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’Videogame’ is such a inaccurate term, that’s what I’ve come to believe this month. Whereas it was fine to describe the games played twenty years ago, things have moved on over the last five or so years. It can still be used with confidence when talking about those games that have their roots way back when, but with the medium’s divergence it hardly seems appropriate for many of today’s ’games’. Take Metal Gear Solid 4, for example. Here’s a game that has as much in common with movies as it does with games. In fact, it’s fair to say that it’s a clean split 50/50 between the game elements and the film elements. Purely in videogame terms, it’s excellent, but the film elements, ie the story, sucks. This raises the question: are we right, as reviewers, to ignore the story and review the game purely on its gaming merits? Clearly, the designer (or director in this case) intends the story to be a majorpart of the overall experience or it wouldn’t take up so much of the ’playing’ time, so it stands to reason that the story is as important as the game. It is, after all the story that gives you your motivation for Snake’s actions in the game and vice versa; one informs the other one. When the story is as poor as Metal Gear Solid 4’s is, does that injure the game part? Well, yes, I believe it does if what I say above is true. ’Videogame’ may be a poor description for a form of entertainment that is as broad in style as this one, but until someone comes up with something better it’ll have to do. I’ll just have to ignore Metal Gear Solid 4’s story to enjoy it for the incredible game it is. Mark White, Editor in Chief Player#122
06 the big story
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et an g o t terdam Games’ s m A lled to at Guerrilla illzone 2. e v a r t Player dented look usive FPS, K or and ss cl ce unpre ished PS3 ex f its predece o n near-fi fy the flaws ship title? de ag Can it the PSN’s fl e becom
s it possible for the hype of a game to completely fuel both its designers and its fans eagerly awaiting its release? In the case of Guerrilla Games’ upcoming Killzone 2, the answer is an emphatic yes; the developers knew that they wanted to meet or surpass the action of the now infamous E3 trailer and have been trying to perfect their anticipated shooter. As far as fans were concerned, they were hoping that Killzone 2 would be the system seller and showcase for the PlayStation 3—a game that could conceivably rival that of Halo and Gears of War. Fortunately, the wait is almost over, because Killzone 2 will be released at the end of next month. That might seem a bit far away, but believe me when I say that the wait has been well worth it. Killzone 2 is an outstanding evolution of the franchise, a bullet and adrenaline-fueled rampage against an implacable enemy and a fantastic shooter for the PS3. Killzone 2 is actually the third chapter in the series, following the original PS2 shooter and Killzone: Liberation, a third-person action title on the PSP. While players don’t need to have played either one of those games to understand what’s going on in Killzone 2, fans of the franchise will see connections between the three games with familiar characters popping up and events being referenced. The basic thrust of the story takes place after the events of Liberation, where the ISA has finally gotten tired of being invaded and attacked on its world of Vekta. While the relative success of repelling the Helghast has worked, the ISA has decided to take the fight back to Emperor Visari. Believing that the Helghast spirit has been broken by their losses on Vekta, the ISA launches a “revenge“ invasion against the world of Helghan with the goal of capturing Visari and forcing the Helghast to stand down. Of course, the ISA quickly discovers that this is not the case at all, and as the soldiers discover that the Helghast spirit is just as fierce on their home world than ever before, they also discover the Helghast have new weapons to unleash on their foes. Player#122
The Helghast are back, and this time they have better weapons.
Expect an 18 rating for this one.
That’s not a great place to stand, buddy.
ROBOT BUDDIES Why bots rule Killzone 2 People who sill play James Bond: Nightfire or Time Splitters 2 will be familiar with bots in multiplayer FPS games. The problem? They came out five years ago, and many games have just mailed it in when it comes to intelligent AI. Killzone 2 uses bots, but they want you to know that they’re almost as capable as real people: “We wanted them to be able to do all the interesting things the human players can like equpping badges and using special abilities. You can actually have bots revive you in the midst of battle, or call in air support. They’re social bots.“ Handy as they are to populate levels, they almost seemed too organized to play an exciting role in multiplayer. That said, their ability to operate on so many lavels simultaneously is something of a breakthrough for videogame AI. 8
Unlike the previous games, you’re not stepping into the boots of Templar, the hero of the first two titles, who’s been promoted up the ranks to become a commander of a fleet and his own troops. Instead, you’ll take on the Helghast as Sev, part of a four-man team known as Alpha Squad. Led by Rico (who players might remember from the first two games), Sev and his other teammates, Garza and Natko, fight their way across Helghan through ten separate missions that will take you about eight to ten hours to complete. Each mission you embark on has multiple checkpoints and objectives that you’ll complete, and these will cover large battles, ambushes, choke points, house to house fighting and even vehicular and turret sequences. Of all the segments, I kind of wish that the vehicles and turrets were expanded because you get a sense of truly aﬀecting and turning the tide of the location that you’re in with these weapons at your disposal. The story of the game is pretty good for what it is. Themes of fascism and militaristic aggression, revenge and the costs of war echo rampantly throughout the entire title. There are a few dips here and there within the story. Rico is just as annoying and unlikable as ever; it’s to the point where you can’t help but hope that he meets an unsavory end in a sequel. The ending could’ve also ended on a much stronger note, particularly when compared to the final battle, which can be a serious challenge of your accuracy and ability to handle threats from all sides. When compared to that fight, the decision made at the end of the game is a poor choice—it’s obviously the weaker of two actions that could’ve driven the franchise forward. However, with that being said, the majority of the plot does an excellent job of driving the action throughout the campaign, which will give you a ton of action, hellish warfare to fight and survive through, and moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Whether it’s the insanity of watching soldiers getting immolated by flamethrowers and
ripped to shreds by bullets or avoiding the numerous explosions that rock your team’s position, you frequently feel as though someone has you in their sights and is just getting ready to pull the trigger. This chaotic sense is only enhanced more by the start of just about every mission, which frequently has a dramatic crash or other striking moment occur before control is given to you. For example, when you crash land in the first level, you’re almost given a burst of adrenaline because you’ve just managed to avoid bodies and the wreckage of a fellow lander that went flying past you. Leaping oﬀ that and into the fray really gives you a sense of how short the life expectancy of any soldier in this war is and draws you into the fight in a way that few cutscenes could do. Even more creative is the use of the motion sensitivity, which doesn’t feel gimmicky in the context of the game actions. Guerrilla obviously spent time thinking about how to best use Sony’s motion features, and it shows when it comes down to sequences like turning valves so that your troops can get through gates or setting explosives by tilting the controller to light the fuses on a charge before pulling out the remote detonator. However, perhaps the most astute use is with the sniper rifle, which asks you to hold the controller steady to increase the accuracy of the shot instead of pressing a button to hold your breath. What’s great about this is that it also takes into account the action that’s going on around you instead of making you immune to the explosions or external pressure, so if a grenade goes oﬀ close to you, the concussive blast (and resulting shockwave) will throw oﬀ your shot regardless of how little movement you had with the gun. This gives a larger sense of immersion as you’re playing the game, and makes it much more challenging to pick oﬀ enemies with a string of headshots. That being said, there are still some technical issues that crop up here and there. There are a number of low resolution shadows that pop up on environments and character models,
The motion blur used in the cutscenes is fantastic.
particularly when they’re talking, which can detract from the action that’s going on. The same can be said for the texture pop-in that will snap into view, frequently on camera pans of a location. Add to this some of the aliasing and even the grain filters, which give the game depth but are also a double-edged sword because it almost feels like they’re overused in some areas. It also is strange to see that for all of the visual attention paid to just about every aspect of the world, there are two elements that you see frequently that look atrocious. The resuscitation beam that you use to revive teammates that have taken too much damage looks horrible, it’s almost as if you’re projecting an EKG into your friend. Similarly, for as great as the fire looks, the stream of goo that comes out of the flamethrowers in the game looks fugly and fake; it’s not nearly as bad looking once it hits a surface. There are also some minor technical things that pop up that are much more of an inconvenience than a true gripe. For one thing, Guerrilla made the decision to avoid an install and run everything oﬀ the disc. While it’s a laudable decision, it’s also a strange one; every now and then, you’ll get little hitches in play that last a few seconds while the game loads up the next section. It’s not a horrendous load by any stretch of the imagination (perhaps a second or two at the longest), but the little hiccups do stand out across the span of the game. Similarly, the voice acting is, for the most part, pretty bad. While Brian Cox does an excellent Emperor Visari and Radec projects menace as the Emperor’s lapdog, the rest of the dialogue that’s delivered feels somewhat forced. Part of it could be the overabundant use of profanity that just feels as though it was thrown in as filler instead of being delivered naturally. In many ways, some of the more profane lines almost feel as though a group of kids who are just experimenting with cursing are reciting dialogue. We don’t know why they did this as it adds nothing. While the story is a solo campaign, you get the sense that there is a distinct co-op feeling
to it, because you are almost always partnered with one or more soldiers as you run through the various environments. Frequently, you’ll find that these guys will wind up helping you accomplish your tasks such as lifting you to the tops of walls or hacking doors so that you can proceed to diﬀerent areas. However, you’ll also find that these guys are rather useful in battles and will often wind up taking out enemies that you hadn’t seen or alert you to the presence of some threat. For the most part, your allies are intelligent and will act on their own, providing cover fire when you try to flank enemies or taking their cues from you during the larger battle sequences when you and a regiment are part of a large oﬀensive. As you push up during some fights, you’ll notice that allied troops will run behind you to give support. If you start to fall back or are repulsed by some enemies, your squad will seek cover. However, every now and then, particularly when you’re in the middle of a hallway or trying to move through a door, you’ll notice that a character will block your progress. There are even heavy infantry, robotic
drones and other hazards that you’ll need to watch out for. Because many of your battles will mix groups of Helghast together, you’ll frequently need to figure out which threat you want to attack and do so quickly before you’re flanked or pinned down. This does come with a slight caveat, however, because of just how the diﬃculty level aﬀects the intelligence of the soldiers. On Recruit or Trooper (the two easier diﬃculty levels), soldiers will sometimes hesitate in unrealistic ways, presumably to give beginners a better chance to succeed. However, watching some soldiers wait before charging at me or running towards a thrown grenade is incomprehensible. On the higher diﬃculty levels, particularly Elite (the diﬃculty you
Expect some degree of environmental damage in Killzone 2 including the clichèd explosive barrels.
<<< unlock after beating the game once), you’ll find that the AI is incredibly tough, taking little to no time to line up headshots and use their group tactics to show you absolutely no mercy. For instance, during one troop charge, I noticed that three soldiers tossed grenades to force me to retreat, which was all a distraction for a fourth soldier to come up and blast me from the side. While they might still hesitate for a second or run to a grenade, these were the rare exceptions on the harder levels. If you’re a shooter fan, definitely make Veteran your first step and then take on Elite for a true challenge. You’ll find that the same tactics you used on the previous diﬃculty levels simply won’t cut it because these enemies are way too good. Your enemies are smart enough to stay behind cover and take potshots. Success on these harder levels comes only if you master the cover system, which is truly a vital part of the gameplay. Killzone 2 isn’t a run ’n’ gun kind of a shooter—if you leave yourself open, the enemies will focus their attention on you quickly and throw plenty of grenades and fire rifle bursts your way (if they’re not already firing rockets at your position or turrets that is). Instead, you can use cover by pressing L2, which will allow you to attach yourself to pillars, barricades and just about any surface. This way, you can line up a shot on an enemy or cook a grenade in safety before throwing it, ensuring that targets will be destroyed without a chance for escape. Of course, you’ll have to be careful because cover can be eliminated by enemy bullets and grenades, so you’ll always have to keep an eye out for being flushed out of cover and into danger, where you’ll have to rely on your wits and (hopefully) a good trigger finger to survive. As you run through the game, you’ll find that you’ll be able to carry one primary weapon as well as a secondary backup pistol with unlimited ammo. You’ll have a large number of weapons to choose from to fill that primary slot, including submachine guns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles. Sev will also pack a knife and two diﬀerent kinds of grenades, which he can switch back and forth between at any time. However, players will need to get somewhat accustomed to the recoil of the primary weapon that they choose, as the climb from the recoil of firing each gun varies wildly. Some of this is minimised by aiming and firing down the sights of the gun, but for the most part, players will learn that burst firing is more important than straight out full auto with these enemies. That can be somewhat tricky to do, especially when a Helghast is barreling 10 Player#122
With promotional images like this, who wouldn’t want to join the Helghast?
down on you and you realise that these guys can take an incredible amount of bullets and keep coming at you for more (a fact that is quickly impressed on you within the first level). However, I found that this wasn’t entirely a make or break issue for me, and one that I could quickly adjust to. Multiplayer is broken into two segments: Skirmish and Warzone. Skirmish is the oﬄine component of multiplayer, and is eﬀectively a practice arena where you can take on up to fifteen bots in multiplayer matches. You can pick all of your criteria for your rounds and test yourself against the bots, which all react to you based on the diﬃculty level that you set for them (again, going oﬀ the game’s four diﬃculty settings). You’ll also decide the match types you want to play, many of which are familiar to multiplayer veterans. Body Count is Team Deathmatch; Search and Retrieve is essentially Capture the Flag; and Capture and Hold is a zone-based mode. The real battle for Helghan starts when Multiplayer begins. The eight maps that are selected for multiplayer are really designed to amplify the amount of chaos that goes on within an online map, and considering that you can have up to 32 players in one round (which can include bots as well if you don’t have enough people), the destruction can quickly ramp up. Helping out in this respect is the inclusion of a Squad feature, which allows one player to be a squad leader for his friends. This automatically gives all members a dedicated channel for communication of tactics. It also allows players to instantly spawn back in on the Squad Leader’s position, providing instant
reinforcements during a Capture and Hold round or alternatively extra soldiers during an assassination attempt. Characterisation, too, is depressingly bland. Your squad of four are the kind of hackneyed, meat-headed marines that permeate the genre, while Sev himself is little more than a cipher, remaining quiet and sullen for the majority of the game. The Helghast fare better with their sinister masks, glowing red eyes and Nazi-esque uniforms, but are let down slightly by the bizarre decision to give them rasping, east London wide boy accents, like Darth Vader in an episode of East Enders. There are shining lights in the Helghast ranks, however. The ruthless Colonel Radec makes for an excellent, if slightly comic-book, villain. While Scolar Visari is an impressive presence, a complex and persuasive character, majestically voiced by Brian Cox, previously familiar to us as the voice of Draganov from Command and Conquer 3. Killzone 2 is only a short month away from hitting the shelves, but the game will definitely be worth the wait. The single-player experience is a truly enjoyable campaign across the Helghast home world that will test your skills, particularly on the higher diﬃculty levels, and the game simply looks phenomenal. But perhaps the strongest segment of the game is the extremely deep multiplayer, which gives seven basic classes with which you can create your own customised super-soldier after performing your class-specific duties. Not only did Guerrilla achieve a milestone of delivering a great exclusive title for the PS3, it delivered one of the best shooters to come along in a long time.
Ghostbusters Phantom busting foursome due to arrive in 2009
The Marshmellow Man returns for round 2.
You’ll be able to battle ghouls from both movies.
I don’t think I was expecting the cutscenes in Ghostbusters: The Video Game to look good, at least not as good as they did during my most recent demo. See, I’ve been covering this game backwards and forwards since it was announced, and up until last week, every cutscene was a work in progress filled with placeholder stuﬀ. When I saw the game the last time, that was no longer the case. This time, it was Ray, Peter and the new Ghostbuster we’ll all be playing as standing in one of the Sedgewick Hotel’s famed elevators. Slimer was up to his old tricks and the team was on the scene to bust the spud. While the game loaded the next section of the title, the camera was centered on the boys riding the lift from the same in-their-face angle as the original film. As they rode along, the vocal talents of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd chit-chatted about why the team can’t turn on their proton packs around the general public anymore (lawsuit) while the recruit just reacted. Now when I say that I didn’t expect these cutscenes to look so good, I’m not saying that they were uber-realistic or anything. What I mean is that the way the faces moved when they spoke, turned to acknowledge one another, and the reactions of the rookie all looked really solid and entertaining. I have no idea if that same eﬀect and feeling will carry over to the game’s other scenes—even though I did notice the rookie now grimaces and turns his head while
struggling with wrangling ghosts but I dug it. It wasn’t all gawking at faces when Terminal Reality and Atari rolled into the Player oﬃces to show me Ghostbusters: The Video Game there also was a bit of gameplay splashed in to whet my whistle. Sadly, my visitors did decide to show the same architect oﬃce bit that I had just seen at the New York Comic-Con—and that jump from the library to the other dimension that I had written about a while ago, but they also showcased the Sedgewick Hotel level for the first time. Before the ’busters even made it to Slimer’s old haunt, they started at the firehouse where Janine fielded the call and dispatched the boys. I’m not sure if this is a general placeholder load screen that will be featured along with a few others before every call the team goes on, but I did find it odd that Slimer was hovering by Janine’s desk even though the boys were going out to catch him and that the Vigo painting was leaning on the wall in the background. I mean, I guess it could be a reproduction of the original, but we all know that when Vigo was beaten, the Vigo painting morphed into one of the boys and Oscar. I digress, remember this is just a preview. Player#122
Just don’t cross the streams, okay? Don’t stick a fork in the wall socket, kids.
Anyway, the Ecto-1 roars away from the firehouse, and we’re on the scene. A hotel worker is there to greet the Ghostbusters and complain that the establishment wants its money back since the ghost is back, but Venkman just tells him “You should’ve taken the extended service agreement.“ There were a lot of dialogue gems like that in the quick taste of the title I got—remember, Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the script for this game. Aside from in-jokes from the movies and quips about getting slimed, there was a funny moment when a pretty lady stepped oﬀ the elevator in front of the team, Venkman made a quick pass at her and she responded with “Back oﬀ, loser; it’s never going to happen.“ Once upstairs, Ray and the recruit head out on their own while Venkman goes the assumedly safer route. Eventually, the duo stumble upon Slimer downing room service, the new onscreen instructions that pop up in white with a PKE icon next to them showed up, the rookie scanned the ghoul and it flew away. The Ghostbusters give chase and eventually run into the ghosts of some bellhops clad in white and red uniforms. The boys dance around the hotel lobby zapping and trapping and it’s the same impressive lightshow we’ve talked about before. However, this was the first time I have seen the game’s upgrade system in action. When you’re grabbing these ghosts, you’re making money (Beat a Book Golem, make $300); with this money, you can upgrade your equipment. In this build of the game, there was a $15,000 upgrade that helped focus your blast stream, a PKE scan enhancement and other cool stuﬀ to make GB nerds drool. 12 Player#122
Ghost? That looks exactly like my high school librarian!
The proton beam is enormus fun to use.
These enhancements are accessed by pausing the game, which brings up the PDA portion of your PKE meter. Here, you can do the upgrades but also scope the ghouls you’ve scanned with your PKE meter and entered into Tobin’s Spirit Guide with. For the most part, scanning a ghost with your PKE meter seems like it’ll be optional, but if you do it, you’ll get information on the spectre’s weaknesses, how many times you’ve beaten it, and the ghost’s back story. Of course this is all tentative at this point, but this was the first build of the game I have seen with Achievements/Trophies. Running on a 360, this build had “I’m picking up a signal“ pop up when the PKE meter was used for the first time, “I feel so funky“ when the first sliming went down and a handful other nods to movie lines. Oddly, Atari gave me a handout detailing the ins and outs of multiplayer in Ghostbusters, but Atari didn’t demo any multiplayer modes. I’m glad to have the info which I’m about to pass on to you—but it seemed like an awkward way to introduce something Terminal Reality has never really said too much about. Still, there are going to be two co-op modes for Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Instant Action allows players to just jump in and start busting ghosts where Campaign Mode will set you up in one of the four multiplayer environments—library, streets,
cemetery, and museum and have you bust ghosts to earn money for equipment. What’s interesting about these modes is that they provide you with the opportunity to play as both the single-player star known only as the rookie and the four original Ghostbusters. Also cool, or at least sounds like it could be cool, are the six possible job types you’ll face in a multiplayer game. Survival pits you against a “paranormal onslaught;“ Containment is all about capturing every single ghost out there; Destruction charges you with destroying a bunch of ghost-spawning artifacts; you’ll need to protect Egon’s devices in Protection; Thief wants you to stop ghosts from stealing artifacts and Slime Dunk asks you to “dunk the most slimers,“ which I’m assuming means slamming them into the ghost traps. Helping you tackle these jobs are six power-ups such as the Ghost Shrinker and Ethereal Shield. So, there you have it my latest Ghostbusters: The Video Game experience. A game that was on the brink of never seeing the light of day looks promising. The cutscenes look good, the Sedgewick is back, Atari really likes the architect level and multiplayer sounds interesting but I didn’t get to see it. I love playing games for a living, but these are the types of titles that kill me. I’ve seen enough; it’s time to let me sit down and play.
SO WHY DO WE WANT TO PLAY IT? It features actual actors acting and not just ’voice talent’ reading from a page.
Huge epic battles fighting ghosts in a library. What more do you need?
Watching books fly oﬀ shelves while you’re shooting the proton blaster looks fun and unique.
The Stay Puft Marshmellow Man boss look very impressive and who doesn’t love toasting marshmellows?
Tekken 6 Craig Marduk and his flashy backhand of doom.
A brief peek at Namco’s upcoming slugfest At the recent Atari Live showcase in central London, Namco Bandai was on hand to show oﬀ the latest in the Tekken series. Sadly, we’ve yet to get hands-on with the Xbox 360 or Play Station 3 version of the game, but project lead Katsuhiro Harada-san was happy to demonstrate some of its features for us. Tekken 6 has 40 characters in total, the greatest number in the series to date. Haradasan pointed out a few of the key characters to us such as Lars, a Swedish fighter sporting a rock star look, and Alisa Bosconovitch, a robot who can throw her head at opponents with explosive results, and can fire her limbs oﬀ. Meanwhile, Bob is an obese, barrel-chested American fighter who deliberately gained weight to improve his performance. Combined with his unusually fast speed, this should make him a formidable opponent. Leo is a German kung fu-style fighter with eﬀeminate looks and a questionable gender. Zafina is the first Middle Eastern character to feature in the game; others to be included for the first time in a console version of the game are Dragunov and Lili, from the PSP’s Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection. In total there are eight new characters. While Tekken has featured aerial combos previously, a new feature that Harada-san called a “bound combo system“ allows you to string aerial and ground-based attacks together. You’ll be able to launch opponents into the air, followed by slamming them into the ground, which will bounce them back up into the air to continue your combo. While you can string combos together, you won’t be able to do it indefinitely: Harada-san also pointed out that the health meter will glow red when it drops below a certain point. Attacks will become more powerful when you are low on health, so you’ll need to plan your attacks carefully, keeping in mind the system will kick in once your opponent’s health drops to a certain level.
You wouldn’t think these two were related would you?
You’ll also be able to pull oﬀ some cool taunts. If your character has a gun, for instance, you can pull it out and use it as a taunt. Some characters can pick up chickens walking around the stage and make them attack, or you can cast a spell, turning your opponent’s head into a stuﬀed panda in the process. Some taunts will cause your opponent to lose health, and we’re told they will all be quite diﬃcult to pull oﬀ, so you’ll need to make sure you’re out of harm’s way when attempting one. Harada-san was also keen to mention Tekken 6 will have real-time online versus play, and that while they’ve yet to reveal it, the team is also planning to include another online mode. Ghost data will also be downloadable, which runs the particular characteristic to how a given player fights. You’ll also be able to learn techniques through replays of fights, and you can join up with your friends to form an online team of fighters. Fans of the series won’t be surprised that Tekken 6 is looking gorgeous, with highly detailed character models and levels. All of the fighters we saw had impressive animation routines, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the game. According to Harada-san, Tekken 6 will run at 60 frames per second with updated graphics including new “close processing“ eﬀects and full-body motion blur, giving the action a very fluid, smooth look. The costumes and characters are separate objects, giving
clothes a natural, flowing look. Arenas have also been given an overhaul and should be a lot more dynamic this time around and feature persistent damage. You’ll be able to slam an enemy through the ground, for example, and depending on the stage you can break through certain floors or walls into a new area. In a village stage we saw, the ground was full of mud and dirt, but certain areas in the middle had bricks that were destructible. Meanwhile, another stage had a glass floor, making the destructible areas obvious. Of course, these features do not represent the end of everything that Tekken 6 will be able to oﬀer. Once the game gets initially released in the Japanese market, Tekken fans in that region will be able to customise their characters with a myriad of items, form Tekken clans with friends, view live matches on a monitor with touch-screen functionality, and compare their statistics on international leaderboards, even against rivals sitting all the way on the other side of the globe. Another noticeable change is the introduction of special signature items that can be used in battle. Gamers will be able to sign online, use their Tekken currency, and, for instance, purchase a gun for Leo or a pair of high heel shoes for Anna. Tekken 6 will be heading to the Xbox 360 and PS3 in the second half of 2009. For more on the game, stay tuned to Player Magazine as development continues.
SO WHY DO WE WANT TO PLAY IT? All the new stuﬀ like destructive stages, spell casting and poultry throwing sounds fun.
With 40 characters there’s something for everyone and at 60 frames per second they’re all going to look really pretty.
It’s been a long time since this came out in the arcades and we’re getting impatient!
This is the first Tekken game on the Xbox 360 and we want to see how the controller handles the button bashing.
The unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.
Legends Of WrestleMania THQ decides to take it back old school
Barcode sticker on the back of the chair, that’s attention to detail. Even the annoying managers are back.
It isn’t often that I comment on the box art of a game, but THQ’s WWE Legends Of WrestleMania cover is a gem; especially for oldschool wrestling fans like me. The focal point of the hand-drawn (or maybe retouched CG) cover is Andre the Giant—his massive hands cradling the Legends’ logo. It’s hard for this huge man not to be a focal point; he was reportedly seven-foot-two and like a gazillion pounds in his heyday. Slightly behind Andre is Hulk Hogan, circa his “Hulkamania“ motif. The Hulkster in his World Wrestling Federation glory years was a pretty intimidating figure, which THQ’s box art deftly captures. Like two bad-ass bookends, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock sport the scowls that made them wrestling phenoms in the ’90s and for good measure, the WWE Legends Of WrestleMania cover includes the “super managers“ of the ’80s, Jimmy Hart and Bobby “The Brain“ Heenan, in all their annoying grandeur. It’s quite a work of art, and one that I wouldn’t mind having in poster size. A cover is just a cover, however. They say never to judge a book by one, and purchasing porn solely on the merits of its box imagery is a huge no-no. Same goes for those video games that promised big through cover art, only to peter out in the gameplay department.
The Rock may be legendary, but his movies aren’t.
THQ’s newest grappler wrestles on a diﬀerent mat, though. In Legends Of WrestleMania’s case, the box art’s beauty actually matches the prowess of what’s etched on the shiny disc inside that box. It would have been easy for THQ to have slapped some fancy graphics on the Legends box, re-mapped the wireframes from WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2009 with old fogies and called it a day. It would have been pretty easy to transfer SmackDown! vs. Raw’s match types and in-ring gameplay over to WWE Legends Of WrestleMania too. While there are some similarities between THQ’s two latest wrestling titles, a lot of extra eﬀort was put into Legends of WrestleMania to ensure that it would strike a nerve with a more widespread wrestling demographic. WWE Legends Of WrestleMania borrows the core game engine from the latest SmackDown! vs. Raw title, and you’ll also see similarities in the visual tech powering the characters’ models. This is all fine and dandy, since SvR 2009 was a solid title. But in order to capture the essence of the old school, and to increase accessibility, THQ has slyly pared back the game modes and control complexity of WWE Legends Of WrestleMania, while, at the same time, coming on strong like a Stunner with pageantry, nostalgia and all the other WWE licensing bits.
Although the Ultimate Warrior was a whack job, he was an entertaining whack job.
The gameplay of Legends Of Wrestling will stand out to those who are familiar with the action of SmackDown! vs. Raw. While it may comes across as a tad basic to the real SvR fans, the system in Legends seems to match the classic format much better; perhaps a throwback to when controllers had fewer buttons. You only need one button to either strike or grapple, and more complex moves, such as finishers and specials, are only two buttons away. On-screen prompts hold your hand along the way (in case you forget how to go for the pin or chat it up with your manager, for example). Features such as a “chain level“ combos system—where grapple complexity is determined by damage doled out—keeps WWE Legends Of WrestleMania from being a button masher, however. All of the AI intuition and context sensitivity built into SvR 2009 is also in place for Legends, which means matches never turn into “who can slam the buttons the fastest?“ Reversals are very much a part of the action, and it will take knowledge of how they work and their timing to have a chance at upsetting the AI. It’s easier to pin a human n00b, of course (1-4 players local or via Xbox Live), but don’t go thinking that winning any type of match in WWE Legends Of WrestleMania is easy just because the controls are easier to understand. Yes, it’s less complex than SvR, but Legends is no pushover. Match types, for example, have been scaled way back; not only for sake of eﬃciency, but also for a more era-specific representation of matches that would occur in a “legends“ title. WWE Legends Of WrestleMania’s game modes have also been kept concise and very specific to the notion of a nostalgic wrestling experience. Tour Mode, for example, enables users who closely followed past WrestleMania programmes to mirror what happened in the event’s most famous matches. Sub modes in WrestleMania Tour enable famous matches to be rewritten or redefined; both of which are tied into a points system that will keep your interest on the key objectives in each event. A finely crafted Hall of Fame virtual trophy room gives additional incentive for completing these.
It’s obvious that The Legend Killer mode is specifically crafted for WWE Legends Of WrestleMania as well. This one is a clever play oﬀ of Randy Orton’s “Legend Killer“ run, where you’ll have to use Legends Of WrestleMania’s Create mode to make a superstar who can compete with the best of the past. From there, Legends contains several gauntlets full of midgrade wrestlers that will have to be beaten in order to progress to the big boys. The Legends system is very deep and engrossing due to its aforementioned progression and the ability to power up your created hero/heel. There’s one definite downside to Legend Killer and one potential downside. The definite downer here is that you can’t create a finishing move for your wrestler like you can in SvR 2009. You can modify move sets and create an entrance, but stellar finishers are out. The one potential issue with Legend Killer is that at least a part of it requires character importation from SmackDown! vs. Raw. This is great news if you also own SvR 2009, since it will up the roster to hundreds of wrestlers and also allow the usage of SvR’s create-a objects, but it locks out a portion of the Legend Killer mode for those who don’t own/plan on owning WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2009. Having the ability to add SvR 2009 wrestlers into WWE Legends Of WrestleMania is sweet, but you probably won’t feel like you’re missing much if you’re into more ’80s/’90s mat action. It’s a pretty pure lineup, from superstar to whothe-hell-is-that and many in-between. There are always those who should have made these classic lineup lists but were overlooked, and those who were going to make it but couldn’t because of disparities litigious in nature (such as, where’s the Macho Man?), but, for the most part, WWE Legends Of WrestleMania’s roster is a WWF/WWE fans’ dream come true. The visuals are pretty much all there, too. A few facial maps
are a bit questionable, but the personalised animations of each star more than make up for lack of exact lookalike wireframe skinning. Classic entrance songs (I like that the song descriptors are always displayed when a track queues up) and character shenanigans very much true to the real personas help sell the all-important pageant side of the WrestleMania events featured in Legends. And, even though it’s a shame that the term WWF can’t be used because of a prior lawsuit, THQ has done a pretty good job at making this a non-factor in the presentation department. One area in the presentation that does seem slightly more out of place is the announcing. Lawler and Ross do a fine job, and their calls are filled with tasty, archival factoids on classic wrestlers and classic WrestleManias, but having some classic announcers (even guest announcers) for the ’80s and early ’90s matches could have helped to polish oﬀ Legends’ broadcast side.
The facial expressions are great. Pity some look unfinished.
It’s tough to get a game like WWE Legends Of WrestleMania right. It helps that the WWE licensing is all under one roof, of course (imagine trying to make a retro NASCAR game), making it easier for THQ to put what’s necessary in this ode. Beyond the licensing, WWE Legends Of WrestleMania is a smartly-designed game that enables studio antics to be more approachable to the common gamer. The gameplay isn’t dumbed down to the point where hardcore wrestling fans will scoﬀ at Legends either. Well, even if WWE Legends of WrestleMania’s gameplay does come across as a bit basic for the SvR masters, all will be forgotten when a bloodied Hulk Hogan prances around the ring posing to “I Am a Real American.“
SO WHY DO WE WANT TO PLAY IT? We want to throw Andre The Giant oﬀ a 16 foot high steel cage, just like old times.
The crazy match-ups. Where else can you have a match between The Honky Tonk Man and John Cena?
The character models, although very bulgy, look extremely detailed and we want to see them in action.
Everyone knows olden days wrestling is way better than the stuﬀ on TV now. Hopefully this game is the same.
Salem and Rios return, but now they’re in Shanghai on the brink of disaster.
Army Of 2 The 40th day
Can the sequel live up to the hype? Like in the first, when your silly partner gets shot, you have to drag him to safety.
A flooded city, a government conspiracy and a myriad of bullets—when players last saw Elliott Salem and Tyson Rios, they had been busy battling their way through Army Of 2, Electronic Arts’ co-op action game. The two mercenaries faced incredible odds and battled their way through a number of seemingly impossible situations, including the sinking of an aircraft carrier and a major hurricane that obliterated an American city. It seemed as though the two frequently found themselves in the wrong place in the wrong time. But now, thanks to the recent announcement of Army Of 2: The 40th Day, Salem and Rios will find themselves under siege, avoiding wide scale destruction and tracking down a mystery that threatens to destroy them both. At a press event in Montreal, I got a chance to check out the upcoming title to see just what all the fuss was about. The first Army of 2 game was a large departure for EA Montreal, both in the sense of the franchise being a new IP and the heavy focus on co-op play. While this was commercially acclaimed, the title wound up being savaged by some critics, something that Alain Tascan, the Vice President and General Manager of EA Montreal wanted to make sure was addressed. “What are the core elements that made people like it, and what were the core elements that made some experts not like it? We added a few things that were just a distraction to the game—for some people it was the taunts, for some people, it was the setting, for some people, it was the level of polish. We definitely said, ’Okay, we want to keep our fan base and not disappoint them and not go in a direction that is diﬀerent,’ but we also want to make sure that we’re showing the sequel to critics who will appreciate it more this time.“ As a result, the team decided to focus on two key elements of gameplay as they started 16 Player#122
working on the development of The 40th Day. The first facet was to keep and even improve on the co-op aspects of gameplay, providing a new and organic method of approaching the gameplay at any time. Whereas the first game had a limited amount of tactics that you could employ as you moved through environments, Army Of 2 will provide players with a large number of cooperative tactics that can be used at any time as you battle through the game. These tactics will dynamically update and change as you move through each environment, further giving players a new way to approach the various situations they’ll face in the game. To ensure that all of the player’s orders would be followed, the team spent time also overhauling the AI, which fans and critics alike called as robotic and somewhat inattentive. Now, if you’re playing a single player match, your partner will feel much more like it’s being controlled by another human being instead of the computer. For the sequel, the designers wanted to place the player in situations where disasters are raging around you and yet you remain in control of your actions to see you through. Banking on the exaggerated nature of the Army of Two universe, which is a heightened form of realism, the team wanted to establish a level of danger on par with that of the largest Hollywood action movies. To accomplish this, they decided to focus the game solely within one location, that of Shanghai, and bring it down around your head with a large number of catastrophes that would force you to reexamine your surroundings to survive.
“We could have done the same thing with the globetrotting and done the ice level, the volcano level, the cave level—but we thought, you know what, it’d be more interesting to try this and focus the team and make the setting the catastrophic scenarios, because catastrophes are everywhere,“ Tascan said. Even wounded, the Army Of 2 is stronger than most soldiers.That being said, Army Of 2: The 40th Day looks and sounds extremely good right now, and the levels that were being shown were months old, meaning that the team has had ample time to improve on and refine each area of gameplay. For instance, the sound designers spent time gathering gunfire sounds at Fort Irwin with an 80 microphone setup to record every single echo. Finally, I was told that it will play a much larger focus and role within The 40th Day, and will focus much more on co-op play and partnership than the first game did. However, the developers made sure that they highlighted the co-op aspects of play as the final word on the game, especially because their focus on making the first Army Of 2 centered around co-op play seemed to influence other developers to include more co-op modes in other games. This is our hope. I would say that we will have done something right if people say, ’If you want the best co-op experience, pure co-op, Army of two is in the drivers seat, still not perfect, but still in the driver’s seat. If we achieve that, then we have done something right. If we can be compared to fantastic games that are coming in a positive, equal way, then I’d be thrilled.“
SO WHY DO WE WANT TO PLAY IT? The first one was a great co-op game and they seem to be emphasizing that more in the sequel.
Cuts flawlessly from cinematics to game play. Only the second to do so (the first being Metal Gear Solid).
Those masks looks great, and customisation is always fun when you’re just about to shoot terrorists.
Multiple outcomes. For example, you can capture the bad guys and save hostages, or just shoot anything that moves.
coming soon Only on “Playstation“ and “PLAYSTATION“ are trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
Resistance 2 is bigger, better, and broader—everything a stellar sequel should be.
Details Platform Playstation 3 Publisher Insomniac Games Developer Neversoft Price $119.99 Players 1 Release Date Out now Genre First person shooter Supports 1080i, 720p Playstation Network Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Age Range 16+ Website www.resistance.com
In the great console wars of the 21st century, the exclusive first-person shooter is an elite paratrooper regiment, pushing deep behind enemy lines, paving the way for the long-term advances, claiming back enemy territory and banging the propaganda drum every step of the way. Resistance: Fall Of Man, launched with the PS3, wasn’t quite up to the job. It was a good soldier, but not an inspirational leader. So when you fire up Resistance 2, you may find yourself checking the box to make sure you’ve got the right disc. It’s so diﬀerent to its predecessor in so many beneficial ways that it’s almost an entirely new game. Picking up the story of Nathan Hale, a US soldier fighting back against the mutated Chimera menace in an alternate history where World War II never happened, it wastes no time transporting him from the rubble of Britain, via an unscheduled stop in Iceland, to the new battlefront: America. Control, too, has been completely overhauled. Primary and secondary fire is now mapped to the right shoulder buttons, with iron-sight aiming on L1 and L2 pulling double duty for both crouching (a quick tap) and sprinting (hold it down). Response feels faster, and the game’s pace has increased to match the slicker interface. Weapon selection has also changed, with Hale now restricted to just two firearms at a time. Even the health system has been revised, although this is disappointing, since the original game’s traditional health bar, divided into separately recharging quarters, was one of its best ideas. It’s a shame to see it replaced with yet another encroaching red mist to warn of impending death that dissipates after a few seconds’ rest. It’s traditional, of course, for shooters to showcase their evolution through new enemies and weapons,
and Resistance doesn’t disappoint on that front. In terms of new firepower, you get a well-balanced selection of human and Chimeran guns to play with, any of which will get you out of a tricky spot. Mainstays such as the Carbine, shotgun and sniper rifle all return, slightly tweaked, while some of the more popular Chimeran weapons also reprise their role. The Bullseye, for shooting around corners, is back along with the Auger, which can shoot through obstacles. It’s the new weapons that prove most interesting, however, and Resistance 2 can claim a special prize for having a desirable pistol. A powerful Magnum, it not only kills smaller foes with one shot, but the explosive bullets can also be detonated remotely. Given the game sometimes throws an astonishing number of enemies at you, it’s enormous fun to plug one of the advancing horde then take out others by detonating the corpse. The splicer is similarly fun, launching saw blades that zoom and ricochet around, homing in on multiple enemies and shearing heads and limbs. The Wraith, meanwhile, is a powerful mini-gun that tears through crowds and deploys a handy forcefield. Whenever you run dry on one gun, you never feel sorry to have to swap it for another. The gameplay has also adapted to this focus on mass destruction,
showing oﬀ the robust muscle of the graphics engine in the process. While the campaign mode doesn’t skimp on the tactical encounters that defined the original, pitting you against well-covered squads of enemies and forcing you to pick them oﬀ slowly but surely, it also draws inspiration from the manic shooters of the past for cathartic sequences. One memorable fragfest comes in an eerily deserted Californian town. Alien pods distort quaint Americana, and the whole level has a classic B-movie feel to it, as the pods begin to hatch, spitting easily-killed but fast and ferocious mutated zombies at you. Eventually, seeking refuge in the town’s cinema, you’re faced with a heaving auditorium. There are easily thirty or more enemies, all skittering and clawing at you, and the mixture of panic and exhilaration as you carve a path to safety through their decaying bodies is far more thrilling than anything in the first game. Enemies are, on the whole, much larger and meaner than before. Luckily, you’ve got the improved arsenal to deal with them. Other enemies are less successful, though. Furies are indestructible aquatic creatures that patrol submerged areas killing anyone who lingers in the water, a fairly crude way of keeping you on track. The same is true of the chameleon
Good guy or bad guy? You’ll have to play to find out.
Everything just seems so much bigger this time round, and we love it.
If we had an eye infection like that, we’d probably be screaming too.
With enemies like this, you’ll need all the friends you can get.
monsters that suddenly lunge towards you, shrouded in a Predatorstyle cloaking device. For all its ability to surprise you with masses of enemies, the graphics engine doesn’t always hold up under pressure either. There’s a fair amount of clipping —one defeated Titan ended up half embedded in a warehouse before exploding messily, and it’s reasonably common to find a lone Chimera stuck in a corner, obliviously trying to walk through a solid object. Such hiccupy moments tend to stand out all the more because of the extremely high graphical standard in general, and if you can forgive such lapses you’re left with one of the best-looking games on the PS3. The campaign mode is hefty in size, at least for the genre, oﬀering around ten hours for an averagely skilled player on normal diﬃculty. It’s well-paced, and throws up plenty of varied scenarios to test your mettle. The story feels somewhat perfunctory, though no worse than any of its rivals, and even the predictable excursions inside enemy ships are more bearable than similar levels in other games, even if the sweeping alien architecture may leave you wondering if you’re fighting the Chimera or the Covenant. Speaking of which, Resistance 2 is arguably more cohesive than any of Halo’s
single-players, and while the game never quite matches Bungie’s highs, it never plunges to the same depths either. Even in a battle against an alien swarm that some will peg as a Flood rip-oﬀ, the challenge is more balanced, the outcome more interesting and the integration into the wider gameplay more satisfying. You choose from three classes Soldier, Spec Ops and Medic—with each relying on the other two for success. Soldiers are tough, wellarmed and can use their Wraith mini-guns to create mobile shields to protect other players as you push forwards. Medics can heal wounded teammates, but rather than removing them from active duty the game allows them to join in the combat as well, drawing health from enemies to heal themselves. Spec Ops troops can fling fresh ammo to other players but also deal in heavy damage, making them the frontline choice for larger boss battles. Overall, multiplayer is the satisfying other half to a formidable package, and Resistance 2 is precisely the sort of exclusive game that the PS3 needs. Improving tenfold on its predecessor in almost every area, it not only belongs on the shopping list of existing Resistance fans, but those who were underwhelmed with the original will also want to check it out, and then fight for it on the internet. It’s the way of the warrior.
Player Magazine verdict Outstanding presentaion Great varied weapons Intelligent AI Great multiplayer options Characters aren’t well developed
Classic world warriors make a return with a nice next-gen look.
Street Fighter IV
A must have for any fighter fan
Details Platform Playstation 3, Xbox 360 Publisher Namco Developer Bandai Price $129.99 Players 2 Release Date Out now Genre Beat ’em up Supports 1080i, 720p Playstation Network Xbox Live Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Age Range 12+ Website www.streetfighter4.com
Fighting game fans that don’t have access to a Japanese arcade have been waiting for Street Fighter IV for a long time. Capcom’s high-profile fighter continues a nearly twenty year tradition and many gamers, especially long-time fans, have been intensely curious as to how the game will play and what it will do for the legendary series. The good news is that Street Fighter IV is an outstanding title and one of the most enjoyable fighting games I’ve ever played. Capcom has managed to strip away the baggage that has accumulated around the series over the years and returned to the franchise’s roots. The result is a game that plays very much like a purified, simple fighter—but with several modern enhancements to enrich the combat. If you’ve been playing Street Fighter for years, this game will feel like an old friend. If you’re completely new to the scene, Street Fighter IV is a great place to start. Street Fighter has traditionally been a game focused on one-onone combat on a 2D plane. Over the years, the roster has evolved and various tweaks have been made to the formula, but the core components remain the same to this day. Street Fighter IV lets you select a character and square oﬀ against another warrior in the ring. Each character has a variety of normal attacks and Special Moves to take advantage of, but the actual
gameplay boils down to a balance between raw physical skill and the mind games that play out between both players. The beauty of Street Fighter IV stems from how approachable the game is and how it can be enjoyed on so many diﬀerent levels. For those gamers interested in grabbing trusty ol’ Ryu and diving into the mix, things will feel natural and there’s no need to obsess over learning all the subtle details and nuances that make up the fighting game experience. However, there’s so much flowing beneath the surface of Street Fighter IV’s mechanics that longtime fans will have plenty to learn and re-master, if they want to truly understand the gameplay. For example, one of the newest systems in Street Fighter IV is the Focus system, which allows a character to charge up an attack that will knock an opponent down if it connects properly. For a beginner, the Focus Attack isn’t necessarily needed to win. He or she could simply rely on the traditional assortment of fireballs and dragon punches to get by and have a good time doing it. But if the Focus Attack seems appealing, performing it is a piece of cake — just hold down both Medium Punch and Medium Kick together and charge it up (or alternatively, just assign the attack to a button of your choice in the options menu). But that’s not all
You would probably make a funny face too.
there is to the Focus system. Players who want to dig even deeper into the technical elements of it all will learn that the Focus Attack can also absorb a single oncoming strike without being interrupted. Although you take damage for the absorption, that damage will heal given time. In this way, the Focus Attack becomes a defensive technique as well as an oﬀensive one and oﬀers even more strategy for players to consider. And there’s even more. You can also cancel a Focus Attack mid-
When we say highly detailed character models, we mean it. One of the new characters, a Mexican wrestling chef called El Fuerte.
Ryu and Ken’s teacher Gouken.
charge by dashing out of it, which can help you play tricks on your opponent. Or, you can expend a portion of your Super meter to cancel a Special Move directly into a Focus Attack. This single system depicts the broader Street Fighter IV picture: it’s so easy to pick up and play but there’s enough depth to keep even the most hardcore competitors satisfied. For those new players, there are also new characters to experiment with. Besides a few unlockable
fighters, Street Fighter IV introduces Abel, Crimson Viper, Rufus and El Fuerte right oﬀ the bat and each new competitor is a welcome addition to the cast. I’m particularly fond of Crimson Viper, as her design is extremely stylish and her collection of special moves makes her a (flexible) force to be reckoned with. Of course, all the classic characters are back as well, like Ryu, Ken, ChunLi, Dhalsim and Guile. Like so many of the other elements in Street Fighter IV, the original characters feel exactly like they should and that’s absolutely a good thing. Street Fighter IV feels sublime and is a real blast to play. It’s easy to see that an absurd amount of eﬀort was put into balancing and fine-tuning the game, as every match runs beautifully and controls smoothly. Obviously some characters are stronger than others, as has been the case with the series for years now, but a truly skilled player can still take a character and do some impressive things in the ring, much to the dismay of his or her opponents.
Street Fighter IV is a fantastic game overall and Capcom should be commended for designing a game that can work on so many levels. I’ll admit that when I first heard I was reviewing Street Fighter IV, I wasn’t terribly excited. But as I played and experimented with each character, fighting a variety of the folks at Player Magazine and learning something new with every match, I realized just how irrevocably deep fighting games—and Street Fighter games in particular, really are. I encourage everyone to give Street Fighter IV a try, even if you’re new to the fighting game scene.
Player Magazine verdict Gorgeous character models Plenty of replay value Comprehensive multiplayer modes No tournament mode Accessible but nuanced gameplay
The creepy little girl is back
Scenes like these are common in F.E.A.R. 2.
Details Platform Playstation 3, Xbox 360 Publisher Monolith Developer Warner Bros. Interactive Price $99.99 Players 1 Release Date Out now Genre First person shooter Supports 720p Playstation Network Xbox Live Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Age Range 16+ Website www.fear2.com
The image of a pasty-skinned, greasy haired young girl has become an iconic one in horror films like The Ring, and the original F.E.A.R. introduced a similar figure with great success. Of course, that game gave its ghostly visions a chilling context, drawing you into the unnerving story of a paranormal prodigy named Alma and the horrific suﬀering to which she was subjected. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin returns to this fertile universe, but rather than scrutinize even darker reaches of the soul, it merely skims the surface, oﬀering up a series of eerie visions without delivering a good mystery to bind them together. The good news for shooter fans is that the bullet-blasting core of the experience is sound, propelling you forward with enough intensity to keep the single-player campaign engaging. Most of what’s here has been done better before, but the unspectacular elements have been stitched into an enjoyably moody first-person shooter that relies on rock-solid game mechanics rather than true inspiration.
After a short exposition, F.E.A.R. 2 picks up where the original left oﬀ, with a bang. The city is in tatters, and as Michael Becket of Delta Force, it is up to you and your squadmates to capture the elusive Genevieve Aristide, president of the nefarious Armacham Technology Corporation. Too much description would risk spoiling the game’s few surprises, which are better experienced than narrated, though as it happens, there are few enigmas to unravel. F.E.A.R. 2’s story paints itself into a corner, oﬀering very little new to players already familiar with the Project Origin referred to in the title, and nothing compelling enough to wrap newcomers into its fold. With Alma now a known quantity, paranormal secrecy has been replaced by a series of near-cliche bump-in-the-night scares and murky visions that do the unthinkable where a horror-themed game is concerned,s they become far too predictable. Because the pacing and story layout of the game can be a bit predictable at times, F.E.A.R. 2 is real If you keep picking at that, it’s never going to heal.
scares come from its atmosphere and this actually works, sometimes. Expect to jump out of your seat on occasion, when your flashlight flickers and ghostly visages surround you, or when staccato orchestral chords signal the emergence of abominations as they break free from their confining cells. Other attempts at scares just seem stale, given that the game’s pacing and level design foreshadow these encounters, therefore emasculating the necessary sense of surprise. However, the excellent sound design is never to blame. A variety of creaks and groans gives ebb and flow to the sense of tension, and musical swells and increasingly hectic clatters and clangs will get your pulse pounding when needed. Unfortunately, the visuals don’t paint a picture dour enough to match. Some areas are shrouded with moody environmental shadows, in which light and dark contrast to excellent eﬀect. In other levels, the lack of ambient lighting and accompanying silhouettes are noticeable, and the surrounding frights just feel flaccid. F.E.A.R. 2 simply doesn’t match its FPS peers from a technical perspective, so though it looks good, the simple textures, inconsistent shadows, and occasional clipping and other glitches detract from the sppoky atmosphere. The level design also falls victim to a fair bit of predictability, though to F.E.A.R. 2’s credit, you’ll break away from the endless oﬃce corridors of the original and journey through a greater variety of environments. These areas are usually just as claustrophobic, but they won’t often deliver that spine-tingling fear of the specters lurking beyond the reach of your flashlight. Trekking
around in their final moments, an eﬀect made even more eﬀective by robust (and occasionally oversensitive) rag-doll animations. Unfortunatly F.E.A.R. 2’s multiplayer component feels like filler, and though we’ve come to expect online play from most of our shooters, there’s nothing special about this suite of lackluster options.It doesn’t even come close to the online content oﬀered by other games in the genre. You’ll get the occasional heebiejeebies from F.E.A.R. 2, but the magic of the first game hasn’t been recreated here. It is true that some of the changes in the new game seem like they were intended to address criticism of the first F.E.A.R.: tedious and claustrophobic environments, lack of enemy variety, and so on. Like the protagonist of F.E.A.R., you can activate reflex time, which slows the action to a crawl and lets you battle your enemies in a bullet-time ballet. Sadly, though these changes were made, the resulting sequel, while fun and well-crafted, seems to have lost sight of the strengths that made its predecessor so unique. Nevertheless, playing F.E.A.R. 2 is a worthwhile way to pass the time while we wait for the inevitable next installment.
Silent Hill or Constantine? Either way it’s not very original.
Player PlayerMagazine Magazineverdict verdict Slow-mo shoot outs good gory fun Slow-mo shoot outs good gory fun Variety with new vehicles Variety with new vehicles Some cool, spooky imagery Some cool, spooky imagery Story oﬀoﬀ ersers little mystery oror suspense Story little mystery suspense Cliched random scares and design Cliched random scares and design
82 81 % %
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through the rubble of decaying city streets is a good change of pace, but the ultraconvenient manner in which the debris holds you to your narrow path is a familiar design ploy. Similarly, there’s no more excitement to be found in F.E.A.R. 2’s same-old subway than that of any other game. It’s at its best when it leaves these stale tropes behind and builds on its roots as a corridor shooter, such as in a nail-biting sojourn through the halls of an elementary school that hides unspeakable horrors. Entering a dusky music classroom to find a hideous mutant pounding on the keys of a piano with abandon is a singular moment, and the ensuing battles are ripe and exhilarating reminders of the series’ explosive early origins. You’ve seen a similar mechanic a lot by now, but it’s skillfully done here. Grenade explosions create impressive visual distortions, bullets leave an airstream in their wake, and spoken dialogue and sound eﬀects grind to a muﬄed crawl. Landing headshots in reflex time is particularly enjoyable and gives F.E.A.R. 2’s gruesome levels of violence a temporary starring role. Foes erupt in red gushers, staining the walls with blood and flailing
Resident Evil 5
Chris Redfields back, and this time he’s got a friend to help kill zombies
Details Platform Playstation 3, Xbox 360 Publisher Namco Developer Namco/Bandai Price $129.99 Players 2 Release Date Out now Genre Horror, action adventure Supports 1080i, 720p Playstation Network Xbox Live Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Age Range 16+ Website www.residentevil5.com
Resident Evil 5 is a game with an identity crisis. By attempting to straddle a line between action and suspense, playing to two diﬀerent strengths, it manages to undercut the eﬀectiveness of both. Resident Evil 4 took genre conventions and evolved them, making an experience that was more accessible, and, by most estimations, all but flawless. So it’s even more puzzling when Resident Evil 5 retreats from that path, pulls back from what made its predecessor so strong, and finds itself in a very confusing place. RE5 marks the return of the notparticularly-notable-or-likable Chris Redfield, who ditches his STARS aﬃliation to join the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance and investigate a bio-organic weapons deal in Kijuju, a fictional African country. He’s immediately joined by Sheva, a local BSAA member who acts as his trusty partner through the entire adventure. I should pause it here and discuss the co-op issue. Namely: It’s the only way to play. Capcom’s trying some interesting stuﬀ here, attempting to create tension through the dynamic between the two players, and you’re going to miss a lot of it if you’re letting the computer call the shots for Sheva.
These things swallow bullets like candy. It can get pretty frustrating.
When you’re with a human partner, you’re having to watch two life bars instead of just one, constantly having to ask your partner about the ammo and health they’ve got on hand. There’s a give and take there, balancing your desire to survive with your concern for the other player. AI Sheva, though, she seems to have little consideration for herself, getting, for example, mauled by a chain gun only to use up your healing items. She is, however, completely devoted to you, healing you up at the slightest bit of trouble (if she hasn’t used all the herbs for herself ) and always risking herself to save you, eﬀectively cutting the tension of a severe attack. The partner dynamic does away with a lot of the isolation and fear that has been a series hallmark for so long. It’s hard to not be frustrated when you see how right RE5 is capable of getting it. The absence of fear is one of the fundamental problems here. All the cumbersome inventory management (better here than before, but still not ideal), the clunky enemy AI, the (by comparison to other action games) stilted controls are all completely acceptable if they’re in the service of fear and intensity—those values Resident Evil has always so expertly
cultivated. But when little else in the game is working towards frightening or even unnerving you, those odd facets aren’t “just how Resident Evil is.“ They’re bad. I don’t say that without any sort of context. I say “they’re bad“ because those gameplay mechanics hamper whatever strength RE5 has as an action game; getting in the way of the immersion, the fluidity an action-based approach needs to work. Meanwhile, the steps Capcom takes towards making RE5 an Americanised action game (check points, copious amounts of ammo, etc.) negate the sting of death and, by extension, the fear of death. Other series tropes have been ditched, too: Exploration has been cut to a minimum and the couple of puzzles are so depressingly half-hearted as to almost be unworthy of the word. We’re talking heading to the point conveniently mapped on your radar, picking up the plate, putting it in the door. That kind of puzzle. If Capcom wanted to ditch the survival-horror thing in favour of uninterrupted action, I wouldn’t complain, though I realise many series stalwarts would. But to try cling to both? Suicide. Am I being overdramatic? Sure. But it’s hard to not be frustrated when
you see how right RE5 is capable of getting it. Many of the boss battles involve quick-time events that require you to alternate between firing your weapons at an enemy and quickly pressing buttons at a specified time. Some of these mega-fights, like the one with the giant troll-like creature who wears a belt of dead people, are a real adrenaline rush. Others, like an early fight with a monster that needs to be burned in an incinerator, are more of an ode to past RE games where beating a boss was often equal parts puzzle solving mixed with shooting. Putting down a big boss rewards you with a bit of the RE5 storyline, which follows Chris and Sheva as they attempt to stop a suspected weapons deal being spearheaded by an unsavory fellow named Ricardo Irving. This gem of a character boasts some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard in a game in years, with the writing to back it up. Irving looks like a reject from a Miami Vice episode and talks like Jimmy Durante and Chris, meet Sheva. Now go kill some zombies.
Most of the bosses don’t really care about fire, because they are usually on fire to start with.
Gilbert Gottfried’s love child. But would it really be a Resident Evil game without the convoluted storyline, overflowing cliches and campy writing? I can definitely report that silly storytelling and B-movie bad guys are a Resident Evil convention that Capcom left untouched with this release. As one character is rapidly evolving from a human into a hideous aquatic tentacle monster, he screams with glee, “I just had an extreme makeover!“ Classic. With Resident Evil 5, Capcom has broken away from many of the survival horror conventions it pioneered. The creepy suspense of the earlier games has been replaced with an action-packed intensity that will instantly appeal to some gamers and disappoint others. As an action game, RE5 is a success, and there is a wealth of replayability through item collection, weapon upgrades, score chasing and the unlockable Mercenaries mode. But this is no gentle nudge to the formula of the previous main RE games; it’s an evolution. And if you can accept it as that, you just might love Resident Evil 5. When RE5 decides on a path and follows it, the result is dazzling. When you’re occasionally made to be truly afraid of what you’re fighting or feel like your partner is in peril, it’s the Resident Evil of old; and maybe even better, thanks to the stunning, horrifyingly realistic graphics. And when you’re provided a decent cover
mechanic later in the game and pitted against a horde of gun-toting zombies, it’s new, it’s diﬀerent, and it’s no less great. The A.I. does a good job of recognising when melee attacks are both advisable and eﬀective, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck when you’re playing online. It’s quite satisfying to work as a team to pull oﬀ impressive weapon-andmelee combos, and this teamwork approach carries over to the boss battles, too. Like every aspect of RE5, the bosses and mini-bosses (including the Chainsaw Majini boss) are best tackled with a partner. It’s not a bad game: It’s a solidly constructed, workman-like eﬀort with some cool set pieces that figure into some exciting boss fights (I’m looking at you, rad blast furnace battle with giant plague zombie). But too often you’re left befuddled, muddling through some strange, wrong-headed mixture somewhere between action and horror, hoping against hope that Resident Evil finds its way again.
Player Magazine verdict Beautifully detailed graphics Co-op works well Real-time menu keeps you immersed Plenty to do once you’ve beaten it Slow movement and gunplay
next month 09
Red Faction: Guerrilla Fighting for independence with a sledgehammer and explosive charges.
Issue# 123 includes
All the latest PSP, PS3 and Xbox 360 trailers, and over 2 hours of it to boot! 26 Player#122
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Massive in depth previews and reviews including
Guitar Hero: Metallica We take a look at the first Guitar Hero spin-oﬀ to support guitars, drums, and vocals.
All the very latest from the world’s premier games show including God Of War III,Team Ico’s next game, Home and so much more…
Call of Juarez Bound in Blood It’s back to the blood-drenched Wild West.
Wolfenstein We strap on our boots, blast some Nazis, and try out the supernatural powers of the upcoming first-person shooter Wolfenstein.
Wanted: Glowing red eyes, where have we seen that before? Exclusive review of this hyped up action shooter based on the recent Hollywood flick. Is it better than the movie? Well, that wouldn’t really be too hard, would it? Player#122
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