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Battlefield 3: The Russian
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I got this book for Christmas alongside the actual PS3 version of the game and, having spent a few hours on the campaign mode, I put the controller down and started reading the book. Firstly, I will point out that the McNab series of books featuring his fictional lead, Nick Stone, are absolutely fantastic - shocking and intriguing in equal measure and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in raw military/spy thrillers. This, as has been mentioned before, reads much like any of his previous works and after just a few pages you find yourself completely glued to the plot and unable to put the book down.
The story has an excellent flow to it despite alternating the perspctive of the story from chapter to chapter. In fact, this enables McNab to set up dozens of mini-cliffhangers as you are thrust forwards alongside the two main protagonists on initially separate but soon to be converging paths. It is the fact that this style works so well that the ending is so disappointing. I shall try not to reveal too much so as not to spoil the story for people who are yet to read it but my main gripe is as follows.
- mini spoiler alert -
The main villain, who is portrayed as a super-intelligent, cold and merciless machine, repeatedly thwarting a number of attempts to de-rail his master plan throughout the story, is killed at the end by reference alone. That is to say, you don't have any epic final battle, heart-pounding chase scenes or thrilling gun fight - he is merely spotted heading to his target by one of the aforementioned protagonists and then suddenly, the perspective switches to the other protagonist reading about his counterpart's heroic feat in the newspaper.
It's almost as if they gave up on the story right at its climax and just tagged on a token ending. It only needed a chapter or two more detailing the final battle to wrap up an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable read but it just got abandoned. This truly ruined the novel for me.
I'm not advising people against reading it, just make sure you are aware that the outstanding effort that has gone in before the final chapters precedes a pretty weak ending.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
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Don't get me wrong, I do like the game but there are a few niggling issues that, for a series as renowned as CoD, just shouldn't be present.
For starters, the levels are just far too short in single-player. You're just getting into the action when suddenly, it's over and you're instantly dropped into a new area as a completely different character. The game feels like it has been created by the developers conjuring up a number of set pieces and then trying to stitch them together haphazardly to provide a compelling storyline - it doesn't work.
To be fair, the two previous instalments set the bar very high and MW3 has simply fallen short.
The game starts at 100mph and doesn't slow down at all which means that there really is no pacing to the action as there was in the previous titles. You get the impression they are jumping on the popularity of the multi-player from MW2 and trying to make single-player appeal to those gamers by making it relentless fire-fights with no element of stealth required. Even if you try the stealthy approach, the action goes noisy through no fault of your own EVERY time.
I'm also unimpressed that they have dropped the number of Spec Ops missions, another feature that proved massively popular in MW2, down to just the 16 levels. No doubt they have a lucrative plan to release more via the PSN Store but for 40 quid you expect to get at least the same as you got in the last outing and they haven't delivered here.
Those are the main gripes anyway. As I said, although it detracts from the quality, it doesn't tarnish the game completely. The set-pieces are stunning, if pushing the boundaries of believability to their absolute limits this time out, and the graphics are very impressive as well. The weapons feel more powerful with great sound to accompany them.
As a previous reviewer said though, it's just a shame it feels more like an expansion pack than a new game.
I think expectations for the release were understandably so high that there was always the potential that it may struggle to meet the hype and unfortunately it has proven so in my opinion.
It's fast, it's fun but it's certainly not the best in the series. Not by quite some distance.
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First off, I have to say this game is a compelling piece of story-telling and the atmosphere is gripping and suitably chilling as you engage in the hunt for a child serial killer from the perspective of four individuals.
The graphics are good but aren't phenomenal as many would have you believe - the vehicles in particular are very poorly modelled and the texturing on many of the buildings is flat with little in the way of realism.
However, I have never been one to buy a game on the basis of graphics alone and my purchase of 'Heavy Rain' was based firmly on the glittering reviews it has received since release. The main draw of this game is the seemingly unique gameplay. I say "seemingly" because, despite it being branded as a revolutionary system, it has been done similarly before with the likes of 'Broken Sword' and if you like the previous games in that series, you'll no doubt like this title. I love the 'Broken Sword' games and found the gameplay on offer here very familiar.
Now for the main gripe. Despite it being a good story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and has you constantly guessing who the killer could be, the game is just completely unstable. I have never played a game with so many bugs and the sheer number of times it has frozen in the three days I have had it is now seriously starting to put me off it entirely. Before anyone jumps on me over this, I will point out that I have downloaded the obligatory 226MB(!!) update patch and installed it before I could even begin playing so surely the game should be glitch-free?
The fact that such a major update even came out so soon after the game was released suggests that the developers were so keen to get it out on time that it hadn't been tested thoroughly enough in QA and the problems went unnoticed. There have been workarounds suggested on many online forums including the backing up of save data before uninstalling/reinstalling the game but the simple fact is that at 40 quid, it should not have the major flaws that this game appears to be riddled with. It's shocking and detracts massively from what would otherwise have been a great title.
My other main gripe is that, despite all of the hype about the "non-linearity" of the game, the gameplay itself does begin to feel a tad repetitive after a while and, although saved by the gripping drama unfolding on screen, it often feels like you are being led through a film and merely have to press the buttons you are told to with little freedom to explore or expand upon the story.
My advice? Don't get caught up in the hype like I did. If you are easily put off by game crashes, I would avoid this game like the plague (at least until they've sorted out the problems), as the number of times you'll be reaching for the reset button will begin to drive you crazy! My PS3 works beautifully with all of my other games and I have never had an issue with it in the three years I have had it so I know it's not my system that's at fault.
Aliens Vs Predator
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I was a little apprehensive at pre-ordering this game for a few reasons. I didn't want to bother with an online-only demo and, seeing as my last purchase of a movie-game tie-in was Terminator Salvation, I was worried that buying a title I hadn't at least rented first would prove to be just as big a mistake... thankfully it wasn't!
The controls took a little while to settle as they're a little different for each of the playable species in the game but once you have played for around 15mins with any of them, you soon start to get to grips with it.
Having never played the previous AVP PC games which Rebellion released, I didn't really know what to expect from the game but the idea of lurking in the shadows as an alien or stalking from the tree-tops as a predator sucked me in and the gameplay didn't fail to disappoint.
The Alien is probably my favourite as the game includes just about everything you can possibly want from a pure killing machine. The speed is absolutely stunning and the traversing of walls and ceilings soon becomes a breeze. A few have complained about the ease at which you can become disoriented and apparently there is an option that aids in how the camera switches when you're on different surfaces but I actually found it unnecessary as seeing it as the Alien would see it is more natural to me - if that's upside down, so be it. The alien also features the games best finishing moves and being able to stalk in darkness after taking out the lights to hide yourself is pure class. Just a shame it has the shortest campaign mode.
The Predator seems to be favoured by most other players and you can see why. Cloaking, two different vision modes to highlight your enemies and an array of methods of dispatching them makes playing as this iconic monster great fun. The game features the predator's plasma-caster, throwing spear, proximity mines and (my personal favourite) throwing discs so decapitating your foes soon becomes par for the course! Again, the finishing moves are suitably gory and grotesque if a little OTT at times but there is a great sense of satisfaction in patiently luring an unsuspecting marine into an ambush from the trees using the 'distract' feature.
Then there's the marine. Whereas I have cleared the campaign modes for both of the previous species already, doing so with a sense of fearlessness that comes from wielding the Predator's superior technology and the Alien's unmatched speed and close-combat skills, the marine missions give you a fantastic impression of what it's like to be the helpless underdog caught in the middle.
Wrong place at the wrong time? It soon starts to feel that way as you find yourself negotiating near pitch black corridors with nothing but a 9mm pistol, a dim flashlight and the relentless 'clicking' of your motion tracker as the only noise to break the deathly silence. It is truly terrifying at times with plenty of jumps and scares to keep you on the edge of your seat. If this is what "Aliens: Colonial Marines" is going to be like when it's released, they're definitely on to a winner with that one. The atmosphere from the Aliens films is captured perfectly and you're just waiting for a set of jaws to pounce out of every vent or shadow you pass - it's fantastically chilling.
Overall, a brilliant game - the best I have played in a long time. It's no CoD with respect to the graphics but the gameplay is good and the monsters are awesome. I'll definitely be playing this for quite a while. The only reason it gets 4/5 is cos there could have been a slightly stronger storyline (as opposed to rehashing the one from the first AVP movie albeit on a different planet) and there could have been more alien levels.
PES 2010: Pro Evolution Soccer
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I was pessimistic about PES 2010 for a few reasons. The most significant one being that the most recent outings have been anything other than great and, listening to all of the rave reviews Fifa got last year, I was severely tempted to jump ship to EA's flagship sports sim.
However, it appears that Konami must have also caught wind of the fact that they are playing catch-up with Fifa now as the PES 2010 demo is nothing short of a giant leap in the right direction!
The graphics are simply stunning and sound fx are brilliant. Konami have really pushed the boat out with this one as an audiovisual feast.
I'm not a blind follower though and, that said, my main gripe at the moment is with the gameplay - a worrying aspect given the strength PES used to show in this area. It doesn't feel as 'fluid' as it perhaps should and a lot of the goals I've scored (and conceded) so far have been shambolic affairs where the defence needed only to head the ball clear of the six yard box but instead let the ball drop to feet from corners and, a two second tussle later, the ball is rolling across the goal-line. I'm not saying it's bad but it SHOULD be better than that given the series' history.
Another lesser issue is that the crowd actively follow the ball from corners and the like (which is great) but, when the ball rockets into the net, they don't react at all and just sit on their backsides as they have done throughout the entire match so far, despite the fact that the stadium sounds like it's erupted.
All in all, some issues to address before the final release but they still have a month to sort it out and, having played the Fifa 10 demo already, I think my money's with Konami again this year. The first solid effort in quite a few years!
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Uncaged Edition
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I say a good conversion but in actual fact, the game plays out a little differently to the film with different settings for certain scenes and alternative dialogue.
One of the most shocking things you'll realise from the outset is how brutal and violent this depiction of Wolverine is in comparison to the rather lightweight (but still cool!) character played in the film. It's no bad thing in my opinion and is perhaps a better representation of the dark past endured by the lead character but I don't recall the the severed limbs and eviscerated enemies in the 12A-rated film - note very closely that this is an 18-rated title for a reason!
The game itself is surprisingly addictive despite how repetitive the gameplay can be at times but somehow you always manage to gleen as much satisfaction out of gutting the next bad guy as you did the last.
The fact that you are nigh on invincible offers the gamer a different approach to the run-of-the-mill sneaking missions involved in other games and you can pretty much run fearlessly into any situation where the odds would otherwise be stacked against you and still be the last man standing after all of the bullets have stopped flying. I find this great although I have doubts as to how much replay value you can get from such an approach. We'll see...
Graphics are fairly standard but nothing special. The cut-scene dialogue is absolutely dire, despite having Hugh Jackman as the official voice-over artist for his character, and I don't understand why they had to veer so far from the film with certain key events that take place.
It was nice that they involved Mystique in the additional plot-line to pad the game out and the inclusion of the Sentinels was a brilliant touch and a welcome blast from the past - shame they didn't feature in the film.
All in all, a good, addictive game and long enough IMO to warrant the £29.99 I paid for it before it jumped up to £40. Replay value may suffer due to the repetitive nature of the gameplay but worth picking up when it drops in price.
Easily 4 stars.
Terminator: Salvation (Terminator 4)
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If there was an option to give this game 3.5 stars, I would have chosen that because it is better than the mediocre inferences implied by 3/5.... but it isn't a truly great game for a few reasons.
After watching the cut-scene preview, I had high hopes for the game but let's face it, we all know what the PS3 is capable of graphically and this isn't quite up to scratch. You only need look at what Konami did with Metal Gear 4 and, if that's the benchmark, the developers have fallen short with this outing.
The gameplay is a little rough around the edges, although strangely addictive. The enemy AI is actually surprisingly good and the machines do attempt, albeit half-heartedly, to flank you where possible. The T-600s are notoriously hard to kill unless you have a grenade or pipe-bomb up your sleeve, which is actually great because the Terminator franchise has never been about stand-up fights - a lot is running away if possible.
The aspect I love about the game in the short time I've been playing it is the great implementation of the 'cover' system. John moves fluidly from a burned out car to a bullet-ridden concrete column via a couple of rusted, war-torn barrels so well that out-flanking your enemies soon becomes a breeze and leaves you with a quiet sense of satisfaction at how well you can navigate the battlefield. It's just as well too as the 'spiders' can only actually be destroyed from behind. Cover fire and quick thinking play an important role in advancing through the deserted streets and the machines are never far behind.
My main problem with the game is the graphics though and you have to feel they rushed it through to get it released in time for the film that's out in cinemas... oh would you look at that... next week. What a coincidence. They aren't the worst on PS3 but they are far from the best and that's an unfortunate aspect of what could have been a great release.
I am still only a few levels into the game and there will hopefully be many surprises still in store but my opinion so far is "could be better".