Sleeping Dogs – Review (PS3)

Sleeping Dogs had a troubled development – starting life as a new game in the ‘True Crime’ series before being abandoned by Activision and picked up, sans title, by Square Enix. Initial footage looked promising but could developers United Front (makers of Modnation Racers) deliver a great, open world experience?

The short answer is yes and I’ll go into more detail on why…

Firstly Sleeping Dogs is hugely fun. It’s been a while since I played an open world game so over the top that I had a grin permanently attached while playing (that honour goes to Just Cause 2). While the game does have some serious moments, which I thought were handled quite well, this is a title in which you drive the narrative forward by hijacking cars from an already moving vehicle or beating up numerous enemies with some kickass kung fu.

The combat feels good, once you get into the rhythm needed for counters you won’t look back and some of the more brutal moves you can learn will make you wince on behalf on your victim. Then there are the environmental kills – activated by using items around you (an electric fan or the protruding nose of a dead swordfish) to impale, maim or just downright kill enemies.

You play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop in Hong Kong trying to bust the triad gangs. This gives you a nice game mechanic in terms of mission type. You can do side missions for the cops or the triads, which will raise your XP in each area and grant you new moves for fighting or disarming enemies. There are also a third set of missions that you do for just random folks on the street that raises your ‘Face’ meter. This gives you a damage bonus in combat and also unlocks different outfits for Wei Shen.

The game floats between Wei taking down bad guys as a cop and dishing out some pretty brutal beatings as a triad. Occasionally things felt a little forced in one direction or the other but in general the game gives you enough to do so if you want to take a break from the story you easily can.

The voice acting is top notch, with great performances from Tom Wilkinson, Lucy Liu, Emma Stone and Will Yun Lee, who plays Wei Shen. Shen’s voice acting is really well done and even the smaller characters are convincing.

There is no online as such but the game automatically compares various stats with your friends and will remind you what needs to be beaten as you do different activities.

Something that struck me as out of the ordinary for a game of this style was that you don’t get a gun (or encounter many armed enemies) until you’re about 2 or 3 hours into the game. This grants Sleeping Dogs a refreshing feel as you rely on the hand to hand combat for the early sections of the game. Even when you do get a gun you’ll often find yourself sticking with hand to hand, especially against big groups of enemies.

Overall, Sleeping Dogs is a fantastic game. It does lack a little bit of polish – there are some jagged edges here and there – but I found it to be an engaging and hugely fun to play game. Square Enix did a great job of picking this game up off the dumpster and releasing a really strong title. If you like open world games this is the perfect title to tide you over while the world waits to find out when we will finally get our hands on Grand Theft Auto V.

Rating: 9/10

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

Spec Ops: The Line – Review (PS3)

Once in a while a game will show up out of the blue and knock your socks off. Spec Ops: The Line is one of those games but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

Spec Ops: The Line tells the story of Captain Martin Walker, a soldier who is part of a squad sent into Dubai to investigate the failed evacuation of citizens by an army squad called ‘The 33rd.’ As things quickly unravel you find yourself under attack from all directions and hampered by the constant threat of sandstorms.

You see this isn’t present day Dubai but an alternate version in which the country has been decimated by sandstorms that have left thousands stranded and desperate behind the ‘Storm Wall’ – a huge permanent sandstorm that has disrupted communication and stopped travel in (or out) of the area.

I won’t spoil the story for you here as it is the best thing about the game – this isn’t a title you’ll come out of brimming with joy and with a smile on your face but it really is one of the best stories I’ve played through in the last few years. And while a couple of the twists were a touch obvious, for the most part I didn’t anticipate many of them.

The gameplay itself is solid but unspectacular and you’ll spend a lot of time in cover popping out to take down enemies. One thing I liked about the game was the feel of the weapons, with some of the more powerful ones genuinely delivering an appropriate sense of recoil and a real kick.

The setting is pretty stunning and the sand tech is well realised. I was personally more impressed with the way the game portrayed the intense heat of the environment, with harsh sunlight and a nice shimmer on surroundings.

Speaking of the sand, one of the game mechanics they showed off lots in pre-release media was the ability to shoot out windows/glass roofs to take out enemies. However in the final product that is all fairly scripted stuff and doesn’t factor in greatly.

A quick shout out is needed on the music front as I felt Spec Ops really delivered on that note. A great soundtrack and paced perfectly. Also the voice acting is superb. I thought it might be an issue having Nolan North (of Nathan Drake/Uncharted fame) in the lead role but after the first 20 minutes or so I completely forgot he was even voicing the character.

The game is fairly tough and isn’t afraid to throw a large number of difficult to deal with enemies at you all at once. My main gripe with the combat was the enemy grenades. They felt too overpowered and I didn’t think the game did enough to warn me when they were nearby, or maybe more accurately it didn’t warn me quickly enough. I died a lot of times unnecessarily because of that.

Spec Ops makes a comment on the shooter genre, taking several pot shots during loading screens and differentiates itself from games like Call Of Duty and Battlefield by giving you several ‘moral’ choices during the story. Unlike games such as Infamous, where the choice is simply good or bad, in Spec Ops you’re choosing between bad or bad. There is no right or wrong answer. So who do you punish? Who do you sacrifice? I would love to see more games give you this kind of choice as opposed to the more straight forward options we usually get.

Another great addition in this game is the degradation of your character and squad over the course of the game. This is something that I can’t believe hasn’t been done before in this genre. The Batman games attempted something similar in terms of Batman’s appearance changing during the game but here, as well as physical changes, you and your squad take a psychological battering as well.

Late in the game, when your character finally takes down a heavy enemy and screams an expletive he is echoing the cry of gamers across the globe when defeating a tough enemy. Even reloading calls are shouted through gritted teeth further on in the game. It just makes the game feel incredibly visceral.

I didn’t touch the multiplayer as even the developers have said it was forced upon them by the publisher and brings nothing to the table. This is a game that *definitely* didn’t need multiplayer.

Spec Ops: The Line might not be for everyone and the gameplay might not be anything special but it has a great, interesting story and makes a decent comment on today’s shooter genre.

Rating: 9/10

NB. If you do play and finish the game I’d strongly recommend checking out this interview with the writer of the game (contains massive spoilers): GAMESPOT INTERVIEW

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier – Review (PS3)

Ghost Recon: Future Solider puts you in the boots of a member of the Ghost Recon squad ‘Hunter.’ After a bomb denotes and wipes out another squad, ‘Predator’, you are assigned the task of finding out who set the bomb off and where it came from.

So far, so military third person shooter. What supplements the usual gameplay here is that because the game is set in the near future the developer has given you a few ‘toys’ to play with.

Active camouflage is probably one you’ve seen in other games (most notably the Metal Gear Solid series) but it’s done well here and comes in very handy when making your way into enemy territory. You also have UAV drones that can scout/mark targets, a big hulking robot walker that looks a bit like ED-209 from Robocop and a few other, less impressive, gadgets.

The gameplay is solid, this is a third person based shooter that also features an iron sight view for those that want it. It reminded me of SOCOM 4 in terms of control and feel but obviously having those extra gadgets makes it a different beast to play through.

There were times when the game dragged a little – that troublesome 2nd act around halfway through that trips up a lot of games – but for the most part Future Soldier was a really enjoyable experience. I didn’t see any of the techincal issues/glitches that we reported in early reviews of the game but I suspect most of that will have been patched out by now.

The online is good fun but with so many other great third person shooter multiplayer games out there (Uncharted 3/Mass Effect 3/Max Payne 3) I just don’t think there was enough to tempt me into coming back and really putting some serious time into the online experience.

Overall I would recommend Ghost Recon: Future Soldier if you enjoy third person action games. It’s not a title that will blow you away but it’s a really solid, enjoyable experience.

Rating: 8/10

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Need For Speed: The Run – Review (PS3)

I hadn’t played a Need For Speed game for years as they didn’t really interest me. Then I played the demo of Hot Pursuit back in 2010 and, while I didn’t go on to get the full game, I found it to be a very enjoyable experience.

When EA announced that the follow up game would be The Run, a Cannonball Run style race across the US, I was a lot more intrigued.

Then all of a sudden we were seeing scenes where the character was out of the car and the player was taking part in Quick Time Events to progress the story. It looked completely out of whack with what you’d expect from a driving game.

However, knowing that EA had done a great job of bringing a story element to Fight Night Champion, I was willing to give it a chance.

So first off, let me say the cut scene Quick Time Events are minimal and, while not bad, don’t add anything to the game. Need For Speed: The Run is strongest when you’re behind the wheel.

The cars handle well and this is definitely the arcade style of driving. You’ll have great fun power sliding a Porsche through corners as you swerve to avoid oncoming traffic.

Unfortunately the pace of the game feels a little off. Some ‘levels’ are, literally, minutes long which wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t suffer from horrendous load times. I could accept this if it only happened the first time you get to a level. But if you fail and have to restart you’re treated to another loading screen for anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute. Annoying doesn’t cover it.

There is a good, but limited, selection of cars which all look fantastic. The Run does look really nice and some of the set pieces (racing against an avalanche for example) showcase the Frostbite engine that works so well for the Battlefield game series.

Occasionally I found that I hit a wall in terms of difficulty. Whatever I did I just couldn’t make it through one particular section. It was extremely frustrating but is something that happens across most driving games of this style at some point (Driver: San Francisco I’m looking at you). However the load times I mentioned above make it ridiculously annoying in The Run.

The story is much of a muchness and was a bit too serious for my liking. It left me wondering whether EA might’ve been better to just go the opposite direction and create a cast of deep, colourful characters to race against. If they’d taken a bit more inspiration from Cannonball Run this could’ve been a great title.

Don’t get me wrong, The Run is a fun game and you’ll have a good time playing it for the most part. The load times and odd difficulty spike do have an impact but the biggest issue I had with the game was walking away from it thinking it was one hell of a wasted opportunity to create something a little more unique.

Rating: 7/10

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Eurogamer Expo 2012

So Friday saw the Eurogamer Expo hit Earls Court in London again. I went along to check out some of the titles we can look forward to playing in the next 6 months or so.

Unfortunately I have to begin by saying, as always, there were a few queues that were just too large to wait in. The biggest were Assassin’s Creed III, Hitman Absolution, Resident Evil 6 and Call Of Duty: Black Ops II.

I guess when time is limited it boiled down to one simple fact; I know I will be playing all of those games. For me they are all titles I am sure to pick up, so queuing for an hour to play them seems like madness!

Anyway, there was plenty of other stuff to play at the Expo, so here we go:

.

TOMB RAIDER

Eidos have been doing a lot of work pushing this game recently and highlighting how it’s a reboot of the series in the same vein as the recent Batman films. I know I joked about it previously but if you only have an XBox 360 and haven’t played the Uncharted games then you’ll love this. Sadly for me, while it plays well, Tomb Raider is just a clone of Uncharted. Hopefully the story will lift this above that status.

.

DISHONORED

Dishonored is one of those games that is very difficult to judge from playing at an event like this. Set in a steampunk world you play as a wronged man who uses his various skills (possession/slowing down time etc) to get his own back. Unfortunately being dropped into the game at a random point and without much guidance, I promptly forgot all about the powers and just used the crossbow and knife. I enjoyed playing it though and it should be a great game when you get it on your PS3 in the comfort of your own home.

.

ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES

While I’m more interested in the story of this game, it was the multiplayer that was hands on today. Setting Marines against Aliens isn’t the most original premise but it was well handled and the one button press to bring up your motion tracker was slick and effective. I did find it a bit tough at times but I think that might also have been down to the fact it was Sega staff controlling the Aliens! 😆

.

GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION

In a neat reverse of Colonial Marines I bypassed the single player demo for this (I’ve enjoyed bashing square and triangle for all the previous games so I don’t need to go through that at an Expo) and headed straight for multiplayer. Having little to no interest in this I wasn’t expecting much. What I found however was a fun, engrossing brawler-type of affair. Still not sure how much I’d play this long term but I will certainly dip in after finishing the campaign.

.

NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED

I’ve been looking forward to this game (and the accompanying Vita version – absent today) for months. The switch to a more Burnout style open world driving game is welcome and it looks like it’ll be insane fun online. The steering was a bit loose but once you got used to that it was a blast.

.

MEDAL OF HONOR: WARFIGHTER

Again, another game I’m more interested in the single player of but we battened down the hatches and got some multiplayer on. This was mostly enjoyable, certainly miles better than the last Medal Of Honor’s terrible online. Warfighter straddles the online gap between Call Of Duty and Battlefield. Perfect for it’s target audience but not one for me. I am looking forward to the campaign though as I thought the last one was pretty good.

.

GRID 2

Ah GRID. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me squeeing with excitement when they announced this was coming out next year. The original GRID was one of my favourite driving games ever and GRID 2 didn’t disappoint. It looked gorgeous and handled like a dream. Everything I hoped it would be. And certainly the most impressive game I played today.

* ‘GRID 2′ : GREGHORRORSHOW’S BEST IN SHOW – Eurogamer Expo 2012*

.

METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE

As disappointed as I am that Bayonetta 2 isn’t coming to PS3, this game (from the same developer) looks set to more than fill the gap. A mix of Bayonetta and Vanquish, Revengeance is NOT the Metal Gear you know and love. Raiden is the main character rather than Snake and he is a frantic cyborg killing machine. Revengeance has no need for stealth, you just kill everything 🙂 A lack of direction stifled things somewhat but overall most enjoyable.

.

FIFA 13 (Vita)

I was hoping to see some pretty big changes in FIFA this year on the Vita. The game available at release was a (good) port of the PS3 FIFA 11 engine. It didn’t feature some of the new AI stuff from FIFA 12 and so I hoped some of those features might make their way into FIFA 13. Sadly from what I could gather in the time I played it seems to be almost the exact same game barring some cosmetic changes. 😦 Still the best football game around for a handheld device but if you already have FIFA for Vita you might be better off sticking with that.

.

ASSASSIN’S CREED: LIBERATION (Vita)

I finally got my hands on the forthcoming Vita Assassin’s Creed game and I have to say I was mightily impressed. Graphically the game looks great, although the main character Aveline does have a touch of the ‘crazy eyes’ if you get in too close 🙂 Overall I’m impressed – the animation looked smooth and there was a solid fidelity to the graphics of the environment and a decent draw distance as well. Can’t wait for this now.

.

FAR CRY 3

Far Cry 3 had a pretty substantial queue to play it but fortunately when you sat down with the game you were given 10/15 mins to just get on with it. I really enjoyed this and thought it could be a game I’d plough a decent amount of time into. The demo dropped you in the middle of the island and allowed you a fair amount of freedom. I didn’t do a great deal of story stuff – but had an action packed playthrough in which I began crafting my own mini story within the fiction. That’s always a good sign. Did see a few crazy glitches (characters suddenly zooming across the screen/flying etc) but this is early code so hopefully they will be ironed out before release.

.

PLAYSTATION ALL STARS: BATTLE ROYALE

I’ve never played Super Smash Brothers, the Nintendo game All Stars (apparently) borrows heavily from. I’d read quite a bit about All Stars and seen some character reveals/trailers but nothing had really interested me that much. I’m not big into fighting games and this looked like it might be too complex for me. However I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the round we played. There is a real depth to the game in terms of moves/control that is there if you want it but alternatively you can just use the face buttons and directions to pull off whatever moves take your fancy. I was almost reluctant to pick up the pad and play it but I walked away impressed & with a smile on my face.

* ‘PLAYSTATION ALL STARS: BATTLE ROYALE’ : GREGHORRORSHOW’S MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE – Eurogamer Expo 2012 *

.

LOST PLANET 3

After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity for the guy on the console in front of me to stop playing (seriously – how long can one man die against the same enemy before letting someone else have a go?) I sat down and got some time with Lost Planet 3. Coming across to me as Dead Space in the snow (and without the horror) it certainly wasn’t a bad game. Some of the aesthetic seemed to ripped straight from EA’s game (unless EA stole it from an earlier Lost Planet game?) but I’m still not sure how much fun it was to just hold the trigger and pump the bigger creatures with bullets. Having said that my time was slightly hampered by the fact there was no option to invert the Y Axis on my demo pod :angry:

—————————————————————————————————————–

So that’s the games and after all that I would like comment on how well run the whole thing was. Having people walk through the crowd while we were queuing to scan our tickets and give out the relevant wristbands was a stroke of genius and genuinely saved about 15 minutes of queuing time compared to last year. When the doors opened at 10am we went straight in. Great stuff.

Overall Eurogamer Expo 2012 was a little muted for me personally. There wasn’t one particular game I was desperate to play – perhaps that is tied to the fact we’re nearing the end of the console cycle? However I enjoyed everything I played and even liked a few titles I might not have otherwise bothered playing.

.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations – Review (PS3)

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations was met with a slightly mixed response when it was announced. Mainly because it was only a year since Brotherhood had hit shelves and people were concerned the series might end up stuck in a Call Of Duty style yearly release cycle.

The game continues Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s tale while linking in Altair from the original game, meaning that Revelations rounds the story out nicely in anticipation of Assassin’s Creed III, which is released in November.

Ezio now finds himself in Constantinople and is on the trail of a set of keys that unlock a hidden fortress, in which Altair hid a weapon so powerful it could finally end the war between the Templars and the Assassins.

The gameplay is fairly similar to the last few games with the new addition of a tower defence style mini game. I only played it once in the mandatory main mission as it wasn’t of any interest to me. I don’t really feel it was needed but thankfully if you’re not bothered you’ll only need to do it once.

One of the few additions to make a difference is the Hookblade which, as well as aiding in combat, can also be used to climb up buildings quicker and, in certain locations, be used as a zipline between buildings. It genuinely increases the speed at which you can traverse the environment and is a welcome new accessory.

You can still buy shops and banks etc and build up your portfolio of property, which increases the money you’ll earn. You’ll be spending time capturing districts and running all over town, as well as completing the main story missions. There is a lot to do and plenty to keep you entertained but you can’t escape the feeling you’ve seen it all before.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is the third Assassin’s Creed title in as many years and the burn is beginning to show. Thankfully Assassin’s Creed III (with a new game engine, character and setting) is just around the corner and looks set to revitalise the series.

Revelations is a good, solid game that does build a little on what went (recently) before. It closes out Ezio’s story in an interesting way but does little to really advance Desmond’s story. If you’re a fan and not burnt out on Assassin’s Creed then you’ll love this. I enjoyed it but I am definitely ready for a change of scenery.

Rating: 7/10

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine