Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City – Review (PS3)

The premise of Operation Raccoon City is a great one – you’re a team of operatives that work for Umbrella, the evil corporation at the heart of all the trouble caused in the Resident Evil universe. So for one thing you’re seeing the universe from the other side for a change, add in the fact this is all taking place alongside the events of Resident Evils 2 & 3 and you have something full of promise.

The setting is pretty cool, obviously this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Raccoon City but the developers do a good job of bringing it (back) to life and it was interesting to see the more open, chaotic side of the virus outbreak as opposed to the tight corridors etc the genre usually introduces. Of course there are also enclosed environments but these were your standard internal locales.

Graphically the game wasn’t great – it certainly wasn’t terrible but no boundaries were being pushed here. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, it just meant having played games recently like Max Payne 3 and Mass Effect 3 that excelled graphically, Operation Raccoon City looked pretty flat in comparison.

One of the biggest pluses for me alongside the story was the soundtrack, which helped drag you in during intense moments. Sound effects in general and the voicework for the characters weren’t great though, which was a shame.

The game can be played as 4 player co-op although I’m not really sure how much this would really add to the experience. I already felt like I was doing the lions share of the work when playing on my own and not enjoying it massively, so would doing less be better or make it more boring? I guess it would depend on who you were playing with – regardless it’s nice to have the option.

The combat wasn’t great, with shooting in particular feeling slightly off. I couldn’t really put my finger on exactly what the issue was but it made for some frustrating gun battles. The melee combat was ok but if you get overrun it’ll likely be game over.

I like the idea of becoming infected if you get bitten but the mechanic here is simply ‘find and use a blue potion to cure yourself’ within the next 20 seconds or die. I would’ve much preferred them to explore a path whereby if you get bitten it can last for a few levels before you fully succumb to it – maybe give your character a slight shake as they aim that gets worse over time until you’re cured. Or have enemies appear that aren’t there as you unravel. I think it sums up the entire game that with all that potential the developers went with the easiest out.

As well as Zombies you’ll be facing off against special forces operatives (for story reasons that I won’t divulge) and these guys can be a real pain in the ass. Their AI seems to be much better than your team mates and at times I felt the game just threw loads of the special forces guys at you to lengthen some of the gun fights.

Overall then Operation Raccoon City is a great idea executed poorly. There were a few excellent moments but they don’t do enough to make this a must-play. Fans of the series will no doubt enjoy the crossover and nods to Resident Evil lore but the whole time I was playing the game I just couldn’t get over how stale it felt. Not bad, not good just… average.

Rating: 5/10

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The Year (So Far) In TV…

There has been a lot of really great TV around this year and the schedules are already looking packed all the way up until Christmas. I’ve found myself lining up more and more shows to watch, which is always a good thing in my opinion!

So here’s a recap of what’s been catching my attention.

I’m just four episodes into The Newsroom and I can already tell you it’s a contender for show of the year. Aaron Sorkin knows how to write a fantastic group of characters and he replicates the formula he had on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip to great effect. Telling the story of a group of people that work on a news programme, the content here is more political and, for want of a better word, serious. I sometimes feel like the only one in the UK who doesn’t watch trashy, ‘reality’, fame obsessed TV shows and the attitude taken by Will and the gang echoes how I feel… but sadly this hasn’t spilled over into real life yet.

While some have their trash TV in the form I mentioned above, I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi or supernatural drama. While waiting on new seasons of Warehouse 13 and Haven, I checked out Alcatraz. The premise is wonderfully goofy – Alcatraz (the prison) was never shut down, everyone who was on the island just disappeared one night. And now in present day they are reappearing. Continuing my tradition of backing the wrong (albeit excellent) horse (see Dollhouse/Tru Calling/Firefly/Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles/Bored To Death etc) Alcatraz was not renewed for a second season, so we’ll never find out what the hell was actually going on!

True Blood hit season 4 and, again, improved on the previous series. For season 5 I’m hoping they continue to toy with some of the political/social themes of the Vampires and Humans co-existing that they touched on here. Nelsan Ellis, who plays Lafayette, is still the best thing in this show as far as I’m concerned and he looks set to have a big part in the upcoming season.

We’re only a few episodes into the latest season of Nikita but the storyline has already reached some fantastically outrageous heights. The way Nikita and Michael were saved (and by whom) in the opening episode had me chuckling away in disbelief and I almost wished I’d had a bag of popcorn on my lap. But then that’s why I love the show, all the crazy gadgets and cloak ‘n dagger ‘espionage’. I suspect this is what you’d get if you mixed a TV soap with the Splinter Cell games… which can only be a good thing 🙂

Kate Beckett and Richard Castle returned to our screens as Castle also hit season 4. The relationship between the cop and writer is strained this season which has made for a good change of dynamic. Ryan, Esposito, Lanie and Alexis getting more screen time has also made for a deeper narrative all round.

My big disappointments were Touch and Alphas. Alphas (about a secret agency of people with special powers) started well enough but went downhill so suddenly that I never made it to the end of the series, skipping out on the last few episodes. Touch didn’t even last that long – it was about halfway through when I bailed on that one. Again not a bad idea but I think they could’ve done so much more with it, rather than just producing the same story each time. I also didn’t think Kiefer Sutherland was strong enough to carry the show, perhaps with a better supporting cast (although I’ll exclude Danny Glover from that) it might have grabbed me more?

One programme that did grab me and refused to let go until it was over was Homeland. The story of a soldier returning to the US after 8 years as a prisoner of war and a government agency’s suspicion he might’ve been ‘turned’ while there was thoroughly brilliant. Well written and clever with some outstanding acting performances (Claire Danes and Damian Lewis in particular) Homeland is one of the better shows I’ve seen in the last two or three years.

US comedy has been strong in 2012 with both The Middle and Raising Hope bringing their madcap antics back to our screens. If you need to just unwind and watch something that will make you laugh these two do a great job – and if you have kids The Middle in particular will remind you why we go through the hard times for the little ones. New Girl has also made it’s way over the pond and has become one of my favourite comedies on TV at the moment. It has just the right mix of wit and slapstick with a great cast and some clever writing. While Zooey Deschanel as Jess is the star of the show, Schmidt (played by Max Greenfield) is close to stealing it – great stuff.

On the UK front I’ve found things a bit less impressive. Dirk Gently was good fun and I’d certainly watch more of it if it returns. Based on the Douglas Adams novels it’s about a detective who believes he’ll solve every crime by effectively just poking around and seeing what happens – all the while bumbling into clues that unravel the case. I gave Eternal Law a shot but the story of two angels who come to Earth as lawyers was so over sentimental and just poorly written that it didn’t stand much chance.

So there we go, looking back it’s been a great first half (or so) of 2012 and I’m hoping for some more great new shows to accomapny returning favourites such as Warehouse 13 and Haven.

What have I missed TV-wise? Have you seen any of the above shows and agree/disagree?

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Mass Effect 3 – Review (PS3)

Mass Effect 2 was one of my favourite games from this generation, giving the chance to shape the destiny of whatever version of Commander Shepard that you created. So I was really excited to see how Bioware were going to close out the trilogy.

The game takes place after the conclusion of events in the Mass Effect 2 DLC expansion ‘Arrival‘ and now that the Reaper threat is real and imminent Shepard finds herself reinstated and back on active duty.

Your decisions from the previous game carry over and any casualties your crew sustained are also mirrored here. For Mass Effect 3 you’ll be tasked with banding together a, mainly, fresh crew. There are a couple of exceptions but on the whole all of the characters from your crew in Mass Effect 2 that you bump into have no interest in re-joining you on board the Normandy.

So it’s a similar set up to before as you go about the galaxy recruiting your new crew and trying to do your best to prepare for the upcoming fight against the Reapers.

This third instalment felt a little bit more lightweight in terms of play time and clocked in at around 30 hours, whereas Mass Effect 2 was closer to 40 hours. However having said that there is more DLC upcoming that adds to the campaign and in the last game there was no multiplayer component.

Speaking of multiplayer, it’s safe to say that Bioware have delivered what we all hoped it would be – of no consequence to the single player (other than adding to your ‘Readiness’ rating – one of numerous ways to increase it) and a fun blast of online action.

It’s the same sort of horde mode seen frequently elsewhere but it’s well executed and gives players to chance to control the non-human species in the Mass Effect universe (Quarians ftw 🙂 ).

Going back to the single player campaign and it would be remiss of me not to at least mention the ‘ending’ debacle that plagued the game. My spoiler free take on it is one of pure frustration. Even with the new DLC ending added on I didn’t get the resolution I was looking for.

I didn’t have any issue with the ending itself, which was what most people were arguing about – it was the lack of clarity… If characters are dead in the ending of my playthrough show them dead! It was fine in Mass Effect 2 so why not here? Anyway it doesn’t really affect the game too much – I just found it really annoying after investing so much time in the series.

Overall I found Mass Effect 3 less enthralling than the previous game – it’s certainly a very good game but I just didn’t like the crew members as much in this instalment. The ending soured the game slightly for me just because it feels like all the other endings at least offered some sort of closure. The multiplayer is a great addition and I would definitely recommend trying it and if you played Mass Effect 2 you’ll enjoy seeing out the story and watching you Shepard do her stuff.

Rating: 9/10

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