Tomb Raider – Review (PS3)


It’s not often I find myself in a position to make a u-turn on my feelings for a game when I’ve already played some of it and wasn’t keen.

Here’s the main part of my comments on Tomb Raider having played a section at the Eurogamer Expo last September:

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.”

Perhaps a busy exhibition floor wasn’t the most suitable place to experience the game because within 10 minutes of starting Tomb Raider at home I was impressed.


Graphically the game looks pretty amazing, with good character models and some great lighting and fire effects. Lara’s movement is fairly smooth and animations for both the good guys and enemies are nicely done.

Crystal Dynamics have delivered on their promise of a reboot for Lara Croft. Gone is the Lara of old with the wonky body shape and in her place is a more realistic Lara, both in terms of appearance and character. As a wannabe archaeologist Lara is not a trained hunter/killer and is still wet behind the ears after coming out of college/university.

The opening few hours are definitely the strongest here – Tomb Raider is at its best during tense moments with just one or two enemies. With Lara coming to grips with the fact she’s going to need to do whatever it takes to survive. It’s been talked about a lot but her first kill is handled perfectly.


Unfortunately it doesn’t take long for Lara to start mowing down 10 or 20 enemies at a time. And it jars more here than it does with something like Uncharted. Possibly because of the tone of the game, I’m not sure but I think if they could’ve found a more creative way to deal with this it could’ve made this one of the best games out there.

The answer isn’t immediately apparent – maybe keep adding new enemy types to keep things fresh but keep the fighting to small skirmishes with just one or two enemies. And then keep that 25 enemy fight for the end of the game? Possibly they could’ve incorporated the great optional tomb puzzles as main quests?

Regardless, on a personal level at least, using the bow for the most part (Lara had studied Archery) and guns as a last resort enabled the disconnect to not be too serious for me.


Jason Graves (of Dead Space fame) delivers once again with the score and incidental music – this is one of the better scores I’ve heard this year so far. The voice acting is strong and it’s nice to hear so many different local UK accents in one place!

There will no doubt be the inevitable comparisons between Tomb Raider and Uncharted but I think they are different beasts – for now at least. Lara’s origin story is gritty and harrowing. For the most part she is alone, fighting to get her friends back. Nathan Drake spends a lot of time with Sully/Elena/Chloe and that brings with it the opportunity for a few wisecracks and conversation.

In fact the part of the game that felt like Uncharted-lite was the multiplayer – not bad in any sense but the addition of traps isn’t enough to differentiate this from Naughty Dog’s superb online offering. As I said at the top there, if you only have an XBox then you may love this online as it’s different to most stuff out there on the 360.


Overall though Tomb Raider is a fantastic game. There are a few annoying difficulty spikes here and there but that’s par for the course in most games. Lots of action packed set pieces and climbing/falling moments raise the bar but it’s the quieter moments in Lara’s journey that really struck a chord with me. Considering I wasn’t massively psyched for the game it’s nice to genuinely recommend it as one of 2013’s best offerings so far.

Rating: 9/10

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Hitman Absolution – Review (PS3)


It still amazes me that Hitman Absolution is the first Hitman game we have seen on Playstation 3. For such a strong franchise on the PS2 I would’ve thought Agent 47 would have cropped up sooner than this!

In Absolution, Agent 47 has gone rogue after carrying out a mission in which he kills his former handler ‘Diana’. As a complex plot unravels you will be tasked with using all of your Hitman skills to track and eliminate targets to get information.

This game has a much higher emphasis on story than I remember for the previous games which leads to an issue that a lot of people complained about – the fact that for some missions you don’t actually assassinate your target. What I mean is that once you get to where they are a cut-scene takes over and events play out as scripted.


This makes sense in terms of exposition, especially if the target needs to give you story info before dying but it obviously goes against a part of the Hitman ethos, which is planning to kill the target with the freedom of a choice of options.

Thankfully there are numerous other targets that you can take out however you like and I personally didn’t have a problem with the ‘cut scene deaths’.

The controls are tight and Agent 47 handles well. I liked the feel of the shooting and felt that they did a good job of making your shots seem like they were landing with a suitable punch.

Graphically Hitman Absolution is great, it has a slight cartoon sheen but that only heightens the look of the game in my opinion. The design of the levels has obviously been done meticulously and you will have great fun working out ways to get through them.


The biggest plus for me in this game is the instinct meter, a finite source that can used in a number of ways.

Firstly, you will always have a very small amount of instinct available – this means with a press of R1 you can see enemies through walls, see which route they will take and get an idea of who is around you. This makes planning your next move a lot easier than having to hope an enemy isn’t around the corner!

In an offensive capacity you can slow down time, tag a number of enemies and then have Agent 47 immediately take them out when time restarts. Very handy for unexpected crowd control but it drains your ‘instinct’ all the way.


Defensively ‘instinct’ allows you to blend in with your surroundings – if you are on the verge of being discovered in disguise you can hold R1 and the cries of ‘hey you, do I know you?’ will be replaced with ‘ah he must the new guy that’s starting today.’ This is a fantastic mechanic for lesser skilled assassins like myself. It gives you time to recover a mission that might otherwise have been blown and saved me on numerous occasions.

Disguises also play a big role here, if your cover is blown the quickest way avoid further detection is to change clothes. However, be warned – in a nice touch, people wearing the same uniform/clothes are a lot more likely to notice you are a stranger (as they would know the other people they work with). But that’s where the aforementioned instinct comes into play.

The enemy AI is pretty good and certainly if you raise a full scale alarm it’ll take some luck and good judgement to avoid death. If you’re just spotted or suspicious it’s fairly easy to get away by breaking line of sight and hiding in one of the many cupboards/boxes etc scattered around the levels.Hitman4

For the most part you’ll likely want to play stealthily and see if you can get through the level undetected. But sometimes you just want to let some steam off and shoot some bad guys 🙂 Hitman Absolution allows for both but be warned, a stand up gun fight makes things pretty difficult. And the unfortunate checkpoint system doesn’t help matters.

Rather than saving your progress or allowing a hard manual save the game has specific checkpoints in a level that you can activate. It just feels a little out of place for a game that gives you so much freedom in other areas.

The online offering is the rather excellent ‘Contracts’ mode in which you can play through a level of the game, mark your own targets and set conditions before uploading the level for the world at large to play. You can also play through other people’s creations and the whole thing is good fun and fairly easy to do.


It was a refreshing change to play a game that gives you a lot of freedom to approach and deal with targets as you see fit. It’s also a stark reminder of how far Assassin’s Creed has drifted from it’s roots. As an example in Assassin’s Creed III I made my way slowly and quietly up to a target, hit the attack button to assassinate him only to discover he had a ‘health bar’. The attack on him diminished his health a jot and alerted all the guards in the area. In Hitman Absolution I can get close to a target, take them out and make my escape in any number of ways. Thankfully there were no health bars!

I can’t recommend Hitman Absolution enough. There are a range of difficulty levels (the higher ones remove instinct etc) so whether you want to get into Hitman or are a long time fan of the series, this game has a lot to offer. It’s not perfect and sometimes a little wonky AI or level design comes into play but this is a great title that you can have a whole heap of fun with.

Rating: 9/10

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GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2012


So another fantastic year of gaming draws to a close and it’s time to look back to see what’s impressed in 2012:




WINNER: Spec Ops ‘Degradation Of Characters’

It’s crazy to think that this has never been done before. In Spec Ops: The Line as well as physical changes, you and your squad also take a psychological beating. Later in the game as your character starts screaming his orders instead of calmly giving them it makes a huge difference. Even reloading calls are shouted through gritted teeth. It just makes the game feel incredibly visceral. Big shout outs to both Dishonored and Hitman: Absolution for bringing some new, inventive mechanics to the stealth genre. I expect both Blink and Instinct will turn up in other games at some stage.


  • Dishonored – Blink
  • Max Payne 3 – Bullet Time in Online Matches
  • Hitman: Absolution – Instinct




WINNER: Battlefield 3 – Close Quarters

While Borderlands 2 gave us a substantial chunk of gameplay with Captain Scarlett’s Booty and Uncharted 3 delivered some clever, new maps, for sheer awesomeness this award has to go to Battlefield 3 for Close Quarters. This map pack with two new game modes was a brilliant addition to the Battlefield package. The maps in here are some of my favourite in the entire game’s roster – Operation 925 and Ziba Tower are so well designed it hurts. Sure these maps slightly favour a shotgun but when has that ever been a problem 🙂


  • Uncharted 3 – Map Pack
  • Mass Effect 3 – From Ashes
  • Borderlands 2 – Captain Scarlett’s Booty



Journey 1

WINNER: Journey

Journey is unlike anything I’ve ever played – it truly is a game that needs to be experienced rather than discussed but if you’d like to read more, check out my review from earlier in the year. A truly stunning game. Also have to congratulate the guys at Evolution on Motorstorm RC – when I first saw the reveal I wasn’t hugely impressed but the game turned out to be fantastic.


  • Motorstorm RC
  • Sound Shapes
  • When Vikings Attack!




WINNER: Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar continue to deliver top quality games – since the last GTA we’ve had L.A Noire, Max Payne 3 and the superlative Red Dead Redemption. Grand Theft Auto V looks set to continue that (check out the trailer in the next section) and I can’t wait to see what advances have been made since the last game back in 2008.




WINNER: Borderlands 2

I love this trailer. It completely sums up the game and when Claptrap… well I won’t spoil it but check it out.

I’ve also included the runners up below so you can check them out as well.


  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Beyond: Two Souls
  • Bioshock Infinite




WINNER: Motorstorm RC

There have been some fantastic games for the Vita in it’s first year and I certainly don’t think the console is lacking in titles. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation came close to making this list but was edged out by the excellent Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Sony Bend Studios delivered a great Uncharted game and Gravity Rush was a blast, despite some frustrating combat issues. However the award in 2012 goes to Motorstorm RC, a completely addictive racer that took up far too much of my time. Beating friend’s scores on the tracks gave everything a competitive edge and I enjoyed it so much I bought all the DLC to get more tracks. In my opinion a perfect title for the Vita.


  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Need For Speed: Most Wanted
  • Gravity Rush




WINNER: Max Payne 3

Usually best graphics is one of those categories where you can immediately arrive at a shortlist and the tough part is narrowing that down to a winner. But this year we’ve had a number of games that shone in various different styles. It’s been extremely difficult and titles like The Darkness II, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Hitman Absolution and Gravity Rush have all failed to make the cut. For me, although it was a linear experience, Max Payne 3 really delivered a mix of great technical work and graphical style to create a fairly unique and stunning looking game.


  • Journey
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Borderlands II




WINNER: Spec Ops: The Line

I had been keeping an eye on Spec Ops: The Line ever since it’s first reveal back at the Video Game Awards in 2009, so I was most pleased to see it finally get released in the summer. Promising tough moral choices, an interesting story and some good use of desert sand to trap enemies it looked like Spec Ops might dominate the barren Summer release schedule. It didn’t quite work out that way but Spec Ops: The Line tells one of the more engrossing stories in games of the last few years. The way things unfold is well choreographed and having seen some of the conversations with the writers of the game it seems almost everything in the game was planned that way from the beginning. It’s a slow start but well worth sticking with – one of the best storylines for a while.


  • Max Payne 3
  • The Darkness II
  • Dishonored




WINNER: Max Payne 3 – Health

There have been some fantastic scores this year, from the usual military bombast of Call Of Duty: Black Ops II through to the quirky and lovable Sound Shapes on Vita. But most would be hard pressed to match Health‘s score for Max Payne 3, which fitted the game so well it was pretty much another aspect of Max’s character. Journey probably ran it closest, the sweeping joy and sorrow of Austin Wintory’s music really bringing a depth of emotion to the game. Big shout out as well to Hotline Miami, I haven’t even played that game but the soundtrack is fantastic in it’s own right.


  • Journey – Austin Wintory
  • Gravity Rush (Vita) – Kohei Tanaka
  • Sound Shapes (Vita) – Various




WINNER: The Darkness II

It’s also been a great year for licensed music uses in games – in fact it’s the first year I’ve truly struggled to get a shortlist, never mind a winner. FIFA continues to impress by delving into indie territory and Sleeping Dogs ‘Grand Theft Auto-esque’ radio station approach threw up some great tunes to cause carnage to. Eventually it was a two horse race for this award and despite a few excellent choices (Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – “Nowhere to Run” and Deep Purple – “Hush” in particular) by Spec Ops: The Line, The Darkness II steals it with tracks like Ram Jam – “Black Betty”, Metallica “Some Kind Of Monster”, Stereo MCs – “Connected”, The Flamingos – “I Only Have Eyes for You”, Dean Martin – “In the Chapel in the Moonlight”, The Offspring – “Self-Esteem” and of course, Tone Loc – “Wild Thing”. Fantastic stuff.


  • FIFA 13
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Spec Ops: The Line



SleepingDogs 3

WINNER: Sleeping Dogs

Square Enix assembled an all star cast including Hong Kong actor Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Lucy Liu and Emma Stone to bring the characters of Sleeping Dogs to life. They do a great job and really help to pull you into the world the game creates. Nolan North again pulls a Nate Drake performance out of the bag, this time on the small(er) screen of the Vita. He also took on the main role of Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line – you can see why he’s one of the most in demand, and best, voice actors in gaming.


  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Max Payne 3
  • Spec Ops: The Line



Journey Main

WINNER: Journey

Journey is a gaming experience like no other. As you make your way across desolate, sandy dunes the game will run you through a gamut of emotions. It’s such a wonderful game, play it online and in one sitting (it’s 2-3 hours long) – you won’t regret it. While in some respects Mass Effect 3 was disappointing, overall I thought it was a solid, enjoyable game. There were some interesting missions and choices you could make that meant, while the ending might not have been different, how you got to the conclusion of the story varied depending on your actions. Sleeping Dogs was so much fun I think I played almost the entire thing with a smile on my face but the dark horse in this race, sneaking up on the others with a fibre wire, is Hitman: Absolution. After a mis-step with Kane and Lynch 2, IO Interactive really delivered with Hitman. Accessible and challenging – definitely one of the best single player games out there this year.


  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Sleeping Dogs




WINNER: Borderlands 2

It hasn’t really been a great year for online multiplayer in my opinion – too few new games grabbed our attention and it was far too easy to jump back into titles like Battlefield 3 or Uncharted 3. However Borderlands 2 would be a worthy winner any year. Getting online with 3 of your friends and blasting through madcap missions was insane fun and the dash for spilled loot only added to the comedy. Mass Effect 3 successfully introduced multiplayer, it was only a horde mode of sorts but most enjoyable and the added depth of different character races gives it some longevity. Call Of Duty: Black Ops II was the most accessible and flexible yet, with some really great maps to boot. Max Payne 3 adds something different with modes like ‘Payne Killer’ and ‘Gang Wars’ but stands up as a third person action shooter in standard modes like Team Deathmatch as well. I was quite impressed with Max Payne’s online, especially the way the developer factored in bullet time but it didn’t seem like that many people were playing it beyond the first couple of weeks of release.


  • Mass Effect 3
  • Max Payne 3
  • Call Of Duty: Black Ops II




WINNER: Borderlands 2

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog or following me on Twitter it’s probably not too hard to guess this year’s winner. For Borderlands 2, Gearbox Software ramped up the game and refined it to such an extent that it is genuinely hard to find fault with it. It’s fun on your own but truly comes to life in online co-op. Memorable characters compliment the game’s wicked sense of humour and an outrageous amount of classes, guns, shields, mods and relics just add to the chaos. Borderlands 2 is a huge game that you will love playing through.


  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Journey


So there you have it, another great year for gaming and the above is only the tip of iceberg. There were some great titles that didn’t make the shortlists but are still worth checking out. Things like Syndicate, Binary Domain, X-Com: Enemy Unknown and Need For Speed: Most Wanted for a start. Or how about Unit 13, Everybody’s Golf and LittleBigPlanet for the Vita.

I never got around to playing a few of the big games from this year, most notably The Walking Dead and Resident Evil 6 but I’ll hopefully get a chance to experience those soon.

There’s been plenty to play this year and 2013 looks interesting, especially with new hardware on the horizon.

What is your game of the year? Let me know what you agree/disagree with in the above and what titles you would’ve had in there.


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Kane And Lynch 2 – Demo Impressions (PS3)


I seem to be in the minority in considering Kane & Lynch: Dead Men a thoroughly enjoyable game. Sure the controls were dodgy but the story and characterisation held my attention right through the game.

So it was with general excitement that I fired up the demo. In fact I hadn’t been this excited for a demo since Battlefield: Bad Company 2 last year.

As you may or may not know, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has been made to look like you’re watching the entire thing online. It’s like playing through a documentary that someone is making on a handheld camera.

This gives the game a very interesting feel compared to everything else out there at the moment.

So, let’s start with the single player portion of the demo. You are straight into the action, controlling Lynch and shooting your way out of a restaurant in Shanghai alongside Kane.

The controls felt quite loose but the shooting seemed to be fairly accurate, at least at close range. There is certainly a satisfying thud as your bullets hit their target, especially with the shotgun.

Once you get out of the restaurant it’s into the alleyways and out onto the street as the battle spills all over the place.

Kane & Lynch 2 seems to favour a mixture of run ‘n gun and tactical play. If you continually rush out into the open you’ll be taken down and I suspect your AI (or human controlled) partner will need to cover you at times ala Army Of Two: 40th Day.

The demo isn’t long – around 15 minutes – but it certainly gives you a taste of the game. Kane & Lynch 2 is set to be a Marmite type of affair… you’ll either love it or hate it.

As for multiplayer, the wonderful Fragile Alliance mode is back and they have fixed the problem of people just shooting you from the off by not starting the round proper until 5/10 seconds in.

Essentially a heist mode, the idea is you get in somewhere, each pick up as much money as possible then battle past the police to the getaway van. After that all the money is totted up and split between the 8 of you. If you all survive…

And it’s not just the police you’ll need to worry about – your own team can turn on you in an attempt to get a bigger share of the cash. They will then be marked as a ‘traitor’ to the rest of the team and they have to decide whether to let them live or kill them.

If you want revenge you respawn as a cop trying to stop the escape so you’ll have your chance 😎

Makes for some tense matches as you just don’t know who to trust.

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is a definite buy for me. I can’t wait for both the single player and multiplayer. It’ll certainly be something fresh to get our teeth into over the summer.

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Just Cause 2 – Demo Impressions

Wow, what a fantastically fun demo.

I was expecting Just Cause 2 to be a laugh based on the various trailers/footage I’d seen but the demo is the most mindless fun I’ve had since Red Faction: Guerrilla.

You get half an hour to run around causing carnage, with a few optional missions to keep you busy as well.

Being honest though you probably might not bother with the missions, after the short tutorial you’ll be off looking to make trouble.

The controls take a few minutes to get down but it soons feels natural enough and the ability to chain together movements – grapple/parachute – is brilliant.

Graphically the game isn’t amazing in cut scenes but the in game stuff is great.

My only concern with this game is whether the mission structure will work or if it will get repetitive. Hopefully not but it’s always a concern in a title like this.

Just Cause 2 isn’t going for realism and you will find yourself grappling between cars at the touch of a button. Enemies are knocked off their feet by your killer shot in an Indiana Jones type death.

There is a whole lot to see, do and blow up in this demo alone, get it downloaded now and see what you think.

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