Friday 26 November 2010

Game Review - Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360

Ah it's been a while since my last Naruto video game review. I feel that in that time, I have developed my literary skills and sharpened my wit. So it is fitting that I should review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, a game set two and a half years after the events featured in Ultimate Ninja Storm, in a time where Konoha's favourite Jinchuriki has just returned from a period of intense training.

If the last sentence left you more than a little confused, Naruto Shippuden: UNS2 is probably not the game for you, and I won't be offended if you decide to stop reading at this point. Go on it's ok, you can scoot off to Facebook or TheChive or whatever you cool kids are internetting nowadays. Leave this review to us Naruto geeks, since NS:UNS2 (ok that's officially the shortest I can make the title) is definitely only for the hardcore Naruto nuts.

Now that we're alone, let me get this out of the way first: I did not enjoy playing this game. I may not be the most hardcore of Naruto fans, I know the difference between the Sharingan and the Rinnegan, but I still found the majority of NS:UNS2 a bore and at worst a chore.

The fighting system present in the first game is still in place, a dynamic mix of excellently animated taijustu and ninjutsu (that's combos and magic to everyone else), and is pretty much the game's only highlight. Each of the game's 44 haracters has a range of standard combos (all activated by mashing the attack button) and one special and ultimate technique. While this may not sound very dynamic, the key to using these attacks well lies in your spacing, movement and ability to avoid or defend against your enemy's techniques. It certainly is impressive watching two ninjas dash and dance around each other, waiting for the right moment to strike before unleashing a devastating attack. Combined with the newly upgraded team support system, things can certainly get hectic on screen, with up to six ninjas unleashing different techniques at once. The new Support Drive system rewards layers who use their team mates effectively by allowing support characters to appear automatically once they have been summoned enough times. Once the relevant meter has been filled, your team mates will lengthen combos, bolster your defence or run interference, dependant on what support type they are assigned.

With all of this crazy action blistering across the screen, it would be easy to believe that the graphics suffered because of it. This is not the case however, as the 'Almost Anime' presentation from the first game returns, along with a dynamic camera which manages to keep both combatants on screen and showcases some of their cooler attacks without sacrificing practicality. I was particularly impressed by the elemental effects such as fire and water, which flicker and splash realistically. Or unrealistically, I suppose.

Unfortunately, the single player component of the game frames this fun (if not particularly deep) fighting system with an utterly monotonous story mode, wherein you navigate Naruto (or which ever character you are controlling at the time) through essentially empty and flat environments until you reach the next part of the story, at which point you must sit through extended conversation scenes. If you thought some of the dialogue in the anime was tiresome, imagine having to press a button at the end of every sentence. The animation, in contrast to the superb stuff seen during battle, is stiff and robotic, with most lip synching not done at all (so very much like the show then! ZING!). These dialogue sequences are thankfully abbreviated compared to the TV show, but doing so causes some key plot points to be missed out. The actual battles are pretty cool however, as key moments from the anime are fully playable, such as Nauto's struggle against Orochimaru and Sasuke's reunion with Itachi.

It would be forgivable if you could enjoy this title by skipping out on the story mode and head straight to the Free Battle or Online modes. However, only a handful of characters are available without trudging through the story. A lot of the fun I had with this game was trying out all the different characters and seeing how all their different abilities and attacks were represented. After having to sit through several hours of boring gameplay to unlock them all, it's difficult to say it was worth it.

I say only the diehard Naruto fans would enjoy this because I can't imagine anyone else getting a lot of fun out of this game. The story mode would be boring and unintelligible to most newcomers, and the fighting system would probably be too haphazard for any curious fighting game aficionados. Sorry Naruto, but it seems as though, like you, I have outgrown my childish obsessions. Maybe I should start watching DeathNote...

Lukao gives Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
5 rasengans out of 10.

Lukao, CeX UK Contributor.
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Thursday 25 November 2010

Brilliant, bizarre banter on the CeX Facebook page

Here's another round up of of some of the weird and wonderful things we've seen on the web recently. If you want to see more of these, check out the CeX Facebook page and join in the banter.

iPhone Stun Gun anyone?

or would you just settle for an iPhone QWERTY keyboard?

and for those belonging to 'Anti-Apple-Anonymous' a tasty treat of loads of demolished Apple products. Try not to rub your hands with glee too hard now.In anticipation of the new Tron film, we all drooled over this badass watch by designer, Scott Galloway. Need. Want. Must have.

and found a Mortal Kombat mantra to live by:

Surely you can't live without this type fun in your life? Head on over to CeX Facebook today. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
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Wednesday 24 November 2010

Game Review – Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Formats: Xbox 360 & PS3

For many years now arcade style racing has been dominated by two franchises, Need for Speed and Burnout. While the former can be hit or miss, Criterion games ensures that Burnout is without a doubt one of the most exciting and exhilarating racing experiences on the market. So it is an absolute joy to see both franchises come together from a Criterion perspective, as other than the name, there is little reminiscent of the Need for Speed series here. Instead, we are offered a dangerous driving adventure where you can race for either the law or the illegal racers as you speed across Seacrest County. With plenty of intuitive and fun-to-use gadgets at your disposal on both teams, the traditional racing rush that resembles what I still consider one of the best games of this generation; Burnout Paradise, amazing graphics and audio, plenty of beautiful licensed cars and tones of replay value and multiplayer ventures to get involved in, could very well make Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit the best racer you will play this year and the next to come (eat your heart out Gran Turismo).

Those of you who have had the pleasure of playing Burnout before will feel right at home in Hot Pursuit. Indeed the gaming engine is almost identical to that of Burnout Paradise but this is anything but a bad thing. Glorious driving mechanics with precise controls make high-speed chases and races a sheer thrill to be part of. Burnout is also notorious for its dramatic and over-the-top car crashes that you will no doubt be familiar with. The wide variety of licensed cars available will make any driving fanatic go crazy and seeing what each car looks like under police paint is also amazing. Hot Pursuit also impresses with a fantastic map with plenty of secret passages and alternate routes to get accustomed with.

So one of the main appeals to Hot Pursuit is the potential for absolute disaster to occur on the roads at almost any point in the race or chase. The game rewards you for driving dangerously and on the edge, speeding into oncoming traffic, narrowly avoiding crashes, taking risky short-cuts, all of this makes racing in Seacrest Country outrageously fun. Aside from all of the ridiculous dangers on route you will also have to tackle the game’s arsenal of gadgets that it gives out to the two opposing factions. As an illegal racer you will have to avoid police roadblocks, spike-rails on the roads, EMP weaponry that disables your car and even what closely resembles the Helicopter killstreaks on Call of Duty, sending in a chopper to try and take you down. It would be incredibly unfair if the racers didn’t have weapons of their own and indeed they have access to super speed boosters that can outrun anything, their own EMP weapon jammer that disables police radars etc. These additions to your standard arcade racer help add a sense of unpredictability, something that makes Hot Pursuit even more enjoyable to contend with.

Of course traditional Burnout-esque tricks do still work in Hot Pursuit. The ever-strong car-barge still does the job in smashing your enemies off the road but this has to be done in combination with your weapons if you want quick and effective takedowns. An interesting wrench thrown in the works effects the illegal racers in particular who of course each aim to win the race, but will also have to join forces and stop the police; an interesting scenario to take part in.

Hot Pursuit continues to impress with its incredible AI. The game feels very challenging and can be equally as fun against the computer as it would against human players. This can be clearly seen from the AI’s relentless driving and sheer determination to steer you off the road or outpace you to the finish line. That’s not to say that playing with friends online isn’t a whole load of fun, in fact it is probably one of the most exciting and addictive multiplayer racing experiences you can get your hands on. Hot Pursuit offers online races that pit your driving skills against other players on the maps, but also offer the Hot Pursuit game-mode which is a 4 on 4 cops vs. robbers style chase to the finish line. This perhaps is the most entertaining event to play as you work in a team using your equipment to reach victory or ensure the illegal racers do not get to their destination. The final game-mode offered is Interceptor, a cunning 1 on 1 match up that allows free range across the map for the illegal racer. This is also a lot of fun and ends when the racer is either caught or a player is wrecked off the roads, at which point you can switch teams and play again.

The campaign mode in Hot Pursuit is definitely the central focus point and should definitely be played through, if not for all the awesome events then to unlock all of the cars and weapon upgrades to use in your online games. As you progress through the campaign your bounty will increase and accordingly so will your police and racer ranks. Cars are categorized into 5 separate tiers meaning you will never come against someone with a car that completely dominates yours as races abide by these tiers. Weapons on the other hand prove to be quite devastating if used effectively and upgraded. EMP bursts that charge faster and are more accurate give you a strong advantage against other racers and more fortified roadblocks and multiple spike-layers really make you a force to be reckoned with on the roads of Seacrest County. Fortunately Hot Pursuit never feels busted or unfair, in fact it is a really balanced game both offline and online. These additional upgrades are merely an incentive for you to continue playing and enjoying the game.

One of the best things Burnout Paradise did was incorporate the Burnout community and your friends into one easy-to-use stat comparison system. Known as autolog, Hot Pursuit always takes the time to remind you how your scores, times, records and so forth are holding up against your friends. Unfortunately there are no online leaderboards to compare with the worlds best, which is a massive shame but nevertheless, the majority of your bragging and boasting will be done between you and your friends, so it’s a nice touch knowing exactly how and where you compare. Ultimately all that matters is how you compare to people you know and lets face it, none of us are ever going to get to the top of that infamous leaderboard.

If I had to pick a fault with Hot Pursuit that wasn’t the omission of leaderboards, well I would find it very hard to call out a specific point. Some inconsistencies occur when the game switches over to a replay of a crash or wreck and at times when control is handed back over to you, you will find your car neatly compacted in a square like shape, rammed in the back of another car. This camera issue is miniscule but nevertheless, is there. Just like in Burnout Paradise however, this same feature can sometimes save you from an obvious crash as the AI so cleverly dodges obstacles for you as the replay is taking place.

From a technical perspective Hot Pursuit is an incredible achievement. The presentation is simply superb, each and every car is beautiful, each and every aspect of the map is vibrant and varied and the car crashes are absolutely stunning. For a game of such high speeds, there is very little to no frame issues, in fact I don’t think I encountered any slow down whatsoever. The audio is also great; a cool soundtrack accompanies the life-like engines and crashes as you’re blistering down Seacrest’s roads.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is the best racing game on the market in my opinion. I stand by the Burnout games as being some of the most entertaining and well-crafted experiences and this holds true to that mark once again. A varied and thrilling racer with beautiful technical design, amazing multiplayer, plenty of replay value and a whole load of catastrophe waiting to be tapped into. It really doesn’t matter if you are a fan of either series because there is something here for everyone without a doubt.

Technical presentation – 9.0

Graphics – 9.0

Game-play – 9.0

Replay value – 9.0

Final score – 9 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
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Friday 19 November 2010

Game Review - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2

Formats: (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, DS)

Despite sounding like a bizarre internet acronym, SW:TFU2 is not a short way to tell your Mum on Facebook to shut up. Rather, it is the somewhat ungainly title for the latest in a long and prestigious line of Star Wars video games. Following up unsurprisingly on last year's Force Unleashed (which received lukewarm reviews from the gaming community) Lucas Arts once again seeks to seduce gamers to the darkside with a mix of incredible physics, over-the-top combat and classic Star Wars presentation. So is it a case of SW:FTW or SW:GTFO?

Having fairly enjoyed the last game, I was eager to control Starkiller and once again have access to a wealth of devastating and fun to use Jedi powers. However, this time around you don't actually control Vader's rebellious apprentice -or do you? After escaping Vader's secret cloning facility on Kamino at the outset of the game, Starkiller's clone (or is he?) sets off to find his true love before she is killed in an intergalactic war (or does he?). Spoilers aside, the story doesn't really progress beyond the fact that we're never really sure if the main character is the real Starkiller, but even if he isn't, he's still here to take Sith names and kick Sith ass. Luckily all of Starkiller's name-taking and ass-kicking abilities are present. Along side the ever-useful force grip and lightning abilities is the new Jedi mind trick power, allowing you to convince enemies to fight for you or randomly throw themselves off high ledges. Another new ability is 'Force Fury’; reminiscent of Kratos' Rage of the Gods/Spartans/Titans/whoever Kratos is working for now. Starkiller now wields two lightsabers now, which while not really affecting gameplay, allows the player to equip two different status effects in the form of coloured lightsaber crystals, a welcome addition.

While SW:TFU2 already had a strong framework to build on and made a few worthwhile changes, the overall experience is severely lacking. The combat, although exciting and entertaining for brief flashes, suffers due to fiddly controls and uninspired enemy design and AI. There are only a handful of enemy types throughout the game, and the AI seems to be set to either 'brainless cannon fodder' or 'incredibly annoying and invincible unless you use one move over and over'. The later battles were won not when I played skillfully, but when I figured out which one of my abilities my opponents refused to defend against. The levels, while beautifully realised, were boring and repetitive. With such a wealth of interesting and recognisable locations to visit within the Star Wars universe, it baffles me to think why Lucas Arts chose to design corridor after corridor of 'generic-metal-hallway'. I would say I grew tired of traversing the linear environments, but the game ended before I got the chance. Yes, it really is that short.

That's not to say that The Force Unleashed 2 is without its merits. While Lucas Arts may not have put much love into its creation, they certainly threw a lot of money at it since it contains the same high level of presentation as any other Star Wars release. The three heavily-advertised game engines are in place: the tried-and-true Havok physics engine makes tossing stormtroopers around a genuine blast; the Digital Molecular Matter, a real coup in the last game, plays a much smaller role this time around; and the always impressive Euphoria engine, which gives the ragdoll physics a mystifyingly life-like touch. The game also houses some pretty impressive sequences which, while a little derivative, will raise the eyebrows on even the most imaginative of Star Wars fans.

I was sorely disappointed with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. Rather than building on the first game to create something really special, LucasArts seem to have trotted out a by-the-numbers sequel, complete with trivial 'now with TWO lightsabers!!' changes. Unfortunately, it seems destined to become another embarrassing addition to the Star Wars franchise, the video game equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks.

Lukao gives Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 6 yodas out of 10.
Lukao, CeX UK Contributor.
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Tuesday 16 November 2010

Game Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops

Formats: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Call of Duty: Black Ops lives up to most of the hype. It improves on Modern Warfare 2 in almost every single way ensuring an even better campaign mode, additional competitive and social features, a more balanced multiplayer and even more content to sink your teeth into. Black Ops doesn’t do anything innovative or spectacular, but this is to be expected, instead it stays safe and drops little gems into the game every once in a while that make it very clear that this is a superior game to its predecessor.

While it is widely acknowledged that many gamers do not buy Call of Duty games for their campaign modes, it is still worth noting that Treyarch have done a brilliant job here and it is definitely worth taking six to eight hours out of your time to go through this thrilling and fast-paced campaign mode. Set in the heart of the Cold War, you dwell deep into the mind of the protagonist Alex Mason as he recalls previous missions and assignments while being interrogated. This is certainly an intense way to present a campaign and the mix of past and present helps maintain a strong structure throughout the story, linking in all of the varied locations and missions you find yourself in. The campaign mode might not be particularly long but in this case it is a good thing, you want to enjoy the story, get to grips with the varied weapons allotted to you and jump into the multiplayer action. What it does offer however, is very impressive, with great voice acting and narration; beautiful and varied surroundings with a few intriguing plot twists and turn that lead to a satisfying conclusion.

Not surprising however, is the majority of you out there won’t even bother playing campaign and will dive head first into what makes Black Ops so incredible, the competitive multiplayer. Just as before you won’t find anything that you aren’t already accustomed to if you’ve played the predecessors. For newcomers the premise is very simple, you compete in a variety of different game-modes earning points to level up and unlock new weapons, perks, tools and other content, all of which progressively gets more powerful and cool the higher level you reach. New to the series is the addition of Call of Duty currency that is earned alongside experience points. This currency is now accumulated and used to purchase almost everything in the game, weapons, perks, killstreaks, camouflage and so forth. This means that plenty of content aside from the guns is already available for purchase right at the beginning of the game, for example everyone should immediately buy the Claymore as soon as they have 5000 COD currency. What this does mean however, is you have to purchase individual attachments for every weapon, for example if you buy the silencer, it can only be attached to one weapon and another must be bought for another loud-out. You will not find yourself short on money as it gathers relatively quickly, but nevertheless, you must choose wisely what you would like to unlock next.

Another interesting addition to the multiplayer content is the introduction of Contracts. Contracts can be purchased and then completed in game to gain further COD currency and experience points. A variety of different contracts become available to you and include lots of different goals, for example ‘’win 3 games of Team Deathmatch’’ or ‘’use the Attack Dog killstreak.’’ The harder the contract the more it will cost, but the rewards will also be greater, so it is up to you to gamble with your money because if you fail to fulfill the contract in the allotted time, it expires and you do not get your money back.

Call of Duty proceeds to taunt the gamblers inside all of us by offering us the ability to wage earned COD currency against other players, ranging from just 10 COD points all the way up to 10,000. These matches will really test your competitive abilities and naturally with more points on the line, people’s tactics and game-play will change from ordinary games such as Team Deathmatch, forcing you to change your play-style accordingly.

In terms of online play, you will find immediately that the game is a lot more balanced than Modern Warfare 2. Killstreaks are no longer as devastating but can still turn the tide of battle. Favourites at the present moment are the infamous 3-kill RC-XD remote controlled car that always seems to clip my ankle in combat and blow me to smithereens. The 5-kill Napalm Strike resembles the Air Strike, the 6-kill Mortar Strikes and the 8-kill Rolling Thunder resembles the Stealth Bomber but there are new additions to the game such as the SAM turret that takes down aircrafts and the Blackbird, which is an indestructible UAV plane. Killstreaks now don’t go higher than 11 kills and that is the Attack Dog and Gun Ship, meaning no more Nukes that end the game. Killstreak kills do not count towards unlocking further Killstreaks now, focusing combat directly on gunfights as opposed to camping and letting your killstreaks do all the work for you.

Perks have also been toned down, no more Commando allowing you to leap 5 meters and stab someone and Cold Blooded is a thing of the past, although the Ghost perk does allow you to stay hidden from enemy Spy Planes. The maps are all fantastic, every year people complain that the maps were better on the previous game but I find each map is balanced and for the most part, are all to a decent size. In particular the most fun map has to be Nuke Town, which is simply two houses across the road from each other in a tiny area, needless to say absolute carnage ensues.

Of course it is impossible to forget that aside from all of this, the endless customizability Black Ops offers ensures that every player has unique face-paint, emblems, clan tags while every gun has different camouflage and crests etc. All of this content helps to keep you spending your COD currency and ensuring a varied, thrilling and most importantly, much more balanced online experience.

Black Ops does also cater for the newcomers to the series because as popular as this franchise is, new players are always a target audience. The Combat Training mode is an excellent simulator of online action, allowing players to experience the action but against enemy AI as opposed to humans. This mode allows you to get to grips with the maps so when you do bite the bullet and get online, you won’t be running around like a headless chicken.

Another awesome addition to the series really helps the Call of Duty community prosper, Theatre mode. This naturally allows you to compile videos, screen shots, edit clips and so forth to really bring your favourite and most embarrassing moments in the game, onto the Internet for the whole world to see.

If you find you have some spare time to play with friends but don’t fancy the competitive circuit, then Zombies could be a very enticing prospect for you. Available four-player cooperative online or two-player split screen, the game pits you against waves of flesh eating ‘’spine monkeys’’ as they are so eloquently called, in a dramatic fight for survival. This game-mode is surprisingly a lot of fun and very tactical, forcing incredible team-work as you progress through the level trying to find upgraded weapons and the electricity to turn on the portals on the map. As the zombie waves become thicker, stronger and faster, it really becomes a tense and heated affair, one that is very challenging but heaps of fun.

In terms of technical presentation, Black Ops is for the most part a complete winner. While the aging World at War game engine seems to lack a little at times, the polishing over has certainly helped it to look pretty smooth and most impressively perhaps are the brilliant facial structures the game creates. The audio is brilliant as expected, creating thrilling atmosphere and dynamic action in both multiplayer and campaign modes. The addition of Sam Worthington and Ed Harris as voice actors really make the campaign mode stand out, showing once again the importance of high quality voice acting.

Call of Duty: Black Ops has delivered everything we expected and more. It has brought us once again, a brilliant expansion on the franchise’s wonderful competitive multiplayer mode. This mode offers plenty of versatility, variation and customization, ensuring you will be glued to your screen for months to come. Black Ops also brings to the table a very impressive campaign mode, it is nice to see that although it is absolutely obvious that the Call of Duty series thrives in multiplayer, the time is still taken to ensure an engaging campaign mode is available. Combat Training helps newcomers become accustomed to the multiplayer by fighting enemy AI, Zombies allows players to enjoy the game offline or with buddies cooperatively online. You can even play the competitive multiplayer split-screen with a friend. Additions such as theatre mode help the Call of Duty community thrive and ultimately this is all presented in one brilliant package. This is the best game of the year, this is the game to have right now, if you don’t, you’re missing out, it is that simple.

Technical presentation – 8.0

Graphics – 8.0

Game-play – 9.0

Replay value – 10.0

Final score – 9.0 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
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Friday 12 November 2010

Game Review - Vanquish

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360

Western developers had been dominating the gaming industry of late. With heavy-hitters such as Rockstar, Epic, Valve and Electronic Arts consistently pumping out AAA titles, our friends in the East must try new ideas in order to win back our hearts (no, another Monster Hunter game will not suffice). Vanquish represents Platinum Game's (the creators of Bayonetta) crack at a genre that is already flooded with great games from the Western World: The Third-Person Shooter.

Vanquish certainly feels different from any third-person cover-based shooter I've played. The main character, Sam (a chain-smoking stubble-sporting tough guy, who is a bandanna away from being called Solid Snake) moves with a fluid zippiness that is a pleasure to control. The aesthetic design moves away from the dirty browns and greys and instead incorporates shiny whites and neon blues, similar to Konami's giant-robot-em-up Zone of the Enders.
In fact, Vanquish shares a lot in common with Hideo Kojima's 'not-metal-gear' game. The horde of Cyclopean enemy robots, the fireworks display of neon lasers, the maneuverability of a guy in a rocket-boosting robot suit and frenetic, chaotic combat.

Unfortunately at times it can be a little too chaotic. At many points in the game, I found myself dissatisfied with certain sequences because of how boringly I performed during it. You see, Sam's ARS (read: fancy robot suit) comes equipped with lots of abilities, such as unique melee attacks from each weapon you can equip, a Max-Panye style dodge and slow-motion technique and of course the much-publicised boost ability. All these techniques are best used at medium-to-close range for the most dramatic effect, allowing the player to nimbly boost from enemy to enemy, dispatching them one by one in a deadly ballet of bullets and fists.

Or so I thought. The game's level design and enemy placement however forces you to hang back and pick off enemies from afar most of the time and punishing more gung-ho tactics (for example, landing a successful melee attack completely drains your suit's power leaving you exceptionally vulnerable). The over-enthusiastic friendly AI also ruins it slightly by rushing in and eliminating enemies before you even get a chance to plan an attack. I often felt that the game would be improved if your AI allies were left out, but perhaps this was Platinum's attempts at making the player feel part of a larger army, an atypically Japanese approach.

There were moments when Vanquish did really shine. The huge boss fights were incredible (the Dr Manhattan-esque Crystal Viper and mysterious Unknown were particular favourites) and some of the more over-the-top sequences were really breathtaking, showing a sense of scale and verticality not seen in other shooters. Certain shoot-outs did work perfectly, when the level design provided enough cover for me to get creative with my moves but enough enemies to present a challenge. And it has to be said, Vanquish looks spectacular throughout, and never stuttered once despite the carnage onscreen.

Vanquish is a strange beast. At once a very Western-inspired game (check out the Gears of War 2 sequence in the darkened tunnel) but also quintessentially Japanese. It is these opposing impulses that create the conflict within Vanquish, a character that wants to get in the enemy's face, but a gameplay design that prevents it. If Platinum learns from this and creates a sequel that marries the concept of cover-shooting and melee combat, they may have a hit on their hands. As it is, with its short length, lack of online and replay value, Vanquish may drop off most people's radar. But I hope this is not the last we see of East-meets-West video game design. First-Person-Shooter Pokemon, anybody?

Lukao gives Vanquish 7 guyver suits out of 10 Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
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Friday 5 November 2010

Game Review – EA Sports MMA

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360

With the continual popularity surge in Mixed Martial Arts, it seems a no-brainer that another title was going to hit the shelves and compete with the UFC franchise. EA Sports MMA does an excellent job at being different from UFC, but different does not always mean better in some people’s opinions. EA MMA is certainly a much easier fighter to get to grips with, its technical side is not as advanced and daunting and I for one think this is excellent. In terms of fighting realism, EA MMA feels a little like it has come out of an arcade, so realism certainly goes towards UFC. Ultimately however, both titles are quite far apart, making comparing quite difficult and warranting praise for both experiences.

EA MMA takes a user-friendly hands-on approach when it comes to combat. The controller interface is very straightforward with your right analogue stick throwing punches and kicks, the left analogue stick moving your character, bumpers and shoulder tabs changing the style of kicks and punches thrown and face buttons for the technical ground-play, submissions, clinch game and grappling. For newcomers to the sport, there are of course modes that help explain the more technical side of mixed martial arts and thankfully EA MMA makes these technicalities very easy to perform so you do not necessarily have to understand exact body positioning in wrestling like UFC forces upon you. This then makes EA MMA a much more accessible fighter for those wanting to see what all the fuss is about in Mixed Martial Arts.

Upon entering the career mode it is inevitable that you will require some basic knowledge at least of different martial arts and fighting styles. Fortunately EA MMA offers you specific strengths and weaknesses of these arts, for example Muay Thai fighters have strong striking power and are devastating in the clinch, while Greco-Roman wrestlers will prefer to get the action down to the ground and work submissions and ground’n’pound. Whichever way you ultimately choose to take your character, it is always worth replaying the career mode to experience all the different fighting styles that are all fun and interesting in their own ways. EA MMA offers other customizable additions so you can personalize your fighter’s looks, clothes and so forth, some of which a little more useless than other segments, nevertheless it is always fun to put some personality into your fighter.

The game’s tutorial is set in a boot camp training regime run by former MMA fighter Bas Rutten. This takes you through the steps and familiarizes you with the game-play. Once this is all done and dusted you turn professional and choose one of six different leagues to compete in. Each league varies slightly based on rules, but these are subtle changes that rarely change the action drastically and if they do, it’s easy to adapt to the rules to avoid penalties.

Unfortunately EA MMA lacks significant challenge unless the difficulty settings are put up almost immediately. This is a real shame as cheap wins are easily accomplishable against default AI opponents who have a hard time blocking effectively and allow you to dominate fights without any issue. As the career progresses and you beef up the intensity, the game does prove a lot of fun and it becomes that much more satisfying finishing a fight with a deserved K.O. or finally pining down a fighter in a submission and watch them tap out.

EA MMA also forces you to train in-between career fights and unlike UFC, it does so in a non-boring manner. You are offered various tasks and challenges to complete that are all relatively fun, quick and painless. Also tasks that have already been completed allow you to reap the training benefits from them again without the need of actually going through the monotonous process of re-doing the challenge. There is a catch however; you are graded on your performance for each challenge so if you get a poor grade, then simulating the challenge offers minimal rewards. So the game does force you to replay challenges until you get a perfect A grade, then you can really reap the benefits. Another awesome and rather quick procedure is the ability to travel around training camps before fights and learning new moves for your fighter. This helps keep combat feeling fresh and there’s no more satisfying feeling than finishing a fight with a brand new move. As a result, fights come round the bend a lot faster and you find yourself getting a lot tougher much quicker.

Of course the most satisfying part of EA MMA is playing against human opposition. Those looking for a challenge other than the AI will find quite a technical and competitive experience that begs for bragging rights and dominance. The sport itself has such an ability to go from one fighter’s momentum to another, that there is rarely a boring moment as punches are being exchanged and so forth. The stamina gauge that represents the energy left in your fighter helps keep an entertaining balance of offence vs. defense. It is virtually impossible to go on an all out assault, as your stamina will decrease dramatically leaving you vulnerable. Therefore picking your shots and blows wisely makes it quite a strategic and technical fighter, offering lots of different ways to tackle the different martial arts, their strengths and weaknesses. EA MMA really keeps you on your toes and it serves as a really entertaining experience as a result of this.

EA MMA’s online mode also offers some exciting content to get involved with. Ranked tournaments, ladder matches, custom fight cards all help make the fluid online experience that much more fun. On top of all that, tournament finals are often broadcast online allowing players to watch others fight while listening to live commentary. Being part of this experience really drives motivation and makes you want to be that guy in the finals.

In terms of presentation, EA MMA is a good-looking game. Events are presented with lots of enthusiasm, there is plenty of hype, fighters look great and their entrances are stunning. The commentary and general audio is also very good. It is a shame that there are very few well-known fighters on the roster but that’s to be expected since they are all licensed to the UFC. Fortunately you will develop such a bond with your custom fighter that you will find yourself using him throughout your online ventures more than actual in-game fighters.

Ultimately EA Sports MMA is a little less serious than UFC Undisputed 2010 and this actually works in its favour. It is a lot easier to pick up and fight here than it is in the UFC games. EA MMA offers a great career mode, much better than UFC 2010, it offers plenty of replay value online and offline and it is all packaged together in a wonderful and thrilling experience. Is it better than UFC? That is a difficult question to answer, but it is definitely worth your time and then you can make a decision for yourselves.

Technical presentation – 7.5

Graphics – 7.5

Game-play – 8.0

Replay value – 7.5

Final score – 7.5 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
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Tuesday 2 November 2010

Game Review - Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Kirby’s Epic Yarn out in US now, UK date TBC (2011).

I think it is safe to say that most gamers have a soft spot for Kirby. The delightful bubblegum-based character has been and always will be a staple icon in the video game industry so it is no surprise to see him once again come back for a new installment. Fortunately for Kirby the developers at Good-Feel have created one of the most wondrous and beautiful side-scrolling adventures of 2010 in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. While not incredibly challenging and holding a few small control issues, Epic Yarn oozes aesthetic pleasure. Indeed the game’s diverse environments are so beautiful and so much fun to navigate that you will find yourself in constant awe at the innovative and intuitive design that Epic Yarn has undertaken. On top of this you will find lots of versatility in the game’s different mechanics, lots of secrets and mini-games to take part in and a fantastic two player cooperative mode that lets you share the joy with a friend.

So straight away it is fairly obviously that technical presentation is at the heart of Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It is hard to describe the beautiful and in depth detail that engrosses the screen stage after stage until you see it for yourself. The game’s design is based off of yarn, but you probably guessed that. What it does allow however is the ability to weave your surroundings as Kirby pulls strings that change areas and moves platforms etc. Not only is this art style incredibly pleasing on the eyes but also in very clever ways allows you to interact with the environment in really never seen before fashion. Epic Yarn also has a fantastic audio track that really emphasizes this cute and fluffy world you find yourself in.

Normally such massive emphasis on looks usually means that the game could be lackluster in other departments. This is certainly not the case as the game compliments its beautiful world with very good game-play. You will find a large variety of levels to play through, all of which contain lots of different and interesting puzzles to solve or certain bosses to kill. Naturally Kirby has the ability to transform depending on his scenario but things are a little different to what old school Kirby fans should be used to. Instead of sucking up enemies and absorbing their powers, Kirby instead transforms when he needs to. For example, upon diving into water Kirby transforms into a little mini submarine. Other levels require you to play throughout in a pre-transformed state, for example the space levels force Kirby to take the shape of a rocket ship. This occurs at various points in the game with plenty of variety so its worth playing simply to find out what genius shapes Kirby will take on next in order to complete the next fun task at hand. These transformations help to mix up the game’s basic platforming elements in such a way that you are always given different things to do with Kirby, making each level a new surprise. Unfortunately at times Epic Yarn has a few little control issues with certain transformations, this is natural for the Wiimote and when things get packed on the screen it is quite difficult to grab certain enemies or perform a certain movement, but this is few and far between and rarely gets in the way of a great experience.

Aside from completing each level you are also given the opportunity to collect as many beads throughout to gain a gold, silver or bronze score. This is a welcome addition to Epic Yarn because aside from that, the game is actually pretty easy and lacks challenge. There is actually no way to die in the game, literally you just don’t die. So apart from a few hidden collectables in each level and trying to achieve a gold ranking, there is little reason to go back to the levels on your own. Make what you will of this point because being quite easy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a lack of challenge can annoy some gamers. I suppose it is worth noting that being on the Wii the game isn’t going to have a ‘Kirby Must Die’ mode for the more hardcore gamers out there.

Fortunately Epic Yarn does deliver some engaging content once the game itself is completed. The game’s mini game stages are surprisingly whole-hearted and to an extent, better than the actual story missions. This is largely because the challenges that are set require actual use of skill that is never really tested in the story. As a result, you will find yourself getting involved with these mini games and getting hooked trying to perfect the scores and get the best times etc.

In my opinion Epic Yarn’s most notable trait is the ability to play the entire story mode with a friend. A lot of effort was clearly put into this mode and it certainly paid off because the experience is painless and effortless, meaning plenty of fun can be had with a buddy. Playing with a friend also helps the replay value of Epic Yarn because completing certain goals in the story can be achieved in different ways with another adorable Kirby like character on the screen. Needless to say, this is one of the best side-scrolling cooperative experiences in a long time.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is certainly a deceitful game on the surface. Its cute visuals and beautiful game-play make it look like it should be a game for children. There is no doubt that the little ones will have fun with this game, but the same can be said for adults and even the more hardcore of gamers. It is the ability to appreciate the incredible technical achievement that will get the respect of the more serious gamers out there. On top of that, there is no denying the game play is a lot of fun and versatile, bringing a smile to the face of anyone who gives Kirby’s Epic Yarn a play-through.

Technical presentation – 9.5

Graphics – 10.0

Game-play – 7.5

Replay value – 7.0

Final score – 9 / 10

Igor, CeX contributor.

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Monday 1 November 2010

iPhone bug makes Blighty late for work

Did you oversleep this morning, Monday 1st November? It could be that you were partying or gaming late in to the early hours. As every good physics student knows, to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Good old Newton's third Law eh? Yet, if you had a quiet night then it may be that a bug in the alarm of your iPhone was to blame.

The iPhone bug that occurred when Britain switched from summer time and back to GMT yesterday. A software developer who told TechEye: "The primary phone clock updated automatically - as you'd hope, but it seems like the background process responsible for firing off recurring events didn't sync up. Setting individual alarms seemed to work fine but the problem was to do with the re-curring ones - the kind you'd set to wake you up in the morning! - that have the issue."

Apple had not commented at the time of posting this story, prompting speculation they'd overslept or that Steve Jobs had taken them all on huge drinks bender last night. People in the know said the latter is unlikely and that Apple will probably release a fix in the coming days. In the meantime, perhaps it's time to make that NES alarm clock you've been dreaming about?

Or is that just me? JC Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
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