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
Rockstar’s Lazlow Jones defends the firm’s violent games on BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat. 21/05/10
Sunday, 26 December 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.