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lexus LF-A, 1993 McLaren F1, 2008 Lamborghini Reventon the 2006 Koenigsegg CCX. With Kinect this allows the player to walk around the car, open doors, sit in the car, turn the engine on and most importantly hear what gear head Jeremy Clark has to say about these cars. This is a really cool feature but it’s not available on all cars.

So should you buy Forza 4? that’s the question and since it’s notably the best in the franchise you should. The visual upgrade isn’t significant but the changes to the physics, AI and community are sure to make this game worth your dollars.