We’re heading towards the end of the year and the game releases just keep on coming. Luckily we have Wukung to give us the low-down on the new releases!
Don’t miss the games Wukung has already reviewed this year, including Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Dead Space 2, Kill Zone 3, Little Big Planet 2, Deathsmiles, Bulletstorm, Dragon Age 2, Duodecim, Crysis 2, Portal 2, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection, Razer Onza, Alice: Madness Returns, Yakuza 4, LA Noire, No More Heroes, Duke Nukem Forever and Infamous 2 and Renegade Ops, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Blood Rayne: Betrayal, Catherine, Arcana Hearts 3
You can see the full list exclusively on MMORPG Info » Wukung’s Reviews.
Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)
Gears of War 3 is the finale to Microsoft’s “other” flagship shooter franchise. The changes to the game now reward – in fact they demand – remaining mobile in combat. In previous games in the series, the best strategy was often to stick to one covered position as much as possible. The campaign is well written, with well-paced gameplay. As is usual for the Gears of War games, there are a lot of set pieces but they flow more naturally into the game than before. As well as team death-match, there are some pure co-operative options for multiplayer. The campaign has four player co-op and Gears 2′s much copied horde mode returns with some major overhauls.
The visuals are still great but they don’t wow in the same way Gears 2 did for being so far ahead of the curve. The story closes off the trilogy and not only adds more depth, but also features a burly cast of characters that is no longer exclusively male.
While a wide array of tweaks add up to an improved game both in single and multi player. Unfortunately there are no real surprises and little that is new. However, true to the series form Gears of War 3 is a well crafted game that stands as a new high water mark for cover shooters.
X-Men: Destiny (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS)
RPG/Brawler cash in on the comic book franchise. This game boasts dull repetitive combat, a poor story, meaningless choices and underwhelming visuals. Rather than playing as one of the many well known X-Men characters, you get to pick one of three new characters, whose mutant powers seem to include being an impossibly generic stereotype. The character that you pick changes some dialogue but has no real impact on the story. Power use is a fairly limited resource, leaving you stuck with the mindless combat most of the time. While combat is rarely challenging, some enemies and bosses can rapidly deliver cheap deaths, a problem compounded by incredibly bad checkpoint placement and tedious unskippable cutscenes.
Character customisation gives you a fair bit of choice in how to set up your secondary abilities. That is perhaps the only positive aspect of an outright awful game. If you were hoping for a game that lives up to the likes of the X-Men: Legends series you will be greatly disappointed.
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection (PS3)
An HD upgraded version of two of the best PS2 games. Both of the games in this collection are utterly fantastic and still thoroughly worth playing.
Ico even as a fairly early PS2 game looks good but certainly not on par with the upgraded version of Shadow of the Colossus. It is one of the best examples of the unique potential for story telling in video games and remains in many ways unsurpassed for that even now nearly ten years from its original release. Its gameplay offers little which modern games haven’t done better but remains enjoyable. Ico was and is a beautifully crafted adventure.
Shadow of the Colossus benefits greatly in this version. The original version had quite possibly the best visuals of any PS2 game but that came at the expense of some frequent and severe frame rate dips. This time around it has a silky-smooth frame rate. The visuals are no longer cutting edge but they are still appealing and put to shame some current games. The gameplay shines through as unique and compelling despite some minor control issues.
The Ico collection is an example of how HD collections should be, not only giving the chance to play classics but taking the opportunity to improve the experience with smoother performance. If you played either of these games before you should need little convincing but they are both worth revisiting. If you have never played them then this is the perfect opportunity.
Rage (Xbox 360, PS3 (played), PC)
Long in development, this is a post-apocalyptic wasteland-wandering shooter/driving game from the makers of Doom. The two hub areas are not particularly large and seem to be primarily a back drop for other quests. The tasks which do use the hubs are one of the games weakest areas, consisting largely of courier quests: at one stage between the same two locations several times in a row. Self-contained, linear areas which focus on the shooter aspect are where the real gameplay is. With bullet sponge enemies, dull AI, poor and often outright misleading visual feedback, those shooting mechanics don’t hold up especially well.
The weapon switching deserves special mention for being particularly bad: the quick switching is fiddly, doesn’t pause the action and doesn’t reliably select the weapon you meant to. The alternative is to pause the game and use a clunky menu system which takes you out of the action. There are few automated check points, instead relying on manually saving which can be frustrating, especially as save times are not especially quick. My play through, doing all the side content I could find, came to about 16 hours: a reasonable length but taking into account the amount of filler, not a particularly big game.
The driving is a fun distraction and Rage’s much talked up technology produces some great visuals with solid performance despite major texture pop in issues (The other versions of the game suffer less from this issue). Crafting and special ammo give you a lot of options in play style. Rage isn’t really an open world game like Fallout 3 leaving it inhabiting the very crowded shooter market. Weak shooting mechanics mean it doesn’t stand out from the crowd despite its unique features.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record (Xbox 360 (played), PS3, PC)
Off the record is an odd remix of last years zombie playground game Dead Rising 2 featuring more or less the same campaign but with the first game’s protagonist Frank West as the main character. Some missions are nearly identical with only minor changes but other parts feature some more drastic changes. There are some minor additions including a new area, some new items, combo weapons and a few tweaks to Fortune City such as changing locations of some particularly useful items. Off the Record also brings a new sandbox mode letting you explore the environment, complete challenges and rack up cash and experience for the campaign. Other tweaks include improved load times, a checkpoint system and setting active mission from a paused menus. While very welcome and definite improvements, they were poor omissions in the original Dead Rising 2. The difficulty of bosses seems to have been increased by giving them ridiculously short recovery times which is not entirely a change for the better. The moderately dreadful competitive multiplayer from Dead Rising 2 is omitted this time around but co-op remains.
Off the Record is very much a remix of Dead Rising 2 rather than a whole new game and it suffers from the same strength and weaknesses. With its budget price tag, it seems targeted both at new players and fans of the series, although the original version is in some ways a better entry point and was already available in a budget edition. If you played Dead Rising 2 and the idea of playing more or less the same game again is not appealing then there is nothing here for you. Still, I found Dead Rising’s mixture of zombies and insane weapons a lot of fun.
Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360 (played), PS3, PC in November)
This sequel to Arkham Asylum expands the action into a section of Gotham City that has been turned into a super-prison. Arkham City itself is not an especially big sandbox but adds a much more open feel to the game, making it easy to get lost in the wealth of side content. Navigating the city is mostly handled by a combination of grappling and a much improved gliding system.
The freeflow combat system returns, although none of the additions made feel like a significant improvement. In contrast, the new tools available for the invisible predator sections add some interesting new options and the few gadgets missing this time around aren’t really missed as a result. Catwoman “episodes” are included as a downloadable extra with a code included in all new copies. These take place throughout the story and give a change of pace with some unique game mechanics. A respectably lengthy campaign, including a wealth of side content as well as a wealth of challenge maps focusing on freeflow combat and invisible predator gameplay add up to a very respectable lifespan.
Arkham City uses a much wider selection of Batman’s rogues gallery than the previous game, almost all realised in a way which fits perfectly with this distinct version of Batman, though yet again it’s the Joker who steals the show. The story is pitch-perfect, delivering some of the finest moments in Batman’s long history in any medium. This is helped by great performances from the cast, particularly long-time Batman and Joker voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill who both deliver their finest performances in their roles.
From start to finish, Arkham City is masterfully executed. It’s not just the plot and presentation that makes this one of the best representations of an iconic character. Moving through the city, watching groups of thugs and planning how to utilise the wide arsenal of gadgets available perfectly captures the essence of what has made Batman an incredibly popular and enduring character, in a way not possible in any other medium. But even more important than being a great representation of Batman, Arkham City is an exceptionally great game.
Posted by Wukung