Friday 30 March 2012

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

At first thought stepping back onto the streets of Raccoon City and exploring nostalgic, zombie-infested locations seems like one of the best experiences any fan of the Resident Evil series could have. After some game time with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, you quickly begin to realise that this spin off doesn’t warrant the iconic Resident Evil stamp anywhere near it. Operation Raccoon City is a sluggish, uninspiring and downright clumsy third-person shooter, which serves little nostalgia fodder and plenty of frustrating elements that make it a mockery to the Resident Evil series and a distinctly average game.

Let’s start from the beginning – Operation Raccoon City is a squad based third-person shooter from SOCOM developers Slant Six Games. You play as one of six characters from Delta Team Wolfpack with each character assigned their own class ranging from recon, demolition, medic, marksman, scientist and team leader. Each character has their own tiny back-story during the character selection segment in an attempt to invest you into a very unlikable group of mercenaries. You also get class-specific abilities, for example Vector the recon expert has a stealth camouflage – all pretty standard so far.

Once the game begins you are briefed that your squad’s mission is to get into Raccoon City and recover William Birkin’s G-Virus samples before he has a chance to sell them (all sounds pretty cool so far right?). The moment you step out of the very first lift into Birkin’s lab and raise your weapon, problems ensue. Operation Raccoon City handles poorly, which is a huge shame. The problems grind all the way down to the core – first of all the movement mechanics are sluggish, in particular the ‘simplified’ (I use this word very loosely) cover system. Players automatically stick to cover when you go near objects, this is a ridiculous system because you’ll find your character springing in, out and around of cover at inconvenient times. When the first batch of US Mercenaries attempt to take you down you’ll notice that enemies feel like bullet sponges and the weapons just don’t have any real impact. That’s certainly not the biggest woe because before you know it a mutated William Birkin acts as a prologue boss battle where you’re required to slow him down with bullets while trying to escape, only when you turn around, your team mates are no where to be seen. The AI is very poor across the board with teammates and enemies getting stuck in environments, going on excursions and doing everything other than helping you out. It also doesn’t help that the environments themselves are poorly constructed and serve no purpose other than to remind us of classic Resident Evil 2 scenarios.

You will find yourself across a variety of familiar locations including Umbrella laboratories, the Raccoon City police station and of course the streets themselves, all of which become slightly more entertaining to traverse when the zombies come out and play. Operation Raccoon City is certainly most fun when you scrap the AI teammates and get some friends involved in the action. This combined with the zombie horde does make this third-person shooter at times, fairly enjoyable. There’s just something about shooting the undead and other iconic Resident Evil monsters like Lickers and Hunters that can make any experience better. Although the campaign is fairly short, at the very least you could have a fun run-through with a buddy or two. Indeed at times it’s almost essential to play with human friends thanks in part to the absolute stupidity of the AI teammates. Operation Raccoon City has a very nifty infected mechanic where if you contract the T-Virus and can’t heal yourself in time, the AI takes over and forces you to attack your friends, resulting in you getting taken down. If this happens, a buddy can revive you and things continue as normal, but your AI teammates can’t even accomplish this simple task. So playing with human friends is absolutely essential to get any value or enjoyment out of Operation Raccoon City.

Operation Raccoon City’s campaign is faulted on numerous levels, but it’s pretty obvious from the design that this should be a tactical and competitive shooter right, so I bet the multiplayer must be terrific!? Hmm. Operation Raccoon City offers four game modes Team Deathmatch, Heroes, Biohazard, Survivor and an exclusive fifth mode for Xbox 360 owners called Nemesis mode. While the first is self-explanatory, Heroes mode allows you to play as classic Resident Evil characters like Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong, which again is served as a delicious side of nostalgia. Biohazard is probably the best mode on offer where two teams must find G-Virus samples on the map and bring them back to their base. Survivor is also quite a lot of fun as teams battle it out while waiting for a rescue helicopter to arrive and pick up the team left standing. The last game mode for 360 only allows a player to control the Nemesis prototype and go on a rampage of Raccoon City, which is pretty cool.

So there’s quite a bit to do in Operation Raccoon City’s multiplayer and a persistent level up system helps you unlock weapons and upgrades too. All of this is reasonably enjoyable actually but the same problems you encounter in the campaign i.e. frustrating cover mechanics, poorly designed maps, lighting issues and so forth, all translate all too smoothly over here. When AI teammates are out of the way however, Operation Raccoon City does pick up significantly so the multiplayer while not terrific is certainly fun.

Bar the poor technical level and game design, Operation Raccoon City isn’t the most visually appealing game either and sound quality is rather poor. A simple comparison to make here is this and Left 4 Dead. The gap in quality is actually astonishing considering other than the difference in perspective; both games are trying to achieve the exact same thing. Ultimately I’d find it very difficult to recommend Operation Raccoon City over either Left 4 Dead titles but for those die hard fans who must see Raccoon City again and experience the alternate ending with Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, perhaps visiting this zombie infestation is a good idea, if you can handle a fairly long string of shortcomings.

5.0 | Gameplay |
There is absolutely nothing original or innovative to write home about here. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a distinctly average third-person shooter that really does more things wrong than right, which thinking about it, is quite difficult to do. The gunplay, melee combat, poorly constructed environments and horrific AI make this a very difficult game to enjoy by yourself. When you take a few friends along for the ride however, you can definitely bleed some fun out of the zombie horde.

5.0 | Presentation |
Operation Raccoon City really shows what an impressive IP and title can do to an average game. Without the name Resident Evil, this game would be worthless, but being set in Raccoon City and populated by iconic monsters and key characters like Leon Kennedy makes it difficult for Resident Evil fans to stay away and not experience Resident Evil 2’s story from a different perspective. Technically the game’s visuals are lackluster and fail to live up to modern gems while sound design is also poor.

6.0 | Replay Value |
There’s absolutely no reason to go back to the campaign, in fact there’s no reason to play the campaign in the first place. The multiplayer however offers some interesting game modes that can be enjoyable if played with a group of friends. Heated battles against enemy players and the zombie horde can be fun and frantic, momentarily making you forget about all of Operation Raccoon City’s shortcomings.

5.0 | Final Thoughts |
It was only in my last review of Street Fighter x Tekken that I stated Capcom deserve praise for another fantastic title. Well here I’m afraid the same cannot be said. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City taints the franchise name with average gameplay, horrific AI and ultimately providing a disservice to what was one of the best games on the PlayStation 1 – Resident 2 shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as this. If you want a mindless third-person shooter to smash through with a couple of mates, Operation Raccoon City will serve that purpose adequately for the time being.

Igor Kharin.

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Thursday 29 March 2012

Trade in & transform lives

You can now choose to donate to charity Child’s Play when you are selling your old games, phones, DVDs and gadgets to CeX. This is available both in store and online.

Child’s Play is charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in a network of over 70 hospitals.


When selling any item to CeX just choose the amount wish to donate to. We will make your donation in full to Child’s Play. Better still, if you donate 100% of the value of your stuff in one transaction we'll add 10% to the value.

Recycling your old items to CeX will help the environment, as well as this immensely deserving Charity.

Start selling to CeX and help transform lives here.
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Wednesday 21 March 2012

Asura’s Wrath

Every once in a while a game comes along and attempts to showcase the likes of something no gamer has really seen before. These moments define the industry and provide a breath of fresh air from the predictability in most title releases. Asura’s Wrath is collaboration between CyberConnect2 and Capcom, who together have tried to produce an innovative and intuitive video game experience resembling the likes of Heavy Rain and Metal Gear Solid 4’s interactive segments. If you’re looking for a hands-on adventure, this is not for you because Asura’s Wrath is defined by quick time events and occasional linear battles. However, if participating in a anime-inspired story sounds like something that you would enjoy, then it’s worth giving Asura’s Wrath your time, if you’re willing to accept a few shortcomings.

Asura’s Wrath tells the tale of an ancient guardian general seeking revenge after being betrayed. Asura embarks on a quest to find his captured daughter Mithra while at the same time attempts to thwart the Seven Deities’ evil plans for a ‘Great Rebirth’. This is a game heavily inspired by traditional anime and manga and this can clearly be seen with the game split into chapters resembling episodic content, the beautiful graphics and the incredibly over-the-top action.

So you may be wondering how Asura’s Wrath actually works and how the gamer fits into this experience – not really well is unfortunately the answer to that question. Above all else, Asura’s Wrath is a story filled with quick-time events where players will be required to push an assortment of buttons to continue the action on screen. There are action sections when you are required to battle against enemies or particular bosses, but the gameplay is shallow and repetitive. You also get involved in Child of Eden-like rail shooting sections, but again there is no real distinct challenge present. Asura’s Wrath has a serious case of mistaken identity in that it tries very hard to incorporate lots of different gameplay elements instead of simply admitting that this is an interactive video game experience and leaving it at that.

It becomes apparent that the first step you must make is accept the fact you won’t really be needing your controller that much for Asura’s Wrath, but once you overcome this supposed woe, you can enjoy what is a spectacular story. Asura’s Wrath doesn’t bring anything particular new to the traditional anime story structure but brilliant design from CyberConnect2 ensures lots of dramatic battles and plenty of opportunity for Asura to save the world and those around him. What is unfortunate is the quick time events present could actually have been rather engaging if it were not for their seemingly un-intuitive placement throughout the story. What I mean by this is the simple button presses required do not convey the magnitude of events present on the screen. Going back to Heavy Rain, Sony’s exclusive title showed precisely how quick time events should be used in an interactive experience to bring about tension and a sense of urgency in an event. When Asura is fighting to save the world and all that is required is a slight push of both the analogue sticks, one can’t help but not feel the same tension that our protagonist is going through.

When the game strays away from these quick time events, things don’t really get much better. Hand-to-hand combat in the adventure sections bring nothing but basic shallow gameplay to the table while the rail shooting provides nothing but an excuse to button mash for fifteen minutes. It’s really a great shame because there are titles out there that have proven genres can be mixed successfully to provide satisfaction in all areas the game is trying to cover but Asura’s Wrath simply does not fall into this list.

Fortunately as you’d expect, Asura’s Wrath presentation is outstanding. The mix between futuristic robots and Japanese mythology resembles scenes from Suckerpunch and provides for an engaging setting for Asura’s tale of revenge. There are some seriously breathtaking moments visually, but it’s just such a shame that participating in them doesn’t feel as immense. The audio is also worth praising, as a great soundtrack tends to outshine the mediocre voice-cast.

Asura’s Wrath continues to stumble out of the blocks with a serious issue of longevity. For a fully priced game that doesn’t really let you do much, you’ll be shocked to find out it’s actually only roughly 4 – 6 hours long. It’s pretty much like paying over the price for an anime box set and if you’re looking for value, it’s difficult to justify an immediate purchase, rather better wait for the game to inevitably go down in price.

Ultimately Asura’s Wrath has way too many shortcomings to warrant any significant praise. If this was the industries first attempt at a proper interactive video game experience, then reservations could be made but the idea could be commended. However, with games like Heavy Rain clearly showing off how this should be done, one can’t help but feel let down that two highly rated video game developers couldn’t have done a better job with this. Asura’s Wrath boasts a terrific story and from a presentation stand point it’s absolutely brilliant. However, it simply doesn’t hold up in any other department, which is a real shame.

4.0 | Gameplay | 
The quick time event sections are terrific thanks to the brilliant story and visual design, not how they are placed into the game. There is no real emotional connection with the buttons you press and the action on screen. When Asura’s Wrath changes genre to on-rail and hand-to-hand combat, things don’t get any better. Shallow and repetitive action over-shadows a beautiful and engaging story. 

9.5 | Presentation | 
To be fair, it doesn’t get much better. Asura’s Wrath is absolutely gorgeous all the way through. Lots of intense action and dramatic events make key moments a real blast to watch, it’s a shame participating isn’t as exciting. I would have liked CyberConnect2 to go that little bit further and perhaps thought of a more unique story as opposed to sticking to a safe and traditional anime-inspired tale. 

1.0 | Replay Value | 
There is no replay value here; once you’re done it’s all over. You could go through it again but I don’t see any reason why you’d bother to be honest other than perhaps to show a mate a particular chapter or event you really enjoyed. Multiple endings, a more intertwined story? Something guys, seriously anything would have helped!

5.0 | Final Thoughts | 
Disappointment through and through. Asura’s Wrath had so much potential and all the right ingredients to blow many gamers’ socks off. It just couldn’t pull of anything it tried to do. Furthermore, pricing this at full RRP when no more than six hours of gameplay and zero replay value is incredibly cheeky, shame on you Capcom. I keep going back to Heavy Rain in part because I loved it so much, but Quantic Dream nailed this genre of game and I refuse to believe CyberConnect2 didn’t sit down and play through their adventure to see how emotion and tension can be created successfully using quick time events as this is simply a failed attempt.

Igor Kharin.

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Monday 19 March 2012


I remember a time when all manner of board and freestyle racing games were one of the biggest selling points of the video game industry. The likes of SSX, Tony Hawk’s and Jet Set Radio all introduced variations of their particular sport and had gamers hooked for a long period of time. In this modern generation of gaming freestyle racing has seen a dramatic reduction in popularity due to a surge of more popular genres and of course, a lack of games themselves. Well SSX is here to amend this problem by bringing to the table what can only be described as the most engaging, exhilarating and enjoyable boarding game that has ever been released. Snowboarding has been perfected in video game form and you’d be an absolute fool to miss out on this adrenaline rush.

Gamers who still reminisce over the classic SSX days will be pleasantly surprised as this new instalment takes elements from the past and integrates them nicely with a brand new, modern feel. At the heart of SSX is of course racing down beautiful and dangerous courses while performing as many over-the-top tricks as possible, but the manner in which you can achieve these two seemingly simple goals, is what makes SSX so damn impressive.

Immediately SSX blows you away with unbelievable visuals. Not only do all the courses look fantastic, but also plenty of work was put into the track design and the depth of each level. This gives each location a real sense of magnitude, making you appreciate the vast size of the mountain and the variety of different ways you can conquer it. That’s if the mountains themselves don’t take you down – environments now take on a much more crucial role in SSX’s gameplay with plenty of pitfalls and dangerous coves littered across the maps just waiting to hinder your progress. You can of course rewind yourself out of danger or pay a points penalty depending on what mode you are participating in, but these tracks require time to learn and master to avoid the wide assortment of dangers present.

Of course you won’t have that much time to take in the sights as you launch yourself off a helicopter and propel down these wondrous tracks at speeds that I can’t even comprehend. SSX isn’t simply a racing game because to acquire points and boost you must trick your absolute heart out. The controls are intuitive and very easy to pick up allowing even beginners to get serious air and perform some stunning tricks. Once you quickly learn the basics you’ll be stringing together combos that will eventually lead you to activating “Tricky” mode that gives you unlimited boost and access to super-moves worth loads more points. SSX is all about magnitude and it provides you with plenty of opportunities to really get stuck into these phenomenal antics.

SSX’s beautiful visual design and intuitive controls are complimented with innovative audio design. The game is plastered with a fantastic assortment of electronic music, but how it’s implemented into the game is what’s really impressive. When you perform tricks and get air the music slowly fades out as if it’s waiting for you on the snow and when you land the beat explodes back in giving each and every successful trick such a brilliant feeling of satisfaction.

SSX provides a host of different game modes with World Tour leading the pack. World Tour acts as your campaign mode and gives you the opportunity to experience all the different locations. This isn’t a pushover mode either with AI providing serious challenge to keep you competing for first place. Deadly Descents compliment the World Tour by forcing players to make their way down a map without dying. This fight for survival removes all need for points or tricks and just opts for speed and precise movement to make it down in once piece.

The real competitive action begins when you enter SSX’s competitive multiplayer modes and begin using RiderNet. Reminiscent of Need for Speed’s Autolog system, RiderNet keeps tabs on every single achievement, time and score that your friends put up on the leaderboards and makes sure you know whenever someone has beaten your best. This allows you to get stuck into the various modes including Explore and the absolutely incredible Global Events mode. Global Events is open to the entire world and are timed events, again holding some similarity to FIFA 12’s Cups in Live Season that are only open for a certain period of time. It’s up to you to get stuck in and complete the required goals with the fastest time or biggest score. These results are ranked, bracketed and compared to the world’s best in a user-friendly manner, making competing a whole load of fun.

Unfortunately like many contemporary titles, SSX misses a simultaneous multiplayer mode. This a pretty frustrating blow because it could have rounded off an exceptional package if people could play together on the same console. Alas you can’t have everything and fortunately RiderNet ensures you’ll know exactly what your friends are up to and how they’re getting on.

You might be asking yourself, what do I get for completing all these challenges and competing in all these events? Well throughout your time with SSX you will accumulate a whole bunch of credits that can be used to purchase new boards, gear, locations and other unlocks. Cheekily SSX offers you the ability to purchase credits (tut tut), but you won’t need to with plenty of credits available after you commit some time to the game.

So all of this fantastic content comes together to bring us a truly stunning snowboarding experience. SSX brings back a dying genre and really elevates it to one of this year’s early wonders. SSX is fast paced, engaging, offers plenty of versatility and above all else, is a lot of fun. Gamers who’ve never even thought of playing a snowboarding game in their life should absolutely give this a go alongside fans of the sport and diehard SSX junkies because this is a game for everyone to enjoy.

9.5 | Gameplay | SSX provides plenty of adrenaline-fueled action in a host of beautiful and varied locations. There are lots of different game modes and ways to play SSX making this more than simply boarding down a mountain. RiderNet ensures you keep up to date with your friends and the constant allure of Global Events means you will keep coming back for more. SSX is back in shining form.

9.0 | Presentation | SSX is beautiful across the entire spectrum. Environments are stunning, character models move smoothly and it’s all bundled into one visually appealing package. Of particular note is the terrific use of electronic music as it explodes upon each landing of a successful trick – really upping the adrenaline rush.

9.0 | Replay Value | Global Events and RiderNet ensure there is always a reason to pick up your pad and continue playing SSX. It’s impossible to stop as you progress you can keep beating your scores and times, this is about as addictive as it gets in the video game world. The only negative is a lack of a simultaneous multiplayer mode to play with a friend.

9.0 | Final Thoughts | SSX is like a knight in shining armour for the freestyle-racing genre. It certainly does the SSX series justice while moving it forward to a modern generation of gamers. Incorporating a fantastic multiplayer score tracker to keep players close and a whole host of modes and locations, this really is the complete package. Anyone looking for a break from your standard FPS or RPG needs to take a leap of faith across a giant mountain in this brilliant new instalment of SSX.

Igor Kharin.

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Thursday 15 March 2012


In a market flooded with first-person shooters you have to expect something pretty extraordinary to grab the attention of gamers. Starbreeze’s reboot of the classic sci-fi Syndicate franchise certainly brings some interesting ideas to the table, but it’s hard to credit this particular game as one of the best we’ve seen to date. That being said, Syndicate provides a beautiful world, versatile weapons and a very well structured cooperative campaign that does warrant significant praise.

Reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Syndicate is set in a futuristic New York City where giant corporations rule the world and all humans have control chips installed into their brains. These chips instill special abilities that contextualize the story of deceit, deception and corruption. The single player campaign lacks any real depth in the narrative, which is strange for Starbreeze who usually provide well thought out storylines. While the story may not engulf you, the absolutely wonderful visuals and intense combat certainly will. Syndicate really captures the futuristic sci-fi feel and if that’s your preferred setting for FPS action, then this is definitely the world for you.

The sense of excitement continues when Syndicate lets you run riot with the wide assortment of weapons it provides. Starbreeze have always excelled at providing smooth and flowing weapon combat and this is no exception. The AI do a great job providing a competitive level of challenge and the use of Syndicate’s unique applications helps bring depth to the gameplay. This of course is built into your Dart6 chip that gives you access to lots of different applications including taking control of enemies and jamming their weapons. Some of the stronger enemies will even require you to disable their armour and shields before you deal serious damage with their own chip and skills left on offer as a reward for taking them down. These apps combined with gunplay and interesting gameplay mechanics makes each and every encounter fast-paced and thrilling in Syndicate

Unfortunately these key moments are few and far between throughout Syndicate’s campaign and plenty of intervals that hinder the pacing and experience somewhat occur far too frequently. Frustrating puzzles, in game cut-scenes and some unusually frustrating lighting from this futuristic city continuously test your patience and ruin what would have otherwise been a really solid single player campaign. It also doesn’t help that the story becomes convoluted all too quickly and little is explained rather left for you to read throughout the various written entries found in Syndicate.

The beauty of a first-person shooter is the campaign doesn’t have to be the main selling point. While Syndicate’s single player offering is lackluster, the online cooperative missions are freaking awesome. Coop is an excellent combination of teamwork using the wide array of weapons and coop-only special apps. This is really where Syndicate’s excellent difficulty curve and pacing come to life as you run and gun through different locations while being forced to work in sync with your teammates. Once you get stuck into the coop you will question how it was possible to get the campaign so wrong in comparison. Missions are strung together in such a way as to avoid any repetition and a constant flow of enemies and boss-like foes keeps your entire team on their toes. Teammates can heal each other when they are in vicinity of one-another and lots of different apps including power boosts and shields could be the make-or-break between a successful victory and failure on the battlefield. Syndicates coop screams action and adrenaline and you will get it in spade-loads here.

With three different difficulty settings, lots of weapons to find and enhancements to unlock, there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back to the coop mode. The ability to create a syndicate group of your own to compete with high scores on the world leaderboards can also have you coming back for more. It’s just a shame that there are no proper character customization options as something resembling Brink’s system could have gone down very nicely here.

With all of this in mind, it’s very easy to call Syndicate a hit-and-miss game. Starbreeze are an excellent development team and their efficient skill can clearly be seen in Syndicate’s excellent presentation, fluid gameplay mechanics and the intuitive app system. A terrific online cooperative gives players looking to have some fun with friends an excellent opportunity to do so but those of you wanting a thorough single player package should look to the likes of The Darkness II for a much better ride. Overall Syndicate is impressive on many levels but falls at certain hurdles – fortunately it leaps well over the hurdles that count, presentation, mechanics and cooperative gameplay.

7.5 | Gameplay | Syndicate impresses technically with excellent gunplay, a unique application system and a very impressive online cooperative mode. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the single player offering that lacks any real depth, has awkward pacing and never really kicks off to the same degree as the coop. The coop is absolutely the shining star of this package.

8.0 | Presentation | Futuristic New York City is absolutely stunning and gamers looking to spend their video game hours in a futuristic world need not look any further. Syndicate handles really well also with the gunplay feeling similar to Killzone 3. The different apps provide versatility in the heated gameplay.

7.5 | Replay Value | Online cooperative especially has plenty of replay value. 3 different levels, lots of weapons and applications to unlock means you’ll be coming back to experience this thrilling coop mode with friends over and over again.

7.5 | Final Thoughts | I am somewhat disappointed because I expect so much more from Starbreeze. The story and campaign simply do not do this wonderful futuristic world justice. The campaign is frustrating on many levels but fortunately Syndicate is saved by an excellent online cooperative mode. Syndicate boasts terrific gunplay and it’s an injustice that these gameplay mechanics didn’t find a home in a better campaign mode. Those of you looking for a game to share with your friends can pick this up without any hesitation but those of you needing a single player experience need to pass this up and buy The Darkness II.

Igor Kharin.

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Tuesday 13 March 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

I think every gamer can agree that the role-play genre has seen some fantastic games throughout the generations, but none have had as much of an impact as The Elder Scrolls series. Indeed when someone talks about the RPG, Skyrim is now the first game instantly mentioned as the ‘best’ game you could possibly buy in that particular genre. Well Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning valiantly stands its ground against other main stream role-play games by providing something the genre is not normally known for, excellent combat. This role-play game concentrates more on the action side of things, allowing players to engage in brutal battles and upgrade their character in interesting and unique ways. While the story might not be as engaging nor the world as enticing, this is a game that draws you in with the allure of great game mechanics ensuring once you give it a go, you’ll find it very difficult to stop playing.

Kingdoms of Amalur tells the tale of your customized hero as he weaves his own destiny because unlike the other characters in the game, you have no fate. You may wonder why this is so, but the story reveals pretty quickly that you are in fact dead and brought back to the realm of the living to pave your own history. Without sugarcoating the experience, Kingdoms of Amalur does not provide the most thrilling story and for the most part it is difficult to engage with certain characters, or even care about the various missions or quests you participate in. It is written however by R.A. Salvatore and there are moments where things do get interesting, but the emphasis really is free-reign over your movements and decisions. If you’re looking for a world filled with novels and travelers’ tales, then get back to Skyrim, because Kingdoms of Amalur forgoes that section of the RPG formula and opts for a more exciting route.

Instead of wasting all of your time exploring we want to be slaying vile enemies and here is where Kingdoms of Amalur really shines. A wide array of weapons and options to customize your hero intertwines with superb fighting mechanics that makes this RPG feel a lot more like an action game. Kingdoms of Amalur is fast-paced, a whole load of fun, brutal and versatile. You can roam the land with a broadsword, play as a sorcerer or mix and match your favourite skills. If you get bored of playing one style, there are ways to re-allocate your skill points and try another form of offense. Kingdoms of Amalur has a vague resemblance to Dark Souls in the fact that combat actually has depth and is more than simply button bashing your way through an enemy while chugging down potions in the inventory menu.

Some of you may be wondering if this is an RPG at all, well fear not because Amalur is an expansive world, just not as expensive as Skyrim – think of this as a larger and more fleshed our version of Fable except you know, actually good. There is plenty of exploring to do and you will rarely find yourself without a quest or some sort of goal, but the point is completing them using fantastic combat mechanics that really make Kingdoms of Amalur stand out above the crowd.

Kingdoms of Amalur also excels in the graphic and audio departments. Visually this is a beautiful game with fantastic environment and character design. There’s a lot of variation and colour throughout your adventure and rarely do you come across a dull location to explore. A cartoon-like approach again resembling Fable was taken with Kingdoms of Amalur and for the most part it does hold up well, especially the gruesome monsters you encounter. What’s perhaps even more impressive is the great score and voice-acting that accompanies this adventure. It’s just a shame that after a while I stopped caring about what people had to say. From time to time you will come across an occasional glitch, but nothing to the same degree as gamers saw on the PlayStation 3 version of Skyrim, making that particular version almost unplayable. Kingdoms of Amalur is a large game and because of that it suffers from some slight issues here and there, but textures diminished and the frame-rate dropped so rarely that it didn’t hinder my experience at all.

Ultimately I think what makes Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning so impressive is you can amass a very impressive game time in this RPG by getting involved in the combat, not simply exploring. Traditional RPG’s will have you racking up hours trudging through dungeons and swamps, while in this instance you will do some of that, but most of the time you’ll want to get your hands dirty and get stuck into the action. It’s certainly rare to see an RPG with excellent game mechanics, let alone to this standard so it’s very difficult not to recommend Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning as a fantastic option for those of you looking to get stuck into another mesmerizing world full of wonders and mystery.

9.5 | Gameplay | As far as role-play games are concerned, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has perfect gameplay. The action is heated, varied and versatile. There’s plenty of options when customizing your character both offensively and defensively while well-implemented game mechanics sit nicely at the centre of all your gameplay. Some brutal finishing moves, occasional QTE’s and fun brawling ensure you will have a blast roaming around Amalur.

8.0 | Presentation | The cutesy art style while visually appealing, doesn’t quite match the serious tone of the game’s story. However, beautiful environments overlook good character and creature models, making Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for the most part, a very beautiful game to look at. Audio also deserves praise and the story is told well through voice acting, it’s just a shame it’s not as interesting as it could have been.

8.0 | Replay Value | Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an expansive game, but not to the same degree as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Those of you looking for a totally free-roam world will be disappointed because Amalur is slightly more constrained. Saying that, there is still plenty to explore and one of my biggest gripes with Skyrim was that it’s simply too big. Amalur is a nice size and has plenty of goodies stashed away ready to be found and used to forge powerful weapons and dazzling spells.

8.5 | Final Thoughts | Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a breath of fresh air for the role-play genre and is exactly what I look for in this type of game. It’s simply preference but I am not one for enormous maps and lackluster combat mechanics – this map is a lot more manageable and the combat is actually engaging. I had an absolute blast with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and I think this is a landmark for how an RPG should be done. Now lets add a really fantastic story to go along with the sequel and we will have a competitor standing toe-to-toe with The Elder Scrolls.

Igor Kharin.

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Monday 12 March 2012

Berkeley Tournament

Next tournament - Street Fighter X Tekken - April 14th - CeX Berkeley

CeX Berkeley got the ball rolling with their first instalment of their Monthly Gaming Tournaments. Kicking off their dynamic new gaming area upstairs, an open invite went out to all in the name of Mortal Kombat. The atmosphere was  electric. Oh’s and ah’s, pizza, shouting were all part of the ambience as the intense tourney went on for the better part of two intense hours culminating in an epic best-of-five match to determine the first CeX Gaming champion.

The two good friends, who arrived at the tournament together, would face one another in the end of the Double Elimination tournament. Battling on through the fifth match, and ultimately tournament point, the two went blow for blow, knowing the other’s strategies. It was fight pad versus fight stick, the sound of plastic slapping plastic was intense. Block, advancing guard, attack, the final matches went on for the better part of twenty minutes as excitement continued to build amongst the spectators. Finally, with one last “Fatality”, the Winner Evan H. would claim his prize of $50 store credit.

CeX couldn’t have hoped for a better start to their monthly gaming tournament series.

Next tournament - Street Fighter X Tekken - April 14th - CeX Berkeley Will you be there?

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