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Product Reviews

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  1.  Skyrim is Impressive, Even if it's not Perfect


    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim offers everything you've come to expect from the series: An enormous, detailed and vibrant world to explore at your leisure, dozens of quests to become embroiled in, a beautiful soundtrack and of course, a completely forgettable main questline. Allow me to dwell on that latter-most sentiment for a moment. Skyrim has, quite possibly, the dullest, most mediocre main story in a game that I've played in a long time. Despite the infinite potential that a story filled with ancient dragons and bloody political feuds had, Bethesda decided instead to just throw together a muddled, hackneyed attempt at something epic, with the ironic result of a pathetic distraction that never manages to get itself off the ground.
    Thankfully though, riveting story-lines have never been what made The Elder Scrolls such a cherished RPG series. No, what makes Skyrim so unique is its world. The sheer enormity of what Bethesda has created here in the province of Skyrim simply cannot be overstated. It's almost frightening how quickly real hours slide by as you become engrossed in Skyrim's virtual ones. Honestly, half the time I don't even know what I would be spending my time doing. Picking flowers and hunting elk, probably. And it's therein lies the true genius of Skyrim. What makes it great will never be its storied moments or scripted scenes, no, what makes Skyrim so special is the things you do yourself. Little memories like stumbling on an alchemist's woodland camp, or uncovering a beautiful hidden glade, all of these little stories you forge yourself are what make the experience a whole one. Not some rubbish about a Dragonborn.

  2.  An Amusing, Satirical Take on the Fantasy RPG


    Set on the Orkney Islands of Medieval Scotland, The Bard's Tale casts you as the Bard - a cheeky, loveable rogue who's main concern is finding himself plenty of coin and cleavage with saving the world being a nuisance he'll get around to doing later if it doesn't prove too annoying.
    This is first and foremost an action RPG; you will use swords; daggers and bows and arrows (as well as a little magic, of course) to lay waste to countless enemies like Kunal Trow (nasty, goblin-like creatures), evil sorcerers and even Vikings. But the rub here is the ability to summon creatures. Being a Bard, the protagonist can play a few notes on a magical lute, flute or electric axe guitar(!) to summon a menagerie of animals and other-worldly creatures to assist him in combat. The creatures are a bizarre and hilarious bunch, running the gamut from a chivalrous knight with sword and shield, to a snarky veteran explorer who will detect traps and treasure, to a cockney flying imp who'll light the way for you, all the while smoking a pipe. However, there is also plenty of exploring to do, and this I believe is where The Bard's Tale shines. The game plays through an adjustable, isometric third-person view not dissimilar to the Diablo series. You can travel to an assortment of areas and explore them at your leisure to uncover treasure, NPCs or whatever's around the next corner. Trust me, there will be plenty of surprises waiting for you in this game!
    The Bard's Tale is immersive, satisfying and genuinely funny. It never takes itself seriously, and if you go into it without expectation or judgement, then I assure you that you will come away pleasantly surprised.

  3.  A Majestic Tour de Force.


    To put it simply, and to avoid any confusion, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a sheer masterpiece. A fantasy RPG set in the mythical province of Cyrodiil, what sets Oblivion apart from its contemporaries is the primarily first-person perspective, a feature which is integral to the extent to which you will become immersed in this colossal role-playing experience. And what a gargantuan game it is! The Game of the Year Edition contains not only the base game (this alone provides more hours of gaming bliss than 20 average games combined) but also the two expansion packs that matter: namely, The Knights of the Nine and The Shivering Isles DLC packs. The latter expansion in particular boasts enough content to almost be considered a separate game in itself, offering a whole new map to explore, a new story, dozens of side-quests and countless new dungeons, items, creatures and NPCs to encounter.
    So, with the impending sequel, Skyrim, almost upon us, you may be on the fence about dipping into its predecessor. But I can assure you, if you simply give it the time and patience it deserves, Oblivion may well prove to be the most incredible gaming experience of your life.

  4.  An Intense and Evocative FPS Experience.


    Half-Life on PS2 is, by today's standards, incredibly dated. Getting into this elderly FPS in 2011 and beyond will require patience and the right attitude. However, with dedication, you will find yourself becoming engrossed in what has to be one of the most important milestones in video gaming history.
    Set primarily in the Black Mesa Research Facility, Half-Life tells the story of the perpetually mute scientist, Gordon Freeman, and the part he plays in an experiment that goes disastrously wrong and opens a portal to another plane of existence, allowing all manner of monstrous aliens to pour into our world and wreak havoc. The story in itself isn't particularly inspired, but nevertheless remains intriguing due to the deliberately minimalistic approach the game takes narrative-wise, forcing the player to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions about what's really going on. The cold and sterile environs of the Black Mesa Research Facility, and the barren canyons in which it's situated, resonate perfectly with the bleak tone of the game. Couple this with an almost non-existent soundtrack, where for long stretches you have only Freeman's echoing footsteps for company, and at times Half-Life even begins to approach the surreal.
    With regards to gameplay, Half-Life has actually aged rather well. Movement is exceptionally fast and there are issues with inertia, but overall everything handles intuitively, and in no time at all you will be bludgeoning headcrabs with crowbars like it was second nature.
    So, whether it's your love of Half-Life 2 or simply a curiosity to play the first of the 'modern' FPSs that's driving you to investigate this dusty relic, Half-Life on PS2 represents a gaming experience that will draw you in to an extent that most games could only dream of, and for that reason alone, I think it's more than worth the price of a cinema ticket.

  5.  Dull as Dishwater.


    Single-player, with the exception of the opening level, is a bland mess. The characters are generic morons. The script is hackneyed and the voice-acting dull. Graphics and gun-play are solid but the real challenge is trying not to fall asleep. Multiplayer is slightly more inspired but nowhere near the polished gem many people would give it credit for. Overall the package is derivative and gets old quickly. Battlefield 1943 is both cheaper and far more enjoyable, go with that instead

  6.  Disappointing single-player, stellar multiplayer.


    Killzone has a universe going for it that - in my humble opinion - could actually best everything else that's out there (yes, even that OTHER sci-fi FPS for that OTHER console) if Guerrilla Games simply handled it properly where their single-player is concerned. Sadly, Killzone 2's campaign is a complete let-down almost from the moment you begin playing, thanks to a poor script, woeful voice-acting (almost) across the board, and more than a couple of missed set-piece opportunities. To make things even more disheartening, the opening CGI cinematic that plays on booting up the game is actually incredibly well done, and gives you a teasing glimpse at what Killzone 2's story could have been before you begin playing the depressing reality. It's not all bad, however. The graphics in Killzone 2 are quite possibly the best any console game has produced to date. There will be more than one occasion where you will be forced to stop playing and just stare open-mouthed at the distracting beauty of it all. Sound effects are highly impressive also, especially if you are playing on a good surround-sound system. Gameplay in Killzone 2 is a strange beast. It's definitely unique, and probably realistic to boot (after all, assault rifles and RPGs are hardly light instruments to bear to battle) but more often than not the downright sluggish movements of your Sergeant Sevchenko will simply irritate, rather than immerse. However stick with it, and it will eventually become tolerable, even if never completely ideal. As for the multiplayer offering in Killzone 2, well, as the title should suggest, it's excellent. Due to its nature, story is pretty much completely irrelevant in multiplayer, so that major issue is not a problem here, and as a result the game shines. It's a class-based system whereby your loadout is based on what kind of character you go for, eg. the Medic will have a healing gun which he can use to revive other players. It's actually one of the best multiplayer games I have ever played, and totally different to other mainstays. So, would I recommend this game? Overall, yes I would, even if it is almost entirely because of the multiplayer.

  7.  It's dated, but blissfully enjoyable nonetheless.


    You can't deny that Far Cry: Instincts Predator represents good value for money. For your cash, you get the original Far Cry storyline, the Evolutions storyline, a robust map editor and a well-rounded multiplayer component to boot, all in a HD, achievement-laden gloss finish. However, none of that would matter if the game itself was tosh. Thankfully, Far Cry: Instincts Predator is as enjoyable now as it was on release. Visually, the game ranges from looking almost like a last-generation game to actually being rather pleasing - particularly where the game's water effects are concerned. Gameplay-wise, it's a bit sloppy-joe - but in an arcadey and old-fashioned way, so you'll probably grow to like it. But in the end of the day, what Far Cry: Instincts Predator is that so few other games are... is fun. Simple, good fun. So, should you buy this? Yes. Yes you should. Oh, and Predator mode with some friends makes for some of the most memorable online moments you'll ever have.