Syndicate – Review (PS3)

For those of us whose memories stretch back to the 1990’s, Syndicate was a tactical type affair which I remember owning for the Sega Mega Drive as part of some sort of EA Collection. I never played it. No idea why, perhaps it was too in-depth for my more simple tastes back then.

EA decided to reboot the franchise and turn it into a first person shooter instead. Now as is always the case for this type of thing people seem to either love it or hate it, thinking it’s a breath of fresh air for the series or a complete let down of the heritage of the previous games.

I personally applaud EA for having the guts to give it a shot. As it turns out the reboot of Syndicate didn’t sell much (estimates put sales at under the 200,000 mark, which is pretty poor) but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game. So did the switch to first person suit the series?

Set in 2069 you play as Agent Miles Kilo, one of EuroCorp’s newest members. In the world of Syndicate corporate espionage is where the great power struggles happen. The corporations are the ones running everything and information is vital.

Over the course of the game you’ll be tasked with retrieving, or indeed destroying, enemy intel. Which could mean data, files or even people.

The story of Syndicate is pretty interesting and certainly the setting is very cool. I enjoyed the style of the game and found some of the dialogue very well written – Rosario Dawson and the ever excellent Brian Cox do a great job – although I found Merit (your colleague for some of the game) to have one of the most grating voices I’ve had to play alongside for quite some time!

The fresh gameplay aspects that Syndicate brings to the table are impressive, things like forcing an enemy to commit suicide or ‘turning’ them temporarily to fight for you are inventive and fun. It also gives you a few more options in gun fights, although I’d have liked to have seen some more of these added.

The shooting itself felt nice and weighty, with player movement balanced quite well. My biggest disappointment was that the game fell into the exact same trap as Deus Ex: Human Revolution by including boss battles. These were more of an annoyance that anything else but on a couple of occasions I really had to will myself to keep playing through the frustration.

So overall Syndicate was a bold step for EA and while I didn’t think the game was amazing, it was certainly above average and brought some interesting game play ideas forward. It’s a shame the sales were low as I’d actually be up for playing a sequel that was set in that universe and was, perhaps, a bit more refined.

Rating: 7/10

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Max Payne 3 – Review (PS3)

I never actually played much of the first Max Payne and certainly didn’t touch the second one. Nothing at all against those games but at that stage of my gaming life it just wasn’t what I wanted to play.

Having seen the franchise change owners and land up in the hands of Rockstar Games I was quite excited to see what they would do with it.

This third instalment sees Max at rock bottom – drunk and addicted to painkillers while working as low rent security for a wealthy Brazilian family down in South America.

As you can imagine things go wrong quickly and Max is left trying to pick up the pieces while fighting his own demons.

Graphically the game looks fantastic, taking in various different areas/scenes as Max’s adventure continues. Some wonderful use of bright colours really makes a difference and reminded me at times of the Uncharted series.

The comic book style of the cut scenes was fairly refreshing and overall the game oozes the class that Rockstar normally stamp on their products.

The band Health provide a truly great soundtrack (check out ‘Tears’ here, it’s pretty amazing) and the developers have really dialled up the grittiness. Max Payne 3 is one of the darkest games I’ve played in a while and it made a nice change to play something that didn’t mind getting it’s hands dirty, so to speak.

There were complaints from some quarters about the slow-mo kill cam and how graphic it is. I can see how that is a valid argument but I feel it fits in with the rest of the game so it wasn’t a problem to me.

On the gameplay front it took me a while to adjust to how fragile Max is (which makes sense as he’s an old ex-cop with two crippling addictions 😆 ) but once I got used to the fact that, even in bullet time, two or three shots will kill you I went with a more conservative play style and the frustration was gone.

One thing that surprised me a little was just how much fun the online multiplayer is – I found myself coming back again and again to stick another few hours in. The highlight there for me is the Gang Wars mode, which is a much more fleshed out version of Killzone 3’s ‘Operations’ mode.

Most enjoyable and I like the fact that for the first few hours you’re only playing against other ‘noobs’. Once you hit a certain rank the game opens up and you’ll be playing against players of varying levels. It’s a nice way to ease people in.

My complaints about the game were mainly directed at a handful of misplaced checkpoints, which led to me having to replay *another* firefight before getting back to the one I died in – frustrating at times.

When Max Payne 3 flows it is a wonderful, gritty, dark yet vibrant gaming experience. Unfortunately it doesn’t always flow. I was expecting big things from this game and Rockstar have delivered for the most part but some minor niggles along the way mean Max Payne 3 doesn’t quite hit the heights I’d been hoping for.

Rating: 8/10

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Clash Of The Titans – Review (Film)

Clash of The Titans appeared on my radar a few years ago, seemingly taking it’s cue in tone from the recent God Of War games. I was excited to see how the film played out and well… Liam Neeson as Zeus?! What wasn’t to like?

The film tells the story of Perseus, a baby found by a fisherman in the arms of his dead mother on a boat. Clash Of The Titans shows Perseus’ journey as he learns of his origin and ends up embroiled in a fight between mortals and gods.

Sadly, other than Neeson, the acting isn’t particularly great. I felt a stronger cast could really have benefited the film although the special effects were fairly impressive.

There are several big set pieces that showcase the CGI of Clash Of The Titans and overall I’d say they are used just enough to keep you interested. At times some of the dialogue dragged and unfortunately I found myself losing interest at a few points, which is disappointing.

Clash Of The Titans is by no means a terrible film – it’s certainly watchable as a big popcorn blockbuster but it lacks substance (perhaps because it was used mainly as a set up for the second film?). I wouldn’t say avoid this film but it left me wondering how good it could’ve been with a few tweaks to the cast and story.

Rating: 5/10

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Journey – Review (PS3)

It’s hard to discuss Journey without spoiling the experience. I will do my utmost to make sure nothing is spoiled here.

Firstly let me offer some advice for playing the game:

1) Make sure you are connected online when playing.

2) Play it in one sitting.

I can’t stress enough that Journey really should be played in one go. It’s not that long, 2 1/2 hours – 3 hours at most, and you really will get the most out of the game.

I’m not going to discuss any story elements or really any gameplay elements here – except to say Journey plays wonderfully and is very easy to control. It’s taxing at times in terms of challenge but this is a game that has been made to be played through to the end.

Graphically the game is superb – it was gorgeous to play through.

It actually did a great job of conveying emotion and, in fact, of making me feel something for the characters and world. The interaction with other people playing the game online is simple but so effective.

It’s very hard to say much else. I feel like Journey is an experience to be discussed when both parties have played through it.

I will leave it at this: Journey is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had. Ever. Everyone should give this a shot, it may just change the way you look at games.

Rating 10/10

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