GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK (2007) – RED OCTANE
NOTE – Although I’ve had the pleasure of playing the Xbox 360 version many times, this review is for the PS2 version of the game.
When I reviewed the original Guitar Hero, I mentioned how its greatest achievement was that it managed to make even the most musically inept player feel like a rock god as they strummed along on a plastic instrument – a major feat that created a thirst not even the excellent soundtrack could fully satiate. A sequel therefore was inevitable, and Guitar Hero II duly obliged; but while II subtly improved the gameplay experience (including the addition of a Training mode), personally I was never won over by the soundtrack. Sure, the likes of ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ & ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ provided the classic riffs and ‘Jordan’ became a legendary test for expert shredders, but overall it never reached the consistent heights that the first game reached. The dilemma that would always rear its ugly head therefore was do I play the better songs on the more unforgiving first game, or enjoy the gameplay but sacrifice the enjoyment on the second?
The solution was simple. Play Guitar Hero III instead, a game which for me marks the apex of the series. Continue reading
SONIC GENERATIONS (2011) – SONIC TEAM
It was the best of Sonic, it was the…BLURST OF SONIC?!?
The Sonic series has always struck me as a curious oddity – I started playing games a bit too late to experience of the glory days of Sega’s famous mascot in the early 90s on the Mega Drive/Genesis, and growing up with a PlayStation meant that I had a litany of other characters to worship instead. Then as time has progressed, Sonic has always been in the background more as a running joke (no pun intended) than a character to take seriously – the likes of Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 and the most recent games, Sonic Boom: Rise Of Lyric & Shattered Crystal, while extreme are also prime examples of a once proud franchise falling on particularly hard times. However, even my unfamiliarity and large indifference with the series didn’t stop me snapping up a bunch of Sonic titles on the cheap during a Humble Bundle sale last year, one of which was Sonic Generations.
The 2011 entry, which combines the gameplay styles of both ‘classic’ and ‘modern’ Sonic into one package, proved to be a handy entry point into everything I’ve missed over the years – both for better and for worse. Continue reading
LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII (2014) – SQUARE ENIX
‘We now return to The Return Of Lightning Returns…’
From the outset, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a very difficult game to analyse – after all, how can one generate an opinion on a game that for all intents and purposes shouldn’t exist in the first place? If you had said when Final Fantasy XIII originally came out that it would get a trilogy, most people would have laughed. But then Final Fantasy XIII-2 came out of nowhere, and whilst it was a marked improvement over the first game, the ending of the story almost guaranteed another installment. And the sad thing is that while LR:FFXIII is the final act of a story that few people wanted to be told, it still suffers the same setbacks that have affected its predecessors. Continue reading
SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) – TREYARCH
I’ll admit, I was tempted to hijack this review with 60s Spiderman memes…I’ll settle for one. For now
The release of an inevitable tie-in game for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has reopened an old can of worms – the debate as to which is the web slinger’s best outing on consoles.
For most, the licensed games of the 1990s are near the top of the pile; in particular the side scrolling beat-em-up Maximum Carnage for the SNES, and the terrific PS1 installment simply called Spider Man (tapping into Spidey’s massive popularity during the decade, enhanced no doubt by the excellent animated series with that intro theme). Others have championed some of the more recent glut of titles produced under Activision’s hand that have somewhat paled in comparison to the quality of Rocksteady Studios Arkham games for Batman, including Web Of Shadows and the story hopping Shattered Dimensions.
For myself however, one game stands head and shoulders above the rest; a game that manages to perform the dual miracle of being a surprisingly playable movie tie-in, and more importantly nails that feeling of being the friendly neighbourhood wallcrawler – enter ‘the amazing’ Spider-Man 2 from 2004. Continue reading
DARKSIDERS (2010) – VIGIL GAMES
The character design for War is pretty much spot on – imposing and frightful
As far as Doomsday theories go, the arrival of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is one of the cooler ideas – a meteorite crashing into the earth would be boring, and a giant flood would be kind of predictable. The image of four deities riding across the sky dragging Armageddon in their wake (or if you’ve read Terry Pratchet’s Sourcery, seeing them stop off at a county pub on the way and having their horses nicked while they get drunk) simply sounds that much more impressive. It surprises me then that it took so long for a developer to have the inspired idea to put the player into the shoes of one of the Horsemen. Enter Darksiders, one of the brighter lights to shine during the long drawn out demise of THQ. Continue reading
FAR CRY 3: BLOOD DRAGON (2013) – UBISOFT MONTREAL
I wasn’t even alive at the time (child of the 90s), but I know full well that the 1980s were terrible. In the United Kingdom, the miners brawled with the police as Thatcher’s Britain took form, the stocks fell and the yuppies arrived. Everyone wore hideous clothing, sported big hairstyles and awkwardly shuffled around to Blue Monday, and all the while humanity cowered at the ongoing prospect of nuclear Armageddon as the Cold War escalated for the final time.
Fortunately, no one cares to remember the real version of the 80s and instead reminisce about the TRUE 80s – a time when synthesizers were king and new fangled computers called ‘Nintendo Entertainment System’ & ‘Commodore 64’ stole away many a childhood afternoon. A time when people draped themselves in hot pink and danced madly to the latest pop sensations. And a time when an average conversation was made up entirely of quotes from Miami Vice and an endless number of action and sci-fi films such as Die Hard, The Terminator, Aliens and Predator. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit and basing my knowledge of the forgotten decade entirely upon Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but my point is that people now see the 80s, particularly those latter films, as a cool thing to emulate.
Enter Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – while the game may share its name with the excellent open world title from 2012, that is where the similarities end. Continue reading
STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC (2003) – BIOWARE
Darth Malak never looks anything less than menacing…
Given the immense popularity of the Star Wars franchise, it is perhaps inevitable that over the years there have been many games looking to cash in on the stories of a galaxy far, far away. Trouble is though, the balance of hits and misses when it comes to Star Wars games veers worryingly towards the latter. After very strong origins with the Star Wars arcade game replicating the Trench Run from A New Hope, the quality of tie-in games has generally plummeted, perhaps reaching the bottom of the barrel when Vader and Palpatine had a dance off to Deadmau5 in Star Wars Kinect. When the hits do arrive however they tend to be excellent, and for many fans three games stand apart from the rest; the Lego Star Wars series, Battlefront, and the subject of this review – Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTOR). Continue reading
THE WOLF AMONG US: EPISODE ONE – ‘FAITH’ (2013) – TELLTALE GAMES
“We all know who you are…Big Bad Wolf…”
There is perhaps no hotter property in videogames right now than TellTale Games – not only are they currently busy crafting a second season for the 2012 critical hit The Walking Dead, but they also have projects adapting Borderlands and Game Of Thrones on the horizon too. Before the latter two games come to fruition however, there is The Wolf Among Us to savor in the meantime. Only the first of five planned episodes is available at the moment, but the small taster offered up thus far (for free on Xbox Live if you were sharp-eyed during the Christmas offers) is a delicious, if somewhat familiar treat. Continue reading
BRAID (2008) – NUMBER NONE INC.
There are no menus in Braid…from this evocative splash screen to the end, it’s you on your own
Originally released in relative obscurity on Xbox Live and later ported to PC, Braid is regularly credited as one of the trailblazers for the independent gaming revolution that has typified the 7th generation of consoles. The game was an unexpected success story, quickly becoming one of the highest rated games on the Xbox Live Arcade service; five years later on, it retains much of the magic that made it a hit. Continue reading
METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE (2013) – PLATINUM GAMES
Note to self – do not piss off an angry Raiden
Here’s a dilemma for y’all to figure out: how do you create a new protagonist following in the footsteps of one of the most popular video game characters ever made and get people to like them? That was the scenario that Hideo Kojima faced when it was decided that Raiden should be the main playable character of MGS2 instead of Snake; fans were dismayed that they saw Snake relegated to a secondary character and Raiden took his fair share of abuse from critics. Kojima decided to rectify the situation in typically dramatic fashion; for by the time of MGS4 Raiden had become a badass cyber ninja able to stop a warship with one arm.
In quite a departure from traditional Metal Gear style of gameplay, Metal Gear Rising: Reveangence lets you step into the new and improved Raiden’s pointy cyber shoes for an OTT blend of swordplay and combat action; and the slick thrills it delivers as a result makes it arguably one of the best games of 2013. Continue reading