Posts Tagged ‘Xbox Games Review’

Developer: City Interactive

Publisher: City Interactive

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Price: £17.99 on Play.com

I have been waiting to pick up this title for a while now, excited about the prospect of a game devoted to sniping, something which is disappointingly underrepresented in gaming. Games like Modern Warfare (‘One Shot, One Kill’) and World at War (‘Vendetta’) have successfully demonstrated how heart-racingly exciting sniping can be, especially the latter. Finally, a game supposedly based on the long range shooting strategy. How could it go wrong? Find out below:

Sniper Ghost Warrior is perhaps best described as mediocre; enjoyable but certainly instantly forgettable.

The plot is practically non-existent, jetting you to location after location with little plot continuity or development. Narrative becomes a sacrificial lamb, rushed, unplanned instead promoting the games greatest (perhaps only) feature – the bullet time sniping accompanied by a vicious kill cam. Undoubtedly, this feature provides endless fun:


There is nothing quite as satisfying as popping an enemy in the head, rewarded with more that just some additional score points. A kill cam is the greatest reward a gamer could receive, providing them with a glorious view of their accurate, deadly shot.

Unfortunately, everything goes downhill from there. Sniping is heavily affected by an inventive realistic ballistics system. This ensures that environmental factors affect the trajectory of your bullet, exacerbated when you are standing instead of crouching or proning. It is refreshing that City Interactive have attempted to inject some gaming realism beyond the modern taste for photo realistic graphics. However, disappointingly this system is not without its flaws. On the default difficulty setting the user is provided with an additional red dot on the reticule which directly shows where the bullet will make contact. As a result, the environmental factors are entirely redundant. However, on higher difficulty settings the user is faced with the other extreme; wind conditions are so variable that perfect headshots are nigh on impossible. Moreover, undermining all of this is the bullet time feature which allows the user to slow time temporarily, also highlighting enemies in red, to provide an unmissable shot. I appreciate that the developers have tried to introduce something new, it’s just a shame that it is ill thought and riddled with flaws.

One of the most damaging things from my personal perspective is that there is little effective use of sniping within the game. When I heard that there was a game called ‘Sniper’ my mind automatically raced, thinking of all the potential sniping missions that I will be on; assassinating terrorist leaders, taking out the tyres of an escaping vehicle, destroying lights or alarm systems to provide stealth cover, eliminating enemy guards, the possibilities were endless. This game doesn’t scratch the surface though. I expected Silent Scope as an FPS and what I got was a bad COD rip off.

All together now: 'Boom, headshot!'

Importantly the game is subtitled ‘Ghost Warrior’. Clearly this phrase is completely apt for the traditional strategy of a sniper: covert, anonymous killing. You’ve seen Leon right? This sort of strategy is certainly present here, highlighted by the inclusion of a silenced pistol and throwing knife, but it is often ridiculously juxtaposed with perhaps the worst assault rifle physics that I have ever seen. There are certain sections which force the user to use an assault rifle instead of a sniper. These entirely ruin the fluidity of the game, making stealth impossible and completely undermining the whole premise of the title. It is another example of ill planned development. More damaging are the actual physics of the assault rifles which have the worst recoil I have ever seen in a game (that’s not to say that I have ever felt the recoil of a gun in real life). It’s like Michael J. Fox has suddenly entered the campaign.

The sniping element to the game is further weakened by severely limiting linearity, created by poor map design and plot progression. Sniper Ghost Warrior ensures that the player must follow a very strict path throughout. This is enforced by the use trigger points interspersed throughout each level which must be crossed in order to initiate the next map marker, and an almost Totalitarian reliance on invisible walls. The idea of sniping, of covertly locating the most advantageous sniping spots to obtain the perfect hit, would be much better suited to a sand box title. As it stands, Ghost Warrior completely restricts the user in their attempt to strategise, a hugely disappointing limitation when the landscapes are beautifully rendered, visually vast but with no substance.

Looks exciting right? Well sadly it's not.

Enemy AI is pretty dire in Sniper also. The biggest problem is that there is a shambolic level of inconsistency. At times enemy forces have a perpetual lock on to your position whilst at others you are able to selectively pick off a group of four or five without them batting an eyelid. It’s this inconsistency which makes the game infuriating, particularly when someone kills you with an assault rifle from a range that would require the player to use a sniper to accurately hit them.

I’ll end with a note about the 12 man online multiplayer. Essentially, it’s a bit, well, meh. It’s ok, nothing more, nothing less. It suffers from awful connection problems, worsened by the fact that it backs you out to the main lobby after every single match. There is quite a harsh learning curve when you first play, making it vital to learn the functionality of varying rifles and map designs. It does feel rewarding when you do this though. Unfortunately, the few maps become very repetitive, very quickly and inevitably have more campers than Glastonbury. The fatal flaw of Ghost Warrior’s online multiplayer is that it actually feels quite exciting, highlighting how lackluster the solo campaign is. Although the more exciting features of bullet time and kill cams have been removed from online play – a necessary manoeuvre – you are constantly prisoner to the feelings of both excitement and fear. Adrenaline pumps as you dash from spot to spot, manically scanning the landscape’s foliage in the hope of spotting opposing snipers, before they spot you. This unnerving excitement, experienced in WAW’s ‘Vendetta’ (above), is sadly missing in Ghost Warrior’s campaign. This, accompanied by a discouraging range of other problems renders it, at best, a mediocre FPS.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is due for release on 16th March 2012. Am I excited? Errrrrrr…..

Developer: Valve Corporation

Publiser: Valve Corporation

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Price: £39.99 (£36.99 on Gamestation)

(Please note that post this may be a little spoilerific, so if you haven’t played/finished Portal 2 yet then exit here)

A wise man once said ‘Perfection is hard to improve’. Never has this phrase been more accurate than when used to describe Valve’s ingenious FPS puzzler, Portal.

Originally bundled in with the Orange Box in 2007 as an additional side-project, Portal was a surprising hit. Capturing the hearts of Half-Life fans the world over with its quirky puzzles and dark, sarcastic charm the game has sold almost 4 million copies (excluding Steam sales) over the last four years.

Pour-tal. (I'm so sorry)

Unexpectedly, Portal rapidly began to receive acclaim, in many cases overshadowing Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, which were very much anticipated successes. Awards included the Game of the Year, Best Game Design  and the Innovation Award at the 2008 Games Developers Choice Awards, amongst many, many others.

Years later, we now found ourselves handling the sequel. But how does one replicate the success of a title that has become so critically-acclaimed, especially something praised for its originality and innovation? How do you transfer a fledgling side-game to a stand-alone hit? Well, ask Valve, because somehow they managed it.

To the game…

For fans of the original, expect plenty more of the same. Once again you take the role of mute protagonist Chell, awoken from stasis after the destruction of GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the artificial intelligence computer system that you combat in the previous title. Chell’s stasis is disturbed by a small personality core called Wheatley, who attempts to guide her towards an escape pod as a means of rescue. In the process of doing so however, they accidentally awake the dormant GLaDOS, who, bitter and aggressive after her prior downfall, proceeds to rebuild the decaying Aperture Science labs in order to put Chell through another cycle of rigorous and dangerous tests.

Portals in action

The game physics remain generally unchanged in Portal 2. Testing your spatial awareness, the player must use ingenuity and experimentation to progress from chamber to chamber with their trusty Portal Gun. But there are also some interesting additions this time round. Instead of relying solely on the use of two portals, there are also Hard Light Bridges (long panels that can be used horizontally to bridge a gap or vertically as a resourceful shield), Tractor Beams and three types of gel: Repulsion (a blue gel that causes the user to bounce when they come into contact with it), Propulsion (an orangey-red gel that increases the speed of any user passing over it) and Conversion (a white gel allowing any surface to become portal-able when ‘caked’ in it – a little in joke there); the latter device is particularly game changing as it enables an endless amount of possibilities.

Bridge the gap!

These new additions are key to Portal 2. They ensure that the game is not a simple revamp of the original, adding new degrees of difficulty and variation. For veterans they establish dimensions unexplored previously, keeping it fresh and interesting. Importantly, Portal 2 has a really accessible learning curve. As with the first game, the first few test chambers function as an interactive tutorial, instructing the user on the basics of portal usage. Experienced players may find this a little tedious, but can run through them quickly enough that it should not become a problem. As the game progresses, portals must be used in more inventive ways, testing the creativity and logic of the player, with the new gameplay elements added continually for extra obstacles. In the later chambers, when Hardlight Bridges, Gels and Tractor Beams are combined, the game really comes into its own, setting impressive challenges.

The levels are well designed and really show off the sequels improved graphics. Between chambers, Chell is often treated to more detailed passageways, complete with growing foliage and transforming surfaces as GLaDOS attempts to rebuild a decaying facility. Escaping the somewhat sterile environments of the original, which were almost entirely centred around very small-scale and repetitive lab designs, the player also gets a glimpse into the vast scope of the Aperture Science building, with long distance shots that sometimes seem endless.

The bumbling Wheatley aka Stephen Merchant

Portal 2 definitely seems a bit gloomier, aided considerably by a beautiful ambient soundtrack. This goes hand-in-hand with perhaps the most impressive voice acting ever witnessed in a game. Ellen McLain (GLaDOS), J.K. Simmons (Cave Johnson) and a surprise appearance from Brit comedy writer Stephen Merchant (Wheatley) provide the perfect comedic delivery of a hilarious script that is notable for its wit and charm. GLaDOS appeals to the child in all of us, regularly spouting the equivalent of ‘Your mum’ jokes (“Oh good, you finished the test. Let’s see what the data says. Hmmm, it says you’re a terrible person. Weird, we weren’t even testing for that.”), with Merchant’s Bristolian accent lending itself particularly well to a clumsy, dim robot. And referring to audio, don’t forget the outro song… It’s sure to be another Valve classic.

Add to all this a newly developed multiplayer system and you have a winner! The campaign can be played co-operatively in both split screen and online modes. PS3 users can play over Steam using PSN, finally allowing console and PC gamers to cross formats (although currently, due to PSN’s outage, this won’t be possible for the near future), and will also receive a free promotional code for the PC or MAC version. Disappointingly, Xbox Live users can only play with other Xbox owners, but hey, at least it’s actually working! Impressively, the co-op mode is made up of all new test chambers, doubling the hours of play time. Co-op is much more than just a name in this title; it is completely vital. The multiplayer chambers cannot be completed alone, some requiring the use of all 4 portals at your disposal.

Best of auto-mate-ons

And it appears that Valve have thought of everything: For users playing online without a mic the developers have included various tools, such as a Ping Tool, a cursor used for highlighting a pa

Originally written November 24th 2010

Meaty frustration.

Not an innuendo. Not a description of summer barbecue mishaps. However, it is an apt description of XBLA’s newest super hero title: Super MeatBoy!

With a significant precedent set by Alien Hominid, XBLA (as well as WiiWare, PC and Mac) now sees another successful Newgrounds flash title being released. Developed by Team Meat – which always makes me think of Shaun of the Dead; come on all you Pegg fans – the game promises some of the most excruciatingly frustrating levels that gamers will ever attempt. For those of you who have played Hominid, be prepared for just as difficult a title, especially when trying to 100% it.

Mr Meat Boy. First name Super.

Right, to the premise. Despite having a name reminiscent of a porn actor pseudonym, Super Meat Boy does a Ronseal – exactly what it says on the tin! He is meat. Super meat. Apparently. He looks meat-like, if all you can afford is Lidl spam, and you squint slightly. Essentially he is block of meat, who goes out with another lovely block, although she is made of bandages for some odd reason. If this all seems a little too weird for you, it only gets worse, because you see, in the game’s opening cut-scene she is kidnapped (Oh no), by a foetus, with a doctorate. In a jar. Wearing a tuxedo. Although this appears a little ridiculous, the characters have a surprising charm, especially the foetus in the suit – he’s quite dapper I can tell you. The game then sees you play through level after level, boss after boss, in a Mario-esque endeavour to rescue your Mrs, another typical helpless damsel in distress moment. In the same vein as old-skool Mario titles (this reference it joyfully promotes – “Sorry Meat Boy, but Bandage Girl is in another castle”), it’s a 2D platformer, where the aim is to survive gaps, lava and enemies until you reach an end target; but it’s much, much more violent. Throw in some saws, spikes, lasers, missile launchers, and bucket loads of blood and you get somewhere nearer to what Meat Boy actually is. Perhaps the most relevant title to reference when examining Super Meat Boy is N+, released on XBLA in ’08. If you’ve ever played or even witnessed this title, you’ll understand the sort of threatening 2D level design and split second escapes that you can expect in Meat Boy, with a delightful nod to this game in the unlockable character list.

Be careful buddy!

Super Meat Boy is arguably one of the most irritating games you will play in a long time, but also one of the most enjoyable. The game is inherently addictive – as the level difficulty gradually increases,  you cannot help but retry after each failed attempt, edging closer to the end goal. With personal pride, friends leaderboards and achievements at stake, desperation consumes you, blindly refusing to quit, despite the red mist taking over and many a swear word being screamed. On that note, this game will cause some of the most violent outbursts that you have ever uttered – make sure there are no children, or nuns, present when playing because the filth you blurt out is sure to offend. A particularly nasty spasm saw me calling our meaty hero a “shitting bloody tampon’. I won’t be forgiven for that one I call tell you. Sorry mum.

But which one will survive?

Making the game slightly easier is a quirky little addition in that Meat Boy leaves behind him a bloody trail, like somehellish snail. This means that whenever you fail and re-enter a level, you’ll have a visual guide of paths to retrace in the areas you passed and where to avoid in the areas you were defeated. Also, whenever you complete a level you are treated to an instant replay, which includes a ghost of every attempt you had before you passed. Not only is this functional, providing valuable information of how to complete the level again if you want to retry for a speedier time, it’s entertaining, depicting a race of epic proportions as you witness various Meatboys competing for victory, trying to spot the one who will escape the wave of death.

With charming graphic design and gameplay that is both fun and challenging, the only thing required for Super Meat Boy to become a classic arcade title is replayability, and this it has in droves. The game encompasses 5 worlds, spanning 340 levels of increasing difficulty. Each world has four warp zones to be discovered (each providing a loveable reference to simple arcade gaming, interestingly similar to the Super Gameboy visually and accompanied by perfectly matched 8 bit soundtracks) and 20 bandages to collect. Amassing these bandages allows you to unlock 10 secret characters, each with differing abilities and Achilles’ heels, including the famous yellow martian Hominid and Tim, Braid’s ginger, time-moulding munchkin. Many games offer varying characters that bear no real significance for completing the game. Not so on this occasion, as certain bandages are only obtainable by using the very specific abilities of particular characters. Even if you’re not out to finish the game in its entirety, having more characters makes completing the standard campaign much easier. Unlocking them is a challenge, but the rewards are there….

Gotta catch em all

Now, down to the nitty gritty. How much is this bad boy going to cost me? Only 800 points… Come again? Yes, that’s right, just 800 points, about £7.50. Considering how much you get for that price, it’s a bloody bargain! This is especially true when DLC is going to be free, that’s right free. Team Meat have incorporated an unlockable section called Teh Internets, which enables users to download free levels directly, without having to shell-out more MS points. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Team Meat certainly know how to treat their patrons. Its frantically fun, tough, engaging and refreshingly difficult in an age where games developers often pander to those who won’t commit to a game for more than a few attempts. If you do anything before this year is out, spend the cash and let the little meaty superstar into your life. Your nostalgia for arcade gaming will thank you for it.

Originally written in April 12th 2010, for a gaming content writer competition

When it was announced that the N64 classic Perfect Dark was coming to Xbox Live Arcade, frequent demands were heard across the gaming community for the release of its predecessor, the nostalgia-filling Brosnan-Basher Goldeneye. However, it soon became very clear that Rare made the right decision.

Despite PD drawing very heavily from Goldeneye, it is patently a much more developed title. Graphically it was much sharper, with a greater attention to detail and palette of colours used, especially visible in some of the darker levels like Chicago Stealth, looking especially beautiful when rendered in full HD.

See the difference for yourself!

PD also had more sophisticated gameplay and importantly much more replay value, lending itself perfectly to XBLA. Not only is there an entertaining solo campaign – a captivating sci-fi story, free from the chains of cinematic realism – but a vast multiplayer system also. This includes standard co-op mode and a highly inventive ‘counter-op’ scenario in which one player assumes the role of enemy forces, constantly respawning as a different enemy attempting to foil Joanna Dark’s objectives.  Additionally, there are crowns to collect by completing a specific task in each level and 29 challenges to conquer, which can be played solo or multiplayer, pitting the players against AI simulants in various scenarios like the classic capture the flag (briefcase) or king of the hill.

Greasy Monsieur Brosnan

Obviously when compared to a successful contemporary FPS like MW2 the AI often appears illogical and outdated. However, this is completely forgivable when accepting  that PD was originally released 10 long years ago, coupled with the incredibly thorough multiplayer simulant AI list. The list is perhaps one of the most creative and memorable elements of the game, including 18 massively differing sim types, from standard difficulty alternatives to specialised bots that prey on the winning player or that will only attack using explosives.

All this, bundled up for a measly 1200 points? And never having to look at Mr Brosnan’s greasy mirkin hair? Yes please.