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w w w. g a m e c c a m ag . c o m I S S U E 3 1 / Vo l . 3 Januar y 2012

Rayman: Origins Mario Kart 7 LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 to 7 WW12 Anno 2070 Blackwater and more...

And the Winner is... Game of the Year Edition

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Inside 6 From the Editor 8 Unstuck Cheers to You! 10 The Voice An interview with Gideon Emery... 18 PS Zealot Quite a year for Sony... 20 Xbox Beat Changing tastes! 22 House of Mario What’s next for Nintendo? 24 The Gamecca Game of the Year Awards Winner, winner, chicken dinner... 38 Reviews 16 games to give a go... 72 Flashtastic Those Festive Games 76 Hardware

THIS MONTH’S COVER So which were our picks of 2011? Check out the feature on page 24 to find out!

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Awesome gadgets and gear 88 From Space Be the grunt...

gamecca contents • issue 31 • January 2012

Reviews

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Rayman: Origins

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Mario Kart 7

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LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 to 7

GAMECCA Vol. 3 Issue 31 January 2012 Editor: Walt Pretorius walt@gamecca.co.za

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WW12

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Blackwater

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Men of War: Vietnam

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Lord of the Rings: War in the North

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Dark Hills of Cherai

Competition Entries: competitions@gamecca.co.za

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PowerUp Heroes

Newsletter Subscriptions: www.gamecca.co.za

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Happy Feet Two

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Michael Phelps: Push the Limit

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Anno 2070

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Grease

Writers: Brian Murdoch Bryan Banfield Charlie Fripp Dylan Bouch Iwan Pienaar James Francis Lein Baart Suvesh Arumugam Letters: letters@gamecca.co.za

Design & Photography: 1337 Media Technical Support: Brian Murdoch Marketing Contact: Katia Taliadoros katia@gamecca.co.za

Taking fun seriously! 68

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Adobe CS5

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Garshasp: Monster Slayer

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The Clockwork Man 2: The Hidden World

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gamecca contents • issue 31 • January 2012

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All That’s New... From the Editor

by Walt Pretorius

H

appy New Year! 2012 is finally here and it’s time to give it all you’ve got, just in case that dodgy Mayan prophecy rubbish has any truth to it. And if they’re wrong, at very least you’ll end up with an awesome 366 days under the belt (yes, it’s a leap year). Whatever the case may be, the Gamecca Crew and I would like to wish you all the best for this year... may it be just the right kind of exciting for you. Now that all the decorations are stowed for another 11 months (and apparently three months in the case of shopping malls) and that New Year hang-over has been nursed into some kind of fragile submission, it’s time to look ahead. In fact, we’ve been doing that for a while here, considering how best to approach 2012. As always, we have a lot of ideas and plans, but we decided to kick off the New Year with a new look on the official web site. You may have noticed that. If you didn’t, head on over to the new URL (www.gameccamag.com) and take a gander. Oh, and by the way, the old URL (www.gamecca.co.za) will get you there, too. The new site will offer a lot more for our readers, not least of which will be regular news updates, so be sure to check back often. You’ll be able to find all the issues and links you need, right on the front page. Speaking of the Internet, I have noticed that Gamecca’s presence seems to be growing stronger and stronger. See, not only am I arrogant enough to Google myself (admit it,

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you’ve done it too) but I also Google Gamecca. This started a while back, when one of the Crew pointed out that Gamecca could be downloaded from ebook and torrent sites. Just this morning I performed yet another of my Gamecca searches, and discovered that there are folks out there who have taken the time to create 2011 collections of the mag - all 12 issues bundled into one big download. That is, in a word, awesome. Because we provide Gamecca as a free download, we obviously have no problem with people distributing it via other sources. But the fact that there are readers out there who will put the time and effort into creating a collection and making it available for download is really brilliant. We take it as a compliment and a sign that readers truly enjoy this magazine... and that makes me, for one, very

happy. It does lead to an interesting situation, though. It is difficult for us to say exactly how many readers we have - a rather important piece of information for any publishing operation. So, if you are one of those readers who gets Gamecca from sources other than our official site or download server, we would love it if you visited our site, or subscribed to our newsletter, or even joined up on our Facebook page. Your support is very valuable to us, after all. Right, on to this first issue of 2012. It’s a little skinnier than usual, thanks to a quiet period for the industry overall, but it does feature our 2011 Awards, as well as a bunch of reviews and a very interesting interview with Gideon Emery, an actor and voice artist with strong ties to our beloved South Africa. Some of our regular sections will be taking a well-deserved rest for this issue, too. On a sadder note, we are also bidding farewell to one of our Crew. Brian Murdoch, who has been with Gamecca from the beginning and has proven extremely valuable to the magazine on many levels, as well as being a staunch defender of Nintendo, is moving on. We wish him all the best for the future. Right, that’s enough from me. It’s time for you to get on with the first issue of 2012. We know that this is going to be an extremely exciting year for video games. Enjoy! g

gamecca column • issue 31 • January 2012

Cheers to You! Unstuck

by CharlieFripp

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e have seen many games released last year, and we have truly been blessed by the selection of titles available even in between all the sequels and follow-ups. A new breed of games also emerged, or at least risen to prominence, like Bulletstorm - which took potty-mouth and bloody action to a whole new level. While action games and firstperson shooters traditionally take centre throughout the year, sports games also made incredible strides in technology - showcasing new techniques in game design and improved controls. Which gamers seemed to embrace right from the start, as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: The Masters and FIFA 12 sold plenty of copies. A number of new technologies also made their appearance, or at least on

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the drawing board, in the form of the PlayStation Vita (which was released in Japan not too long ago) and the Wii U, which we’ll hopefully see sometime this year. As for new consoles, Sony is remaining mum on any plans for the PlayStation 4, and Microsoft had to put out some rumour fires surround the next Xbox. While I’m sure the next Xbox is definitely in development as we speak, I highly doubt that we’ll see anything concrete this year. Gamers might get a glimpse of it at E3, but that is probably as far as it will go. What the rest of 2012 will hold, is anybody’s guess as the gaming industry is a very unpredictable beast, which will swallow up and spit out any technology that doesn’t conform to its strict code of being utterly awesome.

But looking back at all the achievements, the release, the award-winners and even the flops (which developers can learn from), one has to agree that it was a great year to be a gamer. While it didn’t even come close to the infamous release list of the summer of 2008, it definitely had more than enough to keep everyone busy - even in the most weird and wonderful of times. So for everyone who played games over the last year, and the few sad sacks that played their favourite title on New Year’s Eve, I hope that you had a Merry Christmas, will have a great New Year and had a happy holiday. I, on the other hand, still have some time left on the beach. Here’s to an awesome 2012 and a year of incredible gaming. g

gamecca column • issue 31 • January 2012

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The Voice

On the Battlefield with Gideon Emery

Feature

by Suevsh Arumugam

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gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

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ideo gaming so often comes under fire for the potentially harmful effects they may have on youngsters. To try and take advantage of the younger market, video game developers and publishers often try to bring games more suitable for younger players to the market, but these sometimes prove to be short, lower quality affairs that do not engage their target audience on a deep enough level. Gideon Emery is one of the most exciting talents coming out of Hollywood today. Born in England, Emery spent most of his young life in South Africa, graduating from WITS University with a degree in Drama. Although Emery was (and still is) a very talented actor, he quickly became known as one of the premiere voice over artists in the country (winning a Loerie award), and quickly was snapped up to be the voice of Top Billing and several other longrunning TV shows. At the same time Emery was being recognized with several awards for his stage and film performances, particularly under the mentorship of the late Bill Flynn, as well as a stand-up comedian and even as a singer. In 2003, Gideon decided to relocate to Los Angeles, California, where he has featured in several prominent feature films and TV shows like The Mentalist, 24 and CSI. He also began a career as a professional voice artist for video games, and has featured in big budget releases like God of War 3, Mass Effect, Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception, Assassin Creed 2 & Brotherhood, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4 and many more. He was recently chosen to play the lead character, Sgt Blackburn, in Battlefield 3 (one of 2011’s anticipated sequels) which featured his voice, as well as facial and motion captured talents. We caught up with Gideon to talk about his amazing career. Q: Before we go into your gaming credits, tell us about why you chose acting as a career, and how you became so talented in the area of voices and accents? A: As a kid I always enjoyed performing. My Dad would have these bridge evenings and I’d come out and do a little show with my ventriloquist dummy and magic tricks. Then of course there were school plays, that sort of thing. I was this Michael Jackson-type character who dropped lines like “Make like Donald

gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

and duck along to the Coke box”. I still have video of that play. I built my repertoire of accents and characters by keeping myself amused growing up as an only child, it’s also something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I remember imitating the sound of Airwolf from the TV show, the cylons from Battlestar Gallactica, all the singers from We Are the World - that kind of thing. Q: What made you decide to relocate to America after having started a successful career in South Africa? A: I’d started doing some work on overseas productions and wanted a bigger taste of film and television. Los Angeles seemed the place to go, as anywhere else would just have been a stepping stone to getting to Hollywood. So I figured I’d make one big move. And then I had to start over after 10 years. It’s been quite a journey. Q: In South Africa you were known as the guy who could do any voice or accent. Is this more difficult in America with so many cultures and dialects? A: In SA, I would be the one they called if they needed someone who sounded like that big trailer voice, or Denis Leary or some other celeb. Over here, they’ll just book the real trailer voice guy or Denis Leary! They’ve got Kevin Spacey doing Honda, Jeff Bridges does Hyundai, Christian Slater does Autotrader, for crying out loud! So I would say it’s harder. I do a great standard American accent and now I can do a Southern accent without sounding like I live in a log cabin and play the banjo all day. Boston is one dialect I wanna get down - it’s the one they used in the movie The Departed. I’m often doing Russian, because I think casting directors think I have an Eastern European face or something. Q: What led you to gaming industry and what was the first project you got to work on? A: My voice demo when I arrived was a CD of different accents and characters - essentially what LA would call an Animation Demo. Here you have different demo reels for different markets. So my agent figured I’d be a good fit for games and sent me on a bunch of auditions. First game I booked was Everquest 2, in which I did a number of roles.

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It was interesting, because I never got to meet the client or developers. I was taken into a studio with no windows. The engineer and client watched me on a video camera and gave direction over the headphones from another part of the building. To this day, I don’t know who they were. Q: We’ve seen many established Hollywood actors like Sam Worthington, Gary Oldman and James Woods getting involved in video games. Can we expect bigger Hollywood involvement in gaming? A: Getting big names to voice games can be useful in marketing, but I don’t think many gamers buy a game for the voice talent. They never promoted Gary Oldman or Kiefer Sutherland for Call of Duty. These games are bigger than the celebs sometimes. I think the gaming studio likes the idea of having Gary or Kiefer in the booth and the kudos that come with booking that talent, but beyond that, it’s not like they’re gonna do a better soldier voice than any other of the 10,000 professional voice actors in LA. That’s why I voiced John Connor in Terminator Salvation the game. I worked on The Elderscrolls V: Skyrim and they’re playing me the trailer and I can hear they’ve got Max Von Sydow! Now that’s a voice. He’s instantly recognizable, but in a wise storytelling kind of way. Sometimes I think they make it a Hollywood production and, like with a good movie, sometimes the star is bigger than the story or pulls you out of the moment. But I do see it continuing. It’s a billion dollar industry. I was the lead in Battlefield 3 and it made $450 million within the first week. With those kinds of figures, they can hire anyone. In fact, I recently did motion capture on a game working with a big name. I can’t say which one, but I was surprised. As a no-name actor, I’m happy I’m still getting work! Q: Uncharted 3’s creative team describes the process to being very similar to a Hollywood movie. As a screen actor and voice artist, how do you feel the two processes are different? A: When you’re on-camera, you have your script ahead of time, you usually have a little rehearsal, you feed off the other actors and you have the luxury of time. You do a few takes, then you wait while they turn the camera around or move locations or whatever. Not so with voice. You go in, you’re on

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your own, they hand you your script there and then and you start acting. After 70 games, I’ve only once had the luxury of working with the other actors in the scene. So you’re trying to imagine their delivery and relying on good direction to help guide you. Here and there you might have a prerecorded line to play off, so that helps. Motion capture is a different animal altogether. The approach is more like theatre. You’re up on your feet, moving around in an empty space, imagining the scenery. If you’re still, which might be fine for film, you are dead in animation. So you have to be constantly moving, but keeping that organic. The same thing goes for faces - if you’re relaxed, as you want to be for on-camera, then nothing is happening. You need to exaggerate facial reactions so there’s data to capture. The trick is, they still want your vocal delivery to be filmic. So you’re running round, pulling faces but trying to sound normal. It’s a bit of a brain fart. Add to that the fact you’re in a tight, sweaty bodysuit, covered in shiny balls, you’ve got a moonbag stuffed with radio transmitters and you’re wearing a helmet with a camera attached to it pointing at your face. Also, because there’s no need for set changes or camera setups (they’re capturing every angle simultaneously - it’s all just data in the space), you do a lot in one day. And you need to have learned all that dialog. We did up to 17 pages a day on my last gig and if your character has a lot to say, that’s a lot to learn each day. Also, there’s no cutting between takes, so you need to deliver a perfect take start to finish for it to be useable. Q: You’ve been featured on some of the top games in the past couple of years, like God of War 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4. What has been your favorite game to work on? A: It’s hard to pick just one. I will always have a soft spot for Final Fantasy 12. Balthier was the first big role I landed and he was a lot of fun to voice - suave, cocky, flirtatious. And Fenris from Dragon Age 2 was a favorite, too, because of his dry delivery and cutting sarcasm. Funnily enough, they’re the 2 roles most like my own accent. Most of the time I’m doing American or other European voices. Q: Being involved with Battlefield 3, and voicing the gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

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gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

main character must be a unique experience. Give us an idea of what went into bringing Sgt Blackburn to life. A: It was great to land that gig. I got to travel to EA’s Vancouver studio to record, which was incredible. The character is a soldier who’s been through hell and back and had to cross some serious moral lines to get the job done. He has his demons and he also has a ticking clock, which is the missing nukes. I worked with the director, Tom Keegan, almost like I would on a play. Tom comes from a theatre background, so he’s very much an actor’s director. We discussed how we could bring him to life and what personal stuff I might be able to bring to the role. It also helped that I was working closely with two seasoned actors playing the interrogating agents - Thor Edgell and Glenn Morshower. We had a week’s rehearsal in LA, then flew to Vancouver to film. A typical day would see us talking through the day’s scenes, then suiting up and working in the space until we had the best take. Then in the afternoon we would do the facial capture for the scenes from the day before. Although we were capturing facial reactions on our helmet cams on the mo-cap days, that was just a reference, as they wanted a much richer detail. So we had separate sessions for face, where we’d sit in a chair under bright lights, re-doing yesterday’s scenes, but just for face and voice. In order for the dozen or so cameras to capture each wrinkle, each expression, we had to sit perfectly still, without moving our heads, but still be looking in the correct direction with our eyes for any given moment. We had an earpiece playing back the scene, which we would then act alongside, so we could keep the timing. It was quite a challenge! The biggest kick for me was that the characters have our likenesses, which is a first for me. When they showed me the first cutscene, I was blown away. Q: What advice can you offer young South Africans interested in the gaming industry, as performers and developers, and do you know about any game development coming out of SA? A: If you want a career in voice, you need to work on your voice - that means knowing how to breathe so you can get through long sentences. You want gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

to listen to other voices for guidance. You want to find your uniqueness within a delivery. Work on your accents. Versatility is key, particularly in animation. If you’re voicing a main character, you’ll usually be expected to voice a few smaller roles, too. If you can do different characters and accents - on the spot when asked - you’ll be well positioned to get hired. Take acting classes, so you know how to breathe life into a script and not just sound like a voice-over. Get some time in front of a mic, so you can work your technique. Also, you need to be able to be given a script, give it a quick glance and then read it, without stumbling, to the timing they want; while sounding like you know what you’re talking about. I don’t know anything about games coming out of SA. I have seen a number of animated features on the radar recently. I’m really glad we’re encouraging and developing that talent at home. Q: Tell us about the process of getting involved in a new game. A: Most auditions these days are from home. You have to have a home setup. I get home each day, check my emails for auditions from my agent and then hop into my booth and lay down a read. Then I email off an MP3 and wait and see. Sometimes there’s an in-person callback at a studio, but most often I’ll just get a call that I’ve been booked. Q: What else have you been involved with aside from video games and acting? Tell us what exciting upcoming gaming and film projects that we can look forward to seeing (or hearing) you in. A: I haven’t really done any theatre in LA - just one small play. You can find my jazz standards album, Standard Ease, on iTunes and Amazon. I do funny voices for the Jimmy Kimmel show from time to time, did a bunch of voices for Star Wars: The Clone Wars and recently narrated the audiobook of Warwick Davis’ autobiography, Size Matters Not. That’s a great read by the way. I actually got to meet Warwick at London Comicon recently. I was signing autographs for gaming fans and around the corner, there’s Warwick signing headshots from Star Wars and Willow. I have 12 games in post-production and I’m sworn to silence on all of them, but I can say to listen out for me in Star Wars: The Old Republic. g

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Interesting Times... PS Zealot

by Suvesh Arumugam

A

s we embrace 2012 and say goodbye to the old year, there is always the inevitable question of which console came out tops for 2011. Most gaming websites have their own criteria and rating systems, and many post Christmas conversations around the drinks table will centre on purchases over the silly season. Despite Nintendo’s Wii U dominating the major gaming conferences and conventions this year, and Sony’s dreadful luck with digital hackers that saw the PS Network go down for almost a month, 2011 was certainly a good year for members of the PlayStation family; with the release of the long awaited PS Vita, which proved to be everything Sony had promised and more; an impressive list of PS exclusive games including Uncharted 3, Killzone 3 and Infamous 2; and a host of downloadable games (new and retro) that kept us glued to our consoles. You might then ask why Forbes magazine would publish an article entitled “Sony in Big Trouble”. You might know Forbes as America’s leading money magazine, famous for their lists of the richest and most powerful people in the world. The rise of smart phones and tablet PC’s have greatly affected the portable gaming industry, with both the Vita and Nintendo’s suffering from poor sales. Vita sales seem to have suffered the worst of it, with many predicting price cuts just a few weeks after release. Although Sony has not yet commented on Vita sales, they have reported that digital downloads for the Vita have exceeded expectations. We’ll have to watch these trends closely, as I’m

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sure the folks at Sony are. While some continue to ponder the never-ending console wars, others are looking forward to imminent announcements regarding the forthcoming PS4. With no official statements from Sony to go by, the floor is open to speculation about what the latest PlayStation may look like and feature. From the hints we’ve received from press conferences, we can expect more cloud based software and games, with features already available for save games. Let’s hope this will also include video player or pay-per-view options, which are now featured on the latest PVR satellite decoders. Now that we’ve made our PS3’s our media centres, it’s a pain transferring music and movies, so let’s hope they make it easier for us. Obviously motion controllers will be a huge focus, but let’s also hope we’ll get a bigger range of games to try them out on. Top PS console developers Naughty Dog revealed in an interview recently that they are terrified by what the PS4 could hold for them, citing their experiences transitioning from PS2

to PS3 as “their darkest days”. The developers are dividing their time between the much anticipated ninja/ zombie blockbuster The Last of Us, and ultra-secret work on the sequel to Uncharted 3. Finally, fans of Ico and Shadow of the Colussus were sent into a desperate panic with regard to The Last Guardian, the latest in the series from Sony’s Team Ico. Fans who had pre-ordered the game on Gamestop, the world’s largest gaming retailer, received an automated phone call informing them that the game had been cancelled by Sony! Sony were quick to respond on Twitter and prominent websites that this was not the case, and the project is still in development, although the chief designer and visionary has now left Team Ico, contributing to mounting delays. Gamestop also quickly released a statement, apologizing for the error, and explaining that due to the sketchy release dates, they had decided to remove the item from their website. Yet another reason for the old adage, “Don’t believe everything that you hear”! g

gamecca column • issue 31 • January 2012

Kick the Tyres... Xbox Beat

by Bryan Banfield

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ow, we are hitting the ground running his year! 2012 is upon us and time is clearly waiting for no one! Neither is the release schedule for the Xbox360. 2011 was an amazing year for the Xbox platform and the Xbox Live services alone. Xbox Live has steadily been growing in South Africa but still is held back by the lack of education about the service and the high cost of entry for households needing broadband. I have tried but I can’t be at every Xbox stockist offering training for Xbox Live and its services. The whole online multiplayer world is still a very scary place for most people who have never been there before. We need to do more to change this mind-set. The platform that closes this gap the fastest in South Africa will be the one to take the stand and the community. As an unofficial Xbox ambassador I am doing what I can. The online space still seems to be reserved for us labelled as hard-core gamers and that view point is going to be around for a little while still. With the growth of the gaming industry continuing to take traction in South Africa I offer a suggestion for your gaming experience in 2012. Expand the game types that you play. I have recently been doing this more often and have been thoroughly enjoying being able to bounce between titles as well as genres and game play types. I sat looking at my collection of Xbox titles a short while back and was trying to find out the predominant game play type that I have played on my Xbox.

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I was sure it was third person titles, definitely not sports titles or racing titles, puzzle solvers maybe. Finding out it was first person shooters was very surprising to me. I have set out to rectify that. I cannot get away from my first person shooters but when you get bored of Battlefield 3 (Its does not happen often, I assure you!) then I really don’t feel like popping into another First Person Shooter. So this is what I have done. As usual I scout the specials. I never pay R699 for a title… for me R399 is pushing it. Unless it is a very fancy collector’s edition. So I came across a special at http://www.kalahari.com/ - Need For Speed: Shift 2 Limited Edition for R140. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Shift title and Shift 2 was added to my list. Next came a title that I

totally missed out on this year. Fight Night Champion. What a gem. The combat system alone is amazing and the story line very enjoyable. Next I added Batman: Arkham City. Four titles to keep me busy. A First Person Shooter, A racer, A sports title and s third person puzzle solver action adventure. I know this seems like a no brainer and I hope I am preaching to the choir but I have heard of far too many stories about gamers only playing Modern Warfare on their Xbox 360. There is a world of story lines out there passing them by. Some of them are not good, a few are terrible. Most are amazing. That is why we do what we do. Have some fun, let your hair down. Don’t take this year to seriously and as usual, I’ll see you online! g

OK, bored...

gamecca column • issue 31 • January 2012

Up for 2012 House of Mario

by Brian Murdoch

I

hate New Year resolutions and saying this year will be different, but I have one for 2012. I will play more Nintendo platform games. Yip, this coming from the Nintendo fan boy is only because the other consoles got a better grip than I thought in 2011. There was still a bucket load of playing on my 3DS and Wii but they were like grieved wives and, while I was sleeping, tracked down my affair and broke the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Like a sleazy cheater I repaired them and played some more. It’s always hard to follow a good act of Nintendo releases with some epic games coming out at the end of last year like Mario Kart 7, Zelda Skyward Sword and Xenoblade. (imported from the UK). I think Nintendo are up to the task with their recently announced line up for 2012, and that line up is only for the first quarter. Kid Icarus Uprising, Rayman Origins, TEKKEN 3D Prime Edition, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil Revelations, Mario Party 9… these are my favourites and I have not even gone into the eShop titles. The Wii U will come after that and the games will fall from heaven like sweet manna for the hard-core Nintendo gamers. I have told a lot of people this but this will be my first official call. The Wii U and Nintendo Wii will co-exist! The game developers will develop games for the Wii and Wii U simultaneously because the Wii U can play all the Wii games and will be targeted at the hard-core market, while the Wii is still the casual and family console. They only stopped support for the PlayStation 2 at the begging of last year.

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I am talking more than just support for the Wii, I am talking about active development for the Wii system. If you have the Wii U then just get the Wii U version for better graphics and a different controller. The question is left to the stupid sales consultants in the store and how they sell it to the customers. In December, around the Lazy Gamer Fest, I had to correct a sales person at some music store (you pick which one of them). They were telling this couple that buying the PSP for their teenagers is better than buying the 3DS. I am fine with people having their own opinion but it’s the next line that made me laugh out load.

“Because the 3DS is only for little children and mainly girls!” What? I stopped him right there at the speed of a wedgie and showed the couple how wrong he was, with examples of games for the 3DS from the shelf behind him. Snapped his underwear on the top of his head and helped the customers to the till with their new 3DS. The range of 3DS titles available in stores right now is more fun and uplifting than most of the PSP titles ever! We will see where the Vita will take them this year, but I don’t think it’s going to be further than they are now. Looking forward to a great 2012 and let’s start it with a Mario yippeee! g

gamecca column • issue 31 • January 2012

wii care

faq@nintendogamer.co.za ...for DS too

You won’t only find reviews, news and great community features at www.nintendogamer.co.za. You will also find extremely informative FAQs all about the Wii & DS platforms, and the games you can play on them. At www.nintedogamer.co.za, we want to make sure that the most accurate information & support is free and easy to find.

www.nintendogamer.co.za

Feature

Game of the Year

Awards 24

gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

BEST FPS GAME Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Love it or loathe it, you cannot deny that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 makes all the right moves. Even though many accused the game of being too similar to the previous title, it still manages to bring exactly what gamers want to the table... including some fresh multiplayer offerings.

gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

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Feature

Best Fighting Game Mortal Kombat The reboot of Mortal Kombat gave the franchise - and fighting game fans - exactly what they wanted. Tons of action, great characters, awesome special moves and the right mix of simplicity and complexity that makes it challenging and fun all at the same time. Whether as a single player or part of a multiplayer matchup, fighting game fans get exactly what they want from this title.

Best Driving Game Forza Motorsport 4 There are few games that can measure up to the Forza franchise. Despite being an Xbox 360 exclusive, Forza 4 manages to show off the skill that developers Turn 10 have at capturing the essence of high speed driving. And thanks to a host of setting tweaks, even more casual racing game players can have a blast with this game. Great tracks, tons of cars and a brilliant customisation tool kit all help this one stand out from the crowd.

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gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

Best New IP Bulletstorm It may have got a lot of complaints flying about, but Bulletstorm managed to make a great impression with gamers. It took older ideas and worked with them in original ways, bringing a fresh approach to a genre that is getting increasingly stale. It also served up loads of laughs, great graphics, and a really fun multiplayer offering. We hope to see a sequel soon.

Best Sequel Infamous 2 There are many sequels in the video game world, but the continuation of Cole McGrath’s adventures gave us exactly what we want in a follow-on. The game is, at a glance, more of the same but improvements to graphics and game dynamics make it well worth experiencing, while the plot continues beautifully from where it left off with the former title. As a continuation of a previous game, inFamous 2 does pretty much everything right.

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Feature

Best Casual Game LittleBigPlanet 2 LittleBigPlanet 2 builds on ideas created within the first game beautifully, once again giving players a fun, simple platform title combined with powerful editing tools and excellent community support. What makes it such a great casual game is that everything is just so easy to do in this title, making it perfect for everyone who wants to have loads of fun and even an opportunity to try their hand at creating levels.

Best Strategy Game Shogun 2:Total War There wasn’t much for strategy fans this year, but Shogun 2: Total War would still have taken this prize if there was. Building on a solid history, this latest in the Total War series manages to combine strategic planning with deep real time battle elements, providing players with a great empire-building experience.

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Best Horror Game Dead Island We’ve seen a ton of zombie games before, but the free-roaming, role-playing style of Dead Island makes for a fresh change. And it gets pretty scary, too. A high degree of player involvement, thanks to roleplaying elements, makes this game quite the thriller. Despite a few problems, it shows what a horror game can, and should, be.

Best Action Game Batman: Arkham City This game was highly anticipated, and with good reason. Building on the successes of its predecessor, Batman: Arkham City is a compelling action title that delivers on the adventure front as well. A simple fighting system still demands a strategic approach, and a variety of action oriented activities combine with a strong plot line to make this title a great action performer.

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Feature

Best Movie Game 007: Goldeneye Reloaded Let’s face it, as a group movie games are generally not much to write home about. Even though it is based on an old film, and is technically a remake of a previous game, Goldeneye Reloaded manages to provide tons of fun for players, and remains accessible despite being more complex than the average movie game.

Best Adventure Game Alice: Madness Returns The sequel to Alice took a long time to come out, but when it arrived in 2011, fans and newcomers alike were thrilled by its rich reimagining of the world of Alice in Wonderland. With a good balance of action, movement challenges, puzzling and upgrading, the game offers players a strange, even disturbing, voyage through the imagination.

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gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

Best Management Game Anno 2070 The Anno series has always offered an excellent management model, and Anno 2070 is no different. Using a very simple supply and demand system, the game still manages to build up to a complex balancing act, making it a treat for management fans. Even if there was not much competition in this category in 2011, Anno 2070 still shines as an example of the genre.

Best Sports Game FIFA 12 The king of sports games retains its crown this year. Even though it seemed that not much more could be added to the previous version, FIFA 12 still manages to add the kinds of tweaks and improvements to the overall game to make it challenging, compelling and deeper than before. FIFA is not only top of the football pile, but top of the overall sports simulation pile too.

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Feature

Best RPG Game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Choice is a big thing in RPG games and although some came close, none offered the player as much freedom as Skyrim. This counts for character creating and advancement, as well as experiencing the massive, rich world that the title has on offer. With more options and activities than you can shake a stick at, Skyrim is a prime example of how to satisfy the wants of RPG fans.

Best Co-Op Game Dead Island Fighting the undead alone is scary, but fighting them with friends is fun. Featuring four characters with strengths and weaknesses that complement each other, Dead Island is a great game to enjoy co-operatively. The drop-in, drop-out system allows players to assist each other at any time, and the overall scary atmosphere makes having a buddy around even better. It’s not flawless, but it is great fun as a co-op title.

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gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

Best Platform Game LittleBigPlanet 2 Platform games are a genre that will likely never die, but taking things further is not something we see often in them. LittleBigPlanet 2 builds on what the previous game offered, allowing players great physics-based platform action in single and multiplayer flavours, but also offers customisation of characters and even level building, all supported by a healthy online community. It’s the kind of evolution the genre needs.

Best Puzzle Game Portal 2 It may not be a puzzle game in thenusual sense of the word, but the brain teasing that the spacial challenges of Portal 2,offers is brilliant. Using a variety of tules and sensible application of physics, the player will find themselves screaming in frustration and facepalming a ot in this title... when they’re not thrilled by it.

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Feature

Best Fitness Game Zumba Fitness Although there are games that are better in technical terms, Zumba Fitness does everything right in another very important part of the fitness software market: appeal. While other games make you do exercises, Zumba Fitness allows you to enter the exciting and fun world of the fastest growing fitness trend around. And it’s great fun when you get to grips with it, too. It’s a title that makes you want to work out.

Best Party Game Just Dance 3 There are many party games out there, and some may even be more appealing to those with two left feet, but Just Dance 3 gives players the opportunity to make themselves look silly in front of their friends in so many ways that we just had to go with it. Besides, what’s a party without dancing?

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gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

Game of the Year The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Despite bugs and a few other niggles, you simply cannot deny that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is quite the gaming spectacle. With great graphics and sound, a smart control scheme and a plot that allows freedom - and will keep the player busy for a very long time - Skyrim offers exactly what we like to see in a game. Even with the stiff competition it faced in 2011, it stands out as the most memorable title of the year, and one that people will keep playing for a long time to come.

gamecca feature • issue 31 • January 2012

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The Platinum range makes the biggest hits available on the PlayStation®3 at the very best prices, giving fans another great reason to join the fun. This year, acclaimed titles including LittleBigPlanet™ 2, MotorStorm®Apocalypse and Gran Turismo® 5 will be making their Platinum debuts.

OUT NOW

Reviews Highlights 40 Rayman: Origins Platform awesomeness! 42 Mario Kart 7 Air, sea, land... 44 LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 to 7 More LEGO spellslinging 52 Lord of the Rings: War in the North A new tle to tell 56 PowerUp Heroes Super-avatar!

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s always happens this time of year, we bring you the last big titles of the previous year for review in this issue. With the Festive Season over, the releases have slowed down a bit. But it doesn’t look like it will stay that way for long. 2012 willabe getting off to a strong start soon... well, as soon as all the hangovers have cleared! g

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gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

PS3 Peripherals TM

Bluetooth Keyboard

Wireless Headset

Featuring a “point stick” mouse controller and PlayStation® action buttons, the wireless Bluetooth keyboard makes data entry and in-game text communication simple.

The enhanced Wireless Headset brings crystal clear, hands-free conversation to your in-game experience and your mobile phone. Smaller and sleeker than ever before.

Dualshock®3 Charging Station

Wireless Singstar® Microphones

Keep your wireless controllers close at hand and ready to go with this convenient charging station that lets you charge two wireless controllers simultaneously. Connect a discreet charging adaptor to the top of your wireless controller to instantly and wirelessly power it up via the Charging Station.

Lovers of SingStar® can go as wild as they please with the Wireless SingStar® Microphones.They’re easy to use and great for passing around at your SingStar® parties. Compatible with PS2TM and PS3TM.

Dualshock®3 Wireless Controller With its vibration function and SIXAXIS™ motion sensor, the DUALSHOCK®3 Wireless Controller really lets you feel at one with the ingame action.

Blu-Ray Disc Remote Control Designed exclusively for use with the PlayStation 3 system. This remote control uses Bluetooth wireless communication to operate the playback of Blu-ray Discs and other types of disc media Sit back, relax and enjoy watching your favourite High Definition BD movies with PlayStation 3 and the Blu-ray Disc Remote Control.

Rayman Origins

A Ray of Hope

The proud franchise returns and is more fun than ever

by Iwan Pienaar

T

his year saw the Sweet 16th birthday of the Rayman platform series. While not quite as old as Mario, it is arguably one of the most successful video game franchises of all time in terms of its loyal fan base. Originally released in 1995 for the PlayStation, Rayman reignited nostalgic memories in many gamers for those platform titles of the ‘80s. In fact, when I first played Rayman, the sights, smells, and sounds of the corner cafe of my childhood where I had invested countless 20c coins in the arcade games of the time came flooding back. Such has been Rayman’s success that at more than five million copies sold it is still the best-selling PlayStation title of all time in the United Kingdom beating such respected franchises as Tomb Raider and Gran Turismo. Counting the spin-offs, the Rayman series covers nine titles on a multitude of platforms with Origins

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the latest to hit store shelves. The plot, such as there is in a platformer, sees Rayman, his best friend Globox and two Teensies captured after their arch-nemesis Mr Dark escapes from the Land of the Livid Dead (yes that is not a typo). Play begins as Rayman and the group escape and begin to set about saving the world from the dastardly Mr Dark. The first thing that will grab your attention is the beautiful graphics of Origins. In fact, this is by far the best-looking platformer I have ever played. In part, this is thanks to the debut of the UbiArt Framework, the in-house graphics engine from Ubisoft. In essence, the engine allows artists and designers to focus on the art without needing to be concerned about the technical elements around game development. To a certain extent, this is the game’s greatest failing, if I can call it that. By definition, a platformer is an intense ride that tests the player’s reflexes and is focused on

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The levels are varied enough to provide challenges for beginners and experts alike with the later stages being a joy for those who want to test their reflexes and eye-hand coordination. There are plenty of waypoints so even when your character gets eaten, beaten up, or falls of a cliff, there is not a lot of catching up to do to get back to your last position. Players also have the obligatory unlockable levels, special skills, and so on to add to the replay value. The hallmark of a really great game is the ability to get lost in it for a few hours. In Origins, do not be surprised to find yourself starting the game at night and still playing when the first rays of light enter your living room/study/gaming venue of choice. While not really a game for the young ones (it is too fast-paced for them to really enjoy it), it is a great title for those who do not want to play yet another first-person shooter, role-playing game, or driving simulator. g

AT A GLANCE: The humble platformer makes a triumphant return in Rayman Origins. Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Distributor: Megarom

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

7+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

getting as much done as quickly as possible. But in Origins you do not want to rush things. Instead, you want to lie down on one of the rolling hills and just look at the world passing you by. Admittedly, there are worse things to fault a game on, so pardon the diversion. As expected, gameplay is immensely fun. In singleplayer, you can control any of the four characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Multiplayer sees up to four people playing simultaneously which is not only fun, but a truly chaotic experience befitting the genre. The nice thing is that you can be a complete newcomer to the series and still pick up the controller and jump right in without having to worry about any familiarity with the back story or knowledge about the characters. A platformer needs a good and easy-to-use control system and in Origins gamers are able to jump, attack, duck, and run faster to their hearts content without getting the feeling of being an octopus playing a flight simulator.

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

90 41

Mario Kart 7

Lucky Number 7 Mario, Part 1 of 2

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alking about this game as the new Mario Kart in the series seems to ‘downgrade’ it to just an upgrade or extension to the story; there is the upgrade, but of epic proportions… more than just some new tracks. There are 16 new tracks and 16 revamped tracks. The revamped ones got updated to cater for the new features but it’s a good feeling as a veteran player to find that the good old short cut that I always take to beat my friends is still there! Some of my favourites, like Waluigi’s Pinball, old N64 Rainbow road and online favourite Maple Treeway, are because most people don’t know of the excellent short cuts. There is a good effort in the new tracks, especially the Wuhu Island track, extended into long single lap riding around the island, and taken from Wii Sports Resort and both Wii Fit Games. There is even a nice long Gliding section to give you the feel of

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by Brian Murdoch Pilotwings. New tracks are easily predicted in Mario Kart but no one guessed the addition of a kart customisation option. We are not talking F1 engine tuning but more simple stuff, like frame, wheels and glider option to change the speed, handling and acceleration of the kart. Yip if you are just being out-run online maybe play some more single player and collect more coins to unlock those other parts for your kart. The same number of cups and bonus games are there to make it a very entertaining single player game but the extra modes are where all the fun is to be had. Friends can download play with 8 players, as long as one of them has the game! It not a new thing but still fantastic! Take the game online and there are a lot of new upgrades from the Mario Kart Wii system. Finding out if your friends are online is easy and even displayed on the native 3DS

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online are seen here. This is great if you don’t have StreetPasses but I personally did not like this. All this would have still made me buy and enjoy the next version of Mario Kart but I have not even mentioned the fun improvements. With the Gyro sensor in the 3DS you can now drive like the console is the steering wheel. This will not give you the fastest times but make the game a lot of fun in the cockpit view. Mario Kart can fly and swim too, with gliding and underwater racing sections added to new and old tracks. This adds a great change to the short cuts and general track design and I feel is marked out well in most tracks, unless it’s a secret. Mario Kart Wii was a long investment for the Wii and the price did not drop for years so getting a copy of Mario Kart 7 is a must and even a reason to get a 3DS, if you did not get it from Christmas. g

AT A GLANCE: Mario Kart landed on the Nintendo 3DS and uses all of its features: online, gyro and portability. Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Distributor: Core Gaming Systems

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

7+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

3DS Platforms

friend’s list with a “Join in” option. There is also a friend competitive score that is not only updated if you race against each other alone, but in the group as well. There are also community groups created for web sites, forums and races with custom rules. This means that the standard Tuesday nights of Mario Kart from the Nintendo ZA boys are very easy to organise, as the members can just join the group and play. No one needs to be the host or befriend everyone and be there every night. These communities are also shared and suggested to others, I found an excellent “bananas only” group but it’s mostly the fastest in the front that wins as there are no power ups other than bananas. It took me a long time to figure this out because I was in front most of the time. I did, however, feel violated by the inclusion of the Miis that I played online appearing in my Mii Plaza. If the Invitations option is on then all the player you race with

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

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Score

95 43

LEGO Harry Potter:Years 5 - 7

ExpeLEGOmus! Potter returns to the world of plastic blocks

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f anyone ever wrote a book about development houses that managed to get a finger in a whole bunch of franchise pies, Traveller’s Tales would certainly be mentioned, at very least. Their series of LEGO games, which take well known movie properties and give them a little plastic block make-over, have seen them get involved with five big franchises and three big name publishers. Their latest offering is based on the fourth franchise they got involved with; the awesomely popular Harry Potter series. Based more on the movies than on J K Rowling’s fabulous books, this second LEGO Harry Potter game, subtitled Years 5 to 7, takes players through a tongue-in-cheek reimagining of events from Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. One would be forgiven for wondering exactly how much fun can be poked at these three chapters in the Potter

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by Walt Pretorius

saga, because they are the darkest, most serious stories of the lot. But the developers have managed to get the balance just right, as they always do, injecting tons of often off-beat humour and jokes that fans alone will get, while not cheapening the source material. When the original LEGO Harry Potter came out, it was heralded by many as a great game because it took the ideas from previous LEGO games and expanded on them. It was, in essence, the freshest LEGO movie-based video game in ages, and something that the franchise sorely needed. From that point, they managed to improve things even more when they released LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean through Disney Interactive, effectively meaning that the previous Potter title was something of a change of thinking in these titles. The same, sadly, cannot be said for this newer game. That doesn’t make it bad, necessarily, but those that played the previous version will find that, aside from the story, everything is pretty much

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much like another LEGO game of this sort. One of the things that sets it apart is the use of spells, with each player having a handful available. The player, or players in the case of co-op, will need to change between characters fairly regularly to take advantage of their various abilities and spells. With bright, colourful characters and settings based on a well-known franchise, not to mention tons of off-beat humour, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7 is something that the whole family can enjoy. There is a lot to do, many often challenging puzzles, and the need to take characters that are unlocked later back to already completed levels to access new things adds a lot of replayability to the game. t is, essentially, just another LEGO based title, but with that said, it needs to be pointed out that it is a good one. Fans of both this unique genre and the Harry Potter series should really enjoy it. g

AT A GLANCE: The next LEGO Harry Potter game offers more of the same. Developer: Traveller’s Tales Publisher: Warner Bros Distributor: Nu Metro

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

7+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

the same as it was before. Traveller’s Tales haven’t tried to do anything unique with this title, preferring to stick to the ‘Harry Potter’ formula that worked so well in the previous game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. When you consider the previous game, you will realise that there is a lot to enjoy in this new title. See, where other LEGO games of this nature are fairly linear, and this one also suffers from that issue to a degree, there is a hell of a lot of exploration and stud collecting to do in this game. The levels are large and complex, with tons to fiddle around with. There are things to blow up (to collect studs), things to rearrange (to collect studs), hidden bits to explore (more of the studs) and so on. Along with working through the stories of the three chapters, players will also be able to unlock characters, collect special items and a host of other things, pretty

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

80 45

WW12

Entertainment, Right? Time for a smack down

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ith the longest running Monday night TV show and some of the most popular TV characters in the world, WWF or WWE or WWwhatever these days is a big brand. We all have either watched or heard about the world of wrestling and you either love it or hate it. It’s an entertainment TV show, as they say, but why do we want to watch men in Speedos beating each other up? Okay, the fighting part is not bad (if only it was real) but, from the old days where it was an hour of fighting, now it’s become 45 minutes of talk and 15 minutes of fighting. If you don’t get enough WWwhatever during the week on your local TV station then you can control the WW universe on your console. The story mode (WW universe) will have gamers playing as various characters though out the night’s broadcast; there will be three fights and a main event. Each night’s “broadcast” will be from either Raw or Smackdown and the gamer will have to work his way

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by Dylan Bouch through the year’s schedule. There are other game modes available too; Road to Wrestle mania will let the gamer work their way up through the ranks to reach the main event. One on one, tag team, Royal Rumble, TLC, Hell in a Cell… the list goes on. Fight in any condition with any type of match that suites your blood thirst. From the start of the game the graphics are very well done. The menus are easy to use, read and navigate through, while the in game graphics are great. Each character is noticeable and almost identical to their real life counter parts. When the gamer enters the ring with his selected wrestler, the entrance of each wrestler is just as it would be on TV. These wrestlers look real enough and do not have blocky limbs, they move well around the ring and behave just as they do on the program, complete with their own personality. The wrestlers all have their own traits, which make them unique, and are just as unique in the game.

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control setup is laid out very well. The only issue I have is that there is no block… the gamer will only have an option to counter. When the time is ready, the gamer will see a prompt above the character’s head, which will give you literally a split second to tap the button. Getting this right will take some getting used to, unless you have already played the previous WWF games, as the button setup is the same. When controlling the character in the game it’s best to take a slower approach or more precise attack on you opponents limbs. Targeting your opponents limbs is quite simple it this title and makes for a fun torture style game, if you don’t rush for the 3 count. Tapping out of a three count will also require a precise eye and finger, but I guess you’re not going to be losing anyway. This WWF title is very difficult but can be adjusted in the options menu; this is good in a way because you would like a challenge when you buy a game. There are numerous game modes and story modes available which is great, too, and which will keep the gamer busy for a long time. g

AT A GLANCE: This one is not just for the WW fans Developer: Yukes Publisher: THQ Distributor: Ster Kinekor

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

16+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

The crowds in this title play a small role, but make a huge difference to the end result. The crowds do move and cheer at the right time but also have repetitive movements. The in-game sound, as well as the commentary, is also very good with only a few minor issues. The sound effects and general music are really good and fit with the whole WWF attitude beautifully. The character music is the same as the TV program and while the wrestler makes his entrance to the ring, you’ll be able to hear the ring announcer introducing the wrestlers. The crowd ooh and aah during the fight and commentators tell the story of events happening in the ring but also do speak about the characters, too. The commentary does get repetitive at times when the gamer uses the same characters over and over, though. Sound effects, like running on the matt, slamming chairs to the head, and breaking tables, all fit in well and don’t sound cheap or under done. Controlling the wrestler is not too complicated, and the

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

78 47

Blackwater

Back to Basics

As far as PMC’s go, this one should stay hidden

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ith the launch if Microsoft’s Kinect system, a whole host of games have made it onto the market using the controller-free experience. Not all of the titles are very good, and while some only use the Kinect as a means of input, some titles try to be hybrid-types, leaving the player to decide if they want to play with either the Kinect or the standard controller. More often than not, these games make use of the controller as the primary input, with the Kinect as a secondary peripheral that enhances the experience. Zombie Studios’ Blackwater decided to turn that around, and make the Kinect the primary method of input, leaving the controller as an afterthought in gameplay. This doesn’t work very well, and actually makes the game horrible to play with the controller. There are no separate actions for the controller, as the controller simply mimics what a player with Kinect will do. It leaves the controls sloppy and very frustrating.

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by Charlie Fripp

Sadly the Kinect controls aren’t much better, leaving players feeling a bit awkward when going through the motions. First-person shooter titles still have a long way to go in terms of Kinect, and unfortunately Blackwater is one of the titles that proved that. Players aim down the sights by holding one hand over the screen and guiding it towards targets. Once the reticule is over a target, the game will fire automatically, and out of the control of players. The title is good at recognising body movement, as players will have to take cover behind obstacles. As the player leans across, the character on screen will also lean out from cover. That aspect of the Kinect controls work well, but the rest of the title is just horrible. There are other smaller aspects of the game that work well, but those are quickly cancelled out by various other factors that turn the game into an exercise in arm strength and agility. At certain points the player will also be

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incredibly predictable paths and it’s not hard to figure out where they will be popping out next. They also won’t move from their position, taking pot-shots at the player while taking cover on the odd occasion. There is nothing clever about them, and it gives the player a false sense of combat efficiency while making him feels slightly stupid. But players will on the odd occasion suffer from bad cover design, as they will be killed while taking a breather behind a crate. The game’s hit trajectory is a little off, which is when players will be hit. The problem with that, besides dying, is that gamers will have to restart the level from the beginning - no checkpoints here. Blackwater has a lot of potential which has unfortunately been stunted by design flaws and bad voice acting. The graphics could also have been a lot better, and while the controls try to be innovative, they ultimately fail - just like the game. g

AT A GLANCE: While the game’s heart is in the right place, everything else isn’t. Developer: Zombie Studios Publisher: 505 Games Distributor: Apex Interactive

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

13+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

required to jump over obstacles and kick down doors, all which needs to be done using the Kinect. In terms of graphics, the visuals are similar to early shooters such as Delta Force (which Zombie Studios developed) and Counter-Strike - needless to say they are horrible. The levels are detailed as well as they could have been, and with Zombie Studios being responsible for titles like Blacklight: Tango Down and the first Saw game, it’s rather a pity as they have the ability to provide decent graphics. The voice acting - which is another issue - is completely dry and devoid of any real speech, but the lip-synching is completely off. The characters feel stiff and it’s very clear that the lines being read have been rehearsed many times. The lips also don’t move in time with the speech, which isn’t very difficult to do in today’s fast-paced game development. In terms of combat and game play, the enemies have

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PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

47 49

Men of War:Vietnam

Operation: Frustration Objective - survive

T

he Vietnam War was a bloody, brutal affair. Of all the wars fought in the 20th century, this war probably stands out as one of the most psychologically destructive and wasteful, which is dark praise considering the nature of war to begin with. To capture this is a momentous task, and one which 1C Company has taken a pretty good stab at. Men of War: Vietnam is the third stand-alone expansion to the acclaimed Men of War. All games in this series, including Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2 and Faces of War, have been noted as being tough and uncompromising, mixing strategy and frustration in equal measure. If this is the yardstick of the series, Vietnam takes it to new heights. This game is absurdly, almost stupidly difficult. If you plan to play it, for the next couple of days the save function is going to become your best friend. That and the pillow you beat futilely in moments of mindless rage.

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by Lein Baart MoW:V, like all games in the series, has you control a small squad of men, either in pitched, frenetic battles or performing missions that require more subtlety. The gameplay is reminiscent of Commandos, and usually the squad you start a mission with is the one you end it with. Each squad member is virtually identical, all capable of utilising any weapon or vehicle that you happen to come across, though they have individual proficiencies with various weapons. Thus the game is more about making your squad work together to outmanoeuvre enemy forces than it is about employing individual abilities. Frequently you will come against forces many times larger than yours and perfecting your ability to determine key locations for cover and maximum firing area is critical. But no matter how good you are, be prepared to lose, and lose often. The first mission alone has you control four men against a seemingly endless number of Americans, and if you lose one man, he’s dead for the entire mission. Thus each

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a number of problems. The A.I. controlling your squad has sudden attacks of idiocy, causing your men to turn and fire at a horde of enemies as you try to run away, or forcing them to stay behind cover as a grenade lands just a few metres away. This is a universal issue though, and the intelligence of the enemy is likewise questionable, making things just a little bit more forgiving. There is no tutorial to speak of, and though the game controls aren’t hard to learn, an introduction to the intricacies of MoW:V would have gone a long way to making the game easier to get into. The voice acting also seems, to my ears, horrible, with cheesy impersonations of Russian and Vietnamese accents. This is a title you will either love or hate. It demands more patience than it should, though the elation that comes from surviving a mission is immense as a result. It’s challenging and smart, but not impossible, and will likely appeal more to the hard-core strategy fans. g

AT A GLANCE: A brutally difficult and demanding game that will test the limits of your endurance. Developer: 1C Company Publisher: Lace Mamba Global Distributor: Apex Interctive

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

16+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC Platforms

battle has to be handled with care, and a healthy dose of luck. The environments are beautifully rendered, with each location thick with foliage that your men can use for cover and concealment. However, this is also true for enemy soldiers, and frequently you will find that you lose a man to a hidden enemy. Good camera control and frequent looks at the mini-map is the only counter to this, but even then, get comfortable with the idea of reloading. Additionally, and annoyingly, it’s easy to lose your squad amongst the flora, and in the midst of a frantic firefight, it more often than not means death for your men. Combat is extremely realistic, in the sense that soldiers are not demi-gods, and a couple of bullets are all that are needed for a kill. A nice touch is the ability to assume direct control of an individual, allowing pinpoint accuracy when firing and better control when manoeuvring vehicles. Although ultimately a good game, MoW:V suffers from

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

73 51

Lord of the Rings: War in the North

A New Story …in an old setting

J

ust when you thought all that dust kicked up around the Lord of the Rings franchise had settled, there are stirrings. And we’re not just talking about Peter Jackson’s big screen adaptation of The Hobbit here. See, the owners of the license, Warner Brothers, know when they have a good thing going, and not cashing in on a valuable property like Lord of the Rings makes bad business sense. So with the help of developer Snowblind Studios, they have released a new video game for the series. And it’s pretty much all new. While the setting is wellestablished, the story told in Lord of the Rings: War in the North is all new. And one can pick up on that, to a degree... those familiar with the original works will know that even those this epic is rather dark, there are still moments of joy and levity in the tale. Not in this game, though. It is dark and gloomy, and features pretty shallow

52

by Walt Pretorius characters that seem to have no motivation other than completing their daunting mission. This task is to eliminate one of Sauron’s most dangerous underlings. The game is styles as a co-op role playing game, with three playable characters on offer: a dwarf warrior, a human ranger and an elven mage. The characters look very different, but for all intents and purposes the only real variations in their abilities are in terms of animations. They all have ranged and melee attacks, which pretty much have the same effect. And all of them will be in the game all the time. Even if there are not three players doing the co-op thing in a particular session, the AI will control any unselected characters. That’s a mixed blessing. While the AI characters generally do the right thing, their scripting seems rather rigid. This can result in anything from them getting in the player’s way through to not being in the right place at the

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If anything, Snowblind could have been more ambitious with this project. It is a fun game, but it falls short in a number of areas. Just a little attention could have fixed all of that. The plot, for example, feels too dull for a Lord of the Rings tale, and the characters are way too shallow. Even speech interactions, often an important part of the role playing experience these days, seem unimportant, more like window-dressing than an essential element of the game. The entire combat system could have benefitted from more depth, too, and a stronger AI system would have been of great benefit to the single player. With all that said, it is important to note that War in the North is not without its strengths. The game is long, with numerous side quests complementing the main plot line. In addition, the upgrade system is cool, and there are tons of new weapons and items to discover or buy. In the end, this game will be what you make of it. g

AT A GLANCE: A great attempt, and quite fun… but it could have been much more. Developer: Snowblind Publisher: Warner Bros Distributor: Nu Metro

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

15+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

right times - which may result in a bit of a cheap player death. When they are being used, characters can be upgraded in terms of skills and equipment. The players can also opt to switch between characters between levels but any AI controlled characters cannot have their equipment changed, and can only be given rudimentary commands, which they rarely seem to follow. The action in this game is intense and brutal, earning it the first mature rating for the franchise. However, it gets repetitive rather quickly, too, and protracted sessions of the same thing over and over again may get to be a bit much for players. There are some very cool attacks and brilliant animations that go with combat, and upgrades add a bit of spice but, for the most part, things are pretty lacklustre, thanks to very simple controls that can lead to button mashing.

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

74 53

Dark Hills of Cherai

Wasted Opportunities

It’s the gaming equivalent of cannon fodder

as there could have been some beautiful scenery, and for a hidden object game the objects are remarkably easy to find, making this a short title. And finally the puzzles, which are frequent, are generally not challenging, though there are exceptions. Dark Hills is not completely bereft of good points however. You play through the eyes of three cousins on a somewhat contrived quest to save the fourth, and frequently you have to swap items between the three in order to progress further. This mechanic, while not original, is fun when it is employed in gaming, but the potential for truly innovative puzzles is wasted. The setting, being Cherai, India, is refreshingly original, albeit underutilised, and the story itself is somewhat intriguing, though these points do little to offset the problems that this game faces.g

AT A GLANCE: A title that is difficult to recommend, though young children might get some enjoyment from it. Developer: Black Lime Games Publisher: Big Fish Games Distributor: Apex Interactive

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

7+ 54

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC Platforms

B

ig Fish Games, the publisher behind Dark Hills of Cherai, has a new slogan: a new game every day. What then are the standards for quality? When you aim to publish over 365 games a year, what passes as sufficient for Big Fish Games to slap its logo on the box, shove it through the door and reap in as many quick bucks as it can? If Dark Hills of Cherai is any indicator, the answer is unfortunately not much. Hidden objects games are almost by definition casual games. This moniker does not mean low standards however, and there are some truly enjoyable, thoughtful titles that fall into this genre. Dark Hills is not one of these, and this is obvious almost from the start. The writing is weak, prone to poor phrasing and hopping between tenses. The environments in which you hunt for random items tend to be poorly drawn, which is a shame

by Lein Baart

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

50

gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

PowerUp Heroes

Heroes Wanted To defend the earth, for a while

T

he story has the gamer gaining super powers from an injured super hero that crashes on earth and your mission is to defeat the evil villain Malignance, who aims to enslave the human race and take over the world and universe. The main character, which will lead the fight against Malignance, will be your very own Xbox Avatar; watch your avatar gain power, defeat the villains, and seize their suits. In your first battle, you will only have the powers of one suit and as you set out to defeat more opponents, you will gain their suits and powers too. Straight away, you are thrown into the deep end and need to fight your first opponent, but this not too difficult. The controls are quite simple and very sensible, but this is not an all out brawl where the gamer needs to fight the air in front of them to win… rather, they need to

56

by Dylan Bouch complete certain poses. Once you remember all the special moves it will look like a well-planned dance routine. To dash forward the player would need to raise a knee and the character will dash to where you’ll be able to punch and kick. Dodging is simple, too, and none of the gamer’s movements are too extreme or tiring, which is also a plus. Doing the all important special moves will require the player to strike a pose; for example, for the character “Necro” the player will raise their arms to raise the skeleton army from beneath their opponent’s feet. Controlling the menus is just as simple as the game, just move your hand over the desired location and slide. Use you right hand to move forward and your left hand to move back in the menu functions. The menu layout is almost the same as it is in the movie Minority Report, it feels as if you are Tom Cruise’s character, waving his hands and

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fans will love… yes, Ezio has his own suit, too. The music could be categorised as classic comic book or super hero music, which is great for this title. The sound effects and other general sounds are also very good. I enjoy playing this title and you can accomplish so much in one session as the game isn’t too strenuous on the body. There are so many great characters to choose and fight against. Multiplayer games are fun, especially if you have had more practice; winning is always fun and in the early stages of this title it is easy to win, but as you progress so does the difficulty. There was a fight or two that I had to go back to and the boss man Malignance is rather tough. Although this is such a cool game, there is only so much you can do; multiplayer games is where the fun is but solo games, once you have your character sorted, just become repetitive movements. g

AT A GLANCE: A cool idea and it works really well, but this will be more fun and last longer if you are younger. Developer: Longtail Studios Publisher: Ubisoft Distributor: Megarom

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

12+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

controlling the video as if it was an extension of his arms – the menus are great and easy to use. When the gamer has defeated their first villain, they will be able to use two characters in a fight, which will need to be chosen before the each round. Each character has their own abilities, fighting styles and super powers, which you can claim once you have defeated them. To change to your other suit, the player will have to raise his arm. Thankfully, the game picks up your movement quickly and doesn’t leave you standing hopeless. The graphics are stylised but very cool, and the characters all look just as cool, too. Each with their own suit and different powers, all look the part and fit in well although they aren’t the heroes we are used to seeing. They are still awesome, anyway. The characters’ names pretty much describes them and their abilities and there is one suit that all Assassin Creed

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

78 57

Happy Feet Two

Tippety Tap

Get out your dancing shoes with this fun platformer

W

hen it comes to sequels and the movies, success rates are very much hit and miss. Far too often, Hollywood decides to cash in on a hit movie by commissioning a sequel (or two). Just think of the Matrix movies. Certainly, the first one was masterful but all the good work was quickly undone by the trite second and third titles which followed. Thankfully, sequels in the video game industry are as a rule much better than the first titles in a series. This can be attributed to improvements in graphics, game engines, and hardware. After all, just look at The Elder Scrolls. First released in 1994, the original (nostalgic views aside) can hardly be compared to Skyrim which blew just about every game reviewer away last year. Now what do you get when you take a sequel of a well-liked movie, in this instance Happy Feet, and decide to release a game based on it? Well, Happy Feet Two the movie might have been a howler but the game certainly

58

by Iwan Pienaar

shows its worth for the young ones or even the young at heart. Labelled a 3D musical adventure game, Happy Feet Two is a beautiful looking platformer that you can play solo or locally with a second person. You play as the likeable Mumble and his friend Ramon as they dance, slide, and race across Antarctica to save the penguins from yet another life-threatening danger. The game supports 3D on the Nintendo 3DS and has been developed for stereoscopic 3D TVs on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. But don’t worry as 3D functionality can be disabled at any time if this gets a bit much for the little ones. The game starts with Mumble and Ramon searching for Erik, Mumble’s son, after he runs away following a humiliating attempt at dancing. As is typical for a children’s game, the first few levels serve as a glorified tutorial for not only the controller but also the in-game

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job of integrating the musical score in the game play which embodies what the film franchise is all about – singing, dancing, tapping, and clapping penguins. In fact, you can choose your song before starting each level. As you collect musical notes, you can use them to unlock more tracks. In turn, each song can be levelled up as you play through the game. This adds immensely to the replay value of the game as each song can be unlocked to level 7. So what starts as a funky drum beat ends up as a fully mixed song. So is Happy Feet Two worth it? I must admit that my boys really enjoyed just watching me play it because of the snazzy soundtrack and beautiful graphics. They loved it even more when they had the chance to play it themselves. I can heartily recommend this to anybody with youngsters in the house that are on the lookout for familyfriendly entertainment with a lot of replay value. g

AT A GLANCE: Kids of all ages will enjoy this platform romp that makes good use of its movie license. Developer: KMMG Games Publisher: Warner Bros Distributor: Nu Metro

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

3+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

mechanics. In terms of graphics, Happy Feet Two is beautiful. While not quite the drop-dead gorgeous of Rayman Origins (reviewed elsewhere in the magazine), the landscape certainly does take your breath away even if it is only snow, ice, and the like. You not only collect musical notes as you progress through the levels but also recruit penguins into your motley crew (see what I did there?). Recruiting penguins is as easy as moving close to them and tapping the X button in rhythm to the beat. Once you collect the obligatory amount of penguins, you can then end a level and proceed to the next stage. A nice touch is that you and your penguin troupe can continue dancing as you go along (just keep the X button pressed in). If you tap the X button four times in sync with the beat then the Dance Combo sees all nearby notes move towards you for easy collection. As you play, the soundtrack gets more intricate and the beats more challenging. Yet, Happy Feet Two does a great

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

78 59

Written by Paul Jenkins

MBER OF ITION. LIMITED NU URE A LIMITED ED FIRST REQUIRED TO SEC TED ON A FIRST PAY BU TRI DIS BE A R100 DEPOSIT IS LL BLE. INCENTIVES WI . SIS BA INCENTIVES AVAILA E RECEIV

© 2011 Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. The Darkness is © 2011 Top Cow Productions, Inc. ”The Darkness,” the Darkness logos, and the likeness of all featured characters are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Top Cow Productions, Inc. 2K Games, Take-Two Interactive Software, and their respective logos are all trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Developed by Digital Extremes. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. All rights reserved. Microsoft, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies. “2”, “PlayStation”, “PS3” , “Ô and “À” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved. All other marks are property of their respective owners. All rights reserved.

18V

E LIMITED EDITION. TH TO E AD R PG -U TO AN AU UTFIT, 2 CHARACTER O GET A STEEL CASE AND G N LI K AR D E AT N R DES AN ALTE D A DIGITAL OST AN LIMITED EDITION INCLU LC D R TE N U H IC EL R HEARTS & UPGRADES, GOURMET DOWNLOAD TOKEN.

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February 10th - 2012

Master yOur DeMOns

Michael Phelps: Push the Limit

Indoor Swimming Almost as fun, but with less water

J

ust imagine you could turn your gaming area into an Olympic sized swimming pool… now you can, with Michael Phelps, as he takes you deeper into the professional world of swimming than you thought possible. Push the Limit will allow you and your family to challenge each other and get ready for those sunny days, unless your technique proves better on the Kinect When playing the career mode, players will create their very own swimmer. When starting the career and your character you can select female or male characters. Then it gets a little less complicated; the player does not get too much variation to change the looks of the player and most nose setting are all big and over-sized, while the eyes all seem to be Asian. After customising, your player is off to the pool where all the action begins. When it comes down to the race, all that is required

62

by Dylan Bouch

is too dive, stroke, turn and finish. First off you won’t be diving into the floor cause that would lead to a lot of court cases. Like most superstars now days, you’ll be required to hype the crowd up, wave you arms to them, do the worm… and then it starts. The player will need to get ready on the starting block as if he was an actual swimmer and when the gun goes off you’ll need to stand straight and raise your arms in front of you as if you were about to dive. After diving into the water the player will need to swim and turn. The swimming is all about technique and rhythm; timing is everything with the swim strokes as they need to match perfectly with a rhythm gage on-screen. Also, keeping with-in the specific timing the swimmer will not lose stamina. Retaining stamina is important for the last lap, in which the player can swim as fast as they can to the finish, but only if the technique is still correct. Turning

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all. The water is as real as it can look and the characters, while not as great, are still good. The only problem with the character is that the gamer can’t customise it to look like themselves. The stadiums are well done and include massive outdoor arenas, city skylines and regular indoor arenas. The menu looks like a pool and when the cursor moves across the water it leaves behind a ripple effect. To control the cursor during the menus is a little more difficult than the swimming, but still manageable and not too frustrating. The overall sound and music were OK and compliment this title nicely. At first this game is very fun, and then exhausting… I think that this title would rather suit those who like their fitness games. It will certainly keep your heart rate up but this is more of an upper body workout. With three season to complete this title could keep you busy for some time. g

AT A GLANCE: It’s a swimming game, if that your thing. Get your copy! Developer: Blitz Games Publisher: 505 Games Distributor: Apex Interactive

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

3+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

is done automatically for you but the gamer will need to help push off, and that too is all about timing. Coming to the finish line, after you swam as fast as you could, you need to drop your arms to the side and wait for a second and then reach for the wall or finish line. Completing career races unlocks points which the swimmer can use to improve his or her stats. There are various events to complete as well as different strokes, too, and you could have your swimmer as good as Michael Phelps in no time, with three seasons to get into your best shape ever. The first race will have you competing front crawl and as you progress through the season you will need to use other stoke types to compete in other events in the calendar. Other strokes include backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, and these can be completed in short and long races too, such as the endurance race. When it comes down to graphics, this title is not bad at

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

75 63

Anno 2070

The Day After Rebuilding after the catastrophe

M

anagement games are fairly rare these days, and really good management games are like hen’s teeth. So when a good management title comes along, it can be extremely gratifying for fans of the genre... and Anno 2070 is such a game. That said, it still falls into the category of niche appeal, just like any other management title of this sort. That’s because games like this don’t focus on blowing bad guys to bits, which is something that the vast majority of the game-playing public wants. Anno 2070 moves away from the traditional quasimedieval feel that the franchise had before, as the name implies. This time, it’s set a few years in the future, at a time when global warming has had a devastating effect on the Earth. Landmasses have changed with the melting of the polar icecaps, and society as a whole is very different. Enter the player, an intrepid city builder set on reestablishing a colony in the wake of this disaster. There

64

by Walt Pretorius

are two superpowers in the world, lead by capitalist tycoons on one hand and ecologists on the other, and the player will need to not only build a thriving settlement, but work with one or both of these factions as well. As with previous Anno titles, 2070 sees the player inhabiting several islands. Different islands offer different resources, so setting up a stable, well-supplied colony will require either expansion or trade, both of which are possible in this game’s numerous modes. The whole game dynamic is based on a supply and demand system that is, on the surface, quite simple. In order to generate income, the player needs to grow and develop the population of his colony by meeting their demands. As the inhabitants develop in social status (and consequently pay higher taxes) their demands become more numerous, requiring the player to colonise more islands and ramp up production. It seems quite simple, but some of the required supply chains have numerous steps. And then there are politics to consider, and the impact

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that environmental degradation, as a result of the player’s operations, has on those self-same industries. It can get pretty complex and, while the game is generally rather slow in terms of pace, sudden supply shortages or political problems will have the player jumping. Aside from a really good management model and great graphics, Anno 2070 offers a few improvements over its predecessors. For example, supply chains are defined in then user interface by the final product; clicking on it will bring up a tab that shows all required buildings, which is very handy. While the sound in the game is also very good, there is one downside... some of the character interaction speech is sickeningly repetitive. It gets so bad that the player may well consider disabling them. Additionally, the game can throw incautious players curveballs in the form of sudden declines in supplies. The player needs to be on too of things constantly to keep things running smoothly, and even then there will be tense

moments. The developers also included a multiplayer aspect, but considering that a single game can go on for days, this is often an exercise in extreme patience. However, there is a global community which all players can affect... their votes result in different buffs and penalties being applied from time to time. On the whole, if you like good management games, you will find nothing better than Anno 2070 on the new release shelves. It is an extremely well-crafted game, as frustrating as it is gratifying, and those that enjoy complexity in their management titles will certainly find that here. The game isn’t for the faint-hearted, though; it can be extremely mentally demanding. But sitting back for a few moments and watching your colony chug along smoothly, thanks to all your hard work, is really very satisfying. Until the next crisis kicks in, of course...g

An excellent option for management fans! Developer: Blue Byte Publisher: Ubisoft Distributor: Megarom

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

7+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

PC Platforms

AT A GLANCE:

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

90 65

Grease

Another Summer Night Is it a gas?

all your favourite Grease movie moments. The menus are easy to use and with cool sound effects of plucked guitar strings while you navigate through the menus. During the game, just like most dance games, you’ll see pre-determined moves which need to be complete in sync with the game. Although the game is very forgiving in this way, you will not be able to finish this title on your couch. Scoring is not really based on how well you dance but if you can string a few moves together, the moves being either being “ok”. “good” or “excellent” in performance ratings. This title is not too difficult, but once you have worked you’re way through the entire game (depending on your obsession with the movie) there won’t be much more you can come back too. Although this is a really good title the whole dance kinect game thing has lost its novelty… but if dancing games are you’re thing then this is a game for you. g

AT A GLANCE: Another collectable for the Grease fans otherwise a decent dancing game Developer: TBA Publisher: 505 Games Distributor: Apex Interactive

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

12+ 66

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

O

ur favourite high school musical from the ‘70’s, based on the ‘50’s, now has its very own Kinect dance and karaoke game. When every guy wanted to a T-Bird and every woman a Pink Lady, this cult classic will never be forgotten by anyone as it gets us all in the mood for milkshakes, swing music, perfect hair and now a Kinect game. Dance or sing your way through some of the most iconic scenes of the movie and relive your very own “Summer Nights”. This title’s graphics are not realistic in any way, the characters in the game hardly resemble the movie characters, and the scene locations are stylised but recognisable. The stages, as well as the characters, are very bright and colourful and authentic to the era. It all looks as if it came straight from the ‘50’s or from the movie set. The soundtrack comes straight from the movie onto you console, so do not despair, you will be grooving to

by Your Dylan Bouch

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

75

gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

logolink Essential surfing made easy

become a fan!

Kirby’s Mass Attack

Massive Attack A different kind of fruit punch…

K

irby has been seen in many shapes, sizes and forms. He is Nintendo’s personal squish toy. He has been seen in many side scrollers, tilt and “gravity” games, mini games, racers… even in a ball of wool. This time he has been split up into petals of a crushed rose. This big vacuum mouthed pink blob got in a fight with the wrong wizard and he zapped Kirby into ten different pieces. The main aim of this game is to get him back to one piece but we have to solve the puzzles and issues before we get there. You’d think that having more would be better but it’s a bit harder to control. Yes the more that you have the easier it is to take out those enemies and open those hard to reach places but it’s the fine control that suffers.

68

by Brian Murdoch When there is a big group, moving them around and navigating always leaves behind a few stragglers. The mini Kirbys have two chances before they die, once when they are hit and they turn blue, once when they are hit again and they start flying to heaven but even then you can send a friend to grab them in the air and bring them back down to earth. When you have stragglers make sure that they are not the blue ones. Getting more is as easy as eating the fruit lying around the stages, once your bar hit’s 100 another pink blob joins the group. The stages after the first all require a number of Kirbys before you can enter them. It’s not a big challenge to get to this number as you can always return to the previous stages and build up. When going back to previous stages it not a bad thing as

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skeleton key has been obtained in a stage. Earning coins hidden in each stage will build up to play other mini games away from the main story, but these are mainly boredom bashers. The whack-a-mole one is a little fun and they size up to maybe be separated and added as a DSiWare download. Easy at first, there is no challenge, but soon it will turn into not being able to finish the stage with more pink than blue. The bosses can be particularly annoying, but no more than that. There are some times when the stage is a bit sluggish and the group is plopped into fiery danger, “oops there goes another one” and getting a gold medal can be time consuming, but the colour and cuteness does pull through to make it a future classic. g

AT A GLANCE: Another interesting alteration to the Kirby career but seems to be missing something. Developer: HAL Laboratory Publisher: Nintendo Distributor: Core Gaming Systems

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

3+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

DS Platforms

there are passages and areas that require higher numbers to open. There are common actions like yanking a tentacle of a squid to be shot into the air, pulling on the ring on the back of the bomb-spewing octopus. Mini Kirbys will also pull out the plug and drain the water out of a whole stage to reveal another path. This said, most of the time it’s as easy as herding the group to the right place, but the animations are adorable and have the same appeal as Kirby’s Epic Yarn. HAL did a good job with challenged to keep gamers interested with a regular change of pace. The puzzle-led stages rub shoulders with action-packed ones, like surfing a sequence aboard a warp star and others running away from ice dinosaur. There is even a mini game thrown in for good measure once the

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

74 69

Garshasp: Monster Slayer

Trying Hard But not quite there

game uses fixed camera angles, but these are more of a hindrance than a contribution to cinematic effect. Quick time events are plentiful, but the animations are poorly executed and there is a distinct lack of variety except in the main boss battles. Combo attacks also suffer from this flaw, and with only two weapons, combat is simplistic. While the environments look good, Garshasp, as well as the myriad of enemies he faces, all look rather poorly rendered, and basic animations look stilted and awkward. And yet, despite all these flaws, there is an irresistible quality of fun that simply shouldn’t be there. Its short length works in its favour, as it prevents the combat from becoming overly repetitive, and the two main boss battles are suitably difficult and brutal. The setting is unique, and though Garshasp is a silent character, the narration is compelling due to the completely new environment, but may be difficult to follow. g

AT A GLANCE: Garshasp tries hard, but ends up failing in several key areas. Hopefully Dead Mage will do better next time. Developer: Dead Mage Inc. Publisher: Lace Mamba Global Distributor: Apex Interactive

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

16+ 70

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC Platforms

P

ersian mythology is not an oft-tapped source of inspiration for games. Indeed, aside from the Prince of Persia franchise, there has not been a single significant title that has drawn from this fascinating tapestry of myths and legends. It’s a shame, as this mythology contains some of the most powerful legends of mankind, which remains relatively unknown in the West. Dead Mage Inc. got handed the reins to Garshasp: Monster Slayer after the Iranian studio that started the project went under. Garshasp was initially developed using many freeware tools, and given this, it is an impressive debut by Dead Mage. It falls short in key aspects however, and in comparison to God of War, which is clearly its inspiration, it seems like the lame, inbred brother. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but with Garshasp, this could be more of an insult. The

by Lein Baart

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

60

gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

The Clockwork Man 2:The Hidden World

The Hidden World Steampunk adventuring, hidden object style

compelling and involving. Technically this game shines. Each area is beautifully drawn, and in scrollable areas the foreground and background are separated, making horizontal and zoomable levels a treat to watch. The sound is excellent, with both ambient noises and background music fitting right in to the setting. The gameplay is split between hidden object sequences and adventure styled scenarios, and while neither is particularly challenging, they do a more than competent job. Not much criticism can be levelled in the direction of TCM 2. There is almost no replay value, which is expected given its linear plot, and additionally during the hidden object sequences a mouse click does not always seem to register, though this is infrequent. g

AT A GLANCE: A superbly crafted game that is extremely enjoyable and well worth playing, though it does stray on the short side. Developer: Total Eclipse Publisher: GSP Distributor: Apex Interactive

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

3+ gamecca review • issue 31 • January 2012

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC Platforms

C

ertain games, regardless of genre, are obviously crafted with love and care. It veritably oozes out of the screen as you play, as little touches that would normally go unnoticed and uncared for jump out at you. This doesn’t always mean a great game, but these are the titles that stick with you. The Clockwork Man 2: The Hidden World is such a game, one clearly made for the enjoyment of playing rather than for the monetary success it’s likely to bring. Set in steampunk universe, TCM 2 follows the story of Miranda Calomy, the heroine of the series, as she seeks to uncover the truth about her parents’ disappearance. With a touch of Jules Verne to it, the story can hardly be called original, but this is a game more about the telling than the tale. Each character, with the help of some excellent voice acting, is brought to life with gusto, and the story is

by Lein Baart

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

76 71

Flashtastic

Merry Gaming Games that are still cool in the New Year

By James Francis

O

ne thing online games do better than anything else in the industry is respond to the times at hand. For example, when the holiday season rolls around, you can expect a few Christmas-themed revamps

and new releases. Not all of them are great, but even the most blasphemous (in a gaming sense) digital adventure is better than listening to tin-can carols in a mall... g

Knight Age Christmas http://notdoppler.com/knightagechristmas.php Much like the original Knight Age, you set about pursuing victory in the noble sport of jousting. An elegant name for men who knock each other off horses with sticks, the tournament is now enhanced by Santa’s sponsorship and the characters you can choose from pretty much all draw from his part of the world. Select your rider, get out of the gates with good speed and make sure your lance is pointing in the right direction. Physics does the rest. But suitably physics has the easy job here...

Rocket Santa http://armorgames.com/play/12712/rocket-santa The crew at Bezerk Studios give their fans a thank you for the year with this quick but challenging game. Similar to Burrito Bison (not one of theirs), you have to claim distance by launching yourself in a direction and buying upgrades to improve your chances of success. In this case it is Santa who needs to reach the Moon and give the boys their gifts. Boost at the right times, try to grab as much fuel and cash as you can and then keep trying. Those gifts won’t deliver themselves!

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gamecca regular • issue 31 • January 2012

Dibbles 2: Winter Woes http://www.kongregate.com/games/thepodge/dibbles-2winter-woes Recently this column featured Dibbles, a quint take on Lemmings that took the concept a bit further and made it even more fun. Now the sequel has arrived, wrapped in a frosty winter coat. The king must be saved, thus his Dibble subjects will throw themselves at any task - all which involve their own demise - to make sure no harm comes to the head honcho. A clever platform game, the winter theme is not just a cosmetic face lift. With new levels and new Dibble abilities, this one will have you scratching your head all over again.

Robot Unicorn Attack Christmas http://games.adultswim.com/robot-unicorn-attackchristmas-twitchy-online-game.html It’s the exact same game as Robot Unicorn Attack and Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal. You are a robot unicorn and you have to go as far as the powers of rainbows and ninja reflexes can take you. Boost through the rocks and make the jumps to ensure you don’t plummet into the abyss. If you have played any of the previous games, you’ll know exactly what’s going on here. But the new snow decoration and the ridiculous soundtrack adds a new cosmetic spin to this insanity from Adult Swim.

Snow Drift http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/586285 A yeti might seem fierce and mighty, but if he catches a penguin ad a bad speed, it’s not to his benefit. Add in the usual arctic hazards - melting ice platforms, unstable surface ice, etc - and you can see how this yeti’s progress can become tricky. Slide to pick up speed in this platform game, which places a bit of demand on your reflexes. With the polish and graphical uniqueness developer Nitrome is known for, Snow Drift will be a welcome challenge for anyone who like to mix speed with dexterity.

gamecca regular • issue 31 • January 2012

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Nitho Drivepro V16

Get a Grip

Take your racing games further… by Walt Pretorius

L

et’s be really honest here... there are very few people out there who do not enjoy the experience given them by a good driving simulator video game. Some may not admit it, but there is an appeal to driving a virtual car recklessly fast around a track. Unfortunately, the experience isn’t quite right if you’re using a normal gaming controller. To really feel like you’re doing it, you need a good racing wheel. A good racing wheel peripheral, though, is not always easy to find. The are many brands out there and, while they essentially all do the same thing on paper, many fall short in a number of ways. Enter the Nitho Drivepro V16. This is not one of those wheels. This is the kind of thing you can really get to grips with, if you’ll excuse the slightly lumpy pun there. The 10 inch wheel is coated with a comfortable, rubberised grip, and is connected to a rather large housing. It allows for 270 degrees of turn, which is not too shabby, although we have seen bigger turning

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angles in the past. Still, it should be enough for most gamers. The wheel further features four PlayStation compatible buttons (this particular device is compatible with Ps3, Ps2 and PC.) Two paddle style shifters at the back of the wheel round off the package. The housing unit is held in place by six oversized suction cups that actually do what they’re supposed to... hold the thing in place. On the right side of the housing is a gear shifter, that uses an up/down style to move through gears. But, here’s a beauty... move it diagonally, and you kick into reverse instantly. That’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference. On the left there are a bunch of programmable buttons and function buttons, and both sides have LEDs that display acceleration and braking (another nice touch.) A set of two pedals rounds the deal off. But this set also has a heel-plat that can unfold, preventing it from getting away from the user’s feet. It’s a simple yet fantastically practical idea. g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

In fact, this wheel is full of those. It’s the kind of thing we expect from a manufacturer like Nitho, who not only make generally great quality products, but also put a good degree of thinking into making the gamer’s life better. These little things help their products stand head and shoulders above the competition... and the Drivepro V16 is no different. In terms of performance, this wheel does everything it is supposed to, and does it well. We loved playing driving games with it, and we’re pretty sure you will too. Our only complaint is that it is really rather bulky, but the great performance and wonderful practicality built into the device go a long way to mitigate that. With great performance, excellent design ideas, practical tools that make the gamer’s life easier and a good, solid build, this is one of the best wheels we have seen in ages. Yet another great product from Nitho... it’s hardly a surprise. g g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Great design ideas • “Instant” reverse • Solid

CONS:

• Limited compatibility

Manufacturer: Nitho Distributor: Gammatek Online: www.gammatek.co.za

TECH SPECS: • • • •

10” wheel 270 degree turn Gear shifter Programmable buttons • Oversized suction cups • Foot pedals

Score

A great racing wheel for simulation enthusiasts.

97 77

LG Flatron E2770

Image Options Aesthetics and versatility count

by Rob Edwards

A

good monitor is always a great thing to have. And these days, we really are spoiled for choice when it comes to top notch, flat screens that deliver crisp, clear graphics. But as out entertainment and work needs become more complex, picking the right viewing device can be really rather tricky. This is especially true when you consider that the market is full of great monitors and TVs. The decision that needs to be made is one that cannot truly be affected by performance... not when performance is becoming so uniformly excellent. Rather, other, slightly more obscure ideas, like versatility and aesthetics, need to be taken into account. The most obvious consideration is size and, if you have the luxury of a large space for your monitor, the LG Flatron E2770 is a great option. Even if you don’t have the space, this monitor is large enough to warrant a wall mounting option. In fact, this device feels more like a small TV rather than a large monitor, even though

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its 27 inch screen looks great when hooked up to a gaming console. The fact that it even comes with a small, hot key remote further reinforces the idea. But it doesn’t have a TV tuner built in, and its general functions are that of a monitor, first and foremost. In the design of this beautifully large and very good monitor, LG moved away from some of their fancier ideas. The column that connects it to the base is simple and black, and allows for a rather wide degree of tilt. The base, too, is fairly nondescript. The screen edging has been finished to look like black brushed metal (even though it is plastic) and the expected touch sensitive controls that LG made use of in many of their monitor products are nowhere to be found here. Rather, this monitor makes use of a number of discrete multifunctional buttons built into the base of the panel housing... more low tech, but certainly much more reliable. When it comes to versatility, this device is great. It features DVI and VGA inputs, as any PC monitor should. g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

It also offers two HDMI inputs, as well as an audio out port. This means it can easily be used with video game consoles and other entertainment devices that use HDMI connections. The excellent picture quality is great for that, and the added convenience provided by the remote control makes it a joy to use for a number of functions other than PC work or gaming. The two HDMI ports also mean that devices can be permanently connected, without the user having to swap stuff around, and the position of all the ports and controls mean that wall mounting won’t be a problem. The real joy, of course, comes from the performance of the mega contrast ratio, super resolution monitor, which brings the user bright, crisp and colourful visuals in full HD. If you want a monitor that can provide for a number if functions and is not shy on size for a desktop model, this one is a great choice. It avoids all those silly gimmicks like 3D and such, and delivers exactly what it should. g g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Great performance • Versatile • Reliable controls

CONS:

• A bit big for some?

Manufacturer: LG Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za

TECH SPECS: • • • • • •

27” screen LED 2 HDMI inputs Audio output Wall mountable DVI input

Score

Good looks, numerous uses and an awesome screen size!

90 79

MSI X460 DX

Small Package Big power

by Alex Scanlon

T

hese days it seems that two extremes are proving to be very popular. Those extremes are super big and super small, and the trend seems to carry across several markets. Sure, sometimes we waver back and forth between the two - as is the case with cell phones, which started big, got really small and are now heading back towards big again. But it seems that the two ends of the spectrum are where impressiveness resides, and not really in the middle. Take, for example, the notebook market. Slim, small and sleek looks good and impressive. Big and bulky looks... well, good and impressive. There isn’t too much middle ground, it seems, or at least not much middle ground where great impressions stem from. Maybe it’s just me. But thanks to components getting smaller, smaller notebooks are no longer glorified word processors. Rather, these diminutive machines are able to pack a lot of punch, while remaining light and easily portable. The MSI X460 DX is a prime example of that kind of

80

machine. Weighing just two kilograms, this isn’t the kind of portable computer that’s going to give you a good upper body workout just carrying it around. It’s a pretty standard size for a small notebook, yet it’s screen is just a little bigger than most’ measuring 14 inches. The interior of the unit is finished and black brushed metal and durable black plastic, both design elements which extend to the exterior finishes as well. It features a standard notebook keyboard layout (no number pad) comprised of soft touch chicklet style keys. Beneath the keyboard is a slightly left aligned touch pad, which features a solid button for both left and right clicking, rather that two separate ones. An integrated web cam sits above the monitor. The design is pretty enough, although not particularly revolutionary or awe-inspiring. Under the hood, things look a little better, though. The whole machine is powered by an i5 processor, supported by 4GB of DDR3 RAM. To help the graphics along, the unit sports an Nvidia Gefore GT 540M g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

chipset, supported by a rather generous 2GB of GDDR3 RAM, which is pretty impressive in a machine this size... you may even be able to squeeze some decent gaming out of it. The 500GB hard drive is also a nice size, but always prefer to see more storage space. In terms of ports, it’s pretty standard; VGA, HDMI, LAN, headphones, an SD card reader and three USB 3.0 ports. In addition, it features Bluetooth and a souped up battery life. It seems that MSI, as a company, have a good idea about the requirements of their customers. This notebook serves as a good example to illustrate that point; it might be small and light, and have an elegant look to it, but all that belies a power that is excellent, and performance that is surprising from a small machine like this. It will look at home almost anywhere, with unassuming looks hiding what’s lurking beneath the surface... an extremely capable notebook that will serve people on the go very well indeed. g g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Like • Powerful • Good battery life

CONS:

• Looks a little plain

Manufacturer: MSI Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za

TECH SPECS: • • • • • •

i5 CPU 4GB RAM 2GB VRAM 500GB HDD 3 USB ports HDMI output

Score

A great, small notebook

80 81

MSI Geforce GTX 590

Massive RAM And massive everything else, too!

by Alex Scanlon

W

e almost - but only almost - did a double take hen we saw the box that the MSI Geforce GTX 590 comes in. It’s a really big box, but we have seen those before. We are also not surprised by the design of the box; we have become quite used to MSI’s understated packaging. Rather, it was the 3072MB of GDDR5 RAM, mentioned in relatively small letters on the box, that caught our eye. If we had been designing this packaging, we would have made that statement a bit bigger and bolder. Like at least half of the space on the front of the box... because 3 gigs of graphics RAM is not something you see every day. Neither, for that matter, are the three DVI outputs the card sports. Sure, we’re used to seeing clusters of outputs on Radeon cards, but Nvidia offerings have tended towards a generally less ambitious approach in that department, for the most part. A lone mini HDMI output can also be found there, but we almost didn’t notice it.

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Armed with the Nvidia 590 chipset and that huge whack of RAM, this card means business. It slices through tough tasks mercilessly, delivering performance that is smooth, stable and quite brilliant. It had better, because the price point on this beauty isn’t exactly cheap. However, the thought of two of these cards set up in an SLI configuration is a geek’s wet dream’ because it will deliver results that are really awesome. Physically, the card is fairly big and looks like it means business. Eschewing bright fantasy characters, MSI have stuck a fairly simple graphic on the card. It almost belies their confidence... they do not need to decorate this baby with impressive looking images, because it’s performance does all the impressing required. Being an MSI card, it has all the bits and bobs we have mentioned many times before when reviewing their other products. In case you weren’t paying attention, we’ll go through them again. While cooling is chiefly provided by a large fan and g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

heat sink setup, the military grade components used by the card also help keep things cooler, and quieter. Solid capacitors help reduce noise and stand a lower risk of popping, and the use of this kind of high grade component has MSI claiming a theoretical lifespan of ten years for this card. Not just ten years chugging along, either, but ten years working under strain. Sure, people upgrade more often than that, but the power that this card has on offer would probably see even the most demanding gamers happy for the majority of that decade. And, as if you actually would need to, more performance can be squeezed out of this card, thanks to simple overclocking and tweaking allowed by MSI’s included Afterburner software. This big card will deliver every time, without a doubt. It is well worth the expense, and is yet another great addition to MSI’s already solid stable of graphics devices. But we’re going to go look at the box again, and try figure out why they made those letters so damned small... g g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• RAM, glorious RAM! • 3 DVI outputs

CONS:

• Expensive

Manufacturer: MSI Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za

TECH SPECS: • • • •

Nvidia GT590 3GB VRAM 3 DVI outputs 1 mini HDMI output • Afterburner software

Score

A really big card in performance terms…

95 83

Toshiba Portege R700

Smaller… But size belies power…

by Alex Scanlon

T

here is an assumed connection between size and performance when it comes to laptops and notebooks. The smaller it is, conventional wisdom dictates, the less powerful. And while that kind of thinking might have been accurate at some point and while it might still hold true in some cases today - the miniaturisation of components is allowing smaller machines to be more powerful. Take the Toshiba Portege R700 as an example. It is a diminutive notebook, the size of which belies a considerable amount of power lurking under the hood. On the surface, the R700 is a small, unassuming notebook, stylishly finished in brushed black metal and plastic. It’s a bit heavier than one might expect. Open it up and a 13 inch monitor greets you, along with a standard laptop keyboard (not enough room for a full one) and a touch-pad set slightly to the left. Between the pad’s two buttons is a fingerprint scanner. Lookswise, it’s nothing really out of the ordinary, although

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there are one or two slightly strange design ideas that have been implemented here... like the fingerprint scanner placement. Also, all the indicator lights have been placed at the ‘bottom’ of the tough pad, rather than above the chicklet style keyboard. But turn it on, and the R700’s i5 2.4GHz processor kicks in, supported by a chunky 4GB of DDR3 RAM. It puts up quite a performance, with further delivery coming from an Intel graphics accelerator that is allocated up to 1.6GB of shared RAM. You’re not going to get prime gaming performance out of that set-up, but this machine isn’t about games. It is an easily portable workhorse, more than anything, and it provides great performance for that task. In terms of ports, though, it is just slightly on the light side. The LAN, HDMI and eSATA ports are great, as well as the expected VGA output and speaker and headphone jack ports. It also features an integrated card reader, although only SD cards are supported. But with only two USB ports, it’s a little on the stingy side. The hard drive, g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

too, could have been more generous, with a slightly mean 320GB on offer. It is in areas like this that the small size of this notebook implies performance correctly - surely an extra USB port or two could have been fitted into the design? The unit’s audio performance, too, leaves a bit to be desired... it really isn’t all that much better than any other notebook, at least not when using the built in speakers, which have presumably suffered because of the minimal space allowed them. Still, even the very few shortcomings that the R700 has do not scupper its super performance. The small size and stylish (if understated) design make it a sexy little number, with excellent performance when it is needed. It might not look the part, but the R700 delivers where it counts. This one is all about understatement and performance, rather than being a case of style over substance. It won’t be getting any raised eyebrows or wolf whistles, but those who use it will know what it’s all about. g g a m e c c a h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 3 1 • J a n u a r y 2 0 1 2

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Good size • Powerful • Very portable

CONS:

• Slightly small HDD • 2 USB ports

Manufacturer: Toshiba Distributor: Toshiba Online: www.toshiba.com

TECH SPECS: • • • • • •

i5 CPU 4GB RAM 320GB HDD 13” screen 2 USB ports HDMI output

Score

A small notebook that still packs the right amount of punch.

78 85

Peripherals enhance gaming

I S S U E 1 5 / Vo l . 2 Januar y 2012

w w w. g l a d ge t m ag . c o m

www.gladgetmag.com Technically, playful !

Be the Grunt From Space

by Christo van Gemert

I

’m bored. I have unlimited Internet access, all the games I enjoy, all the gaming platforms to enjoy them on, lots of time to kill, and tons of friends to join me online. So what gives? Why am I bored? Is something wrong with me? Is it the way modern games are made? Or are the pressures of growing up, finding a girlfriend, and keeping a household are just making me apathetic? In short, am I getting too old for this? Given the significant – what’s a diplomatic way to put this? - seniority advantage our dear editor has over me, I doubt I’m getting too old. Games are fun. Fun is for all ages. I should be 40, 50 or 90 and still enjoy gaming. In fact, the times I do really want to play I am still drawn in and have a good time. Even the girlfriend thing shouldn’t factor in. I play games and any potential boobed partner should have to deal with that. Or join me. But really now – do girls even play games? Something could definitely be wrong with me. As demonstrated over the 25 or so columns I’ve written here I am a very fussy gamer and my peculiar tastes are far from the norm. So I don’t think that’s the problem here. Maybe modern games are the problem. I read something – or was it a YouTube video I saw? - a while ago about old games being the best because you never won. You never finished. Something along the lines of that you knew those space invaders were coming

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and you could shoot as many as you wanted, but you weren’t going to save humanity. In Missile Command you’d do your best to avoid the inevitable nuclear holocaust, but a Game Over screen was your ultimate destiny. Now we expect detailed storylines and satisfying endings. We want our protagonists to be invincible, especially because we are in control and don’t like bad things happening to us. Modern games defeat us on a personal level, after making us identify with the characters. It’s not Master Chief being crushed by the Covenant: it’s me. I am the weakest link. And I don’t like losing. Sometimes we need a dose of reality - something to bring us back down to earth. It’s like an action

movie, when the hero gets beat up pretty badly before making a comeback. You realise he’s not an unstoppable super human. Indiana Jones, John McClane, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent – they all have their weaknesses. And, if you’ll excuse the tenuous link, I think that’s what our modern games need: flawed characters that make us realise we’re not the be all and end all. This can extend right down to game design, too. Don’t mollycoddle us with autosaves and checkpoints. And bring back healthpacks – this “take cover to heal” system is rubbish. Maybe then I won’t be bored playing the unstoppable action man in sandpit worlds where anything is supposed to be possible. g

gamecca column • issue 31 • January 2012


Gamecca Magazine January 2012