Archive for October, 2008


Gears of War 2

I’m going to be that annoying cousin that comes out once a year to see the family for Christmas. Don’t pretend like you don’t know who I’m talking about, he’s loud, obnoxious, drinks a little too much and always says inappropriate things when your elderly grandmother is in the room. I’m going to come out and say Gears of War is the new franchise for Microsoft to hide behind and pretend it was all their idea. Gears of War instantly became the must have title for the Xbox 360, and really has been overshadowing Halo 3. Now we have the inevitable sequel at our doorsteps, the question is did they get it right?

 

Gears of War 2 (GoW) is what I would call a perfect sequel. It builds on the first one, and while not changing too much that people came to love and respect, still moves ahead in leaps and bounds that make you sit back and think how you lived without these new additions.

 

First thing that makes me happy to see is more development in the story and the characters. The story this time has the feel of an epic movie, of urgency, and I actually care about the characters unlike first time around. The game feels and plays like an action movie, with memorable characters, which is becoming harder and harder to find in games these days. Sure it’s no Bioshock, but GoW 2’s story definitely makes the first GoW mean a lot more which is great, it compliments its roots.

 

Controls are more refined, and while it still offers a nice little training exercise for new comers, if you have played the first GoW then nothing has changed in way of controls. The covering system is more refined, and using tables and desks as cover is really cool as now Marcus will flip them down and hide behind them.

 

Nice to see some new weapons, and more refinement in the old favourites, the Lancer is as badass as ever! The new Locust machine gun is a nice touch, the Longshot has a better scope and there are some very nice new weapons for you all to enjoy. Of course, all of these weapons are used by the Locust, and there are no shortage of new spectacular enemies.

 

Technically the game is great. The sound has been totally re-worked. The guns actually feel like they have weight and substance, the shotgun is a booming thunder of death, and the grenades wouldn’t be out of place at a rave club they sound so meaty. Graphically the game is stunning, but I wouldn’t say it’s 100% improvement on the original’s already fantastic graphics. Acheivements are put to great use here, with continual pop-ups at key moments to see how far along you are to obtaining it, for instance when I hit the 15 active reload mark it popped up stating “Once More With Feeling 15/30” which is nice to know when you are working towards them.

 

One of the scenes in the single player campaign is one of the most memorable I’ve ever played, so much blood, I seriously think the kiddies should be kept away!

 

All in all Gears of War 2 is Microsoft’s next big title, and it deserves to be the face of the Xbox 360. Improving everything from the first classic, but still feeling exactly the same in a strange new world, this is the must have title of 2008

 

9/10

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Fracture

Original ideas in gaming these days are few and far between, and while it seems every title is claiming to offer us something never seen before, usually I end up being disappointed, like a kid who waits all day to buy a chocolate ice-cream to have a stranger steal said ice-cream, eat it and then crap it back out into their cone. It’s sad, depressing and makes you never want to trust anyone again.

Having said that it’s now time to look at Lucasarts newest game Fracture. Looking at it for a quick overview, it’s simple a run of the mill 3rd person shooter with not much to offer like that one plain cheerleader on the squad who always tries to hard to get somebody’s attention. What is Fracture’s claim to fame? Something they like to call Terrain Deformation (TD) but we’ll get to that in a moment.

So basically you play as Atlantic Alliance soldier Jet Brody, a slightly less manly and wimpy version of Marcus Fenix in the battle against the Pacificans. It’s the 22nd century and the Pacificans started altering DNA to keep up with the changing climate, while the Alliance put a ban on Genetic Engineering and chose to go with Cybernetic Enhancement. The Pacificans get pissed, cry to mum and then decide to say a hearty “Fuck You” and take over the world and have a tea party at the end with jam and scones and whipped cream. Standard story for any futuristic shooter these days

Fracture is a simple 3rd person shooter with some rather interesting weapons. You have your standard machine guns, rocket launchers and the like, but the real fun is to be had tth the TD grenades. You collect a set of grenades that can alter your terrain to your advantage on the battlefield. Let’s say you are getting pwned by a bunch of bad guys and need some cover, throw a TD grenade and boom there is a hill right there in front, giving you the cover you need to regenerate your health, reload and get ready for action. There are a multitude of these weapons that raise or lower terrain, create a gravity pull and the like, and while they are cool to see in action, they aren’t used enough. The puzzles that require TD to complete are simple and predicatble, and I honestly feel if the developers really pushed the boundaries with TD the game would have been much, much more interesting.

AI leaves a bit to be desired. All the enemies look the same, drab colours and not enough variety, and why they aren’t the smartest bunch and aren’t too difficult to dispose of, Fracture makes up in the number of them, they just keep coming and coming wave after wave, and often gameplay ends up being tired and boring, kill bad guys, get to checkpoint, move onto next area, kill bad guys and so forth

Controls are simple and easy once you get a grip on them, and once you have the TD functions down pat you will be out there ripping it up on the battlefield. Graphics are actually quite decent, and the TD effects look breath taking! Audio is also damn solid running through my 7.2 system (only running 5.1 though)

It’s true, Fracture does offer something that gamers haven’t seen in a game before until now, but instead of capitalizing on that idea, it was used in a boring and uninventive way. All in all I actually really like Fracture, it’s fun and while sure it’s run of the mill and not a game that stands out like Bioshock or Little Big Planet, it was a blast for the weekend I completed it. I hope Lucasarts takes some feedback, goes back and releases a sequel that utilizes the potential that this title really did have

6/10

Hardcore Gamer: A person who spends much of their leisure time playing games. As a consequence of the large amount of time spent, these gamers often become very proficient at playing games. There are many subtypes of hardcore gamers based on the style of game, gameplay preference, hardware platform and other preferences.

 

Casual Gamer: The casual gamer is a person who plays games designed for ease of gameplay (such as Tetris) and doesn’t spend much time playing computer or console games. The genres that casual gamers play vary, and they might not own a specific video game console to play their games.

 

Taken from Wikipedia.org

 

I tend to sit towards the Hardcore end of the scale, no I don’t sit at home and get every achievement for Gears of War, and no I don’t need to have every game on release date, but all in all I like a challenge, and a fair amount of my time is dedicated towards playing games. To say I was skeptical about Little Big Planet would be understatement of the year, sure it looked cute, the prospect of sharing levels and the online component excited me, but all in all it just looked like a Casual game, a kids game to me. It’s safe to say after a six hour session with the game last night, I am now a believer…

 

Media Molecule have done more than just create a game, essentially they have created a piece of art. Never, in my 18 years of gaming have I seen, or played anything like Little Big Planet. The thing that is still blowing my mind right this second is it’s so simple, yet so complex, and the scope of it all is ENORMOUS

 

You don’t need a review to tell you to get this game, you don’t need a review to tell you what to expect. If you own a PS3 then you simply need to get this game, end of story. I bought my PS3 exclusively for Metal Gear Solid 4, that was the be all and end all game for me. Little Big Planet is simply amazing, while some things need a bit of refinement, nothing can compare to the limits and bounds of this game. If I didn’t have a PS3 now, I’d go and buy one just for this