Split/Second – Demo Impressions (PS3)

 

We appear to have another ‘Infamous/Prototype’ style battle on the horizon – this time in the driving genre as Disney’s ‘Split/Second’ takes on Bizarre’s ‘Blur.’

Both games feature over the top arcade racing action with a power up system but the main difference appears to be that Blur uses car power ups (ala Modnation Racers/Mario Kart etc), whereas Split/Second uses the course to give players the chance to take each other out.

I haven’t had a chance to try out Blur but having played through the Split/Second demo I have to say I’m more impressed than I thought I would be.

Although it is only one car/track to play with there are plenty of options once you fill your power bar.

The best way to fill the bar is essentially to drive well – it will fill as you slipstream the car in front (‘drafting’), drift around corners or overtake other cars.

The bar has three sections and you can then trigger events such as explosions or shortcuts. Smaller events such as an exploding barrel or activating a shortcut usually require 1 section of your bar.

Bigger events, ranging from causing a landslide onto the track to actually blowing the course away to ‘switch routes’ take up 2 sections.

This really does lead to some tactical racing as you decide whether to use the 1 bit of bar you have or hold off and wait for a more race changing event.

One thing I found really cool was ‘switching routes’ by blowing the road away so we jumped down off and into the underground car park below. On the next lap I switched routes again at the same point and another explosion saw the route change again. So effectively you may be able to change the layout of the track twice at the various route changing parts.

It’s been fun trying to clock up fast times and generally having a laugh with the demo. One of the few complaints I had was that your own car doesn’t seem as vulnerable to attacks as everyone else – hopefully that is just to ease people into the demo.

I’m still not 100% sold on the game despite it’s appeal – I already have Dirt2 and Motorstorm Pacific Rift for my online driving needs – with Modnation Racers also arriving soon will there be room for Split/Second? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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Aliens Vs Predator – Review (PS3)

 

I’d been looking forward to Aliens Vs Predator for quite a while and having had a (brief) hands on at Eurogamer last year I was pretty excited to finally pop the disc into my PS3.

Sadly what followed didn’t live up to my high expectations.

Let me begin by saying Aliens Vs Predator is not a bad game. It’s decently sized (around 9 hours) and well paced. The story is ok and you get to experience the campaign from 3 totally different perspectives.

So why the disappointment?

As insane as it sounds I think Rebellion gives the player too much control over the characters – and by that I mean in terms of what you can do and how, often, it’s damn awkward to actually pull off.

Playing as the Alien holding down R2 allowed you to traverse walls and ceilings, which of course in theory is awesome but the reality was basically me ending up completely confused as to where I was. Or more importantly where my prey was.

As the Predator it’s often hit and miss as to whether you can jump to a higher ledge and it felt like you had to be in a hidden ‘sweet spot’ before you could jump up to ledges. Very annoying when trying to escape oncoming attacks and when you can see the Predator would blatantly be able to jump such a paltry distance… but the game won’t let you.

The Marine campaign didn’t really suffer in this respect as it’s a standard ‘bug hunt’ so to speak. I enjoyed this the most as Rebellion have done a great job recreating the feel of the films.

The balancing of the species is handled really well, each feeling suitably powerful but having their vulnerabilities. The times when it worked with Alien or Predator it was very satisfying but more often than not the controls/mechanic let it down.

Playing a game like this you want to feel empowered but not invincible – Batman: Arkham Asylum did this almost to perfection last year, here half the time it’ll bodge what you are trying to do and you’ll end up just killing everyone in the fallout.

The multiplayer has severe connction issues but if you can get a game it’s quite good fun. Problem being 9 times out of 10 I couldn’t get a game and was stuck with a ‘searching for games’ screen for 10 minutes at a time.

All three campaigns have their moments of brilliance and Alien Vs Predator, while frustrating at times is a fun game to play through – especially if you are a fan of the films.

Rating: 6/10

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21 – Review (Film)

 

21 tells the story of Ben (Jim Sturgess), a gifted but poor student who desperately wants to attend medical school. The extreme tuition fees mean he is left needing to get a ‘wildcard’ entry into the University.

Or of course raise the ridiculous amount needed ($300,000) to pay for a scholarship. But how will he do that?

Enter Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) who, after being impressed with Ben’s quick calculations and intelligence, offers him a place on his card counting team.

Card counting is essentially a way of cheating the system at the card game Blackjack and is obviously illegal.

Ben obviously succumbs and so a twisty tale of love, betrayal and cold hard cash plays out.

Spacey is excellent as Rosa and Laurence Fishbourne also impresses as Cole Williams. Sturgess himself is believable, as is his romance with Jill (Kate Bosworth).

The film comes across as a mix between Ocean’s Eleven and something more serious – at several points in the film the darker side of things rears its head, which gives the film a much needed edge.

As Ben struggles to manage his new life and old life we’re told a familiar tale of a change in lifestyle that the main protagonist isn’t quite ready for.

Overall though I enjoyed the film and while not essential viewing it’s certainly worth a rent.

Rating: 6/10

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The Saboteur – Review (PS3)

 

The Saboteur held much promise – I remember watching the trailers and seeing developer diaries/reveals on gametrailers.com and thinking this could be amazing.

As I mentioned after my brief hands-on at the Eurogamer Expo prior to the game’s release, it seemed that it wouldn’t quite hit the heights expected.

And that proved to be the case with the full version of The Saboteur.

Pandemic Studios, who also made the fun but flawed Mercenaries series of games (among others) has since been shut down by parent company EA and The Saboteur certainly feels like a little more time to polish may have helped matters.

The game takes place in and around Paris in the 1940’s with the Nazis occupying the majority of the city and its surrounding areas.

You control Sean Devlin, a race driving Irishman, who gets involved with the French resistance following a traumatic experience at the hands of the Gestapo.

The characterisation in the game seems to be laid on a little thick with regards to accents and stereotypes with your character in particular suffering from some ridiculous dialogue. However as long as you appreciate that the game isn’t taking itself seriously this isn’t too much of a problem.

The story is your usual resistance takes on controlling power type affair and you’ll find yourself in numerous scrapes across a campaign the spans almost 11 hours of gameplay.

In the positive you will almost always have a choice in how matters play out – although limited to stealth (disguising yourself as a Nazi to infiltrate a target) or force it’s nice to have the chance to mix things up.

And the presentation style is fabulous – occupied areas remain in black and white except for the red of the Nazis, with colour coming back to the area whenever the resistance sees them off.

The Saboteur is a game that I feel should be played but if you are looking for a high quality experience, this isn’t it. The odd bug here and there and a general unfinished feeling hamper the general gameplay but if you’re willing to give it a shot The Saboteur is worth a rent.

Rating: 7/10

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God Of War III – Review (PS3)

 

I’ve always been a fan of the God Of War series of games – it’s mix of greek mythology and huge epic battles is a wonderful, if brutal, cocktail.

The first two games came in at 16 (God Of War) and 17 (God Of War II) respectively in my Top 100 Games list.

So I was really looking forward to getting my hands on the final instalment in the trilogy.

The game picks up exactly where God Of War II ended and the opening is stunning in it’s sheer scale. The first part of the level sees you fighting enemies on a Titan’s back before you quickly move onto a boss battle that, quite frankly, would appear at the end of most other games.

What follows the boss battle I wouldn’t dream of spoiling for anyone but needless to say I was pleasantly surprised and it was a genuinely original touch – something fairly rare these days.

Most of the highlights of the game come from the boss battles, unless perhaps you are a fan of puzzle based gameplay – if so you’re well catered for here. Personally I’m not a big fan of puzzle solving and these sections were a means to an end so that I could push the story forward.

Some of them were pretty enjoyable: the rescue of a certain character trapped in a water filled box held quite a bit of charm and there were only a few times I was reaching for a guide to find out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

Going back to the boss battles I have to say they were brilliantly crafted and you can tell a lot of love went into creating each encounter. They will certainly live long in the memory and each had it’s own individual experience, usually ending with some outrageous results.

Graphically the bosses are stunning but even just general gameplay looks great and despite, at times, having up to fifty enemies on screen there wasn’t one moment of slowdown.

This instalment is a lot more gory than previous games – possibly due to the increase in processing power but blood splatters over Kratos’ body in real time and there are a few brutal scenes which I personally enjoyed but this is most definitely a game for the mature audience as opposed to children.

However, as impressed as I was with the game it is, essentially, just more of the same. While button mashing will see you killed the use of combos remains and the combat itself is slightly upgraded from previous games but you won’t find much difference.

There is a new ‘grapple to’ move that allows you to continue your combo by throwing yourself back into the action or dragging your victim to you and the new weapons are fun to handle but again, are essentially just new skins for various different combos.

The fighting is balanced enough, although Kratos is vastly more powerful than his enemies you will find yourself up against more in terms of numbers and type as the game progresses.

God Of War III is a single player experience and that’s the way it should be – multiplayer, certainly for this game, would feel ‘tacked’ on and would probably have lowered the overall package.

So in the end it all comes down to whether or not you liked the previous games – or more accurately if you DIDN’T like the previous games. If you didn’t there isn’t much here to change your mind other than the improvement in graphics.

However if you’re a fan of the other games or have never tried a God Of War title before then jump straight in and get ready for a bloodbath… this is a game you have to play if you own a PS3 and is one of the best single player experiences out there at the moment.

Rating: 9/10

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