Killzone 2 – Multiplayer Review

So the servers finally went up for Killzone 2 yesterday and I thought I’d give you a brief(ish) round up of the overall experience.

Ok, so firstly I am an average fps player. I have finished most of the big ones of the last few generations but I am not a big multi-player shooter.

I played online for around four hours – a longer than usual online stint anyway but certainly a new record for a FPS.

You start out at the bottom of the pile with a choice of two guns and no special abilities (or badges as they are called in game).

To earn points you not only have to kill opposition players but also get involved in the mini missions going on within the game. For example in ‘Search and Retrieve’ you pick up an object and take it back to a certain place on the map. Obviously both teams are fighting for the same object so it becomes quite heated – but if you get the object back in one piece you (as in the one carrying the object not the team) get a point.

Each round lasts between 20 and 30 mins and consists of changing objectives that can be active for anywhere from 2 mins to 8 mins.

It’s this constant change that makes the game so exciting – one minute you’ll be trying to infiltrate the enemy’s building then all of a sudden the clock ticks down and you might have to protect a randomly chosen member of your team (assassination). The quick change means you’ll obviously need to retreat and get him out of the open to have any chance of him surviving.

You can find more on the different match types in the game on this thread from the Playstation US boards:Β http://boardsus.playstation.com/playstation/board/message?board.id=killzone2&thread.id=116276

I played without a headset and had no problems – you can break into smaller squads within your group (once you level up you can create squads with a press of the select button) and stay together so communication was never a major issue.

The maps were pretty varied and didn’t get boring – everything looked great and the atmosphere in some of the levels was surprisingly good.

The online side of things looks very deep indeed – following 4 hours of play I have levelled up twice so can now create squads and clans but I have no special abilities and can still only choose from two guns.

More info on badges etc courtesy of N4G.com here: http://www.n4g.com/ps3/News-170494.aspx

That isn’t a bad thing – it means I will keep coming back to the game to progress and unlock more and more things.

Overall it was a smooth, enjoyable blast and a completely different proposition to the single-player campaign.

Army Of Two – Review

Army of Two was released back in March 2008 but it was one of those games that I got and then never actually played through it.

Finally got a spare few weeks to give it a proper go and following on from several games involving aliens/monsters it was a welcome relief to be shooting people again πŸ™‚

Salem and Rios are guns for hire – private contractors that go in and sort out the crap that the army or whoever can’t deal (or can’t be seen dealing) with.

There is convoluted conspiracy theory plotline but to be perfectly honest the story isn’t really the main attraction here – it’s all about the carnage. πŸ˜€

Army of Two is like playing an ultra violent cartoon. Your character is pretty much impenatrable – but when you do run out of health your colleague will find you and revive you. It’s a good system that keeps the game flowing although it reduces the difficulty somewhat. I think I only fully died 6 or 7 times in the whole game which is pretty low (for me πŸ˜† )

You also control your colleague via a simple d-pad press and he is usually spot on responding to whatever command you issue – although one thing I did notice was he’s a little too good at advancing, often leaving you miles behind clearing up bad guys while he’s moved two floors up!

If you’re looking for realism you won’t find it here. Enemies can take a round to the head before dying so it’s not a case of just spraying bullets around – you’ll need to keep your shots on target to actually take anyone down.

But, as I discovered about three quarters of the way through the game, most of the time you don’t have to take anyone on if you don’t fancy it. Just run to the next checkpoint and activate the door/lift. You will switch to a short cut scene in which you are taking the fire of all enemies (but no damage) while you open said door/lift and then you can just move on to the next section and repeat. 😦

To be honest the gunplay is good enough that you’ll probably want to take some of them out as opposed to running away but really I would’ve expected something in place to stop that happening – like taking damage during the cut scene etc.

As Salem and Rios move through the game you have the opportunity to buy new weapons and even pimp up your current ones. And I mean pimp literally – no benefit to the weapon itself but you can have it made out of gold and diamonds. It’s a nice touch that kind of tells you what the feel of the game is.

One excellent part of gameplay are the back to back bits – the two protagonists stand back to back firing at oncoming enemies in slow-mo. It’s as genius as it sounds and isn’t overused which is great.

Overall I would say this game is a fun 5 or 6 hour blast. While it does become repetitive at times it makes no excuses – in fact Army Of Two is moreΒ likely to hand you a rocket launcher, spawn 20 new enemies and tell you to ‘get the f**k on with it.’

Rating: 7/10

The International – Review

I had heard a fair few positive reviews for The International, but also a small amount of negative ones so I wasn’t sure what to expect as I took my seat.

I was greeted by an opening scene that left me with a smile on my face at the sheer unexpectedness of it. As the credits began to roll I made myself comfortable and prepared for some old skool twists and turns. 😎

The International is a clever thriller starring Clive Owen and Noami Watts as an Interpol agent (Owen) and a District Attorney (Watts) who want to bring down a hugely powerful World bank that is using cheap arms (as in guns, not limbs :grin:) to finance wars so that they can exert control in the Third World.

Let me just pause there for a second and say that this isn’t a difficult film to follow – however it’s not something you can half-watch either and it’s this happy medium, being able to enjoy a complex thriller comfortably without getting lost, that lifted this above some of the recent ‘thrillers’ I have seen.

As the plot progresses (and I’ll try to be as spoiler free as possible) Owen becomes increasingly desperate as his every lead disappears – one way or the other.

Every trick they try to use to discredit or expose the bank is foiled, with the bank seemingly one step ahead.

The acting is good with both Owen and Watts putting in convincing performances and the supporting cast is up to the job. Violence is kept to a minimum which means when it does arrive it has a great deal more impact than you’d expect.

The story plays out across Europe, with some stunning scenery and back drops. There were a few moments of comic relief to ease the tension which were very welcome as the sense of incoming danger was always on the horizon.

Overall this was a tightly executed film that benefitted from a strong, coherent storyline and some good acting from the leads.

It won’t win any major awards and it certainly isn’t a ‘date movie’ but The International is a very entertaining thriller that I think most people would enjoy.

Rating: 8/10

MILLWALL 0 BRIGHTON 1

Brighton and Hove Albion are the latest benefecaries of some generous Millwall defending, leaving The Den with all three points on Saturday as The Lions slump continues.

2 points from a possible 9 against teams well down the league pretty much explains itself but it seems there are problems at both ends of the pitch.

Going forward we don’t seem to be able to buy a goal at the moment and, truth be told, we should’ve been two or three goals up before half time on Saturday.

Defensively it’s a mess. We are missing Paul Robinson at the back and the sloppy marking is costing us plenty of points – Saturday being a case in point. I don’t know who was supposed to be picking up Adam Virgo but the fact that there wasn’t a Millwall player within 3 or 4 yards of him is appalling defending. 😐

On the plus side we outplayed Brighton for the majority of the game and we played some good football, especially in the first half when our pass and move play really came together. However that all counts for nothing if you can’t score at the end of it and then let the other team nick one from a free header.

We’re still 6th so we are in a good position, one we’d have all taken at the start of the season, but the lads have to get stuck in and try to pick up three points on Saturday against a tough Oldham side.

We really need to start picking up the points again if we are to maintain a push for the playoffs.

Man Of The Match: Scott Barron

Bands worth checking out…

In no particular order, a few artists that are well worth checking out if you haven’t heard them…

Β 

Laura Marlinghttp://www.myspace.com/lauramarling

“Alas, I Cannot Swim”
Tracks: Cross Your Fingers, Ghosts

It’s hard to believe that Laura Marling is just 19 years old when you hear some of the beautiful vocals and haunting themes of her album ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’.

I suspect her next album will determine where she goes from here – crossover into the mainstream consciousness? Or remain under the radar putting out critically acclaimed but little known albums?

Only time will tell – I always think great music should be heard by as many people as possible but it’s amazing to listen to such fanstastic music knowing not many people have experienced it.

Hopefully this will help spread the word on Laura Marling a little further than it exists at the moment.

Β 

Friendly Fireshttp://www.myspace.com/friendlyfires

‘Friendly Fires’
Tracks: In The Hospital, Paris, Strobe

Coming on like a slightly more chilled version of the Klaxons, Friendly Fires sort of came from leftfield for me in that I somehow missed the intial buzz and ended up having the album without actually hearing any of it.

It’s a great little album though, very cool and ‘In The Hospital’ has a brilliant little sing-along refrain that will be stuck in your head for ages!

Β 

Ladyhawkehttp://www.myspace.com/ladyhawkerock

‘Ladyhawke’
Tracks: Paris Is Burning, My Delirium, Dusk Til Dawn, Professional Suicide

This was a huge album for me last year – Ladyhawke’s brand of 80’s influenced synth-pop-rock saw her gain critical acclaim and make her way onto several of my itunes playlists πŸ˜€

First single ‘Paris Is Burning’ is a real foot stomper and ‘My Delirium’ is a great tune. Ladyhawke is superb live, overcoming her struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome to put on some impressive, if subdued, performances.

Β 

She And Himhttp://www.myspace.com/sheandhim

‘Volume One’
Tracks: Sentimental Heart, Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?, Sweet Darlin’

NB. This video contains Itchy and Scratchy style cartoon violence so avoid if (very) easily offended.

My favourite album in absolutely ages 😎 – and with the amount of music I listen to (at work and in my spare time) that is saying something. Even more surprising is the fact that one half of this duo is actress Zooey Deschanel (Elf, The Happening). Usually anything an actress releases is given a wide birth but this is top quality old school pop – lovely harmonies.

And how cool is that video above? πŸ˜€

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La Rouxhttp://www.myspace.com/larouxuk

Album TBC
Tracks: In For The Kill, Quicksand

Saw these live last week and I thought I’d driven a DeLorean into the venue πŸ˜†Β – great 80’s style synth pop. With a great look to match. They have been on too many ‘one’s to watch for 2009’ lists but hopefully that’ll be a help rather than a hinderance – looking forward to seeing what the general public at large make of it!

Nice remix of ‘In For The Kill’ available here: http://airbornetoxicevents.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/and-now-let-go-of-my-hand/

Β 

Blood Red Shoeshttp://www.myspace.com/bloodredshoes

‘Box Of Secrets’
Tracks: You Bring Me Down, I Wish I Was Someone Better, ADHD

Sometimes I’m handed an album that just rocks. This is one of those albums – fast paced indie pop rock that you can’t help tapping your feet to. I saw them live last year and they blew the crowd out of the water. Looking forward to hearing some new matrial soon from this boy/girl duo.

If you like your guitars fast and loud – this is a band for you.

Killzone 2 Review (PS3)

The much hyped saviour of PS3 has been in the works for half a decade and the final game has finally emerged – not blinking into the light like a newborn baby but bursting out armed with a pump action shotgun struggling to fight off the weight of expectation.

Following on from the first Playstation 2 game and Killzone Liberation on the PSP, Killzone 2 picks up the story as the ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) decide to take the fight to the Helghast on their own planet after the Helgans attempted to invade Vekta, the planet the ISA calls home.

And it dumps you pretty much slap bang in the middle of everything, as anyone who’s played the demo will know.

Unfortunately for you and your ISA buddies the Helghast aren’t quite as beaten as your superiors would have you believe.

So is Killzone 2 as good as, the pretty much universal, top scores it’s received? πŸ˜•

Let’s start with the graphics. Yes this is the best looking game I’ve seen – the way the light falls and the smoke effects following explosions are fantastic. The whole game looks amazing and in particular the deaths of the Helghast stick long in the mind with their brilliant motion capture stumbles, slumping to the floor as their legs give way. There are quite a few different animations as well so it doesn’t get too repetitive.

Which brings me on to the sound. The score is superb, wratcheting up the tension as you try and blast your way through another fire fight.

One of the things that got me was the cries of your fallen comrades. You can revive teammates when they fall with a tap of circle next to them. It helps with the feeling of panic as you’re penned in by enemy fire and across from you your buddy is on the floor crying ‘help me! Medic! Please! Help me!’Β  😦

As well as that the Helghast themselves had some brilliant death groans – and some particularily gruesome screams if you set them on fire. They don’t die instantly from the flamethrower, instead failing around for 8 or 10 seconds desperately trying to put themselves out.:eek: The Helghans also had some good dialogue. It was nice to hear them shout ‘grenade’ as it’s usually just your own side who let you know about incomings!

Which brings me on nicely to the enemy AI. This is easily the most advanced AI I’ve encountered. From the simple (scattering out of the way when a grenade is thrown at them rather than just sitting there waiting for it to go off as usual) to the difficult (flanking you, flushing you out) it’s all done so well that it leads to some genuinely tense fireplay. You’ll need to keep them penned in with cover fire otherwise these guys will actually come and find you – and kill you probably.

The Helghast are not sitting ducks whatsoever. You feel like you earn each kill and the sense of achievement is excellent after a tight skrimish in enclosed conditions. 😎

You also care what happens to your colleagues – I often found myself exacted revenge for fallen buddies, whether it was a main colleague or one of the many army back ups from the bigger gun fights.

The singleplayer campaign is short but sweet – clocking in at just over 8 and a half hours on medium. I found medium to be more than difficult enough for me but that’s down to personal preference. I’d rather get through a game on medium than get annoyed with it from dying too much on hard. As it was I died plenty on medium!

Multiplayer isn’t ‘live’ yet but there is a singleplayer ‘Skirmish’ mode against up to 15 other ‘bots’ for practice. Very cool mode, with a new objective every 5 minutes. So it’ll be assasination (one team protects the other tries to kill) or capture the flag-esque objectives. After 20 minutes a winning faction – Helghast or ISA is announced and you start again. Obviously it was only against bots but they were pretty leathal on Elite setting.

As I mentioned in my previous first impressions the stutter is still there when loading the next section but after the third or fourth level I kind of stopped noticing. Would’ve been much better if this had run smooth all the way through but it’s a small complaint.

I also found my buddy AI improved as the game progressed which had been a gripe in my initial hands on with the game.

One thing I would’ve found helpful is a little bit of direction. On occasion I found myself without a directional marking and no idea what I was supposed to be doing/killing so a friendly ‘it’s over there’ or ‘get rid of the tank’ would have been nice.

Very small picky things which I suppose goes with the territory when looking at something as hyped as Killzone 2.

I’m not sure whether this game will revolutionize first person shooters – there isn’t much here that develops the genre. However it could be something to revolutionize the PS3 itself as it really showcases what a powerhouse the console is.

Killzone 2’s biggest achievement is, possibly because of the brilliant graphics, sound and AI, that you feel involved and become embedded in the Killzone universal whenever you pick up the pad.

In one particularily frantic battle I ducked into an alcove on the verge of death and a second later a Helghan backed into the entrance. I let off a round into the back of his head and it wasn’t until he fell that I saw he was ISA not Helghast. πŸ˜₯ It sounds ridiculous but I actually felt my stomach go over a little when I realised what I’d done. That’s how much this game sucks you in.

It’s not perfect by any means but it’s easily the best first person shooter I’ve played and I recommend anyone with a remote interest in this genre to check this out immediately when it’s released on the 27th.

Rating 9/10

Modesty Blaise – A Future Tarantino?

Modesty Blaise – by Peter O’Donnell

Firstly let me open by saying that this book has the campest cover of any book I have ever read. Quite why they went to the trouble of hammering home that Modesty is a WOMAN by making it bright PINK is beyond me – however the cover bears no real relation to the great novel inside.

This is an old novel – written in 1965 it is based around the then popular comic strip character Modesty Blaise and her sidekick Willie Garvin.

Without parents and roaming from place to place as a child Modesty learns different skills from the various people who take her under their wing and soon shows a propensity for combat and an intellegence to match. This leads her to form The Network – an international heist/robbery ring from which she retires when she makes Β£500,000, a figure she set herself many years ago.

The novel begins with the British Government deciding to bring Modesty out of retirement to work for them – they need someone to get hold of Β£10m worth of diamonds that have been stolen and figure Modesty is the best person for the job. If she agrees they will reveal the location of her ex-Network right hand man Willie Garvin, who is lanquishing in a jungle prison.

Modesty agrees and after busting her former colleague out of prison in the jungle the two embark on a mission to get the job done.

It’s a fairly short novel (around 250 pages) and the first third is mainly backstory and preparation for the explosive heist itself.

There are a few twists and turns along the way and the book is well written but on occasion is hampered by the era in which it was written – with regards to Modesty and Garvin’s sometimes blunt ‘i’m a girl / i’m a man’ features.

The characters are utterly devoted to one another through respect and loyalty but they are never romantically involved which made for a nice change.

Modesty Blaise is a great spy thriller which was a great read and I suspect I will give one of the other (11 I believe) Modesty Blaise novels a try at some stage.

Upon finishing I thought to myself, that would make an excellent film if done right i.e seriously.

I had a look on Wikipedia and discovered several versions had been made. The first in 1966 was a spy spoof and the follow ups left a lot to be desired. However a few years ago Miramax put out a straight to DVD version as a way of keeping hold of the rights to the property.

Then I spotted this:

“Quentin Tarantino has been interested in directing a Modesty Blaise movie for many years, and at one point Neil Gaiman even wrote a script treatment based upon O’Donnell’s novel, I, Lucifer. So far, nothing has come of these plans.”

If that’s true it would be awesome.

Tarantino and Gaiman? Very very cool indeed, perhaps Modesty will make it to the big screen in the film she deserves after all.