Archive for the ‘Previews’ Category

AVOIDTony Hawks Pro Skater HD

Tony Hawk Pro Skate HD Case

Developer: Robomodo

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3PC

 

Tony who? Tony Stark? T Hawk? Oh, you mean the aging, 900 degree-spinning, lanky-legged, commercial face of skateboarding Mr Tony Hawk? The birdman himself – he really did grow into his beak…

Tony Hawk Child

Talk about a Nose Slide….

Ok, so maybe I won’t be asked to perform a eulogy at his funeral.

Forgive the rather harsh introduction, I actually have a lot of love for the skate veteran. Undoubtedly the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater titles helped to shape what has become a real interest in skateboarding. A combination of simple, frantic skating, and quirky somewhat ridiculous tasks, the original titles were immediately accessible and importantly, had real replayability. Moreover, the reward of short FMV clips displaying real skate footage of the in game characters is a brilliant bonus; it felt like an actual achievement, something worth working towards. Unfortunately, the franchise has made significant transitions throughout the many iterations over the years, including the infamous Underground series which made a slight stab at enhanced realism.

But now we go backwards, delving into the past, with the new Xbox Arcade release of Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD. It brings with it nostalgia, excited memories and… disappointment.

In age of ever increasing media entertainment realism, Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD simply doesn’t work. That isn’t to say that there isn’t room for arcade fun – this just isn’t it. It looks pretty, the controls are as smooth as ever and gameplay is simple. The problem is that it just isn’t as enjoyable as the original versions. Playing the demo repeatedly for an hour, I tried to put my finger on the central issue and I think it’s probably the speed of your skater.  There is patently too much pace, far more than was present in older games, which entirely damages the gameplay. Furthermore, the Warehouse level you are given to play is too compact to effectively manage this increased speed, causing you to overshoot and destroying your lines. It doesn’t help that the demo play time is a measly one minute thirty, despite the in game timer displaying two minutes – the typical objectives (like collecting ‘S-K-A-T-E’) are memorable but provide no gratification whatsoever when there is so little time to complete any more than one task. Perhaps this was intended as offering a tempting teaser, or possibly an exciting challenge. I just see it as a restrictive removal of freedom inducing a sense of linearity.

The one saving grace is the incredible soundtrack, comprising tons of songs from the original games, including ‘Superman’ by Goldfinger and Millencolin’s ‘No Cigar’. Yet, even the great audio accompaniment is not enough to save the game from inevitable obscurity. Jump back on Skate instead, or why not dust off the original Tony Hawks titles?

DOWNLOAD: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead XBox Case

Developer: Terminal Reality

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3PC

 

Zombies, zombies everywhere and not a brain to… use.

While the gaming industry is known for regularly jumping on the bandwagon of a successful genre/theme, only to rattle out tired, ill-thought titles while it’s the ‘in’ thing (I swear I’ve sneezed longer than AVP had dev time), games featuring zombies are refreshingly sparse.

Ok, perhaps sparse isn’t the right word but they’re certainly kept to the realm of sporadic, good quality titles – Resident Evil, Left For Dead, Dead Rising, Dead Island and now, The Walking Dead.

I’m always troubled when games are being adapted from cult television, cinema or literary hits. Inevitably there is going to be something lacking when the original source is already held with such high esteem. Few adaptations have ever produced something that mirrors the original, or more importantly, something that is fresh and reinvigorates it.

The Walking Dead manages this with aplomb. Now on it’s third instalment, the series is well into it’s cycle, receiving top reviews and celebration despite the slightly hefty price tag (400 ms points per instalment).

Though I haven’t read the books, I have dabbled in the graphic novels and I love the television series. The Walking Dead game has managed to capture the same sense of desperation, the same empathy and emotional connection to protagonists seen in the original source.

Though the series initially appears fairly pricey, the cost is entirely justified. Each instalment is extremely replayable, supported by a game mechanic that ensures you are the driving force behind progression. The primary feature of The Walking Dead is a decision system whereby you must choose a particular action or verbal response, often in a limited time frame (choices are set up as QTEs, much like Scene It, without the annoying fucking announcer). These immediate choices force you to really consider the outcome of your actions, making your own thought process and planning essential, elements often overlooked in zombie titles. Most zombie-themed action games are pretty brainless, beyond the need to conserve ammo and health. Violence and head-exploding action seem to always come to the forefront, with relationships and the contextual impact upon them treated very superficially, or even entirely overlooked. Furthermore, having various ultimatums thrust unexpectedly in your face engenders a fervent desire to replay the game, deliberately choosing alternating options in order to examine the impact they will have. The Walking Dead is hugely replayable because of this, boosted by statistical comparisons at the end of each installment – once a chapter is completed you are presented with a screen detailing what decisions you made throughout and how this compares to other gamers.

In the interests of balance, the negatives. The game perhaps feels a little linear at times, though this is in the very nature of what it’s trying to achieve. It’s not a sandbox or an rpg, it’s a simple action title that wants you to feel trapped and claustrophobic. Puzzles aren’t the most difficult that you’re going to find in a game, but they don’t need to be. The story is so engrossing and you are so engaged by the decision making process that you genuinely feel your choices have an impact on the outcome of each instalment. This feeling imbeds you right in the centre of the story, a rare occurrence these days.

The Walking Dead, download it now. Because a skateboard would be useless in a zombie apocalypse, Dead Rising taught me so.

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Adaptations of classic 2D platformers like Mario are seen more readily on the internet than awful pop ups about online casinos and penis enlargement. Yet, rarely do you see two completely separate franchises cross over: Stand up Mari0.

The keen eyed gamers amongst you may well have spotted the significant clue in the title of the game… Go on, take another peek, I’ll give you a second chance.

Got it? Not yet, well why not Chell out another guess…?

That’s right, the geniuses over at Stabyourself have given the loveable Italian sprite a bloody Portal gun! Just imagine the possibilities – it’d make finding those warp zones a doddle! Actually why imagine, see the trailer below:


As you can see, Mari0 is an inventive remake of the original Super Mario Bros, with an additional four player co-op, game mods, map packs, a level editor and entirely free DLC!

The game is available to download for PC, Mac, and Linux, so head on over and give a try!

Finally I have seen this. For some reason I completely forgot to give it a look when I first heard about it. Verdict: Excited.

The graphics look good, the story is refreshingly different from its predecessors and the new setting in Brazil introduces a fresh new palette of colour unseen in the earlier titles.

However, I have to say that I do have my concerns…. Firstly, it’s with the new setting. I very much champion progression and not simply bashing out another similar looking sequel, but the dark city streets of the series’ original New York setting were what made it so popular. The dark, urban atmosphere perfectly suited the corrupt, crooked characters that it housed, also providing suitably chilling audio. Can this really be replicated in a bright, South American setting.

Perhaps my biggest concern though is the key gaming physics that made the original games so renowned – bullet time. In its day, Max Payne was revolutionary, taking Matrix-style slo-mo shooting and adapting it within a game. This move proved to be a very shrewd, setting a significant precedent for modern shooters. It can now be witnessed in many more recent titles, of notable mention, Stranglehold, Fallout 3 and Sniper: Ghost Warrior. Clearly bullet time is no longer anything special, almost incidental in particular games. With this in mind, Max Payne 3 must bring something entirely new to the table in order to replicate the the series’ prior successes.

Watch the trailer here and see what you think, would love to hear your thoughts!

Has Bullet Time had it's day? We'll see...

As a regular gamer, how often do you find yourself disillusioned with the industry, jaded by the torrent of remakes that all shatter the beautifully-crafted originals?

Unfortunately, this happens far too often, to the detriment of many a gaming franchise. For reference, examine Starfox, damaged irrevocably by the less-than-impressive third-person manifestation on the Gamecube, Conflict Denied Ops which absolutely crippled the Conflict franchise by transforming it into a FPS, or the hotly debated Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. Maybe I’m being a little harsh, and at very least I respect the decision to move forward, experimenting with a title in an attempt to enhance it rather than let it stagnate – it’s just a shame when it horribly fails. Thankfully, there are some titles that are able to update and create incredible sequels. Fine examples of this can be seen in both the Legend of Zelda and Metroid franchises, taking simple 2D classics and rendering them in 3D with new worlds, enemies and narratives. The latter is what I shall focus on within this post…

Glorious nostalgia

With various adaptations in the series, some less well-received than others (Metroid – the Other M, mentioning no names), it is no surprise that fans have turned to their own ingenuity to create fresh sequels. And my God, have they been working hard! Check them all out here: http://www.metroid-database.com/fanapps.php

The most recent creation is a glorious tribute to retro 2D gaming, harking back to Metroid’s finest format. Minitroid, so far just a tech demo, has been put together by a three person team: Construct Programmer Tokinsom, an artist Betatronic, and music composer Jamie Billings. They’ve been working on it for about a year, uploading updates via Tokinsom’s youtube account, but it’s no surprise that the game is still only in demo form when you see how comprehensive it is! The game takes everything that was right about Metroid – the simple side-scrolling shooting system, the expansive 2D environments, the in-depth exploration and strategy application – and throws in a new protagonist, a mini, chibi-style Metroid. Despite wearing the classic orange spacesuit, she is almost cute!

Mind the gap!

At its core, Minitroid is classic Metroid gameplay, with all the familiar commands and power-ups. Moves are limited to ducking, jumping (with a double jump) and shooting (including a charge shot with your default weapon, and added missiles), with additional moves unlocked as you discover new ups (the Speedcore, allowing Minitroid to dash also enables her to long jump). And don’t forget the Morph Ball and Bombs! Enemies are varied, requiring alternating tactics in order to kill them efficiently, as is the gameworld, a mass of adjoining levels formed from many different colours and textures. For a game so simple in design, it is remarkably detailed. Adding to the classic feel is Billings’ beautiful chiptune soundtrack, transporting you right back to your gaming childhood. It’s highly reminiscent of the original game music, creating an audible sense of fantasy and sci-fi to complete the sublime environments that surround you.

Open Sesame!

The game has a good learning curve, essential for enjoyable but rewarding gameplay. Enemies are fairly easy to combat, especially when you’ve discovered their path of movement and attack, and they often drop missile and health refills. Save points are located throughout the game, at challenging intervals – you’re very grateful when you find them, but won’t have to work too hard in order to do so. The greatest difficulty isn’t survival, it’s working out how in God’s name you progress from one area to another, but with a little time you’ll manage it! (And if you can’t, unlucky because there are no walkthroughs!)

Minitroid is the perfect combination of shoot-em-up action and puzzle/strategy; you must use initiative to uncover new areas, whilst experimenting with the power-ups you’ve earned in inventive ways to progress. Despite being only a demo, the game is solid and detailed, and well deserves a few hours of your time. Show your support for a growing indie game industry and check it out!

Charles Caleb Colton once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. He obviously never had his favourite anime completely bastardised.

It was reported today that Warner and Legendary Pictures have sent scripts to various Hollywood actors in the hope of securing two protagonists for their impending remake of the classic anime Akira. This in itself is not cataclysmic news, but wait until you hear who are the front runners…

Initially I was entirely apprehensive about the idea of an Akira remake. The film is far too established a cult classic. It’s like remaking Battleship Potempkin; all the style, all the emotion, all the original charm is at risk of being lost, superseded by the modern taste for beautiful but hollow computer-generated visuals. Style crucifying substance. This is especially treacherous with the transformation of a sublimely animated film to live-action. The dangers are numerous: Will the pace and energy of the action-packed narrative mirror what is possible in animation? Will the cast even vaguely resemble the characters we know and love, in both appearance and personality? Quite plainly, how can one replicate the delicate and astounding visual world created by Katsuhiro Otomo?

Slowly, I am coming round. After all, life is about progress, moving forwards, not hankering for the past. It’s just a shame that directors so often look backwards, rather than searching for a new story to be told. We need to unearth the new Akira, not taint what has been made perfect, evolving it into some hideous mutation. I am at very least intrigued by the possibilities. Perhaps, for once, Hollywood can create something fresh and beautiful, something we can all be proud off. And either way, whether it’s a glorious triumph or a horrendous flop, it’ll provide me with some valuable material to discuss.

…This was my feeling until about 1pm today when I heard the update announcing the ‘considered’ actors.

Are you f***ing kidding me?

OMFGWTF. This is both the first and last time I shall do that.

None of these actors are suitable in the least! Forget the fact the Akira tells the story of a bike gang comprising rowdy 14 year old, Japanese school kids… actually, don’t forget that, that’s insane! How in God’s name is James McAvoy or Chris Pine meant to imitate that?? Biology is their greatest bloody enemy. I can just see it now, Chris Pine acting out Tetsuo’s dream sequence with all the gusto and, ahem, emotion he displayed in Unstoppable. Awesome. Not one of those named actors should have even been considered, but Robert ‘R Patzzz’ Patterson and Justin ‘Forget I was ever in Nsync’ Timberlake are particularly offensive. I’m not here to slate them as actors – JT was praised highly for his portrayal of Napster co-founder Sean Parker in The Social Network, and RP, well, erm, he has lovely eyebrows. The biggest issue I have with these two candidates is their notoriety. With actors so globally recognised it’s going to be difficult to overlook their status as they attempt to convince you of their authenticity of character. But this is precisely why they have been shortlisted: draw in the audiences with some big names, regardless of their suitability or the potential damage to the franchise. Such a decision doesn’t bode well for the quality of the film…

If either of these stars are selected it is sure to be a failure. What a Revelation, in the biblical, fire and brimstone, we’re all fucked, sense.