Beyond: Two Souls – Review (PS3)

BeyondMain

David Cage tends to have a polarising effect on people. Some hate his games and his constant talk of ’emotions’ while others think he is doing something different and interesting in the medium.

I tend to fall in the latter category, although I’d be the first to admit that he could probably do with someone working alongside him to reign him in a bit. Regardless of that I enjoyed Fahrenheit and found Heavy Rain to be a great experience, so I was looking forward to Beyond: Two Souls.

Aside from anything else the casting of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in the main roles had me intrigued and having seen from the trailers how good the motion capture looked, Beyond seemed like something I’d enjoy.

Beyond3

And I did enjoy this game. Very much so but it definitely had a few issues that affected the overall experience.

Beyond: Two Souls tells the story of Jodie Holmes, a character who has always had an supernatural entity connected to her. During the game you will play as Jodie (and her entity) from when she is a child until she is a fully grown woman. The story doesn’t play out chronologically and so you’ll be jumping around Jodie’s timeline – which lends the game a ‘Memento‘ vibe. Because of her ability Jodie is placed into the care of scientists Nathan Dawkins (Dafoe) and Cole Freeman (Kadeem Hardison) who investigate her and, over time, become father figures for Jodie.

As things progress you are given various choices, both in terms of action and conversation which means it’s unlikely two playthroughs of the game will be exactly the same. You can also play the game in local co-op, with one player controlling Jodie and the other controlling Aiden (her entity).

Beyond2

My biggest gripe with Beyond came in the form of the controls, especially with regard to combat situations. At certain times during a fight or attempted escape the game will slow and you are required to push the right analogue stick in the direction of Jodie’s momentum. There is no on screen prompt, you just naturally follow her movement. Which works great with punching or kicking, where there is clear movement and you can judge the direction easily. Not so much for more complex movements such as ducking or rolling to one side – especially if the camera is positioned at an off angle etc.

The general controls are a little more refined than Heavy Rain, with a small white dot indicating something that you can interact with and button prompts for conversation options. Movement still feels clunky on occasion but the motion capture here is excellent – with character movement looking realistic for the majority of the time.

Overall the graphics are fantastic and there are even a few scenes that rival stuff I’ve seen on the PS4. Quantic Dream also manage to avoid the uncanny valley for the most part, which I think comes down to a mixture of improved graphics and the acting of the cast.

Beyond1

Ellen Page does a superb job here as Jodie Holmes, with her role stretching across Jodie’s entire adolescence. She brings believability to the character and along with Willem Dafoe does a sterling job of making their characters feel well rounded and fleshed out.

Like Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls is a game about choices. And a lot of the time you might not even realise your story has branched off – there are chunks of the game you won’t see if you choose one option over another. It’s handled fairly seamlessly and it’s refreshing to chat to others who have finished the game and compare notes. You will probably be quite surprised at how differently some parts played out!

My other issue with the game (which I’m hoping can be patched at some stage) is that for some unknown reason Beyond doesn’t save your option settings? Meaning that I had to go into the options menu and invert my y axis/turn down the sensitivity EVERY time I booted the game up. It was more infuriating than game breaking but I’m unsure how that slipped through the net on a game with such polish.

Beyond4

On the whole Beyond: Two Souls is a game I’d recommend to anyone – it does have a few problems and if you’re not a fan of Cage’s previous work you may find it follows too similar a pattern to his other titles but I feel it offers a different, engaging experience. Another fantastic title to add to the PS3’s impressive roster of exclusive titles.

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

Advertisements

Crysis 2 – Review (PS3)

Crysis 2 was one of the games I had played last year at Eurogamer and had been extremely concerned by the quality of the build. It repeatedly froze up or had massive amounts of pop in. So it was with a little apprehension that I put the disc into my PS3.

Thankfully Crytek had done a superb job of tidying up the mess I played. During my playthrough I experienced a few minor issues here and there but nothing out of the ordinary.

Graphically the game looks cool, although there was still some random pop in on a few occasions. A few times stuff ‘popped in’ while I was actually in a room! On the whole though Crysis 2 is a great looking game, though according to a few articles I read it doesn’t quite match up to the graphics of the original PC only game.

Storywise the game takes place in New York in 2023. The city has been overrun by aliens and a military group ‘CELL’ has been drafted in to try and police the anarchy that has erupted.

Following a botched rescue attempt on Nathan Gould, you (Alcatraz) end up wearing a new Nanosuit and head out to meet up with Gould.

Along the way you’ll be taking on both the aliens (Ceph) and CELL members and the story plays out around you. Everyone thinks you’re the suits previous owner and you end up as everyone’s target.

The Nanosuit is a cool idea, giving you lots of options to approach situations (Stealth and Armour being the main two) and as you upgrade it more features, such as bullet trails so you can see which direction you’re being fired at or the ability to walk silently, are available.

It’s great in theory but in practice you probably won’t ever explore the features that much as you’ll find your system and stick to it.

There isn’t much direction from the game on how you should approach situations – freedom is a great asset to a game but here, with no guidance at all, it becomes the game’s biggest stumbling block.

As you’re not forced to experiment there is no need to change your tactics. The moments where you stand on higher ground, bring up your visor interface and the game gives you some options on how you can tackle the situation *should* be great. But this is the only game I’ve known where those areas are open and the enemies below have super sight/hearing.

The amount of times I was considering what to do and was forced to take the opposition on with brute force because I’d been spotted was unreal. Sure you have your stealth cloak but, in my opinion, the game would’ve been stronger if it wasn’t reliant on you cloaking yourself for those parts.

The online multiplayer is fun, with everyone having the Stealth/Armour abilities right from the off and the maps are pretty cool – especially as many of them stretch over many levels. There is your usual upgrade / rank up system in place but I’m afraid the game just didn’t grab me that much on the multiplayer front.

Overall Crysis 2 isn’t a bad game, it just needed to guide the player a little more. Force them to use a few of the different powers so they would be tempted to switch them in and out. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to that’s played it stuck with a system. It reminds me in a lot of ways of Prototype, which was another ambitious game that could’ve done with reigning in slightly.

Rating: 7/10

Homefront – Review (PS3)

Homefront was one of the titles on my Most Wanted list of late last year and with a heap of marketing around the release date I was really looking forward to the game.

For a start it had a great premise for the single player: that North and South Korea had united and invaded the USA, taking over the majority of the country. You would play as a member of the resistance, with the game set in a burnt out and occupied US.

The well documented opening scene packs a real punch and sets up proceedings brilliantly but from there on out every part of Homefront feels like a mis-step.

What could have been an involving and emotional title quickly descends into a heavy handed war drama that would be better suited to a late night TV movie. It’s a real shame because the story was the aspect I was most looking forward to in Homefront.

The game is very much in the vein of Call Of Duty, so you’ll be right at home if you’ve played that series. My main gripe gameplay wise was that half the time you had an onscreen prompt of who/what to follow but at other times it went to the opposite end of the spectrum and I was left wondering what I was actually supposed to be doing, until I lucked out by finding the right path.

The campaign is pretty short, between 3 and 4 hours – which puts it in the Kane and Lynch 2 bracket as one of the shortest campaigns around. Being completely honest it’s about the right length, as it may have dragged if it had gone on longer.

Homefront’s campaign is not terrible in my opinion, just disappointing. It looks like the game has sold well enough to earn it a sequel so hopefully they can build on this and improve it for the next game.

What turns out to be the games saving grace is the multiplayer. Pitched between Call Of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, it feels familiar but has enough tricks up it’s sleeve to bring you back to it.

For a start the Battle Points system feels fresh – essentially your actions during rounds earns you Battle Points which can then be used in-game instantly to give you equipment (depending on your class). So after killing a few opponents pressing up on the d-pad may give you a remote controlled drone, or pressing down may give you a rocket launcher etc.

You can also use your Battle Points to spawn in a vehicle rather than on foot when you die. All of this is a nice touch that brings another dimension to multiplayer.

The maps are well designed and while I found the weapons, in single player as well as multiplayer, to lack the weight and ‘feel’ of other titles they at least each feel different to one another.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the multiplayer as much as I did – mainly because while I enjoy COD online it’s not one of my FPS’s of choice. However I’ve already been drawn back to Homefront quite a few times so I suspect I’ll dip back in and put some more hours in!

I would say rent Homefront if you’re interested in the story, it’s worth playing through but I find it hard to recommend it due to it’s length, disappointing story and gameplay issues. Having said that if multiplayer is your bag then you’ll find plenty to get stuck into with Homefront and it feels different enough to other shooters to warrant some serious play.

Rating: 6/10

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

Dead Space Martyr by B.K. Evenson – Review (Book)

Set well before the first Dead Space game, Martyr tells the story of Michael Altman, the geophysicist that initially discovered a ‘marker’ and kick started a whole host of trouble for people across the universe.

The book also focuses on the (fictional) Unitology religion from the Dead Space universe and Altman’s role in the origins of that.

As someone who loved the first game and is currently playing through the second, I found Martyr to be a great stop-gap between games and an interesting look back into the world of Dead Space.

While some may suspect they are doing it for the money, I have to applaud EA’s commitment to fleshing out the Dead Space universe with different media, whether that is books, films, games or comics.

Obviously if you have no frame of reference you probably won’t get the most out of this novel but it is still a cracking read. Well written, dark but with some humor and totally believable characters, B.K. Evenson does a wonderful job of bringing everything to life.

I enjoyed the story and as Altman delves deeper and deeper into the murky world of the marker you really get a feel for the way things are falling apart around him.

I would recommend this book if you like quite dark thrillers but obviously you will get a lot more out of it if you’ve played either of the Dead Space games and I would say it’s a universe worth immersing yourself in.

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

Machete – Review (Film)

Machete, which made it onto my list of best films of 2010, was born out of one of the fake Grindhouse trailers that were sandwiched between Planet Terror and Death Proof.

Finally getting a full feature release 3 years after it’s trailer debut – Machete is a film very much in the vein of Grindhouse.

I saw it last year but other articles/reviews meant it’s taken me a while to get the review up.

Telling the story of Machete Cortez (the ever awesome Danny Trejo), a Mexican Federal who is now down on his luck in the US after a tangle with a drug lord, Rogelio Torrez (played superbly by Steven Seagal).

After being double-crossed and left for dead Machete is on a revenge mission to take down those who betrayed him.

With some great performances from Cheech Marin, Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez this is definitely a film that you will enjoy if you liked Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror.

The story is cheesy and the characters are about as two dinmesional as you can get but there’s a reason for that, it’s the way Grindhouse should be.

Machete is a pure popcorn movie, except it has gratutatious violence, sex and swearing. If you’re easily offended give this one a swerve but if you like these kind of genre films then Machete is well worth checking out.

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

2012 – Review (Film)

 

2012 is one of those films that you see advertised and you know that the story is likely to be pretty bad but the special effects look so good you also know you’ll enjoy it.

As a disaster blockbuster 2012 does a great job with various landmarks crumbling under the influence of earthquakes, tidal waves and the like.

The film tells the story of Curtis Jackson (John Cusack), a struggling science fiction writer who has a chance meeting with eccentric conspiracy broadcaster Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson). Frost tell Jackson about the 2012 phenomenon (short version – the world ends after a series of natural disasters in 2012).

Jackson dimisses this but as events begin unravelling around him he starts to believe that perhaps the old prophecy is coming true and tries to do all he can to save his family and friends.

Interlaced with Jackson’s story are several mini stories of people caught up in the disasters that Jackson crosses paths with.

One of the problems I had with this film that I’ve never had before was the fact that at least one of the frantic, visceral scenes (the car being chased by an earthquake) fell flat because I’d actually experienced this myself. Not in real life obviously but as part of the game Alone In The Dark.

This meant that while I appreciated the polish of the scene it had no great excitement compared to the interactive version I’d played through.

However I do think they did a great job with the effects on this film and it’s certainly an enjoyable watch.

2012 does exactly what you want it to. Entertains throughout and destroys plenty of recognisable landmarks along the way. The story wasn’t great and some of the characterisation felt a little lazy but overall this is worth a watch if you like action films.

Rating: 5/10

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

Red Faction: Guerrilla – Review (PS3)

As I said in my demo impressions, the main thing I took away from my brief glimpse of the game was how much fun it was.

And the full game is even more of a riot.

I’m beginning to feel that Red Faction: Guerrilla is a bit of an underrated gem. The guy in the game shop actually said to me ‘that is a great game’ when I bought it which is a first.

It’s your basic David vs Goliath battle with the Red Faction resistance (you guys) taking on the evil Earth Defence Force who have taken advantage of their position in power on Mars.

You’ll be tasked with various missions and side missions to weaken the EDF’s stranglehold on the colonies.

Red Faction isn’t a game you can rush through as to unlock the final main mission for each section you’ll need to perform 4 or 5 side missions (or destruct some serious EDF property).

Luckily the side missions are pretty cool and there is enough variety to stop things getting boring.

You could try House Arrest – getting into a building to rescue hostages and escaping with them – or Guerrilla Raid – taking out a specific building for the resistance. If you like driving you could try Transporter, which is essentially a timed race across the map to a safehouse. There is a lot to choose from.

But the main part of the game is the destruction. Buildings fall realistically and weakening them structurally can often mean a delayed collapse.

In one mission I started taking out a smoke chimney/tower from the base and it flashed up ‘destroyed’. I made a run for it, looked back and saw it was still standing. Noticed a few bits falling at the bottom of it as the EDF troops turned up in jeeps and started firing at me. Then, with a massive creak, the entire tower fell sideways in one piece RIGHT on top of the EDF, killing them all! 😎

The weapons are brilliant, ranging from the standard rifle and timed mines to rocket launchers and the superb Nano Rifle – which effectively disintegrates matter. Awesome for making supporting walls/beams disappear from a distance 😆

You can even unlock a jetpack if you get enough currency, which makes getting around a lot easier, even if you can only use it sporadically.

The carnage continues in multiplayer with your usual modes chucked in amongst the falling buildings. A special word goes to the offline multiplayer which is basically a pass the pad and see who can cause the most damage affair – it’s so addictive that you just have to keep playing it!

Overall then I heartily recommend Red Faction. It’s not massively difficult but it has a good solid story and is insanely fun. You can pick this up for about £15 pre-owned in most places and it will be money well spent.

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