Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It’s a Big, Gaming World

Is a gamer someone who only plays Xbox or PS3 Games, like Call of Duty and Madden? Sure. However, gamers have diversified over the years. In the early years, gamers were, by and large, mature adults. Sure, children and teenagers played Pong and Space Invaders, but casual games that catered to younger audiences didn’t really appear until Nintendo released the NES.

Over the generations of consoles (and the PC, the poor thing), gamers have largely been mature, male adults and teenagers. Now, I’m not saying they composed the entirety of the gaming community, but they were most often stereotyped into the title “gamer.” Why males are more likely to become gamers isn’t something I can sum up on my own. Nowadays, gamers can be defined in much more diverse terms, even if said gamers don’t consider themselves “gamers.”

With the rising popularity of the Wii console, iPhones and their Android competitors, gaming has diversified. If you play Candy Crush with every second of your spare time, you’re probably a gamer. If you only play Call of Duty and Madden, you’re probably a gamer. If you play indie games, you’re probably a gamer.

“Gamer” is still a term portioned out to more “hardcore” players. People who play any MMO are considered gamers. For the most part, spending more than 4 hours a day playing games marks you as a gamer.

So, what does that mean?

Today, as I’ve said, most people who own a smartphone, Xbox, PS3, Wii, PC, or any game-carrying device can be given the title “gamer.” Yet, that’s not how most people view the term. Imagine you meet a new person. You’re sharing info about your lives, when they ask, “What do you like to do?” You respond non-chalantly, “I play games.” The response you receive can vary wildly, from enthusiastic “Yeah! That’s awesome!” to “What a waste of time.”

I am of the opinion that games have been a benefit to the cultures of the world. Creativity is fueled by gamers and developers. It’s an art of expression, story, and visual experience. That is how I feel.
Do I sometimes think, “Man, I could be doing something else.”? Sure. However, I don’t regret the many hundreds of hours I put into SWG, World of Warcraft, and countless other games in my life. I’ve learned from them, if nothing else.

So, if you’re a gamer, you don’t need to feel shame from non-gamers (whomever they are). Gaming, and what you gain from it, is entirely up to you.

On that note, if you stay up 24+ hours playing video games and drinking energy drinks, I am not responsible for any health problems. It’s all up to you, after all.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The GTA V Game Being Satisfactory For All Players

It supplies you major adaptability to check out an incredibly well realized world as well as notifies a story that’s grasping, thrilling, and darkly comic. It is a jump forward in historical class for the series, as well as there is no mechanical aspect of the gameplay that hasn’t already been enhanced over Grand Theft Auto IV. 
Yet every one of that gets all new point of views this year, as GTA V makes its method to the Xbox One and PS4. There was lots of hype around Grand Theft’s brand-new first-person perspective on next-gen gaming consoles, and the attribute meets all that babble. It changes the ways you play Grand Theft Auto, and also probably also transforms the method you think about killing in computer game. In addition its a bold move for Rockstar to get involved with the occurrence of GTA 5 money cheat and related stuff in the game. Still, you could just quibble a whole lot with those troubles, provided the overall size of GTA V, and the PS4 obtains a spectacular modicum of touch in that the controller speaker is taken advantage of for mobile phone calls, making factors simply a modicum of a lot much more immersive.

This stays the exact same huge game it was a year back, with 3 protagonists, its durable Los Santos as well as the suitable story in the franchise activity. It’s an exceptional tale that pokes ingenious fun at an excellent many subjects, keeping you continually mesmerized from beginning to complete. There’s a lot to do, from playing paparazzi to your regular car chases to some far more engaged tale objectives. You will get as many gold as you want as gold are the most important resources in Game Of War we make sure that the user will get the best Game Of War Gold Hack so he won’t try to buy gold anymore. You can add up to unlimited gold in your Game Of War but we will ask you to use two or three times before you will add all that amount as if you will appear in the game servers as you have unlimited gold it will be kind strange.

GTA identifies its bodily brutality a whole lot a lot more visibly than Space Invaders as well as Halo and hence has a far better angle on not simply being intense, nevertheless reviewing violence itself. In previous installments the game was set up on parody, indicating the physical violence in American culture as well as our very own gleeful skepticism the exceptionally inclinations that make GTA computer game so popular. However this newest variant has actually included an aspect that carries it through apology and also over another thing. It appears crazy, possibly, yet Grand Theft Auto IV introduces a reliable declaration on the immigrant experience, as well as the violent procedure of adaptation.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

SSX EA's classic gets back on board

It's all downhill from here - and we couldn't be happier

Every score could be higher. Every race faster. Every combo extended. EA's thrilling stunt racer reboot delivers dissatisfaction like little else - fuelling bittersweet OCD-style replay loops of thrilling depth.
The main solo mode, World Tour, lasts seven hours, yet acts as a glorious tutorial. No sooner does the 'final' cutscene roll than Explore mode taunts you into a fresh challenge: 0/153 drops completed. Each drop is a three-minute-ish track, split into bronze, silver and gold challenges. The original SSX had just eight tracks, and still offered near-limitless replay potential.

Quantity is no substitute for craft, however, and after 20 hours we're unsure if SSX offers the sculpted track genius of its predecessors. In SSX Tricky, we were finding previously unthinkable shortcuts and ramps months after release. Our gut says the gargantuan new SSX must lack such nuance, but most tracks are yielding surprises multiple plays later.

Initially, SSX is intuitive and bewildering. We plump for the new control scheme, holding the right stick down to 'charge' jumps, using the left stick to pre-wind twists. In mid-air, the right stick grabs the board for tweaks - for example, tap right to use your right hand, and rotate the stick 90 degrees to grab the nose. It makes sense, plus you can perform wild tricks without remotely mastering its subtleties.

Tracks have never been so intense, pulsing with ramps, ridges and rails. No sooner do you land than you're jumping again - in the milliseconds of reaction time, combos are made or broken, races won or lost. The seamless transition of thought into deed creates an almost Zen-like flow - over-think your grab or spin, and a clumsy slam often follows.


SSX thrives in its intensity, rewarding skill with seamlessly integrated audio and visuals. Run DMC's iconic 'It's Tricky' hijacks the soundtrack when you land a dazzling Uber move, as flares and scenery glow.
Nail a Super Uber trick and the scenery reforms ahead of you, creating subtle yet useful new ramps to maintain your combo. Imagine PS2's hypnotic-music-shooter Rez - with it's 'union of the senses' - allied to the twitch-shooter, reflex feel of multiplayer Call of Duty... only with fewer robot babies and swearing Arizonan preteens.

Wiping out really hurts - the colours bleed away, the soundtrack crashes and your senses mute. Handily, you can rewind time and keep the combo flowing, but it also rewinds your score, avoiding spamming of key scenery. In races, rewinding only affects you, allowing rivals to surge ahead. Combos aren't multiplied by the number of tricks you perform in a row, but by your 'flow' - the faster and more varied your run, the higher the multiplier. You get more points for one lengthy, stylish grab than three fiddly grabs in one leap.

World Tour features nine real-world regions split into multiple tracks, with a signature deadly descent. They're like boss battles against the elements, and mostly provide welcome variety to the race / trick structure. Highlight? Fitz Roy, Patagonia, gives you a squirrel suit so you can glide, Batman-like, over chasms - it sounds absurd, but it's well balanced, and surprisingly challenging.

Mt Everest is less fun, asking you to tackle thin air with an oxygen tank. It amounts to pressing R1 every few seconds to stop blacking out - more annoyance than challenge.

Veterans will sail through World Tour, and only three tracks out of more than 30 gave us extended problems - look out for Zombies With Jetpacks in New Zealand. Nailing a bronze medal is hard enough, while a gold medal seems impossible.

One fellow journo actually felt the Explore mode challenges were unfairly hard, and the opponents too cheesy - you seem unable to keep up, even by following the same line. Having sunk hours into Explore mode, we can confirm this theory is, to put it politely, bollocks. They're supposed to feel that way, certainly at first. After sinking in a few hours, levelling up the right characters (Alex is best for races, for instance, or Mac for tricks), then unlocking the double-perk slots, buying stat-boosting boards, hitting every speed-pumping flare and every obscure shortcut... after all that, we creamed 30 seconds off times we once thought unbeatable. That's not to say it can't be frustrating - maddening, even - and many won't have the gumption to persevere. Shame.

Other gripes? Too few moments really stick in the memory. It's all good - often excellent - but there are few dramatic tonal shifts, either visually (like SSX's mental Tokyo Megaplex) or structurally (like SSX3's astonishing 30- minute final run). Plus, it's hard to bail unless you really hog a grab, and your rider 'snaps' to rails too magnetically.

The loading times between tracks are minimal, but still puncture the flow; the Thin Air challenge is duff, and the trick system - while incredible - is only as exciting as it was back in 2001's superb SSX Tricky.
That's the bind. As a reboot, SSX teeters between nostalgia and evolution, and perhaps falls fractions short either side. Tricky fans will miss leaping through windows in the skyscrapers of Mercury City, yet feel slightly numbed by the familiarity of board-around-neck Super Ubers.

It's pitched between Tricky's insane stunts / contrived architecture and the quasi-reality of SSX3's mountains, and it almost nails the best of both. Office buzz says newcomers will adore it, seduced by the speed and sensory impact - think Burnout meets Skate. Whatever your skill, SSX makes you feel insanely good, flattering your skills and rewarding improvisation. Its old-school core has been invigorated by the right stick controls and audio-visual makeover, with the Ridernet (like Autolog) system keeping you up to date with friends' scores, times and activities - there's always something to do.

Whether this is worth 90 percent or more depends on your appetite for perfection - to strive for gold, to find every Geotag, or to spend weeks crafting combo lines when online foes edge you out. Until the community grows, its impossible to tell if it will gather that momentum, or if a handful of elite players will score so freakishly high, no one else will want to compete. The Clash Of Kings Hack Tool is currently the best hack service available on the net which allows players to start generating free Gold, Silver, Wood and Stone in their Clash Of Kings in game accounts.

We can groan about minor quirks, or the contradictory forces of nostalgia and ennui, but that would be overthinking it - and if SSX preaches anything, it's to commit to your instincts.

In the moment, when you're busting out some lunatic set of flips and grabs over a 200ft dam in New Zealand, the screen flush with colour as Flux Pavillion roars through the speakers, it's hard not to think that you're playing the most exciting game, well, ever. Innovative yet familiar, accessible yet deep, realistic yet absurd - it's a game torn between risk and reward. You know - the place SSX always felt best.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Asura's Wrath A glory to behold - but more anime than game

In many ways Asura's Wrath is a passion project for the studio; a rare opportunity to break out of the confines of working with licensed material to create something original. It's all the more surprising then to find that it doesn't actually stray too far from its wheelhouse with this new found freedom.

Like it's previous titles Asura's Wrath will truly strike a chord with a very specific audience; the type that grin with a semi-psychotic glee every time Bruce Banner loses it, the type that punched the air when Goku turned super Saiyajin for the first time and smacked Frieza around, and most of all the type that stared slack-jawed as Naruto finally unleashed his Bijuu Cloak to stomp Orochimaru.

But that doesn't mean others should dismiss it, Asura's Wrath is a game that relishes in its own ridiculousness, it seizes every opportunity to jump to next illogical extreme and does it with such gusto that you just have to respect it. While you might not be able to appreciate the oddball characters and melodramatic story you'll find it hard to tear yourself away from the visual spectacle, and on those grounds nothing comes close to what it offers.


The game follows the rage-driven quest of betrayed demi-god Asura, who falls victim to the twisted ambitions of 'The Seven Deities', a group scheming to rid the world of the impure Gohma by harvesting souls from their human followers and powering a giant laser beam firing space Buddah. Yes, you read that right.

The only problem is that Asura's daughter, a powerful priestess named Mithra, is the key to the plan, which doesn't sit well with him. His protests earn him a murdered wife, kidnapped daughter and a trip to the underworld all courtesy of the maniacal General Deus. This is best Game Of War Hack - cheats app ever made! You can get unlimited Gold very fast and free by using this amazing app. Centuries later the sheer intensity of Asura's anger brings him back to life, and he returns to a decayed world where people pray to cruel gods and blindly offer themselves up as sacrifices.

Someone inclined to could make a case that there's an underpinning message about religion and god, that despite his frightening power Asura is relatable as a father that will let nothing stop him from rescuing his daughter, but ostensibly it's all set up to let Asura hunt down his wrongdoers and wantonly destroy anything and everything in his path. Which is exactly what he does. During the six or so hours it takes to see the campaign through you'll partake in some of the most ludicrously awesome set-pieces ever put into a video game.

You'll have a punch up with a rotund god that grows so big the tip of his index finger can crush the planet. You'll square off on the moon with a battle-hardened warrior wielding a sword long enough to pierce the earth all the way through. You'll fly around space firing lasers out of your six mechanical arms to thin out space faring Ghoma forces. In one of the game's quieter moments you'll drink sake and battle the urge to ogle the ample bosoms of a hot spring attendant, but that brief interlude nonchalantly segues into chunks of a planet being cleaved off.


It all looks absolutely stunning thanks to the mash-up of sci-fi and Asian mythology that informs the blindingly colorful world and bad ass character designs, and also because of the incredible animation work. If nothing else, CyberConnect2's Ultimate Ninja games are known for their visual fidelity and animation quality, and Asura's Wrath's is undoubtedly the studio's best effort to date.

This impeccable level of presentation comes at the cost of serious gameplay sacrifices. Calling Asura's Wrath a game in the traditional sense is a stretch. You'll be watching more often than playing, and when you're given agency it's mostly in quick-time events. Even then failure to match the on-screen prompts never impacts progression, so you're only doing it to avoid poor grading at the end of each episode, or because you might find it satisfying.

Asura's Wrath's reliance on cut-scenes is a shame because tucked away in between these lavishly produced cinematics is a very competent third-person brawler. It might not be as deep as contemporaries such as God of War 3, Bayonetta or Devil May Cry 4, but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in style and fluidity.

During these arena-based segments Asura has light and heavy attacks as well as projectiles. Hammering light attacks dishes out a flurry of attacks usually ending in launching the enemy across the battlefield. Holding the light attack button down sends Asura chasing after to deliver follow up attacks. It's a simple mechanic but it looks cool and feels good thanks to punchy sound effects and plenty of feral grunting from Asura. To see more detail and try this Game Of War Hack Tool visit our website http://gameofwarhackcheats.com/

Heavy attacks are used sparingly, usually only for crowd control due to a cool down period. Its primary use is to deliver cinematic attacks on downed enemies to finish them off, so being overzealous with it can needlessly draw out battles and run the risk of getting killed.

All of this is in service of filling up a bar which represents Asura's rage, once completely filled the Japanese Hulk flips out and activates the Burst ability, kicking off the next cut scene. In effect this means that battles only last as long as it takes for you to fill the bar, and if you're good enough to quickly exploit patterns, avoid damage, and land counters regularly that can be not long at all.

Asura's Wrath also has plenty of Panzer Dragoon-esque on rails segments peppered in, they add a little more variety to the experience and introduce a few amusing scenarios of their own. Our favourite is chasing down a demon gorilla that's nabbed a damsel; an unintentional homage to Donkey Kong perhaps.

CyberConnect2 has clearly taken a gamble and consciously opted to shove gameplay aside to tell a story with no expense spared in its presentation. This is most apparent in the way it's structured; Asura's Wrath is comprised of 19 episodes, each lasting around 20 minutes with mid-episode breaks complete with bumpers on both sides, a preview of the next episode and gorgeous artwork accompanied by text to provide context or alternative perspectives for the episode's events.

While we can confidently say each episode of Asura's Wrath offers an unparalleled cinematic experience, its gameplay is too transient and insubstantial, which makes it a hard sell at £40. Were it not for the steep asking price we'd recommend this unequivocally, especially to fans of manga, anime or anyone interested in seeing what true masters of Japanese animation can do.

Dynasty Warriors VS The Marmite of video games

Few games divide opinion like Dynasty Warriors. This isn't Marmite gaming; this is Marmite smeared on floral gums being eaten by Val Kilmer (to a Randy Newman soundtrack).
Detractors dismiss Koei's battlefield sim as button-mashing with men in silly hats. Fans, on the other hand, like being a one-man army and doing it in a silly hat. Good/bad news: with its four-player focus, Dynasty Warriors VS has more silly hats than ever.

Dynasty Warriors VS is a companion series to Samurai Warriors (of 3DS's Chronicles fame). Where Samurai focuses on Japanese history, Dynasty retells China's Romance Of The Three Kingdoms. It retells it in the medium of hack 'n' slash, rendering complex battlefield manoeuvres as A-to-B murder sprees. Churning through generic troops whittles down the rival warlord's influence on the battlefield, making him vulnerable in a climactic one-on-one.

With battles traditionally lasting upwards of 20 minutes, the format isn't a natural candidate for multiplayer fun. To remedy this, Omega Force re-imagine the battlefield as a race to kill an AI general. Should warlords leg it to reach the target first? Or should they focus on seizing garrisons and strengthening their support army? Commanding certain buildings grants statistical boosts to the entire army - or can the effect be simulated by getting to power-ups first?


Striking a balance of speed and power is at this game's heart. But what good is a heart without formidable fists to pump blood to? Recognising that their combat is too broad to satisfy as a straight man-on-man fighter, Omega Force introduce Musou Rush. Launching this special attack on a rival triggers a race to input a sequence of button prompts and analogue stick tweaks. The limber-fingered warlord who taps through first lands a devastating hit.

Co-operative play is also supported, with two-on-two and three-on-one options. Though who's stupid enough to volunteer to be the one against three? Allies can launch team attacks, special magics triggered when two characters stand side-by-side.

Whether you're a fan or not, there's no denying the Warriors games treat their followers well. Samurai Warriors is the only3DS title to deliver regular SpotPass content a year after release, a trick Dynasty Warriors promises to continue.
Fingers crossed we'll be inundated with a steady flow of silly hats...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Beyond The Labyrinth 3DS's prettiest dungeon-crawler

Also clever: the turn-based battle system, which allows you to moderate the strength of your attack. Naturally, there's a caveat to you selecting 'total obliteration' every time - a more forceful blow means you need to wait longer for your next turn. In theory this should allow you to get a feel for a foe before dishing out the pain.

Elsewhere, combat reverts to the JRPG formula - every enemy belongs to one of three elemental alignments, with each element strong against one type and weak to another. Handily, everything seems to be colour-coded, so you can plan attacks in advance when approaching a gang of nasties.


The one exception to the elemental rule is the white-haired girl seen in all the screenshots so far. Curiously, you escort her at times and control her at others. Occasionally she'll look out of the screen and address you directly, while battle scenes are viewed from a first-person perspective, your attacks flying from the side of the screen as if hurled by unseen hands. Then you'll get to control the flimsily attired heroine, guiding her through labyrinths she seems entirely ill-equipped to inquisitively skip around.

Away from the dungeoneering you can try your hand at fashion design, with an extensive costume customiser that allows you to transfer image data to and from your PC to decorate the girl's dress. Designs are displayed on a silhouetted mannequin oddly reminiscent of Project Rub, and you can swap costume data with other users. Those so inclined can also change the colour of her undergarments, just in case you'd forgotten you were playing a Japanese game.

Given the lack of genuinely hefty 3DS titles so far (Ocarina aside), we're chuffed to hear that completing the game should take around 40 hours, and there are four difficulty settings to add replay value, with - hurrah! - a skip button to whizz through dialogue and story sequences. It might have been gazumped by Resi and Metal Gear as 3DS's prettiest game, but this promises a winning blend of style and substance.

Risen 2 Pirate RPG is great fun - but will it shine on consoles?

There are plenty of people, though, who run screaming from all the Tolkienesque trappings so often found in RPGs, though. If, like them, you feel nothing but disdain for orcs, goblins and elves, Risen 2: Dark Waters might reaffirm your faith. It's a conventional RPG, but with a welcome pirate theme.

In terms of pedigree, it's not exactly Mass Effect: its developer, Piranha Bytes, is based in Germany, and it will be published by the small but perfectly formed Deep Silver. The same team brought us the original Risen in 2009, which didn't prove to be a wholly satisfactory exercise: Risen was generally acclaimed for its subject matter and RPG-rigour, at least on the PC, but it suffered badly from a hamfisted, ugly port to the Xbox 360. Luckily, we've now managed to play through a couple of bits of Risen 2, on the Xbox 360, so are well placed to assess it in anticipation of its late-April release.

Drunken pirate fun

Before we got our paws on Risen 2, Deep Silver brand manager Pete Brolly took us through some of its key aspects - handily, given that they wouldn't necessarily be obvious when jumping into two segments of the game. He explained that Risen 2 has a standalone story, which takes place a year or so after the first game.
Again, you take on the role of a nameless hero, this time tasked with infiltrating a group of pirates, who appear to constitute the only section of society equipped with a weapon sufficiently powerful to take on the Titans, which are threatening mankind. The action spans three tropical islands, although we only explored one, called Tacarigua. Some storyline continuity from the first game is provided by Patty, who spent the first game looking for her father, Captain Steelbeard - both feature this time around.

Brolly added that there are two factions in the game - Inquisition and Natives. Both pretty self-explanatory, and you can choose to align yourself with either. Since you can only learn new skills from non-player characters, those who want to achieve proficiency with muskets and the like would be well advised to join the Inquisition, whereas those interested in exercising Voodoo should check out the Natives.

That voodoo that you do

Brolly proceeded to demonstrate some of the fun that could be had with a bit of voodoo. You can, for example, take a hair from a character, use that to fashion a voodoo doll and then use that to take control of the character, in order to fulfil quests. Brolly also demonstrated how to use voodoo to get two nearby enemies - he used the example of gorillas - to fight each other rather than you.

He then showed a key element of the game: Dirty Tricks. This proved invaluable in combat: hitting the right bumper brings up a wheel with various abilities that can be easily triggered, such as an auto-aimed pistol-shot when you're in the middle of a swordfight.

Each Dirty Trick has a cool-down period before you can trigger another, and the wheel includes the ability to take a swig of rum, which restores your health. Another, amusing Dirty Trick is the ability to unleash a parrot which flies around targeted enemies and distracts them. You can also send out a monkey kept in your pocket, to scope out areas, access small spaces and stealthily steal items. If he is killed, though, you'll have to buy a new one.

Deep Silver has clearly improved the classic RPG side of the game in comparison with its predecessor: Brolly explained that Risen 2 contains far more equipment for players to collect, each item of which improves different attributes, and through the skills you learn from NPCs, you can specialise, for example in throwing or slashing weapons, or different types of muskets.

You can also pick crew members - who might specialise in melee attacks or healing - to accompany you on trickier missions. The swordfighting has also been rendered much more controllable, with stick movements determining the direction of your slashing, so it's much easier to take on multiple enemies in Risen 2 than in the first game.

The hands-on consisted of exploring two areas of Tacarigua, with the starting points defined by launching pre-saved games. The first put us in a village occupied by pirates, with our mission being to infiltrate our way onto Captain Steelbeard's crew by doing the sort of things that pirates do - that is, drinking, fighting and pillaging.

The first striking aspect of the game that emerged is that it is definitely shooting for an adult audience, presumably with an 18 or, at a pinch, 15 rating. That's because it contains some of the finest swearing we've come across in a game for years - as it should, given that it's attempting to replicate the experience of being a pirate. Before picking up a mission from Captain Steelbeard's deputy, Booze, we went for a wander around the inevitable tavern, where we had fun conversing with some gloriously flirty and bawdy barmaids. The barmaids can also teach you conversational persuasion skills.

Eventually, we were assigned to follow one of Steelbeard's crew, who wandered to a nearby bay for an illicit rendezvous with a Sunken One - a half-man, half-sea creature, seeking information about Steelbeard and his crew. After being spotted, a swordfight ensued, and having dispatched both parties, we returned to the village, to claim some respect from Steelbeard. But we still had to perform further tasks to prove our pirate credentials.

A spot of exploring led us to a hilariously deaf old codger who was also a musket expert. This gave us the chance to investigate the game's skills-learning mechanic. Once we had managed to communicate to the old git that we wanted him to teach us how to handle a musket, we were given the chance to impress him by playing a simple shooting-gallery mini-game, in which objects like coconuts and bottles were thrown from the left-hand side of the screen, and we had to hit them in mid-air. Once we'd done well enough in that, some gold changed hands (in Risen 2, you invariably have to pay to learn skills), and we could now shoot muskets. We also bought a musket from the old guy, and could even have purchased blueprints for building our own guns.

On returning to the village, we had to wrap up a couple more missions before gaining Steelbeard's acceptance, one of which involved swordfighting a notably pugnacious pirate (from whom extra swordfighting skills could be learned) and the other involving stealing some rum. Finally, Steelbeard was prepared to grant us the status of fully fledged pirate.

Fraternising with the natives

The second save game took us into the heart of Tacarigua's jungle, on the trail of a native village which had hooked up with another faction of pirates said to be in possession of the only weapon which could take on the Titans. The action started in the company of Patty and Captain Steelbeard; after dealing with monkeys and assorted jungle wildlife, we reached a river on the outskirts of the native village, at which point we were left on our own.

Again, as when we were trying to join Steelbeard's crew, the native village acted as a hub from which to undertake missions which result in gaining the natives' trust, as well as that of the one representative of the other pirate crew stationed in the village. Quests involved things like killing an alligator in order to help native women who were collecting plants and herbs, and panning for gold.

We also embarked on a bit of cave exploration, in search of jade - the usual array of giant spiders and the like had to be dispatched. Even the natives of the Shaganumbi tribe we encountered tended to indulge in pretty humorous dialogue, and once we had gained the trust of the Shaganumbi, we were able to learn voodoo. Although, at some point in the game, you will have to decide whether to align yourself with the natives (thereby acquiring voodoo skills) or the Inquisition (which brings vastly improved firearms skills).

We found Risen 2 deeply enjoyable: structurally, it's a conventional RPG, but it felt like a particularly well designed one. It's also pleasantly amusing, and the pirate subject matter is great - who didn't dream of being a pirate when they were a kid. There was one major question-mark, though: the code we played wasn't exactly the slickest, with notable jerkiness and juddering of animations and movement.

Deep Silver assured us that a newer build already exists which is much smoother, and that between now and late April, when the game is scheduled to arrive, Piranha Bytes will work exclusively on polish and slickness, having finished all other aspects of Risen 2. We sincerely hope that the final game, on the consoles (on the PC, jerkiness isn't an issue) overcomes that problem, as it's undoubtedly great fun to play and should generate a cult following among lovers of conventional yet quirky RPGs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Max Payne 3 A mind-blowing hands-on

It's easy to be impressed when you're standing on the outside looking in.

Consider Roberto Branco, for example. This is a man who looks like he's got it all: a beautiful young wife, a thriving real estate business and an amassed wealth that could send the economy of Switzerland into a tailspin if he makes a big enough withdrawal. How many problems could he have?

But take a closer look; note the security guards hovering behind him, the connections he's had to make to succeed in a harsh, third-world country and the bribes he's had to pay "to the right people". They combine to scream out a message about this man: his success has turned him, and everything he values, into targets.

And so it is that he finds himself in a boardroom with his brothers Marcelo and Victor and his security detail, Raul and an ex-cop from New York, Max Payne, and all of them are discussing what they should do about Branco's wife, Fabiana. A street gang called Comando Sombra has kidnapped her and they want a lot of money in return for handing her back.

If Branco's life looks less tantalising the closer one looks at it, the same definitely cannot be said for the game in which he features. While Max Payne 3 features aspects that players have seen before - bullet-time, gritty storylines and Max, a bruised, battered and depressing piece of work - the way Rockstar's collection of studios have rearranged and reapplied them all not only feels fresh, it feels downright compelling.

Players who have been following coverage on the game will have already noted how, under Rockstar's guidance, Max Payne 3 seems to have traded the dour, almost Gothic, qualities of the stories in previous games, for a story that feels grittier and altogether less fantastical. Early previews of the game lay out the game's plot that piles misery upon misery on Max until a friend from his past, Raul Passos, offers him a clean break as a security executive for Rodrigo Branco, a wealthy Brazilian businessman. Things improve briefly for Max until Branco's wife is kidnapped and Passos volunteers the pair of them to make the ransom drop.

Before CVG is handed the controls to Max Payne 3, Rockstar guides us through the demo level's opening sequence in which Max and Raul arrive at the venue for the drop: the stadium of Sao Paulo's premier football club, the Galatians. As they meet gang members from Comando Sombra in the middle of the pitch, Max intones that something doesn't feel quite right.

Suddenly, as the money exchanges hands, rifle fire erupts from somewhere in the stands above them. The gang scatter as Max takes a bullet in his right arm. He staggers to his feet and follows Raul through the corridors of the stadium in search of the club's infirmary. As Max limps through the building, the screen fractures, blurs and shudders, reflecting how the pain in his arm is affecting his senses.

In the infirmary, Raul bandages up Max's arm, while for his part, Max helps himself to the painkillers in a nearby cabinet. Once Max shifts his weight off the table and moves out into the next room - which contains a mini indoor football pitch - shouts and gunfire signal the arrival of some rather angry gang members, and Rockstar hands the control pad over to us.

Left and right trigger control are aim and fire respectively, although players can toggle the difficulty in drawing a bead on enemies. Not only can the overall difficulty of the overall game be changed, but players can ratchet up the game's level of challenge by deciding how quickly the crosshairs snap to targets with the left trigger. Players can opt for instant targeting, cross hairs that snap to the general vicinity of the target, or they can leave the targeting completely loose.

The next major difference in the gameplay is that Max can now latch onto cover if players press the X button. Once Max enters cover, he can pop-out while aiming his weapon with the LT, and if he reaches the end of a wall, flicking the left stick causes him to briefly poke his head out.

Hitting X again causes Max to leave cover, although the best way to do that for our money is to use the shoot/dodge function, which is mapped to the right bumper. Max Payne veterans will remember this feature; it causes Max to leap sideways into the air in slow-motion allowing players to easily target enemies in their vicinity and empty Max's guns into them. However, in Max Payne 3, when Max lands on the floor after a shoot/dodge move, he remains in a prone position rather than immediately leaping back to his feet. This allows the player to roll back into cover, or target other enemies from the floor.

The Shoot/dodge move uses a brief portion of bullet-time, which ends the moment Max comes to a halt on the floor. To keep bullet-time in play continually, players click in the right stick. This slows down all of the action on screen and hands a massive edge to the player, who can quickly move between targets with their crosshairs, snapping off shots. Not only does this aid them tactically, it looks absolutely awesome.

When Max cuts down his attackers, their bodies jerk and spasm as the bullets chew through them. Shellcasings waft through the air, glass spiderwebs and then shatters as flying lead hits it and wood panelling splinters and flakes under gunfire. When Max takes out his final opponent the camera switches to just behind the bullet he fires and follows it straight into its intended target. The colours on screen take on a vibrant and bright hue, while gunshots, reload clicks and screams are turned into amplified muffles on the soundtrack.

While Bullet-time looks cool it also informs the level design. In one set-piece in the stadium's executive member's bar, bullet-time provided an invaluable playing edge, when enemies turned the narrow room into a bottleneck. Later, when Max had to provide Raul with covering fire using a sniper's rifle, the ability to slow down the action on the other end of the crosshairs came in very handy indeed. To that end, players need to keep Max's bullet-time meter topped up but executing moves such as forward rolls, dodges and headshots.

Players will need to keep bullet-time filled, along with Max's health bar, which they keep topped up with painkillers. They'll also need to keep an eye on their ammunition because Max isn't able to carry the large arsenal he was in previous iterations. He's limited to two handguns - be they revolvers, automatics or submachine guns - and one weapon that requires two hands to wield it - like a shotgun or an M-16. Players switch between firearms in a wheel-menu they activate by hitting the left bumper. The menu also allows them to dual-wield firearms, but if they choose to do this, Max will drop whatever two handed weapon he currently has.

The controls feel great; the larger weapons give a meaty kick when fired, cover sliding feels smooth and Max's bullet-time combat is fun to execute and looks absolutely jaw-dropping on screen. The Euphoria engine powering all this action presents everything flawlessly; there's no pop-in and the frame-rate never slows regardless of how many enemies pour in.

Of course, while it's fun slinging lead around in a hyper-real bullet-ballet, the story remains one of the game's main draws. As Max and Raul try to make it out of the Galatian's stadium in one piece, they soon discover that a group of armed goons wearing paramilitary gear have crashed the ransom drop and are after the money themselves.

This throws up more questions for Max's gravelly-throated inner monologue to mull over. Who are these guys? How did they know about the drop? Who is backing them? And, since a gun battle has been raging for an hour in Sao Paulo's temple to the beautiful game, how come the cops haven't shown up? The only useful answer Max picks up from the aborted drop is Fabiana's whereabouts, stuttered out by a terrified Comando Sombra member, before one of the paramilitary goons blows him away.

Acting on this information, Max then heads to some seedy warehouse district down by the Sao Paulo docks. CVG were only allowed to play through about five minutes of this level, but in that short time Max Payne 3 showcased a bit more variety in its level design.

When Max arrives at the docks, a thunderstorm is raging and under the cover of the noise it is making, players can opt for a more stealthy approach. They can use the crash of thunder and the disjointed layout of the docks to sneak through the level, tapping the odd gang member with Max's silenced weapon. Then again, they can charge in full throttle. This is the video game corollary to a John Woo film, after all.

Max Payne 3 may look like a title that is recycling established tropes. Its story, mechanics and presentation don't sound promising on paper. But the way in which the game's developers have assembled these aspects make the sum gain of their efforts a compelling offering. It's easy to be impressed when you're standing on the outside looking in. Once you're actually in control in Max Payne 3, the experience is mind-blowing.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City - Hands on-with Versus mode

Going multiplayer with team good versus team evil

As well as an extensive campaign mode where you get to step into the leather clad shoes of the Umbrella Security service during the Raccoon City Outbreak, plus some interesting co-op variations, Operation Raccoon City features extensive Multiplayer and Versus modes that allow you to explore some interesting team game mechanics.

We recently took an extensive hands-on tour of duty through these very modes, which support four versus four team battles playing as both the thoroughly evil USS and the clean cut, square jawed Special Forces sent to thwart them. Here's what we discovered...

Just like in the main campaign game, you start by picking your character, each of which boasts a special ability. We were particularly fond of recon specialist Vector, who's ability to cloak in and out is great for ambushes and sneaky backstabs, but in the end we stuck with team leader Lupo who can activate a concentrated 20 second rain of fire on anyone unfortunate enough to get in her way.

You can also customise your weapons and load out too, with a good selection of assault rifles, SMGs, pistols and grenades. Once you're kitted up it's straight into the fray with ORC's versus playlist, where different game types are cycled through to keep things interesting.

First up was Biohazard mode on town hall, a kind of treasure hunt conducted in the gloomy corridors and sweeping hallways of the old town hall. It plays a bit like capture the flag, or in this case capture the virus, as you hunt out individual samples of the G-virus and then return them to your home location for safe retrieval.

USS and Spec Forces each has a different spawn point and a floating icon leads you track down individual samples, while keeping a wary eye out for the opposition. This quickly becomes a real tussle with multiple choke points, as try to snatch the sample, evade the opposition and dodge any stray low level Infected who happen to be stumbling about. A real pro tip for this mode is to shoot to wound rather than kill your opponents, then run away sniggering as the Infected zero in on them like blood-crazed crack addicts - leaving you free to smuggle the virus sample back for a score.

Next up was Survivor Mode on Blood Drive, probably our favourite versus mode of all as it affords the maximum opportunity for sly tactics and sundry giggles. Blood Drive is set in Raccoon City's hospital level and has you race through the burning wards in a desperate sprint for the last helicopter out of Saigon, while simultaneously evading infected, lickers, hunters and the opposing team.

Highly competitive and enormous fun, it's particularly satisfying when you elbow one of your opponents out of the way just as they think they're climbing aboard, claiming that vital last slot and get choppered out into the sunset. Hands down probably the most fun of all the various versus modes, as it affords the most opportunity to make the special forces look like fools.

Team Attack on Train Wreck was pretty much your standard straight up balls out team deathmatch, but actually none the worse for that, with the idea being to just frag the special forces as many times as possible. The train yard, which was an evacuation point for survivors during the Raccoon City disaster, is a maze of box cars and wrecked locos with a few higher vantage points which you can reach by ladder and snipe down at the opposition.

It's very easy to get caught up in the carnage here with hordes of hunters being a particularly difficult foe to avoid, but with a few well placed grenades you can usually clear a bloody path to your goal. Crunchy and visceral, team attack is well placed for some optimal four versus four carnage and the train wrecks and carriages provide a good ahem platform for some traditional old school shooting fun, with wide open spaces interspersed with tight close quarters combat opportunities.

Next step on the Operation Raccoon City level randomiser thrust us into the Heroes mode where you can choose some of the iconic characters from the whole series like Chris Redfield, Ada Wong, Jill Valentine and Lone Wolf.

Handily we managed to secure one of our all time favourites Hunk and with a mission brief to take down the opposition's squad leaders, there's no denying, it's a great deal of fun to do battle as some of Resident Evil's most famous characters.

In the narrow walkways and confined galleries and gantries of Lock Down, which is an ultra secret Umbrella warehouse, where they keep all their most secret experiments, your melee attacks can be devastating, so don't be afraid to get up close and personal for some proper knife-wielding mayhem. Just to make things even more interesting a chain-gun wielding nemesis was suddenly thrown into the fray and ducking between his attacks while still hunting out the opposition made for some interesting tactical choices, with all four heroes teaming up to deal with the mutual threat before settling their own differences.

Scattered throughout ORC's versus modes are also a bunch of special weapons crates which you can break into to supplement your own standard ordinance. These can really tip the balance in tight matches so, we advise filling your boots as soon as you discover one of these beauties. During our time with the Versus mode we came across a particularly handy grenade launcher which was excellent for bouncing explosive pineapples into your enemies' faces, but by the far the most devastating weapon had to be the flame-thrower, simply point and toast to sow utter confusion amongst the special forces.

If perhaps you had to level any criticism at Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City's versus modes you might say they're perhaps the deepest and most profound online shooting experience you'll ever have, but that doesn't stop them still being tremendous fun. Not very deep but still very engaging is how we'd put it, especially if you love the whole RE universe.

Quick matches and rapid rounds give the game real pace and keep your interest alive - you're never out of the game for too long - and there's good variety of game types, weapons and characters to explore. It may be very different from your standard Resident Evil experience, but it's none the worse for all that and as fans will find once they've completed the story campaign, the various multiplayer and versus offer more than enough to keep you going.

As producer Masachika Kawata recently told us, the development team thought it was "important to broaden our market by creating spin offs" and with OCR's extensive multiplayer options, on this evidence we'd say they've succeeded admirably.

Trials Evolution: Why this might be the XBLA game of the year

"How about a collapsing dam?" thought those clever physics-obsessed Fins. "Or the D-day landing beaches? Or a network of planks and swings hanging from balloons that are floating five hundred metres high?" In truth, they built themselves an editing and scripting tool that would allow them to create side-on stunt shows wherever their imagination desired.

What's more, they decided to package the editor (and the 2x4 km terrain map it plonks extra scenery onto) into the game itself. Trials Evolution is set to create social and user-generated revolution on XBLA, as well as providing a legion of imaginative things for a flailing biker body to break itself against...
Let's concentrate on the 'Junior Kickstart' basics. Compared to Trials HD, Evolution's learning curve is a lot gentler and it'll make sure that you've been taught the necessary tricks through License Tests. Sets of track events, meanwhile, will be unlocked through the gradual build-up of points accrued from gold, silver and bronze medals in bouts of muddy limb-breakage.

As for the seventy events themselves, well, they're imaginative. "Before it was just: warehouses and boxes." Explains Creative Director Antti Ilvessuo. "Every level was the same. In Trials HD it was really hard to explain to someone what level you were on. Now every level has a unique theme, idea and story."
Success in Trials will always come about through a delicate balance of throttle and the weight your rider places on it to angle it correctly as it hurtles towards the ground. The settings for this, however, aren't so much off the wall - as bouncing a front tyre off the front of it and doing a double backflip.
One notable Event takes place in an Inception-style mind bubble - the terrain revolves, buildings construct themselves, you leap through cubes of floating water, you drive along previously vertical walls and, ultimately, your prostrate body is carried out on a plinth like Neo at the close of the final (awful) Matrix movie.

Goodbye warehouse...
"This is the mindset: you have to break the rules, you have to surprise the player." continues Ilvessuo. "Always have something new: all the time. It's the same with the levels. It'd be really easy to make five floating maps, but when we do it like this people are like: "What's next? What's next?".

So you'll be leaping over helicopters, through film noir film-sets and dodging wrecking balls - but your prize won't simply be making sure you've beaten the ghost of a time recorded by one of your online buddies. RedLynx are eccentric types (so eccentric that they have a massive wrestling mat as the centrepiece of their studio, and frequently have a grapple to sort out disagreements) and have ensured that every event ends with carnage.

The body of your rider might be crushed by a falling piano and serenaded by fireworks, bombed by the Luftwaffe or unceremoniously dropped into a toilet. There's an odd sense of humour at work here, but it genuinely works - at times making you wait up to a minute for hilarious calamity to befall your medal-winning corpse.

Away from the tumbles you'll take on Evolution's courses is a level editing and sharing suite so impressive that Little Big Planet's Media Molecule could be tempted to pick up their ball and go home. The Lite version allows you to deposit a track wherever you choose to over the large chunk of terrain provided by RedLynx - lovingly pasting a selection of the game's 1500 different objects on a course that can later be judged by friends and strangers alike online.

The Pro Editor, meanwhile, is so powerful that it those with a development-mindset and a love for logic gates can take Evolution far beyond the realms of motorbike gaming. On our visit to the RedLynx studio we saw the limits of the system being pushed with (admittedly rudimentary) first person shooters, flight sims, recreations of table football and top-down racers. You can be assured that the community creations that Trials Evolution will conjure up will be legendary.

At a more basic level, however, the incredible range of revving noises that the Trials Evolution engine can kick out allows for additional skill games that go a lot of way to encouraging skilful vanilla Trials play. There's a mode that sees you try and get as far along a track as possible using as little throttle as possible for example, struggling to conserve a limited reservoir of petrol.

Then there's a game that straps skis to your driver - backflipping his way over a range of snowy jumps and teaching your more about balance and leg-breaks. On top of this: UFO flying, sphere navigation and friendly riffs on both 'Splosion Man and Angry Birds. There's even a mode that ties planks of wood to your arms and tells you 'Press A to flap'. If you hadn't worked it out already, and apologies for the impending capitalisation, Trials Evolution is MENTAL. (Sorry.)

What, meanwhile, would Trials be without a spot of competition? As well as a bevy of online comparison hi-jinks you and your associates will not only be able to tackle Events simultaneously (with the ghosts of your competitors on-screen) but will also be able to compete side-by-side in four-player races locally and online.
These are ridiculous fun - and, when selected as such, come with the option to blast your rider off your bike and over the line at the race's end. This will, no doubt, result in many gamepads being bounced off walls (and the heads of your loved ones) once the game is in the wild.

Trials Evolution looks nothing short of a triumph. It would've been impressive with its ridiculously imaginative solo campaign alone, but considering the depths of its online and sharing systems and the wealth of possibilities engendered by its Editor it boggles the mind. The days of warehouses and boxes are truly over. Viva la Evolution.