Killzone Shadow Fall – Review (PS4)

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The Killzone titles have been one of my favourite game series in recent years, the superb Killzone 2 and 3 both spending plenty of time in my PS3. With a new console, Guerrilla Games is again pushing the graphical envelope with Killzone Shadow Fall but as the game breaks away from the plot and characters of the last two titles can it live up to expectations?

While the multiplayer is a huge draw for Killzone titles I have always loved the campaign modes as well. The characters have always been fun and memorable (yes, even Rico) and the story was usually decent sci-fi fare, which is cool with me. In Shadow Fall we say goodbye to Sev and Rico et al, with the game being set 30 years after the events of Killzone 3. You play as Lucas Kellan, a Shadow Marshall for the Vektans. Following the last game’s conclusion, Helghan survivors are granted refuge on Vekta and are eventually given their own territory within Vekta, called New Helghan. A huge wall is built between the two societies with covert ops being run by each government on both sides of ‘The Wall’.

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Which sounds like a fantastic opportunity for some ‘Cold War’ style espionage missions behind enemy lines and a chance to see the fight from both sides of the wall. And sadly Shadow Fall squanders a glorious opportunity to deliver a memorable and interesting story. The characters are uninspiring, Echo is probably the best of the bunch but is criminally underused, and the story plods along with no real urgency or sense of exactly what you’re fighting for. This isn’t a terrible campaign by any stretch of the imagination but I was left deflated by the end of it (and my word the ending is poor). There are a few moments of greatness – the trip through the Helghan slums for example – but on the whole the game fails to take advantage of its setting.

And it’s a real shame because for the most part Killzone Shadow Fall delivers in other areas. Graphically it is astounding and definitely a title to show off your shiny new PS4, particle effects and lighting are a huge step up – it’s hard to see in videos of gameplay but you’ll see it straight away when playing on a TV. Environments are varied and detailed, there are some real stand out moments – the border crossing springs to mind and character design is good, although the character mouths are a bit weird, especially compared to something like Beyond: Two Souls, which had excellent facial capture.

Gameplay-wise it’s a slightly mixed bag – the weapons handle fantastically and you get a real feel for how each one is weighted. You also have the option to switch weapons regularly which will keep things fresh. The AI is a bit hit and miss which is a shame because when it works it is a good, solid challenge. The developers have also included a few levels where you are weightless for part of it and the ship level reminiscent of Dead Space was a welcome addition.

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Unfortunately Joris de Man didn’t score this game and I feel this also leaves it without one of series best aspects thus far. The score here is good but has nowhere near the impact of previous titles. His scores carried such weight before that they were noticeable by their absence.

On to the multiplayer and here Killzone Shadow Fall really shines. Again it looks amazing and plays superbly. All the weapons and abilities are unlocked from the get go, which gives you a stunning amount of freedom to get yourself set up with a loadout that suits your playstyle. You’ll still need to unlock different explosives and sights for your guns but you have access to everything you need out of the box.

The maps are well designed and take a leaf out of Killzone Mercenary‘s book – granting you lots of different ways to get around (ladders/vents etc.), something that adds another tactical layer to the game. There is no rank system – instead you are faced with over 1500 challenges to complete. I don’t have a problem with that but I know it’s been a sticking point for some. You can also create and share your own custom game types (say knives only v sniper rifles only) which adds to the longevity of the game.

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Overall Shadow Fall isn’t hard to recommend. I’ve really enjoyed my time with the online of the game but the campaign, for me, was seriously lacking. Despite that, I would still say give it a run through and the game is probably worth the price just for the extensive online suite (with future maps being free as well). It’s disappointing in some ways but as a launch title for the PS4, Killzone Shadow Fall hits all the right notes technically. It’s just a shame the campaign can’t live up to the high standard of previous games.

Rating: 8/10

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Beyond: Two Souls – Review (PS3)

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

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Top 100 Single Player PS3 Games: Part 10 (The Top 10)

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Well I can’t believe we finally made it – after such a great selection of titles comes the ultimate 10 games to round out the Top 100.

Before we go any further I must mention a few titles that I have played since compiling this list that would take a spot in the Top 100 so I will list those below and add to this as and when new, great titles emerge:

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • DmC (Devil May Cry)
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist

If you’ve missed the previous installments, catch up here!

Part One (100-91)

Part Two (90-81)

Part Three (80-71)

Part Four (70-61)

Part Five (60-51)

Part Six (50-41)

Part Seven (40-31)

Part Eight (30-21)

Part Nine (20-11)

Please bear in mind this list doesn’t take into account multiplayer aspects of games, it’s based solely on single player experience.

And now here’s the Top 10!

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10. Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect had always been the one XBox 360 franchise that I’d wanted to play – Gears Of War? Alan Wake? Halo? All good games I’m sure but not tempting to me. Mass Effect? Yes please

I won’t discuss the story at all as I don’t want to spoil anything for people that haven’t played it yet. Needless to say it’s your standard save the universe fair and with the game set in space that’s literally the universe you’ll be saving!

I can safely say Mass Effect 2 is one of the deepest games I’ve played. In much the same way as the Fallout games play out differently for each person, this is a game where your overall story will be the same but the variables between start and end are numerous. It says something that I had minimum frustration and didn’t really get bored at all with a game that clocks in at over 32 hours.

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9. Bioshock Infinite

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Moving the action from Rapture’s underwater city up into the skies above, Infinite is set in Columbia – a floating city that has broken away from the US to become the master of it’s own destiny. This all takes place in 1912 – decades before the events of the original Bioshock.

You play as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent, who has found himself saddled with financial problems due to his love of gambling. To clear his debt he is tasked with one simple mission. Get to Columbia and bring back a girl called Elizabeth.

Bioshock Infinite is such a well designed game and you can tell a whole lot of care went into the crafting of the world. The opening is fantastic and gives you a little bit of time to explore and take part in the optional tutorial exercises if you want to.

The story here is one of the best this generation and is handled with a soft touch, which makes a refreshing change from being beaten over the head with simple plot points like some other titles do. The last half an hour of Bioshock Infinite is some ride and as the credits rolled I was busy trying to work everything out. Great stuff.

Bioshock Infinite is one of those games that I wanted to start again as soon as I’d finished it. I definitely want to jump back in soon so I can experience it all again and, hopefully, fill in any gaps in the story by grabbing all those audio logs and whatever else I can find.

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8. Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Game

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In The Walking Dead you play as Lee Everett, a university professor on his way to prison for murder. After your car crashes, you meet an 8 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 objects 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.

I can’t praise this game enough. It’s a different style of game to what I would usually play and 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.

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7. Journey

I’m not going to discuss any story elements or really any gameplay elements here for fear of spoiling the game for anyone. What I will say is that Journey plays wonderfully and is very easy to control. It’s taxing at times in terms of challenge but this is a game that has been made to be played through to the end.

The game actually did a great job of conveying emotion and, in fact, of making me feel something for the characters and world.

I will leave it at this: Journey is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had. Ever. Everyone should give this a shot, it may just change the way you look at games.

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6. Fallout 3

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After a tough few hours at the start you will find yourself rewarded greatly for sticking with this awesome FPS / RPG.

The story line sprawls across the world depending on your actions and you’ll find yourself taking a break from main missions to explore the wasteland or help out other characters.

I could go on and on about various things that happened and how cool it was, how great the story was or whatever.

But Fallout 3 is a game that needs to be experienced first hand and your story will no doubt play out differently to mine.

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5. Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain is the spiritual successor to Fahrenheit, a fantastic PS2 title, and it’s creators have used the lessons from that game to help form the experience that is Heavy Rain.

And I say experience because Heavy Rain is unlike anything I’ve played before.

Telling the story of the Origami Killer, who kidnaps young boys and drowns them in rain water, Heavy Rain sees you controlling four main characters and through their actions – whether everyday stuff like carrying in the shopping or a frantic fight for their life – you get a real feel for the characters.

It says a lot that as soon as I finished this game I wanted to play through it again straight away. I want to give the characters a slightly different personality, experiment to see what happens and find out how it changes the story.

Heavy Rain is by no means perfect but it brings a whole raft of new ideas and innovation to the table.

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4. Dead Space

Coming on somewhere between Event Horizon and Aliens, Dead Space is a third person survival horror game.

You take on the role of Isaac Clarke, a ship engineer who finds himself trapped onboard a stricken spaceship infested with an alien outbreak which is threatening to take over the ship.

This was one of the best games I played in the year it was released and it’s use of sound is immense. The fear of the unexpected they create is awesome.

I am not a big fan of horror movies or being made to jump all the time but Dead Space kept on the right side of all that by being unpredictable enough to be enjoyable as a ‘horror’ experience.

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3. The Last Of Us

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Released only a few months ago, The Last Of Us tells the story of Joel and Ellie as they traverse a parasite-infected United States. 20 years ago a fungal infection spread to humans, causing the death of around 60% of mankind.

The people left are doing whatever they can to survive and Joel is tasked with getting Ellie outside the quarantine zone and to a resistance group.

Tense encounters and a lack of ammo make gameplay feel physically draining and added to that is some of the best writing and acting on the PS3.

I truly feel all of the characters are so well fleshed out that it’s hard not to be impressed. The Last Of Us is one of the best games I’ve ever played.

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2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

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Uncharted 2 is a complete gaming package. There is plenty of taking out bad guys, lots of puzzles and some wonderful dialogue.

Naughty Dog really have done a great job on the voice acting and the expressiveness of the character models. It is easily the best I’ve come across (though Heavenly Sword was a close second).

I won’t spoil the story but for those who don’t know, Nathan Drake gets pulled back into that murky world of treasure hunting for hire. I loved the story of this game – with a few twists I saw coming and a few I didn’t.

If you own a PS3 there is no reason not to own this game – if you only have an XBox 360 or Wii then get yourself a PS3 Slim and enjoy one of the most finely crafted games I’ve ever experienced.

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1. Red Dead Redemption

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Red Dead Redemption tells the story of former gang member John Marston and how he is forced onto a quest to track down his old ‘buddies’ on behalf of the US government.

I don’t recall a sandbox game with such a fascinating and well realised world. The way the world around you continues regardless is reminiscent of GTA games but everything here just makes you feel a part of something larger.

The positives are numerous, for one the story, voice acting and characterisation in Red Dead Redemption is fantastic. This is up there with the Uncharted series for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

There is so much to do in the world that it is crazy. There are a whole host of side missions to undertake and mini games as well. I’m not a big player of cards but I found myself spending 40/50 minutes at a time playing poker or blackjack. Or horseshoes. Or arm wrestling. The list is huge.

It has been a while since a game had me smiling, eyes wide and with goosebumps on my arms at what was unfolding in front of me but Red Dead Redemption managed it. This for me is the best game I have ever played – not an accolade that I use lightly but one that is fully deserved.

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So there you have it – the end of the road in terms of the Top 100!

What would be your best game of the PS3 generation?

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Top 100 Single Player PS3 Games: Part 9 (20-11)

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Well it’s Top 20 time – not long to go now until we finally hit the top spot.

If you’ve missed the previous installments, catch up here!

Part One (100-91)

Part Two (90-81)

Part Three (80-71)

Part Four (70-61)

Part Five (60-51)

Part Six (50-41)

Part Seven (40-31)

Part Eight (30-21)

Please bear in mind this list doesn’t take into account multiplayer aspects of games, it’s based solely on single player experience.

Strap yourself in – here we go…

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20. Dead Space 2

Continuing the story of Isaac Clarke, Dead Space 2 picks up three years after the first game was set, with Clarke now finding himself as a citizen on the Sprawl – a huge space station development on one of Saturn’s moons.

Sadly for Clarke he has no knowledge of the last three years and discovers a situation has arisen that only someone with his expertise can deal with.

Visceral continue their great job of creeping you out by NOT throwing stuff at you. I would’ve liked to have seen slightly more of the insanity that featured in NPC’s during the original game but on the whole the Sprawl is definitely somewhere you wouldn’t want to find yourself and this is a game well worth playing through.

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19. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

It has to be said that a lot of people were wondering whether Naughty Dog would be able to improve on the superb ‘Among Thieves,’ a game that walked away with awards for ‘Best Voice Acting,’ ‘Best Graphics,’ ‘Single Player Game Of The Year’ and the biggie – ‘Game Of The Year’ in my end of year round up for 2009.

Where both ‘Drake’s Fortune’ and ‘Among Thieves’ concentrated more on the relationship between Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher, this installment focuses on Nathan and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. As a big fan of Sully that’s a plus in my book.

The plot is great and throws up a few curveballs but nothing like the backstabbing double-crossing of the last game. ‘Drake’s Deception’ is the story of Nate and Sully and it was great to find out more about their relationship.

The gameplay itself isn’t anything new, a mixture of climbing, shooting and solving puzzles but after the success of ‘Among Thieves’ refining, rather than changing, was probably the best route Naughty Dog could’ve taken.

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18. Infamous

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So good it’s the only game this generation I’ve played through twice (seeing it’s rating bumped from 8/10 to 9/10), Infamous is a great game.

You control Cole McGrath, a courier who just happens to be carrying a package containing an electronic bomb when it goes off, devasting the city. Somehow Cole survives and, after coming out of a coma, realises the explosion has given him electrical superpowers.

From there on out the city is your oyster and there is plenty to do as you try to track down the people behind the explosion.

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17. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Brotherhood continues the Assassin’s Creed story with Ezio Auditore in 1499 and Desmond Miles in 2012, picking up exactly where the second game left off.

The changes Ubisoft have made to the game feel subtle but really they have honed this title so much it really doesn’t do much wrong.

There are lots more side mission types and your map will be chock full of things to do if you fancy a change of pace away from the main missions. This is a monster of a game that will keep you entertained for ages.

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16. L.A Noire

L.A Noire takes place in 1940′s L.A, with you taking on the role of Cole Phelps – recently returned from the war and starting out as a cop on the beat.

While a lot of people felt that this would be a 1940′s GTA (much like Red Dead Redemption was a Western version of GTA in many people’s eyes) Team Bondi have crafted a much more linear experience than expected.

The game this most reminds me of is Heavy Rain, stunning captures of the actors and an interesting, if flawed, story. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature the numerous different endings that Heavy Rain does so you don’t ever feel the story is in your hands.

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15. GTA IV

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One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack therof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

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14. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I’m not sure if I’ll *ever* finish playing Skyrim. Not because the game is bad – quite the opposite – but because, well… to be honest… I’ve never played anything like it.

The content itself isn’t unique. It’s a first person, middle earth type, Elves and Orcs affair in which you pick from a selection of races and build your character to take into the World.

What Bethesda have done an amazing job on is making Skyrim feel like a blank canvas for your character. It’s this aspect of the game that is like nothing else I’ve ever played. You could have a thrilling, intense gaming experience for tens of, possibly hundreds of, hours without even doing much in the way of the ‘main storyline.’

If you’re looking for a game to sink hours and hours into then Skyrim is perfect for you. The sense that you can go anywhere and do anything is unlike anything else out there. This isn’t a game to play for a quick blast but if you can invest the time you won’t regret it.

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13. Metal Gear Solid 4

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Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3′s power.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

Metal Gear Solid 4 rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

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12. Killzone 2

Killzone 2′s biggest achievement is, possibly because of the brilliant graphics, sound and AI, that you feel involved and become embedded in the Killzone universal whenever you pick up the pad.

It’s not perfect by any means but at the time it was easily the best first person shooter I’d played and I recommend anyone with a remote interest in this genre to check this out immediately!

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11. Bioshock

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Bioshock has a great story to tell and it does it well with some interesting objectives and brilliantly designed levels.

There are several twists and turns in the plot, most of which are not obvious and it’s no surprise to me that a film version is in the works (although I believe currently suspended due to budget concerns).

Dark worlds like Rapture aren’t to everyone’s tastes but you really would be missing out on an awesome story if you decided not to book a trip to the underwater city.

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So, it’s time for the top 10 – any guesses on what’ll be in there? Any games we’ve already had that would’ve made your own top 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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Dead Space 3 – Review (PS3)

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I really enjoyed the previous two Dead Space games – the original was a return to the very best of survival horror and while the sequel did get bogged down with enemy encounters I thought it was excellent. So hopes were high for this latest installment, despite some of the negative buzz floating around online.

Set some time after the events of Dead Space 2 – at least long enough for Isaac and Ellie to get together and break up – the game actually opens some 200 years in the past with a nice prologue section. Nice that is, until the shooting started. The first thing I noticed was how different it felt to previous games. Granted you’re using a rifle rather than the plasma cutter that the series is famous for but still I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the handling had changed dramatically.

And it was a feeling I couldn’t quite dismiss throughout the game. As you come back to (Issac’s) present day you regain control of everyone’s favourite space engineer. Forced into helping track down Ellie you’re soon attacked on the way off the planet.

Dead Space 3 brings together the usual necromorph threat with a much higher Unitologist presence than before. And they’re armed, military units. Hell at one stage some of the necromorphs have guns!

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Taking out the necromorphs still feels satisfying but the human enemies didn’t quite have that quality – whether that’s a game design issue (in terms of how the weapons control and the way shots affect enemies) or just because these games haven’t previously been about mowing down other humans, I couldn’t tell you.

I liked the story but I am a sucker for this universe (I’ve watched both animated movies and read the first spin off novel – will be reading the next one soon 🙂 ) so if you’re not invested you might not find it as enjoyable. I didn’t even mind the OTT end part of the game as much as lot of people seemed to.

I did, however, encounter a save problem that almost made me walk away from the game completely. About 4 hrs in I made it to the beginning of a new chapter, let the tram journey (yes trams are back!) finish and then quit to the main menu and out of the game. However next time I loaded the game I was back at the end of the previous chapter about to enter a room where I needed to hold off enemies until the tram showed up to escape on.

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Problem No.1? It was also a chase, so there was an invincible enemy hounding me from the back as well. Problem No.2? It started me with no ammo and a quarter health 😦 There were 7 bullets in the room and I tried for almost an hour to get through it to no avail. I dropped it to ‘easy’ and after another 20 minutes I finally escaped to the tram. The game maintains your save for you and allows only one save per slot.

It was one of the more frustrating things I’ve experienced recently – I mean surely the end of a chapter/beginning of the next one (especially in the haven of a tram) is the *ideal* place to trigger a save? Come on Visceral, that is ridiculous. If you can’t be bothered to organise a proper save system, at least let me choose when to save!

The much maligned ‘micro-transactions’ didn’t effect me at all. They are there is you want to use them but it’s not essential to use them to get through the game.

There are still snatches of the original survival horror roots of Dead Space here but they end up overplayed and you can tell when (and even worse, where) the scares are coming. There are still space exploration parts and that sound drop out still makes for a fantastic experience. But it’s not really about that stuff any more.

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Make no mistake, Dead Space 3 is an action game with these parts added. The balance between horror and action had teetered with the second game but has now tilted fully in favour of run ‘n’ gun action. It isn’t a bad game at all. It’s just not what I want from a Dead Space game.

Rating: 7/10

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