L.A Noire DLC – Review (PS3)

As more and more publishers attempt to keep players locked into their game beyond the campaign on the disc, DLC is seemingly a must for almost every title. Does L.A Noire deliver the goods with this DLC or should you give it a miss?

After playing the main game I stumped up for the ‘Rockstar Pass,’ which granted access to all the upcoming DLC for a cheaper price upfront. So, after a few months away following my completion of the game, I returned to find I had all of the DLC cases ready to go.

The cases don’t add much to the story – they slot in between the cases you’ve already played so it was quite cool to hear some of the dialogue between the characters, knowing how things eventually played out.

You get two Vice cases (The Naked City and Reefer Madness), a traffic case (A Slip Of The Tongue) and an arson case (Nicholson Electroplating).

Each case is around the 90 minute / 2 hour mark and they mainly follow the same pattern as the rest of the game. You’ll be sent to investigate a crime scene and then interview / interrogate witnesses before the case comes to a conclusion.

As is to be expected of most DLC, if you liked L.A Noire then you will enjoy these extra cases. I particularily enjoyed Nicholson Electroplating – the way the case opens was pretty fantastic and captured a great vibe.

I’m not sure of the individual cost of these cases but for the £7.99 I paid for the pass I felt I definitely got my money’s worth. Nothing as groundbreaking as the original title but good fun and a nice extension of the game.

Ratings:

The Naked City – 6/10

Reefer Madness – 7/10

A Slip Of The Tongue – 6/10

Nicholson Electroplating – 8/10

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Shadows Of The Damned – Review (PS3)

Ah, Shadows Of The Damned… a cautionary tale for makers of games everywhere. If your publisher doesn’t market your game *at all* there could be trouble ahead.

Releasing in the traditionally quiet period of June with no fanfare at all (I don’t recall seeing a single ad anywhere) Shadows Of The Damned is a third person shooter with hints of Resident Evil and a completely deranged plot to boot. Marketed properly it could’ve cleaned up.

But it wasn’t. And it’s sold 120,000 units since release, which is pretty poor. As a comparison Rage, which is (apparently as I’m yet to play it) an average game that has been marketed everywhere, notched up over 600,000 units in A WEEK!

And that’s the best comparison I can think of because Shadows Of The Damned is not a bad game. It’s a few hours too long but is generally fun to play.

You take on the role of Garcia Hotspur – demon hunter – as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend Paula from the clutches of a demon in hell.

My main problem was the marmite humour – it’s very much a case of lowest common denominator. While there were a few funny moments the fact that one of his weapons is called ‘The Boner’ says it all really.

The actual story was interesting and eventually asked some great questions – which I’m guessing we’ll now never find out about due to the poor sales of this title.

And that is a sad state of affairs – Shadows Of The Damned might not be the best game I’ve played this year but it was something different and by the time I got to the end I would’ve been tempted to pick up a sequel had one been announced.

Rating: 7/10

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We Need To Talk About Kevin – Review (Film)

I’m always weary of those books I see *everyone* on the train reading. It’s almost like being constantly bombarded with advertising every single morning/evening.

One of those books was ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin.’

My wife read it and while she enjoyed it she thought the premise was too easy to spot and saw the twist coming a mile off. So I was intrigued to see what the film had to offer.

What I wasn’t expecting was to come out of the cinema having experienced one of the most hard hitting films I’ve ever seen.

Make no mistake ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ isn’t easy to watch. It’s a bleak film which is quick to put down moments of happiness.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen this that doesn’t have kids – only because I wonder if fact I have young children is why it effected me so much?

The film is shot fantastically and the performances from all of the main characters are superb – Tilda Swinton is glorious as tortured mother Eva and it was a pleasant surprise to see John C Reilly reigned in from his usual madcap performances.

I already knew the basic plot and still found myself suckered in.

This is a film that pulls no punches but if you’re willing to put yourself through that it is a really rewarding watch. It’s not often that I count coming out of a film feeling a bit like I’ve been punched in the stomach as a good thing but ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ had that effect.

Rating: 9/10

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‘The Bad Place’ by Dean Koontz – Review (Book)

‘The Bad Place’ is one of Koontz’s more supernatural novels and tells the story of Frank Pollard.

Frank wakes up in an alley knowing nothing but his name and feeling an overwhelming urge that he’s being chased and needs to get away.

He hires a private detective husband and wife team to help him after suffering more blackouts and having no idea what is happening to him… Or indeed who he is.

As the story unravels and Frank’s past is revealed everyone finds themselves dragged into a dangerous game of cat and mouse – where the stakes are life or death.

Koontz is a master of the genre but I’ve found I do prefer his more recent books that are grounded in reality. ‘The Bad Place’ is a decent read though.

The storytelling is good and Koontz does a nice job of capturing the chemistry of a husband and wife team. The characters were likable but unfortunately I just didn’t connect fully with this novel compared to some of his other ones.

Rating: 6/10

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Mass Effect 2: Arrival – Review (PS3 DLC)

One of the contenders for Game Of The Year, Mass Effect 2, brings some DLC that bridges the gap between 2 and upcoming sequel Mass Effect 3.

Providing you didn’t inadvertently kill off your Commander Shepherd during Mass Effect 2 😆 you continue on as the same character.

A missing secret agent on the edge of the galaxy sees Admiral Hackett call you in for a covert operation. Get them back and find out what you can about the threat of an imminent Reaper invasion.

Firstly let me get my crushing disappointment out of the way. During Arrival you go solo for the entire mission. I was expecting to have my squadmates with me as per the rest of the main game. Perhaps indulge in some conversations about the events that concluded Mass Effect 2 but sadly this wasn’t to be.

After getting over that it was pretty much business as usual. If you liked Mass Effect 2 then Arrival is more of the same – the point here is advancing the story as opposed to improving the gameplay.

Arrival certainly does that – sitting at around the 5 hour mark it’s a great bite sized chunk to carry you over/prepare you for Mass Effect 3.

There isn’t much that differs from the main game but this is well worth it at the price on offer. I would’ve loved to have had squadmates with me as I felt without them the game lost a little bit of it’s tactical nuance but it’s a DLC pack I’d recommend if you have any interest in the Mass Effect universe.

Rating: 7/10

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‘Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne’ by David Gaider – Review (Book)

Having played through and enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins on the PS3, I was intrigued to find that the universe of the game had been expanded with this novel.

Serving as a prequel to the game, Stolen Throne is set thirty years prior to where you started your story in game.

The book tells the story of Maric who, following the death of his mother Queen Moira, finds himself as the King of Ferelden. The only problems being that Ferelden is currently occupied by it’s neighbour Orlais and the fact that no-one knows that Maric is still alive.

As he flees the scene of his mother’s betrayal and death he meets up with a band of rebels, who take him in without realising the consequences. Will he disappear into the shadows? Or is he willing to stand up and reclaim the title of King?

The Stolen Throne is a decent read and while it can be easy to get bogged down in the detail, Gaider provides a vivid picture of events and on the whole brings the characters to life.

I wouldn’t say this was a pick up and dive into book and it certainly helps to have played the game first – not necessarily for the story but it helps in terms of the places the book is set.

I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more of a crossover with the game if I’m being honest but as it stands The Stolen Throne is a solid, tie-in novel.

Rating: 6/10

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Red Faction Armageddon – Review (PS3)

Red Faction: Guerrilla was a bit of a sleeper hit with it’s mix of open world missions and insanely fun destructability.

When a follow up was announced I was looking forward to causing more carnage and seeing even bigger buildings crumble via my fair hand.

Unfortunately for some reason Volition decided instead to abandon the previous game’s direction and head down a more enclosed route.

Perhaps the game would benefit? Guerrilla certainly wasn’t perfect – the mission unlock structure was wonky at times and the game was probably 2 or 3 hours too long. Maybe moving the whole thing under the surface of Mars would improve the experience?

The simple and disappointing answer is ‘no.’

Armageddon is nothing like Guerrilla. Apart from the similar look of the main character (they are related after all) and sharing some of the weapons from the first game THQ could’ve called this game anything… a new IP possibly?

The story here is set 50 years after Guerrilla and you play as Darius Mason – a distant relative of Alec Mason from the previous game.

The people of Mars were forced underground a few years ago when Darius was tricked into destroying the terraformer that kept the weather on Mars stable. Unfortunately an alien race (well technically the humans are the aliens but you get what I mean) has been disturbed and is looking to get rid of the humans.

And so you plough through enemy after enemy, for the most part in underground corridors. With the odd walker section thrown in for good measure.

While I applaud some of the weapon design – the magnet gun in particular was a good addition – the way the game has been made doesn’t really encourage experimenting with weapons because as you’re swarmed by 6 or 8 enemies all you need is your assault rifle to see them off.

The enemy design is tragically generic. Both in terms of look and design – normal enemy, crawly enemy, enemy with ranged attack, big enemy etc.

As for the online side of things I couldn’t find anyone else playing the game when I tried so had no experience with it.

For me normally the biggest crime a game can commit is to be boring – I can tolerate a poorly designed game if I have to as long as it’s enjoyable. Red Faction Armageddon was a boring game to play through but that isn’t the issue that troubles me the most.

For some unknown reason the makers decided to rip out almost everything that made Guerrilla a unique game and put out a title that, unfortunately, disappoints when compared to the previous game. I just can’t understand it.

Red Faction Armageddon might be worth a play through if you’re really interested in the fiction but for most people I’d say there are better games in the genre to play.

If you want to play a third person shooter, with close corridor shooting against creepy alien type monsters I’d recommend picking up either of the Dead Space games instead.

Rating: 4/10

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