Sunday, 21 March 2010
Ever since its announcement in 2007, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction has become one of the most anticipated games of the stealth-shooter genre. Now (FINALLY!) it's on its way for release, due out April 16th, and before the official debut of the game I got the chance to try a ten-minute demo of things to come. Conviction's plot sees secret agent Sam Fisher trying to recover from his daughter's death (by taking revenge on her killers) while looking for rogue EMP devices which are being prepared to destroy the Earth. The demo saw Sam interrogate a criminal in a public loo, with the player being given plenty of possibilities to throw the criminal through urinals or even invade an innocent's privacy by throwing the man into a toilet- yes, Tom Clancy has injected some humour into an otherwise foreboding epic. Then, we attempted to infiltrate a huge warehouse, with the guidance of objectives cunningly beamed onto surfaces that Sam could see. The gameplay was brilliant, keeping a tense atmosphere as Sam sneakily slaugthered groups of enemies, although the idea of "Melee; Mark and Execute" could tire and become repetitive quickly, so the effect of Conviction's campaign mode remains to be seen. Despite this, the new entry in the Splinter Cell series seems to be a major improvement on its predecessors, and could be worth a buy in April!
Saturday, 20 March 2010
The release of Modern Warfare 2 has significantly up the ante for action FPS games permenantly, especially for ones based around the concept of modern fighting, but now a true contender for FPS crown has appeared in the guise of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Here's a brief comparison of the two, and my verdict as to which one is worth getting:
Graphics: MW2 looks grim, stunning and disturbing all at the same time, but pushes both the 360 and PS3 to their graphical limits. Bad Company also looks great, but the limited number of setpieces prevents it from winning this contest. Winner: COD
Game-Play: Obviously both of these games focus on the concept of Modern Warfare, but COD's cinematic setpieces and Battlefield's focus on grenade launchers and RPGs set both titles apart. The former does well in creating a movie-like atmosphere, but Bad Company's focus on fun and exhilirating levels manages to keep things even more interesting. Winner: Battlefield
Storyline: Clearly MW2 has the upper hand here, as Bad Company's focus on comedic and unrealistic plot to make the whole experience of war more lighthearted (while working well) doesn't acheive the same blockbuster moments. Winner: COD
Multiplayer: At first glance COD seems to have the upper hand, but Battlefield's squad-based missions available on multiple maps eventually give it a much-deserved win. Winner: Battlefield
The Verdict: If you're looking for an amazing single-player plot experience, head to MW2. If you, however, want a fun and long-lasting one go to Battlefield. For multi-player on the other hand, stick with Battlefield, and you'll last for the rest of this year!
Sunday, 14 March 2010
The Whoniverse has very rarely ventured into the world of gaming, but the Doctor looks to be returning this Christmas on Wii and DS in an as-of-yet untitled romp. Although originally reported by British tabloids, the BBC have all but confirmed the existence of a Doctor Who video game for Nintendo consoles, starring Matt Smith as the Doctor. It's rumoured that the Daleks, the Cybermen and old baddies the Silurians (all expected to make appearances in Series 5) will face off against the Doc in some way, but David Tennant expressed his concern in the tabloids at the game, saying that the Doctor "isn't Batman, who smacks people in the heads". As a confessed fan of Who, the idea of a Wii and DS video game interpretation is a great one to me, as long as we don't see the Doc unrealisticly fighting or at the same part taking on a variety of minigames, which is where many Wii and DS efforts seem to head nowadays. However, after the travesty that was Doctor Who: Top Trumps (I still need to play it!), I'm also on guard for a rubbish game! More news as it comes...
Assassin's Creed II proved a massive success on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 with the few people who actually played it (i.e. reviewers and fans who hadn't given over to COD6!), but a little-known fact is that DS and PSP versions were released as side-stories to the main AC universe. Now, the DS game, Discovery, has been ported to iPhone, and while there are some flaws that need to be ironed out for the next iPhone entry, it is a decent entry that should be played by fans. Seeing the protagonist of the main game, Ezio Auditore, investigating Christopher Columbus' trip to the New World, Discovery allows players the chance to partake in side-scrolling adventures across Italy and Spain, discovering new facts on the arch-enemy of AC2 along the way. The move to side-scrolling may surprise some fans of the original iPhone port, Altair's Chronicles, but I'm glad to say that for the most part it works a treat. The implementation of a bar controlling Ezio's direction and speed does cause problems, as there are times when your finger might stray from the bar and Ezio will stop mid-flow, but aside from this the new mechanic works well. While the plot seems interesting at first, and the brilliant cast from AC2 return, eventually the story drags and heads towards a straightforward conclusion with one of the biggest anticlimatic endings in gaming history. So, while not as successful as the brilliant port of GTA Chinatown Wars (5/5), Assassin's Creed: Discovery makes for a great iPhone, and I look forward to seeing what Ubisoft produce next in Splinter Cell: Conviction.
The Mario Kart franchise has ruled the kart-racing streets of gaming for nearly two decades now, and all its rivals have slowly given way to the recent DS and Wii incarnations, which- put simply- took the formula and weaved it into the two best racing games on the consoles. SEGA, a close rival of Nintendo, refuses to be beaten, however, so has concocted Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing in an attempt to win back the market. Whether this was the best of moves is debatable, as while the track and character selections are varied and somewhat interesting, none of SEGA's mascots (bar Sonic) have become the icons that Mario and co are in the gaming world of the 21st century. Game-play wise, this is good as kart-racing gets, but that's only because Sega All Stars steals its interface from Mario Kart, a trait which becomes immediately obvious upon entering the first race. There's no plot drawing SEGA's cast together, but that's normal for this genre anyway! The main problem here comes from the fact that while Mario Kart is famous for its colourful landscapes and power-ups, this entry isn't, so playing it just feels like putting off the real thing, and is nowhere near as nostalgic. That's not to say that All Stars Racing is bad, but the formula is really starting to tire now, and the potential sequel needs to find something interesting to make of the genre if it wants to win 1st place. Unless you're desperate for a kart-racer on 360 or PS3, stick to Forza; Gran Turismo & Mario.
While the airdate of the first episode of this year's Doctor Who Season 5 was a topic of debate amongst fans recently, it's now been confirmed that The Eleventh Hour will broadcast in the UK on the 3rd of April. Timings haven't yet been confirmed, but we expect the regular 7.00pm slot will be taken up by the 65 minute opener. The Eleventh Hour stars Matt Smith as the Doctor, Karen Gillian as Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill as Rory, Amy's fiancee. The second and third episodes, The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks (both one-part stories) will be aired on the 10th and 17th of April respectively.
Shrek: Forever After and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse are both sequels to award-winning franchise movies, and although both series seem to have lost momentum (Shrek 3 and New Moon being some of the most lacklustre efforts ever), their newly released trailers seem to indicate a general improvement in the quality. Forever After's video shows Shrek making a wish to Rumpelstiltsken for a day of being a natural ogre again, only to find that the whole of Far Far Away has changed because of it, and that he must find (now warlord) Fiona for true love's kiss before midnight. As good as that may sound, the whole "true love's first kiss" thing was done in the original Shrek, so Dreamworks may simply be trying to revert back to their old ways for a hit. Eclipse's shows the return of rival vampire Isabella to the scene (who despite posing a threat made very little of an appearance in New Moon), and that both Edward Cullen and Jacob Black are preparing to fight her for Bella Swan's love, setting up an all-out vampire war. Once again, while it looks like Twilight is finally venturing into action-movie territory, this seemed to be the case in the New Moon (1/5) trails and so should be taken with a pinch of salt. We only have to wait until May to find out whether my predictions are correct, but for now head to Youtube and see what you think...
(Image property of IGN.com) As gamers will undoubtedly have noticed, the 30 minute demo of Just Cause 2 has now arrived on Xbox Live and Playstation Network, and I've had a chance to play through it a couple of times. The story, seeing secret agent Rico Rodriguez try to take back control of an island ruled by a comedic dictator, seems so far to take a back seat to all out fun action sequences, and by golly is JC2 fun: the opening seconds of the demo see your character BASE jump off a platform to the roads below, then grapple onto any passing bike or car he wishes, showcasing just how much of an emphasis this game has on unrealistic and crazy variation. While clearly cartoon-based, the graphical scheme is beautiful, with the Island of Panau having plenty of tasty sights for all, and the gameplay is accessible while complex to get the hang of. Some flaws did crop up quite a bit in the demo, such as the camera being unable to cope at times with Rico's quick-thinking using his grapple hook and parachute (both of which are a hoot) and very dull gun fights, but if Just Cause 2 can keep up its emphasis on fun and varied missions then these shouldn't stop if from being a hit. Note: The rating in the title is a current review based on what I've seen of the game so far.
The original Mass Effect was a fun but flawed sci-fi, taking place in the far future and seeing your character, Commander Shephard, make some tough decisions as he strived to save the galaxy from the Reapers. Now, with Mass Effect 2, each and every one of those decisions has consequencces, and if you owned the previous game, you will feel the impact of these at crucial moments in the plot. If not, you can simply create a new Shephard, and you'll be given a basic overview of the pre-set choices made in the last game then taken straight into the action. I'd personally suggest you opt for the former approach and buy the original (now selling for £10), as the fun ramps up considerably if you do. ME2 sees Shephard resurrected from the dead after an ambush by the Reapers in space, and now that his original team have disbanded, it's his job to find a new bunch of warriors and prepare for a suicide mission against his foes. If this premise sounds like something out of a movie, that's because this entry by Bioware has been made to feel like a blockbuster, and that shows in the superb graphics, improved battle gameplay and interesting storyline, all of which have to be seen to be believed. As a sequel, Mass Effect 2 is pretty much perfect, and bar a couple of irritating plot holes and lengthy sequences, it's also pretty much the perfect game. Just bear in mind that it's the second game in a trilogy, and like its predecessor, every choice you make will have a large impact on Mass Effect 3...
Carey Mulligan made her on-screen debut in 2007's season of Doctor Who, and since then has gone on to make a selection of little known yet brilliant pieces, including the recent British flick An Education. While this film may have passed over our heads at the time of its showing in Box Office, Carey Mulligan's nomination and eventual crowning of Best Actress for An Education at the BAFTAs has ensured that this DVD release will prove popular in Britain. It's true that Mulligan provides a superb character in Jenny, a girl who longs to be free of the rituals and trials of life and who thinks she might get that release from her lover David (Peter Saarsgard), but this feature also stars some other greats, including Alfred Molina, who turns what might have been a bleak drama into a hilarious comedy of sorts, and Emma Thompson, who dazzles as ever in her various cameos throughout. The plot itself is sound, and while fans of action and violence will be sorely disappointed at the lack of either of the aformentioned, romance fans will revel in the twists and turns that occur through Jenny's story. Overall, it's plain to see why An Education was nominated for all its awards, and from here it seems the only road for Carey Mulligan is up. 4.5/5
Ever since Modern Warfare 2 (4.5/5) ramped up the action last September, game developers have seemed to be afraid of venturing back into the warzone, and considering the global success Call of Duty acheived with its sixth entry, this reviewer doesn't blame them. EA and DICE, however, have been at work on two major contenders for the Modern War crown: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Medal of Honor. While we won't be seeing the latter until late this autumn, the former has arrived to almost no anticipation whatsoever, which is a shame as the new Battlefield game is ace. As the cover (left) shows, the Battlefield multiplayer portion of the game takes precedent over the Bad Company single-player side, and in truth DICE have created a gem in using squad-based gameplay to provide a twist on Infinity Ward's effort and keep things fresh: now you'll find yourself tasked with protecting satellite stations for as long as possible against a large onslaught of enemies controlled by other players, and if the first line of stations are destroyed, you'll be pushed back further up the map and try to hold the next position. As you can imagine, this works amazingly, and is a game-seller in itself. The plot, while not as interesting and complex as the original's, sets up more exciting set-pieces for you to fight in, as you travel across desert, urban territory and the Arctic to stop the Russians winning the Cold War with a super-weapon. A major flaw to the single-player is that admittedly you won't leave the campaign with any blockbuster memories, however the fact that every gun comes equipped with a grenade launcher and that nearly everything is destructable lets you create some moments of your own. While the story isn't up to COD's monumental standards, this entry of Battlefield more than proves a strong contender, and deserves to be picked up by shooter fans. 4.5/5
Ever since the abysmal Disney Animation adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, the hope of a decent revival of the classic Carroll novel has faded away in silence: until now. Tim Burton's reimagining, while at times utterly bonkers, successfully captures the essence of what the author originally intended "Wonderland" to look like at the time of writing. Jonny Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter is one of his most wild creations yet, as the Hatter constantly switches from states of hysteria to ones of disturbing vengeance and anger which may shock even the most dedicated of Depp fans. While there is a large all-star cast for Alice, Depp feels like the most prominent of them, as his character is barely ever off-screen even for a few minutes (bar the epic conclusion), however legends such as Alan Rickman and Anne Hathaway do have their moments, creating some much-needed comedy in what is at times a very dark interpretation of the original text. Newcomer Mia's portrayal of Alice proves an interesting and enjoyable one, although the actress does seem to take the idea of Wonderland merely being a dream too seriously at times. Alice in Wonderland certainly isn't the perfect flick: the gag of Wonderland actually being "Underland" does more harm than good; at times it feels like a collection of sketches merged into one and the ending, while tying loose ends, leaves a lot to be desired, but all in all it proves to be the best adaptation yet of Carroll's piece. 3.5/5