Saturday, 31 August 2013

Rayman Legends - Final Round Review

Ubisoft have once again created a silly and fun side-scrolling platformer and is well worth a look.

Playing any new Rayman game will leave me with a sense of nostalgia, and the latest in the franchise has followed the same path.  With our favourite limbless hero leading the way we are taken on exciting and intense new levels.

Rescuing Teensies has never felt so fast paced, even if you don’t get it right the first time.  Levels are visually stunning, and can even be somewhat distracting, mainly during the timed and speed based areas.  Because of this, it can become difficult distinguishing between hazards and safe areas.

Each of the world’s Rayman must rescue from nightmares have their own unique style or theme which is carried throughout their levels, i.e.: underwater or food.  Otherwise, each world follows the same basic formula of; some platforming levels, speed levels and then a music level.

The musical levels have been somewhat of a disappointment.  The first level available was amazing; a well-known song with a quick beat coupled with platforming, it seemed to go hand in hand.  Regrettably, the other music levels where not-so good; poor syncing to the beat caused many a death and frustration.

Rayman Legends boasts epic 3D boss battles, which are only 3D in comparison to the characters, and don’t add much of anything to the game.  These battles are a lot of fun though and can even be quite difficult, but with no limit on retries and plenty of checkpoints they are easily beatable.  The difficulty comes into play when rescuing the two princesses in each world and the online challenge mode.

Online challenges are quite enjoyable, with two new challenges every day (normal and extreme) and another two that are changed weekly (again, normal and extreme) there will be something new every time you play.  These levels can feel like rehashes of campaign missions, but with added twists and the ability to compete and compare your score with others it is easy to see people spending copious amounts of time vying for the top spot.  At the end of the day you are even rewarded with Lums for your effort.

Rescuing a princess involves entering a painting, like any other level, and freeing all three Teensies.  It doesn’t sound too hard, but some levels are pure hell.  Each jump needs to be timed perfectly and executed as one wrong move means instant death.  Checkpoints are less liberally placed, and there are even a few levels that have to be completed in one attempt, as there are none at all.  If you have the patience this can be fun, but repeating one level over and over can be quite frustrating for anyone else.

Through repeated visits of levels and trying to perfectly timed movements throughout them, it becomes easy to see where the controls respond less and human error is no longer the issue. There is very little you can do when this happens, other than note where mishaps occur and try to avoid them next attempt. Thankfully the load screens are virtually non-existent, and you’re playing again in no time.

It is a shame the effort that is put into saving a princess has such little payoff.  Each world’s princesses are twins, meaning that saving the second sister, which is more difficult, is saving a skin for the first.  Even different sets of sisters feel the same as the last, as the only difference is how they glide or their weapons.

There are many other unlocks in Rayman Legends to be had, including the entirety of Rayman Origins (wow!) and creatures that gift you extra Lums once per day.  Unlocks are obtained with the use of a ‘Lucky Card’ (received after missions or world completion) and require being scratched for the reward.

If you are feeling like you need to save a princess or jump back into a side scroller for some nostalgia; Rayman legends has copious amounts of unlocks, Teensies and Princesses to save, daily rewards and, best of all, it comes with a free copy of Rayman Origins.  Ubisoft have once again proven themselves with an incredibly fun platformer that anyone can enjoy.


 - Steff Webb

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Lost Planet 3 - Final Round Review

On E.D.N. III, every day could be your last.

Lost Planet 3 has a surprisingly interesting story; contrary to my expectation of a vague plotline with masked characters offering little more than a mission, much in the vein of Lost Planet 2.  I have been pleasantly surprised by a well-rounded story filled with interesting character development, mysteries, and a whole lot of intense and frantic alien battles.

The main character, Jim Peyton, is a contracted construction worker who has brought his all-purpose mining Rig, Gertie, to E.D.N. III with him with a goal of making money to send back to his family on Earth.  As you trek through the frigid terrain, battling Akrid and surviving storms that can snap freeze your rig in place, it becomes apparent that something is not right with the planet.  Shadowy figures and shocking discoveries on the desolate landscape give Lost Planet 3 a subliminal horror element that is appreciated, adding intensity to the story as well as the combat.

Lost Planet 3 has two major forms of gameplay, the third person shooter sections which have you gunning down small, medium, and large Akrid and Rig combat, where you duke it out with giant Akrid (some are the size of mountains) in first person.  While on foot, the game takes you from the large open outdoors to claustrophobic facility’s, giving some variation in ways to fight the Akrid.  You can gain access to roughly five different main weapons as well as side arms and grenades; it’s not a huge selection and a few more weapons would have been appreciated.  Some of the guns can be upgraded, once.  It seems like a missed opportunity, you can upgrade stuff like clip size on the machine gun or the calibre of your pistol but more upgrades would be good.  As for the Rig, upgrades are a plenty as you unlock new pieces and upgrade hull armour and abilities as you progress and make money.

These upgrades allow you access previously unreachable areas, locate pockets of T-Energy, and help you destroy your enemies with a little more flare (giant electrified grappling arm anyone?).  Combat gets frantic with a solid variation of Akrid attacking you in swarms, each with their own ways of trying to kill you; getting blasted, eaten, or crushed are some of the nicer ends to your day on E.D.N. III.  Getting around is done inside your Rig which is really fun most of the time, but as there is a decent amount of back tracking it can become repetitive.  There is also a fast travel feature but it doesn’t work very well and teleports you into the vague area you need to be in, and is only accessible at the start of doorways. 

Wandering through E.D.N. III in your rig can be an enjoyable visual experience; scenery looks fantastic and changes often with heavy winds, storms rolling through, a beautiful sunny days.  You will also find yourself exploring caves, mountain tops, and mysterious facility’s, which all look fantastic and well designed.  Akrid have some fantastic animations, they are a cross between crustaceans and insects, and have some crazy designs.  I personally love the larger creatures with gigantic claws and gaping maws filled with teeth that come barrelling down on you, there are even giant scorpion/crab creatures which spray you with some kind of poison.  Unfortunately some of the human characters look a little dull at times, especially their faces, and since the game is running on Unreal Engine 3 it can take time for the textures to pop in which adds to the problem.  At one stage you walk through water to enter a building, and the only way to describe the experience would be like walking through a river of jelly.  Overall the visuals are great but a few small issues keeps it from being amazing. 

I wanted to make special mention of the characters in Lost Planet 3; even from when the game beings they are all individual, and act as you would expect towards a newcomer.  Most missions will be bookended with a private message from one of the characters, either in a load screen or on your trek back to base in your Rig; I was surprised at how much character was developed in these short, simple messages and how attached you get to each of them.  The video messages are a small, yet brilliant, way to add dimension to characters without long cut scenes or the need for constant conversations. 

Competitive multiplayer is mostly added into games these days to extend its life, but thankfully Lost Planet 3 has a pretty solid multiplayer with unlocks and a large amount of maps.  Games modes include a standard team death match, an interesting take on capture the flag (kill the Akrid carrying it first then fight against the other team to pick up the T-energy) and a cool co-operative/vs. mode.  The last mode involves killing as many Akrid as possible to make more points than the other team, the timer ticks down and the next area opens to repeat the process, when the timer ticks down again it opens up the whole map and it becomes a king of the hill battle for supremacy.  The unlocks are pretty cool, giving you grenade launchers and plasma rifles as you progress through online domination, if you are into competitive multiplayer then it is defiantly worth a look.

Lost Planet 3 has roughly a 9 hour campaign if you stick to the story and not veer far off completing side missions.  In a current generation where even RPG’s can take under 4 hours, it is defiantly worth commending the Spark Unlimited team for seeing the value of the single player story and not following on the mistakes of the last entry.  As a single player game, Lost Planet 3 throws fist fulls of awesome at you and, even with a few visual hiccup’s and an incredibly small upgrade system, I had a blast playing it.  Add in an interesting and rather unique multiplayer mode, giving you all the leveling and upgrading you want, you have yourself one very awesome title.


 - Will Flynn

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Splinter Cell: Blacklist - Final Round Review

Splinter Cell: Blacklist has the kind of story you would expect to see in an episode of 24, which is to say if you have seen an episode of 24 than there is nothing new here.  America has been attacked by a terrorist group, and it’s up to Sam Fisher to stop any further attacks from occurring on American soil.  It’s as cliché as it sounds, and only made worse with too many lucky breaks and just in-the-nick-of-time moments that drain the story of any suspense and tension.  Some moments will leave you scratching your head, things that are meant to make Sam Fisher look tough come across as cheesy and, in some situations, downright impossible.  I understand the concept of suspension of disbelief, but when the main character breaths in nerve gas and somehow not only survives but manages to make it through an interrogation and skirmish with groups of trained mercenaries, it begins to border fantasy.  It feels like the developers really wants us to idolise Sam Fisher as a badass hero, yet it comes across forced and in the end makes him look like a bit of a D-bag.

Sam Fisher originally had a Liam Neeson type persona that I absolutely loved, nothing is more intimidating then a man who knows how to kill you with his bare hands but is reserved enough not to give you an example.  His personality made a major change during Conviction, becoming more violent, but the story gave his emotion context and a reason; in Blacklist the aggressive Sam Fisher makes a return, this time he is not a spy out for revenge but rather is just doing his job.  The fact that his long-time friend is severely hurt at the beginning of the game is an incredibly flimsy plot point that gives no reason for the alteration from silent assassin to angry brute.  The new voice actor does a decent job as Sam, even if he does sound bored, and he will hopefully get another chance at being more like the original.

Splinter Cell is a third-person stealth/action game, where you are tasked to get into locations undetected and grab your Intel or hostage and get out again, or at least that is what is meant to happen.  What the gameplay really boils down to is pick a path; either A the action path, or B the stealth patch, and the easiest path will always land you in the stealth section.  The stealth paths are so overly simplistic it offers no real challenge though, and you can virtual walk through the entire level without really needing to stop, save for a ledge or two.  Most enemies seem content to look the other way.  Even on the harder difficulties they, more often than not, walk past you without a glance.  When you do spark there gaze and begin to attack, they rarely make an attempts to call in for back up and are happy walking around, calling out to you because that crate you sat behind confused them so much.  Fighting back after getting spotted requires you to grab cover quickly as a few shots puts Sam down fast; thankfully he does come equipped with three weapon slots at his disposal, a pistol, main weapon (SMG, Sniper Rifle, etc.) and a special weapon such as a Crossbow or Taser.  Getting head shots is a must as each enemy takes a fair few hits to go down, and with the wide reticle making your shots inaccurate at any more than a few feet, upgrades are necessary.

All of the weapons in the game can be upgraded and altered to suit your needs and by completing missions you gain money to spend either on upgrades or new weapons.  You can even upgrade individual parts of your suit right down to the gloves and boots.  One of the highlights to Blacklist is its selection of gadgets that you can purchase, my personal favourite being the little drone you can fly around and shock people into unconsciousness with.  Some of the items are a little over powered, and when paired with another gadget they can make the game even easier than it already is.  Thankfully all your upgrades and weapons purchases carry over into co-op missions, giving you and a friend a good reason to play through the large number of missions available, multiple times, even if it’s just for a laugh (seriously try out the drone).

Multiplayer also makes a return; breathing some new life into the Spies vs. Mercs game mode with 8 player death matches, capture points, and unlockables to keep you coming back.  Each side plays differently with the Spies using the third-person Splinter Cell play style, and Mercs donning the heavier FPS style.  Both sides have strengths and weaknesses that you must exploit to win your respective match, and even one on one can be a ton of fun with the tension of kill or be killed building up as the timer ticks down.

My experience with Splinter Cell: Blacklist has been less than stellar, the single player campaign has left a lot to be desired and the overall change to Sam Fisher has left me disappointed.  Co-op and multiplayer have been the highlight to what is otherwise a skipable and subpar entry to the series.  If you are a Splinter Cell fan and looking for a third-person shooter with choppy stealth and not bothered by the story then you will have a blast, but I will be setting my sights on Metal Gear Solid 5 for my stealth/action needs.


 - Will Flynn

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - Final Round Review

Since 1962 XCOM has been protecting the Earth from alien invasions, and 2K Games has just released the game showing where it all started, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.  Playing as Agent William Carter we are recruited by the newly revealed (though not to the general public) XCOM after an encounter that left him not only near death, but then brought back to life via a strange and advanced technology that was destroyed in the process.

From the moment the game starts we are receiving story; about the Outsiders, other Agents in the Bureau, and Agent Carter himself.  Only a very few of these snippets of information will be useless and even then it adds to the believability of this alternate universe.  Finding a Russian spy in the base and convincing him of alien life, testing out new and improved weapons, even trying to find a cure to an extra-terrestrial infection, are all in a day’s work for Agent Carter.  Oh, and hunting down and killing aliens as well.

The missions are a blast.  Ranging from short Minor operations chasing down escaped Outsider prisoners, Dispatch operations for your squad mates to bring civilians that may be of use, and finally to the Major operations that send Carter to destroy the main force of the invasion.  It is easy to lose time between these and helping around the base; you constantly find new technology, and spend time cultivating your team mate’s abilities, more time is again spent fitting them with the best.

One of the saddest, and best, things about Declassified is the fact that if your squad mates are killed there is no reviving them as in previous XCOM titles.  If they are downed you can help them back up, but once they are killed they are gone forever.  If this happens you have to start with a level one squad mate all over again and if all them die, game over.  This makes gearing them right (which isn’t hard) and using their abilities properly in the midst of battle highly important. 

There are four classes of squad mates: the commando, with taunts and area of effect abilities; recon, with a sniper rifle, cloak and diversions; the engineer, who can deploy turrets and mines, and finally; the support, with combat stimulants and an ability to either disrupt a shield or destroy armour.  They all have their perks but a team consists of three, including you, so it all depends on your play style as to who you choose.  You could even have two supports if you so wished, but I tend to stick with an engineer and recon.

Using your team mates on the field is a lot simpler than I was expecting, using battle focus slows down time and allows you to position them and choose targets with accuracy.  Slowing down time doesn’t detract from the action though, and the team managing that can be done adds to the combat situation.  Not using your team isn’t an option as missions would be barely possible without them.

There are quite a few faults with Declassified, unfortunately.  Even though the battle focus is great, it is easy to hit the wrong command and lose an ability (like heal) and can become slightly annoying in hour long missions as it feels like half the mission was just in focus.  The graphics, though bright and enjoyable often clip, cut and seam, with missions flicking to life before then jumping to the cut scene.  The audio can clip just as badly, which is highly distracting but thankfully this does not happen as often as the visual problems. 

My main gripe with this title has to be the controls, with only a southpaw and default setting and no customisation the controls feel unpolished.  Not every game should have the same control configuration, but sprint and take cover/duck between cover should not have the same input.  Getting stuck on cover is one of the most annoying things that can happen in a game.  Melee and dodge will rarely be used, and they probably would with a different layout.  It is not a massive issue, but nevertheless causes an annoyance where there shouldn’t be one.

As a newcomer to the XCOM franchise I have been delightfully surprised by the scope of the story and interaction available.  Having been somewhat intimidated by the predecessors, picking up Declassified has been easy and I plan on finding some of the earlier titles for more story.  Fans of the franchise may not be as content with the latest entry, but for anyone that hasn’t played an XCOM title before, 2K Games have created a game that will draw in new fans.


 - Steff Webb

Friday, 23 August 2013

Disney Infinity - Final Round Review

Throughout my childhood, I spent months learning songs to all the Disney classics such as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and of course, the Lion King.  What makes Disney truly amazing is with the advancement in technology they continue to lift the bar and create new stories, which not only the current generation enjoy but also the older generations.

As we all know, Disney has conquered the movie and television world, but they have also released an abundance of video games and every now and then they release something so wonderfully magical that it makes the movies seem like cave drawings from the Stone Age.

Disney Infinity is the latest and most ambitious release to date, with all your favourite “New” Disney hero’s, including character’s from the Incredible’s, Cars, Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as some old favourites.  Some might say that Disney Infinity is somewhat reminiscent and derivative of a certain other franchise, but what they have done is much more than a mere clone, they took a genre/style of gaming that was in infancy and develop an inviting and overall fun game that has the potential to become a massive new franchise.

Disney Infinity has very basic, yet incredibly fun platforming system, with more and more games coming out without the ability to jump, Disney Infinity decided to go old school and give the ability to DOUBLE JUMP.  Infinity is full of cool climbing areas and hard to reach platforms, but you are not always limited to one specific way to get there.  There are many instances in the game where you have multiple ways of getting around and reaching goals.  Anything from plain old jumping, to rope climbing, fan floating, heck, you can even launch yourself with a canon.

Graphically it's very pleasing to the eye.  There are no dull areas and everything looking vibrant and new, yet familiar at the same time.  The opening sequence was so beautiful and excitingly colourful that I could not help sitting there smiling like an idiot at the TV.  The characters have their own look and feel, each fully recreated with their own recognisable mannerisms (i.e. running, jumping, etc.).  You feel as if you are inside the Disney universe, and it’s just so beautiful there.

There is nothing special in terms of creativity, nevertheless it is solid and it feels fantastic.  Each character you play as gives you a different feel.  As Mr Incredible you feel capable of beating a 2 tonne robot into a small ball of tin foil, where as Captain Jack lets you feel somewhat unstable while running; once his sword and pistol are drawn you feel deadly.  There are many more characters with unique styles and abilities, but there isn’t enough time in the day to describe them all.

The one let down for Infinity is the Story Mode.  At times you can feel confused during quests and an unhelpful explanation of what you’re meant to be doing will lead to frustration.  I can’t help but think, if I am struggling to figure some objectives out as a grown man, what hope does a child have?  Unless they’re a genius the Story Mode has some seriously confusing bits that just don’t seem to make any sense, but then again, maybe it just needs a child’s mind.  Overall, the story is not too involving.  However, the mission/challenge modes in Disney Infinity are out-of-the-world fun!  A race against the clock to complete a certain task to either win a bronze, silver, or the critically acclaimed Gold medal is just wonderfully fun.

Finally I want to mention the HUB world, or the “Toy Box” mode.  Set at the centre of the Disney universe, this area lets you run around and cause havoc outside Sleeping Beauty’s castle.  You can do a lot from here; go for a leisurely drive, build stuff, break stuff, or even go to the Create-a-Level section which can be confusing at first but pretty awesome.

In the scheme of things, Infinity has taken a seedling of an idea and has taken steps to expand the possibilities of the franchise.  Although it does fall short in a few areas, such as an average story mode and a slightly confusing level creator feature, Disney Infinity is still an incredibly solid, fun game rich with new and nostalgic thrills.


 - Frank van der Merwe

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Review Schedual Update.

Hey everyone!

This is just a quick update to let you know that we are preparing for the massive surge of games about to be released for review, this is the reason why the blog has been quite recently but things are going to pick up incredibly quickly!

If you want to stay up to date on all things Final Round Gaming or you would like to win a prize from one of our monthly gives away then check us out on Facebook at:

- Will

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Payday 2 - Final Round Review

There is so much to say about Payday 2, and yet it feels like everything has already been said.  The successor to Payday: The Heist has a few great additions and improvements, couple that with a solid co-op shooter and it’s the making of another fun multiplayer game.  Too bad it seems that the bare minimum has been reached. 

Payday 2 is a really fun, crazy, and over-the-top game.  There is an abundance of missions (even if you will replay them) that can be dealt with in different ways, from completely stealth to an all-out guns blazing shoot out with SWAT.  With a leveling system and four different skill trees it becomes easy to put in numerous hours, slowly working towards your next upgrade.  Successfully finishing missions gives you experience, cash, and a choice of three different cards that hold an upgrade component for either your customized mask or weapons.  Everything does costs a lot, so it can become a slow process to gain access to new abilities and weapons.

The online drop-in, drop-out play style can be a blast. It is usually easy to jump into other peoples Heists and help them out, and vice versa.  Other times, it just won’t work.  Every lobby is somehow full when you try and join, and moments later are back to only containing one player.  Then you try and join again.  Nope, full. When you finally get into an online game, whether you made your own lobby or join someone else’s, anytime another player joins the game forcibly paused for around 30 seconds as to drop them in.  This just seems nonsensical, why interrupt the action packed gameplay and flow of combat? Playing with friends is the ideal option, no interruptions to the action and strategizing with each on how to pull off the next heist is the pinnacle of co-op gameplay.  Playing solo, while a viable option, is incredibly hard at times and does not carry the same satisfaction as a planned heist with your friends.

In true Payday style, the accompanying music is amazing; a heavier beat keeps your blood pumping for the next bag full of cash.  Characters don’t talk much, but when they do it is generally engaging and fitting.  Some NPCs will not respond to commands to get down and just stare blankly at you; others will walk over cars or slide backwards and forwards over the kiosks and stands.  While this can be entertaining, killing civilians is penalized and I found myself accidentally shooting them because of this.  Graphically, Payday 2 gets the job done and can look pretty slick at times, however when casing a possible heist, the blandness of some locations becomes apparent.

If you have a few friends who are interested in an engaging and intense co-op game, than Payday 2 is as good as it can get.  Hopefully online matchmaking will be fixed, or become clearer, so it will be just as much fun to rob a bank with strangers as it is with friends.  While it’s not a masterpiece, Payday 2 is the kind of game you can invest hours upon hours in and it will continue to deliver difficult yet rewarding and enjoyable experience.


 - Steff Webb

Monday, 12 August 2013

Top 10 - Executions/Takedowns/Fatalities

Tomb Raider – Pick Axe

Lara Croft has quite a few different execution moves in the latest Tomb Raider, but the pickaxe is by far the best.  Upgrade your pickaxe to the highest grade and watch her effortlessly bring down enemy after enemy.

God of War III – Cyclops Eye Removal

I could easily make this Top 10 just on Kratos’ execution moves, but I have settled or just one.  What a satisfying feeling it is to pull out a Cyclops’s solitary eye, and proceed to be absolutely saturated in his blood.

Dark Souls – Back Stab

Maybe not quite an execution, but it is hard not to kill the enemy in one hit with this critical attack. ( I learnt that the hard way)

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dragon Executions

With the amount of dragons that you have to take on it’s only right that there is a great execution move to finish them off.

The Last of Us – Knee to the Face

There are a massive amount of executions available in The Last of Us, but you cant go past knocking an infected into a wall and knee there head into oblivion.

Mortal Kombat I – Sub Zero’s Spine Rip

Also known as the ESRB-Maker, Sub Zero’s original fatality gets the blood pumping… all over the floor.  This has to be my favourite fatality of all time.

Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City – Beltway’s Sticky Bomb to the Face

What could possibly be more ridiculous and over the top than shoving a sticky bomb onto the face of your enemy and watch they try to claw it off before the inevitable bomb? Nothing!  

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – Fate Shift

You already feel pretty overpowered in Kingdoms of Amalur, but entering Reckoning mode mid-battle and ending your enemy’s lives with a Fate Blade does wonders for your soul.

Sleeping Dogs – Big Smile Lee and the Ice Chipper

There are so many amazing executions that Wei performs throughout the game, slamming big smile lee's head face first into an ice chipper has to be by far the best.

Hitman: Absolution – All of them

With an entire game based around taking down enemies, Agent 47 has no trouble making it onto my list.  His takedowns can range from: downing in shallow pools, pissing on a short wired power box, and Mexican wrestling. You pick one.

 - Steff Webb

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Guild Wars 2 Living World

Guild Wars 2 has one of the most fun and evolving worlds in an MMO, ever.  Every two weeks more content is released; adding more events, weapons, achievements, and more story.  This is called ‘Living World’, and even if you have not followed it from the very start it is easy to jump in and play.

The last event, before the Queen’s Jubilee, was actually an election (titled Cutthroat Politics) where the player base voted for a new member of the Captains Council between two prominent NPC members, Ellen Kiel and Evon Gnashblade.  Both parties vied for support and in the end it was a close race with Kiel taking the seat.  All of this was held in a new area on the massive map of Tyria, reached via boat, with new markets and battle arenas and even a race which could earn your character a new title.

Starting on August 6, 2013, Queen Jennah began to hold a celebration event for the tenth anniversary of her coronation.  This event has opened up yet another new area, the Crown Pavilion – located in Divinity’s Reach, the human Main City – where players fight against the Queen’s Champions and show off their skills in the Queen’s Gauntlet.  There are even Hot Air balloons and races against time to light beacons across the city, both coming with special commemorative items.

One of my favourite aspects of Guild Wars 2 are the achievements; they can be unlocked by doing any number of things and often require a bit of time to accomplish.  There are Daily, Monthly, PvP, Slaying, and a number of others, but each new ‘Living World’ story will contain even more.  There are roughly 40 new achievements in the Queen’s Jubilee and Gauntlet to aim for, some with special items, others continuing to add to your total score and reward chest.

The fact that you do not need to be a level 80 character with ridiculously strong amour and legendary weapons to participate really sets the ‘Living World’ events apart for me.  Being level 80 may keep you alive longer, but the Guild Wars 2 community is very friendly and will rarely leave you downed.  Like the rest of Guild Wars 2 areas and events scale players to be the same level, so you can still compete with your friends or the community in general.  It does not matter if you prefer not to jump into the crazy discussions or be in a party, in large group events you can be a team player without actually being in a team.

The Queen’s Jubilee is the newest in event in an enormous evolving story.  So far it has been a massive amount of fun and I can’t wait to see where it takes us next.

 - Steff Webb

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Dynasty Warriors 8 - Final Round Review

What can be said about Dynasty Warriors that has not already been said?  Well, unfortunately for the eighth instalment to the main franchise, not a lot.

The fundamental gameplay has not evolved over the many instalments, adding new features and powers are all well and good as a point on the back of the box, but when you feel like you are playing a glorified expansion pack, you can’t help but feel like something more could be done with the franchise.

There are an abundance of characters representing their respective dynasty.  Starting with 3-4, but as you play through each campaign you can unlock more than 70 playable characters, including 9 new ones.  Each character comes with their own strengths and can build up levels through battles, giving a vague RPG element and sense of character progression in the many game modes.

In story mode you are able to pick which dynasty to side with including the Wei, Wu, Shu, and Jin Dynasties; this allows some pretty big replay ability, to return to each battle from a different perspective.  Unfortunately levels do begin to feel repetitive in a single campaign, let alone following up with the other sides to the story.  This is also the case with enemies, different skins and weapons give you the impression that your opponent (the named enemies specifically) will offer you a challenge, but most feel like they are using the same attack patterns repeatedly.  Beating down enemies can be extremely fun while your attention lasts; huge waves of soldiers run toward you, begging to be cut down by your blade and epic combo’s, further enhanced by obtaining new weapons to utilise in battle.  Each character has weapons that they are more proficient with, but are able to use any weapon you pick up; equipping these takes place outside of battle, before you begin the next attack.  You are also able to whistle out to a horse to speed up travel on the battlefield, getting you from A to B faster and keeping you in the thick of it.

One major irritation of mine with Dynasty Warriors 8 is the sheer amount of talking that takes place on the battlefield.  It wouldn’t be such an annoyance if they didn’t repeat themselves every sixty seconds with the same 2 lines of dialog.  What makes this even more painful is the lack to voice over dialog between battles, leaving you to read the miniscule text that travels across the screen in an attempt to explain what is now happening, which is even present in other game modes.

Ambitions mode has you setting up your village to build Tongquetai  tower from the ground up to attract the attention of the Emperor.  Unfortunately your town is a dump, so to rebuild it and freshen it up you must participate in battles that are constantly occurring around your town to gain resources.  This is the saving grace for Dynasty Warriors 8, giving you plenty of reason to come back for more.  Gaining resources and helping your town build and grow can be addicting and rising that tower up can be rewarding.  Free play mode on the other hand is almost exactly the same as story mode, save for a few different options on where to go and when to attack.  Dynasty Warriors offers a lot outside of combat, diving into the history directly with a detailed Encyclopaedia that explains much of the characters and what actually happened during each time period they were alive.  It goes as far as describing each individual battle that took place, the rise and fall of Dynasties, and even a timeline expanding on more than different 140 entries; the depth is honestly astounding.

Dynasty Warriors 8 offers a lot of content on disc which is commendable, but the feeling of deja vu can’t be escaped by stacking new features on a stagnant foundation.  The controls are solid as always and the character models are nice, but nothing sets it apart from its predecessors that are worth raving about.  If you are Dynasty Warriors fan, you will most likely get a kick out of this and so will new comers, but anyone else in between, steer clear of this hack and slash.


 - Will Flynn

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Preview - Puppeteer

Puppeteer is a side-scroller with a difference; combining an interesting and unique dark fairy tale story with fantastic gameplay features that build on the tried and true formula of the genre.  The game is being developed by SCE Japan Studio with Gavin Moore as its director (Forbidden Siren) exclusively for PlayStation 3.

The dark undertone for the game is established early; the ever brooding Moon Bear King steals the souls of children to serves as puppet servants in his castle.  Our unfortunate hero, Kutaro, angers the King and has his head torn off as the result, leading him to meet with a magical witch who tells Kutaro about the powerful scissors Calibrus.  Kutaro is lead into a dangerous labyrinth to find and claim the scissors, discovering the witch has sent many children to their doom for the same reason.

Puppeteer has you scrolling across levels built from a stage set, complete with red curtains and strings to hold platforms in place.  Kutaro utilises the magical scissors to cut his path forward on his adventure to regain his head from the Moon Bear King, and return to his home.  Calibrus is capable of cutting through fabrics, paper, and other materials to reach high places, move to new levels, and to get into striking distance with enemies.  Combat is built around the unique heads you find scattered and hidden in the game, each head has a different purpose and ability with one hundred to find and collect.

The games visuals are a mix of Little Big Planet and a dark fairy tale book, creating an interesting mix of colourful and wonderful visuals with a spooky undertone that is unique to Puppeteer.  Children and adults alike should take notice of this one of a kind side-scroller.

 - Will Flynn

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Overtime - Metro: Last Light DLC Factions Pack

Metro Last Light launched its first DLC in the middle of July called The Faction Pack.  Boasting three story missions for the extremely low price of $7.80, each story mission can easily be broken down into bite size representations of the main campaign.  Taking place during the story of Last Light, you get to play through some familiar locations from a different perspective.

The first mission is called Heavy Squad and has you stepping into the shoes of a Nazi shock trooper during the assault on D6, with chain gun in hand you are tasked with holding your ground and mowing down anything that moves.  Things became more complicated for me when snipers started raining death, luckily I discovered a Rail Gun off to the side (they don’t mention it’s there until it is too late, if at all) but you have to charge it as well as reload which takes far too long.  I found myself regularly trying to huddle against cover to reload one of my guns while getting my head blown off because the wall is about a foot tall.  This is my main complaint about playing the Heavy Squad DLC; most of your deaths are unavoidable because you can’t reach cover.  This mission is by far the weakest of the three, and what keeps it from being a blast are a few glitches and game design flaws that seem mostly localised to this part of the DLC.  The most obvious being the frozen animation your chain gun gets while firing or the square shapes that seem to appear off every puff of smoke or splash of water (the funniest being a huge pink square the spirals around one of the corpses).

Part two of the DLC pack is called Kshatriya; you are on a mission to collect artefacts from the surface, being listed to you by your employer, in the hopes of preserving Russian history.  The more artefacts you find the more money you make, which in turn allows you to buy weapons, body armour, filters and ammo.  It is a simple task that is made so much better by the location; you are headed into the great library from Metro: 2033 to face off against the librarians and discover its secrets.  Items vary from nude posters, to history books, to children’s toys; the value of each item differs so I found myself collecting everything and hauling it back to base for a fat pay check.  Kshatriya is the longest mission and has received the most polish (a few audio/visual glitches still occurred) of the three DLC’s available, and with different weapons and customization options the replay value is high.  My advice to anyone venturing into the Great Library for the first time is this: buy the heavy body armour and pay attention to the ceiling.

The last mission is the Communist Sniper Team, this plays off of Metro’s stealth segments, sneaking and sniping your way into a Nazi base.  Timing is important and my biggest problem was keeping an eye on which way the tower sentries were facing so I could take them out without being noticed.  Once I began to learn the patterns it became a cake-walk, virtually every enemy is looking away from you (besides the tower sentries) and are about as intelligent as a broken log.  Blowing someone’s head off right in front of their friend seams to spark the slightest interest, until they run for the warning bell.  That being said, this is probably why I like the Sniper Team mission; it’s simple, and you feel badass for succeeding.

At the price of $7.80 I feel like I have gotten more than what I paid for.  Even if the content isn’t polished and perfect, getting a concentrated hit of the elements that made Last Light great, has brought me back to the game repeatedly.  Spending hours walking through the great library looking for artefacts has been the highlight of my time with The Faction Pack and I will be venturing back there for some time to come.

 - Will Flynn