Driver: San Francisco – Review (PS3)

Since the well received original Driver game back in 1999 the series has lurched from one average game to another, with the last few being sub-par overall.

So another Driver game wasn’t exactly cause for celebration on my part but the more I saw of the game the more I thought maybe this is the one where they will turn it around.

The previous game’s star John Tanner returns along with Tobias Jones (his partner). The villain of Driver 3, Jericho, finds himself locked up in San Francisco and is being transported from prison when he escapes and Tanner ends up chasing him in his car. Just as he is about to catch him, Jericho rams Tanner’s car into the oncoming path of a truck – leaving Tanner unconscious.

This plot device leads to the introduction of the ‘shift’ mechanic – a means for Tanner to zoom out of the vehicle he is in and select a different car to ‘shift’ back into. Much like Quantum Leap everyone else still sees the original driver of the car rather than Tanner, leading to some great comedy moments.

I initially thought this might be a bit clunky in practice but it’s easy to pull off quickly and can be used to great tactical effect.

The handling of the cars is arcade-y rather than simulation, which is just right for this type of fast paced driving action. At times I found the steering to be temperamental, which was frustrating but in general the vehicles had a decent heft to them and felt great to throw around the tarmac.

My biggest complaint is that staple of story-based driving games, becoming stuck on one mission and not being able to progress. In Driver: San Francisco this is stretched further by the fact you had to finish enough side missions to trigger the next story mission.

It really did feel like a chore at times – especially the ‘race’ style side missions where one mistake (often not of your own making) would cost you the mission. This game could’ve done with being a couple of hours shorter in my opinion.

Driver: San Francisco is by far the best game in the series for a long, long time and it’s one you should definitely give a spin. It’s a bit bloated in terms of length but the driving is good and the story is fun as well.

Rating: 7/10

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Marvel’s Avengers Assemble – Review (Film)

 

*This review is entirely spoiler free, for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet (what are you waiting for? Go now!)*

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Where to start?

The great acting?

The brilliant special effects?

The amazing script?

Ok, ok. Let’s back this up a bit before I fall into an abyss of gushing.

Joss Whedon is probably my favourite person in the audiovisual world – Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly/Serenity, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog… the man can do no wrong. He even wrote the screenplay for Toy Story for heaven’s sake!

BUT there is always that flicker of doubt. ‘Joss Whedon to helm Avengers movie’ was the headline. Joy was the initial reaction (although I didn’t have any idea what the Avengers were beyond being a team of superheroes) but as time went on I did think – can he deliver with this? It’s a HUGE movie and look at the people involved.

I needn’t have worried at all – Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (to give the film it’s full title) is an absolutely fantastic movie.

Getting all of these actors – the majority of whom have their own films as these characters already – to team up and share the screen shows some serious management ability.

And they all deliver – I’m not really a fan of Scarlett Johannson but she was great as Black Widow. Mark Ruffalo was the big doubt for me but he is the best Hulk I’ve seen on the big screen. The rest of the cast are all on form – Robert Downey Jr continues to impress me, I used to really dislike him but in the last 4 or 5 years he has won me over.

Speaking with others who’ve seen the film the big hook for everyone appears to be the comedy and wit that flows through the script – it’s classic Whedon for those of us who know his work. The balance of seriousness and comedy is so well done you can’t help but get swept up in the sheer enthusiasm the film has.

I have no intention of discussing the plot or anything that might spoil the film. It’s a nice bit of background to have seen the accompanying films (Iron Man/Captain America/Thor) but by no means essential. This is a self contained film that tells you everything you need to know about what is going on.

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen. To actually get that many characters & actors together, have them feel genuinely like a team and for the movie not to totally suck is great. Go see it!

Rating: 10/10

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PS VITA ROUND UP

Well it’s been a few months since the release of the Playstation Vita handheld console and while there is a break in game releases (Resistance Burning Skies hits later this month, while Mortal Kombat will be out by the time you read this) I thought it would be worth going over my thoughts on the device and doing a round up of ‘mini’ game reviews.

Firstly the device itself – ‘Wow’ is probably the most apt description. You genuinely have to play one to see just how amazing the screen is. Screenshots just don’t do the thing justice.

The analogue sticks work a treat – not as responsive as the PS3 ones but bearing in mind they are on a handheld they do what’s required of them.

You have a whole host of non-game stuff as well, Twitter/Facebook/Skype are all supported. Netflix is rumoured to be on the way, along with plenty of other social stuff I’m sure. Near is the one I use the most as it tells you (less interestingly) who is playing what nearby and (more interestingly) is a way to pick up in-game goods or challenges from your friends.

I went for the Wi-Fi model and have had no problems with it. I’m always somewhere with Wi-Fi when gaming online and in a worst case scenario I can tether to my HTC and use that as a Wi-Fi hotspot. I personally don’t see the benefit of 3G at the moment.

And so onto the games!

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MOTORSTORM RC (Download Only)

When I heard about this game and realised it was a cross between Micro Machines and Super Off Road I was stoked. I had no idea just how addictive it would become. The fact you’re constantly reminded of your friend’s times and compared to them means there is great incentive for ‘just one more lap’. The fact you get the PS3 and Vita version for the princely sum of £4.79 just adds to the value of the title.

Rating: 9/10

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UNIT 13

It makes me sad that Sony shuttered the company behind this game but I can understand why – their last few games have been competent but not polished. Unit 13 is no different. A third person shooter focusing on score based, bite-sized missions is a wise move on Vita and this is a great game. Unfortunately it’s hampered by a fairly serious issue – every now and again the game will ‘brick’ your Vita, requiring a hard reset. Very annoying. However the fact that despite that I persisted with Unit 13, aced every mission, earned myself a platinum trophy and loved playing it hopefully gives an indication of how highly I rate it.

Rating: 9/10

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UNCHARTED: GOLDEN ABYSS

The poster child for the Vita. Great graphics and great gameplay. The proper voice acting and motion capture, just like the PS3 games. Bend Studios have previous – the Syphon Filter and Resistance games on PSP they did were some of the highlights of the handheld’s output – and they have done a fantastic job on this. The only issue I had was with the pacing in the first half. It was far too ‘stop start’ for my liking, with minimal interaction before triggering another cut scene. That improves greatly in the back end of the game and the second half was a blast.

Rating: 9/10

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FIFA SOCCER

FIFA on the go? Yes please! Whilst this is based more on PS3’s FIFA 11 than FIFA 12 this is still the best football game on a handheld by miles. Essentially the full game in the palm of your hand, this boasts the career mode and plenty more beside. The gameplay is just as good (though based on FIFA 11 remember) and the graphics are pretty good, despite some dodgy stuttering in the opening cut scenes. Looking forward to the refined FIFA that will no doubt appear when FIFA 13 turns up. Cross platform play/saves? Don’t rule it out.

Rating: 8/10

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RAYMAN ORIGINS

I’m not generally a big fan of platforming games but Rayman Origins is a wonderful title. Visually stunning and with some inventive game mechanics this is a must have for people that enjoy this genre. I’d certainly recommend non-platform fans to at least give it a try as well.

Rating: 8/10

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VIRTUA TENNIS 4

Probably one of the best looking games on the Vita at launch, Virtua Tennis 4 is everything you’d expect from it’s console big brother. Smooth controls, wacky training mini-games and an indepth career mode mean you’ll be playing this one for a long time.

Rating 7/10

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SUPER STARDUST DELTA (Download Only)

I hadn’t played any of the previous Stardust games on PS3, despite their great reputation. But at just under £7 this seemed like a steal. You control a small ship and must avoid enemies while destroying rock/ice formations as they land on your planet. It’s a twin stick shooter with some great graphics and a competitive leaderboard 😉

Rating: 7/10

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MODNATION RACERS: ROAD TRIP

As much as I enjoyed the PS3 version of Modnation Racers I feel United Front Games have dropped the ball somewhat with the Vita version. The game looks fine and actually controls a little better than the PS3 one but the fact that you can’t set times offline and have them uploaded when you’re next online (like Motorstorm RC, Super Stardust Delta et al) is a real shame. For someone like me who is mainly offline that really makes me less inclined to play it.

Rating: 6/10

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F1 2011

Formula 1 for the Vita is a bit of a mixed bag – when in full flow on a wide open track the game is great. However when you’re at lower speeds or there are a lot of other cars around the graphics take a big hit. It’s a shame as this seems like it might just be a port of the PSP title upscaled, rather than being linked more to the PS3 version. There is a robust career mode which should keep you entertained but I can’t help feeling you might be better off waiting for the next F1 Vita game, which hopefully may make more of the console’s abilities.

Rating: 6/10

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LUMINES

As part of the recurring theme for a lot of these games, Lumines is a game I wouldn’t normally play at home but, like Super Stardust Delta, really seems to suit portable gaming. It’s a music-based puzzle game that requires a great deal of thought if you’re to do well. As someone who isn’t into puzzle games I found this challenging – challenging but fun.

Rating: 7/10

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HUSTLE KINGS (Download Only)

A port of the PS3 version of the game (buying either version gets you both, which is cool) Hustle Kings is a nice pool game with lots of different modes and some interesting features. I hadn’t played the PS3 version but after trying the Vita demo I grabbed this as a title that is great to play when I only have 10 mins spare.

Rating: 7/10

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EVERYBODY’S GOLF

I thoroughly enjoyed Everybody’s Golf on my PSP a few years back but once all the courses were done there wasn’t much in the way of replayability. Thankfully as well as a great set of single player events the Vita version takes advantage of the devices online capabilities to give you daily online tournaments to take part in. Getting involved in these will see you rise (and fall) in the World rankings – addictive!

Rating: 9/10

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WIPEOUT 2048

Wipeout 2048 is one of those games that you can use to show off how gorgeous the screen is on your Vita. The sense of speed is impressive and this is Wipeout as you know it, although as it’s set in the early days of the Wipeout universe it might be the first time you’ve seen these ships race on grass 😆 You can connect and race against people that playing the Vita or PS3 version and I can confirm there are no issues on that front – it works as described. The killer here unfortunately are the load times. Apparently these are being patched but it just takes too long to get into a race. It’s a big issue, especially for a handheld game where your time might be limited.

Rating: 8/10

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So anyone else out there with a Vita? What do you think of these games so far? What else is on your radar for the device?

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