ASSASSIN’S CREED DRIVER RAGE NEED FOR SPEED Issue 77 October 2011
ISSUE 77: BATTLEFIELD 3 VS. CALL OF DUTY F1 2011 GOLDENEYE: 007 RELOADED BROTHERS IN ARMS BORDERLANDS 2 DARK SOULS NEED FOR SPEED
THE RULES OF MASTER CHIEF How Microsoft built a next-generation hero
F1 2011 READ THE EXCLUSIVE REVIEW!
WORLD EXCLUSIVE Can it beat Call of Duty? The exclusive story on the biggest battle of 2011 BODYCOUNT Explosive arcade shooter reviewed
GoldenEye: 007 Reloaded
A retro classic is reborn on Xbox 360 Issue 77 October 2011
PLUS HOW XBLA IS CHANGING GAMES GEARS OF WAR 3 SECRETS OF DJ HERO RENEGADE OPS AND MORE!
INSIDE FAKE BATMAN THE FUTURE OF KINECT ANGRY SOLDIERS DARK SOULS EL SHADDAI
Issue 77 October 2011
To the year’s biggest showdown
Make no mistake, Call of Duty is going to be the year’s biggest-selling game. Its success is assured by the millions of players still hooked on Black Ops online, and its quality by years of experience – albeit slightly less than we’re used to from the now-diminished Inﬁnity Ward. It’s going to be good. But after several years of having Christmas to itself, it has a rival in the form of Battleﬁeld 3, a game that’s been accumulating plaudits and awards since it was ﬁrst revealed. DICE’s franchise has steadily improved to the point where the two can be judged side by side, and we’ve done just that on page 32. The ultimate winner? We, the players – we get two excellent shooters to round out 2011. And before then, of course, we’ve got our own Xbox-exclusive blockbuster in the form of Gears of War 3, which you can get a ﬁnal look at on page 56 – and see in action in the videos we’ve hidden through the mag (see opposite.) After a quiet summer, it’s going to be a very busy autumn. Enjoy the issue.
Jon Hicks OXM Jonty email@example.com
Staff Writer Jon ‘Log’ Blyth Gamertag: OXM Log T: 020 7042 4682 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff Writer Matt Lees Gamertag: OXM JamSponge T: 020 7042 4690 E: Matt.Lees@futurenet.com
Deputy Editor Mike Channell Gamertag: OXMMightySeven T: 020 7042 4683 E: email@example.com
Editor Jon Hicks Gamertag: OXM Jonty T: 020 7042 4681 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
While Log didn’t make it to the Edinburgh Festival or Gamescom, he did manage to throw a couple of one-man gin parties instead.
Spent a rare sunny day attacking the garden. Claims that it was “just like that bit in Resident Evil” were met with scepticism.
Completed a triathlon, dispelling at least one myth about games writers. He’s eaten nothing but pizza since, mind.
Decreed that there is no game that cannot be improved by adding the sufﬁx ‘The Baconing’. It’s a tough claim to dispute.
Online Editor Edwin Evans-Thirlwell Gamertag: OXMETboy
Writer Rich McCormick Gamertag: richmcc
Writer Will Porter Gamertag: Batsphinx
Writer Martin Davies Gamertag: Private
Ed’s ongoing claim that he isn’t really all that posh took a hit this month, when he accidentally left a bit of Latin in a game preview. We’re not joking.
Revealed the damage wrought by working in a cinema with a DDR machine: every time he hears 5-6-7-8 by Steps he offers someone a large Coke.
Lost an untold number of man points by revealing that he really likes terrible Sandra Bullock rom-com The Proposal. Has been issued with Arnie box set.
Suffered weeks of frightening dreams after seeing deeply creepy trailer for the Tintin game. Ironically, was able to cure them with Rise of Nightmares.
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Borderlands on the way.
82 We look at the best and
brightest Kinect titles.
56 One last glimpse before Gears of War
makes its triumphant return.
“The e variety vvariettyy o off w ways way wa ys you u can n use use Kinect u Kinec K t is i its ts stren ngth th h aand greatestt strength most serious drawback” 6
XBOX 360 THE OFFICIAL XBOX MAGAZINE
88 The future of Kinect is
looking very impressive.
Issue 77 October 2011
“A new star is rising – its tech brighter, and its multiplayer blinding”
Expert opinion and comment… 012 Borderlands 2 Back to Pandora with all-new guns and characters. 016 Dead Faction We take a last look at Volition’s Martian adventures. 019 Lollipop Chainsaw Zombies and cheerleading? We like. 020 GoldenEye 007: Reloaded Activision’s rework gets the HD treatment and heads to Xbox 360. 022 Number Cruncher Are small numbers better than big ones? 025 Games of the Year The Golden Joysticks are coming. Vote now! 026 Most Wanted We go weak at the knees over Ezio’s ﬁnal excursion. To Constantinople!
Post opinion on your games, your friends and your magazine 028 Messages Launch your thoughts at us via the medium of words. 030 OXM Online Prime cuts from our site and social networks.
Is F1 as slick as it was last year? We exclusively reveal all.
The best writers in the industry explore the wider world of Xbox 360 032 The Battle for 2011 Modern Warfare 3 and Battleﬁeld 3 face off in the ultimate shooter showdown 046 Perfect Scores We cast our ear over music in games. 070 Interview We get the lowdown on Anniversary and more with developer 343 Industries. 074 The End of the Year Show Check out these games – coming soon! 082 Kinect It’s got a lot more to offer than golf and ﬁtness 106 Gaming’s Digital Future Is DLC the way forward for games?
Exclusive playtests of the most-wanted Xbox 360 games 052 Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 056 Gears of War 3 059 Renegade Ops 060 RAGE 062 Gotham City Impostors 063 Street Fighter X Tekken 064 Dark Souls 068 Need For Speed The Run
The ultimate buyers' guide – every new Xbox 360 game reviewed! 092 Formula One 2011 097 Bodycount 098 Driver San Francisco 100 Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge 101 Rugby World Cup 2011 102 El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron 103 Captain America 103 Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 103 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 104 Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet 105 Toy Soldiers: Cold War 105 Fruit Ninja Kinect
On the disc
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The The eF Fu Full ulll 360 360
People are still playing GTA IV. We join them on Xbox Live.
Customise C Custom e and expa expand nd your Xbox X 360 60 gaming with w th tips, content content and great g eatt ideas! i 112 10 thing things hings gs to o ttry tr y The he best b t bits bits in i Deus Ex:: Human H Hu Hum uman Revolution. 115 How monster w to... Meet the President, Pres dent, Pre ent, ﬁnd nd a smoke sm m mo ster and more. m 116 6 Download nload The verdictt o on n Fallout ut New Vega Vegas: V : Old d World Wo Blues. B 122 The movies 22 OXM M Investigates Inves est estigates Th he e worst worst videogame movie m mo mov ess ever. eve 124 12 Grand T Theft ftt Auto IV IV We e venture nture back online on onlin ne e in n Liberty L y City. City C y. 127 7 Calen Calendarr Got anyy plans thiss m month? You d do o now. now 130 Secrets of... DJ J Hero He develope developer FreeStyleGames reeStyleGa es spills the th he e beans. bean
THE OFFICIAL XBOX MAGAZINE XBOX 360
Words: Matt Lees
PERFECT SCORES How gaming soundtracks are hitting the right notes
ack in 1982, the music industry was genuinely worried that its business wouldn’t be able to co-exist with videogames. Arista Records president Clive Davis even put out an editorial in Billboard magazine – the title of which he would later come to regret: ‘You Can’t Hum a Videogame’. Skip forward three decades, and everything’s changed. The music industry is desperately seeking ways to remain proﬁtable, and the games industry is an increasingly big customer, providing work for composers and musicians alike. Music is recognised as a hugely important part of the modern gaming experience, and a soaring score is considered essential for any game with blockbuster aspirations. When
Activision needed a cinematic 2,, it soundtrack for Modern Warfare 2 went to Hans Zimmer – a man with a CV that includes ﬁlms like The Dark Knight, Gladiator, and Inception.
Other developers have followed this lead. Clint Mansell, the man behind the astonishing Requiem For A Dream soundtrack, has signed on to compose the music for Mass Effect 3, taking the place of Jack Wall – the videogamefocused composer responsible for the incredible music of the ﬁrst two games. But the Tinseltown talent is a new arrival, and it’s following in the footsteps of people who have played a big part in making videogames the success they are today. While big-name
He looks like he’s never seen notation before.
newcomers work to adapt their approach and mindset, industry veterans such as Inon Zur are already way ahead of the game. You might not recognise the name, but you’ll probably know his work. Working on iconic music for games such as Dragon Age and Fallout 3, he’s arguably just as much of
Epic action requires a ﬁttingly epic soundtrack.
Twisted Pixel is known for its comedy songs. 47
FEATURE Deus Ex combines old and new instruments.
“I WAS REALLY DRAWN TO THE IDEA OF MAKING THE SOUNDTRACK ORGANIC” MICHAEL McCANN – COMPOSER OF DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION Can you tell us a little about the brief you were given for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and how you decided to approach it? When I ﬁrst started work on the game, audio director Steve Szczepkowski and I talked a lot about what direction I should take the music. At this time, we were looking at traditional cyberpunk inﬂuences such as Blade Runner and the original Deus Ex. This electronic music was a good starting point, but when looking at the themes in the story and the inﬂuences of Renaissance art, I was really drawn to the idea of making the soundtrack more organic. The inﬂuences for the acoustic side came from artists such as Dead Can Dance and Ennio Morricone, and in terms of the electronic inﬂuences, I was also inspired by Brian Eno and Ben Lukas Boysen (HECQ). Aside from the cyberpunk stuff, there are a lot of religious overtones in the game, too. Have you tried to reﬂect these in the soundtrack? The spiritual/religious tone was something I represented through vocals. Vocals are almost everywhere in the score – not necessarily up front, but often used as ambient textures, mixed into the background. There are around 100 different vocals in the game. I spent a lot 48
of time looking for source recordings of traditional and religious a cappella songs, especially for some of the game’s more exotic locations. Even if the music is very electronic and the setting is very futuristic, there’s always this grounding element to the music that represents the past, and some of the spiritual elements that might be otherwise missing inside these environments. Interestingly, considering the Splinter Cell connection, your theme from the ReGenesis TV show sounds a bit like some of Amon Tobin’s work. What was it like following on from the heritage that he’d established with Chaos Theory when working on Double Agent? The ReGenesis theme is originally from an album I did in 2001 under a different name, Behavior, and I ﬁrst heard about Amon Tobin when someone compared that track to him. For Double Agent though, one of the primary directions from Ubisoft at the time was to go in the opposite direction of Chaos Theory. It’s an extremely dark game, and a much more personal story than Chaos Theory. Much like Deus Ex, there was a strong push to go in a less cerebral and frenetic direction with the music, approaching something more emotional instead.
a legend as some of the ﬁlm industry’s greats. Driven by the constant challenges gaming soundtracks provide, he’s currently working on the score for Lord of the Rings: War in the North. “In ﬁlm and television composing, the picture is locked so you don’t have the freedom to write whatever you want,” explains Zur. “When composing for games, it’s more of a freeform approach – as we’re aiming to frame the atmosphere, emotions, and dramatic elements. Overall, this gives us more musical freedom.” Rather than composing music based on a detached brief, Zur makes a point of actually playing games ﬁrst to get a feel for the rhythm. Despite specialising in fantasy for most of his career, working on established franchises such as Lord of the Rings still creates an interesting challenge. “We stayed loyal to the sound, but we’ve taken it to a darker place. The score is entirely original but the sound is reminiscent of the ﬁlms.”
Lumped with the expectations of its notoriously zealous fans, 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution put composer Michael McCann in a similar pair of shoes. In addition to ensuring the soundtrack felt
“When composing for games, it’s more of a freeform approach”
Perfect Scores EVIL GAMING EARWORMS LOVE THEM OR HATE THEM, THERE ARE ALWAYS A FEW TUNES THAT GET STUCK IN YOUR HEAD DEADLY PREMONITION – THE WHISTLING SONG We can deal with upside-down zombie things putting their arms down our throat, and we can even deal with the constant string of brutally murdered women. Seriously though, please stop whistling. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG – GREEN HILL ZONE Don’t be fooled by modern imitations, it’s all about the original Green Hill Zone music. It’s devastatingly infectious stuff, and we haven’t really managed to get it out of our heads again since the game popped up on the Xbox Live Marketplace. CARNIVAL GAMES – MONKEY SEE MONKEY DO Have you seen that bit in Dead Space, where the people get all those symbols and noises trapped in their heads? And they murder everyone around them to try and make the noises go away? Yeah, don’t play this game. SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER II TURBO – SAKURA’S THEME Camp J-pop at it’s ﬁnest, or worst, depending on whether you’re the one belting it out or listening to it. We can’t quite decide if it’s pure genius or pure evil, but we don’t seem to be physically capable of switching it off. Professional recording studios are de rigueur now.
familiar, the game’s context provided a set of far more interesting challenges. “There was one clear theme in the game that I especially wanted to represent in the music: the clash between unbridled scientiﬁc advancement, and those who oppose it on religious, moral or political grounds,” he says. “In more general terms, I saw this as a ﬁght between the old and the new. Musically, there are two sides to the instrumentation – the electronic side represents the ‘new’, while the other ‘old’ side of the soundtrack is entirely acoustic.” Picking up on themes long abandoned by cinema, projects like Human Revolution are difﬁcult for sci-ﬁ fanatics like McCann to resist. “The theme of transhumanism within the game immediately brings up interesting themes on both sides of the debate,” he explains. “Whether it’s religious arguments against scientiﬁc progress (such as stem cell research) or, on the opposing side, an almost religious devotion to scientiﬁc advancement; both sides pull from a very pious foundation. There’s something about spiritual stories that I ﬁnd inspiring – it forces a composer into very difﬁcult and abstract
Splosion Man’s missus is just as musical.
“AS FOR MS. SPLOSION MAN, PEOPLE WERE EXPECTING A NEW ‘DONUT’ SONG” MATT ‘CHAINSAW’ CHANEY – COMPOSER OF SPLOSION MAN One of the most loved aspects of Splosion Man was the ‘Donut’ song. Can you tell us the story behind it? Donuts, Go Nuts came about fairly late in development. Once I saw the game mechanic with the donut-eating Danklefsen scientist, I knew I had to do something special with the audio, and the idea for a song came quickly. The ﬁrst time I saw the scientist in-game, he was just sitting in a room with a table piled high with doughnuts, chomping away. Originally, I was just going to have the song play as if it was on a radio in the room, but then I decided to have it play as you carried him across the levels. I think I wrote the entire thing in about 10 to 15 minutes. My wife had just gotten home from work, and I ran out into the living room so I could play the song for her. She just said: “yeah, yeah, that’s great, dear.” Undaunted, I popped it into the game, and the rest is history. I’m still amazed at the reception. I’ve been writing songs for almost 20 years, and I write a four-chord song about doughnuts and
everybody loves it… The simplest song I’ve ever written in my life. But that’s pop. What’s the process in terms of adding these songs into your games? I never try to force a song into our games. If it comes about organically, that’s great; if not, then the game doesn’t need it. Josh Bear told me going into Comic Jumper: no songs. He was worried it would feel forced, but I whipped up a version of the Brad theme song, and he loved it. As for Ms. Splosion Man, I knew people were expecting a new Donut song. After I saw the Mandy gameplay mechanic, I thought the best choice would be a Buddy Holly-style love song about her. My real pride and joy is the song that I wrote to accompany Ms. Splosion Man’s curse, a celebration of curvy women. I don’t want to spoil too much, but you’ve got to check it out. And I have to mention the extremely talented Lonny Watershed, who has provided us with a song for both Splosion Man and now Ms. Splosion Man. He is a musical genius, and more people should know about him.
More cheery ditties in video games, please.
The Maw was Twisted Pixel’s ﬁrst original game. 49
FEATURE Inon Zur has worked in games for years now.
LISTEN FOR FREE SOME PUBLISHERS RELEASE THEIR IN-GAME AUDIO FOR FREE DOWNLOAD. HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVOURITES FINAL FIGHT REMIX If you enjoyed the music from the original Final Fight, then Simon Viklund’s remix is essential listening. Created specially for Final Fight: Double Impact, this is a classic slice of joyful retro rehash. http://bit.ly/bhqqXc
“PICTURES CAN INFLUENCE THE MOOD, BUT MAINLY ITS THE CHARACTERS” INON ZUR – COMPOSER OF LOTR: WAR IN THE NORTH Do you think it’s important for composers to play the games they work on? I always play the games I work on to get a feel for the game and its rhythm, to understand the role of the music, how to tailor the music to the game. I play and watch these games a lot during their development. However, I sadly don’t have much time to check out games outside of my work, as I’m usually straight onto the next project. What do you think about the composition work being done in other games? In the last few years the level of quality has increased dramatically. As composers we’re always looking for ways to be better, and top what we’ve done before. There is a lot out there but I like what Jesper Kyd is doing in Assassin’s Creed. You seem to specialise in fantasy and sci-ﬁ – what have your main creative inﬂuences been? I am open to many different musical inﬂuences. I studied ﬁlm music at the Dick Grove School of Music and UCLA under composers such as Jack Smalley, Allyn Ferguson and Henry Mancini. My main The LOTR ﬁlms are a hard act to follow.
creative inﬂuences are the classical works of Stravinsky, Prokoﬁev, Debussy and Beethoven and the ﬁlm music of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Thomas Newman. I also like jazz artists like George Gershwin. I always keep my ears open to listen to new music and let it do its work within. When it comes to inspiration for scoring a particular game or genre, the story is always my ﬁrst starting point and creative inﬂuence. Sometimes pictures can inﬂuence the mood, but mainly it’s the characters and their motives which affect the direction and tempo, evolving and inﬂuencing the music more than anything else. If you could go back in time and compose music for any game in history, which one would you choose? It would be the original Syberia adventure game. I worked on the sequel Syberia II and the storyline and beautiful animation were very inspirational. The idea of travelling to this mystical setting initiated my own journey, which led to places I’d never been before musically, allowing me to explore new territory as a composer. The cinematic elements in the game were very strong, including the amazing short movies. Music can add vital impact to a scene.
PORTAL 2 Entitled ‘Songs to Test By’, this instrumental collection has provided the team with hours of ambient bleeping delights. Perfect for pumping into your ears on the odd occasions when razor-sharp focus is required. http://bit.ly/k1Mmjm
MS SPLOSION MAN If incendiary pink women ﬂoat your boat, then the Ms. Splosion Man soundtrack is essential listening. Check out Matt ‘Chainsaw’ Chaney’s handiwork for yourself in this surprisingly jaunty collection. http://mssplosionman.com
BULLETSTORM Put your feet up, pour yourself a glass of kick-ass, and ﬁre up this free soundtrack for an opportunity to quietly reminisce on all the times you shot those strangers in the balls. http://bit.ly/gtNA2I BIOSHOCK Sadly, only the compositions for the ﬁrst game are available to download for free. Still, there’s enough here to ﬁll a small horror ﬁlm. http://bit.ly/hnlK
emotions, which is probably the most difﬁcult and rewarding challenge in composing music. I haven’t seen a story that hits this true emotional level in games yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.”
Legal rap battles
It’s possible, of course, to go for the ready-made impact of licensed music, but that brings its own problems – as was proven by the DJ Hero series, for which the cost of using licensed music wasn’t just ﬁnancial. “We really made a rod for our own back,” admits Jamie Jackson, creative director at FreeStyleGames. “We wanted DJ Hero to stand out, and make people feel like they were creating something new. To do that, we had to create it ﬁrst.” DJ Hero won numerous awards for its innovation, but it proved extraordinarily difﬁcult for the team to realise their ambitions. “The licensed music world is a really strange place,” says Jackson. “You have all these situations where someone falls out with someone else, and even though it’s got nothing to do with you, suddenly you’re told you can’t use a track,” explains Jackson. Consistent licensing issues saw the team creating hundreds and hundreds of mixes across the two games, simply so
Perfect Scores ”So which one of these for a mochaccino?”
“I THINK WE MADE OVER 800 MIXES FOR BOTH DJ HERO 1 AND 2” JAMIE JACKSON – CREATIVE DIRECTOR, FREESTYLEGAMES
“The licensed music world is a strange and unforgiving place” they’d have enough to ﬁll the game once most of the licensed music had been removed for legal reasons.
While big-budget projects struggle under the weight of their own grand ideas, upstarts like Twisted Pixel are taking an entirely different approach. Check out the music in Splosion Man, and you’ll ﬁnd only one man in the credits: Matt ‘Chainsaw’ Chaney. “I’m the only in-house audio guy at Twisted Pixel, but we do get help from outside sources” admits Chaney. “Josh Mosley provided the epic music for the boss battles in Ms. Splosion Man, and also recorded the live horn arrangements for the single-player music.
All our voice work is handled by the incredibly talented dudes at OkraTron 5000, but apart from that it’s just me.” In an industry in which talent contract agreements can take up to six months to approve, Twisted Pixel’s Chainsaw sat down and wrote Splosion Man’s ‘Donut’ song in under 15 minutes – a reminder that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get the perfect soundtrack. Regardless of the approach developers and publishers take, there’s no denying the importance that is now being attached to in-game audio. After years of obsessing over graphics, the games industry is ﬁnally starting to treat sound design with equal respect. If you’ll forgive the pun, that sounds very good indeed.
SEE IT LIVE GAME SOUNDTRACKS DON’T HAVE TO BE LIMITED TO YOUR LIVING ROOM. LIVE ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCES ARE INCREASINGLY POPULAR VIDEO GAMES LIVE This concert series has become hugely popular and is heading to London again in early 2012. It’s run and hosted by Tommy Tallarico, otherwise known as the guy who did the music for Earthworm Jim. Give that man a medal.
DISTANT WORLDS: MUSIC FROM FINAL FANTASY A touring production that kicked off in 2007 and has traversed the world since, it’ll be arriving at London’s Royal Albert Hall in November. Find out more at bit.ly/pYehz6.
PLAY! A VIDEOGAME SYMPHONY This full orchestra/ choir combo has been performing in the US and Canada since 2006, and recorded a live album in Prague in 2009. UK dates are expected some time in 2012 – ﬁnd more details at bit.ly/nDZX4I.
VIDEO GAME HEROES Unfortunately, you’ve just missed this. The London Philharmonic Orchestra took to the stage at the Royal Festival Hall, playing music from Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, GTA, and more. Hopefully this event will be back in 2012.
With a lot of recent games focusing on big-name composers, do you think there’s not as much respect for games that use licensed music? I don’t know to be honest. In the past two or three years we’ve cleaned up in terms of getting awards for music in games, so maybe composers have just been left out for a while. But obviously we were doing something different again; we didn’t just put music in the game – we did a lot more stuff with it. Where I sometimes think people get left out, is in games that use licensed music that aren’t music games. Whether it’s a driving game, or something like GTA, someone spent a lot of time thinking about the right music to go alongside it – trying to choose tracks that people will recognise, but will also really ﬁt the style of the game. You guys were sort of a halfway house – composing original music, but using a lot of licensed music in the process. Can you tell us about the difﬁculties involved with that? I think we made over 800 mixes for both DJ Hero 1 and 2, and the reason we did that was because for each one we had to contact the artist and say: “We’re going to take your music, and make a new track, and release it into the public domain.” The licensed music world is really strange, and not a very forgiving place. We made some awesome tracks – we took the A-Team soundtrack and the Knight Rider soundtrack, and made this super-sick scratchy mix. We made it about four-and-a-half years ago, and we never stood a chance of getting it licensed. On the one side, you had them releasing an A-Team movie – they didn’t want the song getting overused – and the new Knight Rider TV series was about to go big; then one of the composers had a problem… It was tough. How do you think the use of audio is progressing within the industry? When I started in games we had one guy working on music for the whole of Codemasters: 250 people, eight games, one guy. It’s different now – people recognise it as being part of the whole process. 51
OUT NOW Publisher Microsoft
Developer Shadow Planet Productions Price 1200MP Players 1
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Not as twisted as you’d like
Jon Blyth OXM Log
Lantern Run lets you play online against up to three other people, in straight up survival races. It’s a strong and social addition to the lonely single-player campaign, and the randomly generated levels give it a bit of bonus life.
he words ‘Insanely Twisted’ are deceptive. They create an expectation that this particular Shadow Planet doesn’t even try to fulﬁl. This isn’t some mind-juicing hyper-tough platformer, it’s a charming exploration puzzler set on a planet whose design is as simple as it is lovely. The story unfolds without words – if Bastion is the gaming equivalent of an audiobook, ITSP is a silent movie. You’re a ﬂying ﬂ ying saucer with the ability to scan items of interest. The scanner is a good source of clues, showing you how to kill things, which power you need to open a gate and so on. Strip away the stylings, and this is a zero-gravity Shadow Complex – a game where every power you earn gives you a new way to solve puzzles, ﬁght enemies,
You’re not actually supposed to do it like this.
possibilities feel fully explored. While that and access to areas that you were forced means that the puzzles never outstay to pass by earlier on, because they were their welcome, it also makes the map tantalisingly locked. For example, the underwhelming. Even the challenging remote-controlled missile can be used to puzzles are made less so, because kill shielded enemies by zooming of the obvious clues given by around the back. It can also the scan tool and the fact open doors by wobbling that the map’s not large through corridors in slow enough for the solution motion to hit switches to be anywhere but your saucer can’t reach. WINNING extremely nearby. The puzzles are This is Michel Gagné’s ﬁrst game – Despite the fact that ambient, relaxing, and he’s better known as a cartoonist and animator, who’s worked on Shadow Planet is an clever. Some puzzles, The Iron Giant, several Pixar exploration game that such as redirecting lasers movies and the Cartoon Network series Star Wars: with crystals, are a doesn’t have enough to Clone Wars. explore, the charm of the disappointingly simple visual style, the ambience matter of trial and error. But of the world and the silent other moments require you to look communication itself makes the short ﬁts around and ﬁgure ﬁgure out how the world ﬁ ts journey completely pleasurable. Just together, and solving them gives you a be aware that you’re dropping a tenner burst of self-congratulation. A later level on something pretty that won’t ﬁll even attempts to fulﬁl the promise of the an evening. title, with machines that spin the world into different orientations. Sadly, Shadow Planet isn’t as good as it could be. First of all, it’s short – at around Nice visual style three hours, it’s over long before the Clever, satisfying puzzles Good variety of powers Far too short It’s hard to like a ﬂying saucer
What is it?
A ﬂying saucer exploring a cruel planet.
What’s it like?
A boiled-down zero-gravity version of Shadow Complex.
Who’s it for?
Busy people who don’t have time to spend on games.
Boss ﬁghts – more puzzle-based than twitch.
Next year, let’s go somewhere nice
XBLA Rev Reviews views
Toy Soldiers: Cold War Teeny tiny ’80s retro
Publisher Microsoft Developer SignalGames Players 1-2 Co-op Yes Cost 1200MP (£10.28)
ike the original Toy Released Soldiers, Cold War has you OUT guarding your precious NOW toy box against actionﬁgure invasions — only this time, cavalry and biplanes give way to ‘The Littlest Commando’ infantry and armaments from the didn’t take off as a TV series. Reagan era. You’ll drop a handful of upgradable tower-defence staples on predetermined build sites, taking direct enemies and you’ll earn inﬁnite ammo and control of them whenever you feel like enhanced damage. Extend that kill-streak mowing down a crowd. to 40 and you’ll earn bombing runs, nukes, Your AI gunners are now relatively and even a Stallone look-alike with a rocket competent, but manually controlling one launcher and a mouthful of movie quotes. has its beneﬁts. Quickly chew up 20 It’s a lot of fun, at least for a while. Cold War improves on the ﬁrst game in almost every way. The newly co-operative camera makes it easier to jump between battleﬁeld supervision and ﬁrsthand carnage. Vehicles, which range from Top Gun-style jets to thundering tanks, are faster and more manoeuvrable. Get in a jam, and you can even rewind the action to All together now: “Highhhwayy previous waves. Only a few boss battles to the danger zone…” pop up during the campaign missions, but
the action chugs along at such a steady clip you won’t have time to wish for more. On the other hand, you’ll almost certainly yearn for more than just three survival stages and versus-mode maps. But even if Cold War lacks enough variety for more than a few afternoons of entertainment, its simple, enjoyable challenges still earn it an honourable discharge.
Fun, but not as longlasting as its namesake
Fruit Ninja Kinect
They won’t know what hit them. They don’t have cognitive functions
Publisher Microsoft Developer Halfbrick Players 1-2 Co-op Yes Cost 800MP (£6.80)
Tonight we dine in vegetarian hell.
ruit Ninja is a good match for Kinect. It was claustrophobic and ﬁddly on the iPhone, and the grand full-body pinwheeling of Kinect feels like its spiritual home. But if Fruit Ninja came up against Released a one-trick pony in a talentOUT diversity gala, it would struggle NOW Attack your own coloured to compete. Slice up fruit. Away fruit or lose points. you go. Just touching a fruit won’t do – you have to be moving at a pace before it registers responsive Kinect games around, with so as a chop. Luckily, this is one of the most little lag – even with two players – that it’s a genuine showcase for the tech. If we can get this level of body-tracking ﬁdelity into games that don’t focus so heavily on punching bananas, then that’s progress. Classic mode is a potentially endless trial – hit a bomb or miss three fruit, and it’s game over. Zen mode removes the bombs, and introduces a 90-second time limit. The difference between being good and bad at Zen mode is lining up combos. Hit three or more fruit at once, and they score double. This is even more important in Arcade mode, where bonus bananas and maintaining combos make the scoring more complicated and occasionally random.
Take that, you cynically marketed superfood.
Annoyingly, there’s no way to quickly retry a level after a poor start. Fruit Ninja Kinect is a decent party game. It’s a brilliant use of Kinect, and it’s the game they should use on shopﬂoors to show how responsive the kit can be. But it’s also 800MP for what amounts to a single motor function in a single minigame. Even with leaderboards, it’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend.
Short-term fun for the young of mind