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All reviews - Movies (60) - TV Shows (2) - Games (7)

Thor review

Posted : 6 years, 9 months ago on 27 September 2011 04:19 (A review of Thor)

Alright, back when this was into preproduction, I (and so many comic book fans) were surprised when Branagh was slated to direct. Here we have Thor the god of lightning and his mighty hammer, directed by a man who works mostly around William Shakespeare plays.

Thankfully, this helps. A lot.

Almost every superhero movie (Marvel, lately) focuses on more action instead of character development. Sure, they may look awesome, but you get used to it. Branagh bravely steers away from this predicament and directs the actors with such skill and flair you may mistake this film for yet another Branagh/Shakespeare costume epic.

Make no mistake this is still a superhero film, with some nice special effects and a stylish production design for Asgard, but there's a nice human twist to the story - that of dueling brothers, or gods, or god- brothers... you get the idea. Chris Hemsworth looks just about right for the part and shows some charisma as well as the hero. Branagh has assembled an interesting mix of actors - we have the great Anthony Hopkins, the cute Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba and even Rene Russo. Tom Hiddleston however steals the scene as the mischievous brother Loki.

Here's another good thing about the movie - the story and acting outweigh the special effects and action sequences. For a superhero film, this is extremely rare. Branagh deserves kudos for the effort, however some parts do not gel in nicely and there's some action bits that are not too well-filmed.

All is forgiven though - "Thor" is an above-average superhero movie, not extremely exciting, but definitely intriguing. Fans of both comic book films and costume dramas will certainly enjoy this.

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Superhero Movie review

Posted : 6 years, 9 months ago on 26 September 2011 04:36 (A review of Superhero Movie)

This movie I am willing to admit gave me a few good laughs here and there, but overall is not very good. A lot of the jokes aren't very good, but as said said some do work. It feels a lot more like the Scary Movies than Friedberg/Seltzer Movies. That is a very good thing. The actors don't really do a good job. Drake Bell just wasn't very funny. The effects are not good at all, but just like jokes and acting compared to other spoof movies this is good. One joke I hated was one about Stephen Hawking. They make fun of his illness, and make themselves look like very cruel people. Overall it isn't good, and it isn't bad it is just average, and that's saying a lot.

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Killzone 3 review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 06:11 (A review of Killzone 3)

The Helghast, with their glowing red eyes and gasmasks, are some of the most intimidating enemies in a game. Their smart AI also means that they often put up a fair fight to stay alive, but it’s just a shame that the Helghast and the Killzone universe have been largely wasted within the series, and the back-story certainly shows that there’s a lot of potential.
The story of this third game picks up right where the second game in the series left off, and with the Helghan leader Scolar Visari dead, there’s a power struggle for leadership as the Helghast concoct a grand new plan. It’s a decent enough story and exciting at times, although the characters could certainly be more interesting than the mostly hollow shells that they are here. If anything, at least we do get a little bit of character out of the Helghan villains, with excellent performances from Ray Winstone and Malcom MacDowell as an argumentative pair of power hungry men.
As for the game itself, it’s still the same cover-based affair in which you take on clever gasmask wearing enemies, it still has the well made multiplayer, and the story still has the potential to be better than it actually is. But, Killzone 3 certainly has a number of improvements over the second game, so let’s start with the campaign.
There’s much more variation to be found throughout the campaign. Levels are more diverse in their range – very Killzone 2 esque in one instance with its urban areas, while there’s also an eye catching jungle with bright orange and deadly plant life, and another area which sees snow swirling around your head and laid beneath your feet. The diversity in areas and colour was definitely an improvement worth making, and the spectacular visuals once again puts Killzone 3 up there in the best looking games lists. If you have a capable TV, you can even play in magic 3D, which apparently looks very, very nice.
Other campaign enhancements include your AI buddies being able to revive you if they’re given the chance or you aren’t too badly wounded. What’s more is that if you have a couple of AI comrades on your side during the campaign, if one ends up incapacitated the other will help him out and bring him back to his feet. These are improvements that make playing Killzone even more pleasurable, better even.
I’m also happy to say that there’s nothing as frustrating as one of the segments towards the end of the second game, and those who have played Killzone 2 will know exactly what I’m speaking of, as will their broken controllers, possibly. So as a campaign, it’s more diverse, less frustrating and simply a better all-rounder.
Killzone 3 even has stealth, although Killzone 2 players who are concerned that it has suddenly turned into a first person Metal Gear Solid, well what can I say? There’s only a solitary stealth level in the entire game, so that is hardly the case. What begins as dumb Call of Duty style stealth becomes less of a hand holder later in the level. There are also a few vehicle sections and even a new jetpack for short bursts of flight – fun to use and a nice change of pace, but criminally underused.
The actual shooting feels quite different – the weighty feeling of the guns of previous games isn’t as obvious now, with movement speed being quicker and, as a result, this may be disappointing for those who really thought that it helped the Killzone series feel unique in what is a very busy genre. But other than this the shooting still feels excellent and as intense and as brutal as it was in Killzone 2. Well, to be honest the action is now even more brutal – violent melee attacks can be utilised, and doing such things as poking fingers through eyes gets the job done, albeit in a very nasty manner of course.
Move support is another new addition, and one which has been implemented superbly. We all know that motion controller’s such as Move have the potential to work very well in FPS games, and Killzone 3 is one of the best examples yet. It works really well and could easily become my first method of controlling the game.
The multiplayer is of course the other portion of the game. Firstly, the campaign can be played through with another player beside you in split screen, which copes just as well as split screen players would hope and doesn’t suffer from too much slowdown. The popular online multiplayer modes make a return, with Warzone being joined by the all new Guerrilla Warfare and Operations mode. Warzone gives your team randomised objectives; Guerrilla Warfare is your typical team deathmatch, and finally Operations mode has the ISA on the offensive and the Helghan soldiers on the defensive, with snippets of cut-scenes featuring your own soldier as well as those of your teammates as you attempt to complete given tasks. Once again, multiplayer, with its array of weapons, classes and well designed maps, is a strong point and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the best of them.
I’ll almost be repeating my closing paragraph from my Killzone 2 review right here, although similarly the game is a tremendous package of a brutal, harsh and exciting campaign alongside a stunning set of multiplayer options. What’s different is that this package is almost an improvement in every single way, and just as long as you haven’t become too jaded with the standard FPS, Killzone 3 will likely hit the spot like one of those many smartly placed Helghan grenades.

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Mass Effect 2 review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 06:06 (A review of Mass Effect 2)

The original Mass Effect wasn’t released on the PS3, but because they didn’t have the same restrictions as said original, EA decided to bring the sequel to Sony’s console. As many that are aware of the series will already know, your story decisions from the first game can be carried over to the second in the Xbox 360 version, so how have BioWare got around this in the PS3 version? Well, fortunately decisions can still be made on events from the original game, and this is all thanks to a digital comic on the disc from Dark Horse Comics.
Obviously, making decisions in this manner is not a great substitute to playing the original, but it’s a much better method than BioWare making the decisions for you would have been, and is certainly an admirable inclusion. Still, there are some small events in the story that are followed through in the sequel which may not make sense to PS3 owners new to the universe, given that the comic skims over these more minor moments.
The Mass Effect 2 story is excellent, and this is due in large part to a cast of truly memorable characters. The gist of the story is that you are building a team to take on the alien Collector’s, and every single character that you recruit has their back-story and personal goals. Yes, it’s a very character driven story and, being that your responses to certain situations can alter this story, you as the now famous Commander Shepard are also much more than a simple bit-player. You did save the galaxy and hope to do it again, after all.
While you can be a very pure leader, it’s not possible to go down a path as a truly evil character, but that’s not to say that some of your methods of dealing with certain situations can’t be highly questionable. As a renegade Commander you can still attempt to save the galaxy, but you can be quite ruthless and cold hearted whilst you are doing it. Button prompts even appear in the story at times, in which pressing the button will perform a Paragon or a Renegade action, obviously me wanting to mostly be a nasty Commander, I chose not to carry out any Paragon actions and swaggered down the renegade path, preferring to be a ruthless, hard to like idiot instead. But there’s nothing at all to stop you from being somewhere in-between, if you so wish. That’s the beauty of such non-linear storytelling.
The story is a very important part of the Mass Effect universe, but you do actually get to do some shooting when you’re not making big decisions. As an action RPG, Mass Effect 2 is a game that feels very much like an ordinary third person action game that comes complete with a cover system (which works really well here, it has to be said) and recharging health. Less typical for third person shooters is that headshots aren’t instant kills, but here they do more damage, and you also have access to special skills (you can pause the game to fire them off from a radial menu or they can be mapped to buttons for quicker access), which are determined by the type of class you choose at the beginning of the game.
As for you and your team, you level up and are given points to spend on your skills throughout the game, of which can be later evolved into one of two more powerful versions. Various research upgrades can also be found scattered around the many places you’ll visit in the galaxy, in which building them back on the Normandy (the ship that is your base of operations) will allow you access to their perks. These upgrades can be everything from increasing the damage of your weapons to making your armour more efficient.
You’ll be accompanied by two characters for the majority of the game (the AI is pretty good, but they do need revived all too often, particularly on the higher difficulty levels), of which you can choose and mix and match as much as you like as well as order around. You can better earn the trust and loyalty of these characters by completing missions to help them out, allowing them to focus on the larger task at hand, and nothing but that task. It’s another aspect that makes the characters and universe feel very much alive, and I certainly felt like I had lent a hand with closing the book on some of these stories of trauma, revenge and mystery.
This PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 is also the complete version, which means when you buy the game you’re buying everything: the original release with all of the downloadable content included on the disc. So, the previously downloadable weapons and armour are in there and you also get high quality missions such as Lair of the Shadow Broker and Overlord, along with briefer content such as the Firewalker vehicle missions and an opportunity to visit the crash site of the ship that goes down at the beginning of the game. All of this certainly gives the game plenty of additional play time on top of the already lengthy original release.
Visually, Mass Effect 2 on PS3 is running on the Mass Effect 3 engine, and whilst there is a slight noticeable upgrade and the game largely looks gorgeous, there’s occasional slow-down and some horrid looking textures from time to time in this port. As for sound, the stellar voice acting, whether it’s the very minor or the truly major players in this wonderfully put together universe, really brings each and every character to life, and the music just couldn’t fit the game better than it does.
Mass Effect 2 has the future universe, the characters, the mature open-ended story, while also playing very well as a game which combines action with RPG elements. There’s so much to like here that PS3 owners may not be yearning for Mass Effect 3 any time soon, and it’s those same PS3 owners that get the best and most complete version of Mass Effect 2 yet.

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L.A. Noire review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 06:01 (A review of L.A. Noire)

Maturity and innovation are two things that should be definitely encouraged in games. Most mentally mature adults probably grow tired of the amount of faux mature games that seem to be pandering towards a teenage audience as opposed to the truly grown up gamer. Innovative games are also a good thing to see, as playing something different is definitely regularly welcomed by those not particularly used to it.
Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire is both mature and innovative, which is a fairly rare concoction. The story picks up towards the end of the 1940’s – the war is finished and Cole Phelps is branded a hero. At the beginning of the game, Phelps is a uniform police officer looking to become something more, eventually rising from lowly patrolman to Traffic and Homicide, before ending up in Vice and Arson. But don’t get too attached to any of your colourful partners, as you’ll receive a new companion with each promotion.
The story is definitely a point worth spanning out in this review. Phelps is the typically flawed noir protagonist, although the game doesn’t really get personal enough to the character to fully reveal some of the reasons for his actions. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a likeable enough creation and flashbacks do help flesh him out, but the game doesn’t delve deep enough into his family life and things like that. Phelps has a wife and kids, but, as the game gives them such little attention, their presence feels close to pointless, and, because of this, one of the later events lacks any true weight.
Team Bondi’s 40’s Los Angeles is full of interesting personalities, some of which are righteous in their actions, while others are unsavoury types that shouldn’t see daylight for the rest of their lives. The writing and performances are excellent, and the story feels dramatic and grown up. Team Bondi managed to fill a Blu-ray disc with this PS3 version, such is the reams of dialogue in the game.
Numerous actors were drafted in, not only performing the tremendous voice work but also having their faces captured at the same time, and the results are really quite eerie. True, these aren’t the best character models seen in a game in terms of polygons, but they truly come alive when their faces become animated with various emotions – laughter, smiling, crying, questioning looks, guilt and anger, it’s all here and is definitely on another level to anything else in a game thus far. You’ll see characters with expressions that you’ve never seen in a game before: Adam’s apples moving, eyebrows raising and faces creasing. It’s not only for show either, but I’ll get on to that later on.
L.A. Noire has its action elements, but above anything else this is a game that takes its inspiration from adventure games. As an ambitious policeman you’ll be doing your utmost best to solve crimes and earn promotions. After receiving a brief of a case, you then drive to a crime scene, and have a careful look over it, searching for clues of which could give you a break in the current investigation, possibly leading you to more areas to comb over, or witnesses or suspects for you to question.
Searching for clues will certainly make you feel like you are an actual member of the police force: there are corpses to study, bloodied cars to search, and objects will begin to mount up as evidence. You can have the controller vibration turned on to determine when a clue is nearby, although, other than this, these are clues that generally try their best to be objects in the environment that are waiting for a savvy policeman to discover as opposed to objects that glow or sparkle, indicating that they can be interacted with. Objects can be further studied by turning them around in Phelp’s hand, and it’s best to be as thorough as possible to come up with as much evidence as you can. Jazz music plays as you investigate a crime scene, and if you manage to find all the clues the music will come to an end, and obviously you’ll have more evidence at hand than someone who failed to find the lot. I realised in my time spent in the game that, despite being able to interact with them, carrots were rarely clues that were going to help me catch the culprit. Sadly though, the investigation element could have definitely been taken even further, as it does eventually feel too well tread, a little too shallow, and lacking in any real surprises.
When you unearth a suspect or witness, paying them a visit will bring about the questioning portion of the game. Faces are so lifelike that it’s possible to pick up on whether a character is telling the truth, and it’s here where you’ll realise that the revolutionary facial technology was used for a lot more than simple show. The interrogations have you running through a list of questions and then determining if the man, woman or child opposite you is telling the truth. It’s a very simple case of choosing from the options of truth, lie or doubt, but you’d better have some evidence to back you up if you come to the conclusion that someone is telling white lies, otherwise you’ll be left red faced when forced to back out of your accusation. Some of the facial expressions look overly exaggerated, but others require more of a careful eye to detect. It’s sometimes too difficult and slightly unfair, though, and you may feel caught between two answers, wondering which one is the right one to go with. It’s never possible to outright fail, although the more answers you get correct the more evidence will become available to you, with every little lead helping you get closer to cracking the case.
Intuition points can assist if you’re really struggling, removing an answer or asking the community (one has got to wonder if someone at Team Bondi is a fan of Who Wants to be a Millionaire) during interrogations and highlighting missed clues during the moments when you are looking over a crime scene. You can only earn intuition points by ranking up, which means that being wasteful should be avoided.
Cases can rarely be failed and each one can also play out differently, although sadly there’s just not enough freedom. If you determine someone is guilty earlier on for example, in no way is it possible to arrest them when you feel like it, and there’s also a lack of variation, with individual cases more a less playing out like the last one, so much so that it came as quite a shock when something a little bit different turned up later on. More freedom would certainly be appreciated if a sequel was ever to be developed, and I feel that even more inspiration taken from the adventure genre would be beneficial.
If you want loads and loads of action, then L.A. Noire is hardly going to get your heart pumping for any length of time. There are shooting, fighting and foot and car chase sequences, but action is definitely not a focal point. With a reliable lock-on system and cover system, the shooting does the job, while the driving is fun, and the fighting, well; it’s not actually all that great.
The city of Los Angeles is an atmospheric place, but the open-world aspect does feel a little wasted. There are side missions, but these are regularly brief, frequently involving car chases and shoot-outs, but there’s little else of actual interest in this city. It’s open-world in the sense that you can follow various lines of inquiry in whatever order you decide, but this is hardly what you could call a proper sandbox game.
L.A. Noire is a good game, but in no way is it a great one. There’s a lengthy and well told story here, but there’s too little variety and too little freedom to raise the game to the height that the long development cycle should have produced. The maturity, compelling storytelling, stunning facial capture, and innovation are most welcome, but this is still one of the biggest gaming disappointments in recent memory, and an improved sequel is definitely something that deserves to happen. In fact it needs to happen: there’s so much unfulfilled promise here.

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inFAMOUS 2 review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 05:58 (A review of inFAMOUS 2)

With the popularity of superheroes, it’s quite surprising that more games don’t take inspiration from such super powered characters. But 2009 did see the release of Activision’s Prototype as well as Sony’s InFamous, both of which were open-world superhero games. We still have yet to see a gaming superhero reach the iconic status of Batman or Spider-Man and the like, although at least PS3 owners now have a sequel to the electricity charged InFamous.
Cole McGrath, the high voltage protagonist from the original game, returns in this sequel to attempt to put an end to the Beast. Empire City also returns, but only briefly, with its destruction forcing the electric man and his best friend Zeke to flee to the city of New Marais. Cole then sets out to increase his powers to prepare himself for the confrontation with the Beast, whom is on his way to the city (in a nice touch, you’ll be told how far he is from New Marais as you progress through the game). It’s hardly masterful storytelling, but the narrative is still witty and likeable enough, and you’re once again able to make a mark on it by the decisions you make.
For those unfamiliar with the original InFamous, it’s a game that basically dropped you into an open sandbox environment, granted you electrical powers and gave you the freedom to become a pure hero or a character to be feared by the cities inhabitants. You got around the city by jumping, climbing and grinding through it. So, let’s move on to InFamous 2, shall we?
This sequel is much the same, featuring all the things you could do in the original game, but developer Sucker Puch should be commended for not ignoring some of the more serious issues that blighted that very game. It’s improved, with better combat and less annoying enemies, and, because of this, it’s likely that people, who couldn’t put up with the original game’s flaws, will find a better one here.
Cole is once again a human lightning storm, and whilst he gets more powerful as you get deeper into the game, it would be a massive understatement to call him a weakling at the start. This time around Cole possesses a baton melee weapon, which allows you to club your enemies into submission, stringing combos together and putting an exclamation mark on the end with a finishing move. It’s stylish enough, but animations do begin to get a little repetitive over time, particularly if you use a lot of finishing moves in a short space of time.
But there’s much more to the combat than melee moves, with Cole’s powers really opening up (upgrades and new powers are unlocked by meeting a certain criteria as well as in exchange for XP) and eventually granting you many powerful options to fight and defeat your foes with. Speaking of foes, InFamous 2 lessens their presence – you won’t be constantly attacked and suddenly find yourself with critical health like you did in the original game, making for a more pleasurable experience.
The Karma element makes its return. Bigger decisions are made by siding with one of two characters, either the angelic Kuo or the destruction loving Nix, and, if you don’t like Cole’s evil skin complexion for example, you’re able to switch to being good or vice versa. Yes, your decision making will once again alter Cole’s appearance as well as some of the powers you are able to make use of. It’s once again a great system, but one slightly offset by some of the events in the story, which don’t always seem to fit with the path you are following.
Like Empire City before it, San Marais is a sizeable city environment with plenty to do. Alongside the 20 story missions, there are 60 side missions, which clear out enemies with each one you complete, although it’s just a shame that they can feel overly repetitive at times and more imagination could have certainly made each one feel completely unique. San Marais also has 29 homing pigeons to find, containing recordings to help flesh out the back-story of the series, which makes shooting them down all the more worthwhile. There are also blast shards to find, giving you extra electricity when you meet a certain number, and the more electricity that Cole has in his possession the less time you’ll have to recharge in order to start using his powers again.

In a first for an open-world game, InFamous 2 gives you the freedom to create your own missions. It’s a powerful tool and your creations will appear within the city for others to find and play, with the potential for them to be rated as well. When you are searching for the creations of other players it’s possible to filter them by such things as newest or popularity, which is handy. A certain type of player will love to create, while others will just be content to sit back and leave the creating to others and hunt out these created missions.
InFamous 2 has a number of flaws worth highlighting though – traversing the city, while very enjoyable, isn’t quite as fun as the likes of Assassins Creed and Crackdown, and I experienced a few bugs, while also witnessing frame rate and spinning camera issues in certain situations. But, on the whole, it is an improvement over what was already a very good original.
Indeed, InFamous 2 is a superior game to the original. The playing environment is interesting and well laid out and Cole’s powers once again make you feel like a god in the same way anyone would if they were suddenly to be bestowed with super powers. There’s still room for the series to grow, although InFamous 2 is still a hugely entertaining open-world game, and one that truly makes you feel as if you have poked your finger into a light socket and lived to tell the tale as a powerful, human lightning bolt.

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Yakuza 4 review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 05:57 (A review of Yakuza 4)

SEGA’s Yakuza series is one that has changed very little since the release of the first game back in 2005. Even the stories of the previous two games shared similarities with the original: big hearted ex-Yakuza Kazuma Kiryu is constantly being dragged back into the criminal underworld that he thought he had left behind. Yakuza 4 remains very much a part of the series, although there are some significant changes, making this the freshest game in the series yet.
You first take control of a rather dishevelled character, but wait, this isn’t the main character of the previous three games, instead you’re taking control of loan shark Shun Akiyama. Yes, Kazuma is no longer alone and is joined by a trio of characters, all of which are from very different walks of life: Masayoshi Tanimura is a Japanese policeman with revenge on his mind, Taiga Saejima is a Tojo Clan member whom committed a massacre in the 1980’s that landed him in jail, and Akiyama was previously a down and out who, by miraculous circumstances, is now a very rich man.
The paths of the four characters will eventually cross, although to say too much about this well put together story would be a crime. Let’s just say that it’s quicker to get going than the third game, which split opinion with its character building and lack of action, it also retains many of the themes that has defined the Yakuza series, while the cast of characters range from very likeable to the type that deserve to have their faces made black and blue. I was really quite concerned that Kazuma’s presence had been lessened, although the other leads are so well fleshed out over the course of the game that I soon realised that this would be nowhere near as big as a problem as I initially thought.
akuza 4 plays pretty much like every other Yakuza game, although the addition of Akiyama, Saejima and Tanimura does the game a lot of favours, as without them the series would have felt much more withered than it currently does. Don’t get me wrong, elements that have characterised the series remain intact – sub stories, mini games and a living and breathing fictional corner of Tokyo – but the new fighting styles of the fresh faces will be most welcome to Yakuza fans that are looking for something a little different.
So, Akiyama is all about leg strikes, Saejima has the brute force and Tanimura has various grabs and can parry attacks. When Kazuma finally arrives as a playable character, he does prove to be the most powerful of the four, boasting some of the moves of the other characters, but in less restricted situations, as well as some of his own. All of the characters are very fun to play as and are diverse enough to keep things feeling fresh.
The characters share the ability to use powerful Heat Moves, in which the brutality really shows its face. Weapons become more lethal, shoes leave more than a footprint on faces, walls prove that banging your head against one will always result in the wall coming off better, and so on. There are a lot of these moves, some of which are unique to an individual character, and now certain Heat Moves can become stronger through use.
There are less sub stories than previous games, although they’re now deeper and more detailed and each character has their own set to find. This, along with all the other activities that can be stumbled across in the game, is all enough to add a significant amount of playing time on top of the story. There are activities such as locker key hunting (which is now easier thanks to a scanner which indicates when a key is nearby), Bowling, Golf, Table Tennis, managing Hostess Bars, Mahjong and more. When you complete the game, you’ll be able to continue in your hunt for sub stories that you may have missed as well as to play any of the mini games in the Premium Adventure mode. The Ultimate Challenge mode also become available, in which you’ll be faced with 35 brawling tasks to overcome.
Of course, the game once again takes place in Kamurocho, a fictional district of Tokyo. But this time you’ll have access to the roofs and sewers, which is great and all but hardly any real compensation for the lack of the sizeable Okinawa environment that was featured in the third game. It still all feels very Japanese and unique in its flavour and Kamurocho is an environment that is never a dull place to visit – this is coming from someone who has visited it a total of four times now. In a nice touch, you’ll only be able to access areas from a certain point in the story: Saejima can lift heavy manhole covers and Tanimura is fluent in various Asian languages so can pass through areas that are locked earlier on.
Yakuza 4 is another great entry in the series and one that feels really fresh, although the series is still beginning to feel a little tired. Don’t get me wrong I really love the characters, the story is full of twists and turns and the differing fighting styles of each of the four leads is refreshing after three previous games with Kazuma, and Kazuma only. Despite all the positives, I would like to see more of an overhaul for the fifth game in the series – this is a franchise that doesn’t deserve to grow bone-tired prematurely.

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Uncharted: Drake's Fortune review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 05:54 (A review of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune)

To many, the PS3 may not be host to a huge amount of exclusive gaming gems, although with the likes of Metal Gear Solid 4, Resistance: Fall of Man, Heavenly Sword, Everybody’s Golf World Tour, Buzz Quiz TV, Valkyria Chronicles and LittleBigPlanet (not forgetting the likes of Super Stardust, Pixel Junk Monsters, and WipEout HD on the PSN), it still boasts a decent amount of shiny gems. I also recently discovered Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, another Sony exclusive that makes the system worthy of attention.
Nathan Drake, treasure hunter and the sarcastic protagonist of the game, believes himself to be a direct descendant of the Elizabethan era’s English hero, Sir Francis Drake. Following his real life death in 1595, Sir Francis’ coffin was cast away at sea, and in the game, thanks to some helpful coordinates engraved on a ring, Nathan Drake recovers this coffin. Inside the coffin is not the fleshless bones of the popular historical figure, but a mere diary with clues to the whereabouts of El Dorado. Nathan, accompanied by his friend Victor Sullivan (Sully to his mates) and potential love interest Elena Fisher, set out towards a forgotten island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in search of the secrets of the city of gold. The story is witty and the characters are charismatic, helped somewhat by not only the excellent voice work but also by the stunning motion capture.
The entire game feels as if money has been well spent in the areas that matter most. The visuals are still some of the best to be found and really show off the powerful innards of Sony’s third console, and all this without the entire machine melting in front of your eyes. The animations of both hero and enemy are as silky smooth as you could possibly find on a game today, enemies stumble when shot and jump back to avoid gunfire, although, fittingly enough, it’s Nathan himself who is the real star. This modern day treasure hunters animations are beautifully fluid, everthing from his running, his brutal hand-to-hand moves, and his deadly leaping about makes for a fantastically organic experience, it all transitions very smoothly as well, making the game such a delight to play. The sunny jungle environments are also very nice and after taking a dip in the water, soggy clothes look as convincing as soggy clothes (surely you didn‘t expect me to say a soggy teabag?).
To best describe Uncharted would to say it’s a little like Tomb Raider, although it’s definitely more Marcus Fenix than it is Lara Croft. Like Gears of War, the focus of the game is definitely keeping your head down and your gun loaded, making use of cover and popping out and returning fire at your smart, constantly moving enemies.
The cover system is more basic than Gears of War as you can’t point and advance to forward cover, although you can still roll from cover to cover and jump over it and move forward that way, whilst blind fire is also an option if you feel the need to sit tight in your current position (when lead is flying everywhere it comes as an easy recommendation).
When you’re not hugging an object or wall (that may or may not be the safety from bullets that you always seem to be seeking), it’s also possible to fire from the hip (assisted by auto aim), and to take enemies down by hitting them in the mouth with your fists. The latter is as basic as you would expect, simple three hit combos and nice skull cracking animations, rendering your enemies as harmless as any coma victim. The trade off for meeting the enemy head on is the reward of more ammo, always a good reason to put someone in a coma for.
It’s not all shooting though, Nathan also has an obvious enthusiasm for jumping large gaps and pretending he’s as invincible as Indiana Jones (well, the boulder dodging, whip wielding and hat wearing archaeologist has survived four films, so he must be doing something right). Jumping is achieved with little real effort as Nathan often feels as if he is on a wire that, like in the movies, has been digitally removed, as a result it regularly feels as if he is being gently guided to near-safety, much like Prince of Persia and the more recent Tomb Raider games. The only real challenge comes in the form of ledges that are just too weak for grabbing, crumbling between your fingers and more a less warning you to jump to the next ledge if you want to avoid becoming a crumpled heap and a failed treasure hunter that no one will remember. This automated jumping may be a problem to some, although I think it keeps the game moving along at a steady pace and as it looks so lovely and natural, it’s never any less than fun as well.
A smattering of vehicle sections are also featured, but the included jet-ski portions aren’t really that memorable, with an on-rails vehicle section fairing better.
Then there’s the puzzles, which pop up infrequently and their solutions are nearly always obvious. In a nice touch, Sir Francis Drake’s diary is often used for puzzle solving, although there’s no page turning or anything like that so the solution is always right there in front of you, which could be a problem for those who really like testing their brain power. There’s a helpful hint system as well, if you’re stuck as to where to head next or for certain puzzles, but it can also be completely ignored.
A downer to some will be the length of the game, averaging around 8 hours. Those who warm to the entire experience will surely return to find all the treasure and to earn the achievement-like medals (a patch has also added trophies which are earned at the same time of each medal), which unlocks bonus content (a better reward than a mere number that idiots brag about and cheat to earn). The game is certainly re-playable then, and would be even without these collectibles and rewards.
If it’s the way that Nathan moves or the manner in which progression is made, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is one of the smoothest gameplay experiences I have ever had the pleasure of playing. As the game is now in Sony’s budget Platinum range, if you’re an action adventure fan and you missed it first time around, this time there’s simply no excuse for you to let it pass you by.

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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 05:48 (A review of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)

The bar has officially been raised. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots is the single most ambitious game to be released thus far. If you own a PlayStation 3, or consider yourself a fan of video games, then you OWE it to yourself to play this game.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots, is the ultimate game for fans of the series, explaining every last plot detail, and offering a perfect conclusion. Newcomers to the series should have no trouble picking up the gameplay, as this game can be played with its conventional stealth tactics, or you can choose to play it as a shooter, and run and gun through the whole game.

The game picks up 5 years after the Big Shell incident from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty and is a direct sequel. However the story will explain everything dating back to the first Metal Gear, even the prequel, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The story is told through gameplay, and the over the top cinematic cutscenes that blend together seamlessly and never take you out of the action. This time around cutscenes are fully skippable, even though we don’t recommend skipping them at all. We suggest you instead take the time to catch all of the flashbacks, which can be initiated by pressing the X button during certain parts of a cutscene. Cutscenes at points, offer a first person view from Snake so you can see things going on, that you wouldn’t normally be able to see. During “mission briefings” you can take control of the Metal Gear Mk II and inspect areas that are off limits to gameplay, netting you hidden items, and a special view of the Nomad. The characters have the biggest impact on the storyline, and no other game has done a better job of making you feel what the characters are feeling. No other game brings you closer to having a relationship with the characters, where you actually develop an emotional attachment to them. One moment you will be rooting for someone, then next moment you will be furious when they double cross you.

During the game Kojima Productions really stresses the “Final Mission” theme. You will actually feel Snake’s pain, and by the end of the game, just like an “old dog of war” you actually want to see him “put down” to end his suffering.

Another one of the game’s themes is the psychological effect of warfare, and throughout the game, they did an amazing job showing it. From letting you feel the mental anguish of the Beauty and the Beast Unit, only to hear their back story, and actually feel bad for them. To, getting a chill when you hear the call of a Gekko.

The games visuals are simply the best that any console game has to offer, and really shows what the PlayStation 3 is capable of. During the whole playthrough, I didn’t notice any screen tearing, or any frame rate drops, only smooth, breathtaking gameplay.

The audio in the game really brings the battlefield to life, espcially if you have a decent surround sound setup. The sound of bullets flying by, and people screaming are so realistic it will really give you the feeling of being there. The musical score, is the best the series has seen, every track going perfectly with the atmosphere of the game. Snake even has an iPod, where he can choose tracks discovered throughout the game.

As soon as you finish the main game, it will leave you wanting to play it again and again. It even gives you plenty of reason to play it, with many unlockables, alternative costumes, and an emblem system rewarding you for things such as, “no continues” and “no alert phases”.

Even if you were to do everything the main game has to offer, you can always swith to Metal Gear Online, with its many multi-player modes. Play with as many as 16 players and test your stealth and shooting skills online. MGO even offers the games “Drebin Points” system, and allows you to customize your weapons as well as your weapon inventory. Full clan support, and rankings are available community features.

In summary, this is the best video game I have ever played. So good, that every other game I had once considered a 10, has me reconsidering that score. Before MGS4, I didnt realize how complete a video game could be. This is the first game this generation to “wow” me, the first game to make me say” so this is what next gen is”. As I said before if you own a PlayStation 3, or are a fan of great video games, then you simply must play this game…

This is the only game I feel comfortable giving a perfect score to, Kojima Productions have given us nothing short of perfection, and I must give respect when its due.

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Crazy, Stupid, Love review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 8 September 2011 05:17 (A review of Crazy, Stupid, Love)

My initial reaction is that this film is the best romantic comedy that I've seen in years. The genre has been pretty devoid of quality lately. So, I don't know if that plays a part or not and I really don't care at this point. I enjoyed everything about this movie. It has tremendous heart and charisma and it's so very easy to get caught up in to the lives of these characters. A certain degree of patience is required while viewing because some secondary characters that feel unnecessary to the story are worth getting to know. Steve Carell's character is the one everyone empathizes with and when the movie shifts away from the "A" story you wonder why and start to think that the "B" story is going to be muddled or cliché or one to endure. Well, they're not and everything comes together in a wonderful fashion. The entire cast here is perfection. The overall message may be one to debate but it doesn't matter because the ride and this film are just so smart and so well done.

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