Friday, 16 December 2011

Batman: Arkham City on Trial

So, having been a huge fan (understatement if there ever was one) of Batman: Arkham Asylum, I was waiting with baited breath for Batman: Arkham City, delivered by Rocksteady Studios. I don't normally pre-order games at the store or even online via D2D distribution methods, but for this one I was willing to make an exception. Arkham Asylum was, without a doubt, one of the most satisfying purchases on the XBox I have made to date and needed a good kicking to pull if off its podium. Since we are talking Batman here, I think we can all agree that the only thing capable of pulling Batman off a high and hard-to-reach vantage point is another Batman.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

UFC Trainer. Fitness? And gaming?

... Surely not... but if you insist.

Yes, lately I have been making all endeavours to lose some weight and I am doing quite well there. I have picked up my old gym membership card and spent time on cardio there, changed my diet and now invested in some basic home fitness equipment as well as digging out the old dumbbells from my parent's loft.

I also remembered how I have a Wii with a Wii Fit board and also a Kinect for my XBox that I have neglected somewhat. I was not entirely impressed with the Wii Fit so it has gone to a better home. But the Kinect was promising, at least as far as I had used it with the provided Kinect Adventures game as well as the Kinect Sports game I got at the same time. You do feel a workout as you use it, and I loaded it back up to supplement my efforts at the regular gym. Does the Kinect have the potential to replace gym membership for the masses? Well.. keep that question in mind as you read on. I will answer it in the end. This blog will focus more on an individual game instead of the Kinect platform as a whole, but this is a question I was asking myself as I utilised my new purchase.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gearing up for War!

So, around the time I was half way through Space Marine and drafting my blog, a few days after release in fact, I ran back to the shops to collect my pre-order of Gears of War 3. The third (well, duh) in the series by Epic Games, Gears of War 3 has been a pleasure for me to play over the evolution of the series.

Anyone that knows me knows that I like a game with a story, and one that is told well regardless of how preposterous it might be in substance. This should be evident from my review of Mass Effect 2, where I praise the writing and story telling of the game in general. Gears of War as a series has story depth in spades, digging.. a very deep hole.... you get the idea.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Warhammer 40k Breaks Out of RTS

And I cannot be happier. Finally I can play as a Space Marine with bolter and chainsword hacking my way through a sea of greenskins with my brothers at my side.

Well, except I have kind of done this dance before with the Gears of War series and I guess this might taint thing a little. Especially with the release schedule fixed like it was this year. You see, once upon a time I grabbed a disk for my X-Box 360 called Gears of War after watching the trailers and being somewhat impressed with what I saw. And it took me all of 5 minutes of playing it to realise this is how it must feel to play as a Space Marine in Warhammer 40,000's universe.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Forever waiting for the Duke!

And the Duke is what we got!

OK so this review is way over due and I guess in keeping with the game itself. The production schedule was somewhat akin to that of the great pyramids and, as such, it kind of shows in the game itself. By now a lot of reviews have been out so you have all seen the slightly diverse pool of opinions on the game. I got it on release day and started playing instantly but it has been put down a few times for other game's sake which I have also to review. Kind of like Gearbox, really, developing the game itself. I doubt anyone has been waiting with baited breath for me, though, so hey.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Home is where the Homefront is.

I viewed Homefront from THQ at a slight distance as a curious observer for some time in the build up and post release, not entirely sure what was putting me off about it. I saw podcasts on G4TV about it, online trailers on Steam when it was released and read a couple of articles about it and all I was presented with was another first person shooter and another fantastical story about America being invaded. Maybe I was getting bored with this story after playing Modern Warfare 2 and World in Conflict, so maybe this put me off somewhat but I figured I should give it a fair shake when I saw it on the specials shelf in the store.

I loaded it up, now finding I was looking forward to getting my teeth into it, despite my apprehensions about the storyline.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Be vewy, vewy quiet....

.... I'm hunting merchant ships.

So, having mulled this game over for a long time, I finally bought it. Yes, yes, I know there are some shiny and sparkly new games out there. And I could have put my money to them if I wanted to, and may still. Silent Hunter III is an older game now, the latest in the series being number 5, so it is not current news and I would say that every review that could be written has been written. However, if you are like me and you have not even read those reviews anyway, then this will be a good journey together to the bottom of the sea.

Why did I buy it? Well, because I felt like stretching my horizons when it comes to games, and there are few out there that play like this one, while much of the rest out currently play like everything that came before it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Another PC build...

This is not so much about games today as I am in a bit of a lull with new games to play. I know gamers out there will wonder what I am talking about though, given the fresh set of releases this last month. Brink, L.A.Noire, Duke Nukem Forever... ohh wait that was delayed again. But anyway I have that on pre-purchase so will be aiming for a post-release review of that one.

I have been a little busy with other stuff, however, and right now this is one of the things I have been working on. Another rebuild of my old PC.

This one has been an adventure, and a couple of things have happened since my last blog on system building. The brief of the last blog is this.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Magicka, Co-op, control systems and ggggrrrah!

Ok so a while back I picked up Magicka on steam when it was being sold off with a bunch of the DLCs. Watching the trailers and a little reading I figured it was worth the price as it looked like my kind of game. Kind of like the good old Cannon Fodder but with magic as well. Especially with the Vietnam DLC where you give your mage a machine gun and go nuts.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Portal 2, worth the wait?

So, I picked up Portal 2 at the release and quickly fired it up to see what it has to offer. And, to answer the title question, yes it was worth the wait. Though by wait, we should first look at Valve's innovative release system using the potato sack. Essentially, you could pre-buy the game bundled with a bunch of Indie game titles selected by Valve from the steam library, and the more people logged into the games the closer Portal 2 would come to being released early.

So, release mechanism aside, players of the first Portal game will know how it plays, and in short I will say to you guys, stop reading here because, honestly, the game is more of the same procedure. It feels and plays the same as before, though the look of it has gotten a little more polish since, as you might expect with the passage of time and Valve's evolving Source engine.

Well, ok there is a little more on Portal 2's table I guess, so keep reading a little longer and I will tell you where to stop.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

What happens in New Vegas...

... Stays in New Vegas. Yes, it is time for a new Fallout game review.

Fallout New Vegas is Bethesda Softworks' newest offering in the post-apocalyptic retro scene, served up by Obsidian Entertainment.

Many of you (or rather my three readers, in any case) will know my thoughts on Fallout 3 by now, so this game does have some pretty deep shoes of expectation to fill. The open world format delivered by Fallout games, seeded with well structured deposits of intrigue and backstory supplements to those willing to search for them, made Fallout 3 one of the best games I have played. Mainly because it made free-roaming in an open world worthwhile when you found some small supply cache either guarded by raiders or traders or entirely empty leaving you to wonder when the three bears would be coming home. It always delivered something interesting.

But I will not go on gushing about how excellent FO3 was since I pretty much covered it in my original review. So let us look towards the new mewling baby in the Fallout series, already sporting it's first DLC and a wealthy library of community mods to add more depth (or, if you like this kind of thing, god weapons.) Of course, these are only available to the PC players, sorry console guys but you chose to play an FPS on a kids toy...

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mass Effect 2 brings me hope

Besides my BioShock review I mentioned before that I also bought Mass Effect 2 on the Steam sale over the holidays. In fact, playing Mass Effect 2 took over most of the time instead of BioShock to a point that I was not too sure which game review would hit the blog first. It has been interesting to play two heavily contrasting games side by side, especially as both involve some kind of super powers in their characters and dub themselves as Role Play Games.

I also mentioned before that I replayed the first Mass Effect to import a save game, something that once I got down to trying was fairly difficult. Mainly locating the obscure hidden holders where the save game was from the first Mass Effect so I could select it and import it. Feeling a little flushed about this, though, I started playing and pretty early on realised that there were a couple of perks to importing a game. One was an increase to the starting points I could assign to powers and abilities as well as a starting pot of credits, the other was less useful but might appeal to others in the form of an achievement. So I guess for the starting points and credits it was kind of worth it. I was also able to remap my character details a little to give him Biotic powers, which is something I have never done in the first Mass Effect so I decided this was the time to give it a try.

Still, you do not start with the credits you had at the end of the first game, so if you are yet to get this far do not spend time obsessing over grinding the first game out. There are major differences to the setting, space available, exploration, inventory management, ship, team members and character skill building in ME2. They have not transplanted the first game over a new story so focus only on getting the major story points out of the way if you have done the grind before like me and want to start again from game one. Do all the quests to enjoy the story, pick your romance option, make the hard moral choices near the end and save the galaxy.

So, to start with I might find it a little hard to set the scene, as you know I like to do, without spoiling the beginning. Yes, the beginning is just as easy to spoil as the ending. So you will have to bare with me. All I will say is that over two years have passed since the first game and our hero has found himself in a tough spot. Essentially, Shepard finds himself in the company of a pro-human activist group calling themselves Cerberus. Along the line of a group you encounter in the first game called Terra Firma, but a lot more organised and a lot more secretive. Essentially they are branded terrorists by the Human Alliance and the Citadel and not well loved. However, their current focus is investigating the disappearance of human colonists in the fringes of lawful space. It seems only human settlements are targeted and people just vanish with little sign of a fight. The leader of Cerberus, calling himself the Illusive Man, has pooled together their vast financial clout to get Shepard on his team, equip them and then uses his information sources to point you in the right direction. As for why Shepard is going along with them, again it is hard to say too much without spoiling it but the circumstances leading to him being in the company of Cerberus and the last two years since the original game leaves him with little credibility in the Citadel and the Alliance itself, who are all sitting on their hands and doing nothing to begin with.

So it is a rock and a hard place, but as with the first game, you get to pick your attitudes in conversation with people about how you feel your new affiliation relating to you. You might want to start being cautious and distant but eventually you may well converse with people about Cerberus and hail them as being heroes who are misunderstood. Or you could praise or damn them all the way from start to end, and the story allows you some latitude in the end to either do their ultimate bidding or piss on their party.

You start your new quest having to assemble a team past the initial two people who join you from Cerberus, Miranda Lawson and Jacob. I will spare you their life stories but suffices to say the character depth is there with everyone you meet in game, and BioWare has not short-changed their usual standards of story telling.

I mentioned differences though, and trust me all of them are for the better, and this is why I said in the title that this game gives me hope. RPGs as of late have had a nack for over complicating and over layering their gameplay with stat building and an endless supply of marginally different from the last weapons and armours. Keeping to that example for now, you no longer have to buy armour or loot it and then compare it and hundreds others ad nausium before finding out which one is slightly better than the last you picked up not ten minutes past and change again. The same goes for weapons too where you don't have to outfit a whole team by buying the weapons repeatedly. You are given your base set of weapons in the form of a pool where there is one for everyone that joins your team, provided their character class will let them play with that weapon. You might find some new ones or even buy them but they are few and far between and overall their have different characteristics setting them apart more clearly than a pistol that does 154 damage instead of 147. Standard issue pistol now has a 15 round clip and lots of spare ammo with a fast re-fire rate. Or you can have the hand cannon when you find it early on, which only has a 9 shot clip and 19 more ammo spare.

'Wait a moment,' keen players of the first game will be saying. 'Ammo?'

Yes, there is now an ammo count in favour of infinite ammo controlled by overheating of guns fired for too long. Overall the principal of how they work is the same, with a metal slug being shaved off and tiny pieces being propelled through mass effect fields, but you now pick up the heat coils for the guns and they need replacing every few shots depending on the weapon.

Anyway, armour is pre-set for all members including Shepard, though you can unlock alternate costumes for the other team members by doing their side quests. As for Shepard, you can change the characteristics of the armour with add-on upgrades you can buy and research, then select them when customising your armour. Such as increased medi-gel capacity or ammo holders, stronger sheilds, heavier fibre weaves and even a different helmet in the form of a visor like Garrus wears to increase headshot damage. The only different armour are pre-set options you get with some DLC content.

Other changes, and anyone who played the first game will hit the roof when they hear this, driving is now dead and buried. No more bouncy driving physics and exploring a tiny patch of a back water planet for new equipment and random encounters. Instead you can scan planets from orbit to locate resources, which I mentioned earlier is a part of blanket upgrading all weapons and their characteristics. You launch probes on hot spots to mine out deposits of Element Zero, Iridium, Palladium and Platinum to make the upgrades you have bought or found. Some of them will also change the outcome of the game's conclusion, and depending on what ship and field kit upgrades you do or don't purchase some members of the team may not make it back in one piece...

Speaking of the team, there is a new cast for the most part. Importing an original ME save, or configuring the starting conditions yourself, means some of the characters who died and outcomes of the final battle in the first game will already be represented in ME2. However, many of them will not be joining Shepard's team this time round. Don't worry, they will all put in an appearance at some time or another, and even some of the smaller characters who you just had a short dealing with in a side mission will be there too and one or two of them take part in a slightly larger role that before. I won't spoil it for you who does and does not join Shepard as one of them is kind of a surprise to learn their true identity and, personally speaking, I loved the way it was delivered and especially when I found out who it was. I will tell you one person who join though, as it leads me onto the next point.

Romance... Yes this is a feature in ME2 as well and I am wondering if it is almost a compulsory requirement for any game pitch to BioWare that they must all come with a romantic sub plot where your main character can engage in love scenes with one of their compatriots. It is all very conventional, as such, with male Shepard having a pick of all female characters, and female Shepard getting her choice of most of the male characters.

While the first game did have the usual pick of Human or Asari as a potential love interest, and the others were left in the cold, ME2 breaks that old mould making all races in your list of travel companions fair game. Imagine my surprise when the one original character I will tell you who joins the team, Tali, started suggesting to Shepard in idle conversation that she always felt she could trust him with one of her people's customs that would most often signify a willingness for intimacy. This character, as pictured to the right, is a species who spends all their time in a sealed environment suit due to their immune systems having become so weak they spend their whole lives in a bubble, even around family, as the smallest germs make them sick. And when one wishes to be with another they spend some time with their suit environment systems linked to become accustomed to each other and develop an immunity to the other.

By this time I had already started my character down a path to follow the romantic plot with Miranda (and why not?) so I let her down gently but had I known ahead of time I would not have, simply to see how this plays out. But some reading on all the choices available seems to suggest there is an option for success.

Anyway, now that is out of the way, I will tell you about how the game plays. As before, it is 3rd person and over the shoulder. While I always felt that the first ME lacked some punch to the combat, with the guns not feeling meaty, ME2 has addressed this with some more feel to drilling bullets into a merc's armour chest plate. With the inventory system being more simplified and the weapon selection trimmed down, you have little else to think about before heading into battle, and no distractions in the form of looting a slightly better gun and feeling tempted to stop fighting to look at it and see if it is worth equipping. The locations are less of the traditional copy/paste of the old game, where all the colony buildings seemed to be exactly the same layout, which might be the case with prefab units, but not when they are built into caves, unless colonial planners were overcome with very bad OCD and everything needed to look the same so they commanded all mines to be drilled out in the same pattern. Since the driving sections are no more you only visit locations you find or are sent to and each one has been designed uniquely from the next, instead of this being an honour reserved purely for the central plot missions. Something I felt might have been a better fix for the first game over the driving segment as the random generated terrain dotted with points of interest, as opposed to some individually sculpted landscape featuring roads and lakes which could have made locations more interesting and less painful.

Hacking has taken on a new face, instead of the guiding of a small chevron past moving blocks running around 5 layers of rings like a game of frogger with a timer. You can either match up symbols on a circuit board to bypass them and open stuff or hack dataports by finding the right sets of fragmented data in the order you are asked to while avoiding moving through corrupted blocks of data while they scroll up the screen. In short, they are still mini games but their guise feels more along the theme of the game.

Walking around the different locations filled with NPCs, you still pick up on snippets of conversation and happen across random jobs being proposed to you by both sides of the law. News casts echo through the halls, sometimes speaking about stuff you have just done and sometimes about random stuff entirely. Once or twice you will hear about events relating to the last game, such as a foundation for biotics named after Kaiden Alneko from the first game, I guess because I had him set to have perished at the mission to Virmire. I suspect that, had I set Ashley Williams to be the dead one there would have been some kind of military academy scholarship for women in her honour. There is also the chance to drink at the bars and even get drunk and dance if you want, though don't expect Shepard to cut the rug or anything as on the whole the features are kind of useless. One bonus to the locations on offer is that there are not elevators. The first game had them cunningly disguising the long loading sequences between sections of scenery and a quick jog through the Citadel soon became an exercise in frustration.

The controls on the PC version feel substantial enough and up to the task, though I am still not sold on the revisiting of a feature in the first game where your number keys above the keyboard can be mapped to powers and abilities, when every other game uses them to change weapons. In this first play through I selected Shepard to be a Vanguard type with some biotic powers instead of the soldier I played with in the first game, as his circumstances leading into ME2 kind of felt like this change could be justified without breaking continuity and I had not played much as a biotic. I felt like I would miss my assault rifle, as I found that no matter what foe you faced in the first game having enough bullets flying down range would deal with any and all threats without the complications of hurling bodies through the air with my mind. And even then I reached a point in the story where I had an option to train an additional weapon class or improve more on my current skills, and the weapon available to me was an assault rifle so now I feel as complete as before anyway.

There is a nice array of DLC content too, some of them providing some better looking armour suits and new weapons or alternate costumes for the support characters. Others give you new NPC characters and sub-missions to obtain them or other small bonus missions to play through to get some new rewards. As of writing this, I have not really dug deep into many of the missions except for the Hammerhead missions where driving is reintroduced, but this time with a hover tank kind of thing that is meant to be an armed science platform. It is really nothing more than a glorified vacuum cleaner that sucks up the dirt beneath it to extract some Prothean artefacts. There are a few missions in a hub based string leading to a final mission but overall the adventure was just a repeat of the same thing. Drive here, suck this up, kill Geth with missiles and go home with the only plot devices showing up at the beginning and end of the mission string.

Still, some of the new weapons are nice and the armours are pretty good as well, though the Cerberus assault armour would have been better if you could remove the bulky helmet when not needed like the default armour  lets you do.

Overall, I was impressed with the pace of ME2 and the delivery over the first game where some bad features were rejigged for simplicity and a less-is-more feel. ME2 proves that less is indeed more and is well worth picking up at any price. The storyline continues to be compelling leading into the soon-to-arrive ME3 which I shall be sure to grab as soon as I have free time to play once it hits the shelves. I regret it took me this long to get to this game in the first place so I won't be making this mistake again if they continue this winning formula.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

BioShock, better late than never

Now then, back to some solid reviewing and I will kick off the new year with BioShock, by 2K Games, followed by Mass Effect 2 in another blog, maybe a poker game blog if I have a sweet game in Poker Night at the Inventory, a review of the XBox Kinect and Fallout New Vegas all in the winds as I find time for them.

Here goes with number one, BioShock.

I have quietly considered this game for a while now and took the plunge in the Steam holiday madness sale getting it for about £3 or something like that. Looking at the past trailers and such the style latched on to me fairly quickly but I never got round to getting the game. It has this film noir thing going on mixed with some classic horror in an art deco steam punk setting underwater.... if that cocktail did not blow a fuse in your brain then keep reading.

As always I start with a quick run down of the setting before moving on to the actual gaming. You start as some unnamed and unknown quantity on an aircraft that quickly runs into some mechanical issues and finds the water below to be suddenly appealing. After the love affair runs its course and the plane is smashed to bits you seem to be the only one alive in the water with burning jet fuel and flight cushions floating in the bobbing seas. As you look around you see, unnerving close to the crash, a kind of light house in the middle of the ocean like a beacon with stairs leading up from a dock. Seeking shelter and maybe some help you climb the stairs and go inside to be greeted by a dilapidated lobby that looks like a welcome suite, and an elevator at the far end. Well, sitting around will not get you help so naturally you pull the lever and it turns into a submarine that goes back under water and heads off on some auto pilot as a slide show plays telling you of some scientist called Dr Ryan who has a dream for a utopian community where people can be whatever they want. This is Rapture.

There is a reason I am giving some emphasis on the 'why' of your character's actions which I will come back to soon. But back to Rapture. You soon realise when you get there that it is becoming a bit of a shit hole and the place is a complete mess. The elevator/sub grinds to a halt in a debarkation room with some kind of freaky thing attacking someone who you heard on the radio in the sub, and then it turns attention to you in the flickering lights and does a good job of being scary before running off again. Then the radio flares up again and a guy called Atlas introduces himself and ask for your help. Naturally he plays the survivor story on you and wants to hook up, but not before you help him and rescue his family. He becomes your constant nagging companion all the way telling you things about Rapture and the people within.

Essentially, the good doctor who made Rapture found ways to splice people's genes with superpowers available in a convenient injection from handily placed vending machines. Want to throw fireballs? Buy an injection. Want to freeze something by touch or have telekinetic powers? See above. Of course, most of the powers you encounter seem to have some primary application as a weapon, and even the little info vids that pop up when you install a power leave little to the imagination that you are meant to use these against your fellow man. Which I guess is hardly surprising that the place suddenly went to hell in the proverbial hand basket.

I should maybe give you a quick run down on the malodorous denizens of Rapture. For the most part they are citizens who have gone off the deep end in some way and became a raving gang of lunatic killers with their own special talents between them. There are people who like pistols, some who like wrenches, some who are insane medical staff, some are like spiders climbing the walls with hooks on their hands and so on. You also have other residents with an even stranger agenda in the form of the 'little sisters'. And they have a bouncer with them called a 'big daddy' who protects her. The little sister is a creepy thing in a red dress and some kind of hypo-gun in her hand sucking stuff from the dead bodies. It is almost as if they are possessed to do so for some reason I still cannot work out yet, and they have a fairy godmother watching over them with a .44 magnum. Some Doctor who is apparently responsible for unleashing the little sisters on Rapture and now wants to make amends through you by asking you to rescue them from their curse giving you some power of touch that stops them being creepy.

Or you could do as Atlas suggests and just harvest them, which kills them. You see, the one thing they give you is something called Adam which they are extracting from the dead, and I gather is some prime genetic material used for gene splicing that revolutionised the genetics works of the Dr Ryan while in Rapture making all things possible. If you rescue them you get a bit of Adam, if you harvest them you get a lot of Adam. Of course, you have to get them away from the big daddy first by killing it and that is no easy task. They will not let you get near their little sister since they want the Adam anyway. You can use your hard earned Adam as a form of currency at vending machines to buy new powers in a bottle, and unlock more slots to fit them in.

The story itself is delivered in short bursts over the radio with Atlas and a few other voices who chirp in from time to time as well as recordings you find dotted around the place like audio logs. This makes it rather disjointed without the traditional and more true RPG conversation tracks with the NPCs. A quote from Gamespot's BioShock page:

BioShock creates an amazing world that you'll want to explore and a compelling mystery that slowly comes together as you play.

Note the use of the word, 'slowly'. This is an understatement and the way it is presented soon left me confused early on and I eventually had to admit I was lost.

Not just in terms of the plot but also why I was suddenly waving a gun around and doing Atlas' bitch work for him. I cannot figure my character's angle here or even why he is meant to be good at combat. He is not a soldier, spy or other such typical archetype so why he is not cowering in fear wetting himself in a dark corner of Rapture is beyond me. It seems little work is done to integrate the player character into the actual story at all and provide a primary motivation beyond simply letting the player at the keyboard enjoy the ride. And the way the story soon pans out it is a wonder to me why they simply did not just go with a usual angle of investigator checking out the under water colony of Rapture after hearing about some strange ape shit things happening. How can the world not know about this vast underwater kingdom going belly up and send in the marines?

The way this story is delivered seems more fitting to an open world setting where you find random logs of a story in any order you find them while you progress through, and piece it together yourself. In the case of BioShock they put this system into a pretty linear mode of game play and it does not fit well above a normal narrative system they could have adopted, leaving the small radio diary logs you find scattered around to simply add more flesh instead of being the bones as well.

I have also noticed as I play through that the lack of a fully engaging story causes me to be a little sidetracked. Since my Win 7 upgrade I have had to reinstall other games and, as mentioned before, I bought Mass Effect 2 and am replaying the first Mass Effect game to import a save game state. And I seem to be replaying a game I have already played more than BioShock right now. I suspect the story layout of BioShock is to blame here...

Still, with that out of the way, the actual combat is pretty good and has a nice feel with blurred vision and wider properties to the superpowers you get from injecting the plasmids such as electricity having more effect on targets in water, the fire ability igniting standing oil on the ground and melting ice letting you get access to stuff and new areas. Also, soon after I fired the pistol I realised the smoking gun barrel had a nice effect where moving around caused the whisp of smoke to leave a trail, bringing the noir feeling to the forefront every now and then.

The atmosphere created is thick and glorious with moments of blood chilling terror as you see shadows round a corner you know from the map is a dead end, the lights flicker and then they are gone only to jump you from behind later. Or the low drone of a near by Big Daddy as it plods along at a rather sedate pace, each footfall shaking the ground and sending a gout of dust into the air.

There is the ability to hack the vending machines as well as sentry guns and helicopter gun drones to be on your side. Though it takes the form of a mini-game as most seem to do which is a game of connecting pipes. The difficulty increases with the grace period before the water flows being shorter and the grid being smaller and riddled with broken pipes you cannot move. Soon they become tedious and hacking vending machines only gives you a slim discount on goods.

There is an almost non-existent inventory management which I feel is a big minus for the game. Whatever you find food wise, you consume there and then to keep healthy otherwise you are wasting your time. And no one has a desire to backtrack over the level to find that snack bar you left earlier now you need it. Once again, I find myself holding a game up to Fallout 3 to compare features, and while I have resisted mainly due to the mode of game play adopted here being substantially different to Bethesda's contribution to my crippled social life, an inventory system and the reasons for needing one are pretty much relevant to BioShock. Stocking up food for later consumption seems to me like something an unlikely hero in a tight spot would do.

I will leave my review here, though, as I have lingered too long on this one and not feeling an impulse to play the game as much as I would have expected and I am sure I have seen a decent dose of it to render a verdict.

BioShock can stand on its own as a shooter game, with a few features and nicely done combat and utility powers, an upgrade system and no level grinding you see too much of in most shooters today where the developers feel the need to bog a player down with mindless busywork trying to get another fractional sum of damage out of their weapons. And there is a simple arsenal of weapons, in the form of one of each kind of weapon and nothing more, something not really seen much past the days of Duke Nukem 3D. It is atmospheric and uncomplicated as far as game play goes, but unless you really pay attention to every scrap of story, don't expect to have a clue what is going on at first. I expect the conclusion of the game will shed a lot of light on stuff that has been going on, so if I have some second thoughts, expect to see a follow up blog in the future. But for now I got a bigger list of games to get through.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Back to gaming, Christmas and other stuff. (Short blog)

OK, hello there guys. Just a quick rundown on what else I got planned game review wise. Since my last blog was more about my PC rebuilds and such. Ohh yeah, Windows 7 installed on the old XP desktop and working ok now, and repopulated it with a few games here and there as well as some new purchases from the Steam holiday sale. I have been ill with flu the last week as well so this blog should have come out soon after Christmas and before the new year so.... Happy New Year!

Anyway, I take you back (again) to a previous blog with a wish list on it of what I want to review. And with the Steam holiday sales planning to ruin my life as much as possible I have grabbed a couple of the cheap and small games.

First of all I do recommend the Flight Control HD game from steam if it is still under a fiver. You will be surprised how addictive it is, but I would recommend it more for either touchscreen users or for iPads and other tablet PCs. I had a cut down version on my Droid phone and it was good but limited to two airfields and less actual kinds of aircraft in the free version.

But there were some mad offers on large titles too and I have a couple of them on my backlog list I wish to trim down and try to stay current. One being BioShock (and BioShock 2 as well but first things first) and the other being Mass Effect 2, which I know a friend I have in the states will be finally relieved to hear I purchased for £7 on the one day offer for the 23rd. (She nags me constantly about getting it...)

I plan to review both, but I wish to replay the first Mass Effect as well so I can import a save game and profile from there to the new one and see how that works out for me. My old save was wiped in the update to Win 7 anyway but getting back to grips with the storyline again (and the crappy driving sections) is not a bad thing.

Also, as I write this I notice Back to the Future game is on steam... ohh yes I shall have to be getting this!

Fallout NV is on the list still, and in my crosshairs for the next blog after the two above, and now the first DLCs are out for it, and it seems the mod community has kicked in high gear already, it might be worth waiting for a Game of the Year edition with some extra content shipped included. I will most likely not buy this from steam, though, as I hear that the ~ key used to open the console will pretty much shaft achievements for the game forever, even on new games. That little key, while used to cheat in some cases, was also useful for keeping a handle on the bugs in FO3 as well as being required for mod controls in some instances so I don't think I can live without it.

Finally I downloaded, and have been enjoying Poker Night at the Inventory. Since I played Red Dead Redemption, and liked the cards mini-games such as Texas hold 'em, I have developed a taste for little games featuring this contest of cards. And what better company than Heavy Weapons Guy from TF2, Tycho from Penny Arcade, Strong Bad from Homestar Runner and.... welll, Max from Sam and Max is kind of annoying... But you can win his gun from him so that's ok when he puts the damn thing on the table.

I might actually devote a little time to recording a single blog post diary when playing a tournament as it is moments like this when you want to share your triumphs with the world. Such as tonight as I write this, I resolved to go all in if anyone holds in the first hand, as I usually see others do this and everyone has to fold. After all, no one wants to be out on the first hand... My turn to do this I think. Everyone folded except Strong Bad, who went all in. I had a couple of diamonds, like a 4 and a 9 or something. Strong Bad had a pair of queens so naturally I thing I am screwed and ready to get my coat. But the first three table cards needed playing and what drops out? Another three diamonds! Flush, baby! So he was screwed as no other cards hit the table that could beat a flush and was out on hand one. After this we had maybe another 9 hands of back and forth with the last three, I put chips down eventually and lost all but $4,000 from a headway of nearly $30,000. Last hand they all go all in and I have a choice to make, end it now or fold and hang on by the fingernails. I was getting bored of the endless up and down so I go all in and the cards are dealt. I have a queen in hand, and another two flop on the table. As the last two are drawn I see they all have either one or two pairs... and no chips between them making me the winner with three of a kind and all three players kicked off the table in one hand.

So, you can see how I would like to blog such stuff so maybe I make a small journal and do a single blog on it one day if I am bored.

So, that's about all I got for now and I will see where BioShock takes me, followed by ME2, and get some reviews done on them so I can step up to some newer stuff again this year.