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Batman: Arkham Asylum
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I've never been much of a fan of Batman...the television shows, comic books, films - its just not one of those things I've invested much time in. I ended up ordering Batman: Arkham Asylum after hearing about the delay of Splinter Cell: Conviction, and I can quite happily say I am very glad that I did.
The game see's you play as Batman, a gritty hero focused on bringing villains to justice. You were tricked into bringing the Joker back to the Arkham Asylum, where he sprung his trap, after escaping your grasp, he was free to torment you at his will, with the aid of thugs, and familiar foes.
The story is excellent, and well fleshed out that people unfamiliar with Batman's lengthy history (like myself) will not feel lost in the game. The amount of polish to the game is amazing, as you progress through the story, you'll hear snippets of information from guards, be treated to excellent voice acting and be fully engrossed in a stunning, well built world teeming with secrets.
The game has many elements, but none feel tacked on just for the sake of it. The exploration aspects are enjoyable, the platforming solid, the riddles excellently implemented, the stealth elements satisfying and varied and the FreeFlow combat system - although seemingly limited from the start, could have you clutching your controller as you franticly try to master it during the combat challenge rooms.
As you progress through the game, completing your goals and uncovering secrets, you'll be treated to an almost never ending stream of rewards. From experience that is used to improve Batman's abilities and new Gadgets to help him beat his enemies, to Character Profiles detailing Friends and Foes alike,and even Audio Recordings of interviews conducted within the asylum itself. You'll always feel like you're making progress, and filling out the world even more. Finding all 240 secrets may sound daunting, but is enjoyable, even with a bit of backtracking to previously visited area's, as your new gadgets allow you access to places previously out of your reach.
Its hard to say anything too specific about this game without spoiling it in some way, but there are two moments in the game that stand out for me, that were so fresh and clever, that it actually had me take a moment to just go 'Wow!', something very few games manage to accomplish these days.
As you progress through the game, I'd recommend also playing the challenge rooms as you unlock them, like me, you'll probably learn some helpful tips in making the story mode even more enjoyable. Be warned however, the final three combat missions take some doing, but offer a great level of satisfaction uponcompletion. I thought the story mode lacked a few enemies, but earning three Batarang Ratings in each combat mission certainly made up for that. There are also leaderboards for all challenge rooms, so for those that enjoy competing with the best, there can be a lot of fun to be had out of these.
The exclusive Joker levels that come with the PS3 copy of the game are enjoyable, you play as the Joker himself with a unique set of moves, however, unless you're really into the leaderboards, there isn't a huge incentive to replay these sections. If you own both a PS3 and X360 and you're on the fence which platform to buy Batman: AA for, the Joker levels are great for diehard fans, but you won't miss out on much if you'd prefer to buy the X360 version of the game in my opinion.
I've enjoyed this game the most out of any other newly released title this year, for fans of action/stealth games, this comes highly recommended, if you're a fan of Batman on top of that, this is a must play game.
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You play as Joseph Turok, a Native American trying to make up for some mistakes he has made in his past. As a member of a combat unit comprised of typical butch soldiers with attitude problems, your mission is to locate a war criminal known as Kane, who long ago, liberated you and taught you much of what you know.
The game itself is a standard first person shooter, with linear levels and uninspired weaponry. However, the game does have some redeeming qualities. The levels are lush and gritty, providing a good sense of immersion and immanent danger, enemy AI will often work together and try to flank you, providing an extra layer of challenge and there are of course, prehistoric nasties who simply see you as walking lunch.
Shooting your enemies is all well and good, but Turok also has more elaborate methods of fighting off his enemies. Predatory dinosaurs do not distinguish between you, your squad mates or the enemy - meaning taking a stealthy approach, and luring dinosaurs to your enemy with the help of a flare gun a valid tactic to help you along your way. Of course, you'll have to deal with whoever, or whatever is standing at the end, and if gunplay is not to your liking, you can go toe to toe against your enemies with your trusty knife.
The knife allows you one hit takedowns on human enemies and small/medium sized dinosaurs, providing a rewarding and well animated scene. However, these do get repetitive, and although appealing the first few times, they do become boring after a while.
The game itself is not overly harsh, if you're in the middle of a firefight and a Raptor like beast comes at you from outside your vision, you'll have the opportunity to fight back in a brief quick time event. These can be rather rewarding, as you pry the jaws of a ferocious dinosaur away from your throat...but again, they do get boring the further into the game you go.
The story is forgettable, but not bad by any means. The checkpoints could be friendlier, and saving mid-mission will still force you to play from the previous checkpoint location upon restart. On default difficulty this isn't too bad, but can become very frustrating on the harder difficulty setting.
Multiplayer is enjoyable, with well designed levels, including a few co-op levels which are well made and fun to play with friends or strangers. Unfortunately, no multiplayer mode allows you to play as a dinosaur hunting your prey.
There is little reason to replay the game, or stick with multiplayer, but the game is certainly worth its current price, providing several hours of entertainment and some impressive moments now and then throughout the story.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Kane and Lynch see's you play as Kane, a criminal paying for the mistakes he's made in the past, with the help of a...disturbed individual, Lynch, who's tasked with keeping an eye on you. The game itself is a third person Action Shooter, where utilising cover is important. Not a very difficult game, and it can be easily completed on the hardest difficulty in under five hours. At times throughout the game, you are able to give orders to team mates (such as Lynch), but these are very limited and restricted to 'Follow', 'Shoot' and 'Move to'. Unfortunately, this doesn't make for more engaging gameplay, as there is very little need to use tactics such as flanking. The battles are quite intense and enjoyable to play, but very easy and nothing special in my opinion.
The voice work and story are decent, with two suitable, alternate endings to the game. Be warned however, there is an awful lot of swearing throughout the entire campaign. Co-op is limited to split screen, and requires the use of a wired controller for the second player...a major hindrance to those wishing to play this online. Speaking of online gameplay, the multiplayer mode sounds interesting...unfortunately, even at peak times, there have been *no* servers up and running. Creating your own can see you sitting in an empty lobby screen for hours, hoping by chance, someone else has the same idea and fancies giving multiplayer a try.
The game utilises Games for Windows Live (those with an XBox Live ID may use that), and although a bit clunky in the menu's, works well now the launch problems are finished with. For those interested in Gamerscore, there are 500 achievement points available for playing the Single Player Campaign.
Kane and Lynch is a bit of a disappointment coming from renowned developer IO Interactive (the developers of the Hitman series of games), and although very short, it is reasonably entertaining. With the lack of online co-op, and any multiplayer servers, it is however hard to recommend this title. An okay buy if its cheap, and you're in the mood for a game with a more mature setting.
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Warhammer 40000: Dawn Of War II
4 New from
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II see's you once again leading a force of Blood Ravens, this time, in defence of some of your recruiting worlds against the forces of Eldar, Orks and the terrifying Tyranids. The Single Player Campaign is a major depart from the original game, focusing on the use of a small, highly effective group of Space Marines, with the removal of base building completely. DoW II is more of an Action Roleplaying game, with a deep connection to your regular Real Time Strategy game.
Its rare to see developers take a chance with something new these days, especially on a title loved as much as Dawn of War, but for me at least, the change has been for the better. The gameplay is still intense, with a huge focus on micro managing your squads/units. During missions, and for successfully completing missions, you'll earn yourself rewards in the way of Wargear - more powerful Armour, Weapons and Equipment. You can also further customise your squads as they level up, by investing points into increasing statistics (such as Health, or Ranged Damage), which also grant powerful ingame abilities to enhance the gameplay further. This can lead to a good amount of re playability as you try out different builds and weapons.
The Campaign itself is solid and enjoyable, a bit disappointing that you are restricted to only using Space Marines...but it is rather long and rewarding, with good voice work and small cutscenes that help push the story forward (You certainly get your monies worth!). Another slight disappointment is the selection of maps...there are only a handful of maps in the game, so you often fight on the same, familiar battlefields. The game engine itself is brilliant, performing well and looking stunning. Default difficulty can be a bit too easy, so once you are used to how the game plays, I would recommend restarting a campaign on Captain Difficulty for a better experience. The entire Campaign is also playable online in Co-op mode with one other player. Although the campaign remains the same, this time each player controls two squads or units each, allowing for much more focus while micromanaging, and an even more pleasurable experience standing toe to toe against Tyranids with a friend.
The small touches, like the descriptions on each and every piece of Wargear, and the little added details on more powerful armor, further enhances the game. Fans of Warhammer 40,000 - and especially Space Marines will not be disappointed.
Multiplayer is slightly more traditional (up to 3v3), in that you start at your base HQ (which you can upgrade to gain access to better units), and you collect resources via capturable points found on the maps. You can spend these resources on newer squads/units (allowing you to have a much larger force than you control during singleplayer), and even new units (such as the Predator tank), and also on upgrading said squads/units into more powerful, specialised units. Unlike singleplayer, you can also control the Eldar, Orks and Tyranids themselves!
Tactics still play a large role, requiring you to micromanage and seek cover whenever possible, there is no further base building of sorts...so more attention can be spent on battling your opponents. Units level up as they fight, so it can often be more important to retreat squads back to your base and reinforce them, rather than let them die needlessly against a more superior foe. The two game modes on offer see you fighting for specific capture points on the map, or the total annihilation of the enemy, still on a limited number of maps however.
The game does require both the use of Steam and Games for Windows Live.
Highly recomended to fans of Action RPG's and RTS games.