Until Dawn – Review (PS4)

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Until Dawn has been floating around for a long time. First revealed back in 2012 as a Move focused game on PS3, it has been in the works for what seems like an age. Supermassive Games eventually scrapped plans for a last gen release and concentrated on getting the game onto PS4.

If you’re a fan of horror films then the setting of Until Dawn will feel warmly familiar. A group of teenagers head to an isolated lodge in the woods and find themselves stalked, having to survive through the night until help can get to them in the morning. But to dismiss Until Dawn as just another horror game is to do it a disservice.

While there is nothing here that revolutionizes the horror genre like Cabin In The Woods, Until Dawn does a good job of subverting some of the tropes that are even recognizable to non-horror fans (like me). There is some neat character based stuff in the game that, depending on the choices you make throughout, you get to see through interactions with the other teenagers.

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The game also does a nice job of playing with the mechanics of gaming, mixing them nicely with horror film expectations. At times my knowledge of horror films was telling me to do one thing but my gaming experience was screaming another. It made for an enjoyable game and that’s before we factor in the main reason to play Until Dawn – The Butterfly Effect.

Widely understood, and seen in the film of the same name, The Butterfly Effect is the theory that one small choice can lead to a huge change in fortune further down the road. In Until Dawn these choices stack up and can led to character deaths. This lends every choice and event a weight. Some of them might not even be direct choices, as failing quick time events could slow your character, meaning they simply aren’t there to save someone else.

This type of thing has been done in the past, most notably by Quantic Dream in titles like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, but I think this is the best implementation of it I have experienced. Having said that, while the paths diverge depending on your choices in Until Dawn, the ending remains largely the same. This differs from something like Heavy Rain where there was a huge amount of different endings. While the ending of Until Dawn doesn’t vary wildly, the way you get there can be very different indeed. In fact you can end the game with none of the characters left alive, or they can all be still alive – it depends on what you do.

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There is also a cool mechanic in the game that asks you not to move in a tense situation. The game is literally checking your controller for movement in sections that can last for up to 10 seconds. It’s a really nice touch that helps tie you to the characters, as they hold their breath and hide from an assailant so do you!

The characters are great, a real mix of personalities that you will love and hate, and then maybe love again. Some of the arcs the characters have are interesting, if you can keep them alive long enough to see them! Graphically the game is a powerhouse with some astounding lighting and facial capture. Of course Until Dawn is not an open world game and you are very limited in where you can go. That obviously helps with concentrating the graphical power into one space.

Until Dawn is a game that begs to be played more than once, with so many variables there will always be something you’ve missed or another character to save. There are also lots of clues to find that unlock information on the backstory, as well as shedding light on the characters current predicament. As you play you will also discover various ‘Totems’, each showing you a glimpse of a future event or offering some form of guidance. These add another layer to the game because they can influence your choices, which might be a good or a bad thing.

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I didn’t have many problems with Until Dawn, there were a few small things – occasionally controlling the character was a bit of a pain, usually when the camera angle shifts and you need to switch the direction of the analogue stick, ala the old Resident Evil games. A couple of times the tone of the conversation was out of whack with what had just happened. Really small stuff in terms of the scale of the game though.

My one major gripe (and I’m not alone judging by the online reaction) is with one specific late game choice. No spoilers here so I’ll try to explain as best I can – almost all the choices in the game give you an A or B scenario. The choices are clear, it’s this or that. One particular choice far into the game appears to give you a simple choice but doesn’t give you all the info you need to make the decision. Making the wrong choice has catastrophic consequences and I just felt I would never have made that choice if I’d had all the information to hand.

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Having said that I still thoroughly enjoyed Until Dawn and it was one of those rare titles that stays with you. After I’d finished it I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About my choices, about the backstory and about what others thought of the characters and story. Having looked through some of the story branches I feel like my version of the story was pretty good, barring that unfortunate late game choice – I still might go back and replay that section! I would recommend Until Dawn to anyone, even if you don’t much care for horror this is a really cool title that sets a new bar for this type of branching story/exploration game.

Rating: 8/10

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Alien Isolation – Review (PS4)

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So here we are again, another console generation and another Alien game. Isolation promised an experience much closer to the original film and pre-release material looked great. However as someone who got burnt by Alien vs Predator and Colonial Marines, I was reluctant to let the hype carry me away. Could Creative Assembly be the first developer in decades to nail an Alien game?

Picking up in 2137, between the events of Alien and Aliens, Isolation sees you take on the role of Amanda Ripley – the daughter of general badass Ellen Ripley. With Ellen still missing, a flight recorder from her ship Nostromo is discovered and Amanda heads to Sevastopol, the space station that has the recorder, to get some answers. And that’s where we pick up the story, playing as Amanda from a first person perspective.

The first thing you’ll notice is the presentation. From the opening boot up sequence, featuring some wonderful retro logos, to the in game world, everything has been crafted with a level of dedication that shows a real love for the universe. As you make your way through the levels you’ll find yourself taken in by how good your surroundings look. Of course, you’d expect a high level of fidelity and detail when dealing with enclosed spaces and corridors like this but that doesn’t mean its any less impressive. The fire in the game looks especially good and while character models can sometimes look a little off facially, Isolation is a pretty good looking game.

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Another thing to note is that while Isolation is a first person game that features guns, flamethrowers and other weapons, it is not a shooter. This is a horror game, pure and simple. You will spend a lot of time hiding and almost all of the game crouch-walking slowly around areas. While Amanda can handle herself against human and android enemies (although even those can kill you quickly) the Alien itself is not killable, or at least certainly not with the tools you have at your disposal. It will also kill you in one hit, often from behind. These mini cut scenes are great, for example the first you might know about it is suddenly losing control of Amanda and she looks down to see the tail of the Alien break through her chest! That means if you hear it nearby you’ll need to find somewhere to hide or set up a distraction.

The Alien is well designed and uses the games artificial intelligence to learn your patterns, which is really cool (but terrifying). If you keep hiding in lockers the Alien will check them first when looking for you. Same goes for hiding under desks or in cabinets. It’s a clever mechanic and doesn’t feel unfair, it’s something that adds a bit more tension to proceedings. The amount of times I was hiding somewhere only to see the Alien slowly stalk passed outside, I was literally holding my breath.

As someone who doesn’t really like horror games with jump scares (I survived about 20 minutes of Outlast before turning it off and let’s not mention P.T…) I found this to be a great experience. The issue I had was that it was so intense I could only play an hour or so at a time. Which is why it’s taken me months to finish it (apologies @lefty_flip!). And that brings me to my main complaint about the game, it’s length. It is quite rare these days for a game to be too long but unfortunately Alien Isolation out stays its welcome by a good few hours. Clocking in at around 20 hours, it was just too draining. Also a few of those missions before the game ramps up at the end really felt like filler and there was a lot of ‘go to this door, try the handle, power’s out, track back across the map to turn it back on, and return to the door’ type stuff. And all the while you’re being hunted by an AI clever Alien. It just felt too long.

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The other issue was that the game lost any suspense when failing areas. If you could get through them on your first or second attempt it was an exhilarating ride. However repeated deaths led to instances where you ended up just running here and there with pinpoint accuracy. I’m not really sure what the solution would be for that but it definitely shattered the carefully crafted illusion of the game on several occasions for me.

I quite liked the story but there were a few issues and the ending seemed to have a few gaping plot holes, which had me reaching for the internet. The characters felt quite well formed and Ripley herself was a decent protagonist. Even though I knew from the films what had happened to Ellen Ripley it still felt interesting and important when Amanda discovered new pieces of information.

In addition to the main campaign there is also Survivor mode, whereby you attempt to escape through levels as quickly as possible while doing optional side objectives to increase your score. You are given a time limit (30 minutes for example) in which to escape and the whole thing feels even more claustrophobic than the campaign. Having a timer running in the top corner adds even more pressure. I couldn’t even beat the first of these challenges so I suspect they are for more hardened/skilled players or people looking to play more of the game without replaying the story.

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It has been years since the last decent Alien game – Alien Trilogy on the PlayStation (1996) and Alien 3 on Sega MegaDrive (1993) come to mind as stand out titles – but Alien Isolation is the best we’ve had for a long time. It captures the feel of that first film perfectly and while it has some issues with plot and overall length, this is recommended – especially if you’re a fan of the Alien universe.

Rating: 8/10

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Hotline Miami – Review (Vita)

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I’d heard only good things about Hotline Miami and was already aware of it’s superb soundtrack before firing the game up. This was a title that had featured heavily on ‘best of 2012’ lists all over the place when it was out on PC last year.

Thankfully the developers also decided to bring the game over to Vita (and PS3 – it’s cross buy so for one price you get both versions) and what a treat for handheld owners this is.

Hotline Miami is a very fast-paced game, where the aim of each chapter is kill everyone in whatever building you are in. Enemies follow patterns but not exclusively so the game isn’t as simple as learning their routes. You’ll need speedy judgement and extremely fast reactions for this game because enemies can take you down in the blink of an eye.

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Let me just stop at this point and say that Hotline Miami is a horrifically violent game. While the art style is very much 8-bit, looking like something I might’ve played on my Megadrive, this is a game in which you inflict brutal violence on people. Inspired by the hyper-violent film Drive, this definitely isn’t one for the easily offended.

The fantastic, bright, vivid colour palette delivers a surreal experience quite unlike anything else I’ve played. Mixed into that is the brilliant music that makes the whole thing feel like a feverish nightmare.

The key to Hotline Miami is accepting death. You will die. Lots. But with each death comes more knowledge of the level layout and the knowledge that ‘yes that guy can shoot me from there.’ Doors will become your friend – open them onto an enemy to knock them out, making them drop their weapon. For a game that looks simplistic Hotline Miami delivers a wonderfully tactical gaming experience.

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The Vita version streamlines a few handy features, allowing you to tap enemies on screen that you want to lock on to and using your finger to look beyond what you can already see on screen.

There were times that I was completely frustrated. Where I could see no way beyond the part I was stuck on. Repeating the same death over and over, or even worse making a sloppy mistake and getting myself killed.

Thankfully the designers eliminated load times within chapters so if (when) you die a quick tap of the X button will immediately restart you. And that is key – especially for a handheld game. This fast restart means you can easily play Hotline Miami for 15 or 20 mins at a time – perfect for bus journeys.

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There is a good story here and some interesting narrative, especially in the back third of the game. With online leaderboards and unlockable weapons and masks (each with different abilities) there is plenty of scope to replay the game. Hotline Miami is a fantastic game, if you’re willing to experience the violence this is a must play.

Rating: 10/10

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The Last Of Us – Review (PS3)

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The Last Of Us takes place 20 years after the outbreak of a fungal virus that wipes out most of mankind. The virus is a brain parasite that turns it’s victim into a violent psychopath and then eventually mutates them beyond recognition.

As you might imagine, it doesn’t take long for the world as we know it to disappear. Bands of survivors stick together and are either on lockdown in heavily militarized camps or left to fend for themselves outside of the quarantine zones.

You play as Joel who, along with his associate Tess, smuggles goods between the zones – for a price. When a deal goes south and the only way to rectify it is to take on another job, Joel and Tess end up being asked to smuggle a 14 year old girl, Ellie, out of the zone and to a resistance group.

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And I will leave it there story-wise so as not to spoil anything. The Last Of Us has a fantastic story with lots of great twists and turns. Some I saw coming but the majority had me picking my jaw up off the floor when they hit. I would strongly advise not watching too many trailers if possible so you don’t ruin the game for yourself.

The Last Of Us is a third person game but beyond that it’s difficult to give it a genre. Stealth? Definitely. Action? Definitely. Survival Horror? Definitely. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t a game for the faint-hearted. This is a visceral, at times disturbing, beast so if you’re not of strong stomach then it might be best avoided. Which would be a real shame because this is a truly exceptional game.

I came out of each play session feeling drained – physically and emotionally. The emotional side was obviously down to the story, superb script and fantastic voice work. The physical side is something that is much harder for game makers to provide, usually done by using jump scares and creating an atmosphere (see Dead Space).

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In The Last Of Us enemy encounters are so tense that even just a couple of opponents was enough to bring a feeling of dread. The amount of times I got through encounters by the skin of my teeth with almost no health left was high and it really gave the game a realistic grounding.

Holding down R2 activates Joel’s listening ability, essentially giving a sonar ping and identifying enemy locations, even through walls. However it only shows enemies that are moving so while very handy it doesn’t give you all the info you need, ala Batman Arkham City, which I think is a good thing. It can also be switched off if you want more of a challenge.

So you’ll hear them coming, take cover, activate listening mode and then formulate a plan. And you have lots of options. While scavenging you’ll find lots of items that can be picked up and eventually put together a different number of ways. Health packs, Shivs, Molotov Cocktails, Smoke Bombs and more can all be crafted to help you out of a jam.

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But you better find somewhere safe to craft them because it’s done in game. The action doesn’t pause as Joel bends down and the crafting menu pops up on-screen. Thankfully crafting itself is just a case of choosing what you want to make and holding X for 4 or 5 seconds until it creates it. 4 or 5 seconds is a long time during a firefight though…

As you progress through the game you encounter different enemy types. Sometimes it’s the infected, which also come in different stages of infection: Runners are newly infected – screaming, lunging balls of fury and madness. Clickers are stage two – without sight but with super sensitive hearing, these guys will kill you in one hit if they get too close. Stage three is… well, I’ll let you find out yourself. Other than infected you’ll meet other humans: some military, some fellow scavengers – all doing whatever it takes to survive.

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Graphically the game is outstanding, easily one of the best on the Playstation 3, and just goes to show there is life in the old dog/console yet. Some of the scenery had me just wandering, looking. I don’t recall the last time I played a game at such a slow pace, desperate to drink it all in. I thought I had played Bioshock Infinite that way but compared to this, I was much quicker through Columbia than the wastelands of The Last Of Us.

The audio design is truly fantastic – it has to deliver for the combat to work and boy, does it. The score is wonderful and used superbly. The world feels real because of the great sound work here. Aside from the noise of the world and the sounds of you breaking/using things just the horrible noises that accompany the melee attacks… at times it was almost too much.

And let me touch on that quickly because I feel, while it is a conversation for another day, that The Last Of Us has a very interesting message on violence and delivers it in probably the most mature and subtle way I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s one of many themes throughout the game and they all add up to a great narrative experience.

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But it isn’t all about the story with The Last Of Us. A robust and, most definitely, different take on the usual gaming multiplayer offerings is included. Can the sheer terror of the solo experience be replicated online?

Indeed it can. Naughty Dog have created a really tactical, challenging multiplayer offering. This is definitely not anything like Uncharted online. Here you choose a side to fight for and play through the in-game equivalent of 12 weeks (you can quit out and come back, you don’t need to play it all at once), scavenging for supplies – either from looting objects or the bodies of your victims.

It’s certainly very tactics based as (a limited) version of Listening Mode is available to all and makes for some very tense encounters. I can see myself playing this a lot because it isn’t like much out there in terms of multiplayer. The closest I can think of is Assassin’s Creed and even that isn’t really too similar.

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Overall then, in case you couldn’t guess, I can’t recommend this enough. If you’ve been following any of the game press recently you’ll have seen The Last Of Us get a perfect score from almost all of it reviews. I did wonder whether it really could be that good? The answer is yes.

Rating: 10/10

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Aliens: Colonial Marines – Review (PS3)

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Aliens: Colonial Marines has been in development for so many years it almost became a running joke. And then over the last 12 months Gearbox and SEGA really got to grips with the game and showed off some pretty stunning demos at trade events.

Set after the Aliens film and before/during the events of Alien 3, Colonial Marines sees you take control of Cpl. Winter as a group of Marines make their way to the ship U.S.S Sulaco and, later in the game, LV-426 (the planet Aliens takes place on). Their mission is to find and rescue the missing Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop.

So the set up is kind of cool and as someone who loves the second Aliens movie I was really looking forward to finally going on another ‘bug hunt’. Sadly, what follows is a 5 hour trudge through a lot of similar looking corridors with a few open sections to break things up.

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Graphically the game just looks like a pale shadow of what was shown before release. Even if that was on a maxed out PC I’d expect the PS3 version to get somewhere close, look at Battlefield 3 for example. Colonial Marines can look good in places but lacks the polish and lighting of the pre-release stuff we saw.

The AI is quite bad and becomes more noticeable in co-op play because on several occasions all the enemies just targeted ‘Player One’, ignoring the other Marines entirely. For a large chunk of the game you’re fighting human soldiers as opposed to Aliens and it’s just not that fun.

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My main complaint with Aliens: Colonial Marines is the hit detection on the shooting. So many times I scored a direct hit with the red dot sight, only for it not to register at all. It makes the shooting so frustrating because I never felt fully in control of the weapons.

Sadly this also makes it way over to multiplayer, which is even more infuriating. The amount of times I was killed by another player while spraying bullets into them was ludicrous and made the online side of things a disappointment.

It’s not all bad, it has to be said. The pulse rifle sound effect is fantastic and the blips of the tracker are cool. I do wish they had used that to better effect though. Just a dash of horror in amongst the shooting would’ve been great. Some of the levels were enjoyable but the least said about the return of a character from the film the better.

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The characterisation and voice acting doesn’t do the game any favours, with more than one character suddenly having an attack of the ‘Cole Phelps‘ and randomly shouting lines when you’re right next to them. Considering how strongly you care about the characters in the Aliens films it’s disappointing to have no connection with the ones from the game.

Unfortunately somewhere along the line (and the events of that ‘line’ are a hot topic – check out Jim Sterling’s recent post) the game has gone backwards since the gameplay we were shown last year. I don’t ever recall seeing a game look so removed from the demos we saw. I know people always say Killzone 2 didn’t quite match up to it’s initial trailer but at least it was close. And the Aliens demos were GAMEPLAY demos, not rendered trailer footage. See below for a comparison video:

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a serviceable first person shooter with some dodgy hit detection. This is not the Aliens game we wanted or even the one were we shown before release. A massive missed opportunity that could’ve started a series of these games.

Rating: 4/10

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The Walking Dead – Review (PS3)

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I watched the first TV series of The Walking Dead and really enjoyed it. I liked Telltale Games ‘Back To The Future‘ games but their form has been patchy (their Jurassic Park game was widely panned) so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this game.

Firstly this *isn’t* based on the TV series although it does take place in the same Walking Dead universe as the comics which the TV show is based on. Slightly confusing but the main thing is that this is an entirely different set of characters.

You play as Lee Everett, a university professor. As the game opens you are in the back of the Sheriff’s car on your way to prison for the murder of your wife’s lover. Thankfully for Lee the zombie apocalypse comes at just the right time and you end up having to escape from the cop car to survive.

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Soon afterwards Lee meets a 9-year-old girl, Clementine, who is alone because her parents are out of town and her babysitter… well I won’t say any more 🙂 . Lee takes her under his wing and they try to get somewhere safe and work out what the hell is going on.

The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure game, which means while you’ll have some freedom of movement you’re limited to small areas and different object to interact with.

Mainly you’ll be talking to the other characters and learning about the group of people you’ve ended up banded together with. And this is where the game shines.

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Firstly it’s a cast of well written and acted characters. And secondly the writers aren’t afraid to put you in some very difficult situations, usually ending in you having to make a choice that will alienate one of the group. It’s tense stuff and because most the choices have a timer running down, you’ll often feel a sense of panic because you’re being forced to make a call on something quickly when you’d love more time to think it over.

The game has lots of different ways to play out, although the overall narrative remains the same regardless of how you play. At the end of each episode you also get a breakdown of what percentage of other players made the same choices as you. This is a real eye opener at times! Certainly on one choice I presumed everyone would do the same only to discover at the end of the episode I was in a 12% minority!

The biggest compliment I can pay the game is that Clementine is a believable representation of a child. I’ve never seen a child character in a game before that had so many of the nuances and speech patterns of a real child. And I strongly believe that is the reason so many people had such a strong emotional reaction to this game.

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Telltale set up the relationship between Lee and Clementine in an identical way to the relationship you have when you have your own child in real life. What I mean by that is that when you bring home your newborn child it can’t fend for itself. It needs your help and support until it becomes strong enough to start looking after itself. Of course the real life bond is much more than can be conveyed in a game but I genuinely believe Telltale have given a lot of people a little taste of what being a parent is like. If you don’t believe me (and have finished the game – beware spoilers if not) check out the huge amounts of #ForClementine hashtags on Twitter!

The game was released in episode format over the course of months rather than weeks. I picked up the bundle before Christmas and I’d recommend doing the same at this stage – I believe the first episode is available free as a demo. If you haven’t played it you should definitely check it out. I would’ve loved to have experienced it spread out, for season two I will do just that.

The Walking Dead isn’t perfect. I encountered a glitch at one stage whereby I couldn’t continue the game. My character essentially fell through the train he was supposed to be on every time I went through a specific door. Thankfully a reset and reload solved the problem but I’ve heard of some people having other problems as well. Nothing major though and when the story is this good it’s easy to forgive the odd issue here and there.

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Overall, I can’t praise this game enough. It’s a different style of game to the stuff I would usually play but through the excellent characters and writing, Telltale have delivered an emotionally charged and superbly crafted story that will likely leave you with a lot more emotional baggage than when you started. Play it. Now.

Rating: 10/10

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Dishonored – Review (PS3)

Dishonored puts you in the shoes of Corvo Attano – Royal Protector (Bodyguard) of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. You arrive back from a trip abroad investigating potential cures for the plague that is ravaging your city, only to find yourself framed for the murder of the Empress and thrown in jail.

As you escape, try to clear your name and find Emily, the Empress’ daughter, you’ll take on the role of assassin rather than protector. Corvo receives a boost of supernatural proportions which allows you to unlock various powers, such as freezing time, teleporting or possessing enemies.

Sadly this array of powers leads to one of the more confusing aspects of the game design – the second ‘tier’ of these powers is so steep in cost that if you choose to back one power you will miss out on lots of the others. So you’ll need to make that choice early on or spend an extended amount of time during the game to find the runes scattered about the level.

I understand wanting to keep a reign on the player’s power so they don’t just get everything too early in the game but I felt disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to try out some of the powers at all because of my choice of levelling up one power. I do see that they don’t want it to be too easy but I genuinely feel all the powers at the lowest level should have been unlocked during the story playthrough.

My gripe with power design aside, Dishonored is pretty good fun. Depending on the powers available to you and your approach to the missions (in terms of where/how you get into buildings/areas etc) you can have some varied playthroughs. Add to that the numerous ways you can kill characters (or non-lethally complete the missions) and the chances are you and your friends will have all completed the same mission in a different way.

The game also features a morality meter of sorts in it’s ‘Chaos’ system. The more people you kill, the higher the Chaos rating per mission. This accumulates over missions and eventually contributes to which of the three game endings you’ll get. However it should be noted that Dishonored’s endings are more in line with Bioshock 2’s subtlety different endings as opposed to something with drastic changes likes Heavy Rain.

While the game has a strong graphical style I actually wasn’t overly impressed with the visuals themselves. Some of the water effects didn’t look that great and on occasion the game just didn’t look as sharp as I would’ve expected. The style of the game is a positive though, despite those graphical issues.

Dishonored looked like being one of the freshest, inventive games of the year – unfortunately the design choice of not allowing you to unlock more on your first playthrough hinders things somewhat. It’s a good, solid, rewarding experience but I was just left feeling it could have been so much more.

Rating: 7/10

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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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Resistance: Burning Skies – Review (Vita)

As a fan of all of the PS3 games in the Resistance series I was looking forward to Burning Skies hitting the Vita. With it also being the platforms first dedicated FPS, excitement (as well as the pressure to deliver) was high.

Burning Skies tells the story of firefighter Tom Riley and is set between the events of Resistance 1 and 2. The Chimera invasion hits and Tom gets separated from his family. He has to find them and along the way gets tangled up in taking on the alien invading force.

Development here has been handled by Nihilistic as opposed to Insomniac, who handled the PS3 versions. They do a good job for the most part.

Graphically the game isn’t massively impressive. In general, and certainly in battle, Burning Skies looks fine. However you’ll notice a fair few jagged edges and lots of pixels during quiet moments which is a little disappointing but doesn’t distract during play.

The controls feel good – I tweaked down the sensitivity (as I always have the movement speed pretty slow) and I had no problems at all with aiming or shooting. The cover system was largely redundant in my opinion as I found myself crouching behind cover manually and just popping out when needed.

In true Resistance fashion this isn’t a game about accuracy – headshots don’t kill the Chimera with one shot, you’ll need to empty half a clip into enemies to take them down. I don’t have a problem with that (the Uncharted games are the same for the most part) but people looking for a Battlefield/Call Of Duty type experience will be disappointed.

It’s a fairly substantial game, I didn’t time it specifically but I would say the campaign was around 6/7 hours including retries. I died quite a lot but the checkpoint system was pretty well paced, although there were a few moments where the game sent you back an extra room or whatever and led to a long replay.

I certainly felt like I got my money’s worth from the campaign of Burning Skies but for me the most fun has come online.

This game caters for up to 8 players and has three game modes: Deathmatch (all v all), Team Deathmatch and Survival. Survival was most interesting to me – one or two of the players start as Chimera and the remaining players have to survive 5 minutes. If a Chimera kills a human then that human also becomes Chimera, until there are no humans left (or the 5 minutes is up).

I have had a few issues in terms of getting connected – but it’s just been a case of trying to connect until you do. Once I’ve been in a game I have never been dropped out or lost connection, which I think is really impressive.

I experienced no lag whatsoever, the online runs as smooth as the offline. The maps are well designed and the weapons are really well balanced. I have been having a blast with this online and it’s really shown me how great an FPS could be on the Vita.

Unfortunately that is the biggest compliment I can give Burning Skies, it truly shows the potential for FPS games on the Vita but doesn’t quite fulfil it. This would’ve got a 6 if it was just offline but the online did genuinely impress me, both in terms of stability and balance so I feel it’s well above average.

It’s certainly worth playing through, especially from the perspective of what other FPS’s could build on from this, but if you’re not a fan of Resistance and it’s brand of non-realistic shooting you may struggle to enjoy it. It’s the solid and enjoyable online that sees Burning Skies rise above average.

Rating: 8/10

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Resistance 3 – Review (PS3)

It seems a lot of people were disappointed with the second instalment of the Resistance franchise. Personally I felt it was an improvement on the first title and I was hopeful Resistance 3 would continue to improve the series.

This time around you’re playing as Joseph Capelli, who was a side character in the 2nd game, and the feeling of fighting the Chimera has all but gone.

The humans lost the war. Resistance 3 is about survival. Beaten down and living mainly underground, Capelli and his fellow survivors get on with life as best as possible. These are not just soldiers, there are children and non-fighters as well, just trying to get through each day.

To say the game is bleak would be an understatement and it is a huge plus point for Resistance 3 that helps differentiate it from other titles. You’re often told in games “you are the only band of survivors left” but here it really feels like it.

You’re outnumbered and underpowered for the most part but the game’s great controls and wonderful weapon selection make it joy to blast through the levels. There are small victories here and there but as a battle heats up you’ll likely find yourself running away to survive.

Insomniac have gone old skool with their health system, which doesn’t regenerate and will need to be replenished with health packs. This also adds to the tension of gun fights as you know hiding behind cover is a temporary relief, not a solution.

Unfortunately the campaign loses it’s way in the last few hours and the final battle/ending was a touch disappointing to me.

Online things have been scaled down (from 60 players to 16) but for me that is an improvement and the unusual, but brilliant, weapons available mean that Resistance 3 offers something completely different to other shooters on the market.

Sure it takes a lot of bullets to get a kill but this title isn’t going for a realistic feel. I found it to be very enjoyable online, although it seemed that matchmaking may be a bit of an issue: occasionally I was told there were no games available when selecting a specific mode but choosing ‘Quick Match’ found me a game straight away in the same mode I was searching for 😕

Make no mistake – despite tailing off towards the end, Resistance 3 has the best campaign I’ve played this year. Whether or not that will hold with the glut of great games coming remains to be seen. The multiplayer is fun and something different for those looking for a change.

Rating: 9/10

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