Thursday, 30 December 2010

Daddy Brown's Games of 2010

Action/Adventure: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Driving: Gran Turismo 5

Beat 'em Up: Super Street Fighter IV

FPS: Halo: Reach

Rhythm/Music: Rock Band 3

Platform: Super Mario Galaxy 2

RPG: Demon's Souls

Sports: FIFA 11

Strategy/Simulation: Gran Turismo 5

Best Online Mode: Halo: Reach

Biggest Surprise: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

Best Downloadable Game: The King of Fighers 2002: Unlimited Match

Biggest Disappointment: Kinect

Worst Game: Kinect Joyride

Overall Game Of The Year: Heavy Rain


Honorable Mentions:
Alan Wake
Mass Effect 2
NFS: Hot Pursuit
God of War 3
Dead Rising 2
Red Dead Redemption

Industry Quote of the Year:

“Our games are not designed for young people. If you are a parent and buy one of our games for your child, then you are a terrible parent.”

Rockstar’s Lazlow Jones defends the firm’s violent games on BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat. 21/05/10

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Game Review: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves-PS3

Developed by Naughty Dog, (creators of the hugely popular, million selling franchise Crash Bandicoot ), Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was an action adventure game in the style of Tomb Raider, one that boasted lush visuals, an excellent script, superb voice acting and edge of your seat set pieces. Naturally the game was an immediate hit amongst the Sony fanbase and garnered favourable opinions from all corners of the industry so it came as no surprise when a sequel was announced for 2009.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves sees you once again take on the role of our grave robbing hero Nathan "Nate" Drake as he sets out to discover the legendary mystical valley of Shangri-La and the Cintamani Stone, a mythical rock that is said to grant one with great strength and powers. The adventure begins by throwing the player right into the thick of things with a wounded Nate hanging upside down in a train cart which hangs precariously over a cliff edge. From the get go you’ll be impressed by both the visual and cinematic quality on display as you help Nate climb his way up through the wreak before it plummets into the misty depths below. The snow and wind whips around Drake in such a realistic fashion that it adds to the sense of urgency in such a way it's hard not to catch your breath each time a piece of train breaks away threatening to send Nate to his doom. Eventually you claw your way onto the cliff edge and the game fades out, taking you back a few weeks to previous events.

Nathan's adventure begins when old friends Harry Flynn and Chloe Frazer approach him with a job offer to steal an oil lamp from an Istanbul museum. Nate accepts the job when he learns that the lamp may lead to the legendary treasures said to have been procured Marco Polo's lost fleet. It's here that you get a good sense of Nate's abilities from running, jumping, climbing and melee combat; all of which are much like those found in Nate’s first adventure on the PS3 but much more fluid and precise in their execution. Melee combat, for example, feels a lot more meaty and satisfying with both open combos and stealth attacks providing some small amusement in an affectionate nod towards the fisticuffs found in the Indiana Jones movies.

Control of Nate through his environment is tremendous fun. While it's often clear as to where to go next, which ledge to jump to and from, which crack in the wall to take a hold of and so forth it does it in a way that blends into the environment seamlessly thus creating the illusion that you're guiding Nate through a perfectly natural route as opposed to throwing up obvious way-points through some linear path. Of course that’s exactly what you are doing, but it’s a testament to the carefully thought out level design that makes the illusion that you’re not following some ridged, pre-determined path even more acceptable.

Combat is as intense as it is satisfying and makes much better use of the cover system found in the first game. You can also hurl gas canisters into the air before making them explode with a perfectly aimed shot from Nate's pistol causing walkways to collapse underfoot, vehicles to explode and walls to crumble onto enemies. Paying careful attention to Nate’s surrounding environment you’ll always find something to even the odds a little should you find yourself outgunned. Enemies are intelligent and will attempt to outmaneuver you should you hang around in one spot for too long, but in the same sense they're also dumb enough to be outmaneuvered by you, leading to some amusing moments during a heated gun fight.

As you progress thought the game you start to realize just how stunning Uncharted 2 is. Environments are highly detailed and simply ooze character and believability. It's obvious that a lot of forethought has been crafted into each and every area to give the player a total sense of immersion, even if you are essentially looking from the outside-in as you guide Nate on his adventure. Rain, wind and snow all act as they would in the real world and are perhaps some of the best examples of weather to be currently found in a video game. Wood cracks and splinters realistically, metal fractures and bends, explosions hurl chunks of debris through the air with incredible effect and so on. Character models are well drawn and all-from the main players to disposable henchmen-have believable facial expressions, realistic body language and a fluidity to their movement that captures both the action and set pieces superbly.

It’s also worth noting that with its witty, emotional, gritty and even sometimes cheesy dialogue Uncharted 2 arguably also has some of the finest voice acting and script writing of any video game. Combined with no apparent loading sections you could be watching any Saturday afternoon matinee as each scene moves seamlessly into the next as the story is carried forward. Alone the story is both compelling and gripping, but intertwined with such well presented voice acting and the games smooth progression from one act to the next it rides along effortlessly, conjuring up the kind of thrills and excitement one would expect from a blockbuster movie, albeit one that you are actively taking part in.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a masterclass in how to develop a video game; a finally crafted piece of work that brings video games one step closer to a more respectable place alongside film and music. Beautifully told and simply exhilarating to play it is easily one of the finest and most accomplished games of the last decade.


Game Review: Tekken 6-PS3, Xbox 360

In todays competitive games market where online gaming is the dominant factor in the success or failure of a title even the most popular franchises have to do more than a tweak here and a polish there to raise its head above the crowd in a bid for front room dominance. One such series is Tekken and from its early days as the king of Playstation fighters Tekken has always been a firm favourite amongst beat ‘em up fans by not so much re-inventing itself, but by staying true to its form as an accessible fighter that boasts huge amounts of hidden depth and character. It will come as a welcome surprise then to learn that Tekken 6 has stayed true to said formula.

Arcade, Vs, Online and Ghost Mode, (where you’re pitted against an endless stream opponents who’s skills are based on some of Tekken’s most proficient players as well as those you can download to test your skills), continue to deliver as satisfying a fighting experience we’ve come to expect from the series and will often have you reaching for the pad for ‘just one more go’. In a surprise move from Namco the game starts with every character unlocked; however there are also several new faces added to the roster with each bringing their own unique style to the proceedings. These new fighters come in the shape of all rounder, Spanish born Miguel; head popping cyborg Alisa; a rather large but deceptively swift Bob; wiry Egyptian hotty, Zafina; Lars who has connections to the Mishima’s; and Leo, who's is possibly the most accessible of the new breed. Along with these new characters there’s also two new systems present in combat; ‘Rage’ and ‘Bound’. The former gives players whose health is at a dangerously low level the ability to hit just that bit harder whilst the latter allows players who have begun a juggle combo to literally smash their opponent into the ground making them bounce back up into the air to unleash another barrage of strikes.

In past iterations Namco have included a handful of game modes with Tekken that stray away from the normal Vs modes. These have come in the shape of Tekken Bowl, (a very playable take on 10 pin bowling), Tekken Force and Devil Within, (both an awful take on the scrolling beat ‘em up of yesteryear), and in the sixth iteration we now have Scenario Mode. Much like Tekken Force before it Scenario Mode requires that you move from one area to the next happy slapping anyone in your path before ending each stage with the obligatory ‘Boss Fight’. Unfortunately it rarely raises itself above being anything other than a mild distraction and only really serves as a tool for which to add more features and customisations for other game modes whilst also allowing you to put your own stamp on your favourite fighters with new clothing and accessories. You could simply ignore Scenario Mode but, and here’s the rub, whereas before the unlocking of hidden characters, extra costumes, levels, cinematics and story came down to playing through Tekken’s single player arcade mode, in order to unlock many of Tekken 6’s bonus content you have to play through this dreary scrolling beat ‘em up many times over.

Thankfully then the combat proper in Tekken 6 looks and plays fantastic and is unquestionably the best of the series yet; both visually and in execution. Characters are big, bold and beautifully rendered with slick animations that are complimented with fighting arenas that are lavishly detailed and a musical score that carries the pace of battle superbly. While the traditional game modes may have-for reasons only known to Namco-taken a back seat to some half baked scrolling beat ‘em up, Tekken has a had long and favourable history where even the low points have always outclassed many other games in the genre and Tekken 6 is no exception to that rule.

Great to look at and-Scenario Mode aside-even better to play, Tekken 6 can safely hold its head high as a testament to the fact that while the humble beat ‘em up may have taken a backseat to the draw of the First Person Shooter in many a gamers homes it’s a genre that is still very much alive and kicking.


Friday, 3 December 2010

Game Review: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood-Multi-format

If there’s one certainty with Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed series is that it’s home to a plot that makes about as much sense as a Japanese VRC instruction manual being read out loud by some guy called Desmond* and his nerdy mates, so you’ll excuse me if I refrain from attempting to iterate it back to you here. What I can tell you is that it’s set directly after the events that took place in AC: II whereupon you relinquish the role of renaissance assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze and his ongoing struggle against the Borgia. While one might be forgiven for thinking of this latest installment in the series as Assassin’s Creed 2.5, Ubisoft have actually crammed in a wealth of content, missions and side quests, combined with a single player campaign spanning over 20 hours and a competent and engaging multi-player for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to stand on it’s own two feet as a worthwhile inclusion to the franchise.

Save for a few new combat manoeuvres little has changed in Ezio’s repertoire of moves and abilities since the previous game, which makes for a familiar suite of inspired gameplay and clumsy awkwardness. Bounding across the rooftops of Rome with cat-like grace to then take out ones intended target with deadly precision is as satisfying as ever, but for every glorious moment of satisfaction there are [nearly] as many moments of teeth-gnashing frustration. As you nimbly run and jump from one roof top to another, what seemed like a simple combination of button presses only moments before suddenly has you bouncing off walls, leaping in the wrong direction or falling helplessly to the cobble stoned streets below. It’s the same with combat which shifts between you skilfully felling several enemies in an audacious whirlwind of steel to clumsily tripping over your own sword just as move in for the kill. You haven’t changed how you approached these situations any differently from the last time and you certainly haven’t lost all feeling in your fingers and thumbs; the game has just suddenly decided that you’re no longer quite that skilful.

It’s this lack of consistency during gameplay, (something that has been prevalent since gamers first donned the white cowl in Assassin’s Creed), that threatens to break what is-for the most part-one of the most intuitive combat-cum-platformer in years. As gamers we’re accustomed to making our own mistakes and if we lose then it should be down to our own lack of skill, not because the game suddenly decides we’re going to have a bad day by wresting control from us, if only for a few fleeting moments. Having said that, when it does all come together and you find yourself perfectly in tune with what’s happening on screen you can forgive these shortcomings and revel in its brilliance; even if it does mean reloading that previous memory and starting again.

As before Ezio can call upon the aid of the thieves, courtesans and mercenaries to help him in combat and out of tight situations, but this time around there’s the added bonus that upon Ezio destroying a Borgia Tower he can then recruit and train an assassin, (up to total of twelve), to do his bidding. Not only can you call upon these Ezio clones for support, but you also send them out into Europe to complete various assignments and contracts in order to progress their experience. XP can be spent to improve their skills, change their appearance and so on thus making them better, more efficient killers. While not a terribly new concept it is, however, another example in cementing the knowledge that AC: Brotherhood is more than just a cash cow hastily developed for Christmas and is, in fact, perhaps more of a nod towards what Ubisoft have in store for us with Assassin’s Creed III sometime in the new year or thereafter.

Of course it should come as no surprise that, like those gone before it, AC: Brotherhood looks and sounds absolutely spectacular. With noticeable improvements to character models, (facial animations and general movement being the most obvious), and sound throughout, nowhere is Ubisoft’s aesthetic overhaul in their best selling franchise more apparent than in Rome itself. Older gamers, (myself included), often speak in awe of just how far video games have come since we were children and AC: Brotherhood is one such video game that will undoubtedly stir these emotions and prompt discussion. From Rome’s sundrenched, tightly packed rooftops to its bustling, winding streets and overcrowded, sweltering market places it’s a remarkable re-creation of the ancient world in digital form; one that’s’ been so meticulously and loving crafted by its development team and the artists therein that you can almost drink the atmosphere. I’ve never been to Rome, but I doff my hat to Ubisoft for at least giving me a taste of what it may have been like to stand at the highest point of the Colosseum and look out over Rome during the 16th Century. You may find yourself plummeting to your death from the highest of towers after battling with the controls more than once in AC: Brotherhood, but at least you’ll look good doing it.

So to conclude then, this latest adventure into the world of Assassin’s Creed is unquestionably the best in the series yet. It’s story still might not make a great deal of sense and there’s still some work to be done with regards to the general flow of combat and movement, but as it stands Assassin’s Creed is a series that has gone from strength to strength with each new release and AC: Brotherhood continues that trend with aplomb. A flawed, yet beautifully crafted diamond.


* For those not in the loop, in Assassin's Creed you are, in reality, playing as a modern-day man named Desmond Miles, who through the use of a machine named the "Animus", is allowed to view and control the protagonist's genetic memories of his ancestors. In the first game it was Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad, a member of the Hashshashin during the third crusade and then Ezio Auditore de Firenze in AC: II and AC: Brotherhood consecutively.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Gran Turismo 5-24th November. Finally, it's here!

And reports from those who have been lucky enough to get their hands on a copy early suggest that it's the absolute mutts nuts.

However, I've agreed for the Wife to purchase it me for Christmas. It's another month, but after almost 6 years I can wait one more month. I am an adult after all...sometimes...maybe...

Moving on, below are some shots of what to expect for car interiors featured in the game. I should point out that cockpit views are reserved for GT5's premium car models; of which there are about 200 or so. Bit of a downer but lets be realistic and put a positive spin on things: GT5 has taken long enough; detailing the interiors of 1000 seperate cars would be a mammoth task and although I am a little disappointed-as I like playing from the cockpit view in nearly all racing games-not having a cockpit view in previous Gran Turismo's hasn't stopped my enjoyment of the games at all.

And here is a shot of the game in action. Petrol heads are going to love it.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Blast From The Past: WRC Evolved-PS2

It might be five years old, but WRC: Evolved is still by and far and away the best 'real' rally game available, even bettering this years WRC on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in terms of delivery, style and execution.
WRC: Evolved not only features the complete 2005 WRC Championship, (including all the tracks, all the drivers and all the cars), but also features real dynamic weather effects as well as the impressive Random Event Engine.  With this new engine developer Evolution Studios were able to kick up all kinds of events during the course of any stage; from warnings of other drivers crashed or stopped on each stage, wildlife suddenly jumping out in front of you, rocks tumbling from cliff faces, water spills from broken river banks, dust and debris kicked up by other drivers and all matter of obstacles for you to navigate as you blast your way through 16 levels of fog, snow, mud and rain at frightening speeds and at varying times of day and night.  As with all the other WRC games over the years Evolved also has a co-driver who praises or scalds you depending on your performance and who, due to the random events found on each stage, is also quick to warn you of track events. The game also features real time damage and component failure which can hamper your performance; all of which adds to the sense of realism.

There is also a Rally Cross mode where up to 4 players can race in split screen mode but as good as it is it’s in the rally proper itself where WRC: Evolved really shines.  The best bit? If you’ve still got your PS2, (as any good gamer should have), then you can pick it up on Amazon for about a fiver! Bargain.

Anyway, below is a video of me going at breakneck speed through the back roads of New Zealand in a Skoda Fabia.  I’m playing the full 16 country season on professional level using manual/semi-automatic gears and from the cock-pit view. Hard as nails, (especially when you can only just see past the bonnet in thick fog and snow), but its great fun.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Kinect: Is your house compatible?

Thinking of splashing out a £129.99 on a shiny new Microsoft Kinect for your Xbox 360 next week? Well before you do you might want to check to see if you're living room/bedroom/gaming room is big enough, because if it's not then Kinect simply won't work properly and you can forget about two player gaming altogether. Hit the link below and have a watch of this rather revealing vid from Gamesradar.

Oh dear, my house is not compatible with Kinect

Even if I wanted Kinect it wouldn't work in my house because while it may be a three bedroom there simply isn't enough room for it to work at it's optimal capacity in my living room. Also, I'm not going to start moving the bloody sofas and whatnot about just to play some party games, not when I've got boxes of the kids toys already behind one and a unit with a fish tank behind the other.

If you find yourself in a similar position my advice is to stick with the Nintendo Wii or buy Playstation Move instead because Kinect could end up just being an expensive waste of time. Remember, GAME, HMV, PC World and pretty much all the other retailers don't do refunds on non-faulty goods and they certainly won't refund your Kinect just because your house isn't the right size for it.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Yes, I know it's more Mortal Kombat related stuff but...

Apparently a recent rumour, one that's neither been denied or confirmed by Mortal Kombat's creative director, Ed Boon, is that absolute bad ass Kratos from the hugely popular and frighteningly good God of War series is to make an exclusive appearance in the PS3 version of the latest Mortal Kombat game. What gives weight to the rumour is that in a recent interview Ed Boon said how much he would love to have the murderous greek god in the MK series.

If you're not sure who Kratos is and why he would be perfect for the MK series watch the following vid.

Fingers crossed, folks.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Mortal Kombat

I’ll be the first to admit that Mortal Kombat has seen its fair share of turkeys both in video games and on the big screen over the years, but that hasn’t stopped me from being a huge fan. From the first moment I uppercut my opponent into a pit full of spikes and watched in glee as crimson gore spurted up into the air to then be followed by a demonic voice stating ‘Fatality!’ I knew I was hooked.

From the brilliantly observed, if cheesy, first film, the TV series with its excellently choreographed fight scenes and the-more often than not-highly entertaining video games, I’ve enjoyed it all.  Arguably the most appealing aspect of the Mortal Kombat universe-and what certainly keeps me coming back for more-is the characters and the inner struggles they face between good and evil inside a rich and vibrant setting that’s bathed in a dark storyline spanning over centuries. From the ruined temples and woodland plains of Earth Realm; the seas of molten lava that make up Netherrealm; the unholy desolation of Outworld; the constant turmoil of The Realm of Chaos and the beauty of Edenia; all of which are crammed with heroic warriors, demonic Ninja’s, mutant cyborgs, gods of lightening, four armed ogres, beautiful women with a taste for human flesh and more martial art styles, blood, guts and magical fireballs than you can shake a Nunchuck at one has to ask: What’s not to like?

Okay, fair enough, as a video game the fighting mechanic has never been as polished as the likes of Street Fighter or The King of Fighters series of games but it does have a distinctive charm of its own, and one that suits the setting and the characters therein perfectly. However, when the guys behind Mortal Kombat get it right, (as they did with the Mortal Kombat Trilogy, MK: Deadly Alliance and MK: Armageddon), it works a treat, and with the new Mortal Kombat shaping up to the best MK game to date things can only get better.

It's also worth noting that Mortal Kombat was turning people into killers long before the Grand Theft Auto video games hit the scene:

On November 22, 1997, thirteen-year-old Noah Wilson died when his friend Yancy stabbed him in the chest with a kitchen knife. The mother of Noah, Andrea Wilson, alleges that her son was stabbed to death because of his obsession with the Midway game Mortal Kombat. She alleges that Yancy S. was so obsessed with the game, that the child thought he was actually the character Cyrax. This character, Cyrax, used a finishing move in which the character grabs the opponent in a headlock and stabs the character's opponent in the chest. Wilson alleges that this is the maneuver in which Yancy S., killed her son. However, despite the character's other varieties of finishing moves, the character Cyrax does not actually perform this move at all. The conclusion of Wilson v. Midway games, Inc. was, according to the court case report, "Wilson's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The product liability counts fail because Mortal Kombat is not a "product" within the purview-of the CPLA [...]"

And even our good friend, and disbarred attorney, Jack Thompson got all bent out of shape about his likeness appearing in a Mortal Kombat game:

In 2006, attorney Jack Thompson ordered a cease and desist to Mortal Kombat: Armageddon stating, "It has today come to my attention that the newly recently Mortal Kombat: Armageddon contains an unauthorized commercial exploitation of my name, photograph, image, and likeness within the game." In fact, what Thompson thought was an actual character put by the developer into the game, was actually created by a player, who used the game's "create-a-fighter" mode to construct a likeness of Thompson and demonstrated it in a film on YouTube. Thompson had the video successfully removed.

Whatever your thoughts on Mortal Kombat this is one fan who isn’t tired of this violent, sometimes comical slice of fiction just yet.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Golden Joystick Awards 2010

Here's the results in full:

Action/Adventure Game of the Year

Assassin’s Creed II

Download Game of the Year

Plants Vs Zombies

Fighting Game of the Year

Super Street Fighter IV

Music Game of the Year

Guitar Hero 5

Online Game of the Year

League Of Legends

Portable Game of the Year

Pokémon Heart Gold/Soul Silver

Puzzle Game of the Year

World Of Goo

RPG of the Year

Mass Effect 2

FPS of the Year

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Racing Game of the Year

Forza 3

Shooter of the Year

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Soundtrack of the Year

Final Fantasy XIII

Sports Game of the Year


Strategy Game of the Year

Plants Vs Zombies

UK Developer of the Year


One to Watch

COD: Black Ops

Ultimate Game of the Year

Mass Effect 2

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Game Review: Demon's Souls-PS3

Phalanx’s, dark, amorphous form shuffled toward me; deadly spears darting in and out from it’s gluttonous body, probing the air, searching for it’s pray as it’s children, the Phalangeal, surround it protectively for they know that I am here to destroy their master with fire and steel, to bring an end to its reign in this world. Circling carefully, weighing up my quarry I wait for the opportunity to strike and seeing an opening I unleash a ball of fire into the thriving mass. It explodes in a brilliant flash of light, illuminating the large hall for but the briefest of moments before the oppressive, unearthly darkness swallows it up once more, choking down the light like some unseen, gluttonous beast who’s thirst can never be sated. But I pay it no heed for my heart is as hard as the armour that encases my body and as cold as the steel I carry in my hand. I have come too far and suffered to greatly to fall now, to become a slave to the darkness of the fog that has engulfed my home world and laid it to waste.

The unearthly screams of Phalanx as the flames of my retribution sweep over its nightmarish silhouette would have shaken a normal man to madness; but I am no normal man, I have stared death in the face more than once, walked his unholy halls and have overcome his minions time and again to reach this point and I will not fail. With reflexes born of years of training and hardship I swing my mighty sword, cutting deep into the demons flank, tearing at flesh and sinew, driving home my blade, letting my enemy know that I am its death and that there is no escape. Deftly rolling to one side, barely avoiding one of the demon’s deadly spears as it passes just inches over my shoulder, its tip glistening with dried blood and the stench of decay, I spring to my feet and cast another ball of fire. The hall is lit up once more, and as the demon’s children shriek in pain and terror as the flames engulf them it’s then I sense Phalanx’s fear; I can sense that the creature is trying to flee for it knows its demise is imminent. Seizing the advantage I call upon every inch of my being, forcing my aching, battle weary body to lunge forward for the final confrontation and unleash the killing blow that will rid the world of this foul abomination…

Phalanx is the first major demon in From Software’s dark RPG, Demon’s Souls and it took me just over six hours to confront this first boss monster. Why, you may ask? The answer to that is that Demon's Souls is as difficult as video games come; in fact it’s arguably the toughest video game currently on the market, but it's because of its stoic and often unforgiving gameplay that Demon’s Souls stands out as one of the finest and most rewarding RPG’s developed in recent times.

At its core Demon’s Souls is old school gaming dressed in today’s clothing; there are no checkpoints, no randomly placed type writers or fountains to save your current progress and should you meet your end you’ll be transported back to the very beginning of the level where you’ll have to start over. For many that will be perhaps enough for them to happily to ignore From Software’s RPG long before its steep learning curve has them flinging their control pad half way across the living room. If, however, you chose to brave Demon’s Souls dark corridors and damp dungeons you’ll be greatly rewarded with a deep and immersive RPG unlike any other. In perhaps an accidental homage to the video games of yesteryear, playing through this ominous RPG is about learning though the process of repetition; playing and memorising each segment of each level meticulously; remembering the safest pathways; and where to avoid the most powerful of enemies. Running in blindly, swinging your weapon haphazardly will lead to a swift death, but edging your way through each level carefully, feeling your way a piece at a time; understanding that a short sword is more preferable to a spear in a tight corridor, or that a cumbersome battle axe might not be the best choice against more dextrous enemies and that weighing up your foe and ascertaining the situation before leaping into battle will, more often than not, see you emerge victorious. Patience is your greatest ally in Demon’s Souls, not rampant button mashing in the vein hope that you might just chance your way through.

Sanctuary is provided by the Nexus, a mystical hub of crumbling, medieval architecture, twisting stairways and dimly lit corridors. It’s also from here that you enter each realm currently held in sway by some magnificent, yet terrifying demon and its minions. As you progress through each of the five regions, (which split into 3-4 levels per region), dispatching the undead, possessed guardsmen and lesser demons you’ll collect souls and it’s these souls that are your key to victory. Souls double up as both the in-game monetary and leveling currency with which you can buy and repair new weapons, armour and items and also use to improve your overall stats and upgrade your character. Thankfully with each death you retain any new items and upgrades added to your chosen hero thus making each time you enter a realm that little easier. Ironically, the more times you embrace death not only will you have a better understanding of your environment and how best approach each region, but the more powerful you will eventually become; those initial stumbling first steps will, in time, become a distant memory as you carefully weave your way through each area, turning the tables in your favour. However, on dying any souls you have collected are instantly lost on your return to the beginning of the level and the only way to regain them is by fighting your way back to the point at which you died, but should you be slain a second time those souls will be lost forever. It’s a tough lesson in self preservation, but it’s through these harsh lessons that Demon’s Souls offers up an utterly believable sense of immersion; a beautifully crafted, coherent and absolutely logical world where each mistake leading to your sudden, and often brutal demise is-ultimately-of your own making and yet with each failure you learn, you adapt and eventually you begin to succeed; and the satisfaction that comes with that is an experience that you'll want to savour time and again.

Demon’s Souls gameplay can also change depending on how the player acts in each region, shifting each realm and their character between light and dark. This is known as World and Character Tendency respectively and can effect, to some degree, how the world and its inhabitants react to you and how powerful items and creatures therein are. While multiple choices and their conclusions are nothing new in today’s RPGs it’s the ability to constantly manipulate your Character Tendency to suit your current needs, allowing you to switch seamlessly from light to dark as little or as often as you like that separates it from many of its peers. What’s also interesting is that shifting your tendency from light to dark or vice versa in any of the regions only affects that particular region and not the world as a whole so it’s important to create a healthy balance when moving between realms and try to maintain the most suitable tendency for your chosen character and class. Like the majority of Demon’s Soul, understanding World & Character Tendency can be quite daunting for the newcomer, but as with everything else once it slots into place it makes perfect sense and becomes as equally important and plays as integral a part in ones progression as every other facet of this cleverly constructed slice of interactive entertainment.

While Demon’s Souls is ostensibly a solitary experience one of its greatest assets comes in its multi-player. Unlike the usual slew of multi-player modes found in many other games, From Software has cleverly woven it into the single player experience thus never breaking the sensation of facing the darkness of this haunting world alone. In each region, players-who are represented by ghostly apparitions that occasionally flit by you, battling their own unseen monsters-can leave messages that will help, (or hinder), your progress, warning you of enemies lying in ambush or of helpful NPC’s who otherwise may have met an untimely death at the end of your overly nervous sword arm. Throughout you’ll also find blood stains of other fallen heroes and by activating these you become privy to said players last moments giving you an insight to how they died thus giving you the opportunity to avoid repeating the same mistake. It’s also possible to call upon other players to assist you in clearing out a dungeon teeming with monsters or defeat difficult bosses, however it’s also entirely possible for other players to ‘break’ into your world and assassinate you and steal your souls. It’s a bit of a gamble as the attacker is unaware of the prowess of the player they’re attempting to assassinate and as such there’s always the chance that they themselves may be the one skewered on the end of a pole-arm. It’s an ingenious take on multi-player and one that works perfectly in tune with Demon’s Souls trial and error gameplay.

Few games are as bold as Demon’s Souls and fewer still are as unwilling to compromise their vision and, in the case of From Software’s creation, their unique identity. Many will be taken aback by its stark difficulty that much is true, but if the fundamental reason as to why so many are drawn to video games is in the lure of the challenge itself and the reward thereafter then arguably the finest examples of the medium are those that reap the greatest rewards, but only through the greatest of hardship.