Archive for April, 2008


Condemned 2: Bloodshot Review

Condemned 2: Bloodshot

Well in what seems an eternity ago Sega released this little title called Condemned: Criminal Origins for the launch of the red ring of death some like to call the Xbox 360. Overlooked by many, Condemned was like the ugly step sister in an over crowded genre, it offered something different from the other sisters but even after a bottle of Jack Daniels your uncle still wouldn’t be interested. Fans of the original are few and far between which is a shame because Condemned was actually a damn good title, it offered thrills, drama, an adult story and interesting gameplay mechanics that didn’t involve space aliens or bringing back a game from the dead only to kill it once again, that’s right Joanna Dark I’m looking at you.

We find ourselves back in the shoes of Ethan Thomas, the protagonist from the first game who has fallen on harder times than a cheap russian bride falling down a set of apartment stairs after burning the casserole. Ethan is now an alcoholic and is having trouble telling what is real and what is not, and a lot of paranormal activity is still surrounding him. This makes a lot of sense for those of you who finished the first game, but thankfully for those who never got the chance to play the first one, it’s easy to pickup that this is one messed up individual.

Fighting mechanics have been greatly improved from the first title. Basically anything in the world can become a weapon, and you will be finding yourself doing a lot more melee combat than gunplay in this game, which is what made the first title unique. You will get the chance to use all sorts of items such as a toilet seat, bed posts, bricks and even dolls with explosives. A combo system has been implemented and once you have learned the timing of blocks, parrys and different types of punches you will be having one of the best experiences I’ve had this past 12 months.

Investigation scenes are now less linear, and you actually have to use your noggin to get the best possible results. When entering an investigation scene you are notified but you will have to choose what tool to use, and what information you can find to send back by a number of text choices. Sometimes these scenes aren’t as obvious and you will need to do some digging around, and this offers a more realistic experience.

The one thing that annoyed me about the first title, and still annoys me this time round is that environments can tend to get bland. While this time round we get to enter a lot of different environments, all have long corridors with lots of doors and empty rooms, confined spaces and darkness. Now I get the idea that the darkness is supposed to make the game more intense, but quite often I found myself getting headaches similar to a hard night on the booze, and having to take a break from playing.

The story is meant for adults, or teenagers pretending to be adults. It is complex, gruesome and basically it feels good to know that developers have made a game for us older gamers. Not totally uncommon in games today, but it does have a small amount of language but unlike games that just use it for cheap thrills (aka Kingpin) Condemned uses it when appropriate and it’s actually believable.

This is what happens when you smoke kids!

Graphics are a lot like that blonde cheerleader at school. Looks good at first and you can’t take your eyes off her chest, but then if you look closer it’s not as beautiful as you first thought and you begin telling yourself that they are fake. Cutscenes are some of the most fluent and best looking I’ve seen in a while, but characters can look a little rough, and so do some of the environments. It’s not a bad looking game, but it certainly could have been a little better.

Sound on the other hand is perfect! It’s freaky, guns sound like they have some balls, and all the freaky bad guys do sound genuinely spooky! There is no real music in the game, but in this sort of game you spend too long on the edge of your seat to reallise, its just like a horror movie, insert sharp strings here to startle the viewer, but it works and that’s what counts.
Instead of collecting dead birds there are sonar emitters to destroy in each level, as well as news reports to be viewed or listened to on radios and TV’s. You will also find yourself making vocal responses to questions which is a nice touch. One aspect of the game that could cause controversy is that you are actually encouraged to make Ethan drink alcohol to calm his nerves and feed his addiction to steady your aim when using firearms. I thought this aspect was cool, but I bet the Catholic Church and Alcoholics Anonymous will have some gripes.

Worse than an all expenses trip paid at the Neverland Ranch is the multiplayer aspect of the game. It feels tacked on, weak and after about ten minutes I’d be willing never to look at it again. The first title survived fine without multiplayer and I feel that the developers should have felt the same about this one, but it seems to be the trend to throw in some shitty multiplayer for the hell of it these days.

All in all Condemned 2 is a great sequel, has fixed a bunch of broken mechanics from the first title, but still manages to tie it all in and keeps the players engrossed in the story. The addition of combos in the fighting mechanics, finishing moves and a less linear investigation process has made this game really shine as being original and interesting. If you aren’t squeamish, I’d recommend you get yourself a copy, turn the lights off and play it in the dark, and you will most likely need a spare change of underwear

8/10

Mario Kart: Wii

Mario has had a long career. Starting out over twenty years ago this middle aged, Italian plumber made a name for himself by stomping on mushrooms, saving a fine ass princess from a lizard/dinosaur/turtle shell wearing bad guy and eating mushrooms that made him grow. As with all careers Mario has changed jobs, starting out as a hero he then went into a deep depression of shitty assed games and spin offs titles after his last outing in the N64 days, relying on his sporting talents in Golf and Tennis, paying off some hookers and hosting party games for a certain white powdery substance.

 

Mario redeemed himself with the release of Mario Galaxy, a great outing that saw us go into the far reaches of outer space, once again to save the princess and the mushroom kingdom. I thoroughly enjoyed Mario Galaxy, but like having a third nipple, you are excited but already knew what to expect and while the implementation of gravity and story was good, it certainly wasn’t as mind blowing at Nintendo talked it up.

 

Once again we are hit with this syndrome with the newly released Mario Kart for the Nintendo Wii. As fate would have it while Mario spends a majority of his time trying to stop Bowser from taking over the Mushroom Kingdom, he also likes to spend three months of every year racing with him in the hills and remote sections of the kingdom. While not mind blowing, the most important ingredient to the game’s success is that it is fun and just works.

 

Basically it’s the same format we have come to expect, there are a bunch of different CUPS that all have a set of four tracks in which we race along to become the victor and unlock new vehicles and characters until we finally finish the game. Funnily enough this gameplay was fun when I was six and still is now. Nothing has really changed to the game mechanics, minus the addition of motorbikes this time around. They do drive differently compared to the karts, but once you get used to them you will be racing around like Lindsay Lohan in the middle of a DUI.

 

Implementation of multiple control methods is fantastic. Being able to play with the Gamecube or Classic Controller is a godsend, and makes veterans of the game feel right at home. The WiiWheel works well, but the operator needs to get used to the movement and feel of it all, but after an hour I found myself turning like a pro and feeling right at home, yet I still preferred the Classic Controller. But unfortunately for those of us who don’t adopt the WiiWheel, like the government giving disadvantaged autistic penguins a payment, the WiiWheel players have a feature that cannot be used by controller wielding players. When going off jumps a simple flick of the remote makes you perform a stunt and upon landing you get a speed boost. This is unable to be performed by players not using the WiiWheel setup, which is total bullocks.

 

So controls are great, gameplay is nothing new but still has that fun formula that we have become used to, how is the online features? Well to say that this is the best Online game I’ve played on the Wii thus far would be an understatement. While you still need to use the broken and utterly retarded friend code feature, you can see which friends are online, what they are doing and if you can join them which is a bonus. I played a game worldwide, once the twelve players had joined the game, each player was shown on a world map telling me where they were from. I was racing against four members from Japan, two in Germany and the rest were from England. We launched into the game and I was expecting a little lag, but none WHATSOEVER. Finally a Wii game online that simply works lag free, and what is more it’s fun. I soon found myself ditching the single player component all together and spending hours online.

 

Mario Kart has always been about multiplayer, so not only can you jump onto WFC by yourself, but you can also bring a friend along on the same console, double the online fun.

 

So what’s the verdict? While just spewing out more of the same, but adding in a few features and keeping the fun factor to a maximum Mario Kart Wii is a great step forward for a timeless series that has been replicated by other franchises but none of which compare to this classic. I would recommend it to just about anyone with opposable thumbs, that enjoys having Fun and has friends to play this online

 

8/10

 

 

More Touchscreen Madness

These are two new handests that were showcased at the CTIA Tradeshow from LG and Samsung, and they continue to add to the large number of touchscreen devices that seem to be coming left right and centre after the release of the successful Iphone.

Samsung’s device, Instinct, is a 3g phone, 12mm  thin and sports some of the features that made the Iphone so successful, touchscreen interface, visual voicemail and throws in TWO batteries, each lasting for 5.75 hours of talk time. The Instinct also has on-board GPS, stereo Bluetooth and a 2 megapixel caemra.

LG are talking up their newest device the Vu, which follows on from the large success of the Viewty and Prada releases. The Vu is one of the first phones to support the live mobile TV service from AT&T and mobile TV technology MediaFlo

The Vu also features a 2 megapixel camera, 3G network support and has similar features as it’s previous touchscreen devices

No news on release dates