Category: REVIEWS

Far Cry 4 review

FAR CRY 4                GmP  image  Xbox One LE packshot 1

Take a trip to picturesque Kyrat. Take in the sights of the stunning mountains, the ambient verdant forests and the lush rolling hills. Oh, and d don’t forget to pay tribute to the local despotic warlord or he’ll hand you’re your liver with a spoon. Welcome to Pagan Min’s Paradise, where every moment is an exhilarating realization of your own fragile mortality.

Far Cry 4 may well be treading familiar ground with its surroundings and format, but in a ’franchise’ we don’t necessarily see this as any kind of a problem.. Because of this we will look on our foray into the realm of the ‘mad as a box of frogs’ Pagan Min, the man with a name like an Asian Death Metal Band, and enjoy every moment we spend in the lunatic’s playground.

From the word go with Far Cry 4 we are brought into this mentalists world with what has to be one of the most amusing and entertaining introductions to a videogame for some considerable length of time, we aren’t going to spoil it for any readers but we will just say ‘selfie’ and leave it at that.

Outstanding visuals that have an OCD feel to the highly detailed landscapes and environments are the order of the day and the first rate gameplay melds beautifully to create a thoroughly top class title.

The storyline is a well-crafted plot of political intrigue and revolutionary subterfuge as we are placed into the shoes of ‘AJ Gale’, ( better known to the locals as AJay Ghale, the son of the inspirational freedom fighters and founder members of the embattled Golden Path.

The Golden Path themselves are a well organized bunch of ‘rebels’ who are struggling to free their beloved Kyrat from beneath the constrictive heel of Pagan Min, the dictator with a penchant for embedding items of cutlery into civilians bodies to demonstrate his point. Founded in part by AJ’s mother and father the history of this separatist movement is a little hazy for our reluctant hero, however, time and tasks will enlighten you to the true back story to this contentious region as the game and its meaty storyline unfold.

Returning to his beloved homeland, following an enforced educational exile in the United States, ‘AJ’ is not met with open arms and adoring hugs and kisses by the locals and childhood friends he left behind, instead it is Pagan Min who swoops down in his private chopper to welcome the returning inspirational figure in his own inimitable way.

From here on in following this introduction to the laugh-out-loud lunacy of Kyrat and its enigmatic leader Far Cry 4 transforms into a brightly coloured open-world extravaganza of the kind that gamers would normally associate, say, with Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series as opposed to a shooter. For this reason, and many others along the way, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal are to be highly commended.

Far Cry 4                     GmP  image 1 The gameplay is a blend of first-person shooter action at its finest coupled with snippets taken from a myriad of other genres such as the undoubted leveling up system transported from a more traditional role-playing game, as well as moments of undoubted heart-in-mouth stealth that would be more at home in a title like Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell franchise.

However, that is not to say that they don’t work just as well here in Far Cry 4, far from it, everything that Ubisoft brought in to the gameplay works supremely well, and many developers of similar titles would do well to take a leaf out of the developers at Ubi Montreal’s book in that instead of being a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’ kind of game, Far Cry 4’s designers have seen fit to put as much effort into all aspects of its features in order that the game pretty much handles like a dream in any situation.

Speaking of elements inside the format brings us neatly, ( ish ), to the core of the Far Cry 4 system, and that is its excellent use of a more traditional RPG styled gameplay which allows the player greater immersion into the realm before them as players are required to partake not only in the games main story to gain that all important XP, but also the seemingly infinite amount of mini-missions, side quests, challenges, collectibles, tasks and objectives that absolutely litter  the entire region of Kryat much like the proverbial horses sh-h-h-h- ‘sugar lumps’.

Players can, of course, forego any and pretty much all of the side quests and just plough headlong into the single player campaign with wanton abandon, but, and it’s a Jennifer Lopez sized ‘butt’, ( you see what we did there? ), acquisition of new items that are certainly beneficial to the players chances of survival in the harsh badlands of Kryat are obtainable either far faster or not at all, without indulging in side activities and tasks.

Keeping in line with Ubisoft’s undoubted ‘the more the merrier’ policy Far Cry 4 comes with a massive amount of vehicles from cars and quad bikes right through to jet ski’s, hovercraft’s and microlights. On top of this comes the excellent array of weaponry available to the player in AJ’s personal armoury, ( all fully upgradable as well as being purchasable in ‘limited edition‘ format ), as well as a staggering number of enemies, animals, missions and side quests.

There is just so much to do in Kyrat that if you are wondering why the review took so long to get out there then let that be an indication of just how big this game is, as those regular readers and GmP subscribers will already know we ‘always‘ fully complete every game before we publish any review.

That being said many weapons and items are only obtainable through the campaign, so it really is best to fully clear and area and its many missions and objectives before attending any one of the appropriate ‘letters’ on the Kryat map which denote a particular NPC’s storyline.

The storyline itself offers up an interesting proposition also by making the player choose the path down which they wish to proceed on the way to liberating the Kyrati people. Will you side with the hotheaded young vixen that is Amita, or the more careful Sabal, the male side of this coalition government?

Along the way there are many weird and wonderful NPC’s for you to meet, such as Longinus the former African Warlord turned murderous Bible-thumper spreading the ‘Good Word’ with every round fired from his AK-47.

Far Cry 4                     GmP  image 2An excellent inclusion to the long list of people AJ will meet and greet has to be the roaming Sherpa’s who act as a travelling ‘base’ where players are able to complete every task they require from the purchasing of items and ammunition right through to actually upgrading equipment and character skills. This is a very handy way for AJ to keep on top of his enemies and his surroundings as Kyrat is vast in its playable area’s and, due to its Himalayan similarity, the region is not only able to explored along the horizontal but also the vertical too.

Kyrat’s lush verdant environment can quickly change from rolling fields and wooded valleys to snow capped mountains and perilous craggy cliffs. This makes for a wide variety of scenario’s, not least in the way players must traverse the region in order to just reach locations and objectives.

One such arduous challenge is the tracking down of clues for the local serial killer, Yulang, who leaves his victims in posed positions of death with a ceremonial mask on, ( or around ), their person. Each of these locations, along with the dazzling array of question marks that act as pointers for hidden  area’s, serve as a good distraction as players open up the map. But it is within each zone that players will soon come to discover that the best option for clearing away the mountain mist that covers the map of Kyrat is to head straight for any one of the radio towers that proclaim non-stop messages of love and warnings of dire retribution should you fail to show Pagan Min any of it, as the hijacking of said tower will free the area and thus open up the map and give a few noted pointers to locations of –particular interest.

The only downside to this is that instead of the Kyrati State harridan who issues orders, edicts and warnings from the radio towers pre-emancipation is soon replaced with the inane dribbling’s of Radio Free Kyrat and its resident DJ, ‘Rocking’ Rabi Ray Rana.

Now, anyone who has ever listened to an amateur, pirate or ‘free’ radio station will tell you that, on the whole, the DJ’s tend to be entertaining and, more often than not, quick-witted and likeable. Rabi Ray Rana, on the other hand, seems to break with tradition on this as he has ‘none’ of this attributes or characteristics going for him. Annoying, inane, monotonous and dead pan the repetitive parrot-like droning’s of this witless wonder are one of the few low-points of the game, and developers should pay attention to the gamers on issues such as this when we say if you are going to give regular voices to NPC’s them give them more than four dialogue scenes. Why not give them new lines of speech with patches and updates to keep their ramblings fresh and relevant? Instead of the same constant whining on and on of predictable meanderings?

Progression throughout the storyline does change Rabi Ray Rana’s dialogue from time to time, but on the whole he sticks to a tired formula of daydreaming about being a fecal-fetish killer or warbling’s of his politically correct, enlightened lifestyle Uninspiring stuff to say the least.

Apart from this truly minor hiccup the rest of the game plays out with excellent opportunities to approach the story from a twin standpoint, even the option of attacking outposts comes with dual possibilities of all-out frontal assaults or stealth induced sneak-fests, for double delights and definite replay value.

Far Cry 4                     GmP  image 3Of course, this being Ubisoft, there are few sections of the gameplay that do have the Liberals reaching for placards and screaming at anyone who will give their nonsensical rants air time over such contentious issues as the hunting of ‘artificial reality’ endangered species. Yes, you read that right, the PETA Pleb’s are whining that so many non-living digitally rendered animals did not have to really die in order to bring gamers this wonderful entertainment.  You couldn’t make it up, really you couldn’t.

But, Ubisoft being Ubisoft and so wonderfully and typically French their answer is a simple as the brainless minds who created this total non-issue in the first place, and that is?

“ if you don’t like it, then don’t damn well play it and don’t buy it! “

You have to admire the French for the no-nonsense attitude towards the more ‘intellectually challenged’ types of the politically correct world.

Multiplayer comes in the form of an online challenge arena that not only provides hours of entertaining fun, but also elite weapons that are only obtainable through this method, but the true jewel in the Far Cry 4 crown has to be the simply stellar Co-oP Mode.

If you thought traipsing across a sandbox world, hunting, sneak killing and tracking down serial killers and murderous dictators was an inviting prospect in the solo campaign then just wait until you dip a tentative toe into the perfect pool that is the co-operative challenge.

This is where Far Cry 4 truly shines, and it does so with such a brilliant light that it completely blocks out all of the sun from every other title in 2014 that prides itself on its Co-oP. Quite how this game never won Game of the Year is, frankly, a little puzzling, especially considering the title that did win the honour did so with an AI controlled four-player Co-oP that doesn’t come anywhere near Far Cry 4 for enjoyment, capability and performance. A true miscarriage of justice if ever there was one.

number-9-pool-ballStory, single player, multiplayer, Co-oP and more challenges, missions, side quests, collectibles and tasks than even an Assassin’;s Creed title, Far Cry 4 is, for GmP at any rate, one of the most entertaining titles of 2014 and although we may not be the Golden Joysticks, ( yet ), we can see it receiving at least one GoTY award by the time our own ceremony is announced on December, 31st.  A Tour De Force of a title and one that should grace every gamers library.        9 out of 10

 

TITLE:                                                    FAR CRY 4 
FORMAT:                                              XBOX ONE                [reviewed])
DEVELOPER:                                      UBISOFT MONTREAL
PUBLISHER:                                       UBISOFT

AVAILABLE PLATFORMS:          XBOX ONE, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX360, PLAYSTATION 3, PC,           

SCORE OUT OF 10:                          9 OUT OF 10

MOGA Pro Controller review

GMP--EDITORS-CHOICE-AWARD-300x300

With mobile gaming making massive inroads into the more mainstream console and PC market as developers bring increasingly more technical titles to the Android platforms, the only thing holding the mobile gaming back was its inability to sell gamers on the touchscreen controls that were mandatory to the format. Now, thanks to MOGA, the days of fumbling with your Samsung are over thanks to their stellar Pro Controller.

Following up on the previously well received Pocket Controller, manufacturer MOGA have gone all-out with their latest peripheral that delivers precision and performance to rival even the console controllers as it corners the mobile market with the outstanding addition to the mobile master class of perfect peripherals.

Stylish in design and about as practical in method as it could possibly be, the MOGA Pro Controller weighs in to the growing mobile arena with all the swagger of a champion that knows it is undisputed in its weight class. Throwing functionality, form and features like haymakers and combinations the MOGA Pro easily swats aside the contenders and competition as it knocks all comers and challengers to the canvas on its way to being crowned King of the Android Ring.

Right out of the box the MOGA Pro comes complete with charge cable, ( micro  USB ), tablet stand and snappy built-in mobile phone ‘arm’ which is extendable to secure and handheld in tight fitting snugly security.

( *NB of course there is the down side for some that this is an Android only device, but rather than sticking those petulant ‘pet lips’ out at MOGA perhaps gamers of the iOS variety should aim them firmly at the fruity manufacturer as it is understood that Apple were not exactly forthcoming during design )

Speaking of design the MOGA Pro now comes looking more like a fully fledged console controller than ever before with the addition of the new D-Pad, analogue sticks, hand stalk grips and four ( A,B,Y,Z ), ‘face pad’ buttons which give the Pro a definite Xbox feel. Even the actual aesthetics of the MOGA give it the appearance that this controller would be more at home in the hands of a gamers playing Gears of War and Halo as opposed to Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga.

Bluetooth enabled, Wi-Fi and now with a good feeling of weightiness that gives the gamer a far greater sense of tangible security, ( because it no longer feels like you are going to crush it during a particularly grueling race in World of Speed ), the MOGA Pro also resembles the Xbox style of peripheral, even more so than its PlayStation counterpart, thanks to the off-set thumb sticks which, as has been proven to be the case with gamers of the Xbox360 and the Xbox One, is a much more preferable set up for shooters, racers and long periods of gaming.

MOGA Pro Controller                         GmP                    image 4The centre section of the MOGA Pro houses the retractable/extendable ‘arm’ which also acts as the ‘claw’ housing for mobile phones. The ‘arm’ is able to open up with enough clearance to comfortably house even the 5.5” Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and demonstrates the forward thinking nature of the units designers in that mobile phones have begun to adopt a larger style in recent years, as opposed to the one-time fashion of making everything so miniature that even an Action Man would find the item rather bulky for their ‘realistic grip hands’.

There is also a wide variety of modes for the player to take advantage of, not least the added MOGA Pro unique feature included as the manufacturer described HID,  ( not to be confused with the gamer staple HUD ).

HID, or Human Interface Device to give it the official MOGA moniker, is not to be confused with some sort of Lawnmower Man styled  VR machine, instead the Pro Controller’s Human Interface Device basically boils down to a ‘keyboard’, of sorts, which allows users to then map even non-MOGA specific titles to any preferred format they see fit*

Although perhaps not as all-encompassing as the MOGA Pocket’s ‘IME’ feature the MOGA Pro’s Human Interface Device Mode still does, nevertheless, offer a viable and exceedingly practical alternative right out of the box.

*naturally this works only with games that permit button-mapping in the first instance

When testing the MOGA Pro Controller we decided to give the sexy ‘black beauty’ a real trial instead of merely throwing a Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds game at it. The titles we used during our time with the MOGA Pro were Infinity Blade 2, Deus Ex: The Fall, Hitman GO!, World of Speed, X-Com Enemy Unknown and the multi-award winning pairing of Limbo and The Walking Dead. As you can clearly see there is something for everyone in the list of titles we went for, and all of them provided a challenge in their own inimitable way.

As anyone who has made the jump from console to tablet and/or mobile will know each of these games were originally AAA titles for the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3, and in that respect should give some kind of an idea as to the complexity of their content. However, it is worth noting that although their mobile counterparts may, in fact, come in the ‘diluted’ form, they are still fully fledged games capable of producing taut, tense and terrific moments of gaming pleasure.

Of course, not only do each of these former console titles bring an ample amount of entertainment, they also require a certain degree of skill and gaming nouse. Making this a far easier prospect, and a far more enjoyable one, is the MOGA Pro Controller.

Without having to either forfeit one hand entirely as you cradle your mobile device in order to see the screen, or balance the unit precariously on a cobbled together hotch-potch stand made up of books and DVD cases, the MOGA Pro proves its invaluable contribution to mobile gaming right from the word ‘go’ with its ‘easel styled’ tablet stand, as well as its fold away center-piece which is the extendable ‘claw’ that holds in place the mobile phone.

MOGA Pro Controller                         GmP                    image 1From here on in it is smooth sailing as the MOGA Pro delivers unsurpassed performance, of a standard hitherto only found on consoles. In fact, so far as to say that the MOGA Pro offers up such a positive experience that we have attempted to synch the Bluetooth device with the PlayStation 3 as we genuinely prefer the feel, features and layout of this peripheral over the stock Dualshock 3 version of the Ps3**.

( **we will keep you informed of the results in future updates )

Pinpoint precision and smooth flowing movement without a single instance of lag or ‘dead zoning’ is couple with ergonomic excellence and drift-free delights as the MOGA Pro made light work of every test we through at it. Stealth in Deus Ex was a breeze and easily manageable thanks to the lightest touches on the thumbsticks and triggers being recognized and responded too instantly.

Driving in World of Speed was an absolute joy thanks to the outstanding responsiveness of the controller and, as such, the game is what it is expected to be, an enjoyment, as opposed to turning into an ordeal thanks to shonky shenanigans by poor quality products.

When all is said and done the MOGA Pro is quite simply put the ‘must have’ peripheral for any serious mobile gamer, but it also has its perfect uses for even the most casual or younger gamer too.

The ‘claw’ arm also offers up a real alternative to those onboard screens in the rear headrests of cars for parents looking to entertain their children during long drives, or even for teens and adults looking for a way out of beating those Bank Holiday Travel Blues as they sit for hours in county long tailbacks and traffic jams.

Whether you are a hardcore gamer or just someone looking to while away an hour or  so stuck behind a cement mixer as you try to reach Torquay during the May Day Weekend the MOGA Pro Controller is the only choice, and considering its wallet friendly price tag of a paltry £34.98   at eBuyer.com the only question you should be asking yourself this Festive Season is “ How many should I buy? “   The MOGA Pro Controller gets the Editors Choice Award for being the best mobile controller on the market right now. 9 out of 10

Never Alone review

never alone                      GmP

In an inspirational tale of one small girl’s battle against the elements we rediscover the passion and beauty we thought had so long been forgotten and forlorn in videogame development.  Upper Games’ beautifully crafted story of a child and her pet fox touches the mind, the heart and the soul as we review the remarkable Never Alone.

For those gamers out there who look to something a little more meaningful in their favoured pastime other than merely pointing and shooting or blasting a ball past a goalkeeper there is, once in a blue moon, a hidden gem lurking amongst the shovelware that, unfortunately, litters the list of indie developed titles: Journey, from that game company being the most memorable exception from the recent batch. However, it is Never Alone from thoughtful developers Upper Games that has to be the latest.

Upper Games story centres on the native Iñupiaq tribe from Northern Alaska. The remote area of the Canadian – Alaskan border between The Baring Sea and Norton Sound is the home to this wonderful people, whose thoughtful approach to life has been brought to the attention of the world by the re-telling of one of their classic oral tales.

These hunter-gatherers have a long tradition of passing on the wisdom and cultural heritage of their tribe through the power of the spoken word, and it is through the telling of these stories that they translate morals and education as well as passing on the skills that they will need to survive the harsh environment where they live, as well as, of course, entertainment to the younger members of the tribe.

Taking on this time-honoured Iñupiaq style of passing knowledge down through the generations by the power of their stories Upper Games have worked long and hard with the Iñupiaq people to bring one of their tales to the whole world. This is done by utilising the skills of the developers at Upper Games as they take advantage of the latest technology in order that they may not only entertain, but also that they may educate all people’s of the world, and their children too,  to the plight of their current situation due to global warming and environmental disasters.

Gamers may well be mistaken for thinking that this is about to turn into some drab point and click caper of the kind that are casually thrown together by education committee’s to highlight a particular flavour of the month issue, they could not be further from the truth.

Never Alone          GmP      image 3The game itself takes place around one of the Iñupiaq tales of a little girl who, with her pet and best friend the Arctic Fox, venture into the cold night to brave the never-ending blizzard as she seeks to find the answers as to what causes this chilled killer and why her people must endure this terrible fate.

At heart Never Alone is a competent side-scrolling platformer that produces some interesting moments thanks to excellent controls coupled with thoughtful and intelligent puzzle design.

The gameplay is reminiscent of titles such as Limbo, as well as the Co-Op sections and escort styled missions of Journey, but it also brings its own identity and originality thanks to the way the game informs and educates along the way in the form of the unlockable video segments.

You play as a small girl braving the harsh Arctic conditions, so be prepared for some heart-in-mouth moments as you scrabble frantically at the frozen earth for some purchase whilst a chill wind blows hard across the screen trying to drop you unceremoniously in the icy waters around a floating piece of ice, or down a vast crevasse which will eventually be your chilled tomb.

Timing, as is the morn in most 2D side-scrollers, is the order of the day with  precision button pressing at absolute imperative if you want to survive. So, a word of warning to the wise, if you don’t like games where you have to replay the same section time and again as you desperately try and get the motion in the moment ‘just so’, then stick to Viva Piñata, this may prove a tad too taxing for your gaming skills.

Chase sequences provide some tension to the games’ story line, and the puzzles will require some pondering and sue of the old ‘grey matter’, but ultimately there is nothing so taxing that younger minds will give up in pursuit of easier options.

Of course, the true joy of the Never Alone gameplay has to be the simply excellent Co-oP mode, even though the games AI is perfectly capable of producing a more than satisfying solo experience.

Progression is made through a very gentle learning curve, and even though you play as very likeable girl make no mistake that this  Iñupiaq child is just as skilled a hunter as her elder siblings and family. The nameless character is later equipped with the excellent ‘bola’ for taking down enemies and obstacles as the young explorer takes on all-comers in her quest.

Never Alone          GmP      image 5Naturally you will encounter many strange and wonderful beings, both corporeal and ‘non’, along the way. What is a traditional legend for if it cannot take licence with some fanciful additions of the highly imaginative variety?

The importance of Never Alone can not be understated for many reasons, not least the revelatory nature of the state of affairs by the Iñupiaq themselves who must attempt to endure and survive in a place experiencing first hand the effects of climate change and its resultant consequences, mostly of the kind individuals paid by the petro-chemical industries, such as Jeremy Clarkson, would have you believe are merely flights of fancy from ‘Green Meanies’ and ‘Liberals’ – as the blinkered motoring journalist like to call enlightened people.

More so, however, we firmly believe that Never Alone could be a revelation, ( if not a revolution ), in Western culture not only due to the wonderful opportunity to instil some tradition and morals into an ever more socially corrupt system, but also in education.

Never Alone, when shown and played through with a younger member of our family, was nothing short of inspirational to our six year-old nephew. The classic Iñupiaq tale of the never-ending blizzard brought wide-eyed amazement from our awe-struck relative, and during the unlockable video’s which offer insights into the Iñupiaq  way of life, as told by elders and prominent members of the Iñupiaq  community, the interest on the face of our nephew was plainly evident due to  the obvious mesmerized intent and rapturous attention.

It is from this stand-point that the importance of a title such as Never Alone must be addressed. With education standards around the world slipping into ‘mouth breather’ classification it is, then, quite possible that it is through mediums such as this ‘Edu-Gamer’ that there is a light on the horizon indicating a possible safe passage through the darkness.

How to get children interested in a subject can now be achieved through titles such as Never alone as they are taught,without really knowing it, during what would normally be described as play, or entertainment.

Never Alones’ format could, as we say, revolutionise teaching methods in a wide variety of subjects, not just the plainly obvious History, Geography and social sciences. Again, particularly in the notoriously difficult to teach 4 to 7 year-olds.

( * we will ourselves be conducting our own social experiment with a local nursery and primary school and will keep you informed of the outcome )

But, to summarize, Never Alone ‘is’ a good platformer, and an entertaining romp through a beautifully crafted classic Iñupiaq fable. It’s inoffensive gameplay and storyline mean that it is fun for all ages, and its first-rate Co-oP mode will allow yonumber-9-pool-ballunger children to spend quality time with their parents as they enjoy all this wonderful title has to offer.

But in its alternate role of ‘teacher’, Never Alone truly shines through like a beacon of hope for future generations. We sincerely hope to see a lot more of similar styled titles from E-Line Media and Upper Games, and will most definitely be encouraging more gamers, parents and teachers to take advantage of the tools on offer in this cracking title. Never Alone, for  as many reasons as we have listed and for so many more you will discover on your own, is awarded  a worthy 9 out of 10

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare review

call of duty advanced warfare        GmP Gaming    image logo 2

Just ask any great boxer and they will all say the same thing: The true test of a fighter is to know he can get back on his feet after suffering a knockdown to regain the composure and begin their own furious assault. So to then does Call of Duty rise from the canvas of Ghosts to deliver a crushing blow to its rivals and take the heavyweight belt as Activision’s flagship title once more reigns supreme as the Undisputed Champion.

Following what has been a pretty tough year, compared to most in the history of the Call of Duty franchise, Activision have weathered the unfathomable demonizing of their shooter series by the collected gaming media who, it would seem, were Hell bent on destroying the franchise and supplant it with EA’s Battlefield 4…and journalists wonder why so many accusing fingers are leveled at them by gamers in the current ‘corruption climate’?

Nevertheless, numbers do not lie and in that respect Ghosts was the first in the franchise to suffer a dip in sales. This can be attributed in no small part to the number of bandwagon’ing view-whores in the gaming press who discovered how profitable it was to slag off Call of Duty much in the same way as football fans hate on Man United simply because they have been at the top of their game for such a long period of time. The only difference here is that Activision’s  ‘Red Devils’ have seen off the challenges put to them by their own ‘City Blues’, ‘Chelski’ and ‘Gooners’.

Back with the proverbial ‘bang’ Call of Duty Advanced Warfare has been dragged kicking and screaming into the ‘space race’ by a myriad of developers with lead team Sledgehammer Games taking the reins, so to speak.

Now, regardless of personal preferences we will at least try to objectively review Advanced Warfare without breaking off into a soap-box styled rant about ‘quick-scopers’, stupid bloody lasers and Halo-bouncing jet-packs….though as you may have a slight indication of it may take some restraint, and we are uncertain of the outcome. Bear with us.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare                               GmP      image     15Looking crisper than Quentin and sleeker than Linda Evangelista in a cat suit Call of Duty Advanced Warfare has stormed into the world’s game charts with a sexy new look that somehow has been wrung from the existing engine in a feat praiseworthy on its own. Just how the developers were able to squeeze so much graphical gorgeousness of the now aging Call of Duty engine is so remarkable it is bordering on witchcraft.

The sheer scale of the improvements made are staggering with character models and environments housing so much detail it is almost beyond belief. NPC’s barking orders at your player affect such a realistic position that many may well be forgiven for leaping off their sofa’s and reaching for a weapon as they are instructed by such life-like characters to join the fight.

Of course, pretty as the graphics are, we all know the real talking points surrounding this latest version of Call of Duty, and that just has to be the new weaponry and abilities provided by the futuristic setting and the awesome exo-suits.

Looking more Destiny than D-Day this latest edition in the best-selling shooter series has taken the early skepticism regarding the sci-fi direction and completely turned it on its head as the thrilling gameplay and simply outstanding solo campaign have won gamers over with aplomb.

Of course, the similarities of the single player experience with real-world events is enough to make even the most uninformed raise a questioning eyebrow at the way governments have become corporations and international policy is now little more than a hostile take-over perpetrated by private military contractors such as the inspirational Aegis Security.

Speaking of ‘outside influences’ the stellar cast of voice talent , which includes a tour de force performance by legendary actor Kevin Spacey, is second to none. Troy Baker also brings home an outstanding contribution in the lead role of Mitchell, the games’ main protagonist and long-suffering soldier under the ever watchful eye of military mouth-piece Sgt Cormack. But, ultimately it is the role of PMC President Jonathon Irons from Spacey that steals the show as the demented would-be despot drags the world toward global conflict with his incessant plotting.

Of course, the excellent acting is only enhanced by the first-rate script, Hollywood blockbuster styled imagery  and superb graphics that offer some of the most impressive character models that we have ever seen. ( in any game ) If the ‘haters‘ were expecting to come out with all guns blazing on Call of Duty Advanced Warfare then readers should take particular notice of the rather silent cannons in the online communities.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare                               GmP      image     16The story behind the action in Advanced Warfare is one of political intrigue coupled with one man’s quest for personal domination on a universal scale. But make no mistake, Irons is no cartoon ‘bad guy‘ or Blofeld-styled Bond villain Hell-bent on  subjugating the world for criminal ill-gotten gains, oh no. Irons is a far more cunning animal even than they. This is a man who comes to Capitol Hill with an oily handshake and smile that could freeze the heart of the Devil himself. Irons is the dirtiest villain of them all, he is a ‘capitalistic conniver’, and be damned to any and all who stand in his way of a dollar.

Irons represents all that is currently wrong with the world, and every sane and rational persons who prays for a stable, peaceful future. The embodiment of the faceless corporate empires controlling and manipulating every aspect of our daily lives as they seek to extend their evil empire by devouring everything and everyone within reach, and in that respect he is truly a man to be feared.

Mitchell, on the other hand, starts out very much as the atypical grunt ( complete with best mate in tow ” ooh-raah’ing “ their way into some of the worlds bloodiest combat zones ). He is joined in the games opening tutorial level by brother-in-arms, and son to the aforementioned Irons no less, Will. After being dropped into a hot-spot, and getting to grips with the obligatory control method, we kick off proceedings with an explosive introductory mission that leaves Irons’ son, Will, dead on the ground and Mitchell invalided out of the forces. A strange introduction to a shooter, you may be thinking, as the main character is pensioned off after being left with only one arm, but this is ‘Advanced Warfare’, and in the future such things as the loss of a limb are mere trivialities to a high-tech PMC outfit like Irons’ paramilitary practitioners ‘Atlas’.

Atlas is the private military contractor, and the sole mobilized might, belonging to main antagonist Irons. This armed to the teeth outfit is the best equipped and best trained fighting force in the private sector, and because of this they are called upon by governments from all sides to do the dirty work and execute the orders that the public would balk at regarding their own national armies. But all of this military manpower comes at a price, and it would seem the price which Iron’s has in mind is not measured in dollars or pounds…rather in capitulation.

So, there you have it. Spoiler free, ( almost ), and only requiring that you input the disc into your Xbox One for further involvement and understanding of the huge events that take place in Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. Rather than explain away the entire plot and premise of the game we leave that area to you, the player, to fulfill and enjoy as we move on with the rest of the review.

Getting into the armoury of Advanced Warfare we now get to sample some of the technological delights that await players in the arsenal that is available to you on the battlefield, and boy what a cracking collection of killing machines we have at our fingertips!

Of course, updated versions of timeless classics such as the Kalashnikov and the Heckler and Koch’s of this world are still there, as are the Armalites and the Sigue Sauer’s, but  it is in their futuristic guises that we now meet with ‘old friends‘ and experience all that their coming generations have to offer.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare                                       GmP image Power 1The new technology, however, is what will bring the most jaw-dropping moments, and it is with items such as the highly impressive EM-1 directed energy weapon, ( or ‘laser‘ ), that many will find themselves getting some of the best of the kills. Naturally there are still some surprises in the standard firearm sections such as the excellent entry level BAL-27 or the Thompson inspired ASM-1, and with the upgraded ‘Pick `12′ system players will be able to take advantage of some outstanding attachments for all weapons with some old and some new favourites to ‘wow‘ gamers along the way.

Shields and sniper rifles are both back, but we promised to try and avoid a ‘rant‘ so all we will say, ( through gritted teeth ), is that they are tools available in the real world and so should be part and parcel of the Call of Duty franchise, although they should not be allowed to dictate the play in the way that they do.  ( “ Stop that!”   -Ed. )

There are a whole host of handheld horrors for you to exploit your enemies weaknesses, and strengths, at your disposal too, such as the ‘hover grenade‘, ‘EMP’ and the ‘spy flare‘. As well as any number of noob-friendly wonders for the, *ahem,  ‘mobility-challenged‘ types to take thorough advantage of.  ( ” Last warning! “   -Ed. )

But all of these new goodies, gadgets and gizmo’s aside the games’ real talking point has to be the addition of the Halo-bouncing paradise that is the ‘Exo-Suit’.   This technological toy allows gamers to leap like startled flea’s high into the air as they bounce around the multiplayer maps like demented frogs in the hope that they will catch a ‘360 no-scope‘ for their YouTube channel, whilst at the same time allowing such over the top power moves in the melee kills that recipients of the ‘Hadouken‘ blow will often find themselves coming down in another game zone.

Now, don’t misunderstand us, in the solo campaign the exo-suit is great fun and makes for highly entertaining scenario’s. But in the multiplayer it has changed the face of Call of Duty so much that it is no longer the classic military styled shooter that we all know and loved so much.

But is that really such a bad thing?

The multiplayer in Call of Duty Advanced Warfare may play like Destiny and look like Titanfall but there is no doubt about the fact that it still does what it does better than anyone else, and that is the action.   Its breakneck pace never lets up from the get-go, and should you require a little more practice with your exo before you leap into the fray of the online arena then that is available for you too.

There is also a Classic Combat Mode for players looking to just experience Call of Duty without the double-jump mayhem of the exo-suit combat, but truth be told it feels limited after spending time in the main arena.

Obviously with the launches of titles like Titanfall and Destiny game play has evolved into a more science fiction era, and even though some may like you to believe that Titanfall is stuttering and spluttering the strong online community is proof of anything but.

Destiny is also proving to be a hit, although not at the rate we suspect Bungie expected, and so it would seem that Call of Duty developers believed that maybe it was a case of ‘Evolve or Die’? Whatever the reason behind the move by Sledgehammer Games it certainly looks to have paid off for them, and for Activision, with Call of Duty experiencing something of a renaissance among gamers, and rightfully so.

The new additions to the format breathe new life into the series after the cookie-cutter feeling that Infinity Ward left us with in Ghosts, and if anything this may  well prove to be a kind of blessing in disguise for Activision that they have rival franchises in the same publishing house as it means that both teams will be pushing each other to produce ever better experiences for the players.

number-9-pool-ballMaybe, in fact, it could well be that Activision decide to let Call of Duty become a total ‘two way winner‘ with Treyarch taking the reins on the next iteration and turning the clock back to a more traditional era of warfare, as well as returning with the highly successful zombies mode, and then switching back to a futuristic setting when Sledgehammer take back control? With Destiny there to fill in the gaps between for the sci-fi shooter fans this is a very real possibility and one that would satisfy all fans of all genres thus ringing those cash registers and making them sing like a gaggle of X Factor wannabee’s.

Whatever the outcome, and what lies in store for Call of Duty fans, one thing is assured and that is that the best-selling shooter franchise is back to its blockbuster brilliant best. 9 out of amazing 10

Assassins Creed Rogue review

Assassins Creed Rogue          GmP   image   Xbox 360   packshot

With a twin package of double trouble launching both for last generation and next generation players, we turn our attention to the Xbox360 version of the latest Assassin’s Creed line and let our light-fingers do the talking as we become, the Rogue.

Waa-waah-waah its an expansion of Black Flag,     boo-hoo its just DLC of the American Revolution.  There you go review done.

Well, that’s what you would think if you had read any of the early doors clickbait that Gamespot, Gamesradar and IGN like to pass off as reviews these days. The truth of the matter, however, is something far different.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue may well be in the same timeline as Black Flag, and it may well have some of the same characters and locations, but when you consider the sheer size, content and new additions to the format contained within its coding then to try and dismiss this game merely as Black Flag DLC is somewhat insulting to the developers and the writers, don’t you think?

What evidence do these ‘professional reviewers’ and ‘journalists’ have for these ‘factual claims’?  Oh, well…erm, the whistle is the same, and er….its in America.

Slow hand clap!

The fact that NONE of these ‘reviewers’ had even bothered to play the game before compiling their list of atrocities committed by Ubisoft is evidence in itself of just how ridiculous and low the standard of games journalism has become, and in a time when the said same people are rallying against cries of corruption in the Gamer Gate scandal, and with that in mind we find ourselves asking if some of the fingers pointed at these individuals aren’t justified.

But, GmP, how can you know for sure that they didn’t play or finish the game before reviewing? The answer to that is simple.  When you begin to play Rogue during the pre-launch review window so small is the community that all you have to do is sink maybe ten ships before you replace the bots that populate the leaderboards.  The same can be said for stealth kills and the  prosperity from earnings. So, then, when it comes that we leap into the game a full 6 weeks after said publications have had their review codes how is it then that the leaderboards are still populated by bots and we are placed number one after only four kills?

Riddle me that one ‘ree-voowers’

Assassin’s Creed Rogue is a ‘good’ game, nay, it is a great game.  In a time when players are forced to endure ever smaller 4 hour campaigns, and features are constantly stripped away from titles in penny pinching and time saving efforts just to get the game out earlier, Ubisoft have done a remarkable job to launch two distinctly individual titles for both sets of console generations. Meaning that instead of adopting the money-grabbing approach of, say, The Last of Us, and selling the game as a last gen title and then, lo and behold! six months later it is re-released as a remade next generation cash cow to the same players, Ubisoft instead decided on giving gamers a genuine reason to  buy both games on each platform for both sets of gamers…and you lot slate them for it??  Unbelievable!

But enough of this, if you guys were IGN readers you wouldn’t be here would you?  We don’t do ‘corporate coverage’ here at GmP.

Assassins Creed Rogue                       GmP     image 3Getting back to it we now offer our own version of ‘the truth’ in the GmP review of Assassins Creed Rogue. Ubisoft may well have ‘cookie cuttered’ a lot of the gameplay, and they may well have re-skinned some characters…so what?  When taken in the context of the bigger picture Assassins Creed Rogue is ‘not’ a mere clone of Black Flag, nor is it a paltry expansion pack. Rogue is a stand alone title capable of holding its head high amongst its worthy siblings.

The story is an accompaniment to the sizzler that was Black flag, but it is in no way diminished by its close proximity to Edward Kenway. In reality Rogue is enhanced by it.  Considering the sheer scale and the impact of the American War of Independence to assume that such a vast topic could be covered in one title is somewhat surprising, to say the least, In that respect we also commend Ubisoft for adding additional weight to the games involvement in such a massive storyline.

Rogue focuses on the tale of a young Irish immigrant named Shay Cormac. This twenty something Assassin is as quick with his blade as he is with his wit, and has not only an eye for the ladies but a nose for trouble too. Armed with his many natural attributes we join Shay as he is set a task, alongside his Assassin brother Liam,  by their Mentor, Achilles.

It is from these humbles beginnings that Shay stumbles upon a darker agenda hidden between the lines of Achilles plans and so our reluctant hero begins to question his leaders and the validity of their scheming.

It is at  this point in the story that  Shay begins his struggle against the very people who he once called family, and in so doing he becomes the willing recruit of Kenway himself, no less, as the young ‘rogue’ becomes a man, becomes a Templar.

The gameplay is, as is to be expected in any Assassin’s Creed title, as solid a foundation as one could hope to expect, and it is from these set in stone foundations that an excellent inclusion into the Assassins Creed rank and file is born.

From here on in it is a veritable treasure trove of non-stop action, stealth, subterfuge and fantastic naval warfare that will leave fans of the series more than satisfied.

Assassins Creed Rogue                       GmP     image 2Yes, there are animations and locations lifted straight out of Black Flag, such as the West Indies, but let’s face it…this is set in the same struggle for independence, the same time period  and in the same area….how could it be anything else? If it looked liked Iceland and played like Tomb raider then people would be screaming for the head of the Ubisoft developers. Damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

There is an absolute wealth of content for players to get their digital teeth into, not limited to the main storyline which will see gamers putting at least a good 20 or so hours into, but also there is just so much to see and do with the myriad of side-missions, mini-objectives, tasks and trials both on and off shore.

The naval battles can be accessed in both first and remote scenario’s thanks to the addition of ‘The Fleet’. This allows Shay to capture ships and turn them to his cause as opposed to merely salvaging them or using them to repair his own craft, The Morrigan.

Each of the fleet missions will come with a level of risk attached and so close attention must be paid to which vessels you send in to the fray for fear of being overwhelmed by enemy armada’s.

Rewards for the fleet missions aid Shay both in keeping his ships afloat, but also in his own ‘world’ by unlocking items such as outfits, weapons and swords.

Back in Shay Cormac’s realm the canny kid from County Cork will have an impressive amount of action-packed adventures from whaling and shark fishing on the high sea’s to battling Assassin apprentices as they try and take out local targets which Shay has intercepted before they can achieve their dastardly goal.

There is the opportunity to play in the modern day setting of the Abstergo offices as a hacker brought in to fix a virus uploaded into the Animus servers by a nameless entity, but truth be told these are little more than distractions and are only really in the story to keep you grounded in the fact that you are playing the game through someone else’s memory through a kind of digital dream hack.

Assassins Creed Rogue                       GmP     image 1Back for more come the fort-invasions, only this time around we see the challenges as Gang HQ’s where Assassin apprentices are housed and ply their influence on the local population. It is from this point of view that Shay turns peoples saviour as he rids area’s of the gangs of would be killers and instead supplants the British Army in their place to keep order in the one-time almost feudal regimes of the gangs.

Shay is now also caught up in the plots and schemes that will eventually lead to Black Flag, and in that regard the cameo appearance from  Edward Kenway is thrown into the mix to add weight to the games storyline.

Regardless of if you are a fan of the Assassins Creed franchise, or even if you are a total newcomer, Rogue is an excellent title deserving of praise and not the scorn currently being poured on it by a jaded and misguided gaming press.

In a month that has seen GTA V re-released  across to Next Gen platforms it is strange to see, then,  the said same ‘journalists’ are all gushing like a bunch of pre-pubescent girls stroking the image of a non-entity boy band member in their fave glossy magazine , and all because of a mere spit and polish by Rockstar.  Pure hypocrisy.

Assassins Creed Rogue is an entertaining and highly enjoyable romp through a new story in a time zone similar to the previous game ( albeit that it is set before Black Flag ). If you are just looking for great gameplay with an absolutely staggering amount of content, collectibles, locations and characters then you could do a lot worse the slide a few shekels Ubisoft’s way for another unique title. However, if you are one of the people who think that this is a mere clone, a carbon copy catastrophe and nothing more than a shameless remade, re-skinned and reworked cash cow then maybe this game isn’t for you?

In that respect we would guide your attention to an alternate purchase…The Last of Us?  GTA V?  Call of Duty, Battlefield 4, Mario, Dead Island, FIFA or possibly even WWE or NBA for some ‘true’ variety and ‘originality’.    Ho-hum.

number-8-pool-ballAssassins Creed Rogue, for us, was an excellent time had by all as we made our way through a good story that brought many an hour spent sneaking through locations dispatching bad guys right through to waging massive war in expansive legendary sea battles in monstrous men o’ war. We enjoyed the Fleet missions, we enjoyed the plot, the gameplay, the surroundings and the graphics. Hell, we even enjoyed the sight of old stiff upper lip Edward to add fuel to the fan boys fires, and for these reasons, and more than anything to prove that we actually played the game in its entirety ’before’ we reviewed it. We award Rogue a well deserved 8 out of 10  ( with the game bordering closely on an 9 )

As for the proof of our playing, the end credits took a full unskippable 12 minutes, there you go.

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