Review: Wanted: Weapons of Fate – GRIN AB – 360

Another mini-review today. A Micro-review, perhaps. Or even, just a simple warning…?

Watched the movie the other weekend. Played the game tonight (got them in a cheapish bundle months ago after reading reviews of the game).  A bad game of a below-average action film of a ?? comic.

Played it for half an hour? Maybe an hour?

  • Muddy green and brown-tinged graphics with high-contrast thrown over the top of it.
  • Shitty cover-shooter mechanics. As in, not “oh those shitty cover-shooters” but a truly shitty shit shit implementation of cover-shooter mechanics.
  • A muddled jumple of a story that’s even worse than the film’s story. Terrible/laughable attempts at creating dramatic tension. Even for a game.
  • Poor gunplay.
  • Too much pointless juvenile swearing for me to give it away as a gift to one of my students.
  • Looks like an XBox 1 title.
  • Reviews called it “competent” “decent” “7.3/10” “3.5/5”, etc.
  • They lied.

Shitty game tries to use style to hide it’s lack of substance. Fails at both.

I’ll give it another half an hour, or hour in case it magically becomes kind of alright. It won’t of course. Then it’s frisbee time for this piece of trash.

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Verdict: Avoid.

Update:

Had another quick play with it. Awful, awful game. By comparison it makes the movie look like Citizen Kane.

The movie was below average, but somewhat alright in a trashy, watch-once-and-forget action movie kind of way. This is just dire.

Review: Bomberman Land – Hudson Soft Company, Ltd. – Wii

A Mini-review of an old game. Yay!
First up, let me say that I love Bomberman, and I’ve been a fan and enjoyed it for more than 10 years. Right back to when I used to have friends.

As I’m a fan of the game, I picked this one up as an impulse purchase, because, well, I own a Wii, and Bomberman is awesome. After some time, (more than a year) I’ve finally gotten around to giving it a whirl.

Now at this point, I’m simply going to cut to the chase. This game is a steaming pile of utter shit. Do not buy it, do not rent it. Not, under any circumstances. Here are a couple of reasons why:
1)   It took me over 10 minutes to get control of my character. Sure, I tried “Story Mode” thinking it would be similar to traditional story mode. Or possibly the awesome multiplayer story mode that my wife and I used to play in an arcade version of Bomberman years ago late at night in a dingy Chinatown arcade in the city – Instead, excepting a moment when I got to name my character – ANAL – I was locked in shitty shit shit badly written slow-moving non-skippable cutscenes for a little over 10 minutes. I’m not exaggerating. The only reason I sat through it is because I had bought the stupid game, and it was getting to the point where I already knew I’d never turn it on again. 

Oh god, please just let me play…


2)   Once in the game, I wasn’t actually in the game. I was in a lobby area, where I was supposed to talk to idiot NPC bombermen and go do training to buy “TP” to buy new clothes. WTF? I got into the first game, and guess what?

3)   It wasn’t actually Bomberman. It was a ripoff of Pang, only not nearly as well done or fun as Pang. And I liked Pang, too. When I got out, I was again stuck in a cutscene with more fucking Bombermen. At this point I turned the game off.

4)   In desperation to find a redeeming feature, I tried going straight into battle mode this time. It was okay, it was your usual Bomberman battle mode, but with sideways Wiimotes as the controllers, and an unpolished feel to the whole thing, which shouldn’t be considering they’ve been making the same fucking game for 10 or 15 years.

What. The. Fuck???

5)   Did I mention at all that despite my Wii being set for widescreen, the game is in 4:3. But not sidebarred, oh no. The game runs in glorious stretch-o-vision on widescreen TVs. Since the definition is so low on the Wii, it’s also presented in jaggy-o-vision.

6)   At this point I turned the game off. Forever.

I have a GC version of Bomberman that I picked up at some stage in the past and never played sitting next to my pile of stuff to look at, but after this piece of rancid shit, I’m scared to fire it up. I can’t believe this was developed by Hudson themselves, since it played like Bomberman as farmed out to some shitty 2-bit dev company.

So in closing. If you want to play Bomberman, avoid this piece of shit shovelware like the plague. Pick up the rather good version of Bomberman off XBLA (or PSN, if it’s available there as well), Or even better, fire up Super Bomberman 1 or 2 on the SNES, which might be jaggy on a big TV, but plays damned well.

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Verdict: Avoid. At all costs.

Review: GoldenEye 007: Reloaded – Eurocom Developments – 360

Sooo.. like a great many now-old people, I played the original GoldenEye 007 back on the N64 in the day, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I think I finished the SP campaign at least twice, and also put in a lot of Multiplayer time with my friends of the day, sneaking around the complexes and stealing a glance at their quadrant of the screen.

I skipped the PS2/XBox era remake/reimagining/re-whatever, Rogue Agent, because, well, frankly, shooters were pretty shitty on the last generation of consoles if you had access to a PC. These days, they’re acceptable, and in rare cases, better. Which brings us to GoldenEye Reloaded 2011 edition.

Goldeneye reloaded 2011.png

Now, this iteration of the game is clearly superior to the PC version, since there’s not actually any PC version. See what I did there? Anyway, as a shooter, this one fits thoroughly in the “not too bad” category, alongside other decent-but-not-amazing shooters as Resistance: Fall of Man, and.. well, probably some other ok but forgettable games I’ve played, enjoyed mildly, then put aside and forgotten existed.

I’m not going to give away the story, but it’s essentially an updated/rewritten version of the original film, with Daniel Craig’s mug in place of Brosnan’s, and Judi Dench’s voice as M (who she actually played back in the original film of GoldenEye in 1995)

Basically, the shooting action is CoD-lite. The weapon selection is decent, with a variety of modern weapons all given generic renames, and with somewhat random attachments slapped on, such as ACOG, Reflex sights, red-dot laser, silencers and grenade launchers. I enjoyed the shooting to a degree, though the game suffers a little from almost requiring quickscoping, but maybe that’s a broader limitation of console shooters. The tank level pays homage to the original and the film, and is nothing special but not terrible either. It’s not on rails, at least!

Graphically the game is decent, but nowhere near cutting edge. I’m not that much of a graphics whore anyway, so I don’t mind things not looking amazing as long as they’re good or solid. It pretty much did what it says on the box.

There are some flaws and annoyances. The side missions are sometimes a little vague, and also repetitive (hack/take photos of macguffins with your smartphone), and the “collectable” do jour in this game are silly looking “Janus” faces hidden in places like the undersides of shelves.

The game seemed to have a decent length for a modern shooter, though I couldn’t tell you how long in hours, since I tended to play this in short bursts a couple of times a week at best over a month or so, though when I finished it I was certainly glad to have done so – so much longer and I’d have gotten a bit bored with the whole thing. I understand the Wii version is slightly longer in the final stages, but then, you’d be playing a shooter on the Wii, and no-one wants that, do they?

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded Image

Everybody do the Robot.

The game’s final sequences are a little challenging, but they’re the annoying kind of difficult rather than the fun or rewarding kind, most of which just need you to figure out where to stand/run or in the final parts, memorise the boring QTE-Lite. Shit, if you’re going to QTE me to get through an animated sequence, just let me watch the cinema without needing to look out for when to press “LT”.

The Multiplayer. Does it rank up there with the classic gameplay of the original N64 game? Well, honestly, I didn’t try it. I don’t have a Live Gold sub active right now, and in these days of CoD and Battlefield ruling the multiplayer roost, along with your Halos, while every other shooter gets a shitty MP-mode tacked onto it by the marketing department who thinks it’s a necessary bullet-point for the box – which no-one ever plays, it would probably be a wasteland devoid of players and a waste of time. Especially now, a full year, almost to the day since the thing was released.

Overall, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is a decent shooter. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it’s not amazing by a long shot. I picked it up from the bargain bin, and had a decent time’s worth from it. I doubt I’ll go back and play through it again (the pile of unplayed stuff is too big) nor do I think I’ll bother looking at the MP. Having said all that, I don’t regret buying or playing through it. If you see it around and feel like a Bond-themed kill-em-up, you could do a lot worse.

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Verdict: Bargain Bin.

Review: Homefront – Kaos Studios – 360

Picked it up from the bargain bin (I spent more on lunch yesterday), as I’m so fond of. It arrived from the UK a couple of days ago, and since it’s supposed to be very short, in the 5hour range, I’ve just started it and hope to finsh it over the coming weekend. (yeah, I don’t play for long sessions).

I’ve been interested in Kaos studios for some time. Born out of Trauma Studios, who created the most excellent Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942, the core of the Trauma crew were hired/bought by DICE to work on Battlefield 2 which was pretty much a commercial reworking of Desert Combat as a direct sequel to BF:1942. Following the release of BF2, DICE/EA did what big studios always seem to do and fired everyone from Trauma, who in turn got picked up by THQ and formed Kaos.

A couple of years afterwards, they brought out Frontlines: Fuel of War which I was very much looking forward to, right up until several months after release when there was still no demo in sight for the game along with many complaints about PC stability and balance issues. So I never bought it. More recently, Kaos developed Homefront, which crashed and burned on account of not actually being very good, and Kaos in turn was closed earlier this year.

So. The game.

Well, the shooting mechanics are a bit off. Sure, I’m playing on console, but they’re not nearly as smooth or good “feeling” as either CoD or Battlefield’s. You’re forced to rely on the “snap-to” auto-aim mechanic, and even that’s a bit off.Your companions lack personality, the guy is a generic douche, the girl is showing off her lower stomach and just a hint of upper pubis to go with her cleavage. Because it’s important to keep up sexy appearances during civil insurrection. The writing is pretty bad and dialogue is worse – John Milius or no.

It all looks a bit grainy. Dunno, I guess they’re going for “gritty”. On one hand, a few years ago you’d laud a game like this for looking so good, but by today’s standards they’re nothing special. They’re not bad per se, they just look a bit off.

Had to take a break after a couple more stages when one of my companions got stuck on a wall we’d vaulted. You always have to “follow” your companions, and you can’t do simple things like go through a doorway or go up/down a ladder until the game decides it’s your turn. Even if there’s nothing or no-one in the way.
There’s a variety of weapons to pick up, as apparently there’s no uniformity in the Koreans’ equipment, so they’re all carrying a variety of about 5 different rifles, with a variety of different add-ons and types of optics.

bang bang

You can’t carry much ammo (about 5 mags per rifle) and you can only carry 2 weapons, oh – and apparently weapons which are a variation on a theme do not use the same ammo, let alone magazines. This means that the M4 Carbine, which uses the exact same magazines and ammunition as the M16 in the real world, doesn’t in this game. Let alone other weapons that share the same ammo and use compatable STANAG magazines like the SCAR-L, ACR, etc. But worse, even two different M4 rifles with different optics don’t share ammo. This is worth complaining about since the ammount of ammo you can carry is so limited, forcing you to be scavenging new rifles fairly regularly. Oh, except, sometimes, slightly different variants of the same rifle will refill your ammo. But not always.

Oh, and the “RPG”s that are used by the Koreans throughout the game (and by you a time or two) are actually German-made Panzerfaust 3s, rather than RPG-7’s or the Chinese copy, Type 69 which makes total sense. Right? Especially since the US doesn’t use them, nor do the Koreans, though the Koreans seem to be using the entire stock of US Armed forces’ M4 rifles.

After having finished the game, I have some more thoughts. A little more reflective at this point.

While the gameplay is filled with flaws, on another level the game itself is an interesting take on games as narrative. With John Milius (Red Dawn) on board, the influence of having a “proper” write in the game designers is clear. The game is very much a hyper-linear experience. While we’re used to that in FPS games like, well, almost everything since forever, Homefront takes it to a new level. Rather than having to make it to the next checkpoint, you simply follow one or another of the NPCs around like a dog on a long tether. Aside from not being allowed through doors or up ladders until your companions have finished their bit of dialogue, this game takes it to the extreme At one point, your companions head to an overlook to make comment from a distance on bad things that the Koreans are doing to some nice American civilians, and the game literally has you follow them up to the ridge so the NPCs can have their chat, and then follow them back down so you can move onwards. It feels like a scene that may have been in a film or book and fit in, but in Homefront you, as Mute Protaganist #498076 simply follow along like the aforementioned tethered canine and observe what you’re told to observe, when you’re told to observe it. As storytelling goes, it’s not involving or interactive at all, you’re simply a detatched mute observer, going through the motions.

Similarly, at the game’s climax the game attempts to give us a poignant moment, but unfortunately the player is so detatched from the goings-on that it just falls flat. Rather than feeling that you’re in the story, you’re basically just following along. Compared to, say, the Call of Duty experience – which *is very Michael Bay – but at least you’re the hero, Homefront has you tag along as a semi-interested observer, following your companions like a little dog and listening to their trite scipted dialogue in between headshotting a few more Koreans.

An enthralling bit of dialogue from one of your charismatic and well-written companions.

Something like the Bad Company franchise at least features some humour from your companions, and as such, they become likeable. Something like Uncharted has characters you actually grow to like over the course of the game and enjoy seeing. Even Medal of Honor, which suffered a little from “Black Hawk Down Character Syndrome” – Who is that guy again? Which one is he?” managed to kick a real goal in terms of end-of-game poignancy. Especially compared to this, it’s like Shakespeare.

Homefront uses THQ’s “online pass” system, and despite my copy being new, I couldn’t be arsed putting in the code just to have a 10-minute look at it’s multiplayer. (And no, I’m not willing to email it out). I figure I have several installments of Call of Duty and Battlefield if I feel like some modern-military-style multiplayering.

Overall, and despite my many misgivings towards this title, the short (5 hour) campaign length works in it’s favour for me. If the game was longer, I probably wouldn’t have finished it or it’d join the many games I end up putting down for months or even years. Since it only cost me as much as a large lunch and was short enough to play in a weekend, I actually don’t regret the purchase. More dedicated gamers could easily finish it in a day or even a single long session. As it stands the experience was more akin to seeing a movie at the cinema that was merely “ok” – and cost less than doing so, while still having enough of it to make for an interesting think about the nature of story in games.

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Verdict: Skip it or Rent it. Only bother to purchase if it’s going to cost as much as lunch.

P.S.: For an entertaining look at the game’s shortcomings via captioned screenshots, check out Homefront’s IMFDB entry.

Review: Call of Duty: World at War – Treyarch – PC/360

File:Call of Duty World at War cover.png

While I picked this up more or less on release, I really only got to play it some time later. Hence this review was written in January 2009. What do you mean there’s a newer Call of Duty game out?!?

Part 1 – PC version.
Onto the game! The review is written from my experiences with the PC version. The later MP thoughts are based on the 360.
The story is.. well, you’re a soldier. American and Russian at different times, and you have to kill Germans and Japanese. Because they’re bad guys and really the story is the same as every other WW2 FPS shooter, ever. So we’ll skip that.

Peripheral stuff, like loading intro screens and such are very well done, though the audio on mine suffers from some pretty bad stuttering, even after I upgraded my NVIDIA drivers. But while the presentation and such is excellent, pretty much on a par with CoD4, the problems with the game are the same, and even exacerbated. Lots of sudden “oh…  you dead now” moments that require you to die the first time so you can know what to avoid the second time.

Amusing caption goes here.

My squadmates seem to have taken a step back from useful and competent as in previous CoD games and are back to being decoration, and in many levels the enemies only seem to shoot at me (except for the occasional 1-shot kill on my decorative squadmates. And I’m only playing on the second difficulty setting.

While it’s an overused term, the game does have consolitis in that the emphasis is SO much more on the action rather than the playing – firefights are non-stop and frankly, a little too intense. As you simply can’t avoid being shot (not shot at), because they all go for YOU. As mentioned above, most of the time your vision is impaired by the “bloody vision” that the game uses in lieu of a wound meter/HP bar. You sprinting to the checkpoints is once again more important than actually fighting your way through, thanks to the endlessly-respawning enemies, who make attempting to fight your way through an exercise in futility anyway. It’s all about sprint-while-being-wounded towards the next gold star on your map.

In the inevitable 3rd-person view tank level, you’re once again at the helm of a T-34, and it’s much like previous CoD games where you’ve been at the helm of a T-34, (and maybe some MoH instalments as well). Except this time, there’s huge clouds of dust. All the time. All the time because your tank is constantly being pounded by enemy armour, panzershreks, bunkers, 88mm artillery. Your fellow Soviet tanks disappear without a trace pretty quickly, so again you have so solo the whole lot. Through the dust. Of course, this is helped by the fact that just like when you duck behind a wall as an infantryman, your tank regenerates it’s, erm, “health” whenever it’s not getting the shit shot out of it. This allows you to take out at least a platoon of Tigers, and probably PzIVs as well. (Hard to make out their profiles through all the dust, you see.)

I feel like I’ve been here before…

I really enjoyed CoD4, despite many of the same or similar flaws, but that may have been largely in light of the modern setting. This feels even more scripted, and at the same time both less realistic and less arcadey-fun. As it is, and despite both the annoyances and the great visuals, I feel very much like I’ve played this exact game before. Many times.

I mean, I’ve definitely assaulted the Reichstag building and planted the Soviet banner on the roof there before. And though it’s definitely prettier this time around, it’s not any more fun, partly because I’ve already done this, but mostly due to the endless rain of homing bullets and respawning Nazis.

Another annoying aspect of the consolitis are the “death cards”, scattered around in hidden places in the SP mode to unlock cheats in co-op. They’re this year’s version of the Laptops in CoD4. In a game that discourages “exploration” by virtue of endless-respawn enemies, rush-to-checkpoint gameplay, and large areas made up of pretty much identical debris/jungle/etc, it’s a very weak attempt to extend the game’s longevity. This is especially so as their unlocks are overwhelmingly just more ways to increase the game’s difficulty with only a couple of “fun” ones. I mean, even if I cared about them it wouldn’t be hard to play through the individual levels again with a walkthrough, but I have no urge to do so.

Parts of the SP campaign are reasonable fun. The Soviet campaign I enjoyed a lot more than the US Pacific  campaign, which is probably due to preferring the urban battlefronts over the jungle ones where you can’t see the enemy, and the German Stahlheim helmets being a more distinctive target to shoot at than the Japanese. The best parts of the US campaign for me were the first section of the Aircraft-gunner sequences, (“Black Cats”) and the levels where you operate a flamethrower in the jungle, though those still suffered from not being able to see a damn thing due to “bloody vision”, flames and dust’n’dirt everywhere. The Soviet missions were I suppose blander but more solid.

Multiplayer seems to be pretty much exactly the same as CoD4, only with dogs and recon planes instead of attack choppers and UAVs. I got sick of the spammy combat and loudly stupid playerbase after one round. I enjoyed CoD4’s MP for awhile, but eventually got bored with it. As I’m still bored with CoD4 MP and this is exactly the same, I was sick of it about 5 minutes after firing it up for the first time. To be fair though, if you still enjoy CoD4 MP, then you’ll likely enjoy this iteration’s MP.

Overall, it’s like CoD4. It’s not a great game. It’s a cinematic experience that you play through. But it’s WW2, again. And I’ve already done all this. I’ve played this. I liked CoD4 a lot more as it was a fresh take. This feels like a mash-up rehash of CoD4 and every other CoD/MoH you’ve already played. Beyond that it doesn’t make me want to play more every time I take a break, and the best FPS games do that. Instead I had to make myself play it through to the end to unlock the Zombie-Mode carrot. Zombie mode looks good on paper, and the combination of wanting to try it and wanting to finish this review was pretty much the main reason I made myself slog through and finish the campaign.

All games must have zombies. Apparently.

Once I unlocked that carrot I found that it was pretty fun. In SP zombie mode you can see that it’d be an awful lot of fun with 4 pals and voice chat (hmm… sound like another recent Zombie-themed game?). Nonetheless I tried it online, and found that there were unfortunately not too many games going, and more importantly, the calibre of players in it is pretty much the same as the random idiots in CoD4/5 MP, or your average trade channel discussion in World of Warcraft. Still, it’s a simple but worthwhile addition to the game.

It’s a solid rental. If you love the CoD-style multiplayer and you’d rather use WW2-era weapons than modern ones for a change it’d be worth the purchase. The SP mode/campaign is like CoD4: Worth playing through, but not necessarily worth buying or owning.

Part 2: 360 and Multiplayer thoughts.

So 3 years after release, and 2 years after writing the above review of the PC version, I got around to playing the 360 version. Why? That’s a reasonable question. The simple answer is simply that I wanted to try the co-op campaign and play through it with my wife. I’m also halfway through the SP campaign, mostly because I thought I may as well play through it since I bought the thing. I’m also interested in seeing how it looks on the big TV screen.

So anyway, my thoughts on both modes are generally much the same. Still can’t see a damn thing with all the bullets whizzing around and your bloodied vision – especially in the Pacific missions. The Flamethrower still (almost) makes up for all of it with it’s sheer mindless fun (time to reinstall RTCW for MP?). Endlessly-respawning baddies still make everything a sprint to the checkpoint. So no major changes. As a co-op piece, it’s okay. I figure that playing almost anything co-op with a friend is usually going to be fun, often fun than solo, so there is that. The co-op campaign omits several missions – the more Singleplayer-oriented ones. Black Cats (the one in the seaplane), the introductory cat-and-mouse Russian sniper level. Possibly another 1 or 2 that I can’t recall. I’m not finding the SP campaign to be “sticky” at all, wanting me to play more of it. It feels a lot more like a chore actually. Something I have to do to “get my money’s worth” from the game. So I might not finish it if I can let common sense and logic win that particular argument. (6 months later, I still haven’t gone back to finish it – so there you go…)

There are no Achievements given for the co-op campaign, and you just play them from a chosen selection of standalone levels, though it does queue the next one automatically when you finish the previous. There are Death Cards in here, so you can collect those for various MP cheats. I pretty much ignored those in the PC version, sine I had no intention of playing through it again, but I may go back for them on the 360. Partly as achievement whoring and partly “just in case” my wife wants to (or is willing to) replay through a level or two with various silliness turned on. Nazi Zombies mode is also unlocked from the beginning, though I suspect that’s been patched in sometime int he past 2-3 years, as I recall needing to finish the game on PC to unlock it.

I did have a muck about with the multiplayer. I actually enjoyed it more than I did on PC for some reason – and more than CoD4 on 360, though the game does have a habit of putting you into a game, then kicking you if you don’t have the DLC map packs, so you have to queue again.

Multiplayer Madness. Ok, so it’s not so mad.

The 2 copies I got for MP were bargain bin pickups, and the MP was fun enough, but unless I can get some major MP use out of Nazi Zombies, it’s not something I could recommend. Regardless of platform, the SP game is still “like CoD4, but not quite as good, and hard to see anything.” and the co-op, while servicable, is nothing to write home about.

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The Verdict:

If you’re looking at picking up a PC or console FPS for Singleplayer, there are so many better choices out there.

If you’re looking at picking up a PC FPS for Multiplayer, again, there are so many better choices out there.

If you’re looking at picking up a console FPS for Multiplayer, it’s actually quite decent but now quite underpopulated, so there are better choices. Decent if you can get it for cheap.

If you’re looking at picking up a console FPS for co-op, there are far better choices out there.

It’s ok as a bargain bin pickup, especially if you enjoy WW2 shooters.

Review: Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie – Xbox 360 – Ubisoft Montpellier Studios

So I was a little bit bored, and looking through my big pile of games I need to get around to playing sometime and I noticed the King Kong game. Or to give it it’s proper title: Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie.

I chose this game because I had heard that it was short and easy. Reviews I had read had either said that it was either okay as a game, or actually a bit crap. The fact that it apparently also had some easy 360 achievements had absolutely nothing to do with why I chose it. No, really.  My wife picked it up for me for about AU$10 or $15 (typical new game prices here are $80-100).

Hail to the King, Baby

So, the game itself. Well, you take on the role of “Jack” something-or-other, and your job is security or some thing and so you follow Jack Black around King Kong’s island shooting things that get in the way, and occasionally rescuing our blonde damsel in distress.

The game is split into 41 chapters, most of which take between 5 and 10 minutes to play through. The interface of the game is a bit different, in that there is no HUD – no onscreen indicators of health, ammo, lives, map or compass. As such, the game features COD-style regenerating health when you stop and rest for a couple of moments.

To make up for the lack of the standard visual information that we normally get in a FPS, the levels are quite linear. This also contributes to their brevity.

The enemies in the game start off as giant crabs and quickly progress to giant millipedes and such. While there are some cool looking enemies later on in the game – and I’ll get to those in a minute, much of the first half of the game at least seems to be made up of throwing spears and shooting at those damn millipedes. They actually are creepy enough initially, but after you’ve impaled your 127th one on a spear or bone fragment, they’ve lost all of that and have just declined to a boring enemy. This leads me to the second of the overly-used aspects of the game.

Kill it with Fire.

Spears and fire. The “puzzles” in the game – if you can call them that – mostly consist of you finding fire somewhere, then getting a speartip to the fire so that you have a blazing spear, then taking that same spear to find some bushes to set alight, and possibly some mobs so you can KILL IT WITH FIRE. The game also has “bait mobs” such as giant grubs, fish and flies which you can spear, then throw into an area where the predatory species (aka the ones you need to fight) swarm them, then you can either shoot them or throw a blazing spear into their general area.

There are some cool mobs in the game though – there are mobs that look like flying skinless apes – perhaps refugees from the Wizard of Oz – Tim Burton edition, but mostly, the impressive mobs are the dinosaurs. The most fun in this game is had simply from continually spearing raptors in the head (helped by the unlimited-spears cheat code, which incidentally, does not disable achievements!)

The most impressive parts of the game though, are when you see something big for the first time. This effect might be lessened if you’re playing on a smaller screen, but on a bit screen, the first time you see Kong really is a “whoah” moment. As is the first time you see the Brontosaurouses (before the game unfortunately manages to make them ho-hum as well), and of course the T-Rex, which actually has a really cool roar/scream effect that goes with it.

Overall, it’s not especially exciting. It’s an ok way to spend a Sunday afternoon or a few sessions over a week to blast through and whore some achievements. You’ll never play it again after that, though. It’s surprisingly less bad than I’d expected, but not good, either.

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Verdict: Worth a rental, or maybe a super-cheap lift from Le Bargain Bin.

Review: Blur – Bizarre Creations – 360

After a few negative reviews lately, I have something a bit different. Blur was of those games on my radar a year or two ago, along with Split/Second. While the demo was enough to put me off Split/Second, the reviews made me not want to bother with Blur. By the time it made it’s way down to bargain bin status, I’d all but forgotten about it and lost interest, until a news thread popped up several months ago with the news of Activision closing down Bizarre. My interest was piqued, but then I re-read the reviews which really seemed to emphasis the difficulty of the SP races, so I dropped it down to “ah, whatever” status.

Blur

I don’t need to reiterate the lineage of this game, do I? Bizarre Creations, Project Gotham Racing 1/2/3/4.

It recently hit the AU$20 mark via a UK import site I use for a lot of games (also responsible for a lot of the dross I’ve been buying and playing recently), so with the idea of some system-link play in mind, I decided to pick it up for Christmas. We cracked them open at the end of January, and I have to say that what others on that forum had to say about the game is actually really accurate. It’s a damn fun little racer. Would I have paid full price for it? No, but that says more about me these days than the game. Despite only being in the first set of many races when I initially started to write this, I’m having quite a good time, at least so far, both in Single-Player mode as well as in system link with my wife both with and without AI competitors. It’s basically a good looking, neon-tinged arcade racer that looks something like a Need for Speed Underground title crossed with Mario Kart.

It's a pretty good looking game.

It’s very likely that as I get further into the game, it’ll become too hard for my shitty driving skills and I’ll put it down for awhile or forever, but that’s what happens with me and racing games. Despite my love for the series, I’ve never “finished” a Burnout game, either. I see racing games as more like a sports game or a Streetfighter/Tekken beat-em-up. Something to pick up and play for a bit, but not something to really play in a hardcore manner. Pick up and put down. I’ve gotten in as far as the third or forth set of races, and there are a few that I’m having issues with. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to go and rank up elsewhere then go back to complete the earlier ones that give me trouble. Shame then that the first cars seem to be the best ones I’ve come across so far still…

There's not many online, but the split-screen is still fun.

I’ve gone online for several sessions and competed with others, consistantly getting from 4th-6th place, and even finished 1st a couple of times. While this was unexpected, it’s really the arcade multiplayer Mario Kart aspect of the game that made it fun, which gives shitty driving game players like me a chance to use my the skills to have a chance to be competitive. From what others have told me, the PC online community is completely dead. On the 360, there may be 200 people on at once at a time, worldwide. So not what I’d call popular, but at least you can get a game going. No idea about PSN, but I’ll bet there’ll be slightly fewer online if PSN ever gets up and running again… but even as a simple game to play in split-screen or via system link, it’s good, simple fun.

Anyway, this is cheap as chips right now, and a good way to work out if you’ll like this is to ask yourself: Do you like Mario Kart? You might like this as well.

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Verdict: Buy it (If you like Mario Kart).