Category: REVIEWS

FIFA 15 : review

FIFA 15                GmP    image         1

The annual sporting roadshow pulls into town once more as EA Sports unleash the latest behemoth in their dominant football franchise with the launch of FIFA 15.

Bringing yearly improvements to a series that is already head and shoulders above its competitors is no easy thing, by any stretch of the imagination. The pressure to stay one step ahead of your rivals who are constantly snapping at your heels like some rabid terrier is always there, and yet EA Sports prove that this is a task that they are more than capable of reproducing with startling regularity.

Those gamers expecting a mere carbon copy of last years outing for FIFA will be disappointed because the sheer weight of new content in FIFA 15 means that instead of the usual introductory waffle we will be leaping right on into the review will little to no delay.

With that we begin by kicking off the action in this latest version of the superb soccer title as we jump right into the new feature of the ‘emoticon’. Gamers will now see and experience a far more life-like game, thanks to the next generation of consoles which are allowing the developers to bring the 3D characters to life, so to speak. This is done by giving each player on the pitch his own ‘emotion chip’, similar in thinking to the very thing used on the ships android in Star Trek. A ‘Data-ldinho’, if you will.

This wonder of technology means that your players will react according to everything such as weather, the crowd’s reaction, referee decisions and if your team is performing or not. Some may argue that this is, in fact, a rather unnecessary use of the advanced processing power of the next-gen consoles over their outgoing siblings, we would disagree.

FIFA 15                     GmP   image Eden HazardWhile in any other genre gamers cry out for deeper, ever more immersive features to take them further into the gaming experience EA sports are doing just that, for the first time by any developer, in a sporting title. For this reason alone they should be commended, but praise also should be heaped upon the men and women behind the scenes who, in their first attempt to ‘bring the players to life’, have managed to produce such startling results.

Now, instead of your team merely walking around the pitch looking like emotionless robots, players will respond to each other often offering pleasantries when a team-mate has missed a shot at goal with an encouraging ‘thumbs up’, or scowling and shoving an opponent should they commit a particularly grievous challenge against them.

Adding into this new arena of authenticity comes what EA like to call the ‘Living Pitch’. This new aesthetic addition see’s the actual pitch condition degrade over time, affected by weather, player tussles and tumbles and also things like sliding tackles.

When you combine this with the commentary, supplied once again by Martin O’Neil and Alan Smith, then it all comes together perfectly to bring a far more believable and enjoyable experience for the gamer.

Gameplay has also seen its annual assortment of tweaks and tucks with the AI becoming far more skillful and aggressive in the higher difficulty settings, although it has to be said that the lower difficulties have one or two  issues because of this where opposition players will just take off on meanderings runs, sometimes even when in goal-scoring opportunities, and head back towards their own goal mouth or even, on occasion, just taking the ball out of play altogether.

Naturally those players engaging in the Xbox exclusive features, FIFA Ultimate Team, will not be complaining as this benefits players early on in their FUT career if they decide to ‘farm’ coins in the lower ranked tournaments.

Defending has taken a bit of a ‘hit’ with this years format making gamers learn new tactics. This is in part due to the AI becoming far more adept at build up play, and also because EAS developers have coded the AI with far more ‘confidence’ in their own abilities as they hold, press and slot the ball around to each other with what can only be described as surprising professionalism.

The days of merely sprinting off up field with the ball from the kick-off and scoring a spectacular scorcher from outside the box are long gone. Even on the easier difficulties those gamers not too familiar, or particularly experienced, at FIFA will still find their opposite numbers giving them some kind of challenge.  Yes, of course, gamers who have enjoyed FIFA for many a season will find the game extremely simple on the lower difficulties, but that is nothing that hasn’t been the same for years.

FIFA 15 red crad                          GmPFouls and free-kicks are still the contentious distractions that they have always been, and there will still be many times that you stare incredulously at the screen with arms outstretched crying “ but I never touched him! “, or the classic “ but when they do that to my players nothing happens? “. The fact of the matter is that just as in every sport in real-life there are many moments when decisions are questionable, and when rulings are unfathomable. So too, then, are there in FIFA. Art imitates life, and as far as in sports based videogames, at least, there is no-one better at imitating life than Electronic Arts.

Speaking of fouls we cannot mention the one without mentioning ‘the other’ deciding factor in these scenario’s, and that is ‘tackling’. Once again tackling has been ‘tweaked’, but it is entirely up to the opinion of the individual if these ‘improvements’ are for the better.

In our experience we found that due to the modifications it is now far more difficult to perform a stand up challenge, and in many cases it is because of another vast improvement in FIFA 15 that defensive duties and tackling have taken a direct hit.

Close control is now better, in our opinion, than it has ever been in any version of FIFA, and as such the players are able to keep the ball far better than ever before, particularly when under attack from an opposition player in the tackle. The player with the ball is able to use quick deft touches, drag backs and side slides with far greater efficiency  and because of this it is much more difficult to stay with the player if you are defending. As a result what happens, more often than not, is that the defending player makes an approach to the opposite number with the ball, is side-stepped with considerable ease, and then you spend the rest of the action trying to keep pace with the advancing player regardless of if your speed is greater than his.

Now, this may seem like all would be balanced when you are advancing with the ball, but that is not always the case. Defenders controlled by the AI will often seem almost prescient about which direction you are going to take, or which pass you intended to play. But the biggest gripe regarding the new close control and defensive issues is when you have managed to play a beautiful through ball to your man in space and before he has made three yards of progress an opposition team member has somehow sprinted the entire length of the field, tackled you and left you in a bloodied heap as he nonchalantly begins his amble back towards your goal.

A final point on the subject would be the question as to why your players seem so slow down, even when sprinting, the moment they cross the thresh-hold of the eighteen yard box? Quite why this happens, and it happens ‘every’ single time, is beyond us, but it does not look like something that will be addressed any time soon as we believe that this was a similar issue in the previous three FIFA titles.

That being said these are minor, albeit they are still sometimes crucial, moans and groans and in the grand scheme of things maybe they will be ironed out in future additions to the franchise?

In good news the ‘kick off glitch’ looks all but eradicated, so that IS fantastic to hear, but it does appear that the CPU has a few tricks of its own up its sleeve from the kick-off when it feels that the chips are down, so do be aware of instant sprint runs and mysterious fouls and hand-balls on the edge or inside of the box for either a free-kick or penalty.

Another new ‘trick’ that has been added to the CPU’s arsenal is the now well-known tactic of ‘parking the bus’, or ‘playing defensively’ when they have taken the lead. This can often mean that a frustrating time to trying to crack open a locked tight defensive line is in store for the gamer, but it is still part and parcel of the real world game and, as such, should not be frowned on by anyone, particularly Arsenal fans. ( ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’, anyone? )

Other new tactics from the CPU that show a decided increase in footballing nouse by the developers in the new ‘playing for time’ method, but one such annoying new staple to the format has been the head-scratching introduction of ‘Fergie Time’ when it comes to the end of ninety minutes and the addition of injury time. Why is it always 5 minutes? Regardless of the fact that there have been no bookings, no fouls, no sending’s off…nothing?  “ Five minutes Mr Ferguson? “ asks the groveling  fourth official, “ That’ll do nicely “, says a cheery Sir Alex, “ and would you like to rub my bunions while you are down there? “

More new on-field experiences await gamers in the form of the totally re-vamped goalkeepers. Those of us who have had more than a few hair-pulling moments in the past thanks to these ‘guardians of the goal mouth’ will understand our scepticism when hearing of the ‘adjustments’ to the keepers, however, our fears were unjustified as EA Sports have done yet another sterling job of of bringing genuine authenticity to the ‘man between the sticks’.

FIFA 15            GmPGone are the clunky movements, the lack of any real control and complete lack of vision from thee keepers as EA Sports rejuvenate everything about the shot-stoppers from grass roots basics such as positioning, handling and better motion right through to vision and athleticism. In our own preferred team, ( Newcastle United ), we cannot tell you how vastly different the performance of Tim Krul in this years FIFA 15 even compared to the previous edition.

Krul may not be the world’s greatest but he is a definite ‘twitch’ keeper, and as such is one of the best at reaction saves. In FIFA 15 the digital version of the Toon Army Goal Trustee now bears more resemblance to his real-world counterpart than ever before.

The same can be said for every goalie we have so far used between the posts in FIFA 15. From Tor Stegen to Scezny and beyond.

All the fun of the fair returns in the many excellent modes in FIFA 15, all of which have had their own nips and tucks, but are essentially still the said same modes we all know and love so well.

First up comes Match Day Live, and although this mode seems to have received the most tinkering, (  apart from the online only FUT ), we kind of ask ourselves ‘why’, when so many gamers opt for other modes, was Match Day Live given so much attention? Yes, we are grateful to EAS but surely modes such as the first rate Career segment or the second-to-none FIFA Ultimate Team could have benefitted from the additional time spent on it.

However, it has to be argued that because of the tweaks to the Match Day section of the game that new additions and upgrades to the format, such as players now being able to right-click the all-new FIFA widget and access all manner of things from social interactivity amongst friends to the EA Catalogue and Store, are now possible and far more easily accessible. So the knife cuts both ways on this one.

Career Mode speaks for itself with pretty much all of the world’s football leagues and the players who populate them, being at the fingertips of gamers as they play as either manager or player and try and carve their own slice of glory in the form of a successful career over the span of around 15 seasons for a player and 20 for a manager.

One very good tip for you all, however, when entering into Manager Career and that is to disable your Kinect if playing on the Xbox One. We have noticed both in FIFA 14 and FIFA 15 that should you use *ahem ‘more colourful’ language when bemoaning your teams latest result, or calamitous own goal by a player, then you will soon start to see ‘warnings’ turn up in your office email section from your board. This will eventually turn into a notice that you have been sacked for engaging in behaviors that is not condoned or supported by the club and so they will dispense with your services. You have been warned.

Career Mode also uses real-world squads and updates, so be wary of selecting a team, based solely on your own preferences of player or performance. It could well be that they have been transferred in real-life and, as such, will be unavailable for you until you purchase them.

Speaking of ‘purchases’ we feel we have to mention some of the exceptionally poor budgets and wage packages of the lower division teams in FIFA. It makes deciding to start your career as, say, Greuther Firth in the Bundesliga 2 a total non option because it will take you around seven seasons just be able to get enough of a transfer budget to buy anyone of talent.

Create a Player returns also,  as does Pro Mode for those of you out there who would like to be a little more involved in the actual playing of the game, in that you play your matches from a first person point of view and everything from speed to trajectory affect your vision making this a tricky prospect for even the most dedicated of players.

Match Day Live still offers up its weekly, sometimes daily, challenges from around the footballing world and gamers may well be asked to digitally recreate the latest triumph from Real Madrid, or prevent a trouncing from Chelsea. The challenges are as limitless as the possibilities in the real world.

Moving on now we come to what many of us consider to be the greatest mode in the entire franchise, the outstanding Xbox exclusive service FIFA Ultimate Team.

What can we say about this simply enthralling mode that has not already been said a million times before? So successful is EA Sport’s online only model that this is fast becoming an entity in its own right, and the main reason why a great many FIFA fans buy the game on Xbox One. Those people who try to claim that multiplats cannot be system sellers, ( as demonstrated by recent mega-letdown Destiny ), are fooling themselves, and the sheer weight of numbers for FUT players and, indeed, anything even remotely mentioning its name on social media outlets such as Twitch TV, Youtube and Justin TV ), clearly demonstrate the resounding success that Ultimate Team genuinely is.

However, it has to be said that there are still a couple of area’s in FIFA Ultimate Team that need to be addressed, not least the main headache of FIFA Coins.

The fact that transfers between gamers can ‘only’ take place using coins, and that EA Sports do not sell coins, they only sell FIFA points, is something of a head-scratcher for us here at GmP Towers.

FIFA 15           UT Ban                            GmPNow, with FIFA ‘coins’ you can do anything you want. You can buy any of the packs, any of the club items such as contracts, badges, balls and strips, You can buy managers, players…standard, rare or legends, but the only problem is, on average, it will take you 300 games just to be able to save enough coins to buy a Gold Marco Reus? It will take you 400 games to afford Messi and this is, of course, all dependent on you not buying anything else in between and that is also assuming, of course, that you have the players with enough contracts to actually play that amount of games without having to quit your pursuit or dip into your savings.

The average game nets you around 500 coins, the average tournament works out at around 800 coins ( average ) and should you be able to manage to avoid spending anything, ‘ever’, then a low ranking Legend will see you playing a staggering 3000 games.

Now, we ask again…how are you supposed to even have the ‘time’ to earn enough coins to buy these players? And with coin purchasing services bringing with them perma-bans and account deletion all that you have left is to either sit like a bot in front of your screen for six months and play a monotonous amount of games over and over again like some kind of nightmare rinse and repeat. Or you can spend an obscene amount of cash on FIFA points and hope for the best with pack openings.  You have more chance of winning the lottery twice in the same day, by the way.

That being said FIFA 15’s Ultimate Team mode ‘is’ the most entertaining and enjoyable part of the entire game, and its value cannot be underestimated, nor can its replay-ability factor, its unsurpassed levels of fun and appeal be marred by the confusion of the coins/points debate. The fact that Xbox gamers can extend that enjoyment thanks to the sizzling Legends players makes it all the more entertaining and competitive on Xbox Live.  There isn’t a single ‘real’ football fan out there who can honestly say that the prospect of banging them into the onion-bag Alan Shearer, Marco Van Bastian or Pele does not interest them.

Ultimate Team may have its share of oddities, but in truth most of those come from the transfer market and not in the way that the actual gameplay delivers the relishing promise of building your own dream team of fantasy footballing favourites.

Throwing in a word about the gameplay is to simply commend EA Sports for once again delivering on promise after promise that FIFA 15 would be a marked and noticeable improvement even on its 1 year-old sibling. They have managed to do this by the bucketful.

Smooth and silky the skills on offer by every single player from every club in every league FIFA 15 is head and shoulders above its rivals, and even its most fierce competitor PES must congratulate EA Sports for their outstanding achievement with FIFA 15. Just what the mood at Konami must be today is anyone’s guess, however, we are pretty sure that there air will be hanging heavy over the developers heads like London smog on a particularly close Summer evening. many faces sporting a distant look of wide-eyed bewilderment.

FIFA 15 is just so far ahead of anything else on the market when it comes to football that it is literally like trying to play a local pub team with Real Madrid’s Galactico’s.

Everything in FIFA 15 ‘just works’, and even the earlier gripes regarding the most minor of niggles pale into insignificance when taking the product into perspective as a whole. The frame rates are buttery in their delivery, the graphics make it feel like you aren’t just watching Match of the Day but actually ‘controlling’ the game.

number-10-pool-ballTake the way EA Sports think not only of the larger scaled issues but even the more mundane and smaller trivialities that any other developer would not even consider worth the effort. For example take a look at a particularly nice touch to the dashboard which see’s the inclusion of the News Service. This allows gamers to access all of the latest developments from the ‘real’ football world, including injuries, club news and transfers. It is in fine tuning and additional ‘bonus extras’ such as these that EA Sports prove their class. It is not a case of ‘‘’Why bother’, because with the developers at EAS it is more like “ why not?

Gamers who are familiar with the way that FIFA plays will notice many new alterations and improvements in FIFA 15, and they all enhance the way that this game looks, feels and plays. Yes, there are a few other football pretenders to the throne out there but if you want to experience the best, then there is only one ‘king’.  FIFA 15 could only ever score an absolutely resounding 10 out of exceptional 10

 

TITLE:                                                    FIFA 15
FORMAT:                                              XBOX ONE              [reviewed])
DEVELOPER:                                      EA SPORTS MONTREAL
PUBLISHER:                                       ELECTRONIC ARTS

AVAILABLE PLATFORMS:         ALL FORMATS

SCORE OUT OF 10:                            10 out of 10

 

To purchase your copy of FIFA 15 then get on over to the UK’s biggest online retailer at Gameseek.

http://www.gameseek.co.uk/pd/VideoGamesg39pp8hm3z/FIFA-15

Falling Skies : The Game Review

Falling Skies The Game            GmP

Dipping a tentative toe into the murky water that is the TV to videogame crossover comes turn-based strategy title Fallling Skies: The Game.

Based on the highly-acclaimed television series of the same name, and starring everyone’s favourite one-time doctor Noah Wyle, Falling Skies: The Game takes on  the same format as the fan favourite X-Com, but whereas the latter is an in-depth top-down chess tournament played out with Bishop’s and Knights who throw grenades and spit fiery death from their automatic rifles, the former is a mere clone of its idol, Much like the captured children in the TV series it would seem that Falling Skies: The Game has been taken over by some evil entity and is merely going through the motions. A shame, though, because had the developer bothered to put the effort into turning this into a decent 3PS or FPS then Falling Skies could well have actually been ‘a game’, as opposed to the mind-numbing travesty that it truly is.

Oh Lordy Lordy, where to start. I hate to be the bearer of bad news. You are undoubtedly frowned upon by the developers and people involved with their latest creation, but when it comes to an absolute shambles and a total waste of the IP license, such as Falling Skies, then what else can I do?

Okay, here we go:

Falling Skies The Game is based on a TV series about a group of survivors who are desperately trying to stay alive following the successful invasion and subsequent colonization of Earth. Set in the present this is a nightmare scenario of being totally overawed by a far superior alien race with greater technology, far advanced weaponry and higher intelligence.

Falling Skies The Game            GmP        image 2Enter our hero, Noah, err… sorry…not Noah, rather the extremely poorly pixelated version of this rather dashing young fella.  Leading a rag-tag bunch of everyday survivors who are far from military trained soldiers, but instead rather they are librarians, ( haven’t I seen Noah in a film about him actually ‘being’ a librarian? What is it with this guy? Book fetish? ), children and folk from everyday walks of life.

Speaking of the ‘children’ those youngsters who find themselves in the rather unfortunate position of falling into the hands of the alien invaders are implanted with some sort of artificially intelligent symbiote that is affixed to their spine and acts as a controlling force as the Human subject is turned into little more than a worker drone.

Okay, back to the plot. Noah and friends are quite literally part of the last remnants of Human resistance as they desperately try and stay alive whilst at the same time trying to discover something, anything, that will help them to fight back against the massively overpowered enemy.

Now we come to the videogame version. Forget ‘everything you have just read’ because there is NO back story. Instead in the game you play as a four man team consisting of the leader, Noah, and three of his friends. The team can vary after unlocking additional characters but you always begin, much in the same vein as X-Com, with the same foursome template  at the onset of every mission.

The plot  to the game, though you would expect it to be the same as the TV series, is totally non-existent as players are just plonked without explanation onto some bland looking street in what passes for the games tutorial.That’s right, no cinematic explaining the why’s, where’s and what for’s. Just Falling Skies The Game and then biff, bang, wallop “ move your character to cover using the A button “.

To say we were somewhat taken aback at the basic lack of..well, ‘anything’ is putting it mildly. Laziness such as this in the opening segments of the game does not bode well for the rest of the time spent within its coding, and our early scepticism was well justified with some of the most lack-lustre level design and hammy voice acting since Turning Point Fall of Liberty, But at least that had the decency to be an FPS.

Carrying on, though, we dug in deep to steel our resolve, much like the civilians in Falling Skies the TV series,  and proceeded to endure the assaults on our senses by the games tired format and tiresome voice acting. Anyone for the highly irritating cries of ” En Roo-Tay ” from generic female number one every time she moves an inch? No, I didn’t think so.

Falling Skies The Game            GmP        image 3Giving credit to Falling Skies: The Game for doing nothing other than blatantly just copy and pasting their own logo’s over the top of the original X-Com titles, ( as we have seen many of our so-called ‘bigger rivals’ do ), is not something we can agree with, nor iss it something will ourselves will do. It is because of actions exactly like this that the movie crossover genre is currently in the dire straits it finds itself and with dross like this being churned out time and again it does not look like getting itself out of it any time soon.

How many more promising licenses are going to be butchered by tedious cash-cows looking to make quick dollars on the back of someone else work? How many times are we going to be spoon-fed the same bullshit spin about a movie cash-cow being a  ‘new and imaginative take’ on what is, blatantly, nothing more than cookie cutter rip-off  by witless developers?

Quite why the studio involved opted for the extremely niche Western turn-based strategy format for a game that was never going to get out from underneath the X-Com shadow is just beyond us?  And if they were hoping to make enough impact to secure a foothold in the shooter community then they have alienated themselves with greater expediency than the Espheni antagonists of this dire title.

You may be asking why we are not going into a more in-depth look at the games mechanics, combat system, levelling up, format and gameplay. The answer is a simple, it’s because we already gave you everything you need to know about Falling Skies: The Game when we reviewed X-Com  almost twenty-three years ago.

No-one should buy this game. Developers are constantly whining about piracy and the ever-spiralling cost of videogames making it tougher and tougher to make a living in this industry. Oh really? That does not give them the right to deliver half-arsed shovelware of this low quality in a bid to claw back some revenue.

Make a good game and people will buy it, it is as simple as that!

Gamers need to unite. Stand up for yourselves and your right to demand better games for your hard-earned money. Falling Skies The Game is a prime example of all that is currently wrong in the videogames industry, with developers waffling on about financial constraints and time limitations. The answer to their quandary is simple too, don’t make the game if it’s too expensive and too time consuming for you to deliver anything but a quarter of a century old pile of shit.       Falling Skies The Game scores our first ever ZERO out of 10

 

TITLE:                                                Falling Skies The Game      
FORMAT:                                           Xbox360         [reviewed])
DEVELOPER:                                     Little Orbit 
PUBLISHER:                                      Little Orbit

SCORE OUT OF 10:                           ZERO out of 10

Just Dance 2015 : review

Just Dance 2015            GmP                     image Xbox One packshot 1

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again when the karaoke machines kick in and the silly season switches on the festivities as the nation goes party people potty. Right at the centre of the annual celebrations, as ever, is Ubisoft’s seminal swinger Just dance 2015 as it takes gamers by the hand and leads them out onto the dance floor in preparation for their office Christmas party.  Hit it!

Back with more changes than you could shake a firm-rumped money-maker at comes this latest installment in the scorching series that Just dance has morphed into. This one-time novelty title catering to the non-gamer out there has proved itself a tough cookie, as it takes on more core titles such as Battlefield and Call of Duty in the sales charts, and with 2015 seeing even more solo and social options and features being packed into the game than ever before the time has never been netter to jump into all the fun and fitness that this ship-swivelling smash hit has to offer.

Kicking off proceedings with some of the new additions to the Just dance format we see that Ubisoft have once again added even more features for the solo player ensuring that even people playing the game offline, or just by themselves, can still feel like they are interacting with an even bigger group thanks to the excellent inclusion of the brand new ‘Virtual Dance Crews’

Just Dance 3 image 3     GmP GamingA favourite with many of the ‘boys’ in the office Virtual Dance Crews allows players to leap into the action without the stigma attached to their basic lack of dancing ability as we learned the ropes and began to get to grips with a few novice steps and shuffles.

Players get that sense of fun and friendship, ( albeit from a group of AI companions ), that many people feel to bashful to undertake without the imbibing of half a litre of Dutch Courage before they enter into the games many modes. It is also a bigger boost to the confidence when you are playing Just dance 2015 on the Xbox One version, as we did for this review, as the Microsoft version allows for a whopping six player tracking option making the inclusion of real players and virtual players transform your front room into a dance hall.

Ubisoft have also added even more new features into this latest version of the blockbuster floor filler, not only with the corking track list of 41 top tunes from around the music industry, but also thanks to more fantastic new modes modes such as Themed Challenges as well as a whole smorgasbord of community and social options.

Challenger‘ comes into play in most of the available set play modes and brings to the fore some of those new community features and social interactivity that is at the forefront of Ubisoft’s mind. Players are now able to challenge people from all across the world regardless of if they are online or not by allowing gamers to take up their ‘Saved Games’, ‘High Scores’ and best performances and ‘Challenge’ their greatest moves and points tallies.

Naturally this is also another wonderful way for the solo player to get more involved in the Just dance scene than ever before, and one that we, as purely non-dancers, welcome in order that we may compete in these modes from the comfort and ridicule free safety of our own homes and yet still have virtual anonymity for what can only be described as our Murder on the Dancefloor.

Challenge Mode pretty much sums up most of Ubisoft’s new additions, in that the publisher and developer have worked hard to attract the single player to their title, and judging from the raucous reception the game received upon the code landing in the office it has gone down a storm with all players from greenhorn to expert.

Just Dance 4Of course, the mode not only brings in new ways to play with friends from all around the globe, it also brings with it a far more competitive edge as players can now challenge each other to dance-off’s and competitions in a wider variety of modes.

Naturally all of the firm fan-favourites and family fun time modes return for more, and if you combine all of the new additions to the Just Dance family then this is a game that has more trouble keeping its content from spilling out onto the carpet than most.

Karaoke Mode is still a highly popular stalwart thanks to its highly entertaining combination of singing and dancing whilst Sweat Mode speaks for itself with its high octane levels of fitness for the more dedicated dancer in you.

Last years new inclusion to the format saw World Dance Floor making its debut and 2015 see’s the extremely  enjoyable mode returning for more of the same good clean entertainment this year with world leaderboards, statistics, tracking and, of course, the World Dance Wall all putting in an appearance to bring the Just dance 2015 version to a far wider audience.

The control system is still the same forgiving, less severe affair than many of its ‘karaoke’ styled rivals and though some may gripe that this allows less talented dancers to earn higher scores than they would realistically achieve, the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day Just dance ‘is’ a game, and as such it is designed to make as many people have fun as it possibly can. If it means that it allows a few dodgy wiggles and jiggles here and there then so be it.If you wanted professional; level dancing then we recommend the Bolshoi for your assessment.

number-9-pool-ballJust Dance 2015 returns to do what it does better than anyone else, and if anything the massive weight of public support and the sheer numbers involved in the ever-growing Championships should prove to Doubting Thomas’s just how popular this game truly is, and rightfully so. Just Dance does everything so much better than its scant rivals, and far better than anyone could ever have predicted.

Ubisoft have taken what was considered mere casual shovelware and turned into one of the fastest growing and financially viable videogame franchises of the decade thanks to its fresh, fun and funky attitude. Another hit without a doubt is on the cards for the best of the best in the interactive dance genre.   9 out of 10

 

 

TITLE:                          Just Dance 2015

FORMAT:                     Xbox One  [reviewed])

DEVELOPER:               Ubisoft
PUBLISHER:                Ubisoft              

SCORE OUT OF 10:      9 out of 10

Styx Master of Shadows : Review

Styx Master of Shadows             GmP     image 5

Welcome one and all to the stealthy underworld of silent assassin Styx. This master of murder is High Priest of the Headhunters and Lord of the Lynching as he cuts a path through his enemies, quite literally, from start to finish in this latest title from Cyanide Games.

For all you fans out there in internet land who love nothing more than a session spent with the King of Killers, Agent 47, then Styx Master of Shadows is so far ‘up your alley’ that it’s quite possible you may just need a post-coital cigarette to calm those shaking legs afterwards.

The gaming world has been crying out for someone to take up the torch in between Hitman titles, ensuring that fans of the stealth title would not be forced to endure replays of such poor man’s efforts as video nasties like Vampire Rain and that mockery of its own outstanding series of stealth games Thief 4. With Styx, however, the torch is not only held in lieu of a next episode from the bald bad-ass but rather it is blown out for fear of alerting a nearby guard and used as a club in a perfect silent takedown of the unknowing sentry.

Styx could well be the underground hit of the year, and most definitely it should be receiving far greater attention than the cursory lip-service from the videogaming media.

An absolute joy to play from start to very distant end this darkly lit crawler see’s gamers stepping into the felt boots of captured orc assassin ‘Styx’ as he is held in the Human tower built by the games’ antagonist coupling of the father and son team of Human halfwits.

The back story to your incarceration is that you are seeking the legendary Heart of the Tree that has been placed in the care of Mankind following an uneasy truce that see’s Human’s and Elves one step from tearing each others throats out. The tree itself is housed within the Tower of Arkanash, a purpose built monstrosity of intricate design that weaves and winds its way around the maze-like interior like an Escher woodcut.

The twist in the plot comes from understanding that Styx is not attempting to break ‘into’ the Tower in order to gain access to the Heart of the Tree, rather he is trying to break ‘out’.  All will be revealed but with so many opportunities to litter this review with spoiler after soul-destroying spoiler we have to be extremely careful with what we include.

Needless to say you begin the game after busting out of your cell and so begins your epic quest across some of the very best level design and platforming styled stealth gameplay we have encountered in many a year. To say that we enjoyed the sneaky side of Styx so much that the only game we could think of when trying to offer up a comparison of the depth of design was Syphon Filter should give you some kind of idea of the high regard we hold this title in.

Styx Master of Shadows             GmP     image 1The opening level serves as the obligatory tutorial as you are tasked with first escaping your cell block and recovering your trusty dagger. We do suggest to pay close attention to every possible nook and cranny that you encounter along the way, as even the most innocuous of alcoves can open into some vast unexplored area like the wardrobe portal of a digital realm Narnia.

From here on in what you are treated to is quite simply the best stealth title of the Decade so far, and one that, thankfully, does not hold your hand or flash up helpful hints if you find the going a little tough.

Styx, instead, goes down the route of only giving you the very bare essentials, ( and sometimes not even that ), with which to make your current objective ‘survivable’. Armed only with a pair of ‘everything’, ( although this statement may lead you into a false sense of security as when we say ‘everything’ we mean only two health flasks, two throwing knives and two ‘amber potion vials’), Naturally players are able to upgrade their inventory as the game progresses thanks to the games leveling up and XP system, but even after achieving the highest level of item acquisition players will only ever have in their possession at any one time ‘three’ of each article.

There are, of course, the all important skills and talents that Styx can upgrade by the same XP system, but progression is anything but assured as players must complete certain tasks in order tom be awarded with those precious experience points and some of the required chores feel more like ordeals than tests. Nothing in Styx is a formality or guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination.

Styx has an ability tree of upgradable attributes that allow for far more exploratory gaming as players ‘purchase’ the next in line of four available enhancements for each of Styx’s six skills.  These range from the power to turn ‘invisible’ for a period of time, the use of an ‘X-ray eyes’ styled vision that permits Styx to view all of the points of interest in his current zone, and there is also the extremely necessary upgrade to Styx’s inventory where that all important third item comes into play. There is, of course, a pair of combat based skills that will allow players to perform kills either when Styx is perched above his target on a beam or ledge, or a grab and throw that is executed when Styx is below the enemy soldier. Both of these attributes are practical and purposeful and will aid your play-through no end. Lastly comes the  ‘Predator’ skill that only becomes available when all of the previous five have been fully upgraded.

However, many of the skills are ‘Amber powered’ and, as such, players will need to pay close attention to their status bar as the ‘amber’ attributes are incredibly important skills and, more often than not, will require ingestion of additional amber to perform a second ‘amber act’. The only real exception to this rule is ‘Amber Vision’ which can be used multiple times before the player is required to drink another vial.

Styx Master of Shadows             GmP     image 2Saving the best for last we now come too our personal favourite of the ‘amber powers’, that being the ability to ‘vomit’ a clone copy of yourself. This friendly little ‘puke pal’ is an essential part of your inventory as your pet ‘Rakash’ is able to enter small spaces and open doors and gates for you before you recall his essence back into your ‘amber bank’ in a cloud of smoke.

Of course, if your Rakash is killed before you can recall him then you cannot recover the amber. But there is also a third option of causing your clone to explode and burst forth into  a cloud of noxious black smoke that Styx is able to sneak through and take advantage of should the occasion ever require it.

With later upgrades your clone is not only able to act as a remote control turnkey or mere kamikaze distraction, he can also hide in cupboards and chests and grab unsuspecting sentries as they happen by. There are many options and fun ways to exploit your little Rakash, so make sure you explore them all in order to make full use of his abilities.

Another tip will we offer you before we leave the menu section is to keep an eye out for that important ‘Save’ feature, and put it to good use as often as you want. The auto save points have huge distances between each other, and considering how easy it is to be killed in Master of Shadows players will find themselves being made to replay huge chunks of levels time and again if they fail to use this option.

The learning curve is gradual and although some may feel it rushes in a little too steeply at times we don’t necessarily think that the game could have benefitted from a more mundane difficulty setting format. Styx is ‘meant’ to be tough, and it is ‘meant’ to drive you bat-shit crazy. But, man alive! What a feeling when you get to the end of level scoreboard with a prefect tally paraded across your TV or monitor.

The combat system is a little frustrating in that open warfare is frowned upon in favour of a purist approach to stealth, but it can wear a little thin after being caught out in the open by multiple adversaries only to have to  resort to parry-only attacks whilst trying to fight off a main attacker raining blows and three others hitting you with everything from knives to crossbow bolts and magic.

That being said Styx is as Styx does, and in a game that makes no attempt to disguise itself as an out-and-out stealth title the question is more ‘what were you doing out in the open in the first place?’ as opposed to ‘why can’t I fight in the open?

Throwing knives are a very real option in the Tower of Arkanash, however, we warn you – fallen enemies will alert the guards far more quickly than any other type of alert, and in a game where each new level brings ever more tougher foes the last thing you need is to be pursued by armour-plated knights looking for revenge on the little ‘green skin’ who has just ‘offed’ one of their mates.

Players will quickly recognise each enemy and in doing so will learn which tactic works best for dealing with said enemy. For example, the aforementioned knights cannot be killed by knives and so only an industrial accident such as a gas escape from the distillery or a falling chandelier will kill these ‘tanks’. Whereas the Elves ‘can’ be killed with knives, but only a throwing knife will do as trying to encroach on an elf’s personal space will result in the inevitable insta-kill at the end of the tall figures spear.

The environments are split into six separate chapters each with three zones containing vast area’s of intricate level design that allows for massive exploration and extremely enjoyable stealth platforming as players discover new and previously unknown passages and walkways.

Styx Master of Shadows             GmP     image 4Graphically Styx looks and feels the part of a dark and threatening stealth crawler as your ‘vertically-challenged’ little fella stares often in wonderment at the sheer scale of the impressive architecture all around him.  Massive in all aspects, apart from the actual height of your diminutive Orc, Master of Shadows will, at times, amaze and inspire you. The attention to detail is flabbergasting and, thankfully, none of this fastidious nature has been overlooked in the games’ controls.

Players unfamiliar with this kind of stealth title ( for example gamers who have dipped their tentative toes into the Splinter Cell pool but gone no further than a mere tepid paddle ), will be in no way over-awed by the games control system. Styx uses a very simple to master method that will permit even the most novice of stealth players to cut their teeth on this exemplary title.

Tip of the day for Styx would be this, though, and that is when you are looking to reach outcroppings and climb points high above you to never forget to keep the jump button depressed. We have noticed a few players bemoaning the games jump mechanics for overhangs only to play through the game now four times on each difficulty and have not a single instance of this in any of our own efforts. We can only assume that many players are not quite experienced when it comes to understanding ‘press ‘A’ to jump’, and ‘Depress and Hold ‘A’ to reach overhangs’ .

Nevertheless we would recommend that players uncertain of the jump and catch method would take a word from the wise and maybe replay the games’ opening tutorial a couple of times in order to master their acrobatics for fear of missing a ledge or dropping off to their doom in a later level.

Getting to the real ‘meat and two veg’ of Styx is to get to grips with the games outstanding stealth mechanics. Sneaking is the name of the game, and take a tip from the Orc himself early on in the tutorial when you are well advised to avoid running and farting.   Both will be extremely hazardous to your  health.

Creeping through hidden vents, hiding below tables right under the noses of the guards tasked with bringing your head to their master is something of a joy when the game plays as smoothly as Styx Master of Shadows.  Any sound, however, will have the numerically superior guards brought down on your head like a ton of bricks, so never think you can make it from one secluded safe spot to another by making a mad cap dash for it whilst your patrolling sentries are seemingly out of earshot. They are not. They never will be.

Of course, being an Orc Styx does have one valuable weapon that is just part and parcel of his genetic make-up, and that is the ability to spew poison into his foes water supply or on their food and then sit back in the shadows and wait for the toxin to take effect. This is the only other way you can kill tougher enemies, such as the one-hit kill knights, other than pushing them off a structure or dropping something on them, so make particular use of this highly entertaining and useful skill or be forever doomed to die at the point of a heavily armed knights blade.

Stealth kills, ( are there any other kind in Styx? ), are a deeply satisfying affair in Master of Shadows and players will soon become enamored with the little assassin as he deftly muffles the attempted screams and cries of his victims before telling them to  ‘shush’ as if merely putting a drowsy child to bed.

number-9-pool-ballStyx Master of Shadows is a fine example of the possibilities that are still very much available in the stealth genre if developers would just put some effort into their inventiveness and not just opt for the same tired CIA/Black Ops/MI6 format. It has been done to death, and playing the part of an Orc hitman as opposed to a muscled, chisel jaw from the staple ‘Ex-Marine’ department is a welcome change.

Excellent story telling is brought to life with some truly fine work from the voice actors, as well as stellar efforts by the developers themselves at Cyanide Games. If you want to know how to make a genuinely entertaining and thoroughly engaging stealth game then Styx could well be the rule of thumb to follow for future endeavors.    9 out of 10

 

TITLE:                                                     STYX MASTER OF SHADOWS     
FORMAT:                                               XBOX ONE    [reviewed])
DEVELOPER:                                      CYANIDE GAMES
PUBLISHER:                                       FOCUS HOME INTERACTIVE

AVAILABLE PLATFORMS:          XBOX ONE, PS4, PC  

SCORE OUT OF 10:                          9 OUT OF 10

 

website:    http://www.styx-thegame.com/

Destiny : Review

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   1

Activision’s mammoth machine goes into overdrive as the long-awaited and extremely over-hyped Bungie vehicle ‘Destiny’ takes the world of the online shooter by storm.

In what has to be some of the most powerful marketing by a videogames publisher in the history of the medium, one-time Microsoft flagship boys Bungie have jumped ship across to Activision to produce their first multiplatform title, Destiny.

Ever since the initial reveal was peek-a-booed to a select group of journalists way back in 2011 the public relations campaign surrounding Destiny has been working overtime, double time and all of the time to promote the science fiction spectacular to a not disinterested audience.

Although it has to be pointed out that Bungie have had their eye on the online MMOS title since the days of Halo: ODST when eagle-eyed gamers were able to spot a poster on walls of the shattered Human outpost at New Mombasa that announced ‘Destiny Awaits’ whilst an orb not dissimilar to a ‘Ghost’ floated nearby.

But has this non-stop show of outstanding real-life action trailers, amazing CGI sequences and ‘hinted at’ promises of a massive galaxy just awaiting your arrival to begin the most spectacular journey ever created by a videogame developer been a victim of its own highly successful PR campaign? Perhaps.

Building on what is very like Halo meets Call of Duty ( ‘verticality’, anyone? ) Destiny opens with a tale set in the distant future when Human’s have been visited by a strange and powerful entity known only as ‘The Traveller’. This benevolent being grants Mankind all manner of astounding technology, not least withstanding the ability to upgrade our spacecraft to allow for interstellar flight to other worlds, and thus the ‘Golden Age’ of wondrous inventions, peace and exploration begins.

After being granted these new-found powers Human’s then proceed to gain a foothold in the Solar System with colonies rapidly being installed on planets such as Mars and Venus, as well as our own Moon. However, with expansion obviously comes the concerned impression of imperialism from other, as yet undiscovered, species. And with Man’s continued exploration of our own Galaxy we awake the sleeping giants of ‘The Fallen’, and with the curiosity of this warrior race pricked it is not too long before an era of all-out warfare befalls Mankind as the age of ‘The Collapse’ commences.

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   10Central to all of this is the massive, cloud covered sphere orbiting the Earth known as The Traveller.  It is the arrival of this mystery being that heralds The Golden Age, and ultimately the cause also of The Collapse. However, it is also because of The Traveller that Mankind if saved from oblivion at the hands of The Fallen, but even so, by the time balance is brought back to Humanity it is not without terrible cost and the enormous loss of life.

Gone are the outposts on Mars, Venus and even The Moon itself. Gone also are the once majestic cities that thrived after the introduction of advanced technology from The Traveller. Gone too the once proud army of warriors who stood guard over Mankind…..everything , has changed…forever.

Moving forward we come to 700 years following the arrival of The Traveller as the protective satellite sends ‘Ghosts’, small probes carrying advanced artificial intelligence, to locate the bodies of fallen warriors, who were once the former protectorate of Earth’s one-time prosperous population.

Upon discovery of your lifeless corpse you are ‘resurrected’  by this tiny ‘demi-God’ and granted life renewed as The Traveller and his new allies, the Exo’s and The Awoken, plot the downfall of the invading Fallen Empire.

Now, here is where things get a little ‘tricky’.

The Exo’s are an enigma to everyone, including themselves. Built for a war long forgotten by everyone, these rebooted robotic rangers have protected Man since their construction but were powered down following the completion of their original task and then brought back online during The Collapse.

Equal in rights and status to their Human counterparts the Exo’s enjoy life among the rank and file and have even been recruited to fight once more as Guardian’s by The Traveller.

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   12The Awoken, however, are a different kettle of alien fish altogether. These Human-descended blue-skinned warrior’s are a proud race who, during the time of The Collapse, sought sanctuary in the far reaches of Human controlled space. This area is now known as ‘The Reef’ and many Awoken prefer to still live here, often rejecting Earth born Awoken as ‘outsiders’ and making them unwelcome on The Reef.

Power is controlled by a Queen, and her ever scheming brother, but The Awoken are allies regardless of their cold, somewhat cruel exterior. Whatever happened during their Exodus to the far reaches of space during The Collapse may have changed their genetics forever, but they remain loosely allied to Mankind…for the moment.

And now we come to the ‘bad guys’ of the piece, ‘The Fallen’. These four-armed aliens are as agile as they are intelligent, and given that they are bipeds operating with two pairs of extremely strong upper limbs also allowing them to scale obstacles with ease, that is no small claim.

Advanced in technology and far superior to Humans and Awoken in terms of weaponry, armour and vehicles The Fallen have but one true opponent worth their time, really, and that may well be The Exo’s.

The Fallen appeared first when they attacked the Human advanced base on Venus during the onset of The Collapse, but their motives for doing some are still unknown. Perhaps they felt threatened by Mankind’s sudden technological improvements and interstellar travel? Perhaps they thought it best to nip this war-like Human species in the bud before their tinkering’s and ingenuity produced weapons and craft that could better their own? Whatever the reason behind the assault the outcome was swift and decisive leading to further attacks on the remaining Human outposts from Fallen warriors emboldened by their early victories.

Split into six distinct classes The Fallen are, from the lowest rank to the highest in ascending order:

Shanks:            Shanks are the ‘Drones’ of The Fallen with one major difference to the Human version, Shanks spray death and destruction from their onboard cannons. In essence they are the Jack of All Trades of The Fallen in that they are, more often than not, the sentries, the Drones, the front line recce troops, the hunter-killers, the IED’s and the Kamikaze pilots. These AI ‘dogs bodies’ are expendable assets sent in to prepare the way for their organic brethren.

Dregs:               The moniker speaks for itself as these lowest of the low biological entities are the ‘grunts’ of The Fallen ranks. These former thieves now spend their time between acting as shock troops and guards as they get all of the less glamorous jobs their fellow combatants feel are beneath them. Pack hunters, scavengers and easily distinguishable from any other Fallen because unlike the rest of their species Dregs are two handed like their Human enemies. It may be because of this that they are seen as ‘the dregs’ of Fallen society.

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   5Vandals:           Now we begin to get to the more ‘meaty’ of The Fallen warriors with these hard-headed killers. Four armed for better mobility, agility and unarmed combat, ( try fighting someone who has both of your arms held outstretched and yet still can hit you with a flurry of combinations and you begin to get the picture ), The ‘Vandals’ are the ‘sniper’ and specialist class of The Fallen. Armed more often than not with high-powered fusion weapons for that additional blast their one disadvantage is the charge time required by said weapons. However, get too close to these sneaking assassins and they are able to ‘mix it’ with the best of them. You have been warned.

Captains:         The Prussian aristocracy of The Fallen. These powerful brutes come armed with twin swords that they wield with astonishing deftness and ability. Complete with heavy armour and rank identifying cape, The Captain’s are the toughest of all The Fallen bipedal warriors. Capable of turning their murderous talents from sword to shield, rifle to rough-necking these impressive soldiers are professional and dedicated and should not be underestimated, ever!

Servitors:           A spherical beam producing ‘Death Star’ that has shields and a larger than average lifespan against anything other than later rare weapons. These orbs of doom are capable of teleportation across short distances as well as producing Void projectiles which they launch across vast area’s from their ‘eye-like’ aperture.

Archons:            The High Priests of The Fallen. Extremely powerful and can absorb far more damage than their lower ranked comrades the Captain’s.  Archon’s also possess special abilities such as the ‘smash’ which will do extreme player damage if you are the victim of such a devastating blow.

Kells:                In a word, ‘Trouble’ ( with a capital ‘T’ ). The supreme leaders of Fallen Houses, these are the pinnacle of power for Guardian’s looking to rid a planet’s zone of The Fallen permanently. Approach with extreme caution and only when in Co-oP Mode.

 

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   9Offsetting the rank and file of the foes you will face in Destiny are the allies made up of The aforementioned Exo’s, Awoken and, of course, the trusty Humans. Customization for the classes in each race is somewhat limited at first, but that’s not to say it does not improve as you quickly whip through the first twenty or so levels gaining performance and armour upgrades along the way. Items such as the ‘legendary’ and ‘rare’ weapons also offer their own personal upgrades for completing set tasks and achieving kill streaks.

Staying with the games’ story for just a moment longer we now have to decide whether or not to praise or persecute Bungie for what loosely passes for the ‘campaign mode’. To be honest with you all it is not a decision we have to put too much thought into because the sheer lack of anything even remotely approaching a single player mode doesn’t just speak for itself it veritably screams the house down.

In a game the cost a reported £500m to develop the word that springs to mind when attempting to describe the attraction for a solo player is, surprisingly, anything but positive. The total disregard for any kind of single player mode is staggering, especially when you consider that time and again over the years gamers have proven to publishers and studio’s alike that they do not want a shift over to always online, MMO styled digital only videogames. Gamers want tangible copies of physical media discs that house ‘their’ experience that ‘they’ paid for to enjoy in the comfort of ‘their own’ homes. Not some wishy-washy excuse for a concerted effort to force gamers into purchasing something that they don’#t really want.

If Bungie and Activision are so sure that the gameplay contained within Destiny is the future of videogames, and that the monotonous grind of a mediocre MMO is what players were hoping for, ask yourself why, then, did they market the game as an experience totally different to the one that players got.

There is no exploration of worlds from the cockpit of your star-fighter as you hurtle through space at warp factor 9. There is no single player mode whatsoever, rather a cobbled together Co-oP atrocity that forces players to team up with strangers online or be battered incessantly by enemies far to powerful for one warrior to stand against.

There is also ‘no’ discernible endgame because, ultimately, the game was so sliced and diced to ensure a steady stream of future DLC that quite literally all you can do in Destiny is fight the same re-spawning enemies, in the same area’s in the same missions over and over and over again in a never ending nightmare of tedium which is only offset by the occasional Weekly Strike Mission which is, yup you guessed it, just another rehashed mission from any one of the scant few that you have already completed a thousand times before.

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   3Quite what Bungie were thinking when they had the team meeting to discuss modes and format and they all agreed that the way forward was a four-player enforced ‘’campaign’ with no single player option, save the opportunity to enter into what should be a four man strike on their Jack Jones, is just beyond us?

I find it incredible to believe that rational thinking men and women went along with this, particularly in light of their last title, you know? Halo? Only the most successful videogame franchise in history that supplanted itself in the hearts and minds of a generation, and then some, not because of its multiplayer, which was fantastic and varied, but because of the characters and scenario’s you found yourself being swept along with in the solo campaign mode.

Graphically the game is quite pleasing but the early warning signs for the more savvy gamer where that the title was available on all last generation platforms as well as the current crop. This should have given off warning bells regarding the limited architecture, meaning that the gameplay would also be restricted. When you consider that Dead Rising 3 breaks the record for the number of enemies on screen at any one time at a whopping 22,000 then it kind of puts things in perspective when Destiny starts to struggle at around 14.

But worry not, because lets call a spade a shovel here…Destiny never really pushes the boundaries of …well…anything?

The visuals are passable, the combat is the same bog standard FPS fare that we have been spoon fed in a thousand other shooters, the customization is basic and the gameplay positively mediocre.

Destiny as it is, this piecemeal 6 hours of beige hacked to bits in favour of selling players back huge chunks of the original game in the inevitable Season Pass, is far from the blockbuster experience that gamers were promised for so long.

That some players are even defending the disgraceful inclusion of items such as the predictable Expansion Pack flyer in the game case on day one of launch just goes to show how blinkered and downright gullible some consumers can be, as they are happy to be fed any old line from publishers and developers regarding the promise of ‘ten year programmes’, in which we are now supposed to be happy that we will be ‘treated’ to ‘free’ updates, ( are there any other kind? ), and ‘paid’ downloadable content ( are there any other kind? ).

If any proof was required that Bungie’s promised opus has been callously butchered for future DLC packages then readers need only search Youtube for the myriad of video’s showing players already finding future area’s that will house downloadable content. This plainly demonstrates that these area’s have been deliberately removed from the launch game in a bid to then sell it back to you at a later date.

Yes, Bungie have made the combat absolutely buttery smooth and so similar to Halo that Xbox gamers will be able to jump right on in to Destiny and feel like they are cozying up to a much-loved old friend.

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   4But, again, within the combat comes yet another problem because of the lack of a storyline. This means that all players will ever do is spawn in the exact same spot every time they begin a new mission or level. Then they move on through a few sparse enemies, who are also in exactly the same spot every time you pass them. ( so much so that if you just care to hang around a few minutes they will then magically re-appear like nothing ever happened and you can grind them into mush all over again ). From here its either a quick jaunt through the same terrain or you have the option of using your ‘speeder’  ( that comes with no armaments and basic controls and has about as much protection as chocolate fire guard ). One last push see’s you reach your objective where you will then take part in enforced ‘Horde Mode’ until the 30 second clock timer runs out and you go back to orbit, Earth or the same place you started from in the first place to rinse and repeat like some mind-numbing sci-fi torture.

And that is it.  That’s Destiny..?

What happened here? This is the most expensive game ever created. £500 million.  MILLION!?  Where? How?  Destiny has some of the most lack lustre level design of any game in recent memory, and the absolute worst solo experience next to MAG…and that game doesn’t even pretend to have one!

Minor niggles also litter the game like IED’s just waiting to go off on the first unsuspecting person to happen by. Some of them small, others not nearly so.

In no particular order here are some of the things which can cause aggravation on a scale of mild irritation to outright controller throwing ire.

The alluded to exploration from your single-seat space craft is, in fact, nothing more than a static cut scene. Not even an entertaining little mini-game, and even 2K’s NBA 2014  did that.

The fact that in a game that has boasted so much social interactivity and online community backing that not even a clan tag can be added to yours and your friends gamertags to show that you do, at least, have some kind of social recognition within the game itself.

The limitations of the 100 member clans, ( although you can’t have a clan tag ), meaning for larger groups you need to be split into sub-sections and have far more complicated hierarchies.

The questionable ‘one hit kill’ weapons in multiplayer.

Gamers being allowed to constantly farm ever more powerful weapons and ever stronger defensive armour and higher skill attributes in the ‘campaign’ and then being allowed to take them into the multiplayer unimpeded for tactical advantage.

Okay,, okay, that’s enough of the constant whining. It’s like the One Foot In The Grave version of the Destiny review.  So, after all that evidence and after all those minor and major niggles and jiggles along the way the single biggest issue with Destiny is not the lack of story, its not the omission of a genuine solo campaign or the many little snags, the most annoying and outright frustrating thing about Destiny is this……

         I LOVE IT!

 

Destiny                                                 GmP         image   7Forget everything we just pointed out and just do yourself a favour and get among some of the coolest and most addictive action since call of Duty 4. The gun play is outstanding, the all new double-jumps bring a totally different feel to the combat systems usually found in spoon-fed shooters and constantly re-spawning  enemies mean that the game never stops, it just keeps throwing armed to the teeth bad guys at you again and again in a constant challenge to your gaming skills.

Yes, we know we outlined a whole catalogue of moans and gripes but the truth of the matter is that Destiny is such a great game IN SPITE of these issues, rather than being a terrible one BECAUSE of them.

So what if you are dropped in the same spot for every mission, and so what if the lazy level design means that until the launch of the undoubted myriad of downloadable content packs that you will be fighting across the same locations and zones for the the same recurring missions.  SO WHAT!  Because at the end of the day, let’s be honest here, how many of the players getting among the action in Destiny are truly ‘bothered’ by it?   That’s right, you got it in one…’none!’

Destiny knows it doesn’t have to answer to the nit-picking, know-it-all’s in either the gaming media or the industry because it does the one main thing right above all else, and that is to deliver on the promises made to introduce the future of online FPS gaming.

The action is incessant and once the bombs and bullets start to fly then the pace of the never-ending onslaught is blistering. The weapons feel meaty and extremely well balanced. Each firearm brings with it its own set of upgrades such as additional projectile damage, better sights for distance, ( or close combat ), as well as the ability to auto collect ammunition from any weapon type encountered from fallen…erm, ‘Fallen’.

The new found attributes in the gameplay, such as the outstanding double ( upgradable to ‘triple’ ), ‘Halo-Bouncing’ is great fun and brings with it a whole new way to deliver death and destruction to your enemies. Battling it out with an opposite number who is also capable of this new ‘verticality warfare’ is also great fun and adds new dimensions to an already highly entertaining combat system.

When all is said and done, however, the pissing and moaning, the praising and gushing, it all boils down to one basic thing with Destiny: “ Do you like shooters? “

And that is basically ‘it’, in a nutshell.

If you enjoy shooters games where everything you see is trying to blow your head off with everything from fusion based power weapons, automatic rifles and even laser swords then you will absolutely love Destiny. Because believe you me, you are going to be doing just that! Shooting!

If you don’t like shooters and you are whining about the lack of campaign, the fact that enemies re-pawn again and again you are in a constant battle regardless of how many bad guys you kill, then what the Hell did you buy a shooter game for in the first place?  This wasn’t exactly sold to you as the next Fable title or Mortal Kombat. What were you expecting?

Destiny never actually made any promises to be anything other than ‘the next generation of shooters’, so all of those people, ( us included ), complaining because it has delivered on the only actual claim that it made need to re-consider, ( as we did ), what it is we are actually so aggrieved at.

number-7-pool-ballDestiny is a beautiful game with massive panoramic vista’s and some of the very best FPS action you are ever likely to encounter throughout this entire generation. There is no point in saying ‘From start to finish’, because the game is incessant, ever evolving and with an already assured 10 years of future content planned down the line. So, as we say Destiny is not likely to be anywhere close to the end just yet.

Remarkable as it is re-inventing the shooter genre Destiny could just have ushered in the age of the ‘MMOS’, ( or “ massive multiplayer online shooter “ ),  and we thank them for it.  Forget negativity, forget minor grumbles and gripes and just enjoy it for what it is, the promised ‘future of shooters’.  GmP rightly scores Destiny a justified 7 out of 10#

TITLE:                                                    DESTINY
FORMAT:                                              XBOX ONE                         [reviewed])
DEVELOPER:                                     BUNGIE
PUBLISHER:                                       ACTIVISION

AVAILABLE PLATFORMS:        ALL FORMATS

SCORE OUT OF 10:                          7  OUT OF 10

Outlast : Review

Outlast              GmP                            image    6

With more and more studio’s opting to try and find the next multiplayer cash-cow it would appear that the days of the survival/horror title are well and truly numbered. But if developers such as Red Barrels show anything with their latest launch it is that there is still a huge demand for the suspenseful chiller in videogames today. Join us now as we take an in-depth look at the nightmare shocker Outlast.

Let’s get one thing straight from the outset shall we? Survival/Horror is without a shadow of a doubt my favourite genre in the vast array of gaming pigeonholes. That chilling sensation you get creeping up your spine as your character edges along a darkened hallway lit only by flickering shadows is a far more tangible experience than anything else, I feel, offered up in any of the myriad genres littering the shelves of your local gaming retailer.

Nothing else seems to draw you in to the atmosphere like a horror game, and nothing comes even remotely close to the real-world feelings drawn out of the player as they greedily suck in shallow breath after shallow breath as they stumble and fumble their way across game zones spattered with traps, troubles and blood stains in equal measure.

No, there is nothing quite like a good scare-fest of the kind a survival/horror title delivers. Enter stage right the cracking Outlast. This outstanding piece of work is the product of twisted minds from the Red Barrels Studio, and oh!, what a tangled web they weave.

Starting off in the rain-soaking vehicle of investigative reporter Miles Upshur, we enter into our latest assignment after receiving an anonymous tip from a whistleblower regarding the sinister going’s on at Mount Massive asylum. This dark and looming building is the staple of horror films and comics time and again, but familiar though its architecture may be what is contained within its whispering walls is anything but.

Outlast              GmP                            image    7Set up in the Fifties as an asylum Mount Massive was quickly closed but re-opened again in the Eighties after being snapped up by the same shady corporate empire our intrepid reporter is currently investigating. This explains our man’s interest in the  area, but you can bet Miles wasn’t prepared for anything like he finds within the walls of the ‘asylum’ as the mental health institute is merely a front organisation for the worrying medical research into sleep deprivation and REM dream pattern control.

Entrance to the asylum serves as a short tutorial and we welcome back to the gameplay format that one time fan-favourite, survival/horror tradition of squeezing through gaps in walls and debris to gain access too, or to escape from, whatever demonic entity is currently seeking to chomp on your entrails.

Some may argue that the ‘squeeze through’ is a little passé, they are wrong, No argument, no debate. Just wrong. It’s a great addition to the game, and that is all there is to it. Racing towards a narrow fissure in shattered walls whilst all the time being to afraid to even take a quick glance back at your pursuer for fear of a grasping hand clawing at your startled face is far better than merely ‘Press and hold X to enter’.

Speaking of opening up a door, upon reaching the main entrance to Mount Massive players must shimmy around to a side door to get into the place as the main imposing portal is barricaded and locked up tight.  If anything this should have served as a red flag to our intrepid journalist but no! He just has to be Captain Bravepants and push right on in there.

Upon slipping into the ominous abode our Journo gets his first signs that all may not be quite peachy inside Mount Massive. You know the sort of thing? Lights flickering, eerie silence, a couple of broken windows here and there…oh, and the bloodied handprints and pools of ‘claret’ making Escher patterns on the floor. Time, in the words of that time-honoured beer advert, for a sharp exit.

Kee-e-r-r-r-ASH!! 

I think the phrase we are looking for, now that we have plummeted through the floor of the asylum, would be something along the lines of ‘the fecal matter has most definitely struck the wind farm now’.

From here on, dear GmP readers, the best thing to do to get the full effect of the atmospheric and down right chilling psychological horror provided by Red Barrels would be to turn off the lights, grab a few drinks and munchies and get settled in for around 6 hours of pant-wetting terror.  Oh, and while you are getting all your supplies and preparations made for your late-night fright-fest don’t forget to grab a shovel for your underwear.

Okay, now that we are inside let’s get a couple of things out of the way shall we? Graphically, Outlast may not be the prettiest game on the planet but I’ll be damned if that makes it a bad game, far from it. The game looks no more grainy or rattled than anything on display in a Dead Island or a Castlevania, and certainly with its ‘non violent’ approach to the ’ gameplay it is one of the most inventive of the year.

Do not be fooled, however, just because Miles doesn’t turn into Billy The Kid and go blasting his way through a horde of zombies the moment things turn sour does not mean that the game is in any way diminished by the lack of player combat. It just means that you have to be a good deal more realistic in your approach when facing enemies and problems.

Got a huge hulking brute with arms like Arnie in front of you?  Try using the most powerful ‘muscle’ in your body instead of your trigger finger and ‘think’ about how you  are going to get out of the situation you find yourself in.

Outlast              GmP                            image    4Moving right into the fighting mechanics brings us to to a point that will have some gamers scratching their heads and others nodding said melons in sage-like approval. Outlast may have many rumours circulating the interwebz that it doesn’t even have a combat system in place, however, this is simply not true. Outlast ‘does’ have plenty of violent moments of arm-rending gore and outright extreme blood thirsty savagery, its just that they will all, ( without exception ), be performed ‘on’ your character as opposed to ‘by’ him.

Instead, what players are treated to, by the lack of fighting abilities from Mr Upshur, is a non-stop nightmare where every corner can bring you face to face with a mutated monster whose only thought is to rend your body until it resembles nothing more than chump. Where every step on your journey may be your last, and every laboured breath is nervously caught short in your chest for fear of being overheard and overpowered by any one of the asylum’s unfettered inmates.

The lack of firearms, and even melee weapons, makes for a far more terrifying and frantic affair as players desperately try to navigate the corridors and chambers of this Hotel of Horror without alerting the assorted foes that line the halls and cellars just awaiting the arrival of an unfortunate fly into the blood soaked web. Stealth and subterfuge are thee orders of the day, and in a tip of utmost importance we ask you all to learn from our own mistakes with the adoption of a far more patient approach to your game play, as opposed to hurtling around the zones tearing from room to room like you are participating in some kind of demented speed round of hide and seek.

Don’t get me wrong here, there was more than one occasion when I’d stamp my feet and spout a “…if I had a gun or a club I could have killed him easy!” line, like a petulant child, but over-all the depth of desperation that the lack of even the most basic weapon offers you more than makes up for having a moment or two with yet another predictable outcome delivered with yawn inducing inevitability thanks to the possession of a rifle or machete.

Hell, you don’t even have the option to stand there and put your ‘dukes’ up before engaging the heavyweight in the corner to a round or three of Marquis of Queensbury. Nothing! Nervous types need not apply and those prone to bouts of diarrhoea had best install a steady supply of auto-assembly nappies for just such moments of pure unadulterated terror.

This is, without a doubt, a brave decision by Red Barrels, particularly in an age when the shooter reigns supreme and many former survival/horror stalwarts  such as Resident Evil have gone from being out and out stealth scenario’s to nothing more than tired Call of Duty wannabee’s.

Undoubtedly there are lessons to be learned here by many of the so-called ‘larger studios’  in that gamers are a funny lot, and although we may love the occasional hour or three spent blasting lumps out of each other on some Godforsaken battlefield in an online shooter, does not mean that we want ‘every’ subsequent title we purchase to be of a cookie-cutter formula. After all, variety, as they, is the spice of life.

Another major factor in the appeal of Outlast  is the brooding atmosphere inside Mount Massive’s  towering walls. The crushing blackness of the rooms and passageways populated by shuffling inmates is tangible in its oppression, and downright nerve-racking from start to finish.. It’s almost as if even the light bulbs have thought better of their situation and made themselves scarce rather than shine illumination onto the many horrors and atrocities being committed by doctor and patient alike.

Populated as it is by the now garish figures of former inmates and staff, Mount Massive is home to a collection of crazies and cranks the kind of which would make even The Shining’s own Jack Torrance seem like the most sociable and mentally stable fellow a chap could ever hope to meet.

Outlast              GmP                            image    3Mad scientist types, paranoid schizophrenics, sociopaths, psychopaths and a particularly excellent cameo from a vengeful ‘artist’ are among the more noteworthy of our new ‘friends’, but all of these pale into the background compared to the madness behind the men and women who created such a programme in the first place.

The sense of oppression raining down upon the characters shoulders is almost palpable as you stumble and fumble your way along bleak walkways and fetid sewers. The only light you have is the power-permitting UV glare of your trusty camcorder as you stagger your way through and around this maze of misery.

Of course, many players will be tempted to keep the garish green tinged light from their video camera always on for fear of becoming injured , lost or surprise-attacked by any one of the lurking former inmates in this art-imitating-life-imitating-art scenario as the lunatics have very much taken over the asylum.

And many of them will die…repeatedly.

Our advice is to take advantage of the camera’s light sparingly. Not only because finding batteries to power the unit are few and far between, particularly on the higher difficulty settings, but because the time will arise when you need the camera to find a certain clue or log entry and you will by pass the moment because your low battery alert is beeping like a sailor on daytime television.

The inky blackness permeates everything and even seems to infest the very air you breath as you weave your way under, over and around obstacles and wade through everything from rank sewage canals to bloodied body parts. This is compounded by the fact that players are not only tasked with finding an exit at all costs, but also because you are charged with locating extra batteries for your camcorder, audio and text logs that reveal snippets regarding the back story and events that have led to this current situation, as well as a myriad of additional tasks and objectives that are part and parcel of Miles’ survival in order that he may eventually emerge from this nightmare as unscathed as possible.

Outlast is the kind of game that horror fans have been longing for; suspenseful, chilling and outright nerve-wracking. The skillful use, by the developers, of music and mood is to be commended, and whereas others may simply have resorted to the tiresome ‘jump scare’ method Red Barrels have, instead, gone all out on a far deeper experience more along the lines of something Hitchcockian, if you will.

Naturally there are the more common-or-garden ‘boo!’ moments, where players will be squeezing through a thin gap in a wall, for example, only to be grabbed violently by a screeching inmate from the other side and yanked unceremoniously across the room like a rag doll, but it is with the well thought out use of lighting and atmosphere that Red Barrels truly capture the essence of what a genuine horror game is meant to be, and never once do they ease up on the player throughout the entirety of their torturous trek through the halls of this nightmare.

Outlast              GmP                            image    5Hiding in closets as you hear the thump and drag of encroaching enemies is enough to set anyone’s nerves on edge, but Red Barrels add so much more to melting pot than this. Tension is built in so many different ways from reaching for a crumbling outcropping as you try frantically to escape your pursuers, knowing that if you fall that you have nothing to defend yourself with. Your shaking fingers struggle to replace the batteries in your failing camera as the looming darkness, and insane inmates lurking in the shadows,  creep ever closer  with every passing second. Lunatics whose minds have been callously ripped from their brains by tinkering surgeons cackle in the distance as they make crazed collages of severed limbs, and modern art masterpieces from the body parts of former guards.

All of this and more makes up, what has to be, the underground hit of the year and without a shadow of a doubt the most entertaining and enjoyable survival/horror title since Condemned. If publishers want to be able to make big bucks from their titles without having to constantly dream up new idea’s to steal the Call of Duty/Battlefield install base then it is in titles such as Outlast and studio’s such as Red Barrels that they will find their answers.

Gamers want an assortment of titles, in a variety of genres. Not just point and shoot causal shovelware doled out in annual spoon-fed portions, with just enough content taken out so that Season Passes and the predictable DLC scam inevitably follow. Gamers want role-playing, ( Japanese and Western ), FPS, RNG, MMO, P&C,4×4,strategy, hack’n’slash, fighting games, survival and horror. What we do not want is the same format in every genre, it does not warrant a purchase, and hopefully the woeful sales of titles such as Bioshock Infinite, Resident Evil 6 and FEAR 3 and The Darkness 2 will have pointed this out?

( of course, what will happen in reality is that publishers will just ‘drop’ said franchise and instead of investing in new and exciting IP’s they will undoubtedly fall back on tried and tested tedium such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, FIFA and Uncharted )

Gamers need to begin the process of demonstrating ‘people power’ by voting and speaking with their wallets. Outlast is the perfect stage to demonstrate this consumer strength from. I’m not saying don’t buy your regular installment of your favourite annual, far from it. What I am hoping to recommend is that you should be purchasing such cracking titles as Outlast at the first opportunity, and then advising your friends to do the same. The only way to get publishers to promote more games such as Outlast is to prove to them that they are commercially viable.  We can heap plaudits after accolades onto Red Barrels and their amazing work, but if the sales do not raise the eyebrows of the ‘suits’ then it means nothing in the end.

Red Barrels have done a remarkable job with Outlast, and we wish them every success with this and future titles, but we need to show them the financial support of a Forza or an Uncharted if we are ever likely to  see the success matched time and again with follow up smash hit titles.

number-9-pool-ballDo not let this game go un-purchased, un-played and unnoticed. Outlast is a fantastic title, and one that every gamer should have in their collection whether they are fans of the survival/horror genre or not. This game could mark a huge turning point either in publishers returning to the time when actual investments where made in forward thinking and innovative studio’s, or in the way that more and more studio’s go down the self-publishing route. Whatever the result the winners in all of this are ultimately ‘you’, the gamers.

An epic title, this breath of fresh air almost feels revolutionary in its approach as it flies in the face of today’s staid formats and carbon copy videogames market. Outlast is a tour de force, and one that should adorn your game collection already and if not…why not?   Remarkable and inspirational, Outlast should serve as the benchmark for all future independent studio titles.        9 out of 10

Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 2 : Review

Pacman ATGA 2                        GmP                          image  2

Pacman ATGA 2                        GmP                          image  Xbox360 boxart 1Nostalgia abounds as Bandai Namco takes gamers to the wonderful world of that pill-munching maniac in Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 2.

We don’t know about you guys but we always have something of a mixed bag of emotions when we get into a Pacman title.  The juxtaposed problem of controlling a soul forever destined to be tormented by demons and ghouls as he hungrily amasses as many ‘pellets’ as he can before his ultimate demise.

This unfortunate happy soul who finds himself endlessly chased around a manic maze of masochistic design eternally trapped in his Groundhog Day of Doom, destined to endure all manner of frantic endeavor’s as he desperately attempts to collect the ‘pills’, ( for what is anyone’s guess? Perhaps he some kind of cyber ‘doctor without a border’ and is delivering the much needed medication to sick and injured Pacmen and Pacwomen all across his brightly lit galaxy? we may never know? ).

One thing we do know, however, is that this melancholy memory of Pacman, forever tormented by his incessant pursuers, is still one of the most poignant gaming experiences from our childhood and to this day brings us warm fuzzy memories of arcades filled with cheerful kids all clutching their shiny coins as they waited their turn to deliver their own brand of mental torture to this lovable character.

With that you can imagine the unadulterated levels of glee that greeted the arrival of the latest Pacman adventure from Bandai Namco.  Fever pitch comes to mind.

Leaping right into the action, after the mandatory PlayStation install, we are greeted with the sprawling urban cityscape of ‘Pacopolis’. This vast concrete jungle is to be the home of Pacman’ls latest outing as we kick off things at the young ‘pill poppers’ school.

To get you all up to sped on the games storyline, which is set prior to the massive fame of Pacman’s original outing, we take on the role of the happy yellow chappy when he is still a ‘teenager’ and pounding the corridors of Pacopolis High School. Of course, this also means that because these events are set before the madcap antics of the original title that Pacman’s one time enemies, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde – the four-pronged attack from the poltergeist brigade, are now actually Pacman’s friends and instead of trying to gobble you up, the foursome would rather engage in more mundane matters such as a chat. ( its good to talk )

Moving on we come to the point where we discovered, much to our dismay, that Pacman is still catering towards a younger audience, ( although it has to be said that the secret ‘big kid’ inside was thrilled nonetheless ), and whilst this is great for the kiddie gamers it does leave rose-tinted old fools like myself longing for the salad days to return. Alas, they cannot, and do not.

In some respects it is ridiculous to think that the game was going to be anything other than it has always been, a fun fuelled romp for the younger players, and though the fans who enjoyed the original game all those long years ago may well have grown into adults..well, most of us anyway…it is inevitable, then, that disappointment would abound for those looking for something more challenging.

Pacman ATGA 2                        GmP                          image 1So, looking at Pacman The Ghostly Adventures 2 from the perspective of the audience it was designed to impress, the under tens, we have to be fair and say that it does just that; ‘ impress ‘.

The dialogue, whilst some may argue is a little light for the more adult players, is just interesting enough to hold a child’s attention without distracting it from the job at hand, and in that respect it does exactly what the developers set out to do.

The gameplay is extremely simple for adults but, ( again ), extremely entertaining for children. The 3D environments offer up excellent opportunities for free roaming styled exploration and enjoyable experiences gobbling down ghosties and ghoulies, and whilst there are, inexcusably from a more experienced adults point of view, a few glitches and hitches along the way it is still nothing that will put a dampener on a seven year-old’s enthusiasm. Though it has to be said there were a couple of apopleptic moments when we fell through the map during a frantic chase scene returning us to the games Pac Hub.

However, if you thought that this latest version of the munching machine was going to be just a top-down emulation of a thirty something year-old game, then think again. Ghostly Adventures brings with it a whole wealth of brand new features ( new to us ‘oldies’ but part and parcel of just ‘how the game is‘ for the new audience ).

Included in the new additions to the more traditional style of Pacman gameplay are the outstanding use of ‘morphing’ abilities that permit Pacman to transform his shape after ingesting a particular ‘pellet. The new found powers come in extremely handy when traversing the varied zones and environments. For example, after downing a certain tablet Pacman evolves into a giant ‘boulder’ which can quite literally crush his enemies and flatten walls and obstacles blocking his way. Then there is the chuckle-fest ‘chameleon’ which allows Players to alter the shape of their giant yellow ball so that he can use his elastic tongue to grab passing posts and signs in order to swing around them like some demented Tarzan…er, or not…?

Of course, the fun isn’t limited to merely tearing off ramps as a giant rock, rolling over bad guys or swinging on a lamp post like a big yellow Gene Kelly doing a digital rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain’.Not by a long chalk.

Pacman can now also inflate himself and float around Pacopolis as he is carried around the zones on the air currents gently blowing you here and there. He can also turn invisible to avoid being spotted under the ever watchful searchlights.

Naturally your new found abilities also play a vital role in the games combat system, and when you combine your new found skills and mix them up with a little of the fire and/or ice, which are used not only as weapons but as environmental aids, then Pacman sure does give those pesky ghosts a good pasting as he races, floats, bashes and dashes around the gameplay zones.

Pacman ATGA 2                        GmP                          image  2All of these new additions to the way that Pacman is played have their individual uses, and they are all necessary at some point or other during the games progression, but purists will not doubt howl and gnash their teeth at this ‘blasphemy’, yet nevertheless the kids will scratch their heads and look at them like they are crazy because, overall, they add new flavour and dimensions to the gameplay.

Level design has been constructed purely with the young, or young at heart even, in mind and if you cannot see that then you are in for a rough time of it as you breeze your way through the games simplistic puzzles, pitfalls and play.

With a definite learning curve that soon overtakes and races past the games opening painfully easy levels Pacman  and his second helping of Ghostly Adventures, will soon be more than a challenge for even the most deft of younger gamers. Although, it has to be said, that accomplished players will find nothing too difficult. Make no mistake, however, as this is still an excellent platformer and the enormous fun contained within its coding, particularly in the Co-oP play, cannot be overlooked by pooh-poohing naysayers crying out for a more taxing trial.

Speaking of the platforming, and we were, the best part of the game going from 2D to 3D is the interactive world and the madcap races and chases under, over and around every kind of obstacle at warp factor 9. Seriously, if you love platform games and don’t find this enjoyable then you are dead from the controller up.

As hinted at previously the Co-oP mode, for you and up to three friends, is a real hoot with players taking on the roles of the hunters, ( and ultimately the hunted as the Yellow Peril grabs a power pill ),, before entering into 3D renditions of the classic maze game of the original title.

Playing this Co-oP with a family friend and their nine year-old allowed me to visit the Pacman I knew of old, and once again be mesmerized by the colourful graphics, interesting audio and catchy background music. Heady days spent funneling ten pence piece after ten pen piece into the slot of my local arcade machine, and then racing home to see what jobs I could do around the home to acquire some more after my exploration of the many mazes and zones was abruptly cut short by the chomping choppers of any one of the marauding ghosts.

It is quite surprising for me, personally, to fathom out why gamers who who enjoyed Pacman all those years ago, so much so that they enter into this new version with almost childlike anticipation of how it plays, are then disappointed enough to try and warn parents off buying it with poor reviews. Simply because, unlike the very embittered reviewers themselves, Pacman has remained 7 years-old whilst they, physically anyhow, have matured into adults.

number-7-pool-ballIf you are the proud parents of the odd rugrat or two, and you were considering buying Pacman The Ghostly Adventures 2 then please, follow my advice and make the purchase. You and your ankle-biters will be so glad that you did. You for the many hours of joyful bliss as they whizz their way around the many brightly coloured levels and zones, and your children as they get to sample the same kind of wonderment as you yourself did at their age when you first spent time with the lovable yellow funster.  In fact, go one better: grab yourself a second controller, toss a third to Mum and get stuck in to some cracking Co-oP. You may find that you smile like you never have for 30 years.      Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 2 scores a fully  justified 7 out of 10

 

TITLE:                                      PACMAN AND THE GHOSTLY ADVENTURES 2          
FORMAT:                                  PLAYSTATION 3    [reviewed])
DEVELOPER:                        MONKEY BAR
                                                    BANDAI NAMCO
PUBLISHER:                         BANDAI NAMCO

AVAILABLE PLATFORMS:                     Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3,  Wii U, Xbox 360

SCORE OUT OF 10:               7 OUT OF 10

Review: Thorium 100 & 300 Series Offer Gamers A Real Alternative

Thorium 300                               GmP                 image 1

Thorium 300                               GmPWith the popularity of videogaming never before reaching such dizzying heights as it is right now the demands by gamers on manufacturers and companies to create ever better technology and peripherals to fuel their single and multiplayer cravings have never been greater.

Naturally with increased resources and research going in to making these ‘next generation’ of PC and console gaming accessories there is an undoubted rise in cost by the companies charged with their invention. This inevitably results in steeper prices for the consumer as rising manufacturing bills and production costs have to be accounted for.

With this in mind it is with great pleasure that we bring to you all a joint review of the Thorium 100 and sister product the Thorium 300, gaming keyboards. These cut price peripherals are just the latest in a procession of budget options for gamers everywhere by the UK’s biggest and best independent technology and gaming retailer eBuyer.

Now we know what you are thinking, ‘budget’. It is now that many readers will recoil almost in mock horror at the very word like some kind of outraged scalded cat, but we are here to tell you that consumer-programming and indoctrination by advertisers aside; ‘budget’ does not have to mean ‘bad’.

Designed and delivered by Element Gaming, although the 300 series is the only specifically touted as a ‘gaming keyboard’, the Thorium range is perfectly suited to the needs and requirements of gamers from the casual, ( Thorium 100 ), to the more hardcore players among you, ( Thorium 300 ).

Ergonomically and aesthetically gorgeous in their sleek black shell the Thorium 100 and 300 keyboards both share a similar size that opts for the larger proportions as opposed to the dinky-digit portable nightmares such as the Razer Tartarus. ( and at a whopping £76 for what is little more than a chat pad stuck on a Tesco’s pricing gun you start to wonder where some of these companies get the figures they charge for these fads from? )

But, we digress!

Thorium 100                               GmPThere are some differences in the design between the Thorium 100 and the Thorium 300, in that the ‘true’ gaming model ( the 300 version ) has a far larger wrist support for those longer bouts of MMO mayhem,, as well as offering up a multi-facetted feature set for macro’s that is a must have for any true PC gamer.

Of course, as with any QWERTY keyboard the main thing to worry about are the button themselves, and coming off the back of he favoured Logitech keyboard’s for this review we have to be perfectly honest with you all when we tell you that the Element Thorium’s ‘both’ have outdone themselves with surprisingly efficient models that have perfectly sized buttons that give ideal response and resistance when depressed.

In fact this pair of delights has been nothing less than ‘surprising’ all round when you consider that their nearest ‘gaming’ rivals are all priced way above the meagre £9.95 for the Thorium 100 and the paltry £24.99 for the Thorium 300. But time and again with the Element Gaming keyboards you will soon discover that this is a pleasant sensation and one not unlike when you hear a boxing commentator describe a great fighter being usurped by a contender ‘punching well above their weight’

Both wired, both offering 50g of pressure and both bringing affordability to the gaming crowd the Thorium 100 and Thorium 300 do have similarities, but it is also in the differences that they have unique strengths too.

Take the features offered by the Thorium 100, for example:

WASD keys with a free ‘key pulling’ and replacement tool. Extremely easy key travel: meaning that you get the same instant response times,  between when you depress a button and the time it takes for the action to appear on screen/monitor,  in a Thorium 100 that you would  find in a keyboard with a much higher price tag.

But the staggering thing is that when you get all of this comfort and performance in a keyboard costing less than a couple of grilled chicken sandwiches at McDonalds.  ( we kid you not )

But wait, there is more.  Much more!

Thorium 300                               GmP                 image 1Just when you thought that Element Gaming couldn’t possibly outdo themselves for bargains and tech at affordable prices they go and throw the Thorium 300 into the melting pot and give gamers everywhere a genuine reason to be cheerful and think that Christmas has come a couple of months early.

Jumping up a definite division and taking on the heavyweights with a lightweight RRP comes the star in the Element Gaming range. The Thorium 300 is, without a doubt, the very best of all the affordable keyboards we have tried, and believe us when we tell you there have been may, ( and yet, none were around the price of the Thorium with the vast majority of what their manufacturers describe as ‘budget’ peripherals actually coming in at around the £40-50 mark )

With a much larger set up the Thorium 300 is easily the most comfortable of the two keyboards thanks to its wider base-board allowing for the housing of additional macro buttons on the left of the QWERTY keys, as well as the highly practical built-in wrist protector on the lower segment. There is also the added functionality of the top section ‘menu bar’ that allows users to form presets for their favourite homepage, search engine and email provider on one side, and also video playback and volume controls on the other.

All of the buttons are softly lit using pleasantly shaded LED’s, and this means that users can comfortably perform keystrokes without eyestrain for late night or darkened room gameplay. No need to worry about software and updates, either, as Windows 7 and 8 both auto-install everything you need to keep your new Element Gaming keyboards operating at optimum output.

Lastly comes the the wired USB cable which comes in the form of the much preferred threaded cable. ( as opposed to the basic plastic cover of the Thorium 100 ). This type of detail is, more often than not, only ever found on keyboards, mice and headsets with a much higher price tag, and yet Element Gaming have included it here in what ahs to be accredited to them as a nice touch.

All told the new Thorium range from Element Gaming is  a  fine opening slvo for this fledgling company, and will, we are sure, be the foundation of a gamer favourite, should this standard of care, product performance and finish be added to all of their future products.

Both keyboards performed well under testing in both the standard office atmosphere as well as in the online arena. The Thorium 100 is more than capable of delivering for casual gamers playing browser based and simpler format titles, and the Thorium 300 more than handled anything that Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, League of Legends and Path of Exile threw at it.

number 7 pool ballIf you are looking for an entry level keyboard before setting off an that eternal path to gaming Nirvana then we can highly recommend the Thorium range, particularly the 300, as your starting point. The build is more than capable, and will not let you down in moments of pure panic and stress when you are surrounded by legions of the undead during heavy battles in Diablo 3.  At less than £30 what more could anyone ask?  Scores on the doors for the Thorium range look a little something like this:

Thorium 100 is worthy of a sturdy 6 out of 10and the Thorium 300 achieves a well deserved 7 out of 10. Do NOT be fooled by the price, these are keyboards that will stand you in good stead regardless of the task you set them.

To take a look at the entire Element Gaming range and place your own order for either, ( or both ), of these cracking keyboards then click here to be whisked on over to the eBuyer website.

SKYLANDERS TRAP TEAM FOR NINTENDO 3DS LETS PORTAL MASTERS CONQUER AND PLAY AS VILLAINS ON THE GO

SkylandersTrapTeam                     GmPNintendo 3DS Delivers Complementary Experience to Console Game On 10th October with 14 Exclusive Villains, New Storyline and Two Skylanders Toys Not Available in Any Other Starter Pack

Skylanders® fans can go on a villain vanquishing adventure this Autumn with Skylanders Trap Team for Nintendo 3DS as they take on the evil Dream Sheep and 13 other villains exclusive to the platform. Launching day and date on 10th October with the console and tablet versions of the game from Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI), Skylanders Trap Team for Nintendo 3DS features an all-new adventure with its own levels, locations and gameplay.  The game also uses the special features of the system, which gives players the ability to experience unique interactions with the captured villains. Additionally, Skylanders Trap Team on Nintendo 3DS introduces a multiplayer version of the fan-favourite card game Skylanders Skystones that uses Wi-Fi connectivity, marking the first time Portal Masters can play the mini-game with friends and family.

Skylanders Trap Team takes advantage of the interactive features of Nintendo 3DS in fun ways. For instance, after villains are defeated in combat, players can use the bottom Touch Screen to pull them out of the game and trap them in the Traptanium Vault.  Then, once captured, players can use the Touch Screen and microphone to poke, tickle and spin villains to make them dizzy.

Using the Portal of Power® included in the Skylanders Trap Team Nintendo 3DS Starter Pack, players can load in their Skylanders characters directly into the system, allowing greater flexibility for playing on the go. Additionally, two powerful Skylanders characters will be available at launch only via the Nintendo 3DS Starter Pack — Gusto, a Trap Master with an oversized TraptaniumTM Boomerang that delivers the ultimate blow to bad guys; and Barkley, the Mini version of Skylanders Giants’TM Tree Rex.

Throughout the game, Portal Masters can summon captured villains to unleash devastating attacks and fight side-by-side with their Skylander.  They can also play as captured villains in 13 unique villain “bootcamps” created by the evil Dream Sheep, the master villain in the game. Additionally, players can discover each Trap Master’s signature Trap Attack by collecting TraptaniumTM orbs dropped by enemies when defeated, enabling players to wipe out evil foes with one awesome attack.

The Nintendo 3DS version of Skylanders Trap Team also enables fans to play with all of the toys from Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure®, Skylanders GiantsTM and Skylanders SWAP ForceTM, enabling true cross-platform play.  All of the characters’ abilities, levels and customisation will carry forward into Skylanders Trap Team.

 

Skylanders Trap Team on Nintendo 3DS, developed by Beenox, will be available on October 5 10th October in Europe. The game PEGI rated 7+. For more information, visit: www.skylanders.com.

Mythborne Launches First Open Beta Server

Mythborne 1         GmPGlobal games publisher R2Games has announced that its newest free-to-play browser title, Mythborne, will soon be entering its Open Alpha phase. To celebrate the launch, the game will be holding a series of in-game events to help players get acquainted with all the game’s features and systems.

The Mythborne Open Alpha test is set to close on Friday, September 12th at 00:00 EDT, after which all character and account data will be wiped. The Open Beta server will go live on the same date, on September 12, 2014 10:00 AM EDT.

Mythborne is a 2.5D browser-based RPG, loosely based on ancient Greek mythology. The game features turn-based battles determined by attack speed, and the ability to recruit and deploy multiple Heroes to join players in battle. As well as five available classes with unique skills, Mythborne includes core systems such as Character Upgrade, Hero Recruiting, Dungeons, and more.

To play Mythborne, go to http://myth.r2games.com/.

Learn more about Mythborne here:

Official website: http://myth.r2games.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mythborne
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mythborne

The Open Alpha test will close on September 12th to give way to the new version