Sunday, 27 May 2012

Silent Strike

Now I'm not one for stealthy gameplay; I prefer a more head on ramboesque approach to things. However not all games are made like that, some have the option of a stealthy approach while others demand it. I don't usually like stealthy tactical combat, but some change is good once in a while. Thanks to some friends i found myself in possession of Hitman Sniper Challenge on my Xbox. (Its a pre order bonus) . Personally i really really don't like Hitman. Didn't like the previous game, hated the movie(total garbage). So not my type as i explained, but where there's sniping there's hope and let me tell you Hitman Sniper Challenge is brilliant.

HSC puts you in the shoes of the infamous Agent 47. Your mission : Kill a VIP and ALL 14 of his bodyguards. Simple enough right? WRONG. He's on a rooftop party and constantly on the move. The game really does provide a good challenge and it will take you a couple of playthroughs to figure it out. You also have a 15 minute time frame within which to complete your mission.(took me 4.5 on my longest playthrough)

The game does a great job of showing off the final game; Hitman Absolution. The Graphics, the mechanics and gameplay. Its like a demo that keeps you coming back again again. While going about your mission you need to keep in mind who can hear the impact of the shot, Line of sight of the other guards and of course you have to compensate for their movement and the amount of time your bullet will travel. I really liked the sniping mechanics, you have to pull the trigger down gently to slow down time and the scope sway but you only have a second before you get out of breathe(no super human ME3 sniping here). There's also the added aspect of taking out targets in Places where their body will be hidden; ie it falls into the pool, bushes or even off the ledge.

Despite the fact there is only one level, i find myself going back for more. Trying out the different challenges(There's even one for shooting pigeons), or maybe just picking off the targets in a different order. You can even try Blitzing through; there's a challenge for doing it under 150 seconds (its hard, I've tried)

While it shows off only one aspect of the game(The only one i am probably interested in), the loading screen is riddled with gameplay videos and cutscenes from the final game, which actually have me quite excited. I feel that this would have been more useful as a demo for enticing people into buying the game, rather than a pre order bonus. However if you are planning to buy the game, I'd recommend pre ordering it because HSC is totally worth it.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Face Off

The thrill of riddling your enemies with holes, Tea bagging that annoying 12 year old on the other team, calling in an MOAB, or just sniping the sh*t out of the other team. These are just some of the reasons why we all love Call of Duty. Regardless of their unchanged graphics, almost identical gameplay and virtually the same game modes; we all buy the game year after year. But like it or not, it does get stale after a while. I mean come on, just how many times can you play the same game modes over and over again. Well, Gears of War came out with a brilliant solution with their special weekend and midweek playlists. Now it seems that CoD has picked up a thing or two.

While Elite may be the most useless thing in the world(its pretty much like the Gears 3 season pass with a whole lot of stat tracking), the New DLC content collection #2 might just be the breathe of fresh air the game needs. The part I'm talking about is the new Face Off mode available to everyone for free(two free maps + 2 that must be bought with the DLC). Face Off focuses on fast and tactical 1v1 and 2v2 games. The perfect way to get away from the chaos and confusion of the larger TDM playlists. 

The Playlists caters to both a fast run n gun style of play and a slower more tactical approach. Personally I love the addition of this playlists because while it was always possible to play 2v2 on all maps, they are too big for that sort of game. The Face off maps are made specifically for 2v2. Theres no running around to get to a fight, its always just round the corner. While a map like Erosion has multiple levels and not too many hiding places,  Aground offers many shadowy corners to snipe from and side passages for sneaking around.

Face Off  promotes teamwork and coordination , unlike the 'Every man for himself' attitude of regular TDM playlists. The action is fast, intense and much less annoying. However they fail to take into account the annoying kids running around with Akimbo FMG's and whatnot or just camping on corners with shotguns. Can't really fix that, but at least they are taking a step in the right direction by trying something new. Quite frankly its about time they introduced small multiplayer playlists. I've been playing on the two free maps Erosion and Aground and i must say I'm extremely happy with what they've done. Introducing the two maps for free was also a good move, might even entice me into picking up   the DLC pack for the other two maps. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Not so fabulous

My idea of entertaining guests is quite different from the more conventional ways. I'd much rather get a couple of beers, nachos &  enjoy some arcade games on my Xbox instead of just sitting around having tea and staring at each others faces, making small talk. The beauty of console arcade games is that ANYONE can just jump right in, even the non geeks in my life who cant use a controller to save their life.

So when Major Nelson announced the 'Arcade Next' promotion for the upcoming Xbox Live arcade titles my credit card was out before you could say XBLA. The latest one i picked up was Fable Heroes, an Arcade spin off of the popular fable series. A hack n slash , 4 player adventure game that had all the potential in the world. It was definitely my kind of game, if only i was 10 years younger.

Inspired by the art and style of the Fable universe, they created a world of puppets, yes puppets. Might i add they bear a striking resemblance to the LBP sackboy. But don't worry the game doesn't look all that bad. Its a fun fantasy world that complements the arcade nature of the game.  Basically you have a party of 4 'puppets', all characters from the fable universe and you travel to Locations from the fable franchise.

The main gameplay involves your party going from one end of the area to the other while hacking away at Hobbes and Hollow men. While you can play the game solo with 3 AI companions it is much more enjoyable when in 4 player local co-op or over Xbox Live(there is no other reason to play this game). But the combat isn't too great, armed with only a light attack,flurry and area attack it feels a little incomplete (i know its a hack and slash game, but still), Older players will find it dry and boring, but kids will love the easy buttonmash. However the different characters all have different combat styles which sort of does make up for the lack of combos and what not. Towards the end of each level there is a fork in the road; one leads to a tedious boss battle while the other leads to a silly but fun mini game. The core aspect of the game revolves around collecting coins through levels and using them to purchase upgrades for each 'puppet' and unlocking new ones. While this does add considerable depth and replay value, i don't see myself going back just to get that extra damage bonus or range on my flurry attack.

While most fans will be disappointed, keep in mind this is a game aimed at younger audiences. So if you have kids or a young sibling, 800 Microsoft Points is a decent price for a game that you will definitely enjoy with them.
But if you are looking for a wicked arcade co-op adventure, id suggest you look elsewhere. Do check out Castle Crashers. An older title, but worth every penny.

Friday, 4 May 2012

My Zombie Apocalypse : The Walking Dead episode one

Before i get started, let me just put it out there that I LOVE ZOMBIES. It is probably the best genre of all time. Zombie video games are my kryptonite; along with pretty women and candy. Whether or not I will get to witness an actual zombie apocalypse, i don't know; but what i do know is that they will keep making video games and i will keep buying them. The latest one on the block is The Walking Dead series by Telltale Games.

Zombie games usually bank on their ability to let players smash heads, spew guts or just brutally dismember the undead; and quite frankly its AWESOME. It's a winning formula, everyone wants to kill stuff. Left4dead and Left4dead 2 did it brilliantly(i so hope they make a third one). But after hours and hours and hours of killing the undead you kind of wish there was something more, after all its just go from here to there and kill everything in between. I had high hopes for Dead Island, regardless of its shortcomings it was a good zombie experience.

The Walking Dead aims to go where no zombie game has gone before; an emotional story driven by survival and shaped by the choices you make on the way. It takes the chaos and madness of a zombie apocalypse and weaves in personal drama. There are no yellow Hummers with a bag full of guns(Zombieland movie anyone?), there is no safe house at the end of the road. This is as real a zombie apocalypse experience can get.

You start off a handcuffed in the back of a squad car; after a short conversation you learn your name is Lee Everett and you are a convicted killer.(not your everyday zombie apocalypse hero eh?). After the inevitable car crash you pass out. Your quest for survival begins with you regaining consciousness and trying to find a way out of the car.

Rather than following the TV show or Comic book directly, the game runs a parallel story with a different group of survivors with a few familiar faces. I think this was a good move as it really lets you create your 'own' experience rather than just reliving the tv show or comic. Despite the fact that the story is quite linear it offers a lot of choices in terms of what to do, who to save, what to say etc. These decisions you take will shape your story, so think twice even when making a seemingly in-consequent decision. The game does a great job of reflecting your decisions. If you lie about yourself to one person, you end up weaving a web of lies just to protect yourself, or if you help someone they will remember it and their attitude towards you will reflect that.

The core gameplay revolves around finding useful objects, solving problems, talking to your group. The 'combat' if you can call it that is all in quick time events, which is an interesting choice but it blends seamlessly with the rest of the game. The need for quick thinking and fast reactions make for a real heart pounding experience.
The game's Art style does a great job of bringing the comic book experience to life and raelly adds to the whole experience.

Now i didn't think twice twice before buying the walking dead because i love zombies, but YOU shouldnt think twice because its a brilliant game. But let me warn you, make sure you have free time when you play the game because it will suck you in. I found myself glued to the screen for 3 whole hours and now i just want to play it again. If you are skeptical about the game pickup the first episode for 5$.
The Walking Dead promises to be one of the most memorable zombie games of all time, it sure is off to a great start. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Control your game (Xbox)

A controller. The one thing all consoles have in common; New, old or next gen. Regardless of how advanced Motion sensing may get in the years to come, competitive gaming on consoles will ensure the survival of controllers. Now you may ask yourself ' how does it matter what controller i use', why wouldn't you. After all you probably spent the best part of a year getting used to the regular controller. But that little edge you get is priceless.

Now i pride Myself at being a competitive gamer, and a good one at that. So it was only natural for me to explore all my options, which is why i now have a pile of controllers in some corner of my room. Most are default controllers in different colors, Special editions and whatnot. But there are two in particular i want to talk about; The Razer Onza Tournament Edition and the Madcatz Cyborb V.5 Rumble Pad. Both officially licensed Xbox controllers, are great options for competitive gamers and casual gamers alike.

Razer Onza Tournament Edition

Light, comfortable, with a HUGE cable; everything you could possibly ask for in a good controller. But that's not even the best part. Its an officially Licensed Xbox controller with TWO EXTRA BUTTONS!! How does that work you ask? well its simple. You have two extra buttons right above LB and RB. and through an easy map on the bottom of your controller you can map them to replace ANY function on your controller. i personally use them instead of my stick clicks, works wonders for FPS games. Another feature i love is the rubber coated surface, it makes the controller is easy to hold & doesn't get too sweaty or slipper after long sessions. The last feature i liked, which actually has an upside and a downside is the adjustable analog resistance. Both analogs have a little dial on the shaft which lets you increase or decrease its movement resistance. So if you feel the in-game sensitivity isnt right for you, no problem; Just compensate with the analog resistance. However the downside is that the analogs end up being slightly taller/higher than regular controllers. The Razer Onza also has easy to use buttons that need only be tapped rather than jammed down.
All in all its a great controller for competitive FPS players. Not having to use my stick clicks has done wonders for my COD & GoW3, who knows this might be the edge you need.

Madcatz Cyborg v.5 Rumble Pad
Not all my friends have Xbox's, some made the mistake of buying the other console; but thats not the point. Everyone has that one friend who is always cribbing about the controller "I'm used to the playstation controller yada yada yada...", well their excuse just went out the window. Enter Madcatz . This controller is pretty much solves that problem by giving you the option of switching around the left analog and D pad to make it function like the Playstation controller. Extremely easy to switch around and comfortable to hold, The Rumble Pad is a great buy. Comes with a long cable and a rubber coated surface similar to the Razer Onza. However it does have one flaw. It weighs more than the Onza but other than that its a good controller. I personally use it for all my sports games, the Playstation configuration suites me better on FIFA.

Hope i was helpful

Captain Out

P.S. i have nothing against the PS3, i just prefer my Xbox. ;)