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I guess that's the first thing to get out of the way, having read the first review of this game - if you're buying this game looking for C&C, then you're barking up the wrong tree.
Having said what it's not, I guess we'd better consider what it is - and it's not so bad.
Welcome to Stormrise, Creative Assembly's latest RTS, and a trip to a post-apocalyptic world; and an effort to try something a little different, for a change.
And the change?
Well, you're not a god; so out goes the god-view. No more top-down views, allowing you to see everything on the battlefield. Now you're limited to 3rd person - you see what your troops see, and nothing more. The safety blanket ot Creative Assembly's other games, in being able to the see the enemy moving in good time, has gone.
There's a further shift in the unit selection. The game operates 'whip select' - meaning unit selection is all handled via a single control, instantly 'whipping' you to the selected unit. Simply use the right stick to aim at your intended unit, and you're moved straight over.
Also, we have 'verticality' - in that the game seeks to bring the fight to an additional level. Height, and the line of sight it conveys, is key to the battle. Get your snipers into a good position in a crumbling sky scraper, and you'll be able to target the enemy for miles around.
The problem with trying something different, is that it poses a trap - a trap into which the armchair gamer falls. Never a fan of change, or experimentation, the armchair fan won't like this - if, like the chap below, you were looking for C&C you're going to be frustrated by this. Very frustrated.
Fans of Creative's other efforts might be a little more patient. The game does have faults. Welcome to a post-apocalyptic future. Great. Is there any other kind of future? Cue decent graphics, but such a drab, drab world. On the plus side, you definitely get the sense you're playing in a waste.
Creative's usual camera failings are replicated. The unit lock often leaves you staring into the abyss, as you try and maintain view with a unit moving through a tunnel. As in Rome, so in Stormrise.
The whip select also suffers - it being ever-so easy to select the wrong unit, especially when selecting from off-screen units represented only by icons (best try the map then).
Theres' not a massive amount of depth, either - you have two factions, with the usual breakdown of units; the robust, militaristic Echeleon - all technology and guns; then the Sai, exposed to the effects of the apocalypse, and looking like outtakes from Gears of War's Locusts. Their chief protagonist could be a Sara Kerrigan clone, for any fans of Starcraft.
It also takes a long time to achieve anything - resources are gained by capturing warp points and building refineries. Great, at least you're forced to fight for control of these - but the rewards take some time to accrue, which seems at odds with the pace of combat.
In summation: good, but not great. 65-70% - a decent romp with some key failings.
If you're open-mindend and willing to try something new, you'll go with my review. You'll find a game which pitches you in with the troops; which gives you the grit of combat missing since Ground Control; a game which will require you to think on your feet, as opposed to plan, and plod methodically.
If you were hoping for more of the same, you'll go with the other chap. You can't see the world beyond the end of your gun; and if you want to see much further you'll have to march out and find for yourself.
This isn't C&C; RA; Halo Wars.
If you can't get your head around that, this isn't going to work. Read the one-star review and be grateful you saved your money.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
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... I really don't. Perhaps this is gaming Marmite, and you're forced to one extreme or the other by it's yeasty-vileness?
However, as much as I hate Marmite, I found myself warming to Kane & Lynch.
The game's story revolves around the two eponymous characters - who form an unlikely partnership in a story of revenge, criminality, and gunplay. It's a familiar formula, but it's also one that works.
The story was award-nominated and has now been optioned for a film - as well it might, because that's what it's intending to replicate. From the start of the game to the very end you feel you're playing through HEAT, or some other slick action/crime movie. Rather than blasting from checkpoint to checkpoint you're on a real journey, as Kane & Lynch attempt to redeem themselves. From first to last it is guns and action.
Complaints have been made that the game is repetitive. Well, in shooting games you shoot - and in Kane & Lynch you shoot. The action in Kane & Lynch maintains a healthy pace, moving from gunfight to gunfight. Perhaps there could have been more diversity, but Kane & Lynch is attempting to work the gameplay around it's story - rather than stretching the story to match it's gameplay.
It does give you some glorious levels in which to work your trigger finger though - shooting through a nightclub in John Woo-fashion; rappelling down a Tokyo skyscraper for a gunfight in the boardroom; gunning your friends out of a prison...
Thematically - brilliant. Technically... well, ok.
Control is GTA-esque, 3rd person. The controls are simple enough and lend themselves well to the action. As with all 3rd person shooters, it suffers from being less precise than it's 1st person cousins, but not enough to compromise the gameplay.
The cover system is an enigma. Whilst dishing out the pain is easy, avoiding it can sometimes be complicated - by running up to objects your character will settle into cover automatically. Unlike GoW and GRAW this is a more subtle affair, and player movements will break you out of cover quickly.
The squad combat system is elementary at best; but, importantly, it does the job required of it. Attack; defend; follow - it was barely going to set the strategy world alive, but it does what's required in the middle of a firefight.
The graphics are well executed. Some of the immediate detail is missing, which other reviews have commented on - they're certainly not going to challenge the likes of Unreal Tournament 3 or Far Cry 2 - but they were never meant to. What they do, however, is give you a real sense of what the game is about; thematically, they work, blending well with the sound, dialogue and action. The overall sense is a 'this is good' rather than the graphics alone providing the wow factor.
The co-op play is the real gem, though does throw up the odd annoying moment. Online play is fun, and the achievements are a nice touch - they're a good spread, and offer some solid replayability, as opposed to "why can't I do it" headbanging.
I read the reviews and waited; and after playing it, I now think I wasted a lot of time that I could have spent playing this game - because it's a lot better than people would have you believe. Three and a half stars.
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I like the word apt. I am, for example, rather apt to be wordy.
However, I'm going to keep it very short here - because, to be honest, there's precious little to talk about.
Legendary should - to bring apt into play - have been called 'Forgotten', because that's what you're apt to discover. You'll play the, then instantly forget it until you start rooting for items to trade-in.
The premise is interesting and could have been a real winner. Mythical beats at large in the world, with yourself as the hero charged with putting the world to rights with an arsenal of familiar weapons - what more could be desired?
- Challenging AI?- Next-gen graphics?- Non-linear gameplay and an engaging storyline?- An immersive audio environment?
Sadly, you're not going to get them here. The monsters are not well realised; the graphics are not what you would expect of a modern shooter; the AI offers little challenge; the sound is poor; the level design is uninspiring; and the gameplay is let down a by a reversion of style that might have been more appropriate 10 years ago, but is sadly lacking by modern standards.
Legendary smacks of Jericho, and suffers from many of the same flaws - but Jericho had the blessing of an early release. Legendary - post-Bioshock; post-Call of Duty (both 4 and 5); post-FarCry2 - meets a far less forgiving reception. The game feels clumsy and old.
This is one for the purists. For the guys who are dedicated to their shooters, who will put in the time to crack achievements - for those who simply have to have the title - and their are moments within Legendary which will reward them. Even then, they'll find little to return to after the first play through.
For the more casual, your money might be better spent elsewhere.
Left 4 Dead (Left For Dead)
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... from the developers who brough the world Team Fortress Classic and Counterstrike, Left 4 Dead leaves no doubts - Valve really know how to put a game together.
The Source engine is old; the premise is even older - this game shouldn't work. But it absolutely does, and it more than just works, it amazes.
Four survivors, a host of undead. What more could you need? Throw in 10 weapons, and 20 maps, and an AI director which means every experience is a new one, and you have all you could wish for.
You can play solo, but the real delight is online - gunfire rings out in the night, to a background of groans; interspersed with the cries from your fellow gamers, as you put down waves after wave of undead.
The weapons are basic, and you're only presented with a handful of enemy classes - but, as with Counterstrike, Valve have shown that the best games can come from the simplest of ingredients.
The graphics are solid, with a little tinkering of the old Half-Life engine. They have a grit which lends itself well to the settings. The levels are well designed, and help drive the gameplay - providing choke points and ambushes galore.
This is a well-crafted game, and one which will keep you coming back, again and again - as either Survivor or Undead. This has been some of the best money I've spent this year!
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... which is just as well, as this game is packed with shocks!
Dead Space works, primarily, on the atmosphere it creates. The developers have spent a lot of time making the environment, both graphics and sound, as the most haunting setting for a horror game we've seen on the Xbox 360. The ambience is fantastic, and you get a real sense of being alone... and being alone in a very, very bad place.
The weapons, monsters and kit, all fit with the environment. The monsters look and act the part, screaming at you from the shadows. There's some well-scripted shocks to add to the cinematic experience, and the obligatory gore - by the load!
Weapons and kit are upgradable, allowing you to fit yourself out as befits your playing style. And there's sufficient to add some real variety to combat.
The play, as per the story, is very linear. Free-roaming isn't something they considered here, but there's enough to keep you entertained as you follow the story to it's climax.
Some very good support on Xbox Live, with the animated comics, and you get a really well-crafted story for your money.
Definitely one of the must-haves for 2008.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
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This game should have been great - it should have been everything we wanted, and more.
But... don't let that put you off what is a reasonable conversion of the PC game.
The gameplay is fast and frenetic - with a good balance between team achievements and personal gun-toting; the graphics are reasonable - ok, so we're not going to challenge Bioshock, but given the speed Quakewars moves at it's no loss, and they work for the game; the sound isn't all that, perhaps as they imagined you'd hear nothing aside from the Xbox Communicator; and, as a whole, it works.
Perhaps we wanted more, but let's not get hung-up on that - let's enjoy what is a good game, and a take at doing something different on Xbox Live.