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- Final Round Team
Friday, 8 November 2013
Battlefield 4 is one of the top dogs for online multiplayer. Not wanting to change the formula for their successful shooter, DICE have decided to put a major emphasis on altering maps rather than gameplay, keeping the game from becoming repetitive and stale; the most essential thing for a regular releasing title to be weary of.
First and foremost, multiplayer bugs. There have been a lot of reports of random and strange bugs occurring during matches, such as: a certain silencer used will mute the entire battle including the other team! I am yet to encounter anything noteworthy (though being told I have ranked up so many times in a row can be annoying), but they are present and will hopefully be patched out soon.
The core gameplay remains the same, with a few tweaks and changes that make the game slightly more accessible for newer players, allowing those who are late to the game a fair chance to fight back. The starting equipment is much better this time round, but you will still be itching to get your hands on some new equipment, fast, to customise your weapons to better complement your soldiering style. With a greater selection of weapons and equipment, there is bound to be something that suits your needs.
Using cover and going prone is a reliable move in multiplayer, granted it won’t last long if stay still (destructible cover duh!) but ducking and diving actually helps you stay alive, it also helps curb the simple run-and-gun mentality many multiplayer shooters promote. Another high point, for me as a player, is the range at which combat can take place; regularly alternating from short, medium and long distance combat is a pleasant occurrence, leaving assholes with nothing but a knife and a pistol out of luck. An added bonus is that the only reliable way to kill someone with a knife is via back stabbing, if you run head first at an enemy they have a chance to counter.
Taking your time getting familiar with the maps does not mean you are a dead weight to your team, spotting enemies gives your team mates a heads up on location and is more helpful than expected. I took my time getting into Battlefield 4 by playing recon, sitting high on a tower or building, taking pot shots at people and spotting anything that moved; I was only getting a few kills per match but I felt like I was contributing to the team, not holding them back.
The game modes available cover all the important gameplay types (and no doubt more will appear as DLC), ranging from larger scale warfare with tanks, jets and helicopters to the much tighter spaced and fast paced Death Matches. My personal favourite is Squad Death Match, which pits you and your squad against three other squads all battling each other to be the first to reach 50 kills; it is more structured than a free-for-all match, but can be much more hectic. Each game mode has specifically sized map, infantry combat is localised to the inside of a building or on the rooftops of a town, while Conquest opens the maps up to accommodate for vehicles.
Being a multiplayer game, I feel it is necessary to mention the community. During my extensive time with Battlefield 4 I have met with a large number of pleasant and positive players, and only on occasion have I heard someone acting like an 11 year old. It is impossible to escape the jerks and assholes entirely, but I have to say that I have had a very positive time playing online with the Battlefield Community.
FINAL ROUND RATING - 8.5/10
- Will Flynn
Thursday, 7 November 2013
When I first started the Call of Duty: Ghosts campaign, I expected a short and boring affair. I was wrong at least once.
The single player for the 9th entry to the main series has pushed the story from its usual 3 hour long explosion fest to an eight hour mix of unexplored characters, clichés, and recycled explosions. There are so many plot holes that even the biggest action fan will be left scratching their heads.
The game opens with a tale about the Ghosts, how 60 men held off an army 500 strong to defend a hospital. It is never explained whether there is anything important in said hospital, whether documents, VIPs or otherwise. This then begs the question, why the hell did they not just blow the damn thing up? To add to the absurdity of the story, the remaining 14 soldiers go into Ghost-Mode and manage to slaughter the remainder of the army in close quarters combat. I understand this is meant to make these soldiers seam badass, but the delivery of the story is so cheesy and stupid that you can’t take it seriously. In the remaining 7.5 hours it does nothing to redeem itself; it’s a lazy explosion fest with plot holes around every corner (dear god the plot holes), and little to no character development.
You take control of faceless and voiceless Logan, who never manages to develop beyond that. Some games can pull of this approach well, such as the ever mute Gordon Freeman, but here it feels lazy. Logan’s brother, Hesh, does all the talking and leads your through most missions; telling you where to go or what to do, making you wait for him to come and open doors for you, which is a staple in the CoD franchise. The stock standard Single-Player combat is present, with every enemy attacking you and an occasional shot fired at your team mates – standing two feet away. If you have played any Call of Duty game in the last seven years, there will be no surprises here.
Every now and then you will do something interesting like taking control of a remote control sniper rifle, or using the combat dog Riley. These small sections are forced upon you, no choice is given as to when or where, and the few that exist are tacked on for a more dynamic feel but fall flat into a railroaded segment that last for less than 60 seconds.
Character models function fairly smoothly, with the exception of Riley the attack dog. When they work they work well, but the odd running animation does not fit his movement speed and the outlandish manoeuvres he can pull off (pulling a strapped in helicopter pilot out of his seat as he takes off) simply don’t work.
It is creditable to see the developers at least tried to make the game longer and more interesting, regardless of how recycled and boring it feels; they did attempt to make it better in this respect. However it can’t make up for the blatant copy and paste attitude the franchise has embraced for years now; from animations, colours, right down to animations, coming from a company the size of Activision there is no excuse.
Everything in this game feels rehashed and reused. Call of Duty: Ghosts is not a next gen game, it belong back in 2008. It is commendable that the developers generated a longer campaign but it is quite clear that in its current state, Call of Duty does not have what it takes to fill more than a three hour story.
FINAL ROUND RATING - 4.5/10
- Will Flynn
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Battlefield 4 drops you straight into one of the most memorable introductions a modern first person shooter has had in years. The story is anything but original, but the well written dialog is delivered with such passion from the actors to give it the much needed momentum, providing something more than a tacked on campaign to a multiplayer game. The characters are relatable (even if your character doesn’t speak) and feel sincere, their dialog ranges further than what is to be expected from an FPS single player, touching on things like the difficulty of telling a fallen comrades loved ones they’re not coming home. There are even a few Easter egg style conversations to be triggered that are pretty funny; my personal favourite would be about the fortune cookies.
Visuals for the campaign are slick, but suffer from a few texture pops that can be rather disturbing; sneaking up on an enemy for a silent take down reveals a porcelain face staring you down that can be nightmarish to anyone suffering from Pediophobia (the fear of dolls). I’m unsure if the face textures take time to pop in or if they are designed that way, as all enemies in my trek through the campaign suffered the same problem. The expressionless, porcelain faced enemies only seem to have issue up close and are unnoticeable at any distance further than a knife take down.
A major issue the campaign suffers from is only present during intermission cutscenes, where dialog is meant to be you are met with silence. Sound effects still there to bring the scene to life, but everyone’s lips are flapping with no sound to be heard (maybe they’re whispering, who knows). Thankfully, this has no effect on the in-game dialog (the more important of the two) and with subtitles on nothing can be missed.
Combat is much the same as the previous title, with a few additional weapons and tweaks to the recurring ones. The controls are as tight as ever, making your desperate sprint for cover a more practical option; diving into prone as bullets tear you to shreds can actually save your life this time, unless you’re hiding behind a flimsy wooden wall in which case you’re screwed. Destructible cover is present almost everywhere, even more so than last time, and is a practical asset against your enemies who now react to the pounding your grenades give their hiding place. Level variations take you from rain slicked building tops to snowing mountain prisons, while layouts have your standard waste high cover and watch towers. The dominant colour remains blue and shades of black which has become Battlefield’s visual signature, yet DICE has made the game visually appealing while not altering the formula too much.
Coming from a long line of games that focus on multiplayer, it is nice to see Battlefield take a more story driven yet realistic approach to the single player. If you enjoyed the gameplay of BF3 then you will be right at home with the minimal alterations to combat and fairly realistic approach to a modern war story. Huge destructible set pieces and interesting, if not clichéd, support characters with a relatable main cast round out a fun, Hollywood action movie style campaign that is well worth your attention; if you can look past the bugs.
Final Round Rating - 7.5/10
- Will Flynn
Saturday, 2 November 2013
WWE 2K14 is, once again, a disappointing wrestling game that is still clinging desperately to its success with the Smackdown vs. Raw series on the PS2. Sadly the WWE series has just become a re-hashed mess year after year, and I’m not going to sugar-coat the fact that this is a bad game.
Upon start up you are greeted by a menu screen with plenty of options. These include Play, which leads you to a multitude more game modes and selections; Create, where you can create your own superstars and moves and the main feature of the game; WrestleMania mode, where you can play through some of the most epic moments in Wrestling in the last 30 years.
The game also has very impressive roster full of old and new superstars alike, nevertheless you only have the new stars and a handful of oldies to pick from. None of the all-time greats are available from the get go, not being able to play as Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage in a quick game against a friend before first unlocking them is disappointing.
As far as game modes go, WWE 2K14 is full of different scenarios and stages. Everything from a backstage brawl to hell-in-the-cell is here, including the classic ring matches. However, I am still awaiting the return of the “fantasy” matches in which Diva’s fight to remove one another’s clothing.
There are some really nice character models and a few stellar cinematics, the Superstar entrances are really well put together and very enjoyable to watch. However, that is followed by a loading screen before you get to start playing. WeastleMania mode follows the same wavelength, and the opening sequence is fantastic. It made me eager to play and brought out the jumping, screaming 10 year old in me wanting to see people leap through the air and smashing one another around without yield or mercy. Sadly though, the gameplay brought me back down to earth.
Despite the sheer amount of modes and options, WWE 2K14’s biggest shortcoming is the gameplay. It is just so repetitive and boring. Nearly every attack from every character looks the same, with the exception of signature moves and finishers. Now if that isn’t enough to convince you, the control scheme is ridiculously useless. There is no clear cut way to do things anymore. Climbing onto the corner post/ropes to jump off and annihilate your opponent is almost as difficult as performing micro brain surgery; even something as simple as getting in and out of the ring is a mind-screw. All the gameplay comes down to is spamming either the strike or grapple button, or trying to counter oncoming attacks with the incredibly flimsy and obtuse countering system. Just about every attack is counter-able, with little or no variance in reward/punishment if successfully completed. In the end the gameplay is shallow and boring, and with no tutorials to explain anything it can get downright confusing and ultimately frustrating.
The Creator mode is still solid, even though it hasn’t really evolved since the earlier games. It is fun to create your own character complete with his/her own style, look, and move set and let them loose in the ring against existing stars or another created one. But the gameplay still sucks…
WWE 2K14’s saving grace (somewhat) is the WrestleMania mode. The possibility to play through classic matches and stories is rather enjoyable, especially with the added challenge of the “Historical” objectives to fully complete the challenge in accordance to the way it actually happened. But once again the awkward and broken controls ruin this mode.
In the end WWE 2K14 isn’t the world’s worst game, but it certainly isn’t good either. Apart from some spectacular looking cinematics and a short-lived thrill of bashing around with WWE Superstars, this is a shallow fighting game with very little to offer.
Final Round Rating - 5.5/10
- Frank van der Merwe
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
The Arkham series stands as testament to how amazing a licensed game can be when handled correctly, and is responsible for creating the freeflow combat system which is now a standard combat style of third person action games.
Warner Bros. Games Montreal were given the lofty task of bringing the Dark Knight back to our living rooms with an origin story, introducing famous villains for the first time through the eyes of a younger and more brash Batman. The premise it epic; Batman has a bounty of $50 million on his head, bringing the world’s deadliest assassins together in Gotham city, at the behest of mob boss Black Mask. They are given one night to eliminate Batman, and are competing against each other for the reward and honour. This has you gliding and diving all over Gotham city, following clues and beating up thugs, just as you would in Arkham City.
Gotham looks and feels exactly like it did in Arkham City; obviously it’s set in the same place (that’s hard to avoid) but the game is set during winter again, giving off the same cold, dank visuals that the predecessor did. Not to say the game looks bad, other than an odd visual issue here and there it looks great. Getting around the city is easy with your grappling boost, unlocked from the start this time, or quick travel in the Batwing once you unblock the jamming signal in each area.
Finding where to go, on the other hand, can be a huge pain in the ass. The indicator will sometimes plant itself as a waypoint before leading to your destination, and does not disappear from that location until you have left the area. If you don’t know where you’re heading this can fool you into looking around a pointless area, until you get irritated enough to leave and it finally moves to your true destination. Issues with grappling around the city become apparent during these trying times, some buildings have multiple grappling points while other ledges and rooftops will have none. One in particular that becomes irritating is down beside the bridge, you are unable to grab the side and pull yourself onto it. I even had times where I was unable to grapple the cranes, whose sole purpose is to help you cross at that lower point.
Once you eventually reach your destination you are greeted with two types of combat, either an all-out brawl or a stealth room. I say stealth room because they are all essentially set up the same, complete with gargoyles and floor grates from Arkham Asylum. There has been no noticeable change for these areas, approaching enemies has been the same experience through all three games and the repetitiveness is starting to show by the third instalment; gadgets still don’t serve much purpose in combat, which is disappointing. Freeflow combat has the same issues as the stealth rooms; there are no noticeable changes to the combat system, when it could really use some visual tweaks. The biggest issue here is a lack of creativity, it seems the developers were so scared of messing with the well-established formula that they refused to alter it (for better or worse it would seem), or give it their own unique flare.
The major change to the series is Batman himself, showing a younger and more aggressive side of the hero we know and love today. At this point in time Batman is still unsure of his overall purpose as a crime fighter but feels that he is on the right track, regardless of the punishment he takes or how close he comes to death. This aggression and somewhat arrogant personality fits the origin story well, as he learns that being Batman means more than he ever anticipated. I really enjoyed this side of Batman towards the villains and thugs, but it seeped into his interactions with Alfred and he is a complete dick to him (even after his life is saved on more than one occasion). This change was a necessity and is appreciated in a sequel which clutches onto so much of the previous instalments; especially when the villains suffer from the same parallel as previous Arkham titles.
With the massive variety of villains to choose from in the Batman/DC universe, it’s incredibly disappointing to see characters reused again and again in major roles. I was expecting a lot more variety this time around, to bring some of the other villains into the spotlight for a change. When a new villain finally does appear Batman’s interactions with them are so short lived they may as well not been in the game, which leaves these encounters rather flat and shallow.
Characters like The Joker eat up a large portion of playtime that could be well spent fleshing out the other assassins; the pathetic Deathstroke appearance in particular. How many times can the story focus on the Joker instigating Batman? Bane does play a larger role this time, but he is still greatly overshadowed by The Joker. The confrontations themselves are rather lacklustre and never add up to anything fresh; again the Deathstroke boss-fight comes to mind.
The idea that each villain will teach Batman a valuable lesson as a crime fighter or as a man is absolutely brilliant, but it completely fails when there are only two instances that portray any kind of personal revelation to the character. Borrowing such a considerable amount from the last two titles stole what potential the story had, and left us with an unoriginal plot and boring villain cameos. Batman’s origin story is faithful to a fault to the source material established by Rocksteady, and is unable to define itself as its own game; much like Batman was unable to define himself in this title.
Final Round Review - 6/10
- Will Flynn
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
The Batman: Arkham series has performed highly for the last two games, but whether Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate – the first handheld Batman title – can step up to the plate is a whole new question.
Blackgate was not developed by Rocksteady Studios, the series creators, or even Warner Bros. Games Montreal like Origins, but was rather done by Armature Studio as their first original game.
From the very start of the game, Armature kept true to other games in the series, with similar art style and the same voice actors as used in Origins. It is easy to see that Armature Studios worked closely with Montreal to keep the story cannon but spoiler-free, making this a brilliant companion piece that can be played in any order.
With a 2.5D display, Blackgate has very little frame-rate or screen-tear issues and the gameplay feels smooth yet solid. Even with the depth of 3D graphics, animations, ledges to swing to, and the 90 degree camera rotations, the side-on view often feels like a side-scroller. However, the game is quite plain. There is hardly any variation with level design and the colour palate is stuck on grey, brown and a mixture of the two. Detective mode shows off slightly more colour, adding in blue and orange. While Blackgate looks exciting, it ends up feeling monotonous.
Due to the 2.5D display there is only so much can be done, which is predominantly running back and forth, unlocking doors, and taking down the rare pack of enemies. The best part of the gameplay is the combat but there is just not enough. The majority of the time you run from room to room, trying to decipher the barely readable map, attempting to open a door you can’t find. Backtracking is a common occurrence, especially after obtaining the required upgrade. There is nothing new in terms of gadgets either, they are exactly the same from previous games, and are stashed conveniently around Blackgate Prison in Wayne Enterprises boxes. When you do eventually encounter a combat scenario, they will grab your attentions and you’ll be entirely focused and engrossed in the action. It is a shame these fights are all so short lived and simple, it leaves you yearning for more, and yet doesn’t provide.
Blackgate’s biggest downfall is the lack of game modes. There is nothing on offer other than the story. Sure, there are a few hidden objects during the campaign, but it could benefit from some challenge maps to show off the awesome combat system. They could easily have shortened the story, or minimize the pointless backtracking, to give us such a mode but instead we are left with nothing once the story is complete. Thus, there is very little replayability.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins: Blackgate is a solid PS Vita game with good visuals, an interesting story and some pretty fun gameplay elements. Nevertheless, it falls short in terms of gameplay modes, replayability and, at times even enjoyment. I can’t imagine there being any different on the 3DS version either.
Final Round Rating - 6.5/10
- Frank van der Merwe