Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Trailer Park: Hail to the King

Trailer Park is a new segment where i will be looking at the games trailers that have me acting like a giddy school girl. So without any ado whatsoever, here is my first choice:

Warning: The following trailer contains Extreme violence, Nudity, Harsh Language etc (Just giving a fair warning)

I know it's childish but i really cant wait for this, i loved the old Duke Nukem games. Closing on 15 years in development but the end is in sight. Can it be worth the wait? Probably not but it's gonna be a helluva lot of fun. The games industry, especially FPS titles need something like this to counter balance all the 'realistic' games. Don't get me wrong i love modern shooters just as much as the next guy, but i miss the stupidity and cartoonish excess of games like Duke Nukem and Serious Sam. This is easily one of my most anticipated titles this year. What do you guys think?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Jerry Lawson Dies at 71

Just a quick notice. Whilst surfing reddit i came across this article. The inventor of the video game cartridge, Jerry Lawson died at the age of 71, just weeks after being honored by the International Game Developers Association for his services to the art of video games. Full story is here:


I'll be honest, i hadn't heard of him until i found this article but neither had many people until recently, sad that it took this long for him to be recognized. R.I.P to a great man.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Crysis 2 Review!

EDIT: Thanks to a particular git who will remain anonymous, i've remembered to give myself a disclaimer. I haven't reviewed the multiplayer because i cannot access xbox live on campus. I may come back and review the multiplayer later in the year when i can get online. Now shut up Andy Fox you massive donk :p

EDIT:EDIT: I've stopped rounding my scores, and as such the score has dropped slightly to 8.8/10.

Developed by Crytek and published by Electronic Arts, this hotly anticipated sequel has a lot to live up to, with the original Crysis being lauded as the most beautiful looking game ever developed. I have to admit that I didn’t play the original Crysis, as my fusion-powered super computer was lost in the mail. However, Crytek have been gracious enough to release the sequel on Xbox 360 and PS3 as well, and so I shall be reviewing the Xbox 360 version.


OK so like I said, without having played the original Crysis, I decided to do some reading and find out what had happened so far. Aliens were discovered. That’s pretty much the gist of it from what I gathered; none of the fine details have any bearing on the story of Crysis 2, so don’t worry if you haven’t played the original as you haven’t missed anything important. You control Alcatraz, a US marine who is given a nanosuit by Prophet, who returns from previous titles. From there you set out into the city fighting against CELL, a private military company working for the nanosuit’s creators, Crynet. Eventually the real bad guys show up in the form of the Ceph, an ancient alien race responsible for releasing the virus.
The characters all do their jobs to progress the story and the voice acting is great, although I have to mention that Dr Gould, your first support character is incredibly annoying and I was very glad when he was replaced. He sounds like the teacher who tries to be ‘down with the kids’ by saying man at the end of every sentence.


Crysis has always been called all style and no substance, but I have to say that I didn’t find this to be the case. The game plays wonderfully, with smooth, intuitive controls which genuinely make you feel like an elite supersoldier. The cloaking ability provides the player with the stealthy option, sneaking up and knifing unsuspecting guards. Alternatively you have the armour ability, which turns you into a tank on legs if you feel like going in guns blazing. These mechanics add variety to the game and prevent it from being another Call of Duty clone. Many have said that Crysis 2 is too linear when compared with the original, but I think this works to its advantage.  The game leads you down a series of corridors, giving you freedom to explore at times but for the most part its just one path from start to finish. But I don’t see the problem with this, there’s no need for this to be a free roaming game. The levels are all wonderfully designed and you never feel boxed in or restricted, the route that makes sense is always open to you. I’m reminded very much of the Half Life games, which are proof enough that linearity isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Despite all this, Crysis 2 has its imperfections. For one thing the AI is cartoonishly stupid at times. At one point I ran up, decloaked and shot someone (missed my headshot like a n00b). He was obviously somewhat upset about this and gave chase as I ran away, cloaked and hid behind a wall. A few seconds later I heard the guard utter the immortal phrase “false alarm” before returning to his post. I’d call being shot more than a false alarm buddy. They are only isolated cases of extreme stupidity, with the AI being competent enough most of the time but it’s still a concern. My only other problem with the game is that the guns and enemies feel a bit generic. There are some very cool guns like the microwave gun which cooks people alive, and some very cool enemies like the three legged alien walkers but for the most part you’ll be shooting soldiers with assault rifles. Aliens have invaded!!!! Where is my laser gun?
Some of the boss battles are awesome, such as our friend here..........
These are minor complaints though and overall Crysis 2 provides an immersive and enjoyable gaming experience at a good length, with the story campaign taking me just over 8 hours to complete on veteran difficulty (why can’t we just call it hard mode anymore?).


Do I even need to do this section? Crysis 2 is without a shadow of a doubt the most drop-dead gorgeous game I have ever seen on a console and from what I’ve been told the PC version is even more stunning. It’s not just that the graphics are amazing; everything is put together so perfectly. The cut scenes and set pieces are truly epic, with the most memorable for me being when a soldier rappels in through a window, only for your character to grab him by the throat and dive out of the opposite window, poor soldier in tow. The whole experience is very atmospheric, you really feel like you're there and everything that you see is really happening. New York has been destroyed so many times in games and movies, but I’ve never seen the devastation look as real as this. It genuinely disturbed me a little to see lady liberty’s head lying in the rubble, and I’m not even American.
How the mighty have fallen. Her arm is knocking around here somewhere too.
However, all this beauty comes at a cost. A couple of times whilst playing through the game, if I passed through a checkpoint whilst cloaked and then died, when the game tried to load the checkpoint my game would crash. Resetting my console didn’t fix this and I had to restart the level I was on in order to continue. Crysis 2 really is pushing the limits of what the 360 can do and at times it pushes a little too far. I’ve heard similar problems of crashes and errors on the PC version although Crytek have released patches to fix some of the issues.


The games soundtrack provides an excellent backdrop for the action, setting the atmosphere beautifully.  The sound effects are also brilliant, with all the guns making all the right satisfying noises and the aliens with their electronic voices helping to make them seem truly alien, as opposed to the English speaking aliens that seem to be so prevalent in science fiction. Sadly though there were some issues with bugs in the sound. One mission had me controlling the turret in an APC and for the entire mission there was the most god awful sound playing, making so much noise I had to put subtitles on to follow what was being said. I went back to the mission and the sound was gone but it’s just annoying to see a bug like this in an otherwise well polished title. Its worth noting that there was a patch released on release day which fixes many issues including the sound and AI which I do not have access to due to my university blocking Xbox live (it’s almost as if they want us to study).


Story: 8/10 A familiar story but a well told, well acted version of it none the less.
Gameplay: 8.5/10 Solid controls provide exciting and immersive gameplay, but the AI is poor in places and the guns and enemies seem a bit generic.
Visuals: 10/10 Stunning. The best I’ve seen on a console and the best I expect to see this generation as this really does push consoles to their limits.
Audio: 9/10 Soundtrack delivers a strong sense of atmosphere, making you feel hurried when you’re supposed to and slowing down when the game wants you to admire the scenery. A few bugs cost it the perfect score in this department.

Overall Score: 8.8/10 An amazing achievement in terms of graphics combined with compelling gameplay and a great soundtrack. Just a shame about those bugs.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Better Luck Next Year!

Ah well guess it wasn't meant to be. Long story short i misplayed pocket kings and ran into a set of 7s, which turned into quad 7s. Back to the real world i guess.

Another quick update, my next review will be Crysis 2 and will be up either tonight or tomorrow so keep an eye out, and once again any suggestions for the next review as well as feedback on my first review are welcome.

Peace and chicken grease.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Lets Shuffle Up and Deal - UKSPC 2011

Just a quick post to let everyone know that today i'll be playing in the UK Student Poker Championship in Birmingham's Broadway Casino, with a stunning 1st prize, a seat at the World Series of Poker. Wish me luck, i'll post how i do when i get back.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Lets get this show on the road! - Review: Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars

I'm new to this video games journalism business, and even newer to blogging but a guys gotta start somewhere and this blog is to be my first stepping stone on the path to greatness........I hope. So here is my first review, please let me know what you think, don't be shy. I'm a big boy i can take it.

When musing over which game to review in this, my first ever games review i thought long and hard. I decided that it should be something.......familiar, something warm and friendly. You know, a game that holds a special place in my heart to ease me into this new and scary world. Then i borrowed Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars off my mate Keith and thought sod it, lets just do this instead.

Developed by Traveller's Tales and published by LucasArts, this third installment in the Lego Star Wars series was released on the 25th March in Europe and is available on just about every current generation console and handheld. Ostensibly aimed at a younger audience, the Lego Star Wars series has been well liked in the past by adult gamers particularly amongst fans of the franchise. So how will this latest title fair, particularly as this one follows the story of the Clone Wars cartoon series rather than the films, and there is many a star wars fan who would like to stick their fingers in their ears, hum loudly and pretend that this series didn't exist.

As i said above this game follows the plot of the animated clone wars series (well 3 series now) set in between episodes 2 and 3. I personally like this storyline so far, as it goes a long way towards explaining why anakin transformed from slightly irritating emo kid in the second film, into full blown, Natalie Portman-icidal pyschopath in the third film. Oh yeah and it also shows you the whole war aspect which was missing from the films too, as they only really show you how the wars starts and how it ends, missing out the delicious cream-filled center.
That said whilst i like the story of the series, i feel that for those who have not seen it this game could be hard to follow, hell even i struggled to figure out what was happening at times when all i'd get to go on was Lego Obi Wan shrugging and mumbling something in simlish before thowing me into a sea of droids. The way the story is told in the Lego games is credited as being one of its charms, but at times the lack of dialogue hampers its ability to tell the story.

The visual style of the Lego series may be its biggest asset, but can it carry a game series for this long?

Normally i'd put gameplay before graphics in a review, as any true gamer should know that the core gameplay is far more important than the fancy packaging its covered in. However for this game it just seems more appropriate to talk about the graphics first, as i feel that the aesthetics of this game are where it receives much of its praise. Quite simply, the visual aspect of this game is flawless. It is truly something to behold, arguably the greatest sci fi franchise of all time, reduced to Lego and looking none the worse for it. Everything from the character models and environments to the weapon animations just looks stunning. The artistic style of the game (i.e Star wars meets Minecraft.........hmmmmmm........Starcraft...........crap that's been done) works wonderfully, and it is nice to see such a colorful game in the age of realism.

I dont think anyone will be suprised to hear that the soundtrack to this game is top notch. LucasArts and indeed the whole star wars franchise have always had an amazing sound, hell I'm almost willing to let Jar Jar binks slide because the music during Darth Maul's duel is simply mind blowing. Almost. Aswell as all the most famous theme tunes from star wars, great attention has been given to ensure that every blaster, every engine and every lightsaber sounds exactly as it should. As with all the Lego games, there is no actual dialogue in this title, though it was interesting to learn that all the voice actors from the Clone Wars series have reprised their roles performing the necessary grunts, squeaks and snarls to make their characters come to life. Whilst this style does give the game a charm of its own, at times the lack of vocals does hamper the games ability to tell the story though

'Why change what ain't broken?' seems to have been LucasArts policy with this game (I know a lot of people who wish they'd taken that approach to the prequel trilogy). If you've played any of the previous Lego Star Wars games then you'll feel right t home. For the ill informed masses, its your standard hack and slasher (and shooter if you want, but i mean who plays a star wars game and doesn't play as one of the Jedi?). After an introductory mission, players find themselves on board a star destroyer which serves as the mission hub, replacing the cantina from previous titles. From here you can choose from a selection of missions, keep track of the characters you have unlocked throughout the story etc. The combat is incredibly satisfying, with the tap of a button you can send limbs and heads flying all over the place and it is strangely satisfying in the same way it's satisfying to destroy any Lego creation i suppose.
I have to say i found this game infuriating at times, its been a while since a game has driven me into such deep fits of rage and despair as this one. There are no instructions, no mission objectives no nothing! You are given a brief (Read: VERY FUCKING BRIEF!) intro in the style of the classic paragraph floating through space before being plonked in the middle of nowhere with no idea what to do. Now most of the time i was able to figure out what was going on but far too often the fun had ended long before i figured out where i was meant to be going. One particular mission asked me (through the medium of interpretive dance) to destroy some rather snazzy looking gold cannons and bases. Ok i though, no problem i'll just get in the MASSIVE mech walker next to me and we can knock off before lunch. But oooooooohhhh no, apparently these gold structures can only be killed by 'Powerful Energy Weapons'. I'm sorry, is my sci fi mech walker laser cannon not 'powerful' enough for you? Ok, fine i'll play your little game. I calmly strolled back to my base and looked at what i could buy. Bingo! A massive gold cannon of my own, now we're talking. So i blow all my cash on this fabulous, if a little garish artillery piece, get comfortable, adjust the seat and BOOM!!!!!................i said BOOM!!!!!!! WTF???? Nothing but the a smarmy message saying that my 24 carat space howitzer just isnt 'powerful' enough. This is the biggest most powerful thing you will let me buy game, wtf do you want me to do? Anyway after much crying, i head back out and find another secluded little base up the top of the map that i can take, which i do and all of a sudden bang, new tanks complete with death ray are now available. I'm not opposed to pointless little diversions like these, they stretch out the game and that's all well and good, but you have to at least tell the player about the mandatory detour. Ok so i'm going off on a bit of a rant here but my point is made.
This brings me to my other gripe with this game, the damned coin collection. Oh call them what you want but at the end of the day I'm collecting coins, a game mechanic almost as old as Star Wars itself. Nothing annoys me more than when I'm finally getting into the swing of things, I've butchered an entire rooms of bad dudes and i'm all ready to go batter the next lot when all of a sudden i have to stop and do the house work, clean up the room before i go back to having fun again.

Well that wasn't so hard, here we are! The end of my very first review. As you can probably tell i found it very difficult to write about positives of this game, probably because the negatives were such massive gaming foul ups that i wanted to ram my lightsaber down the developers eye sockets (I have one by the way). That said in this case i don't think my experience of the game is necessarily the one others will have. I guess it comes down to whether the charm (or Star Wars License if you're a fanboy) of the game is enough to sell it to you, if you can overlook the gameplay problems in order to enjoy the atmosphere then I'm sure you'll love this title. Some would say that the reason i didn't like this game is that I'm simply not its target audience, I'm not a child but i don't see that as a good enough defense. The main reasons this game drove me crazy would be an even bigger issue to children, i simply had no instructions and no idea what i was supposed to be doing. Anyway off i go again, consider this my recommendation: You enjoy Call of Duty - probably look elsewhere, You enjoy Jak and Daxter - give it a go (incidentally there's a good platforming game).