Archive for the ‘Game over or Game on’ Category

Sleep deprivation, square eyes and occasional petrification…Final Fantasy XIII is here….

Imagine this…You’re lying in a warm comfortable slumber, experiencing the tranquillity only achieved in the knowledge that you have a day off from work…when suddenly you’re rudely brought back to the real world by the sound of your girlfriends hairdryer. You rub your eyes and reach for the alarm clock…its 7am. On any normal day I’d let out a groan, turn over and spend some quality time with my pillow…but this was a Final Fantasy day…a day that comes round roughly once every four years.

Like a deep sea diver bailing from his boat, I pulled back the duvet and made my way to the kitchen. I knew the postman would deliver my Special Edition copy of FFXIII at 11am so I attempted to kill some time. I ate breakfast, had a shower and switched on sky sports news…7.45am…This wasn’t going to work. At 8am I was in the car, I turned the ignition and made my way to buy ANOTHER copy of FFXIII…my excitement grew.

Game in hand, I rushed back home, watched the disc slide into my console and felt a shiver down my spine. Despite some negative press I for one could not wait to hop on my trusty Chocobo and ride into the world of Cocoon.

As the intro music faded and the game started I immediately knew that Square Enix had achieved something remarkable…every crafted scene was visually brilliant. The animation was outstanding, even lip movements are perfectly synced with character speech and pronunciation. Environments are spectacular too. The new world of Cocoon was breathtaking….I only wish they had given me the opportunity to explore more of it. The lack of freedom for an RPG let alone a Final Fantasy is a big issue for me. The route was restrictive and it felt like walking on a leash. In reflection, maybe this was done to mimic the struggle of the characters, but at times it felt like a movie…and NOT an RPG.

Then came the second act! With huge mountains, mystical forests, dark caverns and scores of monsters THE GAME CAME ALIVE. I was blown away from the opening cinematic scenes of chapter 11 to the final battle. This is also where it starts to feel like an RPG. You’re finally let loose on the game…it was like leaving the glumness of Midgar for the open plains or stepping out of Balamb Garden for the first time…It’s just such a shame this happens so close to the end. However, just when you think the game is over you get a nice surprise. FFXIII repays you for your patience by allowing you to continue playing AFTER the credits have rolled…this is a first.

The lack of freedom has an effect on the control the player has on their party too. At the beginning you cannot level up, after that you can max out you characters only to the point of the next major boss fight where your Crystarium (similar to FFX sphere grid) is expanded another level meaning you can never really get a battle advantage. The game also dictates who you control in battles for the first 20 hours of the game. It constantly switches between characters not allowing you to change your party leader. However, this helps to develop the story from various perspectives.

I found the lack of ability to develop players frustrating. Each party member has access to what are called “roles”. The idea is that instead of having characters that only fulfill one role on the battlefield, such as a healer or damage dealer, each character is flexible. In a fight you can trigger a “Paradigm Switch”, which allows you to change the role of each party member. You may begin a fight with Relentless Assault, which includes one Commando (melee), and two Ravagers (damage-based spell casting), but when your party’s health decreases to near zero, you’ll want to Paradigm Shift. This will allow you to introduce a healer into the party to fix you up.

Imagine the typical JRPG boiled down to its most pure and basic form and you can imagine how FFXIII works. Your enjoyment will ultimately come down to whether or not the story grabs you. For the first 20 – 30 hours there is literally nothing to do but follow the main story and if you’re not hooked then it could be hard going. I can see why some people feel the changes made are hard to swallow. However, after completing the story in around 60hrs I now have 95hrs on the clock and I’m still trying to hunt all the marks, level up my characters and unlock all the trophies. Maybe it’s because I’m a self confessed Gold Chocobo-breeding, Ozma-killing, Lionheart-wielding Final Fantasy completest…nevertheless if all the format changes were so terrible I would have stopped playing.

Maybe it’s not the Final Fantasy many wanted…Maybe it’s the Final Fantasy some feared…but put simply…it’s a final fantasy that I enjoyed and then continued playing…GAME ON!


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Who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman, Schwarzenegger or Stallone…Plants or Zombies?!?! This is a question that I have rarely pondered, but ‘Pop Cap’ did and thus released a version of their award winning PC game to the iPod Touch and iPhone.

I admit; I’ve never played the PC version. However, after hearing rumblings of praise from like-minded friends I splashed out £1.79…yes that’s nearly two whole pounds…on this little gem.

The premise is simple, you have a brain and the zombies want it. All they have to do is cross your lawn to get it. So with the help of your foliage friends and seeds in hand you battle to save your grey matter.

The touch screen, controls are effectively simple and become second nature very quickly. Once you have amassed enough sun power (it falls from the sky and is produced by sun flowers), you touch which seed you want to plant from the panel on the left then touch where you want to plant it…just watch as the zombies fall to pieces under the might of your flower power!

Just as you get the hang of things and get cocky the game throws a curve ball. Suddenly you’re fighting at night (no sun power) or the zombies attack your back garden where you have a swimming pool. Add to this a hilarious variety of zombie abilities, like Michael Jackson calling up dancing recruits or the zombie bobsled team, it is important to adapt your strategy regularly.

You’re never going to get bored of the plants at your disposal either. You unlock a different seed type at the end of each level or purchase new ones from crazy Dave…with over 40 in total, each adding a new string to your strategy bow.

Plants vs Zombies takes the tried and tested tower defence genre and adds that little something that lets it climb the beanstalk to go above all the rest. So grab your spade…Game on!

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The sequel to the BAFTA award winning Bioshock hit our not so sunny shores last week and I was cautious about booking my ticket to revisit the only city under the sea. I was concerned by how quiet it seemed to be, with only a week to go before release…no reviews, no hype…nothing! It seemed very strange to say it was the sequel to a videogame lauded as one of the best this generation. Nevertheless I sunk to the depths of the ocean world with an air of trepidation.

The story picks up 10 years after the original Bioshock, playing as a Big Daddy searching for a specific Little Sister. For those that don’t know Little Sisters go around collecting ADAM which you use to upgrade and buy plasmids (magic powers). This precious red liquid is highly sought after by all inhabitants of Rapture which adds a new moral dynamic when collecting ADAM. As you adopt the role of a Big Daddy you get the option to harvest (kill) the Little Sister or to adopt her to be the over protective parent as she collects ADAM from corpses, you earn more, quicker if you harvest them but this moral choice will affect the outcome of the game. 

"One of us is in deeeep trouble!"

The problem I found playing as a Big Daddy is that the other Big Daddies seem to have lost their aura. I remember how I felt in my first trip to Rapture. As I entered a room and heard the familiar sound “come on mr bubbles” from a Little Sister I would prepare for an ass kicking in my pursuit to earn some precious ADAM…they now just felt like another enemy. In an attempt to counter this, the makers have introduced ‘Big Sisters’ which are a faster more deadly form of enemy which turn up randomly after you harvest or save a Little Sister. They are undoubtedly a formidable opponent but they turn up too irregularly to have a great impact on the player. 

"I'm tougher than I look..."

Like most sequels this generation, Bioshock 2 has been given a multiplayer option which does have its perks and a distinct Bioshock feel but it follows a tried and tested system of levelling up and unlocking weapons and abilities as you progress. If you’re looking for a Bioshock style multiplayer they have done a great job but I didn’t feel the urge to spend much of my time on it. I find myself in a strange position because I enjoyed playing Bioshock 2 but came away feeling under whelmed. If I wanted to take a third journey through rapture I would skip playing this again and replay the first.

A fun game, but given the choice I’ll always remember my first journey to Rapture…Game Over

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This is an appeal to my brothers in arms…if you’re sat on the fence, grasping Modern Warfare with postmortem hands and a fear to try something new…JUMP DOWN, grab your ammo, fear no explosions, enlist and ship out!

I was once one such person, curious about what MAG said it would bring to the table with its 256 soldiers battling it out for supremacy in the shadow war. I had a vision of chaos reigning supreme, nobody listening to orders, DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER…but in reality, Zipper Interactive have made an addictive shooter with depth and strategy creating that “just one more round” feeling.

For those who enlist there are three factions to choose from but once you join a faction you cannot pick another…until you reach lvl60 at least. I originally thought this was a bad idea but this persistence builds faction loyalty as you fight alongside familiar teammates trying to make your faction superior. You become a band of brothers in the virtual sense.

When playing on the larger maps it can feel a bit overwhelming at times with planes flying over, AA guns firing and people dying all around you. This creates the atmosphere…add to this the knowledge that everything around you is being caused by someone and not a set scenario the fight morphs into an organic manmade battleground.

As you progress you become eligible to apply for squad leader, this is your introduction to the command structure of MAG which takes it above and beyond the call of duty. A squad leader is in charge of a squad of eight players and can designate a target such as a bunker or AA gun for his squad to assault. Staying near the squad leader boosts abilities like increased reload speed or resistance to damage. More importantly, squad members will earn double experience for following orders and taking out or repairing targets along with any enemies within the vicinity, which is a powerful incentive to follow orders. With further progression up the ranks you can apply for further promotions and with these come more powerful abilities to swing the battle in your favour like air strikes or calling in respawning squad members as paratroopers (providing all AAguns have been taken out) add to this the idea of being in charge of a team of 127 other players is mouth watering.

So for those of you who are unsure about MAG, bored of modern warfare and crave a deeper challenge then my advice is simple….give it a try. You may love it, you may disagree with everything I’ve said but at least you will make your own opinion and that is the least MAG deserves….GAME ON!

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Imagine this….Your name is Bayonetta, you’re the only remaining Umbra Witch left alive (a darkness worshipping clan)… and you’ve just been awoken from a 500 year nap suffering from amnesia and a strange voice in your head…THERE WILL BE MURDERS! Luckily one thing Bayonetta does remember is that her arch enemies are Lumen Sages (aka angels) who worship the light, and are the perfect remedy for her anger issues. The story isn’t really one of the games strongest points but there is enough to keep you interested and it’s in action that Bayonetta excels.

Bayonetta’s unique style of angel slaying consists of having guns on both her hands AND her feet…pistol high heels for when two hands just won’t do. She is also equipped with armor like hair called the wicked weave. Not only can she use her locks to cover her modesty, but also to unleash giant stiletto kicks or punches. Even better, she can use what are called Weave Attacks to summon demonic entities that will see off huge enemies via Quick time events, these also increases your multiplier for the amount of halos you acquire at the end of the battle, the use of which I will talk about later.

"I was taking a nap"

Bayonetta’s ‘Witch’ time works brilliantly and rewards you for timing a successful dodge move with slowing down your enemies for a short period, difficult at first but starts to become second nature. Couple this with the amount of moves you learn along the way, allowing you to string combos together, ensure it all stays fresh and fun as set upon the beings from the holy light

Simple controls allow you to pull off fluid combos with ease with the results looking awesome and can’t help but make you look uber skillful to people watching you play.

The bosses in Bayonetta are huge with most of them filling the screen but it’s not just the sheer size that’s impressive – it’s the way they have to be killed. One of the later monster battles takes place in the ocean. Bayonetta is surfing around on a piece of airplane debris as a giant beast fires meteors at our heroine. To take him out you have to wear it down by pummeling its legs then when you summon the Weave monster (which in this instance is a big spider) you have to steer the watery foe into your Weave’s mouth.

"Are you talking to me?"

Vertical levels where you’re running up a building, or spinning uncontrollably on a rock as you fight are also another excellent feature. When the moon is full Bayonetta has the ability to do this which allows her to traverse sections of a level, they’re as wonderfully executed as they are nauseating.

Character progression is done by collecting halos (which look eerily like a certain blue hedgehog’s collectables) and visiting a bar called the gates of hell to spend your hard earned halos on new moves, weapons and with later inclusions being the ability to transform into animals.

Even though it’s the silky smooth execution of Bayonetta’s ass-kicking combos that will keep you playing, it has to be said she is very likeable as a main character too. She’s sexy, witty and certain to come out on top.

What Bayonetta achieves is epic in scale and delivery. Everything is vast…bosses and finishing moves are paramount in Bayonetta and it’s all stitched together with a huge variety of ways to BRING THE PAIN.

At 17 chapters in length, Bayonetta is not the longest game (I finished in just over 9hrs on normal). It has plenty of replay value with non-stop jaw-dropping action, collectables and hidden missions; it really does deserve all the praise surrounding it.

Like these?

God of War

Devil May Cry

Ninja Gaiden

Then strap on your pistol heels…GAME ON!!!

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