ISSUE 02 | OCTOBER 2007
FINISHING THE FIGHT
The definitive verdict on 2007’s biggest game
HEAVENLY SWORD (PS3) STRANGLEHOLD (360, PS3, PC) MOH AIRBORNE(360, PS3, PC) SUPER PAPER MARIO (Wii) WARHAWK (PS3) & MORE!
HEAVEN OR HELL? Is 2007 the best year for gaming yet?
I know you; your past, your future. When I first sat down to write this editorial I was preparing myself to write a particularly long and rather in-depth piece on how great Microsoft’s marketing team are at their job. At how Halo 3, the most highly anticipated title in video games history, had managed to build up such unrequited hope only to disappoint millions upon millions of gamers. Instead, it’s 3am on the night we go to press and I find myself completely unprepared, hooked on Valhalla like a junkie on crack, eating my own words. But you don’t need me to tell you how great Halo 3 really is, for that you need Tom, and you can head on over to page 35 for our official verdict. Elsewhere in this bumper-packed issue we’ve got reviews of Sony’s killer app Heavenly Sword and a whole line-up of other greats. As well as that we’ve got the first of our new regular feature ‘Flashback’, which we kick off with a look back at gaming in 1998, before following it up with our On Cloud Nine? feature. Could 2007 really be the best year for gaming yet? Believe. See you on the battlefield Spartan. David Scammell Editor email@example.com
ISSUE 2 | OCTOBER 2007 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
CALL OF DUTY 4
John Stuart HALO 3
Richard Angus Andrew Bell
James Bowden Ian Freeman Stefan Goerke-Hewitt
Greg Latham Kevin Lynch John McCormick Graham Naunton
MEDAL OF HONOR AIRBORNE
Emmet Purcell Paul Raven Richard Rohani Ian Tellam
The latest headlines from the world of video games
HALO 3 MAKES ENTERTAINMENT HISTORY Knocks up $170m in just 24 hours
ROCK BAND PRICING CONFIRMED Harmonix have confirmed that the recent price changes for Rock Band found on Amazon.com are in fact correct. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sets are now listed at $169.99, whilst the PlayStation 2 set has been marked at $159.99.
Released globally last week, Halo 3 has smashed opening records by earning over $170m within 24 hours of going on sale. The title sets a new entertainment record, toppling Spider-Man 3 off its perch and becoming the biggest entertainment launch in history. The figure follows a record breaking number of pre-orders which numbered 1.7 million in the United States alone, many of whom attended one of the 10,000 midnight launch events held across the country.
Included with the Rock Band bundle is a wired drum kit, guitar, and microphone, though oddly the Xbox 360 Stratocaster remains wired whilst the PlayStation 3 version will allow players to rock out at their wireless content.
Included with Halo 3 is a 48 hour Xbox Live Gold trial and it’s no coincidence that September 25th saw a record number of gamers take the fight online. 1.4 million Spartans have ventured into the online battlefields so far and, according to Bungie, more than four million games have taken place. Described as a “pop cultural phenomenon” by Shane Kim, Vice President of Microsoft Game Studios, one would assume that it’s only a matter of time before production on the Halo movie gets underway once again. Not only a success at cash registers across the world, Halo 3 has also been a critical success, with many publications heaping praise on the dangerously hyped title. For the definitive verdict head over to page 35.
BIZARRE BUY-OUT In a shock move, Activision has acquired UK developer Bizarre Creations, the team responsible for the critically acclaimed Project Gotham racing series and Xbox Live title Geometry Wars. London’s IMAX Cinema ready for the Halo 3 launch party
Scratched Halo discs - Gamers am cry :*( As many of you are probably aware, Halo 3 was available at launch in 3 editions; Standard, Collector’s and Legendary.
Microsoft has acknowledged the situation and offered to replace faulty discs free of charge, but unfortunately this also entails a two week waiting period.
Whilst the Legendary edition has largely sold out, many have reported that the discs within the If you find that your Halo 3 discs are scratched, visit Collector’s edition are scratched due to faulty disc the support section of Xbox.com for more help. holders in the case.
Bizarre Creations will become a wholly owned subsidiary, with its first output under Activision expected to retail in 2009. Project Gotham Racing 4 is set to be released on 12th October for Xbox 360.
The latest headlines from the world of video games
DUALSHOCK SET FOR A COMEBACK
WELCOME BACK TO SAINTS ROW
DEAD MEN WALKING Eidos Interactive have announced that their much anticipated title ‘Kane and Lynch: Dead Men’ will be released Friday 23rd November on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The slick thriller, that seems to have taken much inspiration from Michael Mann’s blockbusters, throws players into a twisted tale of lies, loss and a plethora of violence; one to keep away from Jack Thompson.
TOM CLANCY TAKES TO THE SKIES
Overcoming lawsuits and giving into pressure from both developers and consumers, Sony has announced the rumble-packed DUALSHOCK 3 controller for the PlayStation 3.
THQ have announced the sequel to their multi-million unit selling Saints Row franchise that established itself as a respectable competitor to the Grand Theft Auto series with the original title on Xbox 360.
Combining the motion sensing functionality of the SIXAXIS and the latest in next generation rumble technology, the DUALSHOCK 3 will retain the controller’s famous design and take the player a step further into total immersion. Several titles have already been confirmed to feature rumble compatibility, including Metal Gear Solid 4, whose famed developer Hideo Kojima made public his disappointment that a rumble feature was not at his disposal.
The sequel will be developed by Volition, the team behind the original, and is set to feature a ‘much darker and more sinister story that leads your character down a path of betrayal, revenge and redemption against the city that has left him for dead’, whilst still retaining the light hearted humour of the first title.
Unfortunately more recent releases such as Sega Rally, which uses rumble in the 360 version to compliment its deformable tracks, will not make use of the feature. The controller will be available as a separately sold accessory in Japan next month and is due to hit European and North American markets in Spring 2008.
Although the action is set to take place in the familiar city of Stillwater, the developer promises a transformed and expanded landscape with new co-op and online competitive multiplayer features. The title has been announced for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with an as yet unconfirmed release date.
Ubisoft have announced that they are set to send their lucrative Tom Clancy series airborne, with a new title focusing on ‘near-future’ jet fighter combat.
Thrusting players into the cockpit of an array of powerful and technologically advanced fighter planes, the new series will see players engaging in dog fights and making coordinated tactical strikes. Tom Clancy’s Air Combat is set for a 2008 release.
Why you won't be leaving the house for the next few months THE ORANGE BOX
PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2008
GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: PHANTOM HOUR GLASS
Home to possibly the worst cover-art ever devised, The Orange Box houses not one, but five titles within its orange casing. Sure we may have had our hands on Half-Life 2 now for almost three years, but that won’t be the main reason most people will be picking the game up later in the month.
Almost every FPS released these days seems to promise to “redefine the genre” and BlackSite is no different. The spiritual successor to Midway’s previous sci-fi shooter ‘Area 51’, BlackSite takes place in and around a secret military research facility in Nevada, which of course is running rife with extra-terrestrial activity.
It’s that time of year again. The time of year every football fan comes out of the gaming closet to pick up the beloved annual update to their favourite footy sim. This year’s Pro Evo promises all new moves and animations such as shirt-tugging and diving, as well as more licensed national and club teams than ever before.
With Guitar Hero II still a firm favourite here at D+PAD, we can’t wait to get our hands on the sequel. The recently leaked (but at the time of going to press still unconfirmed) track list suggests that we’ll be grinding to a whole host of big name tracks ranging from the likes of Tenacious D and Weezer, to Aerosmith and ZZ Top.
Featuring a morale system that determines how well your squad performs should hopefully make things a bit more interesting than the uninspired story, but we’re looking forward to kicking ET’s ass October 26th.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Owen are this year’s cover stars set to face off against EA’s usual duo of Rooney and Ronaldhino, and with the reins of Pro Evo’s superiority being tugged at tighter after each passing year, can this year‘s Pro Evo do enough to retain its title? D+PAD will be sitting down with Seabass’ latest October 26th.
This comes straight after the news that Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave fame will be appearing in the game as a boss character, as well as Poison front man Bret Michaels posing for the character of the lead vocalist. We’ll be setting our axes alight and rocking out to Guitar Hero III November 2nd.
Taking heed from previous Zelda’s, Phantom Hourglass is the highly anticipated pseudo 2D/3D DS outing, the first we’ve seen of Link on the popular handheld. The direct sequel to Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass follows in its formers’ footsteps by using the same cel-shaded graphics seen in the original, coupled with an overhead view of the older Zelda classics.
Featuring the aforementioned all-time great Half-Life 2, The Orange Box also packs in the two further chapters of the story; Episode One and Two, puzzle game/potential headache inducing title Portal as well as the sublime teambased online shooter Team Fortress 2. D+PAD will be seeing orange October 19th.
Following on from Wind Waker won‘t be an easy task and you can look forward to D+PAD’s review next month. The game is due to hit European shelves October 19th.
hey, you're the perfect height... to kiss my ass
Morning. Welcome to the second (& hopefully much improved) edition of Grumpy Jo’s. First things first, a bit of house keeping. Last month I wasn’t that grumpy. Partly because I was in a (rare) good mood, and secondly because I hadn’t yet finished BioShock. Unfortunately, now I’m back to normal and I’ve been subjected to that final hour of BioShock. To be honest it’s not just me that’s pissed off with it. What follows is an email from my close, personal friend Lindsay Lohan… Hey Jo LiLo here! I just remembered you like totally started writing for that magazine and I totally thought I’d send you a scoop. I was back in rehab the other day and I like totally bumped into Owen Wilson! I know, it was like totally cool. So anyway he was like telling me all about why he tried to you know like tried to kill himself and it was like totally because of how crap the last bit of BioShock is! He totally like played it through and was so like angry about how rubbish it was at the end he took like a load of drugs and totally slit his wrists! I know it was like totally shocking! So anyway, I like totally thought that was a scoop for you. Thank me later babe. Lots of Love Firecrotch P.S. Like totally don’t print those pictures we took. So there you have it, the real reason Owen Wilson attempted suicide. I jest, but I do make a serious point. The last part of BioShock is rubbish. In fact it’s so rubbish I’m not even going to give you a spoiler warning (Ed: Yes you will. SPOILER WARNING!!). The game is brilliant until Atlas reveals himself as Fontaine and you unravel the truth. I mean it totally ruins the whole experience. One minute you are totally immersed in this world and its story and then you have to spend hours trying to get into this guys lab. RUBBISH! Even when you become a Big Daddy (or a Rosie to be exact) the game doesn’t pick up. What should be a truly memorable gaming moment amounts to nothing more than a piece of glass in front of your face. Where the hell is your bloody drill hand for a start? It’s like becoming Spiderman and not being able to spin a bloody web. Why the hell can’t you pick up one of the rivet guns that are lying around the place? It’s just lazy design. It’s as if 2K had a meeting with the discussion topic “easy ways to both
extend and ruin a great game.” I don’t know whether it was a deadline that caused these problems or whether they had the YTS kids doing the ending but it really did ruin the whole thing. Actually, while I’m on the subject of the ending, what was up with that? I could have sworn 2K said that the outcome of the game was going to be determined by a series of complex moral dilemmas. Surely the decision to kill little girls or not is not that much of a complex dilemma and slaying just one of them yields the bad ending (as I found out to my cost.) How is that any sort of moral dilemma? And then when you actually get the end video, the damn thing makes no sense anyway. If you’ve killed all these kids why are there any left, and more importantly why the hell are they helping you? Makes no sense. Illogical things piss me off. As do short things. Funnily enough that can be tied into this little rant as well. Why after a good 12-15 hours play did the developers think that a one and a half minute video would suffice as an ending? I’m not suggesting they should have gone all Metal Gear on us but seriously come on, 1:30 is really taking the piss a bit. So to recap. BioShock, good game but the ending ruins it and as a result I am eating my words from last month about how brilliant it is. It really is a shame that yet another potential Game of the Year fails to deliver. Still, I suppose it means that Oblivion lives on as the best game on 360 for another month. Lives on until the prodigal son returns at least. Yes kids it’s finally time to finish the fight because Halo 3 is officially here. In the words of my mate Pat “whoop-def*cking-do.” Yep kids, bad news. It’s not actually all that. Now I’ll admit that I’ve only played the first couple of hours and that things may well pick up, but in almost every respect so far it feels very last generation. Whereas games like Call of Duty have realised their limitations and worked hard to improve them, Halo seems to be stuck in a (very linear) time warp. From what I’ve played of it, it seems that Bungie have spent the last however many years making it look very pretty but kinda forgot about the gameplay. Just play the opening level and you’ll see exactly what I mean. On a more positive note, that Chapman brothers inspired advert they did for it rules. Anyway, that should do it for me this month I think. One last thing though. I like to think of this column as an open forum of opinion and I’d like to hear yours. So if you’ve got anything you want to share, email me; firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try and work it into the column. See you all next month, now go and finish the (slightly disappointing) fight.
by Tom Hoggins
egacies and letdowns, successes and failures. Every year brings their share of each. Video gaming is a medium that moves forward at such somehigh velocity that each 12 months brings some thing that affects the industry, for better or worse, however big or small. A look at our On Cloud Nine? feature (p14) shows that 2007 is one of the finest years in video game history. But what of the years that have shaped games as we see them today? As we move into the busy fourth quarter of â€™07 and look forward to 2008, D+PAD begins its Flashback series. Exploring the last decade of gaming, we look at the rise of Sony, the fall of Sega and the perennial Nintendo. Weâ€™ll take you back to the introduction of Microsoft and of course we will remember those games that have left their legacies, the games that were letdowns. The games that have blessed these companies with success, or cursed them with failure. We begin with 1998, a year that would spawn some of the greatest games we have ever seen. Whose imprints are still left today, nearly ten years on...
1998 was a year the world spent debating whether the President of the United States had performed unspeakable acts with ‘that woman’, France lifted the World Cup and the world bid farewell to Ol’ Blue Eyes. It was a year that saw Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan to a best picture Oscar and a certain Britney Spears introduce herself for the first time. A year that would see some of the finest video games ever created. D+PAD takes a look back over 12 months that would deliver several seminal games, some that have still yet to be surpassed... At the end of 1997 the fifth-generation of consoles was in its halcyon days, Sony’s PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 were battling for supremacy in the console wars that had already seen Sega’s Saturn falter. New boys Sony had developed a strong lead due to their billing of the PlayStation as a ‘lifestyle accessory’, while the N64 had some of the finest games Nintendo had ever produced, which fans couldn’t get enough of. Diverse and innovative, both consoles boasted a software line-up that showed the 3D era had arrived and was the future of video gaming. The unfortunate Saturn suffered from a barren catalogue. The occasional classic such as NiGHTs gave the fans faith, but third party support was dwindling in the face of the PlayStation’s phenomenal success. Success that would only be bolstered by a stellar 1998 release schedule. This release schedule began with Resident Evil 2. January saw the game’s North American and Japanese release, becoming an immediate critical and commercial success in both territories. Following on from 1996’s popular original, Resident Evil 2 refined the fledgling survival horror genre. Telling the story of Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield (sister of the original’s Chris) Resident Evil 2 spread the plague of zombies from the mansion into Racoon City. Retaining the original’s core gameplay of a slow-paced, ammoscarce horror Resident Evil 2 starts in the streets of Raccoon City and leads all the way to Umbrella’s laboratories. Along the way, players experienced several memorable moments to cement the game’s place in history. Who can forget the first encounter with a Licker in the Raccoon City Police Station, the dread of encountering the Tyrant and Leon’s doomed relationship with Ada Wong? The game went on to sell 4.96 million units on the PlayStation alone and was ported to the Dreamcast in late 1998 and both N64 and GameCube in following years. Its success paved the way for Resident Evil to become one of the most loved franchises in video game history, spawning sequels and spinoffs, remakes and movies. To this day, many feel 2 has yet to be surpassed as the finest Resident Evil game.
So the year began with a game that would remain in the hearts and minds of players for many years to come. It may have been the first, but it certainly wasn’t the last 1998 was going to see. February and March passed with little to shout about, with the possible exception of the N64’s 1080 Snowboarding which launched in Japan on February 22nd. However North America wouldn’t see the game until April 1st and the oft-neglected European market had to wait until November 30th. These waiting periods were a regular occurrence in the video game market with EU gamers having to wait until May to get their hands on the aforementioned Resident Evil 2 and these unfortunate delays continuing throughout the year and beyond. April also saw the North American release of Gran Turismo, the first in Polyphony Digital’s racing series. Receiving massive critical success, the game went on to sell over 10.5 million units worldwide becoming the best selling game on PlayStation and spawning over 10 spinoffs and sequels to date. By April, the console war was in full swing, but Spring brought the opportunity for another platform to flex its muscles. The PC.
The PC video game scene was seen as the dominion of the ‘hardcore’; the home of strategy games and first-personshooters - a genre still in its infancy on home consoles. The newer market opened up by the PlayStation were somewhat daunted by the complexities of PC gaming. Therefore, PC game publishers saw fit to pander to their core audience, a fact made obvious on April 1st, which saw the release of Blizzard’s StarCraft. Massively anticipated, StarCraft was released to universal acclaim. A real-time-strategy focused on a war in the distant future between three factions. StarCraft adhered to the RTS formula of gathering, building and fighting, but each species had specific skills which made playing each race different. Blizzard’s creation incorporated a storyline supported by cinematics and excellent voice-acting. It was this refinement of the RTS blueprint and a compelling narrative that ensured StarCraft’s incredible success. In Korea, the game has become a national obsession where teams compete in televised matches for glory and sponsorship. StarCraft has since become the third biggest selling PC game in history. StarCraft wasn’t the only seminal PC game Spring 1998 would bring. On May 22nd Epic Games released Unreal, a first person shooter that received favourable reviews from most sources, citing impressive graphics and AI. Most, however, were unaware of the monumental impact Unreal would have on the future of video gaming. For three years, Epic’s designers - including a young Cliff Bleszinski - had been working on the Unreal engine as a rival to id Software’s Quake engine. The game didn’t match its rivals commercial success, but the engine and its advancements went on to be one of the most licensed engines ever. The third Unreal engine powers many of today’s action games, including Rainbow Six: Vegas and the recently released Stranglehold. While games such as StarCraft and Unreal were making the PC the platform of choice for the gaming enthusiast throughout Spring, Nintendo were making plans to make the rest of 1998 their own. Nintendo’s second-party developer Rare were in their pomp. GoldenEye 007 had given the N64 another system selling game to go alongside Super Mario 64 in September 1997 and the UK- based Rare would go on to be one of Nintendo’s trump cards for the N64. May 31st saw the North American release of one of Rare’s (and the N64’s) most-loved games, Banjo Kazooie.
Banjo Kazooie was a platform adventure that followed Banjo the bear and his feathered-friend Kazooie on a quest to save Banjo’s sister Tooty, kidnapped by ugly hag Gruntilda. Banjo was an evolution of Super Mario 64, utilising much of Mario’s core gameplay. To proceed through the non-linear 3D levels, the player had to find puzzle pieces as instead of the former’s stars. Far from being seen as a clone however, Banjo innovated and delighted in equal measure. The game took a more action-adventure led approach as opposed to Mario’s pure 3D platforming and with the aid of shaman Mumbo Jumbo the characters could transform into different animals with their own unique abilities. One of the game’s biggest draws comes from its charming and genuinely funny script. Kazooie’s ranting, Gruntilda’s rhyming and Mumbo Jumbo’s mumbo jumbo had a unique sense of humour rarely seen in video games. The comedy dialogue added to a terrific game that received universal acclaim. Despite Banjo Kazooie being developed in the UK, it wasn’t until July 17th that Europe got to play the game, though spare a thought for the Japanese who patiently waited until December 6th. With the Easter period over, the summer drought left gamers hotly anticipating the fourth quarter rush. While they waited, the FIFA World Cup ended with France beating a lacklustre Brazil side 3-0 after Brazil star Ronaldo’s mysterious fit. Of course England were defeated on penalties, this time to Argentina, though the tournament did see the rise of 18 year old Michael Owen. The Monica Lewinsky scandal was ongoing, Bill Clinton finally admitting on his 52nd birthday to having an ‘improper physical relationship’ with the intern. While filmgoers saw summer blockbusters such as Michael Bay’s Armageddon, Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and the comedy There’s Something About Mary. Having Banjo Kazooie arrive in July gave European gamers respite over a blustery and wet summer. As September approached, Japanese gamers geared themselves towards the arrival of the PlayStation’s biggest title of the year.
11 September 3rd saw the return of Solid Snake in Konami’s Metal Gear Solid. It was Snake’s third outing but his first foray into a 3D world after the original top-down Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The basic premise remained the same, to avoid detection, but as there wasn’t a proliferation of stealth in video games at that point, MGS’s gameplay of hiding and distraction was still a fresh prospect. Attention to detail and an involving storyline were hallmarks of Hideo Kojima’s oeuvre, though critics and fans were divided over the title’s literary merit. Many thought the lengthy cutscenes and codec conversations were part of a deep, fascinating storyline; something which was still a rarity, while others believed the plot to be hokey and overdone, an unnecessary distraction from the actual gameplay, which most agreed was tense and exciting. The divide between the TV screen and real world was also crossed. An encounter between Snake and psychic Psycho Mantis had the disturbed Mantis ask you to place your controller on the floor while he moved it with his mind, amounting to Sony’s new rumble-enabled DualShock controller vibrating violently. The ensuing battle then required you to switch the controller to port two to prevent Mantis from reading your movements. It was an interesting experiment in player-interaction and a relationship that is still not explored all that often. The memorable boss battles, fresh approach to action and, at the very least, an attempt to bring video game stories to a new level made Metal Gear Solid one of the biggest successes of the year and went on to be the 7th highest selling PlayStation game, eventually shifting 6.6million copies. The game would release on October 21st in North America, while Europe would have to wait until February 1999.
With Metal Gear under its belt the PlayStation was looking solid, but the N64 still had a certain game to come. On September 30th Nintendo fan’s focus was shifted to its all conquering handheld Game Boy with the North American release of Pokemon Red and Blue. The western adaption of Pocket Monsters Aka and Midori was a long time coming; the games had already been out in Japan for over two years. Pokemon was a phenomenon. The already hugely successful Game Boy had a huge upturn in sales and Pokemon became a billion-dollar franchise. The creature collecting RPG led to an animated TV series and movie, as well as a card game that was so popular it was banned in several schools around the world due to violent altercations over Pikachu and co. Subsequent Pokemon games have repeated the success, the title’s coda of ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ seeming wholly appropriate. The explosion in the US over Pokemon was watched from afar by the majority of Europeans, who had to wait a whole year for the Pokebomb to hit the region. But September 30th saw smiles all round for PC owners, who saw postapocalyptic RPG FallOut 2 and Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango launch on the same day.
12 Fallout 2 received favourable reviews but split opinions with fans of the original Fallout which had developed a highly defended cult status. Similarly Grim Fandango is wistfully remembered with fondness by fans. Following Manny Calavera’s quest to uncover corruption in the Department of Death in the land of the dead, the game was one of LucasArt’s final adventure games. A genre that is sadly all but gone, some see Grim Fandango as the death knell for adventure games. Despite uniformally positive reviews, judging Grim Fandango to have one of the wittiest and original tales in a video game, the game sold poorly. Apart from one last foray with Escape From Monkey Island in 2000, LucasArts stopped making adventure games, to concentrate almost solely on the profitable Star Wars franchise. In spite of all these superb games, the PC’s magnum opus for 1998 was yet to come. In November, a game would come that would revolutionise the FPS genre. Half-Life arrived to overwhelming adulation, a perfect blend of action, level design and story. It was the first game to tell the story wholly in the first-person, always allowing you to have control over protagonist Gordon Freeman as the tale unfolded around you with scripted events and NPC dialogue. Putting you completely into the character’s shoes throughout contributed to a level of immersion yet to be seen. From the arrival of Freeman into the Black Mesa complex via the rail system, the game rarely lets up. Encountering headcrabs and the intelligent AI of the marines stays in players memories, all played out with puzzle-solving and excellent shooting mechanics. Even to this day Half-Life remains the example most FPSs follow and they are wise to do so. 1998 was already a year to remember for the video game aficionado, groundbreaking work that would lead to major franchises and define genres. Not content with these seminal titles, 1998 played host to one of the most anticipated games in history. One which lived up to the hype, and then some. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the long awaited 5th instalment of Link’s adventures. It came after a five year hiatus for Nintendo’s green garbed hero, the last true Zelda game being Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy. Arriving to a monumental fanfare, Link’s transition to the 3D era via the N64 was a triumph. Nintendo’s console had already proven itself remarkably adept at bringing 3D worlds to life with glorious visuals and perfect controls, demonstrated most notably by Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. Ocarina was no different; as well as taking the base of those
games for camera and movement, Ocarina added its own innovations. At the time, Ocarina’s ‘Z-targeting’ lock-on system for combat was pure ingenuity. It seems strange to think of a time before such a system was implemented, but Ocarina was the first. Derivatives of the system would feature in innumerable 3D action games in the future, and marks out Ocarina as one of the most influential games of our time. As well as the utterly perfect control and combat system, Ocarina was a masterclass in almost every facet of game design. One of the most fawning memories fans love to recount is stepping out into Hyrule field for the first time. It may seem miniscule in relation to today’s giant sandbox cities, but at the time was breathtaking, giving the impression of a huge world, ripe for exploration. Every one of Ocarina’s ten dungeons held their own memorable moments and bosses. The simple story of Link’s quest was charming, laced with tragedy and the characters he met along the way found their own way into player’s hearts. Ocarina of Time received perfect scores across the board, and to this day is regarded by the gaming community at large as the finest game to ever grace any console. Zelda cartridges sold frantically. It was difficult for gamers to procure a copy on release day without a pre-order and, along with Furbies, became one of the most sought after Christmas gifts of the year. Despite being released in late November in the Japan and US and in a pleasant change just two weeks later in PAL regions, Ocarina of Time went on to become the biggest selling game of 1998, shifting 2.5million copies and eventually sold 7.6 million worldwide.
1998 The arrival of the Legend of Zelda didn’t stem the flow of games. Thief: The Dark Project, a first-person stealth adventure was hailed as yet another revolutionary step in PC action gaming. Following the protagonist Garrett throughout a medieval city, players were invited to stalk their prey in the shadows utilising a variety of tools and weapons. The game was lauded for its unique style and dark storytelling. In keeping with the medieval fantasy setting, BioWare released Baldur’s Gate; an isometric Advanced Dungeons & Dragons based RPG. The game was well received as a fine example of the genre and won several RPG of the year awards. Even the N64 wasn’t finished for the year. FPS Turok 2: Seeds of Evil released in December, following dinosaur hunter Turok across space and time. Turok 2 is best remembered for its unique weapons, in particular the macabre Cerebral Bore.
But that tale is for another time. For now we look back on 1998, twelve months that will go down as the most influential in video game history. A year that the games industry moved forwards into a new era of popularity and success. A year to break out the cigars for... ...just don’t invite Bill.
Biggest Hit Singles
Top 5 Grossing Movies 1. Armageddon 2. Saving Private Ryan 3. Godzilla 4. There's Something About Mary 5. A Bug's Life
While 1998 will be best remembered for the amount of truly memorable games, it is also the year the sixth generation of consoles officially began. Sega had admitted defeat with regards to their Saturn console and were determined to get a head start on the new wave. In Japan on November 27th, Sega released what would be their final home system, the Dreamcast. Ahead of its time, the console featured cutting edge graphics and was the first console to place emphasis on online gaming, coming with a built in modem. The Dreamcast looked to be future proof, a true next generation machine that was ahead of the pack. Sega would learn, however, not to underestimate the power of the PlayStation.
$553,709,788 $481,840,909 $379,014,294 $369,884,651 $363,398,565
1. Celine Dion 2. Cher 3. Aerosmith 4. Savage Garden 5. Boyzone
My Heart Will Go On Believe Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing Truly Madly Deeply No Matter What
On Cloud Nine? By Richard Angus
ave you ever stopped and uttered to yourself “Does it get any better than this?” Maybe you found the love of your life. Maybe you found some money under the couch. Or maybe, just maybe, this particular cliche could apply to the here and now of video games. The three companies have come into 2007 and each put their best foot forward, revealing an interesting spread of delicacies for us to try. But what has been so angelic about this year to make it so special? What devilish obstacles have proven to be a problem? Let’s take a look at what’s been on offer this year so far, and what we have to look forward to towards the climax of the year...
Microsoft Heaven: Look At Those Games!
Hell: Argh! 3 Rings of death!
The driving force behind the 360’s superb year has undoubtedly been the diverse and exciting gaming experience the platform has offered. This year has already seen interesting new shooters, such as Lost Planet and The Darkness, an off-the-wall sandbox experience with Crackdown and even an improved venture into real time strategy with Command & Conquer 3. The Xbox 360 has offered a better variety than it ever has before, building a foundation with games like Forza Motorsport 2 and Ghost Recon 2 and branching out with various family friendly games like Guitar Hero 2 and the forthcoming Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action.
If you have neither experienced it nor been nervous about it, D+PAD salute you. Despite attempts to parallel this to the hardware issues with the PS2 early on in its life, this takes the biscuit. Nightmarish tales of up to 7 replacements have haunted gamers’ dreams through 2007, frantically hoping their console will turn on next time they try. With retailers quoting at least 30% of all 360s being faulty whilst various forums knock around numbers of up to 65%; frankly even 10% is far too much.
To stop there though would be forgetting Xbox Live Arcade and its own role in the 360’s sterling year. Each classic game has been given an HD update and some, like Prince of Persia, a complete graphical overhaul. Games particularly of note this year include the superb instalments of Worms and Bomberman and the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. And let’s not forget Catan, a surprise hit amongst many. It’s little wonder that people have hardly had enough time for this year’s releases so far. And we’re going to have no time to draw breath with the end of year releases coming up. There is an incredible buzz around games like Halo 3, BioShock, Mass Effect and PGR 4, games that are only going to add to our 2007 experience. Add to that a huge number of other exciting prospects from JRPGs to aerial combat titles, as well XBLA titles like Ikaruga and Sensible Soccer and it’ll be a surprise if any gamers’ wallet is still intact come 2008.
Exclusive Get! At the beginning of the 360's life, who would have thought that Microsoft would have gained access to so many previous-exclusives and even steal their own from their rivals? Take a look; Devil May Cry, Ace Combat, Guitar Hero, Bully, Beautiful Katamari, Assassin’s Creed and Resident Evil amongst others. All titles that were once exclusive to rival consoles now making their way over to 360, and in some cases, made exclusive to the console. It’s bulked up Microsoft’s line-up no end to see so much more quality third party support and it’s hardly surprising that Metal Gear Solid 4 has been rumoured to join the 360's library in the future.
To a large extent Microsoft have now dealt with the problem by acknowledging the fault and providing a three year retro-active warranty. Each repaired console is also fitted with a heat sink to help improve its reliability, but ultimately it comes eighteen months too late.
I have to pay to play? The console may be cheaper than the PS3, but once you look at the muchloved internet gaming possibilities, the costs begin to rise. In the modern era, people want to connect to an internet source wirelessly to play games. The Wii does it. The PS3 does it. The 360 doesn’t. That wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t for the extortionate expense of the adaptor you’ll need, retailing at the ridiculous price of £59.99. And whilst the experience of LIVE may be unparalleled at the moment, a subscription cost of £39.99 a year is another cost you’ll have to budget for. If you owned the console for 5 years and wanted to play wirelessly, you would have to find an extra £260. Even if it is worth it, and it is, it really puts the supposed ‘extra’ cost of the PS3 into perspective.
Judgement: Microsoft have never provided a better gaming experience than this year. With an unprecedented amount of quality gaming pencilled in for the next 4 months, Xbox 360 in 2007 is a utopia for all things gaming. With LIVE growing and exclusive games including Too Human, Halo Wars, Alan Wake and Fable 2 to look forward to, 2008 will look to try and imitate its predecessor. But that will be no easy task...
Sony Heaven: Well I’m enjoying it...
Hell: Hang on…How much?!
The truth is, the PS3 has been knocked about like a fat kid in a playground, but mainly only by people who have either not owned one or those who have unfairly compared it to the 360’s gaming library so early in its life. Obviously there has been a bit of a games drought, but is it any bigger than the ones Nintendo or Microsoft faced when their next-gen consoles were first released? No. Ask people who can only afford the one console and they will tell you; it’s been good fun. For many, MotorStorm, Formula One, Resistance and Ninja Gaiden Sigma have been more than enough and combined with some affordable and engaging PSN games such as Super Stardust HD, Calling All Cars and Tekken Dark Resurrection, the PS3 has proven to be a great choice for gamers.
Regardless of the statements “The PS3 is future-proof!” and “Blu-Ray is the future!”, the bottom line is that most will look at the price tag and walk home with a rival console. The PS3, on paper at least, is fantastic value for money when you consider the technology inside, but many just want the cheaper games machine. Those people ignorant to HD, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD just couldn’t care less. They look for a games machine to play the latest and greatest games, and at the moment, the PS3 is just too expensive.
The end of 2007 looks bright too. Even without the big release of Grand Theft Auto 4, games like Haze, Ratchet & Clank and Uncharted have made many a mouth water. Heavenly Sword and Warhawk are both still lurking around too, and throw in a couple of timed exclusives, such as Unreal Tournament 3, and you have one promising fixture list for 2007.
Console price cuts have taken place round the globe, but once again not in Europe. I’m sure we can look forward to a price cut at some point in the near future, but for now be prepared for a burning wallet should you fork out for one of the ‘amazing bundles’ as the European consumer gets shafted once again.
Moving the industry forward?
Are you sure that’s not been delayed?
Including Blu-Ray has been one of the most provocative sources of ammunition for fanboys all across the globe. The blue corner argues for its great movie experience and bigger storage space. Those in the red corner, however, argue that the compression rate is worse and the cost negates any benefits.
The major frustration for PS3 gamers at the moment is the incessant delays. Multiformat games such as Colin McRae DiRT, The Darkness and Medal Of Honor Airborne amongst plenty of others, each delayed for weeks and sometimes months on PS3 while they get released on rival formats, whilst games like Beautiful Katamari are canned on the console completely. It’s an annoyance and developers need to get more acquainted with their dev kits quickly to help keep Sony competitive.
Regardless, the adventure into different formats has at the very least moved the industry forward a little. Games are getting bigger and, chances are, we will see a new format come next gen. Blu-Ray offers at least the beginning to research into a new format, and that can only be a good thing. And of course, until the time comes where we can truly say that a particular game wouldn’t fit onto a rival format, we can always sit and bask at some great films in beautiful HD without the need for buying an add-on or standalone player.
Judgement: This year has been full of speculation about the potential demise of Sony’s game division. The truth is, those assumptions are way off the mark. There is plenty for gamers to be getting on with, although it has perhaps struggled with the strength of the competition so far. Thankfully, as the PS3 stutters over the steep summit of the Christmas period there’s a smooth downhill ride on the other side for at least three very good reasons; Metal Gear Solid 4, LittleBigPlanet and Gran Turismo.
Nintendo Heaven: Innovation is king!
Hell: I’m not having fun yet!
Who really imagined that a motion sensitive console would enter, and ultimately dominate the market? It was a huge risk, and despite its sceptics the Wii has proved an amazing success, and hardware sales of over 10 million units in well under a year are a testament to that.
Ok. We’ve got the innovation. We’ve got the attractive price point. Now….go! And there we have the problem. There’s been very little of note released this year. Heatseeker, SSX Blur and WarioWare were fun, sure, but there hasn’t been enough. The Virtual Console has held up the retail library, certainly offering as many hours of fun as their full-price brothers. Some rather mediocre games have been snapped up amazingly quickly just because they’re all that’s available. It’s not been completely barren, but we certainly look forward to seemingly imminent increase in quality.
Even if early adopters have faced a drought, the Wii’s creation has been a breath of fresh air. Games like Wii Sports and Zelda have been played well into the year with the controls offering an exciting new angle to gaming. It hasn’t been pushed to its limits yet, but the end of the year looks to prove the boon for the Wii’s software from a hardcore perspective for at least 3 reasons. First, mouths are watering after each new Super Mario Galaxy screen is released, and as you can see from our preview it’s shaping up to be the true successor to its N64 daddy. Second, preview upon preview has been excited about the new control methods for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and frankly it would be surprising if it is not the best in the series yet. Finally, despite the age it’s taking getting onto European shores, Super Paper Mario looks to be a must-have title for Wii owners. Add to that other key releases slated for a 2007 release such as Fire Emblem, Battalion Wars 2 and NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams and we have more than enough to keep us entertained well into 2008 .
Will the DS ever run out of steam? The DS has the combination the Wii aspires to; the perfect combination of casual and hardcore games that attracts and satisfies both parties incredibly. This year has seen the continued revival of point-and-click titles with the new Phoenix Wright and Hotel Dusk, the wonderfully compelling Picross and the music based sensation of Elite Beat Agents, which, unless you imported, is the first you’ll have seen of this sort of game. And the year isn’t set to stop there either. Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Anno 2701 and Sonic Rush Adventure are just a sample of the quality we can expect up until 2008. Long live the little two-screened gem!
Does it Wii-lly work? The new control methods possible with the Wii are exciting, sure, but this year most of what we’ve experienced has seemed needlessly tacked on, controls that really shouldn’t be put in the game if they are going to be pulled off so badly. Games such as Zelda and WarioWare showcased the best uses for the control method, but there are too many games where the motion controls just seem poor, Need for Speed: Carbon and Splinter Cell: Double Agent being perfect examples. The developers made some odd control decisions, packing in Wii controls where possible and the results were games that just felt awkward to play. Developers need to realise that some games can just use the Wii subtly, like Zelda did and Advance Wars has on the DS. Fingers crossed, developers, especially third parties, will learn to use the controls in a more fruitful manner in the near future.
Judgement: It wouldn’t be surprising should the Wii reign king of 2007, especially if the console continues to sell at twice the rate of its rivals. By early 2008, you can bet most will be thanking Nintendo for their brave move towards something just a little bit different.
Itâ€™s been tough in places; there have been droughts and delays,
repair centres and raised eyebrows, but ultimately, 2007 has seen some of the best gaming ever. For multi-format owners, all of the major consoles, both home and handheld, have oďŹ€ered some of the most consistently strong gaming experiences you will ever see. It boggles the mind even to think of the potential of the Christmas line-up. Beyond that, 2008 promises to deliver with some of the key titles for each platform on the way. 2007; a gaming utopia, a euphoric paradise, and a haven for all things video games.
KEY RELEASES THIS MONTH 05/10/07 CSI: Hard Evidence (360, PC) NBA Live 08 (360, PS2) 12/10/07 Donkey Kong Jungle Climber (DS) Folklore (PS3) Project Gotham Racing 4 (360) Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (Multi) 19/10/07 Eternal Sonata (360) The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) The Orange Box (360, PC) 26/10/07 Clive Barker’s Jericho (360, PS3, PC) Football Manager 2008 (PC, Mac) Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii) Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (Multi)
This month may have seen some fantastic games being released, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any more on the horizon.
CALL OF DUTY 4
360, PS3, PC
This month we sit down for a playtest of the Call of Duty 4 Beta. Can Infinity Ward still deliver now that they’re out of their WWII comfort zone and into the gritty reality of urban warfare? Elsewhere we take a look at Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the latest title to come from Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter series creator ‘Naughty Dog’. Given the studio behind it our expectations for the title are somewhat higher, but is it looking likely that Naughty Dog can do for PS3 what they did for both PS1 and 2 before it? You’ll have to read on to find out. We’ll also be looking at another of the PS3’s big hopes Killzone 2, the graphical behemoth that is Crysis and Vivendi’s time-altering FPS TimeShift. But first we take a trip into Paradise City, where the road is your playground and only the sky is the limit...
D+PAD’S MOST WANTED
CALL OF DUTY 4
PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 4
UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE
360, PS3, PC
BURNOU T PARADISE Itâ€™s funny how things change. Where once Burnout was considered a brave and original departure from the realm of GT wannabes, now it finds itself dangerously close to being labeled as iterative and unimaginative. However, in its first real next-gen outing, Criterion are reinventing the series from course based arcade racer to a free-roaming, open-world driving experience. But is this simply pandering to the fashion for sandbox gaming, or a brave and ambitious venture that will genuinely take the series forward?
Fans will be pleased to know that the core gameplay remains, the over the top sense of speed, the extravagant crashes, but this time the trademark Burnout gameplay occurs throughout an entire freely explorable city. Players initiate races by pulling up to traffic lights, hitting the shoulder buttons and taking it from there. Races are point to point across Paradise City, with the player making use of their knowledge of the streets in order to carve the fastest route through town. Of course being Burnout, this doesnâ€™t necessarily mean with all four tyres touching the ground. The city itself is designed to make each race a veritable roller coaster ride of extreme driving; I mean, why go round a building when you can leap over it, right? FORMAT 360, PS3 PUBLISHER EA DEVELOPER Criterion RELEASE Q4 2007 PREVIEWED BY Ian Tellam
21 You’ll also get the opportunity to share the experience online with friends with the heavily integrated online modes. At any point in the single player game you’ll be able to invite your friends into the game. Once invited they can drop in instantly and begin racing you head-to-head, or collaborating in the various co-operative challenges on offer, be it performing stunts or crashes. It’s a neat system which does away with the traditional but clunky lobby system making for a cleaner, seamless transition between online and offline play. Your achievements during online play also contribute towards your single player game and vice versa. As you drive around the city, street sign posts will indicate whether you currently hold the record for a certain race, indicated as gold, or if a friend has beaten your time, in which case it will show as red.
Despite all that’s new this is still recognisably Burnout, which means that everything that made the series famous is still present and correct, and has in fact been turned up to eleven this time round. The crashes are more impressive and brutal than ever, the power of the next generation hardware being put to spectacular effect with the new physics engine. The series was always renowned for its gorgeous visuals and once again Criterion doesn’t disappoint. In terms of both scale and detail the game looks truly stunning whilst the whole thing flies along at that magical 60fps rate. Burnout: Paradise is also one of the relatively few games for which the PS3 is the lead platform, although you’d probably have to see both versions side by side to really notice any differences. The online interface is also clearly more geared toward the PlayStation Network style of online gaming rather than the heavily standardised Microsoft take on the concept. All this is good news for PlayStation 3 owners who have had to endure some slightly lacklustre ports
of 360 titles over the last year, not to mention the weaker versions of EA’s own flagship sports brands. Perhaps this will mark a coming of age for a platform just toddling out of its infancy. All in all Burnout Paradise is looking extremely promising. There was always a risk that the developers could become infatuated with their own sense of ambition and that the simplicity that worked so well for the previous entries in the series would become lost in this iteration. Thankfully Criterion seem to be succeeding in moving the series forward whilst retaining the accessibility and gratifying nature of the earlier games, and no doubt Paradise will be causing quite a splash when its released this Winter. After all the fuss over Forza and GT, maybe it’s once again time for Burnout to stand apart from the crowd and bring a few old fashioned thrills back to the racing genre.
FORMAT PlayStation 3 PUBLISHER Sony DEVELOPER Guerilla RELEASE 2008 PREVIEWED BY Graham Naunton
KILLZONE 2 Until recently, if someone mentioned Killzone 2 to you, what’s the first thing that would spring to mind? That trailer, more than likely. Premiered at E3 2005, the now infamous footage drew gasps from the assembled media and was responsible for a fair few dropped jaws. Killzone 2 suddenly became the game to define PlayStation 3; the near perfect CGI quality visuals, the physics, the lighting…it almost seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it actually was too good to be true – because it wasn’t – as the footage was never representative of actual in-game action. Cue mass derision from the videogame media and resentment of having the wool pulled over our eyes. Some would speculate that Sony’s ‘blips’ of late all began here. Recently, Guerrilla managing director Hermen Hulst offered a defence of the trailer, that it ‘has always been the vision that we laid out for ourselves. A vision has to be ambitious yet achievable. You’re not going to roll out a vision that isn’t achievable according to your own guys.’ So the question now is, does the recently unveiled gameplay footage match the trailer? Well, it doesn’t match per se, but it comes pretty darn close. Killzone 2 finally broke cover at E3 2007 all guns blazing and is set to be one of Sony’s most important games of 2008, a year starting to become more and more crucial to the electronics giant. The scene for the latest title is set on the home planet of series bad guys, the Helghast, the rain-lashed cityscape littered with warped iron, crumbling buildings riddled with bullet holes and general carnage as your squad sets down on terra firma. After a successful defence of home planet Vekta in the first game, good guys the ISA are here to finish the job. But don’t think that taking on the enemy on their home patch is going to be an easy task. The AI of the Helghast has been ramped up considerably; troops take cover from your fire, flanking your squad and coming at you in numbers. The obvious graphical enhancements add a very visceral feel to combat this time around. Nail a Helghan with a shotgun at close range and his gargled last cries are mildly unsettling. Add the realistic physics, with bodies crumpling and flailing in a convincing manner and claret spewing forth from wounds should make the combat that much more intense. And yes, the weapon reload animations (much like the weapons themselves) are meatier than ever. Enemies vary from standard troopers, riflemen, to a massive heavy gunner seen at the end of the demo. Taking this big boy down requires usage of brainpower, as his massive chaingun and heavy armour prevent any form of frontal assault. In the demo, your AI squad draw his fire whilst you sneak around the rear and target fuel cells on his back. These sorts of ‘boss’ encounters will feature in the game, as Guerrilla have cited Metal Gear Solid as one of their influences this time around. And speaking of influences, the heavy gunner looks remarkably similar to a Big Daddy…
Another influence which becomes apparent is that of Gears of War. The planet Helghan’s art style is similar to that of the planet Sera after the Locust attack, however Guerrilla confirm that there are many types of environment yet to be seen in Killzone 2. Whether or not this is simply a veiled ‘the sun might be out in some levels’ is yet to be seen. One could argue that this style of de-saturating colours to create a more dull, bleaker art style was started by Guerrilla themselves for the original Killzone. In reality though, the one thing that will elevate Killzone 2 above other FPS’s and cement its place as a must have title is in its shooting. In essence it’s what these sort of games are all about and Guerrilla have ramped up the ante by several notches. Taking a few leaves out of Criterion’s bullet-fest that was Black, one of the PlayStation 2’s finest hours, every round spent from your gun has an impact. Whether it be bullets pinging off the sides of buildings, destroying scenery entirely or ripping through Helghast, the power of the PS3’s processors creates this huge spectacle of war, where every bullet fired has a believable consequence. Like the AI and the graphical touches such as anti-aliasing and lighting effects, this adds a real sense of immersion to the play.
So it’s not quite the CGI trailer we witnessed back in 2005, but Guerrilla are definitely pulling off something special with the PS3’s hardware capabilities. Killzone 2 looks the part and plays well, but let’s hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate as the first game; some nice ideas but ultimately a flawed and over-hyped gaming experience. And with the PS3 struggling in terms of sales, a game of Killzone’s quality would be a perfect remedy. We’ll all find out for ourselves if the hype is justified in early 2008.
Crysis is a game that has garnered more attention than most other FPS’s of late. It is understandable really, seeing as it is the unbelievably gorgeous poster-child for the new DX10 hardware that has begun to emerge in recent months. Microsoft itself has pushed the title as one of the flagship products for Vista based gaming, because let’s face it, Halo 2 was hardly the greatest advertisement for the future of PC gaming.
FORMAT PC PUBLISHER EA DEVELOPER Crytek RELEASE November PREVIEWED BY Ian Tellam
At a time when the PC platform is floundering somewhat against the onslaught of the HD super-consoles, PC gamers finally have a game which justifies that monster rig; the game just couldn’t exist in its current state on any other system. Crysis does look truly amazing, not just in the extreme definition in which the environments are rendered, something which in this HD era we’ve become almost blasÈ about, but in the scope, scale and general tangibility of the whole environment. There’s no need here for any artificial constraints in level design or limited scenery to bolster the frame rate, these are in-game graphics sans frontieres. From your vantage point at the top of the island, you gaze across the landscape and admire the lush scenery laid out in front of
you. Every leaf, every stem, every peeling piece of bark rendered in exquisite detail. Light streams through the canopy, filtering through the dense foliage and casting a delicate web of shadows on the ground below, moving and shifting in the gentle breeze. Tranquil, until you whip out your assault rifle and in a hail of bullets shred the vegetation into a fine mulch. Because for once in a game the environment doesn’t just look real, it acts realistically too. Ferns, flowers and trees bend, break and behave just like you’d expect them to. So far so impressive, but altogether doesn’t it seem a little reminiscent of Crytek’s previous venture? Also a really pretty shooter, also on a tropical island, also with the word ‘Cry’ in the title. Perhaps, but this time Crysis is keen to prove it’s no bimbo and indeed there’s far more going on here than a re-run of Far Cry. While early footage concentrated on the familiar tropical island setting, more recently we’ve been seeing to a couple of new environments; ‘Ice’ and the more mysterious alien spacecraft known as ‘Core’. Predictably ‘Ice’ is an outstanding snow-shrouded landscape complete with uncannily realistic weather effects - Lost Planet just doesn’t compare.
25 Which makes sense really, everyone knows that snow always looks great in games. There’s more to this choice of settings than just eye candy; the frozen wasteland being intrinsic to the plot. The story of Crysis begins with an alien ship landing on an island in the South China sea. Of course, such an event doesn’t occur every day and quickly draws attention from nearby Korean and American forces. Initially hostile towards one another, the warring factions soon band together when the E.T.’s true intentions come to light; the area around the ship turning to icy tundra as the ship transforms the Earth into the kind of place the bothersome invaders like to call home. So throughout these various locales you‘ll battle your humanity saving mission. Fortunately you have some pretty nifty tricks up your sleeve with which to dispatch the alien menace, as well as any human troops foolish enough to cross your path. In addition to the usual improbable arsenal to pick from, Crysis gives you a variety of super-powers with which to cut your swathe of destruction. The suit your character wears imbues you with a series of special abilities, enabling you to exhibit extraordinary speed, strength and the ever useful power of invisibility. The use of these abilities during combat creates some of Crysis’ more interesting game dynamics and, depending on your playing style, each situation can pan out differently. You could, for instance, sneak up on a group of enemies with your suit’s cloak enabled, come out of cloak, switch to strength, pick up a nearby soldier and use him as a human shield while you mow down the rest of the group, darting out of the way with your superhuman speed if things start to get a little hairy. This emergent gameplay, combined with the learning AI being touted should help set Crysis apart from other entries in the crowded FPS genre. Crytek seem to be aiming to build a world in which players can really run riot. With the degree of realism and fidelity the Crysis engine offers combined with the amount of freedom bestowed upon the player, Crysis is shaping up to be one huge, beautiful, bullet-ridden playground. The key to many great games is their ability to create a world in which you genuinely enjoy being, whether it be the rolling hills of Hyrule or the 80’s sleaze of Vice City. With the amount of work and care the developers have siphoned into giving Crysis the most amazing, living breathing world yet seen in a videogame, Crytek may have crafted something very special. So start booking those flights PC fans, your holiday into the world of Crysis kicks off this November.
CALL OF DUTY 4 If last years Call of Duty 3 was a mere way of cashing in on the infamous Call of Duty franchise, then this years offering is handing you your money back with a perk. Infinity Ward (the folk behind Call of Duty 1 & 2) are back in the driving seat, and this time around have taken the bull by the horns and chosen not to go with the standard World War 2 affair. IW have taken their soldiers, kitted them out with M4’s, flash grenades and support choppers and thrown them into a modern-day setting. And thankfully the game is looking all the more better for it.
FORMAT 360, PS3, PC PUBLISHER Activision DEVELOPER Infinity Ward RELEASE November PREVIEWED BY Kevin Lynch
Then again “looking better” has always been something the IW guys have done an amazing job with. With CoD2 being a launch title for the Xbox 360, the game (despite being a PC port) really gave us a glimpse of what could be with the next-generation of consoles. So it’s no surprise then that Call of Duty 4 is looking a little nice. The games engine handles motion and lighting effects with perfection, and everything comes into play when you’re sneaking around a blown out building only to look outside and be slightly stunned by the sun. Best of all, the game runs at a very solid 60 frames per second, something you’ll really notice when rockets, grenades, Harriers, choppers and debris all kick off around you.
But despite the game being a graphical showpiece in many ways, the visual eye-candy is just a nice coating for what really sets the game apart from other shooters. “Customisation” is CoD4’s key point, and it does so in a way that really lets you play as you see fit. Of course when you first start playing the beta you’ll be forced to pick a default character class, ranging from snipers, spec ops, demolition, heavy gunner and assault troops. But keep playing and you’ll unlock the ability to create a custom class (or even five, as it
stands in the beta) allowing you to take any of the weapons from the default class, add what ever weapon add-ons you’ve unlocked and then set your character up with three “Perks”. Perks is CoD4’s way of giving you more stuff to toy around with and, in some situations, saving your life. You’ll unlock these perks, much like everything else in the game, by playing it, achieving certain challenges (which we’ll talk about later), gaining XP and in turn levelling up. These perks range from giving you access to rocket launchers and C4, increasing bullet penetrability in order to fire through walls, and even one perk named ‘Last Stand’, which sees you dropping to the ground when you’re on your last legs to fire
27 off a few more rounds with your handgun. While the perks may appear a gimmick at first, they truly make a difference to the balance and potential tactics of the game, and it’s the levelling up and unlocking of these and other items that truly give CoD4 it’s lasting appeal. No longer are you just playing to win, you’re playing to unlock that scope you want for your sniper class, or unlocking the clan tag perk so you can get that “c0kk” clan tag you always wanted. The level up system may not be a revolution in online gaming, but it’s the way in which IW have implemented it that sets it apart from those before it. The game even prides itself on making sure you know you’ve levelled up by flashing on-screen exactly when you’ve hit the next level, echoed by a guitar solo accompaniment. Then there are the ‘Challenges’. Best described as in-game achievements (considering the full game has no online achievements maybe this was deliberate), nearly all of the weapons have challenges tied to them, ranging from getting one hundred headshots with the MP5, to getting 20 prone kills. The list is huge, and IW have even seen fit to kit it outwith bizarre and humorous requirements. You just need to see the 30ft Jump challenge for evidence of that. But the main point is, they add yet another reason as to why CoD4 could well knock up as many hours online as Halo 3, and when you gain more XP or unlock another weapon add-on, it’s hard not to want to keep playing. And speaking of Halo, the way the lobby system works in CoD4 is also very similar. Set up a room, invite some friends in and then you get matched up with other folk from around the world. Simple as that. We thought that when Halo 2 launched we would see almost every online game take this match-making approach, but for some reason it didn’t really happen. Surprising really, considering its ease of use and, more often than not, good results. But that’s the only huge problem that we’ve seen within the beta, the latency. Of course though that’s the point of a beta and we’re hoping that all latency issues will be fixed within the game’s final code. Luckily it doesn’t ruin the experience of the beta, as when it does run smooth, it runs extremely smooth. It’s clear from the hours we’ve spent with the beta that Infinity Ward have poured a tonne of love into Call of Duty 4 and are well aware of the other big online shooters that they’re going up against this Autumn. Sure, there are some issues that still need to be ironed out, and it will be interesting to see when the full game launches how easy it will be for somebody new to the game to have fun going up against a level 55 player. But what the beta proves is that the game play, visuals, weapons and toys are all in place. So if you can’t get your hands on the beta, sit tight, because November 5th can’t come soon enough.
UNCHARTED DRAKE’S FORTUNE There’s something about Nathan Drake, the titular protagonist of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which we here at D+PAD aren’t exactly big fans of. Perhaps it’s his annoying Gap model good looks. Or maybe it’s his vocabulary, lifted straight from a surfer (“This is so not cool!” our Nathan is heard to exclaim). His day-job reading as ‘adventurer’ fills us desk jockeys with a slimy envy too. Or even his inevitably grating cliche female sidekick, destined to be rescued/flirted with several times in the tale. Whatever it is, we just can’t put our finger on it.
FORMAT PlayStation 3 PUBLISHER Sony DEVELOPER Naughty Dog RELEASE December PREVIEWED BY Graham Naunton
One thing we do like about Nathan though is his humanity. He may just be pixels and polygons with a voiceover yes, but developers Naughty Dog have instilled a sense of human fallibility not really seen in an action hero since John McClane decided to go barefoot in Die Hard, or a certain Mr Jones began cracking bullwhips in temples and tombs. Watch him struggle to regain balance as he takes a hard landing after leaping great chasms, wincing whilst bullets from angry modern day pirates ping off walls he’s using as cover. Indeed, wince yourself as Drake takes some big punches whilst involved in the game’s
meaty hand to hand combat sequences, somewhat reminiscent of a Saturday night in any city centre near you (the brawling, not the pirates). The plot is inspired from Saturday morning serials and pulp novels, where our main man Nathan Drake believes he is the descendent of the late great Sir Francis Drake. Fortunate how they chose similar career paths eh? Upon discovery of the old sailors’ tomb, Nathan discovers that his ancestor may have
faked his own death to run off with a huge stash of loot. So off he goes along with Elena Fisher (documentary maker/blatant love interest) to hunt for Drake’s fortune. Unfortunately for Nathan, they aren’t the only ones. Our hero is brimming with character, but it’s not just his wisecracking that has us charmed - the entire game looks stunning and loaded with detail, from lush jungle foliage twinkling with dew, to the areas of ruins, caves and temples that litter the game’s landscape covered with dust. Watch it all fly when the guns start going off. All of the action seen thus far emanates from this backdrop and gameplay is roughly split into two ‘types’ - the
29 run and gun, duck and cover shooting massively influenced by Gears of War, and the large 3D spaces to navigate through using vines winging, ledge grabbing, leap-of-faith’ing skills reminiscent of the Tomb Raider series. So, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then? Well…sort of. Thing is, Uncharted has enough charm (which to us seems oddly familiar to point-and-click adventures of yesteryear, except with more assault rifles) to avoid becoming hasty mix of the two. Or at least, we hope so. So far, the enemy AI in the shooting sections has been a bit suspect, and whether buckles have been swashed or not, these pirates you’ll be blasting for the most part take some serious lead filling before they eventually drop. The hand to hand combat is a bit sluggish too. As satisfying as it is to plant your boot into a pirate’s crown jewels in slow-mo, most of the features such as counter attacks, parries and finishing moves are yet to be implemented.
But, as in most preview builds, elements of the game such as these are viewed on their potential. The title has a good couple of months to undergo some cosmetic surgery before its release, and you’d be hard pressed to doubt Naughty Dogs’ ability, given their history with the Sony platform (the Jak and Daxter series were always ones to impress your Xbox-owning mates with). It will also be interesting to see whether the two game styles - one part blasting a la Gears, the other ledge leaping – will complement each other well. Nothing could be worse than having to wade through deeply annoying and unsatisfying chunks of the game only to get to the fun parts. The later iterations of Naughty Dog’s Jak games arguably suffered from this to some extent. Fortunately, Uncharted already plays like a deeply satisfying boys own adventure, which is great news for the platform. Get ready to rumble in the jungle when Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune gets its December EU release.
TIMESHIFT Time. In the real world, unbending and unbreakable. Always constant, but seemingly changing; fast when you want it to go slow, dragging when you want it to fly. Long in the realm of science fiction has the manipulation of time been a fascination of creators and fans alike. Our inebriation with the thought of moulding time to our whim could be the biggest strength of Saber Interactive's TimeShift. The irrevocable truth of the realities of time could however be its biggest weakness...
FORMAT 360, PS3, PC PUBLISHER Sierra DEVELOPER Saber Interactive RELEASE October PREVIEWED BY Tom Hoggins
Announced back in early 2005, TimeShift was set to be one of the Xbox 360's defining launch titles; a promising FPS with an interesting, if not wholly original time control mechanic. Assuming the role of Michael Swift, the player was invited to fight a war across a steampunk world wearing a suit designed to be able to shift time to the bearer's will. Published by Atari, the game was initially scheduled for the original Xbox before being moved to the upcoming 360 shortly before completion. Problems with the adaption caused delay after delay, before Atari finally decided to put the game on the auction block in a cost-cutting measure in the face of financial problems.
Snapped up by Sierra Entertainment (a subsidiary of Vivendi Games) the game was seven bugs away from completion. Long suffering director Kyle Peschel was called into a meeting to discuss the game's future and was asked "What if you had another year?" After a few choice remarks from Peschel, he explained if he had the chance he'd strip the game down and start again. Expecting Sierra to relent and release the game as it was. Peschel was given the extra year and TimeShift's latest rebirth began.
TimeShift had already lost the colourful steampunk setting and lead character Swift was dropped, the reasons cited were that neither 'resonated with the public'. The world TimeShift became was a dystopia, ruled by oppressive dictator Aiden Krone. Gritty and dark, the setting could not have been more different with Swift sharply replaced by an unnamed protagonist adorned with the time suit. Ultimately, the TimeShift we see today, a mere month from its long delayed release, is a far cry from Saber's original vision of the title. Thrust into the latest 360 demo, you're immediately pitched into a battle against Krone's regime. Activating the time suit's
31 power using LB, time slows as you dispatch the nearby soldiers delivering a beating to members of the uprising. Slow-motion is hardly a new sight in video games and fortunately, TimeShift has more than that up its sleeve when it comes to time travel. The LB button is context sensitive meaning a quick press will activate whatever power the game deems appropriate at that particular juncture. However, holding down LB brings up further options. The suit can slow time, stop it altogether or even rewind, all the while leaving the player unaffected. Again, this isn't new to video games, but while both Blinx and Prince of Persia utilised the manipulation of time in this way, it feels remarkably fresh in a FPS. Being able to rewind time just because you didn't get that grenade throw quite right, stopping time to steal an opponent's weapon before bludgeoning them in their subsequent confusion, it's all very good fun. The more standard gunplay stands up reasonably well too, though the opposition encountered thus far have seemed none too bright and will happily take a few well-placed bullets to the head. But despite some sub-par AI, it's all very solid. The level in the demo bears more than a passing resemblance to Half-Life 2's City 17, complete with Krone appearing on giant screens to project his propaganda and giant robotic sentries. Fighting your way through, you will come across a few time related 'puzzles', for example requiring the player to rewind time previous to a corridor collapsing to pass through safely or slowing time to make it across a pipe before it falls. These simple tasks show a very small taste of the possibilities the time suit provides and the final version of the game will do well to incorporate some fiendish time and mind bending puzzles to set it apart. But herein lies TimeShift's biggest problem; setting itself apart. While TimeShift is shaping up to be a solid, enjoyable shooter, you can't help but shake the feeling its troubled and protracted development will count against it. As an early 360 title, TimeShift could have stood out. As it is, the game's late October release will see it sandwiched between two of gaming's FPS behemoths in Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. Add to this Medal of Honor: Airborne, Killzone 2, Haze and the already released BioShock and the FPS genre is looking crowded on all formats this year. Time. It has dogged Saber's adventure since its inception, two years of delays and a launch date in the middle of the most fiercely competitive gaming release period for years. Time. It could be the game's saviour, should man's curiosity of cheating the clock be sated. Eventually, the old father will tell.
ETERNAL SONATA It is a shame, because somewhere in amongst the Halo hype, Gotham gossip and Mass mentions, Eternal Sonata is likely to be missed. It won’t be the first time; most Japanese RPGs disappear from the charts after a week or so, even when bundled with a console like the recent release of Blue Dragon. But this game isn’t a by-the-numbers JRPG. It’s a game in the vein of the tremendous Tales of Symphonia in alignment with the fabulous Final Fantasy XII. The game has the winning formula in the key area. That area, evidently, is the presence of an exciting and tactical battle system. It offers something that isn’t a stiff turn based system as seen in Blue Dragon and isn’t quite the free flowing, organised chaos of Tales of Symphonia. Instead Eternal Sonata allows one character to move freely around the battle ground with a given time to complete a series of moves, striking their chosen foe or healing their chosen companion from long or close range. It offers something different, something you have to think about and plan.
FORMAT Xbox 360 PUBLISHER Atari DEVELOPER Namco Bandai Games RELEASE October PREVIEWED BY Richard Angus
33 But it’s the added intricacies within the system that really gives the game the sense that it’s a highly skilled session of chess, rather than a one dimensional game of snap as so many JRPGs are. For example, light and shadow plays a key part in battles, with each character having a move that reacts contextually to the position the player finds themselves in. Which move is used is dictated by whether you are stood in sun or shade, making the player think more about what moves they are going to use. Don’t forget; enemies create a shadow of their own too, so you will have to move around it or attack from range if you want to use light moves. Admittedly the system has the potential to become frustrating should you forget about it, and end up taking a picture of the enemy rather than filling it with ambient energy. You will learn what attacks to use and from what range through a combination of a very tidy menu system and experience, and you would be advised to do so; the difficulty level is such that you will really have to think about your actions further into the game. Whilst it doesn’t make a game, the graphics are unquestionably fantastic, offering something different to the comic styles of Blue Dragon and the sci-fi style of Mass Effect; the graphics very much in keeping with the theme of a dream. Baten Kaitos showed that fixed cameras can work as well as offer a different style, and it works here too as a beautiful way of presenting things. However, often a fixed camera comes packaged with a rather linear game; an odd correlation yes, but one from early indications that also seems to be true of Eternal Sonata.
The music is a key area of the game and on this level it does not disappoint. Eternal Sonata has a beautiful score, from soothing legatos to foreboding staccatos. Aside from the score, there are no real musical integrations into the gameplay, other than through an added mini-game. Odd considering the game’s focal point is based on a musician. If you are an RPG fan, it would be surprising if this wasn’t already on your radar. Promising a story and battle system to match its stunning presentation, and whilst it may not get the reception it deserves, we eagerly look forward to journeying into Chopin’s fascinating dream world next month.
34 35 39
MEDAL OF HONOR: AIRBORNE
REVIEW SCORES An essential purchase. If you own the console, you need this game A great game and one well worth checking out Good fun but nothing special If you're a big fan of the genre it might be worth a rental, but only just
360, PS3, PC
360, PS3, PC
360, PS3, PS2
Wow, what a month! As Summer finally comes to a close we’re presented with an explosion of titles to make up for the recent drought. But which games truly deserve your hard-earned cash?
GUILD WARS E.O.T.N.
SUPER PAPER MARIO
This month we sit down with Sony’s highly anticipated action adventure title Heavenly Sword. Is it a reason to finally pick up a PS3, or just another game to add to the ‘close but no cigar’ category? You’ll have to head over to page 39 to read our thoughts on that one.
Elsewhere we’ve got a review of Stranglehold, the spiritual successor to Hard Boiled and the returning collaboration of John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. Head over to page 43 to check that out. But first, a game that needs no introduction. Chief, it’s time to finish this fight...
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60 HALO 3
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HALO 3 This is the way the world ends
inston Churchill once said “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Bungie Studios is all too aware of this mantra. Having created the Halo phenomenon, Bungie must now shoulder the weight of duty that comes with it. Halo is a giant; a science fiction opus that has transcended the video game industry to become one of the biggest franchises in any form of entertainment. The original Halo gave people a cast-iron reason to own Microsoft’s Xbox; a game that revolutionised the console first-person-shooter. The sequel had the finest online multiplayer mode devised with a community that thrived for years after the game’s release. Fans embraced the Halo universe and the iconic Master Chief. This following is the most fervent group of fans you could possibly imagine; they will not settle for anything less than perfection.
FORMAT Xbox 360 PUBLISHER Microsoft Game Studios DEVELOPER Bungie Studios REVIEWED BY Tom Hoggins
The weight of expectation heaped upon the final act in Bungie’s trilogy is huge, not just from the fans but from Microsoft. It is a simple truth that demonstrates the enormity of the task; if there was no Halo, there would be no Xbox 360. The console has built up a very impressive library in the 22 months since its release, but this is the big one. This is the game that many people bought the machine for. This is the game that needs to bring a spectacular finale to the greatest and most loved console FPS series in history. This is Bungie’s price of greatness, this is its responsibility...
Such a game must start with a bang. Master Chief hurtles to Earth in a blaze of glory, crashing down in a lush rainforest. Taking pause only to admire the surroundings, you are thrust straight into the fight; and what a fight it is. Make no mistake, Halo 3 is as pure a first-person shooter there is. There are no attempts to shoehorn in any unnecessary filler, there is no backtracking. It’s you, the oncoming Brutes and a vast array of weaponry with which to take them down. Non-believers need not apply. This is essence of Halo, bottled, shaken up and let rip on expectant gamers. From the word go you are overcome by the Covenant as swarms of Grunts rush your position while the Brutes lead the charge. These Brutes are now the primary enemy of Halo, and are imbued with far more personality and intelligence than they were afforded in Halo 2. You will come across different ranks of Brutes as you progress through Halo’s campaign, each carrying some seriously heavy weaponry. The excellent enemy AI comes into play here, these Brutes have both the brawn and the brains. They will flank you, sneak up behind you while you’re distracted and generally try to win a battle of wits as well as weapons. But they’re not your only concern. Grunts hunt in packs and the crack-shot Jackals attempt to pick you off from a cliff top. Each enemy has its own strengths and weaknesses and are full of personality, a quality often missed in shooters such as this.
The rock-solid combat needed to dispose of these enemies is the same as ever, which is to say, as good as ever, the only tweak to the controls being the introduction of the equipment button which deploys shields, turrets and other useful items. Otherwise, it’s the same duck and cover riotous gunplay that have made the series an unprecedented success. Running and gunning is not advised, particularly on the higher levels and you must choose your moment to unleash your barrage of lead and plasma, or otherwise suffer a heavily depleted shield. The Covenant are not prone to missing. Of course, you need the right gear to finish the fight and Halo 3 boasts the most impressive arsenal in the series. Each weapon is balanced perfectly, each has their trade-offs. Whether it be the new Spartan Laser that unleashes a devastating red beam at the cost of a lengthy charge time, or the returning (by popular demand) Assault Rifle that is fast-firing but causes limited damage and has a small clip. It is a fine balancing act to master but Bungie has avoided an all-conquering combo of weapons that filtered into the first two games. In addition to the monstrous Spartan Laser there are a number of additions to the weapons rack. The Gravity Hammer wielded by the higher ranking Brutes can now be carried by the player, bringing a crunching end to foes and sending out a wave that propels skywards those unfortunate enough to be
in its path. The Brute equivalent of the human SMGs, the Spikers, are a dual-wielders dream. There are also new vehicles to help you on your path. As well as the much loved Warthog, the UNSC now provides a zippy ATV called the Mongoose and the Hornet, a heavily-armed warhawk. These vehicles control as in the previous games, unwieldy at first but master them and you will be pulling power slides and jumps in no time. You will need to master all this gear to make your way through Halo 3’s campaign which, while relatively slight in length (an experienced player will clock the game on Normal in a few sittings), is a rip-roaring rollercoaster from start to finish. From this observer’s point of view, a truly great game should have moments that leave you agape in wonder, times when you have to set the pad aside and revel in what has just transpired onscreen. Halo 3 has these moments in abundance. Almost every one of the campaign’s nine chapters has a glorious set-piece spectacle, and you are involved in them all. Taking control of the Master Chief fulfils the dream every action game tries to achieve. You are the hero. You are man’s last hope and you will take down everything in your way. Few games give you the spine-tingling satisfaction that these moments in Halo 3 provide. To go into detail would be to cheapen their impact. They are to be experienced and to be remembered.
37 “BUNGIE GIVES YOU THE TOOLS, YOU BUILD THE EXPERIENCE ”
It’s not only the set-pieces that will stay with you; there are moments in Halo 3 that you create yourself, events that are usually followed by a mile-wide grin such as braving the fire of a plasma turret in your Warthog, flying over a jump and crashing into the turret, taking it and the grunt manning it down in flames. Bungie gives you the tools, you build the experience. An experience played out in gorgeous sprawling landscapes. While perhaps lacking the technical detail of say, Gears of War, Halo’s art direction is a thing to behold. A vibrant, colourful palette brings the world to life; giant architectural masterpieces stretching into the sky. Each enemy and vehicle is full of character. In all, Halo is a thing of visual beauty supplemented by a wonderful soundtrack that rises into stirring orchestral crescendos as the action onscreen reaches its zenith. It’s astonishing that from the thrilling start to the heartthumping finale, Halo 3’s campaign almost never misses a beat. The only bum note comes in the penultimate mission, where the first half relies too heavily on overwhelming chokepoints and skates dangerously close to ‘Library’ type frustration. Other than that small blip, the entire campaign is full of exhilarating excitement. By the end you will be exhausted but craving for more. That craving can be fulfilled in the incredibly extensive multiplayer. The campaign co-op of up to four people is just the beginning. If Halo 2 was a breakthrough in online console gaming, Halo 3 takes it that step further. Incredibly, the brilliance of Halo 2’s matchmaking and lobby system has rarely been aped by other online titles. Halo’s ranked matches actually pit players of similar abilities against each other. The archaic lobby systems of many other games can
become prohibitive to newbies. Getting blasted to pieces by players with over 10,000 kills in Gears is not the most appealing prospect. Halo’s multiplayer also allows you to set up a party of friends in a lobby before embarking on these ranked matches, bringing a whole new layer of community to the online aspect. Community is the word for Halo 3. Bungie listened to fans and adjusted their already formidable formula to near perfection. Allowing fans the chance to customise their experiences with a raft of options, each of the game modes can be tweaked to your own desire if you’re not keen on Bungie’s defaults. There is a huge selection of modes including standard Slayer, through Oddball and on to Infection. The Halo community has always found ways to create its own bespoke games and now Bungie has given them the opportunity to do so comprehensively. The Forge map editor is a further extension to this. Although not able to alter the maps’ geometry, Forge allows players to purchase weapons, crates and equipment to scatter around the level. Forge allows imaginations to run wild. Using Halo’s physics engine to just enjoy messing around with the options can be a pleasant break from the carnage, and one of the most impressive features of Forge is the ability to do all this on the fly. Each player can edit the map to their whim during a battle using currency, making Forge battles a combination of strategy and creativity. Expect some of the more inventive types to exploit Forge to its fullest and share their creations with the world. For all its customisation, the multiplayer gameplay must stack up. It does so brilliantly, bringing the superb weaponry balance of the campaign into the deathmatch arena. However, one complaint would be the overpowered melee attacks, with too many one-onone skirmishes ending up with players wildly swinging the butt of their guns at each other. It somewhat betrays the excellent balancing of the guns when fire-fights are reduced to fisticuffs.
The maps are uniformly excellent and are also numerous and diverse enough to avoid any feeling of repetition. From the confines and underground tunnels of Isolation to the sprawling openness of Sandtrap, each map has its own distinct character. A Big Team Battle on Sandtrap is a terrific experience, featuring a wide selection of vehicles, including the huge Elephant tanks. These tanks are also the target for assault matches; trying to plant the bomb on a heavily-armed moving behemoth leads to epic skirmishes. The wealth of options and unbridled enjoyment in the combat and objective games will ensure that Halo 3 will be spinning in fanâ€™s disk-trays for years. Halo 3 is an unmitigated triumph. An epic, awe-inspiring end to the best loved FPS series in history, filled with an abundance of majestic moments that will stay in playerâ€™s memories forever. It boasts the finest multiplayer of any video game, one that will build a thriving, vibrant community around the globe. Bungie has more than lived up to its responsibility. Halo 3 is its mark of greatness.
39 I've been watching you. You fight with style.
HEAVENLY SWORD F
FORMAT PlayStation 3 PUBLISHER Sony DEVELOPER Ninja Theory REVIEWED BY Tom Hoggins
irst impressions are always important. Something to grab you from the off and build the base for what lies ahead. The first impression you’ll get from Ninja Theory’s Heavenly Sword is just how incredibly gorgeous it is. Make no mistake; Heavenly Sword is a real looker. Incredible sweeping vistas, lush waterfalls, imperious fortresses, and that’s just the backdrop. The characters that will play out the tragic tale to follow are lovingly rendered, down to blemishes and battle scars; their emotions made real by a new level of facial animation. The whole effect is a visual masterpiece, but gives the rest of the game a hard task in matching the stunning cinematics on show. Gaining control of heroine Nariko for the first time, the doubt begins to set in early. Hordes of enemies sweep across the battlefield and you respond by frantically mashing the buttons, gutting most that come your way in an impressive spectacle. It looks great and onlookers may well be impressed at your skills, though it shouldn’t be let on that you’ve achieved
such combat ability with a judicious use of a technique more at home with Track and Field. These battles are interspersed with Nariko manning a giant cannon to take down approaching catapults and after firing, the cannonball can be guided using the SIXAXIS motion controls. This ‘aftertouch’ feature initially seems tacked on, an excuse to utilise Sony’s motion sensitive controller. It’s entertaining enough to follow your cannonball to its intended target, but at first is unwieldy and frustrating. Similarly, second playable character Kai is introduced trying to thin out the ranks of villain King Bohan’s army with her trusty crossbow, again using the motion controls to guide her arrow to their intended target. Not an easy feat for the uninitiated. The impression you now have is of a button-mashing hack-and-slash with cumbersome shooting sections. However, the most important impression is the lasting one. Sticking with Heavenly Sword and exploring its nuances reveals a game well worthy of its status as a PS3 standard-bearer.
Once Nariko gets her hands on the titular Heavenly Sword the combat system is expanded dramatically. Divided into three stances; speed, power and ranged, the sword allows each stance to be combined to form a number of combination attacks. Less judicious players will still find limited success from button-bashing, but to master the game takes some skill and quick reflexes, and once your head is firmly wrapped around the control scheme, battles become a joy. Stringing together successive combos while avoiding and countering enemy attacks is exhilarating and visually arresting - a beautiful, brutal ballet. Kai’s sections also become vastly more enjoyable after you master the deft touch of guiding arrows with the motion control. What once seemed contrived and pointless becomes incredibly entertaining. There are fewer
40 “AN EXPERIENCE TO REMEMBER ”
more satisfying feats than guiding an arrow through a gap in a closed gate into the pasty bonce of your quarry. This is all framed within a story brought to life by astonishing voice and motion-capture acting. Every one of the main characters in Heavenly Sword will find a place in your heart, from troubled heroines Kai and Nariko to the generals of Bohan’s army. King Bohan himself is played with delicious melodrama by Andy Serkis, who had a major role in the writing and directing of the cinematics. The dialogue is excellent throughout, particularly that of Bohan, who should go down as one of the most memorable video game villains of all time.
“EVERY ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS WILL FIND A PLACE IN YOUR HEART ” Ultimately, Heavenly Sword is a game that will give you back what you put in. Taking time to master the game’s combat system and allowing yourself to be swept away by the gorgeous cinematics and wonderful characterisation will give you an experience to remember. The game itself may be short in length but, aside from a slightly shaky start, is non-stop entertainment throughout. And in the end, isn’t being entertained what video games are all about?
MEDAL OF HONOR AIRBORNE I'm awfully sorry, but I'm afraid we're going to have to occupy your house
H FORMAT REVIEWED Xbox 360 OTHER FORMATS PS3, PC PUBLISHER EA DEVELOPER EA LA REVIEWED BY Tom Hoggins
urtling toward the ground with the wind in your helmet, anti-aircraft gunfire flying past your ear toward the plane you just vacated, you’d be forgiven for wondering just what the hell made you think this was a good idea. Then your parachute opens, you survey the landscape, pick your landing zone and brace yourself. Botch this drop and you could find yourself defenceless against the approaching Nazi, get it right and you can kick his teeth out the back of his head as you land.
which order you tackle these objectives is entirely up to you. While most WWII shooters thus far have been almost completely linear, shuttled down a set path mowing down any resistance and occasionally blowing things up, Airborne allows you some freedom, which is what you’re fighting for after all. It cannot be said that the game is a giant sandbox, the different mission maps are relatively small and while you can land anywhere and choose your objectives, it generally boils down to shooting Nazis and, well, occasionally blowing things up.
Thus is the exhilarating beginning to each mission in Medal of Honor Airborne. Taking the role of Private First Class Boyd Travers, a young buck in the US army’s titular Airborne division, Medal of Honor is yet another World War II first person shooter. Stifle your groans, however, because it’s a bloody good one.
For all of Airborne’s freedom and parachute jumps, the meat of the game remains in the combat which is, thankfully, made excellent by a simple but startlingly intuitive cover-and-peek system. Holding down the left-trigger enters ‘iron sights’ which takes aim with your selected weapon. While in iron sights you can then use the movement stick to peek over and around your cover or press down to hit
Bringing death from the sky is the aim of the game in Airborne. Each mission begins with a parachute drop onto a raging battlefield and where Airborne attempts to set itself apart is through the complete control you have over where you land your trooper. The levels you drop into are scattered with objectives to aid the fight against the Nazis and how and in
the deck to protect yourself further, all the while using the aiming stick to pick your targets. Cover-and-peek will be your best friend throughout Airborne’s short campaign as engaging in a firefight out in the open will quickly lead to a restart in the sky. Unfortunately, these restarts are the beginning of Airborne’s problems. Where the game stumbles is in its checkpoint system. Each restart takes you back to the plane for another jump, not a problem in itself as the jumps are a highly enjoyable precursor to the action, but any progress is not saved and recorded until the completion of an objective, which can sometimes take a lot of fighting to get to. Death itself will also be a regular occurrence. Even on Normal difficulty Airborne is a harsh master, which in combination with the questionable checkpoint system can lead to frustration. The occasional graphical glitch with enemies getting stuck on scenery and bullet traces hanging in midair suggest a few more weeks optimisation was also needed. The teammate AI can be spasmodically irritating too, while your squad is outside they are an asset but interiors seem too much for them to handle, straying into your path while you’re dealing with a pesky Nazi and blocking your way on a retreat from a grenade. It’s a shame, as these flaws are more annoying than game-breaking but they manage to take away from what is, for the most part, an excellent experience.
“GOOD AS IT MAY BE, THOSE SICK OF THE SUBGENRE WON’T FIND MUCH HERE TO CHANGE THEIR MIND. ” The campaign is short and sweet taking in only six missions, but completionists will find plenty to come back to, the levels are graded out of five stars, and getting a high ranking is not an easy task. Each weapon is upgradable and receiving commendations for your marksmanship will give the gun a boost, either in capacity, zoom or reload speed. Certain weapons even get a grenade launcher or bayonet. For the skydiving fan, each map contains five skill drops to parachute onto. They’re both tricky to find and land, and are a welcome distraction. Add to this a decent but limited online multiplayer and fans of the game will get plenty of enjoyment out of Airborne. There’s no escaping the fact that MoH: Airborne is another WWII shooter, and good as it may be, those sick to the back teeth of the subgenre won’t find much here to change their mind. But anyone wanting to strap on a ‘chute and fight the Axis of Evil once more will do well to sign up to the Airborne.
43 Everything goes in and out of style, except war
hooting baddies and creating mass-destruction is fun, right? Well, with that established, it is safe to say that Stranglehold is fun, a lot of fun, because its two primary components are the connection of hot lead to generic bad guys, whilst the vicinity is riddled with bullets and resultantly torn apart through your barrage of destruction. With John Woo at the helm what else did you expect?
FORMAT REVIEWED Xbox 360 OTHER FORMATS PS3, PC PUBLISHER Midway DEVELOPER Midway Chicago REVIEWED BY James Bowden
The story of Stranglehold is deep and engaging, and of course being the oft-referred to sequel of the 1992 crime-thriller flick ‘Hard Boiled’ (which also saw Chow Yun Fat team up with John Woo), it’s exactly the sort of plot we’d come to expect. After investigating the murder of a fellow cop, Agent Tequila gets caught up with a myriad of gangs in an attempt to rescue his kidnapped loved ones. What ensues is a violent romp through varied locations and insurmountable amounts of enemies on a one-man killing spree. The basic gunplay is spiced up by bullet time, originally made famous by the 2001 title ‘Max Payne’, as well as a number of Tequila’s special moves. Diving and slow motion effects are all extremely satisfying to both pull off and watch due to the fantastic animations of your adversaries, whilst the Tequila Bombs (Stranglehold’s name for the aforementioned special moves) each have their own good reasons to be used, feeling like remarkable additions rather than tacked on extras.
The biggest problem with the special moves lies with the difficulty settings. As you increase the difficulty level, the less practical the eccentric moves become and instead you will opt to stand in a bottleneck simply killing enemies as they run into your bombardment of bullets. Playing on a lower difficulty and flinging Tequila from chandeliers, diving off of a wall and onto a trolley, and then following it up by jogging up a banister (all the while dispatching your foes) is an undeniably more entertaining experience. The environmental destruction is impressive, and for the first level its use as a weapon is inspired, offering an alternative method of dispatch for the majority of enemies. It is unfortunate that as the levels go on these alternate methods of fending off your foes seem to become less prolific. The surroundings are normally highly destructible but you’ll rarely find the linear scenery killing of the first level. However, in these later levels you will easily see where the graphical power has been used, and while some visual aspects leave a lot to be desired, a few key levels show off the damage modelling beautifully with scenery and effects flying everywhere without even a hint of unintentional slowdown. Levels are pretty basic, normally seeing the player traverse through a series of rooms as you dispatch all comers before advancing. However there are a few attempts to diversify the gameplay, involving a ‘blow up x amounts of objects’,
44 “ENTERTAINING, BUT NOT THE BLOCKBUSTER MIDWAY WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE ”
an overlong mounted turret section and showdowns. The first two are immediately forgettable, raising thoughts of ‘when do I get back to the normal gameplay?’ However, the Matrix-esque showdowns are fun, involving Tequila versus a number of bad guys, the left stick moving Tequila to avoid bullets in slow motion as you quickly dispatch each opponent in turn. These sections merge with the basic gameplay, offering a short and sweet distraction to the standard gunplay. The game does include a multiplayer mode for up to six people, however it feels like an off the cuff attempt. All the moves from the single player are present but it is that that makes the mode feel unbalanced. With friends it provides some amusement, but won’t keep you playing into the night like other games that are much better suited to online play. Stranglehold is an entertaining game, but ultimately not the blockbuster Midway would have you believe. When you take into consideration the short, albeit great, time you’ll have with the single-player and the lacklustre, throwaway attempt of the multiplayer, there’s not much that will keep your interest once you’ve finished the story arc. But bearing in mind the great fun you’ll have along your way, anyone in the mood for some John Woo-style, mindless blasting would do well to take a look at Stranglehold.
45 No stop signs, speed limit, nobody’s gonna slow me down
STUNTMAN IGNITION B
ack in 2002, Reflections released ‘Stuntman’, a different sort of driving game, one that didn’t involve you racing or chasing after somebody. Well, unless at the very last second the game’s director told you to. And then you’d end up hitting that blasted wall and have to witness that long and dreary loading screen before restarting all over again. Oh yes, it was thrilling. And I mean that in a non-sarcastic sense too, because if you did pass that particular scene (albeit after many restarts, cursing, and throwing of controllers later) then you felt proud. Sort of like passing an extremely dangerous driving test.
FORMAT REVIEWED Xbox 360 OTHER FORMATS PS3, PS2 PUBLISHER THQ DEVELOPER Paradigm Entertainment REVIEWED BY Kevin Lynch
Fast-forward to 2007 and Paradigm has taken the reins and gone about trying to smooth out some of the issues that plagued the original game. Looking to Hollywood for inspiration, the game (like the original) borrows themes and ideas from many blockbuster action, spy, and super-hero movies to have you play out the stunt sequences of each. Each of these sequences has you take control of a vehicle and taking orders from the director, who has you pulling all manner of death-defying stunts for his next box office hit. And it’s here that we learn that, once again, these orders come far too late for you to react accordingly to them. Thankfully, unlike the first game, loading a scene back up doesn’t take ages, and on the default difficulty you’re allowed to bodge up five stunts before a re-shoot is called. So that’s one problem from the original sorted, but unfortunately it brings another to the party. A lot of the time you mess up you’ll fall behind the ticking clock leading to you missing another timed event, resulting in fewer stars being gained from the scene and warranting another replay anyway. These ‘stars’ work in a way similar to the system seen in the Burnout series. You’ll have to accumulate a certain number of
stars before you can unlock the next movie, and only then can you partake in a new scene.
Visually the game does an ok job of throwing stuff around. It doesn’t come across as an amazing looking next-gen game, but when explosions are going off, cars are flying across the screen and lava is pouring down all around you, the frame-rate rarely drops. When it comes to the movies you take part in, each one is parodying one movie or another. There’s a great movie called “Overdrive”, a definite nod to some of Quentin Tarantino’s work, and sees you taking some Steve McQueen style driving routes while pulling off some extremely tight shots. The movie itself feels very much like ‘Driver’ but fits in with the style of the game really well. Of course after each successful shoot you can view the replay of your performance, and it’s nice to see your efforts come together. Movie stunts and odd jobs aside then, the game also sports an online mode. First up, ‘Backlot Battle’ is a simple lap-based contest for the most points while attempting to perform all the Director Stunts. If you miss too many stunts you risk having your score reset to zero, but can ram opponents to try and steal theirs. And ramming opponents is exactly what happens. In any of the games I played against online, I found everyone was trying to recreate Destruction Derby and getting great satisfaction in corning people into walls. Marvellous. Oddly enough, the other mode is more focused towards racing. Named ‘Backlot Racing’ the mode has you choose from a Light, Muscle or Sports car to race it out behind the movie sets. It works in the sense that you race, but the “tracks” are clearly small empty areas filled with a few ramps. Not really worth your effort then.
46 The game also offers up the option to create and share your own Stunt Arena. Choosing objects and vehicles unlocked from the single player you can craft your own stunt arena and share them online. On paper it sounds great, but having no option to invite a friend in to bust out his or her skills on top of your own, leaves you to come to your own devices. Having a limit on how many items you can place down too more or less leaves you with the odd ramp placed here and there, mixed in with some dodgy looking explosives and over turned cars. Even so it’s a decent extra and offers a certain amount of variance and additional playtime to the main game. So with the full package offering up so much, where can Stuntman: Ignition go wrong? Well, while Paradigm have done a good job in taking what Reflections started and spicing it up, they have forgotten to scrap off the dirt. While Ignition is a lot less frustrating than its predecessor it still requires far too many restarts and pure luck to move onto the next stage. Of course having the ‘strike’ meter does make it more forgiving, but it still surprises us that you can mess up the big money shot and still four star the movie. All in all, anyone who enjoyed the first game will have no problems with the sequel whatsoever, but for the average Joe, Ignition will frustrate to a point of throwing down the pad and moving onto something else.
Because it's not worth winning if you can't win big
ce hockey has always translated well to video games. Fast-paced, high scoring, a healthy dose of violence and all the razzamatazz typical of American sport. The perfect fodder for digital recreation, a combination of speed and skill that gamers relish. EA’s latest hockey offering gives you all those things and more, transcending the boundaries of the ‘sports video game’.
FORMAT REVIEWED Xbox 360 OTHER FORMATS PS3, PS2, PC PUBLISHER EA Sports DEVELOPER EA Canada REVIEWED BY Tom Hoggins
Last year’s NHL 07 saw the total revamp of EA’s hockey series’ control system, removing most of the essential controls from the face buttons and reassigning them to the ‘Skill Stick’ system. Shooting, deking and checking was mapped to the right analogue stick, passing placed on the right trigger and there was no sprint button to speak of. Doubts over the effectiveness of such a radical departure from a conventional control method were dispelled after players got their head around one of the most ingenious and intuitive control systems ever devised. Using the right analogue to sweep the puck from side to side before snapping a wrist-shot past a bemused goalie with a flick of the stick was exhilarating. Crashing an opponent into the boards by pressing the stick in their direction for that perfectly timed hit, then holding the left trigger to enter ‘Focus mode’ before gliding the puck out to the wing with a press of the right trigger. It all worked in glorious harmony; natural and brilliant.
The system returns almost wholesale in NHL 08, with only a few minor tweaks for the better. Holding the left bumper whilst in possession of the puck and pressing the right analogue stick now performs a one-on-one deke, moving the puck away from the oncoming defenseman. But you must also move on the puck with the left stick or risk losing possession. It’s a tricky feat to pull, but very effective when mastered. It also means that there’s no more chance of pulling off a fancy trick and losing the puck when all you wanted to do was shift left, which happened on occasion in 07. The other new introduction to the controls is the ‘slap pass’. Pulling the right stick back as if preparing for a slap shot and then pressing the right trigger flies the puck towards a forward lurking near the crease, hopefully deflecting the puck into the net. It’s a welcome addition of a well used tactic, one that is made viable by the intelligent positioning of your teammates. One of the few criticisms of NHL 07 was its far from perfect AI. Team-mates would often skate into offside positions for no reason and place themselves in unhelpful areas. In 08 there is none of that. Forwards intelligently hold on the blue line for the puck-carrier to pass into the offensive zone before joining the rush. Defensemen take up their position at the points to keep their team on the attack and fill the slot to stop on the oncoming
opposition. The opponent AI meanwhile is just as smart, and scoring chances are at far more of a premium. With their intelligent placement, opposition defences are much harder to penetrate and the player must cycle the puck between the forwards and pointmen, fashioning a shooting chance. Even when that shot is slapped towards the net, the goaltenders are a tough last line. Last year’s iteration saw many pucks knocked into the net by the flailing skate of a goalie, not befitting the quality of an NHL netminder. Some goaltending mistakes are still made, which is a natural occurrence of the sport, but are nowhere near the proliferation of howlers in 07. All of this makes for a much tougher, more realistic representation of hockey. A fine tuning of NHL 07’s excellent groundwork. Of course, this is all presented in EA’s traditional high-quality production. The front end is functional yet attractive, accompanied by a terrific soundtrack. Visuals are clean and detailed, many of the likenesses of NHL stars are uncanny and the animations are fluid. Worthy of note is the sound; the scratch of skates on ice, the crunch of big hits and the ping of the puck hitting post all sound terrific. The roars and boos of the crowd are loud and proud and the commentary is detailed, relevant and flows almost seamlessly. The whole atmosphere of a big hockey game is captured wonderfully and you feel helplessly involved, jumping from your seat in glee as a perfect
“AS A SPORTS GAME, NHL 08 IS NEAR PERFECTION”
slap-shot crashes in off the crossbar. Taking to the ice online has had a complete overhaul. EA fully admitted that they concentrated on getting the game mechanics perfect in 07 and left the online multiplayer limited. Not so in 08. Players can now set up their own leagues with friends across the world, keeping them informed of developments with a news board and fighting it out for a virtual trophy. The game itself works very well online and matches are lag-free and exciting affairs. However, there is one irritating flaw present; before playing a match the game asks you to download the online roster. Despite seemingly saving said roster, this happens before every match. It’s an inconvenience more than anything, but matches take a while to begin and can lead to some impatient souls quitting before the match has begun. An unfortunate blip on an otherwise excellent online component, which fits in with the quality of the game as a whole.
“ONE OF THE BEST CONTROL SYSTEMS IN GAMING ” As a sports game, NHL 08 is near perfection. To nail the atmosphere and the action of a sport so utterly, so completely, is no small feat. But NHL stands out as more than a sports game, the frenetic excitement of hockey, excellent production values and one of the best control systems in gaming marks NHL 08 as one of the finest video games of this year, of any genre.
49 The last day dawns on the Kingdom of Ascalon
EYE OF THE NORTH
uild Wars has been around for over two years now, and with a level cap of twenty that hasn’t been raised in three add-ons, Guild Wars enthusiasts are most likely getting a little bored of the repetitive arenas and old maps. Fortunately for them, NCSoft are answering their prayers with Eye of the North, the first ‘true’ expansion pack to the multi million selling game.
FORMAT PC PUBLISHER NCSoft DEVELOPER NCSoft REVIEWED BY James Bowden
EotN primarily acts as a stepping-stone between Guild Wars and its sequel, currently due for release at the latter end of 2008. By playing through EotN you can affect the happenings of the sequel and even leave items as ‘inheritance’ for your future hero. Alongside this, players will meet, greet and attack races and characters due to take pivotal roles in the next game, including the evil beast-men known as the Charr, the magical Asura and the Nord. Upon finding a way to the Eye of the North you will have been introduced to four key characters each representing factions in the new areas. You’ll also have been given three key quests each telling a story related to the new races, in turn unlocking the usual array of heroes and skills. The new locations are, for the most part, extensions of old areas of the map and thus have a similar feel to them. However, the art direction is still great with new enemies and characters merging well those already seen in the game.
In terms of gameplay, EotN still plays like the same core game that was released back in 2005. Each of the new skills and heroes do well to expand it, but the premise of setting out with your party of up to eight players to thwart evil doers and right some wrong remains the same. However, thanks to the lure of new skills and a mild interest in the new characters, fans of the series will become addicted all over again. Considering the general populous of Guild Wars seem more keen to sell their gear or beat up other people in player vs. player combat than help those who want to do quests, you will want to become part of a guild as fast as possible. Fortunately you also have the ability to draft-in up to three heroes as well as utilise the services of computer-controlled allies.
If you are a fan of Guild Wars you will have already undoubtedly decided to purchase EotN, and it will without doubt satisfy your craving for more content. Eye of the North does nothing to lure people who disliked Guild Wars into the fold; instead it simply expands and enhances the experience. The new content is fun to play through and will last a while, while the new races make the Guild Wars universe a richer experience which does well to lay the foundations for features set for the sequel.
SUPER PAPER MARIO Sir? The Goombas are dancing again
hen we look back at the Wii in years to come, it’s unlikely this will be the game that most sticks in our mind. Indeed, that honour may well go to the tubby little plumber’s certain Christmas outing. However, in the meantime, Super Paper Mario offers a colourful, mellow, and quite simply charming gaming experience to ease us into the end of the year.
FORMAT Wii PUBLISHER Nintendo DEVELOPER Intelligent Systems REVIEWED BY Richard Angus
The story, unlike almost the entire library of Mario games, sees a new villain take the spotlight. A chap named Bleck has decided to call time on everything in the papery kingdom Mario finds himself in. “Why destroy everything?” you may ask. You’ll find out; the story will pull you in and entertain you throughout. The hallmark of previous Paper Mario games has always been a fantastically strong script, and this game offers more of the same. Strong characters are equally important to compliment a good set of lines, and thankfully the core characters offer interesting personalities and back stories. You’ll care about some characters and laugh at others. There’s an incredible
depth of setting too, from colloquial cave-men to notorious ‘nerds’. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud at some points; the game is genuinely funny. The dialogue, the story and the exchanges between characters are nothing short of fantastic. Super Paper Mario is not like its predecessors. The focal point of the game has shifted to platforming over the RPG-lite style of previous titles, but this isn’t a bad thing in any respect. The core gameplay mechanic of Super Paper Mario is based around flipping the paper-thin 2D world into a 3D one, and whilst you will find yourself in 2D for most of the game, a simple press of a button turns the level on its side and into glorious 3D. There are a number of clever ways that this is used; backgrounds become platforms, doors reveal themselves and people are found behind what would otherwise be seemingly solid objects. Occasionally, you will sense a little repetition in the puzzle structures, but overall the concept remains fresh throughout.
What helps keep the puzzles fresh involves the inclusion of creatures called Pixls and hero abilities. Whilst Mario can flip dimensions, other heroes have their own abilities which can solve certain problems. Unfortunately, unlike Mario, they can only operate in a 2D environment, but all can use Pixls. In addition to Tippi (who will help you analyse enemies), you can collect a number of these sprite-style helpers. The techniques they offer range from the traditional hammer to the ability to shrink heroes to microscopic proportions. Whilst most of them lack character compared to the previous Paper Mario allies, they help to keep the game interesting.
“A SOLID PLATFORM ADVENTURE WITH BAGS OF CHARM AND ACCESSIBILITY ”
As with previous games, Super Paper Mario offers sharp, colourful graphics. It’s certainly in keeping with Nintendo’s style as well as offering up something refreshing. Most of the characters are very well presented and some of the chapters are really a joy to look at, but this said, it isn’t always consistently strong. In terms of setting, Flipside is a very generic hub and you won’t feel
compelled to stay there. The design team have also made some bold level designs, some of which really don’t work. For one, you have to complete a level that is merely a black line on a white background. It’s an interesting concept though extremely dull in practice, but ultimately, most levels are well designed and thoroughly entertaining. There are some undeniable problems with the game; the weak audio, the generic hub and the repetitive element all examples of that fact. However, the end product is a solid platform adventure with bags of charm and accessibility. The story and dialogue will win you over, and the satire and laugh-out loud humour work together to brilliant effect. Even if it isn’t on your shopping list right now, Super Paper Mario is a title that is certainly worthy of your hard earned cash.
51 They say the best things in life are free
TINGLE’S ROSY RUPEELAND M
FORMAT DS PUBLISHER Nintendo DEVELOPER Vanpool REVIEWED BY James Bowden
oney makes the world go round is something that Tingle will drill into you within the first ten minutes of itself, and after Tingles money grabbing habits in Wind Waker, it’s hardly surprising. Money is your health, money moves you closer to your goal, money makes the nervous townsfolk friendly, money is your world. In fact, nothing in Tingle happens without somehow affecting your wallet. And what kind of story is befitting of one so greedy? Well, one day Tingle is contacted by Uncle Rupee claiming that up in the sky is a place where all your dreams come true, the magical kingdom of ‘Rupeeland’. One trademark Kooloo-Limpah later and Tingle is dressed in his legendary green garb, setting off on an adventure to gather enough Rupees to enter the promised Rupeeland. The basic premise of Tingle is simple. As you travel throughout each area within the game you’ll come across dungeons or townsfolk with their own problems. Clear the dungeon or solve their problem in order to gain more Rupees to get you one step closer to Rupeeland. The locales look nice with bold graphics, and while some have allusions in terms of name to Zelda
locations, there is a disturbing lack of franchise relation, making it feel as if Tingle was shoehorned into a game late in development.
with the system is that you spend so much money in gathering items to sell, it takes a long time to even make the smallest of profits.
The main problem with Tingle is in one of its more curious features. To advance to new areas you need to place a predetermined amount of Rupees into the lake next to Tingles house, however you are not told what that amount is. In relation to this is upon helping someone in a new area they will enquire as to how much you want as a reward. One wrong move and they will hesitate to give you anything, while if you ask for a low amount they will happily oblige but not give you a penny more. This can often lead to situations where you then have to grind enemies to create recipes in order to earn enough money to progress.
So whilst the repetitious money making is mind-numbingly boring, some of the dungeons are great fun and the bosses are all fairly individual, each requiring the player to combat them using more intelligent methods than the usual dust cloud. Quite why the developers failed to employ this level of intelligence and enjoyment into the general combat, considering it’s forced upon you so frequently, is a mystery.
The effort of grinding is also hampered by the health and combat system. To fight an enemy you touch them to initiate a dust cloud. By tapping the dust cloud you can speed up combat and by moving the dust cloud you can get more enemies involved, creating more prizes in the process. However, to avoid losing Rupees during combat you’ll require the help of a bodyguard to help out, which in turn costs a lot of money. The fundamental problem
Tingle is a quirky adventure that, if you can stick with it, offers some amusing moments and allusions to greatness. Had the game featured a little more guidance to the barter system and a better thought out method of combat, it could have been a great game. Unfortunately it is bogged down by unessential boredom created by poor design decisions. At least next time Tingle appears in Zelda, people will know what he had to endure to reach his stature as the greediest character in Zelda history.
52 On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose
MADDEN NFL 08 A
merican Football and Britons, there isn't much love in that relationship. Those of us ignorant to the sport may think that it’s just rugby with guys in armour, some of us may have even watched the Super Bowl into the early hours of the morning just to see what the fuss was about, only to find a sixty minute game lasting around three hours. At least by the end of it you'll have learnt the rules even if you didn't find the stop/start play engaging. But does Madden NFL 08 fare any better?
FORMAT REVIEWED Wii OTHER FORMATS 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, DS, PC PUBLISHER EA Sports DEVELOPER EA Tiburon REVIEWED BY Richard Rohani
Fortunately, much like last year’s Wii outing, the game is actually rather good. Controlling Madden 08 with the Wii-mote feels completely natural and uses gestures to great effect; literally throwing, catching, pushing and tackling with the remote whilst controlling movement through the analogue stick of the Nunchuk. If you’d prefer, you can simplify matters further by turning off Nunchuk control so that all movement is taken care of for you, allowing you to concentrate on the gesture controls. The first and biggest hurdle to jumping into Madden however is learning the rules of the game. Thankfully there are tutorials and written explanations included within Madden 08, although there is a lot of jargon to get your head around and not every nuance is covered. What’s there though will be of great use to the NFL amateurs among us. In brief the game is basically set piece after set piece with the aim to grab yards. Each 'play' is selected and your teammates are given routes to run. You spike the ball, pick a
route on the d-pad and then throw. Hopefully you'll catch it and if you’re lucky get it all the way to the touchdown line.
The two main modes within Madden 08 are the Franchise and Superstar modes where you take control of a team or rookie player over the seasons. Both of these modes can be a touch too confusing for the new player to get into, but for NFL pros they’re deep and engaging. Sure they have their faults and attending the same training session over and over each day gets tiresome, but if you’re an NFL fan and looking to get your teeth stuck into something, nothing beats it. It’s quite surprising however that 08 doesn’t include a standard Season mode for those just looking to play game after game. There are also a couple of features that were present in 07 seemingly ditched for 08, such as create-a-team, create-a-superstar and the ability to edit equipment on existing players. Madden 08 for Wii also includes a new feature entitled ‘Family Mode’, where much more accessible mini-game tournaments can be played and also act as a good way to learn each mechanic. If your friends won't go through the rigmarole of learning to play the game, then this is where you'll spend most of your multiplayer time. For those of you who are fans of the sport, this year’s updates are all you’ll really care about. As standard the new roster is present, and the Party mode includes a trivia contest for die-hard fans and a Telestrator to doodle on your replays mid-game. It’s a shame that the Telestrator didn’t make it into the main game, but heck,
there’s always next year. Player Weapons are one of the biggest additions to 08, illustrating the major threats on the field and allowing the player to make better judgement as to which play to make. It’s a useful addition for any seasoned player. Most importantly though is the online mode with lobby play and no friend codes. Yes, you read that correctly, Wii online and no friend codes. Unfortunately all these nice new features are killed dead with some noticeable lag and only a handful of users online. The stop/start gameplay tilts even more into 'stop' territory here, but it’s good to see the Wii finally receiving increasing online support. If watching the Super Bowl was interesting but ultimately left you feeling cold, then Madden NFL 08 will have a similar effect. The game is clearly split between the newcomer and pro, but without middle ground modes those of us that know the rules but aren’t akin to the tactical play will only ever really enjoy half the game, even if you wanted to love it. Ultimately, Madden NFL 08 does a brilliant job of marrying the Wii to the sport, only let down by the lack of basic modes, the under-performing promise of online play and the uneasy relationship between American Football and the rest of the world.
TWO WORLDS Forsooth!
ithin only my first five minutes of Two Worlds I’d already witnessed two of gaming’s biggest taboos; extreme graphical glitchery coupled with basic design flaws. Volumetric fog flicking in and out of view, a wildly inconsistent framerate, truly abysmal animation, a bizarre and completely thoughtless re-spawn system and inexcusable enemy AI.
FORMAT REVIEWED Xbox 360 OTHER FORMATS PC PUBLISHER SouthPeak Interactive DEVELOPER Reality Pump REVIEWED BY David Scammell
Regardless, off I go on my quest to slay some dragons, orcs and other fantastical creatures only to be stopped in my tracks by an icon of a spinning disc. Oblivion had loading issues, we all know that, but the incessant loading seen in Two Worlds is bordering on the ridiculous. The frequent pauses to load up the next part of the map soon become tedious, and, given the scarcity of the land itself (other than the insane amount of pop-up crazy foliage), ultimately unnecessary. Having been given my first assignment I head out in the wilderness, soon witnessing a pack of deadly Silver Wolves in the distance. Having only just started my adventure and being none too experienced in the realm of combat, I feel it may be a little too early to try and handle the pack alone and swiftly change direction to avoid
them. Too late though, for apparently as soon as the wolves have appeared on screen they’ve already locked a bead on me and given chase. After only a couple of snaps at my heels I’m dead. Rather thankfully though Reality Bump has decided to use a spawn system in Two Worlds, but that in itself is where another problem lies. My spawn point, rather coincidentally, appeared to have been placed not all that far away from where I was fatally mauled. Excellent! Or it would have been had it not been right next to the same pack of wolves. I die again and again.
I did eventually make my way out of the spawn area only to have them chase me seemingly forever. On my run across the landscape, single figure frame-rate and ravishing wolves in tow, I came across a grizzly bear who also felt it good to give chase, thus my simple first walk into the outdoors soon turns into a deadly Benny Hill sketch. It turns out however that Mr Grizzly wasn’t too clever and ran straight into a rock where he proceeded to glitch up and down the side of it. During my inane laughter at the comedic situation I’d been placed in I rather unfortunately bumped into a group of wandering bandits, who with just one swing of their blade downed me in one fell swoop. And thus the process
repeats. Getting around the world early into the game turns out to be too much of a pain to bother and you’ll find yourself restricting your movements for fear of being unfairly killed. Once you’ve put a few hours into it, gained some experi-ence and got used to the rather awkward inventory screens, Two Worlds does open up slightly but it’s a case of too little, too late. Considering the vast size of the map and the encouragement of exploration, it’s a system that makes absolutely no sense. So putting design issues and initial difficulty levels aside for a minute, let’s talk about how combat works once you’re actually experienced enough to make a go of it. The crux of the matter is that combat is generally won through mashing the trigger as hard as you can to melee and then backing off to fire some magic. A fairly standard system I’m sure you’ll agree, but it never feels like there’s any real skill involved and you’ll soon grow tired of the nature of battle. One of Two Worlds unique selling points, the online MMO-esque multiplayer mode obviously never saw fruition during the development process either. Laggy and restricted, the multiplayer, in the 360
version at least, isn’t the co-op story ridden game it was once made out to be, but instead dull modes like deathmatch, monster hunting and horse-racing. I’d love to have something good to say about Two Worlds, I really would, but for far too many people the final game is going to be a huge disappointment. There’s a decent story hidden in there somewhere, and while the game may well find some appeal amongst the most hardcore of us willing to put the glitches, graphical issues and design flaws behind them, to most of us Two Worlds is just another RPG that aims too high and misses.
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
BLUE DRAGON T
FORMAT Xbox 360 PUBLISHER Microsoft DEVELOPER Mistwalker & Artoon REVIEWED BY Greg Latham
hanks to John Ford and Led Zeppelin we all know how the West was won, but over at Microsoft, they’re dying to know how the East was won. Japan has notoriously been something of an impenetrable fortress for Western companies, its gaming culture doesn’t typically interest the market and the Japanese public have a reputable sense of loyalty to their national brands. But Microsoft is determined to crack the market and Blue Dragon, a traditional RPG of sorts, is their first in a wave of Xbox 360 titles aimed at the Japanese market.
The figures standing in Blue Dragon’s shadow could be described as an all star team, gathered from a variety of hallowed RPG’s. Delving into the first few minutes of gameplay you’re immediately struck with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, recalling moments from RPG gems of the past with every minute that passes. The musical score that hovers through the air to meet your ear evoking memories of Final Fantasy games of
yesteryear; Nobuo Uematsu composed the sound score. Surveying the characters you’ll swear they were in a Dragon Quest game or two; Akira Toriyama crafted the characters. But one aspect that may not seem so captivatingly nostalgic is the story. Given that the man responsible for the first five Final Fantasy games is at the helm, Hironobu Sakaguchi, it’s somewhat disappointing to learn that at the heart of Blue Dragon beats a withering and uninspired narrative. The first hour, of over forty, introduces the games protagonists that unfortunately act as an A-Z of RPG stereotypes. Their finely crafted edges render them easy on the eye, much like many of the environments present in Blue Dragon, but what lies beneath the subtle shading and well implemented haze effect is a shallow pool of depth.
Our group of heroes traverse from village to village in an effort to quash the games wrinkled antagonist Nene’s stranglehold on the region; made possible through the use of ancient technologies such as the
‘Land Shark’. The premise is hardly an awe inspiring one, and regrettably it never quite finds its footing between endearingly quaint and epic, something that Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest refined in their own respective fields. Nevertheless given the talent behind Blue Dragon, it would be hard to conceive a game where so much talent produces a product of little merit. Luckily, Blue Dragon is not that product. Combat takes on a traditional turn based format where your opponents are physically visible in your environment and where your attacks fall into two categories; physical and shadow. Looming behind each character in battle is a shadow figure, taking on the characteristics of a particular animal. The player can decide, based on the character’s natural ability in various elements, which class to level up their shadow warrior. Each class has its own distinct pros and cons, and there are a variety of interesting skills that can be acquired to add your own distinct touch to your band of illustrious heroes.
Adding a pleasing tactical element into combat is a charge meter that determines the strength and time in which an attack will take to charge. This confronts players with a decision; whether to launch a weakened attack before your enemy, or on the other hand, launch a strong attack after your enemies. It’s a subtle feature that adds a surprising level of depth to a fairly traditional combat system. Yet given the inconsequential story that only begins to find its footings in the games final moments, it’s highly doubtful that anyone but those longing for their fix of RPG themed nostalgia will stay the course. Blue Dragon’s difficulty curve is finely executed, its play mechanics are solid and at times interesting, but its poor pacing, repetitive structure and mammoth length shatter what could have been an impressive first assault into the Japanese RPG market for Microsoft.
Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for even longer
PREMIER MANAGER 08 W
hy anyone would try and challenge Football Manager's dominance in the football management genre is anyone’s guess. Eidos' Championship Manager had the former's original name but sucked something fierce when it came down to the gameplay, yet Premier Manager is back for its 2007/08 instalment to give it a bash.
FORMAT REVIEWED PC OTHER FORMATS PS2 PUBLISHER Zoo Digital DEVELOPER Zoo Digital REVIEWED BY Emmet Purcell
Just what is it that Premier Manager's developer Zoo Digital could provide to footy fanatics to distract them from FM's addictive management juggernaut, what gameplay innovations could this title bring to finally call itself a worthy challenger? Whilst the box art describes itself as "the definitive pick up and play football management experience", that's no reason to simply believe Zoo Digital have dumbed down the gameplay beyond logic and basic comprehension, right? Read on dear reader, and be thankful I had to play this instead of you. One of the big innovations I noticed straight out the gate was that Premier Manager 08 is set in a parallel universe. Although there is no actual mention of the title's actual setting, how else could the developers expect any football fan to accept Andriy Shevchenko is Chelsea's "star player", Cristiano Ronaldo's weekly salary is £64,000, that Liverpool play their football at
"Stanfield Park" and that there are actually only 19 clubs in the Premier League. Selecting "Manchester U" as my chosen team, I discovered that my club had one coach (who inexplicably organised my fixtures), one scout and that the Glazers had been replaced by a new fictional chairman "Jamie Robinson", perhaps the only fictional character in the game to not own a pencil-thin moustache and/or goatee combination. Just what the hell was going on? I struggled onwards, trying to find some solace or nugget of reality in this simulation, yet it was futile. Why Premier Manager 08 appears to have no official licenses whatsoever perhaps is excusable from a financial standpoint, yet not even paying attention to the summer transfer window for your supposed 2007/08 instalment is not. My United team still contained former squad members Alan Smith, Kieran Richardson and Guissepe Rossi and god knows the squad inaccuracies of the rest of the teams. That's not a typo, god knows, because I've no idea since the game doesn't even allow me to look at the squads of my rivals, only their star players (who like my one coach and one scout, come with an ever-useful "charisma" rating). Speaking of which, I signed Real Madrid's "star player" Roberto Carlos, who left the club last year if you remember, within 10 seconds of negotia-
tions. Could it get any more pathetic?
For the sake of this review, I wanted to play at least one match where, unsurprisingly, it did get more pathetic. Thank goodness my coach had organised the friendly ahead of time. Borrowing the pitch view of Football Manager’s real-time game engine, Premier Manager instead features no highlights or actual mentions of what’s happening onscreen, you literally just watch until a goal is scored. And then I had had enough, I packed up my things, said goodbye to Jamie Robinson, the still-present Gabriel Heinze and the rest of the "Trafford Stadium" squad, ejected the disc and washed myself clean of the indescribable vileness that had forever tarnished my PC's disc drive. Try imagine, if you will, a world where not a single football management game had been created since Kevin Keegan’s Player Manager on the SNES, and then imagine in 2007, a game released that was somehow less fun and had even worse production values. Not even ‘so-bad-its-good’, I had more fun frisbeeing the disc over my back garden than from its intended use. A gigantic steaming dump in video-game form.
PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS FORMAT DS PUBLISHER Capcom DEVELOPER Capcom REVIEWED BY Emmet Purcell
erhaps the single most unusual success story of the Nintendo DS' lifecycle thus far has been the importing of the popular Capcom lawyer sim, Gyakuten Saiban. Arriving on our shores under the renamed protagonists moniker, Phoenix Wright, the title's unexpected sales have not only brought a revival of the early 90's "point and click adventure" phenomenon, it has inspired one of the most devoted online fanbases in gaming today. Whether its fan-fiction or cosplay, PW advocates are some of the most obsessed but endearing bunch of forum members you will come across. Now their devotion is to be rewarded with the final chapter in the Phoenix Wright trilogy, Trials and Tribulation, which arrives in the U.S for import in late October. Ostensibly a cross between a visual novel and a point and click adventure, each case in the Capcom title revolves around firstly analysing crime scene evidence and garnering clues before tackling our hero's prosecutor rival in heated, manga-style courtroom battles. However the true appeal of the PW series stems from its lovable character and sharply written scripts. For this title, once again many
lovable characters appear from previous cases such as the incompetent lothario Larry Butz whilst obscure references from the 300 and even Kelis' Milkshake song abound mid-case. Not to mention the indescribably cool, coffee-throwing antics of the mysterious new prosecutor, the enigmatic Godot. Beginning with the most epic tutorial of the series' history (a flashback case with a familiar client's life on the line), the pace never lets up. By the time you've concluded the final case you will have become convinced you have played the most perfect Phoenix Wright adventure yet. Without spoiling the fun, the last chapter itself brings together so many storyline strands, returning characters and revelations it leaves the player ultimately assured that the Phoenix Wright arc has met a satisfying end. If you've never played a Phoenix Wright title before, do yourself a huge favour and start from the beginning. Many cases in this game reference or are directly influenced by those from previous titles and you simply won't grasp the experience fully without prior knowledge. For those who have already sampled Ace Attorney and Justice For All however, T&T is heaven.
If there are flaws with the game, they are no more different than those presented in previous PW adventures. The story mode is still completely linear, spelling mistakes from the Japanese version's English mode are littered sparingly through the game and there simply could be too much text to hold the casual gamersâ€™ attention. None of these flaws could ever be considered gamebreaking however, and anyone out there yet to sample the first true "cult" hit of the Nintendo DS is truly missing out. The success of T&T casts a large shadow over the forthcoming Apollo Justice - Ace Attorney reboot of the series. Can Capcom successfully re-imagine the series without lovable mainstays from the Phoenix Wright lore? After this, the most entertaining and revelatory instalment yet, it's certainly hard to imagine. Trials and Tribulations sets the bar for adventure titles on the humble Nintendo handheld and is utterly essential to each and every DS owner.
57 Like a bolt from the blue
SONIC RUSH ADVENTURE S
FORMAT DS PUBLISHER SEGA DEVELOPER Sonic Team REVIEWED BY Ian Freeman
onic is, to use an old cliche, like Marmite; you either love it or you hate it. Unlike the universally loved fat plumber, some Sonic haters complain that most levels can be rushed through by holding right on the d-pad. Sadly this was true for his first outing on the DS, Sonic Rush. Although widely considered to be much better than some of the previous 3D games, it still contained its fair share of flaws. Thankfully Sonic Rush Adventure fixes a few of those problems, but at the same time manages to bring a couple of its own to the tiny cartridge.
This iteration of the Sonic franchise introduces a new character, Marine, with Tails and Blaze helping out Sonic wherever they can. With Marine having so many lines of dialogue it would have been pleasant had she furthered the story rather than having you reach for the button to skip the cut scene. Unfortunately the script writer seems far too immersed in Australian stereotypes to come up with a likable character, instead relying on her constant insistence that she’s the captain of their ship. Aimed at a very young audience perhaps, but irksome nonetheless. Sonic Rush Adventure works around the idea of travelling to different islands, much akin to the differing zones of the previous games. Before travelling to a new island the appropriate vessel must be constructed by Tails with materials that Sonic has gathered in that area’s levels. This can
present a problem as you are often required to replay levels you’ve already completed, sometimes on multiple occasions. Although some levels are designed well enough to warrant a second play through, being forced to fight your way to the finish line on the more annoying levels begins to grate after a short while.
Once your new craft is ready, the ability to reach islands further away becomes possible. As Sonic travels between islands, battles must be fought, guns must be fired and races must be won, and as exciting as these tasks sound, in practice they become rather dull, although never so drab that they become a chore. Having never been particularly good at any platform game, Sonic Rush drove me to the brink of insanity with the huge amount of random deaths. Sonic Rush Adventure however is much easier; I managed to accumulate 21 lives and get through most of the game before dying. Having said all of that, Sonic’s greatest element has always been the glorious 2D gameplay, and with that in mind, Sonic Rush Adventure is one of the finest Sonic games available. Coupled with the use of subtle 3D touches and filled with typical Sega vibrancy and cheer, the 2D sections look and play as good as ever. If you were ever a fan of the original Sonic series, you’ll love the core gameplay of Sonic Rush Adventure.
There’s also a wealth of different things to do; visit merchants to buy statues, dinosaurs and other useless collectables to spruce up your village, a mission mode containing 100 challenges and Blaze’s quest to collect the seven Sol Emeralds to name but a few. The topping on an already thick cake is the online and multi-cart mode where head to head races in any of the game’s levels can be played. As well as that there’s also a mode where you must grab the most rings within a time limit, and even an online leader board to compare yourself against others. I got annihilated. Pick up Sonic Rush Adventure and see if you can do any better, you won’t regret it.
58 You wanna ride the worm?
WORMS: OPEN WARFARE 2
FORMAT REVIEWED PSP OTHER FORMATS DS PUBLISHER THQ DEVELOPER Team 17 REVIEWED BY Tom Hoggins
orms is one of the great British institutions of video games. Team 17’s original version for the Amiga has spawned countless sequels, remakes and spin-offs over the last 13 years, though it is fair to say Yorkshire’s best had gone a little stale of late. Making the jump to 3D was met with mixed opinion and even a return to its 2D roots with Open Warfare on the DS didn’t meet the taste of the new-generation of players or Worms stalwarts. The release of the XBLA Worms title was a partial return to form and the fruits of that labour have ripened with the release of Open Warfare 2. Most of our readers will be well aware of Worms’ turn based play mechanics. Your team of fearless invertebrates must wipe out an opposing faction using a number of inventive weapons including bazookas, Uzi’s and exploding sheep. Each team takes their time-limited turn to attack their foes with whatever is at their disposal; firing rockets across the brittle landscape and lobbing grenades into
hidey-holes. It’s old-fashioned but highly addictive gameplay, scoring a direct hit with a well-placed rocket is a joy. Open Warfare’s campaign mode sets your worms against a slew of enemies, often with certain caveats to each stage. As the game progresses the opposition gets increasingly smart and accurate, testing your strategy to its limit. While the opponent AI is often very good, there are times it breaks down completely; seeing an opponent worm blasting his bazooka rocket into the wall in front of him knocking out a large chunk of his own health is particularly noteworthy for its idiocy. These incidents are sparse enough to not have a huge negative impact, but are grating nonetheless.
defeating a number of foes with set limits to your weapons and movement, collecting weapon crates or getting your worm to an exit across the landscape making use of weapons and the game’s physics. These puzzles are fiendish and fun for the most part, forcing an explosion to propel your worm to the exit is a grin-inducing pleasure. However, these puzzles can often become very frustrating, requiring a little too much luck to solve.
“ A TERRIFIC USE OF THE PSP’S STRENGTHS ”
At the end of each section there are ‘boss’ battles that will test your problem-solving as well as your aim. One example sees your quarry set atop a high landscape, which you must ascend whilst avoiding his grenades and airstrikes. The result is a campaign that has plenty of variety rather than an endless grind against identical teams, which makes for a tough challenge towards the finale. Those of you who enjoy the aforementioned boss battles will be fans of the new puzzle game mode. A test of your grey matter, the puzzles involve either
Players not satisfied with the designers set stages can indulge their creative instincts by creating their own landscapes using the stage editor, which finesses your crude scribbles into a playable level. These levels can be shared ad-hoc or online, where Open Warfare has made strides for the connected generation. The game features buddy lists and clan support to be used across the multiplayer modes. It all works very well, as long as the temperamental PSP network holds its end of the bargain. With a charming visual style, a wealth of customisation options and a terrific use of the PSP’s strengths, Worms: Open Warfare 2 all adds up to a very enjoyable game. A refinement of all things Worms condensed into an impressive handheld package. A few frustrations mar proceedings somewhat but ultimately this is the best Worms game in years.
WARHAWK Too close for missiles, I'm switching to guns
FORMAT REVIEWED PlayStation 3 PUBLISHER Sony DEVELOPER Incognito REVIEWED BY Graham Naunton
he PlayStation Network’s proverbial knight in shining armour has arrived, albeit in a fighter jet. Or a tank. Or a jeep. Or sneaking up behind you and flame throwing you in the face. Warhawk is an essential purchase whether you are a fan of the genre (or indeed, online gaming) or not, simply because you can’t help but admire it. Invite your mates round and show off your PS3’s power by showing them the Killzone 2 trailer, and listen to them ooh and aah over the beautiful cut scenes in Heavenly Sword, but if truth be told, Warhawk is the game that screams to the masses, ‘play me’.
If you want the typical lifespan of a Warhawk experience, then all you have to do is jump into one of the Warhawks, the fighter jets from which the game takes its name. To be honest, it’s the first thing you’re going to want to test drive amongst the other vehicles, the jeeps and tanks. Taking it to the skies you struggle with the controls and aren’t entirely sure what you’re supposed to be doing until you’re promptly shot out of the sky by someone in an anti-aircraft turret. And repeat. And repeat…But then something happens, you begin to get better. You’ll find the button that turns your afterburners on. You’ll somehow find yourself avoiding locked on
missiles. And you might actually take someone out with a missile barrage in a blaze of flaming glory. You’ll probably not notice it, but it happens. You’ll do something that reeks of awesomeness and amaze yourself (as well as your mate next to you, 2 player split screen is optional) at your superb seemingly new found skills. And before you know it you’re turning on the Pro Control option, removing your fighter pilot stabilisers and really turning on the style. It’s here where the game really excels – it gives you the playgrounds, the tools for the job and a basic objective, but the rest is up to you. The lack of any single player mode is almost entirely irrelevant as it’s you that is creating your own narratives, your own stories of adventure and woe, whether it be storming an enemy base 20-strong or sniping undetected from a canyon peak.
You’re thrown into the action immediately whether a game is in progress or not, and allocated a side, the Eucadians or Chernovians. These two factions are having a war and…well it doesn’t remotely matter. There’s an abundance of weapons and vehicles scattered about the map, so before long your pockets are bulging with grenades, flame throwers, machine guns and rocket launchers. Go on foot or hop in a vehicle, and you’re off.
There’s just enough game modes to satisfy hardened online vets, from deathmatch, capture the flag and zones, the latter in particular being the most entertaining. Here, capturing areas of the map at the re-spawn points to score is the main objective. Taking over certain zones can break chains of opposition control, which can cripple their chance of victory. Now, you’d be perfectly entitled to wonder how such a mash up of vehicles, weapons and modes can be entertaining without becoming a bit of a disorganised mess. The beauty or Warhawk is that there is such a zen-like state of balance of order. Every time one form of offence appears to be too powerful, there are plenty of means to settle the score. From the deadly Warhawks to the nippy jeeps, there really is enough for every type of player. It’s this type of formula from which truly entertaining online games are made of. Yes, the online enigma. What makes a great online game? Is it a note perfect symphony of gameplay nirvana that Warhawk nails, or is it the banter, the clans, the lobby chat and the ranking systems that Warhawk…well, fails on. Chat in particular is the worst, which is
sadly ironic given the game retails with a headset. The comms in general are of a poor quality, and mapping them to the L3 button is inconvenient to say the least given the fact that you’re really too busy using the left stick to control movement. There’s little lobby chat or any sort of party system so you can’t really discuss the game you’ve just had, or rub your victory in the faces of ‘noobs’. There seems to be little point in clans as the games matchmaking system may well pit you against your clan mates, and unless some serious patches are implemented, developers Incognito have really missed a trick by slipping up on the community element. The good news is that the gaming is lag free, somewhat astonishing given how much carnage up to 32 players can create. As an experience on the PS3, Warhawk is unrivalled in terms of its rock solid mechanics and slick combat. It’s precisely the type of game that the PlayStation Network needs to get people together online. It’s also a game that the PlayStation 3 itself needs to get people to buy the console.
TIGER WOODS 08
360 (Reviewed), PS3
Multi (360 Reviewed)
’ll be honest, when I sat down with the task of reviewing Fatal Inertia I didn’t have high hopes. Having followed the games coverage since its announcement back in 2005 (originally billed as a PS3-exclusive launch title) and playing the dreary demo in August, I feared the worst. Surprisingly though, Fatal Inertia isn’t the complete car-crash of a game you may have been expecting. Many of us will find Fatal Inertia’s style of play instantly engaging. Imagine, if you will, a less stylish but much more varied version of WipEout, and you’re half-way there. And that’s where one of Fatal Inertia’s greatest strengths lies; variety. Packing an impressive fifty-one tracks each spread across six environments, with further customisable options to add different weather and lighting effects, track repetition is something you’ll struggle to come across in Fatal Inertia. And the environments aren’t your typical futuristic locations you’d come to expect from the genre either, including zones ranging from beautiful tropical locales and volcanic caverns to desert canyons and frozen wastelands.
Fatal Inertia also encompasses a rather well thought-out weapon system. Each weapon in the game is coupled with a secondary fire mode, so whether you’re on offence to try and gain rank or on defence to retain your pole position, the weapons in the game can cater for either. For example, you can use a rockets primary fire to take down an adversary, or strap it to the back of you and ride its thrust to further your lead. It’s a surprisingly well balanced system, and with a little bit of getting used to, one of the most satisfying. Granted, Fatal Inertia is no WipEout-beater, it still has some of its own underlying problems to contend with, but nor is it the complete disaster you may have been expecting. Why KOEI decided to launch a massively underwhelming demo to millions of gamers is beyond me, but for those willing to give it a chance, Fatal Inertia is a strangely addictive and somewhat compelling futuristic racing title.
f you ever played last year’s Tiger, you’ll be treading familiar ground with 08. Back again is the Tiger Challenge which sees you play through various, erm...challenges in order to climb the rankings and eventually face off against the big man himself. Challenges vary from games of 21 and the all new Bingo, Bango, Bongo, through to one-on-ones with golf bigwigs and other sporting celebrities. Other modes include the more traditional PGA Tour as well as a variety of off and online multiplayer games. The Putt Cam once again makes its return in 08 under the guise of Putt Preview. Designed to make putting easier for golf newbies, the Putt Preview shows a glance of the stroke before you play it, allowing any last minute changes to be made for that accurate putt. Of course, for the true golfing experience pros will want to avoid it altogether. Brand new additions into the fray come from EA Sports’ much-hyped GamerNet. GamerNet is EA’s take on the social networking scene, and its greatest function comes from its ability of
allowing players to save and share their greatest moments. Chipped in a 25 yard eagle? No problem. Save it and pass it around your friends over Xbox Live. The feature is integrated seamlessly and a wonderful addition to the title. The other extra to come out of GamerNet is Photo Game Face which allows you to take a picture of yourself (either through the Vision Cam or by uploading a digital photo onto GamerNet), and accurately recreate yourself for use within the game. It’s a gimmick but is miles ahead of a similar feature we saw in Rainbow Six Vegas. Including just five more courses, near identical game modes and only a handful of unnecessary, although admittedly cool extras, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is difficult to recommend if you’ve already worked your way through 07. Having said that, Tiger Woods 08 retains its title as the king of golf games and, if you never got round to picking up last year’s, rightfully deserves a place in any golf fan’s collection.
STREETS OF RAGE 2
WAVE RACE 64
Ah, Streets of Rage 2. A sign of a simpler time, where the plot of Sega’s 1993 scrolling beat ‘em up amounted to a vague incentive to hit the streets and kick the living crap out of anything that moved. No need to gild the lily, Mr. X has kidnapped your buddy and it’s your job to get him back, clearing the thug infested streets as you do it.
Following hot on the heels of F-Zero X and Mario Kart 64, Nintendo brings another N64 racer to the Virtual Console with the release of 1996’s jet-ski title Wave Race 64.
When LocoRoco Cocoreccho was first announced for the PlayStation Network as an ‘interactive screensaver’ (lol wut) we weren’t that surprised. How could something so irresistible and loveable like LocoRoco be anything but slightly bizarre? The smiley faced blobs roll onto PS3, and whilst it has lost some of its charm, there’s no denying the fact that it’s still essentially LocoRoco.
Format: XBLA Price: 400 MS points
Format: Virtual Console Price: 1000 Wii Points
The latest SEGA Mega Drive classic to arrive on Live Arcade, Streets of Rage 2 is widely regarded as the best scrolling beat ‘em up game ever created. It stands up as so even today. Streets of Rage 2 is a game clear of complications, selecting your hero out of the four available (each with defining strengths and weaknesses) you fight your way through fairgrounds, baseball parks and secret islands, taking on wave after wave of approaching thugs. Fun and addictive, aging fans will bathe in the nostalgia and online co-op scrapping over Xbox Live will seem heaven-sent. Of the uninitiated among us some may be put off by the simplicity of it all, but those willing to take a chance will find one of the purest and most enjoyable videogame experiences ever devised.
The fundamental gameplay gets gamers competing in jet-ski races under varying weather conditions, dodging through directional buoys towards the finish line. By today’s standards, it’s arguable that the limited choice in terms of tracks and characters cripple the lifespan of the title. In this day and age gamers are unlikely to be entertained for a long period of time with only 4 characters and 9 courses to choose from and the multiplayer mode simply doesn’t provide the thrills of the two previously aforementioned N64 classics. However if you still have fond memories of Wave Race from the old N64 era or you’ve never splashed around the game‘s Dolphin Park and crave a fresh take on the racing sim, who are we to stop you? Wave Race 64 is a polished title from a franchise that, if updated with the help of next year’s Wii Balance Board, could once again revolutionise the racing genre.
Format: PSN Price: £1.99
This time around you control a butterfly, and the game essentially involves flitting around the one large map, emitting a pulsing wave which gets the LocoRocos’ attention. Initially, time and patience is required for the game’s general slow pace, plus the fact that slamming the circle button to move a butterfly about gets rather tedious. The tilting goodness that was the PSP game is no more, and if anything the game screams for SIXAXIS usage, it’s LocoRoco after all. It’s used in the manipulation of a walkway or two and turning gates on and off, but one can’t help but feel that little bit disappointed. On the whole though, LocoRoco Cocoreccho is a paltry two quid and for that price, it’s rude not to.
Which console is best to own this year? Even with its failures the Xbox 360 still delivers one of the most solid experiences all round, from the robust Xbox LIVE community, Arcade and Marketplace offerings to a solid library of titles and heavy third party support. Joe Markert
It's just got to be the 360. There's nothing better than coming in from work, seeing who's online than arranging an impromptu game of something. I've just finished an ace Street Fighter session with Mr. Pinky (where I beasted his Ken with my Ryu) and am still on a high for that. aaronayl1
I say sleep on current-gen systems. Victor Gomez
This month we’re asking: Did Halo 3 live up to your expectations? Send your opinions to email@example.com and we’ll print the best in next month’s issue.
If I had to choose one line-up to play for the next year, I would pick the 360. Between Halo 3, Mass Effect, Bioshock and CoD 4 all my friends will probably think I've died. BoB Smith
The Wii, hands down. With great titles such as Metroid Prime 3 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl out this year, there's no reason not to own one. Freakmind
Wii for the fun party games, but PS3 is for the 'real' gamers; online play, amazing graphics, incredible upcoming games and just the general intense gameplay. Craig Jay
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