Review: 007: Quantum of Solace – Treyarch Invention, LLC – Xbox 360

My wife picked this up for me out of the bargain bin at an opening of a new branch of a well-known Australian Hi-Fi, music, games, computers, etc chain. What I knew about it was that it was built on the COD4 engine, but wasn’t nearly as good.

But hey, it was cheap.

Awhile back, someone asked me why I play trashy games instead of the good stuff, and while what I said then was valid, he did have a valid point. After all, I’ve got a pile of games I know are better than QoS sitting unplayed. I guess it’s in part because I’m “saving” the good/best ones, while the less good ones can be played and disposed of without caring if I really savour them properly. So anyway, I threw this on today since I’ve been in a bit of a Bond mood recently, and, yeah, a short, disposable game was what I felt like playing, since I can probably/hopefully finish it over the weekend, inbetween a couple of DVDs and WoW-dailies.

So anyway. Based on the plots of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. CoD4 engine. Treyarch – before they got good with Black Ops. Slightly-crappy Gears-wannabe cover-shooter mechanic bolted on. Bond plays through a series of vaguely-based on the films scenarios, mostly using a series of various high-powered weapons just like he didn’t use in the films in an odd sequence vaguely related or not to the actual plots of the two films. I guess many of the weapons did cameo in the films while other people were using them. And James has the famous cover shot with the HK UMP-9.

This is what Parkour looks like. Apparently.

I’ve in fact just paused the game after having acquired an M60, and shot up a building with it, while slowly fighting forward while taking cover against waves of heavily-armed goons armed with AKs. You might remember this scene from Casino Royale as the parkour chase from the beginning of the film. Which puts me at the 1/3 of the way through point according to GameFaqs.

There are cell phones scattered about, which fill in little bits of intel. They’re vaguely interesting, but nothing to worry about if you miss any.

Anyway. Is it fun? It’s alright, actually. It’s nothing like the films, of course. But it’s an alright shooter. I’m not even going to bother checking out the multiplayer, since it’s an older game at this point, and let’s face it, every FPS/3PS of the last decade has a half-assed MP shooter aspect tacked onto it, but most people just play one of the better/more popular ones, and anything shy of that tend to be a ghost town.

So, yeah. As I said, CoD4 engine. Treyarch. Slightly-crappy cover system. Still a decent enough game. Not an awesome one to pick up at full price, but perfectly okay as a weekend rental, or something to fish out of the bargain bin and then either inflate your games collection or pass onto a friend.

Gears of Bond.

After another hour of play, including the exciting rooftop helicopter battle and exploding elevator shaft sequence that you may not recall from Casino Royale since they never happened in the film, I do have to reiterate it’s definitely not a bad game. I’m enjoying myself well enough, with of course the bargain-bin price caveat. The cover mechanics aren’t bad either, they just don’t really add anything to the FPS formula or this FPS title. At least they did make an effort to replicate the final section of the parkour chase, and while it wasn’t awesome, it was playable.

Final remarks – finished it. Had fun enough, though the I found the wild deviations from the film(s) to be annoying. It also features one stage where you get to play as drugged-cardiac-arrest-Bond from CR, which is almost as little fun as the Nightmare stages in Max Payne. At least it’s faster and you can see. Overall though, it’s still an ok game. Better as a rental rather than a bargain bin buy, since there’s not much to do with it once you finish it in 10 or so hours, unless you want to play through all the difficulty levels or achievement whore, since the MP is a ghost town.

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Verdict: Rent it. Or buy it cheap. Or don’t – It’s all good.

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).